Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 55: New Kind of Family

Today, we drove about 90 minutes north to visit my husband's mother's husband's son and his wife and two children. Essentially my step-brother-in-law and his family are who they are to me.

My MIL made her mother's chicken and noodles and chocolate chip cookies yesterday and we drove up. After lunch, the "boys" and I (SBIL and SFIL and stepsons and step-nephew) went to see Transformers 3 in 3D. The movie was a little weak on plot with too many long drawn out action sequences that could have been shortened without losing interest or intensity, but had a few plot twists and neat effects with the 3D. It was WAY too loud and very violent for a movie whose advertising primarily targets younger children. I didn't think the new girlfriend character was interesting or believable. I didn't trust the character and didn't feel like the actors had any chemistry. But the movie was certainly entertaining, even if half the movie I wasn't sure which transformer was doing what. I would recommend drinking very little the day of the movie and waiting to start drinking until at least half way through the movie. I had to pee the last 30 minutes and was FREEZING in the theater. Also, the 3D is pretty cool and makes a lot of the action sequences more interesting.

It was nice to take the boys to do something special with their grandpa and uncle and cousin. Later, the ladies (my MIL, my SBIL's wife, my SBIL's MIL and myself with Lil Bit) sat visiting on the porch while all the boys, littlest cousin included, went for a walk to the pond. We talked about kids, having kids, raising them, letting them go, marriages, weddings. We watched Lil Bit bonk herself on the head by falling off a chair, now that she learned to climb into them at my sister's house.

It was a nice day, although very long and late. I was struck, as we sat around and visited, how this is a very different type of family structure than people envisioned as ideal in the 50's, but it works. My step-sons have an adopted sister, a father Chad and a step-Uncle Chad who is the son of a grandpa who is their grandma's husband, but not biologically related. And we don't care. We are family. We are joined by marriage, love and friendship. We may not always agree or see eye to eye, but we're a family, mixed up and different, but in a world so full of negative things, why worry about labels for people who love you? Family is the only label that matters and it isn't always determined by blood. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 56: Touching History

My husband is deployed to Iraq, but historically the area where he is is one of the earliest civilizations, Mesopotamia. It is strange for me that I've taught about the Fertile Crescent, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. These are places I've discussed, but to me, really, they are just words or pictures. I've never seen them. My husband has stood next to these waters and stood in palaces, castles and just on ground that has seen thousands of years of civilization.

Today he sent me pictures of some castle or palace. He doesn't always find out what they're called or the exact historical details when his duty for the day is the protection of some Iraqi officials or military officers.

Really, he is lucky to have a chance to take pictures most days. A lot of times he is kept so busy with his duty that he doesn't even snap any or if he does, he isn't in them. Today was a special treat because we got pictures of him in them. He was walking through this castle that he said was used by the British when they visited during the 1920's, but the stone construction is obviously much, much older than that.

I know when he was younger, he traveled to Greece, Italy, Israel, France, and Africa with the Marines. He confesses now that he traveled the world, but missed out on the significance of the places he saw. I'm not sure he is getting more out of his current travels. He mostly sees sand, sand and some more sand, but sometimes he gets to visit some pretty neat places.

At the castle/palace he visited this week, he sent a picture of his guys walking through one of the fancy sitting rooms obviously decorated by the British when they used this place in the 20's.

You can see the rough soldier fall away and the faces of these tough men turn into wonder at the sight of some interesting pieces of history.

While I would imagine that most of these soldiers have a limited understanding of world history from a tenth grade exploratory course, like the one I used to teach, they probably are just awed by the age of objects and buildings. Our country tends to be more focused on the newest, most up-to-date things. We tear down buildings once they reach a certain age or state of dilapidation. In a nation whose history literally predates history (defined as recorded written records), almost everything is ancient and most things predate our nation. I can't imagine just running around structures that are older than our country.

Last week, Chad described a pile of dirt and rocks by the side of the road. He pointed it out to his unit to examine as a possible site for IEDs. As they were climbing the pile, Chad noticed broken pieces of pottery and bricks. A local was nearing the area, so they asked him about the mound. He said they were climbing on the ruins of Kish, one of the ancient city states of Sumer. Some of the ancient women I used to teach about in Women in History were rulers of Kish - Enheduanna who was the daughter of Sargon the Great.

The next day he visited some rebuilt sites from Babylon. I am just flabbergasted at the idea that he just walks around every day on ground that to me would be near sacred. When we went to Cancun, we visited Chichen Itza, and I got teary eyed at standing in front of the ziggurat from pictures I had taught in my history classes for years.

My husband might not get chills standing in these places, but he understands how just the history of the places deserves respect and tries to instill this respect in his soldiers. The dirt mound isn't just a pile of rocks, but a piece of history that they are touching.

He might be far away. He might not be able to touch my face or kiss his daughter goodnight, but at least he is able to appreciate the history he is experiencing, which is something very rare. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 57: Lake

One of my favorite things about my adult hometown is the manmade lake just outside of town. I used to rent a lot every summer. It was about the width of a decent sized city lot, but ran from the gravel road to the water, which varied with each space. Mine was down a steep hill and across from the golf course.

I used to spend every second I could out there. Other than mowing it, which was awful, I loved being out there, especially on weekdays when no one was there. I would spend all day reading and sunning and swimming in the beautiful peace and quiet. Somedays I would swim as quietly as I could out into the middle of the lake feeling like God made this beautiful place just for me.

I miss it the most since we moved. Today we spent the afternoon riding around on a pontoon boat at the lake. It was a little hot in the sun, but just about a perfect day for the lake. The water was chilly, but not really cold. We had a boatful of family and friends and just had a nice day, although, tiring. I am ready to crash. After sleeping on the couch and then sitting in the sun with a VERY unhappy baby who DETESTED her life jacket, I'm ready for bed. So short and sweet tonight, we came, we saw, we swam and now we all sleep the deep, wonderful sleep after a busy summer day and a delicious meal and cool showers.

If my Lil Bit was able to remember a day yet, today would have been a pretty good one to remember. Even the smells of sunblock and lake water with freshly shampooed hair and barbecue are such a part of my amalgam of summer memories. I just wish my dear husband could have been here to share it with us. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 58: Long Road

Today was transfer day. My week with my mom, sister and her kids was up and it was time for a switch. Airfare being what it is, we decided to fly into Ohio, spend a week and then drive to Illinois and fly home from St. Louis. My step-father-in-law whom I call Dadve, drove from Illinois to near Indianapolis to meet me with my mom.

It should have been about a six hour drive, but with a restroom stop, transfer stop and lunch, we got home around 3:30 which was about seven hours after I left my sister's this morning. I am very tired so this is going to be short.

I was up most of the night with a whiney baby. She cried and whined and eventually screamed. I was up almost all night listening to her. She only stopped and slept near 5 when I got fed up and pulled her into bed with me. She snuggled right in and pretty much was silent from then on in, around two hours before I had to be up to get ready to travel.

I, of course, forgot something at my sister's house, Lil Bit's favorite sippy cup. UGH!!! The last half an hour to forty-five minutes of my mom's half of the drive, she screamed with fury, turning beet red and choking herself. She clawed at the seatbelts and tried to escape her car seat. I was crying by the time we got to our meeting place with aching sadness for her.

After the transfer to Dadve's car, she cheered up with me sitting in back with her and was calmer for the next thirty minutes or so, after which we stopped for lunch. Once she ate, she was all smiles. I had fed her until she turned it away in mom's car, so maybe she just needed to stop and get out of the seat for awhile.

Goodbye, Nana!
She napped for awhile in the car, so did I. After a week at my sister's house, with a baby who whined all night long, I am so wiped out. I am ready for bed. I was ready an hour ago, but don't see myself getting a shot at the bathroom right now to get myself ready for bed.

Then I get to the family's house and realize they've got company up to their eyeballs. Hopefully I get some rest soon. Being on the road and visiting people's houses just isn't like being at home. Not my bed, not my noises, not her bed, so she's all out of sorts. While I am enjoying the visits, I understand more and more why people get comfortable in their own homes. We try to make some accommodations for guests, but it just isn't home.

The hardest part of today for me was saying good-bye to my mom. I tried not to cry. I know that a one week visit once or twice a year doesn't actually change our relationship, but it is nice to see her face when we talk. I know she liked seeing Lil Bit too, but it is hard for her to get close to the baby when she has so little time with her. The last couple of days, she really spent some good time with the baby, but it is hardest for me that she isn't here to see the growth and changes in her. It is nice to share her cuteness with everyone else. Sometimes a phone call just can't convey the momentous sweetness of a new first, and it makes me lonely. She is missing so much. I know she knows it and struggles not to get upset with the good-byes too.

