Welcome to the Wandering Drays!

Not all who wander are lost...

Welcome to my blog dedicated to my family and our crazy foreign service life. Never content with staying in one place, we are excited to share our journey. We've survived two unaccompanied tour (Baghdad 2010-2011 and Baghdad again in 2015-2016), multiple TDYs, and enjoyed a two-year family assignment in Cairo, Egypt. The fab hubby is currently learning Turkish for our next assignment...Istanbul, Turkey! We leave for Turkey sometime in summer 2017. I write about what I know. Which is mainly kids, tween drama, gross pets, dealing with lots of government info, our moving adventures, being a nurse, yoga, running, living on too-little sleep, and an addiction to coffee lattes. I hope you'll enjoy this glimpse into our lives.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Six Months Down...Six MORE to Go...

I know that the big buzz on the FS blogosphere right now is the proposed pay cuts to FS employees.  And I am concerned - even posted a nice little Washington Post article on my Facebook feed.  But...

I'm in my own selfish world right now.

In less than two days my husband will be on a plane headed back to Iraq.  No idea if he can even get into the country at this point (yet another issues I should be following - the increased violence in the Middle East has spilled over into Iraq.  As if it wasn't bad enough there already).

Jason with our little man.
I've enjoyed some 15 lattes since Jason has been home.  We hit Starbucks hard!  A few nice meals out, and a couple lovely evenings cooking together.  There have been two snowstorms, and I was so glad that Jason was here to shovel while I snuggled under a blanket on the couch with a cup of coffee.  We've gone shopping with the kids, bought them some shiny new toys and a few new clothes.  Jason got to meet his son (our 4-month old Kellen) again.  First thing he did was teach Kellen to blow raspberries.

We've discussed Cairo - over and over again - will we still go?  What are our options if it doesn't return to normal?  And we talked future dreams - what other countries will we live in or visit someday?

We tossed around the idea of sorting through 'stuff' that we need to sort through before we move in August.  But that project, along with so many others, fell by the wayside.  As I sit here typing this,  I am surrounded by some of that 'stuff' that always seems to pile up in the house.

I all but forced my husband to accompany me to doctors' appointments (my follow-up with my surgeon post-colonoscopy; Kellen's 4-month well-baby visit) and I made him go to the dentist.  Imagine how smug he was when it turned out HE had the perfect bill of dental health while I had a cavity that needed filled.  I got that cavity filled under valium-induced giggles;  post-filling, he drove me home shaking his head.

Tonight he is visiting some friends and I managed to get all three (!!!) kids to bed by 9:00pm. It's quiet here, save for the hermit crab rustling around in his cage.  Gross.

Tomorrow we have a lunch with Owen's Cub Scout's Troop and we plan on just hanging out at home in the evening.  I want so badly not to think about the following morning.  THE morning in which I drive Jason to Pittsburgh to drop him off at the airport, chin-up, forced smile, a casual 'see ya soon'.  I know my tears will flow, but not until after I drop him off.  My very good friend Nikki has already planned a girls' shopping trip on Monday to the outlets -- she remembers how hard it was for me when last I dropped the hubby off at the airport.  I can't thank her enough for being here for me.  We'll meet up with another girlfriend, Suni, in Cleveland and talk work and babies and dogs (they both have dogs, not kids!) and they'll try to get me to forget about the icky, achy feeling in my chest.  I really have the best of friends.

Then it's back to the day-to-day on my own.  Kids up in the AM, get them to school, wipe the baby spit-up off my shirt, do laundry, do dishes, go to work, shovel snow.  Kids to bed, take a shower, crawl in the lonely bed and try not to think about how we still have six more long months...

Now I take a deep breath, and let it out.  Need to put everything back into perspective.

We've come this far, and even though it hurts - and it really does hurt - we are doing well and have so much to look forward to.  In fact, I calculated it out, and we only have 10 weeks until his next leave.  That's just 70 days.  And seeing as how we have done nearly a full year's separation (he was in DC March thru August last year while the kids and I stayed in Ohio BEFORE he left for Iraq), 10 weeks really isn't all that long.  Not in the grand scheme of things.

It's been a great 2 1/2 weeks with Jason home.  Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish we could stay here 'normal' with him at home.  We have a nice house, a beautiful family, great friends.

But if he stayed here, we'd go back to what it was before he started this career, and that's not what we want.  We wanted this new life - to travel, to discover, to grow.  This separation is just part of the process and we're putting in our dues.  Six months down, six more to go.  And then we're on to a grand new adventure.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Turn Around, Newberger, and Run.

23:41.  And I only ran two miles.  I could cry.  "No more babies!" I yelled at my husband when I got to the front porch.  "I just did the worst run practically EVER.  What am I going to do?"  All of this after I had come home earlier from a super cruddy shift in the ER.  And as soon as I hit the door, I had told him I was going for a run.  I just couldn't bring myself to complain to him about my icky day....not when his usual icky day is spent in Iraq.  Dealing with much more ickier things.

