Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Happy Mother's Day from Kimber's Navy Family

The other day our boys were exhausted from a busy day out. Since they no longer nap, I brought them upstairs to watch a movie and (hopefully) rest for awhile. Sitting in my arm chair with a 10-month old nursing/sleeping in my lap, 2 4-year olds spacing out on my bed to "101 Dalmatians," and a 6-year old flipping through his Highlights magazine on the floor, I did what all moms do when trapped in front of the same movie we have watched 100,000,000 times before: I grabbed my phone and started reading blogs. Well, then I switched to Facebook and started reading comments. One Humans of New York post stuck out in my mind. It showed a woman beautifully dressed for the Met Gala. She mentions how life with a one-month old is different than how she thought it would be and how she didn't let her baby near her dress. Many people commented on it saying, "Oooh! FIRST TIME MOM!" One comment has been rolling around in my mind since I read it: how snarky moms with 3, 4, and 5 kids are, how they think they are better than everyone else just because they have a ridiculous amount of kids, how they dismiss everything moms with 1 and 2 kids are going through because they "only" have 1 or 2 kids, how we are all moms and should be supporting each other instead of bullying each other, and, finally, how we all walk through this motherhood journey differently.

Whew! When I read that comment, I first thought, "Wow, this lady really does not like moms with 3+ children." Then I started thinking about it. Do moms with many really sound so judgy? As a mom of 4, I would like to think not. But then I started thinking back to a lot of comments I heard when I started my motherhood journey, how irritated I would get when people poo-pooed my concerns by patting me on the head and saying, "First time mom, eh?" I also started thinking about how my thinking has changed from my first pregnancy to our last pregnancy and from our firstborn to our last born. There has been a significant shift in my thinking and I do parent differently. I noticed it after we had twins (our second and third children), but I've really noticed it with our fourth baby. Much of what I did differently with our twins I attributed to the fact that we had twins after a singleton. However, with our fourth baby, I've really noticed a difference in my mothering than with our first child and our second and third children.

What differences am I talking about? I've actually written a couple blog posts about this topic before. One of them about "becoming my parents" and how I understand many of their parenting decisions the longer I mother; one of them about how differently I view our children's ages and my expectations of them this time around now that I'm not a "first time mom." In a general sense, the biggest difference, to me, between having my first baby and having my fourth baby is that I know how quickly the infant stage passes. Being a person that thoroughly enjoys the baby stage, I now have first hand experience that the sleepless nights, the colic, the breastfeeding, the pumping, the bottle-feeding, the baby foods, the diapers, the footie-pajamas with 100 snaps that never line up correctly, the spit-up, and the fussy evenings fly by before you even realize it. Our fourth baby (who I swear was just born!) turns one next month-- what?! There are so many amazing "firsts" that first year that are clearly marked: first bath, first time he holds up his head, first smile, first time reaching his arms up to me when I say his name, first time sitting up on his own, first time in a high chair, first foods, first time standing, first steps... I can clearly see these firsts and mark them in his baby book. The firsts after that become much harder to distinguish. One day our 6-year old burst in to the house and wanted me to watch him ride on his skateboard. Apparently he had been practicing this (with the appropriate protective gear and padding). It was my first time seeing him slowly make his way down our driveway on the skateboard, but his dad had seen him do it and he had been practicing this for years (according to him). Suddenly these tiny little babies of mine that I have invested so much of my time in are these little people with their own little lives. I feel our 6-year old and our 4-year olds moving further and further away from me with each year. I don't notice it so much in our day to day life; it is when I stop and reflect on our days that I see how much they are growing. And so, with our fourth baby, when I am elbow deep in sleepless nights and sticky baby hands pulling my hair and his snot covered face buried in my J Crew silk blouse, I know that in a blink of an eye he will be a 2-year old, that before I know it he will be a 4-year old and the next day a 6-year old. I know how fleeting it is that my baby will need me as he does now. With that lesson in mind, I can only assume that when our oldest is 12-years old, I will look back at the time when he was 6-years old and miss this time, when he needed me as a 6-year old boy needs his mother.

How does that lesson affect my day to day parenting? With our fourth baby, it is easy to see how it affects my parenting. The little things really just do not get to me. I can wake up after a rough, sleepless night and say, "Man, he slept horribly!" My day is not derailed and I just brew an extra cup of coffee. I give grace when he screams through dinner. I am able to slow us down and say, "Yeah, probably not going to get those errands done today; let's just take a walk instead." Our fourth baby loves taking walks and so we love walking him. We are able to put on the brakes and enjoy the small moments that happen each day, whereas with our oldest I felt like those fussy colicky days dragged on forever; with our twins, I felt like they flew by in a world of baby spit-up and endless evenings. With our fourth, I feel like the days are full of baby smiles and sweet moments. When I compare him to our other children, they really aren't that different, but my perspective has changed.

In my day to day parenting with our older three boys, it is sometimes harder to see how this lesson affects my parenting. For instance, with our oldest, he is our first 6-year old. I get these glimpses when I see him around other 6-year olds that the behaviors that we find so baffling (repetition, slap-stick comedy, potty humor) are completely normal. Those are the times where I say, "Hey, we need to cut him a break. When our other children are 6-years old, I doubt we will even bat an eye at this behavior yet we are holding our oldest to a very high standard that perhaps should not be this high."

With our twins, it is hard because some of the things that they are going through are exasperated by the fact that we have 2 children the same age. So this morning when one of our 4-year olds was having an absolute come apart because he couldn't find his Olaf piggy bank, our other 4-year old was having an absolute come apart because he wanted to go to My Gym right now (all while I was in the middle of feeding the baby and getting our kindergartner ready for school). I have to take a breath at those moments and think, "Would this be so annoying if one 4-year old was yelling at me right now?" First instinct is always YES!!!!!, but then I am able to step back and dig deep and think, "Maybe not... because I would be able to focus on the one 4-year old in front of me who wants his Olaf piggy bank and talk him through it." If I had one 4-year old, I would be able to approach the situation this way: 
"Yes, I am feeding the baby, but when I am done I can go upstairs and help you find it. Do you know where you saw it last? What do you want to put in it? Do you think we should find somewhere safe to put it so we don't lose it again?"
Instead of this way with 2 4-year olds:
"Yes, I am feeding the baby-- please stop interrupting, I am talking to your brother-- and I will help you find your Olaf piggy bank-- sir, I need one second, we are not going to My Gym right now. I need to talk to your brother and then I will talk to you-- yes, I know you want Olaf, your brother was interrupting, I will help you find it. Sir, do not yell at me. We are not going to My Gym. We will find your piggy bank. I am feeding the baby. I hear you. We cannot go to My Gym; it isn't even open right now. I need a minute and I will go upstairs with you. Okay, both of you-- time out until I finish feeding the baby. Then I will help you both. Time out. Go."
With them, I find that I know what to expect from their ages-- a newborn, a 1-year old, a 2-year old, a 3-year old, a 4-year old, etc-- but that I am often surprised by how it translates having 2 children at that particular age at the same time. I have been most surprised that, while the newborn phase was super busy, the toddler phase was harder. I have also been surprised lately with the challenges we have had with 2 4-year olds. They are about at the age where pushing them in the stroller is impractical (pushing 2 30-pound children in a double stroller while wearing 1 20-pound baby in the Tula? No, thank you), so now we have 3 children out of the stroller and only 1 child in the stroller (2 of them being 4-year olds with 4-year old temperaments). Anyways, so some of my expectations regarding their ages and stages are different when handling twins than a singleton. I know this also makes me approach our fourth child, a singleton, with a softer lens as well. (For instance, before our fourth child, the last time we were doing the newborn stage, we were changing two babies' diapers around the clock, which makes changing one baby's diaper feel like a lot less diapers. The last time I had a 10-month old, I was wrestling 2 10-month olds through diaper changes and into clothes, which makes wrestling one 10-month old feel like a lot less work.)

