Operation: Inactivation

Day 7: WATCH A MOVIE WITH MY KIDS WITHOUT MULTI-TASKING

My children consider movies special treats. I try to reserve them for emergencies: rainy Sunday afternoons, nights when I co-op baby-sitting with friends, or recovery from busy weeks. But sadly, I usually use the kids’ special treat as a special treat for myself. It’s my chance to get things done without interruption. Whether it’s catching up on laundry, creating my weekly grocery list, or returning phone calls, I never manage to sit still to enjoy the movie with my children. Today, I am going to give the washing machine a rest, save the grocery list for later, and turn off the ringer. I can’t wait to snuggle with my kids and watch a movie through their eyes.

Movie night didn’t exactly go as planned.  It started off perfectly.  My husband converted the couch to a bed and laid out cozy blankets.  The kids made bathroom runs.  I popped up a huge batch of popcorn.  And we all snuggled together to watch “Ratatouille.” 

17 minutes into the movie, my husband’s work phone rang.  21 minutes in, Big C wanted water.  22 and a half minutes in, Little C wanted milk.  47 minutes in, the popcorn was annihilated, and Big C wanted yogurt.  48 and a half minutes in, Little C wanted yogurt.  By the time the movie was wrapping up, my husband was asleep, I was toasting a mini bagel for Big C and retrieving more yogurt for Little C (which she rejected once I opened it), those cozy blankets were the source of a tug-of-war, and I had missed most of the movie. 

At least I can tell myself that it wasn’t my own inability to sit still that led to the failure of today’s mission.  What is it about watching a movie that induces hunger?!  I guess the next time I attempt movie night, my revised goal should be to park a mini fridge next to the bed and inform the kids that their short order cook is taking the night off.

PORCELAIN GOD
I am now a slave to the Porcelain God.  I forgot to mention that the day I took Little C’s binkies away, she decided to potty train herself.  Seriously, she potty trained herself!  For the past couple of months, I’ve allowed her to prance around the house naked because it was the only time she attempted to use the potty.  But the other day was the first time she actually dropped her drawers and did it herself.  She also decided that day that diapers are beneath her.  And she hasn’t worn a diaper since. 
So now I visit the bathroom dozens of times a day.  Sometimes the visits are false alarms, probably Little C’s way of determining just how quickly Mommy will jump when she yells, “Pee Pee Pottyyyyyyy!”  And somehow, she’s only had 1 accident in 3 days.  I’m overwhelmingly proud of her.  I never thought I’d brag about my daughter waking me up at 3:30 AM to use the bathroom, but I am.  At least she’s not screaming for her binky.  She seems to have mastered both transitions flawlessly and isn’t looking back.  Maybe next I should teach her how to pop popcorn and toast mini bagels.

Operation: Invigoration

Day 6: TAKE A ZUMBA CLASS

I like to work out. In my youthful prime, I was a competitive swimmer. In my adult life, I have competed in 2 half marathons, one 10k, more 5k’s than I can count, 2 open water swims, and a handful of other random races. I’m a regular at the local YMCA, and recently I’ve discovered spinning. However, I have never Zumba’ed. I have no idea exactly what Zumba is, but I’m pretty sure it involves dancing. As the World’s Biggest Klutz, I typically avoid any fitness classes that require coordination. So today’s Zumba class at the Y should be interesting. My plan is to arrive early to make sure I get a good spot in the back where no one can see me.

Zumba is fun!!! And wonderfully invigorating. There must have been 40 people crammed into that aerobics room dancing their hearts out. I had trouble keeping up with the dance moves at first, but I quickly got the hang of it (for the most part). From my view in the back, I discovered to my great relief that I wasn’t the most uncoordinated person there. And by the end, I was feeling downright graceful!

I definitely plan to take another class. I loved the music, I loved the fast pace, and I loved that no one was taking themselves too seriously. It may not have been the athletic challenge that a spinning class or a 6 mile run is, but it was a fun change that got my blood pumping. And next time, I’m moving on up. No need to be in the back of the room with a limited view of the bubbly instructor. I might even work up the nerve to join the smiling woman in the front row who had absolutely no idea what she was doing, but sure was having fun trying.

