Hold On Daddy's Coming!

Stories, rants and reflections by a clueless father of three

Archive for the tag “military”

I Tried Single Parenting For A Week And Holy Cow It Was Awful

Just leave the kids with me, I said.  What could possibly go wrong?  I said…

This week, for the first time, I watched the kids while my wife headed back to the states after the loss of a dear friend.  In my world of constant travel and trials, it just so happened to be a week where I was home.  What follows is a no-kidding recap of how it all unraveled.  And boy did it ever unravel…

The Turnover:  Prior to her departure, the wife gave me lots of tips on how to keep the kids alive and thriving.  This is overwhelming because our kids are spoiled.  Exacerbating matters, I was only half listening, so I learned just enough to be dangerous.  For instance, I know that “Brody needs (insert something about 5mL of medicine),” and “Riley only eats (some kind of food) for lunch” and that I can’t forget about Jimmy’s homework.  Or something.    

Whatever, I got this.

Saturday:  Drop wife off at airport with no drama.  Solid.  Then take the boys to soccer.  Too easy.  

Then I take the boys to GameStop as a bribe to basically be good all week.  My thought was we could get a video game to share and enjoy.  Well, we get there and the oldest wants a Pokemon card set all for himself.  Our four y/o grabs the first thing he can find – a nerdy board game – and assures me that it’s what he has “always wanted.”  I should have seen this coming.   

That night, I take the kids to a free country concert by Hunter Hayes on base.  The boys waste no time whining about the noise and asking me “when’s it gonna be over?”  Little do they know they are hearing the pre-concert music, and the show hasn’t even started.  But they loved it…


His favorite part of the concert

Sunday:  Wake up, play, eat cereal, and head to church.  Then we head home and eat Lunchables.  You might be wondering how I find time to serve such healthy meals.  Well, we had nachos for dinner so its not like we don’t have a cheat meal every now and then.

Monday:  This is the first school day, and I quickly realize how much this week is going to suck.  Evidently our four year old doesn’t have school today because he has a Parent-Teacher conference right smack in the middle of the workday.  Does our pre-schooler’s ability to play with blocks and markers warrant a quarterly meeting?  A text from my wife makes clear I’m supposed to go.     

My suspicions were confirmed when, after driving across town and re-arranging my entire day, I learn nothing more than our son is doing “great” in school.  Oh, great.  

That night, after soccer practice, a neighbor asks me if our family wants some of her extra Sloppy Joes.  I politely reply that I would love some “Sloppy Hoes.”  It was autocorrect, I promise.  I have neither the time nor the energy for Sloppy Hoes this week…  

Tuesday:  It’s Drug Free week, which means the kids get to wear a hat to school.  Ironically, today I will be litigating a case involving, you know, cocaine.  

Before any of this happens, I make lunch.  One wants a red apple, the other wants a banana.  One wants a PB&J, the other wants turkey – but only if its cut in the middle.  Even I know that the quality of one’s lunches can make or break their status as a cool parent.  

With lunch set, I take the older two to the bus and drop the youngest at his school so I can get to work to do, like, my job.  I’m freaking exhausted and it’s not even 8am.  

IMG_2894 (1)

That afternoon, the older kids have “early release” which means they hop off the bus at an even more inconvenient time than normal.  Upon arrival, they beg to go to the convenience store down the road.  I make one rule, and that is that they cannot buy candy.  Are we clear?  Crystal clear? Good.  

So of course they go and buy candy.  The ensuing interrogation yields several false official statements.  One tells me “I didn’t hear you when you said that,” and the other points to her brother and says he convinced her it was ok.  And you see, this is how the Bible begins.

Wednesday:  Standard morning chaos.  Then work.  Then soccer practice.  Neighbors brought us dinner the night before but we ate it all, so its cereal and Ramen noodles on the menu tonight.  And then of course they need dessert.  After all this, we do homework and get ready for bed.  And when it’s all over, it’s time to do dishes.  Actually, forget dishes I’m going to bed.  

Thursday:  Morning chaos.  Then go to work, which is really ramping up.  Then gymnastics across the island, then get home to finish the work I left before gymnastics.  Meanwhile, the kids want to play video games, and I have the audacity to recommend they go outside instead.  For this, my son declares it’s the “worst day of his life.”  

Welcome to tyranny, kids.  

