Category: Military

Fellow American Airlines passengers, I apologize…

Getting to live in different places—especially fabulous ones like Southern California—is a huge perk of Army life. Unfortunately, sometimes (more often than not, it seems) those places happen to be really far away from family. When you’ve got young kids, you can handle that in two ways. You can adopt a no-fly policy and tell relatives that if they want to see you and your children, they can get their butts on an airplane and come see you. (We’ve got many friends who’ve done this, and we cannot blame them one bit.) Or, you can torture yourself by packing up what seems like half your life and schlepping your whiny kids across the country, much to the heartache of your fellow travelers.

As evidenced by the fact that my twins are just shy of 2 1/2 and they’ve already taken nine round-trip flights, we fall into the latter category. Seriously, someone’s going to have to send us to rehab soon to stop us from ever doing this again. You’d think we would have learned our lesson by now. (Family, you’re lucky we love you so much!) At the end of every flight, we arrive at our destination disheveled, covered with mysterious fluids, and physically in pain from lugging around a double stroller, two car seats, five suitcases, countless toys, and two screaming children. Keith has said after every single trip that he’s rarely been so stressed out in his life—and he’s been to war twice.

(For further evidence, check out my account of a flight the boys and I took with my Aunt Terry here.)

Yet here we are, ready to do it again. We’re heading to New York for Thanksgiving, and our house looks like we’re preparing to move to China. There are stacks of clothes and open suitcases everywhere. Traveling in the winter is even worse because sweaters, boots, and coats take up way more room than t-shirts and flip-flops do. Plus, it’s about 35 degrees colder in New York than it is here in Los Angeles. So, we’ve spent the past week digging jackets, hats, and scarves out of dusty boxes in our garage and scouring Target for the last two toddler winter hats they had. (The only reason they sell winter hats here in the first place is because the minute the temperature dips below 70, Southern Californians pull out their Uggs and puffy coats and act like they’re suddenly in the Arctic tundra).

I am seriously stressed out. Sure, you would think Matt and Nate would be old pros at traveling by now, but they have never been on a flight quite this long—about six hours! Their longest flights to date have been no more than five hours, and they were ready to explode in every way by the end of them. Plus, the older the boys get, the harder it is to get them to sit in one place for very long.

But Keith and I are ready for battle. The iPads are loaded with toddler apps, episodes of “Team Umizoomi” and “Bubble Guppies,” and Christmas shows. Let the boys’ brains rot and their eyes get crossed if it keeps them from screaming and kicking the crap out of the seats in front of them for six hours (which pretty much sums up our last flight). But just in case the iPads don’t do the trick, we are also loaded down with books, stickers, crayons, baseball cards, Hot Wheels, etc. My carry-on bag looks like Santa’s sack of toys. I am also going to let the boys carry their own little backpacks that I am stuffing with little toys for them to explore. And, we’ve got changes of clothes for the boys (because they manage to pee all over themselves on every flight), any kind of snack you can think of, diapers, wipes, coats, hats, mittens …. sigh.

We know that once we are at “Meema and Peepa’s house,” it will all be worth it. The boys are now at the age where they actually miss their relatives—especially Grandma and Grandpa—and ask for them frequently. They are so excited for this visit, so I’m hoping that will encourage them to be good on the flight. For extra motivation, we told them we talked to the pilot and he said he will have to turn the plane around if they are not good. Bwahahahaha.

If you are a parent who is also getting ready to fly with small children, check out an article I wrote for Baby Gizmo that includes 10 tips on flying with young children. And if you’ll be flying for Thanksgiving without children, please, cut the parents of crying kids some slack. Ask any parent what stresses them out most about flying with their children and I guarantee you they’ll say it’s the dirty looks they get from fellow passengers. Trust us, we want our kids to sit still and be quiet as much as—if not more than—you do. We’re trying our best, and a sympathetic smile from you will go a lot farther than an irritated scowl!

Happy Thanksgiving, and safe travels, everyone! And New York City, brace yourselves—the Walters twins are coming!

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Holiday Happenings

Holidays sure are different when you have little ones, and the same holds true when you’re a military family. This past Halloween was Matt and Nate’s third, and they’ve spent all three in different places!

For their first Halloween, when they were only 4 months old, we were at my parents’ house in Brooklyn, New York. Keith had gotten wounded in Afghanistan three weeks earlier and was recuperating at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, so my dad, my aunt, and I took the boys trick-or-treating to a few neighbors’ houses in my old neighborhood. The twins had no idea what was going on, of course, but they sure looked cute!

