Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

There are veterans in my family, but as far as I know, there are no fallen soldiers. Probably if I went back farther, I would be related to some, because the Civil War stopped short the lives of so many, but more recently, I don't know of any.

Two of Jeff's brothers came to our house last week, and we had a fun visit. We went to the Kidwell Farm at Frying Pan Farm Park for the kids, the men watched the Cincinnati Reds play the Washington Nationals, the adults went on a tour of the U.S. Capitol Building, and everyone meandered through the National Museum of Natural History and walked around Arlington National Cemetery.

I had never before realized the vastness of Arlington National Cemetery. We had three kids with us (and no stroller), so we didn't get to explore the whole place and pay respects to the different memorials, but we did walk through and up to the Kennedy graves. I hadn't realized the Kennedys were buried there, but now I know the cemetery is for presidents as well as members of the military. I was also surprised by the number of children and wives buried there with their husbands/fathers. I don't have a problem with it; I thought it was neat that they were allowed to be buried together.

And what really struck me was the size. So many tombstones. So many people have died for our American way of life, for the oppressed in other countries, for democracy and freedom. As I walked around that cemetery with three healthy adult males, thinking of times in our country's history when we have had a mandatory draft, I couldn't help but think of the sacrifice that mothers, sisters, and wives have had to make. It was a weighty visit. And inspiring.

 Jill with her uncles Kyle and Kevin at Arlington National Cemetery

The U.S. Capitol Building also stirred up a lot of emotions for me. One of Jeff's friends is a staff member in a Senator's office, so he was able to lead us on a tour with just us and to take us into areas that large public tours could not enter.

I love history. I didn't in school, because I'm horrible at memorizing dates, but now that I'm older and there are no tests on dates, and I can just read to learn, I love it. And walking around the Capitol building was amazing. Seeing the craftsmanship of the building and the skill the workers poured into it. Viewing the artwork that portrayed different significant events in our lives. Recognizing that the freedoms I enjoy were thought up, argued over, fought over, and hard won by people—real people like me. Realizing how desperately the forefathers of our country wanted the life that I am able to lead. Wondering whether they ever could have foreseen how our country has transformed. Wondering how different the world would be if the states had not united. If after gaining independence from Great Britain, they became simply a continent and not a country, the States all becoming Countries. I think we would have had a lot more wars. It is kind of amazing that such a huge landmass is a country, that such different people work so hard to find compromise and get along together. I love it. I wish we were better at it, but at least we're trying.

And as impressive as the accomplishments are, they are all dragged down by slavery. How could men have debated what fraction of a person someone was? And following that line of thought, what issues will make my descendants wonder the same thing about my lifetime?

The star marks the center of Washington, D.C., 
so one might argue it also marks the center of democracy and freedom for the whole country.
Being my husband and his brothers always makes me feel shorter than usual.

Also on my mind recently is the training my husband completed a few weeks ago before we knew whether he had been accepted into the Foreign Service and his TDY in Chad was still looming. Chad is a more dangerous location than any of the other places he has gone on a TDY (Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, Laos, and Brazil). In light of that, he was required to go through some extra training—training that is informally called "The Crash and Bang Course." I don't know how much can be said about the course, but a brief summary is driving skills (like ramming vehicles out of your way, backwards driving (I can't help but think of Mater!), slamming on your brakes when going 60 mph, etc.), emergency medical procedures, hostile negotiations, explosions, weapons, self-defense, etc.

I got to pick Jeff up from the facility, and he was so animated on the car ride home talking about everything he had just learned and experienced. Throughout the conversation, I just kept thinking over and over again that they wouldn't teach him these things if no one had ever needed it. It is just one more reminder that the Foreign Service is not all fun and games, not all per diems and nice homes and private schools and foreign travel. 

Jeff's boss in Brazil had been in Egypt when it became volatile a while back. His family was evacuated, but the husband remained. In the event of some sort of emergency like that, the kids and I would be sent home, but Jeff would stay. His position as facility manager is one of the vital positions who stays at the embassy/consulate to ride out an emergency. Jeff has a friend who was in the Ukraine when its turmoil began, and she was evacuated. I had another friend who was assigned to a post in Tunisia a few years ago and was all set to go, but then the attacks around the same time as Benghazi happened, and her husband was reassigned to Canada.

That said, I'm not afraid to be a Foreign Service spouse (or EFM (Eligible Family Member) as all of the paperwork calls me). I am really looking forward to it, and I don't really think my husband's job is dangerous. And it would be hypocritical to think that shootings and tragedies don't happen in the United States either, because they do. Sadly, strangers kill, kidnap, and hurt each other all over the world, including home.

His training was just a sobering reminder of the danger element of his job. There are some posts in the Foreign Service where children are not allowed to go, and some where even spouses can't go. We are never going to intentionally get an unaccompanied post, so ideally, Jeff will never end up in one of the most dangerous places, but you never know. And some places become dangerous overnight.