HANDS ARE FOR HOLDING
I look at this photo and can’t believe how large my son’s hands have gotten.  Little C still has those adorable, stumpy toddler hands.  But Big C is looking more and more like a little man.  I don’t even want to think about what this picture will look like a year from now, 2 years from now, 10 years from now because I don’t want to think about the day when he won’t want to hold my hand anymore. 

Operation: Elimination

Day 5: TOSS UNUSED TOYS AND OUTGROWN CLOTHES

My kids have more toys than Santa’s workshop. And they have clothes hiding in dresser drawers that will never fit them again. Time for Spring cleaning a few months early! I’m looking forward to a big pile of toys to donate and clothes to pass along. Not to mention the extra space I’ll have to organize all of their art supplies, puzzles, and other toys with little itty bitty pieces that I keep stepping on. Now I just need to convince my children to share my enthusiasm.

I truly did not anticipate the magnitude of this project. I spent almost 2 hours just on my son’s room! Big C wasn’t too fond of the overhaul, but he loved the fact that ultimately Mommy cleaned his room. Luckily, Little C’s room recently had a makeover when we traded in her crib for a bed, so it wasn’t as cluttered as her brother’s. I was able to get rid of a drawer full of her old clothes and refill it with toys.

By the time we were finished, the mountain of donations wasn’t exactly as high as I had envisioned. In fact, most of the toys and books that Big C actually agreed to relinquish ended up finding their way to Little C’s room. But it’s done. I even shifted enough stuff around that I was able to remove a nightstand that was shoved in Big C’s closet to house more forgotten junk. That made space for his bean bag chair in his new “secret room,” where he can close the curtains and plot his latest ploy to drive me crazy.

Today’s adventure made me wonder how in the world my children have managed to accumulate such a vast amount of toys. Where did they all come from?! And when did toys manufactured for 5-year-olds surpass my 30-something-year old cognitive abilities? Despite my best efforts, I have NEVER been able to transform Bulkhead into a tank or Optimus Prime into a truck.  And speaking of Transformers, I swear the inventor didn’t have children. The man spent way too much time inventing and not enough time cleaning up the millions of detachable pieces that may look cool but too often get entangled in dust bunnies under the bed and stab the bottom of frustrated moms’ feet.

On a positive note, during the cleansing process, I found that missing yellow binky. I also found a pink one that went AWOL months ago. (It was part of the forgotten junk that was hiding in the nightstand.)  I think all binkies have officially been recovered.

LONG TAG
This is “Long Tag,” Big C’s most prized possession.  Long Tag’s story began when Big C was a baby.  He developed an attachment to one of his blue blankets, so attached that we ordered an identical one as a backup.  He must have been about 2 when he realized that the blankets were not identical.  You see, he liked to soothe himself to sleep by rubbing the blanket’s tag.  And the backup blanket had a longer tag than the original.  Soon, Big C was rejecting the original “Short Tag” and begging for “Long Tag.”  Now, years later, Long Tag has seen better days.  It has traveled to 4 different countries, it’s been peed on, it’s been sewn, and it has more holes than swiss cheese.  But Big C still can’t live without it.  (And Short Tag sits in a dresser drawer, patiently waiting to be used as a backup.)

By the way, I tried teaching Little C her brother’s method of tag rubbing since she owns the pink equivalent of Long Tag.  But she is still missing her binkies.  Last night was a bit bumpy, ending in a 5:30 AM wake up call for me, but naptime today was rough.  Tomorrow is another day.

Operation: De-Pacification

Day 4: SAY BYE BYE BINKY

Today my daughter is under the impression I’m mailing her binkies to her baby cousin. I had to choose between this fib and convincing her to leave her precious “bees” under her pillow for the Pacifier Fairy. Since it would take her all of 1.5 seconds to find those binkies under her pillow and promptly stuff all 5 of them in her mouth like a squirrel hiding its nuts, that option would kind of defeat the purpose. So we’re going cold turkey. Sayonara suckers.

I had every intention of weaning Little C off the pacifier by the time she turned one. The experts say not to implement this kind of transition during other major life transitions. Well, the experts clearly don’t know anyone in the military because, in our lives, transitions hit like machine gun fire.

When Little C was 9 months old, we PCS’ed from Japan back to the states. No way was I taking away the pacifier before that trip! (In retrospect, I probably should have. Not only did she hardly sleep the entire flight, but she entertained herself by tossing the binkies over the seats and befriending the kind strangers who retrieved them. I spent more time in the airplane bathroom washing those stupid binkies than she spent sucking on them.) Whether it was enduring a PCS move, saying farewell to beloved friends, packing Daddy up for one trip after another, or hopping in the car to visit family, it was always something, some reason not to take away that crutch.

