Saturday, February 28, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
They were both so excited to go out for a bike ride together. That bike trailer? Garage sale find. 40$, talked the lady down from her original $50. It was basically brand new, didn't have a scratch on it. It can hold two kids up to 100 lbs. What a deal!
I took a bible study on Financial Stewardship from Crown Ministries and it was eye opening. It really brought home to me that stewardship wasn't just about how you spent your money, it was also about how well you used your resources. Instead of buying something at full price, buy it slightly used or on sale, recycle or continue to use.
I've found that most people who have to have something brand new all the time have more personal ego and pride involved than common sense. It's not that new isn't fun or nice, but when you refuse to shop second hand or take it with a bad attitude when it helps your long term goals then it seems to me to be very self centered.
I was just thinking the other day of all the things we do that help cut costs around here.
With food, I make a lot of my own items. I make my own oatmeal and pancakes for breakfast. And I don't mean with a mix; I make it by taking an extra 5 minutes to get the items out of the pantry, measure them and cook. 5 minutes! And you would not believe how much money that saves. If I had a waffle iron, I'd make my own waffles in big batches, freeze them and then have my own Eggos for breakfast! If I had more freezer space and if Rafe was home, I'd make breakfast sandwiches and freeze them also. If anyone is interested, I can post our breakfast menus sometime.
I buy tubs of plain yogurt and use them in place of sour cream (healthy and cost effective). I also use plain yogurt in smoothies, especially if I am using canned peaches or other fruits that already have syrup. I mix jam in with it to create my own flavored yogurts. When I find flavored yogurts on sale, I mix equal amounts of plain yogurt into the prepared yogurt and then have twice as much. Over the years the yogurts have become sweeter and sweeter, and you'd be surprized at how much flavor is in it when you mix it, with much less sugar.
We do the same thing with fruit juices. We cut all our juices in half. Neither Rafe nor I like super sweet things, so we cut our juices. They are much more refreshing and thirst quenching, without that sickly sweet after taste.
We use meat as a condiment, not always the main ingredient in a meal. We use lots of rice and beans, and lots of intense seasonings to perk up meals.
I tear our dryer sheets in half (thanks to Connie for that tip) and they work just as well. The only difference is that the smell isn't as intense.
Our cars are paid for and we're going to drive them till they drop. Yes, we do wish we had a fancy new car. And truck. But there are other goals we're working on that are more important.
If Amelia really needs something, then I buy it at a thrift store. Last week I went to Goodwill and I found a great pair of sandals for her for 1.99, and a pair of tennis shoes for 2.99, and honestly, that's a little pricey to me. But they were almost brand new, the tennis shoes were still in the box. I'll take pictures and post them later. I browse Freecycle (where everything is free), Craigs List and Parris Island Yard Sales (online garage sales similar to Craig's List but with pictures). I found 2 brand new huge coloring books that were originally priced at $6 for $1. And I picked up some books for her at 50 cents each.
When I shop for Amelia, I think about the end use of the clothes. Do I need super perfect cute shorts and top when she is going to be using them for play clothes outside? She gardens with me, so they are just going to get muddy and dirty - that's half the fun of being a kid! So I pick up jeans for 75 cents and shorts for a quarter. Believe it or not, I've found Goodwill is pricier than the volunteer run thrift shops. These shops are usually for good causes - there is one here for abused children, and another one for cancer patients. They don't have the same overhead that consignment shops or resale shops have so their prices are much cheaper.
Would I love to have brand new? Do I look longingly at the doll houses and other toys for her? Absolutely. But our money can go farther when we bargain shop. All those pennies here and there added up to us being able to pay off all our credit card debt this year, our cars a few years ago, and start saving for our retirement and future college for Amelia. That money is what helps us be able to fly home when emergencies happen (as happened one right after the other for a few years in a row), or to fly or drive home to visit family because it's cost prohibitive for them to visit us. It helps us to have date nights (when he's home), or to explore the unique areas we live in and will never have a chance to see again.
I guess it's all about choices. You have to decide what you're willing to do without in order to afford what you need and what you want. For some people, cutting their juice in half with water would be the worst possible thing they could think of, but perhaps they would easily bike to work instead of walk. Especially in these times, you have to take a hard look at giving up something in order to get what you want.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
In a study of infants aged 8 to 16 months, researchers found that watching baby DVDs or videos may actually delay vocabulary development.
Researchers interviewed 1,008 parents of children ages 2 months to 24 months about their children's language development and how their youngsters spent their time.
