Saturday, May 31, 2008

Steve has been gone for almost 3 months. I admit that we don't have a countdown and I don't often think about how much time is behind or left. It's just one of those things that works for us. When I do think about it, I can't believe how fast the past 3 months have gone and I hope the next 4 go by just as fast. The kids and I have done very well. Sure we have our moments and our unexpected trials, but overall we are handling everything so much better than I would have ever imagined. People ask how we do it and , my reply is "we just do it." Somehow you have the strength, the extra patience and feel the prayers, love and support from so many.

The past 2 days we have been the hardest since Steve left. It's days like these I wish Steve were here, although I know it's not possible. But thinking of him being gone consumes my mind more than usual.

Preston left yesterday to Nebraska. He'll be out there until the end of July with Steve's parents. He'll be playing on the farm, riding horses, helping Papa with chores & being his shadow, playing t-ball, preparing for his 4-H competition, riding in a parade and having FUN! It was really hard saying good-bye to him. 2 months is a long time, but I know he is going to have a great time. He's been talking about going since February. He transforms from sports guy to cowboy very easily.

After a hard day I spent the evening with girlfriends, just what I needed. After a fun night of dinner, shopping and a movie, I was feeling much better. And then more drama first thing this morning! Mason had pulled a box of shelving onto his foot. He wouldn't stop crying and wouldn't stand on it. I called the Urgent Care on the Academy and luckily got an apt for 1 hr later. Fortunately the x-rays showed no broken bones. He was a great patient. He never cried and was so cooperative. We were in and out of there in less than a hour. I couldn't believe it. That never happens, but today I needed a quick visit with a positive outcome. Here is a picture of him with my glasses on, pretending that he was sleeping.

He didn't want to take the glasses off while the Dr was wrapping his ankle. Did I mention that he was seriously the BEST patient.

They think it's just a sprain. He still won't put any pressure on it. Needless to say, it's been a very low key day. We all took naps and have played on the ground lots.

As I was hanging out with the kids this evening, the doorbell rang. My neighbor a few doors down put together this beautiful arrangement of flowers for me! I told her that the past few days have been rough and that she totally made my day!

Tonight Taylor told Preston about Mason's accident. When I got on the phone with him he asked "Do I need to come home? What if Mason has to go the emergency room?" Preston is very tenderhearted and has a great concern for those who are hurt, sick, disabled, etc.. I told him that he didn't need to come home and that Mason was going to be just fine.

I have learned that somethings you can control and somethings you can't. Once again, I feel the hand of the Lord in my life. It's comforting to know that although I am alone here without Steve, I am not really alone!

P.S. And more great news, my parents called today to ask if it's okay if my Mom comes out next week. Um, I didn't have to think too long about that one! Thanks Mom and Dad!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This week in pictures!

The Thunderbird's flew over our house all weekend long! They were practicing for their annual performance at the Air Force Academy Graduation.
The kids and I went to the Air Force Academy Cemetery on Memorial Day. Sometimes things mean a little more when you can actively participate in them

Popcorn is popping on our tree and Taylor can finally pull her hair back in a ponytail

Taylor's Kindergarten Graduation and Steve's parents come to visit!!

Preston and Taylor's last day of school..compared to the first day of school in August

Our little neighbor boy in our backyard, not a big deal..........until you realize that in his bag is a dead gardener snake that his dad killed in my backyard with a shovel! I was FREAKING out.

Mason, Mason, Mason. He is defiantly in his 2's. Despite being busy, busy, busy...he is such a good little guy. I'm not sure how much longer I am going to be able to lug him around, he is HUGE! He is my buddy and his smile melts my heart.

And a quick Steve update: "I'm being transferred to Rustamaya - the other location for Iraq AF officer training. Appears I may be there for the duration. Will begin teaching a new English class on 1 June. Rustamaya is a NATO-run base (about 5 miles outside of Sader City) at which we have a small detachment of 10-15 USAF personnel that operate independently. I'm looking forward to the change."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day 2008

I hope we all remember how much was given so we could enjoy this day and every day in freedom.

War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own
personal safety, is a miserable creature and will never be free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

-- Jon Stuart Mill

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Taylor gets from Me.......
Yesterday I took the kids to buy the Indiana Jones Trilogy DVD's. I wasn't paying much attention to the kids while I was putting the items on the belt. Mason was strapped in the cart, the other 2 usually don't wonder off. When it was time to go, I couldn't find Taylor. I called her name, a little panicked. She was sitting on the ground behind the cart! A little upset I asked her what she was doing on the floor? She said to me "Look Mom, I organized the shelves." I couldn't believe it, the entire shelf was neatly organized. If she were 10 yrs older, she would've been hired!

