Martin’s Blog: Vacation West



As Julie traveled east to attend our friends wedding and visit with my family, I packed up the kids and traveled west to visit with her family.

Usually a trip to the grandparents is only for the weekend since either Julie or I had to be back at work by Monday. To my knowledge, we have never stayed in Ohio for more than a weekend. Continue reading

Martin’s Blog: The Wrap-Up

Catching a falling star — a helium balloon, actually — while kayaking over Memorial Day weekend.

 

Here I am at the end of my month of blogging on Julie and Martin.

I have to admit there were some days I didn’t feel like writing or that there is anything to write about. Julie set the standard high in the weeks leading up to May. She posts four to six times a week.

So how did I do it?

It wasn’t as hard as I thought it will be. Lucky me I had an Expert to give me some advise and keep me going.

Most of the time I sat in front of the screen and stared at a blank page. Julie has asked me to write a blog entry a few times before and I always remember that blank page. Then I remember the first time I was just sitting and thinking, “what is interesting enough to write about and I don’t say it in just 5 sentences.”

That’s when Julie gave me some great advice: just start writing!

I started writing. And kept on writing, wrote more, and a little more. I wondered what my family in Germany may want to know about what’s going on here with us in the States, what was going on with the kids.

Before I knew it. I had a blog entry and it was more than just five sentences about my day.

I still use that technique most often. I like that I can edit anything until I hit publish.

Lola with the fallen star in our kayak

 

On other days, a perfect blog entry falls in your lap. Like my Are you Dad enough entry — the breastfeeding cover and Julie’s photography talents were enough to prompt me to write my opinion about the whole thing. Unfortunately, this inspiration does not happen every day, not even every week. But every now then, you will hear something in the news, see something on the way to work or do as a family, and it will inspire you. At least, it did for me.

My goal this month was to write for the blog regularly, which I did publishing about two times a week. I wanted to put my English writing skills to use to prepare for my return to school, and I did that. I wanted to write blog posts that would keep my family in Germany up-to-date, and during this month, I think I communicated with my family via webcam and iPhone/Skype more than ever before, in part because they wanted to talk to me about something on the blog.

Plus, one of my entries got syndicated. Julie is more excited about that accomplishment, but I admit it was very cool hearing from other bloggers and dads about that post, beyond just our regular readers.

This was the first time in all ten years of our blog that I sustained the blog for some time with just my posts. The summer Julie deployed, we were still writing together.  But this past month, with Julie working on other things and not able to commit as much time to this blog, I learned I could do it and that I actually enjoyed it. I hope you enjoyed it, too.

This won’t be the last you’ll hear from me.

Martin’s Blog: Flashback Friday and Memorial Day

I drove Julie all the way to work in downtown DC today because she forgot her Metro card. Normally, this would have been a nightmare but it was actually very nice because the roads were clear of traffic. Apparently everyone had already left for the holiday weekend and what is normally an hour’s drive was really only 35 minutes.

On the way home, I realized I was driving in the midst of hundreds of motorcycles. I was reminded that  Rolling Thunder is in DC to honor Memorial Day this weekend.

 

Rolling Thunder is when motorcyclists from around the country drive to DC and visit Arlington cemetery before driving through the city, all in honor of those who have died for America. I first saw and learned about this in 2008 when Julie’s friend from Germany, Pam, was in town and we took her to see the city. It’s very loud and really neat to see all those motorcycles in one place. Most have some type of flag on them, and most drivers are wearing something that shows their military connection.

In Germany, we do not have a day that honors the dead from our past wars. Patriotism and such public displays of national pride is a very different thing over there as it is here. People will come out and drape the German flag when the country wins a soccer match, but you will not see that in remembrance of those who died in the military.

To my knowledge, the only person in my family to die in war was my great-uncle Karl who was an older teenager when he was killed in combat in World War I. I only know of him from what my Oma told us.

