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Back to the "real" military

When I first started this blog, my husband was in college taking mechanical engineering classes. We had newborn twins, a 2-year old, and I needed an outlet. I felt like my life revolved around schedules-- my husband's schedule, our newborn twins' schedule, and our toddler's schedule. (Then we added a puppy to add yet another schedule-- house training a dog. Go figure!) Since I had put my degree on hold when my husband started college (under a rigorous timeframe imposed by the Navy's STA-21 program), this blog was a great way for me to do something I loved. I missed writing. Blogging about our life as a Navy family helped give me structure.

I really enjoy blogging. Over the past couple years I've written about the things that have happened to us along the way: infant twins to toddler twins and now 4-year old twins, homeschooling, moving across town and moving to a new duty station, making new friends and moving away from dearly loved friends. I've written about our second miscarriage and subsequently dealing with a molar pregnancy. I have been moved to tears by the emails I've received regarding that difficult stage in our life; it is amazing to me how many of my friends have had miscarriages that I never knew about. It helped me to put one foot in front of the other when I had friends helping me navigate the months following the molar pregnancy. It was hard for me to write about it; I doubted several times if I should hit publish. It was so personal and close to home, yet the stories that people shared with me made me so proud that I had posted my experience.

As I've blogged about our life, bursting at the seams with these 4 busy boys of ours, I knew that we were living in a little bubble. The military, while always nearby, wasn't involved too much in our life. In North Carolina, my husband mustered with them several times a week for PT and before his classes. We had balls each year and award ceremonies, but those are the fun aspects of military life. His schedule was slammed, which was expected because he had to complete his mechanical engineering degree in 3 years per the STA-21 program. In South Carolina, it felt like we started getting our feet wet with military life again. He went to power school and prototype. The rotating shift work started with prototype and I balked. The rotating shift work in prototype was different than the rotating shift work on a fast attack submarine doing pre-deployment work-ups, but it was still rotating shift work and it reminded me of what we were heading back in to. Now my husband is at SOBC (Submarine Officer's Basic Course). In SOBC, he has a very different schedule than with power school and prototype, but we are states away from each other. While he is up in Connecticut at SOBC, I am staying with my parents and doing life with 4 children.

Our oldest is 6-years old and really missing his daddy. He doesn't know how easy we have it right now with SOBC. My hubby may be stationed in Connecticut for the next couple months, but we are able to video chat with him almost every night. He calls me on his lunch breaks. While it is not the easiest drive to make, he can drive and visit us on weekends (there is a great comfort in having the option to do something, even if it isn't practical to do every weekend). He's already come to see us one weekend since he's been there and we have another visit on the calendar. This SOBC schedule is not a submarine schedule. I know that; my husband knows that. Our children, who miss their daddy right now-- today-- do not know that. They don't know why we have packed up our things from South Carolina and moved states away to my parents' house. They hear us talk how we are moving to Washington state and the concept is foreign to them; they don't know what that means and they long for familiar things. Where are their bikes? Why can't they play outside with their friends from South Carolina? Why isn't Daddy here to take them outside and throw ball with them? Where is their playroom? Why are they sharing a room with me here at Marmie and Papa's house? Our 4-year olds have off days and miss their daddy. Our 6-year old is hit with it like a ton of bricks. The other day he started sobbing that he wanted to go play with his best friends in South Carolina and that he wants Daddy. It breaks my heart.

I know it breaks my husband's heart as well. He isn't here to hold his children and comfort them when they miss him. Even harder is when he video chats with them and they say those sweet, heart breaking things, "Can we move back to South Carolina now?" It is hard to explain the "why's" of our life to the children at these ages, 6-years old and 4-years old. We tell them that we are moving because Daddy's job is in Washington state now. We are staying with my parents' before we move to have some fun at their house for a couple months. Daddy has to go to a school in Connecticut and will be back when he is finished to drive us to our new house. We let them video chat when they want to see his face. We tell them the same things and reaffirm how much we love them and want to listen to them. We tell them we miss their old friends too and pull out paper to draw their old friends pictures. We set up routines here and try to implement familiar routines and schedules. But it still just feels heartbreaking sometimes, navigating them through all these transitions.

