Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 116: Secretariat

I watched the Disney movie Secretariat, tonight. As far as movies go, it was pretty good. There were some slow places, but I was alternating between playing with the baby and watching so it didn't drag too much for me. It didn't get too exciting until the end. I wish they had gotten to the exciting part sooner and gone a bit deeper into the periods between races, etc.

If you don't know this film because you've somehow missed the barrage of advertising over the past year, it is about the greatest racehorse that ever lived.  I wish they had focused a bit more on his training. I was telling my Lil Bit when I was getting her ready for bed that my dream when I was a little girl was to raise and train race horses. I must have read every Black Stallion book in the series at least twice, 21 books. I loved reading about the training methods and the details about caring for and riding horses.

Yet, the story was more about his owner Penny Tweedy. She was an ordinary housewife in 1973. And became the owner of one of only 11 horses to win the triple crown. The risks she took with her family and money and horse were scary bold and reckless. She risked her entire family's financial security on a hope that this horse was going to be amazing. It paid off, and no one will ever know how much was an educated gamble and how much was just hope.

I realized watching this movie that it might have ended differently if I had been in charge. I just don't think I have the take risks gene. I loathe uncertainty and can't see pursuing a career or job without some security. I have to everything just so. I like knowing how much each paycheck is going to be. Living life with millions of dollars at risk is so far beyond who I am. I am pretty sure that I just don't have the cajones or guts that someone needs to take life by the horns and fail to give up on a dream if it involves big risks like that. What I don't know is if I have the fortitude to take the time for my dream when I can't find time to water the lawn or mop the floor.

I have a dream that I do not want to let die. I am afraid this summer is kind of my last chance. The movie was great, cheering the horse on even though I knew how it ended. Watching made me realize that I have to believe in myself and take chances on my dreams. No one is going to do it for me.

I am so tired I am falling asleep at the computer, I will keep you posted on my dream. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 117: Recovery

I am feeling a bit better today. Last night, I was so heartbroken over losing so many pictures. I know so many of them are just gone. Most I can't even remember specifically because I had been storing pictures for the past couple of years. I can think of a few specifically that are gone. The biggest blow were the pictures from her first few days of life. Those are moments that are just gone and she was so stinkin' tiny.

I know a lot of my pictures can be downloaded from Facebook, which is a new feature with the updated page. I hadn't used it before. But I spent a few hours last night digging through all my emails for the past few years searching for pictures I had emailed to friends, family, Chad. I even dug through the emails to Lil Bit's birthmom to salvage a few pictures.

I was able to save enough that I don't feel quite so upset. I saved probably about 50-60 of the 200. But it was something. I know the pictures of her riding the train with her brothers at Austin's Park are gone. I didn't email them to anyone. But I can live without them. As hard as it is, I realized that the pictures are irreplaceable because of the memories that dim so quickly. I need to make it a point to start writing about the memories from those first days before they fade.

I did learn that I need to upload the pictures from my phone onto a computer pretty regularly from now on. I did learn never update the phone without help from a trained professional. I also learned to email myself the pictures because gmail stores them forever if all else fails. I also realized that the true gift is that I have my little girl to look at and love AND I am certainly not hurting for pictures of her.

I think I was partially just exhausted from a very long frustrating day. While I love technology, I think I use it more than I understand it. I want it to work, but don't want to bother learning how it works or comprehending all the technical knowledge. I will be rethinking that stance. It does seem strange to me that our lives have become so surrounded with technology that most of us barely know how to use and few know how to fix or trouble shoot. I worry someday technology will crash and we'll all be lost without email or instantaneously being able to contact each other or track our whereabout through foursquare.

I think part of my emotions were because she is turning one in a week and this year has gone way too fast. I can't believe how quickly the time flew by. I imagined having a baby and thought these days would stretch out luxuriously, having time to savor each milestone, each second. Instead, I feel like I'm riding shotgun in a Nascar race. I already am trying not to cry that my baby is almost a toddler. I am gonna be a wreck next week.

Took a few more pictures today, trying to refill my phone album. Lil Bit finally left her sunglasses on. I put mine on first and then hers, maybe that was the key, she just wanted to imitate me. So the world wasn't ending and I learned to be more careful with backing up my phone. I also understand better now how sad my mom must have been when all my baby pictures turned out washed out. Back in the early 70s when you took pictures, hoped for the best, and waited a week to get them back.

Funny, the older I get, the more I am able to see my parents, especially my mom as a person. She was much younger than I am when she had me. I think about how challenging she had it, living so far away from her mother, without the benefit of so much of the technology we take for granted. I wish I could fix those pictures for her. I am sure she still feels some loss of those moments. Hopefully, the pictures of her grandchildren are filling the void, they certainly are filling her walls.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day 118: Tears

I don't have anything good to say tonight. I spent all day updating my iPhone which erased my iTunes and then I synced to reupdate my Ipod settings onto my iPhone.

I spent literally 7 hours today at work letting my phone do its thing then another couple of hours messing with getting my music back.

Now, I went to look through my pictures and they are all gone. Some of the pictures on my phone were so precious and they are gone. I don't know how many pictures I lost but a few hundred at least.

I am just in tears right now. I lost some really and truly precious pictures and I am heartbroken. I have a few that I've uploaded to facebook, but you can't get them back off facebook and a few I've emailed, but most are just gone. I really truly am just beside myself. I wish I had left well enough alone.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 119: So proud~!

My husband has never been a school person. He struggled in high school in most of his classes although is very intelligent. Looking back, he now can see that he probably has a learning disability. Something that would be hard to catch and easy to confuse with apathy. By the time he got to high school, he believed he was dumb and didn't put much effort into so many of his classes, except science, especially biology and zoology in which he made A's.

He also is not much of a planner. He is more a fly by the seat of his pants kinda guy which has been a growth experience for me. I struggle with spontaneity. Even as a child, I made lists. Learning to be more flexible to accommodate who he is has been challenging, but I think an important lesson for me.

However, spontaneity is not as valued when it comes to life planning. We're looking at another seven years in the military or so. Depending on where his career is and the status of world conflicts, he might stay an extra year or two to cushion his retirement, but he has seven years left until 20 years. His retirement will be some income, but not enough to replace his salary. His retirement is based on his base salary, no BAH or BAS which is about $1300 a month right now. So we're looking at less than 50% take home of what he makes right now without the fantastic medical insurance we're getting as active duty. At 40, he is going to have another 20-30 years to work before retirement.

When he got out of the service between the Marine Corps and the Army, he hated it. He had to work 80 hour weeks just to make what he'd been making in the service. And with only a high school diploma and some military experience loading helicopters, it was hard to find a job that was above a minimum entry level position. As a former Marine, he hated the loss of prestige as well as the meniality of the job.

I've been encouraging him for several years that he needs to plan a second career. But school hasn't held much appeal. Then last fall (2009), he attended the Army's Sniper school which is a rigorous and demanding course, physically and intellectually. He graduated with flying colors. He did really well even on the calculus portions of the course. I think that success helped him see that he can learn and can do really well. He would study all night for a test, call me frustrated and worried he was going to fail and end up with the highest grade or a 100%.

Yesterday, I got the craziest email from him. He has decided to pursue a degree in biology or wildlife management. WOO HOO! ! ! I am so ridiculously excited for him. I know this is going to be hard for him, for us. He is going to be trying to take classes and work full time on the Army's schedule which will be tough for us and take away from his limited hours with us, but this is definitely something he needs to do.

I am just bursting with pride for him. I think about how many people stay in a chosen career field or get defeated when life didn't turn out the way they anticipated and how few truly make the attempt to go back to school. I don't know how it will work. He's trying to figure out a school and tuition assistance versus GI Bill. I'm sure moving around and deploying will make life complicated at times to complete course work, but really, I am just proud that he is considering going back to school and is thinking about who he really wants to be after retirement. 

I hope he knows how much I believe in him. Go for it, honey!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 120: Tiny changes

Watching my daughter over the past week or so, I realized that she changes so gradually and so subtly that I don't always have the words to describe what I see in her face or behavior. I try to call the grandmas to keep them informed about how she is growing, but words can't seem to capture a glimmer of understanding in her eye that wasn't there just last week or the spark of mischief that sprang up only yesterday. Words and things and ideas are starting to make sense for her. She is learning to assert her independence and will sometimes at inconvenient times and I am not looking forward to the day she realizes that I can't actually make her do anything.