"Turn around, Newberger, and run.  Run and don't come back.  Not until you've had a good time."

Newberger was my maiden name and Jason and I met in the Army.  So many years ago, and it still brings back memories of when he was my squad leader and I was a complete newbie.  Now, whenever I am lost, he snaps me back to reality.  Just by calling me by my maiden name.  Newberger.  I reminds me that no matter what, I still have so much to learn.  And that I am so much stronger than I give myself credit.

And so I did.  I turned around, reset my iPod for another run and I ran.  I ran not for time, not for distance, not for the pride of being able to brag about my running just 4-months post-partum.  His simple "turn around, Newberger, and run" reminded me why I run.

I am not a natural runner.  My upper body is a full size smaller than my lower body.  I have strong, short legs.  When I run, I literally pound the pavement. I run a 10-minute mile and when really run "fast"--- I can improve that to a 9-minute mile.  A 5K(3.1 miles) is 27 minutes for me, if I'm feeling really fast.  Nothing impressive.

The first two miles I ran, I set myself up.  "I'm going to run five miles" I thought when I walked through the door.  After all, before I got pregnant with Kellen, I had done that distance four or five times a week.  For nearly an entire year. I'd even run two half-marathons that year! Today, I didn't account for the snow still left on the ground, for the chilly air, or for the loss of skill from the pregnancy.  I cut myself no slack.  It was all or nothing when I hit the pavement the first time.  After the first 1/2 mile I knew I was in trouble.  I was pacing 11:15.  I needed to speed it up!  So I did.  And it hurt.  How was I going to finish five miles? And next thing I knew, I was a mile into the run.  I really hurt.  I stopped, frustrated, and I walked.  Like it had beat me.  I was angry when I got home.  Jason could see me a block away.  Defeated.

"Turn around, Newberger, and run.  Run and don't come back.  Not until you've had a good time."

It was exactly what I needed.  I ran.  I could feel my feet hitting the pavement, finding a stride.  Sure it was slower.  But it felt good.  I don't run because it's good exercise, or because I feel I have to.  I run because I love it.  Yes, it was easier in California.  Not just because I was in better shape - that took a long time to achieve - it was because of the ocean air, the beautiful view, the time I allowed myself to sink into a run for my 'me-time'.  I used to stop and sit at the bay and watch the cargo ships pull into the harbor.  I'd slow down and suck in a deep breath, gazing out to Catalina Island.  I didn't worry about the time.  But I loved running long before we lived in California, and I have to remind myself that.

When I run, I feel powerful.  My body does exactly what I will it to, despite my natural body shape.  My body doesn't let me down.  I don't need to run an  8-minute mile to love the run.  I just need to run.

And so I ran.  I did the same two miles.  I slowed down the pace when needed, I lip-synced to the songs on my iPod, I waved to the fellow runners I passed (it's a code we all have).  And when I dipped down the slight gradient to our home, I could feel my pounding heart and loved the sound of my feet hitting the pavement. I had done exactly what my husband had told me to do.   I'd had a good time.  I looked at my iPod GPS running app.  I had run the exact same two miles.   And this time, I'd run it in 21:40.  Two minutes less than the first two miles.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Feeling Normal

Jason is home on leave for 19 days. Not that I'm counting, but we're already 7 days in.  And they have gone by so very quickly.  Over the 365 days he is assigned to Iraq, we will have a total of approximately 10 weeks together - not quite 70 days.  Only 20% of the year.  And that's actually one week more than the typical hardship assignment - we got the extra week because of FMLA with the birth of Kellen in October.  Again, not that I'm counting.

While he's home, I am still working.  For those who don't know, my employment status in my hospital is 'per diem' (translates roughly to 'as needed' - which usually equates to a phone call from the ER to my house every day with a pleading 'can you come in today?').  It's a great situation for me with Jason gone.  I get to make my own schedule - so long as they need the help, I can schedule myself in to one of two different ERs.  I call myself a Mercenary Nurse.  Nurse for Hire.  I'm very lucky to have such flexibility.  In fact, I can work as much or as little as I want.  We have the option of me not working while he's home.  But I work anyway.  Here's why...

1.   If I don't work, I don't get paid.  As a per diem RN, I get no benefits other than the flexible schedule (which as far as I'm concerned, that's the cream of the crop of benefits).  I like to spend money.  My latte is $4.65.  I get five of them of a week.  You do the math.  I also like to eat out, buy the kids unnecessary toys, get myself new clothes, go out with some girlfriends.  Guilt-free cash is always nice thing, and when I work, that's what it is.

