Saturday, March 11, 2017

Love Bugs

Hey, y'all - 

For Valentine's Day this year, we invited some friends over for a crafting party. We got out the colored papers and the glue sticks and the markers and the stickers, and let everyone make homemade valentine cards. Even the grown-ups got into it. 

Because your dad's not around, we even got to use glitter. Boy, your dad hates glitter. Speaking of your dad, the highlight of the party for me was when Ms. Correy arrived, bearing a really delicious, expensive cake your dad had ordered for me all the way from the other side of the world. This man knows the way to my heart...I don't care one bit about jewelry, but I sure do love baked goods. 

Of course Hagen wanted nothing to do with the arts and crafts until the party was over and everyone was packing up to leave. Then, he went into hyper-drive and hand-painted about 14 hearts, all by himself. If you want Hagen to party at 3:00pm, you gotta start revving him up at 12:30p.

For his class's card exchange, I had bought him a box of Pokemon cards that came with temporary tattoos. On the day of the class party, he woke up crying. Anyone who has ever raised a child knows what happened next: "But Mooooommm...I don't want to give my cards away! I love them too much! I caaaaan't...." etc. etc. insert Mom eye roll. 

At the breakfast table, I asked him to write his name on his cards, but he was too busy mourning their loss. Laney tried to talk sense to him: "But Hagen!" she explained, "You'll give away cards, but you'll GET cards, too. And sometimes those cards come with cool things like pencils or bubbles!" Hagen wasn't having it. "We have to leave here in 30 minutes," I begged. "Hagen, PLEASE write your name on the cards." No. NO. NO. Then Laney, exasperated, decided she was tired of his nonsense and grabbed the cards, wrote his name on them, and shoved them in his backpack. "There!" she said. 

I know you're not supposed to have a favorite child, but in that moment, it was her. 

Hagen, Ms. Correy later reported that you got into the spirit of things a little, and actually gave away your cards, though at each person's box in circle, you stopped to say, "I sure do love THIS one." Or "I'll miss THIS guy."

Laney in the role of Favorite Child came to a screeching halt the next night at bedtime, when we discovered that she had head lice, and had given it to me. Hagen, in the role of Child Who Did Not Infect Our House With Bugs was suddenly promoted. Of course, we discovered this around 9:00pm. It's like a Law of Parenting: nothing bad ever happens at 9:00AM, when all the stores are open and the sun is up and it's possible to call on a babysitter. 9:00PM and after, only, for lice and ear infections and puking. 

I called Correy and begged for guidance. As a preschool teacher, she's been down this road before. She told us to coat our hair in oil - she recommended coconut or mineral, but of course we only had avocado because it's $16 a bottle. Then, we were to wrap our heads in cling wrap and blow dry them as hot as we could stand it for about 5-10 minutes. The oil suffocates the bugs and the heat seals the deal. 

Laney was a trooper about the whole thing, and the treatment was surprisingly effective. Correy told us that the next step would be to go to the drug store in the morning and get the lice shampoo. I asked Laney, "Can you please get dressed and maybe wear something that doesn't draw attention to us as we run into the pharmacy to buy shampoo for our parasites?" This was what she came up with:

Laney does not do beige. Or low-key. 

We dosed ourselves and Laney got to miss a day of school, and Correy came over at lunch time and pulled nits out of my hair while I prepared a show pitch for Netflix. Later that day, my boss asked me why I was so snippy, and I told him, "I don't know...maybe because I have two kids and two jobs and a husband in Afghanistan and an hour to get this presentation done and bugs are LAYING EGGS IN MY HAIR." 

We got the lice killed off, and y'all...I thought we were past the domestic crises. So I invited some of our friends over for lunch on Sunday, and the night before the lunch, I decided to fill the hot tub for the first time this year. I filled it to the brim, turned up the temperature and went to bed. The next morning, I opened the lid to see if it had reached the desired temperature, and instead discovered it was empty. The "Twilight Zone" theme started playing in my head. How do 500 gallons of water just disappear? I flipped the breaker off and started to investigate. I noticed some loose boards on the side of the tub. I pulled them off, and there, by the motor, discovered the body of a dead cat. 


If lice never happen before 9pm, random dead animals on your property that need to be excised from your hot tub motor never appear when your husband is in the same ZIP code. 

