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.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Groundhog Day

Have you ever seen the movie, “Groundhog Day?” If so,  disregard my 10 second synopsis of the early to mid 1990’s Bill Murray film. Basically, he wakes up every morning and it’s Groundhog Day all over again. He keeps living the same day over and over and over. You’ve heard the saying, “same crap, different day…” Well, in his case, it’s the same day, just different crap.  That’s a bit how my day was today. I had only been awake a little over 2 hours and I could tell today was going to be a slightly modified, more disgusting version of the day I described in my blog “The Best Laid Plans.”
I got off to a rocky start. For whatever reason, I was restless last night and ended up watching TV (which I  almost never do anymore) until almost midnight. Then I decided to read a couple chapters of my latest Lee Child novel. So, by about 1am I was finally going to sleep. To some, this is normal.  To me, this is torture. I need at least 7-9 hours a sleep a night to even think about being able to function like a normal human being.  Since my alarm is blaring by 6am every weekday morning, I was in a self-inflicted world of grogginess this morning. I managed to get both kids ready and get Faith to school on time. I even remembered to pack her lunch. This is a huge accomplishment given my exhausted state this morning.  Rhett did not have preschool today, but errands wait for no one, so off to the commissary we ran.
I drove to the commissary at the air station, and, for the second time this deployment, felt the feeling of dread when I saw there were absolutely NO cars in the parking lot. This time, however, it wasn’t a scheduled power outage. It was because I got there 45 minutes before they opened. For some reason, in my head I got the times mixed up and thought the commissary opened at 8:30am for early bird shopping. Nope. They open at 9am. Since I had no intention of sitting in the car for 45 minutes waiting for them to open,  Rhett and I drove over to the commissary at Camp Lejeune. By the time we got there, we had been trying to tackle the day’s errands for over an hour and hadn’t even made it inside one store yet. My gut told me today was going to be one of those days, so I might as well just hang on for the ride. I hate it when my gut is right.
As I mentioned earlier, I had lots of stuff to get done. I had to get groceries, run home and unload them, get my oil changed,  take Rhett to get a haircut, and I needed to do all of this in less than 3 hours before it was time for Rhett to take a nap.  Not bad, except I had already wasted an hour playing musical commissaries. As I walked in, I realized it was payday, and the place was already a madhouse.  I got everything I needed and by the time I made it to the register, the cart was overflowing and items were teetering precariously off the sides. At the commissary, there are contracted baggers that work only for tips and they bag your items and carry them out and load them into your car for you.  They asked what type of bag  I wanted. Since I was in a hurry,  I asked for cold items in plastic and everything else in paper. That way I could easily identify what needed to be thrown in the freezer and refrigerator and drop those items off before running on to get the oil change and so on. As they were sorting my items, the bagger asked if a particular item should be in the regular or cold item pile, so I assumed they were sorting them the way I had asked.  Nope. Everything wound up in big paper bags that are nearly impossible to carry more than 2 or 3 at a time. Oh well. I actually used coupons today, and I was proud of myself for saving $5, which, coincidentally is the amount I needed to tip my bagger…
It took a little longer than planned, but I got the cold items unloaded then headed off to get the oil changed. We managed to get through this without anything crazy happening, so that was good. Rhett did, however, ask to go out and play in the shop with the mechanics. Naturally they said no, but it made them laugh. 
Then it was off to get Rhett’s haircut.  He knows that if he behaves he gets a lollipop, or, as he calls it, a “pop-pop.” So, he was good and he got his treat. It was a big mess of a thing. Incredibly sticky, too. I know this because, as I was loading him into his carseat, somehow he managed to get a huge amount of my hair wrapped around his lollipop. Great.  The result was only slightly less noticeable than that of Cameron Diaz’s in “There’s Something About Mary.” Wow, I’m really relying on my movie titles today, huh? Anyway, moving on.
