Under Pressure

Why is there so much pressure on the military spouse to handle everything alone and without complaint? This life is already so uncertain, and then you go and marry a sailor (or marine or airman or soldier…) and things are being thrown at you that you never imagined having to deal with. But. Because you chose this life, you can’t complain, right? You can’t have a negative opinion. You can’t have a bad day. That would be unpatriotic. That would be ungrateful. That would be *gasp* shockingly normal.

I want to normalize it. Get it out there. Stop talking about it with one or two friends over wine in your kitchen and start telling the new spouses what they’re really signing up for and stop thinking you have to suffer in silence because that’s what it means to be a military spouse. Tell those new wives that there is a lot of loneliness. Tell the new husbands that their civilian friends may not ever understand them. Tell them that their own families may not ever be as supportive as they need. That they may have to be their own support system for a while when things get rough, and things will get rough. Tell them that they will learn more about themselves on this journey because they will be in situations they never dreamed of. Don’t ask them if they can handle it. Tell them they will have to handle it, because failure isn’t an option. There isn’t one way to survive deployment that works for everyone. There isn’t a miracle cure that will make you a professional military spouse. Even the strongest have weak moments and it has to be OK to break down and then build yourself back up again.

On your roughest days, it’s OK to complain. You’re allowed to be human and have negative thoughts. You are not superman. You are not Atlas, with the world on your back. You’re allowed to call your sister and vent about your problems without being judged for being ungrateful. Having a bad day sometimes doesn’t make this a bad life. Having a negative thought sometimes doesn’t mean you are depressed and it certainly doesn’t make you a toxic negative person. Having complaints doesn’t mean you’re ungrateful. Wanting your husband home more doesn’t mean you’re unpatriotic. Stop the madness now people! If one more person tells me (or my milSpouse friends for that matter!) that I should shut my mouth because this is what I signed up for, I will throat punch them while whistling “Stars and Stripes Forever,” k?

Civilian friends, check in on your military spouse friends. Chances are, they’re sugar coating it for you when they tell you they’re OK. They probably feel like you won’t understand the depth of their issues. They may feel like they can’t unburden themselves to you because they face challenges that are hard to put into words sometimes. Sometimes putting into words makes it more real, if that makes sense, so maybe we suffer in silence as a coping mechanism. Sometimes we would rather talk about the positives and ignore the negatives (I know I do this a lot, personally. It makes me happier to focus on the good rather than the bad, but there are some days where my natural optimism just can’t combat the challenges and those are the bad days.)

But for real, no one can carry around their burdens all the time without complaint, without relief. Find a way to lift your burden. You are the one at home, keeping things together for your service member. You have a lot to handle, but you don’t have to handle it alone. You are stronger than you think, but you don’t have to be super tough 24/7. You can’t maintain that without faltering. Sure, you can be tough as nails when shit hits the proverbial fan because someone has to clean it and fix it, so it might as well be you, right? Well what about the other difficulties? The smaller things that are super insignificant until they add up with all the other insignificants and become overwhelming? Or what about when all the big things go wrong at once? Anyone can handle one or two big emergencies, right, but now every single Murphy’s Law-type emergency is happening. What then?

Seriously. Sometimes strength is knowing when to ask for help or ask for an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. (And if your sister won’t answer the phone to listen to your problems, call someone who will.) The military spouse is a special person who puts up with a lot of stress. Wouldn’t it be a better thing if we supported each other and helped each other carry around our baggage? We’ve all got baggage. We may as well help each other!

Hurry Up. And Wait.

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So, it’s common as a military spouse to be stuck in a waiting game. Life often feels like one long holding pattern. In this post, I mean to reference life as a sub spouse, because that’s my experience. I know our service members, whatever the branch, often have to hurry to certain points, only to wait hours once they get there. What I mean by “hurry up and wait” for me though, is that I seem to spend my life waiting around for something, and then once “it” happens, (whatever it is,) I have to rush rush rush to get all the boxes checked and the papers signed and more and then it is back to waiting for the next thing.

