Sunday, May 30, 2010

Goodbye, Navy, and Fare Thee Well...

Tomorrow is our final day of uniformed Naval Service.  I say "our" because the Navy, in some way or another, has been a part of our relationship since that day (which I remember as clearly as I do yesterday) on which I first saw the man of my dreams.  Justin and I met the first semester of college, and he was in Navy ROTC.  On that first day, he was wearing the characteristic khakis of the Navy, and since then, the uniform and the great institution it represents, has been a formative part of our lives.  Sometimes nurturing, sometimes aggravating, but always, always present.

Until tomorrow when my husband will no longer be a serviceman, an officer; he will be a veteran.

My mind can hardly get a grasp on it.  Though we've never been the people who define themselves by their rank, and I've never been the type of woman who is, first and foremost, a "Navy Wife", I am, nonetheless, fully aware that our service has given us incredible opportunities that many of my peers are not afforded.  I am also acutely aware - and tremendously thankful - that it has challenged us and demanded that we overcome enormous hurdles that, likewise, my peers might not ever experience.

I will never assume that all military service is created equal; there are far more people who have far more trials and tribulations associated with the lifestyle and there are people who have a much easier time with it.  But that in and of itself makes me appreciate our 9 years even more.  I was blessed that my husband was never under fire, and as such, I am that much more grateful for those whose lives are at risk every day - for those who have sacrificed so much for our liberty and safety.  I can commiserate with those who spend months and months away from their loved ones because we have, ourselves, endured the achingly long nights of deployments.  And I can proudly say that I am strong enough to do whatever it is I need to for our family.
I am proud of him.  I am proud of my husband.  I am proud that he was a wonderful officer and am proud of all of his achievements.  I am proud that we, as a family, served our great country.  We did it together.

But we did not do it alone.

And even though we are taking off our rank and hanging up the ribbons, we will walk away with so much more - the friendships we've gained along the way and the lessons we've learned have enriched our lives to such an extent that, though we are no longer a part of the Navy, the Navy will always be a part of us.  It has enriched our marriage, our relationships, and ourselves as individuals.  We appreciate one another more than I would have ever thought possible because we know how awful it is to be alone.  Our friendships are forged with the understanding of how difficult the life can be, and those bonds we share with our Navy friends are deep and profound thanks to our shared journeys. 

So, as we move forward, it is bitter-sweet.  We are sad to leave the family we've been with for nine years, but excited for our new lives.  We are thankful, too, because our Naval service has built foundations that have enabled us to take this next step.  As our families prepared us for college and college prepared us for careers, so has the Navy prepared us to live the rest of our lives. 

We are part of a proud heritage.  My own grandfather, my Papa, is a veteran of many wars.  Wounded, weathered, and holder of many secrets, I am proud that we were able to fight in the same military in which he fought.  I am proud that we gave back for him. 

Yes, I am proud.

And I am thrilled that, though our career with the Navy is coming to an end while our children are so young - so young, in fact, that the girls will never know the stinging loneliness of a deployment - it will shape who they are because it has shaped who we are as people and as parents.

These are some of the many many memories and images I have from the last 9 years:
Jack holding a letter we received from Daddy during one of our deployments.
Standing in front of a banner we made. There is nothing in the world to match the elation a homecoming brings...
... and there is nothing in the world that matches the pain of watching a Daddy read his son a story one last time before he leaves.
Watching our boat sail out to sea, ferrying my best friend to depths unknown ...

... and watching my little boy demand to watch his Daddy read books on TV.

Newly-commissioned Ensign Gallagher and I... Very young and very eager and totally - totally - unaware of how drastically different our lives would be 5 years later.

And as college seniors - excited about everything we had committed to do and about our commitment to one another.
As juniors at Notre Dame, and recently engaged, the uniform was then, as it is now, one of my favorite parts of being a part of the Navy...
Our first date - November 10, 2001...

Thank you, Navy.  We will remember you fondly, always.  And thank you to all those who continue to serve and to sacrifice - we hold you tightly in our hearts and prayers.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

You Know You're A Mom When-sDAZE

I don't think it's much of a secret that one of my fave bloggers (and people!) of all time is Arizona Mamma.  I can always count on her to make me giggle or cry or nod my head like, "Yeah - YEAH!" And her fun meme for Wednesdays is no different.

She says, "'You Know You’re a Mom When-sDAZE' is a great way for us, as parents, to make light of our trials and tribulations. Our day to day run-ins with the crazy little people in our lives we call children."

Have you read my blog?  I think that's a pretty pervasive theme throughout the whole thing... but taking a special day to focus on just those absurd moments where it hits you that yeah, it doesn't matter how hawt stuff you used to be, right this moment you've got poo under your fingernails and goo on your chin and the most important task you've got is how to open that juice box before you have a three-year-old tantrum to quell.