We went home, ate lunch, and I got him down for his nap and we had a relatively uneventful afternoon.   Thank goodness, because the most challenging part of my day was yet to come. While he was napping, I got a chance to properly organize the frozen items I had shoved in the freezer in my haste to get on with my errands.  In doing so, I discovered some leftover turkey and, since I had already taken the trash out and wheeled the dumpster to the curb for tomorrow morning’s trash pick-up, I decided to run it down the garbage disposal.  Bad move, Jess, bad move.  The sink filled up with some nasty brown turkey scented water. I tried in vain to get the water to drain, but I eventually had no choice but to call our property manager. He informed me that, apparently, contrary to popular belief, you are not supposed to run anything down the garbage disposal. It is only there for little pieces that may accidentally fall down. Hmmm. Well, the name “Insinkerator” was very misleading, now, wasn’t it? I tried plunging. I plunged and plunged to no avail. I called my brother and he told me a few things to try. They didn’t work. In fact, it just moved some of the water from the sink to the dishwasher. He told me that might happen just as I looked inside my dishwasher to see it filling with muck.
The property manager told me a plumber would be here soon. And he was. He was very nice and didn’t even scold me for ignorantly putting small pieces of turkey down the disposal. He plunged it, but nothing happened. He had to take apart the pipe under the sink. I grabbed a mop bucket, and tons of turkey laden water drained into the bucket.  My brother had told me that this is probably what he would need to do, so I had moved all of the things (mostly cleaning products—I’m a neat freak germaphobe, remember) out from under the sink. Apparently he thought I might be the type of person who doesn't learn her lesson the first time around, so he showed me how to take the pipes apart when I inevitably did this again. 
We emptied the bucket, and I thanked him again for helping me. I hadn’t yet washed out the mop bucket, and I just sat it on the floor behind me while I went about the task of putting everything back under the sink. It was a bit lengthy because we have LOTS of cleaning products. Partly because of my neat-freak-germaphobia, and partly because we share a home with Rhett.  Anyway, I was putting the stuff back, when I happened to turn around and see Rhett.  WEARING THE MOP BUCKET ON HIS HEAD. And, if you gag easily, you better not read this, but there was a piece of turkey hanging out of his mouth. I’m pretty sure I threw up a little in my mouth. But, I composed myself and  sprang into action. In one swift move I yanked the bucket off of his mischievious little head and swiped at his mouth and found there was nothing in it. I am telling myself it just landed there when he put the bucket on his head. Please do not make any attempt to shatter that illusion!! Seriously, for my own mental health and emotional well-being, just let me believe whatever I have to tell myself to keep from absolutely losing it! I was nearly dry-heaving as I washed out the bucket and took it to the garage.
I had no idea what to do. If only there were some kind of baby safe oral bleach. Yeah, that won’t work.  I seriously considered washing his mouth with my anti-bacterial soap, reasoning that it probably wasn’t any worse for him than whatever microscopic germ was taking up residence on the piece of turkey I had just fished out of the corner of his mouth. I called my mom, who laughed hysterically. I called my brother back, and before I could even finish the story, he had already guessed that Rhett was using the mop bucket as, as he put it,  his “Darth Vader” helmet. He, too, laughed hysterically. Then he jokingly asked me if I had some Amoxicillin lying around.  I would have put him on a penicillin drip if I could have got my hands on one. I freaked out and called the Pediatric Urgent Care. I warned her my story was bizarre, and then proceeded to explain how my son came to have tainted turkey in his mouth. She didn’t laugh hysterically.  In fact, she didn’t really laugh at all. Which left me thinking, either she gets calls like this all the time, or she was making a note to call Child Protective Services on me for allowing this to happen in the first place.  She assured me his body was made to fight whatever germs he may have encountered, and told me to take him to his primary pediatrician if he started vomiting or having diarrhea.
