Monday, September 26, 2011

Temporary Fun

It's kind of funny how things work isn't it? The kids and I spent a week in a hotel with John just before he left for his deployment. It was fun ... for the first night. :o) I took crazy pictures of the kids thinking I would eventually blog about how you keep your kids entertained in a hotel for a week. Well, those pictures are now on our computer that's all packed up and stored away for a few more weeks (and let's just be honest, at this point you'll probably never see them!) While we were there, we met a family at the pool who was staying at the hotel for 4 weeks while their house was finished. Four weeks!?! I couldn't even imagine. Well, guess what!?! Now, I don't have to imagine, because we're living it ourselves. There's not one thing to complain about, but some of the logistics have been interesting. I let each of the kids pack a small rubbermaid box of toys. Will's box has a mix of legos, transformers, and bakugans. Kate, oh Kate. Somehow, we managed to fit a baby, the baby's diaper bag complete with diaper, wipes, food, and bottles, one pair of "C-rella" dress up shoes, a purse, pretend hair dryer, and an old cell phone into her box. She wanted to bring her kitchen, but I had to draw the line somewhere. Miraculously, those small boxes have provided hours of entertainment. In the whirlwind of packing up our house, I was trying to pack clothes for all of us for 6 weeks. This was the third week of August on about the 69th day of over 100 degree temps. Can you guess what I packed? Shorts, tank tops, t-shirts, flip flops, bathing suits. I'm loving the cooler weather that September 4th brought and we are all loving the two, count 'em 1, 2, cool weather outfits I brought for each of us. Last week, I *got* to wash Will's jeans every night so that he could wear them again the next day. Once we found out we were going to be staying in a furnished apartment, I didn't worry at all about packing anything from the kitchen. Well, just in case you were wondering, we have had some seriously creative meals with our two pots and one pan. Note to self, if you have to do this again, keep out a pizza cutter, cutting board, frying pan, and cups that don't break when they're dropped. Will and Kate have now shared a room for most of the past 4 months (our long trip home this summer and now our time in the apartment). Bedtime used to be so easy and I didn't even know it! These two crack themselves up for at least an hour after we've put them to bed. It's funny during the day, not so much at 8:30pm. The hardest thing has been keeping the kids quiet ... you know trying NOT to get kicked out for noise violations. My solution? Let's go to the park. But we just got back from the park 30 minutes ago. I know, but we didn't swing on every single swing, let's go! Mostly, it's been enjoyable to have our little family in this small space ... lots of Uno marathons, movie nights (or afternoons!), pb&j sandwiches, and family dance parties (but no stomping on the floor, or we'll get kicked out!) I'm just so thankful we're together!!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The End of an Era

My history with curling irons is extensive. I *wish* my old photos weren't packed away at a friend's house right now so that I could prove my history to you with pictures. Really, I wish. You'll just have to imagine 9 year old Ansley Cook living in Southern California saving up about 3 months worth of allowance to buy my first curling iron. I became proficient in curling iron use within about a week thanks to my best friend from across the street. She was a year older than me and had 12 months of experience with this curl making machine. At first, I gave myself ringlets each morning before school. I'd pull about half of my hair up into a little side pony (with a coordinating scrunchee, of course) and out the door I would go. It wasn't until we moved to the fashion forward Sumter, South Carolina that I would learn about the magic a curling iron could work on your bangs. Another friendly neighbor helped me perfect the 3-layer bang effect. You know, curl two sections toward the back of your head, the front section toward your nose, run a brush through it and spray wildly with Rave. Mercifully, I only rocked the bangs for 2 school years. Unfortunately, I also had GIGANTIC glasses and a large gap between my two big front teeth. I think the bangs drew people's attention upward, so it worked. I may or may not have also owned and used a crimper during this tumultuous period of my growing up years. In middle school, not to be left behind on the newest trend, I got a perm. The curling iron got a break for about a year. Once I hit high school, I finally learned to sit back and watch as new trends would come and go (at least with my hair - please don't ask John about the prom dress I wore to our first prom!). Since my 9th grade year of high school, I have curled my hair with a curling iron almost every day. The size of the curling irons I've owned have varied from the teeny tiniest to the one I curled my hair with this morning - affectionately called "The Big Mama". Yesterday when I was fixing my hair, I noticed that Big Mama was smoking - never good. This morning it heated up like an old pro, but promptly started smoking again ... aw man, I guess I'm going to have to make a trip to Target. 45 minutes later, I was showing my un-curled hair in public. Gasp. Honestly, I've never been very good at fixing my hair, and I'm new in town, so I'm pretty sure no one noticed me or my hair. I'm pretty sure they (Target) stocked their aisle to trip me up on purpose. The first half of the hair care aisle was filled with shiny flat irons. I've been wanting one of those pretty things for about 4 years, but I just couldn't bring myself to fork over the dough for one. I must have had a weak moment this morning (probably from the lack of curl in my hair!). A weak moment and the $40 gift card in my pocket and before I knew it, I was in the check out line with a pretty pink chi flat iron in my cart. I was tempted to have a "do-over" once I got home from target ... wash my hair again, dry it and try out my newest, up to date styling tool. But, there were two kids who had bigger plans of going to the park. So, I'll have to wait until tomorrow for my new era to begin. Here's to many years of smooth, straight hair, although I hear you can make some killer curls with a flat iron!;o)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Confessions of a Mom of Young Children

