Hello! A catch up post.

I’m kind of over blogging. Over as in, I don’t ever feel like taking the time to write things down anymore. Over as in, I never want to upload/edit/share pictures from my camera anymore. My hobby of blogging has been evolving since the day I started my first blog back in 2010 and I assume it will continue to evolve until it eventually fizzles out. Then I read back on something I wrote 4 years ago and I’m so thankful that I took the time to blog because I love the little glimpse into the time capsule that I created. Our lives are so different now than they were just 4 years ago. I’m ridiculously nostalgic so even though my life today is exactly (almost) where the me from 2010 would have hoped it to be, I can’t deny that it makes me sad to look back and remember where I was then.

I think I’ll probably get back to blogging a little bit more since it’s officially summertime in the Kistler house but since I can’t promise anything I thought I’d write a little random update post to share with everyone (especially the future me) what is going on in our family and my mind lately.

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  • Living separately from the love of my life absolutely sucks. Today marks two months since we started this geobacheloring journey and while these two months have flown by, we still have 16 to go. As to be expected, we’ve already had some issues but we knew this wouldn’t be easy when we signed up for it. For me, aside from just really, really missing my best friend, the hardest part is keeping the feeling of resentment at bay. Some nights, when the kids have been particularly difficult or the work on the house is wearing on me and Josh calls to tell me he’s out at a bar in Manhattan with the guys from work, I feel it creeping in. I feel like he’s such an ass to be out on a Wednesday night partying like he’s one of the guys (everyone he works with is single) and I really, really want to be mad at him. But I know that he isn’t really partying like one of the guys and that this isn’t something he would be doing if we were there with him. I don’t expect him to sit in his apartment and twiddle his thumbs because I’m back at home tucking our kids in bed. Sometimes I just have to remind myself that he’s not choosing his friends or the bar over us – we’re just not there for him to choose. The kids are handling it well though. I was afraid they’d live their lives Sunday to Friday just waiting for dad to come home but just like they always do, they’ve surprised me with their resiliency. We FaceTime every morning and every night and have only gone 5 days max without being able to squeeze Josh so it’s not too bad. Ruby has become obsessed with New York. Any time she sees anything that resembles a city she says, “Look! It’s New York!” because she knows that’s where daddy is.  photo IMG_8627_zpsa2831249.jpg
  • Moving back home has been pretty much completely opposite to what I thought it would be like. It’s not a bad or a good thing, it’s just different than what I imagined. I love our little house but it doesn’t feel like “home”. As a matter of fact, while we are very happy that we made this decision and we’re very happy to be back in our hometown for right now, I don’t think that any of us feel this is long term. For the first month, while the New York funk wore off, Parker made comments every other day about how badly he wanted to grow up here. I felt it too. I was actually disappointed that we didn’t buy a bigger house because this house is just too small for us to grow into if this is going to be our forever town, but slowly that feeling started to fade for all of us and now I wonder if we’re just addicted to the nomad lifestyle. A few weeks ago, Parker and I were talking about our life here and I asked him if he was happy that we moved back. He said, “Yeah I like it here and I want to stay for a little while but I think I’d be okay to move again.” Hearing him say those words felt a little like gaining permission for something. It felt like a relief of some kind.

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  • As for the house, Josh and I have been busting our butts and have the downstairs 99% of the way completed. We’ve changed nearly everything. The color of the walls, the light fixtures in every room, we’ve painted the fireplace, stained the mantle, installed a door bell, installed central air, changed the entire kitchen, upgraded the blinds in the windows and on and on and on. We’re currently working on fencing in our back yard and we’re creeping upstairs as we continue on with sanding the floors, painting the hallway walls and changing out the upstairs hallway light. I’d say overall, we’re at about 70% complete with everything I envisioned on the first day we walked through the house. The speed at which we’re working is insane – basically projects haven’t stopped for 2 months – but it’s just one of those by – products of being a military family. You only have so much time in this space so do what you need to do before you have to move on. That’s the way my brain is wired now. That feeling is draining at first but now that we’ve accomplished so much I’m actually starting to feel elated. I nearly have the house I’ve been picturing since February which is allowing a little bit of contentment to trickle down. I don’t think I’ve felt content since 2011 so this is nice. With that said, I am very bipolar when it comes to this house and some hours days I feel like we’re pouring sweat and money into a pit. Hopefully not.

