• Margaret Va'aulu

Reunion after Deployment and Next Steps

[August 17]

My mind is going a million miles an hour, but I wanted to share some updates and thoughts with you all.

Blake got home from his nearly 13 month long deployment at the very end of June. The whole thing was a rollercoaster, but I'm just glad to have him back. He was supposed to come home in April/May (with the military you never know a specific time frame until right before it happens), but due to COVID shutting down the entire globe, it was pushed back indefinitely. That was probably the hardest part of the entire deployment. At that point, we were all so over the separation and had already starting counting down so not knowing how much longer we'd have to wait was excruciating. But we tried to make the best of things and time passed quick enough.

I wasn't expecting Blake until after July 1, so I confidently planned a trip to attend my cousin's wedding, returning on June 28th. Plenty of time to get ready. But by mid-June, we found out that he'd be home sometime in that last week of the month (Blake knew the exact date but couldn't tell me because it's not a secure communication line so I had to wait to know the details until contacted in person by leadership still in Oklahoma). We decided to still go to the wedding and I'm so glad we did because it was a super fun week full of family we don't get to see often... and Blake came home the day after we did.

The day Blake came home was so hectic. The kids were tired and grouchy from traveling the night before and not getting home until midnight, and I was trying to unpack, clean the house, and finish our welcome home signs. I only told Masi and Isala that a special visitor was coming (they kept guessing grandma and grandpa) then I ordered pizza for dinner and left the older boys with my brother while me and the baby went to pick Blake up. Because of COVID-19, the Army wasn't doing the typical homecoming ceremony and instead family members were told to stay in their cars and our soldiers would come directly to us. That's why I left the boys because I didn't want them to have to wait bored in the car and then not even be able to hug their dad right away. I made a good choice too because I was told to park by 6 pm for the soldiers to arrive at 6:30, but we didn't have Blake and his bags until 8:45 pm.

My hands were shaking when the buses pulled up-- I was so excited (and a little nervous). I stood with Alema right next to the car- most wives congregated on the sidewalk as close as they could get to the bus, so I was mostly following the rules. Despite looking around frantically, I didn't recognize Blake until he was right in front of me and I saw his smile. After long separations it's always a little harder to pick out just one person in a sea of camouflage, but I always know that smile.

When we finally got home, Blake rang the doorbell to surprise the boys. Masi's face of shock when he answered and yelled "Daddy!" is something I'll always cherish. The older boys were all over him the rest of the night wrestling and laughing and were too excited to sleep until 1 am. Masi even asked if we get to keep Daddy forever when Blake snuck away to shower for a few minutes... and it was the best feeling to finally say that yes, we get to keep him.

There's so much more I could say about adjusting post-deployment, but I'll save that for its own blog post.

[Still August 17]

We are full speed ahead in the moving process right now. I've spent the past few weeks purging, and selling, and giving stuff away. Luckily, the army pays for movers to come pack up & ship our stuff so I don't have to worry about that. But with kids, any progress is slow so there's still so much to do. Once the movers come take all our stuff, we'll have a week to deep clean and do all the minor repairs to our house on base before packing up our cars and driving to Colorado.

Once we arrive in Colorado Springs, we'll be moving into our VERY FIRST HOME! The whole process has been quite a rollercoaster: I started our loan application & looking before Blake even finished his deployment, and once he came back we had no time to waste on putting in offers so we could close on the house by the time we arrive in Colorado. Also just much more stress and paperwork than I originally anticipated!