I really think it’s a good thing that Americans do this. War is never a good thing and it is the people who are far away from the decision-making, like the military people and their families, who really suffer the most for a long time. It is right to honor them.

As for Julie’s family, there is a lot of military history in her family. Her grandfathers, her great-uncles, her uncle and dad all served. None of them died in combat, but her grandfather and Uncle Ray paid heavily for the things they experienced in World War II and Vietnam. And through Julie’s military service, combat-related deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan have hit close to home.
She wrote about those she knew who have died, which is my Flashback Friday link this week. A few months after she wrote that, her Air Force Reserve coworker’s brother was killed in Afghanistan. His name was Marine Sgt. Joe Caskey. Julie serves with his brother, Jeremy.
We will be thinking of them this weekend.

Martin’s Blog: The Cut

Monday is my shopping day. New sales are up and new coupons came in the Sunday paper. The morning was business as usual. We were all on the straight and narrow to a really good day.

After dropping off Julie at the Metro, Lola decided she wanted to take a bath. Jaz was ready to take a nap, so I welcomed the suggestion to get her in the tub while I was tending to the clothes that have been waiting to be folded all weekend. With both kids in a place where they can’t do anything silly, I got done with the laundry rather quick.

Once I was done Lola was ready to get out of the bathtub, which she usually only does under protest. We went on with blow drying and brushing her hair at Julie’s makeup table. Lucky for me, Lola just got  her summer haircut — a trim to her shoulders with long bangs — and combing her hair was not as painful as it usually is.

The day was going great, Jaz woke up just in time to have lunch before we had to leave to pick up Miss C from school and start our afternoon shopping trip. Miss C gets out of school early and she is a big help keeping Lola under control when we walk through the aisles, especially the ones with candy and toys.

Miss C was extra excited as she spotted a  police toy-set the last time we went to the grocery store. Over the weekend, she had counted her money numerous times to make sure she had enough to buy it.

And today was the day she was planning to make the big purchase with her own money.

Our first stop was a local CVS to get new passport pictures for Miss C. The last time she had that done, she was only a few days old and could only keep her eyes open just long enough to snap an acceptable picture.

The lady at CVS seemed to know what she was doing. There was a lot of posing, positioning, fixing the hair, but because of Miss C’s bright blue shirt, the picture didn’t want to turn out just right. We had to head back home and get something darker.

The second try was a success.

Then we were off to our favorite grocery store. The store always has samples of cookies, cheese, cold-cuts, bread with dip and fruit. As a reward for good behavior, there was another cookie and a balloon waiting for the kids on the way out.

It’s been a year now that I started couponing, and I’m having tons of fun with it, especially when the store has the rare promo of tripling coupons up to 99 cents. I manage to save 70% or more.

Today, nobody was more excited than Miss C. She loves playing police with Lola. And while Miss C, with a little inspiration from her aunt Jill who is a real police officer, always picks to be the part of the police officer, Lola loves to play the part of the bad guy running away from anyone.

With today’s big purchase, Miss C had her own police badge and handcuffs.

She was so excited that as soon as we got everyone loaded in the car she unpacked her handcuffs and wanted to arrest Lola. That’s hard to do in a minivan and Lola was so tired that she passed out and continued sleeping until it was time to pick up mom. No criminal mischief there.

But Miss C’s imagination ran wild. She planned out loud to wait for Mom on the curb outside of the station and once her Mom walked by, Miss C wanted  to handcuff her and load her in the minvan in front of everyone. However, it was raining and the curb was already lined with cars waiting for people coming off the metro. Miss C, being the good citizen, suggested she could make a citizens’ arrest with all those who are ignoring the “no-parking” rules.

All was right in the world. Or so I thought.

The second we picked up Mom and she greeted the kids, Julie noticed something was different about Lola. At some point during the day, during a split second she was out of my view, Lola decided to personalize her hair and cut off some chunks of it.

The whole day, I never noticed.

Neither did Miss Law Enforcement.