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  • I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about summertime in my life. The dog days of the two summers past have given me a huge appreciation for Ohio summers. I plan to move at an extremely slow and laid back pace, earn the nick name of pool rat, play outside in our pajamas at 8 am, eat most of our meals on our new picnic table, run and bike hundreds of miles and eat more fair food than I’d ever admit to. The boys are signed up for basketball, soccer, and art camp, we have two vacations planned and a visit from my sister and new baby nephew in early August. I know I’m going to blink and it will all be over with but like I told the boys this morning, the second half of the year in Ohio is just short of magical. Fireflies, football, holidays and family is all that’s left of 2014.

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All of the details.

I’m not really feeling this blog anymore and I don’t know how much I’ll be using it from this point on but I thought I’d write out a quick little explanation for the latest development in our lives.

We bought a house in our home town.

No one knew that we were even planning it (besides a couple of friends who helped us out with some things) and no one knew that we were making trips back to Ohio to look at properties or go through the purchasing process. Josh and I chose to keep it a secret because we wanted to work through the entire thing, just the two of us. We looked at several houses back home and decided on a very small and inexpensive 3 bedroom house in a great location. We based our decision on location, price, potential for renovations (we’re crazy about home improvement projects) and opportunity to become a rental – because, this move may not be permanent.

For the next 18 months, the kids and I will live full time in Ohio while Josh shares an apartment in NY with a coworker and makes weekend trips home. I know some family members are concerned with Josh driving back and forth but it goes without saying that his safety, as well as the safety of every person in our family, is above and beyond the most important aspect of our lives. Josh is a very experienced traveler (having driven our family across the entire country four times) and has made the drive from New York to Ohio over 20 times already, with no issue. We’ve done research on safe vehicles and plan to fly him home once a month so he gets a little break. Also, since he’ll have his own apartment (versus living in the barracks as we had planned last fall) the kids and I will come to him some weekends.

As of right now, our plan for our post Coast Guard life remains the same as before. Next summer Josh will begin to look for civilian jobs and then we’ll go from there. This move isn’t necessarily our “settling down” but it is a huge opportunity for us in many ways. We’re all very excited for what lies ahead.

Of course, moving home after living away for almost 7 years will have it’s challenges. Josh and I are very different people than we were when we left and, really, have never lived as a family back home. It will be an adjustment to be surrounded by friends and family (a welcomed adjustment) again as we’ve gotten used to living on our own and only visiting people, pretty much, by appointment. It will also be a huge adjustment living separately from each other for most of the week.

As for the house, we have so many plans and can’t wait to get started on all of them. One of the best things about Ohio is the crazy, insane low cost of living which will allow us not only to afford to live separately but also to be able to do a lot of upgrades on this little cottage. We purposefully kept our budget very low (our mortgage payment will barely be more than our van payment) so we never feel stretched and so hopefully, we end up having made a great investment.

Currently our timeline puts us moving in around the beginning to middle of April. When we asked to be released from Coast Guard housing, we requested a June 1 check out date so the boys wouldn’t start at a new school until the new school year. But due to the CG’s summertime transfer season we were told we’d need to be out by May 1 so that housing would have time for the turnover on our apartment. In turn, we asked for April 15 so the boys have more than 30 days at their new school (not much more but it’s the best we could do).

The kids (Ruby included) are beyond excited for this move. Our house is one street over from our town’s park and public pool and directly behind the Dairy Queen so the location screams kid friendly (the boys call the house the DQ house). We’ll also be just two blocks away from Josh’s favorite pizza shop so the location also screams salami and pepperoni 🙂 The kids are excited to be a part of the community, close to friends and family and to live in a house again versus an apartment.  Ruby knows that some of her favorite people live in Ohio so she keeps asking if she can get her boots on to go to “Hio and pay with Mia and Chelsea.” Josh and I are excited for babysitters 😉

Our inspection was this morning and we’ll receive the report tomorrow. As long as there are no serious issues, our appraisal will be done within the next few days and then it will be a 30 day closing from there. My fingers and toes are crossed!

To go home or not to go home?

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We’re getting out of the Coast Guard. You know this. Other than that one time we were uncertain for 48 hours, we’ve been certain for the past two years. The day Josh had to drag Parker screaming and crying into his last day at his first elementary school was the day he came home to me and said, “I’m done. I’m can’t ever do this to our kids again.” And then Texas happened and it sealed the deal.