For their second Halloween, we were in Colorado Springs. We trick-or-treated with some close friends and their kids, but the boys were only 16 months old and still not very into it.

This year, though, the boys knew exactly what was going on, and they were way into it! They chose to be firemen, and I went a little overboard buying them their gear—full costumes complete with jackets and pants with suspenders, helmets, boots, and even little oxygen-tank backpacks with axes. They looked adorable! Keith also took it a step further and built a fire engine out of cardboard boxes to fit around their double stroller. He spray-painted it and drew on details to make it look like the Station 51 fire truck from the TV show “Emergency!” It turned out great!

Keith and I even wore costumes to coordinate with the boys’ outfits. I made a dalmatian costume by cutting spots out of black felt and gluing them onto a white shirt. Then I bought some dalmatian ears and a tail, a red choker, and some black face paint for my nose, and I was good to go. Keith dressed as fire. He cut out flames from orange and red poster board and pinned them onto a red baseball cap, and wore it with an orange shirt. Easy peasy!

I have to say that Halloween in Southern California rocks. A few weeks ago we went to a real farm in Irvine, called Tanaka Farms, to pick our pumpkins. We got to pick the pumpkins right off the vine, and the views were killer.

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Keith and the boys picking their pumpkins!

 

Then, on October 21, we went to Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland. The boys got to practice trick-or-treating at Mickey’s house, Minnie’s house, and various stations around the park. There was a fun Halloween parade and an amazing fireworks show at Sleeping Beauty’s castle. What a great event!

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Keith kept “forgetting” to put on his orange sweatshirt. 😉

 

So by the time actual Halloween rolled around, Matt and Nate were ready! We met some great friends here, another RAND Army fellow and his wife and four kids. We went to their house for dinner and then trick-or-treated from there. Going door to door on Halloween with warm weather and palm trees was pretty surreal. I also felt like we were in a movie because we chose a popular street, so there were droves of people out, all dressed up, and many of the houses were really done up with lights and figures and sound effects. It was just what I always imagined Halloween should be like.

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Us at the end of a successful trick-or-treat run
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A side view of the fire truck

 

And here is my tale of two firefighters!

 

Next year, we’ll be at yet another new place on Halloween—our new home in the Washington, D.C. area! So Matt and Nate can one day look back at their first four Halloweens and know they spent each of them in a different place. Pretty cool, huh?

Another cool thing about being in a military family is that we get to celebrate an extra holiday in November/December—Veteran’s Day. This year Keith will have the opportunity to hit baseballs at Dodger Stadium at a special event honoring veterans, so he’s pretty excited for that.

Then we head to New York for Thanksgiving for the first time in several years. Christmas will be here in California. It is the first Christmas EVER that I won’t be spending in New York, and while that makes me a bit sad, I’m excited to see what Christmas was like for Keith growing up in LA. Also, we have a lot of family coming to visit. And Matt and Nate will get to wake up in their own home on Christmas morning, which is not always a given for military kids. Bring on the holidays!

The Los Angeles Dodgers Support our Military!

For the maybe three of you who don’t already know this, Keith was honored on the field at Dodger Stadium on October 7 as the Veteran of the Game. At every home game, the Los Angeles Dodgers honor an active duty or retired military member with an on-field ceremony and free seats for his or her family. Keith’s friend Steve Cole, himself an amazing Army officer, nominated him for this honor. (Thank you, Steve!) It was an incredibly memorable evening for us, capped off by a Dodgers win against the Atlanta Braves to clinch the National League division title and advance to the National League Championship Series!

I want to apologize to my Facebook friends for the onslaught of photos and status updates about that evening. I blame every one of them on my being an extremely proud wife! But my pride is not the reason for this post. This post is to acknowledge the incredible amount of support the Dodgers organization and its fans show for our military. Keith and I were humbled by the onslaught of cheers, handshakes, and kind words he received that evening.

Let me point out that the Dodgers could not have asked for a better Veteran of the Game. Anyone who knows Keith knows that he pretty much eats, sleeps, and breathes baseball. I can also think of few people who love LA—Keith’s hometown—as much as he does. So simply setting foot on the field of Dodger Stadium was a dream come true for him.

