25 February 2011

A new inductee

Yesterday I attended a ceremony of sorts.  It wasn't a promotion ceremony (those are fun because it means someone is getting a pay raise!) or a retirement ceremony (those are fun because it means someone is getting out of the Army, which also means a pay raise!).  It was an induction ceremony (and no, no one came home with prescription narcotics and a screaming infant).  I'll get to the ceremony in a moment. 

My family and my 2 college friends that read this blog know that my son has one teacher I really like, and one I could do without.  For the purpose of this blog, we'll call the one I like Ms. T.  Ms. T is the MOST WONDERFUL preschool teacher of all time.  Why?  Because she loves my son like he is her own, that's why. I drop my son off each morning knowing that if he can't be with me or his grandparents, she is the next best thing.  Needless to say, she is very special to us.

So,  when I heard that her 19 year-old son left for a year in Afghanistan last week  I wanted to cry.  This wonderful woman who gives so much to my son day after day, now has a son in what I consider to be the worst place on the face of the earth.  I hate Afghanistan.  (I hate Iraq too, but right now I hate Afghanistan more.  Some of my favorite peeps are currently in Afghanistan, so I hate it more).  However, now is not the time to cry (I cry when I read to my daughter's class or when I see that one coffee commercial when Peter comes home to surprise his parents on Christmas morning).  Now is the time we rally and welcome Ms. T. into our fold.

Another mom, Ms. Awesome, suggested we put together a deployment basket for Ms. T.  So four of us moms (who all happen to be Army wives, by the way) assembled  a basket of goodies to get her through the next year.  

The basket contained:
Blue star sticker for her car or window
Army travel mug
Trashy beach read
Chocolate (duh)
Bottle of wine (double duh)
Stress-relief/relaxation tea
Handmade cards from our kids
Notes from us
380 marbles and 2 Ball jars (so she can transfer one a day until he is home)

Ms. Awesome wrapped it up in cellophane and tied it with a big yellow ribbon and bow.  It was beautiful!  (I SO wish I would have taken a picture).

Yesterday after school we, along with our children, presented it to her.  She cried.  We cried.  We freaked out our kids.  It was awesome.  She was speechless, and thanks to our tears, so were we.  I think we each hugged her 2 or 3 times before one of us (totally not me) composed ourselves enough to spit out how much we love her and will support her in any way we can. 

Welcome to the sisterhood, Ms. T! May the year go fast, may you get many emails and phone calls from your soldier, may you not watch too much TV news coverage, and may you accept our thanks for raising such a fine young man.  We love you!

19 February 2011

The Fab Five

Earlier this week, a friend posted an article on Facebook about the 5 friends Oprah says every woman must have.  You can read that article here.  I thought it sounded interesting, so I read on.  Truthfully, I read it to see if I had any of the friends that Oprah says I should have.  I do, but as I do with any advice/self-help/opinion pieces I read, I try to decipher how this pertains to me as a military spouse.  You know what's coming next, right?  Without further ado, I present The Five Friends Every Military Spouse Should Have, according to Amy. 

The Senior Advisor - No offense to all of you "senior" spouses out there, but you know who you are.  I have been fortunate enough to have a handful of these in my almost 13 years as a military spouse and am even more fortunate that hardly any of them are on Facebook or blogger.  I wouldn't want to have to admit  that I consider them a "senior" anything.  The senior advisors are your friends, but they are also your mentors.  They usually have older kids, a higher-ranking husband, and really cool furniture they've gotten from their overseas duty stations.  These ladies are never short on good advice, a calm demeanor and some sort of yummy baked good they just so happen to have made that morning (and seriously, HOW do they DO that?).  Their door is always open and they always have time for a toddler-crazed stay-at-home mom with a quick question.  If you don't have one of these in your military spouse arsenal...get one. 

The Decorator -  The decorator is one of those women that makes living in a different house every two years look easy.  Her furniture ALWAYS fits and LOOKS GOOD where ever she puts it.  She can pick up an ottoman at IKEA, a rug in Texas at a flea market, some curtains at Target and make them work in every house she lives in until they retire.  And, painting?  She makes it look like a breeze.  The decorator will paint every room in every house they live in even if it means she has to paint it back before they move.  The decorator most likely also has a husband that gives her semi-free reign to decorate as she pleases, thus making her even more valuable.   Husbands frequently go along with decorating changes if some poor sap down the street has had to endure it too and they can share fabric shopping war stories.  The decorator is always willing to come help you move a couch or give you her opinion on a new coffee table.  I love a good decorator friend.

The Fertile Myrtle -  Everyone needs at least one Fertile Myrtle in their friend bank. The Fertile Myrtle has numerous children, numerous pets and an unlimited supply of patience.  NOTHING fazes the Fertile Myrtle.  Your toddler spilled milk on her rug?  No biggie.  It matches the spill one of her children placed there earlier this morning.  You need someone to watch your two kids at the last minute because your babysitter canceled?  Puh-lease!  What is two more kids when you already have four or five of your own?  The Fertile Myrtle is happy to oblige.  Her theory is the more the merrier and she honestly believes that to be true.  The Fertile Myrtle is who you thought you wanted to be, but 2 kids and a deployment later you realized there was no way that was going to happen without winning the lottery and hiring a full-time nanny.  You might not aspire to be a Fertile Myrtle, but you need one as a friend.  Trust me.