Many of the wives I’m friends with (and yes, I know spouses can be men and women, but in my small circle of friends, they’re women,) understand this concept all too well. Planning anything around the military is terrible. It really stinks if you’re an organized planner type of person. (raises hand!) Do you want to get married during a sea tour? I know one person who basically found out THE DAY OF HER WEDDING that her fiance could be off the boat at one particular time and he had to be back on board a couple of hours later. (What the what?!?!) Do you want to have a kid? Well if it turns out like me, your husband will miss a huge chunk of your pregnancy, swoop in for the birth, leave two days later, and miss most of your daughter’s first two years because #SeaTour. Do you want to plan a party or ceremony or date night out? Better check schedules of everyone involved and then check duty schedules and then it still isn’t 100% that anything will go forth so have a  backup plan in mind.

The first thing you’ll need to realize once you marry into this life as a [enter service here] spouse, is that there will be a good deal of your life that is completely out of your control. Take a good hard look at yourself and your personality and your lifestyle and then ask yourself, “Can I handle this? Forever and ever?” Because you’ll need to once you’re married to your service member. There are ways of coping, sure. But the sooner you come to grips with a lifestyle that is a roller coaster that is out of your control, the sooner you can find your coping strategies, employ them, and live happily ever after.

Here’s what I do. I mentally make plans. And I backup my plans with alternates and then I make contingency plans for the alternates. Because going into unknown situations scares me to my core, so I mitigate that by trying to think of what I’ll need to do whenever “it” happens. For example, we’re waiting for my Sir’s next orders right now. They could be a new job on this same island, and so my plan is very simple: do nothing. But we saw some international jobs and my plans for those orders are much more complicated. I mean, we’re already overseas technically. What’s one more ocean and crap ton of land mileage, right?! It’s enough to drive a person mad. I’m a list person so I’ve created mental to do lists for things to accomplish once orders come through. People to talk to. Forms to fill out. Things to sell/buy. This helps me feel like I’m in control of what I do have to be responsible for. There will be a lot of hurrying once we get my Sir’s new job. But since I literally can’t do a thing without orders, I think of what will need to be done and when. See? This scenario is more like “Wait. And then hurry up!”

But maybe lists aren’t your thing. That’s fine. You’ll find what works for you. Distract yourself by throwing yourself into your work until it happens, and then that’s when you can devote your energies to working through it. Or find some girlfriends, Skype or in person, and vent and talk it out until it all makes sense. That works too. You’ll find what works for you.

Also. Lower your expectations. Seriously. This is a skill that will help you in the long run. It isn’t easy to do, if you’re like me. But having super high expectations that something will be absolutely amazing will only set you up for disappointment later. BUT. Wouldn’t it be better if you expect something to be just OK and then it turns out to be stupendous?! Try to tell yourself that things may go wrong and plans may have to be shelved for later or changed and then you’ll avoid the bitter feeling of disappointed hopes. Every time you find yourself thinking excitedly of fantastic plans you’ve made, just remember that it may not go as you set out and that’s OK.

This is a lifestyle many people can’t understand. Even if they basically understand the words I’m saying, until they’ve lived it for themselves, it isn’t a true comprehension. From the outside, it can seem like we have no stability and no control. Then again, I barely spent any life “from the outside” because both of my parents are marines and the only time I spent “in the civilian world” was about four or five years or so between college and marriage, so maybe I’m not the best judge on perspective “from the outside.” But it is a comment I receive a lot from my non-military friends, that they can’t conceive of what it’d be like to live this life. But if you were to ask me as a child if I ever felt like I was in an unstable environment, I’d have said no. The military may be a little crazy, running around like a chicken with its head cut off, but plans always come together in the end. I went from being a military kid to a military wife and I don’t ever recall feeling like my world was too much out of my control. I just found the things I can control, and took the reins. It’s all we can do, and in the end, this life with my best friend is worth it.

To My Friends Without Kids

When I had a baby, I was told that I could basically say goodbye to my childless friends, my “single” friends, if you will. My life would be too busy and it would be too different from theirs and we would obviously drift apart. I would have nothing but poo and teething to talk about and that just isn’t interesting to friends who don’t have kids of their own. I would be tied down by babysitters and naptimes and so I wouldn’t be able to go out on the town anymore. I would be too involved with playdates and other moms to keep up with my previous friendships.

Well that’s a load of crap.

I’m here to tell you that if your friends don’t want to be friends with you after you have a baby, maybe you’re better off without them. Such fickle people aren’t going to be there when you need them and maybe you should make friends with the moms of your kid’s friends.

