Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Moving On Up

My apologies. I haven't posted in a really long time, because I am currently involved in the craziness that is the Army PCS (Permanent Change of Station--for all who are not hip to my random acronymns.)

As I have been preparing for our move these past several weeks, I have uncovered a few fun facts:

1. There is no amount of prep work you can do to protect yourself from the chaos that is moving day. You will know for weeks that a move is on the horizon, but your official paperwork will not be signed until it all comes down to the wire. Consider it the Murphy's Law of the Army.

2. There will never be enough time for goodbyes. All at once, your paperwork is processed and movers are scheduled to come in a week. All of the little jobs you were doing to "help with the move" are forgotten as you widly fling things into your husband's garage and try to pencil in as many coffee dates as you can into the next seven days.

3. Moves become substantially more difficult when you have A) a child in school and B) a dog. You start to worry if it will ever be possible to find a house with a fenced backyard that is in a reputible school district. You start to wonder why you constantly pay $350 pet deposits for a dog you only paid $100 for. You start to wonder how much your child actally needs a kindergarten education.

4. The biggest jobs are the last to get done. You are doing things, just not important things. I might not sort through and properly file my legal documents before the move, but I will sort through and organize my ribbon drawer. I might not compose the case study for my certification that I need to complete in the midst of this move, but I will write this blog :)

5. Things you've waited on for months will come together just in time for you to leave them. The restaurant that you have anxiously watched being built will open a few short weeks after you're gone. The jalepeno plant that you planted in March will just now begin producing peppers. The dance recital your daughter has worked on for the past three months is scheduled for 8 days after you leave.

6. You have WAY more crap in your house than you think you do. I have spent every free minute of the last two weeks sorting through rooms in our house and making a yard sale pile in my husband's garage. You can no longer walk through the garage, and it didn't make an ounce of difference in the house.

7. You have WAY more food in your house than you think you do. I go to the grocery store about once a week because we are "out of food." Now that I am trying to use up my pantry/freezer odds and ends that can't move with us, I've realized that I always have enough food left over at the end of the week to host a small dinner party and a cookie exchange. I also discovered that I might be a contender for the next Iron Chef America...as long as the secret ingredient is spaghetti sauce.

8. You will get sentimental about things you wouldn't expect. I fully admit that I was less than excited when I learned that we were going to be moving to our current duty station. And I am pretty sure that I cried for about two weeks straight after I got here. But somewhere in the last 3+ years, this place has become my home. I am going to miss the rugged desert mountains. I am going to miss the amazing sunsets. I am going to miss the mild winters. I am going to miss my delicious Mexican food. I am going to miss the house that I watched my youngest child learn to walk in/run around. I am going to miss the playground where my oldest child learned to cross the monkey bars. I am going to miss the crazy half-wall in the front of my house that displays our family portraits And of course, I will miss the people.

9. You will always worry about what lies ahead. Moving is certainly an adventure-a chance for a new beginning. But it is also a blank slate, and starting over gets scarier the older you get. There is always fear of the unknown---Will I like it there? Will we find a good house? Will my kids adjust quickly? Is my husband going to like his new job? Is my husband moving into a deployable unit? Will I be able to find work? Will I be able to make friends as great as the ones I am leaving?---Though I am still relatively new to this Army Wife gig, I am guessing this part is something that never gets easier and never goes away.

10. You will always be grateful for how far you've come. Every time we move forward, I always reminisce on where we started. For us, it was a college town in a two bedroom/1 bath "house" with a baby. Everyone starts out with nothing, but we are not exaggerating when we talk about what little we had: two lawn chairs, a small television on a milk crate, a desktop on a busted card table, four warped plastic plates, an end table that we can now only assume was given to us from an abandoned crack house (we will save that one for another blog,) and a dresser that we did not have to pay sales tax on if we did not need a receipt. Now I sit in a house that is so fully furnished, the movers questioned our initial 12,000 lb quote. (My husband's collection of barbeque pits and gun cases probably contributes to the weight just a touch, but I digress.) I've heard it said that if you are worthy with little, the Lord will bless you with much. I believe that. We took our crack table and milk crates and did our best to turn it into a home for our little family. Now our accumulation of furniture has grown. Our family has grown. Our responsibilities have grown. Our aspirations have grown. And our love has grown.

I am blessed beyond measure with the life I've been given, and I can't wait to continue building our life in our next home...even if I am a little apprehensive about leaving this one!

See you on here again once I get where I'm going. :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hey Good Lookin!' Whatcha Facebookin'?

At the beginning of the year, I shared what is quite possibly the most random compilation of goals and wishes ever created and dubbed them my New Year's Resolutions. One of the key points on that list was to "Facebook less."
I have a love/hate relationship with my Facebook account for the same reasons everyone else on the planet does. I love that I can keep in touch with family and friends through pictures and messages. I love that I can feel like I am a part of the big moments distance would otherwise cause me to miss out on. I love being able to talk to someone when I need them, even if my stupid cell phone broke and I lost their contact info yet again. I love always being able to find the details for local events and happenings. I love the great deals I can get through a business's Facebook page...
I don't love the drama and negativity that often creeps into my daily newsfeed. I don't necessarily love knowing every nitty gritty detail of another person's day. I don't love how it incessantly feeds people's needs to be "liked" and somehow makes me feel inferior if I am not as well "liked" as others. I don't love the privacy issues. And more than anything, I don't love how much precious, fleeting, God-given time I waste puttering around on it.

With all of the push-pull, it would seem as if the best answer would be to just completely disconnect from Facebookland. But alas, I am already too tethered to it. And our society is as well. Living without a Facebook profile would be like living without indoor plumbing...you could do it, but you would just be making things unnecessarily difficult for yourself.

When I set this goal for myself in January, I didn't really have a clear view of what it meant--I still don't. What exactly does "Facebook less" mean? What would it look like? How exactly would I implement that goal?
For a while, I thought that maybe I would try an experiment where I would refrain from logging onto Facebook for a week. Then I decided that would be dangerous, because a)Facebook is one of the main ways I have much needed communication with other grown-ups when my husband is gone and b) people who know my husband is gone are most likely monitoring my well-being through my status updates, and if I didn't post anything for a week, they would probably assume I had dropped dead. No need to cause anyone undue stress!
But while we're on the subject matter, let's implement the following as a new rule for me, okay? Okay!

Anyway, my Facebook goal was not coming together for me, but I wasn't ready to give up on it completely. The neat thing about goals is that you can change them as your needs change. My goal just needed a slight revision. I think I have decided that my "Facebook less" goal has now become "Facebook better."
But what does that mean? What does "Facebook better" look like and how will it be implemented?

I am happy you asked :)

In order to Facebook better:
1. I will try not to bore you with my own nitty-gritty details. And while it is bound to happen sometimes, especially on days where the hubby is gone and I just need to vent, I will do everything in my power not to become this person:

2. I will try not to subject you to my soapbox.


3. I will not post a million self-portraits of myself. (I don't really do this now. I just needed an excuse to post this picture!)


4. I will not be a Negative Nancy, Debbie Downer, or Crazy Kate.


5. I will not be overly-sentimental. Sometimes, life is awesome and you have to shout it from the mountaintops...but not every day.


6. If I "like" you, I will tell you that I like you. (Roughly translated, comment more than click.)


7. I will try not to make it all about me. Because Facebook was originally created to be a forum for fostering social connections and not a site for personal showboating...that's what my blog is for :)


Here's hoping this goal is met with more success!



*Side note: Be sure to LIKE my blog link on Facebook!*
(I got jokes.)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Once Upon a Dream

I have a confession.

I watch almost no tv for normal grownups. One should expect that I watch more than my fair share of animated programs with two littles to entertain. But even so, you would think that after the kiddos headed off to bed I would finally find something a little less rated G and a little more OMG.

Nope.

I got on a "Friends" kick during the deployment, but the only real reason that one took off (aside from the fact that it is completely hilarious) is because it plays on Nickelodeon, which is the channel my tv was usually on anyway.

I tell you this so that you won't judge me as I completely gush over my newest obsession, "Glee." OMGlee!
Last week, I was at the library trying to help my son find the Wiggle Safari DVD that he likes to rent out like every other week, and I found season 2 of Glee wedged between Homeward Bound and Yo Gabba Gabba. (Seriously, the movie filing system in that place needs a major overhaul, but that's neither here nor there.) I decided that if I had to be forced to watch The Wiggles wiggle yet again, I should finally check out a little something more grown up for me to watch to take the edge off at the end of the night. (Besides, I think I am on my tenth recycle of all the Friends episodes on Nick at Nite at this point anyway.) Plus, I like musicals. "This should be fun," I thought.

It really, really was. I finished the entire season in four nights, and I am terrified to look to see if the library has the other seasons--partly because if they do, I am going to neglect my school work indefinitely trying to watch them all--and if they don't, I might just fall into a panic attack not knowing when I'll get to watch another one.

