An Undisclosed Family Vacation

For the past 5 months Zed has been in an undisclosed location in South West Asia “finding the bad guys” as our kids said. On Tuesday he came home!

His arrival was filled with nerves, excitement, anxiety, and a lot of love. The kids and I made signs that decorated the garage. A good friend was able to get some pictures of Zed and I reuniting.

Less than 48hrs after landing Zed, the kids, and I packed up and headed out. Our destination, only known to Zed. First stop, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant to pick up our camper; a 35ft Coachmen Catalina that sleeps 8. We then we’re off to Robbers Cave in eastern Oklahoma. Once we were settled and leveled I got some hot dogs in the kids and Zed went out to get Chinese food for us, and a few essentials (Mac n cheese, cereal, oatmeal creme pies, etc). 

In a camper that has 7 beds and 1 pack n play, at one point 4 of the 6 Davies were in the same bed. (Sleeping arrangements were redone the next night and it’s been going great.) 

We spent our first full day of vacation hiking in and around Robbers Cave. Mia and Ana hiked, Dax rode on Zed’s back in a pack and Zoe was on my front in a pack. The girls were champs and enjoyed exploring the cave with their flashlights. 

Next stop…Broken Bow, OK. This turned out to be our longest and most eventful stop. I’ll start this stop with our campsite has zero cell service, not even 1G (keep that in mind). We were able to get set up prior to a crazy storm hit. While it was raining we ran into town and picked up some more supplies (burgers, potatoes, chutes and ladders, steak, etc).

The next morning I awoke with Mia telling me it wasn’t raining anymore more and it was “Sunday” (how she says it’s sunny today). I looked at my watch and saw that it was 9am! I vaguely remembered feeding Zoe at 5am and Zed saying something about homework. I walked out into the dining area to see Dax jumping in his pack n play, Ana beginning to stir on the fold out couch and a full breakfast spread. No Zed though. I fed the kiddos 2 sausage patties, 2 biscuits, 4 eggs, 4 hash browns, and 6 pancakes (most of which was consumed by Dax). Then it was time for the great game that is dress a 4/2/1/2m old. Thankfully everyone cooperated, thank you food coma. Then we set out to find Daddy. It didn’t take us long as he was just in his truck working on homework (darn Masters program ruining our fun). 

Zed got to a good stopping point and we set out on a hike. Some kids learn their colors and directional skills in a classroom, ours learn them outside climbing mountains. “Follow the blue guy to the right.” “No, not the orange guy on the left!” We also realized just how afraid of heights Ana is. She insisted on holding Zed’s hand unless the trail was perfectly flat and wide. Then it was time for a train ride and pony rides. The kids enjoyed both, but it was a fight to get them off the ponies. The rest of the day was filled with throwing rocks in the lake and finished off with a duck tour. Each kiddo had a chance to drive the duck boat, Dax took a particular liking to it.

That night we had tin foil dinners and smores. (The end of this post will have tips and tricks I learned from this trip, a few come from this cooking experience.) Zed had gotten a Redbox so the kids watched a movie as we cleaned up the site.

We slept in the next day and spent the day around the campground. There was a bike ride, a little hiking, a lot of playing on the playground, and a nap. Zed went back into town while the kids slept to finish the last of his homework. When he got home there was a bit more bike riding and a lot more playing on the playground.

This is where I want you to remember what I said about cell reception. We were getting the grill ready for burgers and the fire ready for smores. We hear a scream come from Ana who was playing on the playground behind our site. As I walk over I tell her to get up and as I get closer I realize she’s on her back and not really moving, so I run the last few steps to her. Dax is now at her side very concerned and I see blood. Zed meets us, grabs a towel and loads her in the truck and takes her to the ER. I collect Dax and continue making dinner. I feed Dax and Mia, clean up, catch up on the blog, only an hour has passed. I start packing up the camper, I knew we were leaving for our next stop in the morning, another 30min. At this point I gave up on making myself busy, it was dark and I didn’t even know how close the nearest hospital was. About 2.5hrs after Zed has left there was a knock at the door. The camp host had come to tell us severe weather may be coming through (great…Bad weather, no husband, no reception to keep an eye on the weather, and a kid in the ER with a head wound). Just as she was leaving I ask if she has signal. Thankfully she does (the one time Verizon is not the best) and I call Zed. He tells me they’re on their way home and Ana has some hardware (5 Staples to be exact). I hear her in the background asking for chicken nuggets and I know there is no reason to be concerned anymore. 

