July 8, 2011

1st Birthday, Army Style

"How about a comfortable outfit to wear on the plane?" I ask my husband. 

He frowns at me and shakes his head. "That kinda sucks." He says back with a smirk.

I sigh. I am out of ideas and so is he.

We are trying to figure out what to get our daughter for her first birthday. We don't want to jip her, but we also don't want to buy a bunch of stuff just to have it packed up 2 weeks later, not to be seen for a month or more. We aren't having a party since we are going to Disney World the week after her birthday. So what should we do?

I plan on making a cute little cake for her to smash her sweet, chubby little hands into. I plan on getting her the "It's Your Birthday" book by Dr. Seuss. I plan on writing a beautiful little note to her on the inside. But what else? What else? It is a dilemma I am surely not the first to have encountered. Our baby girl is turning 1, and we don't want to buy her anything because it means that we will either have to pack it up, carry it on the plane, or put it in our luggage. So the question remains, what should we do for this milestone birthday?

As bad as I feel about not being able to celebrate our baby's birthday the way we would like, she has a better deal than our son did. At least our baby girl has her daddy home to see her first birthday. Our son celebrated his first birthday while his daddy was in Iraq on a 15 month deployment. My husband left just 6 hours after our son was born, and returned 15 months later. He missed it all. I made a HumVee cake in honor of my absent husband, and took as many pictures as I could, but he did. He missed it all. The first roll, the first crawl, the first smile, the first steps, the first words. . .

My husband has been present for the majority of our daughter's first year and with her first birthday approaching he said something that nearly tore my heart in two. It's something I've been thinking and feeling for 4 years. It's something I've been wanting my husband to realize and recognize for 4 years. . .

"I can't believe I missed all of this with N." He said while he stared in amazement as the baby waddled across the living room floor. She just started walking and is taking very deliberate, very cautious steps. My husband remained quiet, not looking at me as his words hung between us.

I couldn't speak. Tears stung my eyes and I willed them, with every ounce of my being, not to spill over onto my face. I've been waiting for my husband to see our son, just for a moment, as the tiny and vulnerable infant he was, as opposed to the walking, talking, independent toddler he came home to. I know that my husband would have a deeper appreciation and greater patience for our son had he witnessed the amazing journey our baby boy took in that first year. FINALLY he sees. Finally he SEES. As much as my husband loves our son, he finally sees that our baby boy grew that first year without his father. He sees how much that baby needed him too. Finally he understands exactly how much he missed.

I couldn't stop it. One tear slid down my cheek. I wiped it away quickly, but not quickly enough. He saw me. I looked up at my beautiful husband. Our eyes met, and we both just knew. Nothing more needed to be said.

So with the first birthday of our baby girl, our little family will grow. Not in people, but in love and understanding. Thanks to our baby girl, that missing year for father and son is no longer lost. Thanks to our baby girl, my son's daddy finally is able to see what once was, have a greater appreciation for what is done, and for the beautiful child he's become.

This July 20 as we celebrate the birth of our baby girl, my husband will revisit the first birthday of our baby boy. I know that as we blow out the # 1 candle, as our daughter smashes her tiny fists into her first cake, my husband will also be seeing his son. He will revisit those pictures I sent to him in Iraq, and he will imagine what it was like to be there for N too. We will laugh, we will smile, we will love, we are whole.

Happy 1st birthday my babies.

July 6, 2011

I Don't Know How Anyone PCS'd Before Facebook

Summer is PCS season. This is evidenced by the fact that yet another of my military wife girlfriends is moving from their home near Fort Benning onto post at Fort Polk. And she's doing it while her husband is still overseas. She deserves my utmost respect for that. She made a comment the other day that struck me as so incredibly true. 

I don't know how anyone PCS'd before Facebook.

I'm sure she made the comment jokingly because really, we CAN live without Facebook, but for those of us who have friends strewn all over the world, Facebook is the most convenient way to keep up with each other. So with one week until her movers come to pack her up, she was on Facebook asking for advice, tips, or any suggestions on how to make her PCS smoother for her young daughter and herself.

I have been addicted to the Internet since I found out about the location of our PCS. And thanks to a good friend I left behind in Savannah, I am now Facebook friends with one of her friends who already lives on Okinawa. Super thanks to this new friend, who has been patiently answering all of my questions about everything from housing, to life on this island, to tips for the plane ride. We've even made plans to meet up once I arrive, thus I already have a friend on the island. Having this kind of immediate access to information has made this move so much easier on me. 

I cannot imagine how it was for military wives before there was instant access to infinite information. I cannot imagine the stress of anticipation there was as they prepared for such a move. I would think there would have been a lot of letter writing, and phone calls. So I've never been more thankful for the convenience of modern technology as I am today. Even as my questions get answered, I come up with more questions, and instead of having to wait until my husband can gather the info, or having to call and bother a person, I can log on to the Internet and find the answers myself.

God bless the Internet, and all of my Facebook friends too!

July 4, 2011

What in the Blazes of Craziness

My wonderful husband finally returned home last weekend, and finally graduated from his course. After two years plus, of planning, preparing, researching, and waiting (the Army's favorite thing to make wives and families do), it is finally here. We are in the final stages of our preparations to PCS to Okinawa.

I recall our first PCS from Fort Stewart to Fort Benning 2 summers ago with startling clarity. The movers came, they packed, we moved. End of story. This is NOTHING like that. Certainly the movers will come into our home and "lovingly" pack our items for shipment across the Pacific, but it's the things that come before that part that have us running in circles. Which we expected.

Our To-Do list is 17 items long and includes things like making sure the kids and I have physicals completed, getting Government passports which function sort of like our green card, termination of our lease, termination of our utilities, holding/forwarding our mail, obtaining a P.O. box on Okinawa, etc. Most of our conversations pertaining to our move have taken place while we are driving, and go something like this;

him: Babe we have to make sure that we (insert task here). Ok?
me: Ok. I think we should also make sure that we (insert more efficient way of doing said task here).
him: Ummm, (insert his rebuttal on the validity of my idea here)
me: Fine, whatever. *sigh*

In the mean time, I've been sitting up at night searching the internet for information that can help me get this move done, and making lists. I have lists for what to pack in my carry on. What to pack in the kids' carry ons. What to pack in our suit cases. What goes to storage. . . I have a list of which lists I've made!! Ok, maybe not that bad. . . So yesterday as we were in our car headed back from Lowe's with our clean-and-repair-the-house supplies, we had yet another PCSing conversation.

him: We need to sit down this afternoon and make a list of all the stuff that needs to get done.
me: Done. I already HAVE a list of stuff that needs to get done.
him: Oh. Well, can you put (insert task here) on the list.
me: Sure thing. I will add it when we get home.
him: Can you also put (insert 200 more tasks here) on there?
me: *brief pause* You're right. We need to sit down and make a list.

At this point we are both equally informed on what actually needs to happen to get our family and our stuff overseas. We're just informed on different areas of expertise so to speak. So we sat down and made a list, which really consisted of me rewriting my list, and then following him around the house while he made tiny repairs and quizzed, questioned, and badgered to get the info out of him. I know that inevitably our fresh, crisp to-do list will wind up crumpled, and ragged or lost, but it's alright as long as we get it all done. And in time, I suppose we shall.