Deployed Mommy: One Month In

Deployed Mommy: One Month In

The time that I have been both dreading and anxious for is finally here. I am on my first deployment.

We left Savannah around 0900 on a Monday morning and rode the same plane all the way to our final destination on Tuesday night at around midnight. It was a loooooooooong trip over here.

First we stopped in New Hampshire. When we got there, there was an entire terminal dedicated to soldiers, airmen, sailors and contractors to enjoy some coffee and donuts before the long haul overseas. There were WWII, Vietnam, and current veterans there to talk to us and see us off. They even gave us a little history of how that terminal is there to provide support as the last stop before deployment. It was so sweet and they even did a short little ceremony where they said a prayer and sang the national anthem. It was an amazing send off!

Next stop, Ireland. They let us get off the plane, stretch our legs, grab breakfast and they allowed us to have one beer. We were in Ireland so naturally everyone wanted to try a Guinness and eat a traditional Irish breakfast. After we walked through customs and headed towards the restrooms, we see about 10 really tall, built dudes in black suits. I made the joke, “What are they secret service or something??”

Well….. yes. Yes they were. Lo and behold, Ivanka Trump and some White House staff were at the bar. It was midnight. We were in Ireland. And Ivanka Trump bought everyone a beer and breakfast. Probably the most random Tuesday of my life.

Next stop was Greece for a crew change. They told us we would be there for about an hour and to not get off the plane. I kept dozing in and out of sleep and every time I looked out the window we were still grounded! FOUR. HOURS. LATER. We finally took off to our final destination. It was brutal.

It has now been one month overseas. That’s one month of hard work. One month of heat. And one month away from my family.

We have officially reached Groundhog Day status. Living the same day every day. I wake up at 0500 and at 0545 I start my half mile trek to my work site. I work until around 4pm and then I go to the gym. Then it’s another half mile trek in the desert heat to go eat dinner, and another half mile trek back to the room. Needless to say, I’ve already lost 11 pounds since I’ve been here.

Besides the extreme temperatures and the even hotter wind, the hardest part is really just missing my family. The time difference is so drastic, that I can mostly FaceTime them just on the weekends. Daycare and bedtime are both tricky and if I want to see my family during the week I’d have to wake up at around 3am. Even though I work weekends, I still look forward to them because I know I’ll get to see them a lot.

When I get to see Noah it’s either so sweet I just want to cry with all the things he wants to say and show me, OR, it can get really heartbreaking because he’ll just cry and say “Mommyyyyyyyy”. It’s really tough when he’s like that.

Regardless of that, Cedrik is truly killing it at home. They have a good schedule, they’re eating good every night and all of Noah’s outfits match – which is a huge relief.

I turned 30 a few weeks ago! It was a very eventful birthday week. I was able to take my first day off since we had arrived here and it was going to be an awesome day. Except it wasn’t. Every week on Wednesday they do surf n turf. Since I had already tried it I went to go eat it again. I spent the rest of the afternoon and the following 5 days playing Russian Roulette with my guts. I had about a 10 second grace period to get to the bathroom. I went through an entire bottle of Pepto Max, drank what seemed like a million gallons of water and prayed to God to please let this not be the way I go. On the 4th day of feeling like an active volcano, I finally decided to take my ass (literally) to medical. In an interesting turn of events, I was told that 13 other people reported being sick from that exact same meal. Now, public health is getting involved and they’re doing an investigation. Cray-zee. And that’s how I spent my 30th birthday. Yayyyyyyyy-no. Now my diet consists off dry ass chicken, with some dry ass rice, and a salad. Yippee.

For entertainment over here I’ve been going every Thursday and Sunday night to play bingo like an old lady. On my one off day I have a whole routine. I sleep in and then I go get a coffee and a muffin. Then I go to the gym and just relax and play Xbox all day.

Ramadan just ended so I will start seeing about going off base and seeing what adventures I can get myself into.

Until next time.

Being Away: Week 5

Being Away: Week 5

The end is near!  I made a 90 on my fourth test and I have one more test to go before I am completely finished with this!

