19 August 2010

One More Day

I've just got one more full day at home before I head off for training that leads to a trip overseas.  I wish I could spend the day at home with my wife and the boy, but it seems there are a million things that have to be done before I go.  I've got to drop by the office to give a computer back and get a base pass for a vehicle.  I think I'll have to go out to my parents' farm to get some things that my dad is lending me.  There are still bags to pack and last-minute things to buy (padlocks, wipes, and various-sized plastic baggies!) and laundry to do and a tortoise to move from the garage to the house so my wife will find caring for him a little easier and probably several other random things that will come up as the day goes by.  I say it's my last day at home, but somewhere in the next month or so we will probably have a few days on pass during which we'll be allowed to come home.  On my pass days I am planning on cleaning out the garage as much as I can, because I didn't get around to it before this deadline.

Our family pictures went well, although I was frustrated by the last-minute request that I wear my duty uniform for the first set.  I am uncomfortable wearing it when I am not doing something directly related to my military job, but I survived the ordeal and hopefully some good pictures will come out of it.  I got a little more comfortable once I changed into civilian clothes.

After pictures we all took a nap, from which my wife bolted up and announced that she was late for her doctor's appointment.  Me and the boy played together for a couple of hours while she went and got new pictures taken of the babies, who are still healthy and growing.  They're not big enough to find out genders and whatnot, but their heart rates are good and she said they were both active in the video.  I think one of the worst parts about leaving home for this next year is going to be missing out on a full year of the boy's life and the first six months of the twins'.  He is growing so fast and learning new words every day, and he'll never be this little again.  I'm sure my wife and I will change too, but it will be slower and we are better able to communicate that sort of thing over long distances.  But for the little ones you really have to be watching their interactions with the world to see the full scope of their growth.

This evening my sister kindly watched the boy on short notice so that the wife and I could go on a proper dinner date.  The food was good and I enjoy the company of my spouse, so it was a nice way to cap off the day.  Now I'm just waiting on some laundry to finish up so I can decide whether or not I should burn the post-midnight oil and pack some bags or go to bed and get it all done tomorrow.  I am leaning toward going to bed so I can have an early start in the morning and (maybe) get some rest before the big event kicks off early on Friday.

17 August 2010

I Wish I Was a Little Bit Taller

Yesterday I was invited to a friendly family basketball night with various cousins and uncles.  I wish I could honestly say that I played well, but there is ample video evidence that would refute my tall tales.  I did have a few good passes and cut to the hoop once or twice in spectacular fashion, but on most plays I could be found out of position on defense or taking a bad shot when an open teammate was in full view.  I guess I have some learning to do.  I joke that the game was less-than-friendly, but I think tempers only got going once or twice over the 2 1/2 hours we played, slightly less than you'd expect when eight guys are engaging in competition.  I was slightly embarrassed that I failed to bring extra shoes, socks, and shirt to wear to and from the court.  Apparently there are court shoes and street shoes, and the two should never be one and the same.  I have missed out on some athletic traditions by never participating in organized sports.

I also wish I could say that I felt good afterward, but I spent the night with a splitting headache and much of today hurting just about everywhere.  Perhaps some more frequent exercise is in order?  I would like to be able to play an evening of ball without having a full-body hangover for the next two days.  After the game my Uncle Clair treated everyone to frozen monstrosities known as Boston Shakes, a massive milkshake topped with a sundae.  It was ridiculous.  Of course, not finishing dessert would be seen as a sign of weakness, so I managed to get it all down and keep it down.  In spite of the pain and the humiliation, I had a good time and would definitely do it again.  I was a little miffed, though, as when the invitation was made I was promised there would be an RPG table there.  I didn't see any such thing, not even a matching set of dice or a pile of sourcebooks.

Today I finished up the rest of my yardwork.  The back yard is still a mess, but no one can see that through the trees and brush on the canal banks.  I got the important stuff pulled out, mowed, and even sprayed some weed killer and laid down a few bags of bark.

Tomorrow we are getting some family pictures taken, which I'm pretty sure will be the first time we've ever had pictures taken of us together.  I guess that's kind of sad, considering we've been married for almost six years now.  I hope we can get the boy to at least stay in the frame, if not somewhat still and looking at the camera.

