Friday, October 29, 2010


I don't have alot of pictures for this one but just would like to share a little information with all about where I call home for at least the next year (10 1/2 months). There really is nothing I'm about to tell you that you cant really Google but I'll have it all together here for your reading pleasure. Ghost BN is responsible for over 93,000 square miles north of the Tigris river in the ancient city of Mosul. We have 3 international borders surrounding us. With 11 major cities, numerous patrol bases with a civilian population well over 4.5 million citizens. There ethnic/religious backgrounds range from Arabs, Kurds, Christians, Sunni, Shiite, and a dozen more. Of course throw in some of the richest oil reserves in the known world and there you have it. My wonderful, happy section of Iraq.

The place that we lay our heads at night actually used to be one of the compounds that in Northern Iraq Saddam used to stock pile his chemical weapons that he would use on the Kurds. My room in fact is one of the office's that used to be an Iraqi Soldiers. So much fun. We have a theory around here concerning the rats. Yes we have lots of rats and mice. We think that the chemicals that were stored here helped to create some supper rat that is bullet proof, rat trap proof, sticky paper proof and poison pellet proof. Basically like an immortal rodent. (yes we have shot at them) they look like over-sized guinea pigs with long tails.

Because we, 4 Brigade 1 Cavalry Division deployed separate from the rest of the Division, we fall under whatever Division is currently in charge of Iraq at the time. There is a change of command going on at the moment and of course that means that we receive alot of visitors who are very high ranking. Generals, Colonels, lots and lots of Majors, more Colonels and more Colonels. (you get my drift) Which follows alot of pomp and circumstance that precedes all such visits. Oh, and yes which also means alot and alot of meetings. I mean meeting upon meeting. Meetings to prepare for meetings in order to have meetings. Absolutly insane if you ask me. But what to do? But thankfully I believe that most of the "interesting" meetings are over. Well till next time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Adventures of Haley and Bennett

Tonight, Bennett and I sat in the Sonic parking lot and shared a hot fudge Sunday. We watched cars go whizzing up and down the highway, and shouted at the really big trucks that made lots of noise. Bennett loves to shout at big trucks. Bennett ate most of the ice cream and I ate most of the hot fudge and we were both very happy by the time we decided to go home. It was a simple thing, but I think this is one of my new favorite memories. I love hanging out with this boy.

Lately we have had many adventures here in the Hargrave home. Bennett and I are very busy people. I never realized just how busy until Sunday rolled around and I remembered it was time to do the blog. So I got out the camera to see what we had captured over the week, and that's when I saw there were 181 pictures waiting to be loaded. And I got tired and went to bed. But I am back now and resolved to at least post something, even if it's not everything. So hang on.

Saturday, October 16th:
Bennett and I go to Lake BLORA with our good friendy-friends the Askerlunds. Texas is a funny state. It is just chilly enough for a sweater in the mornings, but by about noon it is back up to the 80's or 90's and perfect for swimming. I have to say I rather love having the best of both worlds.

The Askerlunds. I don't know what I would do without these guys...probably just be really bored.

Bennett's bestest buddy and future wife, Brielle.

My favorite magoo. The water here was only two feet deep for a good long distance, so Bennett had a great time being "big" and walking out into it all by himself. He sure is an independent little guy.

Monday, October 18th:
We go on a field trip to the fire station during Story Time. The library and the fire station are right next to each other, so our group of 20 moms and 46 kids trooped on over to take a look. I have never in my life seen so many terrified children in one place. It was a kind of fascinated horror though. The kids were torn between seeing the big trucks and running for the nearest exit. The trucks won in the end, but it was close.

Bennett and Jace. Is it any wonder people ask me if they are twins?

One of the firemen put on their gear and I thought there was going to be a riot started from all the screaming children. Jace kept saying in a small, terrified voice, "I go that way" pointing to the door. The firemen didn't really pick up on the pandemonium though, because after he was all dressed up he invited the kids to come shake hands with the "nice helper fireman." Bennett was the only kid in the room that got close to him without bursting into tears. I was one proud momma. After awhile he started picking up on the other kids' sacredness though, and he wouldn't go to them anymore. Talk about negative peer pressure.

Me with a terrified Jace and an "in shock" Bennett.

