Monday, September 22, 2014

600th Post

This marks my 600th published post!

I'm a little surprised. I've been writing here since 2009 when we moved from Japan to New Mexico and were vacationing in Hawaii. In fact, my 5th anniversary here was just a few weeks ago - on the 6th of September.

From this blog I have chronicled our life. It was here I wrote about Alanna's birth, William's diagnosis, travels, PCSes to 3 different homes, weird quirks, and inner concerns. Looking back over my posts I can follow my small family's history... it sort of reads like a journal.

I also realized that I have censored quite a bit and I'm okay with that. When I read old posts I sometimes recall what was going on behind the scenes, things I did not share. Some are good or intimate, not meant to be laid open for the public. And others are bad or embarrassing... even shameful. After all this time, I still struggle with trying to balance my posts to represent a true picture: not full of happiness and rainbows, but not a bunch of complaining and depressing pieces either. I'm not sure how well I'm succeeding there.

But if you're reading this I want to say thank you. Thanks for sticking with my writing and my lack of writing at intermittent times. I hope I can continue to bring some enjoyment and insights. I don't know where this blog will go in the future, but for now I will stick with what I know: my life, my family, my faith.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Becoming an "Older" MilSpouse

I'm not sure when the transition took place. No, wait, I do. It happened when we got stationed at AFIT.

I suddenly became an "older" MilSpouse.

It isn't a bad distinction, but I wasn't prepared for the sudden realization. I mean, heck, I'm not even 30 years old yet!

Basically older spouses are the ones supposedly in the know. We've been around for awhile and are aware of how the military works. Dealing with Tri-care problems? We've been there. Had issues with your PCS? Us too. Husband being sent away suddenly? Yeah, we know what that's like.

What made me an older spouse? While at AFIT I met many young women who were newlyweds since a lot of AFIT guys come from the Air Force Academy and cannot marry until after graduation. Or the people had only been stationed at one base, often married less than 3 years. Military life was new to them. They were unfamiliar to the whole dependent status. They were still coming to grips with the fact their life was to be dictated by the career of their spouse who ultimately has no control over what happens. Many found themselves putting their own careers or schooling on hold and some were even anxious and upset about the change to their lives.

I wasn't new to the military by any means since I have been a dependent my entire life. Being the third of four navy brats, my parents had PCS'ed several times before I was even born. It was surreal to review my medical records when I was pregnant with William and find them complete from my own birth at a military hospital and forms filled out in my mom's handwriting. While in college I was in ROTC and planned on the military life for myself before I met Ryan. I was told by several people (including the detachment commander) that I was already prepared and had an idea of what life would be like before my husband even commissioned... which was only mostly true.

At our early bases I was always considered a younger spouse. I was finishing school. I had my babies. Other women who were seasoned with military life were the ones I turned to for issues. They had experience and, often times, answers.

While at AFIT there were some ladies who had been in as long as we had or a few even longer, but we were vastly outnumbered by newbies.

Then we come here and I begin to meet other spouses... and I feel old. My kids are no longer babies. I've been married almost 10 years! We've moved 5 times, including an overseas assignment. I've dealt with nearly all Tri-Care regions (by far North was the best). I'm still maneuvering the waters of EFMP and I understand the difficulty that comes with finding a new church/dentist/hairdresser/babysitter every few years. And I can tell you that more often than not you'll want to pick up your fruit at a civilian grocery store over the commissary.

I don't know everything. My goodness, no! It's not like I'm full of sage wisdom. I respect those women who have weathered this military world longer than me. Even now, I may turn to my older spouse friends if I'm experiencing something new. Hubby is over the hill of a (hopefully) 20+ year commitment, yet he hasn't had to deploy. And who knows what the military might throw at us in the future.

Even with the difficulties, I love my military life. This is what I wanted. I support my husband with his career and am willing to follow him wherever he is sent. The older I get, the more challenges I overcome, the more full our life is. When I meet a soon-to-be military couple or a newlywed military couple I always say the same thing: Married life is an adventure. The military makes it more so. Enjoy it!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Our Maya Puppy

The beginning of this month was our little dog's birthday.

