deployment, military, parenting, personal

The yellow shirt

They say the sense of smell is the most powerful of all senses when it comes to inducing memories. There’s science behind this belief. The olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic system, which is associated with memory and feeling. That’s why a smell can almost instantaneously “bring you back”.

It smelled like him.

The first time I did laundry after Jason left I was putting the clothes into the washer and was hit with a wave of emotion. It was the very first time I missed him so much it physically hurt. I’d caught a big whiff of him as the laundry went in and it almost brought me to my knees it was that powerful. I had already washed all of his clothes but one yellow shirt, so I pulled out that dirty, stinky shirt and put it in my bedroom. Since then that shirt has been my rock. On really bad days, days when I haven’t communicated with him in a while and I’m lonely and sad, I bury my head in that shirt and breathe. And just like that he’s with me, even for a moment. I went for comfort the other day and the scent was gone. Nothing. It just smells like shirt now. Any trace of him having ever worn it is gone.

It doesn’t smell like him anymore.

I literally cannot fathom the concept of never smelling him again. It would mean never seeing him again, never holding him again, and my brain can’t comprehend that. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and I’m here to tell you it’s absolutely true.

It will smell like him again.

I’m seeing him in less than six weeks for nine days. I’m considering making him wear the same shirt the entire time, then bringing it home with me in a ziplock baggie, unwashed. Considering it. I probably won’t. But I will bring that yellow shirt with me and make him wear it at least twice. I need my rock for the second half.

Yellow Shirt

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parenting, Uncategorized

We welcome not only a Prince, but a mother as well

By now you’ve all seen the photos of Kate, Prince William, and HRH Yet-to-be-Named. You know, these:

Prince William and Kate Middleton

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For the love of God, she’s wearing wedges. She gave birth less then 24-hours ago and she’s wearing wedges. I will let that marinade for a bit.

News reports called her “radiant”, “glowing” and “stunning” — and rightfully so. I mean, look at her. I realize she probably had someone do her hair and put on her makeup, but still. Twenty-four hours after the birth of a child is no time to be considering how you look through a HD lens. Especially 24-hours after the birth of a first child. Forget the hormones and exhaustion and residual-pain-party-favors any birth gives you, what about the life-altering realization that you are now responsible for another human? I know my first day after my first son was way more of a mental mind-eff then my second. But I digress…

Hair? Obviously washed.
Make-up? Fresh and Flawless.
Outfit? Stylish. Flattering.
Oh, and did I mention wedges?

If I sound jealous, I am. Here is me, one day after the birth of my first son:

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I KID.

There are no pictures of me one day after his birth. I burned them all.

So let’s all take a moment to welcome the new little Prince, and to welcome the new Royal Mom as well. After all, two new beings entered our world yesterday — the childless Kate Middleton is gone for good and in her place is a new woman, a mother. One who, from the looks of things, is quite suited to motherhood.

And, here is your obligatory Royal Baby pic. He’s awfully cute.

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deployment, military, personal

Sunsets and soldiering on

“I don’t know how you do it”

I hear that phrase at least once a day, every day. Usually more, especially if I’m in the company of several other mamas. It makes me chuckle. Why? Because I don’t really know how I do it either.

Every day is a struggle, some days more so then others. Some days seem relatively easy, and at the end of the day I think to myself “I got this”. Then there are the others, the really bad days when I spend the last half-hour before bed alternating between crying and praying, begging Him for the strength, patience and perseverance to soldier on.

Days like Sunday, when at 10pm as I was just about ready to start my work for the night, my oldest began vomiting. Which of course woke the youngest. Next thing I knew it was midnight, I was out of clean linens, and both boys were wide awake.

Or Monday, when I foolishly tried to take him to his first day of performing arts camp and my foolishness was rewarded in the form of a vomit-covered Britax. Mommy FAIL.

Or today, when I had to mail my sweetie his birthday cards a full month in advance, in the hope that they make it in time. I agonized over the card I chose, wanting to find one that perfectly conveyed my feeling for him. I agonize over many small things like that these days, mostly for reasons I don’t want to let myself fully imagine.

But those days aren’t everyday.

There are also days like Sunday, when prior to VomitFest we went to a ball game. Our home team not only won but shut the other team out. It was my little guy’s first live game since he was about 8 weeks old, and the amazement in his eyes when he first saw the field was blissful. Both boys had a blast, and thanked me profusely for taking them.

Or Monday, when my sweetie posted a breathtaking photo on Facebook, sharing his sunset over there with me over here. It was lovely to see, and even more lovely to know he was thinking about me just then.

