Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"Take Heart! I Have Overcome the World!"- An Older Piece I Wrote A Few Years Ago

John 16:33 tells us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” Think about that first sentence for a second.  He does not say we might have trouble. He does not tell us we have a 50/50 shot.  He does not say, “if you do everything I command, you will be spared.” No, Jesus tells us we WILL have trouble in this world.  But, before you let that beat you up and tear you down, keep on reading. Jesus makes another positive promise. He reminds us He has already overcome this world.  Through Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection, He has faced death and come out victorious. Because of this, if our faith is in Him, we have nothing to fear. That does not mean we will not face tremendous trials and pain in our own lives. It simply reminds us that those pains are temporary, and we will be restored one day in Heaven.

 This scripture came to me as I was rocking my sleeping baby boy (well, 2 ½ years old is still a baby, right?!?) and praying for protection for my husband in Afghanistan.  He had called a few hours before to tell me that he would be unable to call on our 12 year wedding anniversary. Why, you might ask. Because, on that particular day, he would be leaving for a mission to a very dangerous outlying camp, and he would be getting there via a ground convoy instead of a helicopter this time.  He had been briefed by a superior officer who had recently returned from this camp, and, while he couldn’t give me any details, he mentioned the conversation prompted him to bring both his rifle and his pistol, as well as all the ammunition he could carry for each. 

So, with this thought in mind, my first instinct was to be afraid and cry and worry about his safety. My mind is quite imaginative, and, in 10 seconds flat, I had already envisioned answering the door to the Casualty Assistance Officer, seen the funeral, and watched myself as I raised my children to the best of my ability without their daddy. Whoa! Yeah, I simply had to get a grip. As I prayed with more fervor than I had prayed in a long time, I was reminded that I serve a big God, and he is bigger than this war. He is bigger than IED’s and the enemy’s hatred of America and all she stands for. My God is bigger than my fear, and all I have to do is ask, and he will calm them. So, I did. And, while I cannot say that I have been enveloped with the same peace that surrounded me the day I hugged my husband one last time and watched him get on a bus and head off to war, I have been given a different kind of peace.

The first scripture that came to mind after my passionate prayer for my husband’s safety and well-being  freaked me out a little. For reasons I do not yet understand, this scripture from Psalm 139:16 kept invading my thoughts. It says, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” God knows the number of (very short J) hairs on my husband’s  high-and- tight-hair-styled-head. He knows the number of days ordained to him. So, my peace comes from knowing that God knows the number of days my husband will serve on this earth, and war will not change that. An enemy attack cannot change that. And, somehow, I am comforted by this. Not in the “I have a peace that he will not be harmed,” sense, but in the “God will be with all of us, come what may” sense. And, I know God will be there for both of us every step of the way.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My broken heart

“You’re only 33 years old. This can’t possibly be right!” Doesn’t sound too positive, eh? How about when this blow is delivered to you by a genuinely perplexed cardiologist, and the “this” is images of your recent heart stress test.  As some of you may know, I have been seen for low blood pressure, and they have been monitoring it for several months now. What most of you do not know, though, is that I have been having some symptoms that, when combined, are apparently indicative of a potential heart attack. Who knew, right? I’m at an ideal weight, we eat healthy, mostly organic foods, I largely steer clear of fatty, greasy foods, and, though I have been told I can’t exercise until they figure out what, exactly, is going on, I chase kids all day and walk on the treadmill as often as possible.

So, in light of that, about 2 weeks ago I underwent a cardiac stress test. During the test, I had some complications, and, while running on the treadmill, it was noted that my heart was, indeed, very stressed. But, I was told that unless there was a problem, I would just be seen at my regularly scheduled follow up on April 18. Well, no news was good news, or so I thought.
Until today. Last night I had the same barrage of symptoms-nausea, dizziness, tightness/clenching in my chest, unable to take a deep breath, and a feeling of complete exhaustion when it was over-so I called my cardiologist’s office this morning. They worked me in this morning, and that is where I found out just how “not right” things really were.

My doctor was asking questions and entering things in to the computer when he confirmed we had already done a stress test. He looked through my chart, read his notes, then turned the page to the radiographic images of my heart taken during the stress test. The look on his face convinced me he had not read nor seen the results until that very moment-a fact that will be dealt with once I find out exactly what kind of hurdles I may be facing. Had I not called them because of my symptoms last night, I would not have found out ANYTHING until April 18. A month after the test was done. But, anger will get me nowhere right now, and I have bigger things to worry about. Way bigger.