Zed and Ana make it back to the camper, Zed finishes getting things locked down for the impending storm, and we watch The Accountant (my third attempt at watching this movie and it’s pretty good). Just as the movie finishes the storm hits, lots of rain and hail but not much else. Zed runs into town the next morning to return the movies and to grab some breakfast.

We’re off again, this time for Devil’s Den State Park near Winslow, Arkansas. The kids slept most of the way, which was a nice break for Zed and me. We set up camp and took a simple hike along the river to the playground. After playing, we learned about the CCC and their involvement with the park. (Did you know CCC members made $30/month and took home $20-25 of it?) 

The next day was filled with a lot of hiking and trying not to wake up the sea monsters. Mia was convinced sea monsters lived in the woods and the only way to get her to stop talking and listen to the sounds of nature was to tell her she would wake up the sea monsters. Then every crevice, crack, and cave became a potential sea monster home in her eyes. Ana loved spotting woodpecker holes in trees and then trying to find the bird that made it. Dax, well he just liked grabbing at the trees (he was the only found we found a tick on). Zoe slept just about the entire time. The kids went on bike rides and trail rides and of course more hikes to the playground. Steak was on the menu for dinner as we watched what had the potential to be a serious storm cross Oklahoma and come closer to us. 

We awoke the next morning seeing the storm had lost strength, loaded up and moved on. We stopped at Lake Tenkiller to let the kids play while we unloaded the camper and cleaned it out. Final stop of our journey was back to McAlester to return the camper.

We had a great trip with many memories made (mostly by Zed and me as the kids are too little to remember most). We are already planning our next camping adventure as this one was such a success. Continue below for my tips and tricks for camping.

Tips and Tricks
– You can pack enough underwear and socks

– Pack two pairs of shoes for everyone if you can, don’t forget shower shoes too

– Pack large black trash bags to keep the stuff in the back of your truck dry during a rain storm.

– Buy the best aluminum foil there is, then you don’t have to triple wrap your foil dinners.

– Cut your veggies thin for your foil dinners.

– Bring extra pillows and blankets, you never know which bed the kids will end up sleeping on, it’s easier to have them all made up.

– Baby wipes should always be within arm’s reach…Runny nose, peanut butter face, dirty hands, dirty table, diaper changes (obviously), puke on clothes, etc

– The best time to eat smores is once the kids are all in bed.

Back in the Bury

Before I begin, I’ve realized I ave way too many kids and the letter thing won’t work…so I’m going to introduce the Crazies to you if you’re not familiar with us.

Sam – That’s me, your author and mom.

Zed – That’s dad and my awesome husband (currently on an adventure with the military)

Mia – Our new 4 year old who is super in tune with emotions of others.

Ana – Our 2 year old who is spunky and super caring.

Dax – Our lone boy, who’s 1 and weighs nearly 30lbs (hopefully he likes sports).

Zoe – Our newest addition who is seven weeks and loves to smile.
As most know, I spent the last 2 months back under my parent’s roof in my hometown. Though totally doable, I didn’t want to be home in Oklahoma with no husband, 3 under 4 and pregnant with #4. So I packed up my home and drove to Maryland with the help of my parents. 

My Granny made meals just about nightly for me and my crazies and was always ther to assist if I needed a sitter or help picking the girls up from school. She also is the reason I no longer bite my nails (Don’t tell Zed…it’s his homecoming surprise. Most wives lose weight while their husbands are away…I broke a habit). 

While I was home I go to catch up with old friends, start planning my 10yr high school reunion, and get as much sleep in as possible. I was also able to pick up some pretty awesome mom hacks thanks to my mom.

G Hacks:

– A wash cloth over the eyes keeps out soap

– A dropped pacifier can be sanitized by Mom’s mouth

– Use bath time as a way to corral all the kids in one place and allow you to get off your feet for a second 

– You can get kids to do just about anything if you disguise it as a game

– Always wash dish towels and Tupperware prior to using it at a house with small children

– Yoga is really fun with kids, and a way to start the bedtime routine
I also learned some hacks from my dad.

Pappy Hacks

– You can stop biting your nails for good by just deciding to do it

– Getting to your destination fast will never be more enjoyable than getting off the road by 5 and in a comfy hotel bed

– Patience will always calm a screaming newborn
My time there was really enjoyable and I am so thankful for the help from everyone. Now I have the task of getting my home ready for all 6 of us to be living in it (Ana and Dax are currently at the ranch with Papa and Grandma). My list grows the more I sit here, I’ll try to post if I accomplish anything noteworthy.

