A Little Bit Vaudeville

My kids are hilarious. 

I was on our family computer this evening, and discovered this little video here. One of the things my kids love to do is take silly webcam photos and videos, and this was one of them. Not quite the Von Trapp singers, but definitely a little bit vaudeville. Miss C said they created this gem a few weeks ago. Lola is extremely proud of it. They both insisted they rehearsed to get everything just right.

They made their Mama laugh, that’s for sure!

Ten Years in Six Minutes & Best Day Ever


Her birthday in 2006. I took the photos & the video, as seen HERE.
 

It’s here.

It’s her birthday today.

A full decade of life, love, laughs, and so many precious memories.

For her fifth birthday, I did a photo montage that played in the background at her birthday party.

Yet after creating Lola’s birthday video two years ago, I realized how much better video captured personality because of the action and voices, and decided I was going to do that for the other kids, too, and their birthdays. Not every year, but certainly, a double-digit birthday warranted such a multimedia project.

So, I spent my evenings (and some early mornings) last week diving into my video files.

No small task. I have 11 years worth of them. Continue reading

This Is the Rest of Your Life

My thought as I took this photo in 2000?
“This is soooo going on my future web journal when I get this film developed.”

I forgot to point out a special anniversary/birthday earlier this week.

This blog turned 12 years old on July 28.

If it were my child, it would be going through puberty now. But I feel like blog years are sort of like dog years in that things grow and change rapidly, so in Internet/social media/technology years, my blog is really almost 200 years old.

I’m pretty proud of my archive over there.

For fun, I’m sharing with you some photos that were taken around the time I first started blogging/recording our history in 2000/2001, as well as the podcast Martin and I created a few years ago about that year.

You’ll see skinny Martin. Such a hunk.

Oh, and in recognition of my blog going through puberty (sort of), I’m also including one of the most delightful things I’ve seen on the Internet yet.

Enjoy. And happy belated blog birthday!

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Shut up. This was one of my clubbing outfits. Not even joking. There are no other photos of me in this shirt.
Grateful there were no cell phone cameras back in 2001. Thank you, Jesus.

His and her vehicles. Mine was a 1988 Ford Sierra and Martin had a 1992 Honda Civic.

Martin and his mother in fall of 2000, the day he left for Bundeswehr basic training. Love. That. Hair.

Martin wearing my BCGs — birth control glasses — from basic training while talking on the phone in my Kaiserslautern apartment to my family in the states in early 2001. I can assure you he did not put those glasses on himself.

I traveled a lot back then. This photo was taken in Berlin while I was visiting my friend Pam. I found the people in Berlin to be very friendly, although they had a thing for very strange hats.

Martin, his sister Carola, my dad, and my ol’ roommate, Stephanie, in Nuremberg in early 2001.

Dress shopping in the summer of 2001 while visiting Ohio.

That’s Martin on the far right during his Bundeswehr days. Look at those computer monitors.

Getting promoted to airman first class! Two stripes! YES! That was in the spring of 2001.
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On another note,  some habits die hard.

It’s gray and dreary today, and as I wrangled the kids out of the house this morning, I called over my shoulder, asking Martin to grab me an umbrella I could take to work with me.When I saw which one he brought me, I blurted out, “Oh, no! I can’t use that one!”

And he said, “Julie. It’s fine. It’s pink. And you are not in the military or in uniform anymore.”
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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.

Sincerely,

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.

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

Yeah.

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

Finally, A Girls Night Out

 

Lola and I had a Girls Night Out last weekend. Just the two of us.It was very much needed. It’s been too long since we went out on our own for something fun. (Grocery runs aren’t so fun after the first few times, ya know.)

It was entirely her choice, so off we went to the local movie theater to see the latest kid flick.

Rocking the 3D glasses.

We got there early, which was a good thing because as soon as we parked, the clouds opened up in a downpour. We sat in the car for about 10 minutes, talking and devising a plan on how to best get out of the vehicle with one umbrella for the both of us, and how we were going to walk together into the building.

Here’s the thing about my Lola: she is one smart cookie.

As I listened to her come up with suggestions on how we could get from the car to the theater without getting wet — which included discussion about our height difference, our shoe-type (flip-flops), the distance to the curb from our car, etc. — I had to remind myself that she’s not even five years old.

Yet the kid is sharp as a whip and nothing gets past her.

I think like most other moms, I wake up with the goal to be a present, thoughtful, intuitive mother to each of my children. To really know them and their personalities, to know what works and what doesn’t for them as individuals.

Some days I feel like I reach that goal. Some Most days, I feel like I’m off the mark.

As any parent of multiple children knows, every child is just. so. different.

