Friday, August 29, 2008

not impressed

We knew coming to this state that the schools weren't considered great. I'd started to feel better about our area as I researched schools. The elementary school Big Sis is enrolled is just received an "A" rating from the state. I don't really know what that's supposed to mean, other than it's supposed to be an indication that it's a good school. Maybe the caveat should be "for this state." Two weeks into the school year and I am not impressed.

First, Big Sis has been complaining that they don't get recess. What? Third grade and no recess? My mother-in-law (retired teacher and principal) pointed out that x number of hours was required by state law in their state. Turns out it is here, too. So, what's the problem? Overcrowding and lack of space, apparently. The school currently has over 1100 students and they just don't have enough outdoor space (especially with shade -- it is still hot and muggy here) for all the kids to get recess. Supposedly, it is a priority and they are "working" on it.

Second, Big Sis brought home a flyer yesterday for after-school Spanish classes. It would be once a week and cost $195. What?! They don't have any foreign language instruction during the school day. Big Sis has had Spanish since Kindergarten during the regular class day. While we were overseas, she received some instruction in Korean as well as a daily class in Spanish. The last school she attended was in coastal Carolina. We are now in South Florida. Which area has a more obvious need for Spanish instruction?

Oh, to be back in a DoDEA school!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Military wives

A friend sent this to me but I have no idea who wrote this. One of the comments in the email was "We must be nuts!" Well, yeah. It is particularly apt that my friend sent this to me now, at a time when I needed a reminder to pull up my big girl pants and drive on. The bold and italics are my own emphasis.

What is a MILITARY Wife?

They may look different and each is wonderfully unique
But this they have in common.

lots of moving---
moving far from home
moving two cars, three kids and one dog----all riding with HER of course
moving sofas to basements because they won't go in THIS house
moving curtains that won't fit
moving jobs and certifications and professional development hours
moving away from friends moving toward new friends
moving her most important luggage; her trunk full of memories

often waiting-
waiting, waiting, waiting for housing; waiting for orders; waiting
for deployment; waiting for reunion; waiting for phones calls;
waiting for the new curtains to arrive; waiting for him to come home for dinner----AGAIN!

They call her 'military dependent', but she knows better
she can balance a checkbook
handle the yard work
fix a noisy toilet.
She is intimately familiar with drywall, anchors, and toggle bolts.
She can file the taxes, sell a house, buy a car, or set up a move, --
--all with ONE Power of Attorney.

She welcomes neighbors that don't welcome her.
Reinvents her career with every PCS; locates a house in the desert,
the arctic, or the deep south and learns to call them all 'home'.
She MAKES them all home.

She is fiercely IN-dependent

Military Wives are somewhat hasty
They leap into decorating, leadership, volunteering, career alternatives,
churches and friendships.
They don't have 15 years to get to know people.
Their roots are short but flexible.
They plant annuals for themselves and perennials for those who come after them.

Military Wives quickly learn to value each other. They connect over coffee, rely on the spouse-network and accept offers of friendship and favors and record addresses in pencil.

Military Wives have a common bond. The Military Wife has a husband unlike other husbands. His commitment is unique. He doesn't have a job, he has a 'mission' he can't just decide to quit.
He's on-call for his country 24/7 but for you, he's the most...
Unreliable guy in town!
His language is foreign: TDY, PCS, OPR, ACC, BDU
And so, a Military Wife is a translator for her family and his.
She is the long-distance link to keep them informed; the glue that holds them together.

Military Wife has her moments--
She wants to wring his neck, dye his uniform pink, and refuse to move to Siberia.
But she pulls herself together. Give her a few days, a travel brochure, a long hot bath, a pledge to the flag, and a wedding picture.
And she goes.
She packs.
She moves.
She follows.

Why? What for? How come? You may think it is because she has lost her mind.
But actually it is because she has lost her heart.
It was stolen from her by a man
who puts duty first
who longs to deploy
who salutes the flag
and whose boots in the doorway remind her that as long as he is her Military husband,
She will remain his Military wife.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Must be in the genes...

Just a little background: Stretch has a lot of teachers and educators in his family. Both his parents, his aunt, his grandmother. I have a few in my family but they are not as closely related. Plus, Stretch has done stints as an instructor and he's very good at it. (Unlike me, I was a horrible tutor. I never understood why someone didn't "get" something if I understood it.)

School's been back in session for just under a week and already Big Sis is trying to "teach" L'il Sis. Of course, L'il Sis thinks it's a game, while Big Sis takes it seriously. This is the conversation heard today while dinner was in the oven:

L'il Sis: I want to be the teacher!
Big Sis: No, you don't know anything. (said very matter-of-factly)
(more talking, but I can't make it all out)
Big Sis: I know everything. (Oh, the confidence!)
(still later)
Big Sis: (exasperated) We're not playing! (She actually is trying to teach her sister something, anything at this point)
L'il Sis: (resigned, still thinking it's a game) Fine, you can be the teacher.

