Saturday, November 12, 2011

Veteran's Day

On my first Veteran's Day as a military mom, I was very lucky. My daughter was home.

She flew home late Thursday from Georgia to Colorado to spend the long weekend with us.

On Friday morning, we had a date with Kylie's third grade class. Danni had agreed to visit and talk to the kids.

When we arrived, there was a group of Cub Scouts out front, learning how to do a flag-raising ceremony.

We were just standing there, and one of Cub Scout leaders came up to Danni and shook her hand, and said, "Are you here to help with the flag-raising ceremony?"

Danni said, "Well, umm...I'm just..."

And the man literally pulled her by the hand and said, "Great! Come on!" And he dragged her away.

Cue me, laughing hysterically. I followed them, because I had my camera.

When I caught up with them, they were over by the side of the school. The guy in the brown jacket who had so thoughtfully dragged her over there, was talking to the boys. One of the boys had noticed that the flag on Danni's uniform was backwards, whereas the flags on the Cub Scout uniforms were not. The leader was explaining that the flag was backwards because it represented the soldier running into battle, with the flag flying behind her.

The looks on the faces of these little boys were priceless. A real live soldier was talking to them!

After she answered a few of their questions, they marched over to the flagpole and had their ceremony.

They had Danni raise the flag. That was pretty darn cool, with everyone looking on and the little boys doing their Cub Scout salute.

When school started, we went into Kylie's class.

We spent about 20 minutes with them. The teacher explained a bit about what Veteran's Day was and then let Kylie introduce her sister. Danni talked a bit about her job as a medic and what she is learning, and then she answered the kids' questions.

She did really well. I would have thought she had been a public speaker all her life. When I mentioned that later, she said that it's a lot easier to talk to kids. I would agree with that.

Can you spot the proud, beaming sister next to the soldier?

Happy Veteran's day to all who have served, and are currently serving. We are grateful for you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Twenty Years Ago Today

Today is our 20th wedding anniversary. My husband and me. 20 years. 20 years, three kids, ups, downs, good times, bad times.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. Everyone congratulates you. It's making me feel old.

On the bright side, Steve ordered up a beautiful snowstorm for me today. At least, that's what he said, that he ordered it for me for our anniversary. I love it. Best. Present. Ever.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Basic Graduation

Last month, on May 4th precisely, so I'm only a month late writing this...we traveled from Denver to Lawton, OK (by car, not recommended) to see my baby graduate from basic training.

Well, we left on May 4th, very early in the morning. We got there in the evening. This was a Wednesday, right?

The hotel we stayed at had an indoor pool. Being a native of Arizona (which meant swimming from April to October) and now being a Colorado kid and having not seen a pool since August...this had to be the first thing Kylie did. Someone diagram that sentence, please. I think it's a little off.

Thursday was Family Day. We went to the base at about 9am, and they had a demonstration of marching, hand to hand combat, introduced the honor grads, and had a citizenship ceremony for three members of the platoon who were becoming American citizens. That was neat. In case you can't tell which one of those identically dressed people is my daughter (it took me a while to find her), I drew a heart on her.

After the ceremony, the soldiers were released to get into their dress uniforms and spend the rest of the day with their families. Up until this point, we still hadn't been able to talk to her or be within 100 yards of her.

She was awfully excited to see her sisters. And they were pretty excited to see her.

This one just about killed me.

This is Danni with one of her "battles." They have designated battle buddies, because they don't go anywhere (even the bathroom) alone. They just call each other battles. I think these two will be friends for life.

So we spent the afternoon with Danni in Lawton. There's not much to do in Lawton. We went out to lunch, and then to the one mall they have. Surprisingly, it seemed as if most of her platoon was at the mall too. Like I said, there's not much in Lawton.

Danni's friend above was with us, because her mom hadn't arrived yet. I think they spent about $100 each in Victoria's Secret. One of the girls who worked in the store said they always love family day, because they get an influx of girls who haven't seen makeup or frilly underwear (or a mall) in 10 weeks, and they all have 10 weeks of pay that they've had no use for up until now.