Deployments, the army and this life is just a long road sometimes, and it gets very lonely. Even the people who love us, sometimes don't understand the intricacies of what we go through and the emotions we deal with under the surface. Just tired tonight. Emotionally it was a hard day and physically, I am very finished. I just hope to get some sleep. Somedays, all you can do is look forward to tomorrow. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 59: Contact

My sister and I were pretty close as children, but argued a lot as we got into school age and high school. Then I went my way to college and she went her way. We've worked harder the past few years to build a better relationship, but it is hard surrounded by kids, mom, and the day to day sometimes to find ways to really talk.

Just once this week did we really talk. One afternoon, we drank basil lemonade and sat on the front porch for a few hours until we both couldn't wait to pee and needed to feed our children dinner. We talked about college and kids. We talked about what careers we could see our children choosing. Of course, her kids are five so it is easier for her to imagine them choosing careers. With Lil Bit being only a year old, it is hard still to imagine her choosing an adult career. We talked about IQ's and whether we would want to know our children's scores. We talked about growing up and who we were as people.

We had a nice chat, but somehow the close feeling of contact from that afternoon didn't last. Our private little bubble ended when we came back inside. Somehow the realities of being mothers invaded the moment and we haven't been able to find private time again to chat.

I leave tomorrow and the morning won't be conducive to any more conversation. I just feel so left out between my mom and sister sometimes who have always been so close and now share nearly everyday together. They don't try to make me feel left out, but we just don't seem to really talk. I wish I could just find a way to get to know my sister better.

We can spend a week in the same house, but somehow don't quite manage to make contact. I love her and she loves me, but our relationship has always been just short of true and easy friendship. I hope that changes someday. I would even like to meet her somewhere someday for a just us weekend or maybe make a date once or twice a month to call and talk but no kids talk, just us.

One of the things I've struggled with as an army wife is the distance it puts between us and our families. It isn't easy to maintain close contact when you can't just pop in for dinner or hang out in the backyard like friends do. Maybe our next move will bring us closer? or force us to work harder at it. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 60: Still hurts

Today, I wanted to chat with my husband. We sent simultaneous emails yesterday, but didn't get to actually chat. I left my computer open next to me while playing a board game with my mom, niece and nephew. Between helping count spaces, read rules and corral baby, I didn't see that he came on to chat, so I missed him by about 30 minutes when I moved the mouse to stop the screen saver

The first time he deployed after we started dating, I missed a phone call while here at my sister's house. It was the first phone call I had missed. I cried. I knew he was standing in line for long stretches of time to get to a phone and he didn't have a computer for internet usage. If he wanted to email, he had to wait in another long line. When I missed a call, I felt horrible. It was my first experience as a military significant other, and to me every missed phone call might have been my last chance to hear his voice. While it still is, I think I've realized to keep those emotions a little more under wraps. I can't walk around so raw all the time.

This deployment, he has his own computer with internet in his room. While too slow to use for Skype or video chatting most days, it is fast enough for voice calls on some days and emails and instant messaging on most. It isn't quite as devastating to miss a call, but it still feels like I've dropped the ball somehow. I have a lot of responsibilities here, and I know he doesn't expect me to sit around waiting for him to be online. I don't do the frilly care packages and Martha Stewart boxes. Honestly, I am good enough to get him a few cards and packages a year. But I try to (on days I don't have school) schedule my day around the times he usually is available.

It is a little thing that I can do to make sure he knows he is loved and missed. I think we've reached a point in our marriage that we don't spend a lot of time worrying during deployments about cheating or what the other person is doing, but we've also reached a point where we've gotten really good at being apart, so much so that we both worry just a little about not needing each other quite so much. I don't want him to worry that I don't need him or miss him or want him every single day because I do.

I think that I miss him most when I visit my family or his. I feel like part of me is missing more so than I do at home. I guess at home, I keep so incredibly busy I don't have time to think about it. But all the quiet here brings him more and more to mind. Also watching my sister with her husband and family makes it more obvious that here I am alone again. The fear of losing him also grows the closer we get to the end and the countdown gets to be almost a daily prayer of blessing, thanks and continued concern.

I missed his message and it still hurts. I hope that I will get a chance to hear from him again before he leaves for his day of patrols/missions. But even if I don't, I will most likely get another chance tomorrow, and if not, we always end every communication with, "I love you and miss you!!" just in case.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 61: Children

In the past 24 hours, I watched my sister's son have three or four complete meltdowns. He didn't get his way and got angry. In his anger, he lost control and basically threw a hissy fit. He screamed, demanded his way, shouted and was defiant. He is five, so this behavior is understandable, but unacceptable.

Did my sister deal with it the way I might have, maybe not, but after having my stepsons and baby throw some winners, I have understood that parenting is more subjective than black and white. You can use different words or actions but with varying degrees of success. One technique might get him to cease the meltdown faster, but not teach him to control himself in the long run.

My daughter today was in a mood as well, maybe there is something in the water. She was pretending to drink out of a pumpkin sippy cup. I told her I would put some water in it to drink and give it back. Lil Bit has some lungs let me tell you!! She screamed bloody murder until I gave it back. She pitched a fit about everything I tried to feed her at dinner, and screamed with rage and fury when I was not presenting her with her frozen juice pop at a speed commensurate with her ability to ingest said Mott's freezer pop.

Nothing made her happy this afternoon and I couldn't do much about it. I managed to keep her calm and appeased for the most part, but she still had three massive screaming fits, which for a one year old who can't tell me what she needs or wants or what hurts is par for the course some days, but makes you realize that most parents of children throwing fits are completely lost as to what to do or are ignoring the behavior as part of a less immediate way to deal with the behavior.

The second that child resorts to a tantrum in public is the most humiliating and immobilizing moment, almost like a deer in the headlights. You want to throw a blanket over them, hide the behavior and simultaneously magically create a perfect child behavior to save face in the store, mall, friend's house, in front of your visiting sister and mother. In that second you feel like everyone is looking at you and thinking, what a disaster of a parent!

We have a tendency to judge too quickly, especially parenting, but each child and family have accepted rules, mores, norms that are part of the way they live, handle family roles, deal with emotions. What my family considered normal, you might think was ridiculous or inappropriate. I may not agree with a lot of parenting choices, but it tends to be only the very worst parenting shows up on our radar. We may see the playground "bully" pull our kid off the swing and not have heard him ask nicely for a turn before losing patience. We see the negative behavior, but not that his parents have been working for weeks on impulse control or patience.

Children even at one are little independent people who want what they want when they want it. As we mature, we realize social benefits to patience, delayed gratification, kindness, empathy, but as children, we are walking bundles of need and want. Just as you couldn't walk up to a random 40 year old man and order him around, getting your children to behave perfectly reasonably for an adult isn't going to happen much of the time. If you get it to happen 80% of the time, even with reminders and coaching, you're probably doing an amazing job.

My sister is very patient with her children. She and her husband do their best to avoid spanking. They explain why rules are the way they are, they establish expectations and consequences for failing to meet expectations. Most of the expectations for the kids are pretty much what my rules would be and are age appropriate. They might tolerate more back talk than I might or might be trying to demonstrate extra patience with company here, but they are doing the best job any parents could. Sometimes children are just children.

And the next time you see a mother dragging a tantrum throwing child through Wal-Mart, stop and ask yourself if it were your child, really what would you do? Give in to every whim? Probably not, so what would be your strategy when "no" doesn't cut it? Let them scream and cry, drawing every eye? Dragging them out of the store and going home? Spanking them right there? Ignoring them and continue to shop while your little darling screams like someone drove a steak knife through his eye?

Parenting is hard. You're trying to make sure every lesson, reason, rule is part of the grown-up person you hope your child becomes. And somedays, you're just hoping you have enough patience to allow them to grow up without drinking .  .  . too often, at least. 

Day 62: Butterfly Garden

Last weekend, Lil Bit and I flew in to visit my mom, my sister and her family. She has 5 year old twins. I lived about five hours away when the twins were born and for the first year or so. I drove up a lot to help and visit my niece and nephew.

It was very hard on me when we got orders for Texas. While that was closest to his boys so what Chad needed and wanted, I was saddened by moving away. I've tried to visit once a year or twice if we can manage it, but it is hard and getting harder with the baby. Once she is old enough I have to pay for a ticket for her, I may not be able to visit as often.

Chad and I have made it a point to visit for alternating Christmas and New Year's when we do not have the boys. I make it a point to visit more when he is gone because it is easier and we don't have to balance having the boys too. I knew if I didn't get here this summer, it might be a few years before we made it again. We will have the boys at Christmas and Thanksgiving this year, next Spring Break and all next summer. Unless Allyson is a significantly better traveler in the car next year, we're just not going to drive here.