-Sam

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

I’m trying to help our family eat more clean, and also save a few cents where I can. One of the ways to do this is to have a garden. Oklahoma’s dirt is red clay so I’m doing a raised garden. This will be my second attempt (my first attempt was 2yrs ago and was ruined by a 100yr flood). 

Today I started growing cucumbers, squash, zucchini, strawberries, watermelon, tomatoes, potatoes, and onions. I’ll be adding lettuce and spinach and peppers is my hope. We also have a sizable blackberry patch that the kids enjoy. 

So today is day one. I used jiffy starter pods and seeds. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Shut Up and Color

As my dad and I were sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a moment of silence (the kids were all happily playing) he said I don’t know how you do it.

Jokingly, I said I just shut up and color. He laughed and asked is today a color in or outside the lines day. 

It was at that moment I realized how true my statement was.

There are days I color inside the lines complete with shading and true technique. Then there are those days that I sit and stare at the paper, unable to put my canyon to paper, but knowing I must.

No matter the day I finish with a completed picture. My coloring for the day may look as if I’ve done nothing because I’ve simply colored with a white crayon. It could also look like a Picasso (not really but it makes me feel good about myself). The important thing is I colored. I kept going and met my goal for the day.

No matter what your goal is, color. It may look like a 2 year old did it, but you met your goal. 

Touched

Touched

təCHt/

adjective

  1. 1.

    feeling gratitude or sympathy; moved.

    “the star said he was ‘very touched’ to receive his medal”

  2. 2.

    informal

    slightly insane; crazy.

    “you have to be a little touched to do my job”

This word was used numerous times the 36hrs I was in the hospital; by the nurses, midwives, and birth photographer.

It all started with a stress test at my OBs office. No signs of contractions, no signs of stress on the baby, no signs of labor starting any time soon. I was able to delay setting an induce date and scheduled my next appointment. I picked up the girls and headed home (well to my parents home that I’ve adopted these past few weeks). I settled them in, made some dinner for them, ate a delicious dinner prepared by my grandmother and got ready for another evening of chasing 3 hoping it would get things going.

About 6pm I started noticing tightening in my belly, but this had happened before and I didn’t pay much attention to it. It was tub time for the kiddos after all. With kids smelling yummy and dressed I couldn’t ignore the tightening anymore. I started tracking it…30sec long and 4min apart. 

By 7pm they were about 45sec long and 3mim apart. This is when it finally hit me that Z would not be in the room when this baby was born. I packed up my hospital bag (trying to delay as long as possible) and broke down and called Z. Thankfully we had made a plan months ago and timing worked out great that he wasn’t busy and was able to answer. He told me I needed to get to the hospital and to call again when I’m settled in and ready to go. I got my mom and grandmother and we were off.

I am not the nicest laboring mama (think Jekyll and Hyde). Thank you Mom and Granny for putting up with me. We arrive to the hospital at 8:05pm, 6hrs after my OB had told me see you next week and 2hrs after noticing labor starting. 

The nurses at PRMC were fantastic. I told them I have super short labors and they listened. I had three nurses working together to get me admitted, in a room, and an epidural as quickly as possible. Now that I was in a happy place the nurses asked my story. 

They knew this was baby #4 in 4yrs. I told them a birth photographer was on her way and they told me to tell her to hurry. I then said Z would be here via FaceTime from his deployed location. The midwife came in and heard my story too. 

In walked the birth photographer. She had never had the opportunity to photograph a live birth, she had only ever worked with stillborns. She was so excited that she could help capture these moments for Z. 

We got Z on FaceTime and on the next contraction Baby Z was born at 10:05. 8hrs after my OB saying see you next week, 4hrs after noticing labor starting, and 2hrs after arriving at the hospital. She weighed 7lbs 1oz and was 19in long. She came into this world healthy and alert. Seeing Z’s face upon meeting his little girl via FaceTime had the entire room quiet and in awe. It was an amazing image that I will have for the rest of my life. 

Thank you Jennifer Seay Photography for capturing it. 

For the next 36hrs Baby Z and I spent as much time with Z as we could (having two Z’s may get tough…Need to figure that out). Each time anyone would walk in the room and see the iPad on they would ask if Daddy was on, if he was they would leave if not they would come in and do whatever checks they needed.