Beyond the multiples perspective (comparing twins to a singleton), some things simply are a lot less work when I do them with our fourth baby than with all 4 children. I am surprised when I travel or go out with "just the baby" at what doesn't feel like work to me anymore. When I went out with our first baby, getting the infant carrier in and out of the car, pulling the stroller in and out of the car, loading and unloading the diaper bag... it was a lot. Everywhere I went I carried a sea of belongings. If I stood in line and he started fussing, I was exhausted and irritated, "Why are they taking so long to check out at the grocery store? Come on..." I would wrestle him through doctor's appointments, "I'm here with a baby! You would think they could move this along..." Even when we had our twins (our second and third children), I would never choose to make a stop when I was out with the children. I remember taking one of our infant twins with me to the store and he cried the whole time. I thought, "Man, even taking one child to the store is a ton of work." Then we had baby #4. Our twins were 3-years old. Our oldest had just turned 6-years old. I fully expected to have the same feelings lugging around the baby and the infant carrier as I had when our twins were born... but I didn't. I don't know if it is because I'm a baby person, but toting around one baby? I got this. If I leave the 3 older boys home (with their dad or my parents) and I am out with the baby, I'll stop at Starbucks. I'll run in to the grocery for one thing (unless they have to, moms never choose to run in the store for one item). I call home, ask if anyone needs anything else. I take him to the doctor and don't mind waiting-- one baby is a break from 4 children (Don't mind me! I brought a book!). I buckle and unbuckle him from his car seat, unload and reload the stroller, pop in and pop out the infant carrier. NBD (No Big Deal). I did not expect to feel that way and it really is a change from how I felt with our first and our twins. But it is less work going out with one baby than 4 children-- making sure our oldest is buckled in his high-back booster and buckling the other 3 children in their car seats, unloading 4 children from the van, getting the baby in the stroller and making sure the older 3 are holding hands in the parking lot, keeping an eye on 4 children at the park, etc.

For other things, like pediatrician visits and the like, it is definitely different for me the more children we have added. The things I would take our first in for were not things I took our second and third in for and definitely not what I take our fourth in for. It ends up falling in that category of, "Man, do I really want to drag 4 children to the pediatrician?" Because some one always catches something new when we go in for a sick visit. If I have one sick child and 3 well children with me, I don't want to sit in the sick child waiting room with 3 well children, but no one wants me in the well child waiting room with my one snot-nosed, coughing, feverish child. And who wants to deal with all those children in the small pediatrician's office? Children climbing all over the exam table (and falling off of it), children licking the floor and sliding all over the floor, me bouncing the sick child (or children) on my hip, the doctor finally coming in to glare at the misbehaving children who have been waiting for 20 minutes and then telling me, "Yup! He has a cold." No, thank you. If I'm taking children to the pediatrician, I need a reason. Rash? You better have that rash for days, then I'll take you. Fever? Better be high. Injury? I'll call the nurse line first. Any questions or concerns, I call my mother, who has 4 children herself (plus 5 grandchildren now).

The last thing I thought of for how things are different for me now that we've had 4 children compared to when we had one child is that I really have allowed myself more grace. My mom is always instructing me to pick my battles. Some things that were worth fighting over with one child simply are not worth fighting over with 4 children. For instance, I wrote a blog post on "toddler technology." The times that I found it appropriate for our oldest to hang out and watch a lot of movies are different than the times I have found it appropriate for our other 3 to hang out and watch a lot of movies. During this move, our oldest has spent a lot of time on his tablet playing Minecraft and Minion Rush. It simply becomes overwhelming to do it all by myself and I have to give myself grace, allow for different seasons in our life, allow for times when we do things closer to our ideal and times when we take more shortcuts. Life happens. Much like how I need to give our children patience and grace, I also need to extend that to myself.

Which brings me to the final point: patience and grace. I've written many blog posts on motherhood. This whole blog is about being a Navy family: our life, our experiences, my musings. One of my greatest parenting convictions is that we all do things differently. What works for me today, might not work for me tomorrow. What works for one of my children, might not work for another of my children (something I have definitely learned the more children we have had!). How I feel about something is not how another mom feels about it and what is important to me may not be important to you. When I write my blog posts on parenting and managing twins, that is how my husband and I have handled our situation, how we live our life. My favorite parenting advice to give is do what works for you. Treat other moms with patience and grace. It isn't a competition and we don't help our cause as women by putting each other down. Being a military wife and now mother to 4 children including twins, I feel like there is this competition to "have it worse:"
"I had 4 kids in 4 years and none of them are twins; that must have been much easier getting two out of the way at once."  
"That must be so nice having such an age gap between your twins and your baby; my kids are 12 months apart and it is so crazy."  
"I have a 28-month old, a 17-month old, and a 2-month old and my husband will deploy next year."  
"I have 13-month old twins and my husband is deployed."
We don't know anyone else's story. We don't know why someone is getting in our face about how much "worse" they have it. Maybe they are having a bad day? Maybe they aren't trying to be a one-upper and I am taking it the wrong way? Maybe they really are just a one-upper and I need to put it in a bubble and let it go? Patience and grace.

We are in this together. I know that it was hard with my first baby and it is hard with my fourth baby. I know that the challenges I had with my first baby are different than the challenges I have with my fourth baby. It was hard being pregnant with a singleton and hard being pregnant with twins. It is important to extend the same grace that I wanted as a first time mom to other first time moms. More important than that is knowing that not everyone desires or will have 3+ children and that is okay; it also doesn't make the experience of having 3+ children better or greater than having 1 or 2 children.

To whoever wrote that comment on the HONY post, I'm sorry that your experience with moms of 3+ children has been less than positive. I hope that this blog post helps shed some light on the perspective of parents who have 4 children and compare the experience of parenting their first child to their fourth child. I also hope that as parents we can uplift each other instead of bringing each other down. You are absolutely correct that we need to support each other and that everyone's motherhood journey is different.

