Loved the Valentine's Day card. (You're sweet, and I don't know how you manage to find my favorite music lurking in places like Iraq.) The $25 gift card to the movie theater was a hillarious gag gift. I'm still laughing about that.
This morning, the first e-mail I read was something like this:
"Good Morning, Today is going to be a good day! I'm starting out with a very positive attitude.
Blah, blah, blah, work stuff.
Thanks. Have a good day today :)"
Um, I changed three, yes three, poopy diapers before we left the house this morning at 7 ish. Dealt with one melt-down because I wouldn't let the princess wear her play shoes. Dealt with another melt down because I was accused of losing a piece of paper that one boy child dropped in the seat of the car. Dealt with another melt down because I was mean enough not to carry everyone into daycare in my arms, on my back, clinging to my legs--whatever way they could get a ride. Then I hit traffic. I got another sad e-mail from Patric this morning about a soldier losing a family member in Afghanistan. And, what on earth is going on that EVERYONE beat me to work this morning and took all of the good parking places. I'll be leaving early as well to take Elaine back to the specialist.
Right now, I just want to do like Nicholas: sit alone at the table and eat my breakfast of a tube of Girl Scout cookies alone in peace under an umbrella.
When we were going through some maternity garb for Lori this past weekend, Elaine came across this 9-month pajama and latched on. She called it her "baby." And much like Alida's princess dress, she did not take it off day or night for two days--little feet flapping behind her the entire time like coat tails. I've rescued it now. I think it's in the laundry. Perhaps we'll get a pick of a more appropriately sized baby wearing the "baby" in the future.
From Patric: See below. Rumors were floating about that were not true. Sadly, two TNARNG pilots were killed last week in Iraq from the TN Air Cavalry. They had less than thirty days left on their deployment. Certainly include their families in your prayers.
The release: Two Tennessee Army National Guard Soldiers Killed in Iraq
NASHVILLE - Major General Max Haston, Tennessee's Adjutant General, today confirmed that two Tennessee Army National Guard pilots were killed Sunday in a helicopter accident in Iraq.
Captain and Chief Warrant Officer Two were killed when their OH-58D Kiowa Warrior made a "hard landing" near Qayyarah Airfield West (Q-West) about 30 miles south of Mosul in Northern Iraq. The Soldiers were assigned to Troop C, 1/230th Air Cavalry in Louisville, Tennessee.
"Words cannot express my extreme sorrow at the loss of these outstanding Soldiers, and my heartfelt sympathy goes out to the families and friends of these valiant warriors." Gen. Haston said. "Tennessee has lost two brave volunteers who truly believed in what they were doing to ensure a free Iraq.
"This loss is felt not only in the Tennessee National Guard, but throughout the entire military community. We shall miss them greatly.
"We are still a nation at war and we must continue to keep our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen in our daily thoughts and prayers."
Here is my big brother Brian, aka Aunt Brian to my children.
(Took a couple of reminders to correct that.)
He's eyeballing his lovely wife Aunt Lori...
Who apparently did not start sitting around with her hands in the top of her pants only after she got pregnant. She just has more of an excuse now, you know, like feeling the baby or something like that.
We love when Aunt Brian and Aunt Lori come to visit.
Aunt Brian is good at cleaning. Who says gender roles should be so strictly defined?
He also helped me figure out why my lights were acting funky upstairs.
Helped me get Patric's car running.
Planted a bush.
Power washed my patio.
He really wanted to paint my bathroom. Seriously.
See, he's nesting, I think, but he ran out of things to do at his own house...
Along the same theme. Benjamin decided he would go ahead and have a baby too. He even made sure to get a real baby doll to pretend with.
The first thing Elaine said to me when I gave her a hug this morning and she wiped the sleep from her eyes, "Mommy. There's a baby in your belly."
"Hush child. That's a bad word in our house."
Brian practiced the art of hanging around with a child hanging from you.
He'll get the hang of it.
Then we went to our favorite Big Backyard.
Alida was tickled because Elaine and Lori fell asleep and stayed in the car. So while Brian had the boys, I got to just hang out with her for a little while.
Then while we played and Elaine slept, Lori cleaned the van.
We won't talk about how quickly we can make a mess of a car.
These are the most industrious Aunt and Uncle you've ever seen.
Nicholas re-arranged the bottle tree.
And when Nicholas said it couldn't be done, Ben proved him wrong and crammed himself in that tiny portion of the fort.
Then we helped Lori celebrate her birthday.
We provided the cake and the entertainment because five minutes after the kids had cake, they all went crazy on a sugar-high. It was truly amazing.
And the girls gave Lori a spa treatment and did her hair.
And Lori was a trooper.
Not only did she let us cram her in the back of the car with the kids on most trips out of the house,
but she also let us make fun of her wardrobe as well...