So this visit is nice. We're trying to mostly just visit, but yesterday we decided to take the kids to a butterfly habitat exhibit in Cincinnati. The baby was slightly interested in the butterflies and was kept reasonably amused. I think she will enjoy something like that more next year, but it was neat. The butterflies just fly around. Kind of makes me feel like a kid again to stare in wonder at the beautiful butterflies. They were butterflies from Brazil and some were very colorful and some were large. I enjoyed the chance to do something fun with the kids.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 63: Little things

I didn't hear from my husband today, but we did get the squadron newsletter. I usually try to scan the newsletter for a chance picture or mention of my husband, but have never seen much of him. A lot of times he isn't even mentioned. I even watch most of the squadron movies hoping for a glimpse of his face.

This time he was mentioned and pictured! "SSGs Coderellis and Defrates have been approved and
awarded the Order of Saint George for outstanding leadership in an Armored Cavalry formation." I think he mentioned the award awhile ago, but hasn't said anything recently about officially getting the award.

It does feel nice to hear that he is getting some recognition for his hard work. And seeing his smiling face in the picture was nice. It is one of those things people outside of the military community probably don't often think about, but I don't get to see recent pictures of my husband very often. I miss his face.

It is the little things that get to me. I miss his face, the way he smiles, the way his voice sounds. After over 300 days since he left for this deployment, there are days it is hard to remember what it is like to have him around. I forget the way it sounds when he walks in the door after work. I forget the way he smells when he holds me close. I struggle to remember the way his lack of organization makes me want to scream. I can't seem to remember how loud his snoring is or how he heats up the bed until I can't sleep.

All I can think about are the myriad of ways I miss him. Because the big things aren't really what you miss, it is the tiniest of details that make your heart break: the way his hand fits in mine, rough and calloused with gnawed fingernails, the way he chops vegetables and obsesses over his cooking, the way he watches hunting and fishing shows Saturday and Sunday mornings.

There are a few big things I miss too, the way he accepts me the way I am, loves the way I look, enjoys my sense of humor and seamlessly understands me. Either way, there are days I just realize how much I miss him. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 64: Cutting Troops

With the budget being such an issue, there are a lot of politicians talking about cutting the pay and benefits of the troops. I am so incensed over that issue that I can't even bring myself to write about it. I've been trying for two weeks, but I get so angry that I start to shake. I don't want to let it ruin my day, so I've just put it aside.

However, this week I am furious about the level of exhaustion my husband is experiencing. He has been run ragged for the past few months. By ragged I mean twelve to sixteen hour days followed by pulling all-nighters on paperwork. He has done this so much, that he goes days without sleeping. He is surviving on energy drinks that he has to pay for. He has gone so long on so little sleep, it is a wonder it isn't affecting him mentally (if it isn't). His body is going to suffer the affects of lack of sleep soon.

I don't need to debate the dangers of sleep deprivation. Being tired causes more fatal accidents than being drunk. We wouldn't let soldiers drink and fight/drive/patrol, but we send them out not just tired, but literally past what humans can actually bear because there aren't enough troops to do what Iraq needs us to do. We made a timetable for getting out that was set on a calendar and not on actual success. Now the insurgents are creating a volatile environment that is requiring combat troops plus all sorts of administrative jobs. But we don't have enough soldiers there because of the withdrawal timetable.

Now the DoD is talking about cutting personnel. I don't see how they can possibly consider cutting back personnel when we're now fighting on three fronts. We have action in Iraq and Afghanistan but also Libya. If they are trying to cut the budget so much, why don't we stop fighting all these nation's wars for them?

My husband has gone on deployment essentially every other year since he joined the army at the current troop level. How in the world do they plan to continue the cycles of deployments with fewer troops? Take them away even more from their families? News articles are springing up everywhere about the toll the deployments are taking on soldiers, marriages, spouses, children, families. There has been a meteoric rise in alcoholism, abuse, divorce and suicide. They need to deploy less, not more.

I just don't see how they can consider cutting personnel or pay for that matter. As the economy worsens, spouses are struggling to find work and now the DoD is going to ask the soldiers to accept cuts in pay and benefits? How are we supposed to manage to survive, much less plan for college funds and retirement? We don't even have life insurance outside of our work because of the cost. We just can't take on another bill. If we try to downsize in a year since I will most likely be unable to find work at his new duty station, I don't know what we'll do to make ends meet. Then if they make the soldiers spread even thinner than they are now? ? ? ? I'll be trying to make ends meet alone for the fifth deployment.

Soldiers are working on their sixth and seventh deployments. Even some of the younger soldiers are on second and third deployments. My husband is finishing his fourth. If he doesn't get assigned a duty that is stateside, he will be training up to leave again in less than two years, maybe 15-18 mos. home with 6 mos. of that being away from home training or schooling.

If we continue to police the entire world, cutting our troops and/or incentive to join or stay, we're going to end up handing the reins over as we crash. We need to have a money makeover for our government. Cut government staffers, presidential door openers, chauffeurs, chefs, etc. Cut the number of bombs we're dropping on Libya. Raise taxes. Most developed nations around the world pay much more in taxes than we do. Raise taxes and force the government to run on less than taxes bring in. Lower our deficit until it is gone. Then maybe we can realistically create a budget that runs our country and not into the ground.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 65: Nightmare

Last night I had a dream that my husband was killed. In the dream, I was sitting in a room full of soldiers that served with him and he was there (kind of). He asked one of the soldiers to tell me about serving with him. That soldier turned to the rest of the guys and they started telling stories.

As dreams go, they jump around and I was back home trying to deal. I didn't know how to let people know or hadn't really even accepted it. I hadn't been informed officially yet, not sure how I found out. The dream was disjointed, but next people were bringing me food, offering to watch Lil Bit, but I couldn't process that he was gone.

It just didn't seem real. I couldn't grasp that the last time I heard his voice was weeks ago and would be the last time ever. I was doing something in the kitchen and it hit me that he was really for real forever gone. Then his little gmail chat icon turned green on the computer. I rushed to type, "Hey!" But it was just his roommate turning off his things. That was when any and all hope died. And I woke up.

It was all I could do to wait until morning to check for an email from him. I knew if I got up and opened computers, etc. it would wake the baby. I was sleeping very uncomfortably as it was and knew she probably was too with all the noises she was making. Somehow I made it until it was actually time to get up, but there was no email. It was going to be a long day until I heard from him.

I know it was just a dream, but it was very vivid. The emotions were very real. I would have been destroyed. Honestly until he is in my arms, I won't truly be able to completely not worry. Chad's life is in God's hands, and I shouldn't worry, but having faith that God's plan is best for me doesn't mean that he will come home. I will be checking the computer all day. I haven't heard from him since an email Saturday. It has only been 48 hours, but sometimes it gets hard to go so long, especially when he doesn't get much chance to call.

We finally got an email after lunch. He is very stressed out and exhausted, working on an hour or two of sleep for several days. He's had 36-48 hour periods of no sleep. Just ridiculous. I swear to God if he gets killed because we don't have enough troops there to do the job left to them, I will make the army wish they had never heard of me.

But he is alive today. We even got two minutes of video chat before the internet cut out. We got to see his face before the screen froze and he could see us. He got to see and hear his baby daughter being cute and cooperative. She said, "Dada" and pointed at the screen when she saw him. She did some of her new signs and tricks. Later we even took some time to chat for longer than usual.

But it is getting hard. I think as the time gets short, there is more pressure to get things done and he feels like I can just barrel through and make it until I get home, but I have a real fear for his safety and want every contact we can have. Plus, if he doesn't start calling more often, we get distant and he feels very far away from me. I have had enough of this far away b.s. I want him home.

My nightmare just solidified that I really love him, can't imagine my life without him in it. I know distance does make the heart grow fonder and six months from now, I may sound less rose colored about him, but I really do love him for the person he is and the joy he brings to my life and my heart. Plus, I can't wait to see what our life looks like as a family with our daughter. Her birth was so tied up in training and preparations for leaving that we didn't get a lot of time together before he went. Now, she is a full little person, replete with personality, which unfortunately she is demonstrating right now by refusing to lay down and go to sleep. I hear the new "children's" book narrated by Samuel L. Jackson in my head. If you don't know it, google it. Hilarious!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 66: Toddler Travel

So my Lil Bit isn't quite so Lil anymore. She wants to go go go. And she doesn't fit quite as neatly on my lap as she did six months ago. I new flying home was going to be a challenge, but that it might be my last chance for a few years. With my husband coming home things will change. Our nuclear family of him, me, Lil Bit and her big brothers will take precedence and since we have to travel so far to pick them up we don't often go on long distance trips with them.