Here is what my 2yr old must get from Steve............
Today I was at the grocery store with Mason. Again I wasn't paying attention to him while I was putting the groceries on the belt. The clerk looked at him and started laughing. He had grabbed a Star Magazine off the shelf and was totally looking at pictures of beautiful women. He was happy, so I let him look a little longer. Confession, this isn't the first time he's done this. In January we were at our friend's in Texas. There was a Victoria's Secret Catalog on the counter next to where Mason was sitting. Next thing I knew, he was intently checking out the pictures. I think we're in for it!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


My 3-4 day expectations were shattered last week when the restoration company said to me "We meant it will take 3-4 days for the carpet to dry. Not 3-4 days for everything. You are looking at about a month before the basement will be done." Then when I heard "Contractor" in the next sentence, I totally cringed!!

I am married to a Handyman. We have never had a contractor set foot in our homes. Steve has laid wood floors, built decks/porches, replaced doors, cabinets, counters, installed sprinkler systems, he even built an amazing play set last summer for the kids using the wood from our old deck!! I have heard horror stories of month long projects turning into MONTHS!! This is what scares me. The contractor came out yesterday to assess the flood damage and said the workers would be out next week.....I'm not holding my breath. When I asked him the most frequent question, he thought the work would take 3-4 days.

Should I believe him? If that's true, then the restoration company could be out to do the carpets the following week. That means my basement could be put back in order in only 2 more weeks! I am excited thinking about it.....although I really shouldn't have any expectations, I know better.

This is just 1 wall in the guest room. It's crazy. I'm not sure how much longer my need for cleanliness can handle CHAOS in the house! I have tried to stay out of the basement. Out of sight out of mind has been my motto lately! Even if it means staying away from 1/3 of my house, a woman has to do whatever it takes to "hold it together." I'm trying.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Yesterday the kids and I participated in the Fisher DeBerry Foundation 5K walk/run
Fisher DeBerry was the head football coach at the Air Force Academy for over 23 years and will be known as one of the greatest college coaches of all time. Steve was fortunate to play for him and then help as an assistant coach the year after graduation.
(the kids and I with Fisher and Lu Ann DeBerry after the race)

Preston is a huge Coach DeBerry fan. When we arrived here almost 2 years ago, Steve would often take Preston to football practices, press box lunches and of course to all the home games. Coach DeBerry would call Preston his buddy and his best friend. When we heard of his retirement in Dec '06, we promised Preston that he would still get the chance to see him someday. So when we got news of the 5K charity event, I couldn't resist the softy Mom side of me and I signed the kids and myself up to participate! Even though I knew I would have 3 kids under the age of 7 and only myself to get us through the race, I was crazy enough to do it anyways. All for the love of a 7 yr old!! Did I mention I was crazy?
(Coach DeBerry with Preston and Taylor at a Football Press Luncheon)

(Mason, our daughter's friend and Taylor in the double jogger)

I have to admit I was totally nervous about doing this on my own. My only goal, the competitive side of me surfacing, not be the last one to cross the finish line.

I started the race with Mason and Taylor in the jogger. They both had an ear piece from my iPod and were more than content to be off the ground! I was feeling good, I was going down hill and we were keeping a good pace. Preston took off running ahead of us with a friend, even better. A friend's daughter wanted to run/walk with us, not a big deal....... until she got tired quickly. I couldn't leave her so we would run a little, walk some, run a little, walk some more. Half way though she would hardly walk. With out having any other choice, I told her to hop in the jogger. I pushed 3 kids (about 15o lbs), up hill, the last half of the race!!

My Taylor....while sitting on her bum, listening to music and drinking gatorade, was my #1 cheerleader. She would often say to me "Go faster, Go here, Go there, RUN MOM RUN!"
It paid off for her in the end.
The results, Preston came in 2nd out of all boys ages 1-14 yrs. And Taylor, I told her and Alisha to get out of the jogger and run the last 50 yards to the finish line. She ended up coming in 3rd out of all girls ages 1-14 yrs. As for me, I certainly didn't get a medal, but I was far from last place!!!!
Another highlight was Rudy Ruettiger, the man who was the inspiration for the movie Rudy, gave a great inspirational talk after the race.