Also, I don't mean to equate his Foreign Service job with military service, because I know it is very different to be a facility manager at an embassy as it is to be a marine in Afghanistan. With Memorial Day, visiting Arlington National Cemetery, and Jeff's extra training, all these thoughts have just been swirling around in my head.

I am really excited about being in the Foreign Service though. About learning more about what life is like for other people. Learning what they eat and wear and how they live. What is valuable to them. What their traditions are. What words they have in their languages. Seeing what the world looks like. Discovering how I can help others. I know I just said it isn't all fun and games, but I do think it is going to be a lot of fun. An adventure! And I am looking forward to its beginning.

Jill, Daniel, and Alice on a large rock outside of the National Museum of Natural History.

For those who are curious, we do not know where we will be assigned. Orientation begins for Jeff on June 2. It lasts for three weeks, and then training begins, which lasts for twenty-six weeks. At the beginning of orientation, we will receive a list of post openings, which we will rank. Then at the end of orientation, we will be told where we are going! If we don't get a post where they teach you the language before you go, then we will most likely move in January. So right now the world seems wide open! London, England? Paramaribo, Suriname? Addis Ababa, Ethiopia? Where?? :)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

When will my life begin?

My children are watching Tangled, so the song "When Will My Life Begin?" has been floating around in my head. Ever since that fateful day—October 2, 2012—when Jeffrey received an e-mail letting him know that there were openings available with the Foreign Service as Facility Managers, I feel like I have been playing a waiting game, wondering when my new life would begin. Since then, we moved halfway across the country,  had a baby, traveled to Brazil, and done lots of living, but there have always been the questions.

Will Jeff get in the foreign service?
Will he look for a different job?
Will we end up back in Cincinnati?
Could he possibly find a job in Lincoln, Nebraska?
How is it possible for my children to be so adorable?

Obviously I've had a lot to think about during the past nineteen months.

But today, the main question has been answered! I am so excited and proud to say that Jeffrey has received an offer from the Foreign Service to join the June 2 training session. That means that by the end of June, we will know where our first post will be, and, that by next year, we will be somewhere else in the world. It also means that I won't be a single mom this summer, because Jeff will not be using his visa to Chad for that TDY assignment.

So, hip, hip, hooray for Jeff and our family!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Oh, Mothers' Day!

Mothers' Day is almost here, and I've been thinking about motherhood a lot. Do you want to cry? Sure? Okay, here are some of the things that I've been thinking about.

Calee Reed—She Put the Music in Me

Kellie Coffey—I Would Die for That

Motherhood. (Click to watch a video and read some powerful quotes.)

And, okay, if you are tired of crying and want to laugh a bit, then click on this link: "To Mothers: I Salute the Crap out of You" or "Four Ridiculous Reasons Why I'm Grateful for My Mom."

Enough sharing. Here are my thoughts.

That first song, She Put the Music in Me, really encapsulates how I feel about my mom. So much of me is because of my mom, and every day I become more and more like her. (At least I'm trying to become more like her!)

The second song, I Would Die for That, is often on my mind when I think about how lucky I am to be a mom. I always took for granted as a kid that I would grow up and become a mother, but there are so many women who want to be moms and can't. And I don't mean for this to become an abortion debate, but think about how devastating it must be to desperately want to be pregnant but never conceive and to know that there are those who are pregnant and desperately don't want to be, likewise to want to adopt but find yourself mired in fees and red tape. I am very grateful for the children I have.

The motherhood video from beautifully captured so much of the joy, exhaustion, excitement, and despair that I feel as a mom. The quote from Boyd K. Packer gives me hope, and the quote from Abraham Lincoln gives me a goal.

And the ones from HaHas for HooHas just make me laugh, which I need after all the crying from the three preceding videos. It is true that I had no idea motherhood involved so much poop, and I am amazed at what I can accomplish while either holding or being held by a screaming baby or toddler. Just yesterday I went down two flights of stairs carrying Alice and Daniel. Yeah. I'm that cool. ;) And I am very grateful for a mother who listens to me even when what I have to say may not be very interesting.

Here are the ladies that give me a reason to celebrate Mothers' Day.

First is Grandma Boling, or Gigi. I have learned many things from her example, but here is what has really made an impression on me. She showed me the importance of family by always making an effort to visit her family members, keeping in touch with family far and near by writing letters, and always being interested in our lives. She shared her love of reading by always having one or two or more books with her when she would visit. She taught the necessity of manners by always behaving with decorum and grace in every situation I have seen. She shared an adventurous spirit, a love of travel, and an example of supporting your husband wherever his job may take your family. Thank you, Grandma.
Marcia Hurn Smith Boling

My Grandma Homer's example has also blessed my life. She has shown me the value of hard work and the benefits of physical toil. She taught me how to can apples and the simple delight of melted cheese on tortilla chips. She left no doubt in my mind as to how important the temple was to her from her example of being a temple worker for a decade in a temple over five hours away. I cherish the memory of her soft cheeks, warm hugs, and ready smile. Even as she was in her final days of this life, she still thought of others and worked on completing a quilt for my daughter who she never got to meet.
Verda Adams Homer