But for real. Two of my bestest friends are kid free and they not only tolerate my woeful potty training tales but they also help me raise my ridiculously strong-willed daughter. They are willing to come to my house, a thirty-minute drive for them, so that we can hang out without my needing a babysitter all the time. (Don’t get me wrong though–sometimes I do get sitters and hang out with them sans daughter. I’m just glad I don’t have to do this every single time.) They even scoured their own neighborhoods for playgrounds with bucket swings for my baby girl when I couldn’t find swing sets near me on my side of the island. They get down on the ground to be silly with her and they aren’t afraid to reprimand her for standing in chairs or climbing on bookshelves.

I’m so ridiculously grateful to these two ladies. They are strong women and I’m glad my daughter will grow up with their guidance. They see me at my worst and my best and don’t blink their eyes. They love my daughter like she’s their own and do you even know what that means to me?

And don’t get me wrong. I have tons of “mom friends” too. I joined a whole club just for moms. I get wonderful support and advice and encouragement from all of my friends, not just the moms, and not just the non-moms. But my point in writing today is to put it out there that sometimes the stereotypes are wrong. Just because you’re having kids doesn’t mean you’re going to lose all of your kid-free friends. Sometimes, those kid-free friends will step up and become your kid-raising village and it’s the best feeling in the world.

But you can’t abandon your kid-free friends either. Don’t think that you can just take all of their love and support and not offer them anything either. Friendships aren’t one-way. It is very true that after having kids, you will have a different sort of day. Especially the stay-at-home mamas. You need to accommodate your new life and still make time for your friends. Change can be a good thing. Growing is a part of life. Try not to grow apart. Try to grow together! If you can’t get out for brunch anymore, find something else to do. Shoot them a message telling them you’re thinking of them; that goes a long way. Invite them to come to the playground with you and your kid. (I do this with my friends frequently. We choose a shady spot to sit and drink our coffee while my kid runs around like a loon.) We have a group text message chain going too, where we like to make plans and such, but I also shoot them funny pictures and memes now and then too. We often do events at my house so I can put Mademoiselle down for naptime or bedtime and then we can carry on and act silly ourselves downstairs. For example, we are planning a tea party at my house. I have lots of fancy teacups and saucers and we want to use them! Or if you’re used to going for walks with your kid in the stroller, bring your friends along with you. You’ll find ways to include your kid-free friends. You’ll find what works for you, but you have to be willing to look for it.

I’m a strong believer in making time for the things and people that are truly important to you. If it means a lot to you, you’ll find a way, you’ll find the time. It is important to me to show my friends that they’re important to me.

So shout out to the kid-free friends who still hang out with their mom friends. They’re really the best. High five!


How Do You Do It?

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“How do you do it?”

“I couldn’t handle the separations from my spouse like you do.”

“You must love getting free housing.”

“It must be wonderful marrying for the money.”

“Sacrifice? What sacrifices are you making? You aren’t the one serving and laying your life on the line!”

I’ve heard it all, not that I claim to speak for all military spouses and their experiences. Many have been around this life much longer than I have of course. Many of the wives of my acquaintance can definitely be described as “salty” at this point–they’ve been everywhere, seen it all, done it all, and now they’re tough and hardened by the experience. I am not that salty sailor’s wife (yet) and I haven’t done half the things my compatriots have. There are still many things though, that I still deal with that baffle my friends in the civilian world.

Recently, we had a scare in my household. A medical scare. The kind where I experienced my first ambulance ride and subsequent doctors visits and medical tests. I chose to deal with everything first and then tell my family and friends, mostly, after the fact. And then a family member asked me how I deal with it all–all the stress of a deployment while I raise a toddler thousands of miles away from most of my family and then to have this medical emergency occur in the middle. “How do you do it?”

Do you know I never stopped to ask myself that question? I do it because I have to. There isn’t another option, frankly. I succeed as a military spouse because the other option is failure and that simply cannot be allowed. The loneliness I feel without my husband (read: my best friend) is real and not fun at all. This military life is not often glamorous. (I’ll touch on the glamour of the military ball soon.) I very often feel overwhelmed and unsure and unequal to the task required of me. We all do. The wisest most experienced of us spouses still feel the pain and anxiety. That doesn’t ever really go away, so I’ve heard.

