Monday, November 5, 2012

Feels Like Home.

For the past few months I've been enjoying spending each and every moment with my husband again.

The kids are so happy to have their dad back home.

It feels like home again.

On September 14th we welcomed him home.

I met him at the airport and then we went to each of our kids schools to surprise them. I have so much more to write about this day, and pictures to share....but for now just a little video we made of the day full of welcome homes.

I will share more from this day soon.....for now we are still enjoying our time as a family together again.

Catching up.

I have SO MANY pictures to share that I haven't even put on here. A summer full of memories, a trip to the beach, first day of school, and most importantly Jerome's surprise homecoming....where we surprised all three of our kids at each one of their schools.

I told myself I'm going to go in order here, chronologically, and not post current pictures until I get all the summer pictures posted. The problem with that is there is A TON of summer pictures.....and with the weather changing to the cold autumn air....I'm wanting to post more everyday I used to (when I was somewhat caught up), I want to be able to write when the mood hits me (not wait until I'm "caught up" and then try to remember the story from that moment).

Truth be known, we have been enjoying our time together as a couple and as a family again since Jerome returned home from Afghanistan in September. So I guess I will keep up with our everyday now....and every once in a while when you see a post about our summer vacation in the dead of will know that is just me catching up!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Camp Dawson.

JUNE 29th

Spencer spent a week at a military camp, Camp Dawson, this past summer.

He wasn't sure what to expect but he was looking forward to it.

At the end of the camp week they had a graduation ceremony.

We coordinated everything before camp to make sure that Spencer's dad would be able to watch his camp graduation ceremony.

We drove to Camp Dawson the day before.....and let me just say it is a drive.

We drove long curvy roads that seemed endless, up a mountainside and then back down again, and then back up again....I was beginning to believe we would never find this place.

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We woke checked in at Camp Dawson LATE that night.

The next morning we woke up, had breakfast and then got ready for to go to the ceremony.

Grandad and Grandma came to his camp to see his graduation.

The kids were all marched in as they sang their cadences and did what the instructors told them to do.

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Katie recorded Spencer marching in for me while I took pictures.

Jerome was able to watch his camp graduation from Afghanistan.

When Spencer marched in I could tell he knew his dad was watching.

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After the graduation they were dismissed.

We walked out into the large hall and found a place where the sound didn't echo so much, so that Spencer could hear his dad talking to him through Skype.

Unknowingly Spencer was standing at parade rest at first while he was talking to his dad.

I guess he had been taught so much the past week at camp which way to stand, that now it was just second nature to do so.

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These next two make me happy and sad all at the same time.

The first picture is how he lights up and is himself again while talking to his dad; the second, how he is when he is missing his dad.

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One of his instructors came over to talk to Spencer.

Spencer proudly introduced him to his dad and they all three had a good conversation.

He was holding the phone up to see how much Spencer really does look like his dad.

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Grandad joined in on the conversation too.

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Spencer's sweet girlfriend Danielle traveled up with us too.

They were both happy to see each other.

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Then Spencer got his shirt signed by one of his instructors.

A few of Spencer's friends signed his shirt and he signed theirs.

We stopped at the small gift shop there and bought Jerome some nice boot socks to ship over to him.

We started on the road and the first thing Spencer said as we were driving away, "I've never done so many push ups in my life!"

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Strawberry Pickin'

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June 20th.

 Katie dressed up in her white cotton dress.

I braided her hair and tied the ribbons.

I'm going to miss seeing these braids and ribbons on her when she gets older.

It reminds me of when she was very little, she loved having her hair in braids just like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.

We took some pictures with the strawberries.
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Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Deployment Trees.

June 26th

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I went with a friend of mine to a nursery that was closing to buy some trees and shrubs.

We drove home with Jerome's truck FULL of trees and shrubs.

I bought three Cleveland pear trees, two red maple trees, one peach tree, three apple trees, and four holly bushes....all for less than one hundred dollars.

I was excited being able to buy so many trees for so little.

But what I didn't think about was the amount of holes in the ground I'd have to dig.

That evening my plan was to get the trees planted in the ground.

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I wanted to mow the lawn least where I was planting the trees so that it would look really nice when I was finished.