Now that she’s approaching the 2 and a half year mark, I can no longer make excuses to avoid chucking the binky (besides the fact that I treasure a full night of sleep). Thank goodness she is only a part-time addict. Since she was a baby, I offered the pacifier only during sleep time. I am patting myself on the back for that now because the de-pacification process is only affecting bedtimes.

As far as the success of today’s challenge, I’d say it went better than expected. Little C plunked her binkies in a baggie and decorated it with stickers next to her cousin’s name. Naptime didn’t happen, but she’s been skipping naps all week so I don’t contribute that to binky withdrawal. After about an hour of intermittent screaming “No Nap!” and false claims to need the potty, I gave in and took her to Target to buy her the “Cindy-rella” underwear I promised her. And knock on wood, bedtime was flawless. Not so much as a whimper! We’ll see where my optimism is at 2:00 in the morning.

                                                      
We are mysteriously missing a binky.  Somewhere in our house is a yellow pacifier with a lion on it.  I wouldn’t put it past my conniving Little C to have hidden it somewhere for surreptitious future use.  Let’s hope I find it before she does.

Operation: Application

Day 3: COMPLETE A JOB APPLICATION

I have been a domestic engineer for the past 5+ years. (Yes, that’s a fancy way of saying stay-at-home mom.) But now I’m contemplating my return to the workforce to actually use that Master’s degree I worked so hard to earn. First step is the application.

Ok, so filling out a job application is much tougher than it used to be!  Online application; scanning and attaching college transcripts, resume, and recommendations; short essays?!  I was foolish to believe I could complete the application in a single day, especially on a day my obstinate daughter chose to skip her afternoon nap.  But I was able to complete the majority of the application today so I consider today’s mission a majority of a success.  Just need to stay motivated and keep working on it. 
The application made me wonder if employers consider domestic engineering work experience.  I’m required to provide a reference from my last employer.  Maybe I should list my home phone number with my children’s names as references.  After all, they have been my employers for the past 5 years.  I’m sure my future boss would love to hear from my 5-year-old son, who would surely share great tales of my ability to make his bed, launder his Tranformer underwear, prepare his gourmet peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and battle with his Gormiti and Star Wars figures.  (Let’s just hope they don’t call on a day I put him in time-out for punching his sister or take away a coveted magnet on his daily responsibility chart for not clearing the dinner table.)  And I know they would hire me on the spot upon hearing from my 2-year-old daughter as she chants, “Mommy good.  Read Diego book.  No pants.  Pee pee on potty.”  What do you think?
                                                            SLOW COOKER CRAZE
My 2nd daily photo…my sexy slow cooker is my new best friend.  Thanks to the cookbook, “Make It Fast, Cook It Slow” by Stephanie O’Dea (her blog is on my list), I now prepare as many meals as possible first thing in the morning and use my typical dinner time preparation in the evening to spend more time with my kids.  Fast, easy, yummy.  Last night’s recipe: Chicken Parmesan.  Tonight’s recipe: Creamy Beef Over Noodles.  Oishii!!!

Operation: Documentation

Day 2: TAKE A PICTURE EVERY DAY FOR A YEAR.

I realize this is an ongoing challenge that will not end today, but the hardest part of any goal is deciding to do it, right? So today I’m deciding to document this wonderful new year through photography. Plus, this will hopefully add some color to my blog.

THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR MATCHING
I love my fake Uggs. I love matching fashion with my 2-year-old daughter. I wonder if we’ll look at this picture in 10 years and share a good chuckle over wearing such ugly foot attire.

But in 10 years, she’ll be a tween. She’ll be raging with hormones and mood swings, and she’ll probably hate me by then.  So instead of finding the humor in our matching ugly boots, she might just shriek that this photo is proof that I have been depriving her of haute couture her entire life (because they are clearly Ugg impostors and our jeans are clearly off-the-rack). Or she’ll rip it up to destroy the evidence that she ever deigned to dress like her old, fashion-challenged mother.  Or, and this might be the worst offense, she’ll refuse to even share the moment with me because spending time with a parental unit just isn’t cool.