I bit the bullet and tried to plan for this the best I could. I packed my carry on with emergency needs and my electronics that I don't trust under the plane, and used my gigantic mommy purse. In my purse was two of my diaper packs (sandwich bag with wipes and a diaper tied up in a scented disposal bag), a few teething toys, a small book and a new toy that she only saw during our trip to Walmart. Good thing I brought the big mommy purse because one of the planes today was so little that we couldn't have our carry-ons on the plane and were checked below the plane. If I hadn't switched purses last night, we'd have been sunk. I don't know how they justified taking away our carry on baggage. There were overhead bins, all empty.

I figured the new toy would be distracting because she hadn't heard all the songs yet or heard all the voices. I planned to save it for our second plane ride of the day since that was the long ride. The first ride was barely long enough to get up in the air before we were coming back down, but she played with the phone for a few minutes before she got sleepy and curled up with me. She crashed hard both flights.

She was definitely more fun this trip, but harder to appease. For extra back up, I put in a DVD in my laptop. It would be hard to get to it, but if all else failed, it could be worth it to have so I could distract her during the flight. I didn't want to take any chances on a toddler meltdown, but the reality is that you can't get to anything you've packed with a toddler on your lap. Keep a few essentials literally as handy as possible and resign yourself to the fact that everything else is hopelessly out of reach.

I had packed two cereal bars for her and two for me. I packed her crackers and some on the go applesauce. I also packed the last pancake cut up into a baggie. She wasn't going to go hungry if I could help it. Most of her fussiness usually comes down to being hungry. Sitting next to two people instead of one was going to be enough for most travelers; I didn't want to make it any harder if I could help it. But it was hard to dig through the giant mommy purse looking for things, so I took whatever was easiest to grab and made do.

She started to meltdown about twenty minutes before we landed which doesn't sound very long unless you're sitting near a one year old who has decided that nothing makes her happy and she is going to whine incessantly. I know the people around me understood and that she was not all that bad. She had a few minutes of pretty rough whining, but I tried to keep her distracted and quiet the best I could. She really only cried when we put her in the car seat after hours of being cooped up in planes and strollers. To add another 45 minute trip was almost too much. She was near tears until we turned on some kids music. Then she was at least quiet.

It was a long day, and she was pretty good, but she fell asleep at the table and now won't go to bed. She is driving me up a wall. I won't be able to sleep with her like this. She is bouncing up and down at the foot of my bed and acting wide awake. I haven't had a nap all day. I am completely fried. And she is wired! I forgot to grab her CD and her stuffed animal so we're making do with replacements from Auntie, but they are not doing the trick. I think she finally gave up and realized I'm ignoring her. I hope she goes to sleep soon. This has been a long day.

Things I learned today:
1. Already mentioned this one, but you can't reach anything over a lap child so choose wisely what you keep in your pockets and top of a large mommy purse.
2. If you bring powdered formula, the flight attendants will fill your sippy cup or bottle with bottled water for you on the plane. No need to spend $3 for a bottle of Evian.
3. Bring snacks for you! I ate at 6 and didn't get to eat again until what would have been nearly 4 my time. I had one 140 calorie snack bar and didn't know if I was going to make it. Being hungry exacerbates motion sickness, no fun.
4. New regulations require you to pay fees to check any stroller weighing over 20 lbs. Use an umbrella stroller if you can, they are light, easy to get in and out of tight bathroom stalls when Mommy needs to go.
5.  My work lap top didn't make it through security so I had to be pat down. Don't sweat it, just do it. Still haven't had to do one of the new scanners, will keep you posted on that one.
6. Choosing the quickest trip to your destination might not be the best ticket. If our connecting plane had been departing on time, we would have barely made it with 40 minutes between flights because they start boarding twenty-thirty minutes before the flight. Getting off the first flight is tricky because you have to wait for your stroller and the crowded plane of people. It takes about 20 minutes just to get off the plane and get your stroller. If you can choose a connection with an hour in between that gives you enough time to change the baby, pee, grab a drink and feed the baby something.
7. Go into the day knowing it will be an unmitigated disaster, then it can't be any worse than you anticipated.

If you have any other questions about traveling, let me know. I didn't know last trip that they will open the pre-packaged formula to test it, ruining the vacuum seal and meaning if it isn't drunk within two hours, it is garbage. If you have a whole day of traveling to do, this is not welcome news. Bring powdered formula you packed ahead in DRY bottles. If there is any moisture in the bottle/sippy cup it will make the formula turn. You don't want that to happen. You can have small amounts of formula and baby food now that wasn't allowed last time, but it might be inspected. You also need to remove all those items from your bag when you go through security.

I think that pretty much covers it. Long day and I'm going to be woken up very early by two 5 year olds. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 67: Pre-Travel

Today has been relatively stress free, but this morning was a bit of a challenge. A friend of mine graciously offered to dog sit. I was excited about it because our dog is a bit of a challenge. She gets really excited about new dogs or people and makes this horrible howling noise. She doesn't do terribly well in the kennel. She gets worried when we leave her and doesn't eat. With this trip being much longer than the three or four days we are usually gone, I was glad to have someone to watch her instead of kenneling her.

At the last minute, my friend's husband surprised her with a weekend getaway. So they need to kennel the dogs for a few days. This isn't a big deal except that I hadn't worried about checking her shots since she wasn't going to a kennel. I was planning on worrying about getting the dog her shots once we got home. Last night it occurred to me to pull the shot records and look at them. Her rabies and distemper and parvo expire the day they are leaving for their mini trip. 

So this morning, I was up before the baby, rushing to get out the door and to the vet's office in time to be seen for shots. This was definitely an adventure. We were there for an hour an a half. The dog went crazy with all the puppies, cats and dogs and people. She whined and cried her crazy howling sound. The baby wanted to see all the people and dogs too. It was hard to keep up with the baby and the dog at the same time. It wasn't easy. I will have to come up with a different plan for her canine influenza booster in three weeks. The baby got off the bench and started crawling across the floor. Every few strides, she dropped all the way down into a prone position and slid across a few tiles. If there were a way to end up covered in more dog hair, I don't know what it is. So I'm trying to intervene with the baby, but mindful that all dogs and owners aren't as social as Maggie is, so I can't just let her go either. I definitely had my hands full. It will be so much more fun when we have two dogs. Ugh, I really hope that my husband is home for the next rounds of shots. 

Then I spent most of the afternoon doing a little of this and that, casually packing something I hadn't yet or picking up things around the house. One of my best tips about vacation planning is to take the week before traveling and clean house. As of 4 o'clock this afternoon, my house was company clean, maybe not mother clean, but definitely friends over clean. I washed my sheets and made my bed. I picked up, emptied the fridge, dusted, vacuumed, organized. When I come home, I won't return to a mess. I even took the trash out to the dumpster.

And when I come home, exhausted from sleeping in not my bed for two weeks, I will slide comfortably into my nice, crisp, fresh smelling sheets. It is like a little piece of chocolate I am saving for later. I know I have a clean home and comfy bed waiting for me when I get back. I can't tell you how good it feels to know that it is all done and I can really relax when I get home. I've had so many trips that I rushed around packing at the last minute and then left the house a mess. Coming home to a sloppy home is depressing. While the procrastinator in me said, "Leave it. You can do it later." I knew that later I would want to clean even less than I do now.

I wish it were earlier in the evening that I'm sitting down to end my day, but the baby took a nap late this afternoon for some reason and is wound for sound. She wouldn't go to sleep when I put her down and started screaming. I wasn't in the mood for listening to a tantrum, so I am sitting in her room, where she can see me and working on my blog. She is gradually calming down, so then I can go have a glass of wine and get to bed myself. She doesn't know that 5 a.m. is coming very early tomorrow. But having her tired will work in my favor because she may nap a bit more than usual.

I am very proud of myself. There was no panicked rushing around. My mom called to see what I was doing earlier and I was watching TV and playing games on Facebook while I ate dinner. I've been packing a little at a time for a few days and just have toiletries left for tomorrow. I can't pack them until I'm done using them. We'll see what tomorrow brings, but I left very little to do. I hope it goes as planned. I will let you know how the travel went tomorrow night. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 68: 50 lbs.

I already wrote about my struggles with weight loss this week, so this blog isn't about that. It is about trying to pack for vacation for me and Lil Bit in one suitcase under 50 lbs. I don't know how much they charge for an overweight bag, but I think it is like $50. If I am going to cough up another $50 for this trip, it better be for a first class seat.

We're traveling for more than two weeks and I'm doing my best to pare down what we're bringing, but it is hard. Even bringing enough for a week weighed 49 lbs. I had to pull some things out, stuff a few in the carry on. I don't know how to do it and still bring the outfits I want to. I haven't even tried to include swimsuits or toiletries yet. I am going to be cutting it close weight wise.

