Monday, July 29, 2013

Yoga girl

Thanks to some new friends, Livi did yoga yesterday!  She's done it before watching Amelia at home.  I was just amazed at how well she was able to follow along with the instructor yesterday.  We had an impromptu yoga session in a neighbor's back yard.


There's been a lot of political debate over when and where the idea of sequester originated, and whose idea it was to begin with.  There's even some debate and finger pointing over who it will affect and how.    There's been some attempts to reasonably explain the budget process and policy to the average American.

 While military families have varied opinions on this issue, one thing that doesn't seem up for debate is the feeling that military families, along with citizens who are the poorest and the least able to recover from the cuts,  have become pawns in a huge game of chess.

While I try to understand the big picture, on a personal level it feels like betrayal.  It's not just myself that feels this way - I've heard it over and over again from my friends and the families around us.  I especially heard it during the Fourth of July week, as major celebrations for that day were canceled.  I'm not going to debate the pros and cons of the cancellation... but I need to say that on a personal level it hurts and once again feels like patriotism is slowly ebbing away.  Our spouses and families go through so much.  We do not take this time to celebrate our freedom and liberty for granted.  It's not just another day off work for us.

We have so little choice in so much of what happens to us on a large scale... where we move, what schools our kids have to choose from, the fact that the waiting list for services grows at every duty station we go to, careers going by the way side from move to move, and much more.  It feels as if military families are the first on the list for any cuts that happen... and the general discontent with military  and government spending gets trickled down to services rendered to families.  It doesn't feel like Congress took their job seriously enough to swallow their pride and work together, and that we aren't quite "real" to many of them.

Taken one incident at a time, one small furlough day off here and there, it seems silly to be complaining that the commissary is closed one extra day of the week, or that you couldn't get your child into child care on base due to cuts in hours, or that you have to wait an extra week to get a base pass because the only day you could go was the day and time they were closed.

Adding up all these tiny incidents becomes a little bit like Chinese water torture for a military family, especially one whose spouse is deployed.

A FRO for one of the services has been preparing her families for what lies ahead:
"Many of the staff at marine and Family Services are impacted. I can see a day coming soon where I get contacted by a spouse. I refer her to M&FS for resume writing, or a personal financial counseling, and she later tells me she has to wait a long time to get an appointment or a response back from the office because they are short-staffed. That leads to the snow-ball effect of longer waits, a build-up of frustration, loss of faith with family programs. That's the sad part. I'm already prepared to warn them to take the lag time into consideration, be patient, and WRITE THEIR CONGRESSMEN a letter with the extra leave time....I think it's natural that there is furlough and probably even civilians losing their jobs since I figure more were hired to support the surge of more servicemen - for USMC and Army. But as those levels drop, so will the need for family support. I suspect the support will be cut before levels get to where they are needed....Marines with family members employed by fed govt cutting out personal expenses due to income loss. That's what I can anticipate but that's a really small population. It's early yet but you know the impact is coming."

On a more personal level, my own experience with the furlough has been to increase my sense of frustration and anger as I go through this deployment.  I see families around me experiencing the same.

Mondays are normally my grocery shopping day, with sometimes just one appointment for my daughter.  It's been a trial to get used to the new day off and wait until the weekend again to get fresh milk and produce.  I went tonight (Sunday) and the shelves were bare.

I teach an EFMP cooking class on Tuesday and typically buy the food at the commissary to be reimbursed.  With Mondays being furlough days, I will either have to go out in town, or change the class date - which might be difficult considering all else that the EFMP has on their calendar.  Most likely, the future classes will be canceled all together, as the expenses for groceries out in town are quite a bit higher and quite possibly not in the budget. It's a discussion we will need to have this week.

 I spent two months trying to get a schedule in place for ESY (extended school year) for my EFMP daughter.  I emailed everyone I could think of to try and set the schedule ahead of time.  The week prior to school starting (the week of July 4), I still had no schedule in hand.  On that Monday, I went to see our SPED coordinator to see if we could come up with some solutions to the situation.  On Tuesday, I was called by the class teacher to set up a schedule, which added to my confusion, since I had been told she would NOT have any class time, only speech therapy.  The teacher was equally confused, and promised to get the Speech Therapist in contact with me.