Once again, Correy and Greg showed up without being asked, and Greg removed the cat. Dear Father God, if you read this blog, please assign Mr. Greg an additional 100 Heaven Points for his work down here, and see if you can have his favorite beer waiting for him when the time comes. 

When it's been a few weeks since I've updated this blog and you're wondering what-all is going on, now you know. But I bet you wish you didn't.


Friday, March 10, 2017

5 Year Well Child

Dear Hagen,

Last month, you had your appointment for your 5-Year Well Child visit. This seems like a good time to step back and take a look at how you've grown and just who you are these days.

In preparation for your visit, your doctor's office sent us a development workbook - pages of activities I should get you to attempt at home (everything from reciting the alphabet to jumping on one foot) to see if your language and motor skills were developing appropriately. You and Laney and I had way too much fun with this workbook. Every time there was a physical challenge, Laney coached you through it... "You CAN jump on one leg from here to the kitchen! I know you can! Like a flamingo, buddy!" And I rolled my eyes, thinking, "This is probably why the boy doesn't want to put on his own coat - 'cause he's got two women telling him how to do every dang thing and applauding."

Completing the workbook took us forever.

There was a section that required you to write your name and draw shapes. You can't ever just DO the assignment. You have to stop and ask philosophical questions like, "But what IS a rectangle, really?" Dude, I am not going to discuss the origins of geometry with you right now; just draw the damn shape. And then there was a box where you were supposed to draw a human figure. "Hagen, can you draw a person for me?" "No," you said, "but I CAN draw a monster that evolves into a robot."

At the bottom of the parent portion of the workbook was an essay question: "Do you have any concerns or worries about your child's development?" I wrote, "He's quirky as hell, but we're not worried."

Dr. Hoover told me the office enjoyed that, very much.

At your appointment, you were 42 pounds and 42 inches. We like our young'uns square as possible. At the end of our visit, I lied and told you that the nurse was going to give you some medicine before we left. What I meant was, 'She's going to give you some shots in your thigh." As she was giving you your vaccinations, you yelled "HEEEYY!" like you'd been duped. Then you hopped down from the table and she asked you, "Here's a sucker. Will you shake my hand?" and you said, "I WILL NOT!" and headed out to the parking lot with that sucker in your mouth. I had to jog behind you and call out to the receptionist: "Glad we don't have a co-pay! BYE!"

Even that workbook - as exhaustive as it seemed - didn't give a full view of who you are as a person, so here are some things I want to remember about Hagen, age 5. 

1) You're charming as hell. You will wear handmade hats and browse the bakery with me and say hello to every person you meet on the way. 

2) You are not afraid to pave your own way. Sometimes, we go to parties at Ms Julie's house. In her basement, Ms Julie has a large kennel, filled with pillows. Every once in a while, you are the only little boy at these parties, and the girls play loud, squealing, running-around-crazy games that you want nothing to do with. A few months ago at one of these occasions, you went downstairs with a bowl of chips, a juice box and an iPad, locked yourself in the kennel with your snack and a marathon of "Transformers." Some of the women I'd never met before at the party asked me, 'Is that little boy at the bottom of the stairs okay?" And then I heard some of the men around the fire say, "I wish I'd thought of it first." Last time we were there, you got your friend Kai in there with you, along with half a cheese pizza, so you're really making this boy-sanctuary trend happen. 

3) If I tell you we need to walk next door to feed the neighbor's cat, this is the outfit you come up with. Neon boots, Christmas ribbon scarf, water cannon. I showed this to your dad, who made lots of "Highlander - there can be only one" jokes. 

4) You love painted fingernails, but each finger needs to be a different, carefully-chosen color. This falls under my Hagen Standard Time rule, where you take how long something normally takes, and then - if involving Hagen - you times two and add five. [Fun fact: This is also how they determine the wait time at Outback Steakhouse. 10 names on the wait list = 25 min wait.]

 5) You're the kind of guy who will wear his shirt open before the snow's even melted, because you're a bat and bats need to flap their wings.

6) You keep your teachers entertained. Last week, you told Ms. Correy, "Today I am going to do something COMPLETELY different!" "What's that?" she asked. "My work!" you said. 

A few days later, she sent me this picture of you wearing your coat inside out because "the inside is green and the Incredible Hulk is also green."