Right about now is where I notice all my kids using the “S” word when talking about the pending weekend.  The “S” word is easily the ugliest, most dreadful word in my children’s vernacular.  If your children are reading this, please cover their eyes…

Sleep*ver: defined as neighborhood kids helping our kids turn into punks, flood the house with Legos, and not sleep.  We should really be calling these “awake-overs.” 

Friday:  The kids don’t have school.  It’s not a holiday, they apparently just don’t have school.  Because in Guam Friday is for partying.  

Anyway, I work from home early and then head into the office for a few hours while the kids roam the neighborhood doing who-knows-what.  Honestly, I just hope they have pants on.

At the office I make arrangements to fly to Hawaii on Sunday morning.  Mom gets home Monday night, so there’s a gap in kid coverage.  It’s all becoming rather stressful.  Just when I’m ready to tap out of this unique social experiment, I get the word: one of the kids has lice.  Holy sleep*ver!

I get home, treat the hair, and handle child’s fragile psychological state.  Good to go. Now I just need to put the entire house in trash bags Dexter-style, and then do 18 loads of laundry – all while trying not to convulse at the thought that there were actual bugs living in my kids’ hair.  

I pop on a movie and finish this hellacious night outside with a questionably large glass of wine.  I’m starting to get my wife…  

IMG_2899 (1)

Saturday:  Breakfast of champions is Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Then we get ready for soccer, which is a game of 21-questions.  Like, “where did you last remember having your jersey?” and “why do you not have shin guards?” and “WERE LATE WHY AREN’T YOU IN THE CAR ALREADY???”  Another Saturday in paradise.  

That evening the base is hosting a Halloween event, so the kids get to dress up in their costumes for the 18th time this month, and spend some time with their friends.  Of course, they’re only allowed to do this after they’ve had their dinner…


On the way home I load the kids up with candy, and then remind them that I’m leaving in the morning and they will be staying with our neighbors for two days until mom gets back from the states.  Ok?  Ok?  

Suffice it to say, it was not ok.  “We talked about this, guys” I explained.  Say, where have I heard that phrase before??  Holy cow I’m becoming more like my wife with each passing second.  Anyway, I pull over to address the river of tears.

And this, right here, is why single parents have it so hard.  It’s not balancing household chores with deadlines at work, nor is it the moments when you just want to sit and veg out but can’t because a school project is due tomorrow.  It’s hardest when your kids are devastated and there’s no-one else to help – you just have to figure it out yourself.  

My wife just did this for over seven months while I was deployed.  Other parents out there have to do this, like, forever.  I did it for seven days.  I tip my cap to you, single parents.  You have my sympathy and admiration all at once.  

In truth, I am blessed beyond measure to have such happy, healthy children, and this week was precious… minus the lice, and some other things. 

As for my kids, I’m pretty sure they’re doing all their homework and eating well and enjoying their sleep*ver with the neighbors.  And if not, I really don’t care as long as they’re wearing pants.  

A final note to my wife: welcome home.  Now kindly make your way to the store because we desperately need more milk and cereal.  Also, I know I don’t need to tell you this, but…

Grab a bottle of wine while you’re at it.


A Step by Step Guide on How to Move Your Family to Guam Without Any Drama Whatsoever

We’re baaaaacck! And in case you’ve been out of the loop since my last post (over two years ago), here’s a recap: I spent 8 months living by myself in Norfolk, VA prepping for a deployment, then I deployed for 7 months, then I came back. And then, we PCS’d (military slang for moved) to Guam.  So basically, we’ve followed the standard progression of any normal family of five from Northern Virginia…   


Perfectly normal family here.

Bottom line: our kids are older, my hair is thinner, and my wife is *loving* the Navy more than ever. Which happens to be where this whole blog picks back up…

So. If you’ve ever wondered how a legit professional takes his family and moves them to Guam without ANY drama/tears/tantrums/ iterations of ”oh-my-gosh-why-are-you-doing-this-to-me”, then listen up. Because I’m about to educate you.


This is huge. You see, when faced with orders to move to a small island kinda near Japan (but really not near anything), your spouse may want to talk to you about all these questions she has, like “where are we going to live?” and “when is all of this going to happen?” and most importantly, “where the heck is Guam?” Fortunately for you, you will be on the other side of the world, incapable of answering any questions whatsoever. It makes the news that much easier to digest.