I pulled the riding mower wouldn't start.

I pulled the push mower wouldn't start.

I decided to try the riding mower again, and with luck it started but was making an AWFUL noise. I turned it off, afraid that I would mess it up, walked across the street to my neighbors and asked if he could help me figure out why my mower is making that noise. He told me that he will when he has time......that right now he was busy planting all the trees that his wife had bought.

I said I understood and walked back to my yard. I decided to mow at least the place where I was going to plant the trees. I think you could have heard the mower a mile away....but I mowed it anyway.

Then I started digging the first hole for the first tree.

Our ground was SOLID and it took me almost an hour to dig that first hole.

I felt a sense of accomplishment when I looked at that first tree planted in the ground that I did all by myself.

Then I started on the second hole for the second tree.

This one took even longer.

As I was digging I couldn't help but watch my neighbors across the street.

Her husband was home. Her husband was digging the holes and planting the trees. Her husband was there.....mine was not.

I was still struggling with that second hole, trying to just get a hole dug so that I could plant the second tree.

My mind was flooded with thoughts of how I wish my husband was home.

I couldn't help but be jealous every time I would glance over at my neighbors house.

I had planted one tree in the time that he had planted four.

I was digging the hole alone and missing Jerome every single time I would put that shovel in the ground.

Molly, our dog, just kept looking at me. She knew I was upset and therefore staid right by my side.

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My emotions took over and I began to cry.

I felt alone. I felt like I was NEVER going to get these trees planted.

I went inside had a good cry. Poured me a tall glass of ice water. Pushed the lonely thoughts out of my mind and made myself get back out there and finish planting those trees.

By that night I had the three Cleveland pear trees planted that I had wanted to get planted that evening.

It was late and it was dark. I was watering my trees in the moonlight. But I did it, I managed to get those three trees planted....even if it did take me hours upon hours to do.....I did it, alone.

The next morning I woke up, smiled at how pretty the trees looked in the yard, tied a small yellow ribbon around each one, stepped back and decided these trees......these three trees were forever going to be known to me as the deployment trees.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Summer of Storms

This summer has been full of storms.

It seems if it isn't in the high temperatures, it is fiercely storming outside.

The end of June we were hit with a hard storm.

We were on our way back from picking Spencer up at Camp Dawson, over three hours away from home. The sky was as blue and clear as could be.

Thankfully mom called and warned me about a storm that was coming through and to be careful. I turned the radio on and sure enough there was a weather warning on.

In just a matter of minutes the sky was as dark as night and the wind was blowing terribly. We were driving through a construction zone and we were two miles from an exit. I pulled off the exit that I was familiar with and drove past cars that had decided to wait out the storm underneath an overpass. I knew there was a gas station just up ahead.

The road was covered in tree branches and by this time the storm was really coming down hard. I made it to the gas station, pulled up and parked and the kids and I jumped out and ran inside. The man stopped us at the door and told us that he was closed because their power was out. I asked him if we could just stand inside for some shelter until the storm passes. He agreed and about that time several other cars pulled in looking for shelter.

We waited out the storm and then went to my husband's parents house for the night. They lived just a few miles from the gas station we were at but driving through all the down trees and debris wasn't fun.

Their power was also out but we made it fun and camped out at their house for the night. The kids played board games, visited with Grandad and Grandma and spent the night tucked in safe and sound.

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The next morning we all got ready and started home. The kids were begging for me to run through Tudor's Biscuit World....I told them it would be closed but they didn't believe me.

 I turned the radio on only to hear the craziness that the storm had brought with it. The power was out almost everywhere around us. There were only a handful of gas stations and most stores were only taking cash. I started to worry because we needed gas and I had no cash. A lesson well learned.

I made it to a gas station and to my surprise it wasn't awfully bad. There was a long line but they had attendants out  directing people to what pumps to go to. And the best part, they had a working ATM inside! I filled up the truck on gas and then went to the grocery store.

My mom called and their power was out, so was my sister's power and my best friend's power and water. I received a text from my friend and neighbor. It was pictures of our home and it said, "A big mess but at least we have power!" I was SO RELIEVED to know that we had power.

