The 4th, um 1st, of July

So I hesitated to take the boys to the events yesterday because I despise paying a buck-per-ride for the kids to play on those bounce houses.  I considered leaving here at 9:00 p.m. to avoid having to say “No, you can’t ride,” or “No, you can’t play that.”  I don’t mind budgeting a few dollars here and there for them to play, but when you have three and the EACH want to do things, it adds up quickly.  When I found out that the entrance fee was going to cover all their games, I decided to head over to WAAF earlier!  🙂  Happy mommy, happy boys!

I called a volunteer coordinator to find out if we were allowed to bring food in and they said that was fine, just no coolers.  Not a problem!  We grabbed water bottles, made sandwiches and packed carrots and peanut butter for snacks (yummy treat the Evanses/Evans’… how do you write that?!?… taught us last summer).  Instead of carting those goodies in a cooler we packed them in a backpack.  Happy mommy, happy boys!

I have to say, the size of the event looked disappointing as it was about half the size it was last year but my kids didn’t mind that at all!  I felt particularly safe this year as the security seemed heavy.  (I love seeing our soldiers protecting us.  Call me a patriot.)  Because of that security and the fact that the boys are fairly responsible I let them roam free all night.  They played game after game and enjoyed themselves immensely.

Fun story:  Bailey, who is not usually known for his patience, wanted to bounce on the trampoline with the harnesses.  The guys running the attraction were nice enough but not really on top of their game.  The first 10 minutes we were in line the same girl was jumping.  Judging by the size of the line and the length of time the girl jumped I guestimated it would be over an hour before Bailey’s turn came.  I really thought he’d give up long before his turn came.  Nope.  He stuck in there!  I have to give many thanks to Matt W. for giving me a little break and taking a turn standing with Bay as I rested at the “compound.”  (The compound was the blanket, chairs, and strollers area we had set up on the grass in preparation for the main attraction:  fireworks.)  I must also give thanks to the Joneses who kept Parker for most of the hour and a half I was in line with the third child. (Seriously… I only had Parks in my arms for about 5 minutes of that time!)  In the end, Bailey bounced his little heart out, had a blast for his 10 minutes and did flips for the first time ever!  It was worth it to see his little toothless smile as he jumped!

Oh, and while in line I got to know the people behind me quite well.  No, I didn’t start up conversations with complete strangers, though that is something I have been known to do (Heather S!!).  I heard funny stories, embarrassing stories, you name it.  At one point, about 30 minutes into the wait, I heard the 5 year old boy telling his dad that some kid had walked up to him randomly and given him five tokens.  (The kids played games to earn tokens, then could use those tokens to buy toys and goodies.)  They talked about this for a few minutes before moving on to who was the most annoying kid in the family.  Back to mind-numbing waiting.  Fast forward an hour: Bailey’s jumping and Hayden walks up to watch.  The little boy behind us screams, “HEY!!!  There’s the boy who gave me the tokens!  Right there in the gray shirt!!”  It was Hayden!!!  My super-generous son.  The boy’s sister walked over and asked, “Hey, did you give my little brother some tokens?” Hayden replied that he had.  She looked at him curiously and said, “Well… thanks!”  I pretended not to notice a thing.

I have, up to this point, neglected to tell you of the weather conditions we were experiencing throughout these festivities.  It was COLD.  Really, cold.  I was wearing a sleeveless shirt and shorts, but had thought to bring a coat.  It was cold enough to need long sleeves, jeans, a coat and still want to wrap up in a blanket!  Bailey literally stood in line wearing a blanket wrapped around him.  Before we left the house I though it may get chilly during the fireworks so I packed four small blankets.  I had no idea it was going to be so cold the entire night! Well, you know me and I was loving it!  By far the coldest 4th 1st of July ever!

With baby in hand, I couldn't really experiment with the camera. I barely got these two pictures!

Nice ghosting. See that green thing in the picture? I had the filter on and it made crazy lights on my image. Lots of little green dots as well as the big one. Interesting.

To those who have served in the past and given their lives for my freedom, my deepest appreciation.  To their wives, some of whom are my friends, your sacrifice is breathtakingly unmentionable, and yet I must mention it.  I think of you daily.  I place myself in your shoes and shudder, reminded again that life is short and I need to be thankful daily for it.

To those who have served and who are serving currently, I thank you with a renewed appreciation after having lived overseas.  I used to live in the civilian world oblivious to the military and what those serving sacrifice.  Now, I live in a military world, oblivious to the civilian world.  I barely remember what it’s like to NOT know what deployment, PCS, and hazardous-duty pay means.  I barely recall the initial feelings of intimidation when being in a room with people in uniform.  I have to sit and think hard about those first few months as a new military spouse when I would walk into the PX, see people in uniform, and want to run up to each one and thank them for their service.  Now, I am them.  Well, sort of.  I’m one of them without the uniform.  I am no longer intimidated by them but feel like I belong with them.

Being here in Europe my entire English-speaking community is military (and if civilian, most have had prior service).  It’s a world that very few of the general population of Americans get to experience.  (First, the percentage of Americans who serve is small: online research I’ve found say less than 10%.  The population of those serving overseas is even smaller… only 8% of the military population.)  I have gone from one extreme to the other:  fully civilian to fully military.  I am sad to think that we’ve already lived a quarter of our military career (if Matt does the full 20 years, that is).  So, if you have the chance, thank a service-member this weekend.  If you are financially able, secretly buy their meal at a restaurant.  We have been on both sides of that table and both sides are incredibly humbling and touching.  At the very least, say “Thank you for your service,” on your way out.  If you see an older gentleman wearing a Veteran’s ball cap (likely set way high on his head… I guess that’s the style (wink-wink), thank him especially as he probably served in a much more difficult environment than what our soldiers are serving in now.  I don’t necessarily mean more dangerous, but the conditions and communication were so poor then.  He likely wore much less protection and slept in much dirtier conditions.  He is one reason our flag still waves.

Gosh, I’ve gone all patriotic without intending to.  I just meant to write about our freezing-festivities last night and it turned into a “why I love service-members” monologue.  I am fortunate that my life is so easy and my husband is not currently serving in a dangerous place.  I don’t say any of this to bring attention to myself but to remind my fellow Americans just what this weekend is about.  There are people currently putting their lives on the line so that we can BBQ in scalding (or freezing) temps with our kids running around playing.  There are wives who will do without their husbands for another holiday, expectantly awaiting his return (or husbands waiting for their wives to return!!).  There are many women who know their husbands won’t be coming home and will forever remember the day they dropped him off at the gym knowing it would be a while before they saw him again, not fully believing that they just might not… CED and MRK, I am thinking of you this weekend.  Your sacrifice is not unnoticed.

About Jennifer

"Yes, they're all mine." The answer to the question I hear most often.
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