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I am a photo junkie.  It is a rare occasion that I leave my camera tucked away in its padded little bag. I love reminders of my happy  moments.  I really love photographic reminders of my happy  moments.  Thankfully my kids are great sports and almost always indulge my need to snap their picture.

That does not mean they cooperate and do exactly what I say.  In the past this caused me to stomp & pout & even yell.  During my happy moments.  And then I realized how truly blessed I am, not only are my kids in front of my camera, they are in front of my camera being themselves.  This is who they are & I will always be able to remember them on this day, just like that.

This day was our first day in North Carolina last week.  I was anxious to get some photo’s of the kids together and afraid that I wouldn’t have the opportunity again.  Before we’d even gotten to my parents house, still in the car after our long flights, the phones had started ringing:

“Is Tessa there?”
“Is Cole there?”
“Can Dane play?”

Our friends had missed us & playdates piled up left & right.  I didn’t even give Cole time to eat breakfast or brush his hair, I hustled my kids outside for a photoshoot as soon as everyone was up & no longer groggy.

The thing is, they were all so happy to be together, so happy to see Christian again, that I almost couldn’t take a bad photo.  This one is my favorite.  This one is my kids.


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This past week we faced the worst turbulence ever, 18+ hours of travel, 3 trains, 2 planes, a subway and a bus to spend four days in the states with our beautiful boy.  Then we turned right around and did it again.  I am a travel bug.  I love to travel, but I do not recommend that kind of travel with so little downtime in between.  I now know the Amazing Race is not for me.

However.  Big, capital H, However. It was so worth it.  Every minute I spent with my beautiful boy, and it was a lot of minutes, made all that travel stress melt away.  Even now, looking through my 500+ photo’s of my four days, my travel stress melts away. Even better?  It fills my heart with love, encouragement and hope.  My beautiful boy can do this.  He will do this.  He will come home to me.

Dammit.  I promised not to cry while I wrote this, I promised to share all the giggles & laughs & stupid things we did.  That my kids did.  I am not sure when it stops, but I know 16 & 21 is not it, this is not when my boys just hug & say:

“Hello brother. I missed you.”  I know this is what they mean, but how it comes out is in tumbles and arm-bars and knocked over flower vases in my mother’s living room.  Why must boys say hello with every fiber of their being?  What wouldn’t I give to have them all tumbling around my living room right now, breaking flower vases and knickknacks.

Especially my beautiful boy.  My baby whisperer.  My sweetest child.  My easiest child.  My only child with those beautiful dimples.  My class clown. That beautiful boy is on his way to Afghanistan. To a war zone and my heart hurts so, so very bad.

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The people in my  house have rounded the corner and are feeling better.  Everyone except little Dane.  Dane had troopered through this week playing nurse to everyone, now it is his turn to be sick.  Let me tell you, the kid is putting in an Oscar-worthy performance of a very sick, very little boy.  Yes, he has a cold.  Yes, he has a fever.  Yes, he has a headache.  But he’s giving Debra Winger (Terms of Endearment) a run for her money.

Being military we’ve been following the road to sequestration intently.  Obviously something needs to give.  Things need to change, and I am beyond thankful it is not my job to figure it out.  One of the biggest pro’s the United States has is her diverse people & cultures.  Unfortunately, when tough decisions need to be made it is that same pro that becomes a huge con.

We are not sure, no one is sure, how this will ultimately affect us.  It is a scary place to be.  The biggest change looming over our heads is Cole’s school.  Military schools will be facing teacher loss, whether due to job cuts or the anticipated furloughs (4-day work weeks starting in April).  I am saddened not just for the teachers, but also our kids.  It is so hard to leave family & friends behind, and now military kids must lose out on education, and the continuity of school in a language they understand.  Before civilian schools.  Before civilian programs.
Our military works long days, long hours even those not deployed.  Much of what they do is not seen by the public.  Much of the safety people feel in their daily lives, the freedom to speak their minds, is provided by the tireless work of our military.  It is hard on family.  We pack our bags and go where we are told, we wait without word, we love from afar.  There is not a lot of support for us, many times our friends & family turn their backs thinking we have choices.  We did have a choice, we choose to serve.

Now even one of our smallest benefits, American school in a foreign country, is being whittled away. It makes me sad.  It worries me for the future of our country.  I see such wealth and care for the people, all the people, here in Germany.  And I do not understand why the US cannot provide this to her people.

Christian graduated from Patch Barracks High School, here in Germany, almost two years ago.  It is a fantastic school.  It is tough.  It is fair.  It works hard to help our children, our future, succeed. He is now in the final stages of training to be a Marine.  I am so proud of my son. I worry for his future.  I worry for Cole’s future. I hope his opportunities will be the same, as strong, as they have been for Soren & Christian.


 Dave giving Soren the side-eye on Christian’s graduation

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by Toiny Westberry 13 June 2012
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