My fluffy Havanese is now 5 years old! Will and Lana got a kick out of the fact that the dog actually has a birthday. We didn't celebrate, but I did acknowledge it. Maya was given a treat.

I recently looked back into some old photos. It's crazy to remember she used to fit in a single hand. Even now, she's only 10 pounds... but she used to be TINY! I remember driving out to pick up this teensy ball of fur in northern New Mexico on a bright and beautiful November day.

Overall, Maya has been a good little girl. She's not the brightest crayon in the box, but she sure is sweet. Really, she lays around to cuddle and sleep most of the day with bouts of energy to play and chase toys. She is so good natured, even going down playground slides with/for the kids. Maya tolerates a lot, which makes her great with anybody: small children, babies, and other dogs.

Will and Maya are close friends, always have been.

And Alanna dotes on her.

What a special little member of our family! Happy 5 years Maya!


Monday, September 15, 2014

5 Things I Miss From Washington

When people ask me where "home" is I tell them it is Washington State. For me, that is home. Though my dad was Navy and we moved around and even now with moving every few years, I lived in Washington the longest. My parents still reside there. My family moved to Bremerton when I was about 10 or 11, then I attended college in Ellensburg at age 18/19, and I left the country shortly after turning 20 years old. Just so you know, Bremerton is on a peninsula across Puget Sound from Seattle and Ellensburg is in the smack-dab middle of the state.

Although I do love Washington, I'm not sure I want to live there again. Maybe. We will see what life brings in the future. It's a beautiful place, but the weather can be depressing. The mud and pine needles that track with you everywhere is also annoying. And the perpetual soggy hems on the bottom of pant legs are enough to drive you batty! Yes, you get used to it... but sometimes you're just over it.

Since I have had the opportunity to experience life and other cultures outside of my green Pacific Northwest home there are things I miss. I really could compile a rather long list, but I'll stick with 5 that jump out to me right now.

1. The scenery. Western Washington is gorgeous! The snow capped purple mountains, forests filled with evergreen trees, and the dark blue icy water makes for dream landscape. On those clear days when you can see Mt. Rainier... it doesn't matter if you've just arrived or lived there forever... when the mountain is out it is breathtaking. Add in some orcas that mosey through the area and it seems like God has given us a special gift of beauty to live in.

2. Ferries. Ryan mentioned to me how since we've left the state we have not travelled by ferry at all! That actually surprised me. When you live near the sound, ferries are common. I know things have changed since we left and there are some crappy circumstances with smaller or fewer ferries and such making commutes a headache. But there's something about getting on those boats that is exciting and comforting at the same time. I enjoy going on the decks (when it's not freezing or pouring) and watch the water move, check out the birds, and catch glimpses of the sea lions.

3. Coffee Stands. Oh how I miss the easy accessibility of those drive up stands on all the street corners. You could pass by almost anywhere, swing by and pick up a cup of caffeine. You want to know a secret? Seattle's Best and Starbucks aren't usually the ones with the best coffee... it is the little mom & pop drive thru's near a random gas station. I have tried to explain these little coffee stands to people who have never been to the northwest and they think I'm crazy.

4. Blackberries. The season is probably over or nearing an end back home. Blackberries grow wild almost everywhere it seems. You can pull off the highway and start picking! My parents have bushes in their back yard... many people do in fact. You just go outside with a bucket or bowl and start filling up. Since leaving Washington I have a very hard time paying anywhere from three to six bucks for a 1 cup container of blackberries when I used to be able to get gallons for free. Now when I go home or somebody from home is travelling to me I always request them to bring me a couple bags of frozen blackberries my mom keeps in the freezer so I can make pie! And side note: same thing goes for Rainier cherries.

5. Casual comfort of layering. Say what? Layers! Especially in all seasons that are not summer, people back home dress in layers. For the most part we aren't into style and fashion like other major cities. Of course you'll find people dressed in their business clothes with fancy coats and dapper scarves, but mostly you find people in beanies, sweatshirts, hoodies, flannel, jackets, heavy coats, and boots or sneakers. I still find myself most comfortable in that attire. Will it be clear out? Drizzly? Windy? We dress according to what the weather may be for the day (not really what it is at the moment) because, chances are... you're going to get wet and you will get cold. Oh, and it's true what they say: REAL Washingtonians don't use umbrellas.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Being the Advocate

Recently I had the unfortunate experience of clashing with William's place of therapy. Things were not working out. Despite getting along with therapists and them working well with my son, there were challenges and I was no longer willing to deal with them. We are now switching to a new place.