Bennett on the "BIG TRUCK!" (You have to yell these words or else it loses its effect. At least, that's what Bennett and Jace taught me.)

Inside the lobby there was this little toy fire engine the boys loved.

This has to be my favorite picture ever from the day. Jace is such a crack up. I really do love watching this kid.

Wednesday, October 20th:
A few weeks ago, my mom sent Bennett an Elmo video in his Halloween package. Bennett loves Elmo, but has never actually watched him on TV. This Wednesday afternoon I was trying to get the boys' lunch ready and they were both being super clingy, so I popped this DVD in just to see what would happen.

Success! Elmo has become a regular at our house now. It is perfect, because Bennett's attention span is only about as long as two clips of the Elmo video, which is exactly as long as it takes me to make two peanut butter sandwiches. Thank you, Nanna!

Some Day This Last Week:
I send the boys outside for "Cracker Time" while I find a minute to eat my own breakfast. Pretty soon I go out to check on them, and literally two feet from where they are playing I find this...

I know it's hard to see, but this is a spider the size of my palm. The size of my PALM! It had created a huge web from the fence to the tree (about six feet across) and was just hanging out waiting for a meal. A nice, Bennett-sized meal was probably what it was hopping for. It didn't get it though, because I got two of Matt's tennis shoes and clapped that thing between them so hard it never saw it coming. And then I screamed like a little girl and ran inside the house with the boys until I was sure it was dead. I can only be so brave for so long.

Saturday, October 23rd:
Bennett and I drive down to San Antonio for Sarah's Bridal Shower (Matt's littlest sister). It was SUPER fun and I took about a million pictures, but I am going to dedicate an entire blog to that later. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 25:

We dress up in our Halloween costumes for Story Time. Seriously, what would we do without Story Time? We went with a lot of our friends and had a great time singing spooky songs and eating Halloween Cookies.

Bennett is a dinosaur/dragon/monster this year (I'm not sure what the difference is between these three things). I'm actually a little disappointed with his costume. The plan was to do his hair all spiky and then spray it with that hair color stuff to make it green and blue (like his costume) and then paint his face to match. But I did a little test paint on his hair and found that his blondness pretty much absorbed the color and kept it there permanently. So unless I wanted a green and blue headed son for the next three months, we had to settle for just the spikes. The face paint is something I am still thinking about. Maybe for real Halloween we'll go all out with that. I was too lazy on this day. For example, my costume for Story Time was A Mom Who Had No Time To Shower. I pulled it off very accurately and got many compliments on it.

I'm a little biased, but I like this kid's face even without the paint.

I know I just posted a video of Bennett at Story Time, but I was laughing so hard watching him do this. Bennett has become quite the little performer. He's definitely got rhythm in his soul. (You have to keep watching past the boring "yawning" part. Sorry about the lack of action there. And is it any wonder the neck of this poor costume is so stretched out? Bennett is an active little guy, regardless of the delicacy of the material he is wearing. Oh well, it was from Goodwill anyway.)

Eating cookies with some of our friends.

Living up to the name of his costume.

Every Morning and Every Night:
We go on walks around the neighborhood with "The Stroller Mafia."

I was so lucky to move into a neighborhood with so many super cool people! We are actually missing one person and her little girl in this picture, so there are usually six moms and eight kids going around and around Dixon Circle (like a giant track). All of us are in the Army, four of us have deployed husbands, and three of us (four if you count me) are LDS. I love it! Everybody in the neighborhood knows who we are and they all come out to say hi and place bets on who's baby will "win the race." It is so fun. Thank goodness for good neighbors!

And In Between It All...
We rest up for the next adventure!

We really do have such good friends and a great little routine going, we are having a blast. I told Matt the other day that of course we miss him like crazy, but I feel guilty because we are just having too much fun to wallow and cry over him being gone. He said he hoped it would stay this way and not to feel bad. :) What a great guy I married! What a great kid I got! What a great life I have! I really am the luckiest.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


All right picked up these little pearls since being over here and you know what? If I had this list before heading to this wonderfully beautiful place it would have better prepared me for what was to come. Now first let me explain that this is not the same Iraq I know from 05-06 this is a completely different animal. All the big money has left Iraq! No I'm serious it has. The Army has hired 4 different auditing companies that are reviewing all records since the war begun to see how all the money was spent (SCARY) So any way its back to to the old Army where we feed ourselves, we eat a lot of MRE's, MKT's, and the occasionally contracted meal, oh yeah and alot of Iraqi food (side note ate out last night at a local kabob store run by some IA(Iraqi Army) Soldiers you know a hundred flies, standing water, guys picking there nose while they touch the raw meat that is sitting outside with us, yes! with flies all over it, and it was delicious!!!) Anyway so here is the list. (those that have deployed before will get a kick out of this I think.