The Dodgers’ Veteran of the Game program is run by the wonderful Laura Levinson, the team’s Manager of Community Programs. She told us to arrive at the ballpark an hour ahead of time, which we managed to do despite the infamous LA traffic. Laura escorted Keith down to the field, where he thought he was simply going to chat with her until the national anthem began. But it just so happened that his all-time favorite baseball player, Steve Garvey, was there to throw out the first pitch. Laura arranged for them to meet, a cameraman filmed them talking, and then Keith was interviewed about it on the big screen. He also had a chance to give Don Mattingly his 2-14 CAV pin for good luck before standing on the first base line and saluting the flag for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (The pin proved lucky that night; not so much for the NLCS thus far!)

Keith Garvey talking
Here’s a photo of Keith chatting with Steve Garvey on the field before the game. They are just to the right of the fan in the blue Dodgers hat!
Interview
Here’s a shot of Keith being interviewed on the big screen before the game. The black at the top of the photo is the overhang I was standing under.

The actual ceremony honoring Keith took place in the middle of the third inning. He stood on the field just next to the Dodgers’ dugout, looking sharp in his dress blues, as the announcer said a few words about his career and then asked the crowd to give him “a warm Dodger Stadium welcome.” Everyone cheered loudly. Many stood up. It was an incredible moment.

But for me, it wasn’t the highlight of the evening. For me, the best part came after the ceremony. As Keith passed the dugout on his way back to the seats, several Dodgers players hurried over to shake his hand or to pat him on the back. Then, as he made his way up the aisle toward me, so many fans rushed over to thank him for his service. It was breathtaking for me to watch. 

But it didn’t end there. We still had to make our way back to the Dodgers office so that Keith could change out of his uniform. As we did, fans kept stopping him to shake his hand and to thank him for his service. Every time we’d start to move again, more people would surround him. And it wasn’t because he was a famous ballplayer or a celebrity. It was simply because they wanted to thank and show respect for a veteran. What an unbelievable feeling for both of us!

Big-city folks sometimes get a bad rap for seemingly being out of touch with the military. Dodgers fans also often get a bad rap for supposedly being bullies. But I didn’t see any of that in these fans, so many of whom went out of their way to simply thank a member of the military. (Even later in the game, when a rowdy man in a Braves jersey stumbled into our section looking for trouble, everyone just heckled him good-naturedly until he left. I saw no indication of Dodgers fans being jerks!)

Every MLB team supports our troops by holding at least one Military Appreciation Day per season. Many (including the Dodgers) give free or discounted tickets to military members.  But what the Dodgers do—taking a few minutes out of every single game to honor a veteran—is truly incredibly.

I did some research and found that several other MLB teams, including the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros—also go above and beyond for the military. In a future post, I will highlight what some of those teams do. But for now, I want to send a huge thank-you to the Dodgers players and staff (especially Laura Levinson) for supporting our nation’s veterans. You are all part of an organization that is truly a class act, and for that, you will always be winners in my book!

As I write this, the Dodgers are down three games to one against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, and are less than two hours away from taking the field for game five. We need a big rally! Let’s Go Dodgers!!!

Two Years Ago Today…

As many of you know, Keith was honored at last night’s Los Angeles Dodgers NLDS Championship game as the Veteran of the Game. It seems fitting that the honor took place on the eve of October 8. Today is the two-year anniversary of the green on blue attack in which Keith was wounded in Afghanistan, and in which we lost two American heroes, Captain Joshua Lawrence and Captain Drew Russell.

As he stood on the field of Dodger Stadium last night, Keith was thinking about these two brave men, killed in action on October 8, 2011:

Josh Lawrence
Captain Joshua Lawrence
Drew Russell
Captain Drew Russell

It was a day that changed everything for our family, and everything we do now is in Drew and Josh’s memory. They have no doubt inspired Keith to be a better Army officer. We love you, Drew and Josh!

How It All Began

Eight years ago on a beautiful July day, I boarded a plane to Los Angeles with a one-way ticket and a heart full of hope. Everyone I knew had called me crazy. My parents questioned whether I’d return home alive. But I just knew what I was doing was right.

I guess I should backtrack and explain how Keith and I met, for those of you who don’t already know. I was an editorial assistant at TIME For Kids magazine in New York City. It was an entry-level job; the first rung in the ladder I was planning to climb to the top of a magazine’s masthead. I absolutely loved the job, but since it was such a wonderful place to work and people rarely left, there wasn’t much opportunity for me to advance. I was starting to feel restless.