She said I could squirt a little mouth wash in his mouth to kill anything that might still be on his tongue. I didn’t have a spray bottle, so I emptied out the Chloraseptic bottle and filled it with Listerine. I had to hold him down to spray little bursts of it into his mouth. Funny that he put up such a fuss over the mouthwash, but had no problem with the turkey that had passed through the garbage disposal.  I did this a few times, and gave him lots of water in between bursts.  I finally gave up and conceded that if he was going to get sick, there was nothing I could do about it now. All I can do is wait for the puking and the pooping to start.  Same day, different crap…
After taking care of that business, I set about cleaning the sink. I think the normal bleach to water ratio is, what, something like 10 parts water to 1 part bleach? Yeah, I reversed it and did about 100 parts bleach 1 part water and scrubbed the heck out of the sink, the stopper, the counter, everything.  In doing so, I sloshed some of the toxic mixture on one of my favorite shirts, and am now sporting a nice bleached out circle about twice the size of a silver dollar. Nice. I really should have seen that one coming, considering the way the first part of the day went.
So, with that excitement behind us, we still managed to celebrate today. Today marks 3 months that Bill has been deployed to Afghanistan. Three months down, 4 more to go.  We decided early on to commemorate this anniversary with an ice cream party, and every party has  proven  to be even more interesting than the last. We still have 4 months to go, and, at this rate, I cannot even fathom what kind of adventure we will have by the time we reach our 7 month ice cream party. Part of me fears it will merely be another Groundhog Day.  But, most of me is just grateful Bill will be home to witness the craziness of the life we have created together.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dirty Socks

If you know me personally, you know that I am a bit of a super-hyper-anal, type AAA,  neat freak. This personality trait has morphed and shown itself in many different ways and in many different areas throughout my life. For example, when I look back at pictures of mine and Bill’s first home together, I immediately notice there are stacks of mail on the counters and piles of magazines beside the chair. I am appalled by this clutter, but then I also remember that every other day I scrubbed our kitchen floor on my hands and knees with a small scrub brush. You will be pleased to know that I now mop our kitchen floor like a normal person, but I try my darndest to keep clutter to a minimum. See, super-hyper-anal—just in different ways at different periods in my life. If we didn’t have two children, I would probably still be scrubbing my kitchen floor Cinderella style!
One of the side effects of my super-hyper-analness is that I expect other people to conform to my crazy standards. For example, I expect my husband to put his dirty clothing in the laundry hamper instead of merely leaving it on the floor where he, quite literally, just walked out of it. In case you are wondering, wadding it up in a ball and “hiding” it between the wall and the night stand does NOT count. This has been the cause of more than a few arguments over the course of 12 years of marriage.  I would like to pause right here and say that I love my husband more than anything in the world. We have been through our ups and downs, but we have conquered them together and came out victorious on the other side.  In fact,  I would dare to say we are even stronger than before for having banded together and overcome the obstacles that sought to destroy us.
But, no matter what we have overcome, we still have one mutual enemy…dirty socks. Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that he apparently suffers from a genetic abnormality that prohibits him from placing dirty socks in the laundry hamper, or, for that matter, even realizing he has left his dirty socks in the middle of the floor in the first place. I have literally watched the man STEP OVER his dirty socks but not even acknowledge they are there. This used to leave me fussing and fuming because, like my husband, I too must have a genetic abnormality. Mine, however,  leaves me unable to keep silent when this occurs.  Thus the silly arguments over cotton foot coverings.
A few days ago, however, my view of dirty socks was forever changed. I was talking to a very dear friend of mine, probably my best friend at this stage, time, and geographic location in my life, and she was saying that when her husband gets home (her husband is deployed also) she won’t even complain about his dirty socks laying in the middle of the floor. Because dirty socks in the middle of the floor mean that her husband is home to wear them and throw them wherever he chooses. It doesn’t matter anymore, because dirty socks on the floor simply mean they are home safely.
I really took those words to heart.  The thing that had been the bone of contention for us for many, many years is now something I am longing for more than anything. A few days before that conversation with my friend, my husband called to tell me that he was okay, but there had been a close call after what he described as an “interesting” few days. En route to another camp, they had encountered heavy enemy fire and were in a 2 day firefight, basically. At some point in this expedition, a truck had gotten stuck, and my husband being the guy he is, he jumped out of his vehicle to help get the truck un-stuck. He got back in his truck and went on about his day. About an hour later he got the report that, apparently, he had been standing on an IED. This was discovered because a truck followed his tracks and drove over them, assuming the area to be safe. The back end of the truck was blown up when it ran over the deeply buried IED.  No one was injured, just mentally shook up. A thousand scenarios ran through my head after hearing this news. Very few men survive stepping on an IED, and, if they do, they have no need for socks after doing so. I thank God so much for keeping his hand on my husband. My husband could have jumped down out of the truck a little harder, but he didn’t. The IED could have been buried closer to the surface, but it wasn’t. The driver of the truck could have been killed or injured after following my husband’s tracks, and my husband would have carried the weight of his death on his shoulders for eternity, but that did not occur.
