May 26, 2011

Forgot to Blog

I had planned to blog while away.  I brought all the equipment one might need: computer, camera and usb cord, and we have wi-fi, but I just haven't been doing it.  Between busy days and keeping two little boys entertained all the time, I just don't have any quiet time to tell you about it.  Pretty soon I'll be back writing normal posts again.  I cannot wait to show you some photos and share stories.  Hold on just a bit longer, and I'll be back soon!  

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May 20, 2011

Schools Out For Summer

I cannot believe yesterday was the last day of school for Ryan's first year in preschool.  He's still young, so it isn't like real school.  However, it was something he needed very much during the year while Pat was gone.  It gave him an opportunity to socialize with other children and receive attention from adults other than me.  He really liked going to school.  I'm sad that it's over for him, but excited to spend the whole summer enjoying our time together.

Ryan grew up so much this past year.  Take a look:
First Day of School August 2010
Last Day of School May 2011
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May 19, 2011

Things I'm Loving

I wanted to do a post about the things I'm loving this beautiful Thursday.

We planted lilies yesterday while sprucing up the front landscaping.  I pretty much love all lilies.

I'm loving that our vacation is coming up really, really soon!!!  We're going to Birmingham, AL (to the zoo), Albany, GA, a week in Walt Disney World, Daytona Beach, FL, and Atlanta, GA.  Most of the places are just one night stops on the drive but I'm so excited to explore and spend time with my family.

I got a pedicure and had my toes painted purple at Ryan's request.  Purple seems to be his favorite color these days.  (Please excuse my ugly looking toes, it's just the cute polish I'm trying to show.  My hubby always tells me my big toe looks like a thumb.)

I'm still enjoying my German Chocolate Cake coffee from Timothy's.  If you haven't tried it yet, you really need to.

I am so excited that I can easily blog from the road using the MarsEdit App that I won in a giveaway from Lisa at The Army Chaplain's Wife.

We recently had amazing portraits done of our family from Kristen at Kristen Smith Photography.  You can see her blog post with some of our photos HERE.

I'm linking up to a new blog hop.  Come check it out.

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May 18, 2011

Band of Brothers Syndrome

Sorry I've been absent so long.  Things have been hectic, but mostly I didn't know what to write.  My mind was all over the place and so were my emotions.  Reintegration has continued to be hard at times.  There were arguments, irritation, and sometimes silence.  I was sometimes feeling bitter and hateful.  It was not a happy place to be.  I walk a fine line between what I think I should share because we are blog friends and sometimes our stories can help one another and what may be sharing too much personal and private information, so sometimes I wait to see what turns out before I share.

There may be a real name for this, but I don't know it.  I call it Band of Brothers Syndrome that my husband suffers from when deployment ends.  Band of Brothers Syndrome for us is how my Solider is so used to living with his fellow Soldiers that he has difficulty transitioning to living with his own family.  He was a great communicator and supporter for me when he was away.  In some ways we'd never felt so close and connected despite the distance.  So when he returned from this deployments, I was so surprised to realize how much he had changed.  He has become a barbarian or caveman of sorts.  While you may think this is funny or stupid, sure, there are parts that are funny, but it was seriously affecting us.

For a while I forgot about how this syndrome takes hold of Pat after a deployment.  I didn't realize why he only grunted as a response while I was trying to converse with him, belched loudly at the table without saying excuse me, passes gas (although I think that is putting it too nicely and I should really just call it farting) with no notice or apology, and seems to have a difficult time incorporating into our daily lives.  But in a more serious aspect he's not communicating.  He seems to have forgotten living with a family.

This is because he is used to living with his Army brothers, and that brotherhood sometimes felt like all they had for almost a year.  These guys truly depended on each other to stay alive.  I guess I'm so ready and happy to have my husband home, that I sometimes fail to realize it is partly sad for him to no longer share such camaraderie with his brothers in arms.  Also after living so long with just the guys he's going to come home a bit crass.

Now that I've remembered this issue, Pat and I have been able to talk about it.  I have a better understanding of what this transition is like for him.  He's now trying to act a little more civilized and working to communicate better.  We're finally falling back into our rhythm without grinding on each other's nerves.  I guess I'm just shocked at how long it has taken us to get reintegrated from this deployment.  This third one has definitely been the hardest.  They say the deployments seem to add on top of one another for families, but in addition to that this deployment was a very difficult one that left marks us that will never go away.  I'm just relieved that the us I know is coming back, and that feels so good.

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May 14, 2011

Misery Monday

That's what I'm calling the one coming up.  I cannot wait for Monday to be over.  I'm not usually one that wishes time away, but when it's time spent at the dentist office I do.  I'm pretty irritated and upset about this.