My parents, my sister Savannah and her two boys, my grandma, my sister Jolena and her two girls (and Natalie who had been staying the night with them and my best friend Mariah and her daughter ended up staying with us. There was a house full but it was fun. I was glad that I had power, running water and a place that they were able to stay, and that it was with us.

The kids spent the days beating the heat by swimming in the pool. I think for days they basically lived in the pool.

The storm did mess up our tree in our front yard. The tree that I tied a yellow ribbon around and promised to not take it off until Jerome is home safe again.

 We headed into July and many still didn't have power or water to their home.

The power would come back on at places, then another storm would hit and knocked the power back out again. It was crazy.

We watched several more storms go through. One time we sat on our front porch and watched the storm blow in.

Another time the kids pulled up the chairs and sat and watched the storm pass through. They watched the sky get dark, the rain come down hard and the wind blow through the trees.

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And here we are the end of July, still waiting for a storm to pass.

The kids start back to school in three weeks.

With all of these storms this summer it feels like the kids haven't had much of a summer.

This was taken on our way home this evening.

I had picked up one of Natalie's friends to stay over and we were headed to the store. I saw the sky and quickly changed my mind. So we turned around and headed back home.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Our 4th of July

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We had a wonderful fourth of July this year.
Some of my family and friends were still staying here with us due to the storm that went through here the week before.

The rest of my family came out for a cookout.

All of the kids swam in the pool.

The burgers tasted great.

And thanks to a little pep talk from my sister earlier that morning, I made this 4th of July as memorable as I could, even without Jerome here. (Thank you Jolena)

 What better way to eat popsicles and beat the heat.....swimming in the pool!

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Earlier that day Spencer bought some firecrackers with his birthday money.

He set them off while we waited for the REAL fireworks to begin.

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Standing barefoot in our front yard, watching the fireworks,listening to our kids run through the water just didn't feel the same without him standing there beside me with his arm around me.

I decided to send him "a little home" and recorded the fireworks for him to watch over there. I made a video and I know I will always remember this 4th of July just like this.

I love this man.

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Every once in a while our youngest daughter receives a message from her daddy.

"Here's my moon tonight...does yours look the same Kaitlyn? Love you Monkey"

She looks forward to these little messages from her daddy and the picture with his moon.

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Time is going by fast but at times it feels like it is going slowly.

These cookie brownies we sent him in the beginning of his deployment have been a favorite over there.

He L.O.V.E.S. these brownies!

He shares with everyone and then has a few left over for himself.

A while back I promised to make him a whole box full of these brownies and ship it out to him.

While our kids were at camp I spent the morning making batches and batches of these brownies. After letting them cool, wrapping them in loads of saran wrap and packaging them in a box....I took them to the post office to ship.

The man at the post office getting the box ready for shipping noticed the inside of Jerome's box.

He asked if I minded if he take a peek. Of course I told him I didn't mind and then he smiled and told me how he had never seen the inside of a shipping box decorated the way that I had.

 I told him the kids and I enjoy decorating them for him. And it feels good sending him a little bit more of home.

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And as requested from a few of his friends over there, here is the recipe -

 Reese Chocolate Chip Brownies. 

Use a square muffin style pan. Spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Spoon chocolate chip cookie dough into the bottom of each square, then press flat.

Unwrap a Reese cup and place upside down in the center of each square.

 Make your brownie mix according to the directions on the box.

Pour brownie mix into each square until about 3/4 full.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

The brownie squares will look a little moist in the center, but after trial and error I have found that 20 minutes is good. Any longer in my oven and they are burnt brownies:)

 Let cookies cool.

 For packaging, I let the cookie brownies cool COMPLETELY.

 I wrap each one in saran wrap. Then wrap three at a time in a long piece of saran wrap. Then I place several of these brownies wrapped into a ziploc bag.

Catching up.

We have had a BUSY summer.

Which is exactly what I was hoping for.

One more season almost over.

Soon it will be fall, the kids will be back in school.

And then winter and Christmas break.

Then it will be time for him to come home.

I've taken SO many pictures this summer but I just haven't taken the time to post any or keep up with this blog.

I'm hoping to catch up these next couple of days, especially seeing the forecast is predicting nothing but rainy weather.