1. Sleep on a cot in the garage

2. replace the garage door with a curtain.

3. 2hrs after you go to sleep, have your wife or girlfriend whip open the curtain, shine a flashlight in your eyes and mumble, "Sorry, wrong bunk."

4. Renovate your bathroom. Move the shower head to chest level. Keep four inches of soapy cold water on the floor, stop cleaning the toilet. Leave two or three sheets of toilet paper on a used roll or for best effect, remove the toilet paper altogether. For a more realistic deployed bathroom experience, stop using your bathroom and use a neighbor's. Choose a neighbor that lives at least a quarter mile away.

5. Put lubricating oil in your humidifier instead of water and set in on "high" for that tactical generator smell.

6. Leave a lawnmower running in your living room 24 hours a day for proper noise level.

7. Have the paperboy give you a haircut.

8. Once a week, blow compressed air up through your chimney making sure the wind carries the soot across and on to your neighbor's house. Laugh at him when he curses you. (I thought this was pretty good cause the Iraqi's burn trash every night and it fills the air with its pungent aroma)

9. Wake up every night at midnight and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a saltine cracker.

10. Set your alarm clock to go off at random times during the night. When it goes off, jump out of bed and go to the shower as fast as you can. Simulate there is no hot water by running out into your yard and breaking out the garden house.

11. Invite at least 185 people you don't really like because of their strange hygiene habits to come and visit for a couple of months. Exchange cloths with them.

12. Raise the thresholds and lower the top sills of your front and rear doors so that you either trip over the threshold or hit your head on the sill every time you pass through one of them.

13. Keep a roll of toilet paper on your night stand and bring it to the bathroom with you. Also don't forget your gun and flashlight.

14. Go to the bathroom when you just have to pass gas "just in case" every time.

15. Go to the worst crime infested place you can find, go heavily armed, wearing a flak jacket and a kevlar helmet. Set up shop in a tent in a vacant lot. Announce to the residents that you are there to help them.

16. Shoot a few bullet holes in the walls of your home for proper ambiance.

17. When your 5 year old asks for a stick of gum, have him find the exact stick and flavor he wants on the internet and print out the web page. Type up a Form 9 and staple the web page to the back. Submit the paperwork to your spouse for processing. After two weeks, give your son the gum.

18. Wait for the coldest/hottest day of the year and announce to your family that there will be no heat/air conditioning that day so you can perform much needed maintenance on the heater/air conditioner. Tell them you are doing this so they wont get cold/hot.

19. Just when you think you're ready to resume a normal life, order yourself to repeat this process for another six months to simulate the next deployment you've been ordered to support.

Anyway I got a kick out of these. Enjoy!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Well sorry its been a while, we have serious connectivity issues way out here, but our local Iraqi internet guy finally got us hooked up. I tried to put in as many pictures as I can. Not much changes for us around here on a daily bases but it does give you alot of time to think. Lately, it being flu season of course we have been working on the units flu shots. First let me back up and explain what it is I actually do out here. I am the Medical Logistic Officer for the 2-7 CAV Battalion. I brief the Battalion Commander on all and any aspects concerned with anything medical. From ordering medical supplies from band aids, antibiotics, vaccines and heavy narcotics. I manage about 38 medics across 15 different AO's (area of operation) but am responsible for over 1100 Soldiers that are here in Iraq and also those back on Ft Hood. I also have to make sure the Surgeons and Doctors that are attached to us are set up properly are are training our medics properly. Now the question can be asked how can a non medical person take care of medical issues. Well I'm actually the administrator in charge. I have to speak both the Doctors language and for those of us not so smart have to speak "normal" language. Its actually really fun yet really stressful at the same time. Anyway thats enough of that.