Me being too busy to discuss moving to Guam…


Medical screening needs to be completed. Are we sure Brody had his tetanus shot? Movers need to be arranged. Car needs to be shipped. We need to get on the base housing list. We need to enroll the kids in school. We need to do it now!


Stop wasting time, this medical screening is due ASAP!!!

Problem is, nothing happens until written orders are in hand. And getting written orders from the military can be as enjoyable as a 16 week seminar in “Commercial Paper.”   Or (foreshadow alert!) a 36-hour flight to Guam. Super fun.


My wife just *loves* comments like these:

“You scheduled the pack out for a Tuesday, huh? I would have gone with later in the week.”


Should have done this Friday…

“I see we let the kids color and paint all over the floor and walls in the dining room while I was gone.” Or…

“Did you forget about the lawnmower I left in the garage while I was deployed?”

Stuff like that goes over real well in our house.  


You love this neighborhood, huh?  Well this is no time to get all sentimental on me. Paint the walls. Clean the carpets. Replace the carpets. Fix the grout. Stain the deck. AND FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE DON’T LET THE KIDS WALK ALL OVER THE DECK I JUST STAINED!!!

Fun like that…


Yep. I’m just gonna leave this one right here without further comment. Moving on…


Sometimes Always the Navy likes to spend as little as humanely possible, without any consideration for your well-being or the well-being of your family. So a direct flight might make a whole lot more sense and cut out five hours of flight time, but if it’s costs an extra $10 in the system, you’re not getting that direct flight.

Nope, instead you wind up with a downright hellacious itinerary that starts in D.C. and goes to Detroit and then to Tokyo and then some random Japanese Island I’ve never heard of before called “Kansai”…and then to Guam. Leave Tuesday morning, arrive Wednesday at midnight. More on this in a bit…


If you end up with text messages like this, then you’re doing it right:

Friend:  Can you get together tonight? 

Me: Actually, I’m boarding a flight and won’t be available for three years.


It’s easy! I mean, it’s not like a 14 hour time difference will impact your children in any way.

But here is the REALLY important part: overlook where everyone is sitting until minutes before boarding. Then realize your seat is nowhere near your family’s. Then make your useless attempt at convincing the very nice Japanese couple that can’t speak a word of English to trade seats with you.

Then, sit alone in silence and pretend not to hear the screams from the back of the plane. 


Me looking fabulous.  And not hearing the drama in the back…


To soften the blow of a move to Guam the Navy sends you and your family to a hotel. It’s downright cruelty. From here, you will discover there is an “unanticipated shortage” of base housing and that we might be living there for a while. Welcome to paradise.


Loving this hotel…


Here’s the process: (1) go to office that has your car and fill out forms, (2) go to the DMV to fill out forms, (3) go back to the office that has your car to…you guessed it…fill out forms. But wait! Brand new policy involving…you guessed it again…more forms. (4) Take the forms to customs, and then (5) bring them back for processing. And if you think your work is done? Start back at one.

Even Brian McNight couldn’t make this romantic…


A box of strawberries? $9. On sale. Dinner for five? $75. Kid’s meals aren’t what they used to be. Breakfast muffins? $5 each. The blows keep coming: Phone plans, sun screen, internet, moving costs, therapy. It all adds up SUPER fast, and your ability to make ends meet is ENTIRELY dependent upon the skill and capability of some Personnel Specialist Seaman Apprentice with about five months of experience in the Navy. So good luck with all that.




See:  “The kids didn’t pass the swim test? So sorry. Gotta run!”

See also: “The air conditioner isn’t working at our rental? Bummer. Let’s talk about this later!”

Hate it when that happens…


Daughter: Daddy why did we have to move to Guam?

Me: Chocolate, or vanilla?

Oh, and for the older crowd…

Spouse:  Didn’t you say we would be making MORE money out here than back at home? 

Me:  White wine, or red?  

And if that fails…


My personal go-tos are “I’m sure a house will open up any day now” and “we’re gonna do some amazing traveling real soon.” If you’re really desperate, you may try offering to acquire a new wardrobe. Or diamonds.  Or plastic surgery. Or something crazy like that. Regardless, you gotta go big here, because the usual flowers or night out on the town just aren’t gonna cut it. And besides, after all this, a night on the town with you is gonna be the last thing she needs.