Your sister got a new math board game, so you went into school and told Ms. Correy that she needed to teach you addition by the end of the day so you could beat Laney at her own game. Ms. Correy tried her hardest to give you a first-grade education in 7 hours, but in the end, Laney helped you through it:

7) You sleep anywhere you damn well please. Middle of the living room, doorway to the office, behind the bedroom curtains. I don't fight it, because even if I get you to sleep in your own bed, you'll wake up an hour later after I'm asleep and move yourself and I'll have to worry about tripping over you in the dark.

8) Speaking of weird stuff at night, you told me not long ago, "Sometimes, I like to do art when everybody else is sleeping." Well, that's not strange at all. You've drawn overnight murals on your dry erase wall, you've colored designs on your LEGO with a Sharpie, and you've made a tray full of multi-colored Play Doh worms and then put traffic cones around them in your closet so your sister and I would know they're off-limits.

9) You're the kind of guy who:

 -Will spend half an hour trying to teach the dog how to play Pokemon.

 - Will be told "I need fifteen minutes to finish this work project because I'm on a deadline. Can I have just 15 minutes of alone time?" and will respond, "YES! Just as soon as I tell you what these water-type Pokemon can evolve into!"

- Likes to be the inside of a "Hagen sandwich."

- Is the life of the party, once we convince you to GO to the party.

I had all of this in mind earlier this week when I drove to Laney's school to register you for kindergarten. Holy moly, how could that even be possible?!?

Again, I was presented with a questionnaire on what your future teacher should know about you. But by this time, it's old hat:

I think you're absolutely incredible, and I love seeing how your mind works every day. Granny Jack told me a long time ago, when I first became a mother: "That's the thing about children. They already know who they're going to be. You can spend your whole life fighting it, but they arrive with their own personalities and you just have to hang on."

I'm so glad I get to be a part of this ride.


Friday, February 24, 2017

The Thor Update

Hey, y'all -

It's been an overwhelmingly busy time around here since - oh - Valentine's Day and one of these days I'll get around to catching everyone up on what's been happening on the home front. But it seems like what most people want is an update on how your dad is doing, so here's the story on that:

Because your dad's the kind of guy who can't JUST go to the other side of the planet and work a strategically imperative job around the clock, he's using whatever down time he has to build a Rec Room inside the hangar. Seems there are piles of plywood just laying around, so your dad took it upon himself to launch a new construction project.

He's working on the "It's easier to get forgiveness than permission" principle, and so far no one has come by to tell him to stop. Army bases aren't really known for their building inspectors. 

He's moved in some fitness equipment and a TV and has scrounged up some furniture that should be coming in, too. He's just so damn productive. 

His living conditions are...okay. 

He moved to a slightly bigger side of the divided room, and it may or may not be slightly bigger because when no one was looking, he may have taken it upon himself to use his drill to move the plywood partition allegedly back a few feet. 

We can't complain because I'm sure if he were a young infantry guy vs a Navy officer, he'd be sharing this room with three other dudes. 

So far, his biggest complaint (at least that he shares with us) is about the food. They haven't had fresh produce in a while, and currently the only thing on the salad bar is pudding. Sometimes, they even run out of plates. Lately, they've been serving a lot of hot dogs. I have become the Queen Of The Care Package, because no one is eating suspicious hot dogs on my watch. Granny Jack has been great about starting a little unofficial "Thor fund" so every time your dad thinks of something he needs (like protein that isn't so sketchy) we can send it right off.

He does have wifi in his room (although they make military members purchase their own internet if they want to have it in their room, which I think is despicable). We get to talk to him every day. Your dad's time zone is 11.5 hours ahead of Montana, which means we're always on opposite sides of the clock, and typically tell him "Good Morning!" as we're heading off to bed. 

Speaking of:


E-MAIL / TEXT - All of Thor's web-based applications work on his iPhone. You can text him or e-mail him at his normal contact info and it'll go right through. Phone calls don't work. He has Skype. If you're a friend/family member and you don't have any of that contact info, let me know. 

MAIL - Mail seems to be taking 11-14 days to get there, which is pretty great considering how far it has to travel. I sent his address to all the friends and family I could think of as soon as I got it, but in case I missed you and you want to send him a card or something, let me know and I'll send you the address. (Operational security and common sense prohibit me from posting it here.)

If you want to send a letter or card, great - those just require a normal postage stamp and can be dropped in the mail like anything else. 

If there's an item you want to send him, it's usually easiest to order from Amazon Prime or Target. Both ship free to APO addresses, and you don't have to mess with your own customs form. 

