Exciting Things to Come on Stories of Our Boys

Every Monday: a new installment of The Real Army Wives blog series on storiesofourboys.com
the real army wives series

Noooo…it’s not a puppy. Did you think it was a puppy? This is Nonna’s new dog, Bella. 

***This post does contain affiliate links, so I collect ad fees if you buy from my links.***

There’s a book I have been wanting to write for a while now, but I didn’t want to let the blog go either, and there’s no way I could do both.

Then I bought this ebook by Crystal Paine (she’s like my unofficial life coach). It’s called 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life. 

I started reading it a couple of days ago, and in the book she encourages you to write down the mega project you are not doing because it looks too hard. Then make a plan.

So I have been planning and praying about that mega project that has been on hold, and the answer came to me. Break it into chapters. Run it as a series on the blog. I may not run all of it. There may be some chapters that you will have to wait for the book.

So from now on, my friends and readers, I’m going to attempt the first scheduled thing this blog has ever done.

The Real Army Wives of the War on Terrorism series.

I am going to tell my own personal story of being a military spouse through the War on Terrorism. And if any of you would like me to run some of your stories too, send me a submission! I may have to edit it, but I will be happy to do so and see if I can work it in.

These are not war stories (sorry to disappoint some of you). These are stories of what the family experienced.

I’m also not overly wild about how lengthy my title for this series is. If any of you have a shorter title idea, I will consider it, for sure!

Just The Real Army Wives, maybe? What do you think?

Can’t wait! So when do we start?

Every Monday. Every Monday there will be a new installment of this series, and we will begin with my story of 9/11/2001 because that’s the day the course of the Army wives’ lives was changed.

The 9/11 story will be up on Monday, May 15, 2017. Before you even get your coffee, it will be in your inbox.

Pssst! Once I’ve completed the series, I’m going to put it all together in an ebook for my boys and grandchildren to read someday.

I feel like they should hear the story of what happened from a first-hand account. Wouldn’t you love to have something like that from your ancestors about their time period?

One More Big Event Coming Up

Sat., May 13, 2017, my contribution to 30 Days of Tween Parenting Encouragement will be on Like Minded Musings. If you have a child ages 8-12, head on over there and check out the other articles. 30 days of relevant articles for parents of tweens! I love this!

Eleven articles are already up, and there are 19 more to come!

Want to make sure you don’t miss my new series about real Army wives?

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I am so excited and nervous about this at the same time. Can’t wait to begin! See you Monday over here and Saturday at Like Minded Musings!



I Actually Do Need a Tribe

This is the lovely Amy and Tegann. They were our friends in California, we were beyond excited to visit with them recently!

Right when you move is always at the exact moment that you’ve finally made close friends. In California, we were lucky enough to have a whole group of them.

A Good Tribe Makes Life Happier

My California neighborhood crew

It took a year, though. That first year I knew very few other people. It’s hard when you’re new!

I saw an article headline written by a mom with no tribe. I didn’t read it, so I’m not sure how she felt about that, but I am always happier when I DO have a tribe of friends.

No, actually, I’d go so far as to say I NEED a tribe of friends. It brings me happiness and encouragement. People need people. We do. Yes, I spend almost all of my time with my family, but we aren’t meant to be isolated families of people. I always carve out time to go hang with other ladies too.

When I’m hanging out with a group of gals, I laugh so hard my sides split. And I am known for my loud cackle.

Alan’s mom and her sisters hold us all in awe. Three sisters. It’s like the ultimate tribe. They text, they call, they travel together, and they support and tease each other through life.

Just today, I was at my friend Brooke’s house, thinking how much more I smile when I’m visiting with her or any of my friends or my mom, just a friend who accepts you for who you are.

It takes me over a year to develop a tribe of friends with each place, and I don’t have one here yet. My friend Brooke and I were just talking today about how lonely that is.

I need to get pro-active about that and put together a supper club…any takers??

