Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

I Ain't Afraid of No Ghost

Tis the season to be scary!  Yes, Halloween, a holiday that feeds on fear, is quickly approaching.  But you won't be seeing me in any haunted houses or wearing a mask from those Scream movies.  Call me a wimp, but I don't get my kicks from being scared.

I'm not a scaredy cat per se.  Ok, well maybe I have to hit the mute button when the music in a scary movie starts getting creepy.  But I just don't see the entertainment value in having nightmares.  And it's one nightmare in particular that ruined scary movies for me forever.

I must have been 11 or 12 years old when I saw the movie Jagged Edge with Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges.  It's a courtroom thriller about a man accused of a violent murder.  Not exactly the kind of movie a tween should be watching.  But I watched the entire movie, including the ending that left me with such horrible dreams of masked men wielding gigantic killer knives that I ended up sleeping on a cot in my parents' room that night.  And because of that final scene, to this day, I can't sleep with my feet outside the covers.  I also have never watched that movie again.  It traumatized me!

I'm not scared of Nightmare on Elm Street or Poltergeist (because those are outrageously fake and could never happen).   I'm not scared of the Blair Witch Project (because I thought it was dumb).  And I'm only marginally scared of the Scream movies (marginally because they remind me of drinking beer in college).  But most scary movies that could maybe kinda sorta happen, like Silence of the Lambs (the reason I don't drink chianti), The Shining (the reason the term cabin fever gives me the heebie jeebies) , Copycat (the reason I hate public restrooms), and of course, Jagged Edge are the ones that terrify me.  Does that make me a scaredy cat?

So this Halloween, as with every Halloween, I'm playing it safe.  No haunted houses.  No creepy costumes.  No spooky decorations.  And the scariest movie I'll be watching is It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.

Do you like scary movies or are you a scaredy cat like me?  What's the scariest movie you've ever seen?  What scary things do you do for Halloween?

Linking up with Mama Kat and her always entertaining Writer's Workshop

My choice of prompts?  #3: Something that scared the Hell out of you when you were a child.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pass the Mucinex: What REALLY Happens When Both Adults in Your Family Have a Cold

I have a cold.  I'm not on my deathbed or anything, just feeling rotten and run down.  But being sick isn't my biggest problem right now.  No, my problem is that Mr. Roller Coaster has a cold too.  And when our husbands are sick, we wives not only temporarily lose the household help of another functioning adult, we also gain the demands of another child.  (Yes, I just called my husband a child.)

I don't think Mr. Roller Coaster and I have ever been under the weather at the same time.  Or at least not since we've become parents.  Typically it's just one of us who crawls into bed with Vicks VapoRub and a good book while the healthy one takes over parenting duties.  But what happens when both parents need to take a sick day? 

I'll tell you what happens.  Mommies are still mommies and daddies fall asleep.  Mommies don't get sick days.  Mommies still have to cook dinner, shuttle back and forth to baseball practice, pack school lunches, take the dog for a walk, and cough through bedtime stories before she can let Calgon take her away and Nyquil knock her out.  And don't even get me started on the bedroom the daddies are hiding out in where boxes of tissues explode on our side of the bed and the snoring forces us to retreat to the guest room.

Mr. Roller Coaster stayed home from work yesterday.  I took the kids to school as I always do, leaving him to a restful, quiet, responsibility-free day.  I stayed home from work today.  And this morning, after I wished him a cough-free day and watched him drive away, I looked at my children who needed breakfast and clean clothes and realized I had to get myself dressed and take them to school.  Did it ever occur to Mr. RC to take the kids to school?  Did it occur to him to make them breakfast or remind them to brush their teeth?  Why is it always assumed that I'll handle the child care?

At first I thought my frustration was just the Mucinex talking.  But after chatting with some of my female friends who have been married at least as long as I have, I discovered I'm not the only woman who's experienced this feeling of one-sided parenting, that the "I'm sicker than you so you need to take care of everything while I rest" mentality is actually quite common.  And I might as well get used to it because it doesn't improve with age.

So what really happens when both adults in the family have a cold?  I don't know what happens in your house, but in mine, it's a reminder that  females are clearly the stronger sex.

Have you and your spouse ever been sick at the same time?  How do you handle child care and other household responsibilities?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Piper Reed: Navy Brat

I'm always looking for books to read about military families.  There are plenty of books out there for military spouses and quite a few picture books for young children, but there seems to be a void when it comes to chapter books for military brats in elementary school.  So when I was offered the opportunity to review Piper Reed: Navy Brat, the first book in Kimberly Willis Holt's Piper Reed series, I jumped at the chance.