Just this week, she started doing something breathtakingly new, playing with me. We've been rolling a ball back and forth together for sometime and she has always enjoyed me being near, but just since Sunday afternoon has she been actually playing with me. I have been sitting on the floor with her to play, handing her a rattle or reaching a toy that has rolled just out of reach of chubby baby fingers. Then, all of a sudden, she has seen me as someone to play with. She sees me get down on the floor and races over to me, hugging me and jumping on me. She rolls over and over me, jumping and pulling until I return the roughhouse play and tickle her until she squeals, face flushed with laughter.

Like the perfect crack of lightening blazing across the sky, the flash of change is gone so quickly and is so intangibly hard to describe. I try to keep the camcorder and camera handy, but it just isn’t the same as being here. I see her every day and sometimes the changes are so subtle that I don’t notice them until she makes a big leap.

I can’t imagine the changes her dad saw when he came home. He left a tiny baby who slept a lot and didn’t do much and came home to a crawling, babbling near toddler. By the time he comes home again, she will be walking. She is just about ready to do it. I’ve seen her balance improve and her use my security less and less, but she just hasn’t been willing to take her first independent steps yet.

Yesterday she stood by herself for a second again, but dove for me once she realized she wasn’t holding on. Lil Bit is still little for her age but is getting bigger. She has realized that an obstacle in her path can be overcome. While she hasn't yet mastered overcoming them all, it is hilarious to watch her analyzing the ottoman and attempting to climb over it. Although I am laughing, I can see that soon I won't be able to keep her contained and a whole new level of baby proofing will have to occur.
Last night, we just had the best time. After the horrible news yesterday, I made a point to love on her a little more. And man, did we play. She has a little two-sided kitchen that has an oven door that opens into the fridge. She was sitting on the fridge side while I was on the other side. I reached through the open oven door and grabbed and tickled her. She jumped and her eyes turned to small saucers, but then giggles just bubbled out of her like a cough she couldn't control and we were both laughing. I know there are times I feel left out when my friends can go out and socialize, but I spent a lot of time last night thinking that I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Even writing about her now makes it hard to finish the day. I can't wait to get to her and see what tonight brings. I love watching her learn new things. If I hand her a brush, she brushes her hair or at least rubs it against her head (although to be fair she also did that with her chocolate bunny Sunday). She tells me when she is full by signing finished. She dips her little spoon into her food and tries to feed herself. She is growing up so fast and I don't want to miss any of these so precious tiny changes.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 121: What to think

I just don’t know what to think. I have a student whom I will call Nelly. She is a second year freshman who is failing all of her courses. She is very loud and full of attitude. I have spent so much time this year devoted to encouraging her to take her work and education seriously, but her behavior in class has remained extremely immature and disruptive. She uses very low level diction and deliberately uses “ghetto” expressions or rap slang as often as possible, inserting them unnecessarily into conversations, making her sound more immature and ridiculous.

I saw in her so much potential for improvement at the beginning of the year, but talk after talk, even after parent-teacher conferences, she made no changes. Her grades have been so low that mathematically, passing is impossible, not just improbable. It hurts my heart to see a student so willfully throw away a future, a life that had so much possibility. But I can’t make her care about herself or see that doing well in school and getting an education is caring for herself.

Then a few months ago, she came to me not feeling well. She said she had been throwing up all morning. Well, when you teach high school long enough, the first question isn’t who around you has had a stomach bug or what did you eat, but are you pregnant? A few days later, she gleefully announced that she was pregnant.  I know how hard being a mom is at my age. I tried hard not to be negative, but I get so upset that these little girls are becoming mothers, potentially ruining their lives and their children’s.  Some kids handle it relatively well and come out stronger on the other side.  A colleague was a teen mom and is finishing her doctorate degree in education. It can be done and it can turn out all right, but not often.

Her boyfriend is educationally in even sorrier shape than she is, if that is truly even possible.  He is already receiving his education in an alternative setting because he couldn’t make the grades attending regular school although he was in special education classes.  He proposed to her recently and she came in flashing her ring. I didn’t want to be Debbie Downer, but this child has no idea what marriage means, how hard it is for two mature, intelligent, loving adults to manage successfully. I told her that if she could wait until after college, it would be best.

While some teenage romances do last, some of my closest friends have been together since high school, statistics are against them and the ones I personally know have been successful, dated all through high school and college and even started careers before marrying. I told her my husband is my best friend, the person I would choose to spend time with if I could pick anyone and the absolute love of my life, but I have moments when I want to strangle him. I have moments in which I am so furious that I can’t imagine looking at him for one more second. It takes a lot of maturity to get past those moments, to work through those struggles.

She can’t seem to work past her own issues to get an education and is now planning on getting married and raising this baby. I can’t lie, I thought this was a disaster waiting to happen. She is just so immature. The day my daughter had to be in school because of a black out at her daycare, I didn’t even trust her to hold Lil Bit.

Forty-five minutes ago, another one of her teachers and I were discussing how worried we were for her. She was absent today and we were just so concerned about how she is failing and will be a freshman again this year. And we both expressed concern over the fact that she would be trying to parent a baby without an education to help her succeed in life.

Then we got an email from her counselor saying that Nelly’s baby had died which is why she was absent today and would be absent tomorrow. Holy Cow! I feel awful. I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child she had already become so attached to. Regardless of the wisdom of her keeping this child, she was excited about it, knew it was going to be a little girl and had already had a baby shower.

Her heart must be broken. To have such a loss would be overwhelming at any age, but doubly so for someone whose emotions are so fragile. She had planned a life, a marriage and family around this child. I would imagine her mom had already started planning a nursery. To have to go home and face the reminders would be devastating.

The hardest part for me is feeling guilty for wondering what kind of life this child was going to have and being concerned for the type of mother she was going to be with her attitude and immaturity and lack of education. I know that perhaps this is for the best and allows her to move on with her life in a way she never could have once the baby was born. Even so, this is a pain I understand having wished for a baby for so long.  I feel awful, knowing that nothing I did made any difference, but hurting for her anyway. 

I know God’s plan for her is His best plan for her life. He is going to do what he can to bring her closer to Him. He is the master of the universe. He knows why this happened in her life, but that won’t change her pain. Even if she could know this was for the best in the long run, it won’t heal her heart. Only time can do that, and it will always be a major loss. With several of my close friends pregnant and my precious daughter’s looming first birthday, babies are on the brain and I can just feel this loss so acutely, even for a child that didn’t need to be having a child. So sad, gonna rush home and hug mine a few extra times, if that is even possible. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 122: UGH

I am tired of being sick. I think I've been sick almost every other week this year. I don't know what I can do to be better, but I am going to have to do something. I don't even want to say the words I'm sick anymore. I am sure people are sick of hearing me talk about it. My immune system has to be just a complete disaster. I take vitamins, try to eat healthy, try to exercise, and still I struggle.

Lil Bit has been coming home sick from school and bringing home the germs. She sucks her thumb and then sticks her fist in my mouth. I don't know if the only thing going on is Lil Bit bringing home germs from daycare or if being lonely has anything to do with it, but I had strep throat two weeks ago. Now I am coughing and living on nyquil.

It just makes my life that much harder when I have to spend my weekends physically recuperating. My evenings are shot especially when my body isn't feeling 100%. The few hours I have are the baby's and getting ready for the next school day. Saturday and Sunday are the days I depend on to get caught up on a the little things I let slide during the week. So when I end up feeling awful and struggling just to get through the necessities, I get set back two weeks.

I did do some things yesterday, but not nearly as much as I wanted and it felt like the more things I put away, the more I saw that needed doing. Luckily, I got an early text that woke me this morning. I got up and forced myself to get going first thing. At least I got the living room furniture cleaned and vacuumed the floor. I didn't nap at all today, which gave me time to upload pictures and start working on the play list for our Lil Bit's birthday party.

On a positive note, we have survived 8 months of deployment and only have four more to go! ! It has been a month since he left from R&R. And I've been a little sad, but the time is going faster being busy and taking some time to go running/walking for myself. Hopefully I feel better and can go for a run this week.

If anyone has any suggestions for staying healthy other than Vitamin C and Zinc type lozenges, please let me know. I am coughing and sniffling and my head hurts. I think I am going to lay down. Ugh.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 123: Organizational Day

Now, in the Army if someone says Organizational Day, what I hear is Mandatory Fun. My husband and I don't socialize very much with other soldiers in his troop or unit. We're just more solitary than most people. I have some friends from school, but if I didn't see them every day at work, I don't know how often we would get together. We are just loners so Organizational Day is not usually one of our favorite things.

