Sunday, October 25, 2015


I love puzzles.  I have wonderful memories of doing puzzles as a kid with my family and I've tried to pass on that love to my kids.  But here's the thing, the tradition is a CHRISTMAS puzzle.  December rolls around and I break out festive puzzles, watch sappy Christmas movies, sip hot cocoa, eat way too many molasses cookies and I am one happy girl.  My own family has joined me over the years and I love it.

Princess P asked to buy a puzzle while we were in the mountains and I had this momma moment of "YEA!  My puzzle love is sinking in!!!"  We bought the puzzle but didn't start it until we were back home.  Reality check...this puzzle turned out to be way harder than I thought.  It looks like it's for kids, but it's not!

Anyway, the puzzle has sat out on our dinning room table for almost 2 weeks now and we'll work on it here and there.  I still love it.  It's calming for me and I love that the kids have something to do when the thought "I don't know what to do" crosses their little head.

Princess P said one day, "My perfect afternoon would be: working on the puzzle while daddy plays music."


I'm curious what the theory is on puzzles, if they help education at all.  I'm sure there's some study out theory is they are great for quality family time and somewhere in there, the brain is being stretched as it searches for pieces and makes matches.  If nothing else, it's some times patience building :)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Stitch Fix Review, take 2

Before you look any further, please say to yourself, "I will be gracious".  Hubs took these pictures as I tried on outfits last night after the kiddos had gone to was long day and I was exhausted and just wanted to check ONE thing off my list...thus he took pictures right then and there.

They sent this cardigan:

This top and necklace:
 (sorry you can't really see the necklace...but it's teal with gold leafs)

Some "boyfriend" jeans:

And this top:

My review:
Overall, I feel medium/high.  Okay, that's not normal terminology...
I like the basic style and quality and price.  The fit on all of them was not exactly spot on; the shirts were on the verge of being too big and the jeans are a little baggy in the knee area.  I think I'll keep the grey stripped shirt and I'm still debating on the others.  Hubs thinks the last top looks too renaissancey but I think it could be cute.


Thursday, October 22, 2015


That calm, confident girl that I'm told I've turned into, is gone.  Au revoir, syonara, adios.

We jumped into "normal" this week; Hubs is back at work, the kids started school and I became a teacher again.  I was up early Monday morning to get a workout, quiet time, coffee and a shower before the kids were up at 7:00.  5 am is not for the faint of heart.  I also missed the memo that fall was cancelled this year, and Monday morning brought freezing temperatures and a broken heater.  Yea.  Of course, now that Hubs is home, he can make a simple phone call and someone comes out that same day.  You know if I had called, it would have been a week before they thought about it.  But, we'll just choose to be thankful for a working heater and move on.

I was super excited about "normal".  Perhaps too excited.  I was thrilled that I could actually plan out the next 3 months...minus holidays and family visiting and the million other things we want to get done, I know we'll be here and can have somewhat of a routine.  Watch, now that I said that, Hubs will probably get orders to leave in December.  I don't use a box curriculum for the reason that I like control of each subject, but with that comes having to make my own schedule for every single subject.  I wanted it done, but it was overwhelming to finish and in the back of my head, I was freaking out that after I wrote it all out, it wouldn't actually happen.  How do you plan for sick days or days that a specific assignment takes longer than you anticipated?  I'm sure the logical answer to schedule flex days, but it's too late, the schedule is already written.

Here's what we're doing this year:

3rd Grade:
Proverbs study
Reading for 30 minutes

Five in a Row
Proverbs study
Learning to read

For each one of these I use a curriculum/book and I'd be happy to share that info with anyone interested.

So here's where my freak out came.  Our schedule is not wasting a moment full...and we haven't even started science!  Or piano lessons!  Or Spanish!  And you may have noticed that there isn't even a preschool section yet!  Poor Charlie.  The other two had crafts and themed snacks and letter focused activities and #3 gets random things thrown at him to do to keep him occupied as I juggle the other two.  We have homeschool gym class on Tuesday and go to the library on Thursday and that's it.  No co-op or sports (soccer ends this weekend) and I feel like our schedule is to the max.  Plus, it's important to me to teach the kids house chores and cooking and scripture and somehow in all this I have to find time to be me and not a teacher or mom.