Sometimes I ...

  • eat the last oreo while Will is at school and Kate is napping
  • lay really, really, REALLY still in the bed in the middle of the night when Kate is calling out for "Mommy, Daddy, Mo-mmy, Daaaaaa-ddy", so that John gets up to see what all of the fuss is about
  • really do go to the grocery store for alone time
  • worry way too much about things that will probably never happen
  • find myself repeating the words to "The Going to Bed Book" or "The Wheels on the Bus" long after Kate has gone to bed
  • impress myself with my Super Mario Bros skills ... at least on level 1
  • wish I had never started cutting the crust off of sandwiches
  • chew a piece of gum for breakfast
  • forget to thaw the meat out for dinner a little bit on purpose, knowing that John will always pick up a pizza
  • "fluff" the clothes in the dryer four or five times - you know, to make them really dry
  • stay awake at night wondering about the good and perfect plans the Lord has for our family
What about you?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The POWER in a power of attorney

Before any deployment, one requirement is to update your will, guardianship papers, and power of attorney. Not too much fun, but definitely the responsible thing to do. When John and I met with the lawyer to check these things off of his list, we had no idea how much the POA would be needed in the coming months. In fact, I honestly thought I'd take it home, file it, and not ever look at it again. Well, I was wrong.
Apparently John thought I was bored keeping up with our two rascals while he was away. To remedy the situation, he accepted a new job in Wichita, Kansas while he was still in the sandbox. In four short weeks we put the house on the market, sold the house, packed up all of our earthly belongings and loaded them onto PODS, contracted on a new house, closed on the old house and moved to a furnished apartment in Kansas. And when I say "we", I am not referring to John and me. While John offered many emails and phone calls in moral support, we were unable to convince our buyer to wait to close on the house until John's return. Enter Pops and Mimi. Oh, Pops and Mimi, how we love you! Mimi could seriously have a second career as an expert "packer upper". Not only can she pack a kitchen with ninja-like precision, when she's done with that, she'll prepare a homemade meal - served on paper plates, because the regular plates are already packed - help Will with his 2nd grade homework AND (maybe the thing I'm most grateful for) be the "bather, pajamer, brusher, and booker" for Katey Lou! And when Pops rearranged his plans to be in town for the official "pack-it-all-or-else" weekend, I could literally feel the burden lifting off of my shoulders. Pops is the tool/electronic/furniture packer, wrapper, loader, and organizer extraordinaire. Pops also managed to squeeze in some special time with Will and Kate at Krispy Kreme, of course! After it was all said and done, he sent my mom and me off for pedicures and then took us to Outback for dinner. I tell ya, that meal was so good! Some very special friends also carried the burden with me ... Mr. Brett and Mrs. Jenn, I couldn't imagine those few weeks without your friendship and help. Seriously, it wouldn't have gotten done without you. I think I feel a whole 'nother post coming on about y'all! :o) Rob and Jenny, thank you, thank you, thank you for E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G you did to help me. I'll be forever grateful. And yes, for those of you wondering, I plan to sit in a lawn chair, sip on a Dt. Coke, and read my newest issue of Southern Living while John unloads and unpacks everything! Okay, maybe I'll just do that for the first 30 minutes ... it's not like he was on vacation or anything :o).
It's been difficult (gut-wrenching as one friend so sweetly put it!) to pack up our Oklahoma memories and drive away from the friends who have become our family. We will miss so many things about Oklahoma ... hearing OOOOOOOOOOklahoma every night at 5:00 on one of our favorite radio stations, the sunsets, our annual trip to our favorite pumpkin patch, yummy Mexican food on every corner, and the Thunder (not to be mistaken for the actual weather ... tornado season, I will not miss you, although, Kansas ... well, anyway!). There is really no way for me to say good-bye to our friends and church family. You've loved us and our kiddos more than we ever deserved. You'll always have a very special place in our hearts and we plan to come back often. So none of this good-bye stuff for you ... we'll see you soon!
Kansas, I don't know if you're ready for the Schlosses, but we're here and we can't wait to see what good things the Lord will do in the coming years.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Coming Home

