Not What I Imagined, Part 1

I did not grow up in a military family. I did not grow up anywhere near a military installation, and so military culture was (and often still is, though less and less) very foreign to me.

I grew up in a family where the mommy and daddy both went to work every day. Because my parents were both teachers (now both retired), education was always top priority for my brother and I, and it was never questioned that we'd go to college. It was also almost never questioned that I, too, would be a mom who worked outside the home. And there certainly is nothing wrong with that. I hope to one day be back in the work force in some capacity.

Island Dad and I met the summer immediately after we had graduated college and right before we both went off to our respective graduate schools. He was not yet active duty at the time, but I believe the possibility of his joining the military came up even in our very first conversation. Now, given that we met at a summer camp and I was pretty sure it was just going to be a six-to-nine week "summer fling," I thought to myself "Cool, but not for me." Oh, how very very naive of me!

As it turns out, the fates had something different in mind for my life than what I'd always imagined. I mean, I was going to GRAD SCHOOL. I was on my way to save the world as a Social Worker (again, naive)!

By the end of my intended six weeks at camp that summer, I couldn't leave Island Dad so easily. So I stayed on for the remaining three week session of camp. Turns out, we couldn't give each other up at all. So we did a long distance relationship.

About six weeks into our first semesters, he came to Ohio to visit me. About five weeks later, just before Thanksgiving, I went to DC to visit him. Over Christmas break, we each met the other's family. The topic of "the future" had never come up with regards to our relationship until this point. One night, after Island Dad had made an off-hand comment about not letting the grass grow under his feet, I had had enough. I NEEDED to know where it was going, because I very much wanted to get married and have kids, but if he wasn't looking for the same thing, I was not about to waste my time (much as I did NOT want to end it with him!) So I asked him point blank. Given that we've been happily married for five years and now have two kids, you can pretty much guess that we did not break up as a result of his not seeing a future for us, lol.


Valentines and Muffin Tins!

Happy Valentine's Day!

I had a great day with my two little Valentines, and of course with my big Valentine, as well :)

Island Boy has been getting really into holidays lately, so he was ALL about Valentines day this year! He loved all the hearts, red and pink, and expressions of love. He also thoroughly enjoyed receiving several cards in the mail from relatives, and also a gift from us.

We had our Valentine's Day muffin tin meal on Friday, and today we had pink, heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast.

Top Row, L-R: Strawberries, plain yogurt with Valentine sprinkles, strawberries
Bottom Row: Three mango slices cut into heart shapes
Because it was a breakfast muffin tin this week, I went fairly simple. It was still a smashing success, as not a single morsel of anything was left (of course, Island Boy adores fruit as well as dairy products of all sorts, and if you add sprinkles, he's in heaven).

And, just to show them, here are our pancakes from this morning. It was a really basic recipe with some red/pink food coloring gel mixed in. And we had strawberry syrup, too. Both kids gobbled them up!



Today, my "valentine" is relaxation.

After a rough day yesterday, and having been feeling a bit "blah" with our normal routine lately, I changed things up today. We ate breakfast as usual (although Island Boy did have a muffin tin breakfast, which is out of the norm for us....more on that Monday, though). But then I decided to take the kids to one of my favorite places, Infusion Coffee & Tea. Island Boy gets to have a smoothie when we go there, so he did not complain one bit. He happily sipped his strawberry/blueberry drink, Island Girl drank/played with her water, and I enjoyed my blended mocha frap, all while enjoying being out of the house and at a pace that was in no way frenetic. To be honest? It was wonderful!

Then we went to the mall. Normally, malls aren't relaxing. But our mall has MIMO (apparently otherwise known as Pelota Pagoda). Both of my children would happily sit and watch this sculpture for hours on end if I let them. Even though I won't let them stay all day, it does easily kill half an hour, watching the balls go, trying to piece together how it all works (and, I'll admit, I watch raptly, too). We also did some window shopping and got lunch at the awesome food court (no sarcasm here, promise). And then it was nap time!

I came away from our adventures today feeling rejuvenated. Exactly what I needed at the end of a patience-trying week.


Crock Pot

I know I skipped yesterday, but I'm sharing one "valentine" for both days.