After receiving that phone call, I did not hear from my husband again for almost 3 days. Not long in the most general sense, but, when waiting to hear that your husband is still alive with all of his extremities intact, it seems like forever. I prayed continually, every day. I am sure other drivers thought I was a crazy person as they saw my lips moving, speaking to a God they may or may not know, as I passed them on the street. As I rocked my children to sleep, I was constantly praying aloud for safety for my husband. In the shower, cooking dinner, all the time, I was in constant prayer. Then he called. It was such a relief to hear his voice. I love him so much, and I just want him to come home safely.
 He didn’t have much time to talk, but I made sure he knew that things would be different when he came home. We have a really good relationship, so he was a bit confused at first. Then I told him the conclusion at which my best friend had helped me arrive. Dirty socks mean our husbands are home, and I would never complain about the dirty socks ever again. Now, I know that will be hard to stick to when he’s been home a while and I am always picking them up. I also know that, just to test me, he will totally capitalize on my promise to cheerily pick up off the floor and personally escort his dirty socks to either the laundry hamper or directly to the washer, depending on their degree of funkiness. But, at this point,  I really don’t care. I would give anything for those dirty socks…because I wholeheartedly love the man who wears them.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


A few weeks ago, I was talking to the oldest of my two brothers, both of whom have become my best friends and biggest cheerleaders as we have gotten older.  He had to go out of town, about 5 hours away from home, for a few days for business, and his two children were sad. This was within days of my husband deploying to Afghanistan for an unknown amount of time, but it would be anywhere from 7-14 months. He said that he told my niece and nephew that his going out of town for a few days was nothing compared to what my children and I were going through.  “It’s all about perspective,” my brother and I said at the same time.
 Then I started thinking. Who was I to be discouraged? Yes, my husband was in a combat zone for an undetermined amount of time. Yes, it sucked, plain and simple. But, on the other hand, I am so truly blessed. I am married to someone whom I love with all of my heart, and he, despite all the goofy, ridiculous predicaments I get myself into, loves me wholeheartedly, without question or judgment. Sometimes my kiddos get a little crazy, and the thought of raising them by myself for this period of time sometimes scares the Dickens out of me, but they are  absolutely wonderful,  very healthy, incredibly  smart,  stunningly beautiful children.  I love them with every fiber of my being. We have a nice, warm home, plenty of food. I truly have so, so much to be thankful for. Yes, my husband is gone, but think of the wife who has just answered the front door to see a Marine in full dress uniform with a sorrowful look on his face, telling her he is sorry, but her husband will not be returning home. Think of the wife or mother or child who has had a crisply folded flag placed in their hands “on behalf of a grateful nation.” Think of the parent who was just been delivered the news that they have an inoperable tumor, or worse, their child does. Think of the mother who looks in her bare cupboards as her babies cry out in hunger.  No, I don’t have anything to feel sorry about, and my heart and prayers go out to all those who do.  It’s really all about perspective.
Military wives joke about “Murphy’s Law of Deployments.” This law states that anything and everything that can go wrong will go wrong, multiple times, while their husband is deployed.  I am obviously not exempt from this law, as you can see from my past few days.  After yesterday’s endeavor with the playhouse, however,  I thought I was entitled to a "buy" today. I had a wonderful day planned. My daughter’s little friend was getting baptized this morning, and his family had invited us to lunch at their farm afterward.  The baptism was amazing, even more so because the little boy’s father was able to baptize his son. He was so touched that he got to participate in this monumental step of faith in his little boy’s life that he got a little choked up. They are great friends of ours, and I sat there sobbing. Sobbing because I was so happy that he got to do this for his son,  and sobbing as  I hoped and prayed my husband would make it back safely to participate in our children’s baptisms.
