Friday, September 28, 2012

Unconditional Bonds

As summer came to an end this past weekend, we were fortunate enough to spend it with dear friends, who are more family than friends to us. All Friday, Kevin looked at me as though I had lost my mind, as I raced through the house cleaning and making sure things were "perfect". Little did he know that we had friends arriving that evening that we had not seen in years and that they would be spending the entire weekend with our family! For over a month, I had spent time "scheming" with our Glenda and Rob Kiser as well as Kris Valencia on their trip to Macon. For those of you that are not sure of these friends - we were all close to inseparable in Germany. We have seen Kris since our PCS from Germany in 2006, but not The Kiser Family.

Friday afternoon, our doorbell rang and for once I refused to open the door. Instead, I continued sitting in the living room, reading a book I was reviewing for Family Of a Vet, Inc. Kevin, not very happily, went to the door and peeked outside, then slowly looked at me, quite pissy and said "I'm not opening the damn door. You get up and do it". With an irritated look, I simply told him he was there, so go ahead and open the door. With frustration because he had no idea who was on the other side, he opened the door and ended up with the biggest smile on his face as he realized that Kris Valencia was at our house. The look on his face brought a smile to mine!

As we all hung out in the kitchen, making dinner, Kevin decided to pick up my phone when a text alert rang. For those of you that know Kevin, this NEVER happens! He honestly never messes with my phone. However, of all days - this is the one he decided to check it out. When he saw Glenda's name he instantly assumed that they were coming out as well. Now, if you know me - you know I suck at lying and even though  said "no" the answer was written all over my face. In that one moment, I wanted to cry because of month of planning was reveled instead of being a surprise arrival. Yet, to see the look in his eyes made things okay. He was truly excited to see Rob and the family. He looked like a little kid.

We spent the rest of the evening catching up with Kris and laughing until around 9:30 when I received the text that the Kiser's were right around the corner. Without hesitation, Kevin and Kris decided to go outside to "smoke". We were all standing outside as a truck slowly approached out house and whipped into the driveway - parking incredibly crooked and making it hard for anyone on the passenger side to get out. Full of enthusiasm, Robert hopped out of the drivers seat and him and Kevin were guy hugging.

From there, the kids all rambunctiously headed into the house and upstairs. It was like they had never been apart. Nicholas was the only "new" one to the group since Germany. All of the adults migrated to the backyard, where we stayed until after three in the morning, catching up and laughing. I took quite a few pictures that I sadly lost Saturday morning when I attempted to update my cell phone.

Me and Glenda

On Saturday morning, we started preparing for more people to arrive at our house that evening for our small Housewarming gathering. To all that made it out, thank you so much! We had a fabulous time with all that showed: My cousin Courtney with her husband Nick and their son, Eli; Aunt Denise (who I have not seen in so many years! What a blessing to hug her and see her!), Aunt Susan, one of my oldest and dearest friends, Sarah Norris with her husband Chad, and children Matthew and Kaylin (Chandler Norris - we missed you!!!), and Kev's last surprise visitor and our friends, Jason Brentzel with his wife, Heather and their kids, Hayden and Logan. To say everyone had a great time together, would be an understatement. We all enjoyed hanging out, laughing, chatting, and eating! The men of course ended up migrating to the backyard drinking a few beers and the ladies stayed inside, sipping on cocktails, while the children played. To all that came, thank you so much for leaving us with such an enjoyable evening! It was wonderful seeing each of you and we cannot wait to do it again!

Kris, Jason, Rob, and Kev

Sarah, Kaylin, and Chad (being silly)

Heather and me

Me and Glenda

Jason, Kev, and Susan

Nate, Naisha, Hayden, Nic & Bre

The Adults - Taken by a child

Me and Aunt Susan

Bre and Naisha helping set up

*If you read our blog posts by email updates, please go to to watch the 3 videos below.* No we do not normally let our children do what they are doing in the videos, it was only fun for this one night. Yes, the middle video is Glenda. She had to be a kid just once ! lol

Sunday was spent being lazy. We said our goodbyes to Kris as he headed back to Florida. We cleaned up for a bit and then ate dinner together at our house. Schnitzel, potato salad, pasta salad, and I cannot remember what else! It was quite tasty and enjoyable. We all called it a night fairly early compared to the two previous late nights. Our kids had school the following morning and the Kiser's would be beginning their six hour journey back home.
Glenda and I saw this at Publix and she immediately said it was perfect for Kevin. 