Then Hubs walked through the door and asked what was for dinner.

And I freaked out more.  

Need to plan dinner.  Need food for dinner.  Need to go to the grocery store.  Need to plan meals and make a grocery list before I can go to the grocery store and AHH!

Added to all this, the kids missed the "we are starting the school routine" boat and were struggling with obeying and having good attitudes.

In the middle of my long freak out to Hubs, I asked, "So what's the answer to all this?".  Guys are problem solvers, right?  And he, out of anyone, should get this craziness the best.  I love teaching our kids and I love the things we're involved in and I love cooking good food, but all that doesn't buy groceries or teach spanish.

I think I know part of the answer, but I'm not sure how to formulate it.  I think the answer lies somewhere in the network of other homeschool moms.  There are so many of us out there and I can't imagine one of us is saying, "I'm 100% great with everything on my plate."  If I'm wrong, please comment and tell us all your secret to life!  

As for groceries, I hope to plan out a month of meals and grocery lists so it's done and somewhat off my plate.  But my question now is: why do I turn so snotty when meal planning?  Seriously.  I pull up the list of regular meals and am immediately disgusted.  I have months of meals already written out in hopes that I would just cycle through the months and do you know what I thought when I pulled them out?  "Yuck!  I don't like any of these!  I can't make these again!"  BUT what do I do?  I end up making the same stuff that I just turned my nose up just took 2 hours of browsing Pinterest to succumb to the familiar recipes.

The next day Hubs brought home this wine:

It was so perfect I had to take a picture with my crazies in the background. 

Cheers to surviving this first week back!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Secret learning

We took 2 weeks off of school after Hubs came home to give our family time to adjust and have quality time together.  At first I felt bad about taking 2 weeks off, but I think I need a vacation just from looking at this post.  We agreed to be intentional about learning during this break, but to do it in a secret "we're just having fun" way.  Princess P was not fooled and sometimes struggled with her attitude when she felt like we wanted her to learn when she was on vacation.  However, it was a great opportunity to share with her one of our big views on education; learning is in everyday life and can be fun.  We never stop learning and we desire for our kids to find a love of learning.

So here are all of our "secret learning" opportunities during our school break:

This little girl LOVES science experiments.  However, she loves the end product and not the work that goes into or the info about why it's doing what it's doing.  She asked if she could make flubber and I agreed, but she had to do it all herself.  I made myself conveniently unavailable close by and just kept saying, "Read the instructions."  She had to measure ingredients (she struggles with knowing measuring cups and spoons) and follow step by step instructions and I feel most importantly, gained some confidence in herself.

We went to Colonial Williamsburg and learned about canons,

watched a blacksmith make kitchen utensils,

and took a tour of the capital.

Princess and I read 'Anne of Green Gables' and watched the movie.  She made kettle corn, again having to measure and follow instructions and I could get used to her making snacks!

Life skills and character values is high on my homeschool agenda.  So when Princess P asked if she could serve strawberries to our dinner guests, although not really something I had in mind for the meal, I said yes and let her figure out how to cut and serve them herself.

We went glamping for a few days and Princess P took her 'Nature Encyclopedia' (all on her own) with us to explore new-to-her nature.  Here, she's looking at a spiderweb in the ground that was covered with dew.

We went on a tour of caverns and talked about stalactites and stalagmite.  Hubs was sharing so much with the kids that the tour guide asked if he worked there...some day the kids will be rolling their eyes when he starts throwing out facts.

We found milkweed on our picnic in the mountains and Hubs taught the kids about them.  I really should have listened better to what he was saying because that's all I can say happened.  Learned about milkweed...check.

We saw a black bear!  Can't say you see that everyday!

We went to Monticello and learned about Thomas Jefferson.

I loved this place.  Seriously could have moved right in and been perfectly happy.  The way they delivered information was refreshing.  Sounds strange, but I felt like it was easy to understand, clear and to the point, but not completely dumped down.

Charlie even learned about how the moon orbits at this fun hands on exhibit.

And the kids got to write with quills and hang their writings up along the walking path.

This was my most favorite part; the gardens.  We got to watch some workers harvest some vegetables and it was fun to see so many different things growing in one place.  We would LOVE a garden like this, although I would need all those workers to help me because I am a plant killer.  Love fresh food, but not so good at growing it.