Anyway, onto the main reason why this all matters to me...

I may have mentioned this a time or two before, but I love to sing. Madly. I remember sitting next to my sister on road trips and getting into so many fights because I wouldn't stop singing. Every single song that came on the radio I belted out at the top of my lungs. She would flip the stations and I would just pick up the new song right where it was at. Genre after genre. My poor sister. I didn't suck, but it probably would have been nice of me to shut up every once in a while :)

Even now, I find myself getting lost in the radio and only snapping out of my daydream when I finally hear my daughter screaming at me that her brother.......
Well, he did something. I wasn't really listening to what she said he did, because I was in the middle of my jam.

Watching this show has made me ache to sing. On a stage. Or in the middle of a school cafeteria. And with some super awesome choreography. I am not partial. That's why I've been settling for my shower--sans choreography because that just sounds dangerous.

I've always done a lot of daydreaming about singing and I still nurse the dream a little bit every day. Probably one of the reasons I can't shake my dream is because it is the one I neglected to chase--either because I was too chicken or because I felt it was too far-fetched. I sang in choirs. I did the occasional church solo. I even took lead in my highschool musical. But I never once made any serious effort to pursue the thing that I have always felt so strongly about.

There are certain conversations in life that bring you to a crossroads. Mine was with my mother. We were sitting in our car together outside of a school parking lot and she asked me if singing was something I wanted to pursue for the future. I told her I thought that chasing a singing career would be foolish without having an education and career plan as a fallback.
Now I am jobless and sing in the shower.

Obviously, it is too little too late to chase that dream--and that's okay for me, because I am living one of my other ones. I don't for one second regret the life I live now, but I think I do regret never even trying for a life I'd pictured myself in so often. I reached my crossroads and I put up a roadblock. My dream felt too big to chase so I shut it down with a single response and went the other way.

I think a lot of kids worry their parents would sneer at the idea of them chasing a singing career. That was never my parents. My mother was always such a wonderful supporter of my dream that I didn't even have to voice it. I remember her taking me as a child to audition for the musical "Oklahoma" and renting the movie to watch it with me so I could learn the music. She took me to concerts that most kids my age would have cared less about, and in doing so, made me a lover of disco music. (My dad has made me a lover of Journey, which is probably another reason I love Glee so much!) Both of my parents showed up for every single performance of my high school musical, which is saying a lot, because we weren't all that super. They believed in the dream maybe more than I ever did.
If I have learned anything from reflecting on my experience, it is that I want to be a parent like mine were. I want to help my children pursue their dreams big and small. But mostly, I want to encourage them to dream big. I want to teach them that the bigger a dream is, the longer it lingers in the back of their mind, and the more imagining themselves living that dream fills them with joy, the bigger duty they have to themselves to chase after it.
I never want their fallback plans to stunt their dreams.

Currently, my daughter wants to be a "princess soldier chef" and my son wants to be a Wiggle and a dinosaur. Dream big, babies. Dream big.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I Cast My Lot

This Army wife stuff is not for the faint of heart.

There are a lot of highs and lows.
A lot of anticipation and a lot of dread.
A lot of unknowns and a lot of "wish I didn't know."
A lot of opportunities to make new friends. A lot of opportunities to be a good friend. A lot of good-byes to people who have become your best friends.
A lot of "hurry up and wait."
A lot of lonely nights. A lot of work calls in the middle of the night.
A lot of "there's no way I can do this" and a lot of "I can't believe I just did that."
A lot of planting roots. A lot of uprooting.
A lot of welcome homes. A lot of watching him go again.
A lot of first kisses.
A lot of loving the Army and a lot of cursing it.
A lot of days spent dreaming about retirement and a lot of days spent fearing it.
A lot of feelings of empowerment and a lot of feelings of helplessness.
A lot of love and war.
A lot of tears: happy and sad.
A lot of trying to make a life outside the Army. A lot of life defined by the Army.

I've decided one of the reasons I am so crazy is due in large part to the fact that my days are so naturally conflicted by the Army lifestyle.
But "I cast my lot in with a soldier," and in doing so, I suppose I chose to soldier through all those "a lots."

18 more days until our next first kiss...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I=Awesome


A couple of days ago I had a few minutes of down time and didn't feel like doing anything productive with them, (much like the current moment!) so I decided to leaf idly through the pages of a devotional book I had received about two years ago. It's a book about motherhood, and while it is very cutesy I've never had the urge to read it through it. Anyway, as I haphazardly flipped through the pages looking for little quotes to pop out at me, I discovered a challenge in the book to journal twelve things I like about myself and then offer a prayer of thanksgiving for those things (and other good things I've received.) I closed the book without giving much thought to the challenge right away. But over these 48 hours or so it has kept sneaking into my brain.
I like myself. I don't think that is much of a secret. I have no problem sharing my opinions and I am pretty open about my faults and acheivements with whoever chooses to listen. But when you have to get specific, liking yourself gets a lot more difficult. (The list I will share will probably take you about five minutes to read, but it took me much, MUCH longer to compose it.)
I was a little iffy about posting this "why I love me and am so awesome" blog, because blogs are narcissistic enough to begin with. But I chose to share mine today in order to challenge you to do the same thing. Because every now and again, there is nothing wrong with being proud of yourself. Lord knows we all give ourselves mental butt whoopings enough to earn the occasional mental high five!
----------------------------------------------------------
Twelve Things:

1. I am a good friend. I strive to be a friend I would like to have, and because of this, I feel like I have wound up with some pretty good ones in return.
2. I have a good sense of humor--one that has helped me laugh through hard times and inspite of them. And more importantly, my sense of humor makes happy times even more joyful.
3. I am intelligent. I am proud of the good sense God has given me, even if I don't always use it. I am happy that I have a mind that can question and challenge and solve.
4. I am talented. I write, I cook, I sing, I dance, I craft, I run...I should have my own reality show...just kidding ;) I may not be the best in any given area but I don't suck at any of them either. It is much more fun to do things when you don't suck at them.
5. I am a good mom. Every parent makes his/her share of mistakes, but if your children look at you and know without a doubt that you love them, you must be doing something right.
6. I am a good wife. And though I often drive my husband completely crazy, as wives are apt to do, I am pretty sure he would vouch for me. :)
7. I am a good gift-giver. This kind of goes hand in hand with being a good friend. If you listen closely enough to another person, you can anticipate his/her wants and needs. (Exception: my husband's first anniversary gift. You will have to ask HIM if you want to find out about that one!)
8. I am driven. I have acheived a lot of things and am not done yet. Have you not seen my resolutions list?! I am on the never-ending quest for self-improvement, and I believe growing in little and big ways helps to get you there.
9. I am resilient. Sometimes on the road to self-improvement, I've hit a few bumps. Other times, complete dead ends. But I have overcome many obstacles and have bounced back from some pretty big blows.
10. I am honest. Sometimes to a fault...but I am happy to be a person who is an open book and someone who "what you see is what you get." Sometimes I might read as pretentious, but it is only because you are intimidated by my awesomeness! (Haha! See, this is why 'I love me blogs' are dangerous!)
11. I am loving. And to know me is to love me back.
12. I am imperfect. Which means I have room to improve in all of the areas that I already like myself for--and then some.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thanksgiving:

Lord, thank you for my gray hairs
That pop up once in a while
They mark my days of blessings
And sophisticate my style.

Lord, thank you for my crooked teeth
Which help to justify
My daily coffee habit
And my love for good red wine.

Lord, thank you for my sweaty hands
Because as I have come to find
The people who love me the most
Hold tightly and don't mind.

Lord, thank you for my scars
And markings on my skin
Which remind me of my battles won
And of healing from within.

Lord, thank you for my children
Who fight, and yell, and scream
For as I grow my little ones
They're surely growing me.

Lord, thank you for my daughter
Who came to us by surprise
And has shown me what true sacrifice
And love mean through Your eyes.

Lord, thank you for my son--
My stubborn, headstrong boy--
Who even in frustration
Fills my heart with so much joy.

Lord, thank you for my husband
And for letting fools rush in
For in a time of recklessness
I found my truest friend.

Lord, thank you for the interviews
That didn't turn out right.
They've let me re-evaluate
And have shown me where to fight.

