Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 297: Scary

I don't know if she is psychic or could sense my exhaustion yesterday, but this morning Lil Bit woke up around 8:15 but gurgled and napped and played quietly for another hour and a half, letting me sleep until 9:45. It was LOVELY!!! Sometimes she is so good it is scary.

We don't have any big plans for Halloween. She is too little to Trick or Treat, but we plan to hand out candy with her in her costume. She is so stinking cute in her little tiger costume. I was so proud that her dad's squadron posted her picture on their facebook page.

We did get a phone call from daddy today. He sounded terrible. He is exhausted and sick. I don't know what exactly is wrong, but he tends to get sick a lot over there. Not enough sleep, different food and germs, stress tends to add up to feeling sick. Over his deployments, it seems like he and I both seem to get sick at the same time. I wonder if we just get run down from missing each other.  It certainly is hard on both of us.

This time especially, I have gotten really focused on just surviving, getting through each day, and I sometimes forget how much he is missing and how difficult it must be for him. He is spending an entire year away from his favorite . . . well, everything. Chad is completely cutoff from everything and everyone he loves AND is stressed, tired, sick, exhausted. I can't even imagine how difficult that has to be and he is sometimes in challenging situations.

I started this entry about how good our daughter is to let me sleep in and he would give anything to be snuggling with her on the couch right now. Sometimes our perspectives fail us in being fair to those around us. People close to me have sick grandmothers, fathers-in-law and are close to losing them. My life isn't what it used to be, but it is so full of wonderful moments. I have great friends, a beautiful daughter, a loving husband, and a great roof over my head. People all over this world have so much less than I do. I am really blessed and pray everyday my sweet husband will return home from a war zone.  I need to take a second here and there to remember what truly matters. Forgetting to be thankful for the blessings in your life, now that IS scary.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 298: Holdin' on

All week, despite being sick and exhausted, I have tried to stay very positive. I have worked very hard not to let myself get down. I think I did pretty good, but today I was just holding on.

I am so wiped out. I have just never been someone who goes goes goes. Lil Bit has been sleeping great at night, but the trade off is that she doesn't really nap. Today, I needed a nap like nobody's business. I was literally falling asleep on my feet and the baby not only wouldn't nap, but was cranky and needed me to hold her.

It is so exhausting. I feel like I spend all week waiting for the weekend so I can rest and get caught up on "stuff" and then spend all weekend trying to get to that stuff, most of which gets put off until the next weekend. Then I feel like I didn't get to spend any real time with my precious little girl because I spent the whole day trying to get things done. Today I really didn't do anything. My goals were just to get rest and eat, etc. and start on my Christmas shopping via the internet. I did most of that but walked past so many other things that need doing, knowing that everything I put aside, will need doing eventually.

It just feels like I am always playing catch up and falling further and further behind. It is rough trying to hold it together sometimes. I love my gorgeous daughter, very much! But days like today are difficult. There aren't enough hours in the days for me, her, house, dog, etc. Even on the best days, I struggle with having time to take care of myself on the most personal levels. I just don't know how to find the time to figure out how to make a cd of pictures and videos for my husband and create a holiday box for him and the letter for Lil Bit's tummy mommy this month. I also have the MRI and surgeries upcoming and the nodes on my thyroid. Life seems to be snowballing today and I am just holding on. The Lord is giving me strength to keep my chin up; it is the only explanation for how I am still able to sit here without crying. And knowing that my husband is safe gives me hope. I am really having a hard time missing him today, so getting an email and seeing some pictures really made a difference.

We all have these days no matter what our circumstances. Hopefully you have family, friends, and faith to help you survive. Just hold on for today, tomorrow will take care of itself.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 299: Milestone!

Now technically, we don't know if this is going to be a 365 deployment or 455 day deployment. His orders read 455 for his last deployment and he was told it would be a 15 month tour, but he was sent home at just over a year. I remember him calling to tell me they were shortening his tour and not believing it. All it generally takes is a few weeks "in" the army before you understand that nothing is certain until it is being done and even then, sometimes be suspicious.

I learned early that he isn't going anywhere or doing anything until he is ON the plane and in the AIR and ON American soil. Stuff happens. As they say, "If the army'd wanted him to have a wife, they would have issued him one." Currently all the politicians talk about supporting families, but really as long as they're deploying soldiers over and over and taking them away for large chunks of the few months they are home, what can the government do to support me? Not much. The extra money he gets a month is nice, but it really isn't very much considering that he risks his life. But our society rewards sports figures and reality stars more than soldiers, teachers, police officers, firemen, etc.

Ok, back from tangentville. This deployment, his orders said 455, but he was told it would be a twelve month tour. I have been counting down for a year, but am trying to stay mentally prepared that it could be longer. If they are some of the last troops in Iraq and the Iraqis forces have to be ready to take over before they can leave, he may be there for quite some time. I hope not. I cross my fingers and hope he will be home on time or even early. I wish he were home right now, but all I can do is wait.

In any case, getting under 300 days feels special. It is random and not even at a month marker, but it feels like a milestone. It is only 18% of the way finished with this year, which is a little depressing, but surviving a deployment is all about how it feels, getting closer, knowing that no matter how hard today was, it is one less day he is gone, one day closer to his return. So I am going to celebrate this milestone today. Even arbitrary markers are good ones when they are closer to bringing him home.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 300: Balance

Part of surviving a deployment is knowing how to love your spouse from afar and how to ask for what you need. The trick is sometime what you need is not what he is in a position to give emotionally or time wise, and what he needs may not be what you can give and be OK yourself. It is a really tough tightrope act to be able to find the right balance for yourself and as a couple.

One of the issues are how often to be in contact. It took my husband and I two deployments I think to get this right and sometimes we're still not on the same page. When I have days I just want to hear his voice, he may be on a 24 hour instant recall immediate response duty and not have the time or ability to wait in line for the phone. Sometimes he waits in long lines and calls, ready to talk and I am busy or not home or in the middle of something and don't feel like talking. I had to learn when to just decide to stop and take the time whether I was in the mood or not. While that sounds cold, other military wives might understand that I always love him, always want him to know that, but I sometimes get into a zone where I am doing ok, surviving, feeling good about myself and life and hearing his voice just destroys me.  One, "Hey," and all my survival walls come tumbling down. When he pauses and quietly says, "I miss you," it breaks my heart and makes me ache to hold him so much more. But, he is the one who has given up everything to defend our country, so I take the time even if it makes the rest of my day harder.

The guys sometimes just don't understand our point of view any more than we can understand theirs. I am in charge of all the finances in our household. My husband never ran up a debt he couldn't pay, but he was often down to his last penny. I will run up the credit card every month and pay it off every month so we are never charged a finance charge and get airline miles or cash back also. I was the one who saved up the $40,000 to adopt Lil Bit by budgeting our salaries over a couple of years. He knows it makes more sense for me to be in charge of our money, but other spouses try to control their wives' spending from Iraq. They call asking why she spent $40 at The Gap last week or $25 at Olive Garden. The wives aren't generally spending too much more than when the guys were home, but now he has no other way to keep tabs on her and every purchase reminds him that he isn't there to see her new outfit or try that bottle of wine with her.

They need reassurance that our lives haven't moved past them. That we aren't so independent that we won't need them when they come home. That when they have days so tough we can't imagine and the only thought that keeps them going is us, that we love them back that much too. I am a firm believer in get to the root of a problem, not just the symptom. Is he really angry about the money? If so, then cut back. Create a budget together and then if you find ways to save on utilities or groceries, that is your sock money for extras. Is he angry because he is jealous you are still living when he is stuck in the armpit of the world? Then reassure him that you wish he were here living with you. Tell him, often, that you can't wait to take that trip to wine country with him or try a special restaurant together and create a special fund for those things that he can see grow.

Most of the arguments my husband and I have had while he is deployed is because we only talk or email about once a week. He gets into his head and hatches plans and ideas that don't mesh with my plans and ideas I've been hatching in the meantime. Neither of our plans necessarily preclude the others, but it takes some practice to get back on the same page. You just have to know that especially so far apart, balance is crucial. Take a second and decide if it is worth even debating or if you can compromise or if it is really a non-issue that you're about to argue over due to emotions and stress.

Be selfish so you can survive the separation and still let him know he is loved. Give him attention and your time whenever he can work it in because I guarantee it is 100% harder for him to find the time to phone that it is for you to take the time to answer it. Take a few minutes a week to let him know how important he is and how much he is missed. Don't spend too much time blubbering, it will scare him into feeling like you won't be there when he comes home or that you're not OK. Find a good middle ground for him and you. Balance - a little bit you and a little bit me, and you should do just fine.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 301: Wet and Cold

I don't really know what to write about today. This has kind of been a nothing day. Although it didn't start off so wonderfully. Lil Bit woke up at 1:45 a.m. soaking wet and freezing cold. She went to bed at nine with a fresh diaper and by 1:45 had leaked pee pee everywhere. This did not make momma happy!

