Monday, September 1, 2014

And this year... I'll be better. Right?

School is almost in session.

Right? Seriously, when we took the boys school supply shopping yesterday, This was what ran through my head:

It's almost as great as Christmas, except the gift I'm getting is TIME. It also seems like this last week, which is the last of this summer, the boys are a wee bit insane. Okay, more like they've lost their ever-loving minds. Ahhhhh, yes, my tiny -

Yeah, they're killing me. Within the first few moments of walking down our steps, well, I'm bound to see this:

So I figure, hey, they need large muscle activity. They need to get the heck out of the house. So by lunch time today, I come home from the store and find them still in their pajamas, fighting over what? MineCraft.
And what do I say? "Get dressed, and get outside and play." 

To which Thor responds, "Why? We didn't do anything wrong!"

Yeah, apparently playing outside has become punishment? Oy. They would probably think Jason and I grew up being tortured medieval-style, because I think neither of us saw the inside of a house during the summer growing up... and we liked it that way.

So anywhoo, it occurs to me how much nicer, happier the boys are when they're on a gluten-free diet. How much happier, nicer they are when they're scheduled, stimulated without each other.  How much they need school just as badly as I do.

In fact, just before I sat down to type this? I was rewarded with the following exchange: 

"Ow!" Thor yells.

"Sorry!" The Hulk immediately cries loud enough so that I hear him. Refusing to apologize is a cardinal sin in this house, so he knocked that out of the way early.

"What's going on?" I call back, dreading the answer.

"YOU HURT MY NOSE!" Thor shouts.

"I said I'm sorry!" The Hulk argues.

"Boys!" I yell, trying desperately to get some form of work done before they....


Wait... what?

The joys of raising boys. 

Right, so we're just a few days out of the start of school. Supplies are bought and divided between their new, monogrammed back packs, new shoes have been purchased, clothes too - and I've made it through turning over two of the four boys' wardrobes for school clothes. 

I love the sense of rejuvenation I get with the beginning of the school year. In some ways, it feels more like New Year's to me than turning the calendar on January 1. Everything is new, from the pencils to the clothes, and I can't help but feel a little new too. After all, once that school bus takes my tiny boys to their school, it's just Little Miss and me... all day. 

After a summer of writing to a deadline (which is new for me, so have some mercy), traveling, summer camps, and a little bit of insanity, I'm ready for routine and structure. 

I'm ready to ROCK this. 

So instead of New Year's Resolutions, let's try some School Year Resolutions, because I'm feeling all motivated and stuff.

1. This year, I will get up before ALL children, yes, that's 6 a.m., and I will greet the morning with a smile even BEFORE that first strong cup of coffee. 

2. This year, I will check all four backpacks both before and after school. 
   * Perhaps this will alleviate the moment I get the phone call where a laser tag gun has been taken to school because The Hulk wanted to play at recess. 

3. This year I will diligently sign the teacher correspondence notebooks. Even when the child in question (Oh, who am I kidding, this is always The Hulk), has perhaps not emptied his backpack (see number one), or worse, has maybe hidden said notebook so I don't see that he's decided to not do whatever he was asked to do. 

4. This year I will pack only nutritious, gluten-free lunches that I will lovingly prepare earlier than five minutes before the bus. Heck, I'm going to prep the NIGHT before!

5. This year I will make sure that completing number 4 doesn't completely consume the entire grocery budget. 

6. This year, I will schedule my time as rigidly as I schedule our kids'. I will hold myself accountable for my working hours so I can spend more time writing when they're gone, and more time with them when they're home. This will help me avoid looking like THIS, when I procrastinate a deadline and I'm up until 5:45 a.m., only to get up two hours later. 

Oh, seriously, who am I kidding. My schedule is usually shot to shit after the first round of "look at the germs I picked up in Kindergaten" makes it's way home and all four are out with fevers and doctor's appointments until I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off like:

But wait, we're all about making resolutions here, right? Right. 

Back to the positive.