We pretty much only roll at night. Its really no big secret that what we do because we own the coolest toys in the world. This is us at like 0300 rolling out to what is supposed to be our new home for the next little while.

Inside our aid station this is ole' SGT Rossi ripping an Iraqi sign of our wall. He actually wrapped his hands in ace wrap to keep from cutting his hands on the metal sign. It actually took him like 30 mins to rip this sign down. It was pretty funny.

Well this is home, my little spot of heaven. Not much I know but I really don't get to spend much time here. A usual day consist of 15 to 20 hrs.

Just another shot of my room. Pretty ghetto.

Inside our Aid Station. Yes, I did find myself a saw and I of course brought a drill with bits and everything so we started to build things and make or area a little better. The guy before us had like this spider web stuff hung all over with just random items hung all over the place. Yeah we didn't like that and got rid of it.

This is my medic guidon. I get to keep it and frame it when this deployment is over. Pretty cool, I think.

Of course my dear wife being as sweet as she is went to Wal-Mart and bought every card game they had and sent them to me. It took one game of Monopoly Deal to get everyone hooked. It is nightly occurrence once things slow down.

Built some chelves that we haven't hung up yet but they will be pretty useful once we get them hung.

This is my Surgeon and one of our guards out here on a guard tower. This is all kinda new to Doc with weapons and body armor and stuff. Its pretty cool.

Looking out the guard tower at part of our AO. Thats the Tigris in the back ground.

These are our cooks. And yes there female but they make some great food. We're just grateful that we get hot chow at least 2 meals a day. It always pays to be friends with the person that feeds you. Well that's it for now folks till nest time from beautiful sunny Iraq.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Things You Learn...

One month! One month! It has officially been an entire month since Matt deployed, and I have learned a lot since then. Here are just a few things...

1- I can pay bills all by myself. I know this might make me sound sort of incompetent, but until Matt left I had only paid our bills once...and it wasn't pretty. I mean, I always knew what our bills were and how much they were and where they all went, I just never did it. Matt was so good at paying them I didn't see much point in both of us sitting in front of the computer screen. Now however, I am a bill-paying, credit-card saving, spending-on-a-budget type person who shops with a list in one hand and a calculator in the other. It's really kind of fun. I probably should have started doing this a long time ago...

2- Car rides do not have to be peaceful. Or fast. Before, Matt and I had a rule that whoever wasn't driving was in charge of Bennett. You know, getting him his sippy cup, feeding him small pieces of food, wiping his nose, handing him toys...your basic parenting stuff. Add in the fact that Bennett is a naturally excellent traveler, and we usually had smooth and enjoyable trips. Well guess what? Now that it is just me and Bennett in the car, long trips have taken on a life of their own.

For example, I have become quite skilled at throwing items from the front of the car to the back seat without taking my eyes off the road. I have only hit Bennett in the head with these items once or twice. I have also developed Stretch Armstrong abilities to reach him with one hand while keeping my other on the wheel. (I am sure my shoulder will have permanent damage after this year.) And our strict, "No Food in the Car" rule has gone out the window (sorry Matt) since Bennett has to eat and I have to drive. It's not always a clean experience. Who am I kidding? It's never a clean experience. Good thing we own a shop vac.

Time is also an unimportant factor now, because if Bennett has a runny nose, or a dirty diaper, or he hit himself in the face with a toy (or I accidentally hit him while catapulting objects) and he is crying inconsolably, I have learned to just pull over on the side of the road and take care of the problem. It sure beats driving with a screaming child in the backseat. Which is the last thing I have learned about car trips now that Matt is away. As horrible as it might sound, I have come to accept the fact that sometimes there is nothing I can do but turn the music up and drown the crying out. And that's OK. Because we will all still be alive in the end. Poor Bennett really misses the old days. :)

3- I can do manly things. Like mowing, weed eating, edging, fertilizing, and watering the yards. I can also hang blinds, paint rooms, replace batteries, wash the car, change oil, and use basic tools such as a hammer and screwdriver. Again, these are things I have always known I could do. I just never did them because there was this super handy guy living in my home who actually enjoyed doing these things. I'll have you know, however, that a lady down the street complimented me yesterday on how good our yard was looking. I am still beaming.