So how do I do it? When I married my Sir, I knew that he’d be away from home for a lot of our life together. In fact, my dad knew my then boyfriend would propose to me a few weeks ahead of the fact, and he made sure to have a real conversation with me about what my life might entail. I was already a military kid, so there were some things I did understand. He wanted to make sure that I understood more thoroughly though. More is expected of the spouse than of the child. Could I handle marrying a man who would be required to keep secrets from me, for the good of our national security and defense? Would I be able to hold it all together while my Sir is sent off to work in dangerous conditions for months? Did I think I could cope with the ups and downs of a life where I get to make very few choices? He was testing me. He’s always been open with me when I ask about his experiences in the Marine Corps, as open as one can be while still adhering to OPSEC (operational security, the term used to basically describe how you can’t give up certain information about our service men and women. Think of the phrase loose lips sink ships.) My answer then and now, was and is, YES.

How do I do it? The short answer is that I get by with lots of help from some good friends. I’m lucky that my Sir’s older brother also joined the submarine service and his wife is THE BEST. I’m lucky that my own sister married a man in the submarine service and she understands me and now she understands the military wife life. (Yes, I have two brothers in law in the sub force with my husband; me and my friends get a kick out of this. I have two other brothers in law who did not see themselves in the Navy and I hope they read this and know that I love them just as much as the Navy ones!) I was blessed to be taken under the wings of a few of those salty experienced wives when I first married my Sir. They taught me so much, introduced me to people and places, and very patiently answered my questions when I was a newb. (They STILL answer my questions!) And I’m fortunate to have good excellent AMAZING friends here in Hawaii. I chose to put myself out of my comfort zone and join a moms group in my area even though I know I’m not terribly good at making new friends. I chose to make the best of the time I did have with my husband and make sure that we were as close to being on the same page in all things as possible, to prepare for the inevitable day when I’d be the one making all decisions for the household.

And I think that’s the crux of my point. Choice. It is easy to name all the bad things about military life. It is very easy to get mired down and overwhelmed. I know many military spouses who are seriously depressed and downtrodden by this life. I don’t claim to have sunshiney rainbow thoughts that will drive away the depression that is real and scary for so many of us, male or female. But I do believe that I have a choice in how I deal with this life. Am I OK with my husband missing holidays and birthdays and milestones? Do I enjoy parenting our daughter alone? Do I like missing my friends and family because either I or they had to uplift everything and move again and again and again? Honestly, of course I don’t like any of that. Is it worth it though?

It isn’t glamorous, even if we do get to dress up fancy for a ball here and there. It isn’t fun, even though we do sometimes make the best friends we’ll ever meet who become our family. It isn’t stable, what with moving around the world so often, even though we get to see sights that inspire awe and quell our wanderlust. It isn’t peaceful, even though we do get a wonderful sense of pride to see the American flag waving on the breeze.

I do it because I have to. Because failure isn’t an option, and I don’t mean to sound like a martyr. I will learn what I need to learn in order to deal with whatever comes my way. And his homecoming will be absolutely amazing, the stuff of legend. A Hawaii submarine homecoming is an awesome thing to behold. More on that later though.


Deployment Soundtrack

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So it’s no secret that my Sir is about to deploy. He’ll be gone, out doing an important job on a submarine. Somewhere. In an ocean. That’s about all I know. I will manage life here at home for me and my one-year-old daughter. We will do our best to make the days pass quickly so we can go back to having him home with us. I’ll be the one to handle any and all temper tantrums, emergencies, bad days, and tragedies. Of course, I’ll also see every single milestone and achievement and smile. That’s how I plan to get through this. Focus on the good things, the things I can control, and have the world’s longest countdown. (For OPSEC reasons, of course, it will not be an accurate countdown. But I think a visual reminder will help.) I figure I’ll need some good music to listen to.

So a few days ago, I heard a new Josh Groban song. “River.” It was a huge mind blowing moment for me. I was obsessed before the song even ended the first time I heard it. I listened to it on repeat for about forty-five minutes. I’m sure my daughter was thrilled. It was an uplifting song, meant for when you’re feeling down. But here’s the thing. Many uplifting songs just tell you that you’ll get through this and have an upbeat sort of feel. This one, in my opinion, is for when you’re still in the middle of your troubles and you haven’t come to the greener grass yet. It was a nice change. It made me want to make a deployment playlist of other songs for myself.

