The Finger and the Furlough

Martin and his finger after finally getting the care he needs.

Today was my first full day as a furloughed government worker.

I took Miss C to school in the morning. I made Nutella toast for Lola and Jaz. Martin was gone most of the morning: he had an appointment with our family doctor first thing, and it stretched into hours spent in the orthopedics clinic having his broken ring finger x-rayed and re-set in an effort to correct the shoddy care he received at the Air Force clinic during his recent Air Force Reserve duty time.

Oh, have I not mentioned that one here on the blog?

It’s been a wild ride.

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I Heard It First

This beautiful boy said the most beautiful thing this evening.

We were rocking in his chair just before bedtime, pointing out objects and giving them names. I know I’m a little biased, but his vocabulary is quite impressive for a two-year-old. Every day, I’m floored by his pronunciation of something new, or articulating something that sounded like mumbled mush just 24 hours before.

In his wee little voice, he says so many things. Continue reading

No Open Letter Needed. Just Conversation.

My news and social media feeds have been alive and well these days with chatter about Miley Cyrus’s performance at the Video Music Awards.

On both traditional and social media sites, it’s been all about the former Disney child star gone bad. I don’t need to link to it. If you’re reading this, you’ve been online. You’ve seen it.

Her name became a trending topic, and it busted previously held social media records, according to this and this. It’s been days since the awards show, and it’s still making headlines today. Continue reading

Going Gray

Inspecting the tinsel back in 2011.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about my gray hair.

But this is the first time I’ve made the conscious decision that I’m not going to color my hair for awhile. I’m letting the gray hair grow out.

I know. I know. Hardly groundbreaking stuff here.

But for me, this is a pretty big deal.

I’ve been coloring my hair since I was 14 years old. For the longest time, I was coloring my hair to experiment with new looks and styles. There was no need to cover any grays.

And even when grays did start appearing when I was 25, it wasn’t a big deal. I could pluck the onesies-twosies whenever they appeared. Mostly, I just wanted to cover the roots.

But now?

I would be partially bald if I plucked out the grays anymore.

And I just colored my hair a few weeks ago, yet the top of my head and my temples are already frostier than Martin’s.

I can’t keep up.

And to be honest, I really don’t want to keep up.

So, I’m not anymore. I’m going to leave my hair color untouched and see what happens.

Fortunately, I’m a genetic clone of my mother, so I do have some idea of what this is going to look like.  While she often colors her hair, there’ve been times she didn’t, and I know her gray comes in scattered like Anne Bancroft and Jaime Lee Curtis.

It’s a little here and there, unlike those ladies who are completely gray like Emmy Lou Harris.

Of course, these celebrity examples are much older than me, but good luck trying to find a 30-something or younger celebrity with natural gray hair. (Sorry – Kelly Osbourne doesn’t count.)
I only know of two other ladies in my age range who keep their hair gray. (And they are gorgeous.)

And I did find there is a community of women online who write often about their gray hair HERE, but most of those ladies are at least 15 years older than me. The youngest I found is 37.

And I just adore this blogger How Bourgeois. I think she’s in her early 30s, like me.

So I’m definitely not the first to do this.

Though Martin isn’t one to make a fuss about these things,  I did expect a little more hoopla when I made the announcement to him.

“See these?” I asked him earlier this evening, pulling my hair back from my ears. “See these grays? I’m not covering them up anymore. I’m going gray.”

Silence as he stared at the Nats game.

“Going gray,” I repeated. “No more hair dye.”

Still nothing. So I poked his arm.

“You don’t care that I’m not coloring my hair anymore?”

He finally looked over.

“If it mattered to me, I would say something,” he responded. “I don’t care if you have gray hair. I just like it long.”

So there it is.

Going gray? Okay.

But not short.



Good Life: Believe in Magic

These are the faces of two little girls who just learned they’re not going to Disney World. At least, not in a few weeks like we originally planned.

Not what one would expect, right?

But sometimes, just a little magic — and an amazing friend — is all that’s needed to make a disappointing situation into something a little fun.

Back in February, the day before their dad left for several months to attend military training, Martin and I presented the girls with Disney outfits and a book, and the news that we would all be traveling down to Disney World in August when their Dad got home.

Needless to say, they were delighted.

And Martin and I were excited, too. Tucked away in our savings account was enough money for a week-long trip to visit all the parks and character breakfasts and all that jazz, and I had put in the vacation request months in advance at work. We had all the dates worked out around Martin’s continuing training and Miss C’s school vacations.

Everything was all set to go.

And then?