We’re going to Australia soon?  



DISCLAIMER: In all actuality, we are having a great time, and making lots of new friends. Most of the time. And I’m told by the local Navy divorce attorney that my wife hasn’t made an appointment yet. So that’s always a good sign.

My Golf Outing with President Obama

On Saturday, I ran into the President of the United States at a golf course.  Twice.  You know, no big deal or anything… 

Before I get into that, let me just say that I never truly appreciated the awesomeness of the sport of golf until I had kids.  It didn’t help that I was awful and would consistently hit the ball 60 yards into the woods.  Furthermore, it was expensive, exhausting, and dragged on for six hours.  SIX HOURS! 

But in a world of diaper changes, spilled milk, and unwanted drawings on the kitchen table, golf represents freedom and tranquility – for six glorious hours. 

This is why I golf

This is why I golf

Well, Saturday, my brother in law and I headed out to the Fort Belvoir Golf Course.  The only time I had ever played there before, President Obama was there.  So when we arrived and saw dozens of “golfers” with funky wires going into their ears, I already suspected he might be there again. 

When we walked up to the starter, we were informed that the course was on “lockdown.”  Nobody explained what that meant, but apparently everyone knew.  I probably heard the word 30 times in the course of about four minutes.  “Lockdown, lockdown.”  That’s fun to say…

Anyway, we were told that we would not be able to start our round because, well, the course was on “lockdown.”  Our choices were to go to the driving range, or hang out in the clubhouse.  We opted for the range. 

On our way over, the sheer number of secret service agents in the area multiplied.  POTUS was near.

Then we were frisked.  Now, in law school, I was taught to pretty much never consent to a search by law enforcement.  But when a secret service agent with a wand stepped up and asked if she could search my bag, I said “sure.”  Besides, something told me this search was not optional….

As I looked at the range, I noticed a group of tee boxes in the corner that was roped off.  There were fancy pyramids of balls on every station in that area, and so naturally I got as close to them as I could.   If the President wasn’t gonna show up, I figured I might be able to snag a few free range balls while noone was looking. 

I grabbed a bucket of balls and started practicing.  A few minutes later, I kid you not, I looked over and saw the President hitting a nine-iron.   There was no Hail to the Chief played, no red carpets, no big announcement.  I just hit a ball, looked to my left, and saw he was there.  “Yep, that’s the President three tee boxes over.”  

A few things I noticed while I pretended not to stare: he was wearing Chicago White Sox golf shoes (Go Nats!), he’s a lefty (which makes sense), and he’s very, very skinny (Michelle really is a health freak…).   He only worked on his irons – which he hit quite well.  Meanwhile, all I was pretty much hitting at this point was my driver.  If it weren’t for this, and politics, we would have so much in common…

Anyway, after about 10 minutes, the President headed up to his cart.  As he did so, he walked past me at no more than five yards away.  I noticed everyone else on the range was staring, but no one said a word.  Knowing this was my chance to interact with the most powerful man in the world, I yelled in his direction the only thing that came to mind:  “HIT EM STRAIGHT, SIR!” 

Note:  I’ve often thought about what I would say to the President if I had the opportunity, and always figured it would be something profound and inspirational.  Yet when it came down to it, I yelled something so unsophisticated you would think I was one of those idiots who screams “GET IN THE HOLE!” after every shot Tiger Woods takes.  Nice. 

Immediately, the President turned around and walked right up to me.  With a surprisingly genuine tone and demeanor, he asked my name, we shook hands, and he thanked me for “all I do.”  It was a questionably delicate handshake, but I think that mostly stems from the fact that he was wearing a golf glove…

Now, we live in a world where nothing like this is true unless there’s a picture on Instagram to prove it, but I didn’t feel like interrupting the President’s round of golf to do so.    And even if I did, I’m not sure that there’s a wall in our house on which my wife (who makes a conservative like myself look like Arianna Huffington) would let it hang.  So no, there’s no picture of this.    

I have to say: the sincerity with which President Obama spoke and interacted with me was undeniable.   It felt like we were just two guys on a golf course – only, surrounded by countless secret service agents.    Heck, if there weren’t snipers with guns pointed directly at my chest, I may have given him a hug to consummate this newfound bro-mance. 