Cedrik and Noah are flying in next week!  The anticipation is unreal… Every single day I wake up more excited than the last.  It’s finally here.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I can finally go home soon.

This past week, I got to see Katherine again.  We went tubing down the San Marcos River and it was UH-MAY-ZING!  We know each other from growing up in Mississippi, so getting to float down the river was very Mississippi of us.  I also invited a classmate and his fiancee to join us, and Kat invited one of her friends too.  It was an awesome relaxing day.  It would have been even better if I made it all the way through without losing my Maui Jim’s.  I broke the first rule of river tubing:  DON’T TAKE EXPENSIVE SHADES TO THE DAMN RIVER.  *a moment of silence for the $200 sunglasses please*  At one point I was thrown out of my tube because no one told me my butt was about to play the role of an anchor on an upcoming rock.  That’s when I lost the shades.  I also got stuck on a rock (sans float) while the river kept rushing against me.  Needless to say, I look like I got into a prison fight and the other person had a baseball bat.  Still, it was a very fun day.

 

These past 5 weeks, I have been amazed at how baby Noah is growing.  He started to crawl the day I left home.  He is now pulling himself up on everything and standing.  All of those things I saw on FaceTime.  Today, it happened.  Cedrik took him to a baseball game and they FaceTime’d me afterwards.  When Noah saw me on the phone he said, “MAMA! MAMA!”

I’ll just wait while you soak that in for a second

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..

MY BABY SAID MAMA!  I had to point the phone upwards at the ceiling while I burst into tears.  Tears of joy because I finally heard my baby call me mama.  Tears of sadness because I haven’t been able to hold my lil peanut in over a month and now he’s calling me mama.  Four months of hearing him say da-da and I finally hear clear as day “MAMA” and its through a phone.  It was truly a bittersweet moment.

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This week has been unusually hard for some reason.  Even though I have about 5 days until I see my family, I’ve been extra sad lately.  I guess my positivity well is running a little dry and being away is slowly taking it’s toll on me.  I just have to keep fighting and keep studying and stay focused for the home stretch.  One more test and I am out of here!

 

 

Being Away: 1 Month

Being Away: 1 Month

I made it.  One month. 2 and a half weeks to go.

I made a 100 on my second and third tests and nothing or no one is keeping me from graduating!  I got my eyes set on the end and nothing can bring me down.

Before I came to Texas, I was told by practically everyone, even doctors, that I would not be able to resume breastfeeding after these 6 weeks.  Well guess what?  With a little determination, a LOT of pumping, a hope and a prayer, I have been able to keep a steady supply all on my own.  TAKE THAT SCIENCE!  (or is it biology?)  All that work, an entire foam cooler of breast milk that never made it home, people telling me to just let it go… I overcame!  In two weeks, I will see my lil peanut again and we can go back to breastfeeding until his first birthday like I originally planned.  BOOM. *drops mic*

Baby Noah is a crawling machine and he just recently started pulling himself up on things to stand! *faints*  I feel like I am missing everything 😦 I missed his whole crawling phase and now this… I cannot wait to squeeze that little guy.

Cedrik is still doing ok but I think his energy is slowly but surely starting to wear down.  I feel bad for the hubs but I’m sort of glad he’s going through it.  For the first 6 months of Noah’s life, he was working on testing for Master Sergeant.  That means he would work 10 hours a day, and then come home to study.  Or he would stay at work longer to study.  So what did that mean for me? 24/7 baby duty.  He changed the occasional baby diaper, but occasional diaper changes don’t even tap into your energy stash.  Now that he’s doing everything, he’s had a front row seat to being a full-time parent, and full-time military. It’s tough work but we can tackle it together when I get back.

I went bowling with some classmates last weekend.  It was actually pretty fun!  There were TV’s at the end of each lane where you could choose what you wanted to watch in your lane.  The place was packed and we had to wait an hour and a half for a lane, but luckily there was a margarita place called Chuy’s right across the street where we passed the time.

 

Last weekend I also got to see a very good friend from high school!  Katherine and I are more like sisters, so it was so amazing to get to spend a day with her.  This weekend we’re going on a super fun outdoor adventure, so I’m pretty excited we get to see each other again.  She lives in Austin now, and I haven’t seen her in about 5 or 6 years!  So much fun!