You know when you try to think of your favorite songs and all of a sudden, it’s like you’ve never listened to music in your life? You suddenly can’t think of anything. This was me. All I knew was that I wanted “River” on this playlist. So I crowd sourced on Facebook and Googled “deployment playlist” and was rewarded with lots of curated lists that other people have made. Only, I didn’t think many of the songs pertained to me. There are lots of country songs about soldiers, for example. And while I love me some country music, my Sir isn’t a soldier. He’s a sailor. Specifically, he’s a submariner. So here’s my submarine deployment playlist. It has songs that are specific to me and my husband (our special song, or songs that make me think of him in particular), songs that just plain make me happy, songs about boats and sailing, and uplifting ‘girl power’ songs. It kind of runs the gamut of genres too.

“Then” by Brad Paisley–This was the song we danced to first at our wedding and it has become our song. Love it!

“I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz–This is something we actually say to each other a lot.

“Lucky” by Jason Mraz–This song describes us so well!

“River” by Josh Groban–I could listen to this song all day, methinks.

“Dare You to Move” by Switchfoot–A good uplifting song without being too upbeat in your face.

“Beyond the Sea” by Robbie Williams–You’ll recognize this one from the Finding Nemo credits and it’s highly appropriate for a Navy family.

“Feels Like Home” (Bonus Track) by Josh Groban–You may notice a bit of a Josh Groban obsession.

“Soldier” by Gavin DeGraw–One of my favourite songs to sing. It just makes me happy to sing along to this in the car.

“Love Only Knows” by Josh Groban–Just one of the drippy romantic sappy love songs on here.

“Daylight” by Maroon 5–Especially right now, it echoes my thoughts of wanting him to stay a little longer.

“Home” by Michael Buble–My take on how he may be feeling as the days, weeks, months go  by.

“Don’t Cry” by Nathan Pacheco–An uplifting, ‘you can do it!’ song but by my favorite classical crossover singer. Love this guy.

“Make You Feel My Love” by Adele–Because I’d do anything for my Sir.

“I’ll Be There For You” by Bon Jovi–Kind of self-explanatory.

“Keep the Faith” by Bon Jovi–Ditto on the self-explanatory

“The Time of My Life” by David Cook–love songs are great.

“You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up)” Josh Groban–The title says it all.

“Would You Go With Me” by Josh Turner–One of my favs and just makes me  happy to listen to.

“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson–“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Deployment mantra!

“I’m On A Boat” (Feat. T-Pain) by The Lonely Island–This one is explicit but hilarious. And I can’t get enough of it. And I feel like I shouldn’t let my daughter listen to it. #MomGuilt

“Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars–This is one of my Sir’s favorites and since I think of him dancing to this every time I hear it, of course it has to be on my playlist.

“Valentine” by Martina McBride–the lovey-doviest song on here.

“I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons–I’m literally waiting for him. Navy life means a lot of waiting.

“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers–We love to listen to this on roadtrips and sing it together at the top of our lungs!

“Fight Song” by Rachel Platten–Girl power. Enough said.

“Marry Me” by Train–awww, another love song.

“A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton–I really would walk a thousand miles for him. Don’t get me wrong. There would be massive complaining about pain in my feet and blisters I’m sure. But I’d do it. For him.

“The Prayer” (duet with Josh Groban) by Celine Dion–Another one of the classical crossover songs that just makes me happy. Because I grew up listening to Celine and I love Josh Groban and I love to sing in Italian. Win Win Win.

“Roads” by Chris Mann–Love this guy.

“Fighter” by Christina Aguilera–This song is about bouncing back after a bad relationship, but we need more girl power.

“So Close” from the Enchanted Soundtrack–I’m kind of a Disney nut and the line: “So far we are, so close” struck a chord with me.

“The Thunder Rolls” by Garth Brooks–One of the happiest days of my life was going to the Garth Brooks concert he gave here on Oahu and this is my all time favorite Garth Brooks song. It was appropriate.

“Perfect Storm” by Brad Paisley–Kinda how I think my Sir views me. Regardless, it makes me think of him.

“My Best Friend” by Tim McGraw–Because he is in fact, my best friend!

“I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas–Woohoo! (See what I did there?)

“Survivor” by Destiny’s Child–Because I’m determined to at least survive this deployment. Once it’s over, we’ll see if I’ve in fact thrived.

“Can’t Hold Us” (feat. Ray Dalton) by Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis–Another one of my favs.

