Thursday, November 11, 2010

Army Ball

I've heard a lot of military balls in the past so I was really excited to go to my very first one last night.  There have been only a few times I get really dressed up and fancy and go out.  A military ball is a huge deal.  I have no idea how often they have these bashes but I'm guessing usually about once a year.  Our ball last night was held in Fayetteville at their one and only coliseum/convention center type of place.  I was a little surprised how nice everything actually was.  The food was good, the tables were beautiful, everyone was dressed their very best.  Girls go all out for this sort of thing and aside from a few dresses not much larger than a band-aid paired with clear heels (hello stripper!  excuse me, exotic dancer) the ladies were all dolled up.  Lots of girls had their hair done and looked like they were going to prom, but it was fun to see so much fanciness all in one place.  The guys, of course all looked exactly the same in their dress uniforms.  Here's a few highlights of our night.

 On our way to the ball.  See my cute gloves?  Yep, I've been watching a lot of Mad Men lately.



 Waiting forever in the foyer area, before we could be seated at our table.



 It was really dark in the ballroom.



 Gunnar and his boys.



 So much love in the Army!



 This is where things start to get a little weird...



 This guy with Gunnar is Doc Carr, he was the medic for their platoon in Afghanistan.  



 A-R-M-Y = L-O-V-E







 This sweet baby-faced boy they call the "War Baby" because he was the youngest in the platoon.  
He doesn't even look old enough to drive! 



 Now that is a hug!

All in all, we had a really great night.  We were home shortly after 9pm to pick up the kids from the sitters, even though the ball was still going on till midnight at least. It was so nice to meet all these guys that I've heard so much about, and finally put faces to the names.   





Friday, November 5, 2010

Salad Bar, Explained

Alrighty here goes, I'm going to attempt to explain all the junk on Gunnar's uniform. I'm warning you now, on a scale of 1-10 my photo editing skills hover in the 2 - 2.5 range so I'm going to add a nice diagram to the following pics.  Hopefully at least some of this will make some sense to you (because it sure doesn't to me).

A - French Fourragere, all soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division wear these
B - Branch Affiliation, these are the cross rifles of the Infantry
C - Combat Infantryman's Badge, awarded to Infantrymen that are actively engaged in combat with an enemy  
D - Army Commendation Medal, (Gunnar's has an oak leaf cluster, which means he's been awarded 2), Gunnar got these for his performances in a firefight in Afghanistan
E - Army Achievement Medal, (Also with the oak leaf cluster), performance based just for doing his job and doing it well...twice, apparently
F - Good Conduct Medal, for never getting in trouble 
G - Reserve Component Achievement Medal, from the good old days when Gunnar was in the National Guard, and not sucking at it
H - National Defense Ribbon, awarded to everyone in the Army during a time of conflict
I - Afghanistan Campaign Ribbon, for soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, the bronze star signifies 1 year over there
J - GWOT or Global War on Terrorism, awarded to everyone currently serving in the military during the War on Terror
K - NCO Professional Development Ribbon, NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) school which is called WLC or Warrior Leadership Course
L - Army Service Ribbon, soldiers get this when they complete Basic Training.  They have lots of non-PC names for this one, since it's a rainbow and all 
M - Overseas Ribbon, stationed overseas
N - Afghanistan ISAF, that's the International Security Assistance Force or NATO's equivalent of a thank you card
O - Airborne wings, this is Gunnar's jump status, meaning he can jump out of a plane any time they want/need him 
P - Air Assault Badge, he got this one back in '93 for repelling out of a helicopter
Q - Expert Marksmanship Badge, specifically with a carbine device.  That means he's a damn good shot with an M4    


Alrighty - on to the right lapel...

A - Unit Crest, It's actually the same as "D" on his uniform.  It's the second of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.  Their crest is a dragon/lion thingy...here's a close up...it's lots of funny to me.  "Fury From the Sky" is their motto.  They sound very angry.
 Back to the diagram...
B - Blue Cord, awarded to soldiers when they complete their Infantry school training
C - US Insignia, with baby blue disk.  Only Infantry gets a disc (of any color) beneath the US pin
D - See A
E - Presidential Unit Citation, Awarded to the 508th by FDR for invading France
F - Combat Patch, given to 82nd Airborne soldiers serving in combat zone
G - Rank, Gunnar is a Specialist, currently (though he is preparing for a promotion soon)

Other stuff that didn't make it to the diagram:  Valorous Unit Citation, awarded for 508 performance in Afghanistan.

And there you have it.  A tour of a soldier's uniform.  Whew, I'm going to have a glass of wine now.     

Dolla Dolla Bill Y'all

I'm getting better with the regional lingo around here, eh?

While Gunnar was deployed (which was basically the whole time he's been back in the Army, up till now), which brought along with it some nice financial perks.  We received monthly bonuses for combat pay, separation pay, hazardous duty pay, and probably some other things that I can't keep track of.  And when he came back in September, all of those bonuses magically disappeared.  We've been doing pretty well going from a dual income  to a single income household, especially since the military benefits are incredible.   But now adjusting to having another person to feed, a person with the capability of spending money too, and the 30-something % decrease in pay is taking some getting used to.  I was anticipating the change in income but didn't realize how much our outgoing cash was going to change too.

For example, today Gunnar had "Payday Activities".  Silly thing to call it but generally on the first Friday of each month, they have the guys get all dressed up in their Class A's for an inspection and do other funny tricks too.  This morning Gunnar had to be at work at 5am for a Brigade run.  So 3,000 guys were running in formation all over Fort Bragg doing their yelling and cadence-ing and all that jazz.  I heard them from my cozy warm bed about a half a block away from one of the streets they ran down.  A lot of roads are closed on base in the wee hours of the morning to allow for silly stuff like this.

Gunnar got home after the run and got changed for the inspection.  He has been working on his uniform all week.  He had to get 2 haircuts (cha-ching, cha-ching) because the first didn't meet Army standards.  (The second haircut honestly didn't look that different from the first, in my opinion.  But what do I know?)  He also had to get lots of fancy little decorations for his jacket.  He had a long list of things that needed to be added to it, plus new patches that needed to be sewn on.  There's dozens and dozens of alterations, dry cleaners and sewing places just off post so it was easy to get it done.  But of course, all this added up to cost an arm and a leg when it was all said and done.  They Army requires a ton of out of pocket expenses for these soldiers!  To be fair, they also include an annual uniform allowance in their pay.  But it's only around $200 and seriously, that barely scratches the surface of what they are required to purchase.

Anyway, that was a lot of griping and complaining wasn't it?  I think you'll enjoy the final product.  Take a look:

 All dressed up!