16 August 2010

Packing Up

About the only thing I dislike more than going on a long trip with the military is packing for a long trip with the military.  I've been trying to get everything accumulated and centralized in one room so that I can get it put into foot lockers and bags.  Time is getting pretty short, and I've still got plenty of stuff to do.

I ordered a case for my laptop on eBay.  The conditions for the Buy-It-Now listing were that I had to pay immediately.  After I placed my order I got an e-mail telling me that the seller didn't actually have the item and offering to sell me something similar or refund my money the same day.  I chose the refund, but didn't get the refund the same day.  It took a little while.  Then I had to find another case and order that one.  Then I ordered a pair of gloves from a website, along with a few other items I needed.  I noticed after the order was processed that the anticipated ship date for the gloves was a couple of months away, long after I would need them.  So I had them remove the gloves from the order and ordered them from another site.  They sent me an e-mail to let me know the gloves were on back order and wouldn't arrive for several months.  So I canceled that order, too.  Then I found a pair on eBay.  They've been marked as shipped, so I am hopeful that the third time will be the final time.

I spent most of the weekend doing yard work.  There is still plenty to do, but the yard is really a lost cause at the moment.  It hasn't really been a priority for me, so I'm just trying to get it to the point that the city won't come after my wife while I'm away and she won't have to do anything too crazy while carrying around two kids in her belly and keeping the toddler out of the street.  I hate lawns.  It seems awfully wasteful to spend time, money, and water on a patch of grass that does very little for the world.  Maybe if everyone raised a few goats or some edible creature that could graze on the lawn it would be a different story, but I personally don't feel an inner compulsion to care for a patch of grass that I only use as a pathway to my car in the morning and back into my house in the evening.  I've been looking at alternatives to traditional lawns, but I don't really have time to pull out my current yard and install something else (a concrete pad and a hoop?).  I guess that's enough ranting about grass.  I was going to post something about wargaming, but I got so worked up about shopping and lawn care that I forgot what I wanted to say, so you're spared for now.

09 August 2010

This weekend I had another Drill with the National Guard. This included my PT test for the record. The heat and mosquitoes kept me up most of the night before, so going into it I felt like the run might be tough.  The push-up event went very well for me and I earned a moderate score on the sit-ups, so I felt a little better going into the run.

One of the other guys taking the test is my age and runs about the same times as I do, but our pacing is very different.  No matter how fast or slow I run the first few laps, I always tail off on laps five and six, so I have to try to keep up with the younger guys for the first few laps to make up for that decline.  If I don't keep up a good pace for that first mile I'll get too far behind the pace, keep declining for laps seven and eight, and fail the run.  So at the moment that means I run a 7:15 mile followed by a 9:15 mile.  The other guy keeps up a fairly even pace throughout the event, so he runs something like an 8:00 mile followed by an 8:30 mile, catching me around the end of lap six, which is typically one of my slower laps.  So we wind up finishing at around the same time (I usually sprint the last 100-150 yards, so my time tends to be ten or fifteen seconds better), but take different strategies to get there.  I passed the run, beating last month's time by about twenty seconds, and beating last month's scores in all three events.  It wasn't a world-breaking performance, but at least I am improving toward my goal of a perfect 300 score.  I hear that if you get a few 300s in a row you're eligible for some super-badge and a letter from the Sergeant Major or the General, but I haven't looked at the regulation for that.  I'm a long way off from worrying about it, anyhow.

The city my unit is based in put together a ceremony and barbecue (my Southern wife would call it a cookout, since it was just burgers and dogs, with no sauce in evidence) to honor us.  It happens to be my hometown, but I didn't recognize most of the people there, although the recruiter that signed me up ten years ago came up and shook my hand.  It was a pretty good event, much more organized than many I've attended.  My mom, brother, and some friends were there, so we got to hang out a little.  The boy had a good time in the sandbox and on the swings, although by the end he was tired and pitched the mother of all fits.