4- I can do grown-up things. I can call companies on the phone if I have questions or concerns about a service. I can schedule appointments with doctors, dentists, and car maintenance people. I can order a pizza over the phone. I can make decisions and tell people what those are, even if those people might not like it. I can say "No" and not feel guilty about it. I am a grown-up!

5- Matt's pillow is an excellent listener. Whenever I go to bed at night I feel like I have so much to say about the day. Usually Matt is the receiver of all my pent-up thoughts and feelings, but now that he is gone I needed something else to vent to. So, at the risk of sounding like a weirdo, I sit in bed at night and talk to Matt's Pillow. I tell that pillow everything that is going on in my life. All my worries, all my frustrations, all my funny stories and interesting facts of the day. And let me tell you, that pillow is one great listener. It knows everything about me. It really gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "pillow talk" (Wow. I never realized how silly this was until I just wrote it out for the entire World to see. I promise I'm not crazy.) I will usually write down what I say to Matt's Pillow and tell it to Matt himself the next day over Skype, but the pillow gets to hear it first.

6- I can ask for help. Sometimes I need a babysitter, or a friend, or somebody who is willing to listen to me talk (a real person, not just a pillow). Sometimes I need to get out of the house. Sometimes I have questions about how to do something, or where something goes. In these, and many more, circumstances, I have learned to ask for help. To ask people my questions. To invite people over if I'm lonely or bored. To request a babysitter so I can go to appointments or just get out of the house for a little. There is nothing wrong with this, and I am just barely starting to realize it. I guess it is my pride that has been stopping me from doing these things, or making me feel guilty about it. People are so nice and understanding, I should really give them more credit. Thank you to all those who have been there for us. Thanks for the help!

Bennett has learned something since Matt has been away, too. He has learned that anything electronic equals Daddy. A camera? Daddy. A computer? Daddy. A cell phone? Daddy. All day long Bennett talks about his daddy. Every picture he sees of Matt, every Army guy in uniform, every time the phone rings, Bennett informs me that it is "ma Da-ty!" (My Daddy). I really don't know if he understands where Matt is or why he is gone. I do know he loves to talk to him and kiss his picture goodnight and good morning. He is such a good boy.

Our first attempt of talking to Matt usually goes like this. Dang the glowing blue Internet button. Bennett is drawn to that like a moth to a flame.

Here's our second attempt. I love how Matt says "bye" at the end but his mouth doesn't move because the connection was slow. So typical of Skype. We really are lucky to be able to talk to and see him so often, though. We are big fans of technology here.

I know it's dark, but this is what we do every night after we read our scriptures and say our prayers, and before we go to bed. Bennett gives great kisses.

Anyway, these are some of the exciting things we've learned over the last month or so. I'm sure we will learn many more things in the coming year, like how to pay taxes, start a fire in the fireplace, travel with a two-year-old, etc. etc. But we will take on those challenges when we get to them. Live and learn, right?

One down, eleven to go! :)

Our beautiful yard after Bennett and I worked on it all day. Bennett really was a big helper on this day. He helped me sweep, collect garbage and weeds, fertilize, and managed to keep his feet and hands away from the lawnmower blades. An accomplishment for any 18-month old.

Looking for airplanes. Airplanes and buttons are two things Bennett obsesses over these days.

Bennett in his "sandbox." A friend gave this to us. It is literally a box with sand in it, but that's all Bennett needs. Just enough to get filthy each morning.

You would not believe the amount of sand in this kids blond hair. I know you can't see it, but it's there...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Halloween Rap

Last year I posted a little video of my mom doing the "Monster Mash" with all of her grand kids, so I thought I would stick with tradition and make another one this year.

Again, I got all these photos from blogs, so the quality is lacking. But hey, I did the best I could.

Peace out, my brothas.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Here is a quick one before I go to sleep. I'll put some more stuff on later. Enjoy!

Me in my Battalion Aid Station. This is where we spend most of our time.

This is the front entrance to our compound. Not much to look at but its home for the next little while.

Here are of a few of the rigs we roll with when we leave the compound. They are all up-armored with all sorts of gizmo's and gagdets that are there to keep us safe and rolling.

Those are called T walls in front of the building. They wrap every building and structure we own in this country.