While there are some things that are pretty much universal for all children — ie: routines are good, exhaustion is bad, exhaustion/hunger is worse, etc. — there are many parenting methods that just can’t be applied across the board. What works for my daughters may not work for my son. What rolls easy for my oldest may not always roll easy with my second.

There’s got to be a balance in there to be able to address the needs of each child.

Simple enough, right?

Yet, this gets hard when one is trying to parent three very different children at the same time. Not that every child’s demand or whim should be catered to, of course. But more times than not, it’s easier to just steamroll ahead, to play the “because I’m the Mom and I said so” card, and move on with it.

Yet, as I do with all my children, I often ask myself if I’m being the mother Lola needs, if I’m giving her the right amount of attention and focus.

I don’t want her to ever feel lost in that shuffle. I want to show her that I notice she’s so intelligent, and kind, and a great sister, and just a really awesome young lady.

So I’m very happy that Martin is back, and that I have this time now to leave behind the other two for a little bit, and just focus solely on my Lola.

To talk with her.

To let her pick the movie treats.

And the seats.

To laugh at the same jokes with her, and dance in our seats to the music.

To let her speak up about whatever she wants with no interruption from an older sister or a younger brother.

And to not smile and shake my head too much when she inevitably says, “Mom, I really wish they were here with us. I miss them.”

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My dad captured this video of Lola’s first time paddling in the kayak. She proved a natural.

My dad noted that the whole time, Lola was convinced it was a race, and like a natural competitor, constantly encouraged her team (Martin and Miss C) to keep at it, to beat Grandpa, to get there first.

That’s my girl.

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Yea!!! My tooth is fixed! And though it feels a little weird now, there’s no pain. First stop = coffee. 🙂 All credit must go to the handsome dentist who did it. I was scheduled with a lady dentist, but when I got there a bit early, one of the gentleman dentists saw me right away instead. It didn’t take long at all. Thank goodness for good dental work … and dental insurance!! They flashed me the total bill as I walked out. I would not be grinning so big if I had to pay that whole thing.

 

Martin Graduated

Some final words with one of his tech school instructors.

In the midst of all the excitement with Jaz last week, I didn’t get to share the good news.

Martin graduated.

He officially finished his military training last Wednesday and left technical school as a certified air transportation specialist* for the US Air Force Reserve.

I took off from work that day and drove down to Ft. Lee to attend the ceremony. A few other family members were there as well, and we all got to watch as our Airmen were given their certificates and words of encouragement from class leadership.

And I even got to step up and take the grip-and-grin photos for everyone.

 

After the ceremony, we headed over to the dorm so Martin could collect all his belongings, and within an hour, we were on the road again, heading home.

For good.

Martin is no longer considered a “pipeline” Airman. He’s done with his initial training.

Starting next month, he’ll be putting on the uniform at least one weekend a month, two weeks a year, and doing his work at nearby Andrews Air Force Base. Of course, there may be some travel to other locations here and there, some time apart, some more training down the road.

But now? He’s back to be being a full-time stay-at-home dad.

He’ll be posting soon about his tech school experience, and of course, we’ll be sharing as we follow this new path for all of us, especially as he re-integrates with the household again.

It probably goes without saying that we are so proud of him.

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* Here’s an Air Force video showing you what air transportation specialists — or  “Port Dawgs” — do in the Air Force/Air Force Reserve.

Family Reunion

Martin got to reunite with the whole family this past weekend.

Ever since graduating from Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Martin’s been attending technical school at Fort Lee in Virginia. For the longest time, I thought this part of his training was going to continue in Lackland, as mentioned in his orders. While it is true that the training group is based in Texas, Martin’s school is part of a joint training facility located on an Army base, just like my own tech school experience.

You can imagine how thrilled we all were when we realized that Fort Lee is only two hours away from us in Northern Virginia.

Regardless of his location, Martin’s considered a “pipeline Airman” right now. That’s a term given to brand new Airman who make their way through the “pipeline” — BMT and tech school — before joining the real Air Force. Continue reading

Seeing Martin Again

 

Martin is now graduated from Air Force Basic Military Training.
After nearly nine weeks apart, Miss C and I reunited with him down at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. We flew down there together on Wednesday, and the first time we got to see him was on Thursday during the Airman’s Run and Coin Ceremony.
Here’s a montage of video and photos from the events.
I will be sharing more from our weekend all this week.

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Week Seven

In my blues during a visit to Cincinnati after tech school in summer 2000.

 

Martin began Week Seven today.

I can’t tell you from personal experience what this particular week is all about because I didn’t have a Week Seven. A few days after my basic training graduation after six weeks, I was on a bus to the San Antonio airport for my flight to Baltimore. My technical school — which I will write more about later — was at Ft. Meade, an Army installation in Maryland between Baltimore and Washington DC.