And then he hopped in his golf cart and took off with his group.  In case you’re wondering, the other people in the President’s group paid for themselves.   I know this because they were in front of us when we paid.  So, apparently, Executive Privilege doesn’t get you very far at the golf course. 

Oddly enough, this whole interaction wasn’t even the highlight of my day…

On the 11th hole, I noticed more and more unmarked government cars pulling up.  Looking around, I also saw more of those “golfers” with lots of stuff going on in their ears.  As I approached the green, an agent with a wand walks out and frisks all of us, and then checks our bags. ***

*** At no point did he ask for my consent – the hallmark of an unconstitutional search! 

Anyway, I’m about to putt and realize what all the fuss is about.  Standing at about 350 yards back, I see President Obama and his group standing at the tee box.  It suddenly hit me: the President of the United States was waiting for me.  “In that case I’m sorry, Mr. President, but you’re gonna have to wait.”  I took a few practice strokes as I soaked all this in, and revisited the greatest golf tip ever given:

And then I tapped it in. 

It’s not everyday you see the President.  But Saturday, on a golf course of all places, I ran into him twice.  More importantly, I got to escape time-outs and endless requests for “more juice” and “new shoes” on a nice day… for six glorious hours. 

Man do I love golf… 


And so does Riley


A Toast to My First Real Month as a Father of Three

Within minutes of walking through the door from Rhode Island, I watched in amazement as my two-year-old daughter pulled up her shirt and attempted to breastfeed one of her dolls.  Right then, I knew my life was about to become crazier than ever. 

For those unfamiliar, I was training with the military in Rhode Island from January to late March.  Naval Justice School involved me waking up at 9am on Saturdays, popping leftover pizza in the microwave, and watching college hoops all weekend.  IT WAS BASICALLY SLAVERY!!!  

Meanwhile, Jackie was home caring for our newborn son, as well as herding our toddlers 24/7.  I’m sure you’re probably wondering what she, as a temporarily single stay-at-home mom, was doing all day…


Must be nice
(courtesy of parentsociety.com)

Transitioning from the bachelor lifestyle in Rhode Island back to a father of three at home was about as brutal for me as, well, an episode of The Bachelor.  For instance, recently I introduced baby Brody to the bottle for the first time.  This experience began with me assuring my wife that “it’s cool, I got this” and ended with me screaming “JACKIE!  THIS ISNT WORKING!!!” ***

*** These days everyone seems to have a shirt that says “Keep Calm.”  Well, I want a shirt for occasions like this that says “MAYBE I DON’T WANT TO KEEP CALM!!!”

To make matters worse, Brody already has to deal with all that comes with being the youngest of three.   Indeed, Riley loves smothering him with open-mouth kisses, and Jimmy just loves smothering him.   Thankfully, he only cries when (a) he’s hungry, (b) he’s gassy, or (c) he sees Jimmy coming. 

And while Brody may not communicate often, his older brother sure does… 

First off, if Jimmy hears anything outside, he points to the sky and assures me it’s an “air-pane” (although half the time it’s actually our neighbor’s lawnmower).  When I get up with Jimmy early in the morning, he will continually ask for “Wiley” until she wakes up.  And finally, he thinks “no” is the proper answer to every question asked.  Watch:

Me: “Can I change your diaper?” Jimmy: “No!”

Me: “You wanna go to bed?”  Jimmy: “No!”

Nothing abnormal so far, but wait…

Me: “You want ice cream?” Jimmy: “No!”

Me: “You want chocolate cake?”  Jimmy: “No!” 

Clearly he has no idea what he’s missing… 

As for “Wiley,” well, she calls her mom “Jackie” (we’re working on this…), and her crib is something you would see on the show Hoarders.  She loves Greek yogurt more than John Stamos, and she eats her Oreos cream first – the way we do it in America!   


Future Oikos spokeswoman

Furthermore, let me just say I can only read “The Nose Book” to Riley so many times before it DRIVES. ME. CRAZY!  Fortunately, I have a solution called the “Three Reads Rule.”  It goes like this: I will read any book she wants three times, and then I will physically throw that book as far as I can across the room.  If Riley goes and gets it (which she usually does), then I will read it another three times.  Every now and then, though, she finds something else to do… and it’s glorious. 