7. This year I will use my kid-free (a.k.a. Little Miss nap) time to block out the rest of the world, write, and catch up on my beta work. And if the phone rings, unless it's one of the trio - (Jason, Aaron, or the School), I'm not answering it. Nope. I'm going to be like:

8. This year, I will promptly stop working the moment they walk in the door. Well... unless I'm on deadline, then all bets are off. But as I tell my little guys, if you want to play hockey... well, mama's got to edit, because man, those skates aren't cheap. 

9. This year, I will make sure to hound them for their project due-dates and then I'll make them do it... you know, like... before the night before. This way we avoid the inevitable dash to the store after school for poster board so Captain America can then write "Just say No to Mariwanna," on his D.A.R.E. poster. Then again, having a kid who knows so little about drugs that he misspells marijuana? Yeah, that's really NOT a bad problem to have. 

Oh, and amendment - this year I will watch as he's writing to avoid said typo.

10. This year I swear I'll get everything prepped, or heck, teach them to prep their shoes/bags themselves, so that there's a lot more, "have a great day, I love you soooooo much," going on, and a lot less, "Oh my Good Lord, the bus is going to be here in less than five minutes, what do you mean you can only find two left shoes? And why haven't you brushed your teeth? Yes... WITH TOOTHPASTE!" Yeah, I'm going to rock that organization and get everyone out of this house so smoothly that I'll be able to sit down with my post-bus-rush coffee and say:

11. Lastly? Yeah, I'm going to forgive myself when the calendar turns to October and this list has gone to shit. Because I'm a mom, not a domestic goddess. I'm still figuring out this whole balance career / five kids thing, and well... some days are butter, and some days are sour cream... that's gone bad. But hey, we're a work in progress.

Welcome to the school year. We're geared up, monogrammed, ironed, washed and ready to go. Oh, and the kids are, too. ;)

See 'ya on the flip side.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pucking Mess of a PCS: (Vol. 2) The Binder.

Ah, yes, welcome back to our messy little PCS.

Okay, so when I approach a PCS, that first initial look is kind of like.... well....

Yeah, it's a whole heaping mess of "honey, here's our orders, and our transport dates... did you pick up the kids records?" Um... Yeah, hold on... somewhere. 

THIS is my somewhere.

With everything swirling around us regarding this PCS, we're doing our best to organize what we can. Control isn't exactly something we have in spades, but hey, I'll use this little pink binder as compensation. Because in this little binder, everything fits into a neat little compartment and then I can close it up. 

Maybe you're thinking: 

 Well, guess what?

This little wonder is something that makes our complicated PCS just a little more simple. The pink version is the 2nd we've gone through. Our trusty red one finally gave out. Boo. To be honest, this one isn't my favorite because it's missing some of the pockets we've grown accustomed to, and I might just sneak out and purchase another one because if anything, I am very much a creature of habit. But for now, it works, it's bright (a MUST in our house), and pink makes me happy. 

So what do we keep in our PCS Binder?

1. Orders - Yup, those pesky little papers that says you're on the move. I usually have Jason print out about 20 of them, because you need them at the oddest times. To get out of leases, or cell phone contracts, and the movers need them. If you're headed overseas, you'll need them at the airport for your baggage, or heck, if you're flying anywhere to a duty station. It'll help you out with those over-stuffed bags. You never know when you'll need these, so I also scan them in and email them to myself. That way I can send them quickly from my smartphone if someone needs them that moment. 

2. Transport - This is where you put all your information regarding the movement of your stuff. You know, your household goods and hold baggage. So appointment papers, any paperwork they give us when they show up, our weight tickets if we're doing a DITY. Then we make sure as they unpack, we pay close attention to what is damaged/broken, and we use this slot to keep records of all that in one place as well. 

3. Storage - If moving Overseas, this is where we keep the info on everything we're putting into storage. But this PCS, we're using it to keep tabs on what's in our storage unit while we stage our house to sell. Also, because we need to store our things in Colorado before we buy our house, it will keep that info too. 