Remember last week I was going to the dentist for a dreaded appointment?  It had been a year since I had been seen.  I knew there was a good possibility of me needing a little work.  I haven't had any work done in years.  After looking at the x-rays the dentist thinks that I should have two of my fillings replaced just to be on the safe side with those teeth.  Fine.  I expected having work done.

What I didn't expect was that when I made an appointment after telling them I hadn't been in for a year, that it does NOT include a cleaning.  Apparently you have to book that separate.  I've never been to a dentist that works this way, and frankly, I am not planning on going back after Monday.  Did they think I wanted to just talk about how my teeth were dirty?  And I guess they do not think my time is very precious to me.

And what makes me even more frustrated is that on Monday, I have the appointment for my fillings, after that I have to wait 40 minutes until a hygienist can FINALLY clean my teeth.  I think this is just reinforcing my dislike for dental appointments.

How does your upcoming week look?  I hope it is going to start a lot more enjoyable than mine.

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May 11, 2011

Best and Worst

One of the best things about the past week was seeing Ryan ride his new bike.  We told him he'd get a bike when his daddy came home.  He said he wanted a spiderman bike and hat.  When we were at the store, the training wheels on the spiderman bike weren't working so well, so he insisted that instead he needed the orange bike.  We wanted to get whatever would make him happy.  As it turns out, the item that sealed the deal making him happy was a horn for the bike.  

He loves riding his bike.  He's pretty good at it too.  He enjoys riding in circles.  I am definitely one of those nervous and overprotective moms.  I find it hard to watch him ride because I am constantly holding my breath and gasping.  I dread the day when he falls and skins his knee, but for right now seeing his smile while riding is priceless.  

So if Ryan and his bike is a highlight for the week, the worst part I'm sure is going to be my Thursday morning.  I have to do something I absolutely DREAD.  I am going to the dentist.  I hate going to the dentist.  My teeth are in desperate need of a cleaning since it's been a year.  Anyone want to bet if the dentist finds a cavity or two?
This will be a visit with a new dentist.  My old dentist didn't have any appointments for me while Pat is on block leave.  I'm hoping if I go in and apologize for my dirty teeth and explain that I know I've been bad that maybe they won't be too hard on me.  We'll see :-/
Anyone else hate going to the dentist as much as I do?

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May 10, 2011

Finally Talking

I want to thank each and every one of you that left me a comment or sent an e-mail about my post yesterday.  You may not understand how much those words of support meant to me.  It is hard to share struggles that are so personal.

Pat and I finally had a chance to talk.  Can you believe he's been home for a week and a half and we've barely had or made any time to bond?  He had 7 days of reintegration but being the commander, those became pretty much full days.  So it was like he hopped right back into the swing of things at work.  The few days that he did have off we were kept pretty busy accomplishing tasks, but despite the errands and such the communication was lacking.

We finally were able to talk today.  (And it was while he was doing the dishes, so that was a bonus!)  He didn't realize how how much his lack of communication was bothering me.  He agrees that mentally he isn't feeling home from Afghanistan yet.  I think the reason he's so looking forward to vacation is that he needs a complete break from the Army, both mentally and the physical distance from it too.  He hadn't considered my point about needing to work to bond with me and the kids before the trip though.  The other big struggle for him is the weight of this trip he's now on to visit with his Soldiers.  I know that there are some of them that Pat feels responsible for, not in a blame type of way, but because he was leading them when it happened.  After talking about this, Pat and I believe he was waiting for this trip to find the closure to the deployment and really come back to our family.  It felt so good to finally talk with him.  I hate that it took so long.  I think after a deployment like this one you cannot push them too fast, but as my story shows, you have to keep trying to communicate.    

There were some things that I did poorly in my redeployment planning though, and I want to share them in case you have a reunion coming up.  I never thought my busy schedule would complicate our reintegration, but I guess you learn something new with each reunion.  Here are a few things that I would do differently:
*My in-laws came to visit the weekend before Pat came home.  I honestly believed it would be helpful, and it did allow me to get things done.  However, it also added a little bit to the hectic feeling of the time and a little to the stress.
*I was working so hard to get the bags done for the single Soldiers that I was running around crazy buying toiletries every single day for each new incoming flight.  Then I'd have to drive more bags up to post each day.  The problem was that the donations were coming in late and so it was a last minute scramble I wasn't prepared for.
*I spent the remainder of my free time, which was very little, answering questions for the FRG.  

