Sunday, September 16, 2012

An explanation

I feel the need to explain why Sam is getting out of the Army now.

Since he's been in for nearly 14 years, we get a lot of, "Why aren't you retiring? It's only 6 more years! You really are missing out!" Mostly from people who either don't know everything that is involved in Sam staying in the Army, people who don't know what we've experienced in the Army National Guard and people who just don't know how Army benefits work.

Even though Sam has been on some sort of Active Duty Orders (meaning that he's worked full time for the army as his Monday through Friday job, plus 2 deployments and schooling) for about 4 1/2 years (give or take some) he would only be eligible for a National Guard retirement check when he reaches retirement age. That is a small amount of money that he would receive in 30 years for 6 more years of service. That could possibly be three more deployments. It's not worth it.

Last night we had the Division Dining Out. This is where everyone dresses up in their dress blues (and the women wear formal wear) and we all eat dinner together and listen to high ranked people give speeches. This year was the first year I actually wasn't bored to tears because the two men who spoke were actually interesting. One was retiring, and the other was being promoted. What was most interesting was listening to Sam's peers (all men who he worked in the office with the past two years and a few people he deployed to Kosovo with). They kept giving Sam flak for getting out, but they were all super impressed and incredibly supportive of him. They realize that IBM is a great job for him, and they are all still playing the bureaucratic games of the Army which is royally screwing some of them over. For example, one officer really wanted to be transferred to a unit in San Diego because he felt like that would help him advance. Instead of giving him that transfer, they picked a guy who wanted to stay put and transferred him instead. As a bonus, they are sending that unit to Afghanistan so...there you go!

I've never been a fan of Sam being gone. I've hated every single drill weekend, every month he's been gone, and loathed deployments. I've never been a "rah rah rah!" kind of Army wife. I appreciate the benefits, but at the end of the day I've always said that I would rather struggled and have my husband home than not be worried and have him gone. So, I have always chalked up my complaints of Sam's experience in the Army as me being a baby.

At least I did until last night when one of Sam's former office mates told me that Sam was getting out at a good time and that the Army really stuck it to him while he was in. Apparently two deployments like Sam had is unusual.

For the record, I have appreciated the benefits. It was nice having really great health insurance that was inexpensive for us. I also really appreciate the good car insurance and the pay checks. But, when people point those things out and say that we owe the Army for that, it doesn't compute for me. Sam has health insurance through IBM right now, but that doesn't mean that we owe IBM our lives, it simply means that IBM appreciates their employees and so they provide them with benefits. It's part of the perks of having a regular job. To say we don't want to be a part of the Army culture any more is not saying I didn't appreciate those things.

Here is the list of things that Sam has missed because of his Army National Guard duties.

  • My undergrad graduation.
  • The deaths of multiple family members (along with funerals because unless it is a direct relative, you aren't allowed to leave).
  • My whole entire pregnancy with Nathaniel.
  • Nathaniel's first 3 months.
  • The last half of my pregnancy with Aaron.
  • The birth of Aaron.
  • Aaron's first 9 months of life.
  • My graduation from Seminary.
That is just the big things. Not to mention birthdays, anniversaries, recitals and other things of the boys. He didn't get to see Aaron learn how to sit up or roll over or begin to crawl. He even missed the golden moments of Benjamin's infancy due to the trip to Australia last summer.

So, when we do the happy dance for Sam getting out of the Army, we have our reasons. When people ask me if I'm ready to have my husband back full time I look at them and say, "I've never HAD Sam full time. So, I am looking forward to having him full time for the first time in our relationship."

Does it mean we hate the Army? No. It just means we are done. And boy, are we happy!

(As I finished typing this, Sam walked in, finishing up his final Army thing. His timing couldn't be better!)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Seizing the Day

 Life is crazy.

Between school, music lessons, church stuff and life, we are going a million miles an hour. I generally don't see my kids between Tuesday morning and Thursday morning (minus dinner, that is our sacred family time that no one is allowed to interrupt, and time in the van going from home to school and back). That stinks when I think about it, but I also then focus on the fact that my Mondays and Fridays are spent solely focusing on house work and playing with the kiddos and it makes me feel blessed and happy to get more than a lot of people.

Because of the busyness of it all, time is flying by. I can't believe that Nathaniel is already in first grade learning sentence structures and Aaron blew me away yesterday morning as he told me what words were on a sign that we passed ("Mom! That sign says Kapow!") and then correctly picked out his friend's cubby at school. Plus, Benjamin has so many words, teeth and hair. Isn't he still my baby? No? Whatever.

Due to the nature of my job I am constantly thinking of future events, so in my mind it's already Christmas.