Long, complicated story short: something is wrong. Either there is a blockage of some sort or I was born with a congenital anomalous coronary artery. He immediately texted the cardiologist on Lejeune because apparently they have some sort of super high tech imaging machine. In less than 3 minutes, I got a call from the Cardiology dept at the Naval Hospital telling me to come in. Right now. So I did. But not before dragging the worst case scenario out of my cardiologist. I’m not even going down that road again right now, though, because my eyes filled with tears when he told me, and I was left with these words, “for your sake, I really do hope our tests were wrong.” He really was sincere about that. 

I wish that I could tell you that I immediately cried out to God in prayer and that I was overcome with peace and comfort. I didn’t.  I couldn’t. I wasn’t. I really did try to pray. I just didn’t even know where to start.  I instead saw myself recovering from open heart surgery. Not a pretty picture. I got to Naval Hospital, and the cardiologist there was a little more hopeful. I will have more tests done tomorrow morning, and I should have the results by tomorrow afternoon. I allowed myself to feel a little bit of relief.

On the way home, I, once again, tried to pray. I just couldn’t find the words. I know I have a God who is bigger than this little heart he created and placed inside of me, but I just couldn’t voice my fears. That would make them even more real. So, I did what I could do. I turned up the radio. And that’s when God spoke to me. Through Mandisa telling me,

You're an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final roundYou're not going under‘Cause God is holding you right now”

“You might be down for a momentFeeling like it's hopelessThat's when He reminds YouThat you're an overcomerYou're an overcomer”

"The one who overcame death
Is living inside of You
So just hold tight, fix your eyes
On the one who holds your life
There's nothing He can't do” 

I don’t believe in coincidences, and I love a good word play, so the next song got me too.  My heart may be broken, both figuratively and possibly literally, but God still has my heart in his hands.

“Lord, I know I let You down
But somehow, I will make You proud
I'll turn this sinking ship around
And make it back to You”

“(‘Cause) All You've ever wanted, all You've ever wanted
All You've ever wanted was my heart
Freedom's arms are open, my chains have all been broken
Relentless love has called me from the start
And all You wanted was my heart”

“So I'll stop living off of how I feel
And start standing on Your truth revealed
Jesus is my strength, my shield
And He will never fail me”

Just this morning, a very good friend of mine who is facing some battles of her own posted about how certain songs, played during a very anxiety filled test, broke through her fear and further built up her faith. I had just commented this.very.morning. on how awesome it is when God speaks to us through music. Coincidence? No such thing.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Amazing Grace

I learned two new things about myself last night on a dark Alabama highway: 1) I rock at evasive maneuvering, and, 2) Deep down, I have a situationally dependent scream that is rivaled only by no name actresses in 3rd rate horror films. I'm still in shock at what happened, terrified at what could have happened, and immensely thankful to God above for what did not happen last night.

On several occasions spanning over the last 16 years of my life, various mentors (who have never even met each other) have told me the exact same thing, "Jessica, these crazy things happen to you because you are such a good story teller, and God must want you to always have a story to tell..." or some variation of that statement. Now, I don't know if I'm all that good of a story teller. Intense? Yes. Sarcastic? Most definitely. Witty? I'd like to think so. Good, however, is in the eyes of my readers, and I hope I can do this one justice. But, this story disturbs me, and, since writing is how I process, understand, and eventually accept my experiences, here goes...

My husband, 3 children, and I were nearly halfway into our approximately 1200 mile, 20+ hour drive back home to NC after visiting family for Christmas in OK and KS. It was dark, about 9pm, and I had just taken the wheel so Bill could rest. We almost stopped in Tupelo, MS for the night, and if we had, this whole awful scenario would have never occurred. Or, more accurately, it would have occurred, but I would have had no knowledge of it. Anyway, we decided to press on to Birmingham, AL. I can tell you exactly where it happened. Traveling East on Hwy 78, approximately 33 miles west of Birmingham, just past mile marker 57. I can tell you where it happened because I had to recite it to the Sheriff. As I said, it was dark. I was traveling in the center of 3 lanes of eastbound traffic at about 78 mph. There was a slight dip in the road, and when I came up over the rise, I thought I saw something in the middle of my lane. I did. It was a person. Just. Standing. There. In. The. Middle. Of. The. Highway. Not on a back road. Not on the shoulder. Dead center in the middle lane of traffic, just over a dip in the road, on a highway with a posted speed limit of 70 mph. Thank you, Jesus, I swerved in time. He made no move to get out of the way. Thank you, Jesus, there was no traffic to run into. Thank you, Jesus, I didn't flip the van jerking the wheel so violently at such a high rate of speed.