When interrogated by her Mom and sister, Lola had no problem admitting she did it herself and later even lead us proudly to the place where she did it, Miss C’s room, where the evidence was still in bundles on the floor.

How can she be arrested for such honesty?

The most awesome mug on a mug shot.

Martin’s Blog: Flashback Friday and Wildlife

It is Friday again already. I had to ask Julie twice this morning if it was really Friday because the week has just flown by and we have been really busy.

As you may know, we here at Julie and Martin do a “flashback” every Friday where we share something from the archives from the past ten years of this blog.

Today, I decided to go back to May 2008, to our blog post called “A Walk Through the Park.”

It’s amazing to think that we have been living here for four years already. Time has gone by so fast. We still regularly go to the park. We also started this summer to explore the bike trails that have been added since we moved here, which you can read about here.

As for the wildlife, there are so many more animals than just deer. And due to our pear tree in the backyard, we have our wild neighbors over for lunch quite often. So far we’ve had deer, raccoons, bunnies, frogs, turtles and, of course, squirrels and birds in our backyard. We haven’t seen any skunks so far this year, as we have before, but we are very certain they are around as well.  Yesterday, when I walked out the front door, I even saw a fox running across our front yard.

As the summer is just about to start, we are appreciating the many opportunities to walk through the park and enjoy our neighborhood.

Organization

Photo by Martin

Over the years, we’ve collected a lot of Metro cards that still have value on them. Some of them have been de-magnetized, too, so I’ve been working to find them all and send them in for reimbursement. That’s money Julie can use for her commute.

–  Martin

Martin’s Blog: Are You Dad Enough?

20120515-cover
This cover would probably be ignored and not sell very much.

Maybe you have heard about the magazine cover featuring a mom nursing her three-year-old?

I first heard about it on Facebook. Then Julie told me about it. And then we saw things about it on the news and on Saturday Night Live. Apparently, the article was about breastfeeding children beyond the first year and there was also talk of attachment parenting. (We do not read the magazine, so I am only going off what I have seen online about it.) Attachment parenting is something I didn’t even learn about until my wife and I attended the BlogHer ’11 conference last summer for her presentation, and we were asked about it.

I had to Google it once I got some Internet access.

Being a stay-at-home dad, I don’t worry about the labels that get put on moms so much. Nobody cares I always fed my kids with bottles or that I keep vaccination calendars on my cell phone. Dads are lucky in that way that if we bump into each other with our kids, we’re not going to look at each other and wonder if the other uses diapers that are better for the Earth.

I think dads get the opposite of the pressure that is on mothers. I would be surprised if a magazine cover would ever ask if men are “dad enough” because nobody really thinks about it. We kind of get ignored by media, and this is good and bad.

It is good because of the reasons I mentioned. There is no pressure to be a certain way. I just do what I think is best for my kids based upon how I was raised, how I see others raise their kids, how my wife and I have agreed, and what my gut tells me.

Regarding attachment parenting, I’ve always worn my kids in a sling until they get too big, mostly because I like to use my hands and because it is nice to have them there with me. We eat organic food because we think it’s better for our health, but we love Chick-Fil-A and the occasional McDonald’s run. I draw the line at them sleeping with us. I will nap with my children, but at night, I prefer to sleep alone with my wife. While I let my kids dress themselves and make their own decisions on most things, my kids address adults as ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ and say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ I’m not sure what label this sort of thing falls under, but it works for us.

As for the bad side of dads not really getting the spotlight in the media, it is annoying to watch television shows and the dads are always being the clueless guy who gets bossed around by the wife and kids. None of that is real life, of course. But it happens in magazines, too. When Julie was first pregnant, I read a book called “The Expectant Father” and it talked about this very thing, about how dads are perceived in the media and how that reflects in society. I didn’t really believe it, but I did notice this difference after becoming a dad.

Try it out the next time you are watching television, and see how dads are represented. It has gotten much better over the years, but the role of being a dad is still not accurately represented.