But today was not THAT type of Organizational Day. I decided it was time to quit feeling like my house was out of control and start getting organized. I start feeling upset and just out of sorts after awhile if the house is not perfectly squared away. Maybe that is one reason I am suited to be a soldier's wife. We both like to have things squared away. On a separate note, when two people get married it makes life a WHOLE lot easier if they both have similar cleaning and organizational styles. Otherwise you're in for a lifetime of frustration and petty disagreements. My husband and I both like the house about the same level of clean which keeps us from bickering about housework too much.

The last few days Chad was home, I didn't really worry about keeping the house picked up. It was more important to spend time with him. Then he left and I went back to work. The adjustment of not having him around was hard on both of us. Then I got strep and was down for a week and now have a cold. Babies are literally germ factories when they come from daycare. I feel like I want to gown and glove everyday when I pick her up. But between being depressed and sick and trying to get into a habit of running again, I just haven't had the time to keep the house more than superficially ungross.

Shopping online saves me a lot of time and some money, but also leaves me with a ton of cardboard boxes. I have started feeling like they're ganging up on me and trying to take over the house. Breaking them down is one of my least favorite tasks. Most of them are corrugated cardboard, designed to withstand shipping and are just a pain to break down. I've started stacking them in a big pile in the garage, but if I don't do something soon, I will have to start parking on the street.

I didn't get quite as much done as I wanted or even had planned. But I made a dent. I took care of a ton of tiny nagging things around the house. I played with the baby and even got a cherished phone call from my husband. I didn't even complain that he woke me from a nap. We didn't have much to say after a computer chat very late last night, but it was nice to hear his voice.

I probably could spend a week all day, everyday and not put a dent into the real jobs that need doing, pictures that need organizing, closets that need thinning, etc. But just getting a few piles pared down and straightening up made me feel more productive. Maybe organizational day is a bit strong, but a good start it definitely was. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 124: Just a boy

I don't know the last time you've visited a high school, but some of the current fashion trends are a bit shocking. Despite attempting to maintain some decorum, I've seen some children dressed in ways that stop me in my tracks. We have a boy with a zebra light up wheel chair, totally cool. We have a boy who dresses like a trendy Asian girl who's wardrobe is disturbing on so many levels. We have young ladies who like to wear tops so low the girls are not just visible, but jumping out to say "Hello!"

One of the current trends is called EMO. It is an abbreviation for emotionally disturbed. I'm not sure what point these kids are trying to make, but they dress and act like they want everyone to notice how damaged they are, how angry, hostile and unapologetic. The kids wear dark clothes and strange hairstyles. They often have piercings and large gauge earrings like the one in the picture right. They look angry, upset, despondent, vague.

These children dress for shock value. They wear their hair standing up in fans like peacocks. They wear garish eye liner and ridiculously skinny jeans (boys too). They are a walking sign screaming, "What? gotta problem with the way I look?" They want to be confronted, challenged, mistreated for their appearance because it reinforces their negative opinions of themselves.

Even understanding where this behavior comes from, I find it hard not to be put off by their appearance and attitude. It is hard to remember for all their bluster that they are still children. But today I was leaving for the weekend and watching kids waiting for their parents to come get them. I passed a boy standing in a partially enclosed corner. He dressed in the skinny pants and biker gloves and crazy hair cut, but for just a moment, I saw the tiniest flicker of something else in his face.

I saw him straighten a chunk of hair that was blowing in his face and tuck it behind the ear with a large gauge hole in it. The way he smoothed his hair erased years from his face. He looked up at a car rolling past with a tiny bit of hope in his face, like any another kid waiting for his mom to come pick him up.

For all his hostility and bluster, he is just a little boy still in so many ways. If I had said something to him, he would have denied it and probably been a little put off or confrontational, but for a heartbeat, I saw a little boy wanting to belong, have friends and go home for a weekend with his family.

He probably suffers from a type of minor personality disorder like depression; very few people rebel this strenuously against societal norms without suffering from some sort of personality disorder. Or is rebelling from super strict parents. But we don't often get a chance to see the wounded child behind the emo kid.

He is, at the end of the day, just a boy, a boy so worried that people won't like him that he goes out of his way to exclude himself from his peers using his appearance, but wishing for respect and inspiration, hope and understanding.

A good reminder on this Good Friday that we can't judge people based on the outside: skin, hair, ethnicity, occupation. A poor Jewish carpenter once went against the crowd and saved the world. While we can't compare an Emo kid to Jesus, they are both lessons in looking past the cover before judging the book. His pain and need were so obvious for just a second that I could imagine the boy he used to be and wanted to hug him.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 125: Not Winning

There are hard days as a mom: teething, crying, refusing to eat. There are hard days as a person: not enough sleep, traffic, cold germs. There are hard days as a teacher: tardies, excuses, indulgent parents.

Some days are horrible, disastrous, but today was not really a hard day so much as just a teeny bit rough. No major roadblocks, just little bumps. But enough little bumps add up to one jostled around lady. I finally sat down at 10 pm and just didn't have enough energy to write the blog I wanted to tonight.

Today I wasn't losing, but I definitely wasn't winning. I had crazy student presentations all day today. Power point and speeches are a recipe for every excuse in the book. My thumb drive won't work. My mom packed our thumb drive away. My computer at home had a stolen copy of powerpoint. My thumb drive erased my presentation. After four hours of these, after 16 years of teaching, I just nod and say, OK it's late. One kid even brought in a note. But I gave them three weeks in class to do the work. Everyone could have finished in class, just so I wouldn't have to listen to excuses.

On top of the kids and in the middle another teacher came in and expected me to drop everything (in the middle of a student's speech! ! !) UGH. I don't even want to talk about how unprofessional people can be. Who walks in during a student speaking and tries to engage me in an in depth conversation about a student who hasn't cared all year, but she wants to save his grade today, a day after his project was due.

Then grocery shopping which is my least favorite thing of my general duties. I prefer poopy diapers and cleaning toilets. Then it was even more special since Walmart has decided to rearrange the entire store. Almost nothing was where it was last week. We were out of everything and the shopping was going to be in depth anyways, so having to play hide and seek with the crackers was extra special.

To top off the day, the baby's new allergy medicine made her sick. She regurgitated all over me, the couch, the carpet, and herself. Getting tomato sauce out of the carpet is challenging and almost impossible out of what was a white shirt. And when you're only one person and vomit is everywhere it is kind of overwhelming. I sent out a facebook sigh. THANK GOD for a neighbor reading it. She sent up her daughter to help. I had it mostly under control but not quite and she sat with Lil Bit, freshly bathed but mad about her jammies - she is on an anti-jammie campaign this week?, while I cleaned the carpet and couch and sprayed her top with stain remover.

Then she refused her bottle and screamed bloody murder when I tried to rock her to sleep, so I put her down tired, frustrated and swamped with all the things that didn't get done tonight. Here it is again after 10:30, the dog needs out and I haven't changed my pjs yet.

We did watch American Idol and laugh and tickle and play ball. She was giggling and so happy most of the evening. Being able to spend some good, fun time with her was great. It was a bright spot to my day as always, so today was not horrible, just tiring and draining and one of those days that being alone feels LONELY. I wasn't losing today, but I really didn't feel like I was winning. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 126: Jog my mood

I was feeling pretty down today. I like routine. I like to keep a set schedule. I like organization and planning, but even I get tired of the same thing day after day especially when the theme is not enough time or energy. Especially when my favorite person isn't a part of my days. In fact he tried to chat, but my students are giving presentations in class using the computer so I couldn't chat. It was really hard knowing he was there and not being able to talk. I have been missing him SO much.

After R&R should be the easiest part of a deployment. People expect that it should be, but I’ve never found it to be the case. In fact, after the closeness my husband and I had over R&R, it has been especially hard on me to not have good contact. He has been swamped with things (some administrative and some combat-related) and has barely called or contacted me in the weeks since he left.

I didn’t even get a phone call last weekend. When we go weeks without talking, it is very hard on me emotionally despite the fact that he almost ALWAYS calls at the worst possible moment of the day. Like trying to instant message me during presentations today. I emailed him a better time to talk, but he never came back online. My heart hurt a little bit for having to miss him. I know he is OK. I know he loves me. I know he knows I love him. But when I miss him, my heart hurts a little bit. I struggle not to cry no matter how recently we've talked, but today it was harder since we haven't been able to chat and my students are giving presentations every day for awhile. 

My mood was about as gray as it was here today, but I took a chance and went for a walk/jog anyway. The baby LOVES going for nice long walks and so does the dog. I put on my good running shoes and went for it. I ran/walked a 5K (3.1 miles) in 50 minutes. That is horribly slow, but considering how out of shape I am and the hole in my hip, I was happy with it for today. Monday, I did 2.55 miles in the same time it took me today to go half a mile further.