Don’t judge.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention bath time.  See, you would think that because I am now a Naval Officer, I would have some ability to control my little sailors while they’re in the water.  But you would be dead wrong.   Despite my orders not to do so, those kids genuinely love drinking bath water – especially when it’s flavored with bubbles.  Indeed, they wait until they think I’m not looking, and then they chug.  Come to think of it, they drink like Sailors! 

And now for a few words in remembrance of my last phone.   See, our kids love phones, and there are ample toddler-friendly apps for smartphones that tend to make dinnertime much more enjoyable.  However, this all comes at a steep cost.  Indeed, last week the date on my phone was June 3, 1981, and shortly thereafter it died forever.  So, if you want to know the kind of wear-and-tear two curious toddlers will put on your smartphone, then simply drop it in the nearest toilet bowl for an hour and see how it goes. 


The cell phone in Jimmy’s hands is doomed…

PS: on a related note, if I haven’t talked to you in years but randomly “like” your Facebook post about how “awful” Verizon’s customer service is, then odds are it was Riley messing with my new phone.  Besides, I have far more insulting things to say about Verizon. 

Anyway.  We recently celebrated Jimmy and Riley’s second birthday – two years old!  When Jackie was pregnant, experienced parents would encourage us to “enjoy every moment” because it’s over “before you know it.”  And although I certainly do not “enjoy every moment” of fatherhood, I try to make myself aware of those special moments that are bigger than they originally seem…

The other night Riley was crying in her crib for a solid hour and a half, refusing to sleep.   So, I reluctantly marched up to her room and sang Mr. Big’s “To Be With You” until she fell asleep in my arms.  For about 30 minutes, I sat on the rocking chair and thought about how much more incredible Jackie and my journey has been since these kids came along for the ride.  This is how parenting apparently works – constant chaos sprinkled with the occasional realization that you would have it no other way. 

I’m thankful God has given me a gassy-but-happy baby, a daughter that loves “The Nose Book,” and a son that thinks your lawnmower is an “air-pane.” 

So grab a glass of bath water and let’s toast to a crazy month with Brody, Jimmy… and “Wiley” too.  Cheers! 


***In Loving Memory of Jim’s Droid (2011-2013)*** 

You Can’t Handle the Truth: Life at Naval Justice School

Lieutenant Junior Grade Jim Howland, reporting for duty. Kind of.

Well folks, the Navy has sent me back to Newport, RI to get my knowledge on at Naval Justice School – ten weeks of learning all the fun stuff that comes with being a military lawyer. More on that in a bit…

I left January 22, and I assure you I was in a glass cage of emotion. Leaving Jackie and the kids was incredibly hard for me – in fact, there may or may not have been tears as I hugged Jimmy and Riley goodbye. What?

Anyway, my sadness quickly turned into anger as I paid toll after toll after painful freaking toll heading north on Interstate 95. $6 to get out of Maryland. $13 to get through Delaware. The farther north I went, the more I shelled out. At one point, I actually considered this a violation of my Constitutional right to travel.

And this, my friends, is why people hate lawyers.

Eventually, in a moment of golden irony, I hit the New York City skyline right as Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ rendition of “Empire State of Mind” came on the radio. In retrospect, this was probably not a coincidence. Either way, the volume went up and so did my whiteness factor. What can I say? Big lights will inspire me.

Fortunately, I arrived at Naval Station Newport safe and sound. And pretty much broke.

So. First day of class, and there I am. Hopelessly lost in a room of about 25 Naval Officers and 35 Marines. I knew two of them. It took very little time for me to notice a stark contrast between the Marines and the Sailors. Allow me to expand a bit…

First, Marines just talk differently. They say “rah” all the time, regardless of the appropriateness. They all have crazy stories from Officer Candidate School and The Basic School, and they are not afraid to share them. During the first few months of college I would meet people who went to the same high school and always wanted to talk about how awesome their experience was. Well, that’s kind of how it feels when I’m around these guys. Fortunately, their stories are hilarious.

A few other things: they dip, they curse, and they are not your normal lawyers. In fact, they all hate it here, and would much rather be in the forest somewhere with their faces painted and a rifle in their hands. Oorah?

Anyway. Class begins at Zero Seven Thirty and goes until Seventeen Hundred. To clarify: we do absolutely nothing at Zero Dark Thirty, and the only thing being fired at us is PowerPoint Slides. But I assure you what we do is dangerous.