(Still later, Big Sis is trying to teach L'il Sis about addition. Um, how about we just concentrate on counting without leaving out any numbers? I mean, she is only 4!)
Big Sis: 1 + 1 is 2. It's not 1 because that's multiplication.

Then she moved on to the Pledge of Allegiance. Shortly after that, L'il Sis was getting agitated and complaining that school was boring so it was a good thing dinner was ready.

storm update and creepy crawly question

Although Fay is still hovering over Florida, we missed the brunt of it. Monday night was probably the worst in our area. Ironically, the tree in our front yard didn't fall over until the next night. Yesterday, some guys came by to right it and stake it for support. But the ground is still so soggy that a couple of hours later, it was already leaning almost 45 degrees again. Guess I will be calling and asking them to come back and do it again.

Now,for the creepy crawly question. Does anyone know what kind of spider this is? It's made a home outside our breakfast area. Then Stretch made the mistake of dubbing it "Homer" so the kids refer to it as a pet of sorts. The problem is I haven't been able to identify it or whether it's poisonous. We just don't go out to the patio right now. It's hard to tell in the picture, but Homer is BIG. So, if anyone knows what this is, I'd love to know, too!

Monday, August 18, 2008

I needed a laugh and this is what I got:

Stretch is due to leave for a trip this week. And we have Tropical Storm/Hurricane Fay bearing down on us. Yep, that sounds about right. I couldn't help but think of the story in Household Baggage Handlers about the woman and her daughters surviving a tornado in Oklahoma while her husband and the planes were taken out of the danger zone. She noted the irony of the women and children being left behind.

So anyway, we've got Fay heading our way. My sister pointed out that we've survived tornadoes, earthquakes, monsoons and now this. What's next? A plague of locusts? Oh, wait, do the crickets that seemed to be everywhere in 29 Palms count? They're not exactly locusts, but let's check that one off, too.

1st day of 3rd grade

Big Sis started 3rd grade at her 3rd school today. I usually try to take her picture by her growth stick on the first day of school. Usually, I do this in the morning. Today, between first day AND new school jitters AND the possibility of our first hurricane, well, I just forgot. So we did it after school. After homework. Big Sis insisted on that. (It was less homework and more paperwork for me and memorizing a few things for her.) Although she didn't want to tell me anything about her first day ("Quit asking questions about school, Mom!"), it was obvious that she came home excited and ready for this next year. I love that she gets excited about school and I hope she can hold onto that excitement throughout her school years.
It was starting to rain when L'il Sis and I left to pick up Big Sis at school. Her school lets out at 2:00. We left the house at 1:40 (we live less than 5 minutes away). Because it was raining, I got into the carpool lane instead of parking and picking her up at the spot where walkers are met. Big mistake! It was after 2:30 when I finally turned into the school's gate to make the short loop around the front entrance and it was 2:45 before I had Big Sis in the car. In future, either L'il Sis and I will just get drenched or we'll leave around 2:30 or later to get Big Sis!
Update: Some of you asked about Big Sis' outfit. She attends a public school, but all of the schools in this county have a "uniform." At her school, the kids can wear 4 colors (black, navy blue, khaki, and olive green) on the bottom in a variety of styles (skort, bermuda shorts, pants, capris) and any solid color top without logos. Of the colors they are allowed for their bottoms, I could only find 2.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

sweethearts, tantrums and chipmunks

It seems everyone in this area was out today stocking up in case of a hurricane. I set out for Wal-Mart for the things still left on our list a couple of hours before dinner. It was packed and I spent almost as much time in line as I did shopping, despite being in the express lane! Anyway, it took me longer than I thought it would. So it was dinner time before I got back and I just knew it meant a late night for the kids with everything pushed back an hour or so. But I was in for a surprise.

Big Sis had taken it upon herself to clean up the kitchen and make dinner. On the menu this evening were hot dogs and mac-n-cheese. I'm sure she got a little bit of help from Stretch but he says it was all her idea and he let her do most of the cooking. She was so proud and insisted on plating everyone's dinner and dishing out seconds herself as well. Did I mention she's only 7?

In so many ways, she acts so grown-up. She can be so sweet and responsible. She was great with Claire the whole time we were out earlier in the day. But her mood can change so quickly that it can give you whiplash.

After dinner, she wanted to play chess. (We played for the first time the other day.) It wasn't long before she became both bored and frustrated. Then she threw a tantrum. Eventually, Stretch pinned her down and was giving her zerberts, trying to give her chill bumps and make her laugh.