To the first time mom sitting at the pediatrician's office first thing Monday morning because your 9-month old sneezed over the weekend and has a drippy nose, love to you. To the second time mom wiping a pacifier off on the hem of your dress, love to you. To the third time mom wondering if the baby has been bathed this week at all, love to you. To the fourth time mom popping in 101 Dalmatians for the 100,000,000 time just to have some peace and quiet in the evening, love to you. To the fifth time mom answering for the 100th time "Yes, they are all mine," love to you. To the mom of newborn twins struggling to feed one baby and bounce the other, love to you. To the mom of toddler twins desperately trying to make the house one iota more baby-proof, love to you. To the mom suffering from a recent miscarriage and desperately missing that baby you never held, love to you. To the mom balancing the children and life while your husband is deployed or away, love to you. To the mom pregnant and chasing after one or two or three children and longing for a nap or a break, love to you. To the mom of the toddler screaming through the grocery store while your fellow shoppers glare at you, love to you. To the mom crying in the bathroom while you text your mom and the children tussle and fight in the other room, love to you. To the mom sitting in the van in the driveway while your children nap in the backseat, love to you. To the mom of one child being asked all the time when you are having another, love to you. To the mom feeling you are doing it all wrong, love to you. We support you all.

Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Back to the "real" military

Giving Daddy good-bye hugs after a weekend visit from SOBC

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?

Our 6-year old and baby video chatting with their daddy

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Prototype in South Carolina

I'm starting this blog post off with a disclaimer: this was my experience as a Navy spouse as my husband went through prototype, another school in the nuclear Navy officer pipeline-- not his point of view, but mine. These are my thoughts and words, not his.

My husband is prior enlisted. When he went through prototype this time around, he had already gone through prototype before {as enlisted}; he had already been on a submarine; he had been in the Navy for 10 years. He went through the STA-21 program {more blog posts on that under "Military Resources"} and is going back through the pipeline as an officer. I felt his prior experience would work to his advantage in prototype and at least give him more time with our family than he had while in power school {read the "Power school" blog post}.

Students in prototype are on rotating shift work. The shifts are roughly these times, depending on which boat you get on and various other factors:
  • Days {day shift or first shift}: 7 am to 7 pm
  • Swings {swing shift or second shift}: 12 pm to 12 am
  • Mids {mid shift or third shift}: 8 pm to 8 am
*Note on shift hours: you need to add about an hour before and after these shifts because often they have to go in that much earlier and stay that much later for trainings and turning things over to the next shift.

As of right now, there are two prototypes, prototype in upstate New York and prototype in South Carolina. We went through prototype in South Carolina and I do not know how true all of this rings for upstate New York.

In South Carolina, there are two operational submarines {called boats} used for prototype. After the first 7 weeks of prototype, the classes are divided between the 2 boats. Even though the students are in one class, the submarines operate independently of each other and the training for the students on one submarine does not affect the training for the students on the other submarine. What I mean is, if the submarine you are on assigned to breaks down {as it did for us}, you do not get to go train on the other submarine until yours is operational again. While we were there and our boat was shut down, the students on the other boat kept moving forward and graduated on time while our graduation date was pushed back to graduate with the class behind us.

The first 7 weeks of prototype operate on a Monday through Friday day shift. After the first 7 weeks, rotating shift work starts. The shifts last 7 days and are 12 hour shifts. Here is how the schedule works:
  • 7 days of days
  • 2 days off
  • 4 days of training {"T-week," which has the same hours as day shift}
  • 4 days off
  • 7 days of swings
  • 2 days off
  • 7 days of mids
  • 2 days off
When shift work starts after the first 7 weeks of prototype, each of the students get assigned to a crew. Whatever shift your crew is on is the crew you will start shift work in on week 8. Some students actually started on day shift. We started shift work on swings.

The nice thing about shift work is that once it starts, you can mark your calendar from week 7 of prototype {you find out your crew around week 6 or week 7 and the shifts you are on around then} all the way to the graduation date. Because that's your schedule. And the first 7 weeks of prototype are days, so you can plan on that too. I liked that much better than the uncertainty of the study schedule in power school and felt like I saw my husband far more in prototype than I did in power school.

The first 7 weeks of prototype had to be 12 hour shifts. He spoke to his advisor and, after the first 2 weeks of prototype, he was allowed to come in early so he could leave early. With 4 children, arriving home shortly after 7 pm-- the busy hour of baths, pajamas, and stories before their 8 pm bedtime-- was crazy and chaotic. For the first 2 weeks of prototype, he came home to roughly 45 minutes to an hour of epic meltdowns. Over tired and excited children glad to see Daddy, tired from their day and resisting bedtime, to be bathed and put in bed by a hungry and exhausted Daddy. When he could go in earlier for his 12 hour shift, it was much better; he started going in between 5 am and 6 am. Even getting home at 6 pm gave him time to change and eat before the bedtime hour started. My husband wanted to help with the bedtime hour on those shifts because that was his only interaction with the children during day shift; on days he left before they woke up.

My husband's prior experience did work to our advantage in prototype; he spent most of the shifts on reduced hours. If students are a certain distance ahead of the curve in prototype, they are awarded reduced hours, which, depending on how far ahead of the curve they are, are either 8 or 10 hour shifts. Reduced hours made shift work far more bearable. On day shift, I asked him to be home by 6 pm, for the reasons stated above. On mid shift, he would leave for work after the kids went to bed at 8 pm. Most of the time he would go in at 10 pm, but, if he was really busy at work, he would go in at 9 pm. I loved mid shift. He would sleep in our guest room during the day, which was removed from the rest of the house, and sleep pretty much "work hours," 9 to 5, wake up in time for dinner, play with the children and then put them to bed, and then he and I would have time to curl up on the couch and watch a show together.

Swing shift was my least favorite shift. There was no good time to go in for swing shift. If he did reduced hours and went in at 2 pm, our whole morning routine was thrown off because we were hanging around the house until he woke up around 10 am and then we would hang around with him until he went in to work at 2 pm, which was about the time our toddlers went down to nap, which forced us to linger around the house even longer. It threw off the rhythm to our day. Swing shift kept him away on the busiest part of the day {evening hours} that was only made harder because our whole routine was thrown off by that awkward morning lingering {4 children off schedule = disaster}. He tried doing reduced hours to see us more, but eventually I told him that the reduced hours just made it harder. He used swing shift to work and stay ahead of the curve. The only nice thing about swing shift is that I used swings to schedule all our doctors appointments. I would schedule them around 10 or 11 am, after he woke up, and he would go in on reduced hours. We always tried to be home when he woke up on swing shift so the children could see him.