Also, Danni decided to treat herself to her first really nice phone. All we've ever given the poor kid is whatever you could get for free or maybe $20 with your upgrade. And never a smart phone. Because have you seen the prices of those data/internet/whatever plans?

She bought herself a Droid Incredible 2, which is a nicer phone than I will ever have. She got a plan with unlimited data/internet/whatever, to which I said, "That's nice, honey!", because I DON'T HAVE TO PAY THE BILL. How nice is THAT?

After the mall, we went back to our hotel room and just hung out for a while. She enjoyed lying on the bed just relaxing and watching TV. I guess she hasn't been able to do that for a while.

An hour or so before we had to take her back to the base, we headed to a park to take some pictures. I told her I wanted a nice picture of her in her uniform, because guess what? You know those basic traning pictures that everyone has next to the flag? She doesn't have one. I still don't know why, but she doesn't. Which is fine, because she looks amazing now. She lost about 20 lbs in basic training and she is shape. Maybe I should go to basic training.

So, this is my own official basic training portrait of her. I like it.

I have to say, this is my favorite picture of these two, EVER. In one picture, I've summed up both of their personalities perfectly. Oh, and did I mention that Danni and her battle also got their nails done at the mall? I guess a lot of the girls do that too.

As much as these two have fought over the years, this is sort of... rewarding? Heartwarming? Amazing?

My three babies. Where one is in the army, a second one is driving and now officially a high school junior, and the other one...well, she's still a baby. Make her stop growing right now, please.

We dropped her off at the base around 8pm and headed back to the hotel. The next day, Friday, was graduation. I don't really have any good pictures of the actual graduation, mainly because it was very dark in the auditorium and most pictures came out blurry.

Outside the auditorium afterwards, my officially graduated soldier and her youngest sister.

Here's Danni with her very proud grandparents, who arrived Thursday afternoon from AZ. My dad was like, beyond proud of her. Like more proud than he's ever been of me. These are the grandparents that Danni lived with her senior year of high school when we moved to Colorado. I know there were a lot of times that Danni felt like an intruder as the year went on, and you could tell my dad in his 70s was tiring of living with a teenager. I don't blame him.

However, he is over the moon about this army thing with her. I told him that if he's as proud of her as he seems, he should take her aside and tell her. Which is not the sort of thing that my dad does. But he did. Which was awesome.

You know what I just noticed right now, this very second? My parents. Are both. Wearing. Fanny packs. Fanny packs! How did I not notice that when we were all there? I think I might have to have a talk with them.

The whole family, all very proud of our soldier.

She got to spend the rest of Friday with us as well. We went out to lunch again, where she calls everyone "ma'am" and "sir". Not us, because that would be weird, but like the waitress: "What would you like to drink?" "I'd like an iced tea please, ma'am". And the people all over Lawton who would randomly congratulate her, because they're used to this. Fort Still graduates a platoon every weekend. Random man: "Congratulations!" "Thank you, Sir". It still sounds very strange coming out of my daughter's mouth. But it made me proud. Yes, I know it's required when they're in uniform. But still. Was this MY daughter?

But out of public, in the hotel room, oh yes, it most definitely is my daughter. With more of a potty-mouth than she had 10 weeks ago. I think it's an army thing. I'm glad she hasn't changed too much. Only for the better. I talked to her on the phone last night, and she's still the same kid. She told me that the girls in her bay were having races up and down the hall in chairs on wheels. Sounds like a college dorm. Must be the weekend!

Anyway, we had to leave her at the base again Friday night, because she was shipping out early Saturday morning. I cried. Danni said, "Mom, don't cry." How can I not? We have to leave you. Again. And you're in the freaking ARMY.

We left Saturday morning for that hell of a drive back to Denver. It's not quite a long as Denver to Phoenix, but almost. Which is why I already have PLANE tickets for the girls and me for our trip to AZ this summer (Yay! Planes!) 14 hours in a car, vs. 1 hr 45 min. on a plane. I (and my Xanax) will take the plane, thanks. Even if it is a bit of a hit to the wallet.

