Monday, November 15, 2010

home at last

Words do no justice to how amazing it is to have the family back together again. Saturday brought him home, and it couldn't have been a more perfect day.

Even though the flight was delayed by a few hours, it played well into Eli's nap schedule. I was able to get myself all prettied up while Eli got his beauty rest.

Of course, the preparation started the night before while I cleaned up the last little bits of the house. And then at one point found myself sobbing (sobbing?) because I couldn't believe the day was almost here.

And on an almost total coincidence we had figured out that Jim would have a layover in the morning 45 minutes from his parents' house. So I was on and off the phone with my MIL trying to make the logistics of the morning work. And it all payed off!

At about 7 in the morning, and to Jim's utter surprise, he was greeted off the plane in Norfolk, VA by his parents and two of his greatest buddies.

He enjoyed a leisurely lay-over and some Panera take-out while catching up with the east coast.

A few hours later he flew on to El Paso! Which is my favorite part. I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. It's a pretty amazing one.

Waiting for the plane to land.

They're HERE!!!

Coming in the hanger. Very dramatic.
They even had a smoke machine.

Can you spot Jim? (Third on the left.) We were so close but had to wait through the 5.5 second speech. Seriously, it was almost funny how short it was.


I had a hard time keeping it together. Truthfully, I didn't even try. His first hug just left me crying in his arms.

Eli, on the other hand, had a deer-in-the-headlights look. Poor guy, he was very overwhelmed by all the commotion.

Checking out daddy.

I need to give a shout-out to my friends who came to take pictures and generally be supportive. Crystal, Liz and the whole Dykema clan cheered almost as loud as I did when the guys marched in. And I have to laugh, because the Dykema's had never even met Jim. They are just those kind of awesome people.

- - - - -

Thanks to all of you who prayed through the last year with us. Believe it or not it was an amazing year. Only God can turn what seems like bad luck into His perfect will, ya know? So if your prayers were not just for safety, but also a thriving marriage and a growing understanding of family, then consider them answered. I also got a stronger relationship with a God who makes all things GOOD to those who LOVE Him and are CALLED to His purposes. Romans 8:28. Check it out. It is well worth the ride..

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

so much to be done

(image and pad available by finchandhawk.)

So what does a girl do to fill the days before her man comes home after a year??

Man, it's a long list. Partially because the list started before he left.

There have been things that I'd planned to do while he was gone, you know, to pass the time. They are still sitting staring at me. Really? You've had how many days, Karen, and that pile you vowed to go through is in its same exact spot? Sigh, yes.

So in an effort to have Jim think that while he was gone, I had it all together all the time, I still have to:
  • Empty out the big bin that's been hiding on the other side of my bed. It's full of notebooks, mail, and other stuff I pulled off of my counter the day I hosted a baby shower for 20.
  • Get my husband's favorite picture framed that he asked, "Maybe while I'm gone you can finally get that done?"
  • Wash the dogs. It's been a while.
  • Clean out the garage. Baby stuff has taken over and I'm not sure he can get his motorcycle out.
  • Organize our bathroom closet. It's only gotten worse over the last year.
  • Get a pedicure! Because I'm pretty sure one of the first things he's going to notice is my feet. Ha!
  • Speaking of, I should probably shave my legs, too.
  • Shampoo rugs.
  • Clean the house. (more on that later.)
  • Wash our sheets and comforter.
Slowly things are being crossed off. But time is a'tickin', people!

Monday, November 8, 2010

51 weeks down, 1 more to go?

Jim left a year ago next week. And I can't wait for him to get back. The countdown is at days now, not even weeks! So, so exciting.

Today Eli and I went to welcome some good friends home. The flights have been coming in and Facebook has been a-buzz with reunion pictures and tear-inducing statuses.

Eli with some recently returned friends.

If you've never gotten to see a military home-coming, try to. It's so worth it. The kids are all running around in their patriotic t-shirts. Banners line the walls. And when the crowd sees the plane land, there is a cheer that you can only appreciate in person.

