Saturday, April 26, 2008

Life in Iraq

I should never complain about dust again because when I look at this picture Steve sent me of a dust storm in Iraq it makes me want to send him a can of pledge, Clorox wipes, a bandanna to cover his nose/mouth and lots of soap. I'm hoping his food wasn't extra crunchy, that wouldn't go over well with him.

These are sheep belonging to the commandant of the Iraqi AFA - a 1 star general. They roam freely part of the day. I guess having animals gives one stature. He also has pigeons and geese. They are smart men because having lots of animals is far less maintenance than lots of wives. These sheep were right outside Steve's POD (where he sleeps), they are good for keeping the weeds down and helping the soldiers go to sleep.
Steve loves to be a jokester. You know he likes you if you feels comfortable giving you a hard time. This is his new friend Tommy, who is an interpreter. His joke with this guy is that he requested I send him an Air Force Academy T-shirt so this guy wouldn't have to wear a Pacers shirt anymore. I mailed it off today.

MRAP, I don't know what it stands for, I'm sure one of you know more about this than I do. All I know is that Steve said it was designed to w/stand the IEDs at over $1M per vehicle. $1M, what happened to the Military discount?
That's all I have for now. He has been subbing this past week in the classroom and thinks that he'll be teaching permanently with this class of officers. He said they are a lot like Jr High kids with lots of energy, loud and if he looses control of the class it will take 5-10 minutes to gain control again. But he really likes the Iraqi's .
He has a pretty regular schedule
In bed by 10:30 or 11 and up at 6 - at work by 8:15 - teaching from 9-12:30 - eat from 12:30 - 1:30 - teach from 2 - 4:30 -- the rest of evening webcam, email, work out, eat, watch movies and read. He is playing on a softball team that will start to play twice a week. He really likes the U.S. guys who are over there with him. He calls a couple times a day and we get to webcam 1-2 times, depends on the day! I have to clean my computer screen daily because of all the little fingerprints and lip marks left by our 3 little kiddos. He looks and sounds great and is enjoying his job there. Only 5 1/2 more months to go.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My Dad

How is it that out of the billion pictures I have on my computer, there is not a single picture of just my dad and me? I'm going to have to fix that!! I didn't want to write about my dad in my previous blog because there was so much info, I didn't want this to get lost in my never ending entry!

My Dad and I share the same birthday. I have always loved celebrating together. When I was younger I thought it was cool to tell people that I was born on my Dad's birthday. I have a great dad. I love that he still tells me "you'll always be my babydoll" and tells me how proud he is of me. I love that when we talk he always takes the time to ask how I am doing and I feel comfortable telling him. I often share with others the advice he gives me. The most famous would be the oxygen mask analogy. He likes to make sure that I am taking care of myself. He says it's just like on an airplane, they tell you to place your oxygen mask on yourself first and then you can help others around you. If I don't have my own oxygen, I can't give my all to my family and to others. I love that he is a wonderful Grandpa and loves to spend time with his grandkids. He loves Steve like he's his own son and has always treated him that way. He has always been a hard worker and a great provider. He is a good man. I am very lucky and so thankful to have him as my dad!

I missed his and mom's phone call yesterday morning, so they left a message. While they were singing Happy Birthday, I could hardly wait for dad to then tell me what he has always told me, since I can remember, on every birthday. He says to me, "Remember, you are the best birthday present I have ever received." Happy Birthday Dad, I love you!

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Made It

WARNING .... LONG BLOG! I am sorry to post a long one today, so scan over and enjoy the pictures! Although long blogs are time consuming for me, I don't mind because it gives Steve a chance to see a glimpse into our lives while he's away!

To be honest, it was kind of hard looking forward to turning 30 and especially celebrating it without Steve. I told him last night that I never thought in a million years that I would be going to bed alone on the last night of my 20's!!

But despite him being gone, I had one of the best birthdays ever (even if it was my 30th). My birthday celebration started a day early with Steve's birthday blog! It was the sweetest gift I have ever received and one of the MANY reasons why I am so smitten and totally in love. I then was greeted at the door with 2 dozen roses. Taylor couldn't believe that he would send flowers all the way from IRAQ....I didn't want to spoil the cute thought for her so I kept mum on that one.

While we were in Baltimore, I knew Steve was trying really hard to keep it a great weekend when he actually made a total sacrifice and stepped foot into a FOREVER 21 for the first time, a milestone for him. And to my surprise, he actually enjoyed it. Today I got a package and inside was a gift card to FOREVER 21!! THANK YOU STEVE. I can guarantee the gift card will not be collecting dust

When my girlfriends insisted on having a birthday party for me, it was difficult to say "YES." But after taking no for an answer, I handed over an invite list. I am really glad I did. About 15 of us got together at a friends house for breakfast. It was fun just to be with girlfriends. The girls even planned male entertainment for the party.... Steve called in on the web cam! He had us all laughing, Mr. Charmer himself. I knew he would love being in a room full of women, what man wouldn't. It was a great party and SO MUCH THANKS to my wonderful friends! I love you girls.