The original issue was the commute. The 45-minute drive was frustrating in the San Antonio traffic anyway, but then having to drive home during rush hour was making me angry. And an angry mom is not a pleasant mom. I hated being grumpy at the kids and they weren't too thrilled being cooped up in a kind of hot car sitting in traffic after going to school all day and then sitting in therapy. BUT if that's what we had to do to get my son his services I was prepared to do it... 4 days a week.

Although I could cope the commute, I was not happy with the scheduling. William wasn't on the schedule. They didn't have enough people. They didn't have openings for after school appointments. And since we were new, William got shafted. He had to go 2 months without therapies during our move. Then he gets only 2 weeks of PARTIAL services and then school starts and he gets relegated to ONE 30-minute session of speech. He is supposed to get TWO 30-minute speech sessions, ONE 60-minute occupational therapy session, and ONE 60-minute physical therapy session.

See the discrepancies??

He did end up with both of his speech sessions, but I had to fight for them.

The breaking factor was when we ended up being cancelled on not once but TWICE without being informed. So we drove all the way out there, in the traffic, and waited in the office after "checking in" only to be told 15 minutes later that we didn't have an appointment that day.

I was pretty pissed.

What we had worked out in scheduling the week before was basically thrown out the window.

By chance, when the crazy was going on, our case manager called me to check and see how things were going. She opened a can of worms on that phone call and I just let it all out! She apologized profusely and asked why I hadn't informed her. I said it was because we had supposedly worked it out but apparently not.

She asked what I wanted to do and I just felt so defeated. I told her I wanted to talk with the therapy place again to see if we could work it out but if not, we needed new referrals to go somewhere else.

Readers, you have no idea how difficult it was for me to say that out loud. I'm not a "jump around" person, I will stick it out to make it work. The term "scrappy" comes to mind. I try to be nice to everybody. I don't want to hurt feelings or make others feel bad. These people at therapy are theoretically professionals who should know what they're doing and I want to trust that it can be fixed.

It was in those frustrating days I had to realize that being ASSERTIVE is not being RUDE. There is a difference.

I am the advocator for my son. He can't get the help he needs without me pushing for it. I refuse to stand by and have my kid suffer for the lack of competence on another party's behalf. If I don't do it nobody else will.

When I showed up at therapy the next day, the front office could tell I was not happy with them. I tried to be polite, but I did tell them we were done. We would continue with the miniscule therapies William was receiving until the new referrals came in, but at that point, we'd be moving on.

The case manager had given me the names and numbers of other therapy places for me to call to find out if they had availabilities. I called all of them and they either had no availability or were also a very long commute. I was at my wits end. I was mad, and sad, and just wanted to scream and throw things. Why the hell did we agree to take a position at Lackland if we could have gotten this same crap treatment at Kirtland where we would have already had friends and a church and a support system in place to help me deal with all of this?!

Later I got a call back that one of the places nearby (only 25 minutes away) had given me incorrect information and they could accept William for all his services. Huge sigh of relief.

It was short lived.

The new referrals came in and we could no longer go to our current place of therapy. And our new therapy can't fit William into the schedule for evaluations for a couple of weeks... and I'm not even sure when he can actually start regular therapies because they also have limited to no appointments after school. Since Will receives services in-school as well, it kind of defeats the purpose if we take him out for several hours a couple times a week.

It's all a mess.

Then I view that maybe this is a nice reprieve. Will gets fairly intensive services and the little guy is only 6 years old. He's transitioning to full-time school days. A new city. A new school. A new teacher. And it's very HOT here. He really is having to take on a lot. Perhaps this lag in therapies can be a good thing for him to shift into all these changes.

