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Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Guy in the Red Suit...


In our house, Santa comes to visit us on Christmas Eve. I honestly don't care what you do with your kids: whether he comes or doesn't, if he leaves coal, or candy. If he brings all of the gifts or just fills the stockings. It doesn't matter to me. And It doesn't matter to me if you chose to celebrate with him or without him. I firmly believe we all do what is best for us as parents and that we do what we think is best for our kids. What I do care about, is when your child tells mine that he's not real. You may think you are doing your child a favor by keeping your religious beliefs strong, or by telling them the truth about the man, but if your child believes that he isn't real and tells all the other kids at school, then what is the message you're sending? One of "My beliefs are more important"? One of "My truth is better than your truth"?

I know a lot of parents these days are removing him from their celebrations either for religious beliefs to be truthful to their children (some of my best friends don't celebrate with Santa, and we as parents have disclosed that we do or don't celebrate and have taught our children about different beliefs accordingly to be respectful of one another), but in our house, Santa is the symbol of the season. In our house, we celebrate Santa, probably for different reasons than you do, but for us,  he brings joy to those around him, he gives hope to those who need it. He gives instead of gets, and he instills magic in our hearts.

This time of year the guy is everywhere, I mean, did you not get goose bumps when the Judge on Miracle on 34th Street declared that Kris Kringle was real? Did you sit and frown when Walter Hobbs finally started to sing in Elf and made Santa's sleigh fly? Have you seen the video of the airline that gave presents to all of it's passengers? COME ON! REALLY? You didn't tear up or even hope for one second that Santa was real?

These are just a few of the many reasons our family chooses to celebrate him and we set out to teach our boys that there is some good in the world, even if it's believing in something that isn't real. To understand that people are good, and we should practice goodwill towards all people, no matter what. And if Santa helps us teach those lessons, then we will use him.

Since Thanksgiving, our boys have seen Santa at a few places, and I have to admit, I LOVE their excitement when they see him. I like their reserve when they talk about the presents they wish to get, and I like their joy when they talk about gifts they'd like Santa to bring their brother, me or Eric. And, I get all mushy when they have gone through their toys and have offered up toys they no longer play with in hopes to give them to other kids who may not have as many toys.

Yes, I could just teach these things to my boys without the magic of Santa (and I do for 10 months out of the year), but I believe Santa has powers that help us realize the good and strengths within ourselves too. For example, last Christmas, two year old Henrik chose to give up his ba-ba (pacifier). He wanted to give his gigantic collection of ba-bas to Santa to give to baby Elves. And Henrik was completely fine without them once we returned home, because he knew that the Elves would have something to make them happy.

And this year, Henrik learned that Santa comes only when you are sleeping. Each and every book we've read about Santa, has the child sleeping in THEIR OWN BED, well, Henrik, who has been sleeping in our bed the last two months, is on a week straight of sleeping in HIS OWN BED so Santa can find him on Christmas Eve. Magic? Or just given the opportunity to see that he has control and power to do something amazing for himself, through Santa?

When I was a child, I remember finding out early on that Santa wasn't real. I have never told my parents this, but because my parents were divorced, I noticed quickly that Santa had different handwriting on the notes he left for us. I mentioned it and they both said that the elves probably wrote the letter because Santa was busy. I let it go. And the next year there wasn't a note from Santa. When I finally had enough courage to ask if Santa was real, I was told the truth.  I remember crying, for a long time. I was mad, but not because they lied to me, that was never an issue, it was that there was no more magic, there was no miracle, and now, the holiday season seemed pointless.  I remember being told that my sisters didn't know so I had to help keep the secret. And that's when I realized that my parents were asking me, to help BE Santa! It was a big deal and the magic was back. And you know what? It was more fun for me to help fill stockings and put out presents than it was to give them. I remember seeing my sisters' joy that first Christmas where I got to help, and I remember giving a smile to my parents as we watched my sisters open their new gifts. I had learned the lessons of truly doing something for someone else because it makes them happy.

And then you have this mother who wrote an amazing letter to her child when confronted with the question on whether or not Santa exists:


Dear Lucy,
Thank you for your letter. You asked a very good question: “Are you Santa?”
I know you’ve wanted the answer to this question for a long time, and I’ve had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.
The answer is no. I am not Santa. There is no one Santa.
I am the person who fills your stockings with presents, though. I also choose and wrap the presents under the tree, the same way my mom did for me, and the same way her mom did for her. (And yes, Daddy helps, too.)
I imagine you will someday do this for your children, and I know you will love seeing them run down the stairs on Christmas morning. You will love seeing them sit under the tree, their small faces lit with Christmas lights.
This won’t make you Santa, though.
Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.
It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.
Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.
With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.
So, no. I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too.
I love you and I always will.
Mama

I don't know what I am going to do when my boys are old enough for the truth. Probably cry because the innocence of childhood will be gone.  But, I remember my parents asking me if I thought he was real, and that was a hard question to answer. I wanted to say yes, but I knew they were the ones who put the presents under the tree. And now, as a parent, I am going to have to ask them the same questions, but maybe I'll change it to, "Do you want Santa to be real" because that's got a better, more clear answer. I think we all want Santa to be real. I think we all want to believe that people are just good at heart. I think we want to believe that people aren't greedy and want to give to those in need.