Why can't someone design a way to change crib sheets easily. In order to change the crib sheet, I have to follow the protocol below.
1. Pull crib out from wall, so I can get behind it to untie the less visible half of her crib bumper, which has two sets of ties every four slats or so.
2. Remove the mattress at an angle around her crib toys and mobile.
3. Pull off the wet sheet and throw it into the hamper
4. Fetch and stretch the clean sheet snugly around the mattress. Because the sheet is supposed to be very tight to decrease the chances of a child smothering on it, this is a little tricky.
5. Slide the mattress back into the crib, pulling the sections of attached crib bumper back up and over the mattress enough to be tight and still protect her from bashing her head into the side slats.
6. Straighten the bed skirt
7. Then retie all the teeny tiny little ties around the bumper so she can't grab a handful and put it over her face.

This process took twenty minutes - anyone else think this is ridiculous? Every time I have to change her sheets, I think this is crazy and wonder why someone hasn't designed an easier system for securing crib bumpers. I keep running this through my mind and wonder if I could invent some new amazing way to customize crib bumpers that are attractive and easy to attach and remove. As often as I want to change her sheets, this ridiculous struggle with the sheets just makes me want to scream.

Luckily, once I got her cleaned up and gave her a bottle, she was less upset. Although trying to wipe her down in lieu of a bath in the wee hours of the morning,  made her very angry. She absolutely hates being cold and wet, so anything that is cold AND wet is on her very short list of obnoxious things. Most of the time, Lil Bit is content and patient, at least as much as is reasonable for a healthy infant. But try to wipe her face with a damp, cold washcloth ~ holy smokes! Better watch out. She gets so angry!! Anymore, I heat a damp cloth in the microwave for a few seconds, get it nice and warm even to wipe her up during "dinner." Peas and carrots kind find their way all over her cute clothes if I am not vigilant.

I always try to find some deeper meaning in what is happening with me each day. Today is to be grateful for the little things. Despite all the middle of the night drama with the sheets, I was able to give her a bottle which I used a stuffed turtle to hold, while I worked on the bed. Between the turtle and her newly dexterous fingers, she was able to eat WHILE I changed her sheets which meant I was able to get back to sleep sooner. I still lost 30 minutes of sleep, but was so thankful that she could eat a few ounces while I changed her bed.

I can't imagine what I would have done if she had not been happy with my makeshift solution. I wouldn't have had anywhere to put a fussy baby while changing her sheets and would have had to hold her while she ate and calmed down and then faced the crib. She ate, got new pjs and was ready to go right back to bed. Other than not having it happen at all, it couldn't have gone any easier.

I am sick with a cold, feel wiped out and exhausted. I am just glad for the little things today. I was invited out for dinner with a friend, but just don't think I can marshal the effort. I hate to decline any invitation because developing and maintaining friendships is so important, but I can't breathe through my nose right now and need a nap. I think I am going to have to do dinner another night, I never know when I will have another crazy night. I think I just want some soup and something warm to drink. Maybe I will mull a bottle of red wine, mmm that sounds good. Check out my wine blog for tips on mulling wine.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 302: Poetry

This is a poem I wrote a few years ago. Every so often something reminds me of it and I drag it out and look at it again. Yesterday's blog about Thoreau made it come to mind. Hopefully it reminds you our time is finite and life should be savored not just muddled through. Try to find a happy medium between living each day like it is your last and planning for your future, neither is a guarantee. PEACE and God Bless!

Fools’ Luxury

Three minutes before heading home,
Striding purposely,
Laying out the evening at hand,
I passed a quiet man, gray and lined
Silently sweeping piles of dust and off-handed debris
From ancient tiles pooled with afternoon sun.
Wish it was Friday –
I answered his casual query
Why, he said – giving me internal pause –
Why would you wish days of your life away?
Too busy to stop, I flippantly shrugged
And carried on
But his simple wisdom rippled inside
Reverberating against my arrogance of immortality.
Why were these Wednesday hours less precious?
Where was my Thursday guarantee?
In an epiphany flash I wondered
How long I’d been always looking to the next finish line –
Friday        June        next Christmas –
How long ignoring my life,
Continuously waiting to live it,
Procrastinated dreams growing dimmer,
Days I’d let fall into dilapidation
Instead of carefully constructing each minute.
Time is fools’ luxury.
Those with no more would chide, if they could,
Would remind that Thoreau at his pond had it right.
Too many meet death without knowing life
Failing to embrace its falling seconds.
So this Wednesday I sit
And soak in cut grass and dampened dirt
Shivering in Winter’s dying wind
And try to teach myself
To walk the tightrope
Between looking toward tomorrow
While remembering to see today.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 303: Monday, Monday

Today was Monday and I was tired, but I had a choice what attitude I would have. The past week or two, I have just been counting days, struggling against the world, but have I been living?

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." -Thoreau

I can't spend 365 days waiting for him to come home. Today, I ran late to get to my orthopedic doctor's appointment, which makes me feel crazy, then sat waiting for a hour just to get into the exam room. The nurse took an x-ray of my knee, then told me if the problem ends up being in my hip, I have to call my general doctor for another referral. Of course after two minutes, he tells me I have fluid on my knee and he needs to see an x-ray of my hip too. Lucky me, I have to have two surgeries. I am already imagining the fun this will be with a baby. I ran to the grocery store because we were dangerously low on everything. When I got home, I was rushing to get stuff done before heading to daycare to pick up the baby. I shattered the coffee pot. So I had to make another trip to the store. Or go without coffee . . . HA, yeah, right!

Froggy Bottom Baby
I had all these things go WRONG and came home smiling. I downloaded a Michael Buble song and danced and sang and played with my daughter for an hour, making her giggle over and over. What joy!! I could have spent this afternoon moping and sad and scared and frustrated, but what is it going to solve? Nothing. I am still going to have to figure out what to do with the baby on crutches and have six-twelve weeks of recovery time. I would have wasted some precious hours with Lil Bit if I let my attitude get down.

Another friend of mine has been struggling with what to do during her husband's first deployment. She was great as a wife, but has been some one's daughter, girlfriend, fiance, wife, not yet a woman. She doesn't know who she is. She has been trying to fill her time with stuff, jogging, dining out, maybe a part time job, but deep down, she knows she needs to fill that void with HER. Whatever she needs to do to figure out how to live deliberately.

None of us want to realize when we come to die that we have not lived. But sometimes it is hard to find a way to live deliberately. Be in the moment. Worry about now the most. Keep the future in perspective. You have to think about it, you have to plan for it, but you don't have to worry quite so much. Find one thing to smile about and hold onto it as long as you can. Crying will happen, it is part of life and living it, just don't let it be what fills your time until tomorrow. Live deliberately friends, otherwise, you're just not living.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 304: Two down

This weekend, I got a rare treat. I got an hour long phone call from my husband. All the aching to just talk to him this week and I got my wish. Man, that felt incredible. We got to say all the "I miss you"s and "I love you"s we wanted. We even had enough time to get past the niceties and necessities (you know, how much money is in my account, mailing home some things, what do you need in your next package, etc.) and get to just talk!

Ever since last deployment, when I noticed a few trends in how deployments go, I have had a little theory. The first few days are hard, then at about two weeks it gets hard again, then another breakdown around two months. I spent all week being overwhelmed by the stack of essays, report card time and all the joys it brings, the visitation of Reanna, the exhaustion from parenting, the loneliness, etc. and never realized I was hitting the two month mark.

Man, that sneaky son of a biscuit eating bulldog. The whole idea of the theory is to be prepared for the rough stuff but I was so busy, I didn't realize I had hit a crucial threshold. Two months is so hard because he has been gone long enough, it starts feeling like he is really gone. I start to forget the way he smells, the way his face feels before bed, the way it feels to look into his eyes. But I still remember enough to keep my heart aching, to make my chest hurt, enough to feel a little lost without him.

On top of everything else, the FRG sent out an email yesterday, to quell rumors about injuries, but since I hadn't heard the rumors, it kind of backfired. Luckily no one was seriously hurt and Chad wasn't wounded at all. But it just added to the emotions weighing on my heart. How funny, people say when it rains, it pours for a reason and not the weather. Just a rough, rough week. And today, I can't stop smiling. I miss him, I am tired, but my precious girl was all about me today. I got my grades finished, did my spreadsheet, and got to talk to my sweet sister and her lovely children too.