He obsessed over getting these damn things shiny enough, and still thought they could use more shine.  These are his "jump boots", only required by paratroopers.  I think.  They (obviously) aren't worn for jumping out of planes anymore, but the Army loves them some traditions.

Affectionately referred to as the "salad bar".  I think this one is impressive, though I only know what about 10% of those things mean.

Some more decorations.

I took these before he put on his goofy beret.  Hopefully I can snap one later and give you the whole picture.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

And We're Back!

After spending nearly the entire month of October in Ohio, we finally made it back to Fort Bragg last night.  It was a nice long trip and being back here just feels strange.  Even with Gunnar and the kids here I am acutely aware every moment of the day that this is not where I want to be.  My family is far away and it makes me sad and grumpy.  I usually cry from Columbus to at least the West Virginia border, but I tried my best to keep it together since Gunnar was with us. 

We had about three and a half weeks in Ohio this time, spending most of it at my parents house and some at Gunnar's parents in Mingo Junction, Ohio.  We did a ton of fun things!  We saw my favorite bar band, took the kids Trick-or-Treating, ate the worlds greatest cheeseburgers, and spent lots of time with family.  Of course there are a dozen things I can think of off the top of my head that we didn't get to do.  People we didn't get to see, ice cream I never got around to eating.  Oh yeah, I turned 31 (gasp!) somewhere in there too and got to celebrate with everyone I love.

All in all it was a really great trip.  And although we left freezing cold Ohio weather to come to a beautiful mild North Carolina, I'm still more than a little sad to be here.  I'm already trying to think up how we're going to arrange our Thanksgiving traveling.  Most likely, Gunnar will only have a 4 day weekend, which complicates things tremendously.  I am still trying to get used to traveling on someone else's schedule, instead of just my own.  It's possible that we won't make it up north at all and man, that makes me grumpy just thinking about it. 

Gunnar goes back to work tomorrow.  I'm interested to see if they come up with anything for him to do besides stand/sit around all day till it's time to go home.  He still has a few weeks to wait for his CAT scan and x-rays for the possible stress fracture in his foot.  Only in the Army do they wait 2 months to find out the severity of your brain injury and broken bones.  Grrrr!

I guess the only thing I'm really looking forward to right now is the military ball that's coming up in a few weeks.  I've got a dress, and can't wait to wear it!  Gunnar will be all fancy in his Class A's and it sounds like it might actually be a lot of fun!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Reunited and it Feels so Good

Back to real life eh?  There's a lot of compromise in married life that I seemed to have forgotten about.  Like how I keep the A/C at 80 (I'm all eco-friendly like that!) and he likes it at 72 or something crazy like that.  There's extra laundry and the idea of actually making a dinner (other than popcorn) on a daily basis.

The amazing part though is that my kids have their Daddy back.  And I took a trip to the commissary on my own!  Gunnar made it home just in time for our son's 4th birthday so we spent the day in Raleigh and had a great time.  His work schedule has been amazingly light since he came back.  He is usually home for the day before noon and will have the entire month of October off.

The transiting for the kids having their dad back has gone amazingly smoothly.  I know that aside from everything else in life, I am their constant.  Everything else has come and gone and come back again but me?  I'm 100% always here with them.  So adding Gunnar back into the mix at home really went great for them.  It has taken Gus a bit of time to get used to being yelled at disciplined by anyone besides me.  And the kids generally prefer me to put them in bed at night, but other than those minor details, things are going really well.

Now for some Army nonsense (I know you all knew this was coming).  So, I mentioned Gunnar is "working" half days since he's returned from Afghanistan.  Well, what I really mean by that is he goes and stands around and waits for most of every morning and then they send him home.  It's complete and total ridiculousness.  I've never seen any business or company more disorganized than the Army, or the 82nd Airborne Div, specifically.  Heck maybe the 82nd is awesome and it's just the 4th Brigade Combat team that's nuts.  I don't know where the breakdown between the smart guys and the dumb guys is exactly, but it's somewhere close to Gunnar's chain of command. 

For example:  They report to duty in the morning at say, 6:15am (a time in the morning I have not seen in many, many moons!) and go stand around in a parking lot and wait till 8:30am when the place is actually open for business.  No, really.  That's the crap they do.  They have had a lot of re-integration type things to do, they all had to go to the dentist, and health screenings, and probably fill out millions of pieces of paperwork.  The Army is generally anti-computer.  They like to have them fill out form after form after form.  I've never seen anything like it!!

Gunnar has some additional workups to have completed when he gets back to work in November.  He has the entire month of October off for his post deployment block leave.  He has a lot of the symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury (or TBI for short) due to some injuries he had in Afghanistan.  I've heard a lot about these when soldiers return to the states, and I'm interested to see what sort of care he receives.  I don't think it's reasonable to wait 2 months after redeploying to get medical attention, but we're working on the Army's timeline here.  Likely, he also has a stress fracture in his foot.  But again, no x-rays till November.

We're (of course) going to be spending a few weeks up in Ohio to see everyone.  I can't wait!  Autumn in Ohio is spectacular, and any reason to get the hell out of Fort Bragg, is a good one for me!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Homecoming - The Official Photo Tour

It's finally over!  This stupid deployment really truly is finally done and our family is back together.  Gunnar came home early Thursday morning (9/02).  There were flight delays in Bulgaria which prevented him from coming home when he was actually scheduled the previous day.  So when he landed at Bangor, Maine at 2:30am on Thursday, being so excited to finally come home, Gunnar was texting me at a furious pace.  I can't say I blame him.  His cell phone is worthless in Afghanistan and I think he was just excited to be using it again.  Then he called, and we were on the phone until 3:45am.  Basically, there was no point in going to sleep for 15 minutes so I stayed up and got ready.  I got dressed up, pulled the sleepy kids out of the bed at 4:45am and were in the car heading to the Pope Air Force base.  It's really only about a 15 minute drive but the plane was scheduled to land at 6:40am and we're supposed to be there 60-90 minutes in advance.  While I was on the way, I got an automated call from Gunnar's unit saying that the plane is actually early, and will be landing at 6:10am.  Sheesh, people!  Just pick a day and time and stick with it! 

It was still pitch black when we arrived and parked.  Of course we had to walk a half mile through a field of damp grass to get to the hangar where the soldiers would come in.  Good thing I wore sandals and not the heels that I was going to!
Gus and Maisie enjoying their first-ever Pop-Tart (breakfast choices are quite limited at 5am)

There's an airplane out there somewhere - it was parked far back and we couldn't see.  Also - what is this crazy lady wearing?  It was some crazy Uncle Sam costume.  Weird.

Lots of people, lots of signs.