The Anti-Spouse - The Anti-Spouse is a different breed.  She is the one that says things like, "I don't know what my husband does, because we don't talk about his job when he gets home."  She may not even know what the inside of his office looks like, because she's never been there.  To her the Army (or Navy, or Air Force, or Marines) is just HIS job, not THEIR way of life.  He does his thing, she and the kids do theirs.  It may seem strange to you, but it works for them. You can hold endless conversations about fashion, child-rearing, dieting, relationships, just about anything and the military will never enter the conversation.   The Anti-Spouse always provides a good reality check if you find yourself using more acronyms than actual words in a sentence.  Warning:  Do not confuse The Anti-Spouse with The Angry Spouse.  The Angry Spouse is a sad, bitter woman full of endless complaints about the military.   The Angry Spouse is usually not happy with her marriage, her children or even the produce at the commissary, and she will find a way to work her discontent into every conversation.  Stay away from The Angry Spouse.  Or better yet, find another Angry Spouse and introduce them to each other.

The Battle Buddy - The Battle Buddy is by far the best friend for a military spouse to have.  She is your go-to gal for all things, all the time.  Need a pair of earrings to match your formal dress?  She'll bring over her entire jewelry box.  Think you might want to train for a 1/2 marathon?  She'll lace up her running shoes and train with you.  Need a good cry because you haven't talked to or gotten an email from your deployed husband in a week?  She is at your door with a kleenex 3-pack and a movie to occupy the kids so the both of you can cry in peace.  The Battle Buddy is worth her weight in gold.  If you are extremely lucky, you may find a Battle Buddy at each duty station.  If not, don't worry.  There is an unwritten rule that once a Battle Buddy, always a Battle Buddy, even from thousands of miles away. 

So there you have it.  My unofficial guide to The 5 Friends Every Military Spouse Should Have.  Thoughts?  Comments?  I'd love to hear them!  Unless of course you think of ME as your senior advisor.  You can keep that thought to yourself.  :)

02 February 2011

A (bittersweet) taste of freedom.

Today was truly a test.  And by test, I really mean a nail-biting, gas-producing, check the phone every 5 minutes whopper of a test.  Today was the first day I was going to leave my son at preschool past the normal pick-up time.  He was going to be there a whole 5+ hours!  Mind you, this was the PERFECT situation.  He was staying in the same room.  I packed his favorite lunch (dinosaur shaped pb&j is always a hit).  My favorite teacher was going to be watching him.  There were only 5 other kids staying.  I say again...PERFECT. 

So what was the test, you ask?  It wasn't a test for him.  It was for ME.  What was I going to do for ALL.THAT.TIME?  I have been a stay-at-home mom for almost 9 years.  9 years.  Yes, we have done a weekend away from them here or there.  I go out with the girls on occasion.  I no longer have them attached at the hip. (Insert shout out to my sister-in-law, Sarah, here).  But this was different.  This time, I wasn't going to a movie with friends.  I wasn't on a trip to watch my beloved Illini football team in the Rose Bowl.  I wasn't spending an afternoon shopping for clothes.  I was going to be home...alone.

I just so happened to have a brunch to attend, which took care of 2 hours.  But, now what?  I have dreamed of this day for YEARS!   Those dreams have ranged from several hours in a row of sipping coffee and reading books at Barnes and Noble to meeting old friends for a long lunch (and, of course, wine).  So, I started slow.  I called an old friend and had a nice middle-of-the week chat.  I kept the ball rolling and sent my sister-in-law a few (dozen) texts.  Then I really got into it and stopped and got my husband the razor blade refills I kept forgetting to pick up (and why do those have to be SO expensive, I ask?).  Just when I was hitting my stride, I unexpectedly ran into a good friend in the drug store parking lot.  

We chatted for a few minutes, and when she realized I was alone she asked, "What are you doing? Where are your kids?"  Trying not to do my best Sammy Hagar kick and run around the parking lot in circles, I explained that I was alone.  Both kids were at school. "This is what my life will be like in August when everyone is in school full time!"  She smiled, but it was a half-smile.  She shrugged her shoulders and said, "What I wouldn't give to have all of mine little and home with me again.  Now, it's just me and the dog." 

I think you could actually hear the air deflate out of my lungs.  She went on to say how her youngest had left to go back to college today and her husband was on yet another government sponsored vacation, so it was literally just "her and the dog."  How depressing is that?  I started to rethink things then and there.

My life for the last 9 years has been all about them.  Feed them.  Diaper them.  Dress them.  Heal them.  Teach them.  Tickle them.  Play with them.  Read with them.  And the truth is, I have loved every minute of it (ok, not every SINGLE minute, but you get my drift).  These kids are the reason I am who I am.  They make me laugh, they make me feel needed, they are my shopping buddies, they keep me company during deployments and they teach me to be more patient (they teach their dad that too, by the way).

Don't get me wrong, I still plan on enjoying my alone time with friends or volunteering at school without a toddler pulling paper out of the teacher mailboxes.  I still can't fathom a time when my children won't be in my house.  It seems like ages from now, but I know it's not.  And I know it will be here before I know it.  So from now on if you run in to me in the drug store parking lot, my Sammy Hagar kick may not be as high.  I may only do one lap around the parking lot instead of two. I have to be careful, you know.  I wouldn't want to injure myself and not be able to take care of the dog.