I never thought I'd feel sad about leaving Oklahoma, I mean it's not the first place that comes to mind when you think of... well, anything fun. Lol. After living in Hawaii, with its overwhelming natural beauty, I thought rural Oklahoma was boring and I hated living here. But I've come to love the people and the place more than I expected. Fort Sill was our first true duty station, and I'm definitely grateful for the lessons I've learned here. First lesson was to see beauty everywhere. It was probably a year of hating this drab landscape before I began to notice wildflowers along the side of the road. Then I finally ventured out to the Witchita Mountains Wildlife Refuge with its lakes (still not as good as the ocean but close), bison, prairie dogs, lizards, and mountains. Me & Masi helped tag butterflies for the fall monarch migration. And I began to realize that there is beauty everywhere, sometimes you just have to look a bit harder. Now I think I might miss the fluffiest clouds I've ever seen and pastel sunsets.. though I won't miss all the wind!

[Sept 20]

We've now been in our new house for a couple of weeks, and man, has it been a whirlwind! I honestly don't even know where to begin with everything that's happened recently... our closing date got delayed by a week, so instead of being able to come straight into the house we had to get a hotel for a few days. Which was fine the first day because the weather was nice so we spent as much time as possible out at a park. But then there was an early freak snowstorm, so we had to make an emergency Walmart run for jackets and pants. And we basically spent the next few days stuck in one hotel room with 2 adults, 3 kids, and an 85-lb dog. Fun times. Let's just say everyone was sick of each other by the end.

Now that we're in the house and all our belongings have been delivered, we have quickly discovered that home ownership is exciting but also stressful and EXPENSIVE. But we're finding our footing. Slowly but surely. We have most of the stuff unpacked, but still need to decorate and figure out organization systems. Decorating has turned out to be more of a challenge than I thought because our new house is bigger, so we don't have enough stuff to fill it and I honestly never really tried in any of our other houses we rented so this is a whole new experience for me. The house has good bones, but cosmetically hasn't been updated recently, and some of the updates done look like poorly executed DIYs. Due to our situation in the army, we didn't get to go house hunting in person so we bought it sight unseen. We had an amazing realtor who was really great every step of the way, but some of these things were impossible to notice beforehand in videos. So the scope of what needs to be done is a little more than we anticipated. And living in military housing in the past, all repairs were handled by the housing company so we never had to deal with it (and most importantly pay for it lol), so that's also been an adjustment for us. At the same time, there's just such a different feel when the place you're living is actually yours... it has its quirks and annoyances, but at the end of the day, we own it! And that feels pretty good.

As hard as moving is, I am so excited for the new adventure of Colorado Springs. This is a big reason why I agreed to Blake joining the Army: so we could travel around the country (and hopefully one day get stationed abroad as well) and shake things up every few years. There is so much more to do here, especially compared to Oklahoma, that I feel like we actually might not be able to do it all!

We are still in the process of making new friends, getting into a homeschool routine, and doing the cosmetic updates this house needs... but I'm feeling hopeful and excited for what's ahead. And I'll do my best to keep things updated on the blog!

Our absolutely GORGEOUS family photos are curtesy of Christie Rice of CJae Studios. She first took birth photos of Isala two and a half years ago, and now has documented two babies, Blake deploying and now his return.. she has very quickly turned into a dear friend of mine, and I am crying that this was our last session with her! She is so patient with the boys and their shenanigans during pictures, never forcing them to pose but encouraging their imaginations in a way that always captures their personalities so well (Last year Masi was activating all his creature powers from Wild Kratts, this time Masi & Sala were showing off their skills from Avatar: The Last Air Bender. Lol) During Alema's birth, she stepped in as doula a few times and fit right in with the sleepover vibe we were having in the beginning. She goes above and beyond, even doing a short shoot the morning after Blake got home since he wasn't able to be at Baby Alema's birth. She is always good at capturing those little details and candid moments, like me and Sala holding hands above, that hardly ever get blown up on the mantle but are easily my favorite shots. Honestly, I cannot gush about her enough! I don't have many friends left in Oklahoma, but I 1000% recommend her! Christie, I hope you know how much we value your friendship, and that your work will be cherished in our home for years to come <3 Okay, one more then I swear I'm done! **The link below will take you directly to Christie's website where you can see our whole photoshoot if you're interested**


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