2.   I like my job.  Sure, I post on facebook that I have crappy shifts.  It's the ER.  Some days are good, some days are bad, but (nearly) all are rewarding.  I make a difference in someone's life every time I work.  And I have so many friends I work with - really, my job is my adult time.  It's especially important when my husband is in Iraq - it helps with the loneliness and it forces me to make a schedule. I was never very good at being strictly stay-at-home-mom.  I wanted to be!  But I am terrible at  making a schedule when it always seems to me that nothing truly has to be scheduled.  And when I'm strictly stay-at-home-mom, I don't get anything done.  Just a shift or two at the ER each week forces me to stay organized.  80% stay-at-home mom.  20% working mom.  It's a nice balance, at least for me.

And most importantly....3.  It simply feels normal.  We don't get a lot of that anymore.  When Jason's home, he gets to take part in all the minutia of the day-to-day.  Everything from dropping the kids off at school, to changing Kellen's diapers, to meeting me at the door when I get home from a 12-hour shift at midnight.  I've worked afternoons for so much of our marriage, that having him in the kitchen making me an after-work snack when I walk through the door is one of the greatest moments of my day.  I love seeing him at the end of the day, asking him how his day was and telling him what mine was.  Sure, we do this over the phone when he's in Iraq - but it's hard for it to feel anything like normal when it's 10:00pm for him, telling me about the end of his day, while it's 2:00pm here, me telling him about the middle of my day.  Not to mention, he's in Iraq.  And I'm in Ohio.  Even our weather doesn't sync.  Sometimes when I drive home from the ER at midnight I like to call him, hoping to catch him at the beginning of his day (8:00am there) so I can tell him about the end of mine.

Normal.  Who doesn't want to feel it?  In fact, as I write this, he's off at gymnastics with Owen and Abby.  I know Abby is bouncing down the trampoline run right now yipping out "Daddy!  Daddy!  Look at me!" and Owen is trying desperately to do a backflip to impress his Dad and look cool at the same time.  I am at home sitting on the couch with Kellen like it's just another day in frozen Ohio and my hubby is just out with the kids.  Later this week, it's a pediatrician appointment with Kellen, a cub scout sleepover, and an evening hanging with the guys for Jason.  Normal normal normal.  I love it.

After-movie normalcy.
Jason and I had a date today - dropped the baby off at daycare and the kids were picked up from school by my fabulous in-laws.  A date day is something that Jason and I have been doing for years.  Drop the kids at daycare or get someone to watch them and spend the day out.  It's actually how we explored SoCal the year we were in Los Angeles (thanks to our amazing au pair, Jenny!  We miss her so much!).  Anyway, we had lunch at a favorite Mexican restaurant and talked about our hopes for Cairo and our next big move.  Then we went and saw a campy movie at the theater - The Green Hornet.  And then we enjoyed sitting at Starbucks talking about it afterward.  All day I basked in the normalcy.

I try to keep one little horrible thought from popping in my head though...only 12 days left.  Push it out of my head and enjoy life as it is.  Right now, at this very moment.  Normal.

Friday, February 4, 2011

In the Blink of An Eye...

My sweet little boy Owen is eight years old in just two days - on February 6.
Dad has always been his best friend.

Eight years that flew by so fast in the blink of an eye; eight wonderful, exciting, enlightening years.

You were our miracle baby - told we'd never have children and then you showed on the ultrasound.

About 9 months old.
You were a frustrating toddler.  Always into something, and always so artistic.  From the curtains you cut up with pinking shears, to the leather furniture you decorated in white-out, to the pirate map you drew on the clothing pattern instructions with the black sharpie marker that bled permanently to the table.  

And you've always been a gymnast - long before you hit the trampoline.  How many times have I caught you nimbly walking on top of the monkey bars instead of simply swinging below?

Myrtle Beach 2008.
There is no better big brother than you.  You've helped Abby learn to read and you always tell her she's the prettiest girl.  You sing to Kellen and kiss the top of his head and make googly eyes at him to make him laugh.

Legos are your current vice.  I am so proud of all that you've built --- by written instruction as well as those you've created out of your own imagination.  I am curious to know what will be on your next to-do list.

The current projects.

Hard at work...
You are pig-headed, stubborn, and you question everything - all three traits that are horribly infuriating now but will be character strengths you'll possess as an adult.  You are loving, kind, generous, smart and funny.  You tell everyone your Dad is your best friend.  You love peanut butter sandwiches and yogurt, but sometimes you surprise me and you try new foods like humus or pomegranate seeds.  Right now you'll still snuggle with me on the couch and you like tuck-in songs before you go to bed.  You still call me "Mommy" every now and then, but it seems that with each passing day you call me just "Mom" more often than not.

I may call you 'big man' now, but that's really only because there's a new 'little man' in the house.  But no matter what, you will always be my precious baby.

Happy Birthday, Owen.  We love you so very much!