It's funny how the mind works. In that split second, I was able to take in his clothing and description. White male, about 6' or so, pushing 200 lb, dressed in dark brown coveralls and dark brown beanie, older model teal green Chevy S-10 on the side of the road. Everything simultaneously slowed down and sped up. Even as I jerked, I saw myself hitting him, his lifeless body flying into the van, my children having nightmares for years to come, and me in an orange jumpsuit, serving time in jail for an awful accident. I screamed the most intense scream. I couldn't stop. My whole body was shaking, my hair was standing on end. I told Bill to call 911. I could barely talk, but was able to relay all the information I took in in that fraction of time. They sent a sheriff to help the man.

I spent the remaining 30 minutes of our drive to the hotel berating myself and reliving the situation. I am trusting to a fault, maybe even a bit gullible, and I kept asking Bill dumb things like, "what if his wife was having a baby in the truck and he was flagging for help?" "Should we have stopped?" "Was calling 911 enough?" Then I had to relive what I saw. Either he was standing in the lane, waiting for a car to hit him, or he jumped in the lane. I honestly don't know. But I do know he made no move to get out of the way as my speeding minivan barreled toward him. So, no, I don't believe he was just an innocent person flagging for help. I believe he was either drunk, high, deranged, or demented, and he was clearly suicidal. There was no help or service that Bill and I could have provided that would have been better than calling for emergency help. And, honestly, what it boils down to is the fact that we live in a crazy, scary world these days, and I refuse to risk the safety of my children.

 I find myself being both angry that my family could have been killed, injured, or forever scarred by his decision, and concerned for his well being and wishing the sheriff would tell me what led him to the center of my lane that night. I may never know, and that's ok. Thank you God for protecting my family from him, and, by doing so, for however brief a time, protecting him from himself.
I still see that dark silhouette every time I close my eyes, and I will probably never drive down a dark highway ever again without thinking about that, but, by God's amazing grace, we are all ok.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Holy Freaking Vomit, Batman

Holy Freaking Vomit, Batman!