“All Star” by Smash Mouth–Whether you know this song because of Shrek or you were a late 90s kid, it’s just fun. How can you not smile when you hear it?

So that’s my list. I’m sure, as this deployment wears on, I’ll tweak it. I’ll skip songs some days and add or delete songs. Tell us what you think! What songs get you through your own deployments?


That Time When I Mobilized My Village

You two already know this story, having lived it. But it was hilarious. And I’m still blown away by your dedication to my cause. This one is for you. ❤

This story involves friends, spicy tuna bowls, changes in plans, and submarines.

It’s an overwhelming feeling to have the proof right in front of your face. When you know for sure that your friends like you and they’re there for you when you need them. I’ve written before how making friends as adults is much different from making friends as children. Or at least, it is for me. I am 30+ years old and I still have to ask myself if my husband really likes me, (does he like me or like like me?) so you can bet I’ve wondered if I’ll ever have close friends again. You may know how it is when you get to a new location and start all over from the ground up, even having to make new friends. I know I’ve hit the friend jackpot.

It happened a few days ago. My daughter recently turned one and we had her birthday party. Of course, it was mostly adults. She has one other close baby friend, they share pacifiers for some reason, it is adorable. I digress. Of course, we planned this birthday party for when my Sir would be certain to be home. Why we thought we could plan an event around his schedule, I’m not sure. Needless to say now, he was unable to be there. But my friends were. My village. I am so grateful. After the party, once my daughter was asleep, my friends gathered around my table for dinner and laughs and it was great. My Sir was underwater so my friends stayed so I wouldn’t be alone. And because I cook delightfully delicious food but I never really like to cook for just myself so I need to cook for friends and they benefit. (This particular night was greek chicken pitas and zucchini spears.) Anyway, we made the plan to get together at a playground in the next few days with my daughter.

So we met up at the appointed time, coffee in hand. Baby girl was all excited to play in a new house with the kitty toys. She ignored the new kitty in favor of kitty’s toys. Go fig. My friend made muffins for us. We headed down the hill to the playground in her neighborhood and I got a text from my Sir. I wasn’t supposed to get texts from my Sir. My Sir should be underwater on a submarine, doing Super Important Secret Work for the Navy. He said simply that I should head to a certain point where families like to go to watch boats come in and out of the channel. My response was the very celebratory “Are you broken down again?” But I was about to drop everything and go see my husband. My best friend. My soul mate.

And do you know what my friends did when I asked them if we could change plans? They immediately packed up my baby, their coffees and waters, used the bathroom, and got in my car as we headed to the point. No questions. No complaints. Just motivation to get me and my kid to see my husband, even for a fleeting glimpse of a second. I mean, who does that?

We sat under a big tree for shade, but of course, my incredibly independent daughter wanted none of that. She didn’t care for the picnic blanket I keep in my trunk at all times. She just wanted to explore rocks and walls and grass. Between us three adults, we corralled her as best we could, but because my Sir is Super Important, he doesn’t have time to text often, so I had no idea when to expect the boat on the horizon. Did he not expect me to drop everything and run to the water side to see him?? It is ridiculously hot in Hawaii just now, especially when the trade winds die down. So we gave ourselves 45 minutes to see if we could spot a submarine on the horizon. After that time? SPICY TUNA BOWL HEAVEN!!

We stayed there the allotted time, chatting and chasing my toddler baby. I looked to the horizon so often, trying to discern little blips and dots, scanning for a teeeeeeeeny tiiiiiiiiny submarine-shaped blip. Nothing. So we resolved to get the most delicious on-base lunch that exists and still call it a successful morning.

Of course, as soon as we walked back to the car, I got another text from Sir saying he’d be thirty minutes out. Of. Course. We even looked in the channel and sure enough, there were tug boats and the MPs, signifying the boat’s imminent arrival. So what do my extra-super-awesome friends do? They get in my car to get the spicy tuna bowls for us and I set up my daughter a little farther away from the water. At this point, I was getting anxious about nap times and cranky babies. Keeping her distracted would only work to a point. When would we pass the limits of her ability to cope sans nap?

As my daughter walked around the grassy area, there was another family playing in the shady parts and of course, my daughter makes friends with a little boy. He was very friendly and didn’t mind a baby who doesn’t understand playing the way he does–she really just wants to pat and smile and laugh right now.

