Summer Daydreams

It’s so snowy here, and I feel like the snow just won’t stop. I shouldn’t complain because the snow in Iowa is NOTHING compared to the snow we would get in upstate New York, but I don’t have slopes to ski on here. So I’m going to travel back in time and write about a warm sunny day right at the very beginning of this deployment.

This picture from August 2019 is being featured in the March 2020 Highlights High Five magazine. ☺️

Summer. (insert big, happy sigh because Summer is amazing)

We were still getting our bearings as Andre had only left about 6 weeks prior. I was out in the backyard watering our garden with the hose. The kids were quite challenging that day. I had yelled at them a lot more then I would care to admit, and there they were in the backyard fighting over I can’t even remember what and I was just done. DONE! I did what any respectable parent grasping for sanity would do in that moment, and I sprayed them with the hose. They both stopped and looked at me. There I was feeling like such a failure of a mom because the day had taken everything out of me, and now I had just sprayed my kids with the hose because I was so over them fighting. But what happened next is something I have held on to throughout this deployment. Their screaming at each other turned into shrieks of “Do it again mommy! Do it again!!” It truly was so much fun. They fell in the freshly mowed, soaking wet grass so many times, and by the end of it they were sopping wet with a coat of grass covering their bodies. My mom and I had to strip them down in the garage and take them straight to the bathtub. Raina still talks about it, “Remember when you sprayed us with the hose, Mommy? I can’t wait to do that again!” It really is the little things that make the big memories that help pull us out of funks… in my case, the deployment funk. They remind us as parents that when we think we are failing we aren’t. And if you can’t spray them with a hose, just chase them around the house or tackle each other on the floor or use rolled up socks as fake snowballs and have random indoor snowball fights.

Fake snowballs have been our go-to lately.

It’s 7 months down now (that feels crazy to write!), and love is in the air. We are missing Andre, and we are keeping very busy. We have several things planned for February. Papa (my dad) recently took Raina to the Daddy-Daughter Dance at our church; I’m thinking about getting a hotel room for Valentine’s Day weekend so the kids can go swimming and we can get out of the house; and Joel turns 3!!

Papa and Raina leaving for the Daddy-Daughter Dance.

Looking ahead, so many things are still very much up in the air about GeoBaching or moving. We are still of the mindset that we will GeoBach, however the position that Andre was supposed to be taking over in September, which was located in North Chicago, has been cut. So now we are back in the same boat of having no idea where he/we will be going, but as we had originally said, Joel’s health and treatments come first, and we won’t jeopardize his place on the waitlist for his Peanut Oral Immunotherapy. I have spent many late nights researching this treatment and if anything comes from it all, perhaps one day I can help someone else going through the same issue. We are also in the process of completing paper work for the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) which could possibly open some doors of opportunity for staying together as a family AND getting Joel the treatment he needs. We just recently learned that asthma and food allergies fall under EFMP. More to come on that topic as I/we learn more. 

I’ve also spent a good chunk of time lately getting the kids signed up for Summer camps… maybe that’s why I’m dreaming about warm weather days. I don’t know about you, but I have some wicked Spring fever. Planning prep for our garden is already well under way! Oh, the little things. They get me through.

Worry

Erma Bombeck says it best, “Worry is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.” If you have spent any time near a television, newspaper, radio, or on social media, you are well aware of the current unrest going on in the Middle East. As the wife of a deployed soldier, reading the “Breaking News” reports is like a punch to the throat these days. It’s hard to breath sometimes. Worry fills me up, and if I’m not careful it can consume me.

I broke down in front of the kids the other evening when I read about the missile strikes and possible future targets. Seeing mom cry is a pretty big deal to them. I try my absolute hardest to expose them to as little of this as I possibly can. But let me tell you, their little hugs and wiping away of my tears was the sweetest, most comforting balm ever. Shortly after the mommy breakdown incident, I was texting with a friend about it. I was beating myself up so much because I didn’t want the kids to worry, but I also just couldn’t hold it in. She reminded me that I am human, and it’s important for my kids to see me as not just mom, but as a human.

The last conversation I had with Andre before the missile strikes was not the greatest. I was frustrated about something breaking, and I was super short on the phone. You can imagine the guilt I felt in the hours between finding out about the strikes and actually getting to talk to Andre again. I’d like to think that for the remainder of this deployment I won’t have short conversations, and I’ll always be grateful for every moment we get to talk. But I’m going to take my friends advice, and remember that I am human and it’s okay.