In July, Amelia the Minivan had a meltdown during Martin’s return trip from Ohio with the kids.

A bad one.

She needed a new part, and the final tab on her meltdown actually cost THREE military-discounted trips to Disney World.

There was no question: we had to dip into the savings and postpone the trip to Disney World.

These things happen.

It’s life.

There’s a saying in the military about “embracing the suck.” It means you just have to accept that some things aren’t easy and they’re not fun, but you got to do it, and move on. There was no question what needed to happened, of course.

But still.

It sucked.

So, I canceled the hotel reservation, canceled my leave request at work and we got the van fixed and on the road again. It’s a blow because we don’t like disappointing our kids, but we’re very lucky to be in a position where my job is dependable and we can save the money up again in a few months.

As for breaking the news to the kids?

First, we pulled Miss C aside and talked with her since she’s old enough to understand things like money and priorities, and has a better grasp on the concept of time and all. While disappointed, she realized that a few months delay for a vacation like that isn’t really that bad.

But for Lola?

My Lola, who had her heart set on this trip, and who clung to the idea of Disney World most during those days when she was really missing her Dad when he was gone?

I admit, I balked at telling her the truth.

A four-year-old just isn’t going to get it.

So I broke the news that we heard that some of the Disney Princesses were actually going to be out of the country in August to attend a world peace summit, and that it would probably be better if we delayed our vacation until they returned.

She bought it.

Sort of.

However, my friend Jennie LOVED that version when I later retold her the story. She was one of my closest confidants while Martin was gone, and she of all people knew how much Lola went through during that time, and how much her heart was set on that trip.

Jennie thought there was definitely some opportunity for a little magic here.

“Julie, what if Lola received a card from the princesses themselves explaining the whole thing?” she asked.

As it turned out, Jennie has a friend (through the military, of course) who lives in Belgium, home of NATO and castles.

This friend surely had connections to princesses there, especially princesses in town for peacekeeping missions, Jennie explained.

And as it turned out, she did.

This morning, the girls received an actual letter and postcard from Belgium. It was beautifully stamped and written in gold ink.

And in beautiful cursive handwriting, the letter said:

Dear Miss C and Lola,

We are currently in Europe at a peace summit as special ambassadors on behalf of children. Please wait until we return to our American home before you come see us again! We wouldn’t want to miss you.


The Princesses

On my wall art, a recommendation for living the good life is to believe in magic.

In the dictionary, magic is partly defined as “the art of producing illusions as entertainment by the use of sleight of hand, the art that purports to control or forecast natural events, effects, or forces by invoking the supernatural, a mysterious quality of enchantment.”

Admittedly, it’s hard to believe in magic when one is an adult. Maybe it begins even earlier, around the time we learn the truth about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, as Miss C did last December.

Maybe we figure out our own slight-of-hand tricks.

Or maybe things like trapdoors and secret drawers are explained to us.

We learn right away there’s no Fairy Godmother who appears to grant wishes, or a rich distant uncle who will come claim us and pay our debts and allow for us to live in luxury. (Although, I do get emails from him and his lawyers ALL THE TIME.)

We as adults accept that money doesn’t grow on trees, and adulthood and parenthood bring about some doses of reality all the time.

It can be easy to feel that magic just does. not. exist.

But it does.

And thanks to my quick-thinking friend Jennie,  and the creative handiwork of her friend in Belgium, my girls can still believe in magic.

And so do I.


Miss C just put on a pair of sweatpants today and announced, “Wow! I look like Mom!”


Years in military uniform followed by dressing nearly every day in work dresses and suits, and she associates me with sweatpants. #winning

That Face

Miss C and I were walking back to our minivan after visiting Colonial Williamsburg last weekend, just the two of us.

Martin and the younger two were a few steps behind, slowed down by Lola’s dissatisfaction about leaving the place.

Miss C was not impressed.

“Why does she have to act like that?” she asked.

“Act like what?” I asked.

“In public. Why does my family have to be so embarrassing?” she asked.

“Oh, that’s not embarrassing,” I said. “You know what’s embarrassing?”

And then I broke out in song.

Not just any song, but the song Martin and I have sung to her since she was born. So I know every word by heart. Every note.

And I sing it with confidence.

This used to bring a huge smile. But instead, she covered her face with her hands, and fell back away from me, waiting for her Dad to catch up with her. When he rolled passed with the stroller, she dropped her hands.

“Mom’s embarrassing me,” she declared.

“She is? How so?” Martin asked.

“She’s singing!”

Without missing a beat, Martin opened his mouth and joined me in the second verse.

As you may know, Martin isn’t really blessed with a singing voice.