First off, I would like to apologize for the title. It’s gross, and you can thank my husband for that. Well, except for the Batman part. I added that because I thought it was funny, and when you’ve been up to your elbows in vomit for nearly a week, well, you need something to laugh about. Anywho, so here is how it all started. Since my pregnancy cravings can be pretty crazy, leading me anywhere from Rocky Road ice cream and Claussen pickles, to Spam and rice, my poor family never knows what I am going to want for dinner. (In my defense, I NEVER make them eat my craziness, so I usually end up making 3 meals a night: one for this sweet baby with a sense of humor who makes me crave the most ridiculous and gross things (i.e. Spam), one for Bill and Faith, and something totally different for my incredibly picky Rhett.)
Well, Monday night I wanted steak stir-fry and vegetables over rice. Nothing crazy. Not even oily as we used lean steak strips, and only cooked the vegetables in soy sauce. We even opted for plain white rice instead of fried rice. Faith had a friend over that night, and she gobbled it right up saying how great it was. Bill and I thought it was wonderful. Faith immediately turned up her nose and said she didn’t like it and her tummy hurt. This continued for the duration of dinner time, and we finally bargained with her and convinced her to eat a small portion. She kept saying she didn’t like it and her tummy hurt. Well, award-winning mother of the year that I am, I had the nerve to break out the “boy who cried wolf” story and tell her to quit making things up. I really did think she was just trying to get out of the dinner…after all, she gobbled up her root beer float, no problem. But, after I had tucked her in, I placed her little trash can right beside her bed, within hurling distance, just in case. Bill had the same idea, because he went in and laid down with her for a little bit. About 8:30, he came in to report, in great detail, I might add (and which I will spare you from) that Faith was indeed not feeling very well. This continued in 30 minute intervals until about 4:30 am.
By nature, I am more grossed out by puke than most people for some reason. The thought, sound, sight, smell, anything makes me gag. I will leave a movie theater at the climax if someone gets sick in the theater. I will walk a mile out of the way to avoid it if I know someone has gotten sick on an area of ground I may come in contact with. It’s stupid and unnatural, but there it is. One more cat out of the bag…oh well. I kept her home from school Tuesday, and sent her back on Wednesday. I got a call Wednesday from the school nurse, mere minutes after I had laid Rhett down for his nap, saying Faith wasn’t feeling well again. She hadn’t gotten sick, but looked “droopy,” according to Nurse Melissa. I immediately went and picked her up. Thank goodness, too, because by 2:30 my stomach was hurting so bad the only pain I can think to compare it to is intense labor pains, made a bajillion times worse by pitocin, an hour before giving in and getting the epidural. Yeah, it was bad. Again, I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I got an enormous ab workout and went through 3 double rolls of Charmin in a very short period of time. Bill got home as quickly as he could, and, as I was lying in bed, cramping, chilling, and shaking, through the baby monitor I heard the unmistakable sound of Rhett getting sick. It was horrid and we both ran in to his room to confirm what I already knew.
Poor guy. And poor Bill. Since I was pretty much incapacitated, the task of trying to teach a 3 year old how to aim for a trash can rested on his shoulders. He got sick about every 45 minutes until about 5am, only resting briefly in between. Total germaphobe that I am, I kept texting Bill from our room, telling him all the things that needed to be disinfected, sanitized, thrown in the washing machine, etc. I couldn’t yell for him without getting sick all over again, but he took my manic texts in stride. I had him balancing on chairs spraying our non-lethal cleaners into our air ducts, covering the rug with a thick blanket so it would be easier to clean in case Rhett’s aim was off, wiping Rhett down from head to toe with Wet Ones every time he got sick, and telling him how to sort the laundry so we didn’t end up with strangely colored clothes from the Super Hot water in the sanitize setting. In between texting instructions and begging for ice chips (even water made me super sick), I spent all of the rest of my time praying, begging, pleading with God for the kids and I to feel better and for Him to protect Bill from this heinous virus.
Again, I think it has something to do with the pregnancy, because 3 days later I am still super weak. I could hardly stand on Thursday, and if I had to move from one room to another, I had to crawl. Friday was slightly better, but not much. That was forced to change real quick when Bill came in about 2am Saturday and said he thought he was getting sick too. Poor guy, but he did ask for it. When I told him how hard I had been praying he wouldn’t get this too, and how I had been trying to do everything I could to protect him from our germs, he just said, “I’ll probably get it anyway. Besides, I want to see what all the fuss is about.” Famous last words…. He must be made of much stronger stuff than the kids and I, though, because he only got a small touch of it.  By 2:15am I was up out of bed like I had been poked with a cattle prod, wiping surfaces with bleach wipes, Lysoling any and every surface imaginable, washing any blanket he had laid on (or even laid eyes on) since they came out of the dryer clean and sanitized yesterday afternoon, and seriously wondering why, if you can set off a bomb to kill actual bugs, why isn’t there some safe alternative that would kill off this stomach bug. Give me a break, it was 2:30am and I had been near death for almost 3 days. I had just used the last bleach wipe and I couldn’t squeeze one more cloud of toxic chemicals from the Lysol can. I was desperate.
If I were less of a chicken, or if I actually had a concealed carry permit that would allow me to tote my pistol through Wal-Mart parking lot at this crazy hour, I totally would have gone to the store right then. But, I am, and I don’t, so I waited until the kids woke up, and we went during daylight hours. I had to mentally psyche myself up for the trip. We were out of the very things I desperately needed to feel like I could actually control this situation (silly me, I can’t control this anymore than I can control the tide, but I have never claimed to be a rational germaphobe), but the only way to get them was to go through a cesspool of germs to acquire these items. Had I not feared embarrassing both myself and the kids beyond all help, I totally would have donned Bill’s gas mask to make the trip. Again, no claims at being rational after this kind of week. Anyway, so we made our way into the lion’s den, and I kid you not, before I even got parked, a kid barfed right in front of my car. Poor kid, her parents didn’t even break their stride; they just kind of herded her along like they had better things to do than take care of a sick kid. Needless to say, I didn’t park in that parking spot. Remember my aforementioned phobia. Yeah, it knows no bounds. So we parked a bit further out.
I ran through the place like I was on some kind of shopping spree where if I finished in time, everything in my cart would be free, which really would have been cool when you consider that, by the time I got all the cleaning supplies (never mind the fact I bought, like, hospital quantities of each),  4 new air filters (I can try, right?), a few new toothbrushes for all 4 of us, and a crap-load of Gatorade for Bill, I spent just over $100. I finished in record time, and then I heard the skies open up outside to an enormous, torrential downpour. I waited in the shortest available line for what seemed like an eternity, the sounds of people of all ages coughing, hacking, gagging, etc. growing louder as each minute crept slowly by. I was a near basketcase by the time I got to the register.  Seriously, had Wal-Mart existed during the Black Plague, I imagine this is what it would have felt like. I waited for her to s-l-o-w-l-y ring everything up, gasped quietly at the total amount, and made a mad dash for the door, where I was stopped and asked for my receipt. The guy’s topic of conversation? How sick everyone in the store was and how he had never been sick in his life until he started working at Wal-Mart. Didn’t he see I was buying $100 worth of germ-killing paraphernalia?!?!
The rain was still hammering down, so I zipped up the kids coats, pulled up their hoods, threw Faith on the front of the cart, and ran like hell through the rain, splashing in puddles of God knows what the entire way. For the record, I do not run unless being chased by a rabid dog, and even then it’s really more of a slow trot, but I’m pretty sure I made it in record time (for me.) And yes, I am fully aware that I probably looked like a baby giraffe trying to walk for the first time, but I HAD to get out of that place. I got the kids in the car, and Faith helped get Rhett buckled while I unloaded the cart. A sweet young Marine was taking his cart back to the cart corral, and, when he saw me headed in that direction, he offered to take mine as well. Who says chivalry is dead? Maybe he just felt sorry for the crazy lady who ran like a baby giraffe, who knows. Either way, I’ll take it, and I thanked him profusely.
I got us home safely through the continued downpour, and walked in to find that Bill was feeling much better, thank goodness. He was still in bed, but he was feeling better, so that’s a bonus.  If you have known me very long, or if you know me very well, you know that I use sarcasm as a tool to deal with nearly every situation, and I try to laugh at and find the good in whatever life throws at me. So, as I played back the week of bloopers, I tried to find some highlights. They don’t outnumber the trials in terms of quantity, but they certainly do in quality. So, here goes: 1) After waiting 17 weeks to feel the little peanut move, he or she made her presence known yesterday. We skipped the “fluttery” stage and went straight to the karate chops and barrel rolls, which was super cool. Maybe those 6 lbs I lost in 24 hours hacked him or her off, or maybe it just made my stomach so sensitive I could feel the movements more strongly than I had anticipated at this stage. 2) After battling the potty training roller coaster with Rhett for almost a year now (he regressed when Bill deployed, then he had a scary encounter with an automatic flusher at a public toilet, and he was TERRIFIED), Rhett has stayed dry, both day and night for 3 days now. The only accident was tummy bug related, and there is no way he could have controlled that, so it was actually good we still had him in pull-ups this week. But, today, he even made it to the potty in time for that gruesome display, so rock on! 3) As awful as this was, we all got it in stages and were able to help each other, so it really could have been much worse…especially since one of the toilets got clogged up this morning. Don’t worry, I’m a whiz with a plunger now, and fixed her right up. And 4) It was great knowing I have a husband I can fully rely on to back me up when things like this happen. He took care of the kids and me, and I took care of him. Good teamwork!
So, it was a long, nasty 5 days that I hope we never relive again as long as we are present on this earth, but we survived, and that’s all that matters. And if I ever decide to open a janitorial supply store, well, I’m well stocked now!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Catching up on some older posts-1 Month Down Party