Here’s what we’ve learned how to do thus far:

-write wills (well, technically a computer program actually writes it);
-write letters (with fancy letterhead!); and
-write…more letters.

Perhaps you’ve noticed a theme.

We’ve also had a riveting debate over whether the Navy Correspondence Manual should require two spaces after a period, or just one. I for one am a fan of two spaces, but I tread carefully because this debate gets personal.

You may be thinking: when are we gonna learn how to bust “Code Reds” out of Guantanamo Bay? Well, we haven’t had that class yet. But I did spot a Code Red Mountain Dew at the Commissary. So that’s exciting.

On Thursday mornings, we partake in a fun little activity called “Pain Before Breakfast.” This is a five mile run at five thirty in the morning. Five. Freaking. Thirty. Of course, attending Pain Before Breakfast is entirely voluntary – kind of the same way you “voluntarily” get in the car when a mob boss pulls up and asks you to join him. And in case my Executive Officer happens to read this, I would like to go on record as saying I absolutely love Pain Before Breakfast and look forward to it every week. Smile.

Fortunately, Pain Before Breakfast is not the only way I strive to exercise – I’m also on the basketball team. For a good laugh, watch me play basketball. Seriously it’s hilarious.

As for Newport, it’s beautiful, but it’s cold. If the low temps don’t make you miserable, the wind will. Sometimes I drive literally across the street because, trust me, it’s worth it. I brought my golf clubs with me thinking I might be able to get out and play. Those poor clubs have been sentenced to solitary confinement in my trunk for the next seven weeks.

And speaking of confinement, I call Jackie (now 36 weeks pregnant) at night to check in on her and see how she’s hanging in there. Here’s how our nice little conversations go…

Me: so how was your day?
Jackie: it was fine. JIMMY, PUT THAT DOWN RIGHT NOW!
Me: Nice. What are you getting into tonight?

Good talk.

And as much as I miss the kids, I do not miss getting up with them at night. No chance. Eight hours of sleep is a glorious perk of my time here, and I know that when I come home we will have a newborn. Here’s another perk: I have a maid. And she’s awesome: she is a mother of two who works 5 days a week, and then goes to school at night because she wants to become a teacher. God bless ‘Murrica!

So that’s Naval Justice School. I’m just doing my part to kill the terrorists one legal ethics opinion at a time. More to come.

Code Red. Oorah. Over.

My First Five Weeks In The Military…


Apparently this means get ready to do pushups.  It’s “zero four thirty” and I have lots to learn today in sunny Newport, RI.  Indeed, we’re just getting started…


A few questions go through my mind: am I getting yelled at by a woman or a man?  How the heck did I get here?  And most importantly: am I wearing underwear? 

Back to reality: now we’re doing something called 6-90s.  It’s where you lie on your back with your feet 6 inches above the ground, and raise them to a 90 degree angle.  And repeat.  Wait, is this a p90x move?!?! 

It was Day Three.  I think.  Allow me to walk you through the remainder of our average day:

After the abrupt wake-ups, we would go outside to “PT” (which means physical training) for an hour.  This involved running or calisthenics, or some combination of the two.  We also did an insane amount of stretching.  Like, for every minute we worked out, we probably spent two minutes stretching.  This was weird.  I mean, who actually stretches these days? 

Then we ate: 15 minutes, no talking.  And no “skylarking” (looking around) either!  Ahh, you gotta love military words.   Here’s a few more: bulkhead (wall), ladder well (stairs), and Roger that (which according to Urban Dictionary means “I understand”).  Roger that?

Then came an hour of marching.  This was pure comedy. 

At a philosophical level, marching in the Navy makes absolutely no sense.  I mean, sailors work on ships – a place with very little marching room.  Add to that the fact that I am in a class of “staff corps” officers (doctors, lawyers, nurses, nuclear reactors, etc).  What you get is some sloppy marching. 

“Right face!”  “About face!”  “Center face!”  All this means something to those who have marched before.  I was new to all of it.  And I sucked at it…

Then came a period of time known as “hygiene.” As in, “you have three-five minutes for hygiene.”  Here was where we would make our beds (a brutal chore for someone who hates making the bed), shower, get the uniform on, and be ready to go.  The men’s bathroom was like a scene out of Top Gun… only with far fewer 6 pack abs, and no time to air dry. 