Earlier, I wrote about the excitement of a military homecoming in this post. It is truly one of the greatest things about being a military wife - in my opinion. Before John even left, I started thinking about him coming home. Really, it is what sustains you on the hardest days. In John's time in the AF, we've had several different types of homecomings. His first deployment happened to be over the time of September 11th. He returned from a 3 month trip about 6 weeks after those terrible events. The homecoming was very emotional and patriotic as you might imagine. His group returned on military planes to the base where we were stationed. It seemed as if everyone from the local area was out to meet these soldiers. Red, white, and blue were everywhere - it was truly like a scene from a movie. At the end of John's second deployment, he flew home with his squadron, but they came in to a commercial airport and then had to ride a bus 45 minutes back to our base. WHAT!?!? I know, I thought the same thing. Yes, I drove to the airport so that I could see him the second he got off of that airplane and then I followed the bus back to the base. By this time, deployments were the norm and there wasn't much excitement surrounding their return. On John's third deployment, he got called back early so that he could leave for another trip - ugh! Will, who was 6 months old, and I drove to the airport to greet John. No one even knew he was returning from a deployment because he was in civilian clothes. We were also in a pretty big hurry, because after several flight delays, John made it home just in time to repack and leave again (from a different airport!) in 8 hours.
Fast forward 6 1/2 years to this summer. I was thrilled to learn that the guys would be returning to the base and that we'd get to go out on the flight line to meet them - I just can't even put into words how exciting it is. Will and Kate, worked on their welcome home posters and ate their last hershey kiss on Thursday night and then tried to go to sleep. Kate, of course, had heard "Daddy's coming home soon" so many times that she would reply to me "No, daddy's on a trip" - so she didn't have much trouble sleeping. Will knew full well what it meant and got out of bed at least 11 times before he finally gave it up and fell asleep. Me, well, the last time I looked at the clock it was 3:14 am. We all jumped right up at 7:00 and were ready to hit the road and get our daddy. Only one problem, he wasn't going to be there until about 4:30pm. Surely you have never told your small children about something that is going to happen and then had to answer questions for 8 hours until it actually happens. Oh. my. goodness. Thankfully, they were both entertained by the movie Rio (thanks Mimi!) on our 2 1/2 hour drive to meet John. I was nervous and excited. Of course, I couldn't wait to hug John, to know that he was back safe and sound and to hand the matters of our household back over to him :o) ... more on that tomorrow! But, I just couldn't wait to see the reunion between John, Will, and Kate. We got to the base about an hour before John was supposed to arrive. The kind ladies who were in charge of the event had snacks and toys, but the best thing was a giant screen with a flight tracker tracking John's plane. Will was almost silent as he watched the plane slowly blink closer. Kate was intrigued but I was thankful for the toys! Finally they announced it was time for us to get on a bus to go out to the flight line. As we sat with a bus full of people we didn't know - wives, husbands, parents, and children - hardly a word was spoken. Then the plane came into sight and ever so slowly descended until the wheels FINALLY touched the ground - a cheer erupted and it no longer mattered that we didn't know each other, we each knew someone on that plane. Once we saw the plane, Kate understood that her daddy was on it and we could hardly hold her back. We staked out our place near the steps of the plane and waited to see our daddy. John was one of the last guys off of the plane. It felt like a moment frozen in time. It was really him, he was really back, and he was really going home with us. Kate shrieked, "My daddy, it's my daddy!" over and over again. As soon as his feet stepped off of the last step, she ran to him, no longer able to contain her sweet 2 year old self. Will looked up and said "Can I run?". Of course, I said. For me, it was enough to stand back for a few seconds and watch as John shook hands with a line of his fellow soldiers, with Will and Kate glued to his side. At long last, I got my hug. It was more of a family hug and it was the best hug I've ever had. In the middle of it, Will looked up and said, "I think I feel like crying." Me too, buddy ... tears of relief, true love, and pure joy.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gone to the Sandbox