The best part of the jog though was how I felt when I finished. The fresh air, happy baby, endorphins and pride helped push away the lonely funk, for tonight at least. I have to remember that even a quick walk is such a mood changer. I spend way too much time tucked away on the couch. As long as the baby is happy in the stroller, I need to take advantage, even if we just go a mile, it is exercise and sunshine, a fresh breeze and does wonders for my smile. Some people wanna jog their memories, but I wanna jog my mood. = )

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 127: Divorce Part 2

If you missed Divorce part one, check yesterday’s entry.

Couples meet and fall “in love” and marry without always being sure that they are both on the same page in regards to the commitment they are making. Falling in love is easy. Staying in love is hard. It takes making the choice to wake up and love someone who sometimes makes you crazy. Making a marriage work is about both partners giving 100% everyday as much as humanly possible. When people say it is 50/50, it scares me. When it is 100/100, you see people who are in it to win it. They see a future together and refuse to let petty disagreements and silly resentments fester between them or work through their issues. Maybe they just drink heavily, who knows, but study after study shows that even dysfunctional couples who stay together are better for the kids than couples who divorce in all but the most extreme abuse situations (physical violence against the spouse or children).

People think, “ah, kids are resilient. If we divorce, it will be hard on them, but won’t ruin their lives.” It may not ruin their lives, but the statistics that it will are staggering. The statistics for psychological problems, relationship issues, drug and alcohol abuse are exponentially higher for children from divorced families than from intact families.  Girls face additional issues than boys because of the importance of the father/daughter relationship and their self-image and future relationships with men. I imagine this is probably because women are awarded custody more often than fathers affording sons the chance to bond with the opposite gender parents on a more profound level than most daughters.

As the mother of a daughter, the next set of results is the most motivating/scariest. I am just going to quote the entire passage.
 One in five of the girls [from divorced families] had her first sexual experience before age 14. Over half were sexually active with multiple partners during high school. The girls told us they often frequented bars where pickups were common. They were driven by the wish to be held by a man and to be sought after. Sex itself was not their goal but rather the price they paid for the attention. Several said that they would have sex only if they were drunk or high on drugs. Precautions were rarely taken. Although we neglected to tally the incidence, several of the high school girls reported having multiple abortions.
By contrast, the great majority of girls from intact families postponed sex until late high school or early college, with most reporting having sex only within the context of an established relationship.

These facts mean that girls from divorced families are more likely to engage in destructive sexual behavior, generally in the name of being “loved.” Now, my non-expert opinion is that young women of divorced families would primarily be raised by mothers since women tend to be awarded custody about 80-90% of the time. These young ladies would have at best limited relationships with their fathers and may have significantly poor relationships with their fathers. Other research indicates that the father/daughter relationship is instrumental in a young woman’s views of love and self-worth. According to Linda Nielsen:

            Fathers generally have as much or more impact as mothers do in the following areas of their daughters’ lives: (1) achieving academic and career success—especially in math and science (2) creating a loving, trusting relationship with a man (3) dealing well with people in authority—especially men (4) Being self-confident and self-reliant (5) Being willing to try new things and to accept challenges (6) Maintaining good mental health (no clinical depression, eating disorders, or chronic anxiety) (7) Expressing anger comfortably and appropriately—especially with men

As a terribly devoted mom, I want to have a close relationship with my daughter. I want to be her parent, but also to hopefully share a friendship and special closeness with her.  I watched Gilmore Girls and secretly hoped to someday have that kind of special friendship with my daughter. Yet, I know that she needs to have a close relationship with her dad too.

I know my relationship with a demanding, perfectionist father has completely shaped the woman I am and the relationships I seek. Being afraid of being a constant disappointment to my father led me to seek relationships with men who would never be disappointed in me, i.e. were less successful, intelligent, confidant, etc. It has been a pattern that led me into some disastrous relationships. And my parents were together.

What about a daughter who feels like she wasn’t worth her dad sticking around? Or sees her father and mother in a contentious relationship? The absentee father who is criticized by the abandoned or bitter mother passes on bitterness and mistrust of men to her daughter. The angry resentful father criticizes the mother on whom she has come to rely daily causing her to see men as hostile and angry.

I can’t tell you the number of teenage students I have seen acting as lesbians who have been abandoned, abused, ignored by their fathers. I have no idea if these women eventually find relationships with men, but most are determinedly anti-men.  I had a young lady crying just yesterday because her father used to beat her and her mom’s boyfriend was the only male figure in her life. I’m not sure what that had to do with her failing grade in my class, but the hurt and sadness was evident.

I was surprised by the fact that women raised in homes with destructive marriages had better views of love and marriage that women raised in divorced homes.  I would have believed that growing up in a home in which the marriage was angry, unloving, perhaps tension filled would be worse than living in two happy homes, but the studies don’t bear that out. Again, this study didn’t say no one from a divorced family ever grows up happy, healthy, or mentally stable, just that the statistics are really stacked against the children from a divorce.

While men from divorced families seemed reluctant to foster serious intimate relationships or to marry, the women seemed compelled to pursue relationships and would often accept any proposal no matter who asked for fear of being alone. The divorce rates of adults from divorced families were more than four times the rate of divorce for adults from intact families. Yikes! That is even a higher connection rate than divorce to psychological issues by almost double. Children of divorce get divorced one out of approximately 3.5 marriages as compared to less than one out of ten.

Additionally I was surprised that much of the findings contradicted what we would normally think would make a difference: if the ex-spouses argue or custody, money, etc. if the non-custodial parent has limited contact with the children, if there was lingering anger and conflict between the spouses, if the spouses are cordial and joint parent. All of these things would logically seem to make a difference in how divorce affected the children, but no! The children studied in this case all had parents who got along, had non-custodial parents who were large parts of their lives, had parents who maintained loving parent/child relationships after the divorce.
All the statistics from the Wallerstein/Lewis study were from “good” divorces. I wonder what they would have found for children who suffered through a bad divorce, had a parent cease contact, lived “in the middle” of bickering bitter exes trying to one-up each other and keep tabs through the children.

Basically children don’t just bounce back from divorce, it is a life-altering event that forever shatters the primary relationship mold for their lives. It affects them permanently in the way they view themselves, life and intimate relationships.

If you’re married and have children, I would encourage you to spend some time talking with your spouse about this study and at the end of the “Unexpected Legacy of Divorce” is an additional list of references for further study. Maybe it can be an impetus to renewing a commitment to a healthy relationship or a wake-up call to start working to make your marriage work. Maybe understanding how devastating it is on the children will help you decide to stay and work through your issues. Perhaps knowing these things will give you pause before you marry.

I know that this research, done on a whim, will make me be a better step-parent, a more aware parent and a more generous, forgiving and appreciative spouse. If I put my daughter’s well-being for my own in every other way, why wouldn’t I in a way that apparently matters so much.

Sorry for this rant, I just don’t know that most people are truly aware of the lasting legacy divorce has on children.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 128: Divorce part 1

Being a stepparent for the second time and watching the struggles of my stepsons has really made me think about the effect divorce has on children and the carelessness with which people separate.  The children are forever torn between two people who live apart. They rarely have both parents in the same place at the same time so are forever missing one parent.

Even if you take away any arguing on the part of the divorced parents, being bounced between two households is hard. One of my stepchildren has confessed to me that a secret wish is for the parents to remarry. Regardless of the likelihood of such an event, they wish for it. They want to be able to love both parents without  feeling disloyal. They want to spend time with both parents at the same time.

Obviously, if my husband and his ex-wife had not gotten divorced, he and I would not be together. I am incredibly in love with him and look forward to a life together. I am glad we found each other, but that does not diminish the effect divorce had and will continue to have on his children.

I decided to do a little research on the lasting effects of divorce according to experts.
A caveat here - I think marriage is hard. I’ve been divorced. I know that people, me included, get married with a romanticized view of marriage and the reality is very different, sometimes the reality of WHO you’ve married only sinks in once the rose colored glasses come off. And our current culture doesn’t value marriage the way it once did. So I am not trying to hold myself up as a judge over anyone, but I think if people really understood how much divorce truly affects children, they might think twice before divorcing or perhaps even getting married. It might have given me pause in my younger years. Maybe if people really grasped that the children are better off if the parents stay together in all but the most abusive situations, perhaps more parents would try to work it out.

Now, I am not in favor of staying married in an abusive situation or one in which a partner has been unfaithful; however, marriages can heal from both of these things if both partners are willing to work at it. People today in general need to take marriage more seriously from the start and need to be more committed to making it work.