This is the inside of one of those buildings. Lots of weight equipment for our spare time that we seem to have when not monitoring or work stations.

Now look carefully at this picture, again, we build this little plywood structures that we call rooms in these big buildings and that is where we set up our little world away from everything where we can relax, talk to family, and of course sleep.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Harvesting a Pumpkin

Today I found six ping-pong balls and a flash drive in our television speaker. And that's all I've got to say on the subject.

Matt and I always intended to grow pumpkins in our garden, but we somehow just never got around to it. And now it's October. Dang. Maybe next year. It was kind of a good thing though, because a few weeks ago a friend of ours invited us to go with her to Sweet Berry Farms, a pumpkin patch she found in Marble Falls (about an hour's drive both ways). Pretty soon a bunch of other friends found out about it too, and we all went together in one great big group of six adults and eight kids.

It was awesome, to say the least. I happen to be a huge fan of Fall, so this place was super fun and exciting for me. Bennett loved it, too. I forgot to bring his stroller and was worried at first that he might get tired and not want to walk after awhile, but I guess his little boy legs are getting stronger because he kept up pretty well on his own. I only carried him a few times over the course of four hours, which was good, because since I forgot the stroller I was the pack horse for our lunches, diaper bag, and sweatshirts. Argh.

Anyway, here's a bunch of pictures from the day that I will narrate as I get to them. Oh, and just as a side note, Bennett was pretty focused on the experience as a whole and not focused at all on looking at the camera or being photogenic whatsoever. Most of my pictures from this day are of the back of his head. Sorry.

Here we are picking out my pumpkin. We looked and looked and finally found the perfect pumpkin in a bin marked "defects." It is probably the ugliest little pumpkin I have ever seen in my life, and I love it with all my heart. It will be a beauty to carve in a couple of weeks.

Looking for Bennett's pumpkin was much easier, as he immediately developed a strong relationship with this little guy. I seriously could not get him to put it down. So we we bought it. (Did I mention this place was super cheap? It was great.) I don't really know how we are going to carve it yet because it is so small, but I'm sure we will find a way.

This place was an honest-to-goodness pumpkin patch, besides the fact that the pumpkins were pre-picked and in piles for easy shopping. Behind Bennett is the field where they are already growing their next harvest. Pretty cool. I did, however, have to stop Bennett from running through the sprinklers and mud a few times. This child is genetically drawn to mud.

A very cute Bennett Scarecrow

An extremely attractive Mommy Scarecrow

Harvesting our pumpkins. (Do you see all the people behind Bennett in this picture? This place was pretty dang busy. Who could have guessed that a pumpkin patch would be so popular in the middle of October?)

Like any good pumpkin patch, Sweet Berry Farms had goats you could pet. I will never understand goats. They are a mystery to me...

There were actually two sections of this farm, one on each side of the road. This is the tunnel you had to walk through to get to the other side. I think Bennett could have spent all day just running back and forth through here.

On the other side of the farm there were huge flower fields where you could pick your own Fall bouquets. It was so pretty! I really do just love the Fall. And I love this picture, which looks like it could be on a cheesy Mother's Day card.

And you can't have Fall without a good, old-fashioned hayride. This is me and Bennett on the hayride (aka: tractor pulling a trailer with some hay bales on it.) The ride went through "Scarecrow Island" where different scarecrows were staged doing various activities. I think Bennett liked the tractor part, but I was obviously more excited about the whole experience than he was.

Watching other people on the "hayride."

The last thing we did before we went home was a corn maze. They actually had a couple of different mazes, each at a more advanced level than the last. We opted to do the "Kiddy Maze" thinking it would be a nice, easy walk through...

Wrong. The look on Bennett's face says it all. We were lost in that thing for like, half an hour. I have a terrible sense of direction, and my 18-month old son wasn't offering much help. Where is my GPS when I need it?

I am a little ashamed to admit it, but we finally resorted to cheating our way out. Luckily, right before we were about to send up a flair, a little boy who was probably still in pre-school told us the way to go. One day I hope to be as smart as that four-year old.

Ringing the bell at the end of the maze (finally)

Bennett fell asleep three seconds after we got in the car to go home. It was a fantastic day all around. And now all that is left to say is,

"Yay for Fall! We love Fall!"