If you want to send your own package, it gets a little more tricky. You can pack it in your own packaging and ship via the post office, and they'll charge you normal domestic postage rates (One day, I might run the world and there will be a slashed-rate box for military, but right now, one doesn't exist.) USPS does offer a $2 discount on the Large Flat Rate Box, which comes in two sizes. I am a zen master of cramming more stuff in one of those boxes than ought to be possible...each box I pack is on the Russian nesting doll system because I WILL get the most out of that $17 box, and if I had understood spatial geometry this well in 9th grade, my life would have been way easier. I pack everything in its own Ziploc, partially to avoid spillage but also because no one wants their crackers tasking like their deodorant. 

USPS boxes require you to fill out a customs form which they have available at the post office, or if you want to holler at me, I can fill one out for you online and send it to you to print. 

Right now, we have lots of options in terms of snacks we can send, because it's cold in Montana and equally cold in Afghanistan. Starting around May, it's going to get hot as the devil over there, and we can no longer ship chocolate or anything that could melt. 

We've gotten your dad a mini coffee maker, and an Amazon subscription to nice Italian coffee and those mini half and half cups like you see in diners.  Seems to have turned his life around. 

Let me know if I'm leaving anything out. 

Thanks to everyone who has been checking in with us, or asking how you can help. We're holding up really well, I think, considering, but some days are definitely easier than others. Keeping our eye on the countdown:


Monday, February 13, 2017

The Grand Tour

Hey, y'all - 

Your dad has finally made it to his destination. For about a week there, I was completely on edge because he couldn't contact us and we couldn't be sure where he was as he traveled between locations. Then I got a copy of a Navy spouse newsletter (published by Debbie Downer Press) that instructed me if I really needed to get in touch with your dad, I would need to go through the Red Cross. Nothing like learning that if you want to get in touch with your spouse, you'll need the help of an NGO.

But, good news! He's made it to his base and moved in to his accommodations and he received all of the care packages we shipped...containing items like high thread-count sheets and firm pillows, because he may be deployed, but that doesn't mean he has to live like an animal. Amazon and Target both ship directly to rural Afghanistan. As your dad is fond of saying, "War ain't what it used to be."

He sent us this little video of his room:

Next week, I'll be pitching HGTV a new show called Barracks Flip.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

With Love From The Second Grade

Dear Laney,

Your teacher - because she is a saint - decided it would be a fun project to have your class write letters to your dad.  You brought them all home in a folder earlier this week and they are sweet and lovely and hilarious.

This was your letter:

OK, the "Hagen does not know that you are gone," is a little mean, because it's totally not true. 


Then, you drew a picture of the two of us, smiling and holding hands and marching into the future with confidence, as Hagen wanders around in the background, wondering, "Ware is Dad?"

Poor Hagen. We need to hire him a publicist because he is being unfairly represented in the media:

You have a new kid in your class from some unspecified country in the Middle East (you can't seem to remember). Ermias doesn't speak English, and you have volunteered to be his helper buddy as he gets used to the school. You explained to me that you and Ermias have worked out a system where he points to the swing and then points to you and then you push him on the swing through recess. If that's not the sweetest thing I've heard all week, I don't know what is. As a thanks for your friendship, he drew this picture of (I'm guessing) your dad riding a manatee. This is actually a pretty good artistic representation of your dad's toes.

Sawyer here is very encouraging, with his "I hope you have a great time and don't get fired." Interesting to see where Sawyer's head's at.

And then there's Hollis, whose letter and photo are more about the fun of sleepovers than anything else. 

It is not true that Laney can bike without her hands, but it IS true that she's a foot shorter than Hollis:

No idea who wrote this one, but I like that s/he addressed it to "Mr. Thor," and attempted to write, "I appreciate all your work."

"Dear Thor, Thank you for working for the USA. I like sledding and watermelon and my name is Addisyn, Laney's friend."

Several of the kids wrote variations on "I hope you're having a great time!" which suggests they may be confusing Afghanistan with Panama City. 

Probably for the best.

Alex (who we all remember as your first grade crush) wrote a lovely note about how he likes to play with Legos.

Everything is Funny and Weird And Cool:

Miranda submitted the most literal book report ever:

I can't wait for your dad to get these in the mail. I hope he enjoys them half as much as I do.