Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day 85: Night out

As I write this, I feel immensely guilty for not spending more time with my Lil Bit tonight, but I planned on going out for a couple of hours tonight to celebrate a friend's bachelorette party. I knew after a long weekend of just us girls, it wouldn't kill her to not be with me the entire evening. We had 72 hours of mommy and me, three hours of a play date/babysitting was not only something I should do for me, but also for her. She needs her routine shaken up from time to time to help her be more flexible, but it is so hard to say that when the consequences are crying and fussing.

All that being said, I had a nice time. It was pretty tame as far as bachelorette parties go, but we had fun. We talked, gave fun advice about marriage and had delicious snacks. I will say that practicing strip tease workouts with your friends is definitely something you should video tape, hilarious!!!

The baby had fun on a little playdate, but it was a long day with very little mommy time and almost her entire day was out of the house. She napped in her carseat and ate dinner in her high chair, but other than that she was at school, in the car or at my friend's in-laws for a playdate/babysitting.

She was really good for most of the evening considering it was totally out of her routine, but she cried the whole way home. I ended up singing "The Wheels on the Bus" for the last couple of miles while she snivelled in the back seat. It was pretty pathetic.

I know I needed the night out. I know in the long run, it won't kill her, but tonight was hard that I only saw her for a few harried moments after work and before bed. She didn't lay down to sleep until 10:30 and I am hoping to be in bed myself in a few minutes. I hate turning down social engagements, but any disruption to our routine means tears and fussiness and sometimes just isn't worth it.

I am glad I decided just to bite the bullet and go, but it was hard. The mommy guilt hit me when she just cried and cried the whole way home, but those few hours of being an adult out of the house, with "gasp" a glass of wine, made me feel a little more like me and a little less like the crazy pajama mommy who chases around after Lil Bit all the time.

I need to schedule required mommy out days now, while I am thinking straight and know it is important for both of us to socialize out of our usual routines. Otherwise this summer might turn me into the host from Romper Room. I don't want to need a rubber room come August, just love my daughter. On the other hand, I may love it so much that I don't want to leave. Either way, a night out with my girls is still going to be a necessity.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Day 86: Memorial Day

Today, while you plan a cookout, I hope my husband has a chance to get on chat later if he survives his mission today. Wives, sisters, mothers, husbands, fathers, and children of service members will spend today mourning the loss of their soldiers or worrying about their safety.

I have to admit until I was an army wife, Memorial Day was not really on my radar. I knew we honored fallen soldiers, but it mostly meant the beginning of summer. But today, as I count the days until my husband comes home, it means a lot more. Everyday I wake up and check my email I know he was safe at least a few hours ago. This morning, his email came in at 4:38 a.m. But I will hold my breath just a little bit until he is back within the wire and I hear from him again.

The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan aren't always in the news anymore, and, unfortunately, the American public has a very short attention span. If it isn't front page, top stories, headlines, we forget. People are still dying and getting injured everyday. As recently as last Monday, soldiers died in combat.

The following is a list of service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice just this month, courtesy of Faces of the Fallen.

Staff Sgt. Kristofferson B. Lorenzo

Hometown:Chula Vista, California, U.S.
Age:33 years old
Died:May 23, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Army, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
Incident: Died in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with a makeshift bomb.

Pfc. William S. Blevins

Hometown:Sardinia, Ohio, U.S.
Age:21 years old
Died:May 23, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Army, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
Incident: Died in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with a makeshift bomb.

Pvt. Andrew M. Krippner

Hometown:Garland, Texas, U.S.
Age:20 years old
Died:May 23, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Army, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
Incident: Died in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with a makeshift bomb.

Pvt. Thomas C. Allers

Hometown:Plainwell, Michigan, U.S.
Age:23 years old
Died:May 23, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Army, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
Incident: Died in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with a makeshift bomb.

Sgt. 1st Class Clifford E. Beattie

Hometown:Medical Lake, Washington, U.S.
Age:37 years old
Died:May 22, 2011 in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Unit:Army, 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.
Incident: Died in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with a makeshift bomb.

Pfc. Ramon Mora Jr.

Hometown:Ontario, California, U.S.
Age:19 years old
Died:May 22, 2011 in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Unit:Army, 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.
Incident: Died in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with a makeshift bomb.

Cpl. Brandon M. Kirton

Hometown:Centennial, Ohio, U.S.
Age:25 years old
Died:May 18, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Army, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.
Incident: Died in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire and mortar rounds.

Staff Sgt. David D. Self

Hometown:Pearl, Mississippi, U.S.
Age:29 years old
Died:May 16, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Army, Fires Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany
Incident: Died of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit using a makeshift bomb in Zabul province, Afghanistan.

Spec. Bradley l. Melton

Hometown:Rolla, Missouri, U.S.
Age:29 years old
Died:May 16, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Army, Brigade Troops Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Anchorage, Alaska
Incident: Died of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit using an improvised explosive device in Zabul province, Afghanistan.

Pvt. Lamarol J. Tucker

Hometown:Gainesville, Florida, U.S.
Age:26 years old
Died:May 16, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Army, Brigade Troops Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Anchorage, Alaska
Incident: Died of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit using an improvised explosive device in Zabul province, Afghanistan.

Pvt. Cheizray Pressley

Hometown:North Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
Age:21 years old
Died:May 16, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Army, Brigade Troops Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Anchorage, Alaska
Incident: Died of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit using an improvised explosive device in Zabul province, Afghanistan.

Spec. Brian D. Riley Jr.

Hometown:Longwood, Florida, U.S.
Age:24 years old
Died:May 15, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Army, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
Incident: Died in Kunar province, Afghanistan.

Sgt. Amaru Aguilar

Hometown:Miami, Florida, U.S.
Age:26 years old
Died:May 13, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Army, 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.
Incident: Died at Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his unit encountered small arms fire.

Sgt. Kevin B. Balduf

Hometown:Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Age:27 years old
Died:May 12, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Marines, 8th Communications Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Incident: Died while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. Benjamin J. Palmer

Hometown:Modesto, California, U.S.
Age:43 years old
Died:May 12, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Marines, Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2, 2
Incident: Died while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

1st Lt. Demetrius M. Frison

Hometown:Lancaster, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Age:26 years old
Died:May 10, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Army, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Knox, Ky.
Incident: Died in Khost province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using a makeshift bomb.

Sgt. Ken K. Hermogino

Hometown:Edwards Air Force Base, California, U.S.
Age:30 years old
Died:May 9, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Army, 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.
Incident: Died in Herat province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained in a non-combat related vehicle accident.

Spec. Riley S. Spaulding

Hometown:Sheridan, Texas, U.S.
Age:21 years old
Died:May 4, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Army, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany
Incident: Died in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained in a non-combat incident.

Cpl. Kevin W. White

Hometown:Westfield, New York, U.S.
Age:22 years old
Died:May 2, 2011 in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unit:Army, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
Incident: Died in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using a makeshit bomb.

Please remember as you barbecue burgers, crack open a beer that the families of these men are still in the raw stages of grief. It probably doesn't even feel real yet that they aren't ever coming home. Most of them had months left on their tours so their families wouldn't have been expecting them for awhile yet. There is just an emptiness where hope once lived. As the families and friends around them prepare welcome home ceremonies, their grief will feel fresh once again.

I can't imagine the terrible emptiness of never being able to hold my husband again, feeling like we never got to say good-bye, even though we type "I love you" every time we can. And there are literally over 6,000 families who have suffered that devastating loss since these Middle Eastern conflicts began. Take a second to pray for peace for those families and safety for those still serving. And the families back home who worry, we need some prayers too.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day 87: Groundhog Day

As much as I have been looking forward to summer vacation, I am a little afraid of being all mommy all the time for two months. I really enjoyed being home with the baby last summer, but she wasn't mobile and napped a lot.

This summer is going to be very different. She is all go go go. I've kept her pretty well contained in the living room, but that is going to have to change. She is going to need more room to explore very soon. She is learning and developing so quickly.

After this weekend, I am mostly concerned about turning into a recluse reliving the same day over and over. We wake up, do potty time, get some food in us, go for a run/walk, eat breakfast, cool down, play, lunch, nap, play, dinner, play, bath, bed. Like a very boring version of the movie, Groundhog Day. 

I really want to use her nap time to write, but I am afraid I will mostly be using it to nap too. Between the Texas heat and the energy used running, I may end up sleeping with her many days. Although I think I may have to dial down the distance after this weekend. I ran 4.3 miles Saturday, but it burned me out for most of the rest of the day. I was so sore and achey that all it felt like all I could do to survive the day. Very hard to be a mommy with no energy.