So you're probably wondering why being busy was so bad.  Because I was so busy, I never really got a chance to sit down and mentally prepare myself that my husband was coming home and that the deployment was over.  I was so focused on others, that I forgot to spend some time with myself to prepare.  By the time it was our turn for reunion, it almost seemed like another task I needed to check off.  
Everyone wants to stay busy before the homecoming so that time might fly by, but for me being too busy wasn't a good thing.  If you have a homecoming in the near future, I highly recommend taking some time to yourself shortly before reunion to mentally prepare for the upcoming change but remember to manage expectations too.

Thank you again for all your support.  I would have been feeling so much more alone without your comments.  I'll keep you updated on how it goes when he returns from this trip.  I think we've finally had the breakthrough we needed though.
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May 9, 2011


Remember this post HERE, the one where I was worrying and dreading Pat's trip away shortly after he returned from the deployment.  He's going to visit injured Soldiers at BAMC and WRAMC.  Well, he's leaving today, and it may be really awful of me to say, but there is a part of me looking forward to temporarily going back to the way life that I feel so used to.

I'm shocked at how hard reintegration has been and is for us.  Do you know how many times I wanted to write a post about how this deployment had brought us so close together and it honestly had improved our communication.  We did such a great job listening to and supporting each other through the deployment.  And maybe R & R spoiled me because it was close to perfect, at least in hindsight.

So what happened?  We've never struggled this much after the other two deployments.  I know we are both responsible for the struggles and to work through it.  I think I saw this problem coming towards the end of the deployment, but I thought when he left Afghanistan things would be easier.  When his job switched and he took over responsibility for hundreds of Soldiers, that took all his focus.  The phone calls in which we bonded over our shared life were fewer and farther between.  The e-mails were not replied to because he didn't have time.  He was exhausted and just not there when we did talk.  I thought it was my turn to support him, and that is what I did.  Unfortunately, even after coming home his focus hasn't switched to the family side.  He's so looking forward to our upcoming vacation, but hasn't take the time to try to bond and reintegrate with the kids (or me for that matter).  I see a recipe for disaster, and he's not listening.

Speaking of not listening, when we talk it's like talking to a wall.  His idea of a conversation is let me run my course and then grunt and the conversation is over.  I am frustrated and angry.  I am tired and sad.  I am wondering where my husband is.  Did he not come home from Afghanistan yet?

I know that this post sounds so bad.  But it is my belief that there is no point to having a blog if you aren't going to be honest.  Sometimes one person's honesty will help others, and I know it usually helps me to share my feelings.  Sean just woke up and as I went to get him, I got the urge to delete this post.  I hate sharing so much of my life, but I think it is important.  So I'm clicking publish, and taking deep breaths as I share this struggle with all of you.  
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May 7, 2011

Soccer Mom

Thank you all for the encouragement you left in comments to my last post.  It really cheered me up to know I'm not alone in experiencing struggles upon reunion.  There are still daily struggles, mostly regarding parenting, but I thought I'd space out my posts that sound like I'm complaining ;)

In other news, I'm one step closer to being a soccer mom.  Have you ever looked up the definition of soccer mom?  According to Wikipedia it says:

The phrase soccer mom generally refers to a married middle-class woman who lives in the suburbs and has school age children.  She is sometimes portrayed in the media as busy or overburdened and driving a minivan.  She is also portrayed as putting the interests of her family, and most importantly her children, ahead of her own.

Well, the kids aren't quite school age yet.  And isn't parenthood putting the interests of the children ahead of yours anyway?  I believe it should be.

But now I'm the proud new owner of a minivan.  Yup, I'm driving a minivan.  Before you think I've gone to the dark side, let me just tell you why I'm loving it.  The doors open and shut with the click of a button, the kids can watch TV while I drive, I can talk hands free through the radio, we can keep drinks cold on trips (it has a cool box), and it gets better gas mileage than the SUV I was driving.  

I guess you could say I'm pretty happy with the new role of soccer mom.  

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May 4, 2011

Reintegration: the down sides

I'm back to my blog.  Sorry for my short absence.  I've missed reading all your blogs and hope to catch up soon.

As you've seen, my hubby returned from Afghanistan.  While I am overjoyed at having him home, I thought I'd write about the other emotions I've been feeling--the ones people don't talk about much regarding a homecoming.  Maybe homecoming hasn't met my expectations or maybe it's a bit different this time around.

Looking back, I didn't shed any tears at the reunion.  I was happy to have him home of course, but the whole process of the homecoming with two young children waiting for long amounts of time really felt like a difficult task I had to accomplish.  We left to go to the hangar around 7 p.m., and we were not home until after 2 a.m.  It was definitely an exhausting night.