If you have been following my blog, you know that I set some pretty lofty goals for myself and, about 2 months into the deployment, realized they were not very realistic for me during this particular time in my life. Sadly, one of the things that got pushed to the sidelines was my daily chronicling of the kids shenanigans.  Most of that, however, was out of necessity simply because everything that was funny or crazy enough to write about usually required at least an hour of clean-up, and sometimes required enlisting the services of a professional handyman, so I didn’t always get around to writing about it in a timely manner. But, I tried to keep notes about the real doozies, and I am going to attempt to re-create them.
 I have learned, however, that I write some of my best and most comical pieces in the heat of the moment, usually while the freshly mopped floor is still drying after my cleaning up Lord only knows what kind of disaster, but I’m gonna do my best . Some are long, and some are short. Some will make you simultaneously laugh at my children’s antics while you cry at the heck I go through some days. Be warned, though,  some might make you a little sick at your stomach! But, I am constantly reminded that these days that seem so hard to get through sometimes now are the very same days I will long for in a few short years when my kids are too cool to hold my hand in public or kiss me goodbye in front of their friends. My good friend Stessie, without even intending to reach me in particular, recently reminded me that “our kids live in the ‘now.’ They don’t worry about the past or spend too much time looking toward the uncertainties of the future. Life happens now,” and I don’t want to miss a thing. So,  I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I enjoy telling them. If not, that’s okay. They will provide wonderful topics of discussion to share with our children’s dates one day in the very, very, very distant future!
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read my blogs entitled “The Best Laid Plans” and “You’re an Idiot, Bless Your Heart.” It will give you a little more perspective on what all I had gone through during our first month of the deployment. It will also convince you that God has an awesome sense of humor!!