When John was on active duty, I'd often hear him and his comrades "lovingly" refer to their deployments as trips to the sandbox. John's had quite a few trips to the sandbox over the years ... some as you might picture if you watch the 6:00 news - in a tent on a cot in the middle of a tent city with, well sand everywhere. On other trips he's stayed in a hotel and lived and worked among the locals. This time around, he was working on an established base and had a dorm room all to himself - cozy, huh? We were thankful to have great communication with John while he was away. I think there were only two days that we didn't actually hear his voice. He was in a safe location, but there is nothing like hearing someone's voice when they are so far away! Sometimes John would call us and other times we would facetime with him. At first facetime was a little awkward ... it's hard not to look at yourself in the little corner box :o). Will would always act so silly when we'd facetime with John. I think it was his way of keeping himself from feeling sad ... more on that below. Kate loved facetime with daddy and she did the best at talking to him when she could also see him. She didn't understand that John couldn't see her when she was talking to him on the phone, saying things like, " See my shirt, daddy? You like my fishy on my shirt?" After I stopped feeling self-conscious about how I looked on the computer camera and after I assured John I had not given up on fixing my hair or wearing makeup just because he was gone (because of the time difference - we'd usually run in from the lake or the pool to catch John just before he was going to bed - so I usually looked frazzled and hot - not in the good way :o), I loved facetime too. John and his buddies worked long hours, but he says that's the way they like it. That way they keep their mind on the mission and off of the fact that they're missing home. As is his custom on deployments, John spent a lot more time at the gym than he does when he's home. It's a good thing too, because Will was ready for some wrestling matches and he (Will) isn't exactly a lightweight anymore! John mostly ate at the chow hall. He says "it wasn't too bad, but they mostly served chopped chicken." Yummy. It was no surprise that he requested a steak at Outback as one of the first meals when he got home!
It had been 6 years since John's last deployment and while I knew how to prepare myself, this was the first time we really had to consider the kids and how they would deal with dad being gone. I think I've mentioned before that John is kind of the World's Greatest Dad, so I knew there was going to be a huge void in Will and Kate's lives for these few months. We started talking about the trip with Will back in January just so we didn't have to drop it all on him at one time. At first he was really excited and proud that his dad was going on this great adventure. Then reality started to set in. Will would talk about his birthday or some other fun thing he was planning to do over the summer and we'd remind him that it would be fun but that dad wouldn't be there. He wasn't really sad, but sometimes he'd express frustration - "Why does dad have to be the one to go on this trip?" We did our best to explain to Will what an honor it is for our dad to be able to serve our country this way. With Kate, we didn't really make a big deal out of it because we knew she wouldn't understand until we were in the middle of it. She was happily oblivious to the whole deal! The first few weeks of June were filled with lots of family fun - trips to the pool and the zoo, pancakes for breakfast AND supper, late night games of UNO, and hours of building with legos and playing the wii. The day that John actually left, Will was sad and teary, but so was I! Kate didn't like saying good-bye, but she never does. I think she cried because Will was crying and it didn't help that Mom was sad too. We drove home and began to pack up for our long summer trip and we all seemed to be doing okay. At dinner, I brought out some surprises John had left for the kids. He'd recorded a book for each of them. Kate loved hers and listened to it over and over again. She'd even repeat what John said at the end of the book "I love you Kate. Sleep good. Be good girl for Mommy." Will looked at his book and then left the table. I assumed he was going to pack a few more toys for the trip. When I went to find him, he was very sad. We had a good long hug and reminded ourselves that we were SO proud of our daddy and that he would be safe and come home soon. We also talked about all of the fun things we were going to do and how we'd send John pictures and emails as often as possible. While Will really wanted to talk to John on the phone and on facetime, he would also usually be the saddest after talking to John. I'm not going to lie - it was tough on our boy and on his mama! Kate talked about her daddy all of the time but only a few times did she really question where he was. At one point on our trip, she kept telling everyone that Daddy was at home with her toys. Oh dear ... I didn't know what she'd think when we returned home and he really wasn't there just yet. She did fine, of course. Towards the end of John's time away we talked a lot about John's return and her reply was always, " I gone give my daddy big ole' hug!" The other surprise John left for the kids was a big hit with both of them. He gave each of them a mason jar filled with hershey kisses - one for each day he'd be gone. So every day they got a kiss from dad. I still can't figure out why he didn't leave me a jar ... maybe because he knows me well enough to know that I probably would have eaten the whole jar full of kisses that first night he was gone!
From my perspective, there were SO many things to be thankful for during this deployment. John was in a friendly country in a well established area. He really seemed to enjoy the team he was working with. It was a relatively short deployment (although it didn't always seem this way!). Since he was gone over the summer, the kids and I did a "tour of the families" and were gone for almost 6 weeks of John's time away - another post on that later. Most of all, I'm thankful that this deployment is behind us, and that Johnny is home safe and sound!