Or today, watching my oldest so carefully craft his birthday card for Daddy, asking me “Mommy, can you write ‘I miss you Daddy’ so I know how to spell it?” Every single word and color was specifically chosen with the sole intent of letting him know we care.

That is how I do it – with the help of my boys, with the love of my husband, with the strength of my God. Because I know that I cannot fail any of them. It isn’t an option.

I got this.

sunset in afghanistan

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parenting

Nightly ritual

The following is (sadly) our current usual bedtime routine…

6:30pm – I’m gonna get these kids to sleep and get some s**t accomplished tonight!

7:00pm – Yes! One down, one to go.

7:30pm – Go to sleep Jameson, Mommy needs to get some stuff done tonight.

8:00pm – Go to sleep Jameson, Mommy really has a lot to do.

8:30pm – Go to effing sleep Jameson. Seriously.

9:30pm – FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CHILD, WHY WON’T YOU GO TO SLEEP?!? I’m going to go insane if you aren’t asleep soon.

9:45pm – I think he’s asleep, but now my motivation is completely gone.

10:00pm – Eff it. Ice cream and a movie it is.

Every. Single. Night.

How do you handle bedtime at your house?

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parenting

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Sometimes I get lost in the routine of being a full-time stay-home mom. Days tend to blur together when every day, while different, is the same. Get woken up by the kids. Feed the kids. Clean up after the kids. Entertain the kids. Run errands with the kids. Feed them again. Nap the kids. Feed them again. Clean up after the kids. Bathe the kids. Put the kids to bed. Lather, rinse, repeat.

How did this happen? How did I get to be so boring? Prior to having children I had some amazing adventures. Don’t believe me? Well, I once got chased into a bathroom by a 300 pound pig named Sony. That pig hated me, and once she had me cornered she spitefully laid down in the hall in front of the door so I couldn’t get out. This was before cell phones were surgically attached to people’s hips, so I just had to wait there for about two hours until my friend, Sony’s owner, came home. At least I was trapped in the bathroom, right?

Or, there was the time when I played a dead hooker on cable. TLC decided to film “Threads and Treads”, an episode of Forensic Files featuring convicted murderer James Randall. The Randall case had been investigated by members of my former employer, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Key physical evidence had been located by members of the (then) Forensic Science Section, where I was working at the time. I had the opportunity to play one of Randall’s victims, Wendy Evans. Now before you start thinking I’m some actor, I didn’t have any speaking roles. I actually played her as she was found at the crime scene. So, while it sounds glamourous, I basically laid face-down on the ground for several hours baking in the Florida heat. I was apparently a very  convincing dead prostitute though, as local news came out thinking I was part of a fresh crime scene.

Or, there was the time when I travelled to Russia with my cousin Michele. She was pursing her second international adoption, and was heading over to meet the baby who would soon become her daughter. On the way over my luggage was lost, so I spent my first three days in the country with essentially nothing until the bag was located (in India, somehow). I got altitude sickness and my lower extremities swelled so horribly I couldn’t even wear my shoes. It got so bad that I had to see a Russian doctor, who prescribed me Russian medicine, which apparently was a diuretic.  While there our schedule changed and we ended up taking a different flight home then initially scheduled. The flight I was supposed to be on was hijacked by Chechnyan Rebels, causing my friends back home to fear I was dead. And, during a two-day layover in Moscow I was stopped by Russian military as I jogged around the Kremlin. Apparently there isn’t a direct-translation word for “exercise” in Russian, which caused a bit of a delay…

I’ve gotten lost in Madrid with my friend Sandra and her son. I’ve jumped out of a perfectly good airplane at 18,000 feet, strapped to the crotch of a man I’d just met. I’ve run a marathon over the hills of San Francisco.  And, twice in my life, I birthed two perfect little creatures without medication or medical intervention. I nourished them with my body alone each for eight solid months, providing them with every bit of nutrition they needed to thrive. And now, every day I help these little miracles learn about the world around them and grow into the amazing potential God has designed them for.

This mundane routine, this day-to-day living, is actually the greatest of all my adventures. It is the most important. It is the one upon which I will forever look back with pride.

Lather, rinse, repeat? Gladly.

What is your most memorable pre-parenting adventure?
Will you someday share it with your kids?

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parenting, personal

Lessons learned

This past week has been a real struggle for Benji, my oldest. My suspicion was the whole “summer vacation” thing was throwing him off. He is the type of child that thrives on schedule and order, and going to a different camp every week seemed to be taking its toll. He’s been argumentative, disobedient, and at times downright unlikable. I know, I know – he’s four. But still, my Benji usually isn’t like this.