4. Records. - You know... Birth Certificates, marriage license, passports, Social Security cards... yup, the identity theft jackpot. At this point, since everything is already out, I go ahead and make a copy of everything, and email it to myself.  I also take a copy of Jason's ID, and our Power of Attorney (GET ONE), and email them to myself with orders in one PDF for easy "yes, I have authorization to talk to you about my freaking utilities." Sigh. Especially with our crazy PCS situation, I'll need a power of attorney to sell our house, and handle just about everything while Jason is at WOAC. 

5. Travel - This is where I store all of our hotel reservations for the trip to our new duty station, or airplane tickets for OCONUS moves. This folder is with me at all times during a PCS (hence the DO NOT PACK), so when I keep gas receipts or anything regarding our travel (U-haul reservations, and such) in this little pocket.

6. School - Anything regarding the kids' school, from their records from our current duty station, to any forms I'll need completed to enroll them at the new one. If I know I need a physical to enroll them at our new duty station, I make sure to have that completed here, and then stick it in the pocket. PCS's are all about making sure things run as smoothly for the tiny humans as possible. 

7. Drum - Anything random that we need while we're HERE. 

8. Rucker - Anything we need pertaining to Jason's TDY in Fort Rucker.

9. Carson - Any new information we get about the new post. Because Colorado Springs is my home, this will stay pretty empty, but in other moves it's been full of "what to do while in..." lists, maps, language-guides... you get the gist.

10. Little Miss - Anything regarding what's going on with our Little Miss, since we'll start packing our filing  cabinets where we keep her records/court papers. 

11. We leave random compartments for anything we need to adapt! (Something tells me it will be hockey stuff... yup.) 


There's our PCS Binder. It's great to have everything in one place, but it's also a PAIN IN THE A## to lose. My best advice? Keep it in one place, and one place only. Then, the day the movers are set to arrive, lock this bad boy in your car so it doesn't accidentally wind up in your household goods. Yup. 

This one little slice of organzation makes me feel like we can get through this without tearing my hair out... or my husband's hair. But I can't stress enough - DON'T LOSE IT. This is the tiny something that makes this just a teensie bit less of a Pucking Mess. Yup. 

 So for just this minute, I feel totally and completely like an under-control, PCS Badass. 

Yeah, I'll take it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Pucking Mess of a PCS: (Vol. 1) Orders.

Man, how I have missed this blog. Seriously. I love having my dream job, and writing books, but for the last couple of months, I've had to learn to do things differently, since I was writing under a deadline... which pretty much looks like this:

So I crawl out of the Drafting / Revising Cave, and I get a spontaneous visit from my parents (Who live in Colorado... Seriously). They came in to meet our Little Miss, and I've never been as happy as when I saw her snuggled up on the couch with my mother. I'd show you pictures, but I can't, so just imagine happiness like: 

Mom, I know you're reading this, so I know you appreciate the Beetlejuice .gif.  Shake, Senora.  ;) 

So I get five great days with them before they leave, I turn in ETS, and I see that there's like... sunshine in the outside world. And I sleep, and it's glorious. Until I realize a major event that we've been ignoring while I write, and it kinda snuck up on me like:

We're PCS'ing.

Yup, orders are here.

Moving. Now what's fun about us moving? Yeah, I'm taking you guys along for the ride. For those of you who are new (or coming here from Pitch Wars), why is this so insane? First, we have a house to sell. Second, we'll be PCS'ing while I'm in EYES TURNED SKYWARD edits for release with Entangled, and writing the next in the series. Third, we're about to do this in the middle of hockey season, which means all 4 of our boys (on 3 separate teams) are about to straddle two states and two different leagues...  6 teams. Fourth? Jason will be TDY enroute, so we have two crazy windows to leave. But the biggest issue we have during this PCS....

We don't know when we'll be going. 

Why? Because we've been fostering a little girl we love more than sunshine, and we're not sure what's going to happen with her. We've tucked her into bed for 10 months now, and we won't leave her behind unless her solution is permanent, which means there's every chance in the world that I'll be living here in NY with our boys and our Little Miss, and Jason will be moving home to Colorado until either she can come, or she is permanent here. We're not leaving her to fall into the system. Nope. 