I have so many things I want to do, but somehow I end up on the couch, trying to stay awake. I think I am going to have to have some caffeine in my summer routine. Although Lil Bit was so great last night. She went to bed at 9:30 and I didn't hear a peep from her at all. Finally at 9, I went in to check on her and she was playing with her stuffed zebra. I think she had just woken up, but who knows. She was very quiet. I actually slept until 8 myself and was up doing stuff before she woke up.

I started with the day with a backache so I took some Excedrin. I think the caffeine helped me wake up and get moving. Other than coffee, I don't have any drinks in the house with caffeine. I am definitely going to have to revise that strategy.

But today ended on a high note. Lil Bit took her first steps!! She walked three times and stood up for long time periods a few more. She even danced a little bit. I was so worried that I would miss it. If the summer is full of moments like this, maybe I won't mind living it over and over.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day 88: Gifts for your Gal

Sometimes I run out of ideas for my entries. If you've ever tried to write daily, you understand that once in awhile the well starts getting a bit dry. I can only write about missing my husband, being exhausted caring for a baby and school stuff so many times before I am just recycling all the things I've already said.

Sometimes I like to go back and look at what people were searching for when they came across my blog. Yesterday someone was looking for gift ideas for a wife during a deployment. My husband and I aren't so super mushy, but he has made some good moves over the deployments.

Our first Valentine's Day on deployment he sent a gigantic bouquet of two dozen long stem roses to my work. This was a good gift (as long as it isn't overdone) because it was showy and romantic. He understood that a big showy gift that first year was just the right thing to let me know he loved me and was thinking of me in a way that also let everyone around me know my guy thought I was pretty special.

Flowers are great from overseas but try to be a little creative with flower choice or arrangements, etc. Sending things to her at work is also a nice touch because it adds an element of surprise and mushiness most women appreciate but wouldn't ask for. Edible arrangements, gift baskets are similar ideas. Don't overdo any one idea over a deployment. It is only special once in awhile.

Another great gift my husband has sent me a few times, is a gift certificate to a nearby spa. If you save up and spend a few hundred dollars, you can generally buy a spa day. Mine was 5 hours of pampering plus lunch and wine. I got a full body massage, facial, manicure, pedicure, and a paraffin treatment. He has bought me various spa certificates over the years, but always at least try to do a manicure and pedicure or full body massage. If you can work it into several hours that she can schedule at her leisure, all the better. Very few women would not be excited about a day of being pampered. I would recommend though that you try to choose a spa that lets you pick an amount and lets her choose her services. Sometimes we can be a bit picky about having a Swedish or hot stone massage. I prefer deep tissue myself.

One of the best gifts was really very simple. He sent me a gift card for Barnes and Noble. But he found a way to have his picture and a personal message put on the card. So the gift card to my favorite store ever was awesome, but being able to keep a sweet keepsake from Iraq made it a sweet, romantic gesture for a gift card.

Another thing he did was listen to me. My favorite candy maker is from the Chicago area/Midwest. I can't buy it here. He ordered me a box of my favorite mint meltaways for Christmas. I savored each piece for a month. This gift can be especially sweet for a military wife you've dragged away from home courtesy of the army. Think of some of her favorite food places from back home and find a few that deliver. Pick once or twice during the year to have some of her favorites show up on her doorstep.

I am still hoping that my hubby gets the hint about Giordano's Pizza. I sent some to my mom for Mother's Day but the shipping was $30 for two pizzas. It cost me nearly $100 to send my mom pizza, so I won't ever do it for myself. But doing it for my mom was awesome. She was so surprised. I could hear in her voice how touched she was to get a surprising gift, something she wouldn't have gotten herself. She hadn't had the pizza for so long. If you've never had real Chicago pizza, you might not understand, but there just isn't anything like it.

My Mother's Day gift was a Kindle from Amazon. I haven't used it much yet since I am trying to finish three other books at the same time, but I am super excited about it. I love to read and this lets me have thousands of books without needing extra shelf space. Especially with all the moving we do, being able to downsize my bookshelves is not only nice, but really is a must! Before we got married, I had to sell about ten boxes worth of books just so I could fit my stuff in the giant U-Haul van. A Kindle is nice or an iPad or Nook.

Just think about the things your girlfriend or wife likes. What are the things she's been talking about. If she's complaining about the washer and dryer. Save up your money and buy a Lowe's gift card so she can pick out the washer and dryer of her dreams. I would advise you to let her chose this one. If she is a typical wife, laundry is a big part of her life and she has probably spent a lot of time thinking about what features she wants, what color, top loader or steam settings, etc. Big purchases like that always let her make the decision, just give her the budget to do it. A good washer/dryer will cost around $2000. You can go more expensive for the top of the line, but if you save up $2000 that would buy her a darn good set.

Heck, my favorite gifts this year were my Dyson vacuum and Hoover floor mate. Anything that makes life easier would be greatly appreciated. I know these are not super romantic gifts, but when your wife has spent months taking on all the responsibilities of the household, the most romantic gift is one that shows that you're paying attention to her needs. I would have several times this year appreciated a gift certificate for maid service. I have needed some help a few times before company was coming or after cold/flu season, but am too cheap to spring for maid service since it is something I could do on my own.

Try to think about what seems to be her biggest concern right now. Does she need a lawn service? a Geek squad visit for the ailing PC? A new digital camera to catch all the cute pics of the new baby? A thoughtful gift is always special.

But it doesn't always have to be expensive. Try to vary simple gifts like flowers and chocolate with more expensive gifts. Send her a Christmas ornament, personalized if possible, so she can be reminded of you during the holidays. The best gifts come from the heart. In our cyber world, sometimes we forget the power of the written word. Make a point to send her handwritten letters. Buy a bunch of romantic cards before deploying and mail one every so often.

The truth is, during deployment, the best gifts remind her you care and love her. She wants to feel more connected to you, needed and appreciated. If you can put aside the military mindset and get in touch with your feelings for her, she will love anything you give her.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 89: Same boat

I did it to myself. Every year, June rolls around and I think, "Man, I'll get it together next year." And every year, I find myself in the same freakin' boat.

I play hardball, but have a rough time closing. I spend a lot of time yelling but don't do much punishing. I hate punishing kids. I want to keep them in class. I keep hoping that they'll see I am giving them a break and shape up, but they don't. They see I won't actually get out a referral or won't actually send them to ISS and act increasingly poorly. But it is hard to draw a line on that slippery slope.

I finally got serious about controlling some of the worst offenders and my worst classes became much more manageable once they knew my agenda was actually to help them, and if they continued to misbehave I was going to actually send kids to the office. So why is it that 16 years in I still hate to be THAT teacher, the one who is mean and the kids hate? Yet, by the end of the year, all I feel like I am doing is yelling and they all hate me anyway.

It makes me feel like a failure. Every year it seems like my students finally get that I care about them, want them to succeed and have important things to impart just before it is time for exams. Why can't I start off the year this way? Today, my most difficult class was quiet for the most part and I got to teach, the very last regular day of school. I need to figure out how to change for next year, permanently.

The first quarter or two seem to go well, but then we get all off track somewhere in the middle of the year. I think I need a Nike poster in my room from day one reminding me that discipline isn't cruelty. Discipline is kindness masquerading as cruelty. If my students know they can't act up in my classroom because I will discipline them then the quiet students who need peace to work or be heard, will be.

I have better classroom discipline that many of the classrooms I've visited. I don't have a lot of bad kids. Even kids who've been removed from campus for disrespectful behavior, don't really act up in my class. But it is the TALKING, the constant talking that is making me absolutely not want to teach again.

I think in our cyber world, we can Tweet or Facebook or Gmail chat and we're used to expressing every single thought that pops into our heads immediately. The idea of holding our tongues has become very foreign to us. Also with our ability to say something and be heard by hundreds or thousands of people regardless of credibility or knowledge has increased the shouting out of random thoughts.

I can't believe the things people say in my classroom, just ridiculous garbage, and they do not seem concerned with whether or not they made sense or were correct. Also, because you can post instantly and simultaneously, I believe students have lost the ability to take turns in normal conversation.

One of my biggest flaws is that I interrupt people. I don't mean to. I just get excited to talk and jump in just a bit too soon. But I try not to do it and I definitely don't just keep talking as if someone isn't speaking at all. The kids today talk right over not only me, but each other. I am really going to have to work on my lesson planning for next year. I really want to structure my class so that by the end of the year, students speak when called on, take turns in conversation, and I can TEACH. I think it can be done, but I am going to need some support from the administration because the first few weeks will be tricky.

I know that if I establish ground rules and maintain specific standards for them that I could achieve better results. But I find it so hard to know where that line is. One kid talks, then the next one and a few in, I'm talking too or shouting, trying to re-establish what I should be able to maintain.