While I am incredibly worried about the present and future, we have made it yet another month through this deployment. We still have many things to accomplish on our deployment bucket list, and I decided to add a family challenge to the mix as well. We are doing a “52 Acts of Kindness Challenge” for 2020. Each week, we have to decide what our kindness goal is for the week and see how many times we can achieve it. Week 1 is “help someone put on their coat.” It’s cute to watch the kids help each other and to hear reports from Raina about how she has helped her friends at school. We are making it up as we go, ensuring each weekly goal is something everyone can participate in.

A huge thank you to everyone who has reached out and who continues to think about and pray for our family and the soldiers. It’s a helpless feeling to stand by and watch and not know how to help. I think the best things we can all do are to love each other a little more, share more hugs, be present and spread kindness.

“Livin’ On A Prayer”

It’s been a minute since I’ve been able to sit down and write.  Christmas is knocking on our door and, as you can imagine, it has been so busy. The “missing Daddy” feelings have been pretty intense for both the kids and myself, so I’ve been trying to create as much magic as possible from making homemade applesauce cinnamon Christmas ornaments to painting Christmas trees with packing peanuts.

Applesauce Cinnamon ornaments
Packing peanut painting

We started sending out our family Christmas card right after Thanksgiving, and it has been so fun reading messages from family and friends about how much they love the card. We had a great time putting it together. Our family Christmas cards are our most favorite tradition. We save one for each kiddo every year and tuck it away in their boxes of goodies that we have been collecting for them and will gift to them on their 18th birthdays. A local Des Moines news station, KCCI, even featured our card on their Facebook page, and the outpouring of love from complete strangers was overwhelming – there’s no nice quite like “Iowa nice!”

The biggest news of all is that we have made it halfway through this deployment, <WHOOOOAAAAA We’re Halfway There!!! – cue music video> and it feels mostly amazing!!! The first half was pretty rough, so I am hoping and praying for a more calm second half. My post from mid-November was all about our decision to Geobach or not, and at this point we are about 90% sure we’ll go with Geobaching. That puts a bittersweet spin on the happiness of the deployment being halfway over, because how do you tell your kids that shortly after they get their Dad back he has to move away? Well, the answer I have settled with is that you don’t do it alone. You wait until their Dad gets home, and you discuss it as a family.

We still have not been informed and probably won’t know for a couple more months where Andre is going, but some recent health news with our son, Joel, has really made the choice quite clear for our family. Joel was diagnosed with a moderate to severe peanut allergy one year ago. We were very optimistic that we would be able to food challenge him and he would test out of the allergy this December. That was until he had an accidental exposure to peanut butter this past September which sent him into anaphylaxis and straight to the Emergency Room. He is doing fine now, but we found out a couple of weeks ago that his peanut allergy blood level went from 83 last year to 567 this year. SCARY! However, it makes him an excellent candidate for oral immunotherapy, aka OIT. This therapy will help to desensitize him so his response to the allergen (peanuts/peanut butter), if exposed, isn’t as intense. In his case, if it works, it could be lifesaving, and NOW is the time to do it since we can keep him in environments where we can control his exposure. He is on the waitlist for the therapy which is one year out. If we move and switch doctors, he loses his spot on the waitlist and he goes back to the bottom of the list once his is re-established with a new allergist. What I would give for Andre to come home from this deployment and we just pick up with our life here as a family, but at this moment in time that isn’t how the cards are landing. So we just keep hoping for a miracle, and if anything I can start wrapping my head around what our new normal will be. In the meantime, if any of you parents of kids with a peanut allergy have research resources, please send them my way. I just haven’t had the time to tackle all of the research on this, but you better believe once the holidays are past, I will be a wealth of information on the topic.

FaceTime date

Andre is busy as ever and has recently improved his internet connection which has made videocalls SO MUCH BETTER!!! Minimal frozen screen time with a blurry daddy or the words “poor connection” on a black screen. Via Facetime, Andre and I celebrated 8 years of us being a couple with a glass of wine for me and an alcohol-free Heineken for him (alcohol is not allowed where he is deployed). There was lots of reminiscing about the past 8 years, but mostly we can’t believe how fast they have gone by and how much has happened between then and now. We do nothing slow, the tried and true way of military life it seems.