This is when we were exceptionally glad we homeschooled and had the flexibility to adjust our hours to be home with Daddy. If you look at the schedule, there are off days in there. Many of them aren't actually off days, but days to help transition your sleep schedule. Here is a breakdown of the sleep schedule on shiftwork:

It was hard not to look at days as a day shift, "Oh, yay! He's working regular hours and I will see him regular hours!" No. When he was on days, he had just come off mids so he was tired and grouchy. He went to bed at roughly the same time as the children and sometimes staying awake all the way until 8 pm was a struggle. There were times where he went in the boys' room to read them a story and I found him asleep on a twin bed with the boys climbing all over him.

2 day {The 2 days off in between days and T-week}:
This was our weekend. More often than not in fell on a weekday. Since we homeschooled, I never did school with our kids on these days, weekend or weekday. We usually ended up doing errands or put-off projects on these days, which I think is what most people do on these days, but parents with 4 kids definitely do on these days. These are the days that were either filled with car maintenance, doctors appointments that we worried would be too long to squeeze in before swing shift, and various other house projects. Rarely did we not have something along those lines on a 2 day. I do think that is normal with family life, though.

This is training week for the staff so the students had to go find other section's staff for their qualifications. This didn't affect me at all, as the spouse. During T-week, his sleep schedule was almost normal for a "regular" day shift.

4-days were lovely! Mostly because swings come next and so he started really trying to stay up in the evenings. These are the nights of movie watching, no school days {homeschooling, remember?}, and playing outside {South Carolina, remember?}. Again, generally we had something going on {we have 4 kids}, but they were still something to look forward to and very much enjoyed, far more than the 2 day, which always felt like an awkward the middle of the week.

The weird thing about swing shift is that he was almost the most "normal" sleep-wise. He was most alert, most rested on swings, but we saw him the least. He only had to stay at work until midnight and then he came home and went to sleep, at least, the first part of each swing shift. The last part of swing shift is totally awkward. He starts trying to stay up later in preparation for mids, so he his rising time is later: 8 am, 9 am, 10 am... 10:30 am... and that time between the time he rises and the time he leaves for work shrinks... and he gets home after we are all in bed. I will also add, in my Navy wife experience, all bad things happen on swing shift. This is the shift that you will get a migraine; you will forget your ID at home and thus cannot get back on base; your children will all get sick; your best friend will have distant relatives in town and so cannot come over each evening to calm your nerves. This kind of stuff only happens on swing shift.

Swings to mids rotation:
These are the off days in between swings and mids. When I first saw these on the calendar I thought, "Aw, how lovely to have all these off days built in our calendar!" Nope. These are basically sleep days. The crews usually meet up in the middle of the night to help each other stay awake, such as meeting up for pizza or to play basketball. I never went to any of these because 1. I am not a bat, awake all night, and 2. We always have kids sleeping at home. I do know that some significant others did go with their military members to these get-togethers, but as the parent watching the children, I never did. During the day on these rotations, he slept. In the evening on these rotations, he was tired.

Since he put in so much work at the end of swings and the swings to mids rotation, he was fairly prepared for mids each time. My husband has a gift for falling asleep. I am not saying that sarcastically. I do think it is a gift as a submariner. He can sleep just about anytime, anywhere. He had no problems sleeping during the day and no problems sleeping in our guest room with the children home. As the parent awake with the 4 children making noise as he slept, I did worry they were waking him or that he wasn't getting good rest. However, he always assured me they were fine. I started trusting this and letting the kids live their lives as normal. I said it before, but I loved mid shift. I looked forward to putting the kids to bed each evening and our time together to watch a movie and hang out without him being tired. When he left for work at 10 pm, this was the time that I was heading to bed anyways and so I didn't really think of this as time away from him. I didn't like sleeping alone and sleeping alone bothered me far more in the past. Living on base with 4 children, a cat, and a dog in the house, across the street from my best friend and her husband {who was on a different shift than us}, helped me feel far less alone. I did miss falling asleep next to him and one mid shift I made the error of reading a scary book, but, in general, I slept fine. I do know that mid shift wasn't his favorite for his sleep schedule, but he did enjoy our time together and the time with the kids. He came home just as the children were waking up and spent all evening with us.

Mids to days rotation:
These days and the first part of days were enough to make me doubt each time if I really loved mid shift as much as I thought I did. Man, these were tired, grouchy days for him. He would try to stay awake as long as possible, but it was impossible, even with the children distracting him. He was so tired. I tried to leave him alone as much as possible on these days, no planning anything that could wait.

"Thanks," you say, "for the sleep schedule. But what is prototype? How do you pass it?" I'm not even going to pretend that I understand exactly how the system works to get qualified at prototype. Here is a very simplified version of the process:
  • You do computer check outs to see if you are prepared enough to monopolize an instructor's time for an actual check out where you can get signatures for your "qual card" {qualification card, which is actually a ginormous book requiring upwards of 650 signatures}.
  • You must complete all the computer check outs.
  • You must get all the signatures.
  • There are verbal check outs with the instructors and then there are check outs where you have to stand watch.
  • There are smaller watch standing check outs and bigger watch standing check outs. If you are in charge of the watch, you are the Engineering Officer of the Watch {EOOW}. That is a Big Deal and deserves a special dinner the first time you stand it.
  • You have to take a comprehensive exam which takes about 8 hours to complete. This is a Pretty Big Deal and also demands a special dinner after you pass.
  • To graduate prototype, you have to stand a watch board and, the very last thing, the oral board. These are Even Bigger Deals and sometimes people fail them. They get about 2 more tries if they fail them. These deserve Big Celebrations after they are passed.
  • After all that, your crew goes out to a celebratory dinner together in which everyone takes a cab home.
Besides the sleep schedule and the check out process, there is the boat schedule to contend with. When he started prototype, we thought with his prior experience that he would be qualified quickly. I briefly mentioned before that each class gets divided between the 2 boats. Our class had a January graduation date. Our boat broke and our grad date floated around for a long while before finally being pushed back to join the class behind us for the March grad date. The people in our class on the other boat did graduate in January and went to the February SOBC class. Since our grad date was pushed back to March, now he is in the April SOBC class. The boat schedule is frustrating. I especially disliked that when a boat is shut down, you can't get quals on the other operational boat. You are just stuck sitting around doing what you can until your boat gets running again. Prototype is supposed to be 24 weeks long and it took us 32 weeks due to the boat we were on. Not only did he not qualify as quickly as we thought it would take, but he stood rotating shiftwork 8 weeks after his projected grad date.

Around the time you start rotating shiftwork, week 8, you put in your Dream Sheet, which ranks your duty station options and boat types 1 through 10. Around week 20, 4 weeks before graduation if your crew is on schedule, you get orders with your duty assignment {read my blog post, "Submarine officer's JO tour dream sheet" for more information on duty station options, etc.}. Some people have already gone through SOBC and will report to their boats immediately after graduation; some, like us, have SOBC after prototype and report to their boat after SOBC. When our boat shut down and our grad date got pushed back, the orders for our class were taken away and reissued. It was such an uncertain time. We had to cancel a house hunting trip we had planned over one of his 4 days; I ended up flying out to our next duty station to go house hunting without him because he can't take time off in prototype. It was a mess. It was made messier because we didn't know what his grad date was, what SOBC class he would be in, if our orders would stay the same. I got our house ready in January to pack out early February. Then our orders changed and we ended up packing out in March. I am glad that is all over.