Next week is a new ballgame and who knows what it will bring. All I know for sure is that this won't be the last rough week I have, nor probably the roughest, but we are one-sixth the way through this bad boy! Two months down, ten to go, five until R&R. Woo hoo! If I made it through this patch, I can do the rest. And exploring new wines is certainly helping - - - Where being a wino is all about enjoying the journey! Mmm - back to my glass.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 305: Putting out

Ok, so this is not about "that" kind of putting out. I spent the week exhausted and complaining and miserable. I apparently was so miserable that I made other people not want to be my friends. Well, once I learned in a marriage that loving someone and being in love with them is a lot about how much you're giving, not how much you're getting. The more you give, the happier you are, the happier he is, so he gives and gets happier, etc.

Conversely the more you complain, the more you focus on the negative, the more you are aware of the negative, the more negative you feel so you are more upset and . . . . .  you get the idea. As a Christian, I don't "believe" in karma, but somehow, the emotions and actions you put into the world either brings the same things back to you or helps you see what the world does bring in a different light.

So Friday, I made a conscious decision to put out what I wanted people to get from being around me. I bought cookies to take to my fellow sophomore English teachers to say thank you for their efforts. I went to dinner despite being exhausted and then invited everyone back to my house to watch the ballgame. While I only had one taker, we had a great time.

Funny, I felt better immediately, less stressed, and happier. I can't make everyone like me. Half the time, I am not sure the people I think are friends even like me. I can't help that. I do the best I can. If who I am isn't enough for anyone, then I need to learn to let it go. I put out into the world my heart, my friendship, my honesty. I try to be a good friend. I may fail a lot, but I am always trying. Good intentions may not always count for much, but the least I can do is to put out happiness and kindness into the world and make the people around me feel good. What is the worst that can happen? I get more friends? well, shoot, I guess I'll takes ma chances.

Day 306: Cheerleaders

Short entry today. Went out with some friends for dinner and stayed up all until two hanging out with a friend. I needed that so much. Just having someone to talk to and listen for the entire evening. I really don't mean to, but wow, did I take my husband being around to talk to for granted. Somehow managed to get my things for work mostly done. I will have to do some work over the weekend, but not as much as I thought.

At my darkest moment Thursday, I called my friend Kaitlin in Georgia. She is having a rough time too. She is younger than I am, but pregnant so her energy level is much different than it used to be. She is leading the educational ministry in her church and feels a lot of pressure to be all things to all people. She listened, shared her struggles and we ended the conversation wishing for a time machine where we could go back in time and just have an evening to share pizza, hanging out on the couch laughing and chatting without any other obligations, if only for a night.

I did love her self pep talk - "I made a liver today, that is all I got." She says, "I gotta keep it in perspective. I am making another person. I can't do everything people need. Sometimes I can't do anything."

I told her that is why I called, she can't feel obligated to come over or help with my laundry, all she can do from hundreds of miles away is listen and pray.

Or so I thought - she spent all day today leaving me silly messages on Facebook and left me a crazy answering machine message singing at the top of her lungs. Awesome!! Just when I felt most alone and unloved, God sends me Kaitlin. If God had a cheerleading squad, she'd be on the varsity. I have never met someone who has a better gift to make people feel appreciated and loved. I hope she takes this blog entry as my cheering for her. We all need cheerleaders sometimes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 307: Whining isn't the picture

I did get a reply from the person who made the comment yesterday and without going into unnecessary details that invade her privacy, she doesn't want to be my friend. She did apologize kind of, but basically said, no need to actually be friends. I don't know why it hurt me so much. But it really did. I couldn't sleep last night, and cried over it a few times.

I don't know how people see me. I would hope that at least up until recently, I was viewed as the kind of person who was always happy. I know my students have told me that a lot in the past. Feeling down or sad just doesn't get you anywhere but downer and sadder, so I try not to let myself go there. Feel it, acknowledge it and move the heck on has always been my motto. I've just never felt this alone and felt this overwhelmed on a personal and professional level at the same time.

I am so alone here with some friends but mostly acquaintances who are all probably sick of listening to me. Every day feels like Groundhog day, but instead of getting better at everything I just get more and more swamped. Even when I get a handle on one thing, it feels like three others pile up to take its place. I don't have anyone at home to help lighten the load emotionally. I think I could deal if I could just have someone to crash into at the end of the day, but I don't. My mom and mother-in-law take turns being my go to girls, but I miss my best friend, Chad.

People keep telling me I need to ask for help, but I don't know that I can be helped. Unfortunately a lot of what I need isn't convenient for anyone else to do. Maybe prayers are all you can offer, but I put out into the world the sadness, fear, pain, stress on Facebook and in this blog because I don't know what else to do. My emotions are so out of control that I don't even feel like myself. I feel alone and overwhelmed and STRESSED and don't have anyone to lean on. If all the negativity on here upsets you, well then don't read it or help. Just a commiserating comment or a phone call or come over and sit with me.

Today I went to the visitation for my student who was murdered last week. I sat in the pew with tears rolling down my face. I looked at the plastic, cosmetically made up version of her and felt the air sucked out of me. I was confronted with my mortality. I was confronted by the blessing I have in being able to go home to my daughter. Even now as she pummels my side with stronger than you'd think baby kicks, she lights up at my smile and reaches for me now whenever I leave her side.

Maybe I just suck. Other women can do all these things and ROCK. I am not perfect. I am sometimes self-centered and blunt, come off sarcastic instead of witty, and need a lot of time to myself to recover and regroup to head back into the fray, dear friends. Whatever, I am who I am. I strive daily to be better, be stronger, but I will always fall short of some and do better than others. All I ask from you, is nothing less than I ask of myself, don't judge, give people the benefit of the doubt unless they prove unworthy. Assume the people around you are decent and trying to be kind. Give people a break.

Anyone who reads my blog and only sees whining - is missing the message. Love more - hate less. They both spread - pick your plague.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 308: Growing up/Maturity

Today was a horribly overwhelming day. I got bombarded at work; everywhere I turned something else  needed to be done or will need doing in the next 72 or so hours. I didn't pee until 7:30 tonight after work because I was that busy today. About five minutes before I left work, a "friend" I met awhile ago at church wrote a terribly insensitive comment about my working moms blog on Facebook, and then unfriended me before I could respond. What hurt even more was that I considered this person someone I was friends with. I don't go anywhere with anybody, but she is a fellow army wife and mother. I thought she was at least someone who could commiserate when I was having a rough day. If nothing else, because I met her at church and she calls herself a Christian, I was absolutely harpooned by her actions. Her comment was meant to attack me and my "whining." Well, excuse me for using the blog to vent, my husband is gone and this is a healthier way to express the emotions I am feeling than lashing out at people in anger or drinking.

So apparently I am whining a lot. Being a working mom is hard! Being a working, single mom is beyond anything I ever expected. I know women do it every day and would make my whining look ridiculous by comparison with their lives, but that doesn't mean this isn't tough for me. I would rather be able to stay home. I didn't come to this decision lightly. My husband and I didn't come to this decision lightly. If I stayed home this year, we would be able to scrape by while Chad is deployed, but next year wouldn't be able to make it.  We literally would not be able to make our rent, utilities, insurance, food and car payments. Because I am working right now, we are trying to get at least the car payments gone and plan for our future.

Even so, we may still not be able to make it on one salary. If we cut out all the "luxuries" and nothing breaks or goes wrong, we might still not have the money. Not only would it be only one salary, but some of that goes to help support his older children. They are expensive to care for between clothes, activities, food, and now that they are in puberty - water usage! We get it. We don't begrudge the child support but it does take a large chunk from what another family might have coming in each month.

Having made this decision consciously doesn't mean it doesn't hurt or isn't hard. I deliberately chose to marry a soldier, knowing what that meant. Does that mean I don't cry sometimes, does that mean he doesn't? Of course we both do! Knowing something is hard doesn't mean it isn't the right thing to do. Staying at home is awesome and is such a wonderful commitment, but it is something that has to be right for you and your family. I already have explained in an earlier blog this week why I am working and how I feel about people who make such blanket judgments about others.

This entry is really about growing up. This kind of nonsense would be laughable if the people perpetrating it were in high school. It is doubly ridiculous as adults. If you are someone's friend, be a friend. If you have something negative to say about someone, say it to them. At the very least, as a Christian, we are called to address each other in certain ways. Her actions today were mean and unChristian and immature. I was very hurt. I try to brush things off and say it doesn't matter, but this really hurt. I sat at my desk and cried. Why as adults would anyone treat a friend this way? How did she think her comment made her look. Even to people who agree staying home is best, the way she said what she did was angry, bitter - not trying to see from someone else's perspective.