Lord, thank you for allowing me
To make my own mistakes.
Because clearly all the falling down
A stronger person makes.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Changes

I love the fall. It is by far my favorite season and has been for as long as I can remember. I love the smells and the colors. I love the crispness in the air that you can almost taste. I love football. (And maybe not the games as much as the prospect of tailgaiting and chip-laden gatherings, and beer!) I love cardigan sweaters and boots. I love apple cider and chicken pot pies. I love it all.
Being born and raised in Texas, I have always remembered fall as a bit of an anomaly when it comes to the weather. While the rest of the world has four seasons, Texas only has two: hot season and cold season. We may have about three whole weeks of "true fall weather" when all is said and done. Here in the Borderland, it may be even shorter than that. But when it does happen, it is so wonderfully perfect and I always look forward to it with much anticipation.
This evening my little family went out for a short walk and playtime around the neighborhood before supper. Pushing my son on his tricycle, I couldn't help but notice a change in the air. I'm not sure exactly what it was that made me think it--maybe the color of the sky, the cloud coverage over the mountains with the cool, gentle breeze, or the faint smell of home cooked meals pouring out of the surrounding neighborhood houses--but I felt fall today.
Of course we are nowhere near the real deal yet. Temperatures are still set to be in the upper-90s for the forseeable future, and though the Halloween decorations are already out in the stores, it is far from pumpkin patch time just yet. But tonight I let myself become enveloped in giddiness over the short-lived season that lies ahead.
This excitement totally escaped me last year. A year ago, I knew I was three weeks out from bidding my husband good-bye on our first deployment. I was dreading the signs of fall and hoping that September would never find me. The weeks before he left were filled with last minute visitors, appointments, major household errands, and late night conversations--mostly ending with me getting a bit overly-emotional about the whole ordeal. After the dreaded day had eventually come and gone, I jam-packed my children's and my own schedules so full of activities to keep us occupied that I hardly remembered to come up for air before Christmastime. Of course some nice memories were made between point A and point B, but for the most part, I had missed out on my favorite season....stupid deployment.
But what a difference a year can make! And praise God, in my case, a very happy difference. So hurry up, Fall. I'm ready and waiting for you this time :)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Paths Less Traveled

In case you are just now tuning in, I have quite the extensive list of new year's resolutions I'm working on...some are going much MUCH better than others. Anyway, one of my end-of-the-year goals is to enter a distance run (hoping for a half marathon, but that is yet to be determined at this point.) In keeping with that, I have been scheduling a lot more running into my weekdays.
I've been big into running since high school, falling on and off the wagon between trying college semesters and baby rearing, respectively. But most of the running I've done in the past has been for leisure. Of course, there were fitness goals intermixed, but for the most part I just enjoyed a chance to hear my feet hit the pavement, clear my head, and get a little lost in my own thoughts. I never really mapped out my routes or tracked my times. I just laced up my sneakers and went where the paths looked the most inviting.
That has changed a bit now. I usually throw my kids in childcare to head to the gym, and I am very aware of the amount of time I have to be on the treadmill if I want to squeeze in the rest of my workout. I am constantly checking time, distance, calories, heart rate--it's all a numbers game. If I am running at home, I have already mapped out my training route and know which sections I will use for interval runs, etc. I enjoy this type of running too, but it is very different and much more regimented than the runs I was used to before.
A few weeks ago, I put the kids in childcare and decided to do a quick run near my house. I headed toward my usual route to find it blocked by Military Police officiers barricading the entrance to parade field. Not wanting to call it quits, I made a sudden decision to turn into a neighborhood alongside and try to box my way around to get back on course.
What seemed like it would be a simple solution wound up getting me temporarily lost. It turns out that the neighborhood streets I had entered did not box around like I thought they would, but instead weaved in and out of different subdivisions. Though I generally knew where I was, I didn't know how to get out and I wasn't ready to backtrack. So instead, I decided to have a blast from my own past and just run. Giving up control of my route, I let myself be led by the winding sidewalks. I ran where the pathways looked the prettiest and went on a little mid-afternoon adventure exploring new places. Eventually, the sidewalks spit me out near the track of my usual route, but much further down it. I was able to take the track the rest of the way home. When I got back from my run, I checked my time and realized that I had gone farther than I ever had up to that point and I had completed it faster. I had accomplished much more than I ever had because I had let go of my plans and let myself get a little lost.

How true this is in all areas of our lives! We can miss out on so many beautiful opportunities because we feel like they are "not part of the plan." I have come to find that sometimes 'detours' ARE the plan. Some of the best things in my life came to me by accident--when my pathway was blocked or my original plan was compromised. Some of my biggest accomplishments happened because I agreed to temporarily let go of my own control over the situation and simply be led. Perhaps the pathways I took were not always the "prettiest." At times, I have certainly felt a little lost. But I have always come out to find the track that leads me home.

I feel like I am currently at a point in my life where so many major details are uncertain, up in the air, and pending the outcome of something else. Seems like a good time for me to quit worrying about details, stop trying to map the exact route, and just simply enjoy the run.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Honey, I'm Home

It's amazing to think that just two short weeks ago, I was waiting very impatiently for my husband to come home. While I waited, I read the blog of a fellow milspouse who was documenting the transition of her family's reunion and her own struggle between her fantasy homecoming and the real one. If you have the time, it is worth the read.
Daddy's Home

Truth be told, it was laugh out loud funny but totally unrealatable for me. While I know there are some husbands who want nothing more than to come home and find a comfy spot on the couch, that has never been the case for my husband. The man has never been able to sit still for more than about five minutes since I've met him. He came back after ten months and picked up right where he left off without missing a single beat. In fact, I think it is safe to say that he has picked up his old responsibilities and then some. Since his return I have not cooked a single dinner. I have only done about 25% of the dishes. And I'm pretty sure he is the last one that ran a load of laundry. I have my extra partner in crime to help me tackle bath times and bed times. I have not had to take out the garbage in weeks. And this morning as I let the dog out of the house, I saw him catch a small bird--guess who is going to clean up that mess? (Hint: not me.)
I know I should be very grateful for this fact, so you are absolutely allowed to give me a good mental slap before I get ready to complain about it...especially if your husband has not come home yet or if your husband has retreated to the solitude of his comfy couch. (Go ahead. Give me a good smack right in the middle of my forehead.)

I expected that my husband might need some time to readjust to being home, but I never expected that it was actually me who would feel displaced. I had gotten so used to being the primary doer, decision-maker, and head of the household that I am having a hard time letting those duties go and letting my husband resume his rightful position. If I am being blatantly honest, I liked the independence and confidence I gained over the past year and I feel like it is being stripped away from me. I don't want to lose the newer, stronger me that I have found.

Fortunately, I have a very understanding husband...and a very intuitive one. One afternoon he sat me on our own comfy couch and let me talk it out. I told him how I felt lost, because the schedule that I had operated under for so long had been changed. I told him that I felt a bit bored, because most of the duties that used to occupy my time were being done for me. And I told him I felt disappointed that he was never going to see the better woman I had become.

Because he's the most awesome man on the planet, he assured me that he had noticed the positive changes in me--and even better, he told me that I had made him proud. He even offered me back some of my old chores like being on trash and doggie duty (Nice try, honey.)
I don't expect my husband to ever do any less than he has always done. This past week he caught a nasty stomach bug that I thought might slow him down a bit, but I still found him out back mowing the lawn. (I told you he doesn't sit still.) And while our chat made me feel a million times better, I don't expect our newly reintegrated family to operate any differently than it does now. There will still be days that I am bored looking for something productive to do because my husband keeps doing the chores for me. (Go on...smack me again.) There will still be days where I feel frustrated that I have to consult someone else on what they want to eat for dinner that week. And I am sure that there will still be days where I feel a bit displaced as I try to relearn my role in this two-parent household. But we will find our groove...we always do.
And what's more, we have found that no matter how awkward this initial readjustment may be, we will come out of it a newer, stronger, better family. We survived the deployment. Surely we will survive the reunion!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Happy Homecoming

Anyone who has ever read more than two of my blogs should know by now that I like to look for the big meaning behind the littlest of things. This, in turn, translates into me liking to make big events for the littlest of reasons. Well this weekend, my husband finally came home from deployment, which was a BIG deal in and of itself...let us all try to envision the spectacle I attempted to make out of that!

Homecoming was a day I planned for and anticipated since the moment my husband left. He deployed in September and his welcome home banner had already been ordered, shipped, and stored away in October. The "welcome home cake" was researched months in advance. My homecoming outfit was purchased in April--3 months before the big day. I burned through two evenings and a bottle of wine making my daughter's American rag tutu for her to wear the night of her daddy's return. The "Welcome Home Dad" banner that I handcrafted for the inside of the house was hanging weeks before my husband actually came home. I kept stacks upon stacks of patriotic scrapbook paper, stickers, etc. piled up in my closet to turn into decorations for the big day whenever inspiration struck me. I literally had to ground myself from Hobby Lobby once their Fourth of July decor hit the display shelves.

With all of my advanced preparation and unnecessary planning, one would think that the big day would have gone off without a hitch...think again.

The day of Nathan's homecoming, I was still hostessing two houseguests (which in hindsight, was one of the best parts of the craziness as it kept me super distracted.) After I dropped them off at the airport, I thought I had around six hours or so to put the house back together and decorate it. Turns out, I didn't get six hours, but four. Score one for being on Facebook too much and catching the LAST minute change to the flight schedule!