Some of the research I found showed that divorce has a lasting negative effect on the children – forever! 20-25% of post divorce children were considered troubled adults when measured against a list of psychiatric disorders while adult children of intact families only had a 10% occurrence. The researcher, Hetherington said, “Now, that two-fold increase is not to be taken lightly. It’s larger than the association between smoking and cancer.” (Hetherington 2002, p. D6) Everyone knows smoking causes cancer. We have laws that protect advertising cigarettes to children due to this fact. We have warning labels on the sides of packages and on all advertising. Smoking is illegal in most public places, on television ads and even outdoors in some areas. But children have no protection from divorce.

According to a 25 year study by Wallerstein and Lewis,  ALL the post divorce children to a certain extent reached a conclusion that “personal relationships are unreliable,” failing to trust even the closest of family relationships. Even when the parents had positive second marriages, less than ten percent of the children whose parents had found stable new marriages felt secure and welcome in the new family unit.

That statistic makes me realize that no matter how well I try to parent the boys now, they are going to struggle with feeling loved and welcome in my home. They are going to be suspicious. If parents can leave, what would make a stepparent stay? That lack of trust kind of explains a lot of defensive argumentative behavior I have seen from several of my stepchildren over the years.  It also makes me want to call them right now just for a verbal hug. I feel like a failure. After losing the children I had so lovingly raised in my last marriage, I have struggled with getting close to the boys. I am afraid to love them too much because they have a mother and I am afraid I would get so emotionally invested in them that I would struggle with letting them go. I learned the hard way that, no matter how much I love them and how well I try to “parent” them, they aren’t my children at the end of the day.

But I am responsible for who I am for them and with them while they are in my home.  I need to make a larger effort to help them feel loved, welcome and secure in our home and with our relationship. If they, even on a subconscious level, fear losing relationships, I need to make sure they understand that I will always be available to them no matter what. I will say that my older stepchildren from my previous marriage are both in contact with me. We talk once in awhile, visit when possible (a few times a year) and email and Facebook often.

My take away from this tonight is to make a bigger effort to be good and understanding when the boys visit and to work very hard at making my marriage work. We’re doing OK so far, but we’re not quite five years in, nearly seven since we met. Hopefully we have a long way to go.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Day 129: A hole in my heart

As I started to think about what to write tonight a song kept playing in my head that seemed to fit my mood. I had a rough day today. 

Extreme :
There's a hole in my heart
That can only be filled by you
And this hole in my heart
Can't be filled with the things I do

This heart of stone is where I hide
These feet of clay kept warm inside
Day by day less satisfied

There is no explanation for how I am feeling today. The largest part of the deployment is over. The weather is nice. The baby is cute and starting to get really active. 

I just don't feel like I want to do anything. I got very little accomplished beyond the necessary today. Words kind of escape me but ennui mixed with melancholy seem to be close. Every day seems like a repetition of the last. Even though I am counting down the days until his return, I just have some days that my subconscious sadness overtakes me.

I say subconscious because I wasn't aware how sad I was until I just couldn't make myself care about much today. He didn't call this weekend and we only got two emails this week. We tried to chat once, but he lost power during our chat. That was even a pretty sad chat because we were on Facebook and his internet was so slow, it kept telling me he was offline. The time between replies was almost too long to be worth it. 

I have a lot of long days ahead. The summer will be a lot of long days. I think I am going to have to find some goals and keep to a schedule of some sort in order to stave off the depression. I am ready for him to come home. But we still have a long way to go . . . 

Day 130: A different life

This is going to be a short entry. I am very tired and it is past midnight. The baby woke up at 7 a.m. today which was about three hours too early so Momma is tired!

I tried tonight to go to a friend's house for game night. It didn't start until 8 which was a bit late for a baby, but I worked her naps and feedings around going to the party. She fell asleep around 5:30 and slept for an hour so she was ready to party.

Everyone else at the party was younger, by a lot, and no one else had children. Having a baby at a game night was a bit challenging. She wanted to be into everything. She pulled out all the cords of their Xbox and at one point had them wrapped around her neck, chest and hands. She then played with a cat toy, smashing everyone close in the head several times. Then she wanted to be into what we were doing on the table with our cards.

I just learned that I can't take her out like I could when she was super little. She isn't the passive little thing she used to be just a few months ago, which is great when we're in our baby safe living room, but not so great when we're trying to play with a fire poker. They knew we were coming, but didn't make much attempt to baby proof. I had to snatch up a bobby pin from the carpet and she was licking power cords (not plugged in).

I passed her around and I held her a lot, but it just showed me that I am not being antisocial when I turn down invitations that are truly more geared to single people or at least nonparents. She needs to play and crawl and be active. While meeting new people was great for her too, and she got to pet a very teeny tiny kitten, it just wasn't the best environment for us anymore. She just needs too much attention for me to be able to enjoy myself truly and if I am going to spend the evening playing with her, I would rather do it at our house where I know she will be safe.

I had fun. It was good to see my friends, but it was really hard to keep her occupied and happy. I have to make priorities and she comes first. Not to say we will never go out again, we may, but I would bet that it will be awhile before we go somewhere adult centered again. Lil Bit is getting older and needs to be able to crawl, pull up, play, learn. Being told no every five minutes wasn't much fun for either of us.

I guess being a parent trumps going out because I don't want to leave her with a sitter if I don't have to. Staying in and playing peekaboo might be a different life, but I am exactly where I want to be, even if I miss some of my friends from time to time. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 131: Impossibly, horribly true

Tonight, I am not sure what happened. My TV seemed to choose a channel all by itself. After watching some DVRed sit coms, I was watching Oprah. I don't usually watch Oprah because she is sometimes overly congratulatory of how great she is. She has done a lot of wonderful things, but I think she has allowed her head to get a bit swollen and I have a hard time watching her salute to "I'm awesome!" If she were really as awesome as she seems to believe, she would do her good deeds in quiet, where God instructs our generosity to be so as to be of pure motivation. It is a tough call to answer, but just saying.

Anyways, enough of my anti-Oprah tirade. For all her pride, she has done some pretty powerful shows. The show that happened to be airing tonight, seemed to be from earlier today. I was immediately moved to tears by the story of a young man, Clayton Grad, who had been horribly abused by his father and step-mother when he was six. The details of the abuse were sickening. He was kept in a closet, dog fencing surrounding his body so he could not sit or move, much less escape the tiny 2x2 closet. He was not fed nor allowed to use the restroom. He was punished with urine and feces when he could no longer control his bodily functions. He was kept in the closet for most of his life during a long enough time period that he cannot recall when it started. Luckily he was rescued by a police officer who God made sure listened to his "gut" and was later raised by a loving aunt who did much to give him the life any child deserves.

The audio recordings of the timorous six year old recounting the horrible abuse turned my stomach and made my heart ache. I just can't understand how these people can have children, but I can't. I can't understand how they could look at this sweet little boy and torture him. Pausing the TV, I held my daughter so tightly and chased her around the living room, tickling her and kissing her. I must have told her "Mommy loves you" a hundred times tonight.

Being Friday night, I didn't rush to get her to bed early, but she's had a rough week with teething: fever, crabbiness, loss of appetite, sleepiness, temper tantrums. She started acting "done" around 9:30. She had crossed a threshold and nothing made her happy. I took her in to change into her jammies, but she was hurting and tired and just started crying. It broke my heart. I just held her and rocked her. I gave her toys and got her to laughing, but instead of putting her down to bed alone, I couldn't bring myself to let her go.

I wanted to be a mom from the time I was 16. I had a dream that I was pregnant and it was so powerful. I wasn't in any rush, but I wanted to be a youngish mom. I wanted to have several children, maybe adopt and foster. Then life got in the way and I was not able to conceive or not in a relationship in which I wanted to. By the time I met the man with whom I wanted to have children, I was no longer able to even hope for a biological child. We started looking into adoption. When we realized how costly it was, I began to realize that I might never be a mom. I was devastated, but trying desperately to accept that as my lot. If God meant for me not to be a mom, maybe He had a reason I shouldn't be a parent.

When things started falling into place, and we finally knew that we would be parents, I was over the moon. But it didn't seem real until I held her tiny finger in my hand. My friends said they could see my joy in the picture of me by her cribside in the NICU. I still can't believe how lucky I am to get to be her mom. Until you have a child, you can't imagine the type of love you have for this itty bitty person. It is gut wrenching. Loving her is so intense sometimes it almost hurts.