We had a fabulous lunch at their farm, and the adults took turns taking the kids on rides on the golf cart.  My 2 year old son LOVES their golf cart. We could not get him off of it.  He was sitting on the back of it, playing with a little truck, when it all went downhill.   There was a large Black Lab running and playing with the kids.  My friend’s mother-in-law was dog-sitting 2 Jack Russells, and one of them ran by.  The Lab growled, I turned my head, and when I turned back my baby boy was falling face first off the seat of the golf cart onto the pavement. I have no idea how he fell, but I dropped everything in my hands and ran to make sure he was ok.  Praise God, he did not hit his head or have any scratches or bumps or bruises on his face and head.  He was still crying, and it was well past nap time, so we headed home.
 I took his little jacket off and began rocking him to sleep. As I caressed his little baby arm, he started to scream. Then I realized it was much larger than his other arm. I quickly flipped the light on to see that his little left elbow was swollen to nearly 3 times the size of his right elbow.   I immediately packed a bag of toys and snacks for him and my daughter and headed to the nearest urgent care facility. When we got there, they told us it would be at least 4 hours, and we might be better off going to the ER.  When we got there, the parking lot was full. But, he had to be seen, so we went in and got registered.  While we were waiting, I noticed a small group of teenagers waiting. They were allowed to go back, one by one, to see someone in the ER. The longer we waited, the more teenagers showed up. 
Soon, my son fell asleep in his stroller.  A few minutes later we were called back.  The nurse practitioner who examined him thought his arm was broken and sent us for a few x-rays. While we were waiting, an x-ray technician was just clocking in and he made a comment on the parking lot being full. The x-ray technician who was taking care of my son said all the cars were visitors of one patient, a trauma patient. That was all I heard over my son’s screaming.  I immediately said a prayer for that patient.  They took the x-rays, and we were all pleased to find out it was only very severely bruised, but there was no fracture anywhere.  I was so thankful. As  I called my mom to tell her he was ok, I felt compelled to ask her to pray for the unknown patient with all of the visitors. I was so concerned about my son, but his injury would have, at worst, ended with a cast.  I may never know the outcome of the person with all of the teenage visitors, but I am sure, somewhere in that hospital, there is a mom in deep pain and grief over her child.
When I got home, I realized I had missed a party my neighbor across the street was hosting. I called to tell her why I had missed her party. I asked her, too, to pray for the trauma patient with so many visitors.  We talked about “Murphy’s Law of Deployments” and I told her about my playhouse incident.  I jokingly asked why all of these things kept happening to me lately, and she said, “see, he's okay, but you were placed in that ER on purpose so you would know to  pray for, and ask for prayer for, the trauma patient you heard about.” She was so right, and that’s when it hit me. It really is all about perspective. So, if you are reading this, please pray for a patient I know nothing about, except that he or she needs prayer. It really could make all the difference in the world.

You're an idiot, bless your heart

A few years ago, a really good friend of ours told me that all of these wacky things happen to me because I am a good story teller and God must want me to always have a story to tell. I don’t know if I am a good story teller or not, but I do love to tell of these wild things that always seem to be happening to me. Who knows, maybe he was right, because, seriously, I am not normal!
So, it started out like any other Saturday.  The night before, I had purchased a very gently used outdoor playhouse from a young family on the other side of town. I got the kids loaded into the truck, and we picked up the playhouse and got it home without incident. I was very grateful for that because the whole way home I had visions of it becoming airborne and flying out into the 4 lane road down which I was traveling, causing multi-car pile-ups and bookoos of dollars in damage. When I pulled into our neighborhood, I remembered we were having a community yard sale.  I took my first left and saw that one of my neighbors had a much larger playhouse—for free. While I was slightly bummed that I had just dropped $85 on the playhouse in the back of the truck, the one I paid for was definitely worth it’s price…as was the free one. But, a bargain is a bargain, and it would be cool for each of the kids to have a playhouse to call their own. So, I raced home to unload the playhouse before someone else could claim the free pile of junk I had my eyes on. I unloaded the playhouse and drug it into the backyard then set out to claim my free playhouse.  When I got back, it was still there." Wonderful," I thought.  “Sucker!” God must have said.