And that's where chipmunks come into it. L'il Sis (aka the Brute) heard him saying "chill bumps" and jumped in wanting to give him the same but it came out "chipmunks." It took me awhile to figure out what she was talking about. She wiggled in close enough and gave him zerberts on his neck while giggling and saying "chipmunks" when she came up for air.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

our little brute

I might have to change L'il Sis' nickname to "The Brute." She's my 4 year old. Her older sister is 7 (soon to be 8). They'd been bickering off and on all day today, but this afternoon it took on a whole other tone.

I heard Big Sis crying and saying that L'il Sis had punched her in the stomach. By the time I had them both in front of me, the older one was still rubbing her stomach (and yes, she can be a bit of a drama-queen) and the younger one was completely unrepentant. Apparently, Big Sis had been ignoring her. Well! We can't have that, can we?

I sent her off to her room for a time-out. Later, she traipsed into my room to tell me that Big Sis was "annoying" her. Her convoluted explanation included that Big Sis had said she "didn't care" and that was why L'il Sis, or The Brute, "beat her butt." Yes, those were her words. I know it's wrong, but it was really hard not to laugh.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Uniforms and free lunches

I don't know if I've mentioned it here or not, but our new home is NOT a military town. Stretch is here working with Reservists. There is no base or anything else remotely resembling active-duty living. The Marines have a building that they share with the Navy, motor pool area, and parking lot that is all enclosed by a rusty chain-link fence. So coming here, we really had no idea what to expect.

So far, Stretch has found that reception the Marines receive here is overwhelmingly supportive. In fact, they dress up once a week and wear their Charlies. They can't wear their cammies out in town but they can wear the Charlies. On several occasions, Marines have had strangers pay for their lunches while out in uniform. In fact, it happened to us just last week. L'il Sis and I met Stretch for lunch. We needed boxes and when the waitress brought them by, she let Stretch know that the gentleman at the next table had paid for our lunch. Of course, he thanked him right away and again before we left. Outside, he chalked it up to L'il Sis being so cute (okay, he said me, too, but I'm not buying that). Hmm. Yes, she's cute. But she's never gotten me a free lunch before.

It's an interesting thing. It's very nice to have someone feel appreciative of the military and want to do something nice for its members. At the same time, it felt a bit strange to be the recipient of that.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Guard Wife had an interesting post over on SpouseBuzz. The Mrs. over at Trying Our Best had a similar post a little while ago. The issue was having or not having a third child or when to know when you were done having children. This is such a personal issue and it is different for every family and every person.

But I know I am done. So done.

Early on, Stretch and I agreed that 2 children was the right number for us. We both came from families that had 2 kids. From a logical perspective, it meant a parent-child ratio of 1 to 1 (well, when he's around) and when only one parent was around, we had a hand for each child.

Yes, it's nice to hold a baby and inhale that clean powdery baby smell. And it's fun to play with with my toddler nephews. But babies grow up and have to be potty-trained. My girls are 4 and almost 8 now. Neither one needs to have her diaper changed. I no longer have to haul a diaper bag, changes of clothing, and a stroller just to get out the door. I no longer have to pack for every contingency just to go shopping. The oldest can get her own breakfast and even her sister's if she needs to. She can make a simple sandwich if she's hungry and no one else is willing to do it for her. The youngest is fully verbal now. I don't have to guess as much about what's wrong if she's crying. These are little things but they are huge at the same time. It means that the girls are moving that much closer to independence. They are obviously nowhere near being independent but they are a lot less dependent on me.

Although we haven't made the switch yet, legally Big Sis doesn't have to ride in her booster seat in this new state. And L'il Sis could probably make the switch from car seat to booster (her seat does both). The point is both are growing up and it is getting easier to get in and out of the car with them. Do I really want to go back to a baby in a rear-facing car seat that takes up so much room in a vehicle? No. And, on a tangent, why is it that the smaller the child, the more room their luggage and equipment takes up?!

Next year, both girls will be in school. I can almost taste getting a life of my own. So do I want to start all over? No! I love my girls and wouldn't change anything about having them, but to borrow a phrase from Bill Cosby, we have 2 children because we do not want 3.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

today's quotes

While at the library today, L'il Sis suddenly says, "I want a list." When I asked her why, she responded with, "So I can go shopping." Hm-mm. Now, I know that I am the queen of lists and more lists. Wonder if it's genetic?

The other quote is from a bumper sticker I saw as we left the library:
"fat people are harder to kidnap"

Um, okay, good to know.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

No brownie points for you, mister!

We're looking for a new company to take over our lawn maintenance. So the other day, I made a call and a guy came by to look at our lawn and give me a quote. He noticed the Marine Corps stepping stone I have out front and asked who was in the Marines... my husband or kid? I was a little offended that he thought I looked old enough to have a kid in the Marine Corps. About a day later, it hit me that if I'd been a teen mother that I could hypothetically have a child old enough to enlist in the Marines. That is just not cool!