Packing for the baby is hard, but luckily I have someone waiting for me who has baby gear. I only have to bring snacks for the trip, diapers, and enough to keep her occupied during the flights. Plus two sippy cups with dry toddler formula, we'll see how that flies with new TSA regulations. I'm certainly not ready for my close up with the nude scanners. I am already preparing to declare holy hell if they expect the baby to go through the scanner. I am not subjecting her to radiation.

I'm still hoping that Area 51 perfects beaming technology soon. That way we could travel across the country in seconds for a few hours and see family without all the stress of packing and travel. I love my family and wish I could be there for family dinners, afternoons at the zoo or whatever. It would be nice to be able to be there for a day, an hour, instead of trying to cram a year's worth of face time in a week.

I will save my travel tips until later this week, after I see what works and what doesn't. After my experiences yesterday with shopping, I know I can't expect the little quiet person I traveled with seven months ago. She was amazing that trip. She fell asleep on take off and woke up on touch down pretty much all four flights. I am trying not to get my hopes up that she will nap again, but I did time the longest flight for her nap time.

We'll see how it goes. I spent most of the day doing laundry, running from one end of the house to another, trying to decide what goes and stays, trying to make mental notes for what needs to be done. I felt like I got a lot of it done, but feel like there is so much left to do. I am trying to not get stressed about the list of things undone or about the traveling. I am too much of a worrier. I've been trying to work on it since I met Chad, who is kind of the opposite of a worrier.

So, I'm gonna quit writing about all the things left to do, before I start getting stressed. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 69: New Challenges

When my husband and I talked about adopting a baby, his primary concerns for us was how challenging a newborn would be, how exhausting the first year of parenthood would be for us, but primarily for me since he'd be deploying. And it was, let me tell you, there were days I didn't think I was going to survive. The second and third months were exhausting, which I did partially by myself and the baby woke up every couple of hours to eat. It was unbelievably hard some days. She had tummy troubles and we struggled to find the right mix for her formula.

We survived those challenges and all the rest that have come our way since Daddy deployed. When we celebrated her first birthday, I kind of felt like "phew, we made it!" I'd partially raised step-children who ranged in age from 6 mos. to 6 years, 4-12, 5-13, 7-13, 9-15. I'd done much of this mothering thing before, but I had limited memory of toddlerhood.

Today, we took a trip to run some errands. We had to mail some things at the UPS store, pick up some travel items at Wal-Mart, and run to Kohl's for some vacation clothes. Running errands hasn't been easy since she was born because it takes so much more effort to drag her car seat in and out of stores, plan around her meals, snacks, bottle, diaper changes, etc. But today, I realized it is only going to get more and more difficult with her.

She used to be this passive little person, but that has changed completely. After my exciting night out to dinner with my girlfriend and her new baby in which we both spent most of the meal dealing with our kiddos, I realized that dinners out were going to be much more challenging. Now shopping has taken a dark turn.

She was frustrated about being in her car seat carrier at UPS. I put her in her Eddie Bauer shopping cart cover for Walmart and she spent the entire time fussing for a cracker, whining. Every time I tried to appease her with a toy or new box of something to distract her, she would be entertained for a few minutes, but not nearly long enough. And recently when she's finished with something, she's taken to throwing it to the floor with prejudice.

Then, I put her in Kohl's shopping stroller for what was supposed to be a quick run through to pick up a few items for our trip. She spent the whole visit enjoying her newly found perspective and grabbing every article of clothing her hot little hands could reach. It was especially fun when she pulled panties off the hangers.

We finally got home and I got everything put away. She ate dinner while I put away clothes and food. Then I threw together a blueberry pecan chicken salad. The whole time I tried to eat, she stood at my elbow with a book. She didn't want me to read the book, just hold it for her so she could make the animal noises. She was very adorable, but it was 8 o'clock and I was hungry.

She just was whiny and frustrated and frustrating all afternoon. I don't know why she was so fussy today, but she needs more attention and stimulation as she is growing up. Somehow this job that in which I thought the hardest year was behind me, just became harder.

And she still isn't walking really. A few steps a day is all so far. I can't imagine how much more challenging this will be when she is running laps around me. I only hope my mom skills catch up to her sooner rather than later. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 70: Faith

"And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me." - Genesis 21:6

This was the bible passage for my morning devotional via Logos app for my iPhone, which is awesome! I love being able to read a devotional morning and evening, search the entire passage, define words, look up alternate translations, etc. right on my phone. Very cool!

But this verse speaks to me more than most. For those without context, in this verse, Sarah is talking about God's promise to give her a child. She was in her 90's. She could not imagine a way even an almighty God could make this happen for her and the future nation she was promised her offspring would become. And yet, she brought forth a son whose family became the nation of Israel and the Jewish people, eventually leading to the birth of Jesus and Christianity. This verse is about the celebration in her heart when God kept his shocking promise to her.

A little over a year ago, I didn't know if I would ever be a mother. I didn't know if that was God's plan for me, for our family. More than two years ago, we started asking people at church to pray about adoption as an option for us, to make it clear if this was the path we were to pursue. We raised the money with much sacrifice, but very quickly, something we thought was going to be impossible. Then we started praying hard about finding the right agency. We had a lot of setbacks at this part of the process, but we prayed and tried to trust God that His plan for our family was the right one, whether a child was part of that equation or not. Eventually, our agency decided, a birth mother chose us for her child, and six very short weeks later, we had a baby girl. It was less than nine months from start to finish, everything fell into place just as it needed to happen. Even getting accepted by our agency happened on exactly the right day to make sure we got the baby we did.

God had never made me such a promise as he made Sarah, but he had promised me  ". . . we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

I knew that he had a plan for my life and that no amount of wishing for something to be true would make it so, but that if I had faith, trusted in His promises like in Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Somehow, my whole adult life, I had tried to conceive, but it never happened. I eventually had a hysterectomy for medical reasons. Eventually, I gave my desire for a child up to God and told Him, that while being a mother was the one thing I thought I couldn't stand to live without, if I wasn't meant to be a mother or would be an awful mother, that I was willing to let it go to do His will and live His life for me. It was then He blessed my life and family with the most amazing child. She doesn't remind me of myself in looks or gestures, but I can already see the stubbornness in her and know that God has given me the child I was meant to parent, for her good and for mine. I am looking forward to raising her so much. 

But the main message I heard this morning as I read, wasn't just about how blessed I am, but how a God who made a promise come true that was humanly impossible can do all things, how our faith will always fall short of His ability to amaze us. It was a message for me about how Mighty is our God and how joyously we should celebrate His grace. He saved me from my sin, has saved me many times from myself and even then did more and blessed my life in a myriad of ways. 

I pray daily for the safety of my husband, but know that he is in the hands of the Almighty. We might not all share the same details of our faith, but those of us who worship God, know the peace and joy of His love and have faith in His promises, even when things seem darkest. He may have a different plan for our futures, but the joy of the Lord is my strength. And I have faith in His plan for me. I do not have a perfect easy life or every thing I've ever wanted, but I have all I truly need and much more, and more love than I could ever deserve. 

Some days, this faith is all that keeps me held together. I can't stop the rockets from landing on my husband's post in Iraq or insurgents from planting IEDs along his convoy routes. I can't make his commanders allow him more than three hours of sleep in three days. All I can do is pray and have faith.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 71: Jogging Strollers

I've been using my jogging stroller a lot lately, and I've realized that there are a few things I would have changed about it if I had shopped for it in person. I shopped online and put it on my registry for my baby shower. My step-sons' mother generously gave it to me as a gift, and I love it. However, once you use something, it is easier to see the design flaws or even features that you love.

If you are in the market for a jogging stroller, here are a few things to look for. Wheels are the most important because the way they roll and the ability to traverse terrain are going to be most important on any jog. Also durability is something to look for. My jogging stroller has inflated tires like a bicycle which make it easier to push although bouncier over bumpy terrain. They do go over rough terrain easily, but the ride is not terribly smooth for a small infant. I didn't feel good jogging with her in it until she was about 8 months old. It is rated as safe after two months old, but until she was able to sit up and hold her head really well, I kept my pace to a brisk walk or a slow jog on smooth surfaces. Most jogging strollers have three wheels; some have a swivel front wheel and some have a fixed front wheel. I prefer the swivel because it responds to turns easier, however that can make it more challenging to control.

Another feature to look for is a Y handle. The Y shaped handle allows for one handed steering. I walk with baby and dog, so I needed one hand for the dog and another for the stroller. Eventually I figured out a velcro hook for the dog's leash that I can remove quickly should the dog be distracted by something, but the one handed steering is still great so I can talk on the phone or when I am really sprinting and use my arms to run. I wouldn't buy a jogging stroller without the one handed steering.