I got to web cam with Steve for about a hour this afternoon with minimal interruptions!! It was great. I loved my annual phone calls with happy birthday songs, emails, cards and packages..... thank you!

I told the kids we would go to dinner wherever they wanted. Texas Roadhouse was it (thank goodness). Patsy and her kids joined us (Joseph was working). They made sure the waitress knew it was my birthday so after we were done eating, the waiters brought over a saddle and yelled really loud "Attention everyone, it's Jodie's 21st birthday" I knew there was no way out so trying to distract everyone from me, I bring Mason along. I get on as gracefully as one could get on a saddle with a 2 yr old in tow. Meaning, it probably didn't look so good. Anyways, everyone is totally staring, Patsy and the kids are laughing, I'm sure my face is the same color as my shirt and I happily dismount as soon as it was over. On our way out Preston says to me "Mom, you aren't 21." I was truly ready for him to pipe up and yell out "She's not 21 she's 30" but after our conversation the other night, I know why he didn't. Out of no where he says "Mom you shouldn't tell people your age because it's not appropriate" Wondering where he's getting this stuff from I ask "Who told you that?" And his says "You did." Okay foot in my mouth! I am thinking I must have told him it's not appropriate to ask an adult their age???

After dinner we came back home and had a Hawaiian Birthday Party. I helped the kids make a cake the the night before & had taken them to the dollar store to let them pick out decorations and a gift for me. It was like watching kids in a candy store. And the best part was, I didn't care what they bought because 5 items only = $5!!

Their cake was yummy, the birthday song was loud, my birthday gifts from them were super cool and truthfully the best part of the night was really their smiles, their laughter and their excitement! It was the perfect birthday!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Birthday from Iraq!!!

Well - as much as this deployment is an adventure for our family, for certain one downer is the missed family events -- especially Jodie's milestone birthday :( But today I taught my first class of Iraqi 2nd lieutenants and needless to say they are a handful. In some respects the closest equivalent may be teaching junior high or high school kids! On the bright side, they are extremely social and have a cheery disposition. I showed them pictures of my family which they loved and I quickly put them to work making a "happy birthday poster" of sort for Jodie. They loved doing it and they appreciated celebrating a family event. They all wanted to turn their rank over so it was visible and wear their berets for the picture -- schoolhouse policy is to obscure their rank in order to facilitate discussion. They were quite meticulous about their uniforms -- tucking in shirts, etc. It was good to see. I can't do much from Iraq for Jodie but send flowers and a card, but this is certainly a birthday wish/picture that is a once in a lifetime. Jodie is constantly receiving words of appreciation for my service here in Iraq, but any serviceman who has deployed will be the first to say, it takes an equal sacrifice from spouse and children alike. My love for her grows with each day here and I'm grateful for her support and love. Happy Birthday Dear!!! Love, Me

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Catch Up

#1 The other night I went into Taylor's room to check on her. She had fallen asleep with her night light in her bed, a picture of she and Steve both in his fatigues and her dog from build-a-bear that she made with Steve before he left. She was really missing Steve that night and this is what helped her feel better. Priceless!

#2 Preston's nose should be BROWN. Last night he said he was having a hard time falling asleep. After taking on the role as both a mom and dad all day, kid's bedtime is a sacred thing around here. I told him to get in bed and eventually he would fall asleep. I was on the phone with a girlfriend and I look over and see Preston trying to hide behind the vacuum, knowing that I would of course see him. I ignored him in hopes that he would go back to bed. When I walked back into the kitchen I find him totally cleaning and organizing the fridge. I admit, this time it worked, I told him to get a snack and we would sit and watch a little TV together. About 5 minutes later Steve called and we got to Webcam with him for the first time in 2 weeks. The boys got to chat and I got a clean fridge.

#3 A few days ago my brother sent me an email saying that he and his family want to come out in November for a visit and to take in an Air Force football game. After reading his latest blog entry (click here) about his trek from CA to CO with my 3 ring circus - AKA Preston, Taylor and Mason - I am sooooooooooooooooo excited that he still wants to see us!! His entry totally made me feel emotionally unstable. I think I felt way too many emotions in such a short period of time... such as guilt, certainly not envious, hilarious, pity, excited, happy and most of all MAJORLY GRATEFUL to him and my mom for taking part in our crazy lives and still willing to come back for more. This picture totally made me laugh because I can just imagine him thinking "which flat route would be the quickest escape" and of course there was no escaping! I love you Bry

#4 The kids got to webcam with Steve this morning before they left for school. He sounded and looked great. He couldn't believe how big Mason was and Mason couldn't stop kissing and hugging the computer. The next group of Iraqi soldiers that are supposed to be there by now are no where to be found. I guess this is typical though. He is going through teacher training for a few days and then who knows what. He said the first 2-4 mos with the Iraqi's will be spent teaching them English. The Iraqi General wants all his men to be fluent. He even tried to convince me to shave Preston and Mason's hair. I had to remind him that it's 50' here not 120'.
Stylin' Zebra Print or a Convict?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

King Steve-O

I'm not sure what happened but somehow Steve felt there was a miscommunication with his assignment and living arrangements while in Iraq. One day he was living like a king, sitting on his various comfortable thrones, playing golf, enjoying his palace and the view and loving the finer things in life

