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My Kid Stole My Cool | But It's Worth It All. Even The Minivan.

Lockdown: British Edition

Posted on Mar 4, 2021 in Adulthood Stole My Cool, It's the Navy Life, My Kid Stole My Cool, Travel Traumas

Lockdown: British Edition 7

I’ve written and re-written this post many times, vacillating between total dejectedness and flickering hope. We recently passed the six-month mark of living in Oxford. Half of that time we’ve been in lockdown. While the government recently released a plan for gradually (very gradually) easing lockdown restrictions, the reality is that the magical year abroad I had envisioned for my family is largely going to be spent within the confines of our home. I’m sad. And I’m weary. And no matter how hard I try to cultivate gratitude for our healthy family and stable jobs, I just can’t shake the small, persistent ache in my gut for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, lost to the pandemic.

Lockdown – regardless of where you live – is demoralizing. Last summer when my husband and I were debating if we should proceed with the move in the midst of a pandemic, I told him, “If there’s another lockdown I don’t want to be stuck in our small British house, with three kids, in the middle of winter.” After the first lockdown, I didn’t know if I could handle another in those conditions. And here we are. Another lockdown (our third). Three kids. Small British house. Dark, dreary winter. 

Accurate representation of life in lockdown.

I’m constantly fatigued, despite rarely leaving the house. I’m lonely, living in a new place where I’ve barely had an opportunity to form anything more than superficial relationships. I’ve not so much as seen the other school parents’ faces, let alone talk to them. It’s so absurd it’s almost funny. And though I’m lonely, I’m never alone, constantly supervising virtual learning for two older children while trying to keep a toddler entertained inside a cramped house. I can’t believe I actually miss the days of lockdown with a baby! And of course, it’s winter, the cold and dark exasperating an already dispiriting situation. I know I’m not alone in feeling disheartened. We’ve all been there at some point in this past year.

The Toddler Terror

And really, who am I to complain when so many people have it so much worse? Our kids have been out of school since January, but how many children haven’t been in school in a year? Yes, I don’t have many close friends here, but I live in a lovely neighborhood whose residents make a great deal of Covid-safe effort to keep spirits lifted. And thank God I was connected with a few women before we moved, who have been a lifeline these past few months. The rare days the sun chooses to appear are absolutely glorious. We have our health! Oh, and my husband took pity on me and surprised me with a Peloton.

Peloton. Ugh, I know. I KNOW. I’ve turned into such a cliché. But the walk across our garden to a finished shed where the bike is set up is often my only chance to leave the house. Working out has been my sole source of sanity. I suppose – because there is nothing else to do – I am getting fit-ish. But here’s the thing. I don’t really care about being fit while I’m living in Europe. I would trade being Peloton Fit in a heartbeat to be European Soft – like, I eat pastries and cheese and gelato all day but still walk a lot, you know? I can be Peloton Fit in America! I can only be European Soft in Europe!

Speaking of Europe: When we got orders to Oxford, I was ecstatic. Uprooting our family to move overseas for less than a year would be difficult, but it would be worth it. A chance to live in the City of Dreaming Spires? Yes, please! High Table dinners, exploring the Bod, vespers at New College, Harry Potter tours – for the kids, of course. I couldn’t wait to do it all. (I should clarify that we are here because my husband is a visiting fellow at Oxford, but I totally planned on mooching off of his University privileges. I should also clarify that I only learned that students call the Bodleian Library, “the Bod,” from a cheesy rom-com audiobook, but doesn’t it make me sound in the know?) We have had some lovely strolls around the city, admiring the gorgeous, iconic architecture – but it would be nice to actually step inside one of those iconic buildings at some point. I had so hoped to make Oxford my home, a place I really knew, rather than just a city I lived in for a brief time. But it’s difficult to learn a place in lockdown.

Beautiful Oxford

And naturally I was thrilled for the opportunities to travel. Meeting up with friends stationed in Germany, Spain, Italy! Weekend trips to Paris! Driving around the Continent in our beat-up 2005 Honda CRV, which previous owners affectionately dubbed the WSB (Whistling Shit Box). It would be a grand adventure! While the reality of traveling around Europe with three kids crammed into the WSB would likely be less romantic than my imaginings, I couldn’t help but be excited about all the history and culture and food – oh, the food! –  we’d get to experience as a family.

Then Covid happened. So I can’t jet off to Paris on a whim. Boo-hoo. Poor me. I know that compared to a lot of people right now, our diminished year abroad is pretty insignificant. I would never, ever trivialize the real heartache and devastation that Covid has wreaked on millions of people all over the globe. But still, this feels like a loss. A small loss in the grand scheme of things, but a loss nonetheless. I’ve finally decided it’s okay to acknowledge that.