Danni is now spending 16 weeks at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, beginning her training as a medic. She will be able to get her LPN while in the army, and then eventually college and an RN. That's the plan, anyway. We don't know yet where she's going to be stationed when she graduates from AIT. Can it please be somewhere safe?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Happy Basic Training Birthday

I have three daughters. The oldest one, we've always called Danni. She turned 19 on Friday.

She turned 19 in basic training. This was hard for me. Not only could I not hug her or tell her happy birthday, I couldn't even call her. Hopefully, the large envelope of cards, letters and pictures I sent her will suffice.

Her platoon having a Facebook page is interesting. Because I get to see what they are doing. And when they post pictures, I'm scouring each one, looking for her. I'm saving them all. My mom said she is saving them all too, and will make a scrapbook for Danni. I like that idea, because I would just save the pictures. My mom is the best grandma ever.

So, pictures from the Facebook page. This one is from one of the first few days she was there. They just finished week 5 of 9, in case you're wondering. Graduation is May 6th.

During week two, they got to do the gas chamber. I know this is the only thing she was really dreading, so I'm glad they got it out of the way in week two. I know this is her, because her name is was her uniform in all the pictures. I've strategically blurred it out, so I don't cause a national security incident.

She wrote me a letter and said that the gas chamber really sucked. I can kind of tell by this picture of her after she came out. Judging by the look of the guy behind her, he didn't care for it much either.

Then, there are the guns. Excuse me, rifles. I've already been corrected on that one. By my father. She's the first one in line there, getting her rifle...cleaned?

She wrote me that she likes shooting. It's fun. And she's even pretty good at it. I'm sure that during her medical/nursing duties, shooting a rifle will come in handy. Yes, I know they all have to learn it. It doesn't mean I have to like it.

Kapow! Blam! Boom! Wait. I might be thinking of comic books.

Hello, Private Danni. Nice shooting, there.

Wait, what is this? Smiling? In basic training? Is this allowed?

Awww, look...she's making friends. It's just like college, except with, you know, rifles and hand grenades. And protective eyewear.

Happy birthday kiddo. Four more weeks until graduation. Oklahoma here we come!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Army Goes Facebook

So, how's this for weird? My daughter's platoon has a Facebook page! It was created and is being run by the wife of one of the drill sergeants. On Sundays we get a schedule of what they'll be doing the coming up week. Also, family members of the soldiers can leave messages and she will (she says) pass them along.

The family members are starting to talk to each other, which I think is cool. By the time we go to graduation at the beginning of May, I'll already know all these people.

In case you're interested, the Facebook page is here: Bravo Battery Bushmasters

They also post pictures. Lots of pictures. Hundreds of pictures. As usual, my daughter is quite adept at hiding from the camera. I have been able to find a few of her though. I snagged two of them where I could actually see her face:

That's my baby in the middle there, standing in formation on day 1 of basic training.

This was on Friday. They called this the Treadwell Tower, and it's a mass of ladders, rope bridges, and a 40 foot rappelling wall. Out of the 300 pictures or so that they posted on Friday, this is the only one I could find of her. Looked to me like she had climbed up the ladder behind her, and was kneeling on a platform ready to take on a rope bridge. Kylie said it looked like a big playground. :)

I also got to talk to her briefly yesterday. She said that they were allowed to use their phones for five minutes. Because of the earthquake in Japan, there were lots of soldiers worried about friends/family members stationed or living in Japan, so they let them have some phone time.

She told me that things were going well, and that it's really not bad. The thing that is the hardest for her (she says) is "immature people who can't keep their mouths' shut, so the whole platoon winds up paying for it." I guess she doesn't like it much when one person gets out of line, and everyone has to run or do pushups or whatever. I wouldn't like that much either.

She said (after week 1) that the training itself isn't bad at all. Some of it is even kind of fun (See: rope bridge, playground). This coming Tuesday is not going to be fun, but at least they are getting it out of the way at the beginning. The gas chamber. Where they get to go in to a chamber with gas masks on, then they get to take them off and see what it feels like to be gassed. I've seen other pictures and video on YouTube...they all come out crying and gasping and puking. I hope on that day, I don't see any pictures of her. This is the only thing she has been dreading. But like I said, at least they're getting it out of the way early.