We had to stand behind this rope for a very long time.  I took the double jogging stroller with me and positioned myself in the front row.  Oh, believe me, many tried to creep into my space, and many failed.

Then all of the soldiers filed in, walking in perfect rows.  It was a sight to be seen!  There were about 300 total, but this was really all I could see.  I'm slightly short, apparently.

Not that you can tell, but Gunnar is there in the front row.  He saw us immediately.  

Finally!!!

So we finally got our 15 minutes together and boy, did they go by fast!  Gus was thrilled to see his Daddy finally, but Maisie didn't quite know what to think.  The atmosphere was pretty overwhelming and the poor kid was exhausted.  She came around pretty quickly though.  
After our 15 minutes were up, the soldiers piled into buses and headed back to the other end of base to their unit headquarters for some in-processing.  They needed to turn in their weapons and get their bags.  It worked out well though because it took me nearly an hour to get out of the parking lot at the Air Force Base.  These types of scenarios really make me think I should be in charge of more things in general.  For example, I would build a road with more lanes.  Duh.  The kids fell asleep though, so it all worked out fine.  I was able to stop at our house, get some more coffee and head over to the unit.  The kids got a decent nap and when they woke up, we went to find Gunnar in a sea of guys that looked like this...

Camouflage is mighty effective, wouldn't you say?

Of course he found us quickly and we basically hung around outside most of the morning. The Army is very highly skilled at creating tons of downtime.  

"Glad your back..."  Sorry, I had to do it.  There's simply no excuse for not properly contracting words when ironing them to a tank top.


We ended up home by noon, which I suppose is typical.  It took about 6 hours from when they landed till when Gunnar was released and allowed to come home.  We got lucky and he came home right before the Labor Day weekend so tomorrow will actually be his first day at "work" since he returned.  I hired a photographer to capture some of our reunion moments as well so I'll be posting them soon too. 


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Yeah, So Anyways, About This Homecoming Business

I've been working hard getting ready for the big homecoming.  Got the dress, perfect accessories, shoes etc.  I did a dry run of the pick up location at Pope Air Force Base, which adjoins the Fort Bragg Army Base.  I made Gunnar's favorite lasagna, with all the fixin's.  The house is spic and span.  The kids are head over heels excited that we're picking up Daddy after lunch tomorrow. 


And then I get an automated call.  Gunnar's flight is delayed indefinitely


I should know more in the next 12-24 hours.  But as of right now, I have no idea where he is or when he's coming home.

So much for planning, eh?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Puzzle Me This

You might ask yourself, what does an Army wife do with all those long lonely nights when her husband is deployed?  The answer my friends is jigsaw puzzles.  I meant to do a longer photo post on the topic but sadly, these were the only photos I could find of my masterpieces.


You'll notice, my crochet book is in the corner too.  As if jigsaw puzzles weren't cool enough, yes, I also crochet.

This was one of the most tedious.  1500 ridiculous pieces.  I cursed these cows for a few nights.

                                          

Fun stuff, huh?  Don't be too jealous!  (Sorry folks, I tried for 3 minutes to align this photo, and that's all the fight I have in me tonight.)

By the way, Gunnar comes home NEXT WEEK!!!  I doubt I'll be doing puzzles again for a long time.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Roadtrippin'

I know Ive written about this before but I think it bears repeating.  My little trio, me and my two darlings are some badass roadtrippers.  We have made 10 round-trip visits to Ohio since we moved to North Carolina 10 months ago.  That's 20 car rides averaging 8.5 hours each time, and about 500 miles.  We start with a full tank of gas, stop once for food, restroom and a diaper change (usually in Beckley WV - its basically the half-way point) and the only other stops we make are for Gus to pee on the side of the road.  Hardcore?  Maybe.  But these kids are some troopers (no Army pun intended) and I'm so proud of them for putting up with me.  I don't think these trips would have happened quite as often if they were making it difficult to do.  Sure, there's whining and crying and occasionally screaming and yelling, but generally its just not that bad that I don't want to do it.

Some things Ive learned along the way:

  • I strategically place everything in the front passenger seat that I will need along the way, so it's only an arms reach away.  DVDs, tissues, directions (yep, I still need them), drinks, snacks, wipes, diapers and that's about it.
  • West Virginia should pay me to drive through it, not the other way around.  I never really feel like I get my moneys worth with the $6 in tolls I have to pay.
  • The speed limit everywhere should be 70 mph on highways. 
  • Related: North Carolina needs more highways.  It takes about 2.5 hrs to get from Fort Bragg to the VA/NC border because there's no actual highways, just back roads to get there.  Annoying!
  • When there's no more reasoning with your freaking out toddlers, just roll the windows down and turn the radio up.  The fresh air (even if filled with exhaust fumes!) is good for every one's state of mine, and you can't hear them yelling anymore.  Bonus!
  • It is possible, but not recommended to refill sippy cups while driving through the mountains.  
  • Speaking of mountains, I always appreciate and love how beautiful the drive is.  The mountains are breathtaking, and I am in awe of the view every time I'm cruising through Virginia.
  • We like to break up the trip by landmarks.  The kids know we need to get through 2 mountain tunnels, then 3 toll booths, then the big, big bridge over the Ohio river.  It really helps to feel like we're making progress.
  • When the drive gets tedious, I rationalize it simply by comparing it to a day's work at an office.  8.5 hours.  That's it.  In the time most people sit in a cubicle for a day, I drive through 4 states.  Not so bad when you think about it that way.
  • I have remarkable contortionist abilities to change DVDs in the kids portable player while driving.
I know these trips will be a lot less frequent when Gunnar comes back home, and honestly I am going to miss it a lot.  I know the kids will too.  They love going up and visiting our family all the time.

I'm already planning our next trip :)

Here's pretty much exactly what a road trip with us looks like:

I swear the girl is actually wearing clothes, you just can't tell.  Shoes however, never.  This kid refuses to keep them on any time she's strapped into a car seat.  Come to think of it, I drive barefoot the whole way too.  So maybe it's a genetic thing.


I splurged and spent a ton on this car seat because even though the boy is big enough for the high-back booster style seat, I couldn't stand his poor head falling all over the place when he'd fall asleep.  This thing is like a throne!  Also - apparently we take eye protection seriously in this family.  We never go anywhere without shades.

Please don't take me seriously.  Ever.  This is my duck face impression.  Why do girls do this duck face thing these days anyways?  There's no way to look cute imitating a duck's face.  Obviously.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Homecoming Prep

There's honestly not too much going on around here these days.  We still don't have any actual dates about when Gunnar is coming home, but he is slowly making his way back here.  I have the mother of all lists of things to get done before he gets here.  Like buy beer, shop for man food, clear off every horizontal surface full of clutter, and wash the car.  Most likely he really won't notice too many of the details, and just be happy to be home, but I feel like I should at least put forth some effort.