A Good Tribe Makes Life Happier

My friend Amy, from my Virginia tribe (how I miss them!), came and visited us in California.


If I hadn’t missed so many MOPS meetings, I would be calling that my tribe already. I love MOPS and the ladies there, but sometimes I don’t make it because of JD or because I have work to do.

At this stage of life, we don’t have ‘time’ to pour into friendships

and that’s why we have to be extra understanding and forgiving of our friends. Everybody’s busy.

However, I think the mommy years are years when we need friends just as much as ever. I would say more than ever, but I actually can’t think of a single stage of life when we don’t desperately need a support group.

Some people find that group at church or at the playground. I seem to usually find them in my neighborhood, thought that isn’t the case here.

I’ve been blessed to belong to several AMAZING tribes of friends over the years. I just had a different group for each place that I lived. Eventually, I will have one here too. These things take time.

A year from now, I won’t be tribe-less anymore. By then, I’ll just be heart-broken to leave. How do I know? Well, I always have before, so I can be optimistic, and I’m hoping for the best and trying to remember to be friendly and speak to people. Ha! It’s hard for an introvert sometimes, but we need people too.


What about you? Do you have a group of pals that make you laugh ’til you cry? It’s not a tribe unless it’s both fun and supportive.







Military Marriage Retreat at the Cove

Military Marriage Retreat, the Cove, North Carolina

Last weekend Alan and I packed our suitcases and drove up to Asheville, North Carolina. We left the kids in the capable hands of my parents, and we enjoyed a peaceful weekend in the mountains. Oh, and by the way, all we had to pay for was the gas to get us there.

Not too long ago, Alan learned of the Cove, a retreat center owned and operated by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. They host retreats, Bible studies, training events, prayer events, and even Senior Hymn Sings.

But the coolest thing for us is that they host these marriage retreats for military couples–FOR FREE.

Free is good. We like free.

There are 3 different ones this year, but why waste time, we went ahead and signed up for the February retreat.

I had no idea what to expect, really. I was a little nervous, as I am in all new social situations. We didn’t go with a group or anything, so we were on our own.

standard double room (photo credit: thecove.org)

Upon arrival, we checked into our room. The Cove has two hotels on site. We stayed at the Pilgrim’s Inn. The room was immaculate. It had two queen size beds, a table with 2 chairs, a rocking chair in the corner, a luggage stand, a dresser, 1 sink in the room and a bathroom with another sink.

I expressed my joy over there being two sinks. Alan said, “Well, the key here is not to destroy marriage [by making us share a sink]. Haa!!!!

On the third floor, the inn has 24 hour drink machines, complete with coffee, tea, and sodas! We did take advantage of that!

Right away, we spotted this sign.

We got our stuff put away and headed up the hill to the convention center. Now, when I say up the hill, believe me I really mean up what felt more like a mountain. I’m surprised my legs aren’t more sore. This hike was not for the faint of knees.

The first thing we noticed on our hike was a “Beware of bears” sign.


But as it turns out, black bears are known to be docile, not aggressive like the grizzlies.

military marriage retreat at the cove, north carolina

This hiking path was so steep! I finally earned my 50 flights of stairs in a day badge on my Fitbit, thanks to this hill!!!

After we checked in at the convention center and read over our itinerary, I admit I actually got a little uneasy.

Wait a minute. This itinerary here says “1-6pm Alone Time with God”….

I whispered to Alan, “Do you think they expect us to spend the WHOLE time with God, or is going to see the Biltmore Estate okay too?”

And suddenly it dawned on me.

“Alan!!!! Was there a t.v. in our room?”

We’ve been kidnapped. Gasp! What if there is no Wi-fi either?? What if we are supposed to have prayer and meditation and togetherness, sing cum-ba-ya, and hike up mountains all afternoon???? Will we survive???

Alan chuckled. Don’t worry. I had not said all of those things out loud.

“Yeah, you put your suitcase on the dresser. So I’m pretty sure there was no t.v.”