Spring is coming. We’ve had some sun and warmth the past few days which has buoyed my spirits. The kids go back to in-person school in four days (but who’s counting?). My husband and I have been vaccinated. We had some great experiences traveling around the UK last fall that I treasure, and I’m hopeful we’ll have more this spring. I know that despite my disappointment I have much to be thankful for. The lockdown has cast a shadow over our year abroad, but the year ain’t over yet. In the meantime, at least I have Peloton.  

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2020 in Books

Posted on Jan 2, 2021 in Adulthood Stole My Cool, Uncategorized

2020 in Books 8

So. Let’s talk about 2020. 2020 included: a baby-turned-toddler, my husband’s deployment, a pandemic (during the deployment), and an overseas move (during a pandemic.) I actually managed to “read” quite a lot this year, thanks to embracing audiobooks as I never had before. Audiobooks got me through the endless hours of dishes involved in a lockdown with three children. (I don’t understand how it’s possible to spend 17 hours of a day doing dishes, and yet…) However, many (most?) of these books aren’t exactly, uh, great literature. Consider this list the Real Housewives of Reading. If you need a mental escape, there are plenty of cheesy rom-coms and throwaway thrillers that are a nice distraction, but ultimately unmemorable.  Don’t write these all off, though – there are a few gems! Here’s to hoping 2021 brings better fortune than 2020, and better books. Favorite Fiction: Oona Out of Order, Leave the World Behind, Such a Fun Age Favorite Nonfiction: Just Mercy and – I’m 100% serious here – Open Book by Jessica Simpson 1) My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan (audiobook): I heard about this book soon after I learned we might be moving to Oxford for a year, so naturally I had to read it. This isn’t a genre I typically go for, but this was actually a very sweet, endearing story with more depth than I expected. And the descriptions of the City of Dreaming Spires got me so excited for my own upcoming adventure. (The adventures of a mom in her mid-thirties moving to Oxford is quite different than a Rhodes Scholar in her 20s, but still, I enjoyed this.) 2) A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum: Thought-provoking, troubling, sad. I wanted more closure. 3) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling: I love reading this series with my daughter. I haven’t read these early books since they were released, and it’s great fun rediscovering them. 4) Washington Black by Esi Edugyan: Excellent. A grand, sweeping book both historical and incredibly imaginative. 5) The Other Windsor Girl by Georgie Blalock (audiobook): What...

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It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Posted on May 14, 2020 in Uncategorized

Every military spouse will tell you that something goes wrong when their spouse deploys. It’s an inevitability. It could be a major appliance breaking – say, an air conditioning unit during a heat wave in your third trimester of pregnancy. It could be a natural disaster – hello, hurricane season! You could have a baby while your husband is on the other side of the world (not a problem, exactly, but not ideal.) Or maybe a snake will take up residence in your living room. Who knows? The fact is we military spouses anticipate these kinds of issues so when they happen, we are somewhat prepared to handle them. Why yes, yes I do. I’m pretty confident that no military spouse anticipated a global pandemic. And while I can’t speak for everyone, I most definitely was not prepared for this. Let me back up. Nine months ago, I had my third baby, Kate. My husband, a Naval aviator, was at sea. He was able to return home the day before the birth and stay for a few days before returning to his squadron. My mom stayed a couple of weeks before returning to her home. And then I found myself alone with three kids – a 7-year-old, 5-year-old, and a newborn. I knew it was temporary – my husband would be returning in several weeks – but still, I cried the day my mom left. I wasn’t overwhelmed yet, but I knew I would be. My first outing alone with all three was a weekend swim meet. It was a lovely Virginia summer day – about 95 degrees with 100% humidity. I schlepped a swim bag, diaper bag, cooler, stroller + car seat, beach chairs, and a TENT into the pool to set up camp for the morning. I gracelessly popped open the tent, placed the sleeping baby inside, and applied sunscreen to the older kids. I was trying to shove breakfast down their throats while figuring out their events when a woman I had never met, Monica, offered to help. This woman, this saint, happened to be a...

