deployment, military, personal

The halfway point

As many of you know (especially if you follow me on Facebook), I recently returned from a twelve day whirlwind tour of Europe with my husband. It was truly amazing, and I will absolutely inundate your timelines, twitter and RSS feeds with posts on the adventures we had while there. But today, I want to talk about coming home.

My friend Kelly put it perfectly: re-entry is hard. I went from zero responsibilities but me for almost two weeks, back to the reality of having two boys under five. While I never forgot I was a mom, I quickly forgot what it was like to have your life completely dominated by two small dictators. Castro and Hitler have nothing on Benji and Jameson when they are hungry.

I also quickly forgot the daily grind that is, well, life. I came home to missed deadlines and overdue projects for work, all courtesy of a lightning strike the night before I left which wiped out my computer and internet. That same lightning strike fried the sprinkler system, which is still in the process of being replaced. The fried sprinkler system left my landscaping unwatered, which killed about a third of my three-month old plants. My lawn guys have been MIA this month, so I have a massively neglected lawn and no one to mow it. Benji needs to go to the dentist. I need to go to the orthodontist.  Dishes. Laundry. Homework. Jet-lag. I’ve been home five days and I still haven’t unpacked. Ugh.

Another friend commented on Facebook that I wouldn’t get much sympathy, given the trip I’d just come home from. Granted, my trip was awesome. But I came home from that trip with more than souvenirs and an over-extended credit line. While there, Jason gave me the news that his homecoming was at least six to nine months away  — and that timeframe isn’t even taking into consideration what may happen in Syria. Prior to Europe I’d been holding onto the desperate hope he’d be home for Christmas. Barring a military miracle (and I’m talking total troop removal here), there is no way that is happening.

No Daddy for Halloween, I’d expected. No Daddy for my birthday, Thanksgiving, Benji’s birthday – I knew these were all almost definite. But no Daddy for Christmas was something I hadn’t even really allowed my mind to consider. And now it isn’t just no Daddy for the holidays, it’s no Daddy for as long as he’s already been gone.

We haven’t even reached the halfway point.

This is what I’m dealing with now. I’m trying so hard to process the fact that it isn’t even halfway over, when it has already seemed like forever. I’m struggling to not sink into a depression as I consider three more seasons with my partner gone. The fantastic trip I just came from seems like a dream — a beautiful, hyper-realistic dream — that I’ve been woken from. I should be in post-vacation bliss, instead I’m wallowing in harsh military-life reality.

I know we’ll survive. Heck, I know we will thrive. As yet another friend Trish said, God will carry us and our friends will help us. He will. They will.

We are almost to the halfway point.
There. I feel better already.

 

The Rose window of Notre Dame

The Rose window of Notre Dame

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allParenting, deployment, military, personal

On cardboard boxes

As you may (or may not) know, I am fortunate enough to be a contributing author with AllParenting.com. I’ve always dreamed of being a paid writer so it is truly a dream come true.

The Friday before Memorial Day I wrote what I’d intended on being a blog post. I will admit, I’d indulged in two glasses of sangria and was feeling a bit sorry for myself, mostly because no one had invited us to any Memorial Day barbecues. Lame, I know. The piece started off really self-centered and a bit whiney, but for some reason (::ahem, sangria::) I sent it off to my assignment editor Nichole to see what she thought. To my surprise she liked it and asked for it to run on aP. I tweaked it a bit to make it less about me and more about the holiday, and it has been my most shared article to date.

If you’d like to read my Memorial Day Reminder, my take on patriotic holidays from  the perspective of deployed service member’s stateside spouse, I’d be honored. I’d be even more thrilled if after you read it you let me know what you think. Especially if you are, like me, celebrating holidays at home without your hero. After you read it, the title of this blog post will probably make much more sense.

 

Memorial Day Reminder

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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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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, 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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