After she fell asleep, I held her in my arms. I wanted to squeeze her so tightly as if I could hug my love into her so she would always be able to carry it around in her heart. I watched the rest of the show I had paused and cradled my sleeping angel, trying not to wake her with soft kisses as I tried to understand how anyone could take the precious gift they'd been given and do such things. I talked to her as I carried her to bed. "I love you so much," I said. "You deserve a perfect mommy, but all you got is me. I am gonna do my best to love you enough to make up for my mistakes." I know she couldn't hear me, but I needed to tell her one more time how much she was wanted. I was meant to be her mom. God planned it from the start even if I didn't know it and she was always wanted by me. But I did wonder what life she might have had if her birth mother chose not to give her up. It would have been filled with poverty, transcience, drugs, cigarettes, jail and dysfunction, maybe neglect and potentially abuse. I am brought almost to tears imagining that life for my precious Lil Bit. It shouldn't happen to any child.

But it happens everyday. 5-6 children died today from abuse. Every ten seconds a case of abuse is reported. That number is more staggering when you think about the fact that most abuse is never reported. Much of what we would consider abusive behavior isn't even recognized at the time by the child as wrong and if reported, would not result in the child being removed from the home due to an overworked, underfunded system.

The day I met my daughter was the happiest day of my life. I am far from perfect and have my days when I could be more patient or more energetic or know what to do. Being a mom is an impossible job. I am going to screw it up, I am going to leave her with memories of me being angry or impatient. It is literally impossible to parent perfectly or even close, but no one should have a childhood like Clayton. And yet, it is impossibly, unbelievably, disgustingly true for one out of every 110 (or so) children.

I see what happens to some of those children when they get to me in high school. While they believe they are adults, I can see the little broken children inside. It hurts me. I have reported a few cases of abuse. One family moved away immediately after the investigation started. Another was found unsubstantiated. One girl I sent home with bags of food and got her in touch with counselors, but she is still in the home full of neglect. I am not allowed to take them home. Heck, I can't even give them a ride home legally. But that doesn't stop me from wanting to.

I know God is the master and has a plan, but I can't find in myself an answer as to how such suffering of children is allowed to happen. Especially when there are literally hundreds of thousands of couples just like us waiting for a child whom they will love and nurture. I just can't grasp how these parents are allowed to exist by God or man, but they do . . . and there are no words for the grief I feel for them tonight.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Day 132: Reasonable

I object!
I am tired!
I can’t handle crazy!

I have decided I have a real problem with about 90% of the population, the people who form an opinion without being truly informed and never waver. And I really don’t care which side of the argument they are on. I equally detest ridiculous people on either side of an argument who are unwilling to consider that someone may have information they don't have. 

I have spent enough time around people, listening to people, paying attention to the world to know that very little is cut and dried. Most issues and stories have two sides, most have two reasonable sides and the best answer or view is somewhere in the middle.

I am not saying I am not opinionated. I certainly am. But I try to be informed. I am also willing to learn, listen, take a different perspective. I just can’t abide by people who take a stance and refuse to listen to another’s ideas.

I hate the idea of abortion. I hate it! I can’t have children and hundreds of thousands of them are murdered by abortion each year. I think it is morally wrong. I think children are people from the moment of conception, that God knit them in the womb as surely as he knit me. However, I don’t know if making it illegal is the right thing to do. If I believe it is murder because my religious beliefs say an embryo is a life, what about someone who doesn’t believe a fetus is a separate life until able to be viable? I have a hard time imposing my religious beliefs on someone else. I would love to offer alternatives, heck! I would love to adopt another baby! I would GLADLY take a child rather than have it aborted. I just don’t assume somehow that I am smart enough to see all sides to a situation or to judge what someone else should or shouldn’t do based on my beliefs. There are plenty of people whose morals I would not want imposed upon me.

I have a hard time with people who just don’t try to look across the aisle or fence and try to see where the other person might be coming from. I think most fights are not because we disagree, but are because we don’t understand.

My husband and I have had more fights because the way we said something triggered an emotional response in the other that had nothing to do with the issue and we refused (one or both of us) to stop to try to see what the other person MEANT, not just what was said. I know that once we calm down enough to be able to talk to each other, most of the time it was a misunderstanding of what was intended that caused the fight. Even when we disagree, if we can stay calm and try to process what the other person is feeling, we can come to a compromise or at least agree to disagree. 

I am just DONE with unreasonable people. Life is complicated. I am a smart person, reasonably well educated and somewhat informed, but A LOT of people know things I don't. When someone confronts me about a viewpoint, I listen. I research where they are coming from. I may not change my mind. But I can respect that they have an equal right to their opinion as I do to mine. Why is that such a hard thing for people to grasp?!?!?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 133: Not enough hours

There just are not enough hours in the day to do even half of what I want to get done. Here it is 9:45 and I feel like I just sat down for the evening.

This was my evening. I got home around 5:15. The baby was fussy so I sat to play with her for a few minutes. I took care of a large pile of catalogs and magazines once she was playing happily. Then Lil Bit took a stroll to the corner with her Rockin Walker. She was hot and tired when we got home, so I gave her a cool bottle and a snack while my dinner was cooking. Then I ate a frozen dinner and piece of garlic bread. Feeding Lil Bit some chicken and vegetables was next. She isn't eating very well. We had about half a jar left. I got her to eat most of a pear yogurt.

Then it was time to take a green bean and carrot covered kiddo for a bath. After splashes, it was pj's and stories, rocking horse and one last bottle. Then I took her into her room and put her down, tucked her tiny zebra under her arm and went to make the coffee, pack bottles for tomorrow and make a lunch. How did that take four and a half hours?

No cleaning got accomplished. No brilliant blogging tonight. I didn't straighten up a wayward toy. I barely kept my head above the water line tonight. But I'm still paddling, it might be a dog paddle, but a week has passed since I thought I was drowning. For tonight, just not drowning feels like "WINNING"! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 134: Emotions

Military wives deal with a lot of emotions. But we push a lot of them down in order to suck it up and support our spouses. Despite the fact that we struggle with so much, sometimes we have a hard time admitting it. One of the hardest things for me to do is admit my marriage is struggling. We’ve never really had problems. We fight, but even the biggest arguments blow over by morning.  And we certainly have no problem in the being in love department. It is just the damned distance, both physical and emotional of deployments, adding repetition to the mix just adds to the difficulty. I would say if a fourth deployment was an Olympic dive, it would be a reverse 2 ½ somersaults with 2 ½ twists in pike position (most difficult dive at the Beijing Olympics a 3.8 out of the now 1.5-4.0 scale).  Just random trivia for you!

One of the hardest parts of this deployment for us as a couple is dealing with our and each other’s emotions. As a man and woman, we struggle understanding each other on this issue anyways. I am a very emotional person. While capable of being very logical, my emotions tend to run the show whereas Chad tends to be a calm sea, only the very high and very low can be seen. We both have such different emotional needs when we’re together that being apart only complicates the process of sorting through the fluff and getting to the good stuff.

During a deployment, I work very hard and keep pretty busy. After several experiences with separations and deployments, I know how to stay occupied and keep myself from missing him too much. It is a defense mechanism. I know it is. If I don’t think about him too much, then I don’t hurt as much, his absence just isn’t part of my day to day. But we become accustomed to what we do and it took awhile for me to warm back up to him when he came home.

Yet, staying emotionally close is very hard during a deployment. If we were separated but he had his own room in which he could talk to me nightly, talk about his day without worrying about OpSec or perception of his fellow soldiers, we would be able to stay closer emotionally. He is in a position where all of his emotions are pretty much anger, frustration, anxiety, exhaustion. He is surrounded by such a high stress environment that he doesn’t want to tap into those emotions. He just pushes down his feelings like a trash compactor. But that doesn’t erase his feelings, but they open slowly once he comes home. Like a tightly folded rosebud, his feelings open layer by layer slowly and only with patient and gently care. 

But while he's there, he stays so closed, like a pebble sealed against feeling. When we do talk on the phone, he says very little. Every day for him is pretty much the same, of what he is able to discuss. My days are pretty repetitive too. I get up, go to school, come home, play with the baby. There is only so much I can say either about what I did today. When you're with someone everyday, things come up in conversation and its natural to talk about the tiniest of details, but when each call is potentially overheard, recorded, or simply just not enough of contact, it is harder to find the words. Sometimes we talk long enough and they start to come, but then the hanging up is harder.