But there we were, two parents singing our hearts out to our oldest daughter while Lola cried and Jaz fussed.

Miss C sighed, her face twisted into a look of amused mortification.

I lifted my camera and took the picture.

That face.

That change.

It’s here.

That time in one’s life when it dawns on you that your parents can be … uncool.

No worries: I expect it. I’ve been there. (With my Dad, I think I’m still there – ha, ha!) I think Martin and I are ready for it. We’re ready to play this up when the moment is right, although I’m sure most of the things that will truly mortify our daughter (and the rest of them, for that matter) will be unintentional.

I know this is just a part of growing up. Our kids can’t always think we’re the best, that everything we do is awesome/hilarious/brilliant. While I could tell last weekend that Miss C wasn’t too bothered by our serenade, I know there will come a time when she’ll be seriously annoyed by our antics.

This is all bittersweet, of course. Because when it comes to making faces, dancing in public, being witty and silly … she’s been my girl. In a way, I’ll be losing my partner-in-crime. Not that I think her willingness to get goofy will completely evaporate as we enter these tween years. She’ll just be more selective, you know, with her moments.

And in those moments when our senses of humor don’t sync up perfectly anymore, I know what I’ll do.

I’ll just break out in a smile as I remember that face.

Miss C being silly in 2009, age 5.

Just Add Zing

I think it happens in all marriages or long-term relationships: at some point, that zing — that mysterious and powerful tension — that cackled and sparked in the early days of the relationship dissolves into something that’s a lot more tepid.

It definitely happened in ours.

And let me be clear: I’m not talking about romance or attraction, or even THAT specifically, either. With a little bit of effort, I think all of those things are sustainable. Martin has always been good about finding little romantic things to do for me, and I like to think I‘ve done the same for him. And I’ve never doubted that he finds me attractive, just as I’ve always found him to be one good-looking dude. No complaints here.

But after awhile — and especially after three kids and more than a decade together — things become … comfortable, right?

Like, it’s just assumed one will get a kiss from the other before leaving the house, if one’s not in too much a rush. What was once bought at Victoria’s Secret gets picked up from the clearance rack at Target. Putting on anything other than yoga pants is a sign you want to be taken out. Nobody thinks twice before passing gas under the sheets. And there are no surprises, except maybe when helping identify whatever it is that’s growing on the other’s back that he/she can’t see in a mirror.

It’s not that this level of comfort is a bad thing. In fact, being at that comfort level with each other is a comfort all by itself, in a way, because it means we’ve been through it all, we know each other completely, and are free to be ourselves.

Yet, being at that level also means that gone are the days of that zing, that puppy love and anticipation, right?


It IS possible to put zing back into one’s marriage even after fourteen years together, three kids, stretch marks and hair loss.

Here’s how you can do it, too.

1) Send your spouse or significant other to basic military training, or some other environment that’s going to completely remove them from your home for months at a time. Deployments are an alternative, but I don’t recommend them. Be sure that all forms of communication are severed, except for traditional letter-writing and maybe one phone call every two weeks. It also helps if wherever you send them uses physical fitness as punishment in the form of push-ups, situps, and flutter-kicks.

2)  While your spouse is away, write a ton of letters and feel free to share things that are much easier to share on paper than they are person-to-person.

3) Lose nearly 20 pounds, but don’t mention it at all to your spouse. On the days you reunite with your loved one, wear clothes that fit you well and show off your assets. (Hey, that’s advice straight from Tim Gunn!) In fact, wear a snazzy dress in his favorite color on you. Bonus points if it’s two sizes smaller than what you were wearing when he left. Get your nails did and your hair done, too.

4) No matter what, do NOT forget the rules. Most importantly, don’t forget that Airmen in uniform are not allowed to participate in any form of PDA (public display of affection.) This means no kissing, no hugging, no snuggling, no hand holding. Even if the closest you’ve been to holding your spouse’s hand in public in about five years were all the times you were handing a diaper bag/stroller/baby bottle/flashing the bird to him, you will suddenly want to hold his hand all the time. Nope. Don’t do it. You get about 20 seconds to do this when you FIRST see your spouse, but anything after that is unacceptable.

5) Don’t gawk too much when you finally see your spouse and you see that all the running, push-ups, sit-ups, and flutter kicks shaved about 10 years off of him, and that he still looks really, really good in uniform. Try not to stare.