This decision does not have to do with the CG. Okay, well it does a little. But mainly, it is a decision we’ve made based on what Josh and I believe is best for our family. So now that that’s established, everyone outside of our little family of five can stop weighing in. No more, “I just want you to make an informed decision.” No more, “But you can retire when you’re 44.” No more.

Josh is a recruiter. He makes his living selling the pro’s of joining the Coast Guard. He is informed. His contract isn’t up next week, it’s up in over a year and a half. Getting out isn’t a rash decision, it’s something that we’ve thought about, planned for and are preparing to do. Josh can retire from the Coast Guard when he’s 44 but he can’t retire from working. The word “retire” means something different for military people and the sacrifice that is made in exchange for “retiring” at 44 isn’t something we’re willing to give up any longer. We don’t care who you know in the Army/Navy/Marines/Air Force/Coast Guard/National Guard/Firefighters Association/Police Corp of America/Doctors with Borders/Teachers Union or Librarians of the United States who successfully and happily served until they could “retire” with a smile on their face to that beautiful paradise that everyone who retires at 44 apparently lives in. Our experience is unique to our family and that’s what we’re basing our decision on.

So. Now that that’s out, let’s move on. The only sentence from that entire rant that I intended to actually type was “We’re getting out of the Coast Guard” but the rest just seemed to flow so I went with it. What I meant for this post to be about is the constant struggle that Josh and I deal with when it comes to deciding whether we want to move back to our hometown once our Coast Guard days are over. Is this common? Do any of my military wife readers struggle with this too because it’s something that is weighing on us nearly everyday.

You see, Josh and I both have this love/hate for our hometown. We come from a very small place with a pretty bad economy but the people are the best. We’ve lived in 6 different cities in 4 different corners of the country and when it comes to respect, morals, values, and ethics, the midwest wins hands down. When we went home for our county fair last fall I nearly died when a group of 5 teenage boys approached me to ask where I had bought my drink and then 4 out of the 5 proceeded to thank me when I gave them directions. In New York, 5 teenage boys would have approached me, mugged me and stolen my drink (kidding!!).

When Josh and I sit down and start talking about moving home (almost every Friday) what we love and what we hate are always this same. We love love love the small town. This is part of why we loved Cape May too so we know for sure that we’re just small town people. We love the idea of our kids doing the same things that we did when we were kids. Sledding at the pool hill, Friday night football games, Firestone 4th of July’s, the Clipper clap. We love that our friends are all still there, that it’s a safe community where we know most of the people (and most of the people’s parents and grandparents…), that the cost of living is dirt cheap but the schools are excellent. We love that Ohio is central to the great lakes, Canada, the east coast, the major midwestern cities, and parts of the south (meaning we could get to any of those places within a days’ drive). Josh, who loves Ohio a tad bit more than I do, has his own list too – being back on the fire dept., coaching, Steamer’s, season tickets to PNC, being called Beef again (I kid!!), etc.

As for what we dislike, there are a few negative things I’m not willing to blog about but mainly it comes down to the fear of being stuck. Like, we got out once and we don’t know if we’ll be able to again. Especially because our boys, Parker in particular, bleed scarlet and grey. If you ask Parker where he’s from he will tell you Ohio even though he only lived there for less than two of his 8.5 years. And of course the kids want to live near family. So the fear is, what if we move back and hate it? What if things have changed in the past six and a half years and don’t end up the way we imagine? What if we’ve changed in the past six and a half years? If we take our boys back it will very possibly kill them to leave again. We’ve also thought about just devoting the next 15 years to our kids. Giving them the childhood they (think they) want in the place they (think they) want to be and then reevaluating, once they’ve moved on, where we want to be. But of course it’s not that simple.

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Even though this is constantly on our minds, it’s easy to push it away because it’s not an immediate issue. Like I said, Josh still has a year and a half left in his contract. But last weekend something happened. Our realtor (the mother of a man who graduated with my mother from the same high school where Josh and I graduated from and where my mom taught for 15 years – see how that whole small town thing works?) emailed Josh a house that just came on the market because she thought we may be interested. And we are. It is in a perfect location and meets nearly every item on our dream wish list and is within our budget. And I can’t stop googling it and scrolling through the pictures and imagining our furniture throughout. Of course we know who lives there now and funny enough they’re a family of five with two older boys and a baby girl. Fate? The house is already set up for us. *Another ironic fact on a slightly creepy scale – when my sister was here a few weeks ago she was admiring my changes in decor since the last time she had visited and said, “Your style reminds me of Mr. *******’s house.” The exact house in question. As I paged through their for sale photos I couldn’t help but notice that she was right. Fate. 

