heading toward the finish

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Here we are, at the tail end of our deployment. It’s been a little over 6 months.

It’s interesting how your state of mind changes over time. I dreaded this deployment at the start, mainly for my own slightly-selfish reasons: I was anxious about being alone with three young kids, and I had just hit a little career stride of my own, which I knew would be blasted back into the stone age with half a year of single parenting.

One thing that makes me laugh is how much I feared doing the whole bathtime-bedtime-with-three-kids routine by myself every evening. Now, I can’t even imagine what seemed so bad about it. We just go through our paces, we sit together and read our Beverly Cleary, the 2-year-old hollers once or twice that her blanket is “not right” or that she needs more water; and then the lights are out upstairs and I have the run of the downstairs for a few hours, me and my books and my computer and a beverage of choice. It’s not so awful.
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A few of Dave’s pictures from the “Establishment Ceremony” to mark the new command they’ve set up. Commemorative coins are placed in a Seabee-made concrete structure.
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But, even so, it’s not us. We’re family people. The kids have changed a lot since Dave went away, and I know he wishes he could have seen all the ways. Soren was reading beginner readers when Dave left, and had to be cajoled into his 15 minutes a day; now he devours 200-page books in a weekend, reading on the couch with his green blanket pulled up around his head.

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Nora has grown taller and more statuesque. Susanna, being two, has changed the most, of course. She was a soft-spoken little chub-a-lub when Dave left,

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Here she is, last week:
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Now, she tells long, involved stories and has used words like “actually,” “disappointed,” and “insane” (that’s my girl!). She’s left her high chair and crib in the dust. She puts on her own shoes and has a strong little will but, luckily for me, an even stronger desire to people-please.

My crew, about 2 days after Dave left:
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Here’s me and my girls, last month:
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Originally, we thought Dave would have been home by now, but every day his return has been delayed just a little. It’s been pushed back at least four times already, which, of course, is no tragedy, but an inconvenience. In my somewhat-lonely state I had planned his return down to every last detail: bought a fancy pork loin and ingredients for stuffed mushrooms, a $20 bottle of wine. Now I’ve relegated the pork to the freezer (still not sure when he’ll be home) and am realizing that both the clean house and my fancified self have hit their peak and are already on their way down. The rooms I organized are tumbling into disarray again, one toy or child-shoe after another sneaking forth to mar the vacuumed floors. The flowers I bought for the kitchen are browning around the edges; my manicure (only the second I’ve ever gotten in my life, because I can hardly stand to spend the money!) is fading. I’m already Cinderella after the ball, back to her grimy clothes and housewife-hands. Oh, well. I’ll have to bank on the desperation of long-separation to boost my appeal.

I’m kidding, a little. None of this matters much. It’s just military life, going with the flow. Hopefully, he’ll be home soon and safely, and we’ll be sitting on the couch chatting about books and politics and TV, with kids sleeping soundly in bed and one day after another spread before us, busy, cluttered with kids, but still there, free as we choose.

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