Looking forward to this picture becoming a reality in 2020!

From my family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and an exciting 2020. I know so many who are looking very forward to this New Year, and we are in that same boat. While it will come with more challenges, it will also bring a very sweet mid-year reunion – and if it all works out, there will be some amazing military homecoming pictures from our talented photographer, Liz.

A Dojo Romance

When people learn that Andre is from Jamaica, I’m often asked, “How does a gal from Iowa meet a guy from Jamaica?” And my response is, “At a Mixed Martial Arts dojo in upstate New York!” Pretty likely, right?!?!  Believe it or not, that’s exactly how we met. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the night I met Andre he had just returned from a 13-month tour in Saudi Arabia with the U.S. Army. I was on the mat sparring at the end of my class, and when he walked in the door he caught my eye (even with my limited peripheral vision due to my sparring head gear). The next thing I knew, I took a hit to the face by my sparring partner, Marisa (the one from SFT 2019)! I was spellbound and wasn’t paying attention to what should have been the most important thing at that particular moment: punches flying toward my face. In true form, Marisa chewed me out for not being attentive, and when I tried to explain, she wasn’t having it as we only had a couple of minutes left of class. At that time, I was ranked high enough in belts at my dojo to student teach, and I was on the schedule that evening to teach the next class. In between ripping off my sparring gear and preparing to teach, I mentioned to the administrative person, Mary, that I saw a very attractive man walk in while I was sparring in class. Mary told me that his name was Andre and that I would be his one-on-one instructor for the evening. GASP!!!! I was like an awkward junior high school girl all over again. He was so kind and patient and handsome, and he had an AMAZING accent. At the end of class, he thanked me for helping him and said he would see me next time…and then he disappeared… for an entire week!!!

Marisa and I after graduating from blue belt to green belt.

Turns out, he went on vacation. It felt like an eternity, so when he FINALLY showed up at the dojo again I wasted no time flirting with him. Although one would think I had no clue about how to actually flirt, because everything I was throwing out there seemed to be instantly shut down. After a few weeks of this, I talked to Fons, a fellow student I took class with, about Andre because those two were always chatting it up. Fons said he would talk to him. Around this time, I was having people over to my house for a small gathering before watching some local Mixed Martial Arts fights, and guess who came? Andre! It wasn’t until a number of months later that I learned I did indeed have a good flirt game, he just thought I was 16 years old and had zero interest in going to jail. HA!! I was 29 at the time. I still tease him that he was just trying to see how hard I would work at it, but he stands by his word that he thought I was super young.

After that, we spent countless nights hanging out, talking and getting to know each other. I learned that he loves to play chess, and when he found out that I didn’t know how to play he was quick to TRY to teach me. It was a disaster! I am the world’s worst chess player. I’m not sure I have it in me to concentrate at that level, let alone to remember all the pieces’ names and functions. But I’m also very competitive, so I really wanted to win. I never won. I know we finished the first game (and I lost), and I’m pretty sure we didn’t finish the second game. But one of Andre’s dreams is to own a really nice chess board with the hope that one day – far in the future – I’ll actually learn the game and play it well.

We met in May 2011 but didn’t consider ourselves as “together” until December of that year. Our friends at the dojo couldn’t believe how long it took us to make it official. And given how fast-paced everything has happened since, it’s almost crazy to think that it took us that many months to call ourselves a couple. I would do it the same way 100 times over. Once we became official, we went from 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds. We were engaged at the end of 2012, married in July of 2013, I moved to Indiana to be with Andre one month later, he was then sent away for one year October 2014, Raina was born 2 weeks after he left, we moved to Georgia in 2015, Joel was born early 2017, we moved to Iowa a few months after that and now Andre is gone for another year…. And it doesn’t look like things are slowing down anytime soon although the having more babies ship has long sailed! It will though, eventually. Perhaps when military retirement comes, we’ll have more room to breathe. Until then, we just enjoy the ride, take the hits as they come, and celebrate equally the small and the large victories. Andre is my person and I’m his. I think we have known that since the beginning. I think deep down inside we wanted to take our time in the beginning, because time is such a precious, precious thing.

Andre loved comics as a boy and has always wanted to be a comic character so I gifted him a comic version of our love story.