So now we’re at this weird place again where we’re texting each other love notes about the house “Even the paint colors are perfect” and planning something that may not even happen and getting all sweating palmed over a hypothetical life. Someone, some other crazy Coastie person, please tell me this is normal! We all do this, right? And in the meantime, I’m kinda just hoping the house sells quickly so the pressure can be off.

Whew! This life, huh?

Weekend Celebration

Such a great Sunday! Parker and I spent the day with friends, laughing and playing at the Liberty Science center before having lunch together in Hoboken. It was a treat to spend the day with just my big guy but it was even more incredible watching him spend time with a couple of his oldest friends.

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Parker was so thankful to be with two kids he’s been hanging out with since he was three but when we left NJ, I said, “We’re back on the island!” and he replied “I’d rather be back on the shore.” We miss these guys so much!

We planned the day to celebrate Skylar’s 9th birthday and as I watched the kids pick up right where they left off, I realized that we’ve been celebrating birthdays together since they were 4! Love these kids.

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I’m so thankful for such great friends! Happy Birthday Skylar!

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My thoughts on Texas: almost a year later.

I can’t believe it but it has already been nearly a year since we left Texas. I’ve talked a little before about our experience in Texas and what we went through to try and leave Houston but with all of the time that has passed comes a new perspective on the situation.

In case you weren’t following along all the way back in 2011 and 2012, I’ll quickly catch you up. During the summer of 2011, Josh was selected for recruiting, which is a special duty and allowed us to get our “picks” far earlier than most people. We researched areas all across the country and turned in our dream sheet.

1. Memphis

2. Houston

3. Houston

4. Seattle

5. Seattle

6. Pittsburgh

And so on. We really wanted Pittsburgh because we wanted to move back to our home town but we also decided that if we didn’t get it, we were going to make it an adventure and move somewhere we’d never been. We figured that we may as well use our ability to travel to see as much of the country as possible. A few months later, Josh got a call from the detailer who said that he had been slated for Pittsburgh (pencilled in to take that position) but unfortunately, he had just gotten a call that the Pittsburgh recruiting office was closing (thanks to all of those awesome budget cuts).  This meant that Josh got to pick from the leftovers. Great!  

The leftovers were Arlington, VA, Woodbridge, VA or Jackson, MS. Great! I may have shed more than a few tears. We quickly did some research and decided that Jackson was really not for us so it was between the two Virginia positions. The position in Arlington was at the Coast Guard Recruiting Command which meant that Josh wouldn’t actually be out in the world recruiting new Coasties. Essentially, it wasn’t a job he wanted so we decided we’d go with Woodbridge. Even though it wasn’t our hometown or the great adventure we were looking for, we had friends who lived there and we knew it was a nice area (DC suburb). Josh called the detailer and told him what we’d decided  but there was new news. Apparently one of the guys who had gotten Houston was now backing out of recruiting so our number 2 pick was officially up for grabs again. We decided to take it and 8 months later, we were on our way to Texas.

Finding a house was a little stressful. We wanted to buy since the economy in Texas is incredible and the cost of living is dirt cheap but because I was due with Ruby in the middle of March and we were moving in June, the timing was terrible. I refused to leave Ruby with someone at just a month or two old and Josh refused to look at houses without me so buying was backburnered. We ended up finding a brand new, beautiful house in one of the best school districts in one of our favorite suburbs, on Craigslist. It was on the high end of our budget but it was perfect and the move was just a month away so we decided to sign the lease sight unseen. In June of 2012 we made the drive from Cape May, NJ to Pearland, TX.

We lived in Texas for 9 months and during that time I truly believe I was depressed. Really depressed. To begin with, I was still nursing Ruby during most of that time so my hormones were all over the place. I was crying at the drop of a hat. I remember Josh and I were driving one evening and a Kenny Chesney song came on the radio. I immediately started bawling because I knew that at that very moment, all of our friends from Cape May were at a free, on the beach, Kenny concert. Hearing the song was a reminder of everything I was missing. I was extremely lonely. I went from being an active part of a community that I loved to living in a giant, empty house and knowing no one. Under normal military circumstances you’re thrown into friendships either from living in a military community or the insta friends you make from the people your husband works with. It’s typically a very social environment out of necessity. But in Houston there wasn’t any military housing and since Josh worked in the city, all of the people he worked with lived in different surrounding areas. Houston is a huge city and the suburbs are sprawling so the people we clicked with lived relatively far away.