The kids licking cake mix out of the mixing bowl

Silly kids - posing after licking the bowl clean. We were just missing Naisha in this photo.

The little monsters decorating cake balls

Me and Glenda. I love this pic!

Glenda making her yummy schnitzel

Love the look, babe! Kev and Rob

Riley decided to steal Rob from Glenda last weekend!

On Monday morning, we all woke up around 7ish to get ready for the day. Kev and I wok the kids and got them all ready for school as the Kiser's started gathering their belongings and preparing for their trip home. The kids of course didn't want to go to school that day, Nic being the only one who ended up not going due to being a bit sick. Kevin took the girls to school and the rest of us met him at Waffle House for breakfast, where we stayed for well over an hour - prolonging the dreaded goodbyes and hugs. 

In life, it is rare that we fall into relationships that leave us with unconditional bonds. It is even more rare that these bonds tie two couples together.

The one thing we learned over the weekend is that no matter the amount of time that goes by, when friendships truly exist, distance will never be an obstacle. Nerves may have been in existence as the time approaches to see people after so many years, but the truth in relationships shines through the moment you see someone and the moment you are all engaging in hugs. Everything seems to fall right back into place and you feel comfort of being surrounded by people you realize you would be lost without. Until next time Rob, Glenda, Nate and Naisha, we love each of you and are so blessed to have you in our lives. Thank you for being friends/family that is a rare thing in life. We cannot wait for our next weekend together!

And more than anything, Welcome Home, Rob! Robert returned from Afghanistan the week before they made the trip to our house! Not only was this past weekend to celebrate our new home and being back in Georgia, but also to celebrate Robert's homecoming!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11: Living With the Aftermath

I have typed, deleted, typed, and deleted so many times the past few days, just trying to write about 9/11. Yet, what is there really to say that hasn't already been said? We will all wake up in a matter of hours and many of us will relive the horrific events of 9/11/2001. We will think back to the harsh reality of a day that changed the lives of so many of us. Everyday in our house, we are reminded of the aftermath of 9/11. We are still picking up the pieces and sadly, we will always be picking up the pieces...

Never in a million years would I have expected for mine and Kevin's lives to be changed so drastically by the events that occurred on September 11, 2001. As many other Americans, I can replay the moments following the first tower. I still see it all so clearly. I can hear the phone ringing and Kevin asking me if I was watching TV, followed by an awkward silence and him then telling me to turn it on to the news. I remember the numb feelings that swept over me as I watched a plan fly into the second tower and as I watched the towers crumble to the ground. I remember the fear that soared through my entire body as I saw footage of the field in PA, as well as the Pentagon. An unimaginable feeling of sickness stayed with me as I held my pregnant stomach and telling my unborn daughter "everything will be okay", praying that this did not send me back into labor, then getting into my car to head to my dads house. I waited there with him while Kevin was at work. I shook in fear and terror as I watched our nation being torn a part one plane after another. How could someone do something so terrible and destructive? How could we as the United States allowed this to happen on our own land? How did they get past our security? Thousands of innocent people lost their lives that day. Heroes died and heroes were formed...

Following the events of 9/11, Kevin spoke more and more about enlisting in the Army. He was drawn to it. Everyday, he felt the need to enlist a little more, despite my pleas for him to not. At the age of 20, there was no part of me that felt cut out to be an army wife. I had always lived near my family, we had two little girls, both very young, and he was talking about enlisting during a war time. There was no way I was agreeing to that. Little did I know that I would eventually agree to it and he would, in fact, enlist.

Within a few months after talking to the recruiters and everything with MEPS, Kev was boarding a bus and heading to Basic. Our lives all began transforming at this point.