Piper Reed: Navy Brat is the story of an adventurous 9-year-old girl who happens to be the daughter of a Navy Chief.  She suddenly finds herself moving yet again, this time from San Diego to Pensacola.  She's not new to PCS moves.  In fact, in addition to San Diego, she's lived in Texas, Guam, Mississippi, and New Hampshire.  But this is the first time she's had to move during the school year.  And that's not easy for a fourth-grader.  The book follows Piper as she travels cross-country, moves into a new house, starts a new school, makes new friends, and copes with the fact that her father is about to deploy on a ship for six months.

Despite the fact that Amazon says the recommended age range for this book is 9 to 12, I decided to read it to my own children.  At first I thought my 4-year-old daughter wouldn't understand it and that my 7-year-old son would lose interest because the main character is a girl.  But my concerns were quickly dismissed when they started chanting every night at bedtime, "Piper, Piper, Piper!" 

While I think my daughter liked the book because it was about a girl with a firecracker personality like herself, I don't think she fully comprehended the military brat connection.  That's not surprising considering that she doesn't remember living anywhere but where we are now.   But my son definitely appreciated the parallels between Piper and himself, and he enjoyed hearing about situations he'd been through before.  His ears perked up when Piper and her family got to their new house and had to have a picnic on the floor because their furniture hadn't arrived yet and when Piper wanted to spend time alone with her father before he deployed.  He was able to relate to Piper and aspects of her lifestyle that most kids don't understand.

As a parent, I loved that the book acted as a conversation starter with my son, who, as a second grader, isn't particularly inclined to have meaningful discussions with me if the subject matter isn't Star Wars or Legos.  After finishing a chapter, we'd talk about quotes from the book such as, "I wondered what it would be like to live near my grandparents all year long" or we'd reminisce about all of the places our family had lived or visited thanks to the military.  I also loved the fact that the book focused as much on Piper's identity as a military brat as it did on her identity as a regular kid trying to find her place in the world. Just like Piper, being military brats is only one part of what makes my children who they are.

Piper Reed: Navy Brat is a wonderful story that will entertain military brats as well as their parents.  But don't take my word for it, ask my son.  He gave the book two thumbs up and declared that he wants to read all the other books in the series to find out what happens next to Piper.  I have to admit I'm curious myself.  Piper Reed is a character you won't soon forget.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Top 10 Things NOT To Do as a Military Spouse

Last week my military id was confiscated while I was visiting the clinic.  Yes, someone just took it and didn't give it back.  Yes, I knew it was expired.  Yes, I was hoping nobody would notice.  Yes, it was embarrassing when I was escorted into the clinic like a criminal.  Yes, it was a big fat pain to take time off from work today to get a new one.  And yes, I should have known better.

As I drove back to work with my shiny new id (with a much better photo than my last one), I thought about some other no-no's I've seen firsthand as a military spouse.  I'm not talking about unofficial rules like no public displays of affection while your man is in uniform or not letting your kids where his uniform for Halloween.  I'm talking about the little tidbits I've picked up over the years through experience and observation.

Here are my...

Top 10 Things NOT To Do as a Military Spouse

10) DON'T let your military id expire (or your power of attorney or your vehicle decal or any other document that's essential to military life).

9)  DON'T trust your husband to properly answer the question, "What am I supposed to wear to fill in the blank event?"  Call another spouse to confirm that you're appropriately attired.

8)  DON'T ever think you're alone.  If you're not a social type who likes to attend command events and get involved in your husband's community (hmmm, like someone I might know), read blogs, read books, find a handful of close friends.  There are a ton of ways to remind yourself that what you're feeling isn't unusual.

7)  DON'T wear an inappropriate dress to a military ball or your husband's Christmas party or any other event that will likely have a photographer present.  (This is especially important when combined with #6.)

6)  DON'T get sloppy drunk at a military ball or your husband's Christmas party or any other event that will likely have a photographer present.  Similarly, don't allow your husband to get sloppy drunk either.  I actually once saw a fellow mil spouse tape her husband's mouth shut because he was so drunk and obnoxious that she was scared of what else he might say.  Sadly, when I think about this couple, that's what I remember most.  You don't want to be remembered for your drunken conduct.

5)  DON'T forget to check in on other spouses whose husbands are deployed.  I was once the wife everyone forgot to call.  It's not a good feeling.  On the flip side, DON'T forget to ask for help when you need it.

4)  DON'T wear your husband's rank.  I haven't run into this a lot, but I can tell you it isn't pretty.  You not only hurt a lot of feelings, but you look like an idiot and you risk making your husband look like an idiot too.  Unless you are in the military yourself, you do not have a rank.  So don't act like you do.