One thing I didn't think about until the first time I put my daughter into the jogging stroller was how the straps secure the child. My stroller only has a small strap between the legs to keep her in. I would have rather there been a post. The strap shifts and ended up wedged between her thigh and crotch. I was concerned that it would rub and be dangerous. I wrapped it in two of the terry cloth seatbelt covers that you can buy in Walmart or Toy R Us. A post between the legs would be more secure for smaller children.

Now the things you might not think about. How wide are the drink holders? How deep are they? If you shop in person, take your favorite water bottle and see how it fits. If it's loose, it will possibly bounce out while running or rattle a lot which is irritating.  If the cup holders are too shallow, they might not hold a tall water bottle. Also play with the children's tray and cup holders. Now that my Lil Bit drinks from a sippy cup, she takes a cup of water, juice or milk on every run, just like I do. Most of her sippy cups have handles and don't fit well in the holders. Is there a place on the parent side for your keys, cell phone, etc.? My stroller has a clicking container to hold a few things relatively securely. 

Lastly consider how the handle feels. Mine has a comfort grip that is like a rubberized tread, but when it gets sweaty, it feels sticky. I would never have thought that of such a nice grip, until I ran 4 miles in 100 degree heat. I wrap a towel around it which makes it much easier and actually keeps my hands drier giving me a more secure grip. I might even consider buying some more of the seatbelt wraps for the handle bar. 

I'm sure there are other features I haven't considered, but these are the ones that as someone who really uses her stroller to run has noticed. I run up and down hills, so I've noticed if it is easy to push and how much it weighs. Mine is very light and glides easily which is nice 30 minutes into a run up a very steep hill. 

As a mom, and friend of other new mothers, I've realized that this is all one big learning curve, and it doesn't hurt to have someone point you in the right direction, even if you chose differently, it is nice to have some things to think about and look for that you might not have considered until you were using the product and didn't like it. So happy jogging! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 72: Put away childish things

I spent so many years waiting for a baby but had no idea how fast she'd grow up. I have enjoyed every stage, but they are going way too fast. I'm trying to treasure each milestone as much as possible, but life just doesn't always give me time to savor the moments.

It was time today to put away Lil Bit's bottles. I stopped giving her bottles around a month ago, but just hadn't committed yet to never giving her a bottle again. We started working on sippy cups when she was around 7 months old, but it took her awhile before she understood how to drink from it and a few more months before she was proficient enough to move to primarily using them instead of bottles.

I think it took me another month to be ready to let her make that move. I don't know how much of my reluctance was that the change sneaked up on me and as much as possible, I like to make changes for her gradually. I started giving her a sippy cup that was closest to a bottle and gave her a goodnight bottle for a couple of days, then no more bottle.

Now she's gone about a month without any bottles at all. My mom was surprised that I wasn't giving her a bottle at bedtime anymore, and I've noticed that she does drink a bit less milk than she did on a bottle, but not by much. I remember when my sister took her twins off the bottle completely they were old enough to miss it. I figured if I just took it away, she wouldn't know enough to complain. In fact, I am going to try to take away the pacifier once we get home from vacation.

It isn't a big deal to me right now, but I don't want it to become an issue for her. My niece and nephew were old enough to give their pacis to the Paci-fairy and get a prize like the tooth fairy. It was cute and they chose when they were ready, but I would rather skip the drama if possible. The plan is to take it away for naps first, then once she's adjusted to that, take it away at bed time. But we'll see. She will have her own plan.

I had planned to try to potty train her this summer, but she just isn't ready. She will go on the potty occasionally and will tell me sometimes when she needs changed, but she just doesn't seem very interested in the potty yet. She has a dvd and a book to introduce the concept, which is where I think we'll leave it for now. She watches the movie and sits on her potty once in awhile. One day it will click and her body will be ready.

I think she is growing up too fast already, so if she stays a baby in a few ways a little longer, that is OK with me. She will be a big girl soon enough. We've already put away five sizes of clothes, her bassinet, swing, most baby food, and her bottles. Her infant seat is next to go away. We've put away plenty of her baby things already. I think I'm not going to rush the rest. 

Day 73: Heavy truth

This is hard for me to write about, but I've been overweight much of my adult life. I've fought it every day or succumbed to defeat and gone off my strict diet. I started gaining weight at the very end of college. I got up to a size 22 before I realized how horrible I felt living like that.

I lost the weight and kept it off for a few years by smoking cigarettes and not eating and walking a lot. But the second I started eating normally again, I would gain the weight back. And I did. I got up to over 200 lbs. and started dieting again. It took me a good year before I lost all the weight, but I walked and walked on the bike trail and lost the weight. I also was smoking a lot and eating very little.

I looked great, got down to a size 2, but was probably near anorexia. I was eating some, under 1000 calories a day, just not enough. But the second I started eating normally I started gaining weight again. I've been fighting it off and on since I met my husband. I eat better when he is deployed because I refuse to cook for myself most of the time. Which is really a double-edged sword - good when I am able to control the cravings and eat my lean cuisine, and bad when my hungrier demons convince me to order pizza.

The last deployment I lost about 40 lbs. It wasn't nearly what I wanted to lose, but it was close enough that I didn't feel like a whale in Cancun, but I gained just about every pound back and this deployment has been harder. My body is getting older and frankly with being more stressed and busier, I haven't been as dedicated to losing the weight as I needed to be. It was hard to exercise with a baby when she was too little to ride in the jogging stroller. And when it was all I could do to get home and spend time with her, I didn't want to take those precious few hours and use them to exercise. I just wanted to be with her. Now that I have the time to exercise, I'm killing myself to lose at least some weight before my husband gets home. I ran four miles today. Did two workout routines and ate around 1000 calories today.

The hard part about it isn't the constant struggle so much as it is the overwhelming self-loathing. Our society is all about THIN. Being fat is like a plague or at least feels like one. When everyone around you is skinny, being fat feels like an accusation. It feels like everyone is looking at you and judging everything you wear, how lumpy you look in it, what you order in a restaurant, and some days it feels like being heavy means you don't deserve to live. Not literally, but not in public. I feel like our society doesn't want to see you if you aren't movie star perfect. When someone walks past us in Walmart wearing something three sizes too small, we take their picture and upload it to Facebook or People of Walmart so everyone can share our laugh.

People who've always been thin and never struggled with their weight, don't get it. I have friends who work out like fiends, but are pencil thin. They are too skinny and don't really have any idea what it is like to be overweight. They don't understand that we feel put down in every situation whether anyone is actually thinking it or not. They don't understand that an invitation to go to the pool with them makes us feel like even bigger whales. While I am glad my friends want to include me, they all look like super models and don't have any idea how much the weight weighs on me.

People look at me and see the size 16. They don't see that I eat the same breakfast, lunch and snack everyday because I have the calories measured out exactly, 700 or so for all three. That gives me 500 or so to eat in the evenings for snacks and meals and maintain a calorie burn of 300 calories without any additional exercise. I ate like this all year and still didn't lose weight. I ordered pizza a few too many times, but one pizza would last me four days at least. It isn't like I ate half of it at one sitting. The worst pigging out was three slices most of the time.

You would think that as tired as I am of living this half life, where I hide in my house so people don't see and judge how ugly I am, have events that I don't want to attend because I don't have anything to wear that hides me enough. I will stress for weeks about attending an event because I feel so fat. I dread visiting friends and family because I don't look they way I wish I did.

I even struggle with looking forward to my husband's return because I am ashamed of the way I look. I don't know which is really eating at me, the struggle to be thin or the struggle to accept this is who I am. I have run four miles seven times in the last week. I have eaten frozen dinners, grilled chicken, and cereal for dinner. I have lost the same 7 lbs. four times since New Years.

There really isn't an end to this blog because I don't have an ending. This is something that I will struggle with until I die. I feel like a perpetual failure. I feel unworthy of having friends, going out. I hide and hide and hide until I've lost enough weight I feel less horrifying.

gasp} large pore is visible.

How do we live with messages that preach a perfection that few can attain? We're all broken some on the inside and some on the outside, but most a little bit of both. How am I supposed to raise my daughter to like herself, the way she is, when I hate the way I look? How on one hand can I feel like summoning all my strength to let go of the pain and just accept that this is who I am, loving, caring, funny, organized, perfectionist, fluffy and on the other want to beat this stupid thing once and for all. I've beaten it back so many times I can't count, but never beaten it. I only lose less weight the next time I try.

I just say to you, if you're not overweight, spend some time today thinking about everything you put in your mouth. Imagine you couldn't just eat without counting every fat gram, every calorie. Imagine you had to decide your wardrobe for the day based on what made you look least like one of Dr. Oz's fat globs. Imagine how much it hurts to feel like the whole world thinks you're a disaster because of your physical self. Especially in our culture where we can forgive ugly, cruel, but never fat. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 74: Not so fun in the sun

Today was not very exciting. It was pretty much my standard summer day so far. We got up before 8 and got ready for our jog/walk. We were out the door by around 8:30, but the temperatures were already rising steadily. By the time we got back to the house, it felt like 90 degrees outside, which is hot enough if you're sitting still but trying to jog . . . was just a bit insane. According to my marathon training book, you have to add :30 to each mile time for every 5 degrees above 65 because the heat makes it that much harder to run.