Then. OMG. Gasp!! There was very suddenly a submarine right there. In the water right next to me. (I may have missed it on the horizon because I was chasing after a baby/toddler who is super interested in walking in grass.) The little boy went nuts! “OMG you guys! I just saw a black submarine!!!” he said to the runners passing him. I waved and put my daughter on my shoulders. I had no idea who was standing on the top but I was sure my husband could see me either from there or from the periscope. He’s the one who told me to go watch, so he would be watching for me somehow, I was sure.

You see, I didn’t go to watch the boat leave originally. I needed this.

And where were my friends? Well I looked over my shoulder because I didn’t want them to miss a submarine crossing. It is sort of cool, probably more so if you’re not a submariner yourself. Being a sub spouse or a surface spouse (or a civilian) makes submarines way more super cool because you’re not a part of the inner workings and you carry no responsibility. Anyway, back to my friends.

Where were they? They were running to me and my daughter at the water’s edge. They were carrying lunch and purses and even got lost in all the base streets that look the same, running up to me. But it was important to me. So it was important to them.

It took only a few minutes for the boat to go down the water in front of us. We went back to my picnic blanket and ate lunch, again corralling my daughter into staying put by feeding her little bits of rice. The spicy tuna bowls were indeed little bits of heaven. It’s really because of the sauce they use. Salty and spicy in just the right amounts. We adults could have stayed longer, chatting and laughing, but it was getting to be too much for my daughter to handle without the aid of a nap, so we packed up and went back to my car. I took them home and went to my house. My daughter fell asleep in the car and I was optimistic that I could transfer her to her crib to finish out her nap there.

But really, I’m just overwhelmed at the level of friendship displayed by my village. We even joked, before I heard back from my Sir, that I mobilized an entire village just to get to the water to see him for a fleeting moment and he had the audacity to not show up or tell me the time for over an hour? I repeat, did he not expect me to drop everything to run to see him the minute he asked me to? Well. I tell you what, I never expected my friends to also drop everything for me, the minute I asked. It was over and above. It was a perfect day.

Maybe it is because they’re both also Navy wives. They know the value of a text from a husband. They know what it is like to keep your phone on you at all times, because you just never know when a call/text/email will come. They know what it is like to fill your day times with activities and friends but then the evenings are still lonely because you don’t have your best friend home with you to share them. They know that we live for those simple little glimpses we get of our husbands because everything they do is so uncertain.

You guys. I have the world’s best village. I sometimes feel like I need to pinch myself and ask if I really deserve them. But they’re my friends and I hope they know I’d do the same for them. This whole village thing is really nice. I think I just may make it through this.

A Whole Year of Momming

A year is a long time, especially when you think of it in terms of days. 365 days is a lot of days. My daughter is a year old now and the last 365 days have been so different from any previous set of 365. So what have I learned about raising a baby in that time? I guess this is the “wisdom” I’d like to pass on to other new moms. (And I’ll probably feel like a new mom forever…)

Some of the best purchases I’ve made have been things to make the stay-at-home-momming a little easier or convenient for me. A hand vacuum. I vacuum my carpets almost everyday but my daughter leaves crumbs everywhere she goes some days because she loves cheese crackers shaped like fishies. You’d think they’re mess-free because they’re bite-sized. You’d be wrong. Sometimes I feel like I just follow her around with a clean rag and the hand vac. A super lightweight but still super firm crib mattress. Because changing baby sheets in a crib, especially when you’ve lowered it down a few settings is hard enough on your back but our mattress weighs next to nothing so that helps a great deal. (Also, we got two waterproof mattress pads and we have made her crib three times all at once! Shazam! Rip off one layer and throw it in the hamper and there’s a clean dry layer ready to go!!) A food pouch filler thingy. Because my daughter detests eating in her high chair and feeding her via pouch has been a lifesaver but I wanted to make her food too. (I also put tubs of baby food in pouches sometimes too.) Really good laundry stain remover. Because motherhood means your laundry multiplies by like, a thousand. And the babies outgrow clothes quickly but they also spit up purple and red and green foods on their super cute clothes. Might as well try to get the stains out.

