As evidence that we’re all just five-year-old boys on the inside, I’ll admit I fell for Bridget Rainey’s Anchorage-based blog while I was reading a post about Jackson, the more rascally of her five-year-old twins, who wouldn’t quit saying “butt cheeks.”
“He sings it along to the radio,” she wrote. “Instead of the words to the songs (he knows all of them) he just says, 'my buttcheeks, my buttcheeks, my buttcheeks.’ Go ahead and sing that to the tune of 'Moves Like Jagger.’
Rainey is one of hundreds of women in Anchorage right now, waiting for their husbands to return from Afghanistan. Her blog, “Twinisms,” is a chronicle of her life with two sets of twins: Jackson and Reece, who are 5, and Taryn and John, who are 15. (If she knew the second set were going to be twins, she told me, she would have opted for a puppy.) Her husband, Dallas, an Army first lieutenant, deployed to Afghanistan last fall with the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
There’s still a war going on. Even in a military town, sometimes a person can forget that. JBER and civilian Anchorage can feel like different planets. Rainey’s blog brings the life of one local military wife into tight focus. She’ll crack you up and choke you up all at once.
Rainey has a master’s degree in theater. She says she’s a venter, not a writer, but the world of her blog feels like an addictive television show, full of anecdotes told in dialog and illustrated with cell phone pictures. She’s honest in a way that feels real without being too raw or self indulgent. She started just over a year ago.
The material is endless, of course. The children provide a stream of mini-plots. There’s the time one of the little ones got his hand stuck in the gumball dispenser
at the PX. And the time one of the older ones fell off his bike and ended up injuring his kidney (that was scary, not funny). And there’s The Stupid Dog. It chewed up one of the twins’ retainers and had bladder stone surgery. (It’s okay, she didn’t really need to use all that money for the vet bill for a trip out of this godforsaken icebox to Vegas.)
Life in her house is messy. Anyone with kids can relate. For example, this description of a preschool boy’s approach to the toilet:“Stand near the toilet. Not close enough for all of your pee to go in the bowl, that would be crazy. Pee for a few seconds on the shower curtain, the bathroom rug, and the toilet paper. Continue peeing into the bowl while moving around enough that it splatters everywhere . . . Do not flush. Do not wash your hands.”
Behind all the jokes, there’s a shadow character, the one who used to leave his water bottle on the counter and his socks on the bedroom floor. He is halfway across the world in a dangerous place. Rainey doesn’t dwell on this too much, though once in a while the anxiety flashes through. The kids miss him. His absence means cooking nice dinners that no one will appreciate. It means shoveling the roof. It guarantees the dishwasher will break.
Her website, originally written for friends and family, has between 700 and 1,000 hits a day. It has been featured on the WordPress homepage and the site ScaryMommy.com.
“I think (readers) go to it for a laugh,” she said. “That’s what I look for in a blog.”
But, sometimes things aren’t funny. Like the first time a soldier from her husband’s brigade was killed.
“I went to my room, closed the door, and sobbed for a long time. I cried for him and for his family, for his fellow Soldiers, and for the others injured in the incident,” she wrote.
“But mostly, I cried for me. Because my husband is over there too and all of the sudden the possibility that it could have been him became all too real.”
On posts like that, the comments pile up. Extra support is an unexpected byproduct of her blogging.
“It just makes you feel less alone,” she said. “I think a lot of military families feel alone.”
This is the Raineys’ second deployment. Bridget has developed strategies to get by. She runs. She has coffee with other Army wives. She keeps up with a long succession of dentist appointments and soccer games. All the while, she keeps writing. No subject is off limits. Sex. Wine consumption. Plastic surgery. Poop. (With pictures!)
She has a rule about not writing anything she wouldn’t tell her mother, her husband or her kids. Once in a while she skirts the line.
“I wrote a post, I thought it was hysterical, about (my husband) getting his vasectomy and he wrote me and said, 'Really?’ ”
He reminds her, on occasion, that his grandmother reads her blog, she said. Luckily, she tells him, grandma has a great sense of humor. He doesn’t read it regularly, she said. This drives her crazy.
I got a kick out of a post written when she hadn’t seen her husband for 141 days. (That’s 3,384 hours. 203,040 minutes. 12,182,400 seconds, she calculated.) She and another Army wife, Sara, went out to lunch and found themselves admiring the waiter. “Eye candy for their deprived little lives.”
“He looked a little like Peeta from The Hunger Games – only hotter. He was also a very nice and attentive waiter,” she wrote.
“I know because (her friend’s son) “dropped” his fork on the floor at least 16 times. Each time, (the waiter) jogged to our table, bent over, and picked it up. Sara and I made sure Lucas had a steady supply of flatware.”
Relationships between wives during deployments gets close, fast. Months later, she played Sara’s “ deployment husband,” holding her hand through a C-section.
“To see the beginning of an amazing story appear, suddenly,” she wrote. “Both noisy and quiet, messy and perfect, alone and surrounded by love.”
Rainey’s posts aren’t long, but they nearly always have a brilliant (sometimes photographic) punch line.
Toward the end of the school year, she wrote a classic about cute, glue-gun-fashioned teacher gift suggestions found on Pinterest. There’s a whole craft vein in the world of Army wives. Rainey is not crafty. In the end, she settled on giving teachers bags containing Target gift cards and bottles of wine.
She took a picture of them and posted it.