Princess P learned to fish and caught her first one!

We planned to go to an apple orchard, but it turned into picking apples from this barn that already had them picked.  But they did have them sorted into different crates and the kids got to see and taste the difference in apples.  We also got to watch the apple sorting machine at the back and the boys thought that was way more fun than apples.

We took a tour of the ship Hubs was deployed on and no picture can do this it justice.  It took my breath away how big it was.

We ended our "break" with the zoo and watched the monkeys for a long time.  We also say this new animal that is a bear/cat.  I can't even remember the name of it, but it was the strangest thing I've ever seen.

Crazy long post and I can't believe we did all of these activities.  So much for resting.  I believe though, that this is what our family needed.  We learned, we laughed, we didn't worry about schedules or what time the kids went to bed and even if it was too much, we did it all together.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A little getaway

Getaway is definitely the wrong word.

A little adventure?
A little added work with some pretty views?

 I booked a cabin by the Shenandoah River.  Princess P wanted to go camping, so this was our compromise with her; we can enjoy nature and still have a bathroom and bed to sleep in.  It didn't take long for me to realize that relaxation is hard to find when you are packing up your family and taking a road trip and trying to get 3 kids to sleep in one room.  And for some reason, nature seemed to bring out the chattiness in Princess P and she would not.stop.talking.

Before Hubs left for deployment, I had this huge desire to plan a trip for when he was back home.  I almost needed something tangible to plan for that I was in control of.  Hubs agreed to let me fully plan a family trip (he normally is the researcher and booker of trips) and said it also gave him something to look forward to.  Often times, during deployment, I would picture myself sitting by the river, listening to the crackling of a fire, starring up at the stars and soaking in relaxation.  That picture gave me hope that rest was coming on many hard days.

Okay, so I didn't come home completely refreshed, but it was still a great trip.

It did give Hubs and I time to talk.  We'd sit out on the deck of the cabin and sip wine and talk for however long we wanted.  The kids may or may not have been watching way too much cable TV, but we'll just say that was their form of relaxation on the trip.  One night Hubs said casually, "You know, it's a toss up between who changed more while I was gone; Charlie or you."


I was so surprised to hear him say that!  Um, Charlie is 3 and talking more and has grown inches and a ton changes in that stage of life.  But me?  He said that I look different and am calmer (with the quick disclaimer that I wasn't un-calm before) and more confident and sure of myself.

His comment, even though a positive one, left me thinking.  I can't look too different; I didn't cut my hair or gain weight.  Maybe the stressed really aged me or maybe he just forgot what I look like.  Or maybe the large amounts of stress left me too I numb to it all now?

Take for instance this situation:

My family is on top of a mountain.  Do you know how we got there?  We hiked up a rocky mountain with narrow paths and steep overhangs.  The only other couple up on the mountain offered to take this picture and the lady was literally shaking.  When we got back down, Hubs said, "Yea, there were some scary moments up there.  I was really nervous."  Do you know how I felt?  Fine.  Sure there were moments that I stepped to the outside of Bubby so he wouldn't fall off the cliff,  but my only stress came from trying to hold my tongue from snapping at Princess P to STOP TALKING!

"Oh! Look at this leaf!  Isn't it pretty?  I was hoping to see some squirrels today.  I wonder where they all are.  Alvin's my favorite chipmunk.  Don't the chipmunks have funny names?  But I really do like the movie, especially the one with the girl chipmunks.  Oh wow!  Look at that rock!  It looks like a turtle head!  Isn't that crazy?" 
 This is a seriously a short dialogue that came out of her mouth...I have video to prove it and that was just for 30 seconds of an hour.

Anyway, back to my point of change.  I really don't feel different, but I suppose the truth is, we're all changing, all the time, even when we don't notice.  It made me think about how much of life is spent thinking about what we want to change, either in ourselves or others around us or life situations.  But then when change actually happens, we can't really see it or pinpoint when it happened.

How has Hubs changed?  Well, apparently now he smokes a pipe.  Weird, right?  That change I can pinpoint...thank you smoking club on the ship.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


It's been 1 week, but I've heard it can take weeks to fully recover.  I've heard a lot of things.

"He'll forget where things are."
I did not believe this one, but it's truth.  First day back, Hubs was opening all the cabinets in the kitchen looking for a glass.