If she was really so offended by my working or my complaining about working, why wouldn't she offer to help or at least ask me if I needed some help to figure out things so I can stay home soon? Or better yet, not say anything if she couldn't be nice. This is someone I have prayed for. At least Facebook talk a few times a week to/with. When she wanted to have another child, she lambasted people for criticizing her family's decision to try to have a third child. Regardless of my feelings, of which I had no opinion other than being jealous she has that option, I prayed for her and her family and congratulated her when she found out that she was expecting. Her family isn't mine, I don't know the intimate details of her decision making. I prayed that God's will for her family would be clear and that if a baby was His plan for them, that it happen. I prayed for her wait easily for God's answer because waiting to get pregnant can be SO challenging.

I guess I thought adults were supposed to comport themselves with maturity. I guess I thought Christians should approach people with love and understanding and compassion (really, regardless of faith - still the way we as people should strive to be). I don't have to make your decisions for my family for them to be ok. The bible says that certain things are required to do and not to do, but outside of those things are options that we as Christians are supposed to be tolerant of.

FB, I challenge you (I will also be more self-vigilant) to think about whether you could say it to that person's face or if you would want your mom, Jesus, boss, child, to see you saying that.

Growing old is mandatory, unfortunately growing up takes effort. If you're reading this person who made the alluded to comment, hit me up on Facebook, and make a lunch date with me. We can sit and talk like friends and see if we can't find a way to look from someone else's perspective for awhile. And just for the record, I totally admire you for making the sacrifice and staying home. Just don't judge me because I can't do the same right now and wish I could everyday.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 309: Dropping the ball

Last night I had to make a very hard decision. I had to call Chad's ex-wife about the plans to get the boys this weekend. This is the last week of the grading period. I have at least 60 3-5 page essays left to grade, 5 sets of quizzes, three sets of homework, and two up-coming tests that will need to be graded. Then I have to input all the grades and create an Excel spreadsheet of all my failures: first name, last name, id number, grade level, percentage in my class. All of these student fields have to be typed in individually. And this all has to be done by Sunday afternoon.

The plan was to drive up to the Dallas area Friday afternoon and pick up the boys and take them back Sunday afternoon. Best case scenario this takes 6-7 hours. The drive is three and stopping to eat, use the restroom and exchange kiddos, plus feed and change a baby is really a minimum of an hour. But because there is really only one route from Austin to north of Dallas, traffic is sometimes so bad it adds two to three hours. Once it took Chad nine hours from start to finish.

I knew it was a lot when I planned it, I was just going to suck it up and do it because seeing the boys and having them see their sister is important, but I just can't do it. I feel so awful I just want to cry. I actually did cry on the phone last night. She was very understanding and said we would try to arrange another visit in a few weeks or just wait until Thanksgiving when we would both be in the same town for the holiday anyway. I just feel like I have let everyone down.

I am drowning at school. I just can't get any work done at home. The few moments it feels like I can get to my work, I have at least three other things to get done around the house. It is just so overwhelming. I feel like I am cracking up.

I know how hard the last deployment was on the boys and don't know what else I can do to help the boys feel like their dad isn't so far away, except visit with them, let them walk around the house where all of daddy's pictures are on the walls. I know they need it. I know they also need to visit with their sister and start to develop a relationship with her. They are such special boys and I would love to have them so much more, but living so far apart just makes things difficult especially with the baby.

I am so frustrated that I can't do everything I need to or half the stuff I wanted to. I know I can't do it all, but it kills me that this is the ball I have to drop right now.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 310: Scary

Last night, my daughter was a little bit fussy when it came time for bed because she had napped on and off all day. She still sleeps pretty much when she is tired. I know some people get their kids on a schedule, but I figure that much of the schedule will take care of itself if you stick to a routine, but on the weekends, I let her do what she needs to do.

She ate a really big dinner, carrots, green beans, oatmeal with bananas and seemed fine. I gave her part of a bottle before bed and she fell asleep watching her mobile. I finished what I was working on and went to bed. Around 12:45, I heard screaming. I had forgotten to turn on the receiver for the baby monitor again. I am so tired I honestly forget many nights, but I usually wake up and turn it on sometime in the first hour or two. Last night, I could hear her no problem through the entire house. It was blood curdling.

We haven't had a night of crying since July. I put her down, she sleeps. If she wakes for a bottle, she kinda of whines for a few minutes and if I don't respond, she might give a quick wail to make sure I know she's serious. She rarely cries. Often she will grunt/whine a few times and put herself back to sleep. If she really needs to eat, I will feed her and back to sleep she goes. She slept until 10:20 on Saturday morning.

Last night, I found her in her crib just flailing around, screaming. I picked her up and she seemed to calm for a second and then the screaming resumed. It was so scary. I didn't know what to do. After rocking and bouncing and walking, I felt her stomach which seemed tight, so I gave her some of her tummy drops and placed a warmed rice pillow on her stomach. After rocking and shushing and some spitting up, she finally drifted back to sleep. But watching this tiny person scream like that was so scary. She couldn't tell me what was wrong or where it hurt. I didn't know if it was an emergency or just gas. She wasn't feverish but that was about all I could really check.

I was very proud of myself when my mommy instincts were right and she went back to sleep, but the fear I had for her was so palpable. All I wanted to do was hold and comfort her. I was pretty proud of myself for not panicking even though the crying lasted an hour, and I figured out what to do. I felt terrified and helpless then empowered. Being a parent is so much guessing and flying by the seat of your pants. Several times though I really wished Chad was home. Having someone else to share ideas and concerns can make you feel so less alone. I had no idea what I needed to do. It was so bad I considered the ER. If it hadn't gotten better when it did, I would have been the crazy lady in the ER in her nightie!

It was one rough night in months, but it does serve to remind me that this little life is still so delicately balanced and I need to be informed and ready for anything. Parenting is like one continuous minefield and even when you're getting it mostly right, someone will come along and tell you all the ways you're doing it wrong. Not sure which is scarier, worrying about being a great parent or all the people who don't. Mmm - now, that is scary.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day 311: Pressure and tolerance

For those of you who've been reading my blog since the beginning know how conflicted I've been about having to work while my daughter is little. Last night I was confronted with someone who is making an amateur movie about how going back to work after your children are born is evil. While he said it was purposely over the top because it is a propaganda film class, it was obviously how he feels.

It took me a few minutes to realize he was serious. In this day and age to be so blatantly against working mothers is ridiculous. This economy makes two income families almost an absolute necessity not just a luxury. But having a strong opinion is one thing, it is another to be so intolerant of other people who might feel differently. I don't even know why he brought up his movie, but it seemed like he was trying to make a statement to us. Both my friend Liz and I were very offended. Liz just completely shut down. I think she was biting her tongue!  She didn't really say much the rest of the night and left pretty much as soon as she could. I guess I felt like I wanted to justify my decision. We both love our daughters very much. We both are making every decision we can to do what is best for our babies and our babies' futures.

I didn't think about it, but considering how much pressure I am already feeling for going back to work, I wanted to strangle him. When I think about all the moments I miss every day, it breaks my heart.  I thought he might realize he put his foot in it when I said how much we spent to adopt her and that we needed to replenish our savings as much as possible. But instead of letting it drop, he slyly just almost to me said, "I was making eight dollars an hour and my wife stayed home."

I wanted to cry. I want nothing more than to stay home with her. Today, she was a little stuffy and not feeling so great, so I got to hold her and snuggle her in a big fluffy blanket for hours. She would wake up and look at my face and smile brighter than the sun. I read to her, played little games with her and we had a great day.

We spent almost $40,000 to adopt our Lil Bit. It took all of our savings and more. I have almost no retirement because of moving around with my husband, and we have two vehicles that we need to have paid off if I want to have a chance to stay home even if it is for a year or two when Chad gets a new duty assignment. With Chad deployed, my working makes the most sense financially and emotionally. If I were home all day, every day, the missing him would be so much worse.

I posted a brief comment on Facebook and spent all day hearing from all the lovely ladies in my life about how out of touch he is. But I am still pretty upset about it, maybe because I agree that my staying home would be best for her and I want to do that and his opinion didn't leave any room for anyone to else's ideas or opinions or life or struggles. Then he talked about letting his kids eat Captain Crunch and watch Saturday morning cartoons. I think Captain Crunch is the equivalent of spooning sugar and preservatives straight down their throats. But he thought he needed to critique my parenting.

I see kids everyday whose parents are complete disasters. They shouldn't have ever had kids. They don't even love and care for the ones they have and keep making more. I think there are a million things you can do wrong as a parent. If you tried to do everything perfectly, you would probably end up in an asylum or divorced or both. But I think if you do the big ones right: loving them, teaching them values, helping them love to learn, and guiding them to being good, happy, healthy people as much as possible - well, then you've done the best you can.