Maybe we both ball up our feelings and save them for each other at the end of the deployment. I know the more times he goes, the more I wall up my heart against the hurt. So it seems easier from the outside, but it is harder and harder to take down those walls and let him back in. I know his walls were nearly concrete when he came home for R&R. I hope against hope that we can get off this deployment train wreck for a cycle or two so we have a chance at knowing what marriage feels like, no walls, no ticking clocks, no counting down calendars. Heck, we're only celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary, why should we know what living together is like? 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 135: Hawaii Five-0

Mondays are rough usually. Today was no different. My school day was a little longer since I helped out a friend by watching a class so she could take her daughter for her one year check up. Then I had some grocery shopping to do. My bread was moldy when I went to put together sandwiches for the week. Luckily, I noticed before I packed my lunch. I had just enough good bread for a today. I use so little stuff for myself that my food spoils before I can eat it. Ugh.

The baby was very wiped out tonight and slept most of the evening. I was carrying her in from getting into her "Daddy Loves Me" jammies, and I heard a familiar theme song. The smell of sweet baby lotion combined with the iconic TV song for a moment transported me back to my childhood. I could almost feel my hair damp against my neck and taste the ice cream mom scooped into a bowl. We weren't allowed to stay up late enough to watch Hawaii Five-O, but I remember finishing my dessert and heading up to bed, feeling safely sleepily content. I was very young when that show was on, so I only have the faintest of memories of the show, but the music was a part of my childhood.

For a moment, I stood and danced with Lil Bit in my arms and realized that depending on the success of the new remake, which I enjoy immensely, she may grow up with a very similar memory of the simple contentedness of childhood: bedtimes, sundaes, baths, and family. I hope our home feels to her like the safe cocoon I remember of my home.

Of course, tonight, after napping like a sack of wet flour until almost 8:30, I am mostly hoping she will go down for bedtime at all!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Day 136: Mommy Tips

It seems like the minute you are expecting, or in our case 'paper' pregnant, people start giving you advice. The hardest part is knowing what advice to take and what to ignore. The truth is what works for me and my baby may not work for you or your baby or your parenting style. I am certainly not perfect!! Nor was my mom or mother-in-law although they were both great! We all do what we can to survive. There are certain moms who can seemingly do it all while being totally vegan, green and organic without watching any TV or listening to any music that doesn't have child focused lyrics and in their spare time teach their children foreign languages and physics. I am not THAT mom. That mom makes me feel like a failure.

Just the other day, I was very worried about how loose her car seat base was. Before putting her into the car, I reached in to tighten the base. For the minute my back was turned the shopping cart with the baby in it started to roll away. Luckily, I was able to get to her quickly, but it just about gave me a heart attack. So I am absolutely NOT holding myself up as a paragon of motherhood perfection. This list is simply a short list of things I have found that worked for me to sooth, comfort, prevent, and raise a generally happy, healthy little girl.

This list is in no particular order. I am writing things down as they occur to me and letting the list build for a few weeks. We'll see how long it gets.

1. Give the baby a variety of experiences as part of the norm!
  a. let her fall asleep in the dark, dim, light rooms, etc.
  b. give him warm bottles, room temperature bottles, cold bottles - same for food.
  Giving a baby routine helps them feel safe, comfortable, but too much routine makes for a fussy baby when any little thing is disrupted.

2. Use a type of velcro snuggy wrap (I used the Summer SwaddleMe) during sleep. It serves two purposes: keeps the baby warm and keeps the baby from waking herself up or scratching herself. I didn't use one for the first few months and when I started using them, the baby learned how to sleep for longer periods, meaning I got to sleep too. It was like a miracle to us, don't wait until you need a miracle.

3. Watch/Rent/Buy "The Happiest Baby on the Block". Part of using the swaddle was from this system. Chad and I watched it in horror. The people were so over the top and the creator was a bit cheesy, but then we picked up our Lil Bit and used the strategies, and she calmed and slept. We still use them to some extent, but mostly let the baby self sooth now.

4. Buy a bassinet or get one from a friend. Nothing is worse than having to run through the house half-asleep racing to reach a distraught child. The second month when she was colicky and daddy was gone, having her by my bedside was crucial. I didn't get a lot of sleep, but I was too concerned about SIDS to let her sleep away from me. (I am still a bit of a worrywart) Also, the bassinet was great for just wheeling her around the house, onto the patio, into the kitchen. They sleep pretty much all the time except when you need them too, so having a bassinet where he can nap by your side is so helpful. Also the baby learned to sleep through all sorts of commotion around her. Once she gets to sleep, she tends to sleep through most noise even now.

5. Take the baby out, meet new people, dogs, experiences head on. My daughter was out to dinner within a week of being home. She went to a winery at less than two weeks (as an observer!!!) She got used to being held by all sorts of people. She got used to noise, commotion. This is especially important for stay at home moms who sometimes only see one or two people most days. Because Lil Bit is in daycare, she is comfortable going to most people. So far we've haven't had any stranger anxiety, which was really appreciated when daddy came home.

6. Start the baby self-soothing as soon as you feel comfortable letting the baby sort herself out. After a couple of months, we moved to putting the baby down after a few soothing gestures. Sometimes she throws a fit, but most of the time, she plays quietly until she falls asleep. Even if she cries for five minutes (which feels like 30!), learning to quiet herself down means she wakes less in the night, cries less when she wakes and will put herself back to sleep or play quietly in her crib on the weekend. Lil Bit had to be woken up at 8:30 most weekend mornings.

7. Laugh - the more you laugh and joke the better for your sanity and for the baby. Every time I look at Lil Bit, she is waiting for a funny face, or for a laugh because getting angry and frustrated just doesn't work with her. Some children are properly scolded with a frown, but she is so willful that if I raise my voice or frown, she just gets angrier. Until she is old enough to understand rules, distraction is the name of the game. I sing a song, laugh, be silly, change toys, etc. Playing peek a boo is how I get out of the room. She is such a happy little girl, who knows if my strategy for dealing with baby behavior had an effect or if God just made her that way, but maybe a little bit of both.

8. When looking at toys, think about how much they do. Kids who have toys that do everything don't get as much of a chance to use their imagination and really they would rather play with a spoon and piece of string. Also if it makes noise, how irritating is the noise? Does it have a volume setting? One of Lil Bit's toys is a Barney dashboard (very annoying) with no volume control and no off switch! (Thanks, sis!)

9. Research prices on staples (diapers, wipes, formula) at your usual stores and online (Amazon baby or, etc.). You will need more stage 2 and 3 diapers than newborns and 1's. But don't buy too many diapers before baby is born, you may get some at showers and you may want to try different brands. The hospital used Pampers, but I didn't like them. They leaked. Huggies felt wet on the outside. Target Up&UP brand got inflexible when wet.

10. Clothes - one thing I have found is that some clothes that looked super cute on the hanger are a super pain in the butt to care for. Most of her little skirts have hems that roll up when I dry them. I have to finger smooth them and let them air dry. Some of her shirts are about the same. You don't want to spend any more time on laundry than necessary.

11. Clothes 2 - Also, I found that onesies weren't something I used very often in relation to how many I was given. Don't buy any, unless you find one that says something very meaningful. You will get enough that you probably won't use them all. In fact I have two sets that haven't even been opened or used.

12. Don't waste a lot of money on Dreft or dye free detergents. Buy the small bottles at first. Wash an item or two in your regular detergent and see if the baby has a reaction. I waited a month before I tried this because my preemie newborn seemed so tiny and fragile, but the What to Expect book said it wasn't necessary. If the baby doesn't react to your regular detergent, you won't need to buy special stuff anymore. I use the dye and fragrance free that I bought when she was born but only once in awhile. Still have the same bottle we bought while she was in the hospital.

13. BORROW ! ! Part of getting excited about the baby was trying to make everything perfect for her arrival. I wanted her to have the best of everything, but since we only had six weeks, I used a lot of hand me downs and for the money we saved, it was worth it. If you can find a hand me down bassinet or swing, use them. These are products that you will only use for a few months at best. You'd be better off putting the money in savings for college.

14. Baby Sign Language - Much of baby's tears are from frustration because they want something and we don't understand. I started signing with Lil Bit around 4 months old. She started signing back around 6-7 months. So far she has a limited sign vocabulary, but she can tell me when she wants more or is finished. At this stage, that is half the battle. She uses "more" for to tell me she wants to do something again as well. She started signing for the dog last week. I probably could teach her more signs, but she knows I know what she wants most of the time and is very stubborn. Some people claim their babies sign complete sentences well before they can speak, but I am satisfied with being able to know when she is still hungry or finished eating.

15. Talk to your baby - The more you describe left shoe, pink ball, arms up, tickle your toes, etc. the more the baby learns. You won't necessarily know what she has learned for months, but one day, around 10-11 months, a lot of information and words start to click.