I am a good teacher, more than 90% of my students passed our state tests this year which was one of my roughest years in recent memory, so I know I am doing a good job. But I am letting things hold me back from being great, and the kids are the ones paying the price. I just think how much better my students would feel about themselves and do in the rest of their lives if I could find a way to reach them.

I just need to find away to stay out of this boat from now on. I don't like being in this sinking ship. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 90: Manners and Missing

I'm pretty sure I've turned into the cranky, bitter old lady. Today was exasperating. My students are just so different that I was ever allowed to be.

They seem to feel more entitled to respect than willing to give it. When I give directions in class, some of my students talk right over me, then they don't know what to do and get angry with me when I don't feel like explaining again. It is frustrating to explain everything more than once, but to do so because they chose not to listen.

I was just about in tears. I can't wait for tomorrow! By the end of the day, I felt ambushed by rudeness. It was not all my students, but enough that they hijacked my class. It is hard this week (last week of classes before exams) to enforce discipline except for serious offenses because the AP's have their hands full playing catch up with the usual suspects.

Then I came home with my Lil Bit and instead of having a nice night playing with her, encountered inexplicably cranky girl with her trusty sidekicks snotty nose and screaming fits. She cried for more than an hour for no reason I could ascertain. I held her, which seemed to sooth her some, but for the most part, she just cried.

A combination of Tylenol, Mylicon,  Gerber cookies and milk seemed to do something. I'm not sure which was the fix, but she finally calmed down. It was really hard being patient with her when all she would do it scream. I felt really overwhelmed. I still kinda want to scream with frustration over the rough day.

She screamed in anger and frustration every time I put her down, but would cry and squirm when I held her. If you don't have any children, or they are too little for this yet, it is hard to imagine how it feels to be trying to comfort your precious child who is kicking, pinching, and randomly slapping you. At least she didn't bite me.

I kept from getting angry or losing my patience by reminding myself that she doesn't usually act like this, so something must be wrong for her to be so upset. That was when we tried Tylenol for her teeth and mylicon in case the lactose in her toddler formula was bothering her.

Soon after, she asked for crackers. Although to be fair, cracker is her sign for crackers, cookies, cereal, heck, food in general. I gave her some cookies and she calmed down and even drank some of her milk. She went down to bed with no fuss, right on time.

Which is good, because I felt like I was near my breaking point today. There are days I get tired, days I feel like I've got the world by a string, and days I wonder how I will do this one more second alone. I don't even know how my husband will fit into our little routine. We get so used to doing our own thing without him here. But I am so ready to find out how Chad will be a part of our day to day. I really need some support.

Not just with the baby either. This week has been very emotional for me and I've struggled with a lot of different issues. I really miss having my best friend here to talk to, hug, cry on his shoulder. I know this week was so much harder for him. He was "busy" with 18 hour "I can't talk about it" days and then got one hour of sleep last night because he got called out for the quick response force (emergency crew).

He was online today but barely had a second to talk and couldn't tell me much about his week anyway. It was hard sitting online together and not being able to really talk. I am glad he isn't a spy; it would kill me not to know what he is doing forever. I really felt how much I miss him today. He really is my better half. That sounds so cliche, but we can still spend an evening talking so much we can't get through a tv show or never turn it on. We can make a party out of taco night in our kitchen. We can play xbox until we're both sweaty and gross and have the best time together. It might not work for any two other people in the world, but it works for us. AND I MISS HIM!

So I'm at the breaking point with missing my husband, needing some time for myself. needing kids to just hold it together for a few more days and the eternally teething baby who refuses to get new teeth, hair or walk. Mmm, I guess I could look at the positive side. I still have all my teeth, hair and can walk. No wonder she is so crabby.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day 91: Confession

Confession is the one of the main tenets of the Christian faith. Catholics practice confession by confessing to a priest while most protestant faiths preach that confession is a private matter between a Christian and his/her God. 

However, sin is kind of like fungus. It keeps growing in the dark, hidden places of our lives. Once we expose it to the light, we can truly repent and atone for our sins. Luther's catechism recommends confessing sins to other believers to take the shame out of the sin and thereby removing its power. 

Earlier this week, I struggled spiritually and emotionally with what to do about a friend I felt was sinning. I used this blog to sort out my emotions and feelings, but I think perhaps it was inappropriate. While I did my best to make the entry very vague about even the gender of my friend, I am afraid that people who actually know me instead of just stumbling across an army wife blog, may have been able to guess who this person is and instead of opening a door to healing, I’ve sinned by gossiping.

I was really convicted by my devotions last evening.

Philippians 1:27  (KJV)
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

The New International Version reads
Philippians 1:27 
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[e] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.

The first translation convicted me because people read the blog and wanted to know who it was, wanted to discuss what rumors people had been hearing, etc. and I hadn’t kept my conversation as pure as I should have. I shouldn’t have written about it (maybe at all), but certainly if I didn’t have the conviction to stand up to inquisition from other friends.

Was my blog becometh of the gospel of Christ? Was my attitude truly humbly wanting to help? While the gospel also calls us to confront sin with fearless truth, putting it out into cyber space was irresponsible.

The scripture calls us to act in a manner worthy of the gospel and my devotional (Logos Bible app) describes the gospel as simple, true, fearless, gentle and loving.

While in my actual conversation with this friend, I believe I was simple, truthful, brave in spite of my very human fear of losing a friend, gentle and loving. Posting it online was really opening me and my friend up to the world. It was wrong.

I would apologize but right now that person isn’t talking to me. The Bible calls us to confront sin in our lives and the lives of those around us so that all can repent and atone and be drawn closer to God, not for the sake of pointing fingers or getting juicy gossip.

So while the more modern, NIV, translation uses the phrase “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel,” right now, I think the KJV convicted me more so because I have a tendency to say what I think or feel without thinking first. I’ve gotten better in recent years, but it seems the more I relax the standards to which I hold my mouth, the worse my mouth gets and the worse my thoughts get because I am not keeping them in check.

My focus for the next few weeks is to work on my conversation and work on keeping my conversation in accordance with the gospel, meaning no gossip and more Christian like diction. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 92: Grandma and Dad

This morning, I got a Facebook message from my cousin. She and I keep vaguely in touch on Facebook, but haven't talked in years. She and I were never really close. I was older than she was and I was closer with my aunt who was more like a good older girl friend to me during my high school and college years.

I opened the message wondering what she had to say. It said to call her ASAP. I was instantly worried my aunt had died. She isn't sick or anything and isn't very old, but that was the only reason I could think of that she would need me to call her. I didn't even think about Grandma.

Until my cousin said that she had died. She was my last grandparent. My mom's parents both died when I was very young. I only have the vaguest of memories of my mom's mom from my early childhood and remember a picture of my mom's father holding me before he died when I was still just an infant. My dad's dad died when I was in college. I remember my dad telling me about my his death. We didn't have much to do with them, but it was hard emotionally for the same reasons hearing about Grandma is hard today. If hell is a real place, I worry that they are both there.

My dad's parents were the type of parents that makes me sick when I see it in my students' lives. They were abusive to the extreme to my dad and his sisters. They abused everyone they came into contact with. We were very protected from them as children. While my dad wanted us to have family, he kept us sheltered from them.

We visited with them from time to time. I think we visited my aunts and them around every four or five years. They came to see us a few times. But we were never allowed to be alone in a room with them and if my dad felt they were acting poorly, he would protect us from them. I have no negative memories of them personally, but I know they damaged my dad and aunts beyond healing.

While God can heal us because He can do all things, the depth of the wounds were such that evidence remains forever. My dad's personality and behavior still exhibit the scars of his childhood. He never became an abuser like so many abused children do, but he has issues that seem to stem from his childhood.

I have so many deep emotions about losing a family member, even one I am not close to, because it reminds me how fragile our lives are. Part of my dad's issues has led him to become extremely religious to the point that almost no one can satisfy what he believes are God's requirements for being a true Christian. He hasn't spoken to me in about a year and a half. And less than ten times in eight years.

I tried to call him tonight to see how he was doing after his mother's passing. He wouldn't talk to me. I know he called my aunt today, but he wouldn't speak to me. My sister answered the phone, probably two feet from him. She said she would pass on the message, but he knew I was on the phone and couldn't summon ten minutes to have even a casual conversation with his oldest daughter.

I know I am going to lose him. I've really already lost my father. He wasn't happy with me because my ex-husband had an affair and I didn't make him leave. I made him sleep on the couch, but did everything I could to repair our marriage and protect his already damaged children. He quit talking to me before the divorce was even final. I really don't understand what I did. But somehow I didn't measure up.

The last time I spoke with him was because of the shooting at Fort Hood. He answered the phone that day to make sure we were all OK. We talked a few times that week. We've exchanged five or six emails since, usually at the holidays. I've invited him to visit. I've called. I've emailed.