The kids came home with medals, Preston got to see his favorite coach and I crossed the finish line!

Friday, May 16, 2008

US Army UAV & Iraqi Army Road March

A week ago we got a tour of an Army UAV (Shadow) unit. They launch and recover remote controlled aircraft 24/7 given good visibility. Dust storms limit availability. The launcher (pictured above) accelerates the UAV to 70 mph in 0.5 seconds. They take off about 300 yards from our pods and are quite loud – they sound like a lawn mower. The unit flying them has logged over 200,000 flight hours. Cost is about $750k per copy. In the pictures you can make out a tail hook which catches one of 2 resting cables and if they miss -- a net further down the runway catches the aircraft.
We visited the Iraqi Army training facility here at Tajji. Talked to Col Muhammed - an Iraqi Colonel who has commanded there for about 3 years -- very respected. The lower level enlisted soldiers are called janubs in Arabic. They were headed out on a road march & currently have about 1400 soldiers there in training.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Little Girls

Girls! I remember after Taylor was born, Steve feel in love with his little girl. He had a hard time putting her down and would carry her around like a football.....her head in his hand and her legs straddling his forearm. Knowing that we wanted more children, Steve said to me one day "I hope the rest of our kids are girls." I had to laugh and replied "No you don't! Just wait until Taylor is a teenager and you'll be wishing you had all boys."

Today was one of those days that I realized that raising a daughter is going to be anything but easy! Here is my day with Taylor and why 1 girl in enough for me:

1.Girls are moody! Taylor is usually grumpy when I wake her up. She is not a morning person, she gets it honestly. I know on the days she doesn't wake up on her own, we are in for a tough morning. She didn't like the clothes I picked out (I didn't care, she was going to wear them), she whined that the sweater was itchy.....she chose to forget her undershirt, so I told her to go back to put it on..more crying and whinning. She complained about the brush I was using to fix her hair, complained more about her clothes, wouldn't hold still, followed by more crying. Put it this way, it's much easier for me to handle a flooding basement than it is to handle a whining 5 year old!

2. Girl's have an on and off switch, and most of the time they don't even know where it is! Once she was downstairs, it was as if the past 20 unhappy minutes never happened! She was happy, talkative and helpful. She looked out the back door and said "Look Mom. There's pink and white popcorn on the tree!" Referring to the blossoms on the trees. She quickly finished her breakfast, brushed her teeth without being asked (which never happens) and was perfect the rest of the morning.

3. Girl's can be high maintenance! After Mason went down for a nap we played with my sample perfumes. I told her she could have them all, it was as if she won the jackpot. We played with her new accumulation of perfumes, played make-up and dress-up. She showed me how to pose for the camera, made sure the bag behind me was out of the picture and told me what faces to make. The hard part was the realization that she's a lot like me!

4. Girl's can get upset so easily and over the littlest thing! She was helping me make treats - avalanche bark for our friends and rice crispy treats for our family. She freaked out when she saw me putting peanut butter in the bowl. I had to calm her down and tell her that the peanut butter was for the other recipe. Oh my goodness!!!!!

5. Girl's can be so giving and sweet! She spent a lot of time working on Steve's Father's Day present, making little notes for our family & giving out stickers. She loves to do things for others!!

At the end of the day, I love my girl and am so thankful I have a daughter of my own!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What I wanted to post yesterday!

My flood drama is going to have to take a back seat tonight. I'd really like to post about my fun Mother's Day before any other drama happens that may be more entertaining.

My Mother's Day started way too early. At 7 am Taylor came in to tell me she was hungry! I wouldn't have minded so much but I was out late the night before and didn't go to bed until 2 a.m. Ouch! I convinced her to hop into bed with me and watch a cartoon. At 7:30 the doorbell rang. WHAT? Taylor runs downstairs, I hurry to cover myself and the boys wake up! The car took off and I have NO IDEA who came by and brought this adorable box with yummy breakfast inside!! An apple danish, fresh fruit, orange juice and truffles! THANK YOU whomever you are!

My favorite part of Mother's Day are the homemade cards. These are just 2 of the many homemade cards that adorn my magnetic board. Taylor wrote on a school paper that I weighed 80lbs. I'm hoping she doesn't think 80 is a huge number.

The kids insisted that we open gifts before we did anything else. Mason got me a very cute Buckhead Betties bag!