I think the hardest part of this whole thing for me is trying to separate the pride I have for my daughter with my feelings about the military. I am not a big fan of the military, war, guns, killing, bombs, or anything war-related. I don't care for movies about war. I don't like violence at all. And my daughter has joined the army. Don't get me wrong, I am so, so proud of her. How many 18 year-old girls are completely and totally on their own? Getting training, and earning money while doing it. With no husband or children, and hardly anything she needs to spend money on, she's going to have a nice fat balance in her checking account by the time she's done with AIT (Advanced Individual Training).

Her AIT will be at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, which is directly after basic. If you're in the medical field, that's where you go for AIT. Her job is 68W, or a medic. She wants to eventually become a nurse. Anyway, back to the part where I am so very proud of her. She didn't want to take money from us, nor go into debt to pay for college. You know what she wants to buy when she gets out of AIT? A laptop. Not a car, not a big screen TV, not a mall full of clothes. She wants a nice laptop. I told her, "Baby, you'll have plenty of money and you'll definitely have earned it, so you go buy yourself the nicest, shiniest laptop you can find." :)

I love that kid. The military, not so much. But I sure do love her. Have I mentioned that I'm really, really proud of her?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Purple Hand

So, this Army thing. My fears are realized and my daughter has already been injured. But perhaps a little backstory.

When you go to basic training, you don't actually start basic training right when you get there. The first week is called reception, where you are not in the actual barracks, but in some sort of holding place. In Danni's case, a hall with about 50 girls and bunk beds and lockers.

So you spend reception week getting your uniforms, seeing the doctor and dentist, getting immunizations (you know, whether you had them as a kid or not, I guess you get to have them all again) and getting paperwork in order. I'm not sure how this takes a week, but whatever.

When you're in basic training, every night, 7 or so people (or however long they sleep) have to do an hour of "guard duty." What they are protecting, I don't know. But what I'm saying is on certain nights, you have to wake up in the middle of the night and stand guard for an hour, then go back to bed.

In reception, I suppose they are preparing you for this when they do the same thing, except instead of guard duty, you're just watching the reception desk. In the middle of the night. To make sure it doesn't escape, or something.

Danni arrived at Fort Sill on Wednesday the 16th. On Thursday night, sometime in the middle of the night, she had her turn at holding down the fort. Oh, I slay me. Get it, fort? Sill?

She also managed to get herself a top bunk, not by choice. Apparently, there are no ladders or anything, you just jump down and climb up.

Now, the week before she left, she didn't get much sleep. She was nervous and scared and jittery. So I'm blaming exhaustion on the fact that my daughter, getting up to watch the reception desk in the middle of the night, fell out of her top bunk. Onto a concrete floor. She landed on her butt, and her left hand.

Well, her butt is fine, but her left hand ended up like this:

In case you're wondering how I got the picture, they're allowed to keep their cell phones while they're in reception week.

They took xrays, and fortunately, nothing is broken. She just has some deep bone bruises on her hand and wrist. However, this injury did prevent her from leaving for actual basic with her unit on Wed. the 23rd. Because you can't do pushups with your arm in a thing.

So on Wednesday, all the girls except Danni and one other girl who has some sort of infection, left. And a new crop of girls came in. When the first group left? My girl grabbed a bottom bunk.

She is pissed, because reception is boring, and she has to stay another week. As far as I know, she will actually start basic this Wednesday, March 2nd. You know what they do in reception? They sleep, eat, clean and work out. Woooo.

On the bright side, she said the food is surprisingly good. On the night I talked to her, she said she had some amazing spinach lasagna. So there's that.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Daughter Wears Combat Boots

These are my kids on February 14th at the Downtown Sheraton in Denver. See the one in the middle? On February 14th, she was still a civilian.

That night, we had to leave her at the Sheraton. Kylie wasn't going with us to the swearing in the next day, so she had to say her goodbye here. You know what's hard? Saying goodbye to your eight year-old sister. You know what's even harder? Crying in the car all the way home because your eight year-old daughter is crying that she's going to miss her big sister so much.

This is my daughter on February 15th, when she ceased to be a civilian and became a soldier. More crying, because my baby is vowing to protect and defend our country, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Well, not because of that, but because she's leaving. And because I am so dang proud of her.