On top of all of that, during our move our belongings got lost. We spent over three weeks waiting for our things to arrive. It was misery and very expensive. We had to buy new things (a bed and air mattresses, bathroom necessities, cooking and eating supplies, etc) and ended up spending a lot of money out because by the end of the day, the kids and I would just need to get out of the house. Playing outside was only slightly feasible because I was scared to have newborn Ruby out in the 110 degree weather for too long. Aside from the obvious negativity caused by living in an empty house with three little kids, any military wife will tell you that when you move, especially to a completely foreign place, all you want to do is make your new house a home. I felt trapped and unsettled for the entire first month we lived there.

As for the house itself, we were completely let down. What looked like a brand new, nearly unlived in 2300 sq ft home turned out to be a completely wrecked, uncared for mess. The house was filthy. The owner had told us that it was only she and her ex-husband who had lived in the home so we imagined the three bedrooms aside from the master to be perfect. What we found was that she and her husband had 11 cats and two great danes. The walls were never painted past the builder grade chalk white and were filthy. The hardwoods were not done professionally and were damaged in several areas. The carpeting was disgusting and the kitchen was worse. Our landlord didn’t end up charging us a deposit so we went with it. I spent those three weeks scrubbing from floor to ceiling and painting half of the house.

After the initial issues were resolved, I knew I needed to work on what was wrong with me. I had loved being involved with Cape May elementary so I dove into Parker’s new school and volunteered as the room mom. We joined the Y and I got back to running every day. We got the kids signed up for soccer and preschool and swimming lessons and just tried to settle in. We took a weekend trip to San Antonio with my mom to see my little sister graduate from Air Force bootcamp and when we came back I got a part time job working at Starbucks. I wanted to try and put myself out there so I could meet people and maybe make some friends but choosing a place where the average worker’s age is 20 years old, probably wasn’t the best choice. I hated it. I felt like I was babysitting every night I was away from my kids but I stuck it out for three months because I didn’t want to quit.

We celebrated the holidays completely by ourselves and I was miserable. We’ve never spent a ton of time with extended family because we moved away when we were so young but up to that point we had never done holidays alone. This was when it hit home that we were all the way across the country from everyone we loved. We couldn’t afford to pick up and go home anytime we were feeling homesick and our family couldn’t afford to come visit us the way they had been for the years before this.

I was in a bad place. I felt like I was trying everything I could to make my situation better but nothing was working. Parker didn’t like his school as much as he had loved CME and Josh wasn’t the biggest fan of the Texas culture but no one was at the point I was. I was crying constantly. It was so bad that Josh was practically begging me to go to a doctor but I just kept blaming the problems on other things and promised Josh that once those things were resolved I’d feel better. I was just stressed because the house was a mess and once it was finished I’d feel better. I was just stressed because we were tight on money and once we got our finances in order I’d feel better. I was just stressed because I was lonely and once I met some people I’d feel better. Looking back, things were getting better and better the entire time we lived there but my attitude didn’t keep up which is why I think it was depression. There was no cause for my feelings except possibly something hormonal and the time it takes to work through the adjustment period that every move brings. I was talking to my friend about all of this a few weeks ago and she said, “You really thought the problem was Texas?” and at the time I really did. But looking back now, I know that the problem was just me.

By the time things were finally starting to turn around for me, it was time to move. You can read about that hereJosh and I still talk about Texas all the time and even though I said when we left, “There isn’t anything I’ll miss about this place.” there is. I don’t think I’ll ever stop feeling badly for being the cause of our family moving unnecessarily, especially because Josh despises New York and because he made a really great friend in Houston whom he still talks to and misses (and who just mailed us some Whataburger ketchup!!). But I can’t say that I regret moving because we’ve had some amazing experiences while living in NYC. I guess Texas will always be a “what if” for me. The good news is that one of my sisters moved to Austin a few months ago and my other sister is moving there in August so we’re planning a big back to Texas vacation for next year. First stop, Gringo’s (sorry Josh)

* If you linked back to my past posts you would see that two years ago I thought I was the consummate Coastie wife. That’s laughable. 🙂 

