Happy Thanksgiving!

20131128-190157.jpgThis Thanksgiving, I am thankful for relationships with friends and family. God never ceases to amaze me in the way He provides wonderful Christian friends no matter where in the world we are living! Today we celebrated Thanksgiving Day with a family we have known for less than three months, and yet who seem like family. Thank you Lord for your provision. We are so blessed!

Free date night

Yesterday afternoon we drove to Carmel Valley for a free date night. My parents had signed us up for a wine club membership last time they were here, so we get free tastings at Heller Organic Winery. It was our first time using our free tastings and it was really awesome! You just pop in, tell them you’re there for your membership tasting, drink wine, and leave. We discovered a free olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting bar, nearby too! There are also quite a few little home and garden shops around the area. We had a really nice time getting to know the area a little better. The kids even napped nearly the whole time we were gone (and my sister has been in town so even the sitter was free!)

It’s easy to use the expense as an excuse to not go out for date night. It was good to prove to ourselves that it can be done. In all reality, the purpose of a date night is just to spend time with each other and be able to speak an entire sentence without being interrupted by the littles. Even if you just go out for coffee and hire a teen to watch the kids, it’s much cheaper than a dinner and movie date night, which, let’s be honest, can run near $80 if you’re paying a sitter, buying two movie tickets and getting a sit-down dinner! But I’m happy to say, money isn’t an excuse for us not to go out anymore!

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Pacific coast run and fun

This morning we wanted to go tide pooling again, but John and I also had 3 and 5 mile runs to complete. So we decided to run to the coast and take the path along until we found a good place for tidepools. It was a perfect combination of work and play. My sister, Ivy, has been here this month, so it was great getting to share the fun with her.

20131116-134340.jpg We found millions of hermit crabs when we made it down to the rocky coast. I’d never seen so many in one place before! Olivia loved finding the hermit crabs and watching them come out of their shell and crawl around. She was so enthralled, that she completely ignored the fact that her feet (socks and all) we’re getting soaked in the freezing water of the Pacific. A few times there would be a huge wave come up and we’d all have to jump up the rocks to higher ground. It was quite fun!

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A new chapter

When I married John and left Texas my little sister was just 11 years old. This month she’s staying with us here in California. Both to help with the kids and our transition from NPS to DLI (which, in some ways is much more intense than the post-grad school), and just to spend some good time with her. Let’s face it – I got totally spoiled that last four months of John’s time at NPS. Since we had moved closer to the school in June, his commute was much quicker, and we had a separate guest house where he could study instead of spending all day every day at school. It was really nice to have the flexibility and his nearly constant availability. Don’t get me wrong – he was busting his tail on his thesis. I wish I could remember the title right now – something about Cocolera Movements in Bolivia, I think…it was deep. But, having him home to bail me out in emergency situations where Liv would almost certainly be peeing on the floor, while Cliff perused the house for small objects to put in his mouth – all of course, while I was burning dinner…or lunch…or breakfast. Ah, the life of a stay at home mom who makes three from-scratch, grain-free meals a day. I’m trying to simplify. Really I am.

It was great having John home for the nearly six weeks between NPS and DLI, too. However, I’ve been worried about how I was going keep up with both kids and the house and the meals. It may not sound like a lot, but it can be very overwhelming at times! Cue: Ivy! My awesome little sister – 10 years younger than me, we didn’t often spend a lot of time together one-on-one because of our age difference. But since we’ve gotten older 10 years feels like a much smaller gap. It’s been so much fun having her here. The kids love her, of course. It’s Aunt Ivy this, and Aunt Ivy that, all day long!

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It was important to me to create some organized routines that I can maintain 90% on my own, and just rely on her for occasional support and entertainment for the kids. So far I think we're on the right track. I don't want to become dependent on help, but she's available and willing for when I need it, which is awesome. Ivy was here in time to watch the kids for the Birthday Ball last weekend, too, which was a huge help! Last night her and I went out to see Thor 2 and spend some time together. We biked down to the little theater here in town and grabbed a coffee before the movie started. I think it was the first time we'd hung out just the two of us. It has been so much fun getting to know her for the young woman she's growing into! This month is already going by too fast! And by the way, the movie was great (and the first one I've seen in theaters since Les Mis last December! Yay, I broke the "I-have-two-kids-two-and-under-so-I-never-get-out-to-see-movies" streak!) I know my family back home is missing Ivy, but we sure are enjoying her time with us here!

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A very patriotic weekend

Saturday night John pulled out his dress blues, pinned on his medals, and buffed his shiny black shoes. It was time to celebrate the 238th Marine Corps Birthday!  I wore the yellow dress John got me three years ago, when I was just 10 weeks pregnant with Olivia and we were still with VMU-3 in Twentynine Palms. I wasn’t sure I’d ever fit back into this dress – and definitely was worried after not one, but two kids! But I did! Olivia was convinced I was a princess. It made me think forward to a time when she would be putting on a formal dress – maybe for prom, or maybe to be escorted by her daddy to the Birthday Ball someday.

Family pic

Ready for the Birthday Ball

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The evening brought back many good memories and some reality of the fleet that we’ve been distanced from since our time here in Monterey while John focuses on academic goals. It was good to be reminded of the importance of my Marine, and to remember that while he may not be in the fleet readying for rapid deployment, he’s doing important work to educate himself further and be an even better asset to the Marine Corps.

Birthday cake

The Birthday Cake

Table of the Fallen Comrade

The Table of the Fallen Comrade

John and Me

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In addition to the Marine Corps Birthday and Veteran’s Day this weekend, yesterday marked two years since John came home from Afghanistan the second time. He met Olivia at 6:30am on November 12, 2011 for the very first time. Dawn had just broke over the mountains of Twentynine Palms and symboled the beginning of our family – all together after a long seven month wait, we were ready to take on the battle of reintegration and figuring out what our family should look like.

It is still hard for me to see the pictures from that day. Any wife and mother who has been through this knows it’s an emotional trial that you will never completely forget. I put together a slideshow of John’s second deployment a while back but was unable to watch it myself. Here’s the link if you are curious what that seven months looked like for us.

It was impossible to imagine what two years together would be like. At the time John came back from his second deployment, the longest amount of time we’d lived together was 9 months. Now, looking back, I can’t believe how these two years have flown. I am so thankful for a husband who is able to come home every night, but at the same time I remind myself of all the other military wives who still don’t have that privilege. And I know I won’t forever, either. Another deployment is sure to be on the horizon in our future. For now, though, we are taking one day at a time and enjoying our days together.  Happy birthday, Marines!  And thank you dear Lord for giving our family another year together.