After this coming weekend, I will just have one more weekend to spend here before I start packing my bags for the trip back!  Cedrik and Noah are coming for my graduation and to accompany me on the drive back.  Knowing they are coming has given me more motivation than ever.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!  Being away from your family really makes you appreciate every single minute you have with them.  This has been tough, but I am on the home stretch now.

Being Away: Week 3

Being Away: Week 3

Just as quickly as this training began, that’s how quickly it is getting nearer to graduation day.  Week 3 flew by in a flash and now I’m pretty much halfway finished with this course!

We have been jumping from instructor to instructor because our original one was on medical leave until Wednesday of this past week!  He informed us that we were about 3 days behind on material, but that if we worked hard, we would still graduate on time.  As if we weren’t stressed enough about passing tests…  Overall, he seems like a great instructor and he prepped us well for test 2.  I made a 100!! Woop Woop!  2 down, 3 more to go!

You remember that freezer full of breastmilk I shared a picture of in week 1?  I shipped it home!

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Of course I had to use this Texas cooler.
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Full to the top!

Countless hours I researched “How to ship breastmilk” when I was pregnant finally paid off.  Thanks to YouTube and Google, I learned how to do this safely with a styrofoam cooler, dry ice, packing paper, packing tape, a box, and LOT’S of patience.  Not to mention I had to stand in the post office with a giant box that had “PERISHABLE BREASTMILK” labels all over it.  People were staring at me as if the box had said “BEWARE, EBOLA VIRUS INSIDE”.  I held that box proudly and looked every one of those judgy bastards in the eye with a “And what?” smile.

And now for the bad news…

The cooler never got to Cedrik.  It was supposed to arrive on Friday… Well, here we are on Thursday the following week and my shipment full of 3 week’s worth of breastmilk is turning into cottage cheese somewhere.  I will be paying a little visit to the post office and expressing the importance of the liquid gold that is breast milk.  And I learned my lesson.  Next time, use UPS or FedEx…. Ugh…

On a brighter note, Lil’ Peanut is just getting cuter and cuter by the day!  He’s crawling, holding his own bottle, and swears he’s carrying on a conversation with people.  The other night I was Facetiming them and all of a sudden he just pushed himself up on Cedrik and stood up for a minute.  So many milestones in the past month!  At least I got to see it though.  He and Cedrik seem to be having some amazing baby/Daddy bonding time which makes me really happy too.

 

I can’t express enough how FaceTime and the baby monitor have helped me get through this time away.  Even though he gets to see me through the phone every day, I’m worried he’ll cry or not want me to hold him when he sees me in person.  Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

This weekend I mostly studied, but I did get to see an old friend from Savannah who is stationed here now!  We went to an adorable cuban place off the Riverwalk for dinner and spent the rest of the night at an Irish pub drinking whiskey and Irish ale like a couple of grizzly men.  It was amazing!

 

Another week down.  Another week closer to home.  🙂

Being Away: Week 2

Being Away: Week 2

Week 2 has been better than week 1.  Training has me so busy with studying and notecards and homework, I don’t have time to mope and think about how much I miss my family.  I’ve developed a nice routine.

0545 – Wake up
0600 – Brush teeth, do hair, get dressed, pump.
0645 – Go downstairs and eat breakfast
0700 – Head out for training
1100 – 1300 is lunch.  Thank goodness for those 2 hours!  I have time to eat, pump and take a little nap before I have to go back!
1300 – 1530 Finish up training day
1630 – Pump, Workout
1730 – Shower, dinner and study for the rest of the night

In between all those after-training activities, I try to FaceTime with the baby and husband as much as possible! Every time that little face smiles at me and flashes me those dimples, I tear up.

Sleep is hard to come by in a hotel with thin walls.  I can hear little kids excited to go to Sea World in the morning stomping around all night.  I can hear other people’s TVs.  One night I heard rhythmic, Arabic/Muslim chanting from about 9pm-midnight.  I had to call security that night.  Not to mention, I’ve always loved sleep and yet I can never get any at night.  And of course I just stare at Noah through the baby monitor until I fall asleep.