Anyway....  Welcome to volume 1 of the Pucking Mess PCS, because it's well, it's a HOT freaking mess.

I have to admit. I ignored it for a long while.  A really long while, and it was easy until the orders came in, and then it was kind of like: 

That's right. This mess is chasing us down, and now it's time to deal with it. We've been compartmentalizing, handling what we can when we can, which up until now, has been Jason's work / college schedule, and me finishing up ETS to submit to my editor. And now... We're potentially 6 weeks out of a PCS. 


Do you know how hard it is to plan a "potential" PCS? Blehhhhh. We're in the weirdest situation because we keep making "potential plans" for our timelines, which means our map of things to do looks more like the most demented flow-chart known to man. If this... then this. But if that... well, then plan E, or G... or maybe G plus that part of B? Yeah. It's that messy. To the point where we actually just finished another hour-long discussion on the insanity of our life and decision making. Trying to make these HUGE decisions without any of the information we need? Well, it's like this....

We're going round and round the same points.

But our orders are here, and that means we have to start making decisions for real, and not just theory. So much hinges on our Little Miss. If there's no permanency for her in sight, do we really want to sell our house? If we're stuck here in NY for another year while her future is undetermined, then I want our children in their home, right? But why shouldn't we sell it now, and then live somewhere smaller, so we're ready to go when we know what our future is? And what if it sells while Jason is at Advanced Course? Then I'm moving with 5 kids solo into a smaller place? What if there is something permanent decided for her, but Jason is already gone? Do we move solo to Colorado (so we can get them in school there), or wait until he's home from the course?   

This is why I haven't been blogging much, because honestly, it's a mess on top of my shoulders.

The hardest question I get now is: "How long are you going to be separated? Can't this take years?"

Ready for the short answer? Yeah, we don't know. The easy answer is, "as long as it takes." Because that's the only answer. Yes, the idea of staying here, separated from Jason is heart-wrenching. We've never been separated when we don't have to be. But I also know what we're capable of, and there's nothing we won't do for our children.

Another question I'm getting right now, are "how are you guys doing with this?"

The honest truth? We're fine. Stressed, but strong.

There are days we don't talk about any of it. We just enjoy our kids, our family, our time together, because we don't know how long we'll have it. We know we'll be separated at least while he's at Advanced Course, but it could be so much longer than that. So we try our best to savor each and every second we have. 

There are days it's all we talk about - how to prep the house for sale, when we should put it on the market. What we're going to do given any set of circumstances. We've tried to make every decision we possibly can for every scenario, but the truth is, it's not possible. No one can see every outcome here, not at this phase. There are times we look at one another and we each know what the other is thinking, that this is about to get really hard really fast. 

So we hold on to each other. We stop cooking dinner and just stand there with our arms around each other when the stress hits. We curl up on the couch when we've talked out every scenario. We hold hands in the car while we debate the easiest way to get our family to Colorado, and can't help but worry how many people will be in the car. We giggle, laugh, and snuggle our Little Miss when there's nothing left to do but wait, because the truth is we have no impact on what happens in her future, only the love and care she gets NOW. We're just the cog in the machine of what's supposed to decide her best interest. And we hold each other before we fall asleep, and whisper our prayers. 

A good friend of mine told me, "I've seen marriages fail for less." She then reminded me that we were certainly not less. And we refuse to be, no matter what gets tossed at us. And you'd be amazed at the crazy things thrown our direction this last month.

We've always said, "you and me against the world." 

And we mean it.

So we have a new motto. We prepare logistically for the best case scenario, and hang on for the worst. Why? Because us leaving here sooner requires a crap ton of prep, and staying here longer requires a whole different type of prep. 

So welcome to our little Pucking Mess of a PCS. 

Enjoy the ride, because we saved our craziest PCS for last. 

Here we go.