My favorite moment of the day was when, after many of the initial hellos were done and the crowd was starting to break up, I turned around just in time to catch one of Jim's co-workers lean his wife back and give her a big ol' smoochers. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one that saw it. But it melted my heart and made me secretly hope Jim gives me one like that.

So today got me all the more excited for "our day". Which is pretty ridiculous since my insides are already fluttering in anticipation.

He can't get home soon enough!

But I know he's working on it. Because I've gotten word that he's probably on a plane somewhere at this very moment. Which means he can't Skype anymore.

Which is fine with me because that means that the next time I see him, I'll SEE him!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

tx and emails

Remember this pic? It's amazing what a year and 3 months can bring.

Texas has welcomed us with open arms and amazing weather. Today the blinds are drawn and the back door is open to let the beautiful sunshine in. A few flies, too, actually. But nothing is deterring me from loving this Texas spring.

So first and foremost I would like to give El Paso a shout-out for it's short-sleeves and flip-flops.

Secondly, I'd like share with you a little snapshot of life here for Karen and Eli. I wasn't able to talk to Jim for a few days last week so as I was missing him something terrible, I sat down to type and email. I thought I'd share some of it with you:
so, things i've wanted to tell you the last few days...
  • Eli is by far the cutest little boy in the world. i love his puffy i-just-woke-up eyes and the way he melts into me when i first pick him up after a nap.
  • except when i have to see those eyes at 4:30 in the morning. like this morning. and a few others this week.
  • poor little guy is teething like crazy. drool galor. i got some Hylands teething tablets (thankfully endorced by Julie H.) and i'm not sure how well they help but at least i feel like i'm doing something for him. he sounds so pathetic with his wimpering.
  • Eli had his first playdate yesterday. apparently there's a standing invitation to all those in the neighborhood to meet at the playground at 10am on Mondays.
  • i love living on post.
  • and Eli loves the swing. he's still a little small for it, but he was happy to gnaw on the plastic seat all the same.
  • i'm still kicking myself for forgetting my camera. it was a beautiful El Paso first day of March. it was worthy of being documented and i failed. thankfully there's always next Monday.
  • remember how he didn't like carrots the other day? well, i've stealthfully hidden them in rice cereal and applesauce which works like a charm. and his poop is now sprinkled with orange confetti.
  • oh, and Eli had his first baby-sitter last night! he and she did great. Issi is Lisa's daughter and lives close enough to walk here, making things much easier. it was only for a few hours but he was peacefully sleeping when i got home from Bunco night.
  • until i decided to check on him and thought he was so cute laying face-up and spread eagle in the crib that i ended up waking him up. BIG mistake. he screamed bloody murder for most of an hour until I finally gave up and nursed him to sleep. BabyWise would be so disappointed in me.
  • lesson of the evening: let sleeping babies lie.
  • in other news... it's so dry here that sometimes when i go to pet Roxy, i shock her and she doesn't want to come near me for a while. i always feel so bad.
So we're all doing well here. Except for a little teething. And some desert air.

Monday, February 15, 2010

road trippin' again

After a successful first leg with my grandfather keeping me awake at the wheel, Christie has joined the cross-country crusade.

It's been an amazing few months with family, but El Paso calls. And though I never thought I'd say it, I'm looking forward to getting back. Tomorrow we'll leave Tennessee and hopefully make some good time and sprint to Texas for the night. We'll see how it goes. We'll see you on the other side.

Monday, February 8, 2010

happy Wednesday, everyone

Next he's going to want a tattoo. I'm not even ready for this.

from Jim, with love

There are two things that make any deployment go faster for a soldier overseas. Facetime with the fam, and goodies in the mail.

Skype has made this deployment different and better than I ever expected. Words can't express my love for the inventors of free little internet electrons that shoot through the air between Iraq and America. I could kiss them. The inventors, not the electrons. Whom are from either Estonia or Sweden. Wikipedia can be so unclear.