I've read a lot about homecomings and all the hullabaloo that folks go through.  And frankly, I"m just not that into it.  Does it make me a crappy Army wife if I don't hang a banner with Gunnar's face on it on the front of the house?  Or paint welcome home sentiments all over the car?  Or line the driveway with American flags?  Maybe if I was 20 years old and fresh out of high school these things would appeal to me a little more.  I'm just not that into it.

Gunnar hasn't lived with us since May of 2009.  There will be a lot of challenges to face in the next few months as we get back into the swing of things.  Boy oh boy I'm excited to not be a solo parent anymore though!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fort Bragg Child & Youth Services (CYS), Another Possible Title: Why I Drink Vodka on Monday Night

I finally decided to get off my heathen behind and find a church to go to at Fort Bragg.  I've been here almost a year and never bothered, so I decided it was time.  We all know my kids never leave my side but I found a church with a nursery for Maisie to play and a little classroom for Gus to do activities.  This was kind of a big deal for me but I felt really comfortable at the church I found to do this.  And guess what?  Gus LOVED it!  He had so much fun with the other kids and told me about the songs they sang, and games they played.  I don't know what I was expecting but I thought he'd have a harder time.  As it turns out Maisie was the tough one.

So this lovely experience for Gus got me thinking that this boy would really love pre-school.  I've never really considered pre-school for him before but dang, that kid gets next to zero interaction with other kids when we're at Fort Bragg.  And he's a really social kid!  I looked up some pre-school information and found something that looked really good.

The website said "Register Now" and more information is available on their flyer.  (Don't fall for it, there actually wasn't any info on the flyer, just some fish and a phone number.)  I called the number first thing Monday morning.  Got a busy signal.  It took me about 45 minutes to get through, when I finally did I learned there were still many spots available for the 2 day/week pre-school class.  Score!!  All I then needed to do is get a copy of Gunnar's LES (pay stub, basically) and bring it in to their office and get Gus registered.  At this point I should have known it sounded too easy.

I won't bore you with the details, but it took me a good two hours to get a good copy of Gunnar's LES.  It has something to do with sharing passwords with your husband that is really far away.  But, I finally had it in hand, I loaded up the kids and headed over to the CYS office.  That place is a madhouse every time I've been there.  It's a disaster and I avoid it as much as possible.  Yesterday was no different.  I went up to the desk to sign in.  There were at least a dozen names above mine that had yet to be called, so I knew it was going to be a long wait.  The woman at the desk asked what I was registering for and I said the Part Day Pre-School program.  This is how that conversation went:

CYS Lady: "Ummm. No.  Sorry sweetie, it's full"
Me: "Are you sure?  I just called about two hours ago and spoke with a woman that said there are still available spots"
CYS Lady: "I don't know you you was talking to, but it's full"
Me: *furrowed brow*
CYS Lady: "Hold on...lemme check something"
Me: waiting waiting waiting
CYS Lady: typing typing typing
CYS Lady: "OK hold on, Imma check something else" 
CYS Lady:  gets up and leaves
Me: waiting waiting waiting
Me: waiting waiting waiting
CYS Lady: "Yeah sorry it's full"
Me: "I don't understand, it wasn't full two hours ago.  She told me to come in any time this week and it would be fine"
CYS Lady: "A lot can happen in two hours"
CYS Lady: "You can get on the wait list...if you want"
Me: "OK, I guess we can do that"
CYS Lady: "NEXT!"

I guess she was joking about the wait list part.  We left pretty frustrated.  Gus was disappointed for sure, I was just mad that every time I deal with them it's a mess.  Up to this point I've never had a positive experience with the folks in the CYS office which has led to me not involving my children in any of their programs.  I'm perhaps overly cautious about who is watching my kids but I find it really hard to trust people around here.

After we got home, I waited a few hours and called back, hoping to get on the wait list.  Here's how that conversation went:

Me: "Hi, I'd like to have my son put on the wait list for the Part Day Pre-School program"
Different CYS Lady: "Oh honey, that won't be necessary, we have plenty of spots open.  You just need to come down to the office and get him registered"

Really?!  Apparently the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing over there, or some such saying.  Eventually we did sort something out and Gus should be able to start pre-school next month.  He is super excited so I hope it actually works out.  I really hope the people running the pre-school have more of a clue than the people in charge of registration.  I don't have high hopes for that but we'll just have to see how it goes.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It's August You Guys...August!

It's with 95% certainty that I tell you Gunnar should be home this month.  There's a slight chance it might end up being September but right now, all signs point to this month.  I have a ton of mixed emotions about him coming home.  Thankfully, things are finally winding down for his platoon, and they are no longer running patrols.  He has regular internet usage and his job requires him to be at a desk for 12 hrs a day.  After so much stress and worry about his safety, I feel like we can finally exhale, relax, and just wait for him to come home.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Got the Giggles

It's rainy and gloomy at Fort Bragg today, which is a welcome break from the melt-your-face-off heat.  I committed myself to cleaning the house top to bottom but kept getting distracted by the darn internets.  Specifically this video I'm about to show you.  Background on the story: there is an embedded reported with my husband's unit right now.  He has done a few stories on the unit for Al-Jazeera news.  Anyway, one of Gunnar's buddies filmed the first part of this video and the reporter asked to use it to make into the rest of the news story.  I promise, this isn't a joke.  It's really how they get ready for a patrol.



I really recommend watching it more than once.  I find a funnier quote each time I watch it. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I Got Tired of Looking at the Dots

....so now we have a pretty new layout. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Homecoming Jitters

Well folks, this deployment is getting closer and closer to being done and over with.  I mentioned a long time ago that I didn't quite understand the reintegration issues families go through.  I'm now realizing how cocky and naive that really was of me.  I was thinking the other day that we never even got a chance to really live together and settle in at Fort Bragg as a family.  Gunnar was deployed so soon after we got here that we never really got into a routine or flow.  There's definitely going to be some big adjustments coming for everyone involved.