People have asked me if we would live the army life all over again if we knew now what we didn't know then. This always leaves me wondering how to answer and make them understand. Would we do it all over again? As much as I want to say no, we wouldn't because of the injuries sustained, I can't. Yes, we would do it all over again. By enlisting, Kev made the most selfless commitment a person can make. When I mentioned that heroes were formed due to 9/11, I was referring to people such as Kevin. He enlisted when we were at war. Because Kevin decided to stand up for his country and insure our freedom, he is now a different person that what I sent to war. Our lives are nothing as they use to and we are not who we use to be.

A man that use to stand so tall, hard, proud, and now a man that struggles with the simple things in life, hates crowds, being around people, has nerve/spinal damage, and has been through a real hell for days upon days and months upon months. The man I sent off to war full of smiles and life, is now a stranger at times. I now miss the smiles and the light in his eyes and now live for the small glimpses that pass by of who he use to be. Those small glimpses will get me through the days and weeks of the hard times. There is so much that has been lost in who he use to be. It is honestly a struggle to have the ability to compare the use to be to the now. It hurts my heart to see and know the struggles he now faces and it hurts even more to hold the helpless feelings of not being able to just make him better. 

As I sit here and write this, I also find myself reliving so much of the past eleven years. Our family has gained things, and we have lost things. In many ways, I think we as a whole have gained more than that of which we have lost. Yet, as I write that one line, I feel like we have lost so much it is often hard to see the positive in what we do have. I have more anger, bitterness, and frustrations built up in me today when I think on the reasons and ways that Kevin has been injured. There is a part of me that holds a hatred feeling towards others after what he has been through. Yet, then there is the pride that steadily sweeps over me and slaps me in the face. We wouldn't be who we are and where we are in life without all of these experiences. We wouldn't hold on to and cherish the small things in life. Through this, we have both seen our scares with death. We are now living the aftermath of the war and Kev's deployments. But, we now hold on to the smaller things in life.

Too often in life, we lost sight of what matters and we focus on the material things. We spend time rehashing the past and allowing things that won't matter a month down the road to eat us alive. There is no point in that. Will the thing you are angry at or holding a grudge at right now matter in five years? Chances are, it won't. So let it go.

Everyday I find myself thinking back on the last 11 years. I find myself overwhelmed with thoughts on what Kevin use to be life and how he is today. I become overjoyed in pride as it swallows me whole. How can I not be proud of this amazing man that I am blessed to call my husband? A man that has fought like hell not only for his family, but for our country. It is a battle within myself to think back on to how he use to be and then to find acceptance in the man he is today.

War changes people in ways we are never warned. 9/11 changed our nation as a whole. Sadly, people will take 9/11, like other holidays for our veterans and service members and they will use it as their "I'm so patriotic" days, when every other day of the year, they "forget". I honestly hate getting on to social media sites because as of right now, everyone is continuously posting photos and updates of 9/11, when it seems like almost every other day of the year, they never think about it. We don't. Everyday of the year, things like 9/11 stay with us. We live directly with the aftermath of that day. We are still picking up the pieces and always will be. My children grow up in a house so unlike others.

September 11 will always hold a special place within me, so like many other Americans and their families. Our lives were forever changed that day... Now and forever, my heart goes out to the many men, women, and children that lost their lives because of this tragic event. My heart goes out to those that are still picking up the pieces because they lost loved ones. It is a day that our nation will never forget and that so many of us will always play over and over in our heads.

September 11 is a time to honor and a time to remember. It is a time to never forget the lives lost, the heroes lost, and the heroes gained. It is a day to stop what you are doing and give a moment of silence as we think about the day our nation was forever changed...a day that we fell apart and stood back up together as one. Don't chose today to be your "patriotic day"... Chose everyday. Never forget those that we have lost and never forget those that have served.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Starting School in Macon

This post is mainly to play catch up with some photos that I have not shared over the past couple of weeks.

Last week, I ended up breaking down and doing what I said I would not do... I cleaned Caitlin's room because I could not take the mess anymore! Once I cleaned it, I was able to take pictures of it and can now share what her room looks like!!! Yay!

Caitlin has the biggest closet of all the kids

 Our second weekend here, we had the amazing opportunity to spend time with our family - including our nephews! My mom, Russell, Ashton, Dustin, Whitney, Gavin, and Susan spent that Saturday with us and Mike, Maria, and Mateo - or as Nic calls him, Matato, came over and spent time with us.