But Eli doesn't care about any of that. He will spend his first year thinking his dad lives in a box. But at least that box has a face and smile. Not like that archaic and impersonal thing we used to know called a telephone.

As for the care packages, my husband has been the grateful recipient of many. Thanks to you who have gone out of your way to bake, tape and drive your way to the post office. Some with multiple kids in tow. You can't know what your selflessness does for the moral of a soldier overseas.

Jim would like to thank you in his own words for being the envy of the FOB Warrior post office. And offer advice for anyone wondering what they should jam into those handy Flat Rate boxes.

(Keeping in mind that only my husband can simultaneously thank people for sending him mail while asking for more.)


Top 10 Care Package Contents
2009-2010 OIF Deployment

First and foremost, all deployed Soldiers LOVE care packages. On behalf of every Soldier that has been too busy or forgetful to ever send a “Thank you” note. . . Thank You. You could send a box of rocks and Soldiers would be happy to get a package in the mail; so if items from your care package did not make the Top 10 List, don’t think they weren’t appreciated. All of your mail have been and will be the brightest part of our day. Some additional notes: *Notice “2009-2010 OIF Deployment” in the title; often folks send the same items they send during Desert Storm. Truly, there are some classics (see #9 baby wipes and # 10 fresh baked anything) but Care Packages trends change from deployment to deployment. And of course this is all subjective. But what follows is my Soldiers' and my Top Ten List. So without further ado. . .
  • 10. Fresh Baked Anything – Yummy and it reminds us of home. (Taste vary on this one; but G. Nittle has kept me well supplied in TASTY “friendship bread” during both my deployments)
  • 9. Baby wipes and hand sanitizer – Iraq is a dirty country; that’s why we are here to clean it up. We have to get our “hands dirty” from time to time.
  • 8. Hygiene and pamper items – I have not yet figured out how to use the “bubble bath” someone sent me, but all the bath and body works shampoos, conditioners, and body washes are GREAT! Bonus if they are travel size.
  • 7. BULK (Anything enough to share with the entire unit or half of Iraq) – JEB Little Creek Chapel sent over 50 stockings for my Soldiers for Christmas. (Because of the busy-ness of having just arrived in country, we were unable to get a great “stocking group picture.”) Churches from Clarksville have also sent some MASSIVE care packages our way. The exciting thing is after all the Soldiers go through the boxes, our advise and assist unit gives the rest to our Iraqi Army partners, who are a close second for gratitude when it come to accepting your generous gifts.
  • 6. DVDs – Anything new and exciting to watch.
  • 5. Mix CDs – What’s new? What’s hot? (We have no idea, so I have always appreciated mixed CDs from any genre)
  • 4. Anything organic or healthy (that can be mailed overseas) – There are no Trader Joes in Iraq. (frown)
  • 3. Junk food – Yeah, we miss our favorite candy, chips, and jerky. Just don’t send these in BULK.
  • 2. Pillows, sheets, and blankets – This one is a unique request, but one that effects almost half of our time in Iraq. Soldiers usually don’t have room to take nice pillows and sheets to Iraq, but when B. Robinson and the gang from Dominion Power sent pillows and a twin sheet set . . . JACKPOT! And the good news story is that I plan on giving the pillows and sheets to an Iraqi family before we leave.
  • 1. Pictures or videos from home – We miss you all very much! And if we have an office, we tend to litter the walls with pictures of people we love.

And for a bonus feature, I will include:
MY personal Top 10 Care Package Requests
2009-2010 OIF Deployment.