But I guess I just don't get to have a father. Nothing I do is good enough. Nothing I say seems to make him understand underneath all my poise, confidence, knowledge that I am inside just a little girl who wants her daddy to love her.

He would say that he does love me and prays for me daily, but you can't hug that kind of love. And I can't even count the number of issues I have with self-esteem in part because my dad's love is and hasn't been tangible for much of my adult life.

I'm a sinner. I've done things I regret. I have never killed anyone or cheated on a spouse, but I've been full of pride, I've gossiped, been cruel, drank too much, etc. etc. But if God can love me and forgive me, why can't my dad?

I don't know and I always feel so incredibly lost when I think about it. It hurts so much. So today when I heard my grandmother died who was always this crazy figure from my childhood, full of life and laughter, but dark underneath the surface, I teared up not for the grandma I lost, but for the grandma I never had. And then for the dad I will lose/have lost. My heart aches in sadness.

I even looked at buying a plane ticket to go visit him, a man who won't even take my phone call. I want him to hold his granddaughter, to hold me. I realized my daughter lost her great grandmother today, even if she would never have met her, I don't want her to lose her grandfather without ever meeting him. I'm really close to just driving to the house (yes, all the 25 hour drive) and ambushing him.

Why do the people we love the most hurt us the most? Why do we hurt the people we love the most? Family is a double-edged sword. And I just seem to keep getting sliced. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day 94: Parenting

This is kind of a long roundabout conversation. For one, once again I got sucked into a Facebook debate about first religion and then parenting. I wish I could just walk away when people say things that strike me as singularly ignorant or wrong.

Today I almost ignored it, but when someone says something doubting the existence of God, I can't let it go. I know it is futile to argue religion with people, but God calls us to share our faith. I don't try to force it on people, and I have a lot of questions about things that don't make sense to my human mind, but when someone opens the door, I would feel remiss if I didn't share what I believe. If I truly think God is the answer, I would be a crappy friend if I said nothing.

I used the analogy that God's plan for us is like how we as parents sometimes allow our children to suffer (i.e. cry in their cribs because they don't want to go to bed, be angry because we say no, etc.) because we know better than they do. My FB friend adjacent (a FB friend of a friend) basically criticized my parenting through the use of my analogy. It really hurt.

My Lil Bit was crabby and fussy around noon today. She usually takes a nap around 11, but did not get up as early today so I let her stay up a bit later. When it was time for her nap, I picked her up to sing to her, but she didn't want any of that. She started throwing a bit of a tantrum. She doesn't want up, doesn't want to be cradled, doesn't want to lay on my shoulder. She was squirming and pinching and screaming. I decided that her crying was escalating, so I took her into her crib.

I kissed her, gave her her zebra, blanky, and binky. The minute I walked away, she started crying again. She used to go straight to sleep or play nicely in her crib until she did. But I've kind of gotten her into the bad habit of being rocked to sleep every night, which is not something I want her to need every night. Plus, she isn't sleeping well through the night. She hasn't sleep through the night more than a couple of days in months. She has to learn to self-soothe so I can finally get some sleep and so she can feel safe and confident by herself.

I know many parents let their kids cry themselves to sleep at this stage of development. I hate it. I feel awful every second she cries. I walk away for a few minutes, wash a dish, try to let her calm down. If she doesn't, I go back in, give her back whatever she has thrown out of the crib, pat her back. I stand there for a minute and wait until she calms down. I walk out again. I keep doing that until she falls asleep. I have even sat in her room talking to her or singing "The Wheels on the Bus" with crazy made up verses until she stops crying.

This week I've been working really hard to get her to sooth herself to sleep with as little drama and fuss as possible. Then this guy criticizes me without knowing how old my child is or who I am or even what type of person I am. I've spent most of this week and weekend trying not to cry. I'm so tired. Not just physical exhaustion, although that is a lot of it, by emotionally wiped out. I'm tired of daddy being gone for her and me.

I'm not a perfect parent. I let the TV run in the background WAY too much. I spend a lot of time in my pajama's and I leave her toys all over the living room.  But I really resent people criticizing my parenting. Most people don't know what they are doing. And we all make mistakes.

I don't mind tips, if someone sees me doing something and they've tried something better or easier. It is hard to take a tip, but if someone offers it like really a gift not as some method of putting you down or telling you how to parent, that is OK. I just don't think until your children turn out to be perfect little people you have a right to judge someone else who is truly doing the best they can.

Some parents beat their kids, give them drugs, don't feed them. Those people need someone to judge them, like an actual judge and take their kids away. I'm not talking about those people. I don't feed my daughter all natural, all organic all the time. I sometimes have given her pieces of chicken nuggets. I give her toddler formula instead of milk because it has DHA and RHA for brain development and she still seems to have issues with lactose. She dances like crazy to Vivaldi and Taio Cruz and Martha and the Vandellas. I don't know how to do everything right. But I'm the one here doing it. She's had a sitter 4 times since she was born. I take her everywhere with me or don't go. I don't want to miss anything.

I do know she is twelve months old and has used a toilet a couple of times already. She can tell me that she is hungry or wants a cracker or sees a phone. She can hear a bark and sign dog. She signs please, eat, phone, cracker, dog and can follow simple directions that blow my mind. She is wickedly stubborn, smart and adorable. She is well behaved and loving. She snuggles me and kisses me. She is very rarely shy or concerned about strangers. She eats food cold, warm, hot and never fusses.

I think I'm informed. I know I am more patient than I ever thought I could be. I love her more than I would have ever thought possible. That is really the most important thing. Oh, yeah she also went down tonight with a few hugs and kisses and one brief cry fighting sleep and out. She doesn't feel abandoned or lost or unheard, she knows I am always here, always coming for her.

I may not be doing it the way you would. I may not be doing everything right. I am using all the years of knowledge I have, all the instincts, perceptions, and frankly, GUESSING about a lot of stuff using my gut. Even if you study child pysch, really most of us are using our best educated guess about parenting. Maybe my guessing turns out OK, maybe yours does too, just completely different. Isn't that what makes life interesting. If we all did everything the same, the world would implode from boredom. So please, self-righteous pomposity isn't allowed here. Got a tip? a KIND word of advice? then I'm all ears. Everything else is just trying to push your ways onto everyone else. My kid is just fine despite my failings as a human being. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

Day 96: Unpatriotic?

So, I was reading an article about increasing dwell time for soldiers between deployments to two years and I got mad. The article basically was saying that we're going to be deploying soldiers consistently for the foreseeable future and they're working on creating the best possible model for that structure.

Am I unpatriotic because I wanted to scream, punch that general or at least send him a very strongly worded email? Why can't we just stop fighting? I don't mean pack up and head home tomorrow, but why isn't all our troops at home soon a reasonable goal? Why aren't we more focused on working toward that?

The article said we've been at war for 91/2 years. My husband has been deployed for 4 of those years, almost 50% of the time. The dwell time increase won't even take affect until 2012  or 2013 fiscal years at the earliest, so he could see another deployment before they make the change. We're hoping for a non-deployable position for a few years, but there are no guarantees.

I am tired. He is tired. The kids are tired. His mom is tired. We've prayed, we've celebrated, we've partied and welcomed home, we've cried and waved good-bye. We've stood in the freezing cold to solemnly send him off and baked in the sun waiting to hug him as he returns. We've struggled to organize visits to keep everyone happy. We've dealt with the strange and conflicting emotions of reintegrating.

Can we please just have a break? I understand this is what the army does. But over and over and over and over, when some soldiers have never gone, when some soldiers find ways to get out of deploying, when people are getting awards and promotions who have deliberately avoided combat in any form and are proud of their cowardice. Why can't THAT guy go and my guy get to spend more than 15 months in his own country? My husband called me upset because he was kept out of a convoy on a day they saw action. He wanted to be there with his guys.

I am also angry that the dwell time is only going to be two years. That is better than what we have now, but I would love it to be closer to three. Give us enough time to develop a marriage. We're celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary in November and are barely more than newlyweds in many ways.

He came home in September of '06 and was gone February, April-June of '07 for various trainings. We moved here and he was gone August-Sept for NTC. Then, he was home pretty much until March '08 when he deployed again. He got home March '09 and was home until fall, then he spent November and December and January at training. He had NTC again May-June 2010 and deployed August 2010.

Ok, so now I did the math about how many months he's been home vs. gone since we got married. He's been home 25 months. By the end of this deployment, he will have been gone 32 months. I don't know when we'll get even, if ever. Maybe next summer we might get to even. But it will be close. We will be close to six years of marriage and have not have even three years together. I think it is fair that I am tired.