3)  DON'T trash talk any service member you've had a less than pleasant encounter with while you're at your child's playgroup/the base pool/the commissary/Bunco/basically anywhere that service member's wife might also be attending.  This is especially important if you live on base or in a small military community.  And yes, I've been on the receiving end of this one too.  (I chose not to tell the new mom at playgroup that I shared a bed with the person she was quite passionately complaining about.)

2)  DON'T ignore advice from seasoned spouses.  Whether it's about deployments, PCS'ing, cool duty stations, the ins and outs of TRICARE, or military etiquette, they've been there, done that and bought the t-shirt.  Almost everything I know about being a mil spouse I learned on Bunco nights with the girls.

1)  DON'T let your title as a military spouse become your entire identity.  It's only a piece of who you are, not everything you are.  Make sure you nurture all those other pieces of you.

What would you add to the list?

Monday, October 17, 2011

To Homestead or Not to Homestead, That is the Question

I've been writing this blog for almost 2 years now.   And I've never written about PCS'ing.  Well, I've mentioned PCS'es our family has gone through in the past, but not recent PCS'es.  I've had a couple of people ask me when we'll be moving but I usually answer that I don't really know.  And the reason I don't really know is because my husband and I have become homesteaders.

Yes, that's right, we have no desire to PCS.  Therefore, we're planning to stay here as long as possible. 

Our first duty station wasn't bad.  We liked it for awhile, but as we drove away from our house to embark on our next adventure, we never looked back.  We were ready to move on.  Our second duty station was fabulous!  But we had to leave.  Didn't have a choice.  But now, at our third duty station, we have some options, and the possibility of staying in one place long enough for our son to get through elementary school is very tempting.

Mr. Roller Coaster has orders for 2 more years here, giving us a guaranteed 5 years in the same place.  Wow, 5 years!  I haven't lived in one location for 5 years since I was a kid.  And if the stars align just so we could probably stay here for another tour after this one!

But there are drawbacks.  Mr. Roller Coaster isn't crazy about his current job.  Of course he knew going into it that it wouldn't be as fulfilling as his previous position, but when he comes home in a bad mood because of his work day, I often wonder if it was worth it.  Maybe we should have broadened our horizons for the sake of my husband's sanity and possibly for the sake of his career.

I know military families who have PCS'ed so many times that they have trouble remembering every location they've called home.  But I also know military families who have stayed put for over a decade.  There are pros and cons to both.  I've moved so many times in my life that I really don't know any lifestyle other than a nomadic one.  At times I've felt a visceral need to move, to get a change scenery, a different perspective.  But the older I get and the longer I stay in one place, the harder it is for me to think about leaving. 

I'm not looking forward to when Mr. Roller Coaster is up for orders again.  It's going to be a very difficult decision for us, especially if his professional options in this area are as limited as they were this time around.  We agree that if we're presented with the opportunity to give our children some stability, some sense of a "normal" life, we'd like to take it.  But if that stability comes at the expense of my husband's job satisfaction, then we might have to move along.  (Plus, if Mr. Roller Coaster could find orders to Europe, there's no way we're turning that down!)

So for now we're homesteaders.  And it's nice to know I won't have to fill out any change of address forms for awhile.

Have you ever stayed at the same duty station for two or more consecutive tours?  Would you prefer to homestead or see the world?  Would your husband take a job he knew he wouldn't like in order to give your family some stability?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Life is a Balancing Act...And I'm Tipping Over

Equilibrium: n.  (kw-lbr-m, kw-)

A condition in which all acting influences are canceled by others, resulting in a stable, balanced, or unchanging system.

Wife.  Mother.  Teacher.  Writer.  Runner.  Friend.  Daughter.  Housekeeper.  Chef.  Chauffeur.  Life is a balancing act of all the roles we play on a daily basis, our ultimate goal being equilibrium.  But lately it feels like my balance is off, my equilibrium has escaped me, and I spend my days tipping over.

So what am I missing?  What's going wrong?  Which one of those "acting influences" is preventing me from keeping my balance?  Or am I failing at all of them? 

I read an article last week about finding a work/life balance.  The author gave a lot of tips about how to juggle life as a working parent, but as I read it I realized that I was already practicing most of those methods.  I plan a week's worth of home-cooked meals and grocery shop only once a week.  I frequently rely on my crock pot.  I get enough sleep.  I eat well.  I exercise.  I even tried a gratitude journal.  But still, no equilibrium.