Prototype, to me, started out far better than power school. I loved the reduced hours. I loved knowing exactly when he would be home and what his schedule was for the next couple weeks. I loved the 4 day weekends and being able to schedule doctors appointments when he would be home to watch the children. However--big however-- by the time it was over, I was over prototype. I hated the uncertainty at the end. Are we moving now? We had written and cut orders that changed. Are we going to the same boat? Same state? What SOBC class will he be in? When can we go house hunting? How much longer will he have rotating shiftwork? I had anticipated rotating shiftwork until-- at the latest-- his grad date in January, not all the way until March. I didn't ever quite grasp how the system worked to get signatures and what you were supposed to do when your boat was shut down and so, to me, it often felt disjointed or that nagging feeling of, "Surely there is a better way!" {Perhaps that is my mom-of-4 organizational skills kicking in, attempting to find the quickest and easiest system.}

I often had that feeling in prototype that I was being impatient, that boat life is harder than this. That I needed to take a deep breath and enjoy him being home. Our last boat was a fast attack submarine and that life was so up and down, in and out, nothing but uncertainty--never being able to count on him being home, always having my plans cancelled. Needing him, needing a day with a him, a night with him, a moment with him-- preferably when it could be us, not us where he is tired with gray circles under his eyes and I'm frazzled, but us how we are in my mind, how we were. And when I compared prototype to boat life, I felt guilty. Boat life was so so so much harder. I knew I had it better in prototype, yet I struggled so much with the desire for this ever changing grad date, the tedious rotating shiftwork, the endless move preparations {with 4 children underfoot!} to be over... I thought of the loneliness and isolation of boat life, not being able to tell my family boat movements. And, yet, I was impatient. It was one of those times as a Navy wife where the grass is greener and yet you know it is not. You know the next thing isn't better than the current thing, and still you long for a change. I'm terrified to get back on a submarine, now with 4 children instead of 1 like last time. I'm sure when he leaves on that first underway I am going to cry thinking about warm South Carolina afternoons where he was working on a project in our garage and our children were riding bikes around the driveway while I sat and drank sweet tea watching our life march forward...

Friday, March 20, 2015

PCS #5: Big changes!

Wow! It has been awhile since my last blog post. A lot has happened since then. We are in the midst of a PCS, one of those military moves where we won't be at our next destination for months and we are living with relatives and traveling to visit friends. These are all good things, but it has been exceedingly stressful planning this out with 4 children. On top of the craziness of getting our house ready to be packed out, we are making this move with a season change: wardrobes for 2 seasons for our family of 6 with a cross country drive at the end of these couple months. We have been consciously trying to pack our belongings in a way that we hope will fit in our vehicles when we drive from the east coast to the west coast (and trying not to stress out over a 5 day drive with 4 children, in the meantime). I packed our winter clothes lightly, with the hope that the winter will wrap up soon. I'm relying on layering and the one winter jacket I brought for each family member. It is the first day of spring and snowing so it seems my good intentions are for naught. My children are going to be shivering for the next couple weeks! Could it please warm up soon?!?!

This PCS was one of the craziest PCS's we have made. I think I said that last time as well. When I first got married, I remember that being a whirlwind. California to the New Hampshire/Maine border in February was a shock to the system. After that, we were always moving with children. We had at least one child for our next 4 moves. I remember it being busy. When we moved across town with 3 children, I was ready to pull my hair out, but we still managed and my parents came to help us unpack. When we moved to South Carolina, we still had 3 children, but this time our twins were toddlers. I had them play on our patio as we unpacked the house and we managed to unpack quickly. PCSing a household with children is not convenient, by any stretch of the imagination, but still do-able. I search for the do-able.

I'm not sure why it was so hard on my emotions and my stress level this time. I struggled a lot. While my husband and I worked on one area of the house, the children were destroying the other side of the house. I expected that, but I still found the level of mess that they were able to make in a short time hard to handle. One day while we were painting chairs, they "went camping." The three of them stripped their beds and stuffed their pillow cases and duffle bags with their entire wardrobes, their favorite puzzles (poured into the pillow cases, out of their boxes), and Playmobile people. I was mortified to discover this mess and it took us nearly an hour to clean it up. Afterwards I felt horrible because their little faces were so sad that I was upset. They were having such a nice time camping and I put a kibosh on the whole thing because of the mess.

Mentioning painting the chairs brought in another new element: DIY projects. My husband and I have never PCS'd with 4 children. We have also never tackled the number of DIY projects we did this time, all the week before our pack out. Since we are building a house at our next duty station, we have decided that we also want to decorate it nicely. I did some thinking and browsing of my favorite designer sites and blogs and decided that I had a multitude of pieces I wanted painted or fixed up for our next house. My hubby and I discussed if we wanted to paint them in our current duty station or wait until we arrive at our next duty station. We decided-- since he will be reporting to a boat at our next duty station plus unpacking with 4 children-- that we should tackle as many DIY projects as we can before the pack out since we will still have much to do once we arrive. (I want my hubby to build us a couple pieces of furniture as well.) Looking back at how we spent our time before the pack out, I can confidently say that we undertook way too many projects. It was so stressful managing these projects as well as the children. I told my husband this and he agreed-- it was too much. However, he also pointed out that it would either be too many DIY projects before our pack out or too many DIY projects after we arrive at our destination. I agree on that. He also said that at least this way, it is all finished. I also agree with that. So, I don't know. Maybe there just isn't the "best time" to get a lot of DIY projects done with children and with a PCS; I can say I am excited to decorate our house.

...and our house. That was another first. This is our first time buying a house plus we are building it. It is all new to us. That has been stressful as well, but not nearly as stressful as my husband and I thought it would be. I think what helped us is that we were on the same page about the whole house buying process. We found what we were looking for. We liked our realtor. I was far more nervous approaching this than my husband was (he wanted to buy at several of our last duty stations) and we did have a number of disagreements. I think I just expected much more disagreements than we ended up having. I am very nervous about selling when we PCS next time, but I'm putting that in a bubble and letting it go. We will cross that bridge when we get there.