So, I am trying my best to dismantle this beast of a playhouse when a girl around 12 years old emerges from the house and offers to help.  I climbed inside and saw the roof was screwed on. She found a screwdriver, and, within a few minutes, we were back in business.  “I’m pretty handy,” I thought smugly to myself. I got all of the pieces loaded into the truck, but the tailgate wouldn’t close. “We are only a few blocks from home,” I thought. “What could possibly happen?” At this point I am pretty sure God called all the angels together and they all settled in with their buckets of Heavenly popcorn to look down at His silly girl and watch as the tragic comedy unfolded before them.
  I made it to within half a block of our house when I heard a “whoosh.”  Yup, two walls of the playhouse that were fused together with years of grit that I had been unable to pry apart flew out of the bed of the truck.  Now, a normal person would have seen what happened, reversed back to the playhouse walls, and loaded them back into the truck. I, however, make no claims to be normal. So, idiot that I am, I put the truck in park and run back to retrieve the walls.  In an effort to “clean it up a bit” the folks giving away the playhouse had hosed it down, and apparently all of the water had seeped in the drainage holes, adding a good 15 pounds of weight to the already monstrous wall.  So, here I am, holding up traffic, running as fast as one can when carrying 2 playhouse walls that are roughly 3 foot by 4 foot each.  The  platinum blonde in the shiny SUV behind me  looked on my chaos, drumming her perfectly manicured nails on her steering wheel,  and I am sure she was thinking, “you’re an idiot, bless your heart.” So, she screeches around me as I am hoisting this stupid free playhouse into the back of the truck.
I try again, this time driving roughly 3 miles per hour.  I am seriously within 100 feet of the turn off to my street and it flies out again.  This time I have a line of cars behind me, all of whom I am sure are convinced I should be committed.  I'm not so sure they are wrong! At this point, I am so frustrated I want nothing more than to leave the darn thing in the middle of the road and crawl in a hole somewhere. I haven’t even had breakfast yet, and I already need a nap. But, thoughts of my beautiful little girl playing happily in her very own playhouse fill my mind, and I, once again, load the “free” playhouse into the truck. It may have not cost any money, but I definitely paid for it with my dignity.  I hop in the truck and my daughter says, “Mommy, should we pray now?” I told her that would probably be a very, very good idea. Her prayer goes something like this, “Dear Jesus, please, oh please, let us get home without the playhouse flying out AGAIN! And keep Daddy safe.  Amen.”  God must listen to little girls because, miraculously, we made it home.
 So then I am left to unload this beast and haul it to the backyard where I realize just how filthy it is.  I scrub it down as thoroughly as possible and haul it to the far corner of the yard. I heave the incredibly heavy octagon shaped roof onto the little cottage and start screwing everything back together. It looks great, but I am not sure I like where I have positioned it. So, not wanting to take the blasted thing apart again, I haul it, completely intact and weighing twice as much as me it seems, to the complete other side of the yard, where I deem it totally stupid in that location and haul it back to it's original spot.  I position the “free” playhouse of doom next to the small playhouse I had purchased earlier and look on as my son and daughter laugh and play and delight in being neighbors. Then, as I am standing there, covered in what I hope more than anything is only mud, lots of sweat, and countless bruises I don’t even remember getting, I both laugh and cry at the havoc I create for myself in my effort to be the best wife, mommy, and now daddy, too, that I can possibly be. And then it hits me: maybe, just maybe, God is just giving me material for that book I want so badly to write…

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The best laid plans...