Tonight, as we were getting ready for bed, he did things back-to-back that he knows he shouldn’t. He did them as I was telling him not to, and just smiled at me while he disobeyed. So, at 7:38pm, I yelled. If you read this post from yesterday, you know that making it to 7:38pm is no small feat for me, but still. I tried so hard to make it all day without yelling, and there I go, flipping my sh*t. But I digress…

Once I’d calmed down, I tried to talk through things with him. I asked “Benji, why are you doing things when you know you shouldn’t? I’ve told you not to do these things, and I’ve told you why you shouldn’t do them. You remembered why you shouldn’t, and yet you still did. Why?” His answer absolutely shocked me. With a tiny voice, so wracked with tears I could barely understand him, this is what he said:

“Mommy, it’s just so hard for me right now because Daddy has been gone for a really long time. He’s never here and I miss him so much and that’s why I’m being a bad boy.”

Wow. I wasn’t expecting that.

Both of my kids have handled my husband’s deployment so well, so much better then I ever expected. Maybe too well. I had no idea this was all simmering inside my sweet little boy. He’s said here and there that he misses Daddy, but I had no idea it was hurting him so badly. No clue at all.

We sat and talked for a few minutes. I told him that I missed Daddy too, that having my best friend gone for so long made me feel sad and frustrated just like he was feeling. I told him that these were really big, really normal emotions to have, and that it was okay for us to share these feelings with each other. He calmed down and seemed to feel better. He apologized for being “bad”, and said he’d try harder to be “good” from now on. We hugged.

I walked out of that room with two very important realizations: one, I need to have a better appreciation of how hard big emotions are for little guys to handle; and two, I need to pay more attention to them and less attention to me. Perhaps if I wasn’t so busy woe-is-me-ing myself over how tough my life is right now without Daddy, I’d have realized my boys’ lives without him are much tougher.

Kids never stop teaching us, do they?

Daddy and his boys, when Daddy deployed.

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parenting, personal

Bringing tomorrow to today

Every morning I wake up with the same mantra: Today I am not going to yell at my boys. I say it to myself within the first five minutes of rising, when I’m not quite awake. It comes from the deepest part of me, that subconscious portion that knows how to be the best mom ever. Sometimes I say it more then once, repeating it until I feel confident that yes, today will be the day. But typically before even leaving the house I’ve broken that self-made promise. And, within a nano-second of breaking it, I feel the guilt, shame, remorse and self-loathing that being a yeller brings with it.

I know why I yell, my Dad was a yeller. He would get furiously angry, his eyes would glass over and his voice would raise to decibels my young ears didn’t realize were possible by a human. He was also a hitter, so at least yelling was the lesser of the two. But his screaming is something I carry with me to this day. I know when I get mad like he got mad, I probably look as scary to my kids as he looked to me. And that makes me horribly, horribly sad.

It’s almost always Benji who triggers me to scream. He is just so, well, four. I tell him something, nicely. Then again, with a “please”. Then again. And again. And again. I flip my sh*t almost every morning over Benji and his breakfast. Away from 8am it seems so silly, as though so many more options are available then screaming and arguing with him. He can go hungry. Or we can be late. Or, I don’t know, anything but me bellowing at the top of my lungs. But then, at that moment, I can do nothing but yell. And just like that, today becomes tomorrow.

Sometimes the rest of the day goes better. Sometimes it doesn’t. I try to look at my boys and recognize the feelings they are trying to process as being overwhelming. I try to remember they are young, they don’t have all of the answers, it is my job to guide them and teach them and understand when they don’t respond perfectly every time. I’ve read the Peaceful Parenting books – in my head I know what to do. But in those moments, when I am frustrated and stressed and annoyed, it is all I can do to not hit as I was hit. And so I yell.

I yell because I don’t want to be my Dad, but in yelling I become him.

I can change though. I’ve asked Benji to help me – to remind me when my voice starts to raise. I’ve asked him to stop me by saying whatever he thinks will work. Today he said “You’re being mean Mommy” and it stopped me dead in my tracks. I’ve been looking over the Orange Rhino Challenge and will soon be strategically placing my orange reminders throughout the house. I’m trying to schedule less, to be stressed less. And I’m trying really hard to think and breathe and let some things go. It isn’t easy.

But at night when I look at my boys sleeping, their sweet faces so perfectly trusting and innocent, I know easy doesn’t matter. I will be a better mom. I will find a way to calm myself and channel my anger and quiet my voice. And tomorrow, I am not going to yell at my boys.

(Note: My Dad was a horrible father to me growing up. He was an okay father to my younger sister – at least he appeared to be. But he is a fantastic father to my much younger half-sister and half-brother. He clearly learned from his mistakes, and although it doesn’t make the way he treated me right, it somehow makes it better.)

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