GeoBaching

If you know what the title of this blog post means, you probably made an “ew” face. If you don’t know what it means, well, it’s one of those hard, personal, tough-choice topics that elicit strong opinions. And it’s a subject that has been floating around conversations between Andre and me since right after he deployed. GeoBaching is when a soldier is ordered a permanent change of station (PCS) and relocates without his or her family. The spouse and children stays put. , – The military refers to the soldier as a Geographical Bachelor hence the term GeoBach. And guess what?!?! Our next PCS order is coming soon. Prior to the deployment, we requested a one-year extension to stay in Iowa, which we were not granted. We then asked to be put on the Fall/Winter PCS rotation versus Summer, as we wanted to delay having to move immediately after Andre returns home. We thought it was a done deal that our new PCS rotation would be the Fall/Winter rotation… but in true military form where plans are always fluid and often don’t go the way you want them to, we found out a few days ago that we were not granted this request either.  We remain on the Summer PCS rotation. We have no idea yet where we will be sent, but we do know that wherever we land Andre would likely be deployed again. And with our track record, it’s almost a shoe-in that will happen.

So far, we have made it through 4 months of this deployment.  It’s come with several hardships from two very shocking deaths to our son landing in the ICU for acute respiratory failure stemming from a cold. Joel is doing much better now. We’ll see a pulmonologist next month to start treating his asthma diagnosis, and hopefully keep him out of the ICU and ER through the Winter season and beyond. This is how deployment goes and as much as I want to crawl into a hole some days, I know it’s temporary. I try to keep most of my posts uplifting and funny but I also think it’s important to let my readers in on some of the extra hard things going on simultaneously. It helps me, too, to process these possible challenging realities when I write about them.

So back to WHY families would actually entertain the GeoBaching lifestyle. Raina starts Kindergarten next Fall and she talks a lot about how excited she is to go to the elementary school she is slated to attend. She has many friends that will also be in Kindergarten there and one very close friend who will be a 5th grader. Did I mention that the school district we are in is nationally ranked? We have a wonderful community, an amazing church chock full of spectacular programs for kids and adults, and Gammy and Papa (my parents) are here. We are about 99.9% sure we want to live here when Andre is eligible to retire with his 20 years of active duty. I know a handful of military families that have done the GeoBach thing and, while it was hard, they had zero regrets when it came time for retirement and settling down. I also know a few non-military families that have similar living situations, and it has been very successful for them, too. Ultimately, we want to make the best choice for our family, especially our children. With another imminent deployment on the table, is moving them away from everything they know and love and then having their dad leave for another year the right thing? Do we keep Des Moines as home base and then see Andre as often as possible? This is the crossroads we face and big decisions will be coming down the pike soon. In the meantime, if you could keep our family in your thoughts and prayers, we would greatly appreciate it as we weigh all of the pros and cons.

To end on a more positive note, I am excited to share that it was my great honor to write a piece for Des Moines Moms Blog which was published on Veterans Day. You can check it out HERE.

So grateful to share my thoughts and experiences with my readers. My sincere thanks to you.

SFT 2019

What started out as a joke between me, my sister, and three amazing friends, ended up becoming a reality. Right before Andre deployed, my Facebook feed kept populating with an article about women needing “girls trips” as proven by science. I shared it with my sister, Amy, my best friend Raina (my daughter’s namesake), and two of my very close friends, Bobbi Jo and Marisa, in a group text with a short caption like, “Wouldn’t this be amazing to do! Too bad Andre is deploying.” I think it was Bobbi Jo who contacted me outside of the group text and suggested we absolutely make this happen, and the wheels of fate started spinning.

The first three months of a deployment are very hard. You’re trying to figure out your new normal, no one is sleeping, the deployment curse is in full force, and what you really need is a break from it all. It just so happened that the three-months-down date for our family landed a few days before Columbus Day weekend, and all of these ladies wanted a break from reality just as much as I did. Marisa chimed in to our group text with a better name then “Girls Trip” – she named it “Strong Females Trip” and then SFT2019 was born.

These four women have been so wonderful and such an amazing support system for me. I consider them part of my deployment tribe. I hear from at least one of them every single day. Since Andre left, there have been a handful of times that I have heard from all of them in one single day. Combined, the five of us have 7.5 kids – Raina is due with her 3rd in January – with ages ranging from in utero to 5 years old.