Mama taught me the joy of playing in dirt and helping green things to grow. She taught me to love unconditionally. She taught me patience and understanding. She taught me how to welcome strangers into the home and turn them into family. She exemplified how to find opportunities to serve rather than wait around to be asked. She taught me to sing and dance and shake my hips to Spice Girls. She lived her advice on getting things done even when the road ahead was not easy. She showed me how you can pursue your interests and still be a stay-at-home mom. She instilled in me a belief that I could do anything and be anyone and that I never had to be afraid to fail, because she would always be by my side to pick me up. From her I learned how to be a woman, a wife, and a mother.
Vickie Lee Homer Boling

Another mother I am lucky to have is my husband's mother. Laurie has taught me how to cook and create a meal calendar, how to grocery shop and a way to budget. By watching her, I have learned how to plan family vacations, how to throw great parties, how to feed a lot of people, and even how to do a little family history. She has taught me how to be a Collett, and most importantly, she has shown me how to love her son. And I hope that I have shown her what it is like to have a daughter.
Laurie Lynn Scherer Collett

Sadly, all four of these women are excellent at sewing or needlework (or both!), but I haven't really grasped that skill yet. Some day . . . some day.

And, okay, I'm a mom, too. :) Happy Mothers' Day to me!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Whenever I hear older people tell me how much they miss "this stage," I wonder how accurately they actually remember this stage. I know my mom always says that she only remembers the good things her kids did when they were young. I would like to have that kind of selective memory.

And I honestly do think I will miss a lot of things about this stage. Like how Jill thinks I know everything and that I am the most fun person in the world. Like how Danny runs to me when he is hurt and will whisper "I love you, Mommy." Like how Alice will cling to me, curl her little body into mine so tightly, and give me the sweetest little baby hug.

And how funny they are. I will miss that. The things they say. The way they walk into things. They're just such funny little people.

BUT I will not miss sleeplessness.

I have recently awoken to the fact that I have been oblivious. I have repeatedly told myself that Alice's sleep habits will get better once we get back into a routine, but I am no longer that optimistic. I try to remind myself that Daniel was a horrible sleeper, and now he sleeps great, but as my uninterrupted periods of sleep get shorter, it becomes harder and harder to remind myself of that.

Maybe I can no longer remember 2012 accurately, but I really feel like Alice is now sleeping worse than Danny, which is surprising, because she used to be my best sleeper. But it is actually not surprising when I think about what I've done to her.

The past four weeks: Virginia
One week: Ohio
One week: Nebraska
One week: Michigan
Two weeks: Asa Norte, Brasilia
Eight weeks: Lago Sul, Brasilia
Two weeks: Virginia
Three weeks: Michigan
One week: Ohio
Three weeks: Michigan
Three weeks: Virginia
One week: Ohio
Fourteen weeks: Virginia
One week: Shenandoah
Six weeks: Virginia
One week: Ohio
Two weeks: Utah
Two weeks: Virginia
Two weeks: Nebraska
Seven weeks: Virginia
Two weeks: Ohio

As you can see, she has slept in a lot of different cribs. The above timeline doesn't include hotel stays either, or sleeping on airplanes, cars, or trains.

Honestly, looking at that, it almost makes me wonder why Jill and Daniel aren't having sleep problems. I think Alice is totally justified in hers.

But her sleeping is just getting worse. She is now waking up regularly four times a night, sometimes more. I usually just nurse her and we fall back asleep in the rocking chair, but sometimes she is just mad and won't go back to sleep or wakes up as soon as I put her back in her crib. It is getting hard to get her to sleep during the day. She used to take two naps, and now I am barely getting her to take one.

She used to be such a happy child, and now she is grumpy all the time and cries a lot.

She is exhausted, and I am exhausted, and it is affecting my ability to be a good mother. It is kind of sad to have your husband come home and have your oldest daughter describe how Mommy needed to have a few time outs that day so she could be nice. But it's true. I'm getting to the ugly stages of sleep deprivation where you wonder the dark thoughts of motherhood.

What was it ever like to have one child and actually be able to hold them through a nap and sleep while they were sleeping?

This is such a cute age, but for my children, it also seems to be a stage where their sleeping gets worse. With Daniel and Jill, I remember that they both slept through the night earlier on and then due to illness and teething, they lost that sleep schedule, and it was hard to get it back.

I'm going to have to make some changes with Alice and sleep, but I'm not sure where to start. More food? Her own bedroom? Cry it out? No light night?

What has worked with your kids? I think I need to get some books on sleep and babies. Until then, I'll just keep going through the day feeling like a zombie.

Jill, Daniel, and Alice—all at the delightful age of fifteen months

Help Me.