Along with my husband and I's emotions approaching this PCS, our children's emotions really came in to play this time, much more than last time. Our oldest had just turned 5 when we moved to South Carolina. He was nervous about leaving his friends and cried all the way from North Carolina to South Carolina; it was heartbreaking. This time, at 6 years old, he had a lot of anxiety approaching the move. He remembered PCSing and didn't want to leave his friends. He frequently complained about his tummy hurting and his emotions were very up and down the weeks before we moved. That was very heartbreaking. Our twins are almost 4 years old and mostly fed off of the emotions in our house-- my stress level, their older brother's stress level. They had very short tempers and there were a lot of tantrums to contend with. In general, there was a lot of conflict between all the boys, much of it to get our attention and much of it because they all weren't sure how to process what was going on around them. The baby fed off my stress level at times, but he was mostly grouchy because, of course, he got sick. (And did I mention that one of our boys caught a stomach bug days before the pack out? Yeah, horrible timing.)

Now that we are settled in my parents' house, we actually made a huge change and enrolled our oldest in kindergarten here. He started on St. Patrick's Day and will finish out the year here. This is a big change for us as we homeschooled 5-year old preschool last year and kindergarten this year. We had started feeling God put the possibility of traditional school on our hearts several weeks ago when our oldest was having such a hard time with the uncertainty of our upcoming move. His anxiety and upset stomach really broke our hearts. Since he is a child that loves and craves routine, we started thinking that school would be a great option for him next year, for first grade, after we arrive at our next duty station. We felt that the routine of school would be good for him with the ups and downs of submarine life; no matter what the boat schedule is, no matter how uncertain our days are, he would have the consistency of his school routine. We felt like that would be a good option for him and felt that we would just use the rest of this year and this summer to continue to pray about it, marinate on the idea. I, for one, loved the flexibility of homeschooling. When my husband and I discussed school, it basically came down to homeschooling works best for me and traditional school might work best for our son. Anyways, so the children and I moved to my parents' house and settled in. We had been here for 4 days when I saw the stress starting to peek through in his behavior. I called my hubby and we decided to enroll him here at my parents' house, where I will be living until this July. We also felt that being in a place he is comfortable and familiar with might be a great place to get his feet wet with traditional school. My hubby also thought that it would be a great place to try it out because there are so many adults living under one roof-- plenty of people to help with baked goods, carpool pick ups, and volunteer days-- and plenty of people to make sure I places on time. Also, now that he's started, when we do get to our next duty station and enroll him in first grade, he will know what to expect from school; it won't be so foreign to him.

We are all settling into this new temporary routine. The boys are all also enrolled in a gym program so we have plenty of space to get the wiggles out. The toddlers have especially enjoyed taking advantage of the open play hours in the afternoon while our oldest is at school. I've enjoyed taking them to it as, while my parents' house is quite comfortable, the open play can accommodate them much better than this shared space (and there is no possibility of them breaking anything!). It is strange going out with 3 children instead of 4. I'm constantly feeling like I left someone. I have to admit, it is nice doing activities geared towards our toddlers without feeling like it is too big for our toddlers or too young for our oldest. Our oldest is also especially tall and strangers are often reprimanding him for being in places that are "too young for him," when actuality, it is geared for his age, if not his height. So far all of the boys seemed very pleased with our new routine. Our oldest is loving school and its accoutrements. We bought him a new lunch pail, appropriate jeans (how do every pair of his jeans have holes in them?!), and he loves toting his things to and from school in his backpack. He loves his teacher and classmates. He loves showing us his work at the end of the day. It is a big change from homeschooling, though I'm feeling peace about the decision. I was exceedingly sad and shed many tears when we moved in this direction because I thought we would be homeschooling him for at least 1-3 more years, but this was the time for us to move in a different direction and we have all embraced it well. I'm sure I could write much more on this topic, but the boys are starting to get restless.

A lot of big changes at our house. A lot of new routines. A lot of changes on the horizon. For now we are focusing on enjoying our time with family before we move to the west coast; I'm eagerly planning visits with friends before that move as well. We are taking one day at a time and following where God is guiding us!

****P.S. During this PCS, we have switched to disposables. I know I've written several blog posts on cloth diapering, but I could not figure out how we would manage cloth while living with family for several months and making all the trips we have planned to visit friends. If you are a cloth diapering military family, did you cloth diaper while PCSing? Even with a TDY? How do you handle cloth while traveling?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Cloth diaper troubleshooting

Several weeks ago we started having problems with baby #4 and Freetime diapers. {What is a Freetime? Read my post "Cloth diapering an infant: BumGenius Freetime and Elemental diapers."} Everytime I put him in a Freetime diaper, he would break out in a rash. I started suspecting that his skin might be getting irritated by the liners in a Freetime diaper, which are different than the organic cotton in an Elemental. Well, one day he ended up wearing a Freetime diaper and taking a long nap. When he woke up and I went to change him, he had a bad diaper rash. Over the next couple days, the diaper rash turned into yeast and suddenly we had a full blow problem on our hands. How do I clear up yeast when in cloth diapers?

After some Google searching, I learned nystatin is not cloth diaper safe. The nystatin will get on the liners and form a waterproof barrier, apparently. {This is the same reason why a lot of diaper rash creams are not cloth diaper safe.} I read about two methods to clear up yeast while in cloth diapers:
1. use disposable liners to make a barrier between the nystatin and the liners in your diapers, adding bleach each time you wash them.
2. switch to disposable diapers until the yeast infection is cleared up.

While I was Google searching I started wondering how our little guy got yeast in cloth diapers. This was a reoccurring problem for us in disposable diapers with all 3 of our other boys. Baby #4 had his first bought of yeast right before 5 months, but his brothers all dealt with it several times before that in disposables. All the Google searching lead me down many roads: wash routine, detergent choice, etc. I ended up in this cloth diaper Facebook group that slammed homemade laundry detergents as well as "cloth diaper safe detergents." The conclusion of this group was that nothing would get your diapers clean unless you were using Tide {or a similar mainstream detergent} and bleach. I was so disheartened reading all these posts on the group. I kid you not, I started crying. I had a baby with a horrible yeast diaper rash {it flared up really bad by then}, all this money invested in our cloth diapers, and this website is telling me that nothing will actually clean our diapers {and yeast} unless we are using Tide and bleach, two products we don't use?

This bothered me a lot because part of the reason why we switched to cloth diapers is our environmental impact. I know that might sound lame, but we have 6 people in our house. We fly through products. I felt horrible about the landfill we no doubt created with our twins, despite my efforts to use biodegradable diapers {does anything biodegrade in a landfill?!}. We make a conscious effort to use biodegradable products and products with minimal packaging, buying in bulk where we can, and raw ingredients instead of processed. We make as much as we can at home, including most of our household cleaners {read "Homemade household cleaners"}. So hearing that we needed to use Tide-- a detergent I don't use for our laundry-- and bleach-- a product we don't keep in our house-- made me feel like, "What is the point of cloth diapering then?" If cloth diapering is going to make me introduce cleaning products that we don't use and detergents that don't biodegrade, what is the point of cloth diapering over disposable diapers?