In Facebook world, the banner that I had hung above the garage was showcased flying prominently and proudly in the sunshine.
In reality, I had to hang that bad boy up in the rain. It took me about 40 minutes, 50 big rain splats to the eyeball, and 16 good whacks to the thumb before I was able to get that sucker secured above the garage. Around 430pm I went through the garage to take out some garbage and found it on the ground, in a wad, covered in dirt. Already being dressed and ready to go, I grabbed some Command Strips and stuck it directly to the garage door. As we fled to the car in a tizzy, I found the banner again on the ground, in a big muddy rain puddle. The dirty sign eventually was draped over the car seats for Nathan to see after we walked him to the car.

My photo album will remember my patriotic scrapbook paper crafts like this:
In fact, my husband never got to see them this way. Remember the rain? Not so good for paper pinwheels. The first time my husband saw them was picking out soggy paper wedged between the bushes and throwing them directly into a garbage bag.

The signs my children painted for my husband will be forever remembered as looking like this:
But moments before the soldiers piled into the room in formation, my son spilled his bottle of water all over both of them, completely destroying his and bleeding paint down Samantha's.

The fabulous homecoming cake stayed looking fabulous...
...It was just room temperature by the time Nathan got home to it about 5.5 hours later. (I didn't get to nestle my icepacks into the middle of the cans in the midst of the rush to leave the house.)

My dress was pretty awesome, until my son smeared Cheetos all down the backside of it. My hair did look good until I had to stand outside in the rain for about 15 minutes before being allowed to enter the building. My makeup looked good too until I cried it all off. (But they were happy tears!)



But in spite of all of the craziness and waiting, we FINALLY got to share this moment:
And it was absolutely every bit as perfect as it looks :)

And I am not so crazy to know that in the end, that was all that really mattered.
(And I hope my husband feels the same way after I brought him home to eat a supper of leftovers and warm beer!)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Here's to Halfway

Today was the last day of June. In fact, by the time I finish writing and posting this entry, June will be over and we will be making our way into July. (WOO HOO!) I can't believe that the year is moving so quickly! With 2012 halfway done, I thought that now would be a good time to update y'all on the status of my resolutions list.

COMPLETE:
-Pay off student loan: It took me four years to earn the degree and eight years to pay for it, but the bank can no longer repo my diploma! (By the way, I am pretty sure I owe my husband a motorcycle with the tax refund of his next deployment.)
-Enter BHG recipe contests: I showed you guys my pie. I even attempted and flopped a burger and cheesecake entry. I have to say, this is the silliest self-challenge I have ever committed myself to. I don't expect to win, mostly because I am still very much mastering my craft. (That, and I don't know how to photograph food, and that's apparently a pretty big deal.) But just weeks ago, my father-in-law sent my husband and I an email saying that I had earned my keep in the kitchen when he was down for a visit over Memorial Day weekend--and that compliment was just as good as any $500 prize!
-Drink more water: Four years in the making and I am finally doing it! Much credit is due to the sporadic decision to simultaneously give up cokes. (By the way, I am using the southern definition of "cokes" here.) It really stunk at first, but I am much happier for it now. My wallet is too.
-Eat less junk: (Nevermind the fact that I went to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner tonight!) A lot of healthy choices made in your menus come from a commitment to cook at home. So thanks BHG recipe contests! You are serving double-duty in that respect.

PENDING FURTHER REVIEW:
-Learn to play guitar: The childhood dream is still just a dream at this point. I had every intention of taking lessons this summer, but was sidetracked instead by another learning venture that was completely unforseen in January. Right now, I am seeking dual certifications as a nutrition and wellness coach and a pre/postnatal fitness consultant, and those studies are sucking up most of my "extra" downtime. (Or whatever it is you have with two preschool children.) But rest assured, I can play a mean air guitar--no professional training required!
-Sing karaoke: I really need to do this. In fact, I am thinking for sure I will sometime in September. Come out to join me and I will sing for you...and maybe rock out on my air guitar.
-FB less: It's really hard to give up something that is both your filler for much needed adult conversation and your social/civic information network. However, look for an experiment at a later date. (I've got a plan!)
-Run a marathon: I registered for a 5K as a starting point early this month that was cancelled. While I am bummed it didn't pan out, I was happy that I didn't have to do it. For one thing, I would have had the kids, and that would have been hard. But the even bigger issue I had rested in the fact that I have been running long enough that I would not have been satisfied to merely complete 3 miles. I would have wanted to place. It made me realize that I didn't make this resolution as a means to compete with other people, but rather as a means to challenge and better myself. So I am training for a longer race now, with a date still to be determined. (And at a time when I do not have to push my two growing children across the finish line with me...I am a runner, not a freight train!)


IN PROGRESS:
-Vacation alone with my husband: The cabin is reserved. The amazing childtakers are confirmed. And I am anxiously awaiting block leave :)
-Blog more: As far as the amount of posts I will make you suffer through this year, I will probably not break my total from last year. But this has been a big year of blogging thus far for me. I have surpassed 100 total posts. I have earned a shiny new button guest blogging for the Military One Source Blog Brigade, and I am accumlating a growing fan base. So while the numbers might not be higher, blogging this year has certainly brought me more joy. It is my cheapest hobby, my creative outlet, my way to make sense of the crazy ramblings inside of my head--and probably even my soul. (Sorry to get mushy on you.)
-Yell less: Define less :)

-Enjoy life more: Going to segway from the rest of the entry for a second here. (What can I say? I'm a crazy woman driver!)
Even as I finalized my list earlier in the year, I hated putting this as one of my resolutions. As far as goal-setting is concerned, this is a pretty weak one. It is a bit vague. There is no sound way or directive to go about acheiving it. There is no standard way to measure its success. But today there was an incident that made me realize that you should enjoy life every day. You only get one life, and you don't get a second chance at it.
I will have you know that all of this "improving" I am doing for myself sometimes leaves me feeling guilty that I might be slacking on my obligations as a mother. I deserve a chance to better myself. I deserve a chance to grow. But my children just as equally deserve a mother who gives them plenty of her love and attention, and I don't know that I always do that. At least, I always feel I can do more.
So in an effort to enjoy life more, I took an opportunity to make an ordinary day really special for my daughter.
For a couple of years, I have been wanting to take my little girl to a Mother's Day tea party they hold on post, and I never get us signed up in time. One afternoon, I figured I wouldn't let a missed reservation stop me from having that experience with my daughter. So while her brother napped and she played on the computer, I secretly set up a tea party for the two of us. Nothing fancy. No extensive planning. Nothing expensive. (I just creatively threw together things I already had in the house.) But the smile on her face was worth 100 times the effort I put into it. During our impromptu afternoon together, I can honestly say that I was enjoying my life.

A tea setup for two :)

A teacup and saucer filled with the last living flowers of a garden container. (Good thing growing things was not one of my resolutions this year!)

My happy girl. She was so surprised!

She LOVED the heart-shaped watermelon slices. Guess how I'm going to have to serve her watermelon from now on...

Yes, I wore I hat too (LOL)

Teaching my daughter some real classy table manners!

Giving her mommy a look of adoration. (Love that kid.)

This day makes me smile :)

I hope these pictures made you smile too--and maybe even motivate you to do something extra-special today for no reason whatsoever.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dear Deployment

Dear Deployment,
It’s hard to believe that I have been dealing with you now for 9 months. As it turns out, people were right. Time has flown by. Please continue to move quickly.
It seems like only yesterday I drove my solider to his office, stood with him in the arms room, watched him pick up his rifle, and walked hand in hand with him down the front walk of the building before I had to kiss him goodbye. I couldn’t take him to the gym to see him off that night. It seemed too hard, and I knew I needed to be strong: for him, for my children, and for myself.
I can still see the look of sadness on my children’s faces. They were too young to know what was about to happen, but they were aware enough of the situation to know that it was something they didn’t want.
I can still feel the streaks of tears that ran down my face as I drove back home that afternoon. I didn’t want him to go. I still wish he wasn’t gone.
You didn’t take it easy on me, Deployment. I guess you never promised you would. Things have broken. Babies have gotten sick. I have gotten sick. Things were stolen. Accidents have happened. Loved ones have passed on. Sleep was lost. I’ve cried a lot.
But despite all of the upset, I have achieved a lot because of you. Babies were raised and reached significant milestones. Personal goals were set and met. Dreams I didn’t know I had before were realized. Challenges I thought I was incapable of accomplishing before were overcome. Friendships were strengthened. Laughter was shared. Self-confidence was gained. As much as I hate to admit it, I am better because of you.
Now that you’re nearly over, I can’t help but look at you in a new light. You have helped me to grow, and you have helped my children to grow. They have so much pride in what their daddy does for them—and for our country. And I have so much pride in them for being strong in spite of you. They are perhaps still too little to understand what they are doing, but that does not make them too little to serve right alongside their father in some respect. A solider cannot serve fully without the support of his loved ones, and his children (and I) love and support him fully.
I have so much pride in my husband for choosing to serve, for answering a calling, and for living to achieve a bigger purpose. It was inevitable that he would come to know you—you are his greater duty in life, and I respect that. I know that choosing to serve does not mean he loves me less, it means he loves me more than I have the capacity to understand. So thank you for helping me realize and respect his sacrifice.
I was weak the day he left, and I have even had moments of weakness since, but you have infinitely made me stronger. My chin is a little higher. My walk is a little straighter. I still have tears streaming down my face, but now for a different reason—and that is because I FINALLY understands what “Hooah” means.
So please bring my husband back home to me soon. I was not able to see him off when he left, but you better believe I will be there to welcome him home.
Sincerely,
The Bearer of the Yellow Ribbon