The next thing he knew he was being escorted by HELO
(I learned today that this is the cool way of saying helicopter),
thinking that he was moving on even to bigger and better,

Only to find himself being dropped off in humble
circumstances and moving into what is known as a "POD" for the next 6 mos.
It looks as if the red lawn chair was placed there as a mock throne to help him cope
with the disapointment

Monday, April 14, 2008

The real reason why we make cookies

My kid's favorite part of making cookies is of course eating the dough. After Preston's short stay in the kitchen he said "let me know when the dough is ready." The best part was watching Taylor attempt to get every last bite of cookie dough off the spatula. It wasn't until after I downloaded the pictures that I realized how big the spatula was for her little mouth. She had to figure out another way to get all the dough off without the option of sticking the entire thing in her mouth.

Because she was the last one standing in the kitchen, she not only got the spatula but also the coveted beater, a spoon and kudos for the yummy chocolate chip cookies!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Safe Arrival

After 6 days of traveling, Steve made it safely to Camp Taji. His past 3 days in Baghdad were spent resting...trying to get his body used to the 9 hr time change, eating and working out. Yesterday he got to tour one of Saddam's palaces. I'll post pictures when he sends them. I knew he was most likely going be traveling to Taji today by chopper. The thought of him flying over who knows what below made me nervous. He said while flying over Baghdad he was surprised the buildings were only 1 story high, mostly all the same color and the city itself very compacted. The image I can't get out of my mind is him sitting in the chopper with his gear on and machine guns sticking out of both sides just in case they are attacked!!! You can imagine my total relief when he called to let me know he arrived where he needed to be safely! If anyone wants his APO address or email address, let me know and I will send it to you.

As for the gang here, we had a great weekend. Steve was very happy when he called yesterday and got to hear Air Force football fans cheering in the background. I was reminded numerous times by Preston and Steve that Air Force spring football scrimmage was this weekend.
Preston's 2 "partners in crime" came with us. The 3 buddies are big sport fans and love Air Force football. They even wanted to dress the same. Is that normal for 7 yr old boys?
The boys played behind the end zone the entire 2 hours. When Steve called today, Preston could hardly wait to tell him that he ran a quarterback sneak and scored a touchdown.
While they were on the field having a great time, I got to chase around a very energetic, very happy, 2 year old. I should have gone in my gym clothes instead of my high heeled boots because I got a great stair climber workout. Steve asked me how the team looked and my reply was "Did you remember Mason is with me?" I was quickly reminded of why we don't take him to football games or a lot of other places now that I come to think of it.

The boys had a fun time at the stadium while Taylor got to be with her best little friend. These pictures are proof that we made it and had a fun time. (Matt & Ashley, I accidentally deleted the picture of Matt and his fan club, did anyone else happen to get one?) I was glad that I could do something with Preston that I know he would have done with Steve if he were here. I loved listening to them talk today about the game and to hear the excitement in their voices.
2 peas in a pod!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I should be asleep

But instead I am wide awake and will be hating life when Preston and his buddy wake up way too early tomorrow morning. Anyways, I have a thing for trendy, fun, bright colors, but tonight I decided to change the colors of my blog to red, white and blue to show my love and support for my honey. Oh the sacrifices of a military wife! I have also added a few new pictures and a song list, with only 1 song! You can mute your volume control if you'd like. I guess I have found my new nighttime companion, my computer. But on the flip side, it sure beats a dishwasher or a vacuum.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sweet Home Colorado

After Steve left last month we took off for a 4 week hiatus. We headed for California....warm weather, family, friends, lots of entertainment and plenty of distractions. It was a great getaway and was long enough to where it feels good to come home. We had a wonderful time and it's fun to look back at the pictures and see the happiness in my little angels eyes! Here's a peak into our family vacation.

Anytime you can play outside in the water during the month of March, you know you've got it good!!

Disneyland, from the pictures there's no doubt why they call Disneyland "The Happiest Place on Earth." Even after our 6th time of going, they still wanted more. Why is it that kids have more energy than adults? It should be the other way around.

It was great to be with family. Even though us 4 siblings live in different states , I got to see all of them and their sweet families. The cousins had a great time playing, being mischievous and making us laugh. The kids loved being with Nani and Grandpa, especially when Grandpa told them scary stories which = being too scared to go to bed and then staying up past their bedtime (oh forgot, what bedtime?)

Some of the other fun things we did were nighttime miniature golfing, Children's museum, Parks, In-N-Out (and other yummy food you can only find in LA) UCLA Sweet 16 and Elite 8 basketball games.

It was a great way to spend our first month without Steve. It was the best decision to get away and be with family for support. We have all adjusted better than I thought since we've been home. We are back into a routine and totally rested from our busy month. Steve is in Iraq now, we've been able to talk to him everyday. He'll be leaving Baghdad on Sunday and taking a chopper to the where he'll be the next 6 months. He sounds great, misses the family, getting lots of rest in his Distinguished Visitor tent (maybe it has windows?) and is grateful for the support we are receiving from so many. 1 month down and only 6 more to go!