They didn't say that I would forget where things are.
Hubs came out of the bathroom asking where his loofa and body wash were.  Panic struck me.  Going through my head ="I have no stinkin idea where I moved that?!  Why did I move his loofa?!  Poor guy can't even shower and!"

No one warned me about the stink either.
Yikes.  The stink.  Again, poor Hubs.  He washed his clothes before getting off the ship so I wouldn't have to worry about it.  But when he got out his clothes, this stink filled our room.  I panicked because I didn't want to hurt his feelings but I equally could not stand the smell.  I finally broke the news to him and asked if I could rewash his clothes.  He was gracious and admitted that he probably got used to whatever stench was on the ship.  4 washes later and it still stinks.  4 washes with heavy duty detergent and warm water and I'm no laundry expert, but something is very wrong.

"He'll want to jump in and help, but won't know how to, so give him one specific job to help him feel plugged in."
 I followed this advice and set my expectations to continue doing everything and asked him to put 1 kid to bed at night.  Pick a kid, any kid.  I hate bedtime.
However, I found this to not be true for Hubs...or he hid it really well.  I felt like he jumped in perfectly and wasn't hesitant to take over things just as he had before he left. 

"He'll be very tired and just want to veg."
Also have not found this to be true, but I think it helps that we all went into vacation mode when he came home, so there wasn't really anything demanding high energy.  He was used to talking with people all day, every day, so listening to "DADDY, DADDY, DADDY" wasn't too draining.

"He'll be very bossy." 
Nope, but we don't really have that relationship where we tell each other what to do.  Again, I feel like vacation mode may have helped this one too.

What has been the toughest?

I think Hubs would say it's been transitioning out of "lieutenant mode".  He was in work mode 24-7 while on the ship and it's taken some time mentally unwind.  Homecoming didn't lend a very smooth transition into civilian life.  He walked off the ship and straight to his car and drove straight home.  There wasn't time to say goodbye to his buddies or meet their families and there wasn't time to take one last look at the ship and say fairwell...maybe men don't do sentimental things like that.

He said that the biggest change he's noticed is Charlie's vocabulary and the amount of words that come out of his mouth.  He does say some very funny things, so we have just spent a lot of time laughing at our spunky 3 year old.

Charlie pushing daddy on the swing and cracking himself up

I'm not sure I can put into words well what has been the hardest for me.  When Hubs came home, we instantly clicked back to us and our family.  I thought it would be different, but it wasn' a very good way.  However, having our puzzle all put together again reminded me of what was missing.  
Princess P said out of the blue one day, "You missed my birthday" and I was reminded of taking care of a sick girl as she turned 8 and trying to make her feel special all by myself.  
We ran the trail and my shoes came untied for the bazillionth time and I started to complain about these stupid new running shoes.  Hubs said the problem was that he didn't pick them out for me (trying to be funny, but he has this crazy good knack for buying good shoes for me) and tears instantly came to my eyes and all I could say was "You weren't here."
It's brought a time of mourning what was lost.  Twofold to that, a mourning that I can never fully tell him what happened in our life while he was gone.  Blogs and emails and short phone calls and even long conversations now, can't catch him up on all the little things.

Also hard for me is a completely selfish, maybe shouldn't share thing.  
Hubs came home with a medal and several giant certificates to hang on the wall and a new pin for his uniform.  He has pictures to share and everyone telling him "welcome home!"...which they should.  He has tangible and emotional "goalposts" to say "you have completed deployment and you did a good job, congratulations!".  I, however, feel invisible and like I'm expected to just move on like nothing happened.

The positives?

The kids have adjusted amazingly well and I have been completely blown away by them.  Princess P had the most beautiful peace about her the first few days; she was content and happy.  Bubby immediately jumped into Hubs arms and clung to him without hesitation.  Charlie just talked and talked and talked, telling Hubs about everything.  My fear was that Princess P would get in a funky mood, not knowing where to fit in.  We were also prepared for Bubby to take a few days to warm up and come out of his shell and I wasn't sure what Charlie would do...he likes to keep us on our toes, so I knew it would be a fun surprise.