2013 in Review

2013 was seriously the fastest year of my life. It wasn’t the best year but it was certainly better than last which is really all you can hope for. I know I’m a few days late but I thought it would be fun to go through my ten gazillion photos from this year and write a recap of all of the exciting things we experienced throughout 2013. We had lots of ups and downs, laughs and cries and some once in a lifetime adventures that I hope we never forget. Like,

Brazos Bend National Park with aunt Lisa and Cindy and lots of wild alligators… 

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We took the ferry to Galveston Island…

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Parker had his first experience in batting cages which led him to fall in love with baseball…

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We surprised the boys with a basketball hoop and then played basketball everyday for the whole month of February…

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I hosted a Valentine’s Day party as the room mom of Parker’s 2nd grade class…

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Theo celebrated Rodeo Day (the first day of the Houston Rodeo) at Preschool and rocked his pants Texas style (always)…

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and then we went to the Houston Rodeo which is definitely one of my favorite times from 2013 (writing this makes me miss Texas!)…

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We went strawberry picking in March…

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The boys and I went to the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences…

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I registered for the San Antonio half marathon but found out we’d be moving to NY before the race so I ran the 13.1 miles on my own anyway…

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Ruby turned one…

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and then a few days later we packed up and moved to New York…

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and while we were on the road we stopped at my aunt’s house in South Carolina and celebrated Theo’s 5th Birthday…

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and then celebrated Easter with more family in Ohio…

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The boys played their first season of little league…

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Josh surprised me with a Mother’s Day weekend trip to Cape May…

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We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge with my sister…

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And Josh and I snuck away for a date at Citi Field…

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Josh had a little too much fun at a Coast Guard celebration in Cape May…

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We spent lots of days at the Jersey Shore…

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We went to Coney Island and watched Joey Chestnut win the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest on the 4th of July…

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One of my blog posts was read by thousands of people and cross posted on The Huffington Post…

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We took the boys back to Westhampton Beach to see our first home away from Ohio…

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We all went to the All Star Fan Fest in Manhattan…

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And met up with some friends at Liberty Science Center…

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We painted. and painted. and painted…

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Josh was selected to help carry the flag at the MLB All Star Game…

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Where he got to meet and chat with Bryce Harper, Erin Andrews and Jason Grilli…

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We took a weekend trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains and visited Charlottesville and Monticello…

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Josh turned 30 and we celebrated with friends in NYC…

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We took the kids to our first Yankees game and boo’d ARod (silently)…

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We went to Cape May to celebrate a sweet friend’s 5th birthday…

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My blog was featured in Exit Zero magazine in Cape May…

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Josh made a cameo on the Today Show…

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Parker completed his first food challenge when he ate an entire quarter pound burger and fries…

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We spent Labor Day weekend in Ohio and took the kids to the Canfield Fair…

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We spent a day at Sesame Place…

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Theo started Kindergarten and Parker started 3rd grade…

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Josh and Parker saw the lights to Heaven on September 11th…

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We ended baseball season with one last Mets game…

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We took a day trip to Mystic, CT and Westerly, RI…

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Parker turned 8 and we celebrated very low key with pizza and ice cream cake…

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Theo lost his first tooth…

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And his second…

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We went apple picking in Princeton with some friends…

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The Pirates made it to the playoffs…

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We went trick or treating with old friends on the Washington Street Mall in Cape May…

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We celebrated Halloween at home with fun treats, crafts, movies, school parades and trick or treating around the neighborhood…

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I put up my Christmas tree WAY too early…

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The boys took a dare and streaked in the snow at uncle Craig’s house…

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Ruby’s hair grew long enough for a pony tail…

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We went to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and then made Thanksgiving dinner together for just the 5 of us…

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We kicked off December with a day in the city with some friends…

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Parker had his first school newspaper contribution published…

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and learned how to schmooze…

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We skipped school and went to Macy’s to visit Santa…

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We spent Christmas in Ohio where Parker and I landed ourselves in the ER on Christmas morning…

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We celebrated my 28th birthday with my little sister…

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I walked passed Ruby’s room and finally really realized that we’re living with a little lady now…

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And we rang in the new year with some sushi, ice cream, games and movies.

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This way too long post with a gajillion photos still only shows parts of our year. We had lots of visits with family, made new friends and got caught up with old, went through phases and tantrums and moody days, hit milestones and entered new stages but the year is over and it’s time to begin a new! Bring on 2014 – Happy New Year!

Possibility.