Among the babies 8 to 16 months old, the more time they spent watching baby videos, the worse was their language development, according to Reuters Health. Some examples of baby DVDs/videos watched include Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Since Rafe is gone, we're sort of the "go to" house when husbands have duty or go out of town for some reason. There's a kind of unspoken military shorthand that you never really hang out with your friends (unless of course you are invited over) when their husband is home because they are home so rarely - whether its work or training or deployments, they are gone a lot. You don't call to chat in the evenings and you learn their general schedule so you aren't coming by on the days they are home if they have swing schedules. And you don't mind when your friend says, "my husband just came home" - you know that means you say your goodbyes immediately and hang up.
This past week, we've been blessed with having several families over here for playdates and dinner for those very reasons. We've also gone on playdates elsewhere as well. It has helped tremendously the transition from Rafe being here to him going back to Iraq. Amelia talks about him coming back home for a "visit" soon. Overall, she's been handling things very well, but she is much happier with a house full of people and running around with kids her age.
Earlier today she had a little girl friend over, and they played dress up. At one point, as her mother and I were talking, they apparently decided that Baby Wyatt was getting too much attention, so they both took off all their clothes and played "baby". I'd show you the picture but I was laughing too hard to remember to take it. One of the local home-schooled girls came over this afternoon and took her kite flying in the field behind our house; and Amelia was able to play swords and chasing games tonight with a little boy from a family who came for dinner.
Tomorrow we are headed to the park with the same little boy for a little old fashioned rough housing! Yeah for boys! She'll be nice and sleepy when we head home after lunch. There's an Irish festival going on downtown, with arts and crafts and music, so if we can keep the kids awake long enough we'll take them to the puppet shows.
The results came in a shocking phone call - at first the nurse simply said the Dr. wanted to have me come in Monday for an ultrasound "so he can see what's going on down there". Nothing about my HcG levels or if things were headed in a positive direction. My heart sank, but I hung in there and asked her a few questions until I had the good news. When I got off the phone, I couldn't help myself but dropped to my knees thanking God and crying with relief at the same time. It's an odd feeling to cry from happiness.
My next test and ultrasound is this coming Monday. Please pray for us.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
So far, no complications, but it's still an extremely high risk pregnancy. Already we beat the odds - he gave me a .5 to 1% chance of getting pregnant. It's hard to describe our feelings... I think cautiously optimistic. Tomorrow I go in for more tests to see if the HcG levels are doing well. I'm posting this to ask for prayers that our little baby has grown enough to live and be healthy. I'm very nervous.
- 1. One Marine’s Observations on the Iraq Elections: We don’t usually run first person stories in this publication, but found this narration by the Marine son of a colleague very compelling. With all the issues we deal with each day, this reminds us of one of the reasons our loved ones serve in harm’s way.
I have just returned from today's patrol, 31 Jan 2009. We covered the Iraqi BDE's complete area of responsibility. The election sites have only just closed and what eerily seems like any other day in Iraq is completely the opposite. Today, alongside the Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police, Provincial Security Forces and my fellow Marines, I walked the streets of Hit, Haditha, Baghdadi, Barwana and Haqlaniyah. It was admittedly a long day, but the kind whose gravity fully weighs in upon its completion or in quiet retrospect. I have to say that today in my area of Al Anbar, I witnessed an Army security force and local civilian population handle a difficult and dangerous task with complete confidence, fluid coordination and guts.
I must have shaken hands with over a hundred people today and I was only one of a lucky handful permitted in the "shadow-like" coalition presence within the cities. Some of those hands were old and have experienced the full swing of the politics, fear and pseudo freedom of the past half century in this country. Some were middle-aged, weary of the past decade, continuous martial patrols and very aware of the positive and negative impacts of the past 6 years. Some were young, happy to be a part of the next step and eager to be involved. Last, but certainly not least, were the kids who sat on shoulders, held a father's hand, grasped the leg of a mother.... to watch... bear witness...and learn. The common link was the color purple. The purple ink that covered the right index finger of a man or woman that decided to courageously stand up, stand in line, be searched and publicly, defiantly and decisively involve themselves in the future of their country. In the face of threat and intimidation, people turned out in amazing numbers. No one cheered, no one ran, no one fired weapons in celebration but today, they voted and in turn both gave their voice to a candidate and let the enemies of their freedom know that they are not afraid. They will endure.