Hubs has been so sweet and thoughtful this past week.  It probably helps that he is the one giving reintegration training to the sailors, so he knows all the right things to say.  But I'll take it.  He took each one of us out for a special date and he's played so much Lego's with the boys that I've taken 2 naps this week!  You can also thank this post to him, because he gave the kids a bath and read them books so I could write.

So what now?   
Now I'm thankful we're done counting down days and I'm looking forward to a camping trip as a family next week.  I have thought about sitting under the stars, in the mountains, for a long time now and I'm praying it brings the refreshment I have dreamt it would.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Dress Reveal!

Nothing extraordinary, but I love this dress.  So much that I bought 2, in different colors, which is something I never do.  You can tell by the slight shadow that it's a little big in the bust, but most things are in my life...I would consider fixing it if the alterations didn't cost more than the dress.

So this is what I wore to pick up Hubs:


 I had originally planned on wearing this variation:

But Princess P frowned upon the blue necklace and requested the gold one on the way out the door.  Also had to veto the cute sandals I specifically got to match the belt because of all the rain.  I don't think the boots are a stellar match, but they kept my feet dry and that's more important when your standing in rain for 3 hours.

I love the dress because I can see so many variations with it.  I wore this to church this morning:

And was able to sport the bracelet Hubs brought home for me from Panama and a jean jacket for the cooler morning the hurricane brought.  I can also see it with a scarf for the even cooler days.

I wore the blue dress on our first date out post deployment.

 I'm thankful the dress search and homecoming are over and these dresses can just go into my "normal" wardrobe.  Actually, I feel slightly bad for my friends at church because you will probably be seeing me wear one of these every Sunday from now on.  I'll try to mix up the accessories for you :)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The longest, hardest, best day ever

I'm sitting down to type this while Hubs makes pizza.  That's right, my Hubs is home!  And my favorite thing in the whole world is happening right now; watching him cook.  I'd take a picture for you, but then I'd have to get up from sippin' my mimosa.

I scoured the web looking for blogs or website for tips/info on homecomings.  I needed details like; how early to get to the pier and what to pack for the kids while we wait and best way to find my Hubs when the sailors get off the ship.  The tips I found were more like; don't worry if the first embrace is awkward and shave your legs right before you go and suggestions for poster sayings.  So, I wanted to share our day in hopes that it may be helpful to someone out there.

Hubs was originally supposed to come home on Sunday morning, then he was delayed until Tuesday morning (with the possibility of being approved to fly home early) and then it was delayed even more until Wednesday.  Even on Wednesday, they were moving ahead of schedule and it was 3:00, then 6:30 and then 5:00 and I was just about to lose my mind! 

 I barely slept the night before because I was so anxious.  I was more nervous about his homecoming than our wedding day!  I thought we would do school, but I barely made it through 1 page of math with Princess P because I was pretty sure I was going to barf.  We went to the store to get balloons and milk and then worked on decorating and cleaning up.  It was really just a long painful day of trying to find something to do while we waited to leave and checking my email 1,000 to find out the latest update.  

I snapped this on our way out the door. 

The kids, showered and hair sprayed/combed hair, with ironed clothes and happy.  Princess P made her own sign to hold up so daddy could find us.  I made the banner that says 'Welcome Home' and meant to have the boys color in the letters, but that never happened.

The pain of the day really cranked up on the way to the base.  We got stuck in stand-still traffic before a tunnel we had to go through and once we FINALLY got through, we got stuck right in front of this very long train.

Tip #1: Know the base you are going to well.  Sounds like a silly tip, but take a tour before the homecoming and know where the piers are.  The command we are at is an odd assignment and I've only been to the base twice (an air force base is much closer that I use for doctors appointments).  I thought for sure they'd have signs up about where to go.  Nope.  No information, no signs, no line of people to follow since it was a work day.  Thankfully deployment taught me the fine art of "figure it out yourself".  

When we finally found the piers, there was no communication...which really stressed me out.  Where to park?  No one knew.  What time is the ship coming in?  They should be coming around the corner any minute...the corner of what?!  Do we really just stand here until they get off?  That's what everyone else is doing.  We got to the pier about 5:00, when we thought the ship would be pulling in.  It wasn't there, so we sat in the car for about 30 minutes.  We finally decided to brave the rain and ventured out to see if there was any room under the tent.  We squeezed ourselves in the back and waited another 30 minutes.  