Monday, September 5, 2011

It's so Hard to say Goodbye

**These next few posts were written over the summer while John was on his "adventure". He's now safely home and we're soaking up some much needed family time. In fact, poor John has the difficult job of deciding who gets to do what with daddy next! We hope you're enjoying some great family time on this Labor Day holiday too! **

Well, the day we've all been dreading has finally come and gone and we can start the countdown for our hero's return home. Honestly there comes a point where you just want to get the deployment started. It hangs over everything you do ... our last time to get ice cream together until you get home, our last time to swim at the pool together until this trip is over with, the last time he'll put the kids to bed for a few months. You've gone over the lists of everything that needs to be taken care of and the instructions for how to start the lawn mower, what type of air filter to buy, and when to get the oil changed. Then there is nothing left to do but wait to say good-bye. You know it's coming, but you pretend that you don't. Small talk and nervous laughs fill the last few minutes of precious time together. When it's really time to let go of that one last hug, you have tear stained cheeks but you realize in that moment that you are stronger than you think you are ... that you're not alone, and from the chorus of one of my most favorite songs, that "love will hold us together." John, we miss you more than words can say and we can't wait for you to get back.

Friday, September 2, 2011

This man in this uniform ...

... back in these arms. Welcome home, Daddy.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Top Ten songs played on my ipod for the last few weeks

10. Better Together - Jack Johnson
9. Hold Me - Jamie Grace featuring TobyMac
8. Hold Us Together - Matt Maher
7. Workin' My Way Back to You - Jersey Boys cast
6. I Run To You - Lady Antebellum
5. Love is On The Way - Celine Dion
4. Smile - Uncle Kracker
3. To Get Me to You - Lila McCann
2. Comin' Home Baby - Michael Buble' with Boyz to Men
and ...

#1 The Boys are Back in Town - Thin Lizzy

Quite a compilation, I know. SO ... can you guess what's happening tomorrow??? I can't wait to post a picture!