But as for Martin?

He’s still at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

He’s almost done, but not quite.

He’s done with BEAST week.

Now, he’ll wrap up his training with a bunch of evaluations and classroom instruction. According to the  various sources of information online, Martin will be learning about Airmanship (which I think has really been ongoing this whole time), as well as some skills he’ll need as a new Airman.

Like financial management.

I’m going to be very disappointed if I hear he didn’t stand up in that class and give those young men some solid financial advice. Seriously — the reason they have that class is because a lot of young people have never written a check … or opened a checking account … or handled anything other than cash.

I’m positive that he will NOT be able to sit through that class without raising his hand and saying something. I can see him twitching, trying to hold back …

His flight will also be taking their final Air Force BMT fitness test, too.

Needless to say, I think this is going to be an easy week for him.

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Week Five

My BMT flight portrait. Don’t we look like a fine bunch of warriors?



It’s been more than a month since Martin left for Air Force basic military training. His flight begins Week Five, which is much different than what my fifth week of basic training was back in 2000.

Back then, my Week Five was all about the Warrior Week field exercise experience.

During the day, we attended briefings in tents or out in the field, talking about chemical warfare and terrorism. There were references to Osama Bin Laden, and how it was believed he was somehow responsible for the Khobar Tower bombings in 1996 that killed 19 Airmen, as well as other Middle East attacks.

Yet, that was all before the USS Cole attack. Before Sept. 11, 2001. Therefore, a lot of the things I learned and experienced during Warrior Week were tinged with some Cold War/Desert Storm-era type lessons, and the harrowing stories relayed to us were from those who were on scene during the Oklahoma City bombing (which happened not far from Tinker Air Force Base) or who were deployed to Saudia Arabia when Khobar Tower was hit.

The rest of Warrior Week was spent sleeping in a tent city, pulling late night guard duty, fighting off an attack on the last day using defensive/offensive tactics learned earlier that week, and eating MREs (meals-ready-to-eat) for every meal.

Needless to say, it was a bit different when seven years later, I was actually, you know, out in the field over there.

Sleeping out in the wild with my team and members of the 3rd Infantry in Iraq in 2007

But there at Warrior Week during my fifth week, all the lessons learned in the weeks earlier came together and at the end of it, my whole flight was presented with our Airman’s Coin, which was also a new thing at that time. We were lined up at attention along the side of a warehouse while the commander came down and gave it to us one-by-one, calling us “Airman” for the first time, and wishing us luck as we were graduating the next week.

Martin’s Week Five experience, though, is a lot more low-key.

He still has a few more weeks to complete before he graduates and gets his own Airman Coin. This week, his flight will be gearing up for next week’s BEAST (Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training).

So it’s going to be more classes. More warrior skills instruction. More inspections. 

More Air Force awesomeness.

All that “white space” in the center of the drawer KILLED me every time I pulled out my drawer.
My BMT drawer, ready for inspection. February 2000.

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In the online group made up of other family members from Martin’s flight, I shared one of my BMT memories that ended up being posted again on the AF WingMom’s public Facebook page.

Here it is for you to enjoy, too:

The folded bras remind me of a time when I was going through BMT. During our first inspection, our TI — SSgt. Martinez — was going through the drawers one by one. He stopped at one of the beds, looked at the drawer pulled out ready for inspection, and said, “Where are your bras?”

The trainee — a very tall, slim girl — stood at attention and said, “Sir, Trainee J reports, I don’t have any, sir!” Without missing a beat, SSgt. Martinez asked, “Did they get lost in the laundry? Why don’t you have any?”

And the trainee goes, “Sir, I don’t have boobs, sir!”

Let me tell you … it took EVERYTHING for the rest of us not to start laughing. But he just rolled with it, and said something about she needed to get at least one next trip to the BX so she could pass inspection or something. So he moves on to the next few drawers, no problem. THEN, he comes to Trainee K.

Now, Trainee K was a trip. She was so goofy and clumsy, and bless her heart, talked with a lisp. She was standing at attention, ready for inspection. SSgt. Martinez got to her drawer, started looking at everything, and then paused and asked, “What the hell are these spots?”

Trainee K: “Sir, Trainee K reports as ordered, what spots sir?”

SSgt. Martinez: “These yellow spots here on your underwear. What the hell are these?”

Trainee K paused, and then lisped, “Sir, those are glow-in-the-dark spots on my underwear, sir!”

OMG — that sent us over the edge. We LOST it. SSgt Martinez just dropped his clipboard, held his hands up as if saying, “I can’t … I can’t …” and walked into his office and slammed the door. Inspections resumed about 15 minutes later.