How To Make It Through Dinnertime With Two Toddlers Unscathed

Things were spiraling fast – food was being thrown on the floor (Benji), people were refusing to eat (Maddie) and everyone was on the verge of mania. A particularly rambunctious dinner time in the Wilhelm household, it was time to pull out my tricks. I sang all of our songs. I promised a fun tubby time. I pitted their eating skills against each other (Benjamin was winning). Finally, I broke out the big guns – a new book!

Daddy FliesDaddy Flies is the sweet story of Katie, a military brat, and her quest to figure out just what her daddy, an airman, does at work all day. Katie wonders across the pages with a darling sense of humor, one that my daughter Maddie (three years old) easily related to. The rhyming prose is effortless, without being too mature. The illustrations are simple but captivating. And when we reached the final page, as she swallowed her final bite of chili, Maddie shouted, “NOW AGAIN!” #winning

Thank you, Brye Butler Steeves, for giving our family a patriotic children’s book that hits close to home without being confusing or hokey (and that gets us through dinner time unscathed)! I can only hope that you make it a series covering all of the military bases (see what I did there)! Daddy Jumps: The story of a proud paratrooper papa, Brye?? Take it and run!!

*A copy of Daddy Flies was provided by the author for review purposes.

Was Your Great-Grandma Rosie The Riveter?

Military Heritage Wall During Andrew’s deployment, fueled by a surge of patriotism and in an effort to fill our home with more photos of our family, I created a military heritage wall. To begin, I reached out to my mom, my grandmother and my dad’s sister for information on my family’s military history. I was surprised to discover that I am a direct descendent of veterans of the Civil War, World War I (The Great War), World War II and the Korean War! Could we be any more patriotic!? I suppose the answer to this is yes. I could be related to Rose Will Monroe or George Patton or, dare I say it, George Washington! I am related to none of these great Americans, so far as I know. But back to the project…

I had my family scan and send me photos of my grandfathers and great-grandfathers — veterans of the US Army, US Army Air Corps, US Marines and US Coast Guard — which I then printed with Shutterfly. I spent a long long while in Hobby Lobby (with both of my children in a cart eating every snack ever created on the Earth) selecting individual frames for each photo, only to eventually decide that I should get matching frames. After a debacle trying to hang eight frames of varying sizes (take a moment to imagine me Pinteresting “gallery walls,” tapping and removing nails with wreckless abandon, snapping photos and texting them to my mom and sister for their opinion on my arrangements, more removing and tapping, some spackling, sanding and touching up), we now have the perfect tribute. I am so privileged to come from a line of such dedicated Americans.

Do you know your family’s military history? Was your great-grandmother Rosie The Riveter? Talk to your relatives NOW, while they can still remember the awesome stories of your ancestry! And then start Googling like crazy.

Deployment: Worrying About The Without-Yous

A photo posted by Allison Wilhelm (@alliegirl428) on

I thought we’d flown under the radar. A year on GRF (Global Response Force) and nary a deployment order to be found. I breathed a sigh of relief and celebrated during November — the birth of our son, Thanksgiving and finally being free to travel to family for the upcoming holidays. But just weeks before our flight to Oregon was to take off, the rumors started trickling in. “It doesn’t look likely, but…” “Well, they’re talking about it, but…” “They still haven’t cut orders, but…” And just days before we left for Christmas leave, the orders came down. Iraq. Nine months. Leaving in early 2015.

The holidays were a hard pill to swallow when every precious moment was tainted by my worrying about the without-yous. More than once I had to hold back tears. When he hiked through the woods with our daughter on his shoulders and our son strapped to his chest. As he attempted to tame her curly locks and fastened her black patent leather shoes on Christmas Eve, getting ready for church. As we shared an oatmeal stout in the library, after taking bites out of the cookies left out for Santa Claus — Madeline asleep upstairs and Benjamin in the ring sling on Andrew’s lap, dreaming of Christmas morning.

Each day crossed off of the new year brings reality of our situation closer and closer. And while I’ve accepted it, the heartache hasn’t gotten any easier to bear. During the nights when Benjamin refuses to be consoled, as we pass him back and forth, short on patience and short with each other, I find myself dreading the nights when he won’t be here to help. After a long day alone with the children (Andrew having busted his bottom to make it home just minutes before Madeline’s bedtime), I’ll sit nursing the baby and listening to their nightly tickle fight over the baby monitor, wondering how she will possibly comprehend his absence. And when he comes down the stairs frowning — “That was so hard,” he says, “What if she’s not the same with me when I get back?” — my stomach rolls over, and I swallow hard to send the lump in my throat away.

40 weeks. The length of a pregnancy. I know just how long that is. I’ve done this (and more) before, but not with babies. Worrying about them makes it more difficult. So much will happen between now and then without him. So many firsts. So many tears. So many hugs. So many memories. He’ll miss it all, and we’ll miss him more. There’s no getting around that part of deployment. It’s sad.

But we’re a strong family, and we will keep calm and soldier on. Together. Again. Until we are together again.