So, this school year we are seizing the day. Every day is going to be lived to the fullest and every moment is going to be savored. I will NOT wish my days away because there is joy to find in every day. When some helpful child spills salad dressing all over the freshly mopped floor, I will not freak out, I will use it as a teaching moment. When the freshly bathed children go and play in the dirt, I will take the pictures that I will laugh at later, bite my tongue and send them back to the bath. And, when my 3 year old wants me to play a game with him, I will finish my task up and then take the time to play with him (he does have to learn patience and see that life isn't all fun and games).

I know that all too soon I'm going to long for the days of diapers and cutting up grapes and sippy cups (okay, maybe I won't miss diapers).

I encourage my Mom friends (and my childless friends as well) to take the time to enjoy the moments. Don't wish away your days.

So, my question for you is: What was your favorite moment this week? What are you going to choose to enjoy today?

I'll go first. My absolute favorite moment today was with Aaron. He was pretending to be a dog and was barking. He then went to lick me. I told him, "Don't lick me!" He said, "But I a doggie!" I told him I don't let dogs lick me. He then looked at me with the straightest face and said, "But I not lick my butt or eat poop!"

I died! He is so funny. :)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Our first break from real school is ending.

The summer is winding down.

School starts up again on Wednesday and Nathaniel will be a first grader. Aaron will still be in preschool and Benjamin will still be loving the attention which is showered on him by his caregiver (I could call her a nanny, but that sounds pretentious, but she is so much more than just day care. I could write a whole post on how blessed we are to have a person who genuinely loves Benjamin who watches him when I'm at work.).

So, we have survived our first summer vacation, and it was good.

Granted, I still worked as much as I normally do (if not more if you count the back packing trip with the high school students, beach nights and the week of summer camp), but I did get Mondays and Friday with all of the kiddos to do what we pleased.

It was a good summer. We had enough adventures to make it interesting, and enough down time to get bored a few times (but not bored enough to wish school was starting up again).

I had lofty goals for the summer.

I wanted Nathaniel to learn how to tie his shoes. He's still working on it but is going through a stage (oh please, oh please only be a stage) where he doesn't want me to SHOW him how to do things, he just wants to do it. Like fractions.  This summer he did a little bit of summer school through day camp and they were doing simple fractions. That was the week we were at Hume so he had to do that work on his own. When he asked me about the fractions I was trying to think of a way to explain it without going over his head, before I said a word he shooed me away because he figured it out. So, the other night when I sat down with my shoes (I remember learning how to tie my shoes on my mom's shoes. It's easier with bigger laces), Nathaniel tried to tie on his own without looking at what I was doing. He was SO frustrated when he couldn't get it, but he wouldn't let me show him. We'll try again tomorrow.

I also wanted Nathaniel to run a mile. That did not happen. But, he did run a race on the Fourth of July, and he ran the whole thing which was about a half mile so...he's making progress. And, he's definitely more willing to be active, so that was progress.

I also wanted Nathaniel to practice his violin more and learn a new song this summer. HA! He took one fiddle lesson (well, one and a half, but the half one he threw a fit for so that doesn't really count...). He played his violin maybe 10 times. But, when he got it out a few days ago, he really hadn't lost much skill wise. He even played an old song from memory without any mistakes (including the dynamics). So, whatever.

Here's what we DID do this summer.

We ate a lot of frozen yogurt.
We played in the sprinklers a lot, and had a few impromptu water fights with the hose.
We planted a garden and actually ate some tomatoes, corn and peppers from that garden.
We swam.
We played with friends.
We went to the beach.
We went to the Aquarium.
We went to Disneyland.
We went to Sea World.
We went to the San Diego Zoo.
We read lots of books.
We painted and play doughed, and used our imaginations.
We went camping.
We sat on the lawn at church and watched movies.

Overall, it was a great summer.

And here's the kicker. Back in July, Nathaniel lost T.V. privileges. So, for the past month and a half the t.v. has been off in our house. I honestly think that's what made the summer better. I know, some people are shocked that we can have a good summer without at least some t.v. (and I thought that my sanity was going to be lost as well, especially when Sam was gone, T.V. in the afternoon is usually my saving grace). But, I think having the T.V. off really helped the boys' imaginations and their ability to play together grow.

So, Wednesday morning I will pack everyone up in the van like usual. Only this time, I will be dropping my first grader off at his classroom. I wonder if the little boy who wanted me to walk him into his classroom every day in kindergarten (I was torn. I wanted him to have some independence, but I also love that he still likes my company) will want me to walk him to first grade, too?

For my friends who read this blog, how was your summers? Are you looking forward to routines and school again?