It seems like the homecoming process altogether will be jumbled and stressful.  Of course, this is the Army we're dealing with so at this point, I'd expect nothing less.  I think I'll only get 24-48 notice of when Gunnar is actually coming home.  He will land here at the Pope Air Force Base but everything after that sounds like a total cluster.  Families are permitted to arrive an hour before the plane lands.  And it could very well be in the middle of the night.  So me and my 2 and 3 year olds are going to sit for an hour (likely longer - if we want to get a "good seat") and the soldiers will all come in and stand in formation.  I know my husband anywhere but in a see of soldiers, it can get a little tricky.  That camouflage is no joke - they all look the same!!!  Then they have some sort of ceremony, or people speak about who-knows-what and then it's a mad house as hundreds of families attempt to be reunited.  Can you imagine the chaos?  And get this!  We only get 15 minutes with our soldiers and then they get on a bus to go to their unit headquarters.  I think they need to spend a few hours there doing in-processing type stuff and then we are eventually reunited again.  I'm pretty sure we can't pick them up at the unit, so they must get bussed back to the Green Ramp (AFB).

Don't get me wrong, I'm super excited to see Gunnar again but this whole thing sounds ridiculous.  I don't know why they make everything seem so fussy.  It will be interesting and exciting to have him back home too.  I've been living alone (man-less but with the kids) for a really long time now.  I've learned a lot about myself and how to be a lot more independent.

One thing I do know for sure, Gunnar has been through hell the last few weeks and is going to need all the love and support he can get when he comes home.  The fighting has been very intense and I can tell he is pushing the limits of exhaustion.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

SAHM (because the Army loves acronyms and abbreviations)

I always knew I wanted kids.  There was never any question that one of my goals was to be a mom.  I still did the college thing, and waited till after graduation to get married and start our family.  I think I pictured things a little differently in my head however. 

I didn't think I'd be doing it alone. 

I know there are millions of single moms and dads out there that know what I'm going through, and I'm certainly not going to try to compare our lives or play the "who has it rougher" game.  I can safely assume that a non-working wife of a deployed soldier spends more time with her kids collectively during that year-long deployment than most working parents do in several years.  And generally single parents have exes that take their kids for weekends or overnight occasionally. 

For the first couple of years after I had my son, I continued to work mostly full time.  It was a struggle to juggle our schedules and keep him out of daycare but we managed to do it successfully.  I did always have a twinge of guilt about not spending enough time with my baby though. 

Whoa - what a complete 180 flip from feeling like that!!!

My kids are always with me.  Every minute they are awake, we are together.  Sure, there are daycare options on post for people just like me, and if I wasn't completely paranoid about leaving my kids with strangers, I might actually explore some of those options.  At first I thought it would be way too much of a shock for the kids to move to a new place, have their daddy leave, and then plop them in the care of a complete stranger.  Now I simply refuse because I've not once had a positive experience with the Child and Youth Services Dept of the Army.

Boy, some days I sure wish I was heading to a job in the morning!  I didn't have a major career or do anything that was really setting the world on fire but I loved, adored and respected the heck out of my co-workers.  I felt like the work I did was valued and the place I worked was the best I've ever had. 

This might sound very self-serving but one of the things I miss the very most is just someone saying to me "Hey you did a great job on that!" or "Wow thanks for all your hard work, this looks great!" or "Hey I can really use you, if you got some time later".  I miss feeling appreciated and I miss the recognition that comes with that.  I miss regular adult interactions.  My kids are lovely and supportive, as much as a 3yr old and 2yr old can be I suppose.  Gus tells me I make the best Cheerios's he's ever had.  If that isn't love, I don't know what is. 

Finding that balance with work, life, kids, family etc isn't easy for anyone.  Right now I'm just feeling there isn't any balance of it in my life.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fort Bragg Military Reservation: Shopping Edition

That's what it's called.  Isn't that funny?  This place has a lot of names.  It's an Army "base", it's a "post", it's where we're "stationed", but on the map it's a military reservation.  Life on base (that seems to be what I always call it) is really different from the general civilian world.  It's like a special little club that you need and ID card to get into.  But for the most part, it's not a fancy club.  It's pretty drab, most of the buildings and houses are older and they are all definitely brown.  Not much work is put into aesthetics around here.  There's a lot of housing neighborhoods, and tons of barracks for single soldeirs.  Only if you're married can you live in a neighborhood.  Both barracks and neighborhoods are spread all over the base from one end to the other. 

We have a lot of fast food restaurants, pizza places, and liquor stores (on base they're called the "Class Six").  There's at least one gas station that I know of. Bowling, bingo, a coffee shop or two and some strip malls.  And then there's the Commissary and the PX.  We have two of each, one at the south end of base and one at the north.  Shopping at both of these is really a trip!  It's very different from civilian shopping.

The Commissary is our grocery store.  It's not fancy, the buckles never work in the shopping carts and the cool ones for kids that are shaped like cars are all missing the steering wheel parts, and the hours are more limited than a traditional grocery store.  The prices are pretty decent, and they don't charge tax.  There's a decent amount of ethnic foods but the produce is so-so and there are very few organic options.  Zero organic meats or poultry.  (We've taken to driving about 10 miles off post to find organic chicken.  I watched "Food, Inc" and now I just can't buy Tyson or Perdue chicken anymore.)  There is also no alcohol sold at the Commissary so you can't buy your food and your wine all together for some reason. 

The checkout area is a complete disaster.  There's one big long turnstyle line, you can't pick which lane you'd like to wait in.  You need to present your military ID before you checkout.  There are also 2 baggers at each lane.  They will bag your groceries and take them to your car for you, but you better tip them and you better tip them well.  I was unaware of this bagger-tipping practice and I think I really upset some baggers in the first few trips to the Commissary.  I thought they were just being nice taking the groceries to my car for me.  I really did!  My first job ever was a bagger at a grocery store and I never got tips!  We just did it as part of our customer service .  I finally got the picture and gave a man $3 for bringing my 5 bags of groceries to the car.  He stopped right there and counted it in front of me.  Then made a face and walked away.  Ok, apparently $3 is a lousy tip.  Now I'm confused.  How much am I supposed to give someone for doing something I'm perfectly capable of doing myself. 

I figured I would avoid the whole tipping-the-bagger awkwardness and just take my own groceries to my car my damnself.  That's what I've been doing my whole life anyway, right?  Plus I absolutely never have cash on me, I've never even set up a checking account in North Carolina.  It's just a pain to take out cash to be able to tip a bagger.  I assumed (silly me!) that if the baggers don't take the groceries to the car, you're off the hook in the tippind department.  Wrong again!!  I actually went through the line, started to leave with my groceries and kids in the cart, and the bagger took a basket with a handwritten sign in it that said "Baggers work for Tips" and waved it right under my nose.  Seriously!!  I dug in my pockets and bottom of my purse and gave him all my change but I was completely mortified. 

I'm not opposed to tipping the baggers on principal, but they are mighty aggressive and I just don't think I understand the whole thing.  So here's my solution.  I only buy less than 15 items at each visit and go through the self checkout.  Needless to say, we go a few times a week.  But that doesn't bother me a bit since I'm usually digging deep to find a reason to leave the house most days. 