April 1, 2011- One Month Down Ice Cream Party
Before Bill left, we participated in a program on base called FOCUS. It stands for Families Overcoming Under Stress, and it basically teaches you resiliency training in the face of a stressful situation such as a deployment, a move, or any life event that causes stress and anxiety. It is a fabulous program that is conducted by Master’s level social workers, and if you are experiencing a situation that you anticipate to be overwhelming,  I highly recommend you seek them out. Ok, I am aware that was a shameless plug for my pals at FOCUS, but it has made a huge difference in the way this deployment could have gone vs. how well it really has gone (at the time of this writing we are 4 months and 26 days into it, and I am constantly amazed every day at God’s grace and mercy as we face this deployment), and I want everyone to benefit from this free service.
One of the great ideas they gave us was to have an ice cream party with Bill the day he left for Afghanistan, and then, every month, on the anniversary of the day he left, the kids and  I would have an ice cream party as a celebration that one month had passed and we were one month closer to Daddy being home. This celebration was to be marked by building a  6 scoop paper ice cream cone on a large white sheet of paper. The night we had the party with Bill, he and the kids glued a paper ice cream cone on the paper, and every month we celebrated, we would add a paper scoop of ice cream. When Daddy comes home, we will have a party together, and he will add the paper cherry to the top. It’s a great visual tool for the kids, and I had very high hopes when we began using it.
Bill left March 1, so we had our very first ice cream party April 1. April Fools!!! I can’t even begin to tell you how not-great it was. I am still sad about that.  That happened to be a Friday, and Faith has ballet on Friday evenings, so we went after her lessons. I wanted it to be a great party for them, so we went to Cold Stone Creamery. Faith was so excited about it! I would like to take a timeout here to brag on what an awesome kid she is. She helps me so much with Rhett; whether it’s helping him climb into a high chair so he can’t wreak havoc on the restaurant or cheering him up when he’s inconsolable, she is the best big sister I could ever ask for. They play so well together, and they both have the most loving personalities, sometimes I feel like I am totally unworthy of being the mommy of such amazing little people!
So, we are at Cold Stone, and I have picked out a table and Faith has helped me put Rhett into his highchair. See, the fun started in the car when Rhett, after being told we were having an ice cream party started screaming, declaring he “no like it I keam.” I was sure he would change his mind once we got inside, so Faith and I literally drug him from the car into the ice cream shop. We were the only ones in there, so his screams echoed off the walls and drew a panicked stare from the poor 18 year old behind the counter. I am pretty sure she won’t be having kids for a loooonnnnggg time now. You’re welcome! Determined to have a nice 1 month down celebration even if it killed us, I went ahead and ordered our ice cream. Something pink and blue  and served in a chocolate dipped waffle bowl covered in sprinkles for Faith, she goes for aesthetics more than flavor I think, and chocolate for Rhett.
I get it all to the table, and Rhett starts crying even louder, if that were possible. By this time, though, the place is starting to fill up, so there are about 15+ people staring at me while I try to be upbeat and encouraging that we made it through a whole month. Half-way through Faith declares that her ice cream looks much prettier than it tastes and asks if she can have Rhett’s chocolate. Well, you can probably tell where this is going…Yep! Rhett did not want her to touch his “I keam.” Thankfully, I was able to distract him with her chocolate covered sprinkle bowl, thus ensuring he wouldn’t go to sleep for at least another 2 hours…oh, well. Having decided we had “celebrated” enough, we left and went home to glue our first paper scoop onto the cone and snap a picture for Daddy.
 Faith was all sweet ballerina smiles, and Rhett was still one unhappy camper. But, you know what, that’s what I felt like too. I was trying to turn today into a celebration of us being 6 months closer to Bill’s return, but I wanted to cry even louder than Rhett that someone we love so much has been gone a whole month and we haven’t even scratched the surface. FYI: deployments aren’t fun. But they are necessary if we want to sleep in peace at night when we lay down our heads. Someone has to do it. It just so happens I married one of the few who was brave enough to volunteer for the job.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Potty Time