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dear Dads

A lot of times, I hear it expressed that when a soldier is deployed, his spouse must serve as both mom and dad during the deployment. I always hated that phraseology. Do I have to pick up some extra slack when Daddy's not home? Um, heck yes. Will I be working overtime trying to adjust parenting strategies that we normally tackled together? Absolutely. Will I have to do everything by myself that I was used to splitting two ways? You betcha. But am I ever going to be "both mom and dad?" No, I'm not. I can never replace my husband's role in our childrens' lives. And while I try my darndest to make sure I am doing everything I can as their mother to show them extra love and support during this difficult separation, that's all I can ever do--give them an extra dose of mom. Try as I may, I can't be daddy too.
This got me wondering, what is it that makes dads so special? What is behind this irreplacable and significant person in a person's childhood--upbringing--family--life?

I don't think I know exactly what that special something is...and even if I did, I don't think I would have the words to go into an eloquent description about it in this post. But what I do know is what kind of father my dad was for me and what kind of father my husband is for our children.

Growing up, my dad was my hero. There was nothing that I thought that man couldn't do. I remember being younger and watching my dad lift himself up on a light pole and hold his body out parallel from the ground. I thought he had super strength.
I can tell that my daughter already thinks the same of her dad. Being an Army Brat, she hears people talk all the time about how her father is a hero. One afternoon, she asked me if her dad was actually a "superhero," and when he would get to stop fighting off bad guys. I told her that her daddy would stop fighting bad guys one day, but that he would always be a hero. Of course, I had to try to clarify the difference between a "hero" and a "superhero" and I'm not too sure I made my point. Afterall, the man has been known to blast through walls :)

I've said it before and I will say it again--my daddy was (and is) my biggest fan. He supported me in everything I did, silly as it was. And he showcased his support in equally silly ways (like totally rocking a toe touch for a peewee drillteam peprally.) He didn't even disown me when he, a Lubbock native and former Red Raider, sent his daughter to Aggieland (Though I could have lived without him dressing in his red and black Texas Tech shirt during my freshman orientation...) He celebrates every victory with me.
As does my husband for his children. Even though his children are young, he is still so involved and supportive. My daughter is showered with applause and flowers during her dance recitals and my son has proudly danced the "Tooty Ta" for his dad in a KinderJam class. Even now when he can't physically be here, he patiently listens to them talk about their days and lauds them as they sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" or count to 100. And though our children might be too young to actually understand what the terms "support" and "fanfare" mean, they definitely understand that they get those from their daddy.

Aside from being my cheerleader, my dad was also my coach. My father had a pretty busy work schedule, but he still volunteered to coach on my softball teams, basketball leagues, and he even did some peewee football coaching for the city team that I cheered for. (As did my mom--I really do have the most amazing parents.) He was my teacher. He not only supported my activities, but he also helped me perfect them. Though I might not have always appreciated it at the time, (and certainly not when my dad was zinging line drives at me to first base) now I look back on those days and just feel sheer gratitude. Being a parent now myself, I understand what it means to volunteer extra time to be with a child. I know what it means to be tired after a long day and just want to do nothing else but kick off your shoes and sit on your couch at home. But there he was, straight from the office in his work clothes, zinging line drives at my shins.
That's exactly how I look at my husband with our children now. Lord knows, all that man wants to do after a 15+ hour work day (or month-long field assignment) is take off his boots and sit quietly. But instead, he sits at the table and actively participates in a day with his children. He teaches them to correctly write the letter K. He reads them their bedtime stories. Even now, overseas and dealing with who knows what on a regular basis, he chooses to call and talk to his children instead of going straight to sleep. He sends them recordable books and videos. He is a physical, active part of their everyday. And I am ALWAYS so in awe at how he is able to do that from the other side of the world.

My dad was my favorite playmate. Dads are the ones who shoot you out of the pool into the air. They are the ones who race you down the street and teach you how to throw a football. And as I grew older, my dad still met me in the backyard to play HORSE or a little one-on-one (so long as I wasn't acting too cool for it.) Dads are just big kids with responsibilities.
That is no exception for my soldier. Warrior by day--horsie by night. He is the tickler and the tackler. The snuggler and the rough-houser. He taught my children to do the very things that I now have to scream at them not to do in the house. He is their favorite friend, and they desperately want him back home.

My dad was also my example. For better or for worse, I was watching my father. I've seen the sacrifices he made for his family. I watched him work himself like a dog, picking up nightshifts and pizza delivery jobs to provide for us. I bore his punishments for doing things I knew I shouldn't have, and have clung tightly to conversations where he told me he loved me, he was proud of me, he expected a lot from me, and he always would. I've taken a lot of good qualities into adulthood because of my dad. And I've even learned from a few of his past mistakes and have been able to avoid them myself.
Though they are too young to realize it now, my babies have an excellent role model in their father as well. I just know that he is going to be able to guide them with wisdom, to give them the confidence to make bold decisions, and to exemplify the drive necessary to do big things. I am so very glad that my babies have a man like that to look up to--he is someone I look up to, too. I am so grateful for the loving fathers that are a part of my life.

So here's to you on your day, dads. Take it from this Army Wife: there can never be anyone else to take your place.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Me, Myself, and I

In case you hadn't caught the buzz or noticed the fancy little button at the right side of my blog, I was fortunate enough to be a guest blogger for the Military One Source blog page a while back. I always love reading the entries from the usual team (and secretly wish I had their job,) and from time to time, I click on the "Blog Call" page, just to check it out and see if inspiration strikes me.
Among the topics were "things to avoid on payday" (the Commissary) and "summer activities for kids" (childcare...ha!) But the last one was "loving being alone."
I laughed when I read that. This close to the end of a deployment, being alone is not something you love...it is more like a curse that you want ended. But true to my nature, I felt the pull to look for the good that exists in every situation. And as miserable as I am of being alone at this very moment, I realize that there are a lot of positive things that have come out of these last 9+ months. In fact, if you'll let me, (and even if you won't because it's my blog...neener neener neener!) I will offer you a positive thing for every negative thing I've encountered regarding my aloneness.

I miss my soldier:
At nighttime. After the kids went to bed, we always took the opportunity to put on a grownup show, snuggle on the couch, and just do nothing.
I love being alone because:
I am most productive at night. Who knew?! It is amazing the amount of things I can crank out in a two hour time period; both the "have to's" and the "want to's." I have finished so many projects on my own "honey-do list" just by having the opportunity to let myself do it. This deployment has been a blessing for me, because it has forced me to take the "me time" I had been putting off for so long.

I miss my soldier:
At suppertime. I cannot tell you how excited I will be when that man comes home and I feel a reason to make something a little more posh than a bologna sandwich and fishy crackers.
I love being alone because:
When you don't make an involved supper, you don't have to do an involved amount of dishes. (Score!)

I miss my soldier:
When something breaks. I scored a super-cute handyman. Before if something broke, it was hardly a concern. Now it is a full on reason to panic.
I love being alone because:
I am slowly but surely building up my superwoman status. It may take me 10 times as long to fix it as it would for my husband, but I always find a way to get it done.

I miss my soldier:
When the house is a wreck. I am a stay-at-home mom, and the majority of the household chores usually fell on me. But my husband was not a slacker, either. Yard work, trash work, diaper pail work, doggie duty, and general dirty work was always in his general list of assignments. You never realize how glorious it is to have another person helping with the house chores until you have to do them all by yourself.
I love being alone because:
Sorry darling, but you were just as messy as the children ever were. Laundry has been cut in half. There is no longer a chronic, muddy boot trail leading from entryway of our home to the bedroom. The reduction in dishes has already been discussed. And the "field ring" around the bathtub has all but disappeared.

I miss my soldier:
On date night. I miss our chance to be grownups and reconnect. I miss having a reason to get a little bit dolled up and get out of the house. And I miss the opportunity to talk to an adult. (Seriously, you have no idea how much I miss it!)
I love being alone because:
I have rediscovered "girl's night." Before my husband deployed, I always had a guilt complex about leaving the babies with him to go out with my friends. Being a wife and a mother is my favorite thing in the world, (and my greatest responsibility at that) but I have really loved being able to get back in touch with the girl underneath those titles...and to rebuild my semi-neglected friendships.