Then one afternoon, my editor rushed into my cubicle and asked if I could take a story off her hands. It was about anysoldier.com, an amazing website through which you can send care packages to “Any Soldier” stationed overseas. She was set to interview the founder of the site, Marty Horn, the next day, but things had come up and she was swamped. I told her of course I would write the story. I recall even making a joke along the lines of, “Maybe I’ll meet a hot soldier. Hardy-har.”

Anyway, I did the interview and wrote the story, then decided to send a care package myself. I went onto the site and ran my finger up and down the list of names in true eenie-meenie-minie-mo fashion. It landed on John Molamphy, First Sergeant of B Troop, 2-14 CAV of the 1st Stryker Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. He was the point of contact who would pass out packages to soldiers in his troop. I  sent him a package and then quickly forgot about it—until February 4, 2005, when I received an email with the subject line, “Thanks from Iraq.”

The email was from John Molamphy himself. He thanked me for sending the package and wrote a few paragraphs about his unit. I replied and told him about the story I had written. A week later, he responded with some more small talk and the following:

“I was going to tell you good things about my commander, Keith Walters, but he just told me I couldn’t go on a mission tomorrow, so I’m mad at him.  He thinks I need to stay safe or something.  I’m going to give you his email so you can tell him off for me.” And he left the email address.

Now, I must be incredibly dense, but—I kid you not—I had no idea that this was an attempt to hook me and Keith up. Growing up in New York City and knowing nothing about the military, I thought a troop commander must be some really old guy. I thought John was just trying to have fun with his commander. So I decided to play along by doing exactly what John requested—I sent Keith an email and told him off.

A few days later, Keith wrote back. He made a few jokes, then wrote:

“John says you live in New York? I went to college upstate and love NY, even though I’m a Los Angeleno to the core! Want to start a friendly coastal rivalry?”

And THAT is how this crazy adventure began. Keith and I started a written battle about the merits of Los Angeles vs. New York. No topic was off limits: Dodgers vs. Mets, Tupac vs. Biggie, Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” vs. Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” We even took turns writing lyrics from songs about California or New York. (His lyrics were very Beach Boys heavy, as you can imagine.) Before long, the conversations moved to our lives, our interests, our thoughts and feelings. Only a month later, I declared to my uncle over dinner that I was going to marry this man. Something about the way I said it made him believe me.

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Here is one of the first photos Keith ever sent me of himself in Iraq!

So there I was in July 2005, after five months of practically being chained to my computer, flying to LA to finally meet Keith. Of course, it was everything I’d expected it to be. Everyone always asks if there was a movie moment the first time we saw each other; if time stopped and we threw everything down and ran to each other with some cheesy love song playing in our minds. But there was no movie moment. It was better than a movie moment. Keith pulled up to the baggage claim at Long Beach Airport (which is outdoors), got out of the car, and handed me a rose. We gave each other a hug and a quick kiss that felt more familiar than they should have, considering we’d never even seen each other in person. Then I got in the passenger seat of his Acura TL (which we still own), said, “What is this crap you’re listening to?” and changed the radio station.

We drove directly to Jamba Juice in Santa Monica, got Orange Dream Machines, and drank them on a bench on the palisades, overlooking Santa Monica State Beach and the Santa Monica Pier. That night we went to dinner and a movie in Pasadena. The next day, we hit the road for an 18-hour drive to Washington State so that Keith could process out of Fort Lewis.

We spent the next eight days in Seattle, having a blast. We went to a Mariners game, ate at great restaurants, walked around, and just enjoyed each other’s company until I had to get back to New York for work. On the evening before I left, Keith asked me if I’d move to the San Francisco Bay Area with him, where he’d be attending grad school at Stanford University for the next two years before heading to West Point (his almer mater) to teach history. I said yes. I quit my job and moved in with Keith in Mountain View, California in January 2006. Nearly eight years later, here we are.

Us at Point Reyes
This photo was taken at Point Reyes the week after I moved to California to be with Keith. Look at how young we looked!

Needless to say, my life as an Army wife started out in a rather adventurous way, and the adventures have not stopped. I knew life would be a roller coaster, but I had no idea just how down the downs would be and how up the ups would be. Less than three weeks after our wedding and only a few days after we got back from our honeymoon, Keith moved to Norfolk, Virginia for nine months for an Army assignment. We had expected him to be at West Point for a third year, and I had recently started a job as a senior editor at Scholastic News, so I stayed in New York. We took turns visiting each other every other weekend.