On a brighter note, I passed my first exam with a 94!  Woo!!! One test down, 4 more to go!  The sooner I can get through all this, the sooner I get to squeeze my loves!

The hotel I’m staying at has a stove, full fridge/freezer, and it includes pots and pans, plates, glasses, etc.  So at least I don’t have to eat out every single night!  I’ve been alternating between burger patties and chicken breasts this week.  Lunch is usually a healthy choice steamer or a lean cuisine.  I’ll have to alternate two other meats next week to switch it up.  This hotel also has a “Social Hour” on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights.  They cook or grill food and have free adult beverages for the long term residents! The best part, IT’S FREE!! I went last Wednesday night and enjoyed a baked potato bar and salad.  It was actually delicious!

Training wise, everything is going steadily.  Being on Lackland again for the first time since basic training has given me some flashbacks of getting yelled at in the 100 degree heat in the middle of the street.  Ahhh, the Air Force.  The good thing is, now that I’m a Staff Sergeant, most of the brand new airmen are terrified when they see me walk by and either pop to attention or get really nervous.  You should see their faces when I’m like, “HELLO THERE!” and smile.  It’s like they just saw a unicorn or something.  I never yell at them.  They’ve had it hard enough.

 

There are 17 students in the class and 5 of us are prior service.  That means that we have all been in different career fields and are now cross-training into a new career field.  The rest are NPS (Non-prior Students).  Those are airmen are straight out of basic training.  Being prior service has it’s perks in tech school.  2 hour lunches, we get to show up 30 minutes later than the NPS, and we get to leave 30 minutes earlier than them in the afternoons.  Not too shabby.

As far as Texas goes….

On a scale of “Damn, it’s hot!” to “I’m melting”, I would say it’s about “Satan’s asshole” degrees outside.  Like literally in the 100s almost every day.  I don’t know how the NPS are making it marching everywhere. Let’s just say our classroom always has a certain “new airman musk”.  I’ve learned to keep Febreeze in my backpack.

I decided to go be a tourist this July 4th weekend!

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I mentioned last week that I would probably go to the Alamo and I actually got off my butt and did it!  It’s pretty cool to see, but a little disappointing as well.  Much respect to the Alamo and it’s history, it’s just a bit of a tourist trap.  I didn’t go in because there was a huge line and the Texas sun was already melting my face off.  But I did take some cool photos while there and bought a few souvenirs.  In my mind, I pictured the Alamo being like out in the middle of the desert somewhere with tumbleweeds blowing around it – like the church in Kill Bill or something.  Nope!  It’s right in the middle of downtown San Antonio!  Across the street there was the Guinness World Record museum and other novelty stores.  I also went in the Guinness museum.  Worst $20 I ever spent.  It was like $10 more expensive than a Ripley’s, and 10 times smaller with more lame stuff.  I definitely do not recommend that one. (Suddenly I’m a Trip Advisor review writer).

Saturday was definitely a day of firsts.  I went to the Alamo, I had my very first Boba tea (bubble tea), and I went to ‘In n Out Burger’ for the first time ever.  All three were pretty amazing.  You already read my Yelp review above on the Alamo, that boba tea though… img_20160702_131727.jpg

It was definitely something to write home about.  If there was a place to buy boba tea in Savannah, I would probably keep it in business all on my own.  In n Out Burger was good but nothing too special.  I gave it like a 7 all around.

I finished up the holiday weekend grilling out with some classmates at the hotel pool and waiting for the fireworks from SeaWorld.  My hotel is literally 5 minutes away from that kill shelter…. I mean park.

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Happy Independence Day 🙂

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It turns out, the fireworks were blocked off by the hotel itself and we could only see like the very end result of the fireworks…. I wound up going back to my room, putting on my July 4th “Merica” socks and FaceTime’d Cedrik and Noah for the rest of the night.  Week 2 was good to me.

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Being Away: Week 1

Being Away: Week 1

“It could be worse.”

“It’ll go by fast.”