Does it make me unpatriotic? I love my country. I love that my husband defends us. BUT I love my husband too and would like to know what it is like to be married to him. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Day 97: Seriously . . .

As an educator, I wonder MANY things: were these kids raised by wolves? does anyone teach manners anymore? do children have attention spans longer than 15 seconds? what was she thinking when she got dressed today? Why are bodily functions so funny? and why don't children even consider respect important anymore?

As we finish off a week of the most insane scheduling nightmare I've ever seen, I'm really wondering if legislators consider how the laws they make affect the children and educators?

Like most states, we have state standardized testing, in Texas it is called TAKS. The state is trying to move away from generalized testing and toward EOC's, End Of Course exams, but this year we're doing more of the EOC's and we still had to do TAKS testing too. I've lost approximately two weeks of educational time with my students testing them to see what they know, but with zero consequences for failure except at the junior level.

We had to schedule testing all freshman, sophomores and juniors at least twice each. What makes this more of a nightmare is because the testing is end of the course, sometimes we have sophomores or juniors taking freshman courses or freshman taking junior or sophomore courses. Basically, we spent the entire week disrupting a little bit of everyone's schedule.

The past two days, most of my students were testing but I was in my classroom with my four or five stragglers who were not testing. Today and tomorrow, none of my students are testing, but I am stuck in the cafeteria with several hundred students. It was an absolute disaster. My students are trying to finish reading a book. They are not very focused readers as it is, in a cafeteria filled with crazy students, it wasn't pretty.

So instead of teaching and learning, we're relocating, testing, corralling, monitoring, pacing. Legislators talk about adding days to our calendar. Why don't they just give us BACK the days we have. We take two weeks for TAKS (next year STAAR) and two weeks for AP testing and now a week for EOC, which next year will be two. That is six weeks of testing. While not all students will test for all six weeks, the testing disrupts learning for many or most students much of the time.

And on top of all the required testing, we take two more weeks for semester exams and another two weeks for district wide benchmark assessments. Now we're are at nearly ten weeks of testing, give a day or two for each grade level. Imagine how much more we could be learning if we were TEACHING all those days.

Don't even get me started on how much better my students would be doing if I were allowed to teach the way I want to, to hold students and parents accountable for results and work, but here in May, two weeks left to go for the school year, I feel like I've barely scratched the surface with my students.

It just prompts me to ask SERIOUSLY???? as the state heaps more and more regulations and testing on our shoulders and asks us to do more next year with so much less. Why is it so hard to make decisions that make sense. I want to sponsor a law that requires all legislators who make laws requiring state tests/testing to take all such tests and have to visit a school once a year during the state testing to help with scheduling and administering the tests.

I can't imagine they would continue to test us to death once they realized the kind of torture it is for the students and teachers. I tested in three rooms today. In each room was at least one student who just made patterns in the tests and one other who was sleeping, and one other who seemed to be looking everywhere but actually at the test. Already more than 20% of the students I saw today were just blowing off the test.

Seriously, let's spend more time teaching and learning, save a few million dollars and thousands of trees. I understand a need for accountability, but can anyone produce a single study showing me that students are actually more educated now that we test for it? I doubt it, very seriously. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 98: Appeasement

So yesterday I wrote my blog about feeling guilty. Then an opportunity presented itself. Last month, I started researching hunting dogs as a Father's Day gift for my husband. He has tried to take our Maggie, but she is pretty much worthless. She loves being outside, but almost died once from some sort of insect reaction or maybe a scorpion sting? She is also afraid of anything dead which prevents her from retrieving waterfowl or doves.

For a good bloodline, started-trained hunting dog, it was going to cost us somewhere between $1500-5000. Even my dedicated, hunting obsessed sweetheart, said no way, but then once he had a bee in his bonnet, spent the next week searching for a dog. And he found one.

He found a breeder about 60-90 minutes away who was selling dogs from good bloodlines for $400. I used to sell my German Shepherd pups for that and they were just AKC registered no real champion bloodlines. For an extra $600 he would keep the dog for another two months and put the dog through basic hunting training. It would cost more than that just to board the dog for eight weeks much less training.

We decided that this was too good of a deal to walk away from. But we rent. So we needed to get permission to get another dog. I contacted our property manager last week, but didn't hear that we had the owner's permission. The manager promised she would contact me Monday to let me know if she'd heard from the owner. I didn't hear anything. I contacted her late Tuesday afternoon and she gave me the go ahead. This was 2:50.

I emailed the breeder and asked if we could come pick out our puppy tonight. He had three males left, one black and two yellow. He got back to me at 3:10 and said that he would be available until 5:30. This is where the race began. I was in my car racing home by 3:15. I changed my clothes, grabbed the dog so we could do a canine meet and greet. Then I raced to fill up the car with gas and pick up the baby.

We were headed his direction by 3:55, but my GPS said with traffic it would take 1 hr 35 to get there. The baby cried a lot. Then she fell asleep. She wasn't crazy about the puppies licking her, but the pup we chose seemed to like her and not mind Maggie. He is pretty calm and preferred to stay around us rather than roam so it was all good. He even licked Maggie. Very cute.

Then I put the baby back in the car seat. This did not go well. She screamed for 45 minutes. She started just fussing and crying, but wound up to full fledged holding her head and screaming. Then she calmed down and I thought we were safe, but NO. We discovered that Lil Bit hates the car seat because she gets car SICK. I won't describe, but let's just say I had to pull over to make sure she didn't aspirate and to clean as much of it as I could without removing her from the seat. YUCK.

Then she fell asleep and slept for quite awhile. So, of course, she throws a major temper tantrum when I tried to put her to bed around 9:45, almost an hour later than usual, and spent an hour screaming off and on and generally throwing a hissy fit. It was the perfect ending to a very LONG evening. (read: NOT)!

The good news? Chad got on chat for just long enough for me to tell him I needed to talk to him and I had an email to send him. He's been pretty sure this isn't going to happen and I wanted to surprise him. I sent an innocuous email with "Hey" in the subject line and an image without a name. When the image opened it was the picture below. The message simply read . . .

This is Mr. Orange. I was thinking we could call him Blaze - he is the one licking Lil Bit.

In my mind, I am imagining Chad waiting impatiently for his super slow internet to download the picture, his eyes lighting up, and maybe even a shout. Of course all I got on chat was -  OMG!!!! 

It made his day. He even liked the name I came up with, Blaze. He wanted to name him something with hunting patterns in it, but Max is so super popular for dogs and RealTree is a bit much. The color hunters use to not get shot is called Blaze Orange and since he is Mr. Orange of the litter (all the pups are identified by color of collar) it seemed cute. 

I was so excited. Although we don't get to enjoy the cute puppy period since he will be 4 months old before we bring him home, we avoid housebreaking and training and chewing and . . .  And I got to make my husband happy. 

He can't tell me what they're doing this week, but he said they've been working on details up late last night and he would have a week's worth of days that don't end until at least midnight and start before 7 a.m. He is tired and homesick and I took an evening and really today too since I am wiped out from the late night to give him something he has wanted for years to look forward to when he gets home. 

We don't need another dog. It will shed, poop, eat. We have a small house and too many dogs in the neighborhood. It will need exercise and veterinary care. But he sacrifices so much of the things he loves to go across the globe to defend our way of living, it really is the least I can do to take in another animal. 

I've certainly appeased any guilt I had left over (at least for this week) and won't feel quite so bad if I miss him on chat . . .  oh, who am I kidding, yes I will, but I left my cell phone in the other room for the past twenty minutes. Baby steps, people, baby steps! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day 99: Guilty

Believe it or not feeling guilty is one of the many emotions military spouses deal with over a deployment. We feel guilty about our soldier having such a hard time. We feel guilty when we complain about having so little free time when they have none.  We feel guilty that we are sitting here with all our amenities and they have internet so slow dial-up looks like light speed, they are living in essentially trailers or even tents, some don’t have showers, and others do not even have bathrooms with plumbing.

But the one I hear the most and have felt myself is the guilt of having a life, not hanging around the house waiting for every phone call, not sitting by the computer waiting for every instant message, not waiting up late to Skype. One of my friends was dragging through the entire first semester of school because her husband called her every night at 11 and they talked until close to midnight. She wanted to hear from him and loved that he called daily, but the lack of sleep was starting to drain her. Of course I love him and want him to feel loved. But at what cost? 

Is there too high a cost that is fair for his sacrifice? If I spent every second waiting to be there for him, it still wouldn’t be equal to what he is doing. My sacrifice wouldn’t even come close. But that being said, sitting around waiting for phone calls and emails and instant messages, can’t be allowed to consume your life.

This weekend, I felt like crap. Sinus pressure and allergies again! I don’t even want to talk about it, but while the baby was napping, I sat down to watch some TV episodes on Netflix and fell asleep.