We both looked at each other with the wide eyes and giggled. This should be interesting…..or challenging…..hmmm

(photo courtesy of my friend Kasey Myers) No, unfortunately, they didn’t go at the same time as us. They went a different year, but how exciting is it that this is available every year!?

Soon after our no-t.v. discussion, it was time for dinner. Ya’ll!!  The food! If you don’t love the speaker, though I think you will, the food will win you.

(photo credit: Kasey Myers) They must have been at the very front of the line.

We made awkward conversation with other couples that we met, and then it was time for the first marriage seminar.

These seminars were more than seminars. It was like giant group marriage therapy, where thankfully we didn’t have to do any talking. We did; however, get to sing together. We sang at the beginning of each session, mostly songs that we knew or had heard before. The singing was one of my favorite parts. The song leader was an expressive and talented guy with both piano and guitar skills.

The speaker was a pastor and retired Army chaplain,Pastor John Cook, from Fayetteville, North Carolina. He was not only interesting. He actually knew where we were all coming from, having lived the military life himself. He taught what the Bible has to say about marriage, and I managed to totally pay attention to all 3 sessions, believe it or not.

They change up the speakers at each retreat, but I’m sure they’re all good.

By the way, the convention center has cappuccino and frozen yogurt on tap, available during the day time. That came in handy during the on-your-own stretch of Saturday.

military marriage retreat at the cove, north carolina

This is us on the Convention Center deck. It was a huge wrap-around porch full of rocking chairs, and I failed as a blogger because I did not get a photo! Okay, yes, I did, but Alan blinked in it, so I will spare him that.

You may be wondering if I ever did make it to the Biltmore Estate. Well, no, I didn’t. Alan looked it up, and it wasn’t a good time for us to devote the hefty admission prices for as little time as we would have gotten to spend there.

They had fireplaces gong everywhere, including a beautiful, large circular one outside. We sat in front of this one for 30 minutes and found it extremely comforting.

We were able to enjoy simply resting, relaxing, hiking, and talking at the Cove. We even did a little shopping at the on-site book and souvenir shop. We never did miss the t.v.


Some people arrange to go with couple friends, which I imagine would be a blast. (photo credit: Kasey Myers)

Here are a few fast facts for ya:

–I did not see any other marriage retreats on the schedule besides the military ones. 🙁 Sorry, my civilian friends. However, there are tons of events that last all weekend that you could sign up for.

Next Military Marriage Retreat is May 26-28, 2017. Experiencing God’s Best for Your Marriage. Speaker: Chip Ingram 

Literally EVERYTHING is FREE. Free meals. Free room. Free seminar. Click here to sign up. It’s open only to active duty military. Yes, Reserves and National Guard counts, so long as your active.

–There’s another Military Marriage Retreat September 8-10, 2017. The Art of Living Well in Marriage. Speaker: Tommy Nelson

Again, it’s all free for active duty military. Click here to sign up.




Military Marriage Retreat

(photo credit: thecove.org)

Other Events at the Cove do have costs. Just click on the links below. Many of these are also weekend-long retreats. Some are just evenings or luncheons. Just click through for details.

Women’s Events

Senior Adult Events

Seminars for everyone

Pastor Retreats (for pastors)

We would like to personally thank the Graham family and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for using their facilities and talent to serve those who serve our country. This is a blessing to so many families!

Pouring into your marriage relationship is so vital to the overall happiness of your whole family. Kids grow up, but hopefully when they have left, you still have a spouse you can love and grow old with. It’s such an important relationship to nurture. Happier parents = happier kids.

military marriage retreat

Our thanks again to the Cove!!! This was like a breath of fresh air!






It’s been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

Daniel had his first week of tee-ball. Alan didn’t sign up to coach this year, not even to assistant coach, but he went out there today and helped anyway. And you know what happened? Alan came home so refreshed and happy. It was a beautiful thing to see.