Oh. My. Gosh. I am beginning to think that, instead of calculating college tuition costs for Rhett, I need to calculate the cost of a lifetime supply of diapers and pull-ups because this potty training thing is really not catching on. We are currently 2 weeks into July, and 4 ½ months into a deployment that seems to grow longer every day, and we are no closer to being diaper free than we were 6 months ago. Further, in fact, if you want to be honest about the whole thing.
Rhett began showing signs of being ready to potty train while we were visiting family in OK this past Christmas, but by the time we returned home to NC less than a week later, the moment seemed to have passed. Up until the day he stripped off his diaper while he was napping and proceeded to pee in his crib, sufficiently soaking his blankets, pillow, lovey, and at least a part of every one of the 15 various stuffed animals that were in his crib that day, that is. So, we tried again. And he lost interest again.  I did not major in Early Childhood Education, nor do I claim to be an expert on all things little kid, but even I am pretty sure you cannot force a child to successfully use the bathroom in the toilet.
Not wanting to turn it into a control issue, I backed off when he resisted, and encouraged him when he showed signs of being ready. Then, Bill deployed, and any progress (no matter how small) was lost, plus some. I have been trying to get him to use the potty for a while now, and he greets my request with a very polite, but firm, “No, thank you, Mommy. I no want to. I no like it.” At least he uses his manners. When he does agree to sit on the potty, I try to make sure all of the important parts are pointing in the down position so no one gets pee up their nose, but then he screams, “No, Mommy! No touch it!” Well, I'm glad he caught my lectures about that being a private area, but I think he might be taking it a bit to the extreme. Now he just goes into the bathroom and says, “I potty. Now you go away.” Ok, I understand the need for bathroom privacy more than most people, even though I have not enjoyed such a luxury in over 6 years now, but seriously?!?
So, I have this brilliant idea to buy him a little potty of his very own. He has the Elmo potty seat, but he refuses to use it, so, when he does sit on the toilet, I end up having to fish him out of the toilet water and thoroughly wash his whole lower half every time. This usually happens several times and goes on for several minutes before my patience is gone and, sensing his life could be in imminent danger, he politely asks for a diaper. But, today was going to be different, I vowed to myself. I bought the cool little Froggie potty, and we ran the rest of our errands. His diaper was dry when we left at noon, and it was still dry when we got home at 4:30. He was very excited to use his potty seat, and I figured he would need to potty soon, so I started getting cocky and thinking he would actually be using it for it’s intended purpose by nightfall. I’m so gullible.
So far, he has filled it with his favorite toys and squatted over them as if he were going to potty. Naturally, I don’t encourage urinating on your favorite toys, so I try to take them out of the potty. And so the struggle begins. Then he hops off and runs through the house like a caged animal that has finally escaped. He’s totally naked from the waist down while he is doing all of this, which makes it just comical enough for me to not want to scream at him, but not comical enough for me to not be annoyed. Since we brought the potty out over an hour ago, it has been hooked to his tow truck and drug through the house, he has taken the removable bowl out and worn the froggy part as a hat, and of course, he keeps filling it with his favorite toys and squatting over them. I really don’t even know what to do. He runs over, sits on it, lets out a long series of toots, giggles, and runs off again, little boy parts flapping in the wind. Each time he just looks up at me and gives me that super mischievous grin, then all that’s left is a blur of naked tush, and he’s off again. At one point, he just said, “Can I just have my diaper?” So I put it back on him. Then, a few minutes later, he stripped down again and the whole cycle repeated itself.
I am thinking maybe this is a job for Daddy…

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?.....GRRRRR!