The next morning I packed up our poor sweet baby with his, by that point, really bad diaper rash and headed to my favorite local baby store. When the owner greeted me, I am pretty sure that I came close to tears as I unloaded my problems on her. Thankfully she had all the answers. She started with a hug, which I needed, and then moved to the immediate problem: the yeast diaper rash. She recommended switching to disposables and focus on clearing up the yeast rash. She said it is the quickest way to clear it up, especially with how out of hand his rash was.

Then she moved to the diapers. There is a lot of chatter online about whether or not yeast grows on cloth diapers once there is a yeast infection. She told me to ignore the bleach comments and wash everything he's worn on the highest heat setting a couple times and put them in the sun. Since he was going to spend the next 2 weeks in disposables, he would not go back to cloth until after his yeast was cleared up, at which point there wouldn't be a problem with yeast anymore.

After that we had a long discussion on detergents and wash routine. She asked me why I was looking up the wash routine and I told her that we weren't really having a problem with our wash routine, but I was noticing that our Elemental diapers had a strong smell when I changed them. I didn't notice the smell when he was wearing them, but once I got him on the changing table and started the changing process, I really noticed the ammonia smell. I didn't feel like there was an ammonia smell the first couple weeks of cloth diapering so I was worried somewhat that our detergent wasn't making the grade, especially since he somehow got the yeast diaper rash. I talk about our wash routine in "Cloth diapering an infant {logistics};" we had been using unscented Babyganics laundry detergent. She told me that she recommends unscented Rockin' Green laundry detergent. I asked her about our homemade laundry detergent, but she said no since I use borax in it, which is somewhat of a question when dealing with the PUL {waterproof cover} on cloth diapers. Rockin' Green also makes a Rockin' Green Funk Rock Ammonia Bouncer. I asked her if she recommended I use that for a bit and she said she really didn't think I needed that with the problem I'm having.

We also discussed the Freetimes. Since I was very confident that the rash started in the first place from the Freetimes {my children have inherited my sensitive skin}, I decided to shelve the Freetimes until much later before trying them again.

I left her store with a plan:
1. disposables and nystatin until the yeast is cleared up
2. wash all my diapers twice on high heat and sun them
3. switch from BabyGanics to Rockin' Green detergent
4. put away our Freetimes and stick to Elementals

I was fairly certain that I would be back for the Rockin' Green Funk Rock Ammonia Bouncer, but she insisted I wouldn't need it. I went home and followed all the instructions. Baby #4 spent almost a full 2 weeks in disposables. His rash started clearing up immediately when we put him in disposables with nystatin. The diapers were washed and sunned and I used up the last of our BabyGanics on our household laundry, not our diapers.

When we finally put baby #4 back in cloth, the Rockin' Green detergent worked amazing. The ammonia smell that I noticed went away. She was right that we did not need the Funk Rock. I have been exceedingly pleased with the Rockin' Green. {Maybe too pleased. I flew through our first bag because I started washing all of our household laundry in it, just to experiment with it's cleaning capabilities.} We kept the rest of our wash routine the same because we really didn't have issues with our diaper laundry.

Of course in a house of 6, mistakes are made. Baby #4 accidentally ended up in our remaining Freetime {I swapped the other Freetime for an Elemental on a local b/s/t page}. When I went to change him, his bottom was covered in rash. Thankfully we caught the error quickly and have not put him back in a Freetime. I do believe that his skin reacts badly to the Freetime liners. I am going to trade my last Freetime for an Elemental. We only had the 2 Freetimes because they dry quicker than the Elementals, but I pulled out all the used Elementals I bought on a swap page {11 used diapers} plus the new Elementals I've bought for baby #4 {10 new diapers} and so our stash is large enough to support using Elementals exclusively, even with a longer drying time {21 Elementals total}.

Having the box of disposables in the house from the yeast has actually been handy. We've had some colds pass through the house and the craziness of getting ready to move again has lead to days of forgetting to either do or move the laundry, which is a problem since for some reason I only have one night diaper {a problem I plan to remedy}. When we move this time, we are going to be traveling for a couple months before settling in our new state, so we will be using disposables during that time. It has made me reluctant to invest in more cloth diapers for the time being, even though we will resume cloth once we settle.

Have you had to deal with yeast and cloth diapers? Have you had to use disposables while cloth diapering? What are your cloth diaper troubleshooting tips? :)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Submarine officer's JO tour dream sheet

While my hubby was in prototype he came home and said it was time to fill out his dream sheet. Since this is for his JO {Junior Officer} tour-- his first tour as a submarine officer-- he was only able to rank locations and types of boats. For his JO tour, he could only pick out of the submarine bases, which there really aren't that many.

Submarine bases:

1. Groton, Connecticut {Naval Submarine Base New London}
2. Norfolk, Virginia {Naval Station Norfolk}
3. Kings Bay, Georgia {Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay}
4. Bangor, Washington {Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor}
5. San Diego, California {Naval Base Point Loma}
6. Honolulu, Hawaii {Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam}
7. Guam {Naval Base Guam}

Before I get started on this guide, I want it to be known that this guide is for the spouses, not the military members. This is a very general and very brief summary of the types of boats with information on schedule and boat life. I would also like to state that the only experience my hubby and I have had on a submarine is on a fast attack {read "STA-21 'Officer's' Program"}.

There are two different types of submarines:

1. Boomers
2. Fast attacks


We'll start with boomers. Boomers are ballistic missile submarines {SSBN}; they are Ohio class. Their job is to keep our seas safe by guarding the perimeter. They are huge submarines and have two crews, a blue crew and a gold crew. The two crews take turns manning the boat. The crews are given a schedule ahead of time: 3 or 6 months on crew followed by 3 or 6 months off crew. As a spouse, this gives you a little planning room for when your military member will be home or away. Boomers are based out of Georgia and Washington. They are also forward deploying, meaning the crew's family lives in Georgia or Washington but the boat doesn't pull into port except for maintenance; on crew flies to where the boat is {usually Guam for Washington and Italy for Georgia}.

More reading on boomers: "The US Navy: Fact File: Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines: SSBN"


Next up: fast attacks {SSN}. Fast attacks are Los Angeles class, Seawolf class, and Virginia class submarines, much smaller than the Ohio class submarines. They have one crew and no set schedule. Fast attacks run missions. They can be underway a week, in a week, underway two months, in for a couple weeks... While underway the crew is on 18 hour days making the in and out exhausting for the crew and making a lot of the in port times revolve around catching up on sleep. As a spouse, there is little or no planning to be done around the boat schedule; basically, don't make plans that you expect your spouse to be there for because the schedule is written in sand. FRG meetings are exceedingly important on fast attacks because this is where you will receive a general idea of the boat schedule. My hubby never went on a deployment {picked up STA-21 right before the boat left on deployment}, but he was gone 75% of the time we lived in Hawaii just from underways. What I enjoyed most about fast attacks were the homecomings at the pier and watching the boat come in and out of port. It is amazing to behold. Fast attacks are stationed out of all the submarine bases.