I'm trying to look on the bright side but honestly, I'm not happy about any of this. I feel like a failure. What if I made the wrong choice? I know I didn't make it alone, Ryan was informed with everything going on and he was also in favor of finding a new place. It's wearisome having to be in the trenches fighting for William all the time. I would do it anyway, but I just wish things would line up more easily... why does it have to be so hard?!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering After 13 Years


I've been posting regularly on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule but this week I decided to leave Wednesday blank and post today.

It's now been 13 years since our nation was changed and we entered what is called a "post 9/11 world."

Three years ago I posted about where I was when the towers fell.

Sometimes it still seems surreal.

I've never been to that part of New York. The only part of New York I have visited was the drive to Niagara Falls and back from Ohio. Someday I'd love to travel to New York City and one of my stops will be the 9/11 Memorial and Museum because I just feel the need to experience it. Yes I saw the planes hit the towers. Yes I saw those towers fall. I've read first hand accounts and seen/heard interviews from those who made it out just like the rest of the world. But I think there is something sacred about stepping foot into the place where it happened and being there it in person.

I've been to Pearl Harbor.

I've been to Hiroshima.

I've been to the Alamo.

Sacred places to be remembered. Like those beaches at Normandy.

I really don't have something profound or eloquent to say. Usually when September 11th comes around I don't feel a huge weight coming on in the days leading up to it, in fact a majority of the time it passes and I take a moment to reflect when I finally realize what day it is. That could be because I have had very little kids and if I even knew what day it was I was busy just keeping everybody going.

Right now with all the crazy stuff going on with Iraq and Israel and Russia and questions STILL not answered about Benghazi... things just seem off. I know this country is tired of war. Overall I think a large portion of America isn't even impacted by it. They've been jaded. But I live in a military city. I am aware my husband can be called away. My brother too. The decisions made for this country actually can affect me.

I guess I just want people to take a moment to remember what got us here. Now I'm not a very political person but I try to stay aware of what is going on around the world and the impacts on America. And when it is time to vote I look into the issues and read up on the candidates before I do my civic duty. My request is that you do the same so that we can find new, strong leadership for this country when election season is upon us.

For now, I suggest taking a moment to pause and remember. Pray for our leaders. Pray for our military. Pray for our Allies. Pray for those who lost family and friends in those attacks 13 years ago because I'm certain they are still affected to this day.

** The picture from this post was one I snapped in 2011 at an amazing Memorial Day ceremony in Yuba City, California.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Snowy Day Reflections

It's hot here. Ridiculously hot.

And as my son perfectly stated after living here about a month: This Texas is just too hot... everyday!

Although I am only somewhat grumbling about the heat, I will gladly take the hotness over the incredibly COLD winter we suffered through in Ohio. I mean, it was the kind of cold that you go outside and your face hurts. You couldn't even take a deep breath through the nose without a scarf or your hand covering your nostrils or you'd get ice crystals on your nose hairs. Stupidly cold. Darn you polar vortex!

As we swelter through the summer in San Antonio (with not real idea on when it will turn cooler... late October? Sometime in November?) I decided to look back on the fun snow experiences we had in Dayton during the winter.

We actually didn't get to spend much time outside in the snow. With the windchill it was often in the negative by double digits. On those rare occasions we were above 0 degrees I would try to get us outside, even if it was only for a few minutes because the kids loved it so much... Maya only somewhat enjoyed it.
Sadly, we never got around to building a snowman, but the kids did use their sand toys and make different castles.
We made snow angels...
went sledding...
and Will became my helper by shoveling snow. I mean, this kid really liked to shovel snow and actually did a good job!
William was helpful because Ryan was busy with AFIT so he wasn't home to do our sidewalks or driveway. Base housing had a rule that you had to have your walkways cleared by a certain time so I was the one who was usually working it (with Will and Lana "helping"). Except for the one day where we had a layer of ice on the snow I didn't mind the labor... it was a good workout.

I think I may miss the snow this winter. I highly doubt we'll be seeing it down here. But then again, I honestly will NOT miss that freezing cold weather that even came back and snowed on my flowers in APRIL! Outrageous!
The snow and cold wasn't always fun, but we do have some fun memories from it.

Friday, September 5, 2014

What I've Been Eying IV

I love posting this series. Window shopping... but better. Narrowing down those items I've been looking at has actually made me purchase a few of them. Score!