My very favorite thing about the Commissary however is the "The 7 Signs of Terrorism" sign on the doors.



The PX is the Post Exchange.  It's sort of an all inclusive KMart or Target type of store.  But they have some high end cosmetics and really nice hangbags if you're into that sort of thing.  The prices are definitely lower than you'd spend most other places and again, there's no taxes so that's a bonus.  You need to show your ID to enter the PX and you need to sign in any guests into a log book.  I can't for the life of me think of what in the world they do with that log book. 

The Commissary and the PX get ridiculously busy.  Busier than anywhere else I've shopped.  Especially in the rush hour times, and before holiday weekends.  Military personel always have 4 day weekends for holidays.  So true to form, yesterday at the Commissary was insane.  It was also payday, another shopping day to avoid at all costs.  They actually had traffic diverted at the entrance to accomodate. 

This photo is complete unrelated but Gunnar posted it today and I can't stop staring so here you go...



Happy 4th of July to all of you!!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Comms Blackout

Occasionally Gunnar's unit has a comms (communication) blackout.  That means that they shut down any and all forms of communication in and out of their outpost.  Usually comms blackouts happen after some really heavy fighting, or if a soldier has been injured and family members need to be notified.  I think there's some security reasons too.  I don't understand very well what exactly they are protecting.  I think it has a lot to do with making sure bad guys are listening to their conversations etc.  I'm going to try to get some better information on the subject.

Fighting has been crazy intense over there lately.  It's usually between 120 and 130 deg. F over there.  I am always complaining about North Carolina heat and then remind myself to shut up.  It's not like I have to carry 100 pounds of gear and walk for 6 miles in it.  I can't even imagine what that's like.  It's amazing that people live there in the first place.  Aside from being completely overheated, and because of it, very grumpy, Gunnar is doing just fine. 

I'm not sure exactly when he's coming home.  We still have a few months to go and I wish I could get something more specific.  I don't even really need to know the day.  Just the month or week would be outstanding.

It's really hard to support the war there in general.  I understand that the point is to eradicate the Taliban, so they will no longer have control over the country, and to help make Afghanistan a self-sufficient country.  I do support my husband 100% and I want him to do whatever he needs to in order to come home to us safely.  I have mostly feelings of disdain when I read articles or hear him talk about what he sees there.  It's a crappy place.  Gunnar posted this photo today though and I can't describe how it made me feel.


Isn't that awful?  It makes me so desperately sad.  Maybe we do need to be there so women can be treated with some dignity.  Can you even imagine this being your life?  The oppression and despair hit me to my very core.  It hasn't always been like this there.  I was in high school when the Taliban took over the government there.

I don't know how our military is going to fix the problems in Afghanistan.  I think it's going to take a very, very long time to do it though.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Emotional Rollercoaster

I'm feeling completely blah today.  Going from instant messaging Gunnar a few times a day for a few weeks to an abrupt halt in communication is really tough.  There are new reports every day of the escalated fighting in Afghanistan and this month marks the deadliest since the war started 9 years ago.  It's so hard to be this nervous and worried for this long.  It really is.  And this deployment completely kicked my butt today.  I had a very pathetic, oh-woe-is-me, stay in pajamas all day long, watch 4 Grey's Anatomy re-runs type of day.  My kids were fantastic to indulge me in such a lame day of parenting.  But, in my own defense, they are clean and fed and I did play Candyland 4,829 times today.  I know logically that he is doing fine.  Fighting a lot, but doing fine.  I just really need him to tell me this himself.  And soon.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Little Fun in the Sun

When I found out we were being stationed at Fort Bragg, I thought of all the fun beach vacations we'd be having.  I didn't really think about having them without Gunnar though.  As summer approached I started getting anxious and overwhelmed by the idea of taking two small kids to the beach by myself.  How could I keep track of them both?  What if one of them runs off?  Or worse, runs into the ocean and drowns or something like that.  I started thinking I should buy some of those swimming vest and make sure the kids were attached to me at all times.  Gee, do I maybe overthink things??  A lot??

Well yesterday (with barely any planning at all), I loaded the kids in the car and we headed to the coast.  It's about 2 and a half hours from Fort Bragg which is really nothing to us.  The kids are getting pretty used to spending way longer in the car.

I had to pick a beach that had bathrooms and other general amenities.  Logistically it's just a lot of work getting the kids dressed, SPF'd and ready to hit the beach, and even more work to get them de-sanded, re-diapered and ready for the ride home.

We went to Fort Fisher, part of North Carolina Parks and Rec.  It was beautiful!!  I really think we found a  great spot.  I think the kids agree.  We'll definitely be making more spontaneous beach trips this summer.  The only thing that would make it even more fun would to have Gunnar here with us.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Near Miss

My husband was driving his MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) truck with a handful of other guys last night when they encountered an IED (Improvised Explosive Device).  They were very lucky to have avoided something much worse.

That's the hole that was left by the 500lb IED.  The MRAP went airborn but Gunnar was able to recover control quickly and get to safety. 

It's peak fighting season over there right now and I so scared and worried for his, and everyone else's safety.

He just needs to get through a few more months...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Oops!!

I unintentionally screwed up somehow today.  Here's what happened:  I posted a video from msnbc.com today on my Facebook page.  It showed an embedded reporter (Richard Engle, ooh la la, he is so handsome!) with Gunnar's unit, but different company.  They came under attack and it showed some fighting and some injuries to US soldiers.  It was on the msnbc page right there for the whole universe to see.  Gunnar does have internet at the COP now and when he saw that I posted it he sent me a very serious sounding message telling me to take it down. 

Of course I took it right down but I seriously don't understand the problem.  Also, the unit's FB page instructed everyone to refrain from posting the link on the unit's page, and doing so would result in that person being blocked from viewing that page again. 

This is obviously some really serious stuff.  I respect the Army and it's request but I am left with a lot of unanswered questions.  Why in the world does the Army allow embedded reporters and their cameras and then try to restrict families of these soldiers from seeing what they are doing?  I've seen reports and documentaries from the same reporter on TV and the Internet.  Why would it be a big deal to see the video on Facebook, even though you can go right on msnbc and find the same thing? 

I hope I can talk to Gunnar soon and learn more about the details.  I am just really confused about it I guess. 

I'm too paranoid to post the link on here but you can find it online or email me and I'll send you the link.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

OPSEC - As Promised

I feel like I've missed out on loads of information since Gunnar was assigned to a unit that was already deployed while he was still in training.  We didn't have deployment readiness training, or literature of any kind.  We didn't have the deployment prep that other soldiers had.  This is our first go at this crazy life together and sort of just stumbling through it blindly.  To some military spouse veterans out there, a lot of information may seem intuitive, or second nature, but honestly to me, it's not. 