  • 10. Fresh Baked Anything = currency with local nationals here. (One of the famous artists here is going to paint a portrait of Karen because I shared cookies with him)
  • 9. Anything organic or healthy (that can be mailed overseas) – There are no Trader Joes in Iraq. Gonna run out of my flavored organic oatmeal soon. (frown)
  • 8. Cigars – I know many of you are surprised that this didn’t rank higher, but I’m pretty much stocked up on “Vitamin C.” I always love getting cigars though; it encourages me to share. (My favorite right now is the Gurkha Platinum & Grand Reserve and the Acid Roams.
  • 7. U.S. Savings Bonds or Gold Bars – This would truly help send Eli to college. What is the tuition at Grove City these day?
  • 6. TV series on DVD – I don’t have time to watch movies, so this is a nice compromise.
  • 5. Mix CDs – (I need to stock the iPOD with some awesome workout music . . . any suggestions? PS Thanks to the Whaleys I have some serious Amazon bucks.)
  • 4. Frocs – Yes the inexpensive “fake crocs.” Any cheap knock off of a genuine creature comfort is great. I won’t feel bad giving it to an Iraqi before I leave. “I’m a size 9, just like everyone else here.” – I can’t recall the name of the Soldier in Band of Brothers.
  • 3. Rubber duckies and nice, big, fluffy towels – “You make bath time so much fun. . .”
  • 2. Crazy random stuff from Party City, Dollar Store, or Spencers – Makes for great goofy pictures! (Warning: Spencers stores are not for the faint of heart.)
  • 1. Small fishing lures – Yep, I plan on some serious fishing with Brandon when I get back. One small fishing lure a month will keep me motivated and focused on the finish line.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

the east has been good to us

Eli and I have been back east for 63 days and it's been a whirlwind. We've seen friends and family galore. And now we've seen snow. Lots of it. And like any good mother, I made sure to take the obligatory kid-who-can-barely-move-inside-his-snow-suit pictures. We couldn't get any smiles out of him, but I assure you the giggles returned once he thawed inside.

If I was still in Texas and had missed all this winter wonderland fun, I would have cried. Because I. Love. Weather. For the 29 hours that it took us to get our 24 inches, I was a constant on I love me some satellite trackers. The whole thing brought back high school memories, bugging the neighbor next door who just happen to be the superintendent of the school system to beg him to cancel school for the week.

As the first snowflake fell, my mom and I hit up the two stores that every girl needs when stocking up for a snow-in: Safeway and JoAnns. Along with everyone else. It seems we weren't the only ones looking for milk and some crafty entertainment for the weekend.

Eli didn't seem phased by the excitement too much. Which is too bad, really. Had he been a year or two older, this would have been his winter to remember. He may never see snow like this again.

Of course, we could always get stationed in Alaska...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

to you and yours

As I was enjoying some quality son time a moment ago, the funniest and most predictable thing happened.

He was naked and cute and "airing out". I hear that's good for babies. I was looking into his blue eyes and just loving every ounce of him. And loving our family, as spread out as we are.

And then I got wet.

Thankfully I have some quick reflexes. And a handily placed diaper. But we will now be doing a load of wash that consists of
a full-sized blanket
a pair of yoga pants
a sock
a rabbit toy.

I hope your new year is full of happy family moments, as interrupted as they may be.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Army-Navy game

I know I owe you all many updates on the happenings of the Grube home, including a 5-day cross-country trip that landed Eli, Roxy and I in Maryland for a few months. But Saturday was a big day. So I need to share.

I grew up in a Navy family. A family that holds the most important day of the year as the Army-Navy game, the biggest football rivalry in the world. Or at least that's what I was led to believe growing up. This year as no exception.


First I must explain. Being from a Navy family and rooting for Navy all my life means that switching teams would be a hard thing. But I'm now married to the Army, so what do I do?

Well, according to my dad it's easy. Because he and Jim made an agreement back in 2003 when Jim asked for my hand. At least this is how the story goes...
I could marry Jim if I root for Navy until I've been Army longer than I've been Navy.
So if I was married at 26, I can root for Navy until I'm 52. Then I have to switch sides. That'll be in 2030.

Did you follow that? Jim often reminds me that I'm allowed to change allegiance anytime before that. And I think I've already started to cave, actually. But don't tell my dad. Besides, it's not my fault. This little guy might have convinced me.

Because Jim has made me promise to never put Eli in Navy garb.


So while we all piled into my parents' living room to watch the game on Saturday, everyone wore Navy shirts except for one. And he was the cutest of all.