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2019 Year in Books

Posted on Jan 1, 2020 in Uncategorized

2019 Year in Books 0

I read 52 books this year, including the chapter books I read with my daughter. Not too shabby for having an infant, if I do say so myself. Loved them or hated them, they’re all here. As with last year, these are (generally) very brief, incomplete thoughts. But if you need some recommendations for good reads in 2020 (or want to avoid some bad ones), I hope this list will help. I’m always up for discussing books, so please let me know your thoughts! 1-7) The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis I read this series with my daughter throughout the year. Here’s how I rank them: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Easily my favorite. It was wonderful re-reading and discovering the magic of this story with my daughter. I read this when I was five or six (Elisabeth was seven when we read this) and I still remember hoping that if I found the right wardrobe, perhaps a hidden door somewhere, I would discover my own Narnia. Voyage of the Dawn TreaderThe Magician’s NephewThe Silver Chair: I might have ranked this lower but for Puddleglum, my favorite character in the entire series. He is delightful. Prince CaspianThe Last BattleThe Horse and His Boy: Hated this. I thought the dialogue was far too complex for a child; I had to constantly stop and explain the plot to my daughter. I know many people will disagree with me, but I would have been completely fine had this not been included in the series. 8) Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier This was a re-read for me, but I had forgotten pretty much everything about this book, including that the opening line is one of the most famous in literature. Whoops! I also forgot how much crazy is in this book. I mean, whoa there’s a lot of crazy. But there’s a reason this book has never gone out of print –it’s a dark, tense psychological thriller that kept me engrossed, even though nearly every character is just awful (because they’re all psycho). 9) Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies...

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Baby Kate

Posted on Aug 11, 2019 in It's the Navy Life, My Kid Stole My Cool, Pregnancy Stole My Cool, The Kids Are Actually Cute

Baby Kate 0

Hello, Friends! So, I had another kid. I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted here so if you’ve lost track, that’s number three. Baby Kate made her appearance earlier this month, and I figured I better pop in and document her birth story. After all, I did with my first two and I don’t want her to be that third kid who always complains that her parents don’t love her as much or whatever. (I’m an oldest child – can you tell?)  In case she ever does feel that way, I’d like to state for the record that I’ve already forgotten most details of both Elisabeth and James’ births, as well as their major milestones; I’m equally neglectful toward all my children.* Anyway! After an interminable pregnancy that felt SO MUCH HARDER than the first two on account of I’m old now, I was induced at 39 weeks + 1 day to put me out of my misery. I kid, I kid. Here’s the backstory: Damon is currently in the middle of work-ups. Basically that means that he’s not deployed, but he’s gone all the time training for deployment. If you were a reader five years ago, you may remember that Damon missed James’ birth by a couple of days due to deployment. I was very against a non-medical induction at the time, and so Damon Skyped into the delivery room from Japan. Not ideal, but this is how it goes in the Navy sometimes. This time we knew Damon would be gone on my due date again, and after talking to my OB we planned on a scheduled induction so he could arrange to be home for the birth. The practice was very understanding and accommodating – serving a military community, they deal with these situations all the time. I’ll be honest – this was a stressful process. I won’t go into all the boring details but trying to plan Damon getting off the aircraft carrier and then across the country to perfectly time with my induction was a challenge. Not a good challenge. Several factors outside...

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2018 Book Reviews

Posted on Jan 16, 2019 in Adulthood Stole My Cool

I always love seeing everyone’s recommended reading lists at beginning of the new year, so in 2018 I decided to keep a log of all my books with brief reviews. I meant to publish this at the beginning of Jan, but alas, I’m pregnant and have been sick and solo parenting for much of the month… so here we are on Jan 16th. Better late than never? I use the term “review” lightly, as these are mostly quickly jotted down impressions – hardly fully formed thoughts on each book. But maybe you’ll find something that piques your interest! And even better, if you have any thoughts you’d like to share on any of these books, I’d love to hear them! Lastly – please share your own favorite reads of last year. I’m always looking for new books.   (1) Defiant: The POWs Who Endured Vietnam’s Most Infamous Prison, The Women Who Fought for Them, and the One Who Never Returned by Alvin Townley This was a book club selection. If you think this is an odd choice for a book club comprised of many naval aviator spouses – you’d be right! This was a powerful, emotional book that had me sobbing, but I’m so glad I read it. The POWs’ courage, leadership, and resilience are inspiring, but I also loved how Townley focuses on their remarkable, er, defiant wives. Highly recommend. (2) 1984 by George Orwell I read this because I felt like it was one of those books I should have read by now. And now I have. (3) Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders Nearly everyone in my book club hated this – but I say give it a chance! Admittedly, I struggled in the beginning. It’s a very unconventional narrative and it took me a little while to figure out what was going on. But once I did, I really enjoyed it. It’s imaginative, humorous, and very sweet and tender in some parts. I particularly liked the ending – If you’re up for a challenge, give this a try. (4) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without...

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