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!!!