Taylor picked out this necklace from Brighton with a little bit of personal help. If you look closely there is a charm for each of the kids. I am in love with this necklace!

Our friends took Preston out this past week to go Mother's Day shopping. He was so excited to give me his gift.......looks like we'll be going to Chipotle's soon!

Thank you Steve for the flowers, Juicy Couture Perfume, California Pizza Kitchen gift card (good for a few nights of not having to cook) and booking a babysitter for an overnight getaway.

Patsy's hubby was working so we decided to get together as Mom's for breakfast and have a PJ party with the kids. No showers, no make-up, no stress! We made crepes. We couldn't make them fast enough for the kids. Making breakfast and cleaning up the mess was much more fun doing it with a friend. It didn't feel like work!

After church we went to the Cowell's home for BBQ steak. Our other friends live up the street so all the kids played together in the backyard while Bryan did dishes and the women sat around and talked!

The kids got to talk to 2 grandma's and 3 great-grandma's. It was a great Mother's Day!

You all know that there is no way any day of mine could go smoothly. The days mishaps included... my car battery dying - fortunately it happened at home & I was able to jump it on my own! And Mason choked on his gum and threw up all over me at Patsy's house.
I think that was it!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

When it rains it pours, or in my just floods!

We had visitors today! If you look closely, the visitors went by the name of Top Gun. Which is not too bad until you read the small print.....Restoration and Cleaning - Water -Fire - Smoke. In my case, the bright blue hose means I would fall under the water part!! These are the type of visitors you hope you never have and if you do, you hope you'll never have to see them again!
Yes, the tiny little hole in my pipe (it's to the right), that is connected to my outside hose, caused a lot of water damage in my basement. Although today it was in the 30's, rainy and even saw a few snow flurries, this had nothing to do with the flooding. Most likely the hose busted sometime between October and April. I had the hose on yesterday for about 2 hours. I was just trying to get my grass to grow and turn from brown to green.
And of all times, it happens when Steve is half away across the world. I called a girlfriend whose husband is a Realtor, I knew he could recommend a good plumber. In the mean time I called my insurance company and within a hour "Top Gun" and a plumber came to my rescue. My girlfriend came over, even though I told her I was alright, and we worked together clearing off bookshelves, cabinets and anything else on the floor....except furniture. I felt like I was packing up to move. The only things that were damaged were the bookshelves, cabinets and a bedroom set in the spare bedroom.....nothing that can't be easily replaced. Today it payed off having an organized and clean basement!
The damage was only in the spare room,closet and part of the family room in the basement. Here is part of the main area of the basement. They took the baseboards off, pulled the carpet back and took all the padding out. Right now there are about 6-7 huge fans drying out the floor. The plumber had to cut through the ceiling to replace the pipe. The spare bedroom is where the most damage was. Tomorrow they come to cut into the drywall and fix the water damage in the walls. The basement should be done within the next week.
In the mean time the basement is off limits. Everything is crammed into the office and one side of the basement. I am so thankful for Sherrelyn who helped get Mark here to turn the main water off, helped me move everything in the basement, kept me positive and stayed with me the entire time the workers were here (even though I insisted I was okay) and for Heather who totally brought us dinner, bottled water, Clorox wipes and paper get us through until we could turn the water on again. It's friends like these that make these moments more bearable and easier to laugh at!

I have a greater appreciation for being prepared. Thank goodness for insurance. And if one more thing happens while Steve is away, I am never going to let him out of my sight again!

Monday, May 12, 2008

My Mom

"The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.
Like father, like son. Like mother, like daughter" - Anonymous

I would have to kind of, sort of, somewhat maybe agree with this. I wish the apple wouldn't have fallen so far in my case! My Mom is a remarkable person. If you know her, you know this. She has so many great qualities. I am so grateful to have her as my Mom and I hope it's not too late to be more like her!

She has the ability to love unconditionally, She easily forgives and forgets, She is always doing for others, She is always there for others, She has such amazing faith.... I've never seen it waiver in my 30's years of being her daughter, She is the best cook...people always have requests for her baked goods, she's a great seamstress (she can sew ANYTHING), fun decorator, her garden is always beautiful, her home is always clean, she is funny, cheerful, compassionate, fun to be with, soft hearted and so giving.