For this month this is what I've Been Eying:
1. A raised bed garden kit. There are several different options so I'm not sure exactly which one I would choose to go with. William loves to "garden" in the back yard, but we don't really have the best soil or environment to do it for real. I think it would be fun to get a little garden going in the back yard that the kids can enjoy and actually learn how to grow things.

2. My Little Pony Bedding. There is a set at Target that my daughter has fallen in love with. I recently picked up a twin size bed (though I still have to get a mattress) and I told her when she moves into her big girl bed she can get My Little Pony sheets.

3. Anybody who knows me knows I'm a HUGE Doctor Who fan. Really. Ryan and I discovered the series while we lived in Japan... I think it was year 2 of the series re-launch?? Before the death of my phone I had the theme song as a ringer and the sound of the TARDIS as a text tone. I'm such a nerd. But I don't care. I've been thinking of updating my wallet and the Exploding TARDIS hinge wallet looks good to me, though I'm not sure how durable it really is.

4. It seems I must always include a piece of furniture. New house, desire to fill. Anyway, I have been keeping an eye out for accent chairs. I'm not going to be getting any for quite awhile since there are other pieces we need/want more. The lovely charcoal armchair from the picture would be great in our bedroom. Toss on a green pillow or blanket and it will fit right in! I'd also love to find a matching set of accent chairs with a fun patterned fabric for our entryway... but that's even further down on the purchasing list!

5. For my book selection this month I'm actually looking at Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I don't know how I got to be nearly 30 years old and never read it. Lately I have heard some references to it so I figured I should buckle down and take it in. I think I already have an idea what it's about. But, a major piece of literature needs to be read!

So... what have YOU got your eye on?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Look Back: Nagano Snow Monkeys

After being able to find and download all my old Myspace blogs I am doing some look backs on the adventures we experienced while living in Japan. These have been left exactly how I wrote them in my early 20's -- in all my immature, na├»ve, and ineloquent glory. Pictures have been added.

This trip was fun: The Nagano Snow Monkeys.

January 20, 2007

Whew, what a day!

Ryan and I got up early and got on the ITT bus -- headed for Nagano. LONG trip. About 4 hours.

We brought along the laptop and watched "Little Miss Sunshine" to pass some of the time. OMG! We had our headphones on so as not to disturb anybody, but I think because of all our quiet laughing (you all know what I mean) we got a few looks our direction. It was just too funny! If you've seen the movie, when we got to the 'voice of experience' part we could not contain ourselves. Ryan hadn't seen it before; so you know how if you already know what's going on you get more fun out of the other person's reactions who hasn't seen it? Yeah, it was great.

We stopped off at this fruit place, thingy-ma-bobber for lunch.
Congratulate me... for the first time I used a Japanese toilet. It's so weird. I think I might have peed backwards on it, but at least I did it. I was so afraid that I was going to get it on my pants! Sheesh! But it was done, something new I experienced.

We had lunch and bought some interesting little fruit flavored stuff. Ryan wanted ice cream right as we were leaving. I'm not really sure why, it was freakin' COLD outside. But he ordered a vanilla cone.
It was not vanilla.
We couldn't place the flavor and then we learned it was apple flavored ice cream. How weird is that?!

A while later we arrived at the trail to the monkey park. Thankfully I had my new Columbia jacket and my snow boots, gloves and a hat. Ryan didn't listen to me so he wasn't as well as prepared. I gave him my hat though, I didn't need it.

We climbed up this little hill then traveled a narrow, ice covered trail all the way to the park. About 20 minutes walking. There was a couple inches of snow at the park, but the monkeys were pretty cool. They're used to people being there so you can get right up next to them. I was good, I didn't even try to touch one... one tried to touch me though (I'll get to that soon).