SFT2019 took place in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and it was everything we could have wished for and then some. We stayed in a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, full kitchen with a dining room and living room condo that had a balcony fit for five which looked over the pools and ocean. The sunrise each morning was stunning!

 Because my children are always up before the sun rises, my body automatically woke up during the trip, too, so I didn’t miss a single ocean sunrise. On the second day, we went for massages. I had a very emotional realization while the massage therapist was working on my hand that it has been far too long since I have had an adult hand in mine. I held it together for the rest of the massage, but when I was telling Andre about it afterwards, I did tear up. Gosh, I miss him! We had lunch at a Jamaican restaurant and it was de-LISH. Iowa is the first place I have lived since meeting Andre that doesn’t have a Jamaican restaurant, so when I can get some good, authentic Jamaican food – I am all in.

We spent a decent amount of time on the beach and we strolled the boardwalk. We had some very whacky moments and some very deep moments. There were many stories about our kids and struggles and strong points of parenting, and the huge take-away was that we are all strong women and strong moms, and we are doing our very best.

The beach is a magical place full of healing and renewal, and I’m really hoping the five of us will be able to do this again after Andre comes home safe. In the meantime, I feel recharged and mostly ready to take on the holidays which are coming fast, and I anticipate many hard moments. There’s no secret as to what I wish I could have this Christmas…

A huge THANK YOU to Amy, Bobbi Jo, Raina, Marisa, and my parents (Gammy and Papa) for helping me make this trip happen! And thank you to my husband for supporting it 100+%.

I’M THE MOM THAT YELLS

Raise your hand if you’re in the same boat… you don’t want to be a yeller. Shortly after you yell, you beat yourself up over the fact that you just yelled at your kid(s). You ask yourself over and over, “Why does it take me yelling for them to finally listen?” Next, you calm the crying kid(s) down and try to justify why you just yelled at them. And then you beat yourself up more for not staying calm just a little bit longer. This is when I start thinking about all the other moms and dads I know and how amazing they are with their kids, and I’m just certain that they never yell. Except I know it’s not true. When I’m with parent friends and I confess I’m the mom that yells, I get zero judgment and almost always a response of solidarity… “So am I and I hate it!”

When I’m super stressed, I tend to start with yelling instead of the patient and calm tones that eventually lead to yelling.

Knowing this about myself and also knowing that I would potentially be in a super stressful state for about a year, AKA Andre’s deployment, I wanted to figure out a way to minimize my yelling. Children mimic our tones, amongst other things, and I was starting to hear some sharp tones coming from Raina, my 4-year-old, when she would talk to her little brother and also sometimes when she would talk to me. I sat Raina down and explained to her how important it is to listen and have a kind tone. I explained that it’s important for her to be this way with Joel, and that it’s just as important and respectful that I listen and have a kind tone with her. Honestly, that talk didn’t magically change things. But, (channeling my inner Daniel Tiger’s Dad) I gave her permission to call me out on my listening skills and voice tone. There is nothing quite like tasking a 4-year-old with something like this. She doesn’t let me off easy AT ALL – and I don’t want her to. Andre and I tell the kids all the time that we are a team. We all bring something to the table that makes this family work. Raina takes a lot of pride in knowing that, and I’m hoping Joel will too once he is old enough to understand what it all means. In the meantime, he will tell you that we are a team because he has heard it so much, and he’s a parrot.

Here’s one exercise I’ve been trying – when I catch myself in a yelling moment, I try to immediately stop and start whispering. Let me tell ya, it’s a challenging one, but it’s also a little bit fun because it almost always stops the kids right in their tracks. In fact, one of the first times I did it, Raina asked me if my voice was okay. Pretty cool! I have a long way to go, but I’m certainly working hard at being better in this category of my parenting. Please give me some of your tips and tricks! THANK YOU!! 😊

Dedicating Miles

I haven’t always been a runner.  In fact, there are days when I question if I am a “Runner” at all – my running coach and dear friend Alex (aka Hammy) is cringing as she reads this right now, I’m certain. Hammy always says, “Once you’re a runner, you’re always a runner. It doesn’t just go away.” She’s so right. I AM a Runner! But I am currently in a rut with my running. I’m in the midst of some very tough training for a huge goal I am trying to achieve. It’s really hard and I feel like I’m not progressing, and I’ve spent the last couple of days telling myself, “Who cares about the goal, just forget it.” But that’s not who I am.