I adore my crock pot/slow cooker. I really don't use it often enough (like, oh, every day)! I love that I can basically take an afternoon off if I just put in a tiny bit of extra effort in the mornings. And the ease of both prep and clean-up is wonderful when you have two active young children in the house. I'm sure I'm mostly preaching to the choir, though.

Here are the recipes I used  last night and today. Both came from Taste of Home magazine.

White Chili
3 Cans (15.5 oz each) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
1 jar (15 oz.) Alfredo sauce
2 cups chicken broth
1 to 2 cans (4 oz. each) chopped green chilies
1.5 cups frozen gold and white corn
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded pepper Jack cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 small sweet yellow pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1.5 tsp. white pepper (I used regular black pepper)
1 to 1.5 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salsa verde and chopped fresh cilantro, optional.

In a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker, combine the first 15 ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours until heated through, stirring once. Serve with salsa verde and cilantro if desired.

Slow Cooker Tamale Pie

1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes with mild green chilies, undrained
1 can (11 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (10 oz.) enchilada sauce (I use green, because I prefer the taste, but red would work nicely, too).
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 pkg. (8.5 oz) corn bread/muffin mix
2 eggs
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
Sour cream and additional minced fresh cilantro optional

In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the cumin, salt, chili powder and pepper. Transfer to a 4-qt. slow cooker; stir in the beans, tomatoes, corn, enchilada sauce, onions and cilantro. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until heated through.

In a small bowl, combine muffin mix and eggs; spoon over meat mixture. Cover and cook 1 hour longer or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Sprinkle with cheese; cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve with sour cream and additional cilantro if desired.


Muffin Tin Monday

Today, my "valentine" is Muffin Tin Monday. Mostly, because today is Monday. And because Island Boy does adore his muffin tin lunches!

There is no theme this week, but we had a good time doing some Valentine-y things (though expect far more Valentines next week, and lots of red!)

Here's our lunch:
Top Row, L-R: Frozen blueberries, plain yogurt, chocolate chips
Bottom Row, L-R: Heart-shaped bread with apple butter, frozen blueberries,
open-faced heart-shaped turkey and cheese sandwiches.
Either I really hit on something this week, or he was starving at lunch time, but Island Boy ate every. Last. Bite. There wasn't a crumb of anything left in that muffin tin! I knew for sure the blueberries (which he actually dipped in the yogurt, much to my surprise) would be a hit, as he loves berries of any sort. He actually seems to enjoy them even more when they're frozen. I was also fairly certain he'd like the chocolate chips, as well as the apple butter bread. The plain yogurt and the sandwiches were more of a gamble on my part, but he ate it all, with no problems and no prodding!



Tonight, my "valentine" is food. Yes, there are the obvious reasons to love food. Nourishment, sustainment, etc. But this love is more about the emotional bonds we, as an Island Family, have with food. Now, I highly doubt that I will EVER have a love affair with food like Island Dad does. For those of you who don't know him, let's just say, it's truly a testament to good metabolism (and the military's physical fitness requirements) that he's not considerably heavier than he is. The man loves. To. Eat.

For me, I'm only just discovering how much I truly love food. As I am now feeding three people besides myself, I'm constantly challenging myself to make new, amazing things that are also healthy (although, I'm also a big fan of moderation, so I did have ice cream for dessert tonight. Full fat).

Tonight, Island Boy, who has maybe eaten a green leafy vegetable once in his life, actually ate Spinach Malfatti (like gnocchi, but no potatoes). Home made, no less. And he LIKED it! Island Girl hasn't yet developed preconceived notions about foods, so she's not picky at all, but she also thoroughly enjoyed her malfatti. I was quite pleased with myself on that one!

My own diet also needs more vegetables. The more I learn about cooking them,though,  the more I'm finding that I really enjoy them (I still prefer them raw, which is better, but harder to get the kids to eat). I'm even finding myself wanting to try new vegetables like artichokes. We'll see how that one goes over with the rest of the family.



Today, my "valentine" is laughter. Laughter is so, SO important in getting through days with small children and, indeed, in getting through life in general. It definitely makes everything more fun!