For instance, most people would be aghast to see a small child playing in a toilet.  I, however, snapped a few pictures of Jordan thinking, "Aw, look how cute her dress is!" and continued stuffing inserts into my cloth diapers, taking advantage of her being occupied and not attempting to climb my leg or otherwise make diaper stuffing impossible.

Diaper stuffing?  Did I see myself doing that when I graduated from the University of Notre Dame?  No, I did not.

But that's okay, because poop washes off and goo is removable and Purell makes hand sanitizer.  Without all of that, I wouldn't have cute little hineys like this

to chase after, or adorable little imps like this

to keep me busy, or heart-melting scenes like this

to make me happy beyond belief.

So, even if installing a baby gate takes me 5 days or if a turd rolls out of a diaper and across the floor, necessitating that I snatch it up before a kiddo can so I have to just pluck it up bare-handed and get last night's dinner embedded under my nails, or if the toilet becomes a crutch to buy me 2 minutes of peace, I know I'm a mom.... and that makes me smile.

Join in if you've ever "been there"!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Parent-Proof Child-Proofing

We moved into a cute little house with a split foyer.  Really, cute house.  Not loving the split foyer thing, though, because it means we absolutely had to install a top-of-stairs baby gate. Okay, simple, right?

Well, not so much.  It was an $80 gate which ended up costing closer to $150.  It said it was a simple install, but it took us 5 days.

We have several extra pieces of wood attached to stuff and a banister with countless extraneous holes drilled in it, as well as several pieces of shrapnel embedded in it.

We have a 3-year old who knows a couple extra swear words.

But we do, luckily and finally, have a baby gate.

Now, normally, the way this works is this: you buy a gate and read the instructions and install it with the supplied hardware and you're good to go.  With us, however, we had problems from the very beginning.  We started down the path of failure by purchasing a gate that was not wide enough for our opening, necessitating a return trip and ordering a 2nd gate online.  Once it arrived, we meticulously read the instructions and discussed our plan of action (i.e. that we would install it while the kiddos napped one afternoon) and amassed the requisite tools: tape measure, tape, pencil, drill and screw-driver.

Essentially, the first step for us was: mount the brackets directly into the banister on one side and into a stud on the opposite wall, being sure that the gate would not be more than 3 inches off the ground.  Well, we busted out our stud-finder (insert husband-jokes here; and try to be creative as I've made probably every single stud-finding husband-related joke in the universe) and realized that it didn't work.  I told Justin it had never worked (keep the jokes rolling, here, folks) but he said it just needed a battery.  So, off to the grocery store I went in search of a 9v battery.

Nope, it wasn't the battery.

Off to the hardware store I went, in search of a stud finder.

Lo and behold, there is no stud directly across from the banister.  Womp, womp.  Back to the drawing board...

We determined that it would probably be okay to find a board that we could anchor into a stud and then mount the gate to THAT.  So, I went back to the hardware store to procure a board and screws that were long enough to go through the board into the stud and make us feel warm and fuzzy inside.  By this point, the kids had woken up and were VERY interested in what we were doing.

So, our next step was to drill holes through our board and into the stud, then use screws to attach it.  Well, we ended up stripping the screws to the point where we needed pliers to back the last one out and start all over.  (Who knew brass wasn't a good material to make screws out of?  I mean... why sell brass screws if they're wussy screws?)  Yikes... back to the hardware store I go for new screws and, while I'm at it, a new screw driver in case that was the problem to begin with.

At this point, we are thoroughly sick of this project and we've only just attached our anchor board to the wall and measured for the holes on the banister for mounting the hinges.

Next, we have to attach the hinges to the banister, so we measure the holes based on the instructions and start drilling.  Since Justin was sick of this (and we're on day 2 of the project) and I happen to enjoy my power drill, I volunteered to make the holes.  The top one went fine, but the bottom hole did not.  In fact, as I was backing the drill out of the hole to clear the sawdust off the bit and start in again, I realized that the drill bit that came out was significantly shorter than the drill bit that went in.


The bit broke off inside the banister.
How does that even happen?!  Durr.  Back to the hardware store; this time, for a new drill bit and wood putty to fill in the holes.  Since there's now a chunk of metal in the banister, there's no way a 2-inch screw can go into it, so we have to move the whole thing over half an inch and start all over.  Ditto for the wall-board on the opposite side.  So we hung  up the tools for the day and went on to day 3...

This is where the next bit of fun comes in.  We've now realized that the square parts of the banister are too far apart based on the dimensions of the gate and locations of the hinges.  Those hinges must be mounted to SOLID wood, which isn't possible based on the distance between the two pink arrows.