Maybe you could teach your child two more lessons: tolerance and not to judge someone unless you've walked in her shoes. This man, who probably didn't take any time off when his children were born, didn't give a second thought to the pressure mothers are under to be perfect today, to work full-time jobs; to feed her children all organic, fresh food; have creative lessons and learning throughout the day; to keep her house spotless at all times and supremely organized in the face of any crisis; to be supremely organized so that no one is ever late or under dressed or unprepared. I only hope he is as perfect as he expects everyone else to be.

Jesus said, "Judge not lest ye be judged." Unless someone is putting their children at risk or in harm's way, live and let live. "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Mmm, maybe his stay at home mother should've gone back to work because he would have learned those lessons in preschool.

Day 312: Good-bye

One of the many challenges of army life is its transient nature. Tonight we spent the evening celebrating with friends and saying good-bye to someone who has been a great friend to me, Chad and Lil Bit.

It is late, so this will be short, but Taylor decided that his career goals were going to take him out of the military. He decided to pursue a career in the FBI and is leaving at the end of this week to go to Quantico to start his training. He is a brilliant and kind man and he and his wife Stephanie have a great relationship and bright future. They are special people.

If it weren't for the military, we never would have gotten to meet them. While we too often have to also say good-bye to our friends, in the short time I have been a military wife, we have made friends that will probably last a lifetime. I have a friend in Georgia, a friend in Korea, a friend in Ohio, plus all of the friends back home. Soon I will have friends in Virginia and then wherever Taylor gets stationed after training. I am glad Steph isn't leaving just yet, but within a few months, she will be heading out to meet her husband in their new home where Taylor will begin his career as a G-man : ).

It is hard to say good-bye. Many people stay in one place for a majority of their lives and are friends with the same people for decades. Army wives have to recreate themselves and make new friends about every three to four years. While a chance to reinvent oneself is nice, making new friends whom you will eventually have to say good-bye to is difficult. Thank goodness for the technology that will allow us to stay in touch. We may not have dinner once a week or share lunchtime but we can still call and be able to touch base with the people who know and understand us just the way we are.

Good luck, Taylor. You will be a fantastic agent. We are all very proud of you. You are a rare combination of intelligence, strength, wit, gentleness, loyalty, and kindness. Hopefully, your new venture will bring you success, adventure and happiness.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day 313: Commitment

Today, my husband re-enlisted in the Army for an indefinite time period. What that means for all of you non-military people out there is that he has committed to serve in the Armed Forces until he retires. While technically, he signed the papers a few weeks ago, today was the official ceremony for Tiger Squadron.

Chad has served his country for most of his adult life. He served for four years in the Marine Corps and spent about 18 months as a civilian. He decided that, despite all the downsides of military life, he belonged in the military. He joined the army after 9/11 and has been serving in the army for over eight years now. He has about seven and a half years before he can retire. He can choose to stay past his twenty if he has career aspirations that he hasn't met or to increase his retirement. That is a bridge we can cross later.

Right now our eyes are looking toward 20 years as the magic number. After four deployments, we are really looking forward to some time together, stateside or overseas, but together for a couple of years would be nice. He realized awhile ago that being a soldier is more than his job, it is who he is. He is not perfect, but he is so amazing. He is such a great example to me of what a soldier should be. He pushes himself to be the best he can. Who he is as a person encourages the people around him to be better. He takes time to get to know his soldiers and tries to find strategies to help them.

People think marriage is a big commitment and we go into it, regardless of how well we think we've thought it out, wearing rose colored glasses. A few years in, and if you're lucky, the bloom is a bit off the rose, but you've learned to love the stem and appreciate the thorns and still have enough romance to make a new bloom once in awhile. I heard a study on the radio, conducted by Reader's Digest in February that said 37% of married people would not remarry their spouse if they knew what they know now. What is interesting, if you look at the study, that number is of married people, not divorced. If one out of every two marriages ends in divorce and 37% of those people aren't happy, that is 69% of marriages either end or are not satisfying.

But my husband is in a relationship where he is completely under the control of a government agency with random representatives, some mentoring, some awful, some harsh, some gung-ho, but all with absolute control over every aspect of his life. He spends over half his life in another state or country from his family and works 14 hour days as his normal workday when he is home, 20 or overnight is not unusual. His weekends are never guaranteed. He can be assigned any duty regardless of family plans, gets no sick days and has to have weekend getaways approved in writing two weeks in advance to visit anywhere farther than a 3-4 hour drive. He can be even be recalled from leave or a pass due to the actions of another soldier. As often is the case, a soldier goes out and gets drunk or arrested and all leaves and passes are canceled for everyone because they are worried someone else will get into trouble too.

I could spend a month telling you how hard his job is, how unfair it seems at times, how demanding of his time it is, etc. but I just want to ask you to really think about the commitment that he and 30 other soldiers made today in his squadron alone, to commit another 4, 6, 8 or indefinite number of years to serving at the pleasure of the army. They knew what they were getting, roses and warts, and chose to do it all again. I know my husband made his decision for many reasons including planning for his family's future, but mostly because he takes genuine pride in helping people and protecting our values and way of life.

Standing in the desert sand, seeing his daughter grow up through grainy pictures once a week and missing the freedom to have a beer at the end of a long week, he swore an oath to protect our rights to do the very things he gives up over and over again. Now, that's commitment.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 314: Bonjour

Bonjour Mes Amis! I saw that someone from France was reading my blog but my high school French ce n'est tres pas bon. I fell in love with the French language when I was little, but never wanted to teach it so I couldn't take it in college because the classes were all permit classes. To get a permit you had to be a major or minor in French. It is too bad because I was nearly fluent in school French, but that was 20 years ago. I wonder if I started using it more often, how long it would take to come back. It is one of the high school skills that I regret losing.

As a military wife, I can hope that maybe we get stationed overseas. I am really torn though. If we get stationed overseas, we would be very far from our family and friends here, but the experience would be amazing!! I don't want Lil Bit to grow up so far from her Nana and Grandma and Grandpa, etc. but to have the opportunity to see all the things I used to teach about in world history and actually experience a foreign culture would just be the chance of a lifetime.

The army life isn't an easy one and getting the popular duty stations is challenging. Germany is easier than some, but soldiers get over there and are deploying from there. I can't imagine how miserable it would be to be all alone in a foreign country and have my husband leave me for a year. To have the world at my fingertips and feel like I shouldn't be exploring without my husband would be challenging. One of the things I love most about him is how we enjoy new places, foods, wines and finding them together.

I miss him today. He is being moved back and forth between his two posts a lot so he is in transition or working often. Last deployment we had the ability to video chat, but the signal was terrible. It froze most of the time. But this is part of life, especially the army, the only thing you can count on is change. As a neurotic OCD person, it is the hardest thing for me to get used to, but I am choosing to see the military life as an opportunity to work on my flexibility.

So I go back to worrying about getting through this next week and tonight and grading way too many essays, counting down the days until he comes home and wondering what adventure we'll take next. Au revoir, mes persons. Not sure of the exact translation of my peeps. ; )

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 315: Friendship Ratio

Recently,  I heard a study that says the average woman only has enough room in his/her life for 5-6 intimate relationships and every time she adds someone, she has to let someone go. I have done my best to keep a lot of friends in my life. I try to make time to call friends from whom I have moved away or the army has moved away from me. I even try to remember my friends who are not on Facebook and send them pictures and updates. But I don't have as much time for things as I used to, and about half as much energy.

I feel like I am being a bad friend to a lot of people. I don't mean to be!!! I do think about you . . . trust me if you're reading this (and I know you personally), I do think about you at some point.  I think the ratio is more than one to one, get one give one, when a baby is the get one. I feel like I had to give up too many friends. I don't want our friendship to suffer or end, but I spend a lot of time just holding my $h!t together, people. I have a baby who for someone so little takes an AMAZING amount of time, a dog who wholeheartedly believes she deserves the same amount of attention, a yard, garden, a pool, a job and apparently can't give up the need for sleep or food. I miss being able to go see a friend's play or have an evening out during the week. In fact, if I do go out at all it has to be directly after school for an hour or so or I have to rearrange and juggle everything else in my life to make sure I have the time, energy, etc. to include the outing and make up for whatever I didn't get done while I was out having fun.

I don't know how I seem to people. I know I spend a lot of this blog complaining or whining about being tired, but this is my vent. I try to be uber organized, super controlled girl in real life and don't know if people ever really know how close I come to losing it sometimes. Other nights I have talked about letting some of the juggling balls drop. I can't drop work or the house or the baby, the dog, eh, she has her moments; I can only run for so long without a good night's sleep, so the only place I have room to let go is sometimes my friends.