OPSEC is the military term for "Operations Security" and there is a huge emphasis put on this.  I'm only recently hearing about it via Facebook forums etc.  I would assume if we had been part of this deployment from the start, I would have learned about this in a more direct way.  The security they are trying to enforce relates to protecting the information we have about our soldiers from the enemies.  I would like to safely assume that the Talibad does not in fact read this blog, but apparently that's some sort of a real possibility, according to OPSEC rules.  And boy oh boy do they have a lot of rules.  Here they are with regards to internet communication:

  1. Do not post exact deployment dates or redeployment dates
  2. Do not reveal camp locations, including nearby cities. After the deployment is officially announced by Military officials, you may discuss locations that have been released, normally on the Country level.
  3. Do not discuss convoy routes (“we travelled through Takrit on our way to X”)
  4. Detailed information on the mission, capabilities or morale of a unit
  5. Specific names or actual nicknames
  6. Personnel transactions that occur in large numbers (Example: pay information, powers of attorney, wills, etc)
  7. Details concerning security procedures, response times, tactics
  8. Don’t discuss equipment or lack thereof, to include training equipment
  9. Don’t speculate about future operations
  10. If posting pictures, don’t post anything that could be misconstrued or used for propaganda purposes. A good rule of thumb is to look at your picture without your caption or explanation and consider if it could be re-captioned to reflect poorly on coalition forces. For example, your image might show your Soldier rescuing a child from a blast site, but could be re-captioned to insinuate that the child being captured or harmed. (it’s happened!)
  11. Avoid the use of count-up or count-down tickers for the same reason as rule #1
  12. be very careful if posting pictures of your loved one. Avoid images that show significant landmarks near their base of operations, and black out last names and unit affiliations
  13. Do not, ever, post information about casualties (coalition or enemy) before the official release of the information.
  14. Do not pass on rumors (“I heard they’re coming home early”, etc) 
So basically, I am not supposed to tell you how long we still have to wait before Gunnar comes home etc.  I don't even want to count how many dozens of times I've violated these terms already on this blog.  It's probably not a good thing but heck, it would have been nice to know this sort of stuff way back when, ya know?

Also, there is a lot of guilt-driven propaganda swirling around this OPSEC business.  I understand the gravity of the situation and what's at stake but do you really need to see stuff like this:
I mean really!  That's a little over the top, don't you think? 

Or how about people strangely trying to find the humor in OPSEC...


Unicorns?  Really?

Anyway, I'm going to make a conscious effort to not violate and OPSEC rules in the future and hopefully I'll see some dancing unicorns around here soon.  And I'll just leave you with one last little gem...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I'm So Not Badass

I came home this evening and found a big (no lie - this thing was a good 3-4 feet long) gross snake guarding my doorstep.  Guarding it from what exactly, I don't really know.  Definitely preventing me from getting in my house with the kids though.  This is precisely the crap that I don't need in my life right now.  I finally talked to Gunnar today after a week of zip/zero/zilch communication and everything he told me scared the bejeezus out of me.  I am pretty sure I would be violated a trillion OPSEC rules if I said anything specific (more on that in another post) but suffice it to say I'm worried sick that something really bad is going to happen over there in that country.

Ok, back to me.  And the creepy snake.  I really tried to not freak out because I really wanted to not make my kids as irrationally terrified of snakes as I am, but no such luck.  It just sat there staring at me, daring me to try to make it move.  I called my brother Nathan - he is a very proud owner of 10 or 15 or hell, 20 snakes or something like that.  I'm actually not exaggerating, by the way.  He said to get a stick and just sort of lift it's body over and it will scoot away.

Ummm...

Yeah right.

I got the stick but couldn't physically make myself get that close to it.  Then Nathan said to just agitate it a bit with something and it will go away.  I (barely) tossed a few little pieces of gravel in it's general direction and all it really did was cock it's head toward me and keep staring.  All I knew was that I wasn't going up against this snake at all.

Luckily some guy was walking his dog on the other side of the street and I begged him to come over and he shooed the stupid snake away from the door but it basically just went into the bushes somewhere.  At least I was able to get into my house but I'm afraid I've done irreparable damage to my kids with my freak out session.

I know you're probably tired of hearing me say this but it bears repeating today:  I can't wait for Gunnar to come home, and get the damn snakes the hell away from the house.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Just Me and The Kids

I've been back at Fort Bragg for a few weeks now and the only other person I know on post has been out of town for all of it, and will be out of town for the next couple of months.  That means that there are actually zero people here that I know, that know me or that could help me out if I needed anything.  When I think of it in those terms it is actually amusing.  For example, I started wearing shorts this year.  For me, this is huge.  These gams haven't seen sunlight but for a few random occasions since I was a kid.  But guess what?  Go ahead and judge my fluorescent white legs - you don't even know me!  Ha!  It's very liberating to know that I'm absolutely not going to run into someone I know, under any circumstances.  There are a few other things though that can become a challenge that even I can't seem to find a solution to.  Things like this:

1.) Getting a haircut.  I love the girl that cuts my hair in Columbus so I know I'll just get it done next time I'm in town but damn.  I just need a trim and I can't imagine trying to do that with two toddlers in tow.

2.) A doctor or dentist appointment.  I can't even stomach the thought of trying to take the maniacs with me.  Let's hope I don't get sick before Gunnar gets home, in the meantime I'll just schedule all of my body maintenance for after August.

3.) Going out after 7pm.  Not that there's really a need for this but still, it's nice to know you can.  My kids crash hard and are pretty awful to be around after 7:30-ish

I'm sure there's tons of other things that we still do that I'm not sure everyone would try with two little kids.  I mean, when I'm in the mood for a tall, cold draft beer or some hot chicken wings, you can believe me and the kids are on a patio somewhere enjoying dinner.  They really are great company for the most part and we have a lot of fun together.

My next challenge is going to be how to take them to the beach myself.  I am nervous about how I'm going to actually corral the both of them at the ocean without one of them getting swept away or drown or something like that.  Oh yeah, and I need to actually find a beach to go to. 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

365

It has been exactly one year since Gunnar left for his military training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  Those first four months felt like an eternity.  We had never been apart for more than a day or two in the eleven years we'd been together.  I wish I knew then what our future was going to look like.  I wish I had known he would be deployed to Afghanistan almost immediately after his training was complete.  I still don't have any regrets that this is the path we chose, but I think I would have done a few things differently if I had known this is where we'd be (i.e. I'd never have moved to Fort Bragg!).