I've been trying to get my bags all packed and my gear sorted out.  In considering possible methods for transporting reading material, I have considered the portability of an e-reader device, but as the goal for this deployment is to carve a huge chunk out of our consumer debt, I am reluctant to start down the road of unnecessary gadgets and media to fill them with.  I will probably be able to borrow enough books from the MWR library and care packages to avoid spending anything on books.  One good value I've found for some good nerdy reading is the various omnibus editions of Warhammer and Warhammer 40k novels, like the Witch Hunter book to the left.  They are collections of several novels/short stories featuring the same characters collected into a big paperback and offered for a cover price a little higher than a normal-sized paperback.  I found the Witch Hunter collection quite entertaining, and the Ultramarines book was pretty good as well.  My only consistent complaints are that often the editing could be a little better and the authors occasionally become a little too attached to a certain combat maneuver, so that the protagonist spends 95% of his combat time spinning under his enemy's guard.  It's like playing Mortal Kombat against someone who does low kicks the entire match.

I've been looking at other gear requirements, but my dad has covered a lot of the things I might need by opening up his inventory to me.  He is a bit of a flashlight fanatic, and his engineering blood forces him to seek out efficient storage solutions and ways to attach gear to one's person, so I should be pretty well set in those areas.  He's also offered up the tactical gloves of my choice, so I've been researching those quite a bit.  When I went on my first deployment my dad went over at the same time, and we actually lived on the same base within a few hundred feet of each other for much of the year.  This time he's got a different assignment this time around and won't be going on the desert vacation with me.  I've also been looking for a decent laptop bag and some other little stuff like extra nametapes and patches, but nothing too extreme.

I've got a busy week ahead of me, so I should probably try to get some sleep.  I'm sure my employer would like for me to be conscious during the business day.

03 August 2010

I've got all of my hobby stuff packed away outside of my Dwarf army.  I'll have to wait until I've got all my necessities packed up before I try to shoehorn the Dwarves into my foot locker.  I still need to clear off my desk, but once my army bags are all packed the room should be open for my family to use while I'm gone.  There's a lot of stress that goes along with leaving for a year or more.  I've got about a million things to do, but with the deadline approaching it doesn't look like I'll get all of it done.

We had a birthday party for my Grandma a few days ago, so it was a good chance to see her and a lot of that side of the family in one spot.  There were about five million kids there.  My Grandma can tell you how many grandkids she has, how many are pending, the ratio of girls to boys, and then give you all the statistics for the great-grandchildren.  I think the grandkids measure somewhere near fifty now, but I couldn't tell you for sure.  Anyway, it was nice to see some of the family.

The way things are going I'll probably spend most of the next couple weeks holed up in my house trying to make sure everything's as ready as it can be.  The wife and I are both pretty nervous about her having the twins while I'm gone, and I can't help feeling a little disappointed that I won't be here to lend a hand.  We've received many offers of help from friends and family, but I still worry that it won't be enough.  Our boy is practicing for the terrible twos, and if this is just the rehearsal I am loathe to imagine what horrors the next year holds for my spouse.  I imagine that when I return she will meet me at the door, thrust all three kids into my arms, and disappear for six months.  I do tend to look on the shady side of things, so hopefully the reality will split the difference and we'll get through it all right.

I'm still looking at rally cars and pestering my wife to no end with links to various listings for this model or that.  She takes it in stride, as she knows I just use window shopping to decompress from real life.  It used to bug her that I'd always be shopping for another truck or bike (even on the very same day that I'd purchased one), but now she sees behind the curtain a little more and knows that I am (generally) not actually thinking about going out and buying whatever vehicle I've got displayed on my screen at any given time.

And speaking of window shopping, the (un)official shoe of University of Idaho Fan Club is out now.  I haven't made time to go find a basketball hoop yet, as I've been trying to make sure my position at work is ready for the temporary person who will fill in for me, get my family ready, get myself ready to go, and any number of other excuses.  I've been trying to get out and run a few times a week, as I've got my record PT test some time this weekend.  I'm not feeling nearly as prepared for it as I was last month.  I still haven't got a run in this week, and I really need to go tomorrow evening and probably the day after that.  I'd run in the mornings, but I am really sleepy in the mornings.  Also, when I run or do physical labor my forehead sweats profusely.  I've always perspired a lot, but as I've aged it seems that all of the plumbing migrated directly to my forehead, especially after the last deployment I went on.  I can actually feel the droplets move up out of my forehead and bead up.  It's insane.  And once it gets going it seems like nothing can stop it.  So I don't run before work, because I don't want to be the guy sitting in the air-conditioned office looking like I've got my own personal face-mister.