So here is my big letting go of control - You're invited!! As long as you call first to make sure I am wearing pants or have five minutes to put some on, and don't care about my hair or how clean my house is, come over. Bring wine or beer or don't and come by and sit or drink what I have open. We can order pizza or eat Lean Cuisines. Hold the baby so I can dash around for a second. Come watch my DVRed Glee episodes. I may not have some of the freedoms I used to, but you are on my heart more than you know. And I miss you too!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 316: Because I could not stop

for Death, he kindly stopped for me. Somehow this Emily Dickinson poem always makes me think of dapper Death casually passing by in his carriage. Rarely is death so gentlemanly. When my husband's Aunt Jeana passed away, death was an end to long suffering and while not joyous in itself, was an end to her pain and a lengthy semi-comatose period. If we could have added healthy years to her life, we all would have gladly enjoyed her for many years, but more years of pain and drugs and confusion were all she had and death was a release from that half existence that wasn't the crazy, fun woman Jeana had always been. When death came for Grandma Nick, it was sudden but at the end of a very long and full life. We grieve for ourselves for missing these women, but celebrate their joyous reunion with God in heaven.

How are we supposed to feel when death comes more like a freight train barreling at a life barely begun.
This morning we heard the terrible news that a student from our high school had died. While official statements are still being withheld, it appears she was murdered by someone close to her. What kills me is that I walked past her last Friday, I thought to myself, "I'm too tired to stop to chat today." I wanted to talk to her, find out how things were going, but I didn't. I smiled and said hello, but a random thought crossed my mind to ask her about the young man today rumored to be the perpetrator. I didn't ask her, I didn't stop. I didn't tell her how much I liked her new hair cut or how I still worried about her.

I feel so responsible for not taking the time to spend with her. I don't know if stopping to talk to her would have meant anything, but she is one student that even though two years have passed since she was in my room daily, we still talked occasionally and I kind of paid special attention to her. She is one of those girls, and I see them every year, struggling with self-esteem and respect on a dangerous precipice. Sometimes they end up drinking or doing drugs, or dating the wrong boy or allowing themselves to be degraded by friends and boyfriends who don't value them and can't see the ruination of poor decisions. I see these borderline girls every year and try desperately to stretch out a life preserver, but my arms can't always reach into the abyss of their own creation or reach children who don't want, or know they need, saving.

Unfortunately, she is one of several students I have had die or be brutalized. Last year, I had a student kidnapped and raped, another attempted suicide. She is one I wrote about the other day. I have had students killed in car accidents, self-inflicted gun-shot wounds, drug overdoses, in alcohol related incidents, from disease. It always hurts. Sometimes the pain is the shock and sadness and overall unfairness. Sometimes the pain is from wondering what I didn't do, what I could have done. Today, I am again bombarded with this pain. 99% sure I could not have done anything, despite frequent conversations about choosing more carefully her friendships, this person remained in her life. But I could have at least stopped to talk to her.

Death sometimes sneaks up on us from behind, snatching at us unaware. Take the moments to care for and love the people in your life today, not having another chance feels pretty awful.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 317: For a second

Today, I took over a colleague's lunch duty. I was sitting grading papers and looked out the plate glass windows to the parking lot. A blue Dodge truck pulled up to meet a teacher for lunch. For just a second, I forgot. I literally picked up my phone.

I thought, it has been awhile since he has come to take me out to lunch, we should make a date. My phone was in my hand to text him before I even processed the thought and remembered. My heart slowed and grew tight in my chest. I had just been having an e-versation (coining that term) with a friend that I was good. I go through phases in which I really get sad or down or even am just acutely aware of how much I miss him, but was feeling OK, until just that second.

In that moment, all the sadness just smothered me. Something so simple as a mid-week lunch together was always so special. I always felt like the princess going on a date with the quarterback. I just loved the extra date feeling to our lunch. I went through the entire weekend, just doing my thing and was fine. Even when I missed chatting with him Saturday night, I was alright. It feels so silly that this one moment has put me into a tailspin. All of a sudden I miss him and my heart aches for all those stolen moments of silly texts or "date' lunches we used to have.

With a new baby, the last few months of his deployment really weren't like the previous ones where we just spend all our free time together and get really close. We had the boys and the baby and traveled to visit family. It was crazy busy and great, but now I wish we had had made just a little more time for each other. While I don't want to be grim, the reality is that we might never get another chance.

And I really LIKE him. A lot of people look at me funny when I say that, but give it a second. We all have people in our lives that we love, but sometimes do not like. I always love him, but I really just like him too. We have inside jokes and our favorite places to eat and little traditions that matter only to us. I look forward to seeing him each evening whether he's been home a week or a year. We used to joke that e-Harmony could have set us up we are so compatible. While that may not be the case since we have significantly varied interests, we get each other on so many levels. We are that couple that can talk for hours or be totally silent and be just as content. Of course, I would love him to talk more about his feelings (typical girl, sometimes!) but we don't always need to and it is so nice just to hang out with him.

I would give anything to have him home tonight: to race into the drive and find out what he made for dinner, to mix up margaritas and make tacos, to play scrabble and let him win. It is hard not to get angry and bitter sometimes. Most people have no idea what it feels like to never be able to take the smallest moments for granted. Maybe we're lucky to know how important we are to each other, but some days I would trade all this "luck" for the chance to take his presence for granted. I better get back to grading papers so I can shake off this mood before it has a chance to take hold.

Dear God, Please be the bearer of my husband's weapon and the armor of his body. Amen. Come home soon, Love.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Day 318: Sunday

Promised myself that I would get everything done early in the day, so I could really rest without rushing around. I've decided it just isn't possible with a baby. I have coffee made, scrambled egg patties for the week, my lunch bag packed, her bottles made, her clothes laid out, she had a bath (mommy got one too today) and can't think that I have anything else to do. I just sat down and felt "done" at 9:30. There are at least three or four things that I meant to do and didn't get to. I am working on being OK with doing what I can.

But between taking care of the house, the baby and myself, there just isn't much down time no matter how organized I am. I did get some cleaning done today. I need to get a head start so in two weeks I can take the weekend and spend it with the boys. I hate the driving, but already planning on activities for the weekend. Allyson is too little to understand that she has brothers and miss them, but I know they will be so excited to see her and play with her.

Not much else tonight. I missed chatting with hubby last night and baby is ready for bed, so gonna run. Going to be in bed on time at least some this week!!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day 319: Steamed

    No, I'm not mad, I used my hand held Shark steamer all day!! I haven't gotten out of my pj's, but I spent the whole day cleaning the kitchen. I don't know that I got every single speck of dirt, but the kitchen is cleaner than it has ever been. I could probably spend the entire day cleaning the insides of all the cabinets tomorrow if I really wanted to be thorough, but I can save that for another weekend. I steam sterilized the baseboards, sink, counters, windows, doors, from the top of the fridge to the bottom inside and out. Then I steam cleaned the floor. If you needed to eat off the top of my fridge, you could!

I put Lil Bit in her Jenny Jumper and hung it in the pantry doorway. She figured out at least swinging and spinning if she doesn't quite have the hang of the jumping part. She either watched me from there or her highchair while I cleaned. When she was hungry, wet, dirty, tired I stopped and held her, played with her. It took me all day, 10 hours including breaks (admittedly a bit over the top), but as I start doing one room a week, eventually the house will be very clean and will just require touch ups - hopefully. That is the plan.  As an army wife though, I know how well plans work out.

We did get to talk to daddy last night. Out of everything I (we) have struggled with this deployment, I am most proud of how we are handling being apart. When he calls, it feels like just any other daily conversations for the most part. I don't know what has changed, maybe I am just too busy to obsess over missing him, maybe I am so busy that time is flying very quickly. No matter the reason, we are doing fantastically. I feel like the separation is always hard. I miss having him around, but we are doing our best to stay in contact and really talk to each other about the little things.

Other times we've been separated, we spent a lot of time saying I miss you and I love you and not knowing how long we would have until the phone cut out or the Internet went down. The lines he's using now are much more secure and we're able to talk. We also say it first just in case. Being able to tell him what we did for dinner or how my day at work was or how irritating the dog is being makes it feel like he isn't quite so far away. And while he generally only calls once a week or once every two weeks, it feels like just picking up a good book right where you left off. We're only six weeks in and we have a long way to go, but I am feeling pretty good tonight.

One day, one moment - tomorrow is another day. I'm sure it will have enough of its own problems. Like all the stuff I didn't get done because I was steaming my way through the kitchen. By the way, steam is hot! Just a little public service announcement: if you hold it too close to your hand, it burns. I am so blond sometimes.