My dear friend and running coach Alex aka Hammy.

IIn my late 20s, I started taking Martial Arts classes. After three years of decently intense training, it was time to “cycle” for Black Belt. Part of “cycling” included a TON of running because one of the Black Belt tests was being able to run two miles in 16 minutes or under. I DEFINITELY was not a runner then. But I was super inspired by some of my friends who are runners, particularly my friend Mary. She ran all kinds of races, and she absolutely loved it. Right before I started my Black Belt cycle, Mary participated in what is called The Dopey Challenge. If you’re unfamiliar and you haven’t yet clicked on the link, I will summarize what exactly that is – 48.6 miles of running in 4 consecutive days. She ran a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and a Full Marathon. I was in complete awe! She wrote about her experience (the good, the bad, the ugly), and I was so amazed by and proud of her. When we had some time to talk about it (because this non-runner that needed to quickly become a runner was desperate for advice), I had no idea I would use one seemingly small piece of advice for all time. She dedicated her miles. Mary wrote a list and for every single mile she had the name of a person she dedicated it to. For that entire mile, she would think of that person and that would pull her through to the next mile. It’s such a beautiful and meaningful way to achieve a goal. So that’s what I also do but it’s not always miles. Sometimes it’s minutes, other times it’s moments.

On 9/20/2019 I ran the 12 minute distance benchmark run at OrangeTheory. I had a pace I was wanting to maintain which ultimately had me just over my mile PR time I’ve been training for. I knew I was going to need to get out of my head so I made my list and dedicated minutes. I’m so giddy to report that I hit my goal.

Back to my big goal. I am trying to Personal Record (PR) my mile time. The mile is my nemesis. It’s short enough that I typically hold back when I should’ve given a bit more, but long enough that it gets in my head. I’m trying to shave off 17 seconds from my last time trial. Yes, I’m nuts!! I’ve been super funky about it lately, and I’m in the “really burnt out, this is no longer fun, I’m not a runner, I just want to quit” part of my training. This is when dedicating miles/minutes/moments comes into play the most. It reminds me of why I love to run and just how lucky I am to be able to run. When running longer races, I always dedicate my last mile to Andre, Raina and Joel, because they pull me through everything. The extra distance at the end  (either the .1 or .2 depending on the race) is all mine – that’s where all the hard work shows, so I need that to be mine. I have a handful of other very meaningful people that keep me going (my mom, dad, sister, mentors, close friends…) AND the Heros, as I call them. There is, sadly, an ever growing list of fallen soldiers. The list I choose to use is through Military Times and is called Honor the Fallen. You click on a face and there is a write-up about that person. These heros have paid the ultimate sacrifice and it deeply affects me, as it should. It’s the sobering, humbling moment that I need to motivate me to tie my laces and get back to work. Because of their sacrifice for our freedom,  I am able to do (and even complain) about the thing(s) I am doing. I challenge you to try it. You don’t have to run a mile or even a minute. If there is an extra hard day at work or you’re getting ready to do something difficult, then dedicate that time to someone special and see who can help pull you through it.   

Chasing Sunsets and Finding Flags

Andre is eight hours ahead of us until Daylight Savings Time ends in November, and then he’ll be nine hours ahead. You never really appreciate the difference one hour makes until you’re trying to coordinate FaceTime conversations with someone on the other side of the world. Most people would want to be closer in hours to their loved one….we can’t wait to be further apart. It will be SO much easier to FaceTime and talk on the phone when he is nine hours ahead. By the middle of our day, it’s nighttime for him. And as the sun is going down here, it’s getting ready to come up there. While these late summer days linger and the sunlight lasts a little longer, I find myself “chasing sunsets” as I like to call it. It’s kind of corny, but I love looking at the last bit of sunlight here knowing that the same sunlight is about to hit his eyes there. ***Cheeseball Alert: Cue the scene in An American Tail where Fievel and his sister are singing Somewhere Out There*** I always make a wish as I’m chasing the sunset, because after all the Sun is a star. It’s a coping mechanism for me, a way to stay close even though we are so very far away. And those little things are just as important for adults to have as they are for children.