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When Josh joined the Coast Guard his career moved very fast. He was a non rate for seven months before he got orders to A school which lasted eight months (one of the longest in the CG). Out of A school we got orders to Cape May and he advanced to Petty Officer 2nd Class (E5) within eight months after that. Advancement in the Coast Guard is based on a points system awarded by a test score, time in rate (your job), time in rank, total time in the CG, sea time (time on a boat) and award points. Since Josh had zero time at sea, zero award points, eight months in rate and rank and two years in total time, his advancement was pretty much based on his test score. He was very proud of himself and excited for his career.  He immediately worked on getting qualified to take the next test up and was able to test for E6 by 2010, just under a year after he had made 2nd.

And then the Coast Guard changed. The downturn of the economy had caught up with the military and no one was getting out. No advanced spots were opening up so the number of people advancing declined drastically. For IT’s (Josh’s rate) the advancement number was zero for about a year. Even after that year, the number has continued to be around 3-5 per test, with one fluke of 20. Josh has continued to test awesomely but his name continues to drop on the list because that’s all he has going for him. At this point in his career he has one month of sea time, 3 award points, 5 years in rate, 4.5 years in rank and 6.5 years in total time. Compared to the guys he’s up against, who have been in for 10+ years, he has nothing.

Some people would say that he doesn’t deserve to advance because he hasn’t been in long enough and he’s barely been out to sea but I disagree. I see it as a problem within the Coast Guard. Josh’s rate as an IT is not a “sea going rate.” There are actually few opportunities for him to get stationed on a boat. But aside from that, in what other career field are the people who know their position well and perform excellently backburnered by the guys who have more time on the job? Essentially, doing a good job and advancing quickly has now become something that works against Josh. And he’s not the only one affected by this sort of Catch 22. The husband of one of my closest friends is an ideal Coastie who has performed beyond above expectations throughout his entire career but is now stuck because he has advanced so quickly.

My point in sharing all of this is to explain why Josh’s attitude about his career in the Coast Guard has taken a turn since those first few years. Retiring from the Coast Guard was not Josh’s initial plan but after the first few years of a promising career, it was something we had started to consider. Over the past two years those considerations have started to dissipate though and we’d decided that we’re definitely getting out once this contract is up. And then yesterday, possibility opened up once again in Josh’s Coast Guard career and things changed a little.

While we were in Cape May, Josh worked to finish up his college courses and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology Management (IT work – the same as what he does in the CG). At that point, he decided to apply to become a recruiter for two reasons. First to gain experience in a different field and also because he loves sales and thought recruiting was the closest duty to sales in the CG. Secondly, to get stationed in an urban area where there’d be colleges nearby to work on his Master’s degree. Of course he was selected for recruiting but unfortunately, because of the government cutting education funding for military members combined with the higher cost of Master’s courses, he hasn’t been able to work on his second degree. He started talking about trying to use his Bachelor’s to advance his Coast Guard career and looked into direct commissioning as an officer. The first problem we saw was Josh’s number of dependents. If you’re married and have more than one child, you must get a waiver in order to become an officer. The second problem we saw was that even though Josh’s degree is a technology degree (only certain degrees qualify for direct commission), it is also a management degree which does not qualify. He had to turn in his transcripts for approval and wait to see if it would count.

Yesterday, he got word that his degree was approved. The person in charge of commissioning spoke with him and not only told him that he was good to move forward with the application process but also said that getting a dependents waiver shouldn’t be a problem. So now Josh must write a personal narrative, get letters of recommendation, get a physical and interview. The deadline is the beginning of February and the board will review everything in March so we should know by April. If Josh is selected, we’ll be moving this summer. Being an officer, specifically an IT, means that our options for where we can move decreases, with DC and St. Louis being the two major hubs for Josh’s prospective position. He will also have to re up his contract for another 4-5 years from the time of accepting his commission.

It’s funny how fast things can change once you think you have everything planned out. Of course if Josh is selected, our problems with moving around are not solved. But in my mind of positive thinking, a smaller selection of job options means a higher chance of staying in the same area. If we get DC, we can buy a house in the suburbs and potentially stay there for the rest of Josh’s career (there are positions in both Arlington and Alexandria). In the meantime, I’m getting way ahead of myself and too excited over the prospect of advancement in Josh’s career. I’m so proud of Josh and everything he has accomplished over the past six years and I’m ready to see him be rewarded for it. Fingers are crossed!