Their first time with their cousin, Gavin


The kids started school a few days after we moved into our house. They seem to be adjusting well. The school has many rules, which we love, and the children are expected to follow them. The part the kids hate the most - SCHOOL UNIFORMS!!!

Yes - my girls are showing off their 31 backpacks and lunch thermals! Contact me if you are interested in one!

 We found a fishing hole for Kevin!!! One day while the kids were at school, Kev and I went for a drive not too far from where we live, to check the area out. We found the swamp and walked down to it, which was actually pretty cool. I was reading about this particular swamp and discovered that alligators have been occasionally spotted in it. Anyhow, when we took the kids to one of the areas on the river, where we found a great fishing spot, Bre spotted a Gar and became very excited. Now, she is super stoked about fishing!

Whistle Stop Cafe

This past weekend was a fairly busy one. On Saturday, Kev's parents and Aunt Sharon spent the day with us and on Monday we spent the day at my moms house for Labor Day.

Whistle Stop Cafe
A little before lunch time, David, Terri, and Aunt Sharon arrived at our house. We showed everyone around the house. David and Terri have been here before, but this was the first time they have been able to see everything set up and furnished. Shortly after our hello's, the ladies all took a drive out to Juliette, GA - which is home to the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes and the original Whistle Stop Cafe. Juliette is about 25 miles from where we live now. Kev and I took the kids out there two weeks ago after noticing it while on our way to Winder. We had a pretty good time that day, leaving me very excited to take Terri.

After parking just down from The Whistle Stop Cafe, we got out and took the little town in then went into the cafe to add our names to the waiting list. While we waited, we walked through one of the shops and were more fascinated with the house over the odds and ends that could be bought. We did end up purchasing the movie and each of the the girls left with a bracelet from Grannie and necklace from Aunt Sharon.

 While sitting in the cafe waiting on our food, we were all full of smiles taking things in, as each of us LOVE the movie! We ordered sweet teas and cokes - which all came in mason jars! How cool is that?!?! We ordered Fried Green Tomatoes as an appetizer, which was the first for all of us except Terri. Turns out, we all actually enjoyed eating Fried Green Tomatoes. I never would have thought that being that I despise tomatoes!  For lunch, the girls each ordered grilled cheeses and the three of us ladies took it upon ourselves to order the famous Bennett's BBQ and before anyone asks, yes it was almost impossible to order without the inner child coming out with giggles! Bre and Caitlin asked our waitress if the BBQ tasted good. She made sure to tell them that it was "good...and fresh - right off the street". If you have not seen the movie, then you MUST watch it!

Following lunch, we walked behind the cafe and checked out the BBQ pit, concrete slab, train tracks and other areas.

After walking behind the cafe, we checked out the rest of the area, walking from shop to shop, laughing at the funny sayings on signs, talking with people, and learning about the area.We stopped by the honey store and picked up a bag of hard candy, which has honey in the center and is so good, and we bought a jar of honey that still has the comb in it. Kevin loves this, so I had to buy a jar for him! Some of the photos below were taken when Kevin and I were out there.

As we loaded back into the truck, we drove around the river, trying to find how to get a better view of the waterfall and fishing spot that shows in the beginning of the movie. We ended up driving over the train tracks and down a dirt road, to find a trail that led down to the river. Once we walked to the river, we were able to look to the right and see the falls. We found a great fishing spot for Kev and a place to splash around for the kids. Oh, and we also saw a little snake pop its head up out of the water, look around, and slither back down. And, this changed my mind on swimming!!!

To end our day out, we stopped by the Jarrell Plantation and walked through it, which was a great experience. It gave the girls the opportunity to see how people lived not even 100 years ago. I keep hoping they took it in and remember it all and then see how lucky they are today.

While we were out, Kevin and David replaced the lights in the master bathroom and just spent time together and hanging out with Nic.

After making it home, we all settled in for dinner, Chicken Casserole, potatoes, and green peas. Shortly after dinner, David, Terri, and Aunt Sharon left, we cleaned up, and then called a it a night.