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The saber arch outside the West Point Cadet Chapel just after we got married, July 18, 2009

Then we moved to Colorado Springs in the summer of 2010, and I feel like we hardly saw each other for a while. Keith spent a lot of time training. He’d be in the field anywhere from a week to a month, over and over again. Even when he wasn’t in the field, he’d work incredibly long hours, sometimes not getting home until 8 or 9 pm. Two weeks after our twins were born in June 2011, Keith deployed to Afghanistan. Three months later, he was shot in a green on blue attack in which we lost two very good friends, and was sent to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to recover.

Yes, it’s been a very, very long road. But here we are back in LA, where it all started for us. And I have to say—I feel 100 percent content and complete in all aspects of my life. I love Keith more than I did the day we met, and we have two incredible little boys.  I am doing work I love that allows me to spend a lot of time with Matt and Nate. Keith is enjoying his fellowship at the RAND Corporation. And—here’s the shocker—I love living in L.A. I mean, I really love it.

Yes, there are all of the obvious reasons I’m having a blast here—the amazing weather, the gorgeous beaches, the great food, etc. But what I love most are the possibilities. (That’s my favorite thing about New York, too.) I love waking up every day not knowing what might happen. When we go to our local beach, will we see a movie being filmed? Will we see dolphins and sea lions swimming only a few yards from shore? Will we see a real-live rescue taking place? We’ve seen all of these things.

On Tuesday evening, Keith and I found ourselves on the Sony Pictures Studios Lot, watching an advance screening of Captain Phillips for RAND employees and donors and their guests. This weekend, we are headed to SeaWorld San Diego with the boys. On Monday evening, before the Dodgers playoff game, Keith is being honored in a ceremony on the field of Dodger Stadium as the Veteran of the Game. They will show pictures of him on the big screen and the announcer will talk about his Army career.

I can’t believe all of the good things happening for us, and sometimes I wonder what we did to deserve it. But then I remember, we did earn it. Keith has three Purple Hearts. We’ve been through a lot of heartache and challenges. We were apart for the start of our dating life, apart for the start of our marriage, apart for the start of our journey as parents. Now we are together and having a blast.

Our family Torrance Beach
Our family at Torrance Beach on Labor Day 2013

I ask that you take two messages from this story. One is, take chances. Send the package. Write the email. Board the airplane. Don’t be afraid to take the bumpy, uncertain road in life. You never know where that road might lead you and where you might end up. Whoever knew this New York City girl would be relishing life in Los Angeles as the wife of an Army officer and the mother of twins? I sure didn’t—but I’m so glad it’s the life I’m living!

And the second message is: Don’t forget about all of the men and women in uniform who are still deployed overseas, and their families. Many of our friends have just deployed yet again, or are getting ready to deploy in the coming weeks. There are still so many people out there fighting overseas, and so many military families making sacrifices.

Thank you all for reading!!!

Hello Again!

Well, I’ve taken unintended hiatuses from this blog before, but this one takes the cake. It’s been nearly four months since my last post, and for that, I apologize. But when you add together two-year-old twins, a two-week trip to New York, a move halfway across the country, a month straight of visitors, two working parents—and, well, life—things can get pretty overwhelming. Not that I’m making excuses or anything…

As I sit here in my new “office” at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, I will give you all a brief update of our lives over the past four months.

  1. The boys turned two on June 19, 2013! They celebrated with two construction-themed birthday parties. One was with all of their friends at Gymboree Play & Music in Colorado Springs, and the second was a small family party at my parents’ house in New York. While living so far from family does stink, getting two birthday parties is certainly a benefit. 😉 Here is a shot of them enjoying pizza and birthday cake with their pals at the Gymboree party:

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  1. We officially moved from Colorado Springs on July 2. We parked our car at Denver International Airport and flew to New York for two weeks. Then we flew back, spent the night at a hotel near the airport, and hit the road for our 1,600-mile drive to Southern California. Along the way, we made stops in Eagle, Colorado; St. George, Utah; and Las Vegas. The boys were absolute champs, and we didn’t even need to pull out the iPads all that often! We did, however, have to listen “When I Build My House” and “The Cowboy Song” by Parachute Express about 8,000 times in a row. If you’re not familiar with those songs or that group, Google them … or not.
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Me with the boys at gorgeous Sylvan Lake in Gypsum, Colorado. We had just made them get back in the stroller after they’d hiked on their own for an hour, so they were a bit grumpy!