6) Be prepared to feel incredibly awkward at all times. Don’t take it personally when, after the official graduation ceremony and after he’s already seen you the day before, your spouse just sort of pats you on the back because he doesn’t want to break any rules … and he doesn’t want others to think he’s breaking the rules, either. Use your kid — who is allowed to hold hands with your spouse — as a barrier. Be prepared for questions and clumsy behavior. Such as when your daughter asks in the car why Dad won’t hold Mom’s hand, and as he’s explaining the reasons, you turn on the car radio only to realize you left the volume turned up and the song that’s playing on the radio just happens to be “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye. Bonus points if your husband’s wingman from Nigeria is in the back of the car, singing along as you fumble for the volume because he thinks it’s a really good song. Yeah. Awkward.

7) At other times, try sitting or standing far apart from your spouse so that nobody suspects you really just want to jump each other’s bones. Try not to blush when your good friends — ah, those good, ol’ friends — point out that they can tell you just want to jump each other’s bones. Be horrified when they actually capture this in photos.

8) When touring your husband’s dorms while wearing that snazzy dress, be sure to remember that there are chrome strips running along the floor and they’ve been polished to shine. And reflect. Since you are a lady, don’t panic: just swiftly step/shuffle over them so that nothing is revealed. But as you are leaving the dorms, lean over and whisper to your husband that a warning for such an issue would have been nice because one can see everything — everything — in those chrome plates. Pretend not to notice his jaw drop.

9) In the most gracious and vague way possible, ask your husband to (gently) ditch his wingman — who has provided excellent wingman support for two whole days — because you and your daughter had your hearts set on going to SeaWorld for some family time on his first day of town pass. Pick him up early the next morning and mention that your daughter went to the early morning Shamu show with a friend, and that you guys will join them there. But the truth is, you’ve actually arranged it so that your daughter gets to spend her day at the zoo with a friend’s family. But he doesn’t have to know that.

10) Don’t be alarmed when in the parking lot of the resort hotel where one has booked one of the finest rooms in the whole place with deluxe room service and lots of food, your husband looks confused, and after a moment of silence, says, “So, we’re NOT going to Sea World?”



Keeping Things Alles Klar

I’ve started calling him The Tank. Clearly, this kid can handle anything.

Jaz and I experienced his first asthma attack the other night.

It was shortly after midnight when I heard him start to cough in a way that grabbed my attention. It wasn’t a hacking cough, nor would I call it wheezing. It was raspy and desperate, and something about it made me jump out of bed and rush to his room. He was on his side, gasping and moving in a way one does when trying to cough.

But can’t.

Jaz was trying to breathe, but it wasn’t happening easily.

I lifted him up out of bed, and realized he wasn’t really awake. It didn’t seem like he was choking on anything, but I whacked him on the back a few times thinking maybe whatever was causing him to cough needed to be knocked from his throat or lungs. He had a runny nose the past few days, occasionally coughing up whatever was draining down his throat. But it was nothing out of the ordinary.

It certainly wasn’t anything like this.

Whacking him woke him up more, and he started to protest, but without the ability to make sounds other than gasps for breath, the noise he was making was not a cry. That’s when the bells in my brain started going off, and I could feel the adrenaline begin to pump into my own chest.

Why was my son struggling to breathe?

My mind raced as I looked at his lips and fingertips. They were still pink, but he was looking pale. The fact that he was fussing, and gasping, and fighting me was good, but I could feel his stomach sucking in hard.

I never had asthma. While I know people with asthma, I never witnessed an attack. At the most, I’ve seen asthmatics get winded, whip out their inhaler, and move on. I had a faint memory of being told breathing in a paper bag would help during an attack, but was that an asthma attack or a panic attack? Do I even own paper bags? Or an inhaler?

That’s when I remembered that we had a nebulizer from last year when he had some chest congestion. At the time, we were given a bunch of vials of medication to clear his airways. We didn’t use them all, and still had some in our medicine cabinet. I immediately got it set up for him, strapped the mask over his face, and propped him up in his rocking chair while I got on my knees in front of him.

He stared at me over the mask, his mouth open as he tried to breathe, his whole body heaving with each attempt. After a few minutes of this with no change, I decided I was going to take him to Urgent Care.

I put a pillow next to him and then ran out into the hall towards the girls’ room, instinctively calling for Martin before realizing I really meant to call for Miss C.

I shook her awake and asked her to sit with her brother while I changed clothes and pulled on my shoes. Like a zombie, she did as asked without complaint. I rushed downstairs and knocked on Miss Mary’s door, waking her up to tell her my plans to leave with Jaz and that I would have my cell phone with me if she needed anything.

Then I raced back upstairs to find Jaz sitting completely straight up, still gasping, before falling forward in the seat to vomit.