At lunch this afternoon, as Island Boy was trying to get down from his chair, he accidentally tipped the chair over backwards in an attempt to push away from the table. He was scared, but just fine. Thankfully, his fall had been somewhat broken when the chair hit a very kind airman's leg (the airman wasn't hurt, and was more worried about Island Boy). I picked Island Boy up as he started sobbing. I hushed him, and then, slowly, as he calmed down, the sobs turned to chuckles of "that was so silly!" At not quite three, somehow, this child has already learned the amazing ability to laugh at himself (when he's truly ok, obviously, it would have been  a different situation had he been injured).

It's something I'm still working on, not taking myself too seriously. Realizing, though, that the Island Kids are both learning such things by watching me is ever so important! Watching Island Boy laugh at his own accident/mistake helped me out not even an hour later when I had a moment (the details of which I will not get into) that left me wondering "How in the heck did I manage that?" Only to be chuckling at myself once I had figured out that everything would be just fine.

And, of course, there are very very few things that Island Girl's laughter can't make better, even though she's not embarrassed by anything (yet). Something about hearing babies giggle just makes me want to join in!



My "valentine" for today is creativity, both my kids's and my own. Due to a flat tire (and an almost equally flat spare tire) on our van, the Island Kids and I have been stuck at home today. Adding insult to injury, it rained almost all morning. It did clear off after Island Girl's nap, so we could go out and take a walk. But this still left me with significant amounts of time to fill, when normally we would be out of the house, doing something fun.

First, I introduced my kids to Here We Go, Steelers, and we danced around a while. Then Island Girl was ready for her nap, so Island Boy and I broke out the paints. He had a GREAT time!!

SO pleased with himself!

Hard at work. Who could possibly resist that face?

Modeling his apron and paint brush.

Island Girl wanted to get in on the action with a crayon. Then she tried to eat it.
Obviously, Island Girl woke up sometime in there. As you can see, she thought she was feeling creative, as well....until the mean ol' Island Mom took it away after Island Girl put the crayon in her mouth and bit it!

After painting, we had a nice walk outside, and then I got to get creative with a Muffin Tin lunch, more of which will appear on Monday :-D



For the month of November (and Thanksgiving), many people choose one thing, each day, that they are thankful for. For February (and Valentine's Day), I am challenging myself to pick something that I love each day. In addition to expressing gratitude, it will hopefully help me on days when I'm feeling less than loving (or lovable).

As we are already three days in, I'll start with three today.
1) The Island Family. Of course I adore my family. Island Dad complements my personality in ways I never imagined possible. He calms me when I'm worried, and, more importantly, puts up with me when I'm worried. He keeps me going when I think the Island Kids might have me being carted off to the mental health ward any minute. He has brought adventure into my life. He convinced me to go sky-diving with him when we'd been dating a little over a year. Since then, I've moved to "The Island" with him (talk about adventure!), embarked on the journeys that are married life and parenthood with him, and taken up SCUBA diving so we could have further adventures together.
Island Boy, being "two....almost three!" is constantly making me take a second look at things, both good and bad. His language and the things that he comes up with have me in stitches a lot of the time, even when he's supposed to be in trouble. I mean, how can I not turn my head and stifle a laugh when I start to "count" him and he looks at me and says, seriously, "Don't worry about it Mommy." Of course he still gets sent to time out, and I rarely let him see me laugh about it, but it is really funny.
Island Girl. Dear, sweet, Island Girl. I already am envious of just how fearless she is. She is so driven to get her way that she is inhibited only by the fact that her body is still developing. This drive will serve her well in life, I know. I also know that it may cause more than a few gray hairs for Island Dad and me.

2) Our amazing extended families. Many people stationed on The Island do not have families who are willing to come visit here. It's a long flight, and a very expensive one. We are lucky enough to have my mom (Island Nanny) who has come to visit TWICE in the nearly eight months we've been here, my dad (Island Grandpa), who hates flying but loves his family enough to want to come visit anyway, and Island Dad's parents (Island Opa and Island Opa's wife, Island Dad's step-mom). Island Opa's wife doesn't love flying, either, but also was willing to make the trip out here. I can only hope we have adequately expressed to all of them how much we don't take their coming here lightly or for granted, and how much we love them.

3) The Island. It's not always easy or fun to live on a tiny island, distant from anything familiar. But as I watch those back on "The Mainland" dealing with the blizzards this winter, I'm increasingly grateful that our "weird weather" for this winter was rain outside of rainy season. Rain boots trump snow boots any day.