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.

-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.

-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!)

-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.
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 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?!)