I miss my soldier:
When the kids are sick...or have gone crazy. I don't know what it is about a daddy, but he is his child's favorite playmate while still being their strongest source of discipline. Dads are truly irreplacable in that sense. And having two parents for two children really leveled out the playing field in our favor!
I love being alone because:
I cannot put a price on the quality time I have been able to have with my children. I have gained confidence in my abilities as a mother. And I have loved watching how awesome my husband is at staying connected to his children, even from a half a world away. Being apart has made me appreciate how wonderful our family is together.

I miss my soldier:
When important decisions need to be made. I fully admit that I am a bit indecisive at times. My husband was always my voice of reason when there was a difficult choice.
I love being alone because:
I have been able to call the shots and we are still in the game! I am far more capable of accomplishing things than I ever gave myself credit for. Everything I was worried I might not be able to handle beforehand I have met head on and have overcome. It is a spectacular feeling to be able to help carry a family through a deployment. And I think I shall toot my own horn for it now. Toot toot! :)



Do I miss my soldier? Absolutely, and I have every single day. He is my very best friend and I cannot have him back with me soon enough. I miss him in the bad times, because I wish I had his help and his shoulder to cry on. And I miss him in the good times, because I wish he was here to share joyous moments with me and the kids. And promise not to tell him, but I am pretty sure I am missing his muddy boot prints too. But it turns out that while I was missing him, I have been growing all the while. (Silver lining is a beautiful thing, isn't it?!)


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Elephant in My Head

I stated a while back that my family was on the last lap of our first deployment. If that was true, then we are now coming up on the last 100 meters.
(If any of you readers are runners, you know what I mean by this. It's the point where you are so exhausted and the end is so close in sight, that you give up all pacing and form and you just sprint as fast and hard as you can until you hit the finish line.)
Yep, that's how I feel. Running around this town like a crazy person, arms flailing wildly in all directions trying to get all the loose ends tied up before the big day, and a wide, silly grin on my face which reads, "We're gonna make it!"

And then this stupid thought comes into my mind..."But what if?"

All spouses think it. And truth be told, that tiny thought has been in the back of our minds since the day we kissed them goodbye and watched them walk away. It has lingered there for months and months, like a tiny shadow that haunts us when we turn off the lights and lay down our heads at night.

For the most part, I try to ignore it. I busy myself with volunteer work and plan all kinds of activities with the kids so it is not such a big deal if a day or two goes by without any communications with my solider. (I know for some of you, that time frame could be weeks. Let me just say right now, YOU are my hero!) But the beast can only stay buried for so long. Sooner or later, if I don't deal with that little "what if" rolling around in my head, it will come back to bite me in a very BIG way. (Namely, I might find myself overly-emotional and crying hysterically in front of a complete stranger who works the reception desk at the on-post clinic. Wait...Not everybody does that?!)

The fact of the matter is that I put on such a strong front for everybody all of the time, because I don't want to worry them.
My preschoolers don't know the real danger behind their father's work. If I am not strong for them, will it make them fearful?
I want my family to know that I am doing well and am capable of taking care of everything on my own. If I let on that I am sad/worried/panicked, won't that make them sad/worried/panicked in return?
I want to be someone my fellow spouses can lean on when they are hurting. Will they still want to lean on me if I have a moment of weakness?
I want complete strangers to think I am wonder woman...okay, that might just be a "me" thing!
But here comes the big kicker:
I want my husband to focus solely on his work and trust that I have everything under control. If I bring up my concerns, will he worry that I am not cut out for this gig or that things are slipping without him?

Fortunately, there is no prerequisite for becoming a mil-spouse stating that you have to put on a strong front at all times. Sometimes, we just need a moment to cry. We need a time to hang up our superhero capes and just be normal for once...or in my case, to be the sobbing weirdo at the family clinic.

Everyone deals with deployment stress (and distress) in different ways, but here are some of my suggestions.

-Make time for yourself: You juggle the kids, the house, your work, the visiting in-laws... It is good to stay busy, but you need to take a moment for yourself to decompress. For me, it's a glass of wine in the evening and a chance to blog. I also throw the kiddos into childcare for a few hours twice a week so I can go to the gym or even the grocery store by myself (ALLELUIA!) But I have a friend who shuts herself off from the world for a day, dives into a bag of chocolate, and has a movie marathon on Netflix. Whatever works for you, pencil it into your to-do list, and DO IT!
-Use the buddy system: When I am feeling discouraged or blue, I grab one of my favorite gal pals and head out for coffee, or dinner, or have her over for a glass of wine. It will do wonders for you to have one person you can spill your guts to, and who doesn't mind to listen. Don't have anyone local? I know lots of people who schedule frequent Skype dates with their sisters or a close relative when they need a pick-me-up or to blow off steam. Share your worries with someone close to you and you will always feel better for it.
-Get involved: Whether within the boundaries of a military program or not, it is always good for you to get involved in a worthy project. During this deployment, I volunteered on the steering team of my local MOPS group and am doing some work with our FRG. In both groups, I have busied myself with different and purposeful projects and have met wonderful ladies that I can laugh with and confide in. What's more, being connected with the FRG has given me pertinent details about the deployment/redeployment and is a wonderful resource for community/organizational activities outside of our battalion. (Don't knock it til you try it! And if you tried it and didn't like it? Try, try again!)
-Talk it out: For better or worse, I tell my soldier what is on my heart. It might make him worry a bit more about how I'm handling things over here, but I choose to keep the lines of communication open. If nothing else, at the end of it all he knows how much he means to me and how much he will always mean to me. But if that is a can of worms you don't want to open with your service member, there are other avenues to take. Contacting the Chaplain is always a good solution, or you could schedule an appointment to chat with a Military Family Life Counselor. (Your FRG can give you contact information for both!) Or there are several programs like "Hearts Apart" that bring together families of deployed soldiers so you can have someone to commiserate with (and partake in a bunch of free, fun activities along the way.)

Truth be told, that pesky "what if" is probably going to be there until I have my soldier back in my arms for good. But now that I've addressed the "elephant in my head," maybe I can get some semblance of shut-eye tonight. And Lord willing, the real snore-filled sleep will find me once my husband is back where he belongs.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

You Can Take the Girl Out of Mesquite...

Yesterday I discovered that my high school alma mater had made national news...and not in a good way.

See it here.

I read it, shook my head, and slowly made my way to the comments section to see what all the naysayers thought about it. There was much naysaying to sort through (as there should have been.) Do I think this act was done maliciously? Absolutely not. Do I think this act was completely idiotic and avoidable? Absolutely, and that was my problem with it.

The Army lifestyle brings about people from all over the globe and scrambles them together into this very small microcosm of society. I can't count the number of times in our still very new Army adventure that I've been asked "So where are you from?" I always answer, "from the Dallas area." But I am always slightly embarrassed when the person who asked the question then responds, "Oh, me too! Whereabouts?" and I have to answer,"I'm from Mesquite."

I want to make one thing clear. I am not ashamed from where I come from. I loved everything about my childhood. I went to wonderful schools, had excellent teachers that made learning fun, and had unlimited opportunities at my fingertips. My parents worked hard to provide for us, and though I now know how little the expendable income was that they had to work with, I never EVER felt like I had to go without or that I missed out on anything.

So why be embarrassed, then? Well...
Mesquite is like the red-headed stepchild of the Dallas metroplex. It carries a horrible stigma with it. If you are from Mesquite, you are likely:
a. stupid
b. honky/trashy/ghetto
c. poor
d. all of the above

FYI-The current exposure my high school has received did not do well to reverse this stigma.

I don't know why or how the stigma was acquired; but it's there. If you tell someone you are from Mesquite, (and they are not,) you almost always see this expression in their face like "Oh, I'm sorry" or "Gee, that's too bad." I have actually had someone say to me once, "Wow! You're from Mesquite? I never would have guessed that!" (And then I was sitting there wondering, "How do I respond to that? Do I say 'thank you?'")

But last night as I sat on the couch watching old Friends reruns on Nick at Nite, drinking a glass of white zin, and snacking on Tootsie Rolls, I realized how deeply rooted my hometown is in me...and how proud I am of it.