I realize that perfection is a myth, that all the different aspects of life will rarely come together seamlessly.  But some days it seems like those acting influences are working against each other instead of canceling each other out.  Instead of feeling a sense of fulfillment from the pursuit of multiple life goals, I end up feeling overwhelmed, stressed, guilty, incompetent, and positively exhausted.  I'm a jack of all trades, master of none.

I know that one day my life won't be so hectic.  One day the puppy won't wake me up at 5 AM.  One day my mornings won't be a chaotic mad dash to get everyone out the door on time.  One day I won't get emails from friends asking if I've fallen off the face of the earth.  One day I won't spend entire Saturdays shuttling my kids from baseball games to soccer games to birthday parties and entire Sundays running all the errands I didn't have time to run during the work week.  One day my kids won't beg me to read them one more chapter and give them one more hug.  And one day maybe my life will have so much equilibrium that I'll wonder why I ever worked so hard to achieve it.

I guess for now I'll have to accept that some days I'll keep my balance and some days I'm going to tip over.  And I'll just have to learn to embrace the chaos along the way.

How do you find balance?  How do you keep yourself from tipping over?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Top 10 Things I Should Be Doing But I'm Not Because I'm Facebooking

Like most people, I need to decompress after a long busy day at work.  I need to not think about the phone call from an angry parent of one of my students or the project I need to prep for or the lesson plans I need to write.  So once homework is completed, dinner has been cooked and eaten, bath time has splashed by, and maybe a baseball practice or a trip to the gym has been thrown into the mix, the kids are ready for bed, and I'm ready for some serious decompression.  That's when I retreat into my computer and disappear amidst emails, blog posts, and Facebook.

But of course there are a thousand other things I SHOULD be doing instead of surfing the web.  I just don't feel like doing any of  them.  Here are my....

{By the way, I can thank one of my Facebook friends for suggesting this top 10 list.  If not for her own Facebook decompression time, this list wouldn't have happened.  Seems I'm not the only one who should be doing something more important than reading status updates.}

Top 10 Things I Should Be Doing But I'm Not Because I'm Facebooking

10)  Sleeping  (because don't I always complain about how tired I am?)

9)  Scooping poop  (because if one more child comes into my house screaming, "Mom, there's dog poop on my shoe!" I'm going to have to resort to teaching my dog how to use the toilet and that would REALLY cut into my Facebook time)

8)  Writing lesson plans  (because it's so much easier to be prepared than to practice improv)

7)  Stretching  (because I suspect I'm going to be walking funny after adding a bunch of hill training to my 6 mile run today)

6)  Putting up Halloween decorations  (because clearly the tubs I pulled down from the attack 2 days ago are not going to empty themselves)

5)  Packing school lunches  (because every single morning, while my puppy is digging in the dirt and the kids refuse to get dressed and I can't find my other shoe quite possibly because the puppy is burying it in the dirt, I curse myself for waiting until the morning to pack everyone's lunch)

4)  Giving Gunner a bath  (because digging in the dirt makes even the cutest puppy a stinky puppy and because Mr. Roller Coaster is a sucker who allows that stinky puppy to sleep in bed with us)

3)  Reading a book or a magazine  (because I'm 2 months behind on my magazine subscriptions and the stack of unread books on my nightstand has practically reached the ceiling)

2)  Meditating  (because those deep breaths I keep taking aren't even taking the edge off my stress levels)

1)  Vacuuming, mopping, dusting, laundering, folding, putting away, dish washing, spot cleaning, bath tub scrubbing, toilet cleaning...pretty much any household chore that sucks.  Yes, I really should clean my house.  But I'm simply too busy reading all the profound, life-altering, very important status updates on Facebook.

What should you be doing instead of reading this blog post?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I Know You Are But What Am I?!

I think I'd rather be burned alive while someone plucked out my eyelashes and sliced my Achilles tendons than relive my teenage years.  The crazy hormones, the awkwardness of changing bodies, the shaky self-esteem, the wardrobe anxiety, and of course, the catty, gossipy, backstabbing girls who were sweet as sugar to your face (or at least to my face because I was an athlete and they knew I could beat them up) and then mean and hateful the second your back was turned.  No, I would never want to relive those years.

Yet suddenly, it feels like I am reliving my teenage years, at least when it comes to those catty, gossipy, backstabbing girls.  Although now they're not girls, but grown women who have teenagers of their own.  Yes, I may be a kindergarten teacher, but thanks to a handful of my co-workers, I feel like I'm once again walking down the long hallways of high school wondering if someone is going to throw gum in my hair.