Ever since Raina was a little thing (I can’t say ‘baby’ because she didn’t see him in person much until she was almost 1), she has always been drawn to the American Flag patch on Andre’s uniform. Every soldier has one on their uniform, but as she got older and her speech developed more and more she dubbed it “Daddy’s Flag.” She knows it’s actually called “The American Flag,” but she really likes calling it “Daddy’s Flag” – so that is what it mostly goes by in our family. Even Joel calls it “Daddy’s Flag.” As it turns out, “Daddy’s Flag” is one of her/their coping mechanisms. A couple of days after Andre left, Raina was feeling pretty blue. We were in the car and we happened to drive past an American flag, and of course she saw it and said, “Daddy’s Flag, I miss Daddy.”  I responded, “Did you know that every time you see Daddy’s Flag it’s like Daddy is right here with us?” From that day since, both of the kids hunt for American Flags. It’s seriously the cutest thing!

The picture doesn’t do it justice but this gorgeous flag is made from wood and all 50 stars are carved into it. Jeff does amazing work! ricewoodcraft.com

To all of our neighbors who display American Flags, we see you and this Momma appreciates it so very much. When the kids are in a funk, the best way to cure it is to go on a flag hunt in the neighborhood. Some days we count how many flags we see on the way to school or the grocery store or wherever we are headed. Had I been planning a little better, I would’ve bought out Target’s Dollar Spot of flags to save for a tough “missing Daddy” day and lined them up in our yard. I might have to check out Amazon’s inventory. In the meantime, if you live close to us and are questioning putting away your flag decorations as Summer comes to an end, there are a couple of kiddos and a Momma that wouldn’t mind it at all if you kept them up. You would be amazed at all the places you can find the American Flag. I homeschool the kids part-time (on the days when they’re not at school), and we just recently discovered that there is an American Flag on the bottom of crayon boxes. Go figure! We do projects that require shaving cream, and Raina pointed out the other day that the Barbasol container kind of looks like “Daddy’s Flag.” And then she added (with a giant smile on her face), “Mommy, it’s like Daddy is here doing school with us!” These days, I don’t often feel like I’m killing it in the mom-ing category, more just staying afloat, but that was a big win moment. I’ll take it.

What The Bumbo

If you’re a parent or have spent quality time with very small children, then you likely know the Bumbo Seat. If not, please allow me to explain. This particular seat supports infants so they can sit upright (because their muscles can’t do that yet). Some Bumbo’s are swanky and come with an attachable tray, and you can feed the babe right there in the seat if you so desire. Well let me tell you, this seat raised eyebrows in our household.

Joel hanging out in big sisters room in his Bumbo seat.

 I loved it. I couldn’t get enough of it. I wanted to get one for Raina, but we had some other seat-like contraption, so I couldn’t justify buying one more thing that we basically already owned. Fortunately, when we moved to Georgia we ended up acquiring one for Joel, and this Momma was so excited! We lucked out that a woman a few streets over was giving away a bunch of baby stuff, and I went with Andre to check it out. We basically hit the baby-stuff jackpot that day. I was beside myself and beyond thrilled by the Bumbo Seat we just landed. I was so excited that I called my mom to tell her. Apparently, Andre hadn’t heard me mention the product name before. I will never forget the look on his face while I was on the phone with my mom telling her about my find. I got off the phone and he very seriously asked me to repeat the name of this seat. “Bumbo, babe. It’s called a Bumbo seat,” I replied.  His jaw just about hit the floor and he asked me if I was serious.  For all of you Jamaicans reading this, I am certain you are rolling right now.  For anyone else that isn’t familiar with Patois (a form of English Creole spoken on the island of Jamaica), you are about to have a brief language lesson and learn what I learned that day.  Bumbo, in Patois, holds the equivalence of, if not worse than, the “F word” in the English language.  *GASP* <insert look of shock and many minutes of laughing> There are a multitude of reasons I love being married to this Jamaican man, and this shared moment is still one of the absolute best and funniest ones to me. 

Just to double-check the response to the name of this amazing baby product, I tested it on Andre’s nephew Tresur, who was born in the US but fluently speaks both English and Patois, when he came to visit us.  Yup, same blown away, baffled look on his face.  So there you have it, folks.  That innocent baby product…well it’s still pretty innocent, but you might not want to go to Jamaica and talk about it.  We have since passed along our beloved Bumbo Seat to another family, but we’ll always have the story.  And it’s one that won’t soon be forgotten. Especially since I’ve just preserved it in this blog for all times.

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