 

  1. We moved into our new home in a gated community in Torrance, California on July 20. It has a large outdoor patio/yard, and the community has a gorgeous pool, a small playground, and a fitness center. The best part is, it’s only a mile from the beach and the Redondo Pier! We walk to to the beach often. It is absolutely perfect for us! I am just now getting over the fact that I don’t have the word “Beach” in my address, even though the house is only a few feet away from the Redondo Beach city limit. 😉
I snapped this cell-phone shot of our new home the day we moved in, right as the movers arrived. The garage is now our gym/storage unit!

 

  1. We had about 10 days to unpack and settle in before our month of visitors began. Each set of visitors arrived the day after, or the same day as, the last. Our lineup, in order, was Keith’s brother Ken, my parents, my cousin Kim, my best friend Christine and her three-year-old son JJ, and my brother and five-year-old niece Ava. That means the boys and I were on vacation for a month as well! We spent the entire time exploring our new city guilt-free. We had tons of beach days, visited Disneyland twice and California Adventure once (we have annual passes), splashed around at the Seaside Lagoon, attended free concerts at the Redondo Pier, pretended to be tourists in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, took lots of walks along the strand, and ate way too much In-N-Out Burger, Johnnie’s Pastrami, and Tito’s Tacos.  It didn’t take me long to see why Keith loves LA so much … and for me and the boys to grow to love it as well. This place is seriously full of amazingness. (Yes, I made up a new word.) It was really hard for me to choose just one photo to share from our month of adventures, but it had to be the one of the boys meeting Mickey Mouse with Grandma and Grandpa!

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  1. It’s been only three weeks since the final visitor left, and already I feel like we are settling into a nice routine. The boys have a new part-time nanny, Ashley, whom they love. She stays with them a couple of afternoons a week while I get work done and run errands. I’m still writing three posts a week on a variety of parenting-related topics for Baby Gizmo. I’m also doing a ton of writing for Scholastic News Online and for several Scholastic classroom magazines. The boys and I go to Gymboree once a week and to art class once a week. I have a few pilates, barre, and strength-training classes I attend during the week that are whipping me back into shape. Keith absolutely loves his RAND Corporation fellowship and has determined that this is the type of work he wants to do after he retires from the Army (which is less than four years away now). And, his flexible schedule has allowed us to continue having fun!  Last weekend, our sister-in-law Beth stayed with us for a couple of days and we went to the beach and watched dolphins and a sea lion play in the water. The next day, we went to an Angels game—the boys’ first MLB game! This weekend, we’re heading to a Dodgers game. It’s the last home game of the season and also my first Dodgers game, so we’re pretty excited. Here’s a family photo of us from the Angels game. Let it be known that I will ONLY wear an Angels shirt for these little guys!!!
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Matt and Nate’s first Angels game, September 22, 2013.

 

And the boys? Well, let’s just say they are keeping us on our toes! In the last couple of months their vocabulary has really soared, and they are little chatterboxes. Gosh, they are so grown-up. They still love all vehicles and baseball, but Matt’s love for the sport has grown into a full-blown obsession. One of his favorite pastimes is swinging his bat around the yard, saying, “I’m Mike Trout, Mama!” And Nate’s latest obsessions are Ultraman (a Japanase superhero) and Johnny and Roy from the 1970s TV series “Emergency!” They both remain fun, silly, and very sweet little boys who are—most of the time—a joy to be around.

Overall, Keith and I are both so proud of how well-adjusted Matt and Nate are. I was so worried that the move would be really hard on them, but we are so shocked and thrilled by how quickly they adjusted to their new lives here in California. They didn’t even a skip a beat! On their very first night here, they slept all night in their new room, and have continued to do so. They already know every nook and cranny of our new home, they ask to go to specific places, and they even start shouting out where we are going as soon as I turn my car in the direction of a familiar place. They’ve also become total beach bums. They’d spend the entire day on the beach if we let them—and we often do! They do miss their friends from Colorado, though, and ask for them often.