I saw many humbling and amazing things today. Through a rifle scope, binos, armored windows or tinted sunglasses, I was able to observe the events that transpired. With the help of our interpreters (both of which escaped Iraq 10 years ago and have returned to work with Marines in Al Anbar) the members of my team, MTT 0720 has each had their own experience with respect to these elections. Doc (our navy corpsman) and I conducted countless IED sweeps today, around our vehicles and the 38 election sites. Doc spoke with a boy of about 12 or 13 who reached out a hand and told him in broken English... "Thank you, Amriki (how the Iraqis say American) ...for this future." Doc also reached out, shook his hand but could only muster an amazed... "you're welcome, brother." I think he understood the moment. I think they both did. Later, I watched a father walk with his young son who couldn't have been more than 5 or 6, stand outside of a polling site. The man raised the little guy up in his arms to talk to him. Close and deliberate, he spoke to his young son about the importance of "a choice." He put him back down, looked at him with the finality of a father's lesson, took his hand and walked on. I don't know where they were going and in truth it doesn't matter. What I do know is that they walked, two generations of Iraqis, away from a voting site... unafraid...unintimidated and hopeful.
Towards the end of the patrol as a report came in about some suspicious activity in the southern sector, I stood with my counterpart, the Iraqi Army Brigade Operations Officer, in the middle of the road as he briefed the brigade commander with a map in one hand, a radio in the other and a GPS on the hood of his vehicle. I never said a word. No Marine standing by them said anything. Immediately and decisively, the BDE Commander explained his intent, switched vehicles and drove off to make the phone call that would shift elements in that zone to deal with the issue at hand. It took less than five minutes... from intel to decision to communication to operation. I shook my friend's hand (the G3 Operations Officer), smiled and we returned to our vehicles to complete the patrol.
Take a moment with me to feel the weight of these small things. Add them up and apply them to what you may see on the news or hear from others who have been here as to whether you believe the war on terror can ever be "won." In Iraq, Afghanistan, Beirut, Manhattan, Oklahoma City... or your hometown...
Remember that I am only one of thousands of Marines, servicemen/women and contractors in Iraq on a day like today. Remember that it has taken very close to six years and immeasurable sacrifice by the Iraqis, their families, Americans and their families to ensure the success of a day like today. Today is only a small piece and those of us here know that the true test will arrive in the coming days, weeks and years to continue the momentum of "a choice." While it may seem like any other day, I will never forget it and am proud to have been here.
I ignored the clichés and focused/reflected on what I saw in reality. Iraqi and American blood has often touched the streets that I walked in relative peace today. Days like today have a price and I thank all of those that have borne the cost.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
Happy that Mom lets her play in a big bowl of flour and then clean it up.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
you know, so I can rush in and save him in case he needs some help or something.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
The past two weeks seemed to stretch out slowly, but the last day went in a flash. We've learned our lesson from past leaves - when we try to do everything and go everywhere, putting a check in the box next to seeing everyone at least once, we end up frazzled and frustrated with not much time for each other; as much as we love seeing everyone. It's a hard balancing act - we desperately want to see our families (the three of us together); and we desperately want to connect with each other.
For our sake, and especially for Amelia's sake, we did no traveling on this leave. We planned no day trips and we didn't try to cram in a lot of local sightseeing.
Instead our days were filled with bike riding, singing, kite flying, soccer with two balls... family in the kitchen cooking and talking... music and dancing... super tent making...rolling around on the floor wrestling...snuggly mornings in bed with Amelia patting our cheeks and yapping about "breffus", Battlestar Galactica marathons, laughter and love.
Amelia followed Rafe around like a little shadow wherever he went. The first thing she would yell every morning would be "mommy... DADDY!!" if she awoke before we did. The first time he put her in time out, her little heart broke and ours did too, watching her eyes well up with tears and her lip pooch out as she tried hard to take it all in. He was her hero and she babbled on and on about him every day.
The last evening we had dinner with two other couples at a neighbors house - everybody brought something delicious and the Marine of the house barbecued. We had fresh guacamole, home made salsa, cream cheese stuffed jalapenos wrapped in bacon, baked potatoes with the fixin's, grilled corn on the cob, mesquite marinated chicken, veal chops, steaks and some fabulous garlic bread drizzled with honey and then baked. Rafe was finally able to meet the two of the couples who have really taken good care of me down here; the husbands are always willing to help me with heavy lifting or building or man jobs, and the wives are good friends and our children all play together.
We came back home and Rafe pulled out his guitar for the first time - Amelia went wild. She danced and sang with him as he got used to playing again. As he played, I sat on the other couch and folded laundry, singing along with his songs and watching Amelia run back and forth between us.
It's the kind of beautiful, simple night when you feel everything so clearly... strongly enough that you can hold the happiness in your hands, yet your heart almost bursts with the fullness of it.