If you, too, are the spouse of a Marine (or service member from any other branch) then you know how important any form of communication can be. You sleep with your phone beside your pillow. You forward your home phone to your cell phone any time you leave the house. You are the lady who leaves her phone on vibrate in the movie theater and church, and, on more than on occasion, you have been the lady who, as quietly as possible, makes a quick, stealth-like exit when she receives a call from the one she loves who is serving his country so far away from home.  You have pulled over into a parking lot in an obscure location because you are between two deadzones for your coverage area, and you simply cannot risk having your semi-reliable cell phone provider’s shaky network dropping this important phone call.
If you are fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you will view it by the end of this story), your spouse may have access to something such as Skype. I would like to point out that I think technology is fabulous…when it works. It is infinitely frustrating when it does not. And, like most new technology, Skype is your best friend when the stars are aligned and networks are clear, but it quickly morphs into your absolute worst enemy in no time.  At times, I am fairly certain it was conceived by the devil himself. So begins my story…
It was the first or second day of summer vacation, and I had let the kids stay up late the night before. So, for the first time in over a year, they actually slept in a bit. I know I should have capitalized on this and jumped in the shower, but, crazy person I am, I took care of some things around the house first. By the time I was getting ready to get that much desired shower, I heard my 2 year old son squawking over the baby monitor. As much as I wished I could pretend I simply didn’t hear him, there was no way I could ignore his incessant “MO-MMY!!!!” So,  I got him up, which in turn led to him waking his sister up, and I began making breakfast. In the middle of this, I got a text (for those of you who don’t know, if your spouse has email access, he can text you from his email) from my husband saying he would be able to Skype soon.
As much as I appreciated the heads up, I had no idea how soon “soon” was. I was afraid to get in the shower for fear I would just get all lathered up and my daughter would run in saying the computer was ringing in a Skype video call.  I was equally fearful he would see me looking like an unshowered ragamuffin.  However, I feared missing him more, so I brushed my hair and teeth (yes, I am fully aware he can’t smell morning breath there…) and made myself presentable.  Then I waited…for over two hours.  He was finally able to Skype around 12:45pm, just as I was preparing to put our son down for his nap. And this is where the real fun began.
First, the Skype video call came in on my laptop. But, for whatever reason, he could see us but could not hear us. I checked all of the settings on my computer and my webcam, and everything confirmed that my microphone was working properly.  Then we lost signal. He called back, but, for whatever reason, it came in on my Ipad 2 instead of my laptop, so we ran to get that before we lost his call. The Ipad 2 is a fabulous little piece of technology, but it’s camera isn’t wide angle like my webcam, and my kids are way too bouncy for him to get a good picture of them. So, while he is asking me to have them sit absolutely still, they are running, jumping, and flying off the furniture as if they think I am too preoccupied to do anything to stop them. They were right. I could either fight technology or them, but not both at the same time. So, we get disconnected again, and I wait for the Skype call to come back in on my Ipad. Well, imagine my surprise when it rings in again on the laptop, but then Skype freezes up and I am unable to answer the call.  It rings in again on the Ipad, so I run back to the counter to answer it there, but before I can explain the situation to him, he is gone again, lost in cyberspace.
At this point, I decide to try to restart my laptop since the Skype is still frozen up and  I am getting the “not-responding-swirling-blue-circle-of-mounting-frustration.” My laptop is just starting back up, and all of the programs are opening. We are at the “don’t touch anything or the whole machine will lock up in response to your impatience” part of the drill, and, low and behold, he Skypes in again, and it comes through on the laptop, thus locking the whole thing up. There is no way to explain this to him, though, so I try to ignore his call. Refusing to be put off so easily, he tries again and again and again, each time locking up my computer until I am to the point I would take a swim through hot lava than try to deal with technology that is clearly not cooperating at this time. But there is no way to tell him any of this.
I frantically begin sending him messages to both his work and personal email. I message him on Skype, Windows Messenger, and Facebook. Really, I tried everything but carrier pigeons, but I couldn’t explain the situation. Add to this frustrating story a 2 ½ year old little boy running through the house crying and saying, “Where Daddy go? I didn’t say “I wuv oo Daddy.” I want Daddy.” Mix that with a 6 year old’s pleading eyes just begging for the chaos to stop, and you get one stressed out Mama. I regret to inform you that when we finally did get a few minutes of semi-clear (his video picture was upside down, but why should that shock me at this point?) video chat time, I was not the sweet, loving person he had hoped to speak with that day. Instead, I was the hacked off, burnt out, evil twin who actually had the audacity to yell at him. I am not proud of that, and I have apologized and been forgiven, but by the time this was all said and done, it was nearly 4pm, and we had been at it for over 3 hours and had been disconnected more than 20 times.
We finally gave up, said our “I love you’s” and disconnected. For the second time in the nearly four months he has been deployed, I put the kids down for a nap, climbed in the shower, and cried…alot. It was the “ugly cry”, complete with blotchy eyes and tears and snot running down my face, and  I am so thankful no one was there to witness it. I cried out my frustrations, and I cried out to God.  I wept and prayed and begged God to help this get easier. All we wanted was to see that the other was okay, and it turned out disastrous. After a few minutes of standing under the hot stream and cry-praying, I felt much better. I vowed that tomorrow would be better, and I immediately emailed my husband an apology.  Thank goodness I had made that vow to myself or what happened next would have been nearly unbearable.
The next day, the kids and I were on our way to the commissary. I had forwarded the home phone to my cell phone, and I had a full battery and full bars of signal. So, I was shocked when the phone never rang, but I got a voicemail notification. I didn’t even have to listen to the voicemail to know we had missed his call yet again.  But, I listened anyway, and his disappointment was painful to hear. He never called back, and we finished our grocery shopping with heavy hearts. He later confessed that he thought I purposefully didn’t answer his call. That went over with me like a lead balloon, but then I realized how, in my frustration, I had spoken to him harshly.
So, the next day, to make sure my network didn’t drop his call again while I was at home, I turned off call forwarding. We were able to speak with him for a little bit, and he promised he would call again tomorrow. But, I was in a rush the next morning, and I forgot to forward the phones again, and we missed his call again.  The next day he messaged me that the phones were down and he would be unable to call. By the end of the week I was so frustrated, I could hardly stand it.  I felt like I simply couldn’t catch a break, no matter how hard I tried. But, then I realized something I had been missing all along.
God doesn’t Skype. He doesn’t rely on faulty networks or overworked brains who forget to forward the phone. He is always there, waiting for our call, willing to answer no matter the time of day. In some ways, I think this hellish week of communication (or lack thereof) served a greater purpose, and that was to teach me that things will not always go my way. Actually, because of the job we have been called to do, more often than not I will probably deal with some kind of adversity I would rather avoid. But, it’s up to me to call on the One who can help me. He may not steer me around it, and He may not take the obstacle out of my path, but He will enable me to plow through whatever comes my way. He’s just waiting on me to call Him.