In the last year I've spent 6 non-consecutive weeks with my husband.  I've become better at doing all of the parenting myself and all the crap that comes with that.  Like getting two toddlers in and out of the car and unloading all the groceries myself and being 100% in charge of the discipline.

I will never, ever get used to being alone.  And it never gets easier.  I will always be counting down the days till we are together again.  (80 more days until he starts heading home!)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ha! Joke's on Me!

Gunnar called yesterday with an interesting offer.  He said the 1st Sgt that I had met at the FRG meeting was really impressed with me and would like me to consider taking a position as the new co-FRG leader.  (Apparently 1st Sgt Barber doesn't read this blog!)  He told Gunnar he appreciates that I speak well and am well educated and thinks I could really bring a lot to the Delta Company Family Readiness Group.  I am going to need a little time to think this one over.  The current co-FRG leader's husband is getting out of the Army in the fall, and that is when the position will be open.  I am so not involved with anything at Fort Bragg, this would definitely give me no excuses but I really don't know if I'm cut out for something like this.  Hmmmm.  I'll have to think this one over for a while. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

FRG Meeting

I went to my first official Family Readiness Group (FRG) meeting last week.  Every unit in the Army, Reserves and National Guard has it's own FRG.  I didn't know this (because why would I know anything about the Army?) but apparently FRGs have really bad reputations for just being gossip circles basically.  I realized this the first time my FRG leader contacted me to welcome me to Fort Bragg, and told me our FRG isn't like other FRGs because her husband is enlisted (not an officer) and somehow that was supposed to make a huge difference.  It was a weird phone call to say the least.

Anyway, I got an email inviting me to the FRG meeting with a note that this meeting was going to be extremely important.  I felt bad that I've been out of town for every single other regular meeting since I moved to Fort Bragg and since this one was going to be extremely important, I probably should go.  The meeting was conveniently located at my neighborhood center too so I really had no excuses to not go.

I was surprised that there were only about 9 wives there.  And 2 of them were my FRG and co-FRG leaders.  There were a handful of other kids there which made it really hard to hear anything being said.  Now, usually my kids are the maniacs in most situations but I was really trying to be a good mommy and I brought them quite toys, drinks, and even snacks to bribe them with.  So it was pretty frustrating to have other kids acting crazy, and the moms just yelling at them even louder to be quiet (how does that even make sense anyway?).

The Delta Company 1st Sergeant was there to speak with us as he was home on R&R.  I was catching little snippets of info here and there but the crazy kid next to me was banging his toys on the table and shrieking.  1st Sgt did say somewhere in there that the 2/508 (Gunnar's unit) will be deploying to Afghanistan again in September of 2011.  I swear I almost fell off my chair right then and there.  There were some rumors swirling around that they might be leaving 16 or 18 months after they get back.  It's called "dwell time" - the time in between deployments.  I know I got pretty close to crying when I heard that and 1st Sgt Barber came over and talked to me for a while.  He had tons of really great things to say about Gunnar.  And he said he'll likely be promoted to NCO (non-commissioned officer) within the next 3-4 months.  I can't even begin to say how proud of Gunnar I am but the thought of only having him home for 1 year out of his 3 year enlistment makes my stomach hurt!

I didn't talk to too many people at the meeting.  I introduced myself to the FRG leaders and did the polite nod and "hi" to the other ladies there.  I really couldn't see myself hanging out with any of them though.  I really completely feel like I just don't fit in all that well down here.  But I'm ok with that.  I hope the kids are okay with having very limited contact with other kids around here.  I'm glad they have each other and that we do a lot of things with just the 3 of us.  I don't want them to be socially awkward when they do eventually go to school, and I'm hoping these months of alone-ness don't do that to them.

I really doubt that I'll be going to another FRG meeting any time soon.  There were actually zero "extremely important" information bits at the meeting.  I fell for that line this time but I won't in the future.

Monday, May 17, 2010

R&R

I've been meaning to tell you all about how the rest of the R&R time was having Gunnar home.  For starters, R&R is short for The United States Rest and Recuperation Leave Program.  I have to disagree with calling it "leave".  They are coming home, we called it leaving when he left his home, family and life.  Anyway, semantics aside, R&R is granted to soldiers that are "in theater" aka deployed for 1 year.  I think soldiers with shorter deployments (6 months, 9 months) are not granted R&R. 

All that said, there wasn't a heck of a lot of rest actually going on while he was home.  Gunnar had a week of traveling just getting to Ohio, and when he finally did he was pretty jet lagged.  Right smack in the middle of the 15 days of R&R my sister got married and the preparations took up a good amount of my time.  We tried to get to all of his favorite restaurants and do lots of things with the kids, and also try to do some things just the two of us.  Heck, Gunnar probably wanted to do a few things on his own too but I feel like the time just flew by so fast, I'm sure we didn't get to check everything off the list that we wanted to.

There were a few things that were really fantastic about the time we had together.  Just some things that made me fall in love with him all over again, things I had desperately missed since he's been in Afghanistan.  Here's a few examples:
It was really nice to get dressed up and have an actual date.  A date involving red lipstick, a dress, dinner downtown and a hotel room with an amazing view.  It had been way too long since I'd had a romantic night out!

Seeing Gunnar sitting across the table from me = heaven.  Seriously, I didn't need to order food, I was totally just eating up the view.


To me this is priceless.  The kids are pawing all over someone besides me for two weeks!  It was so great to have them interact with their Daddy and he with them, like they've never even been apart.  They absolutely couldn't get enough attention from him.


Fun times paddle boating.



Please note that he again has both kids with him.  They really didn't want much to do with me once they got used to having Daddy around again.  And after 7 months mostly alone with them, I was totally okay with that.


Precious Father/son moments like this.  Could it get any sweeter?



He's laughing his butt off watching me trying to figure out the new camera.  (The old one was damaged when he jumped over a city wall in Afghanistan).

Gunnar seriously fed the kids brownies and Capri-Suns for breakfast the day of the wedding.  Please believe me when I say this would never happen on my watch.  He spoiled those kids rotten while he was home.

While I was on wedding duty, Gunnar was in charge of dressing the kids and getting them to the ceremony.  I'd say he did a pretty fantastic job.  The kids looked adorable!  He even did their hair.

Did I mention I got busy with wedding details?  Yeah just little details like making and assembling a cake to feed 150 people!! A collaborative effort between me and my mom of course.

I love this photo.  Just Gunnar and his buddies enjoying cigars at the wedding.  Finally a little Rest and Recuperation for the man.

I love this man.  I am so very impatiently awaiting his safe return.