Everyone knew our story. Everyone expressed their appreciation for our family’s sacrifice. Everyone said our family had touched them. The outpouring of support from the hospital was amazing and completely unexpected (I’m in a town that never sees a military member in uniform, people rarely move away, and who proudly display the American flag). This experience made me appreciate my little hometown so much more.

When I looked up the definition for touched I love that both apply. Our family had touched the lives of others, but we are also touched…As in insane…As in who would have 4 under 4 while both parents are active duty military. We love our life and we wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s chaos, but it’s a lot of fun. 

Baby Z’s current stats at 2wks old…20in/7lbs1oz

-S

To 2016

This past year has been crazy. As we prepare to close it out and welcome 2017, a look back is in order.

Z: Went on 5 short trips and 1 deployment and was gone just about 5/12 months of the year. He continued to work on his Master’s and is over halfway complete.

S: I received a new position went on 1 short trip, ended the bad habit of biting my nails, and learned in May I was pregnant with baby #4.

M: She graduated from speech therapy, learned how to ride a bike without training wheels within an hour, and was bucked off a horse for the first time.

A: Got tubes in her ears, her umbilical hernia repaired, and overcame her fear of dogs.

D: Has 6 teeth, eats everything in site, and learned how to walk. 

Baby #4: Is still waiting to make her debut. If she hangs out for the next 17hrs this will be the first year since 2013 we will not welcome a new baby into our family. 
As you go throughout your day remember the positives and refuse to dwell on the negatives. Life is short and not always what we plan, but in the end it all works out.
Happy New Year from our family to yours.

-S

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Merry Christmas from the Davies.

Z spent his Christmas skiing indoors and walking through one of the largest malls in the world. His Christmas day will be spent working and prepping jets to fly.

The kiddos and I had family pictures done, the girls went to a fun house, we went to Christmas Eve Mass and then enjoyed the annual Berthiaume/Fiddler Family Christmas Eve party (45-50 people in attendance). 

Tomorrow will be the great gift opening extravaganza. We’re hoping internet connection will be good enough to video chat Z, but pictures and video will be used to capture their reactions.

We hope you all are enjoying your time with family. Please say an extra prayer for Z as he spends this holiday season apart from us. 

-S

Just Another Day

I’m officially in Maryland where I’ll deliver baby #4. We’ve been here a total of 4 days and have had quite the excitement. The drive was a whole other level of excitement. 

On Tuesday I received a call from daycare that my oh so graceful son had tripped and his eye meet the corner of a book shelf. Black eye #1 for my kids.

I picked my parents up from the airport, we picked the kids up from daycare, and we drove. I had preloaded the suburban and there was still pretty good visibility out all windows. We made it to Fort Smith, Arkansas that night. They didn’t have pack n plays or cribs and I learned that Dax must have one of those in order for him to sleep 😵 Day two we made it to Sevierville, Tennessee with every intention of seeing a massive light show, but all kids were asleep and refused to wake up when we got there. Day three we made it to my parents home in Maryland. We were greeted with homemade spaghetti and meatballs and all local family; the kids were so excited to be out of the car. 

Best line of the trip: “Mom! I smell poop!” Said by M, upon smelling a fart from someone in the vehicle. The culprit’s window rolled down instantly.

Friday we enjoyed a day at the house and just let the kids play. A, who is deathly afraid of animals, began to get used to my parents yellow lab Libby and started initiating the interaction. As I was finishing my homemade bread making lesson, given by my grandmother, a call came in saying the local yacht club was on fire. My grandmother and I went to the community hall and began making sandwiches for the 7 different fire departments that were fighting the flames. When we arrived with 100+ sandwiches, water, and coffee the destruction was astounding. 

The yacht club is where I worked from age 14-17 every weekend and most Wednesdays. It’s where I had dinner prior to prom and where my parents had their rehearsal dinner. With the fire pit and everyone fed we returned home to eat dinner ourselves. About midnight the fire reignited and finished off the building. What we saw the next morning was heart breaking. The club will be rebuilt. If you have any connection to a yacht club, please let me know. The thing lost that will be difficult to replace is all the pennants. I would love to collect as many as I can and give them to the Wicomico Yacht Club upon their reopening.

Saturday brought the Romspert family Christmas party. This is a yearly tradition and one I have been unable to be a part of for about 5yrs. My Great Aunt Barb is so giving and no one leaves without a gift. There are 4 generations now in attendance at this family gathering. I also attempted a picture of the kids, I’ll leave it up to you to decide how it ended up.