It’s not just media. I get it in real life where people make comments to me that they wouldn’t make to my wife, or didn’t make to her when she was stay-at-home. This has more to do with the idea of gender roles in the family more than just the role of being a dad.

I have been asked if it was really hard to leave my military to support my wife’s career. (For the record, it wasn’t.) I get called Mister Mom a lot. (I’m not a Mom. I’m a Mister Dad.) Others talk as if being a stay-at-home dad is a temporary thing or something we were forced to do because of the job market. (For the record, I choose to quit my job at the bank.)  I’ve also been asked if it bothers me that my wife brings home the money. (For the record, no. It’s quite nice, actually.)

I realize I talked about a lot of things here, but I guess my whole point to this particular blog piece is that a magazine cover and headline like the one that is making the news is silly because the moms I know are more than enough for their kids. If there was ever a cover like that for dads, it would be just as silly. As parents who love our kids, I think we’re always trying to meet their needs and then give them more than that.

Are we parents enough? I think it is safe to say we are all trying.

****************

I got my TOEFL test results. I got 102 out of 120, which puts me in the top category. My writing score, especially, was great.  This means I can now go to any college or university I want, that will take me, of course. Big ‘Thank You’ to those who encouraged me. I was very nervous, but am really glad it’s over and I did well!

Martin’s Blog: Just Keep Running

 

For the first time in eight years, I did not make breakfast for Julie for Mother’s Day. Back in 2004, it all started that I would make Julie crepes and bacon and eggs, but this year, she asked me not to since the breakfast is so heavy and full of sugar, and she already had it a few weeks ago for her birthday.

So she got to start the day with oatmeal. And Miss C presented her with a poem.

Then, we went for a morning bike ride.

It was a really nice day. The weather could not have been better. There were other families out for walks, but for the most part, we had the trail to ourselves. Julie pulled Jaz and Lola until we reached the halfway point, which is a bridge over a large creek, and that’s when Lola wanted to get out of her trailer.

She wanted to run, so we let her run ahead of us with Miss C next to her. We were amazed. Lola just kept running and running. Sometimes she stopped to catch her breath, and we asked her, “Do you want to get in the trailer?” And she always said no, she wanted to keep running. Even when she tripped just once, she just got up and kept running some more.

Lola has always had a lot of energy. She apparently has a lot of endurance, too, and I hope that is something she keeps as she grows up. She ran about a mile all by herself before we forced her to get back in the trailer. There were some tears, but we promised to visit a park and that cheered her up. I wish we had her energy.

Back when I worked at the bank, I worked three weekends a month. The only weekend I didn’t work was when Julie left for her Air Force Reserve duty. I am glad we have these weekends together again.

Martin’s Blog: Flashback Friday for Mother’s Day

 

Julie and Miss C during Take Your Child to Work Day in 2007.*

It is going to be Mother’s Day this weekend. This post is going to be about the mother in our family. It is also Friday, which means a flashback look into our archives.

Recently, Julie was interviewed by psychologist Suzanne B. Phillips Psy.D, ABPP, who is a regular blogger for PsychCentral.com, and has appeared on television and in the media for her articles on mental health and family issues. As she lives in the New York City area, she works with a lot of 9/11 families, as well as military veterans and their families in her area. Since it is Mother’s Day, Dr. Phillips wanted to speak with military moms and write how they handled being a mom and being deployed. So she talked with Julie.

I was in the family room on our compter while Julie talked with Dr. Phillips over the phone next to me. I always like listening to Julie when she talks about her deployment, even if I already know the whole story. Later this month, it will be the five-year anniversary of the day Julie left, but it seems like it wasn’t that long ago.

The article is very nice with helpful information for other military moms. You can read the interview here.

Julie really did a lot for Miss C and me during that summer. It didn’t seem like anything unusual to me then because that is just how Julie is, but I realize now that a lot of what she did back then was really important for Miss C to feel involved and connected to her and the situation.