My 18 year-old and 16 year-old babies. I don't care, they're still babies. And look, they even look like they love each other in this picture. Ok, I know they love each other, but they do have a hard time living together. Something about taking each other's clothes and makeup.

Proud and sad. Sad and proud. You know what the worst time of the day is? When I'm driving to work. 25 minutes by myself, to do nothing but think about how much I miss her, what I'm going to say in my next letter, and hoping to God she doesn't get hurt, or worse. One day, I will stop crying in the car on the way to work every day. She's only been gone a week. It will stop, right?

Her job is 68W, Healthcare Specialist. She's going to be a nurse, eventually. I'm really, really glad she's going to be helping people, not killing them. Yes, I'll say it....I'm terrified she's going to have to go to the Middle East. Even though I've been told that in her job, not a lot of women go there because of the issues of Middle Eastern countries and their disdain for women. I've been told she would have a choice, and I know she would choose not to go there. It still scares me.

Honestly? I've been told this and that, but I have a hard time trusting the Army. I'm afraid they're going to suck out her soul. What if I go to her graduation from basic training at the end of April, and they've replaced my daughter with a Danni-looking robot? I just don't want her to change. More responsible would be good. But I don't want her to change.

Oh, Doctor? Can I get a four-year supply of Xanax, please?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Having a Job Is Time Consuming

The fact that having a job is time-consuming might be obvious to most people, but I forgot just exactly how little free time you have when working 40 hours a week, plus another 10 hours (30 min. each way, 5 days) commuting.

I'm still here, and I read everyone's posts when I get a chance, and have done zero commenting. I have so much to catch up on.

I think I wrote the last post about my job before I actually started. I was under the impression that I would be working at a help desk in a hospital. That's not exactly the case. I work for...well, I'd rather not have anyone search the name of the company and have my blog come up, but it's three words. First word is a major religion with the pope as its leader. Second word is the opposite of sickness, or a type of insurance we'd all like to have. Third word, initiatives. Well, I don't actually work for them yet, since it's a contract to hire position. I work for the contractor right now, but I really like the job and I think they like me pretty well, so I'm hoping that sooner rather than later, I will be hired on and then my family will know, that type of insurance we'd all like to have.

So I work not in a hospital, but in a very, very nice office with a room full of (mostly) very cool people, and we support about 70 hospitals from that room. Calls range from nurses who lock themselves out of every medical computer application known to man (those are the easy ones), to help with an Excel spreadsheet, to "I can't find my personal files in Outlook", to "I need a shared drive mapped to my computer." There are also calls about phones and printers and scanners and such where we just send a ticket to their local IT people. Then there are the calls about which I am completely clueless, and have to ask for help. But that's ok, everyone in the room is always asking questions of co-workers. And I find that as time goes by, I'm having to ask fewer questions, which is good.

In a nutshell, I really like the job, like the office, like the people. Being away from the house 50 hours a week is the only hard part. I work from 11am to 7:30pm right now. The nice part is that I am able to get up with the kids in the morning and get them off to school, then still have a little time to get a few things done around the house. The bad part is not getting home until 8pm. Luckily, I have Shannon to watch Kylie, and she's doing a pretty good job.

Speaking of Shannon...

How is it that this little rugrat turned 16 this past week? My middle child is 16. Sad that she's growing up? Yes. But with the passing of time also comes the passing of the adolescent angst, thank God. She and her boyfriend Jacob just passed the 10 month mark, and they seem pretty happy. He's a nice kid, if not so much in the ambition department, and he's sweet to her, so it's all good at this point.

Speaking of kids, Danni is home! She leaves for basic training a month from today. It's so nice to have her back. Three months of living on her own has really changed her for the better, I think. The "I'm 18 and you can't tell me what to do" attitude is gone, and I feel like I have my daughter back. She is excited to start basic, because she wants to get her life going. She is going to be going in as an E3, and is on an RN track, with her army job title being Health Care Specialist. For now, she is enjoying sleeping in and spending time with her sisters.

I promise, very soon, to visit all of you and see what you are up to. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and a very happy new year!