I believe it. I felt like I was dragging the whole way. I usually start off feeling good at least, but today just felt tired. I had taken a couple of days off to rest and still felt awful. Between the heat and aging, aching body, it was a long run even though I was a little faster than last time.

I rested and played with the baby, fed her again. Ate something myself and then put her down for a nap. I should have been productive during her nap but I just couldn't bring myself to do much. I was just beat from the heat. And I am not looking forward to the rest of the week when our lowest high temperature is 101.

Late afternoon, my husband came onto chat. I told him we were planning on going for a swim. He said he envied us being able to swim, despite the water already being near bath water warm. I told him how hot it was here. He told me it was 120 there. I thought about how drained I was after one hour of strenuous activity in 90 degree heat.

He has to wear his uniform which consists of long sleeves, pants, wool socks, boots and a helmet. In addition to the uniform, he wears a vest that contains armor plating and ammo, and guns, grenades, etc. As you can see in the picture, he has a lot of crap on in 120 degree heat. I don't know how they do it.

They walk around like that, run like that, climb in and out of vehicles like that. The heat must be an oppressive force weighing them down. I know they have to drink insane amounts of water just to stay alive.

As I sit here tonight, struggling to keep my eyes open after a run this morning and a swim this evening in the heat, I wonder how they function on so little sleep. The soldiers' bodies must feel like lead weights. Staying awake must take everything they have, much less actually being alert. I forgot to ask Chad if they have air conditioning in their CHU (combat housing unit), but I would think that it would be minimally functional at best.

We've talked about how the soldiers give up their time, risk their lives, but very little about how they give up living like civilized American society. They give up comfortable beds, normal temperature, decent nights' sleep and home-cooking, and regular mail. I don't even want to start on the bathrooms and showers.

Today I was just very grateful that some, my husband included, give up those creature comforts we consider necessities to defend the ideals of our nation. I know very few people would be able to survive the sacrifices he makes daily.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 75: Sleeping In

I warned you, as the summer settles into routine, I am going to struggle with topics, but I promised I would keep blogging.

This morning the baby let me truly sleep in for the first time. I had intended to go jogging, but as 7:30 became 8 and she still wasn't up, I decided to just let her sleep. If she needed that much sleep, she should be allowed to get it.

Around 9:20, I was afraid she wasn't OK and checked on her. She was breathing heavily and sleeping soundly. I laid back down for a few more minutes. She woke up at 10!

Wow, I actually got a nice night's sleep. It was kind of amazing not to need any coffee or a nap today. Funny how actually getting enough sleep can change my attitude.

She ended up taking a three hour nap too. I don't know why she was so dang sleepy today, but she was. So we didn't do much. After running 4 miles three times already this week and 2 miles another day and doing workout routines 3 days, I took today off. My knees and hips needed rest.

I am fighting sleep right now myself. It was a nice day of playing, resting. The only downside to the day was that I haven't gotten a chance to talk to my husband in days. He's managed to shoot off a very brief email but no time to call or chat. As the days wind down, it is hard not to worry.

Not much else to say tonight. I am trying not to wax political this evening. I am not promising anything about tomorrow though. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 76: Deploying soldiers with PTSD

I helped out a friend today. She is having a hard time because she is separating from her husband. She is extremely private about their relationship and what is going on with them, but told me that her husband is experiencing bouts of aggression and hostility. He has been deployed twice I think. Even an armchair psychiatrist could take a stab that he has some sort of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or similar combat-related issue.

When she told me that he was deploying again within the month, after depicting his current treatment as significant, I was flabbergasted. He is getting shots of some sort to medicate him and seeing a therapist three times a week. His anger and violence are so bad that she is afraid to let him spend unsupervised time with his own children. But the army is sending him back?

This is a marriage that from an outside perspective was very close and happy just a few short years ago, maybe just a deployment ago. They have a 14 month old son who was very much wanted and planned. So we know they felt their marriage was pretty good as recently as two years ago when he was conceived. In that time frame, her husband has been deployed again. Maybe that was the straw that broke the camel's back. I don't really know their marriage, but I do know that this is someone who is a danger to his own very sweet children and wife and the army is sending him back to war next month.

This is just one story of many. People are coming home from this war broken. And being asked to act as if nothing had happened. While the Army claims they want to support the personnel and make sure help is available, not enough is being done to make the help truly available. The help is never truly private. You are stigmatized and shunned for even inquiring about mental health help. Your career in the military is basically over because you will be over looked for promotion due to the black mark on your record.

So what do people do? They drink and get DWIs. They hit their wives and children because they can't diffuse the anger inside them. They self-destruct with money, drugs, women. They pull the trigger of a gun pointed at their heads. And the army throws its hands up and says, "WHY?!?!?"

Seriously? Whose head is up their ass? You can't ask people to go through over and over and over what they do and not offer them real therapy and help with TRUE PRIVACY. In fact, the help should probably be somewhat mandatory. If you've done a tour with any action, you have to attend some sort of session once a week or month to talk about what you saw, felt, missed from home, etc. It can't hurt. Then the therapists can see people who might need extra help and target them without the stigma.

The government is talking a lot about cutting military pay. But the truth is our service members are sacrificing more than just time, safety, comfort. They are sacrificing their sanity. As I found in an article by Belleruth Naparstek much earlier this deployment that almost 100% of soldiers will experience PTSD symptoms after a single combat action or stressor situation (often witnessing bomb blasts or car crashes that are not active combat scenarios). They they experience it close to every day while deployed. More needs to be done to help soldiers deal with the absolutely normal reaction of horror and self-loathing and anger and fear that follows combat. While researching this blog, I came across an article from last fall. So much of what needs to be said, of what I wanted to say is in this article. Much of this article sounded like it was coming straight from my head.

US soldier refused Afghan deployment over PTSD

I understand that if soldiers can claim to have invisible symptoms of post traumatic stress to avoid deploying, some might, a few would. The Army had many soldiers use "being gay" to get released from service commitments. So they have to err on the side of being strict about allowing soldiers to use PTSD to avoid deployments. But when a soldier shows such significant and obvious symptoms, is being treated in what in my humble lay opinion is a quite serious manner, someone needs to raise a red flag and say, "No, this isn't OK!" Deploying a soldier who is obviously so wounded that he has destroyed the one thing that once mattered to him more than his own life, just doesn't make sense.

Is this soldier going to make sound split-second decisions in the field? Is he going to be a supportive team member for his other soldiers? Is his anger going to make the life of his roommate miserable and add exponential stress on another soldier trying to cope with an unstable, hostile, and depressed roommate? My husband had a roommate like that two deployments ago, and that was harder on him than the war. He had nowhere safe to withdraw or unwind. His room was a torture chamber full of hidden land mines and violence. I didn't know if he was going to be able to stand it for the year. He called me at the end of his rope many times because he couldn't handle it and wanted to be a good friend, but the psychotic episodes were dangerous, were seeping into their work and weren't healthy.

Post Traumatic Stress is a real issue. Why are we allowing the military to treat it any less than the very serious issue it is. The service members need access to true help without stigma and without the loss of face/honor within their ranks. And why are we allowing them to send sick men to war? where their stress makes them a risk to themselves and everyone around them? I wouldn't want him standing next to my husband! You?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 77: Tired

I've written about being tired as a "single" mom, as a teacher, and as a lonely army wife, but today was reminded that I'm the lucky one.

My husband emailed me and is just wiped out. He's been more tired this deployment than previous ones. The war in Iraq is supposed to be finishing, but I'm not sure that is really happening. He can't tell me much about what he is doing or where, but he tells me how busy he is working until 3 a.m. And he tells me that he is spending more time outside of the wire than in.

Physically, he is completely wiped out. I can't speak for anyone else over there, but he is working 12-16 hours a day or more. I know he's had nights that he had four hours to eat, shower, email, and sleep. I know I've spent the last 13 months more sleep deprived than I've been since college. I've had some nights of a good 8 or 9 hours, but few and far between. Last night, I think I got 6 hours. Most nights during the school year, I had 5-6 hours.

And I constantly felt run down, like I needed to mainline caffeine. Whenever I tried to go off the caffeine, I would spend days sleeping. It was hard enough trying to teach high school students and mother a one year old tired. My husband is going into combat sleep deprived. I'm not sure how that is safe or a good idea. I know they're tough guys, but I would rather my husband not have slowed reflexes and a cranky, impatient disposition when he meets the bad guys.