In my ongoing effort to successfully adjust to our new normal for the next 7-14 months, thank you Marine Corps, I tend to plan. Not overboard, just logical. I have a 3 hr window, 2 days a week, in which to accomplish anything and everything requiring the use of both hands simultaneously and not conducive to the carrying of a toddler. I generally volunteer in my daughter’s kindergarten class during these times, but today  I simply had too many things to do.  I had two very large, heavy packages to send to Afghanistan, I had to get tights for my daughter's dance recital, and I HAD to go to the commissary before I was reduced to packing some ludicrous combination of peanut butter and fruity pebbles for my children’s lunches. 
 So, I planned my day accordingly. I took my son to preschool at the earliest conceivable drop off time allowed. I planned to go to the post office next to the dance store and then on to the commissary at the air station at that end of town. By 8:30 my day was off to a great start . By 8:40 I was frustrated. The dance store didn’t open until 10. Not a big problem, but I would have to come back with frozen groceries in my car. Small inconvenience. So I went to the post office. Doesn’t open until 10 either. Ok, fine, not gonna let that get me down, am i? So I headed to the air station commissary, and at the gate I asked the young  Lcpl if there was a post office at this base. He replied there was, a brand new one in fact, just 2 blocks down the road.  Things were looking up. Ha! It didn’t open til 10. It was approx. 9 am at this point. No problem. Get the groceries, come back to the base post office, then hit the dance store. I was so excited to see there were few cars in the parking lot. No, wait, a sense of dread overtook me as I realized there were NO cars in the parking lot. Making sure I hadn’t forgotten a major holiday (did St. Patrick's Day count as a major holiday now?) I got out of my car and walked to the door. They were closed for a “previously scheduled power outage from 10-1.” Well crap.
So I get in my car. Find another post office that actually opens before 10 and at least get the packages mailed. Then I go to Wal-Mart to do some grocery shopping. I buy much fewer items and spend much more money, but 2 of my 3 daily tasks have nearly been accomplished.  Again, I thrive on efficiency, so in my effort to aid both the check-out person and myself, I separate my items into categories that seem logical in my mind: frozens foods together, canned goods together, toilet tissue and paper products together, then eggs, bread, apples, grapes and  bananas together in what I like to think of as my “squishy” category.  I thought my painstaking effort would be rewarded…I was wrong. Imagine my surprise when I found my bananas with my canned goods and my grapes with large heavy boxes of frozen spinach lasagna.  Sheesh.  Oh well.
So I get home and start unloading everything so I can run out the door to pick up my little guy from preschool.  I had bought several boxes of baking soda to store in the fridge to keep any funky odors at bay.  I cleaned some old items out of the fridge and freezer, leftovers from when my parents were visiting...frozen okra anyone? Without really looking, I grabbed a Wal-Mart sack and started chunking things in. I grabbed the old baking soda box and threw it into the sack. The open box of baking soda. Then I heard the thump. Apparently there was a hole in the sack. Why was I even surprised at this point? Thankfully the mess was minimal, but frustrating none the less.  So I go to take it all out to the trash can outside of the garage, and find myself trapped. I am totally unable to maneuver the child lock on the door knob. You know the little plastic things you put on door knobs to discourage curious 2 year olds from investigating the garage.  Squeeze and turn. It’s that simple. Except that it wasn’t. For some reason, it just kept slipping and spinning around the knob no matter how tightly I squeezed.  I nearly broke the thing trying to get it off the knob.
 That’s when I realized, if this were a movie, this is the part where the heroine (hey, I didn’t kill, maim, or say a harsh word in all of this, that’s pretty heroic if you ask me) would do something silly like sit on the steps and sob or, better yet, somehow be in her car and beat the snot out of her steering wheel. Then, her knight in shining armor would come tell her it was all okay and they would laugh and clean up the baking soda and eat squished bananas together.  Mine didn’t end that way, though. My knight in shining armor is a million miles away in desert cammies,  and his armor is of the camouflage variety and weighs more than the average 10 year old.  His white horse is a hummer or helicopter, depending on the mission, and there will be no holding each other and laughing  together over the craziness of my day. So, I write.  To tell it all, and hopefully get to share it with him one day when he returns. So I can catch him up on all he’s missed and how very much he’s been missed…