I know I haven't been writing or calling much, but not for lack of wanting to. Me and my counterpart, CPT Dees, have been going through our transition of authority of property and things have been relatively smooth. The majority of my men arrived the night before last, so we were working it was a late getting everyone settled in the Air Force is running the housing and the air movement and it has been a mess to say the least. They don't house their people according to unit organization, so that has been a challenge to work around them. I will not even speak of the communication regarding air movement.
I will be finishing my last paper for the Non-Western Warfare Seminar this week to close out my 2nd of three semesters for Norwich. My grade for the seminar--albeit a B--suffered due to all of the movment and immense workload over the past two months, so I will be taking an academic break until September. The facilities fantastic compared to past deployments--pretty much like living in a mobile home without plumbing. Shower and latrine trailers are nearby and the food is fantastic... to include a midnight chow period. Its really good to watch AFN (Armed Forces Network) again and pick up the Stars and Stripes in the morning and keep in touch with what is going on in the outside world. Indirect fire alarms are sporatic and send people to nearby bunkers once or twice a week, but nothing very big is coming in. The Gatlin cannons--or CWhiz--are pretty good at deflecting or detonating them. I have onley seen one detonate in the perimeter since my arrival.
Overall things are good. Alot of units in Kuwait had trouble losing weapons and other equipment and other issues co-ed units bring. Fortunately, I have a great junior officer and NCO corps and experienced no issues of the sort. We also have a policy of separating ourselves from other units and repeling outsiders. You don't want leprosy? Don't hang out with lepers. Yes, I know, but you get the picture.
I have my troop forming up so must go. I hope this finds everyone well and will send some pictures along next week once I have thrown off my academic yoke. Nowich has lived up to the "Expect Challenge, Acheive Distinction" to be sure.
Yea, him [Ben] not wanting to talk hurt my heart, but I don't blame him. Hopefully the video and books will make up for it. Once I get settled, I will get the Skype set up and that should be easier. Please to continue to tell the little ones I miss them all the day long.
I look forward to pressing through and coming home. It is nice to go to work with a gun again though. I won't lie to you of course, there are things I do like about being deployed. On a quick tour of perimeter road with CPT Dees I asked him about a bone-yard I saw that he never noticed. It was full of old blown up Soviet jets and armored vehicles. A KBR fellow waved us on so we crawled around on them for awhile. Very nice. It reminded me of when my brother and I used to explore Vansel's junk yard in Severy.
I love you and will write again soon.Give Ben a "BIG tuck, a BIG hug, and a BIG kiss" from me. And give yourself a BIG hug and kiss from me as well!
The conversation on the phone last night when Patric called to talk to Ben: "Hi Daddy. I'm just not going to talk to you today. Just not today. Bye."
The past few days have been crazy so I guess I was out of gas. Midnight chow is in about 30min so will go have breakfast. The dining facility is pretty incredible... to order omelets and just about anything you want. There is a short order, main order, and healthy choice line, so you can pick your dietary poison. And there is a variety of Kellogg's cereal, so I usually have one with every meal. There is a desert bar, ice cream bar, and usually some bonus bar--like a taco or seafood-- just so the airmen don't suffer too much.
My troop command post is right on the flight-line, so you can hear the F-16 after-burners tearing away as the take off quite frequently. Our MRAP vehicles are incredibly resistant to IEDs and have a number of countermeasures on them that keep us safe. My counterpart was kind enough to let me drive on two missions and received great reports even with mine-roller on the front. It was truly a lot of fun to drive. We went to Taji and Seitz with no incidents. I hope this finds everyone well. I won't be writing too much for the next week or so as I polish off another paper and conduct the relief in place with my counterpart. Once complete, though, I should be in pretty clear air and will send pics and correspondence more often.
But also by wonderful friends who have overwhelmed me. Emily's daddy watched mine and his all morning Saturday so that I could go shopping with Jennifer. And he got them to take a nap--that doesn't happen in our house. And Jennifer drove. And it is hard to express how meaningful sitting in a car and riding without playing stewardess is. Really. And, my Valentine's gift from Emily? My first ever hug from her. I think it helped that mine were asleep, and we got to just hang out for a few minutes.
And then on Sunday afternoon, Nancy and Jim had a wonderful party for us. Even Benjamin smiled once or twice.
And Alida, looked at a camera and smiled without something goofy on her face or a round of tickling. She may have been overwhelmed by the princess garb that Nancy had made for her.
I was overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness.
Here we are making pictures of our Valentines that we made for daddy by the Valentine tree so that they can be shipped off to Patric.
Thank you for understanding the broken communications. Things will solidify after the Relief in Place with my counterpart, CPT Dees is an exceptionally cool cat and is setting me and my troopers up for success. I have already went out on one mission driving an MRAP to get licensed. No issues, out and back and I had a blast. A huge armored truck with minerollers and such, but negotiated driving it with flair. The other scout truck hit a barrier with his roller so he was butt of many jokes on how an officer without experience driving the rig out did him. The transition is going well.