At least I can fall asleep in a few minutes, knowing he loves me, the baby is happy and sleeping and my kitchen is clean. The fridge is a little barren but sparkling!! Ahh, the simple joy of being able to see the results of a job well done. Now if only I could invent a way to keep it done! Wow, my fantasy life has sure changed since becoming a wife and mother. I think I steamed away some stress.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 320: The right words

Today at school, I had a student seek me out to talk. She tried to commit suicide last year and is participating in some self-destructive behavior. She is standing in front of me asking for help. Where do I find the right words? How do I compress 39 years of failures, successes, wisdom and stupidity into a few words to send home with her.

I listen. Then I start talking, the words start coming. I can't describe what happens when I am facing such a student, but I can sense what someone is struggling with sometimes. Somehow, I try to make sense. Considering I had just been asleep at my desk when she came in, I think being coherent in itself should be impressive.

We finish talking. She says, "You're amazing." I told her I am not, but that God helps me find the words to share when I need them and I just hope I can use them to help. I don't know if she will figure out what is going on with her, if she will ever attempt suicide again, if she will stop pressuring herself to be perfect or anything. I can't really help her at all. She totally has to help herself, but I can make sure she knows without a doubt that someone who didn't have to care did, does.

It is very humbling sometimes to realize that one stray comment can affect a child forever. As adults we don't always remember the power the words of adults once had over us. The teacher that made you feel stupid or smart, changed your life forever. Most of my students never come back and tell me if I made a difference or hurt them. Most of my students are now out of my life once they leave school. I will probably never know if I helped her or not. The same as with the little girl who was kidnapped and raped last year. She and I emailed back and forth about surviving such an experience.

I am human and fallible. I worry about my kiddos, but can only do so much before I have to go home and wear my wife, mother, and woman hats. All I can pray is that God continues to give me the right words when my students and friends need them and keep His hand over my mouth when I try to insert my unnecessary two cents worth. And pray. I can always do that. God will know what happens to them.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day 321: Fumes AGAIN

Last night, I ran and ran desperately trying to get my "have to's" done early enough to relax and enjoy the baby and evening. Lil Bit wet the bed yesterday morning so first thing was get a load of laundry going, then pull out my new video camera and get it charging. So glad I did. Lil Bit was jumping in her Jumperoo for the first time! She is still just shy of tall enough, but she found if she scoots onto one cheek, she can reach with one foot and off she went. She was bouncing and bouncing. It was so much fun to watch her having fun.

Trying to put clean sheets on her mattress is a major undertaking. Either I have to remove her crib bumper or maneuver around it. Taking it off the crib means painstakingly reattaching it. Of course the tiny ties are not spaced so that they fall on a rail regularly and are difficult to tie neatly. So much fun!! If I try to work around the bumper, it is almost just as much work to try to get the snug mattress out of the crib and back in. I need a shoe horn to slide the mattress into the crib without the bumper. 

I had laundry to fold, some sewing repairs to do on the outfit I am wearing today, so kinda had to be done and the regular evening chores. Didn't crawl into bed until 11 despite being in my pjs around 9. And I don't know why, but she has been waking up early every day for two weeks. Fall asleep past 11 because I am all hyped up and am woken by whining around 4:30. I am sure I will survive, but man it takes a toll. What did Murtaugh say in "Lethal Weapon" - "I am too old for this . . ."

It just adds up and by Thursday, I am a wreck. I want to visit with my stepsons soon, but don't know how I will have the energy to drive seven hours on Friday and Sunday to pick them up and drop them off. I would almost stay in a hotel, but then I have to have something to do with the dog. 

I know it all fades in comparison to what my dear husband is going through. He is faced with a million discomforts and seemingly insurmountable challenges daily. I can't even imagine. He struggles with superiors with whom he may not always agree or feel appreciated by and subordinates who may not always follow orders or appreciate how hard he works for them. In some ways I do understand the latter. I spend all day with students and sometimes wonder if any of them really hear me or understand why I teach. If I didn't care, I could just sit here and do crazy things with them and my life would be easier.

But no, I design lessons that tie skills into previous knowledge and try to make authentic assessments. I try to give students inspiration to achieve their goals and overcome obstacles. And then I come across a child, who has given up, who sees no point in caring about him/herself. It breaks my heart. 

I feel like I am trying to be Super Teacher/Wife/Mother/step-mother/friend/WOMAN and just can't. But what do I put down? What ball do I let drop? To whom do I say, sorry, you lose? I can't do it all, but also can't make myself tell someone, I just can't find time for you. My step-sons - love them and miss them so much, but how do I take 14 hours away from the house, dog, baby, self to drive to get them? I guess this is being a grown up. 

We all look forward to the freedom adulthood promises, and find the responsibilities are more daunting than we always anticipated, but by then it is too late; we have gone and grown up.

I have papers and papers I am not grading. I have to pick up that ball before I get fired, so better go. My PE juggling class in high school should have been more realistic. No one has ever shoved three bean bags in my face and asked me to keep them in the air, but what I do everyday certainly feels more like juggling than any other time in my life.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 322: 5 months and 40 years

It is so hard to believe she is five months old already. While in the grand scheme of the rest of her life five months is barely a blip,  she is already growing out of this baby stage so quickly. Last night she was trying to use a sippy cup by herself. I think she just really wanted to wash down those peas!

I almost want to cry, "Freeze!" like we used to when we played freeze tag in Stephanie and Jenny's front yard and everyone stopped. I look forward to so many moments with her, but I also kind of want this precious year, especially this oh so adorable phase, to last so much longer than it is going to. I waited so long to have my little baby and she is already trying to sit up and crawl.

Tonight, I promise I will get out the video camera and charge up the battery so we can take some movies of these fleeting moments. I need to make Cd's to mail to daddy so he can see what a precious Lil Bit he has. Pictures and email is nice, but being able to see and hear her at the same time might make up for some of the special times he is missing.

Today is also my best friend's birthday, the big 4-0~!!! She and I have been friends for 17 years now. She was really my first friend as an adult that didn't cross over from high school or college. She has seen me happy, heartbroken, skinny and fat - too much of the latter, but loved me through all of it. It is hard today to be so far from her and unable to celebrate with her. Tonight, I will drink a Wild Blue (blueberry beer, an acquired taste for sure) in her honor and maybe take a chance catching her at home.

This army wife life has taken me into friendships I wouldn't trade for the world, but also moved me away from some of the most precious people in the world to me. Technology allows us to stay closer than before, but today, I am missing the hugs and the ability to share Lil Bit's special moments with family and friends in person.

So today two of my best girls get older and reminds me that the only constant in life, army life especially, is change. Live in the moment today. Keep working toward future goals and plans, but the only guarantee we have is right now. Enjoy it for what it is, a lesson, a sorrow, a joy, a drudgery - they all are part of us. Raise a glass with me tonight and toast your best friends and the people you love. They are gone too quickly.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 323: Something new

I gave up on love after my ex-husband and some disastrous dating. I thought I would never find someone worth letting myself love again. Then I met my husband Chad, and I realized I had never been loved. I finally had someone who looked at me and saw the woman of his dreams. He worried about impressing me. He loves to see me smile and wants to make me happy. He was loving me just as much as I was loving him. I felt loved for the first time in my life and loved (still do) him just as much. I finally felt that someone saw the real me, behind every mask I ever tried to wear, and loved me anyway. My heart breathed a sigh of relief and finally believed I knew what love was.

Then in the last few days, I realized what I found and am still finding with my husband was only the beginning of all the things love could be. I know I have written before about how much I love my beautiful daughter. But today, I realized she loves me too. She doesn't know the word, she is just figuring out she has feet, but she loves me. I have walked into daycare for two months and she doesn't really seem to have any reaction when I come in. Today she saw me from across the room and her face lit up. She twisted and turned around the girl holding her to watch me.

Then I had to make an emergency stop for gas on the way home. My gas gauge was glowing and growing emptier and emptier. I was glad I didn't chug into the station on fumes. I watched her through the rear window. She was playing with her car seat toy that Nana bought her.  Usually she is very focused just on her self and in her lap. This afternoon, she was looking around and looking a little concerned. I peeked in at her. When she realized I was there with her, she smiled and continued batting at her frog, looked up again just to make sure I really was still there and smiled again.

I realized I am her safe zone. I make her feel secure. My smile makes her smile. When I clap and cheer for her, she grins from ear to ear. Someday I will be who she wants when her tummy hurts. I will be the one she calls when she is scared and alone, even when she is forty (God willing I can be there to take that call). How wonderful and humbling. I am discovering love in new and wonderful ways as I feel more and more like a mommy everyday. I can't imagine a more powerful feeling than knowing I will forever be tied to this little person.