Emotionally, he is broken down. He misses his home. I love going on vacation, but always love coming home. There is a security to your own environment and a level of relaxation home provides that nowhere else does. He misses his sons. He doesn't get to talk to them much, spend time with them, go to baseball games or band concerts. He has missed so much of his daughter's precious firsts. I know that he misses hearing her baby babbling and seeing her in person. I break down over having to leave her for a few hours a day. I know that he is tired of losing years at a time with his children.

I know he misses me too. We are truly best friends. Sometimes I feel like the odd man out with my friends, but really I choose to be in some ways because when he is home, I don't want to be anywhere else but with him. Obviously, because we spend so much time apart, it is hard to choose to be apart too often, but mostly we really just like each other best. I miss having him here, that person who gets me without having to explain or try. I'm sure he feels that way too.

Psychologically he is tired. He misses privacy. On top of the whole WAR thing, he never has any time to himself. He had a couple of weeks when his roommate was on R&R that he had a room to himself, but that was it. He isn't alone, ever. I would lose my mind. I enjoy being alone often. I like social activities, but in small doses. I can do with a few minutes of human contact a day. Other than my daughter, my only contact with other people was a few text messages and I didn't feel lonely at all.

He is on guard 24/7. Sometimes he is actually on guard duty. Sometimes he is actually on convoys or patrols. But even when he isn't "on duty," he has to be on his guard. Every sound has to be gauged in his head and assigned a threat level. Every car on the street has to be on his personal radar and treated as a possible insurgent. A child on the street wearing the wrong clothes could have a bomb strapped to him. Even a baby has to be treated like a potential threat. He never gets to turn off, relax, let his defenses down.

And he is just tired. Tired of it all. While we know that this is part of being a soldier, that doesn't make it any easier. I hurt for him. I can't make it any better. Even when he gets home, he will struggle with turning off. Last time, he slept every afternoon and night for around three months. After a year of not seeing him at all, I had to find it in myself to be patient with his exhaustion. It was heart breaking to not really get to spend time with him.

I wish his getting home would be the relief we both need, but by the time he starts being able to just be home, he will be getting ready to head off to school again. But I can't focus on that right now. All I can do is focus on having him home again. And prepare myself to do what I can to make it easy for him to rest. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Day 78: Billy Goat Gruff

Do you remember the story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff? Last night my daughter reminded me of the troll under the bridge. I've been gradually introducing her to adult table food. I still primarily feed her the healthy baby and toddler foods, but have given her a few tastes of more fun fare.

Last night, I gave her a few bites of pizza. I cut them up into tiny fist size pieces and sat down in the living room. I had my plate and hers on my coffee table. The top of our coffee table lifts up to table height which is nice for movie nights and to keep things out of the grasp of Lil Bit.

I sat on the couch and she stood next to me, half playing and half eating. Eventually she crawled underneath the table and sat rocking back and forth, venturing out a tiny fist to grab another bite every so often. She sat under the table happily chomping on pizza, signing please and more when she was ready for the next piece and singing random baby songs.

It was so funny and cute. She was like an adorable little troll snatching food and giving me her little two-toothed, nose crinkled grin. She just gets cuter and cuter each day. Two days in to this summer vacation and I can already tell that I am not going to want to go back to work next fall.

Later, we Skyped with Grandma and Grandpa. She blew kisses and showed off her new sign "balloon" which she does her own way, but is very cute. She says, "ba ba ba" and blows into her hands and then acts like she's throwing kisses. It isn't quite right, but pretty good for just learning it in the past 24 hours or so. We even got her walking and dancing.

She is just changing so fast and learning so quickly. Every day I can see her learn something new. Even after struggling with insomnia last night, I got up this morning when she started playing in her crib rather than waiting for her to start fussing. I raced into her room just so I could see what new amazing thing we would do together today.

I found out that she is just as bad as the dog when it comes to impatience. She has learned when I start putting on my sneakers that we're going for a walk. Between the dog's whining and the baby's crying, I am going to have to sneak walk preparations from now on and spring from the bedroom ready to go. We go for a run for 30 minutes and a walk for 30 and she still cries when we come inside. I have a feeling she is going to be a daddy's girl who loves the outdoors. She still gets really hot really fast, so if we're not inside by ten, it is too hot for us.

Yesterday, I was reading her a story I Love You Through and Through and one page reads, "I love your ears . . . and your nose." She grabbed her ears while I read that page without being prompted and did it again while we were skyping with my in-laws. She is just such a sponge and I am having SO MUCH fun with her. I almost don't even want to take time out do anything else.

Speaking of which, she just woke up from her nap. Time to go!

We played all day. And I caught her on tape, giggling at me playing with the dog. She was laughing so hard that she had tears in her eyes. I can't wait to show that to her dad. I hope the rest of the summer goes this way, but I will do my best to contain my gushing in the blog about what an adorable baby Lil Bit is to a minimum, but she is freakin' awesome. Went down tonight with her favorite CD and a quick goodnight, no muss, no fuss. I swear there are days, she's magical.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 79: Thanks CNN

This morning I woke up and started the coffee pot, grabbed the baby for breakfast and didn't check email or Facebook until we'd been up an hour. I had message on Facebook from my MIL asking if Chad was OK. Apparently she was watching the news, and CNN was reporting the following:

Baghdad (CNN) -- Five U.S. servicemembers were killed Monday in central Iraq, the U.S. military said in a written statement.

The U.S. military has warned that attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq by armed militias are on the rise.The deaths are the single largest loss of life among U.S. troops in Iraq since 2009, and they come as Iraq debates whether to request U.S. troops stay beyond a January 1, 2012, deadline that requires 46,000 American forces out of the country.

The U.S. military did not say how or where the five died.

But two Iraqi security officials told CNN Monday that the servicemembers were killed during an early morning mortar attack at a U.S. military base in southeastern Baghdad. You can read the rest by clicking on the link - CNN story.

My heart immediately sank. I know that my husband is near that area, depending on how accurate they are being with location. Although I am not exactly sure where because all the maps of bases and posts that used to be available online have been removed (for obvious reasons). I also know they've been dealing with increased mortars and IEDs.

THIS IS WHY I DON'T WATCH THE NEWS!!! I am not usually one to freak out, but this really has me thrown for a loop. I haven't heard from him today and the news isn't releasing any new information about where or which troops were killed until the families are notified. He called his son yesterday for his birthday and had a terrible connection, I'm told, but other than that I didn't hear from him since lunchtime on Saturday.

I am pinning my hopes on the fact that I am not hard to find, and if they were trying to notify me, I think they would have been here already. But I can't get the sick feeling out of my stomach. In a few hours, I may have an email from my husband and feel very silly for getting so upset, but right now, I hate to admit it, but I am terrified. I hope to feel very ridiculous.

In an effort to find out what is happening, I contacted our FRG leader (family readiness group) to ask what she had heard. She said she hadn't heard anything, which is kind of good news, but would call our Rear D (rear detachment are the troops who maintain operations back home, keep open communications between spouses and troops, etc.) I spent the next three hours checking my email every five seconds. She answered me very quickly about making the call and then nothing. I really got worried then. She might not email me back if it was our troops and/or my husband because they will only notify people in person.

I literally started paying attention to cars outside the house, left my computer open so I could see the second I had an email. Nothing for hours. I was drying my hair watching Lil Bit play in her exer-saucer and my emotions got the better of me. I couldn't imagine her facing the rest of her life without her dad. I couldn't imagine trying to be a mom in the midst of grieving. In my head, I am picturing the complete meltdown I would face and then having to be strong for her.

It was a LONG four hours. I finally saw my husband's roommate online on FB chat. I quickly asked him if they were OK. He answered that they were fine, a little irritated that their internet was down, but otherwise, just fine. I was very relieved. I let my family and friends know that he was OK, but just as quickly realized that five wives were still getting the devastating news that their husbands weren't coming home and five more that their spouses were injured.

My FRG leader still hasn't emailed back which makes me think it might have been some of our group, if not my husband's troop. I spent four hours imagining the worst, which is WHY I DON'T WATCH THE NEWS!!! I still had hope that it wasn't my soldier so I don't exactly know how it would feel, but a glimpse into that horror was more than I ever want to experience again!

My heart aches for those spouses and families. I don't know how you would deal with such earth shattering grief. All I can do is pray for them and for safety for the rest of our forces as the insurgents try to increase the violence to take credit for driving American forces out of the country. My countdown to welcoming him home is more real to me than ever. I am still hopeful that he will be home earlier than a year. In fact, I think he is supposed to be home a week earlier than he left last year, but I am not changing my count. I am counting down until he is home. When he gets on a plane, I will update to one day left. But I refuse to chance jinxing anything.