 By the time the ST contacted me, she told me that there were only 2 spots left available for my daughter on her schedule - even though I had signed a contract with the school stating that I would not leave for the summer during ESY session and commit to taking her every day, for 5 days a week.  I emailed the SPED guy again about the issue, with no response.  The speech therapist had no other options available for me, and the days rolled on.   I contacted a local speech therapist and paid for a session of speech therapy on Tuesday evening to the tune of $75, and made arrangements for my daughter to get the other 3 days of week the school wouldn't provide for speech at a therapy place out in town at my own expense.

By Monday morning, I still had not heard from anyone.

  By this time, I was furious at the lack of response and decided to make my own schedule for my child, who deserved to be in school and getting all the help she could possibly have to progress.  Although it was probably not the most tactful thing to do, I showed up at school, announced her name and that since I had not received a schedule for the contracted 5 days a week after numerous attempts, I was creating my own schedule until I heard otherwise and dropping her off.

The next day, I heard from the SPED guy.   As it turns out, he was on furlough.  There was nothing he could do about it.  His email and phone were monitored, and they were told they could potentially get fired for violating a furlough day by working during it.  That, in combination with it being a holiday week, made for an explosive situation that could have been avoided.

 I know there is a draw down.  I know that some services will be cut as the need for them is cut.  However, many services are being cut that are still vitally necessary to families, many of them in crisis and with spouses still deploying.  This incremental stress can potentially lead to stress for the smallest and most vulnerable of military families - the children.  As parents increasingly become stressed, there's a trickle down effect in families as well.  I wouldn't  necessarily recommend my method for handling the situation, but the level of rage and anger I felt had been building and building by what feels like being "nickel and dimed" by the very systems in place designed to help military families under stress.

Follow Blue Star Families on FacebookTwitter and Google+ and build a support network so you can keep your family and personal community strong throughout the duration of the entire deployment life cycle. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Everyone Serves

About a month ago, I was asked to contribute to a blog project by Blue Star Families.The mission of the Blue Star Families is to support, connect and empower military families.

 "Blue Star Families is a non-partisan, non-profit organization, created by real military families.  We are committed to supporting one another through the unique challenges of military service and asking the larger civilian population to help as well, connecting military families regardless of rank, branch of service or physical location, and empowering military family members to create the best personal and family life possible for themselves."
They are gaining momentum in this area, and two of my favorite programs they have created are Blue Star Museums and Blue Star Theatres.  You can find the rest of their programs here.  I encourage you to give it a look - there are some great opportunities for families. When we lived in Parris Island, it was a treat to go to the events at the Art Council over the summer for free.

They are hosting a blog series called Everyone Serves, featuring the personal stories of several military family members experiencing different stages of deployment and reintegration.  The series will run from July to November, finishing up just in time for our family to welcome Rafe home.  This will by my introductory post for those joining us from BSF who aren't already familiar with our story.

I'm a bit late to the party - it's PCS season and although we didn't have to move this year, nearly everyone around us did.  Literally 8 houses that surrounded us, all filled with children Mia played with, have moved out in the last 4 weeks.  In addition, we've had new families move in all up and down our street and we're in the throes of summer time activities.  I've hosted farewell dinners, made breakfasts, watched children, picked up groceries, shuttled double the amount of kids to VBS, hosted a family in my home when their move went awry, run errands (I've discovered that 8 feet long 2x4's will fit in my van if I'm oh-so-careful), and welcomed new families into the neighborhood with some fresh Texas style salsa and chips.  That would be on top of the normal deployed spouse obligations and activities with my own family and our therapy regimens for Livi.  I'll catch up on the blog topics in the next week so that I'm on track with the other 4 bloggers by the time next week rolls around.

It's now 0615.  I've been up all  night working on things I could not work on during the day, so I will leave you with the bio from the Blue Star Families website and round out the picture of our deployment history tomorrow night.
Laurie is married to a Marine who began his 5th deployment in 6 years last fall, and his second year long deployment.  His absences in the past (now 7) years have included special schools and TAD's on top of the IA billets, MEU deployment, regular unit deployments and a weekend or two on his own recognizance.  They have 2 beautiful young daughters; one born during deployment and the second born 3.5 months early, almost 6 weeks after he returned from yet another deployment.  Their oldest child is one amazing nature girl who loves to build and create with any material she can get her hands on.  Their youngest child has a contagious laugh, Prader-Willi syndrome, high functioning autism, speech apraxia and a few other medical quirks. 