Everything will be out of order somewhat, but at least it will be here!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Horses for Heroes

In May I took our kids to River Cities Therapy and Recreation Center for the Horses for Heroes program. I had found the program through .

I think deployments are different for reservist families. We don't have all the activities and support groups that you would find near a military base with active duty families.

I just happen to come across the Operation We Are Here website. It felt comforting to read it. To know that I wasn't the only one feeling the way I had felt, alone, isolated and forgotten about. Other than close family and friends we hadn't heard from anyone since Jerome had been deployed in January. No visits to our home and help with things we needed help with that you so often see in other duty communities. Even the recent book written by Mrs. Biden gives a different feel of what a deployment is like to go through.

I was at Target recently and came across her book. I knew immediately that I wanted to buy it for our girls, especially when I opened the book and the little girl's name in the book was Natalie. I stood there in the children's book section reading it. After reading it I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. The book definitely did not resemble the kind of deployment we are going through. Needless to say I put the book back on the shelf.

That is why I am thankful places like, Operation We Are Here exist. I know that I am not the only one who has ever felt this way going through a deployment, and just knowing that gives me comfort. I am also very thankful for the resources they have available for military families. That is how I found the program Horses for Heroes and the Blue Star Families program.

I submitted our name to the Horses for Heroes program and it wasn't very long that I heard from the kind woman that runs the River Cities Therapy and Recreation Center. We scheduled a date for our kids to arrive and I told our kids about it that evening. They were very excited.

This deployment has been tough. It has been tough on all of us. I see sadness in all three of our kids but the one I see it the most from is Spencer. He isn't the same boy since his dad left for deployment. I don't see his genuine smile that often and I don't hear his laughter like I used to. It has been a struggle for him. And that is where I am most thankful for this program. Driving to the stables he kept asking if he had to ride and of course I told him yes because I had signed all three of them up. When we arrived everyone there was kind and friendly. All three kids rode the horses, laughed with everyone there, played with the dogs and felt at home. By the time we left they felt like family. The kids even said that in the car on the way home. Spencer talked all the way home along with Natalie and Katie (something that he doesn't do alot of either). I was happy because that evening the warmth and kindness that was shown to me and my children was beyond amazing. I had seen Spencer laughing and smiling, talking with everyone there about his dad and even joking around with them when he didn't want to ride the horse...especially when they told him he'd have to wear the pink helmet (he and Katie traded because there was NO WAY he was going to wear a pink helmet). On the ride home, the sound of all three kids talking about their evening and getting to ride the horses filled our conversations. The deployment didn't fill their conversations, rather the wonderful evening and the kindness that was shown filled it instead. I am beyond thankful to the woman running this program. I hope that she will know how much this meant to our kids.

While we were there I was told that she had just signed up to be a part of the Horses for Heroes program and that we were actually the first family to use the program.

Thank you River Cities Therapy and Recreation Center for the wonderful evening you gave my children. Thank you for their smiles you gave them, it was good to see the deployment far from their throughts that evening.

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Katie was the first of my kids to ride a horse. She was a little nervous at first but warmed up to it fast. In the end she was the one out of the three of them who did the best.

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Then it was Natalie's turn. Anyone that knows her knows that this is what she has always wanted to do. She has loved horses since she was two years old. She was excited to get to ride a horse.

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It took her a while to get the hang of how to sit on a horse. She kept sliding over to the left of the saddle. Eventually she got it.

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Then it was Spencer's turn....after of course he traded helmets with Katie.

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He is ducking his head here (what he usually does when I try to get a picture of him)....sorry to say Spencer but you were on a horse in an open field....I don't think you can hide that much.

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This.....this is his genuine smile. I was excited to see it.

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He was talking about his dad and the deployment to someone here.

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And if ever there was a picture that he looks like Jerome would be this one. Jerome gives this same look a lot...exactly.

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Even the horse was having a good time...

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River Cities is a complete volunteer program. The kids talked about wanting to go help and be a volunteer, they were excited about it. I promised them that we would, they still ask every once in a while. We've been gone a lot this summer, between summer camps, a trip to the beach with my husband's parents, swimming in the pool...time has gotten away from me. I need to check into the time and day again so that I can take my kids to help work at this wonderful place.
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