Then we sat through PowerPoint presentations.  All. Day. Long. No caffeine, and very few breaks.  I wasn’t ready for this.  Sleeping was not allowed (and strictly enforced), and we would be tested on all of this.  I missed law school!

We also had a drill instructor.  He was then one who whipped us into shape and taught us what we needed to know.  Importantly, he was the one who determined how long we would have to stand at attention.  In case you’ve never done it, standing at attention is really uncomfortable after a while. 

Note: If you are a Marine or Navy Seal or something like that, please don’t judge me.

In the evenings we would eat again.  Same rules: no skylarking, no talking, and 15 minutes to eat – I was usually done in 5.  I would spend the next 10 minutes trying to avoid eye contact with my friends – something that would always cause me to start laughing.  Oh, and another mealtime rule I forgot to mention: no laughing. 

Then we would march for another hour.  I’ve said my peace about Navy marching.  So anyway…

Then we would head into our “House” (think dorms) and clean, do laundry, study, or workout.  Don’t tell my wife this, but I actually got good at handling my own laundry.  Now shh!!!

Then, our company (54 officers) sang songs together before bed.  We recited the classics: Sailor’s Creed, Anchors Aweigh, and the Marine’s Hymn.  We sounded terrible, but we would improve as time went on. 

And that about wraps up the average day for five weeks.  Not boot camp, not summer camp, but somewhere right in between.  Before I move on, allow me once more to emphasize how BRUTAL the PowerPoints were – and I work for a consulting firm!  Ok, now I’m done… 

Some of the highlights included:

–          Going aboard the USS Michael Murphy – the newest destroyer in the Navy.  That ship alone could take out most countries.  One word comes to mind: ‘Merica!

–          Learning how to make a flotation device out of navy trousers.  Look out Bear Grylls!

–          Going out on the town in my summer white uniform and being thanked for my service – of three weeks!

–          Pushup contests.

–          Letters from home.

–          Helping save a fake ship (the USS Buttercup – a very manly vessel) from sinking

–          Singing “Tearin Up My Heart” to a crowd of locals on Karaoke night

–          Raising the flag in uniform

–          Spending close to $2,000 on my uniform (no discount double-check!)

–          Getting the shortest haircut of probably my entire life

–          Being required to say things like “Kill!” all the time. **

**  To demonstrate how much fun I had saying “kill,” I will be using the word as often as possible throughout the remainder of this post.   Get ready…

Of course, I had it easy compared to Jackie, who was at home with the babies – two born, one unborn.  Closing out the first trimester of her pregnancy with two stubborn 16-month olds was undoubtedly exhausting.  Bottom line: my wife is amazing (cheap brownie points I know, but I will take them).  Kill!

Fortunately, Jackie, her mom, and the kids came up for my graduation.  I went to see the babies at the hotel room and my worst fear came true: they didn’t recognize me.  In fact, they were scared of me.  Perhaps this was because my hair was short, my boots made me stand about 2 inches taller, and I was wearing my Navy fatigues.  Still, it was a punch in the gut. 

It took them a few minutes to recognize me, and then all became right with the world…

I needed this

 It was so awesome to see them.  It was also an ice cold glass of water to the face: welcome back to being dad!  Indeed, at the graduation reception while most of my friends were drinking and socializing, Jackie and I chased the babies around the ballroom.  The entire time.  “Nice to meet you – oh, Riley, no, no, no, come back!” I must have had this conversation six times. 


Even better: Jimmy ran up to the Commanding Officer of Naval Training Command, Captain Kemper, and hit him in the back of the leg.  Yep, that’s my son scarfing down meatballs and hitting the Commanding Officer. 

Note: one day, he’ll wonder why he didn’t get into the Naval Academy…

The night before graduation we were allowed to sleep off base so long as we were back at 0430.  I slept with Jackie, my mother in law, and the babies in the hotel room and got a full 45 minutes of sleep.  But it was worth it to see them again.  At least that’s what I kept telling myself…

The next night I was home, sleeping in my very own “rack” (where hospital corners aren’t required).  From here, I wait to get my bar exam results, at which time I will begin fulfilling my four year commitment to the Navy JAG Corps.  I’m thankful to God for getting me where I am today; excited about the adventures in store; and honored to begin my military career.  As they say: Anchors Aweigh!  

And oh yea… KILL!!!


Jimmy’s doing a little “PT” of his own!


























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