We’re having a great time, and—although Army life could really suck sometimes—none of this would be happening if it weren’t for the military! No, it’s not easy to move around so often. You have to start over in new places and make new friends, only to do it all over again a short time later. But it’s also an adventure. You get to live in and visit places you never would have otherwise, and you learn things about yourself you wouldn’t have known.

Well, I could go on forever, but I’d better sign off for now. I’m so happy to be writing on this blog again, and I plan to do so once or twice a week from here on out. Be sure to follow me on blog.babygizmo.com and scholastic.com/news as well!

A Fun Easter—and an Upcoming Move

Holidays are becoming more and more fun as the twins get older, and we had a really great Easter! Our Easter celebration actually began the weekend before the holiday, when we had professional Easter photos taken of the boys.

What made the photos so exciting was the fact that our amazing photographer, Julie Pearson of Julie Pearson Photography, had the coolest prop ever—a real, fluffy, totally adorable bunny! While Nate was mildly interested in the bunny, Matt was totally enamored with it. He studied it, pet it, “pat-patted” it, and even kissed it! He then began to test his limits with the bunny by tugging on its ears, poking it, and pushing it. But don’t worry—the adults in the room rescued the little guy!

The boys with their new bunny friend
Nate smile
Nate and his blue eyes
Matt giving bunny kisses!

Matthew was significantly less keen on the Easter Bunny, who made a special appearance at the Gymboree Play & Music Spring Party we attended the day before Easter. Matt tried his best to have fun, but he kept staring at the bunny with trepidation. Then, when I tried to get him to sit on the Easter Bunny’s lap for a photo, he flipped out and refused to do so. So I had to sit next to the Easter Bunny with Matt on my lap—and I have to say, I could see why the kid was petrified! It was like one of those fake Elmos or Cookie Monsters you see in Times Square or at Rockefeller Center. Why do they make those things so scary-looking?

Us with the scary Easter Bunny. Luckily the party was fun and made up for it!

Nate, however, was a huge Easter Bunny fan. During the egg hunt he kept following the bunny around and proudly handing him plastic eggs he had found. Speaking of the egg hunt, Nate got the hang of it very quickly and had a blast. After he’d found his allotted number of eggs, he continued to search for eggs and place them in other kids’ baskets!

On Easter morning, we set up a little egg hunt in our living room and let the boys open up their Easter baskets, all from the Easter Bunny. Then, after eating the hard-boiled eggs we’d dyed the day before for breakfast, we headed over to our close friends Jeff and Lenore’s house. They and their daughters set up a huge Easter egg hunt for the boys in their backyard. Nate, who by then was quite the seasoned pro, immediately grabbed his basket and zoomed around the yard, quickly collecting eggs. Matt took a bit longer to get going, but once he got the hang of it, he had a full basket as well. The boys had a blast, and we are so grateful to Jeff and Lenore and the girls for doing that for them!

A successful Easter egg hunt!

Later that afternoon, Jeff and Lenore and the kids came to our house for Easter dinner. It was our second year in a row spending Easter with their family, but this year was even more special because Jeff was with us. (Last year, he’d been deployed to Afghanistan.) We are truly going to miss these dear friends, who have become like family to us, when we all move in a few months.

Our family on Easter

That’s the thing about military life—you meet so many great friends in so many places, but then you have to leave them. Luckily, we live in the age of social networking, which makes it easier to stay in touch. We know the good friends we’ve made through the Army will always be a big part of our lives!

Right after Easter, the rental management company we are working with listed our house for rent. Only a few days later, another military family came to look at it. Matt and Nate had a play date going on and the house pretty much looked like a bomb had hit it, so we thought for sure the family would not be interested. But the very next day, the family signed a lease for July! So just like that, we have a family moving into our home in less than three months, making the upcoming move all the more real.

It’s scary and exciting at the same time. Part of me wants to protest and say, “No! You can’t move in! This is Matt and Nate’s house!” But I know the boys’ home is wherever we and their things are, and I am totally excited to get to Los Angeles and make memories in a new home.

We’ll take a trip to California next month to find that home. It will be smaller than the house we have now, but it will have a backyard—a huge deal for us because we don’t have one now! Matt and Nate absolutely love to be outside, but it’s nerve-racking for me to have them play on our front lawn because it’s not fenced in. And, for the time being, I cannot take them to the park alone because they are fearless adventurers who tend to run in two different directions. So it will be nice to give the boys an enclosed outdoor area they can play in and explore to their heart’s content. I can’t wait to find our new place and share pictures with all of you!