  As a former professional Chef, Laurie gives back to the EFMP community that originally gave so much to support her family by teaching cooking classes to EFMP families where ever her family is stationed with a special emphasis on the unique challenges that special needs families face.  She helps admin a recipe page for PWS parents, contributes to support pages for PWS,  and regularly teaches cooking classes with children, friends, and her local community.  She blogs at  so that her husband can see what she and the kids are up to, and sometimes what's for dinner.

Follow Blue Star Families on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and build a support network so you can keep your family and personal community strong throughout the duration of the entire deployment life cycle.  

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Egg Dealer

No one can say I don't know how to multi-task. I had to take Amelia back to the eye doctor yesterday (fourth time in 11 days). I swung into the parking lot, saw my favorite egg lady, rushed inside to sign Amelia in and Jo followed me in to deliver my eggs. I bet the receptionist thought I was crazy. But it was the only time I had to pick up my eggs! A mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do!

I sort of feel like this was a slow day.  No therapy today, only one doctor appointment for Mia, one (different doctor) office visit for paperwork, one negotiation with school for speech therapy appointments and only one email sent to to someone higher to fix a problem on a lower level.   Easy!  Just cleaning and kids to round the day out.  Oh, and a dinner guest. :)

PWS parents only - Apraxia Links

Kaufman materials review:

Download/Print FREE speech articulation materials:

DIY Apraxia cards:

More DIY Apraxia cards:

Speech Praxis Kit  NOTE!!! I have not tried this site yet and not sure it works or is even legitimate.  But I'm posting it so I can remember to check it out.

Stages of language and resource/lesson plans
Prentke Romich

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fourth of July

Since the sequestration put the kibbosh on any fireworks on Camp Lejeune, we've been looking for other things to do in the area over the holiday.  My motto is "If it's free, it's for me!".   I took the girls to a free concert given by the Marine Corps band at the base theater yesterday and they loved it.  Olivia especially had a good time, shouting out "WOW!!" and clapping her hands and trying to yell "OORAH"  or just yell in general when she heard others do it.  

I always find it both touching and hilarious when I see the Marine Corp Band, in any venue.  They are extremely disciplined, march on/off in perfect unison, and every move is coordinated precisely to match.  Every concert starts with the National Anthem and we stand with our right hand over our hearts and the Marines in the audience standing stiffly at attention (both in and out of uniform) - not any different than when any other movie starts in the theater as well.  You can always tell the former Marines - no matter the age, they also stand stiffly at attention with their hands at their sides.  Sometimes I find myself surprised at who stood - a few have been shaggy, long hair, earrings and grungy attire - but it's interesting that the pride in being a Marine has never left them.  

 So when I hear rock and roll music coming from uniformed Marines who are controlling their every impulse to let loose and dance across the stage, I watch closely to see if one of them will let loose and wiggle a hip just a little.  I live in hope that one of them will break down and gyrate across the stage in dress blues.   Yesterday I finally got a thrill when they started singing and rocked back and forth just a little.  I think I even saw a head shake.  

There was a wry comment that it wouldn't be Fourth of July without fireworks, but due to the sequestration they were going to scale back and show us some fireworks.  It's what Marines do best - adapt, improvise and overcome.  We were treated to a full scale show of bombing runs on the big screen behind the band as they played on.  BIG fireworks!  I couldn't help thinking how well this would  probably NOT go over in the civilian world and how glad I am that I was there on base and not out in town.  I don't think war is glorious, but I think what we do is essential.  For anyone who thinks that the military is useless and not necessary; I like to suggest that they first work toward getting rid of their local town's police force and then move on up to the county and state; then the National Guard.  Because they are all doing the same job, just on a different scale.  If someone truly believes that we don't need the military, then they must also believe that people in the United States are all honest and good and will police themselves without any outside help.  I've never found a taker for that argument yet.

My favorite moment of the concert came when they dedicated Philip Phillips song "Home" to all the spouses that create a home for them where ever they have to go, often with very little notice.  As they sang, I heard it as an acknowledgement of what we feel as we create homes for our husbands and children (and in some cases wives and children); and a poignant reference to PTSD, TBI and other injuries plaguing our community.  


Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm going to make this place your home

Friday, June 14, 2013

Spa Night

Spa Night began as a simple night of me putting finger nail polish on Amelia's nails, and has evolved to a much more elaborate date night with my oldest.  Mostly with her additions.  I love it when she asks me for a spa night, because I also hear in her heart that she's asking to spend some one on one time with Mommy.  I see many of these nights in our future :)

We had a great time last night with it.  These days Spa Night takes hours.  We started at 5pm, with a hot bath, coconut oiled hair, braided hair, massage with scented lotion, and dinner.  After dinner, out to the exchange to smell candles, cologne, perfumes, look at jewelry and toys.  We topped it off by sitting on all the furniture to see how it felt.  She could  have kept on going all night except that the Exchange closed at 9.  We headed home, put on some Shaun the Sheep and sat there snuggled on the couch giggling while I painted her fingernails pink with glitter.  I love my little six  year old!  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lamb Soup

I had some leftover roasted lamb from the other day so I wanted to make it into some soup.  Turned out delicious, if a bit spicy.  Looks like my dad will be eating this one ;)

Lamb Soup
Equal amounts of chopped celery, carrots, onions - approximately 2-3 cups each
minced fresh sage
minced fresh rosemary
1/2 bulb garlic, minced
approx 4 cups of diced lamb
4 cups red potatoes, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
bone broth from previously made stock and saved broth from roasts
1 bunch of kale, chopped
Siracha sauce, kosher salt

Saute the mirepoix and garlic in a bit of bacon fat for a few minutes and then add the sage and rosemary.  Saute for a few more minutes and then add the remaining ingredients, minus the kale, and simmer till potatoes are tender. While soup is simmering, add a bit of freshly cracked pepper and kosher salt.  Toss in the kale at the end and wilt; add siracha sauce to taste.  I accidentally overdosed the sauce and it's still delicious, but too hot for my tastebuds!  Thicken with a cornstarch slurry if you like it a bit thicker; or leave it brothy.  

I made a white bean soup as well with the seasonings of anise, thyme and bay leaf.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Yesterday Amelia woke at 445 from what she later told me was a bad dream.  She didn't cry or whimper, but she told me that she wanted to turn the lights on and get up.  She wouldn't tell me the dream... actually, she refused.  She said she didn't want to talk about it so the details would not stick in her mind.  So, up at 5am we were.

Off and on all that morning and afternoon, Amelia would mention how she didn't like the lights in the house, the open doors, the curtains not being drawn on the windows, the bedclothes.  She was extremely clingy - literally not letting me out of her sight and most of the time walking a step beside or behind me, holding on to my clothing.  It made it a very difficult day to accomplish much.  She was very, very anxious and fearful in general.  I finally asked her if she would like to talk to Martha, a friend of the family and a retired family therapist who specialized in childhood trauma.  She was obviously relieved and said she would talk to Martha.  We tried calling, but she wasn't there, so we went to bed.

I can not emphasize enough how unusual this behavior was for Amelia, especially in light of how well she has been doing since this move.

Today we were fixing a late breakfast, and she asked me what time it was where Daddy was at.  I told her, and she said he was getting ready to go to bed.  I mentioned that he was probably still at work because he would be working late nights, and she told me again he was going to bed.

5 minutes later, Rafe called.  He told me he was on his way to bed, had gotten about halfway down the hall and decided to turn around and come back.  He mentioned how odd that was for him because he usually doesn't change his course of action to go back and make a phone call; he normally would have just made it the next day.  I asked him when he thought of turning back... it was 5 minutes prior.  We chitchatted about how ironic that was, the day, how the kids were doing, and he talked with everyone.  At the very end, I casually mentioned what happened to Amelia the day before.


"Laurie, what time did you say she woke up?"

After doing a bit of logistics, he is silent again.  Then he hits me with this:

"At that time yesterday I was in the heart of an area known for XX strikes.  The recent group just before us was attacked and our vehicle had bullet holes in the windshield.  The night before I left for that place, I audio recorded a message to you and the kids.  Just in case.  I was there the whole time she was uneasy."

Next time Amelia is that anxious and uneasy, I'm stopping everything and praying for his safety.  And I told her that the lights she saw were Angel lights, telling her they were watching over Daddy.