Apparently Chad came on yahoo and was trying to get my attention. I think that the Netflix window superseded all other windows, and his pinging me with random emoticons didn’t come through until I was finished watching the episode, closing the full screen mode.

He finally got internet in his room and is now on the computer all the time. Not always for very long or has much to say, but he comes on for a few minutes several times a day. Every time he does, he tries to shoot me a message or start a chat or email me.

At first, I was really excited because we don’t get to talk much, but he doesn’t have much he is allowed to tell me about what he is doing and it gets a little one-sided to have me doing all the talking or typing as it might be. There were even a few times this week that I told him I was headed to bed or working on something else.

I know he is cool with that. We talk when we can and mostly just say “I love you!” a lot, but I feel like a crappy wife. I used to carry my cell phone everywhere I went just in case he got a chance to call. Now I carry it to keep up with my Words with Friends’ games. I used to mail him care packages once a month. This deployment, I think I’ve sent two. Although in my defense, he now is on a post where he can buy anything he needs whereas our first deployment, I was mailing him body wash and razors and keeping him stocked with baby wipes and slim jims. 

We do keep up more using tools like Facebook now that he has finally broken down and joined. I mail him pictures and DVD's of home videos. He just doesn't need boxes of stuff anymore. But I feel guilty.
I know there are wives who send all sorts of cute care packages with fun little gifts and trinkets or cake in a jar and fun treats. My husband won't eat any of that. I send him protein bars when I do send him a package, but he said that he can even get something similar where he is, so unless he asks for something like a pair of shoes he forgot to bring or something like that, I just don't have much to mail him.

Maybe I am just trying to justify my laziness, but I've never been that girl who can come up with a great box of stuff to make him feel at home. Maybe my husband is just resourceful and doesn't need or want much. He spends most of his free time (when he has any) at the gym. When he does get other time, he watches TV or movies that is easily accessible over there. Heck, they can get movies faster than we do from the Iraqi's. In past deployments, he's seen movies that aren't even out yet over here. 

I still feel guilty. I feel guilty for not doing more for his kids. I feel guilty that I don't go get them on long weekends and don't call them more. I struggle really hard with getting too attached and overstepping my bounds with them. Right or wrong, I have to limit my contact or I worry about them too much. 

Many wives feel guilty about these or similar issues. The times you miss a phone call can be devastating. I remember the first time I missed his call during our first deployment (his second). I was at my sister's house and left the phone upstairs when I went down for breakfast. I raced up the stairs to answer the phone, but missed his call. I cried. I knew it was silly, that he would call again, but it was one of the very first phone calls and I felt horrible for missing it, especially when it took weeks for him to have access to the phone again. 

I didn't put my phone down again for the rest of the year he was gone. I even bought a clip on case so I could wear it all the time. I am not quite so connected now, for one, I usually get a heads up before he tries to call via email, but even our email wasn't so great at that time.

Knowing his life is in danger makes me feel more guilty for enjoying the time I have to do my own things. I enjoy watching my own shows and being on my own schedule. I enjoy having the bed to myself. I sleep better being able to toss and turn without worrying about bothering him or keeping him awake. I like not having to pick up after him, knowing that where I leave something is where I will find it.

Guilty - I feel like that word hangs over my head sometimes. I know I have a right to live, and a right to enjoy my life. I shouldn't suffer just because he does. I already spend a lot of time at home when he is gone, so I know I shouldn't beat myself up too much. But part of the reality of being a military spouse is feeling a gamut of emotions all the time, kind of like having a bunch of windows open on the computer. We can feel several different things at once: lonely, happy, sad, angry, hopeful, bored.

Nothing is simple during a deployment, even the tiniest things can be full of emotions. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Day 100: The Final Countdown

The real countdown starts now. Starting to count days back in August seemed futile. The numbers ticking down so slowly, but here we are on the final countdown. It is a little scary. Every time he comes home, I am nervous, wish I had lost more weight, worry about little things that I've become accustomed to doing alone.

But last night was pretty rough. I just wasn't feeling like myself this weekend. I was so tired. I'm not sure if it was allergies or a cold brewing. Lil Bit's nose was a snot faucet all weekend and she was warm most of the day, but she is also teething and seems to suffer from symptoms of allergies when I do. I just was so tired that I lost my patience. I am usually able to take her crabbiness or refusal to go to sleep and just smile it away, but it really grated on my nerves last night.

I had to walk away and let her cry for awhile before I could go back in her room. That isn't like me. I'm not always very patient, but usually am exceptionally patient with her. I guess my point is that I am looking forward to having some support and some company. I was really lonely this weekend. I ended up holing up in the house the whole weekend, not sure if I was hiding from the pollen or people.

A lot of people comment about how strong I am, but I don't feel it. I make it through the work day because it keeps me busy but came home from school last weekend just empty. I've spent weeks planning Lil Bit's birthday party, cleaning house, preparing for company. I had a houseful Thursday-Monday, then was sick, then it was time to come home for a weekend of just me and the baby.

At first I was psyched, but then I realized how lonely it is without someone to share her with. She does something new just about everyday. Saturday she went peepee on the potty. Yesterday she learned a new sign word, "cracker." Tonight she was trying to imitate a duck and heard a dog bark next door and signed "dog." I do my best to be strong, to be completely self-sufficient, but I can't be that all the time.

Sometimes my friends let me down, but Chad rarely does. He is always there for me, except when he can't be. Even then he tries. While I like being alone sometimes, I think a few hours on the weekend or a couple of day for a hunting trip will be enough once he gets home.

It is weird to think this might be the last time we countdown. He is probably going to get slotted for drill or recruiter soon. That would be a couple of years home. Who knows where we'll be at war by then? I will be crossing fingers that we're not at war at all. Mmm, this could be the final countdown for a deployment, at least for a long time. That would be both strange and wonderful.

We're short timers now, baby! I can't wait for my honey to be home. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Day 101: Redeployment

This is a ridiculous word. Usually the prefix re- means to do something again. In this context though, re-deployment, doesn't exactly mean to deploy again. The word redeployment is used when the guys are about to come home.

I have awhile to go, obviously about 100 days (I almost typed years - just how it feels some days). But I have a new reader who is about to welcome her significant other home from his tour of duty. While it is a joyous time, it is also filled with a lot of anxious emotions as well.

Spending significant time apart, creates all sorts of emotions and reintegrating can be a nervous and stressful time. We've done this a few times now and each time it is a little different, but if anything we've gone through helps you deal or prepare for it, I am more than happy to share.

First is the frantic panic when you get around a week out. There isn't enough time to lose that last five pounds, do all the things you'd been meaning to do, etc. and you've got to figure out a lot of logistics.

Depending on where you are, you may have to figure out the big welcome home ceremony on post. Where to park, how early you need to get there, if there are potties for little ones. I would say, plan on no bathrooms and bring some water and snacks and toys. Most of them are a lot of waiting around with little to occupy your time. If you've got some time before your guy heads back this way, you can get an awesome sign made from buildasign.com. They do one free sign a year for military families. I made my sign rank and unit free - just Welcome Home essentially. This way I can use it again and again.

If you're not near a post, you may have to figure out picking him up from the airport with little advance warning. My husband usually shoots me a text message when he lands in North America. Which leaves me excited and nervous and struggling to focus on the day to day activities for several days.

Also, there is coordinating welcome home activities. Most military members have very proud families who are just as anxious to see their soldiers return home safely as their spouses, fiances, or significant others. Sometimes having to coordinate family visits makes life a bit challenging. Until this spring, I've had to coordinate my ex-husband's father or mother taking turns with deployment ceremonies and welcome homes to keep the peace. While they deserve to be part of the happy celebration, parents sometimes have a way of swooping in and taking over or forgetting that they aren't the only person in their child's life anymore. My personal preference is to have a big welcome home, the more the merrier, friends, family, banners, parties, etc. right away when things between us are new.

I am not a touchy feelie person. After going a year without much physical contact, it takes me awhile before it feels natural to touch someone else all the time. Even daily emails and phone calls can't replace the organic way we communicate in person and the closeness that brings. I need some time for us to get used to each other again, and he needs time to decompress. Having everyone over right away keeps everything fun, light and lets us find our way back to each other slowly. But when I plan it, I tell people, you can come for a couple of days, then you need to go. We need our time together. While some MIL are pushier than mine or more demanding, I think if you make every effort to include them in the welcome home ceremony and give them a few days, they will be more likely to respect your need for privacy sooner.

One of the best ways to prepare for reintegration is to start talking about it as soon as possible with each other. Explain what is going on at home, what your thoughts are, what you are imagining and hoping for. Then let him do the same. Once my husband and I both wrote our "dream reintegration" emails and then shared them at the same time. I read his with an open mind, and he read mine with an open mind. Then we tried to make the other person's dream come true. Most of the time we end up coming to a functional compromise.