The exertion from trying to breathe forced the contents of his stomach up and out. Then he sort of limply fell over onto the side of the rocking chair, the mask hanging loose from his face as he continued making that pathetic sound.

That’s when I knew there was no way I was going to drive him alone to the Urgent Care.

So I called 9-1-1.

The docs always have the good stuff.

I told the dispatcher that I thought my son was having an asthma attack. She could hear him crying and gasping over the phone, and made some recommendations, such as keeping him upright and having all the medication I’d given him ready so the EMTs would know what he already had in his system.

It took about 10 minutes for the emergency responders to show up. They sent both a medic and a fire truck, and soon there were about six folks in navy blue standing in my kitchen and checking over Jaz, who by that time was quietly wheezing from his perch on our kitchen island, waving as each new face appeared.

The nebulizer had kicked in by then, and the urgency and desperation in his breathing was gone.

The EMTs checked his heart rate and checked for fever, and confirmed he sounded congested, but Jaz was breathing in-and-out again. They said they could take him to the ER for me if I wanted, but they didn’t see a need to give him anything from their bags of goodies since the nebulizer seemed to work. I immediately started second-guessing my decision to call them, but felt better that they were so patient and reassuring, especially when I pointed out that I’d never experienced an asthma attack.

They suggested I make an appointment for him to be seen first thing in the morning, and reminded me to call if his breathing changed.

So, after they left, I made the appointment.

And then I sat up with him in the rocking chair the entire rest of the morning, counting his breaths and listening to the wheezing.

Dude. Mom. I don’t care about your documentation purposes. Your iPhone is blocking my NickJr.

Later that morning, I took Jaz to his peditrician to be checked out, and we were immediately ushered to the back by the nurse, where his vitals were taken.

He was still breathing hard with his stomach. His heart rate was racing. And his blood-oxygen level was low.

I felt like a moron.

Especially when both the nurse and the pediatrician gently pointed out that I should have driven him to the Urgent Care after the EMTs left our house instead of waiting for office hours.

But I didn’t know.

I mean, of course I know, but I was just grateful that he was breathing again. After the nebulizer, his wheezing sounded like what the girls do when they have a chest cold, something that wasn’t as scary as how he sounded before. I thought waiting at home a few hours where I could hold him and watch him and respond to him was a lot better than driving 45 minutes to their Urgent Care, alone in the minivan where he would be strapped behind me, wheezing and out of reach.

Dear lord, did I make the wrong decision?

Suddenly, I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

But before I could let the Mommy Guilt twist me into a fetal position, we were moved to another room, where he was hooked up to another nebulizer. After a round of that, he was also given steroids, and I made a Lance Armstrong joke that really wasn’t that funny, but at least I’m being honest about it.

After all that, we were moved to another room with a television on the wall, where we hung out for about 45 minutes for observation. They wanted to make sure his blood-oxygen levels were back up after the treatment.

So, Jaz and I sat and watched cartoons. After that got boring, he got up to explore the room and all the buttons while I took photos and looked up some asthma information from my phone. The nurse kept popping in to check on us, complimenting Jaz’s behavior and pointing out his cheerfulness as a good sign.

Our pediatrician finally came by, checked him out, and announced that she officially diagnosed Jaz with childhood asthma. She thinks that when his head cold reached his chest, it triggered the attack. So, we were prescribed some things to treat the cold, as well as some things for maintenance to prevent another attack.

I left the doctor’s with a smiling, breathing Jaz and two bags full of goods, and a schedule for his treatments.

For the rest of the day, I worked from home, answering email and calling into meetings between treatments, writing everything down and creating a chart for Mary to use during the day. Jaz was pretty upbeat, and took an extra long nap when we got home.

After his bedtime round of treatments, he started doing this little crazy dance in the family room.

Sure, it was probably him working out the hyperactivity side-effect, but for me, I just took it as a good sign.

And I could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

And as if the day couldn’t get any more exciting, Martin called for the first time in two weeks.

He asked if anything new was happening.

I took a look at our son spinning circles and said, “Oh, you know. Jaz went and got new meds for a silly chest cold. Alles klar!”


All About His Hair

The before photo.

I cut Martin’s hair again last night.

For the first time ever, he let me use the number one blade from the hair-cutting kit, the blade that cuts the hair the shortest. During his first week at basic training, they will shave his head completely along with all the other male recruits.

I’ve asked him if I can go ahead and shave him now, a few weeks ahead of time so he can still grow some back and all, to appease my curiosity as to what he would look like completely bald.

He declined on the shaving.

But agreed to the close crop.

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