So now we need to build off our earlier solution and create a piece of solid wood to mount to the banister to bridge the gap between the top and the bottom.  Back to the hardware store.  We purchased some wood, some stain, some sand paper and more freaking screws so that when we mount the gate's hinges, the whole 2-inch screw will be sunk into the solid wood that we need to mount to the banister.  At this point, we've got the holes all measured and drilled and things are going well.  I went to change a few diapers and came back to find Justin pouting in a corner and Jack dancing around singing an expletive-laced song about broken tools.  Confused (since things seemed to have been fine - with a new drill bit and steel - not brass - screws) I asked what had happened only to be told that Justin, in his studly manliness, had torqued the head of the top screw off.  With an inch of it embedded in the banister already.  Leaving a small amount poking out of the wood.  Not enough to get ahold of with pliers and not enough to keep the thing secure.

Sigh.  We can't win.  We have no idea how to get the screw out... it seems that it's just plain stuck there until we take the whole contraption down.  ( which time I'm sure there will be yet another post about our continued epic failure.)

Oh, and did I mention that this is a rental house?  Because it is.  Otherwise, I would have given up long ago and built a brick freaking wall at the top of these stairs.

Isn't this awesome?  So, at the conclusion of the 4th day, we figured we'd won a small victory in that we were finally able to assemble the gate itself and begin looking at the hardware to hang it.

Turns out, that part wasn't too horribly difficult and by the end of day 5,

all systems were a "go" and we had a functioning gate.

So, that's what 34 years of combined education, 3 college degrees and 5 years as a nuclear engineer will get you: a total inability to function when faced with a 10-step instruction manual for a product made in Indonesia.  Now, I have no idea what made that banister so absurdly difficult to work with.  Maybe it had a metal core that we didn't realize was inside.  What I do know is that it will survive a nuclear holocaust.

At least our stairs are parent- baby-proofed now!

Monday, May 24, 2010

My Little Girls are One!

Well, on Saturday I got to celebrate the culmination of our first year with our precious twin girls.  I've been a giant ball of emotions as I reflect on the profound achievement their birthday represents... The struggles and challenges of this past year have been, at times, overwhelming, but the triumphs and joys have been breathtaking and far outweigh any of the difficulties.  From their birth onward, Addie and Jordan have been nothing short of astounding to me... And like a baby does not select how he enters the world, neither have my girls been at fault for much of the stress that has permeated the last 12 months.  However, what makes my heart swell with love and pride is the fact that the same stress would have been overpowering without their big velvety eyes staring earnestly into mine and their sweet smiles reassuring me that there is always a plan and their creamy skin for receiving my kisses to ease my nerves.

There is no doubt in my mind that Jordan and Addie are incredible little people... the only doubt I have is my ability to be the Mommy they deserve.  So, I hold on to that doubt and use it to drive me to be better.  From their conception, Addie and Jordan have ensured that I wake up every morning and have to actively work at being a mother - to them and to Jack - and at being a wife and woman as well.

Jack has been phenomenal also.  He has handled the entire transition so well - embracing his role as big brother just as solidly as he embraced his role as my baby boy over 3 years ago.  He takes his job seriously - all aspects - from protecting them and making them laugh when they're upset or ordering me to feed them when they cry to hurling balls directly at their heads or whomping them in the event that they play with his stuff.

Our whole family has grown.  Not just in that we have gone from a family of 3 to a family of 5, but we've become stronger, closer, more resilient and have overcome a hefty amount of adversity through nothing more than our love for one another - narrowing our focus so that we see only what is truly important despite what may be going on around us.

Addie and Jordan.  You are so much to so many.  The world is fortunate for your births and I am fortunate to have been chosen to be a part of that.  I can't believe how much you've grown this past year, and I am beyond excited to watch each new day unfold.  Thank you, for all you've given me, my babies.

(By the way, this post also counts as my entry in Mom 'n Me Monday at The Peanut Gallery!)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Black and White Wednesday

This is my sweet, beautiful Addie.  I love her so much.  She's incredible.  Recently she's started singing and taking a real interest in all things musical.  When we go to Mass she "sings" in her sweet little babble voice along with the choir and at dinner she'll keep "singing" the blessing Jack learned at school long after we've begun eating.  She'll sing and Jordan will dance to her song and my heart swells.  She doesn't do a whole lot of pulling up or cruising; she's content to crawl and to sit and flip through books.  She likes to stand at the windows and watch the world outside, then turn to me and tell me about everything she's seen in her sweet little voice with her husky laugh.  I love this age - she asks about everything she can: "Uuuuh DAT?"

My favorite thing about this picture is the lighting - I love how the left side of the picture is light and the right side is dark, but the left side of Addie is in shadow and her right is illuminated... it's so much like she is - multi-faceted.  She has a calm, sweet, passive side, but if she wants to be, she becomes bubbly and animated and steals the show with her funky sense of humor and 4-toothed grin.

So this is my Black and White Wednesday entry - The Long Road to China is where you can find more or enter yourself!  Enjoy!


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