Thankfully he had the next day off, but of course we ran around getting things done.   And now he's in the reintegration process before block leave starts.  Between the reintegration and command issues he's gone until 3-4 p.m. every day.  I know most people are thinking that is a short work day, which it is, but I am desperate for some real time off.  Next week block leave begins, but Pat is traveling to TX and DC to visit his wounded Soldiers.  I have two medical appointments scheduled next week too.  We also have to get Abbey in to the vet and schedule a follow up appointment for Ryan at his doctor.

I guess you could say I am feeling overwhelmed by what we have to do and have going on right now.  It's definitely overshadowing the happiness that I should be feeling, and that makes me feel bad too.

Reintegration as a parent is also challenging.  Pat understands how much he missed, but it is as if he doesn't understand how that has affected the roles in the house.  Pat would like to just jump right into being a dad and ruling the house, but Ryan is not ready for that.  It's a slow process, and I don't think Pat realized how much time it would take.

Maybe I failed at expectation management.  I'm also a bit sad that I've gone to bed alone most of the nights since Pat has arrived home.  While I get the kids ready for bed, Pat usually ends up laying down himself and falling asleep.  From 7 p.m. on, it is very much like the deployment is still going on around here.

I know this post sounds rather negative.  I don't want you to get the wrong idea.  I am very happy to have my husband home and safe, but I also want to point out after such a long absence things don't all just magically fall into place.  There is a lot of work to be done after a deployment.  I am hoping that after Pat returns from visiting his Soldiers we'll have some down time to really bond before we start our own road trip.

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May 2, 2011


Where should I begin?  There is so much to say and some photos to show you.

First, I'm going to link this post up here:

MilSpouse Homecoming Link-up

If you have a homecoming post, let me encourage you to link it up now too!

Okay, so here our story goes.

I knew for a few days that Pat was scheduled to come in on Thursday night.  Homecomings around here involve buses to the hangar, ceremony, more buses, strip maps to a new location, and then waiting for your Soldier to be released.  So I expected a long night.  Thankfully the flight was on time.

I put the boys down for a late nap on Thursday since it was going to be a late night for them.  We're supposed to arrive at the buses 2 hours before the ceremony, so after dinner we got our clothes on and headed out.

Here are the signs the boys made.  Sean did the hand print high five one, and Ryan made the eagle.  Aren't they cute?
 I also made a sign.  I made it weeks in advance.  I guess you could say I was anxious.

So what did I end up wearing you ask?  When I had asked on my blog about what to wear, a couple of my wonderful blog friends recommended I look at Shabby Apple.  I looked around there and fell in love.  I saw a few dresses that were great options, but then I was worried about shoes.  I decided to see what I had in my closet, and I found some long forgotten shoes that might go with one of the dresses.  I tried them on and was in heaven.  They were so comfortable that I knew I had to wear them.  I ran back to the computer to order the matching dress.  

The shoes:

Here's one of me in my dress.  Don't mind the awkward posture that makes me look fat, I was having to bend down so I could fit in the picture.

And some photos of me with the boys before we left.

And off we went to the hangar, where we waited patiently.

The boys loved running around the hangar, playing with the other kids, and listening to an Army band.  Eventually we were told the plane was 15 minutes away, and we could go to the flight line to watch it land.  Ryan was getting pretty excited.  Sean on the other hand didn't want to be held and wanted to keep running around.  So while we waited for the plane, I was wrestling a screaming 1.5 year old the entire time.
Here is a picture from The Leaf Chronicle of Ryan waiting for the plane:

After the plane landed and Soldiers started coming off, we headed back inside.  Sean wasn't going to take much more waiting out there.  Here is a photo from Clarksville Now.
Finally the Soldiers were coming in, and the following photo from The Leaf Chronicle was one of the most special sights of the night.  Some of our Top Guns wounded warriors led the Soldiers in.  I want to make a note here though so that everyone realizes, we have many more wounded warriors from our unit that are not in this photo because they were not able to travel for the homecoming.  This photo represents why we are all so proud of our troops, and it shows the sacrifices they are willing to make for us and our freedom.  Even looking at it and typing about it now makes me tear up.

And finally they were released to spend some time with us.  I didn't get any photos of our reunion.  It was hard enough handling the two boys.  But Clarksville Now posted this photo of Pat holding Ryan.  Both boys had a great reaction to the homecoming.

After about 15 minutes the Soldiers were called away to go turn in sensitive items.  We took the buses back to our car.  Then we went to BN to wait.  It was almost 2 a.m. when we were home.  The boys were exhausted, but happy.

Words cannot describe the joy and relief of having Pat home.  We are finally a whole family again, and for that I am so thankful.

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