These visions almost convince me that the Terrible Twos aren’t so bad.  Almost.

I will continue to enjoy dressing my toddler like my very own mini me.  I need to do it while I still can.

Operation: Articulation

Day 1: START A BLOG. 

Simple, I know. But I’m taking baby steps, sticking a toe outside that comfort zone to test the waters.  Plus, it’s going to take me all day just to figure out all the bells and whistles on this website.

I also wanted to lay down my rules of engagement. (You’ll soon learn that I’m a very rule-oriented person.   Hmmm, future challenge there?)

Rule #1: I am not here to dole out advice. I don’t have nearly enough knowledge or experience to offer any sound advice to my fellow military spouses out there. But I’m hoping to share other blogs on my page to point you in the right direction if that’s what you’re seeking (that is, once I figure out how to do that).

Rule #2: The purpose of this blog is neither to bash the military nor profess my undying love for it. Remember, it’s just background noise.

Rule #3: I do not have a political agenda, and I’d appreciate it if you kept yours to yourself.

Rule #4: My proposed format is as follows: I will begin each day by announcing my challenge. (If I wait until my day has started, I am much more likely to reconfigure something I’ve already done and call it my daily challenge.  Kind of like adding a task to your to-do list after you’ve completed it just so you can cross something off.  Come on, you know you’ve done it!) And I will end each day by sharing whether or not my mission was a success, a failure, or was aborted due to extenuating circumstances.

Rule #5: I am open to suggestions (within reason). Feel free to drop me a line with ideas about what I should challenge myself to do. However, please keep in mind that I don’t drink coffee, I’m not in the market for a pet, and I am adamantly opposed to plastic surgery. And let’s keep it clean folks. This is a family blog.

I think that covers it.

Just the Beginning

I am a military spouse. When it comes to challenges, need I say more?

The term “military spouse” has a dual definition. It means that my spouse is in the military. But it also means that my spouse is the military. I am essentially a bigamist. First I married my husband. Then two years later, I married the military.

I have a love/hate relationship with the military. As a spouse, it is doing everything wrong. It doesn’t communicate. It is unwilling to compromise. It doesn’t remember Mother’s Day or my children’s birthdays. It doesn’t care that I finally unpacked that last box when it informs me that it’s time to pack it up again. Basically, it dictates almost every aspect of my life without asking my permission. And unfortunately, it is unresponsive to couples’ counseling.

On the other hand, my second marriage has improved my life in ways I didn’t even know needed improving. Being married to the military has forced me to find my inner strength and independence. It has put me through assertiveness training and taught me to embrace change. And possibly best of all, it has shown me the world (who would have thought I would ever live in Japan?!) and introduced me to friends I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Since becoming a military spouse, I’ve had to sweat the small stuff: late night phone calls, unexpected separations, missed holidays, and misplaced and unironed uniforms. I’ve also had to sweat the not so small stuff: the premature birth of my first child that my husband came way too close to missing, the birth of my second child in a foreign country, the stress of single parenthood, the perpetual postponement of a career, and a 6-month deployment to Iraq. But in spite of it all, I can honestly say that I can’t imagine life any other way.

Military life is a roller coaster ride. It is jolting and unpredictable and breathtaking. And sometimes it makes you want to throw up. Because I won’t be getting off this ride anytime soon, I need to find ways to stay grounded. This brings me to the reason for creating this blog. I need distractions. Distractions from those late night phone calls, unexpected separations, missed holidays and misplaced and unironed uniforms. Therefore, I am going to challenge myself to do something new every day.

When I say new, I basically mean activities that fall outside my comfort zone (which isn’t saying a whole lot considering my comfort zone is about as expansive as my living room). Nothing drastic, like say, getting Lasik eye surgery (oh how I wish I had the guts to do that) or closing my Facebook account (because that would really be drastic!). And nothing as mundane as the tedious tasks on my to-do list (I promise not to claim that a commissary run with both kids qualifies as one of my daily challenges…although that is a challenge). My goal for each day is a happy medium between the two.

How long will this challenge last? I don’t really know. As with everything in military life, I’ll take it day by day. My hope is that my self-imposed challenges will provide enough of a distraction that the roller coaster ride will simply become the background noise in an otherwise stable and relatively normal existence. And who knows, maybe I’ll learn a thing or two about myself in the process.

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