It is hard. He's been missing his whole life not just me, but I've mostly been missing him. I tend to want just some serious quiet time together to talk and get reacquainted. He has fishing and hunting and time with his children that are part of his plans. We have to try really hard to listen and compromise without getting too emotional. Reuniting is emotional and hard enough without arguing over how to spend it.

The last part of reuniting I am going to talk about for right now is the let down. Once he is in the car or at home all the adrenaline and emotions hit the brick wall of "now what?" And the truth is, now you go back to living. He is going to have to get used to traffic again, putting away his dirty laundry, not swearing like a sailor, sleeping on a different schedule, and sharing a bed. So many of the daily things we take for granted are going to feel strange or new to him all over and I find that it takes me a few weeks to get used to his being home.

You may think R&R prepared you for coming home, but it didn't R&R is like running a 100 yard dash. Coming home is more of a marathon. Last time, Chad slept a lot. It took him months of being exhausted to be back to normal. He would fall asleep at 3 in the afternoon and again at 9 p.m. He came home and dumped Army gear all over the house. All the cleaning and organizing I'd done was up in smoke in less than 24 hours. It takes a lot of patience to welcome him back into your space knowing he isn't going to keep it the way you do and to understand that he kind of have to re-civilize himself too.

I keep wanting to say the trick is, but there is no trick. Coming back together is a physical and emotional journey that takes some strange twists and turns. During R&R, Chad and I had some pretty good arguments because he was acting so closed off and couldn't reach out to me and I was trying so hard to get back to us. All the fights ended with hugs and long talks, but we had to get angry to let the other emotions out too, which felt really awful and then great, but we worked through it. Being open, communicating, compromising and loving are the keys to making it through redeployment.

Don't feel badly when it all doesn't feel like the Hallmark moments you expect. It is better if you don't have those expectations, but that swell of emotion lasts maybe a few hours at best. Then the hard work of truly becoming one again starts. Remember back to when you first were married or first lived together and start there. Your learning curve will go much faster, but if you can keep in mind that in many ways you're starting over, maybe your expectations will be more realistic and your relationship will be that much closer and that much stronger for it. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Day 105: Things not to say to an Army wife Part Deux

Yesterday I started this list. I am trying to be as honest as I can about my feelings while representing some of the things I have heard from friends.

6. “How much longer does he have until he can get out?”
   This question can be everything from ignorant and uninformed to insulting. The Army isn't prison. They weren't sentenced to it. They chose to sacrifice and make a difference in this world. Not every soldier is perfect, some are scum. I've heard things about men my husband serves around that makes my skin crawl, but they CHOSE to serve. They signed a commitment of a certain time, usually 4 years, sometimes as few as two, sometimes 6. Until they get close to retirement (20 years) and once they cross a certain threshold, they enlist indefinitely with the understanding that they can retire around 20 years depending on duty status, stop-loss, etc. My husband signed his indef contract this fall in Iraq. He has 7 years before retirement. That means he has given more of his life to protecting our country that most people our age have given to anything. 

When someone asks this it comes across disdainful of the job, the duty instead of grateful. Why ask this question at all? What do you care if his contract is up in a year or five? If you're interested truly in this soldier's career, ask instead, "Is he a career soldier?" Usually we will answer with a yes, or "no, he gets out in . . . " Then you have your information without making it sound like our husband's contracted some disease that we have to share. We don't alway love this life, but we chose to stand by them in their sacrifice. I spend a lot of nights near tears. I sleep alone 75% or so of my marriage. I sacrifice myself and my life to support his ability to defend you and our way of life. Try not to make it sound like the plague. 

7. “Wow, you must miss him?”
 This one doesn't bother me as much as some people. Of course we miss him. But like worrying about his safety, we can't walk around just raw emotion all the time. I have moments when the world collapses around me and I can't breathe for missing him. As I cleaned up for company quickly before my in-laws could see the beginning stages of transmogrifying into a recluse hoarder, I again saw my husband's good watch left carelessly on the headboard, as if he just laid it there moments ago. It broke my heart a little bit. 

This can just be a touchy one depending on what kind of day I'm having. First, this is a "duh!" But I understand what you're really saying is, "I can't imagine how hard that must be" or "I sympathize, but don't really understand." So say one of those things. Tell us you care. Ask me how I am today. Understand if I half-smile and shake my head. There are days I can't answer and hold it together. 

8. "My husband travels for business all the time. I totally know where you're coming from."
  Probably not. The cycle of deployment, R&R, redeployment, block leave, training, deployment readiness, block leave, deployment is the most emotionally challenging thing I have ever gone through over and over and over. While deployments sometimes get easier to manage, they never get easier to deal with. We have no togetherness, then instantaneous 24/7 togetherness, then juggle all the commitments to his family, my family, etc. to make sure he gets to visit everyone. Then we try to make sure the kids get some quality time with daddy. Whatever time and energy is left is what I get. And in the middle of celebrating his return, the clock starts ticking for his next good-bye. I already know my husband will miss next Valentine's Day. He missed this years and last. 

Constant traveling occupations might have some similar issues, but it isn't the same. We live under that threat of violence constantly. The men who leave us and the men who come home are not always the same men. The things they see change them and make coming home harder. We never get into a routine for longer than a few months for our entire adult lives. Most people have a schedule or a normal. We never do. Just is. If we do get lucky enough to get to have him home (stateside) for a few years in a row, he has probably pulled a job that keeps him away from home most of the time. One of my friends feels lucky that her husband and she get to be together for almost three years, the first two years of their brand new son's life, but to do it - they had to get stationed in Korea. While they are both adventurers, a foreign land literally oceans away from every family member or friend, isn't an easy or "normal" either. 

9. “Well, he signed up for it, so it’s his own fault whatever happens over there."
  This is like saying, you got into a car this morning. You deserved that accident. I mean, you knew the risks. Don't you know that accidents are the 5th leading cause of death in this country? How dare you drive a car. 

We are fighting a war against people who murdered children. They use innocent children as bombs. They brainwash babes and manipulate women and boys to become murderers.  It is dangerous, but the thousands who died in the WTC didn't deserve it and our men are making sure no one ever comes after Americans like that again if we can prevent it. He signed up to protect you. So he could worry just a little less about his baby girl sleeping in her crib being someone's target and a little more about which gun he'll be cleaning on her Prom night. He signed up knowing he might not come home or might come home missing a limb, with a traumatic brain injury, or burned from an IED. 

He signed up for it, because you won't. Just say Thank you! But no one deserves to die violently unless they are the perpetrators of evil. No one deserves to give up years of their lives to fight evil. This is a calling - like being a priest, nun, teacher, social worker. Not everyone can. Some who sign up, shouldn't have. The ones who can and do year after year, do so in order that you might sleep free tonight and have the ability to say hurtful things like that. So don't mind me if I ignore you, I'm trying to take the high ground.

10. Aren't you afraid he'll cheat?
   More soldiers cheat than we'd like to know about. More men cheat than we want to acknowledge. You can't stop them from cheating. You can't control them. Worrying about it will only make you crazy. Trust him until you have a reason not to, then cross that bridge. Besides I've been cheated on by a guy who worked five minutes from the house. He lied and manipulated and schemed. A lot of the cheating soldiers aren't away, they're here cheating with the deployed soldiers' wives. People are crappy. They do crappy things. Don't marry a dirtbag if you can help it. Being a soldier isn't a guarantee one way or another. 

Do everything you can to communicate honestly and openly. Make sure to have an honestly only policy and a rule that neither of you EVER do anything that would make the other suspicious. If that is a two way rule, it should keep both of you conscious of how to protect the trust in your relationship. I honestly don't worry about him cheating on me. If at all, less than a fleeting thought once in awhile. What would I do about it anyway? We've both been cheated on in our lives and know how much it hurts, so we've talked about it at length. All we can control is ourselves. 

Ok, way past bedtime so one last issue to address - sex. If we worry about cheating, then next question has something to do with sex. It is hard to go without it, at first. After about two weeks, the physical need diminishes, just like quitting smoking. You get a twinge every so often, but really the longer the switch is off, the less it flickers. It is actually harder for me when he comes back to flip it back on like a switch. Sex is the least of your worries. You get over it quickly. If you love your spouse, you love him/her enough to only want to share that intimacy with him/her.  That and some discipline to stay away from being alone or in unnecessary social situations with members of the opposite sex, should make it bearable. Honestly, not thinking about it works the best for me. Also the longer we're married, the more our marriage grows and becomes about being partners, friends, soulmates than I ever could have imagined. Sex is the icing, not the glue. 