Princess P could barely contain herself and kept going back and forth between the tent and standing the rain to try to find the ship.  Her mood was very different than I've ever seen her...I think she just didn't know how to handle the stress and anxiety, but she welled up several times at just the thought of being more patient.

The boys actually did remarkably well.  We spent the next several hours taking trips to the car to get rainboots and snacks and to find a bathroom and to look for a better spot to see the ship.  We were excited to see the ship finally pull in at 6:30.  Bummer for me=they weren't lined up around the ship in their white uniforms because of the rain.

 Hubs said it would take about 30 minutes for them to tie up and lower the bridge to get off.  We were, however, not prepared for that 30 minutes to turn into 90.  That was the most excruciating part of the whole day...just starring at the ship for hours waiting for men to start walking off.  By this point, I was quite frankly, mad.  We hadn't had dinner (thinking Hubs would be off by 6:00, we planned on getting dinner together afterwards) and the 4 of us had been in the rain for 3 hours.  We were soaked and our cute outfits were ruined and it was dark so he couldn't even see the outfits and it was past the kids bedtime and we hadn't even had dinner and how in the world was I going to find him in this sea of people?!

Tip #2: laminate the signs your kids make

The kids were melting down, so we headed back to the car to dry off (did I mention my umbrella broke as a result of last weeks soccer game in the Nor'easter but I didn't know it until we were at the pier) and let them play the electronics that I took, but couldn't take out in the rain.  Bubby put on his pj's and Charlie strapped himself into his seat, very ready to go home and go to bed.

Tip #3: Take a change of clothes and suckers and some kind of entertainment that can get wet...but I have no idea what that is...maybe Grandparents?

I thought maybe it would be better Hubs came and met us at the car; maybe if we were removed from the crowd it would be easier to find each other in the darkness.  But then he wasn't responding to my texts and I saw 2 sailors come out to their car alone and I couldn't stand the thought of him walking off the ship and us not standing there to greet him.  My gut said to get back out in that rain, so I made the kids put their rainboots back on and convinced Bubby to go back out in his pj's and we ran back to the pier.  My gut was right.  2 minutes after we got to the pier, I saw Hubs set down his bags and begin to walk past us in the mob of people.  I hesitated for a moment because it was dark and everyone was in the same uniform and I thought about how embarrassing it would be if I shouted his name and ran up to him and it wasn't him.  But there's something so cool about this connection I have with him and I just knew it was him.  I shouted his name, heard the kids shout "DADDY!" and as he turned and I saw the smile his face, it was all worth it.

Remember those expectations?  I did have a picture in my head of him coming off the ship and the video I was going to get of the kids running up to him and the awesome picture I was going to snap of me jumping into his arms.  It was a non replaceable moment we shared as we embraced as a family in the pouring rain.  I will never forget us all smashed together and Hubs kissing each one of us.  I won't forget how he took the time to hand Princess P the flowers he brought her all the way from Florida and hearing him say I looked beautiful.   But I was bummed that after those sweet embraces, we dashed to the car, changed a couple more pj's, loaded up all of Hubs gear, took this quick photo to document we were together:

And began the long drive back home in the pouring rain.  I felt rushed and like I didn't have time to really stop and savor what was happening.  I was sad that the few pictures I got were blurring and not at all what I had in my head.  We stopped by Chick-fil-A for a very late dinner and coming home was more rushed work.

Tip #4: Have good food and water stashed in the car

If I could suggest anything about a homecoming with small children, I would say if you can, recruit someone to come with you to help and take pictures, but then is willing to slip away when your spouse gets there.

I laid down for bed last night and realized that the icky feeling I've been feeling for 4 months was gone.  instantly.  The horribleness of the day was erased and soon the deployment will be a blur in our past.  I was overwhelmed with thankfulness; the ship Hubs was on, went back out this morning due to hurricane Juaquin.  If he had been delayed anymore in Florida, he would still be out in the ocean waiting for Juaquin to pass and I would be going through a hurricane solo.

I am so crazy thankful that he is home and we can take on the next challenge together as a team.  I was ready to drive straight to Arizona last night so I never have to see rain again, but I'm thankful that the rain has cleared all of our potential obligations and "forced" us to stay home and just be together.  Let reintegration begin.