After 37yrs of marriage, 4 kids and 10 grandkids later..... she has been a great example to me and to many others! I am so blessed to have her as my Mom. Happy Mother's Day Mom, I love you.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother’s Day

From Al Taji, Iraq -- HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to the 6 mothers in my life (Jodie, Mom, Susie, Mammy, Nani Jo and Ruth) – women of charm and appeal who make life beautiful. Thank you for all you have done! A few words about Jo & I… we dated 9 weeks prior to our engagement of 4 months. I knew that if I didn’t make her mine someone else would beat me to it! I have extremely deep feelings for her. We met at church in California and for some reason I can still easily recall what she wore the first four Sundays to church. The 1st Sunday (when I met her) she wore a black skirt, blue blouse, and a black scarf around her neck. She says that I introduced myself by saying, “Steve’s the name!” The 2nd Sunday she wore a floral dress and we went on our first unofficial date. The 3rd Sunday (Valentine’s Day) she wore a denim dress with a red sweater, and the 4th Sunday a pink top with a gray skirt. 8+ years, 3 moves, 3 kids, and 1 Iraq deployment later we are halfway around the world from each other. Memories! For my deployment she gave me her Ipod which has her music on it and I take it with me every day to workout. Listening to her music, I think of her constantly, and at times the distance between us seems to evaporate. Happy Mother’s Day Jo! I love you!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

A quick post and more to come later! 3 reasons why I'm loving Mother's Day this year..... and not the obvious ones because there's no sleeping in, breakfast in bed or a day off of Mommy duties when your husband's deployed..... the total obvious reasons are Preston, Taylor and Mason! The pure love I receive from them is what makes motherhood the greatest job of all.
Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Secret Recipes

The other night our friends came over to make us their famous milk shakes. Preston requested strawberry because he's "not a fan" of chocolate. I'm still wondering who is Mom is and how my 7 yr pulled a trump card over me???
They not only showed up with ice cream, strawberries and strawberry milk, they also brought with them this basket full of "extra ingredients"
The kids had to sit at the table and weren't aloud to see how the milk shakes were made! They were laughing and trying hard to sneak a peak. They were nervous to try (what naive 5 & 7 yr wouldn't be), but after a sip, their cups didn't stay full for very long. The shakes kept on coming and coming. We drank until we couldn't drink anymore!
I'm just waiting for next time we are out getting ice cream and my kids ask for ketchup, hot sauce or easy cheese. Or even worse, they ask for Jimmy Dean sausage!

Life at the Iraqi AF Academy

Today marks the end of the 1st month -- only 5 to go. I'm really starting to enjoy my class of 11 Iraqi 2nd Lt's, to whom I'm teaching English (i.e. Nebraskan). They are struggling through it. A few might meet the English proficiency requirement to enter pilot training. The ones that don't will enter other career fields (fireman, security forces, maintenance, etc.). They are a lively bunch that have been difficult to handle for other instructors and they are challenging for me too - but it makes for a fun, eventful day -- for all of us! They have been begging me to eat lunch with them at their dining facility. Let me say this -- nothing can compare to the Coalition dining facilities! I have nothing whatsoever to complain about. So that said - I wasn't excited about theirs. I received the proper warnings: don't eat the salad, if you can't peal the fruit - don't eat it, if there's a sauce or soup -- feel it to make sure it's hot, and drink nothing that isn't a soda or bottled water. My class was so excited to escort me and were very proud to host me. It was like going to lunch at your child's elementary school -- everyone stares and talks about you! Lunch consisted of rice (excellent), flat bread (good), potato soup (potatoes were good, didn't care for the broth), pasta/vegetable salad (didn't take it), orange soda & bottled water. Not bad all considered and mission accomplished: I didn't get sick. It meant a lot to them. On the walk back they showed me their BX (a small room w/ food/supplies) and they bought me a soda and a candy bar. Here are 2 pictures: above is of some of my students along with Major Muhammad (he was in the Iraqi AF under Saddam & refused to attack the Kurdish people and thus spent a number of years in prison -- he is now flying helicopters) who the students really respect.
The second (below) is another picture of Mustafa (my student) holding my hand. Don't be alarmed! This is very natural for the Iraqis and is a sign of friendship.

This picture below is me and a few of my students checking out this old piece of anti-aircraft artillery that sits outside our school. Check that -- they are posing while I'm looking for targets. Gotta love it!

Yesterday my students found a baby bat right outside our school building. It fell out of their nesting place - like I say, "There's never a dull moment here." I keep my camera on my belt - you just never know. That's all for now -- have a great Taji day!