-I love my venacular and my Texas twang. I lived the majority of my childhood in the same house, but my daughter and son will be lucky to live three or four years in the same state, let alone school district. That being said, my girl has mastered the phrase "a whole 'nuther" and my son is working on a pretty cute rendention of "dag nabbit!" If I can give them the gift of a Texas birth certificate and a southern draw, then I have done well for them, by golly.
-I can eat jalepeno poppers with the best of them. I know what a good burger is because I've eaten a Country Burger. I know what a real buffalo chicken wrapper should taste like, because I know what a Sport's City is (sorry Cheddar's.) And everytime I hear a person with the names Martinez or Tino, I get a little hungry for queso.
-I can say "Sting 'em Skeeters" in all seriousness, and still consider the Texas University fight song to really belong to Mesquite High. I also know good football, because I grew up living and breathing high school football every Friday night.
-I know what a real pee-wee football and drillteam city program should look like, which is why I am sad that my children will probably never be in one.
-I am able to solicit with the best of them, because I had to hold carwashes and sell candy bars for EVERYTHING! This also makes me much more grateful now when people donate to causes...what a strange concept, that you don't have to do anything and people just give stuff to you :)
-I am one of the scrappiest people you'll know, because I had a heck of a time keeping up with the other (bigger, taller, stronger, more talented) athletes on the basketball, softball, volleyball, and track teams. I realized early on in my life that I was probably not going to be the best at anything, but that didn't mean I couldn't be really good at a lot of things--and that's what makes me keep pushing to better myself now.
-I can relate to a whole lot of different people, because our 5A school hosted a whole lot of different students. I love that I grew up all kinds of friends from all different backgrounds and walks of life.

So to conclude, I guess Mesquite isn't all that bad. Though I may try to hide under the cover of Dallas, I know my Mesquite roots are dug down deep. And that's okay, because truthfully, the next time someone asks where I'm from and I answer "Dallas, Texas" (and they are not from Texas,) they are probably going to assume that I am likely:
a. stupid
b. honky/trashy/ghetto
c. poor
d. all of the above

Just kidding! People can assume whatever they want about me, so long as they don't put me in the same category as those freaks in Austin.
Just kidding again! ;)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Waiting Game

Today my husband and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary on different ends of the planet. This was not an easy thing to do. On my end, it took a lot of racking my brain trying to figure out exactly what kind of lovey-dovey gift to give a man in a combat zone who A)doesn't have room in which to keep anything and B)has already started shipping most of the stuff he was keeping in his space back to the US. To make matters worse, I have always tried to give anniversary gifts that go along with the traditional themes. This year's theme: fruit and flowers---I was royally screwed. But I came up with a pretty ingenious idea, filled a care package full of fruit-flavored cigars, peach salsa and corn chips, fruity gum, and a promise of a new grill on which to enjoy delisciously-charred fare paired with Blue Moons and orange wedges, shipped everything off weeks early, and waited to see if everything made it to its destination in tact and on time. It actually made it there a couple weeks early.
My gift from him did, too. But for whatever reason, (and probably just to drive me crazy) my husband told me that I had to wait to open my gift until our actual anniversary. And so I waited...

Two big boxes sat in my closet for about a week and this morning when I woke up, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I ran to open the first of the two boxes and just as I began to see something beneath the packing material, I heard my son's voice call out to me from the monitor. Opening the presents would have to wait a little longer...
I finally got to open them this afternoon while my son was napping. (My husband follows the traditional themes too, by the way. I know, I know...he's such a sweetie!) And while I loved the gift and his thoughtfulness in choosing it for me, I was a little bit sad once everything had been taken out of the box. Looking at my pile of presents, I realized that for all intents and purposes, our anniversary celebration was over--and in effect, our anniversary was over.
So as it turns out, I am so glad he made me wait to open those stinkin' boxes. Like I said, knowing who he is, it was probably just to drive me nuts. But it played well to his advantage, because it gave me a chance to celebrate our special day on our special day, even though we are miles and miles apart.

So much of this Army lifestyle involves playing the "waiting game."
Waiting for him to come home for supper (which he usually misses and has to reheat in the microwave.) Waiting for time in service raises and promotions. Waiting to hear orders on where the Army is sending us next (fingers crossed for NC!) Waiting on training schedules/field assignments/deployment dates. Waiting for his phone calls from overseas. Waiting to celebrate birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and other special occasions he missed at a later date. Waiting to see if the doctors will induce your labor so your husband can see his son being born. Waiting to start your own career. Waiting for the call of his return flight home.........

But the boxes were worth waiting for, and so is he.




(Additional FYI-another one of our anniversary traditions is that we have a drink in the evening out of the beer steins we used on our wedding day...sorry, babe. I didn't wait for you to do this one!) ;)




Happy Anniversay, Soldier! Here's to many, MANY more!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Happy Mother's Day...Again

Today marks one year since I began my blog. I am so thankful for that one night where I just couldn't sleep and for the fact that I had watched Julie and Julia that night. (Ha! The truth finally comes out!) But that one fluke night was such a blessing in disguise for me. I enjoy every minute of this blogging business...it is my guilty pleasure that I don't feel too terribly guilty about :) I write solely for me, but I LOVE hearing that so many people are able to relate to it, to laugh because of it, and above all else, to be encouraged by it.

Anyway, the very first entry I wrote was titled "Happy Mother's Day" and in a very brief and rambling 4-5 paragraphs, I wrote about my outlook on motherhood and how motherhood has validated my life. On my blogging anniversary, I felt it suitable to write on a similar topic.
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My kids have driven me crazy today. Not the kind of crazy where you are not able to form coherent sentences because you are so tired from chasing and yelling at your children all day. I wish it was that kind of crazy. No, my kids have driven me the kind of crazy where it took every iota of strength in me not to have more than one glass of wine at supper tonight, put the kids to bed at 6 o'clock and eat a good 16 ounces of dark chocolate.

Aside from the usual daily activities of tattle-telling, disobeying, and blatantly ignoring my instructions, my precious angels threw some major whoppers at me today. One of my children decided that on this day he would continuously strip off his diapers and play a disgusting version of "musical chairs" on my furniture, use his newfound knowledge of opening the refrigerator door to nab a big box of chicken stock and pour it all over my microfiber sofa, and chase his sister around the house wiping boogers all over her.
My other child decided she would take the opportunity while her mommy was cleaning up these messes to have a tea party in the bathtub fully-clothed, to decorate one of her hairbows with glitter and glue on her bedroom carpet, and to jump face-first onto her brother's knee, which caused a massive nosebleed that took a good 20 minutes and two washrags to completely stop.

I'm not going to lie to you, that bottle of wine I mentioned before...it still beckons to me.

This evening I submitted initial paperwork with hopes to return to school and earn some additional certifications. I love my babies--crazy as they are. I love being home with them--hectic and stressful as it is. But I think as I hit the submit button for my career plan, I let out a squeal of delight. I still stand firm on my position that my responsibilities lie with raising my children first and foremost, but as much as I relish in the joy that staying at home with my children brings me, I look forward to seeking validation and finding joy in something that does not require me to bust out the upholstery cleaner and clorox 5 times a day.

Motherhood has given me everything--patience that I didn't know I had, a sense of humor to deal with things that are hard, energy and strength to do things I didn't think I could, understanding and acceptance for things I can't control, humility and grace to recover when I screw up, purpose for my life today and forever after.

I find it funny that now more than ever I feel ready for the workforce. Turns out motherhood has also given me confidence--because if I can handle the craziness of my daily routine now, I can certainly handle whatever crazy-business any grownup can cook up.

And truth be told, as much as I look forward to working again someday, I know that no job can ever top my current position. After the nosebleeding and the booger-flinging finally ended, I listened at the bottom of the stairs for a while to my children giggling together as they played "Super Sam and Super Jack." Tonight my son got out of bed about four extra times, but each time yelling, "Oh Mommy! You forgot your hug!" And I bowed my head tonight with my daughter as she prayed, "Dear God, thank you for all the fun I had today." It will be hard to find perks like those in any other field of work.

So happy early Mother's Day again to all of you. We are definitely worth celebrating...and quite possibly with another glass of wine.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The To-Don't List

I am a lazy chick trapped in a busy mom's body.

I have three different calendars in my house to track three different things (social calendar, volunteer calendar, children's childcare and activity calendar) not because I'm anal, but because all the crap I have scheduled into my days does not fit in one place. I am highly organized, but not because I have it all together--rather as a result of being highly forgetful. I make lists for everything, not because I am efficient, but because if I don't write it down it is likely to get lost in the chaos of my day-to-day. And speaking of my day-to-day, I am having some major beef with my daily to-do list.

Every evening before I call it a night, I whip out a small legal pad and a pen and jot down all the things I need to get done the following day. Then I pin that list onto the refrigerator so I can check off the things as I get to them...and can I tell you, for every check I am able to mark, at least two more to-do's are added on. This thing is like a giant weed that I can't kill.
(Side note: Need to weed the front yard...better go put that on the to-do list.)

Today, I had a goal to do a quick dust and shine on the furniture while Jack was taking a nap. Sammi was my "cleaning helper" in charge of spraying the furniture polish on the wooden surfaces.
(Side note: Need to buy more Pledge...better go put that on the to-do list.)
As we were cleaning, I started noticing all sorts of little things that needed attention-- like chocolate fingerprints down the front of my refrigerator and the school of goldfish crackers swimming underneath my sofa. The more I cleaned, the messier things started looking to me. Why were there kissy-marks on the tv screen? Who put the half-eaten biscuit in Mommy's kitchen sink? What is that substance sticking to the bottom of my foot when I walk up the stairs?
My house is not messy at first glance. I am usually pretty happy that people could come over most any day of the week unannounced and I would feel comfortable letting them in. So either my children will make the world's best secret agents or I am much more aloof than I originally credited myself as being...