 These snow monkeys get in the hot springs and swim, they run around and play, walk right by you like a person, clean each other, and hang around. They all have little cute faces, well sort of. They all smell too. 
We have a lot of pictures that I'm sure I'll do some postings of soon.
Now, the attack! What is up with some of these animals?! We were getting ready to head back down the trail. I'm standing on the little bridge talking and as I take a step forward this HUGE monkey jumps from out of nowhere onto the railing which I am sort of leaning on/standing next to. Scared the crap out of me! You should know by now I startle easily, so of course I practically scream. Sheesh, then he jumps down like right behind me and runs to the other side and off somewhere. When I sort of screamed Ryan turned around almost tripped over a monkey at his feet. We started laughing and the lady who saw the whole thing said she should have got it on video it was so funny!
We got back down to the bus early and just chilled out.

Of course on the way home we stopped at a rest area type place. We had a little potty break and the Japanese women were laughing at us American women 'cause we were all standing in a line to use western-style toilets. None of us wanted to use Japanese toilets. Then we got some Japanese food and back to the bus.

We made it home, I've done some homework and Ryan is playing his new Zelda game. All is good.

Tomorrow is Ryan's birthday. He'll be 26. Like he says: he's getting close to being close to 30. He's so cute!

Monday, September 1, 2014

How to Create Your Own PCS Binder

For my last two military moves I have created a PCS Binder. In our previous relocations I had something similar, but it was not organized and I found that to be such a headache! Now I've gotten smarter and this special thing becomes one of the most important items carried with us while we travel from one base to another.

So what is it really?

It holds all our important information that is or may be necessary before, during, and after a move.

I'll start at the beginning.
I'm sure you saw my lovely front cover. It's just my way of trying to get psyched up about our upcoming PCS. I try to include a city map because you'd be surprised how often you'll look at it to use as a reference. Also? It helps me begin to learn the layout of my new home and how to get around.
Open it up and you immediately see my list of Important Dates. These include pre-inspection for housing, last day of school, when the movers will arrive and load the truck, final inspection, the closing of our house, and when our movers will deliver the goods to our new house. Other things maybe to add, if needed, would be final out-processing date, first day of school, travel stop dates, or vacation dates if using leave en route.

At the front of my binder I have the vital pencil pouch with pens, sharpies, pencils, and highlighter. Sometimes you need different things so I like to be safe. Adding a small pair of scissors is also a good idea. If you want to you can include tape, paperclips, mini stapler, and sticky notes.

Now we come to the meat of the binder. I get dividers with pockets to use as my placeholders. GET DIVIDERS WITH THE POCKETS! You don't always get things hole punched and you really want to be able to keep everything together where it belongs!
These dividers are labeled and sometimes I don't use them all. My main ones are for the housing we are leaving, a section JUST for keeping copies of our orders, TMO movers, maps and info to the hotels we have reservations for, new housing stuff, kids' new school information, and health/doctor/therapy. Some people hand carry their medical records but I would not keep them with this binder. This is more for quick reference or fast production of documents.
In each section I also have a few pieces of lined paper for notes as things come up. There are a bunch of them at the back of the binder too for use as needed. Additionally, I keep a few clear document sheet protectors in case I need to keep several pages together and separate for anything else.

Somewhere in the binder I also keep a list of important phone numbers. This can be in the front, at the back, in its own section, or meshed with something else. But make sure the placement makes sense to you. These numbers should include your own cell phones, an emergency contact person (or 2), your previous base, your incoming base, TLF, housing/landlord/realtor, and maybe even your hotels.

When you reach the end of the binder, another pencil pouch can be found. This one is used mainly to hold receipts. Receipts for gas, receipts for the scales from weighing vehicles, receipts for hotels... anything that should be used to claim your reimbursement from financing when in-processing. You don't want to lose these and I found this to be the best way to transport them without losing them.
That concludes the workings of my PCS Binder. It isn't very hard to put together. In fact, if you get the basics laid out before you begin the process of PCSing you simply put the documents in as soon as you receive them and it builds itself. Easy peasy.

  • 3-ring binder (2" or bigger)
  • Dividers with pockets
  • 2 pencil pouches
  • lined paper
  • 2 pencils
  • 2 pens
  • 1 sharpie
  • 1 highlighter
  • List of Important Dates and Times
  • List of Important Phone Numbers
  • Orders
  • 2-3 clear sheet protectors
  • eraser
  • paper clips
  • small scissors
  • tape
  • mini stapler
  • sticky notes
  • spiral notebook