Last year my assistant and I had some personality differences.  That's a really nice way of saying that she thought she was going to be offered my job, and when she wasn't and had to maintain her status as assistant, she did everything in her power to prove to our superiors that I wasn't capable of handling my position.  By March of last year, there was so much tension between us that 2 of our bosses had to mediate a sit-down for us to hash things out.  By April, another assistant in the school signed a contract to take over the position as my assistant. (And I have to stop here to tell you that she is AWESOME.  She makes my job so much easier and so much more fun!  This school year is night and day from last year.)

Throughout last year, despite the stress this woman caused me and the tears I shed at home, I kept my mouth shut at work.  I vented to Mr. Roller Coaster, to my mom, and to my close friends, but never to anyone at work.  And until a few days ago, I assumed that this woman had done the same.  Sadly I was wrong.

My new Awesome Assistant recently told me that last year, Bad Assistant was spreading such hateful stories about me that another teacher questioned whether it was wise for her to take the job with me because I was "evil."  I was shocked.  This coming from a woman I actually thought I had a good relationship with.  Two other names were thrown into the mix as staff members who took Bad Assistant's side.  Thinking back on it now, that explains a lot.  Those women have always been cold to me.  Now it all makes sense.

So what's the problem Roller Coaster?, you might ask.  You have a new awesome assistant and Bad Assistant is out of the picture.  Well, yes, I do love my assistant.  But Bad Assistant is not out of the picture.  She accepted a job that most would consider a demotion, and I have to interact with her on a daily basis.  And the other women who are in Bad Assistant's fan club are regular fixtures in my professional life. 

My problem is that I'm back in high school.  Girls are trash talking me behind my back, and I have to play nice with them.  I'm a non-confrontational kind of gal, but I'm also a firm hater of insincerity.  And I'm having a very difficult time looking these women in the eye on a daily basis and pretending that I don't know what they've been saying about me. 

What would you do?  Would you let it go, consider it their loss, and move on with your life?  Or would you confront them and get things out in the open? 

Monday, October 3, 2011

I Feel the Urge to Purge: The Story of an Unloved Dresser

Shortly after Mr. Roller Coaster and I PCS'ed to our first duty station, he purchased an entire set of bedroom furniture.  Without my knowledge. Without my input.  I saw the furniture for the first time when it was in my bedroom.  And I've been wanting to get rid of it ever since.

Mostly, I despise the big dresser.  I can live with the small dresser.  I can live with the nightstands. But the big dresser is just so ridiculously big that it eats up whatever room it's in.  When we lived in Japan and had to squeeze our oversized American belongings into a tiny Japanese house, that dresser was so big that the movers couldn't get it up the stairs.  It ended up sitting in our kitchen housing canned goods. 

When we moved into our house here in the States, the movers somehow managed to get the dresser up the stairs but were so worn out by its heft that they left gouges in our hardwood floors as they pushed the monstrosity across the hallway.  The dresser hasn't moved from our guest room since.

A few weeks ago, I decided I had had enough of the big dresser.  But nothing is ever as simple as a listing on Craigslist.  We couldn't consider getting rid of it until I emptied the drawers.  And I couldn't empty the drawers until I had somewhere to put the random contents.  And I wouldn't have somewhere to put the contents until Mr. Roller Coaster put plywood in the small upstairs attic we've never used because there was no plywood.  That's a lot of work just to sell a piece of furniture.

This past weekend we decided to get started on Operation Sell That Dresser.  Mr. Roller Coaster was on plywood duty, while I purchased storage tubs and ransacked the big dresser.  But I didn't stop there.  I went from the big dresser to the small dresser, from the guest room to my bedroom, from my closet to the kids' closets, and finally from the main attic to the once unused attic that is now floored with plywood.

In my travels throughout my house, I was increasingly shocked by the collection of junk I was hanging onto.  And I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of space I had created just by purging some of that junk.  Old t-shirts are going to school for my students to use as smocks.  Old battered purses are going into Little C's dress-up box.  Old clothes I'll never wear are in a bag headed to Good Will.  Old college notebooks that are filled with words I haven't read in well over a decade are piled up in the recycling bin.  And my trash can runneth over with other things I have absolutely no use for.

As a military family, we tend to use PCS'es as opportunities to sort through all of our possessions and get rid of the items we haven't used since our previous PCS.  But I'm glad we didn't wait until our next move.  I'm glad I now have almost a dozen storage tubs that are neatly labeled with their contents up on our newly renovated attic.  And I'm glad we can now focus on selling that big, cumbersome, obnoxious, ugly dresser.

Now we just need to figure out how we're going to get it down the stairs.

How often do you do a mega cleaning in your house?  Doesn't it feel good to purge?

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