Anyway, as the now "level red" cleaning commenced, I heard the dog barking at the delivery guy in front of our house. When I went to retrieve the package, I saw that the American flag we have flying out front was laying on the ground. What's more, I saw the flag pole attachment and the broken pieces of stucco that had ripped out of the concrete facade laying alongside it. First things first, I picked up the flag so people wouldn't spit on me as they drove past my house on the military installation. But after that, I had a mini-meltdown. Not only are all of my lists and calendars and schedules not helping me keep up with my house on the inside, but now I have this huge chunk of rock missing from the front of my house screaming "Look at me! I am totally neglected!" (Hopefully the yellow ribbon I have tied underneath the hole will allow passers-by to forgive me.)

I had noticed a while back that I was starting to lose my handle on things. So I put my kids in childcare twice a week to give me some time to get caught up, and ideally, to let the lazy chick inside me roam free for a couple hours. Unfortunately, those child-free hours have been filled up with grocery shopping, running errands to and fro, more cleaning, etc. etc. And what's worse, anything fun that I actually get to do during those days suddenly turns into an annoyance because it is interfering with me completing my list. Oh crap--gotta go on a run again. Dangit--better go grab some lunch. (Or the one I feel the worst to admit) Well poo--gotta sit and Skype with the husband. And as much as I feel like I deserve to do these things for myself (and more!) the guiltier I feel actually doing them. I either do these fun things without the kids, and finish up the to-do's when they are with me instead of playing with them (awful feeling) or I have to put them in childcare AGAIN so I can schedule these fun things for me at a different time (crappy feeling, too.)
(Side note: Need to reserve spots for childcare..better go put that on the to-do list.)

I know most of my stress is self-induced. I have this problem where I think that if I am not able to keep everything looking and operating perfectly, then I am somehow failing. I am smart enough to know that this isn't the case, but I am also in too deep to ignore these feelings of inadequacy. So in the spirit of list-making, I am making myself a to-don't list for tomorrow.

My To-Don't List:

-Don't start any household chores without sitting to enjoy a cup of coffee first.
-Don't miss the opportunity to snuggle on the couch with the kids before making their breakfast.
-Don't rush the kids in morning. We have nothing SO important that they need to be hurried without getting to play and mess up their rooms.
-Don't feel the need to be hovering over them every second. If they are playing happily, that only means I get extra time to get dressed, fix my hair, put on makeup, have another cup of coffee...
-Don't use my freetime farting around on Facebook (my one lazy-girl indulgence that gets enough playtime as it is.)
-Don't freak out if Nathan doesn't call; instead call mom, dad, or a friend for encouragement (and for much-deserved adult conversation.)
-Don't forget to steal extra hugs and kisses from the babies (because they are both quickly starting to think that's uncool, and I'm not ready for that yet.)
-Don't beat myself up if the beds don't get made or there are new chocolate fingerprints on the fridge by tomorrow afternoon.
-Don't cook dinner. Mommy deserves a break.
-Don't add to the to-do list. Anything that's already on there can stay, but there is no little task so pertinent that it needs steal joy from the rest of my day.

Hopefully this is a list that I am successful in checking off!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Groundhog Day

I once had a friend share her pros and cons of being a stay-at-home mom for her preschoolers. The pro was that she got to spend the day in her pj's. The con was that "every day was groundhog day."

I couldn't agree more.

Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of reasons why I love being home with my babies. In fact, I think I have the best job ever. But sometimes, it is a pain in the hind-end doing the same things over and over and over and over...
And it's not like I haven't tried to mix it up sometimes. Every now and then, I will throw in a change or two into our schedule just to keep things interesting...but then my kids have a meltdown. So mostly, I stick with a lather-rinse-repeat philosophy.

There are certain things in my house that must happen every single day or the planet will implode:

-My son will wake up soaking wet. He will immediately say, "Hi momma. I need new pants and a new shirt." I will change him and bring him downstairs where he will ask for a juice. (Need a refill there, hey little buddy?) He will drink the juice and run 29 circles around the house until I turn on The Wiggles to make the kid sit still.
-My daughter will wake up 45 minutes later, in the foulest mood you have ever seen. (She takes after her mommy in that way.) She will not greet me or her brother. She will curl up in her corner of the couch, pull a blanket over herself, and I will bring her a chocolate milk. After about 30 more minutes of silence, she will ask for a piece of candy. I will say no. She will pout. Twenty more minutes will pass and she will eat whatever breakfast I have set on the counter...and then ask for a piece of candy.
-The dog will whince at us through the back door the entire time we are eating breakfast.
-After whatever morning activity we have scheduled for the day, I will make the kids lunch that they will get to eat in the living room. I will eat my lunch in front of the computer, waiting to see if there is any indication at all that my husband might be online. I will check e-mail, Skype, Facebook. Nothing. (Maybe he got on while I was checking Facebook?? Okay, just in case...) E-mail, Skype, Facebook. Still nothing. (Third time's the charm??) E-mail, Skype, Facebook. Stupid broken charm! I will just get on Pinterest and he can call me when he's done...
-My kids will tell me they are done eating. They come to show me their empty plates. Mommy gives them hugs and kisses and "good jobs!" Then I will walk into the living room to see mac-n-cheese, apple pieces, and goldfish crackers smeared into the rug. It is now that my husband will call.
-I will talk and talk and talk and talk and talk to my husband. He will try to talk back to me whenever I take a breath, but it is at that exact moment that someone will say "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" I will miss what my husband says. I will say, "I'm sorry, Babe, the kids interrupted. What?" He will be so frustrated that he'll say "Nevermind. It was nothing." I will ask the kids if they want to talk to Daddy. Though they have pretended to talk to him on the phone or write messages to him on the computer all day, they will say no. Then the moment my husband hangs up, they will both throw themselves onto the floor because they didn't get to talk.
-2pm: my son's naptime. It is the most awful time for a nap EVER! If I miss it, he will be so cranky that we will not be able to do anything the rest of the day. If he takes it, he will likely sleep for the next 3 hours and we will not be able to do anything the rest of the day.
-My son's naptime is also my time to do dishes and play with my daughter. My daughter will want to help with the dishes, (which is sweet, but also makes the process 9 times longer than it needs to be,) and then we will go up to her room where she will ask "What do you want to do today, Mommy? Barbies first, Princess Yahtzee first, or puzzles first?" No matter what I suggest, we will always play Princess Yahtzee, then Barbies, then puzzles. (Note to self: we need to pick up some more puzzles.)
-My son wakes up from his nap, much in the mood that my daughter starts the morning in. He is soaking wet, but this time, he just cries. I change his clothes, and take him downstairs where he asks for a juice and a show. We turn on the kid's program so I can start supper. Right after I begin, the kids will tell me they are hungry. "Here, have a cheese stick while you wait..." Supper's on the table---the kids rush to the table shouting "Hooray! Dinner!" They take one look at dinner, and reach for their drinks. Suddenly, they are no longer hungry. I convince them that if they eat one bite of everything on their plates, they can have that piece of candy they've been bugging me for all day. (Well, wouldn't you know it?! Their appetites are back!)
-I clean up chocolate fingerprints from the dining table, do the dishes, and send the kids outside to burn off their last bit of energy (or, you know, the surge from the sugar rush.)
-I hear them argue with me the entire way up the stairs that they are not tired. I fight with them to put on their pj's and brush their teeth. They march down the stairs so they can have their "good night show" and milk. They are both so sleepy, I have to fight with them to get them back upstairs. We read our bedtime stories and tuck into bed. Jack will get out of bed at least 5 more times, just for good measure.
-Mommy will finish all the chores she was not able to do the rest of the day before she passes out from exhaustion.

*Lather-Rinse-Repeat*

I hate to sound like I'm complaining; this is not a bad life I have lined up for myself here. Mixed in with the mundane are all sorts of cute little moments full of tickles, kisses, funny dances, and sweet sayings. But every now and then, I find myself lusting for what it will be like when my children are grown and our schedules are more sporadic. I daydream about how it will be to wake up, drop the kids off at school, and do whatever the heck needs to get done (scratch that) whatever the heck I want to do while they are gone. But then I snap back to reality, toss another load of soaking sheets, blankets, and clothes into the wash, and thank God that I have the opportunity to hang out with my kids these first few years.

That having been said, even as a stay-at-home-mom, I don't lounge in my pj's all day. I get dressed up, fix my hair, and put on makeup every single day. It is my secret way of telling the world that if it wants to throw me a change-up, I am READY for it!