When I asked him what he needed--this is what he asked for.
I hope this finds you well of course. I will say up front that conditions--sadly enough--have improved immensely. The Kuwaiti government sponsors this entire base and the food is fantastic...even better than IHOP if you can imagine it! We are running at 100mph of course, with mandatory briefings and preparatory work for the next three days. Tomorrow we will be going to the weapons live-fire range for the day, then returning to prepare for our two-day convoy live-fire exercise out in the desert. So I will be very busy for the next few days. Shortly afterward, I will be departing again on ADVON, most probably the 14th, give a day on either side. I will do my best to keep in touch of course my love. It is 0130 here, Enforcer troop has just plowed into the barracks--anticipated--and I have accomplished quite a lot tonight.
We were huddled up in a cabin with no heat trying to get it fixed when we were reunited with daddy. But even that wasn't enough to warm the room really.
So after playing musical cabins: this one is too cold; this one is too small with no bedrooms; this one is just right, we settled in for the week.
Princess Alida didn't mind nature walks in her dress, so we didn't either.
And we took a lot of walking adventures.
We went to the zoo.
We found a playground.
We marched around the entire lake it felt like.
We fed the ducks, who were a little too tame for my tastes.
And when they saw this, they zeroed in on the way to break in without missing a beat. We had to run to keep them from actually getting through. Well their dad had to run; I had to take pictures I guess.
It was as I was taking this picture that I realized that Alida's costume did not mix well with marshmallow roasting and it came off for the evening.
Ben was sweet enough to play horse for Elaine.
We had ice cream.
And on the last day it rained all day.
It seemed fitting really.
So we settled in and dried off and prepared for the good-bye ceremony the next day.
My camera battery died about the time sweet Emily King (who I am hoping will share some better pictures than I have...) walked in the door Saturday. I have mostly stolen pictures to share. Our DVD player decided to die as well. The Dukes came up with a solution that seemed to work. What is funny is there are 2 more kids in that row that aren't pictured.
Here is sweet Emily on the left, sharing cupcakes with all of us. The girl rolled into a house of six kids who are used to have a twin and living in chaos and she smiled and jumped right in. The girl didn't fuss once. We had a wonderful time watching the madness of 7 little ones all over the house. Here are 6 of the 7...And that's as good as it gets from me (and these aren't even my pictures!)
The Dukes were kind enough to make the long trip from Kansas to be with us this past weekend. And while Elaine fell for Sarah; I think Alida must have fell for Joe, which is smart because the man took my van in for an oil change. Then he went to Target and bought my daughters princess sippy cups. Alida is such a smart girl. Sarah organized feeding us for the next year with all of the frozen meals she brought; she simply adopted the care and feeding of my children while I wandered around in a haze; she jumped right in at bath time; and, she simply entertained me, and I can be a hard audience.
Henry and Ian have the sweetest temperaments. They shared their parents for an entire weekend with us; they played so well with my kids; they ate my star sandwiches; they rolled with it well. Ian, in the back, disappeared to play with toys upstairs often, which just makes me smile. And Henry, in the front, is inquisitive and utterly charming.
And then on Sunday, we wished safe travels to the Dukes and we had no idea that the Kings would be buried in snow the next morning. And we continued to make due with make-shift movies and our new normal.
What? Osteo Bi-Flex, I-tunes gift cards, toilet paper is always nice, a written letter, movies, twin size sheets, Nivea shaving products, Old Spice bathing products, food--microwavable is good, non-perishable is good, batteries, any creature comfort that you might enjoy, he'd probably enjoy as well.
Day 1 of actual deployment began with a hairy commute, daycare closing early, and me deciding to take advantage of the free afternoon by swinging Elaine into the doctor's office for a visit.
She's had a sore lump on the inside of her thigh for about 10 days. It was time to have it looked at. Expecting to have the doctor say swollen gland, prescribe an antibiotic, and send us off to pick up the rest of the kids to play in the snow, we walked out with a referral to a specialist who "will want to do an MRI."
Shoot. Off we go, load everyone up, drive through the snow-storm-turned-ice-storm to the children's surgical specialist. He didn't bat an eye, said it was a swollen gland, and prescribed an antibiotic. Then, as he was giving me a bit of a lecture on keeping every one's stuff separate, keeping blankets laundered, no sharing cups, my three other maniacs who were pent up in the room became relatively quiet and were giggling huddled in the corner. They had suddenly began a group hugging and kissing fest of sibling love.
Sure, we'll keep our germs separate doc. You bet.
In other news: The last I heard from Patric yesterday afternoon he was boarding a plane in Maine headed for Germany.
In other pictures: There will be more on our visit with the Dukes and the Kings (yes, we squeezed one in somewhere in all this mess!). For now, go here to see Sarah's insanely good photographic skills.