Julie is always trying to be prepared. She is always thinking about the rest of us.

One of the things mentioned in the article is the link I am going to share as today’s flashback. It is about the “Mommy Prayer.” Julie explains it very well in that blog post.

It was something that really worked during Julie’s deployment. Every night, and sometimes during the day, Miss C and I together said a prayer for Julie, and then talked about our ideas as to what Julie was going to do when she “got” the prayer. Was she going to dance around? Was she going to just smile and laugh? Was she going to feel like we were giving her a hug? It was a really nice thing for all of us.

Happy Mother’s Day, Julie. We love you!

To my mother: alles gute zum Muttertag!

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*On Take Your Child to Work Day, Miss C dressed in camo pants, a black shirt and wore one of her mom’s hats to dress like her mom, but she was disappointed she didn’t have the cover jacket like her mom, so for our photos, Julie took hers off so they matched. Apparently, it matters to Julie that you know that since it’s not how the uniform is officially worn. She’s such a rule-breaker. 

Martin’s Blog: Where A Big Kid Can Be A Big Kid

I think I’ve made it clear that I am not like Julie when it comes to blogging. Ever since taking on the challenge of blogging for a whole month of May, I am realizing that what Julie has been doing consistently for the last ten years is really amazing.

I still have not realized how her brain operates though. I do not know how she comes up with such good ideas to write about all the time.

Fortunately, we had a fun weekend and it only took me three days to write about it.

We went to Chuck E. Cheese. Julie and I, and the kids, went there with our friend Marina and her little boy.

Our Chuck E. Cheese attendance started back in 2007 when Julie was on her deployment. Miss C was four years old, and like any four-year-old, she had way to much energy.

I had no idea where I could take her to get rid of all that energy. Apparently the daycare center was not enough playing for her to get tired. Plus, it was a little hard to be eating in a house that felt empty and quiet without Julie there.

A neighbor suggested go to Chuck E Cheese for dinner. It was a great discovery for me.

While Julie was gone, we went there at least once a week. Miss C definitely spent all her energy there and even I found a few games that I enjoy. We collected so many tickets and got so many toys. We made a competition out of it. We could not wait to take Julie there when she got back home, and even though she is not a fan of the food, lights, noise and germs, she knows we have a lot of fun. I think she likes the Whack-a-Mole, too.

So after Lola was born, we didn’t wait too long to introduce our new daughter to Chuck E Cheese as well. Of course she fell in love with it, too, over the years.
However, Nick is currently away in training to deploy overseas, so we invited Marina and their son to come along to Chuck E Cheese with us.As I said, this past weekend, we went with our friend Marina and her son. We spent New Years Eve with them earlier this year, as you may already know. We first met her husband, Nick, while we were stationed in Italy. We were happy to hear they moved to the DC area last year and we immediately reconnected with them. We always have a great time.

We spent three hours there! This was also the first time for Jaz to experience the place. Although he was too little to play on any games, he was in a great mood the whole time. He even managed to sit in some of the little truck rides that don’t really go anywhere, but move around. And, as I’ve done with the girls in previous visits, I got a photo booth picture of just the two of us.

That evening, Marina invited us to join her for dinner, and we spent another few hours there, talking about all kinds of things, to include Nick’s upcoming deployment and how they are going to deal with it, and ways that Julie and I can help her along the way.
It is hard for me to believe it’s been almost five years since Julie left. I am very proud of her and what she did there, but as soon as she got home, I told her “never again” because I worried so much. But even as a Reservist, she still has a chance to deploy. So many of our friends who are still active duty are on their third or fourth deployment. It’s a lot on the families.
So while it’s not fun that Nick is deploying, we are looking forward to more trips to Chuck E Cheese with our friends. It’s where a big kid like me can be a big kid, where our little kids can go crazy, and where all of us can have fun and forget about the things that stress us out for just a little bit.