Sunday we met my grandparents’ new puppy, Ben. He’s an 8wk old standard poodle. Because A had been around Libby so much she went right to him and had no fear. She and M also enjoyed chasing their chickens. 

Today has been by far the most exciting day. We went grocery shopping, mailed some packages, and had a visit from the Allen Volunteer Ambulance. For some reason my car will lock itself with the keys inside. It has done it before, but M was inside and able to unlock it. Today, no such luck, just a sleeping D. After my dad and I’s failed attempt to get it open it he ran up the road to the fire department and brought the ambulance back with him. After about 15min of messing with the door they were successful and D was awoken by the alarm going off. If anyone has any thoughts on how to avoid this, except for the obvious keep the keys with me once turning the vehicle off, please share.

I think that’s about it for now. We still have no middle name for baby girl, but we’re getting closer to her due date. Feel free to comment with your guess on her arrival date. I’ll come up with some fun prize for whoever is right (She’s due Jan 6th).

Z is still doing great. He’s flying a ton and was part of a pretty important mission that made national news. He met up with a buddy from college and has done some sightseeing. We’re about 25% through with this adventure. 

Until the next time. 

-S

3 Down

Just as this Momma was getting worn out, 4 reinforcements came in. Z’s parents and two youngest (there are 6 boys in the family total) brothers came in to town for Turkey Day. It was so nice to have the help and to be honest it was nice to have a reason to clean up my house for the first time since Z has left. D fell in love with his Grandma and repeatedly chose her over me. M and A were so happy to get roughhoused by their uncles. It was the first time I saw how much they missed their dad rather than them just telling me. We had a tasty Thanksgiving dinner and played at Chuck E Cheese. 

Daddy Tracker (a way for me to remember what he’s missed so I can fill him in when he gets home):

Busted lips – 3 (Momma, M, and A)

Edit: Make that 4 another one for A

Poop on the walls – 2 

Sick Days – 1

Cute Sayings – Both courtesy of M.

Mom, Mere! I promise, there’s a mess (the first poop on the walls incident)

Mom, where did Papa go? I NEED him!

Baby Tracker:

I’m currently 34wks. I’ve started getting some braxton hicks and swelling, but nothing serious. Heartburn is killer so if tradition holds true this baby will have lots of hair. I’ve only had one Charley Horse (way better than previous pregnancies). This Friday will give me the first indication of how close to her due date little girl will arrive. Still set on her first name, have 4 middle names we’re trying to choose from.

I Am the Storm

I saw this on a friend’s Facebook feed today and I was immediately inspired. I’m actually sitting at work writing this post because it spoke to me so much.

Today, for about the 100th time, I was asked by a senior leader “How do you all do it?” What he was referencing was me being active duty, Z being active duty and currently deployed, having 3 young kids, and being pregnant with our 4th. I laughed it off and he pushed, he wanted an answer, as did the 3 other senior leaders I was standing with. I told them we just do it (thank you Nike). It’s what we’ve always known and we don’t have a choice. We have to be great at our jobs both as parents, a couple, and officers in the military. That didn’t seem to pacify them. Here were three men, each having a minimum of 15 years in the military, wanting to know the secret recipe to having a successful family and career. 

So here’s the secret recipe that I gave and it can be applied to everything in life. 

1. We know that God has a plan and as long as we do our best it will come to pass. He also doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle.

2. We love deeply. We love ourselves, each other, our kids, our lives. Important note: Love and like are not the same thing 😁

3. We accept everything we are given graciously even if it’s not what we had in mind. This is not always easy and at times, well most times, it takes a while to get the graciously part.

4. We will never sacrifice our family. “BUT Z is missing the birth of your child” they said. True, but Z has to deploy at sometime, he’s going to miss stuff. He also has to deploy to upgrade and to move bases. If he turned down this deployment that timeline would have been delayed and there is a high chance we would be stationed apart in the future because he couldn’t move with us. A small sacrifice to avoid a larger one. We also have done a lot to still incorporate Z intot he family even though he’s not physically with us.

5. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy and we don’t dwell on the hard. Are we in a constant state of survival mode? Some days yes. But what you see as survival mode is our normal. 

So when I saw this quote I thought, I am the storm. I dictate how my family will live. I can control what I can and everything else doesn’t matter. So be storm in life. That doesn’t mean be destructive without regard for others. Take control of your life and live.

-S