Alan says that Daniel will actually be one of the oldest, most experienced players on his team this year. Yayyyyy, Daniel!!!

Meanwhile, you know what annoys me? Pop culture.

Why? Because it has reached my children, at least one of them, and he has started saying “Dang, Daniel!” all the time. Insert me, looking like an annoyed vulture.

Now some of you have no idea WHAT I’m talking about because you don’t know anything about pop culture. Well, allow me to shrink your brain by catching you up. There was this video that went viral in 2016, originally on Snapchat, of these high school kids saying “D***, Daniel,” over and over again.

And go figure, the video-maker’s name is Josh. So of course, someone told him about it. So now he says, “Dang Daniel” all the time. He’s not allowed to say the original version. Of course, Daniel doesn’t get it at all. Only I get it.

(If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the Ellen clip to explain.)

Speaking of my big boys, I thought this was hilarious. We spent last week hanging out at DaddyO and Nonna’s house r-e-l-a-x-i-n-g. It was wonderful. Check out the amazing amounts of sleep I accomplished, according to my Fitbit. I was so proud. (By the way, I noticed Amazon has the Fibit Charge II $20 off right now.)

Yep! Proud of myself

I wanted to find a funny movie we could enjoy with the boys. I found Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride Part II!!!!!  I talked up how uproariously we would all laugh at this movie.

Father of the Bride Part II

We watched half of the first movie, and then Joshua proclaimed, “You said this was funny! I don’t think this is funny at all!” And then he disappeared upstairs.

What? Not funny? This stuff is HILARIOUS.  I guess there’s an age range for this humor. Remember this?

It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

It has been 7 months now since we moved in, and we are starting to feel settled. We’re using our GPS less and less, and the boys are asking to go back to California far less. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. It takes a year to fully adjust to a move.

I’d say it takes two years to actually get past surface-level relationships and put down roots. That’s the lonely thing about it. No one knows you well enough to relax, and you are still trying to figure out all the new people you’ve met.

I can learn their names easily, but sometimes it takes time to root out the kindred spirits from the high-maintenance ones.

It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

I feel like Alan and I did this ONE particular thing right that’s going to be the thing that makes life fun and frequent moving doable. These 4 boys. I can’t really say we gave them each other because God did that. If I had gotten to decide it myself, there would have been a Gracie and a Josie thrown in, and then our whole family dynamic would be different.

But this is better because this is what God gave us. I can’t imagine our lives without a single one of them. We have two sets of best buddies, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. The younger ones are learning from the bigger ones things, for better and for worse, ha!, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They fill our hearts with so much joy.

And no matter where we move they all have each other, and Alan and I have each other and these boys.

Best of all, we’ve never grown too comfortable with any one place or house. There’s no confusion about where home is. Home is not a building that can be taken away. Home is right here, wherever we are. Home is us. So we are always home.

It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home. It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

And now here they are, all telling me that Lego Batman movie premiered today, and they are just dying to know when I am going to take them to see it. Yeah…I might have promised them to take them to see that because Lego Batman is a serious obsession around here.

Maybe I can make it happen today……

A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”…            –Jesus  (John 13:34-35)


So they are no longer two, but one.


This week marks 12 years that  Alan and I have been married. God blessed the day I married my better half.

One of the best decisions I ever made was one of the ones I was most criticized for. I do think people’s opinions can be helpful, and I do listen to the advice of others. But what others? You have to be careful about which group you are listening to. Our closest friends and our parents never doubted us for a second. We had their unswerving support. It was our acquaintances and old friends that were shocked. (See, there was no Facebook back then to keep in touch with.) We had the support of those that knew the whole story, and the others were scandalized. “What!? I didn’t even know April was dating anybody!??”

We didn’t lollygag around. We dated for three months and got engaged. We were engaged for 5 months, and then we got married. We got married on the military’s time table because that’s what military couples have to do. People just couldn’t believe we did things so quickly. They didn’t realize we’d been friends and acquaintances for much longer than that.

