Month: November 2014

Traveling Solo With Children, and Playing the Deployment Card

An installment in the New York Times Deployment Diary


When talking about the possibility of having a third baby, my husband and I joke that the switch from man-on-man defense to zone is a game changer. With him deployed, I’m finding more and more that the one parent to two toddler ratio is a constant fast break. This week has been no exception.
While helping my 3-year-old get a drink, my 2-year-old got into my makeup bag. When I heard that guilty voice yell from another room: “Mommy! Look at me!” I knew he had found trouble. Luckily, it was just a tube of lipstick. I got him (and our walls) cleaned up just in time to find my daughter “helping” clean by spraying liquid Clorox on my bag of groceries. Is bleach GMO free?

While daily life can be challenging now that I’m outnumbered, the most daunting task has to be traveling. Armed with sticker books, colors, snacks, movies, more snacks and absolutely every trick in the book, it all boils down to this one, unequivocal fact: You have no idea how it is going to play out. Flying with toddlers reminds me of riding in a cab in college with drunk sorority sisters. Maybe they will sleep. Maybe they’ll cry. Maybe they’ll vomit. Maybe we will just laugh the whole way and create great memories. Both scenarios demand a sense of humor and a healthy dose of cautious optimism.

The last time I traveled for Thanksgiving with both children when my husband was deployed, I was graced with three out of four incredibly easy legs. The second flight, however, will remain etched in memory as the worst of all time. Our first flight was delayed. Wearing my then 6-month-old in a carrier and pushing my almost 2-year-old in a stroller, we barely made it to our plane before the cabin door closed. I carried both children half-way down the aisle, sweating, bumping elbows, offering apologies and promising everyone around us drinks, only to find someone sitting in one of our two seats. I politely informed the woman in 16D that I believed she was in the wrong row. She, visibly annoyed, waved her boarding pass in my daughter’s face saying, “Tell mommy I’m in 15D and I’m not moving.” Knowing that my daughter was watching this interaction, I tried to de-escalate. In my calmest voice, I said: “Ma’am, you are sitting in 16D. Would you mind moving?” She refused.

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‘He’s Gone.’ A Daddy, Deployed

An installment in the New York Times Deployment Diary


The distinct pitter-patter of her 3-year-old feet on our weathered hardwood floor awakens me. The sun is still hidden from the horizon, and any other morning I would pull her into my bed in the dark silence, with the intention of us both catching a little more sleep. Instead, today she looks at the empty pillow next to me, and with heavy sadness in her eyes, only offers, “He’s gone.” Two little words for one little girl — half statement, half question — hoping the outcome has changed overnight, from a month at sea to just a normal day at work.

I nod my head, whispering how proud we should be of daddy, and how we will be brave like him until his return. I pull her close to me, hoping to validate her emotions as the tears stream down her face. Her quiet cries are just enough to wake her brother. He runs at full pace into my room before jumping on my rib cage. “Sissy crying?” he asks.

I listen as she repeats, almost verbatim, what I’ve just told her. It’s a moment fraught with emotional conflict for me. While I’m so proud of her empathy, I’m also wistful for my first minutes with her in the hospital. Stroking her soft hair, memorizing every inch of her sweet little hands, and promising her aloud that I would always protect her. I swore the same to my son, born just over a year later. In this moment, I can’t safeguard their hearts; I am unable to spare these tears. It’s a powerless feeling, before the sun is up.

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On Veterans Day, Offering Gratitude and Accepting It

An installment in the New York Times Deployment Diary

motherlode-veterans-tmagArticle-v2When I told the man at the baggage counter that my husband was deployed, he immediately replied, “Thank you for your service.” I didn’t quite know how to respond, so I smiled uncomfortably and nodded, graciously trying to clarify that my husband was the one serving. When I think of the phrase “service to our country,” I can hear the bayonets and see the tattered flag waving valiantly in the breeze.

I conjure images of the wounded, the battered, the proud declaring victory on Yorktown battlefield. I picture my grandfather in a foxhole in Saipan watching bullets fly overhead in the pitch black sky, a long way from his bride in South Dakota. I imagine my other grandfather, writing letters to my grandmother from Germany and asking about his new baby (my mother), only five days old when he deployed. I imagine the steely resolve juxtaposed against trembling bottom lips of high school students, taking their places on the front lines in Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf.

I think of my husband and our friends who have served in peacetime and in wartime, in jungles and in deserts, and I am humbled and honored by their commitment to our country. The land of the free, because of the brave. But never would I think of what I do — loving a man in uniform — as service.

Until today.

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‘What You Sign Up For’ When You Marry Into the Military

The first installment in the New York Times Deployment Diary


Through the lump in my throat, I’ve just finished telling my friend that my husband, a lieutenant in the United States Navy, is leaving again in a few days. It will be his fourth deployment since we were married, the first since the birth of our two children.

She looks at me, sympathy and confusion in her eyes and asks, “But you had to know what you signed up for, right?”

I tilt my head slightly, furrow my brow, and contemplate an appropriate response to what feels like an attack. I remember the “for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health.” I do not remember him vowing, “Sweet wife, when you have norovirus and our two toddlers demand constant attention, the Navy will still demand I go to work.” In fairness, I’m certain mine didn’t include “Loving husband, my inability to open a package without shredding cardboard everywhere will drive you absolutely crazy.” No one really knows what they’re getting into, right? With marriage, parenting, a new job: Don’t we convince ourselves that the mystery is part of the big adventure? After all is said and done, you can’t help who you fall in love with.

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