Civilians - Next time you run into a military wife, remember emotions run high during deployment. Do more listening than talking. Be an ear, not an interrogator. Just let her tell you what is hard or painful. And remember that is just today. Tomorrow it might be something else. Every day is a new challenge. If you're curious, try to ask about being in the military. You will get your questions answered, get a sense of our mood and maybe make a friend.

AW - Next time some civilian makes an ignorant or hurtful comment, remember most of it comes from ignorance and an attempt to demonstrate sympathy. Try talking to them. And we know what we do, what we go through, how hard it is, what our soldiers face. We do it all alone all the time, what do we care what some idiot thinks? Do you need this random person to validate you? Does this friend know what she said hurt? Try to grasp where the question/comment comes from and decide to answer and educate or ignore and move on. Either way, don't waste time on fruitless tasks. You can't argue with crazy. Crazy always wins because they don't know what you're talking about. That would be like arguing calculus with my dog. Pointless. Be better than that. 

Day 105/102: Things not to say to an Army wife Part Deux

This somehow was one of the blogposts that had to be erased to repair the issues that were created and caused the whole system to shut down for a couple of days. I hadn't missed an entry and it made me so frustrated that I couldn't access the system and then found I had lost a blog entry. Very frustrating. Thanks for hanging with me.

This is a continuation of the blog I started earlier this week. I've seen this list a few times, but here are a few of the things that non-military people say to us that are hurtful or insensitive. 

6. “How much longer does he have until he can get out?”
   Somehow, this sounds probably more negative than it was meant, but my husband VOLUNTEERED. He watched the towers fall, knew what the world looked like, and signed up, knowing it would take him away from his family, his hobbies, his life. He chose to go. When you ask "until he CAN come home" it sounds unappreciative of his sacrifice, like who would ever WANT to have this job?
   Also, if you are asking because you don't know how the military works, the enlisted soldiers sign contracts for specified amounts of time: 2 years is the shortest and doesn't happen very often, 4 years is average and 6 is less frequent, but also popular. Then you have INDEF - my husband just signed his indef contract last fall. Indefinite contract length means he plans to stay for his entire career. He has served just over 13 years in the military now and has a minimum of seven before he can retire. He has reupped (re-enlisted 5 times? now). 
    My husband loves what he does even though he doesn't always love the day to day or the deployments. Being in the military isn't a plague you have to run from. It is a commitment. Before you ask how long before he can GET OUT, think about why you even want to know or if you could just say, "Tell him thank you for his service" and move on. 
     If you are truly curious about his commitment, ask if he is a career soldier. If he is, then ask how long he has in. If not, then ask when his commitment is up. Sometimes it is about thinking for just a second about what how what you're saying sounds. 

#7 My husband travels for business all the time. I totally understand what you're going through."
    Not really. While any couple that spends a lot of time apart is going to have many similar issues, it is like comparing horseback riding to bull riding.  While I try not to dwell on it, most of the time my husband is away he is in mortal danger. Today while chatting with him on the computer we lost signal, but he didn't come back on. I didn't spend any time really focused on it, but my first thought was that something happened. You may worry about his plane or travels, but we have that worry plus IEDs, mortars, rockets, and combat. 
   Also we are on an emotional journey that starts with orders to deploy and the stress, fear, and anxiety this brings. Then he leaves off and on for field exercises over a period of several months culminating in a month of desert combat training. After which, the giant clock begins to countdown at a deafening volume. Everything we do as a couple has added significance and the last two weeks are the hardest. Sometimes it gets so hard that if I had some magical guarantee he would come home safely, I would wish that he would just get a phone call and have to go, no time to spend getting all worked up. Then we deal with the loss, try to create our own agenda and routines, get comfortable in those routines just to have him come home for a few weeks and remind us how sucky everything is without him and leave again. When he finally comes home, he isn't usually home for more than 48 hours before I hear him tell somebody that they're already talking about his next deployment dates. And off we go again.
   Being alone a lot is part of what we do, but the being together, apart, together, apart with combat thrown in for extra difficulty ratings, isn't the same as someone married to a truck driver or businessman who travels. The emotionality just doesn't even touch it. SO, instead tell me how much you miss your husband when he's gone and that you appreciate our sacrifice and are around when we need an ear.

8. “Wow, you must miss him?”
    This one doesn't bother me so much, but of course I miss him. The worries and the missing him aren't always at the front of my mind, but when someone asks this, it does make me think about something sad and painful. Some days I can't even consider him because it hurts so much, between being alone and missing him. Things are so much better now than they were in earlier wars, but all I know is this one. 
   He emails a couple times a week when he can. Sometimes I have gone for a couple of weeks with no word. He calls every Saturday or every other Saturday depending on his schedule. But this army wife thing is a lot of being alone. I would say about 75% of our marriage has been apart or preparing to be apart or trying to readjust from being apart. We have very little normal time together. Sometimes, I forget what it is like to have him home. Which leads me to . . .

9. Don't you miss sex? 
     For me, I've found that I really don't too much after the first few weeks he's gone. It kinda shuts down, becomes periphery.  Sex is only part of having an intimate relationship. I worry more about making sure we're still talking, sharing our feelings. And over time you realize that sex isn't the foundation of your relationship, just a benefit of a loving marriage. 
     I do miss being close. I miss holding his hand. I miss the way it feels to hug him. It is part of the sacrifice we make, which is part of the reason why many military marriages don't last. And that corresponds to . . .

10. Aren't you afraid he'll cheat?
     Not really. I can't guarantee he will be faithful, but we talked at length before his first deployment about the issue, and I've come to trust him. What is the alternative? Trust has to be at the center of any relationship whether there is distance or not. I was cheated on by my ex-husband who worked five minutes from the house. He carried on an affair for a year before our divorce. It was hard for me to trust anyone after that, but Chad very wisely pointed out that we can't control each other, only ourselves. Worrying about infidelity won't prevent it and generally drives a divisive wedge between two people. 
   I also think he truly loves me more than he thinks I love him, and I love him more than I think he loves me. He thinks I am too good for him while I wonder when he'll realize he's too good for me. Part of having that trust, is being able to know how complete your love is. 
    He could cheat on me whenever he wanted. He is a handsome guy who is kind, generous and loving. Worrying about it, stressing about it, checking up on him, won't make any difference. It will just make me upset, paranoid and slowly build a wall between us of mistrust and resentment. If you think your guy is going to cheat, you need to work on your relationship. The closer you two are emotionally, the less possibility is that either of you will make that mistake. We also made a rule - to never do anything that would make the other person wonder or question our trustworthiness. 
     He knows I will never be alone with a man under any circumstances. He won't do anything that would make me wonder either. We also both promised that we would never cheat. If anything ever came to that point, we would end our relationship before pursuing something else. The pain of losing a relationship is bad, but betrayal is a thousand times worse. 
     I know there are no guarantees, but I am not going to worry about it. I don't let myself be concerned. If he were coming home late smelling like perfume and taking showers immediately, I might start to ask some questions, but until then . . . no, I don't worry about things I can't control. I have enough stuff I am actually responsible for. 
11. “Well, he signed up for it, so it’s his own fault whatever happens over there.
    Mmm, really? This is like saying a car accident is your fault because you knew how dangerous cars were but got into one anyway. He knew what military service meant before he joined the army, but being a victim of a terrorist still isn't his fault. He does what he does knowing the risks of IEDs and rockets, bullets and shrapnel. He chose to put himself in harm's way to protect us, so we can sleep relatively unconcerned about the state of the Middle East. So his daughter could sleep peacefully in her crib. 
    This one bothers me because people close to our family have made comments that he must like being away from his family because he deploys so often. He likes serving his country, but wishes he could be home more often. He gets deployed based on what type of unit he is in and what job needs doing. 
      If, God forbid, something did happen to him, it would be because he stood between some fanatic anti-American extremist and you. Don't you dare tell me it would be his fault. Instead, try THANK YOU. They are two little words that should be said more often. He goes so you don't have to. He signed up so they wouldn't draft your husband or son or brother. He chose to make a career out of protecting our freedoms that we really do take for granted. He sacrifices his life everyday he is gone because he misses out on all the things the rest of us do. If you're not a military spouse, you probably can't imagine what it feels like to know he'll miss Thanksgiving and Christmas again this year, to wonder if he'll be home for your 40th birthday, to cry because your daughter just did something for the first time and you didn't get it on video for him. 

All in all, people say a lot of things to us, around us, about us based on misinformation, ignorance and too much TV. If you come across someone who says something hurtful, try to remember they most likely are trying to be sympathetic or are curious about the military wife life. Try to be patient. If you're the civilian and come across a military wife, try to ask fewer questions and just listen.