More reading on fast attacks: "The US Navy: Fact File: Attack Submarines: SSN"


Finally, GNs. Guided missile submarines {SSGN} are Ohio class submarines. How I've had them described to me is "fast attacks on a boomer schedule." These submarines run missions, but also have a two crews and a schedule like boomers. They are also forward deploying, just like boomers. GNs have homeports in Washington and Georgia.

More reading on GNs: "The US Navy: Fact File: Guided Missile Submarines: SSGN"

Note on schedule: what is really important to remember when reading this list is that the schedule with submarines often does not go as planned. Shipyard is longer than expected... off crew gets called in... stand down gets cancelled... things change.

For more reading on submarines, check out this link: "Frequently asked questions about submarines"

When we filled out our dream sheet for my hubby's JO tour while at prototype, we ranked our choices from 1 to 10 considering location and type of boat. For example:

1. Washington-- SSN
2. Washington-- SSGN
3. Georgia-- SSGN
4. Georgia-- SSBN, etc.

{That isn't the order of our dream sheet, but an example to show you how you get to pick location and specify the boat type in the order of your choosing.}

Dream sheets are exactly that: dream sheets. The detailer will look at the dream sheet when assigning you a boat, but this might be a crash course on "the needs of the Navy," a phrase often quoted in regards to getting your bottom choice. We heard it a lot as we waited for our assignment. "I hope we get our top choice, but, you know, the needs of the Navy..." Thankfully for my hubby's class, most people were assigned one of their top choices {my hubby received his #2 choice!}.

I am nervous and excited to go back to boat life. My hubby loves his job and so I'm excited for him to get back to what he loves doing. I'm also very excited about living near close friends again {love our Navy family!}, but I'm also dreading the return of a boat schedule and duty days. The last time we were on a boat we had one child and now we have four. I think it will be a very different experience from dealing with one infant/toddler to older children who are far more aware of Daddy coming and going.

I've been a submarine wife for 8 years; this move will be our 5th PCS together. I'm still learning new things about submarines and Navy life!

What was your experience filling out your dream sheet?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Homeschool schedule

When this homeschool year started, I was excited. Our first "real" year of homeschooling! I opened up my calendar and my feelings shifted slightly, "Oh no! There is nothing on our calendar!" So I started adding things to our calendar.

I continued our piano lessons on Wednesdays. He is really interested in music and learning piano.

I found a fun ASL co-op class on Thursdays. He likes sign language and I thought he would enjoy doing it with other kids-- just for fun.

I found a storytime on Fridays. This is really our only "toddler-friendly" activity.

Fall started. We enjoyed our schedule.

Then we found a fun co-op class on Wednesdays after our piano lessons. We joined that.

Then one of our toddlers needed speech therapy on Mondays.

Plus we go to church on either Saturday night or Sunday morning.

Plus we still had to go grocery shopping...

...and I joined a mommy meet-up group that I never had time for.

...and a homeschool field trip group that I never had time for.

...and friends that I was having a hard time finding room in our schedule just to hang out with.

...and a house to take care of.

...and toddlers that were still napping.

...and a newborn.

Oh, yes. And homeschool to actually accomplish with our kindergartner.

Suddenly our schedule was not fun. How had kindergarten become such a chore?

At a park playdate I opened up my calendar to a homeschool mom currently homeschooling her 4 children. I figured that she is wise at planning her family calendar since her oldest 2 are teenagers. I asked her, "What am I doing wrong? We are stressed and fighting every morning when we leave the house and we are homeschooling kindergarten! I don't think it should be this hard." Bless her she went through my schedule and helped me cut it down. {Side note: be thankful for honest friends!}

We dropped piano lessons and ASL co-op to free our schedule and because winter break was a good point to drop the classes before we move.

We obviously kept church and speech therapy.

The Wednesday co-op stayed since it was one of the things that our oldest loved and really wanted to keep on the calendar, plus it wasn't too stressful to get to or be at especially after our calendar was cut way down.

Friday storytime is drop-in and so on Fridays when we are looking for something to do, we go. On Fridays where we are way to busy after a hectic week, we don't.

I dropped the mommy meet-up group and the homeschool field trip group. Even being part of them online was stressful. I never had time for the playdates, even the ones that I wanted to go to. It feels so much better not having that "failure" hanging over me. I figure that if our schedule ever dies down, then I will consider joining again, but first I want to get in the swing of things.

After such a busy schedule, I wanted to give us a chance to breathe and regroup. Our co-ops and commitments ended in December then we hit the winter holidays. I gave us the freedom and flexibility to let school happen or to take a break. We ended up doing more no-school days than school days over Christmas, which was fine. We started school early this year and have plenty of days we can take off for moving, if we need to. As we get ready to start school again post-holiday, I'm keeping in mind the lessons I learned this past fall.

Don't feel that homeschooling means open schedule.

Don't fill up each day with an out of the house activity.

Don't make it harder than it needs to be.

Since I've cut down our schedule I'm being far more discerning as I put things on our calendar, especially weekly commitments:

1. Does it include all the age groups of our children? Finding activities that all our boys can participate in is wonderful, specifically our oldest 3. If I have something interesting for them to participate in, it is so much easier to get us out the door. "Let's all put on our shoes for our nature explorers park trip!"

2. If it doesn't, do I already have several things on the calendar for that age group? For instance, my schedule was very heavy with activities for our kindergartner, our "official" homeschooler. Even though we were doing things for him, I was still bringing his 3 younger siblings to all those activities and they were getting bored and tired of hanging out in the car or lobbies or sitting quietly on benches watching their brother. While I do think that some activities geared toward a particular age group are great and fine {storytime for our toddlers, co-op for our oldest}, it is important to balance how often I put things on the calendar for one age group.

3. How busy will I be? Over extending myself on weekly commitments meant a lot of the other daily tasks became much bigger chores, such as grocery shopping, house cleaning, laundry, and the kitchen. As a family, we love cooking together and eating dinner at home, but we were short on ingredients and short on time. Our dishes were stacking up. Our laundry was piling up. It was stressful because each day we had too much going on. With young children, leaving one day {Tuesdays, in my case} open wasn't much help because I couldn't count on that day being a good day to get chores done. What if the boys came down with colds? Or our toddlers were exceptionally uncooperative that day? Or the baby was up all night and I was feeling sluggish?

4. Do we have free time? I love free time. The best things happen out of free time. Our boys invent a wild game to play together. We bake together. We do crafts together. We snuggle up and watch movies and eat popcorn together {we love watching movies together!}. When our schedule was so full, free time was miserable. The boys were tired and always fussing at each other. I needed a break and didn't feel like engaging when I finally had a minute to myself. Free time gives us the chance to let our math lesson run over because we are having fun. Free time let's us read just one more book together. Free time allows us to throw on shoes and take a walk. Free time let's us say "yes" to our neighbor that wants to come over and hang out for awhile. I am a firm believer in free time.

What lessons have you learned regarding your family calendar and homeschooling?