“Hang in there!”

Those are a few examples of what I’ve been hearing since I found out I’d have to be away from my baby and husband for about 2 months this summer.

I know, I know.  It sounds a bit dramatic.  I realize there are mommies and daddies that are away from their families for a year or longer in military situations.  I realize that in retrospect, 2 months is an overnight stay compared to what others have experienced.  That being said, I haven’t been away from home that long since I went to Basic and tech school almost 9 years ago!  I didn’t care back then.  They could have sent me away for a year.  I didn’t have a husband or baby.  I would have gone.  Things are different now.

The FIRST night away from my peanut was hard.  The morning that I left, I just hugged him and kissed him and cried my eyes out and talked to him and took a video in bed so I could watch it every morning while I was gone.   My eyes were super puffy from crying the night before too.

me crying

I also cried a few times in the car. Especially when the little receiving blanket I brought with me to smell him while I was away got some coffee spilled on it.  “Hi, my name is Leilani, and I’m obsessed with my kid.”

I spent the night at the halfway mark which was Biloxi, MS.  I was exhausted and sad and all I wanted to do was lie down.  Instead, I decided to get out, go get some supplies for the other half of my trip, and ride around in Biloxi for a little bit.  Luckily, my husband positioned the baby monitor so that I could see Noah in his crib like I usually do every night at home.  That helped.

noah sleeping

I’ve never been away from him for more than 8 hours at a time.  And now, the first time that I’ll be away from him, it’s for almost 2 months.  For a breastfeeding mommy, this has taken an emotional toll on me.  My goal was to breastfeed for 1 year; now he’s almost 8 months and I may be finished.  I’m one week in and still pumping – and very successfully actually.

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I keep my breastmilk right next to the Healthy Choice Steamers LOL

Hopefully I can maintain a supply so that I can resume breastfeeding when I get back home.  According to Noah’s pediatrician, my supply will slowly dwindle until it drops completely, due to being away from baby for so long.  I will keep trying!  I have to remind myself that it’s ok if my milk supply dwindles.  I breastfed for 7 months and still the baby is drinking breastmilk due to all the stash I froze!

Besides the baby mama firsts, I’ve never driven so long in a vehicle by myself.  18 hours from Savannah, Ga to San Antonio, TX with an overnight sleep in Biloxi.  That’s rough.  Props to all you truck drivers out there.  If I knew I had to make those long interstate trips for a living, I would probably choose another job.  I’ve made the trip to Biloxi from Savannah before and it seemed like an eternity.  However, knowing that I had to drive the same amount of time two days in a row (roughly 8-9 hours) made the trip seem like a piece of cake.  No GPS needed for that one.

on the road

 

While I stay busy, I forget about missing home.  My training begins at 0730 and ends at 1600.  By the time I get back to my hotel, I have to do homework, study, workout, eat and get some sleep.  But yesterday, Friday, I was really missing home.  There was no homework.  No alarm to set for class in the morning.  It was just me, in my room, creeping on the baby through the monitor again.

It’ll get better.

This morning I woke up feeling rejuvenated and well rested.  Something I haven’t felt since before I was pregnant!  And even though it felt wonderful, I still missed my peanut and husband.  #DatMomLifeTho

I’ll do my best to stay busy this next weekend away.  Maybe go to the Alamo.  I’m about 5 minutes from SeaWorld as well, which is actually free for military, however, after watching Blackfish, I just can’t.  I could maybe check out Aquatica too.  I would go to Six Flags but I may see if my fellow prior service classmates want to go as a group.

Cedrik is doing amazing daddy things at home.  I left him a “Noah’s Day” checklist on the fridge to go by and it seems to be helping.  We FaceTime at night which is nice.  THANK YOU, TECHNOLOGY.  Also, my baby has started to crawl.  *cue waterworks*  I’ve been away literally 5 days and he is crawling.  Who knows what else he’ll develop while I’m gone!  What if I get back and he doesn’t warm up to me?  What if he cries out of sadness when he sees me again?  I can’t think about that right now.

The quicker I get through this training, the quicker I can progress militarily and the quicker I can get back to my family!