Here, now, at my parents' house, I worry so much about what I will do when I am across the United States from my parents. They have helped so much. When I feel overwhelmed by life (for instance, last week when I came down with a really bad cold that is still holding on), they step in and take care of the boys. Every night my dad puts our 4-year olds to bed while my grandmother puts our 6-year old to bed. I'm able to sit with my mom as she helps me get things for the next day together (clothes for the boys, lunch/snack for our kindergartner) and put the baby to bed. When the boys are having a rough day, each of them have someone to hold them and comfort them. If my lap is full, they can sit with my mom, my dad, my sister, or my grandmother. When our 4-year olds are napping, my grandmother can walk to the bus stop and pick up our 6-year old. When the baby is crying, my sister is here to finish up the evening bath with the older 3 so I can tend to the baby. When the boys are bouncing off the walls, my dad can take them to their gym class so I can make dinner in peace.

When I think about Washington state, I think about how life was on a fast attack submarine before we had 4 children; our oldest was just a baby then. I think about how life was with 4 children as my husband went through power school and prototype. I think about how life would be for me right now with him in SOBC if I didn't have the support system from my parents... and I'm nervous. We won't be able to video chat with Daddy while he's gone on a submarine. We won't be living in the same house as my family and able to have someone else manage the school pick ups and drop offs if I'm overwhelmed. We won't have someone there to step in and do bath and bedtime with one set of children while I put the other set to bed. We won't have a multitude of adults to choose from when our oldest is having a hard time and misses his dad; my dad won't be there to step in and say, "Hey, come help me with this," and take him off for some much needed one on one "man time."

I have a feeling that this blog, originally started to focus on our life as a military family (much emphasis on family), is going to involve a lot more of the military aspects as military life encroaches on the relative calm we have achieved with our boys. (I say relative because life with 4 children, I doubt, is ever calm and then throw in the fact that we have a towering 6-year old and rambunctious 4-year olds and that calm is just gone.) I have a feeling we will be talking about dealing with children's emotions when Daddy is underway and balancing a household with the Navy schedule and how to maintain a sense of normalcy. I've been pouring over one of my favorite Navy wife blogs, "Keep Calm and Have a Cosmo." She is full of tips for managing a family as a military spouse. I've been sensing the shift in our own family from "pseudo-civilian life" to "real military life," as us military families rarely consider shore duties and training commands "real" military life. While we have dealt with many challenges over the past couple years unique to military life as he went through college with the STA-21 program and then the training pipeline, I know we aren't back in "real" military life yet; as the spouse who has lived through life on a fast attack submarine, I know we still have it good. It has been difficult supporting our children through this transition, as we are still in the midst of a PCS to Washington state (house packed out, living with family, hubby at SOBC, cross country drive with 4 children in less than 8 weeks). It has been hard balancing all the moving parts of this PCS myself, even as a military spouse on my 5th PCS.

Reading my old blog posts, it puts in stark contrast the subtle shift that has been taking place in our home. I see clearly where we were then to where we are now. I can picture what it was like as my hubby went through college. I see the small changes in how our household operated as my hubby went through power school and prototype. I see now how different it is here, especially for our children, as their daddy goes through SOBC. I know the next big change for us will be boat life once we reach Washington state. As we navigate this new chapter in our lives, I am very glad to have this blog, not just as the outlet that it has been for me, but also for the support I have received from my fellow bloggers and my readers. I love when a friend emails me or says to me, "Hey, I had the same experience!" I love the links to similar blog posts, "Here is how we got through the same thing.." I love funneling my thoughts into one blog post (then debating whether or not to publish it) and connecting several communities of women. It makes me so happy to hear from working moms, stay-at-home moms, moms of multiples, moms of singletons, civilian moms, military spouse moms, and even military spouses without children, who relate to the challenges of moving and making friends and balancing the military with the rest of your life. Thank you to all my readers and thank you to all who comment, message me, and share my posts.

As we move from this bubble we have been living in back to the "real" military, please hang with me! Keep the messages coming and sharing your stories. I love hearing from you.

How have you transitioned back to boat life from an extended time away from it?

How have you helped your children deal with the transition back to boat life? Or through a difficult PCS?


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