You know what? I secretly enjoyed being ‘scandolous’ for once. It isn’t something I have experienced much. 😉

I remember vividly the day I sat with Alan, at a long cafeteria table, in Burke cafeteria, and realized that I had deeper feelings for this friend than I had even realized. We used to eat together, with a large group of friends, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I had even once observed (but kept to myself) that even on days when I did not eat with that group, Alan would still bring his tray over and have lunch with me and whatever friend I was eating with that day. We were friends. Pals. I thought that was all, and I hadn’t given it much thought–which was unusual for me, as I was something of a flirt in those days….

But there was that one day, when it was just the two of us, and Alan was talking to me about all of the great places he planned to go and adventures he hoped to have in his military career, that I suddenly felt this strong desire to go with him.

“Huh?” I thought, “Why do I care if Alan moves out west? A couple of boys that I’ve dated have already done the same thing, and I did not care when they left.”

“Wait. Do I like Alan?”

“Oh my gosh! I do. I like Alan!! I don’t want him to leave. I want to go with him.”

Once I figured all of this out, Alan didn’t stand a chance. 😉 I had already racked up a couple of relationship failures due to playing ‘hard to get.’ Not this time. This time it was on. I would not chase him. I would not call him, but by golly I was going to act exactly how I felt: happy to be with him. I also made it a point to not flirt with others around him.

This was before our “group date”, but it did involve some of the same people. We all worked together on campus. We love these people!!

I even resorted to inventing a “group date.” My friend Katie was in town, and I told her, “Katie, I know who I am going to marry, and you have to meet him.” I called him up and told him a big group of us was going to Logan’s Roadhouse for dinner. He quickly accepted our invitation. Then I turned to Katie and said, “Oh!!  Now I have to actually make a group.” I got back on the phone and quickly but carefully put together a group of friends that knew both of us, included boys that my friends liked, and well…….the rest was history. Alan asked me out before he went home that night, and we have been a couple ever since.

For a look back at our last 12 years, see last years post:  11 Years of Marriage

Do you know what made Alan so great? Do you know how we “just knew” it was right?

Well, of course we were in love, but also we used our heads. I think you could possibly fall in love with lots of people, but you need to be smart about it. We both had the same faith, morals, values, and work ethic. We both love to laugh and don’t take ourselves too seriously.  The relationship flowed easily. There was no “Oh, I can’t tell if he really likes me” crap. We were just honest with each other and treated one another with respect. We complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I am a non-confrontational person. Alan will rise up to meet confrontation seemingly easily, and he can do it (normally) without being offensive. He’s an engineer. I would have never even gone near the Engineering school.

A friend of mine once commented,  “Who wouldn’t like Alan!?” That’s the kind of man he is.

He’s the kind of man that has turned down what I consider to be a big and important job because he knew it would not be family friendly. He helps with chores. He fixes the kids breakfast. He’s absolutely hilarious. He’s faithful. He loves me–even when I’m crazy-stressed-not fun-April, he still loves me. He’s still super-good-looking too. 🙂

This was a hard year for us. Going to four children was exciting, but it was HARD WORK. Plus, he had a very big project going on at work. PLUS, he had to take the exams, apply to universities, AND move the family this year. Meanwhile, I was juggling all that comes with managing a family of 6–the housework, oh the housework!

It’s been a wild ride. It’s been 12 years. I hope we have 100 more.

I’d like to stop and take a look back at the wild 12th year:

I was standing in Nevada. Alan was in Arizona.

I called this our 3rd honeymoon. 🙂



I look forward to the 13th year. We will finally settle into a new house, we will tackle our first year of home-schooling–through the Classical Conversations tutoring service, we will be Californians, Alan will be in school, I will be blogging away, and who knows what else! That’s the fun of it.

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together,  let man not separate.”              Matthew 19: 4-6

We have spent all of July apart, due to this PCS move, but I will be with you tomorrow, Alan.