There will be some days you are SO on top of this mom gig. You will make all meals and snacks lovingly by hand. (And they will be the perfect blend of healthy and tasty!) You will sing songs and dance dances and the puppet shows with their stuffed animals will be creative and educational and there shall be no mention of television to ruin their attention span. Nothing will cause a temper flare. It will all be sunshine and daisies and rainbows. And then there will be days where it all goes wrong. So wrong. Wronger than wrong. You’re sure this is the day that will cause them to need therapy in later life. Just think of it this way. A year goes by quickly. A day goes by slowly. On the bad days, do what you can to get through until bedtime, then start over tomorrow. Tomorrow is a magical place with the potential for greatness. For me, learning to accept that my life had to slow down was difficult and I’m still working that out. I found that if I had nothing to do on a particular day with my baby, it would draaaaaag by and feel a million times longer. Now my daughter is more active and that helps the time feel faster when we have nothing to do but slow days still intimidate me. Just remember that tomorrow is another day and it is easy to start clean and fresh.

There are so many ways to mom. What works for one mom and her family won’t necessarily work for you and yours. Many people say that when you become a mom, “you’ll just know” how to mom. It just comes to you. Well. That isn’t the case for every mom and this whole momming thing intimidates us all at some point. In my opinion, what they mean is that you may not know all the answers and skills, but you’ll get a TON of advice and you will probably know which advice you’ll try and which just isn’t right for you. For me, I’m a big believer that both you AND your baby have to be ready for the next stage of whatever you’re getting advice about. You were told that you should be giving your baby solid foods now but you’re not ready to start that? What will work best for your family won’t work at all if you’re conflicted. Parenting is a lot of guesswork, to be honest. My daughter can’t really tell me in so many words when something is wrong. So, I guess the reasons she is crying. Is it because she’s hungry? In pain? Lonely? Wants attention? Who knows? I’ll just try things until I figure it out. Sometimes I get it on the first try and sometimes it takes longer. But they say that “you’ll just know” because you probably spend the most time with your kid, so you will know them best. Doctors know babies but YOU know YOUR baby.  For instance, my daughter recently had an ear infection and I took her to see her doctor. I was clued into her ailment because she was unusually intensely cuddly. Now that she’s walking and climbing all the things, she rarely wants to be held and cuddled, but that day, she refused to be put down and she would bury her head in my neck. The doctor even said that most babies with ear infections are inconsolable and loud and that’s how they let you know they’re in pain. Well. My baby acted differently through her pain and I know that because I know her best.

Ok. My next advice is to read up on the developmental undertakings your baby will go through. It helps to sort of put yourself in their mindset a bit. As an adult, it can be frustrating to have a baby around who does nothing but cry for a while. But find out what they’re going through mentally and physically and hopefully, that’ll help you to help them. It is a big deal to go from womb to world. There are SO MANY things going on in the first year for them and it is all so hard to adjust to. Keep in mind that they are helpless for a long time. They rely on you for everything, even movement. You’re capable of leaving their field of vision. Logically, you know you’re going to the kitchen to get some food for them, but they have no idea what that means  But remember that things that are easy no-brainers for you are huge steps for a baby or a kid. For example, the first time they pick up an object with their left hand and put it into their right hand is a milestone.

My last advice is to really consider what YOU need to be happy. A happy mommy is a better mommy. For me, I’m a mom who needs a shower everyday. I may only just stand there for five minutes letting water run over me, but it helps me wake up and feel refreshed. The showers where I actually wash my hair and shave are pure heaven! But I know this about myself: a clean me is a happy me. (And by extension, a happy me is a better mommy.) So find out those little things that make you happy and peaceful. Also, I find that a clean house makes me feel better. That is hard to maintain with a child who doesn’t understand messes. So I finally decided to have a house cleaner once a month. My daily chores just aren’t enough to keep up with the deep cleaning (bathroom floor corners anyone?!?!) that needs to be done and I’m exhausted at the end of most days so daily chores are about all I can handle. I understand that I’m very fortunate to be able to have the paid help. And I don’t expect this help forever, I mean, help with chores is like, why we had kids!! 😊 But looking around at my cluttered dirty house was making me feel cluttered and messy on the inside if that makes sense.

So yeah, that’s a year’s worth of parenting advice from this new mom. Well, except for one more thing. Don’t let the mom shamers get to you. You’re killing it! I’m so tired of people judging moms harshly for the choices they made. Do you breastfeed or formula feed? Who cares? Your child is getting the nourishment they need!! Do you work or stay at home? That is a choice for you and your family and only you can say what’s best and there is no need to compare who has it hardest!! Just do you and ignore the trolls! #SupportTheMamas