16. Keep a toy or two on the changing table to distract him while changing diapers and clothes. Around 5 or 6 months, they start rolling over and then crawling, which is much less cute while they are poop covered or precariously close to the edge. A toy to hold will keep them from flipping at least some of the time.

I have probably a hundred little things I do without thinking about it, but being a mommy is all about intuition and instinct combined with knowledge. You will know your child so well in a few months you will know what a grunt means. I have learned to recognize her sleep breathing from her awake breathing. And you will, too. These are just a few things I learned after months, mostly months of frustration, so if any of these tips help you at all, I won't have suffered in vain.  I would love you to leave any helpful tips you have as comments or ask about any subject I forgot.

And remember every mom feels like a failure some days, like supermom on others and barely hanging on the rest. I just put my Lil Bit to bed, less sleepy than usual after getting to sleep in and have some good naps. I can hear her in her bed, kicking her feet and playing with her toys. She isn't crying, so for right now I feel like a good mom, ask me again in twenty minutes when she is standing up, jumping up and down in her crib. Even what works most nights won't always work. Parenting is kind of like teaching that way. Nothing stays the same long enough to get boring.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 137: Strepped down

Wow, I was fired up yesterday. Spent all night watching CNN. I haven't done that since 9/11. But watching up to the wire kept me up to midnight. Being sick anyways that was a little rough. Luckily my Lil Bit has been sleeping through the night again. For the past three nights, she went to bed early and slept all night. I am afraid it is because she is getting sick too, but if I can't prevent her from getting sick, the least I can do is take the extra sleep. She slept until 8 a.m. which was not a record, but nice.

I am still feeling pretty poorly. My throat hurts so badly that I can't swallow. I ache and feel completely beat down. The baby took three naps today. I tried to nap during two of them. I needed more of a nap than she did, I guess. I spent some time just trying to stay awake after her naps to keep an eye on her while she played.

The doctor said this was a pretty virulent case of strep and I would feel pretty sick for several days. It is frustrating that I felt better yesterday than I do today. I was hoping that I would heal as quickly as I got sick. That does not seem to be the case.

Emotionally, today was a mixture of blah and tears. My husband called but didn't have much to say. For OpSec reasons, he plays it close to the vest, but it is hard for us to stay close when he doesn't talk to me. Then I felt like a bad mom all day because I spent most of the day on the couch supervising baby play instead of interacting. I shouldn't still be contagious, but I feel so much worse than Friday, I was afraid to be too much in her face. She is coughing, running a low temp, and not eating or drinking much. If this continues, I am going to have to take her to the doctor. I just watch her play and giggle with the dog and felt like I was losing my chance to be close with her. My heart felt a little better when I said, "come get mommy" and she crawled across the floor so fast giggling the whole way until I scooped her up into my lap, but she wanted to poke her fingers in my mouth and I was too worried about her getting this horrible sore throat.

Sorry this entry is about being sick. I have been sick way too much this year, but it isn't a choice and it isn't a matter of suck it up. And I'm alone, relying on myself but I'm on strike apparently and down for the count. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Day 138: Government Shutdown

For the past several days, the government shutdown has been the major topic of conversation on my Facebook newsfeed, in the workroom and in general around school. The reason people are so interested in my life is because among the things that will be suspended will be pay for the military, including the 146,000 service members in Iraq and Afghanistan. The word at lunchtime today was that the military paychecks on the 15th would be only for April 1-8 instead of for the usual two weeks.

But a lot of people aren't really clear what is really happening in the government. The reality is being obscured by a bunch of politics, so it is very hard to decipher what is truth or fiction. After some research, the dispute seems to be over Riders on the federal budget. A rider is a clause appended to a legislative bill to secure a usually distinct object. I think that one of the biggest flaws in our government is that our representatives are allowed to attach riders to bills. The federal budget and every bill eventually passed is full of riders. Some of the riders are related to the main bill, many are not. But no one knows what the riders say (outside of the government at least). A congressman doesn't want to vote no on a crime bill that is important, so he ignores the distasteful riders attached to the bill. Our laws are so full of riders that if we took them all out, we would probably have to spend years to figure out the mess. Entire other bills can be attached as riders to a bill more likely to pass. I wish the Senate shared a House rule that only related amendments to a bill can be added, no riders.

Too much money goes to bill riders that no voter would support if we could vote directly. Too much money goes to bill riders that no congressmen would support if they knew the American people would know what they were really voting for. So as we're counting down the hours before the government shutdown, how much of our national debt, our annual budget has been wasted on ridiculous line riders? I would imagine if someone actually counted, the number would anger and insult us all.

The press is really making a big deal of the military not getting paid, which does infuriate me, but that is exactly why they keep pushing it. Not paying combat troops is a big deal. In fact, if you listen to all the perspectives, both sides are taking turns jabbing at military pay to get attention for their sides. Some of the talking heads on CNN including Anderson Cooper have more than suggested that one or both parties are politicizing the lack of pay for the military to distract the American people from what the real issues are. One of my friends was criticizing the President for saying the troop pay issue was just a distraction, but in the context of all sides of the story, I think was he was saying is that the issue is being used as a distraction, not that funding our troops isn't important to him.

One of the major riders that is being debated is Planned Parenthood. The Democrats say PP is about providing health services for women. The Republicans say PP is about abortion. In fact, Senator Jon Kyl said abortions are well over 90% of what PP does when in fact abortion services account for less than 3% of what PP truly does as verified by an external auditing agency. The true PP statistics are 35% disease prevention, 35% contraception, 16% cancer screening, 10% other women's health services, and 3% abortion with a 1% variance. One abortion is too many, but how many do they prevent by providing information and contraception?

Other major riders -
1. Defunding National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting System
2. Reduce funding to monitor greenhouse gases and to implement health care reform
3. Blocking restrictions on strip mining near streams and non-profit colleges

Another big issue is that congress continues to receive a paycheck even though the military won't. The congress's pay is guaranteed by the Constitution and set so it cannot be adjusted midterm. This was set in place to prevent them from giving themselves raises midterm. I understand the protection against political pressure being brought to bear and preventing corruption, but it feels like a slap in the face to the many middle class and lower class families facing some real financial hardship that the Representatives and Senators making six figures. In fact, Linda Sanchez said she couldn't give up her $174,000 salary due to obligations in her life, but the soldiers making less than a third of her salary usually with spouses, children, households (sometimes two) are expected to do so and have no option. The ridiculousness of the situation is infuriating. There is no justification for withholding military pay over petty disagreements.

I was glad to see that Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) Texas has a stand alone bill to fund the military in the interim if necessary. I hope that it doesn't come to it, but if it does, I hope clear heads prevail and at least make sure that the people protecting our nation aren't distracted from doing THAT job. I don't want my husband's head anywhere but on keeping himself and his men safe. I am SO happy that we took some time to get on board with Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover so that we've been able to watch this from the sidelines without being too concerned. A few years ago, losing half a paycheck would have devastated us. Now it would just be irritating.

Now it looks like they've developed a deal to sign a temporary agreement until they can finalize a written version of the oral agreement. But they are passing a Band-aid budget for this week.

What got me more fired up than the loss of pay, was the assumptions of the D.C. politicos that the American people are so stupid to get distracted by all the smoke of military pay and abortion and the ilk. As I watched a fairly balanced reporting between Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper, I was able to discern that the real issues are pretty complicated, but that many of the Republicans were reluctant to say on camera that abortion was not one of these issues.

I listened to raging debates on Facebook and blogs, but found many people were terribly ill informed, but plenty willing to share their opinions. I often write about my opinions here, but do try to either be informed or issue a disclaimer that I am just ranting. I found out this week that an article I read, sent to me from a close, educated friend, was a scam/urban myth. I didn't research it because I trusted the sender and ended up getting embarrassed. I won't make that mistake again. I can't know everything. I think a lot of what happens in politics is like making sausage - you like the result, but don't wanna know how it got made. I do try to make sure that I at least inform myself somewhat before blogging about a public issue.

I wonder how much of our nation's problems are because in a nation of the widest public education system, we have so many people who choose to ignore information and be actively under informed about what is happening around the world and in our government. In fact, Americans are less informed about world events and national politics than any other first world nation. We came in last! (According to a Newsweek article "How Dumb Are We?" by Andrew Romano) How can we fix our budget, economy, educational system, if we don't care enough to learn what is really going on. If we vote uninformed opinions or straight down party lines, nothing will change for the better.

I do wonder if my family can have a money make-over, why can't our government? I think I've covered enough issues for one blog. I will save solving our multi-trillion dollar debt for another night.