Sometimes literally, but who cares. Even in the evening, when I used to be able to put her down to let her play for a few moments, she now often wants me just to hold her. She misses me. So things I planned to do might not get done, but these precious moments of being able to wrap her up in my arms and give her everything she needs in a hug will go too fast.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day 324: Manic Monday

I woke up this morning about 30 minutes before the alarm which was not conducive to getting those 30 minutes of sleep. I am always afraid of oversleeping when it is that close and end up waking up every five minutes. I finally called it and got up 5 minutes early; although, I felt like I hadn't slept at all. I don't know what I need to do to feel rested. It may be allergies which always make me tired with all the sinus pressure, but I didn't get quite enough sleep this weekend. My sleep wasn't quality sleep or didn't get enough, not sure which, but starting the week this behind on rest is a recipe for disaster.

Then I am faced with essays to grade. These are creative stories so they may be less boring than 150 essays on the tragic hero in "Julius Caesar," but I am not holding my proverbial breath. The first essay I attempt to grade contains the following gems: "My sneaky vibes gave my nerves a killing name. That was never them speak to my brother again. It wasn't so bad at all; I was terrified. ... with a face full of oddly zits."

How am I not supposed to scream and cry when this is what I have to spend my time grading! UGH - well, maybe the next one won't be so bad! I can only hope. The next one is better, but the next is heart wrenching. I don't know if it is complete fiction or totally true, but the story is about her mother attacking her for being obstinate and rude. ". . . She slammed me into a wall. I tried to move; then she grabbed my head and began slamming it into the wall. I started kicking her to make her get away but that didn't stop her. After I kicked her, she moved my head around, knocking pictures and decorations off the wall."

I read this in growing horror. I picture the pretty, smart teen from whom this essay originated and can't imagine this is true, but contact the counselor in any case and will talk with her tomorrow. The truth is, you can't always tell the dysfunctional homes from the functional ones and the longer I teach, the more concerned I become that our society is rapidly defeating itself by destroying the very foundation of our country, the biblical values etc.

It is too much for me to solve. So to best buy I head to buy a video camera so I can send Daddy pics of his baby girl. That is one problem I can solve today. Everything else is gonna have to wait until they make me queen. Night all!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day 325: No rest for anybody

Scooting on your forehead hurts. It is not a terribly effective means of ambulation and causes rug burns. Oh how to explain this to a nearly 5 month old baby. She does really good at getting her legs under her, but hasn't quite grasped using her arms to hold up her head. Every time I tried to do anything today, she would roll herself over and start screaming. She tried to scoot across a plastic inset mirror on her mat. She definitely is not hurting for lung capacity!

I guess I was trying to get stuff done so I could start the week not feeling like I am behind the eight ball, but instead of feeling good about all the stuff I got done, I am counting the things I didn't get done, the hours I spent doing instead of playing.

I have some days I feel like everything is under control and I am getting special time with my baby girl. Today is not one of those days. I spent most of the day juggling things and being so wiped out. I fell asleep for a brief nap, but it wasn't enough. It was kind of nice snuggle time though. Lil Bit fell asleep in her boppy, and I put my head down next to hers and drifted off snuggling with her. She woke up before I wanted to, but you can't leave a baby in a boppy unattended so I drank some caffeine couched in diet soda to wake up enough to be functional. I felt like I'd been run over by a train.

She was fussy and crabby today and something about the whining of the baby, dog, drier, with all the noise in my head trying to get things done just made me feel defeated. My house is pretty clean, all my  top priority stuff is done, and I would love to have tomorrow to just play and snuggle my babycakes. I have not found a legitimate source of income from home, but I don't know how much longer I can do this without really feeling lost. I can't imagine another 324 days without an extra set of hands to help with things so I can enjoy my days off with my Punkin Butt. She is just such a joy. She stands on my lap and grins and give me drooly kisses. It breaks my heart to have to share her with anyone else.

Today there were victories, they just all felt Pyrrhic~ no rest. I did my best, but my best just isn't enough most days. I still have 150 3-5 page essays to grade. Yeah, like that is happening!!! Ugh - gonna try to buck up before bed. The panic of never being done or ever even being caught up is strangling me tonight. Tomorrow will be better. At least I tell myself that and try to have a positive attitude.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day 326: Technology

Today was so busy. This morning I put Lil Bit on the floor in the bathroom and she started rolling and scooting toward the vanity. My first thought was "wow, she is really starting to figure out this crawling thing." My second thought was "when did I clean under there last?" UGH - I decided that I was going to have to start keeping the ground level of my house a lot more sterile. I pulled out the Shark hand steamer that I bought when we found out we were paper "pregnant." Everyone kind of wondered why I wanted one, but there are so many things I can steam. I steam cleaned my bathroom floor and baseboards. The steam cleaned places I have scrubbed with cleanser many times with no noticeable affect. It felt really good to have at least one room where I can put her on the floor and feel she isn't chewing on handfuls of dirt and dog hair. I then vacuumed the rest of the house. By that point Lil Bit was waking up from her morning nap and was ready for some play time. I plan to use the steamer to clean some of her toys that can't really be washed like dishes or in the washing machine and gradually work my way through the house sterilizing one room a week or so.

Then we used skype to chat with my MIL. It was so neat to get to let her really see grandma and talk and smile. While pictures are great, there is something to being able to see her move and smile that just makes a difference. We are 15 hours driving away and even flying isn't too much shorter than that and 20 hours away from my family. Doing a year without my husband is very hard, doing it with a baby is harder, doing it so far away from so many people I love is even harder. The web cam makes it so much better.

After I got off with my mother-in-law, we took a nap. And watched the disaster of the Texas-OU game. Then I saw my friend Jessie was online, so I took a chance and called her on the webcam. It felt like we were together sitting on the couch, just chatting. It was so nice. Saturdays are tough. I got invited out to eat and some friends were chaperoning the dance at school. I just was so wiped out. I slept from 4-6:30.

Then just before baby went to bed, I skyped with FIL. My MIL is out celebrating a friend's bachelorette party and Dadve is home with grandsons. He wasn't there early when we skyped with her and I wanted the boys to be able to see their sister. It has been almost two months since they went home. It is so hard for them to be missing this year with her too. They have a little brother at their mom's house too so it must be hard for them to feel pulled by love for brother and mother and dad and sister. At least this technology allows them to see her and talk to her and hear her new "conversations" which my mother dubbed as sounding like a sick chicken. She does either no vocalizations or shriek babbles. Very cute, but loud.

I want to be social and maintain friendships, but getting dressed and out the door with baby in tow is sometimes too much when I don't have to. Having the technology today to be able to stay in touch made me feel like I spent the day with friends and family. I hope Chad is able to find the time to skype soon. So far we're happy when we get phone calls and an email here and there. He's been too busy, but when he has time, it will be so nice for him to get to see her and for her to see daddy's face. Can't imagine how people did this during World War I and II or even Vietnam. Your husband left and you might not hear from him for months or years or until he just showed up at home. That would have to be the biggest test of a marriage. Thank GOD for technology. It is just one thing making this crazy year just a bit easier.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day 327: Mommy brain

According to my friends this brain deadness is "Mommy Brain" and is not conditional on hormones, just sleep deprivation and the fact that you now are secondary in your own life, or perhaps even tertiary if you put husband, job, house or pets before yourself, which I have a tendency to do. I used to be able to balance 5-7 tasks at one time. Or was at least able to be thinking about several things at once. Now I am lucky if I am thinking anything at all. I spend a lot of time just staring at people blankly, trying not to fall asleep or drool onto the desk. My first obvious screw up - Well, I mailed my stepsons the photo album and card I spent so much time working on for my husband's dad for his birthday. And he was VERY confused about why he got water balloons and squish balls. I almost cried. It took longer for them to get their packages than Chad's did to get to Iraq and now it is even more delayed because boys' mom and sister-in-law have to mail them to correct locations.

By Fridays most weeks, I have gone 5 days on 5-6 hours of sleep. My body feels rested at around 8-9. I am shorting myself 3-4 hours of sleep a night 5 out of 7 nights a week. I am just too tired to think by Friday night. And this just made me feel worse! I don't even remember doing it. I used to plan for every contingency months in advance, now I feel lucky if I get out the door with all her and my stuff and have managed to make sure we're both wearing pants.

At the last minute, I decided to invite a new friend over to the house for pizza and wine tasting. It was so nice to just hang out and chat. I really didn't have the energy to go out anywhere and sitting on the couch dishing about Grey's Anatomy and men and the army, etc. was really nice. She and I have a lot in common. It is about a million times easier to have people over than go anywhere, but I feel weird asking people to come over to my house all the time. It was nice to have her come and bring her dog who ran around like crazy with my Maggie dog. They had fun too.

It was just what I needed to feel like a real person and have some non-work related adult conversation. Mommy brain got to take a mini vacation. And now, if I can just sleep in tomorrow!!