And, I think we all want the ability to see that we are brave enough, strong enough, and good enough to do things that make ourselves better, to do things for others, and even offer surprises to an unsuspecting person who needs a miracle of some kind. Santa the person isn't real, but the magic and hope he gives to children and adults everywhere can be powerful.

I'm not trying to change your mind on how you view Santa or how you handle him in your home. I am however trying to convey that we can all do different things this time of year that are valuable to us and our families, and that it's extremely important to respect that. The world is full of hate and discouraging comments from everywhere. This time of year is the time to be hopeful, reflective and open, no matter how you celebrate. And allowing people to celebrate in a way that is meaningful to them, is the best gift we can give to one another. That way, we can accept all of the wonderful differences in each of us that make us all unique individually, but powerful together.


Happy Everything: 2013 In Review



Dear Friends,

2013 has been extremely interesting (and long) year for our family, so I’d better start right off and give you a re-cap in case you don’t follow Eric or me on Facebook, there’s no time to waste!

Just before Christmas, last year, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, she is now healthy and is cancer free, but her treatment and our need to finish rebuilding our house, and selling our house in North Dakota before we moved, played a huge role into our year. Just after Theodor’s first birthday on January 21st, the boys and I left Eric in Minot and we headed to Michigan for an undetermined amount of time (until we had a house in Colorado).

The boys and I spent six months without Eric while he fixed up the house, worked his final days as a Missileer, and went to do some pretty cool things as an Assistant Hockey Coach for the Minot State Beavers, they WON NATIONALS! Eric was able to travel with the team and even attend the award ceremony at the NCAA Coaches conference!

Every few months we had a chance to see Eric, like when we went house hunting in Colorado in April and again for Memorial Weekend in May, but pretty much we were living up the quality time with our family in Michigan. I can’t explain how wonderful it was to spend that much time with our family, and the boys’ grandparents! I felt like we were home (and just missing Eric of course)! I was especially proud that our parents were actually able to experience both of the boys! Most of the time they see things on Facbook, through a FaceTime, and maybe even through a quick phone conversation, but to actually have them live with their grandkids was truly an amazing gift.

In June, Eric went to training in Dayton, OH for three weeks, so, we got to enjoy a little bit of a Michigan Summer before we had to say some very difficult goodbyes and move across the country again at the end of July. In August we finally arrived here in Colorado where we are LOVING every second of it. From the days above zero in the winter, to the outdoor activities in the mountains year round, to the house, to our friends, Colorado was exactly what we needed after our time in North Dakota. It was absolutely a fresh start for our marriage, our family, and our life. And after two years of absolute hell with the flood and all that came with it, this assignment was much needed.

Eric is now in Acquisitions where he works as the Chief of the Business Branch for the Air Force Launch and Test Range Sustainment (WOW! Longest title ever, right?) and, is an Assistant Volunteer Hockey Coach for the Air Force Academy Falcon Hockey Team. He gets to go into work at a reasonable hour, come home for lunch every day, and is home for dinner most nights. He’s able to make hockey practice and even travel with the team! Eric even has a million more hours to spend with the boys, and while they had to make up for lost time, you’d never notice there was a gap in our year. Eric is a fantastic father and the boys can’t get enough of him. They especially like their wind down routine with their dad each night. It just makes me smile to listen to them read and do puzzles or fix hot wheels cars before they head to bed.

I am a busy stay-at-home mom trying to keep up with the boys, this blog, fooling around starting my own non-profit and working for an amazing Michigan based company, Live Love Michigan.  I am very happy here: I have wonderful friends, the best neighbors in the world, and I even get a few hours a week to go to the gym where I do a boot camp class! It’s wonderful! I haven’t been this in shape in a LONG TIME! Oh! And the best part is that I actually get to go on dates with ERIC! Crazy huh? This Fall, I entered a photo contest from the Grand Hotel (on Mackinac Island) and WON! So, Eric and I will be spending two nights there this Summer! It’s going to be AMAZING and our first vacation without kids since our Honeymoon.

Henrik is three and a half now (four in May); he’s incredibly smart, eager to learn and has a bit of sass to him. He’s funny and witty, loves riding his bike (even mountain and dirt biking), and of course still loves cars. His newest thing, is fishing. He LOVES it. I’d even go so far to say he’s obsessed! Every chance he gets, he wants to look at lures or play on the boat, I think Eric is thrilled he’s got someone who will talk fishing with him! Hank started pre-school this year and is really coming out of his shell. He still likes to cuddle, but he also adores being with friends, and has really learned a lot about himself, being a boy, and doing boy things. He’s pretty into Super Heroes too, or as we call them, Super Guys, and is very interested in protecting everything, from his brother to his friends, people he doesn’t know, and even me! Because he’s getting older, and has turned into a boy before our eyes, he’s become this fantastic helper, a determined doer and always carries a proud look on his face when he completes a difficult or “Big Boy” task.

Theodor just turned 22 months, and will be two before we know it. Though, I have to say that this year, from one to two, has been a long one. Theo, or Thornado as we like to call him, is just as smart as his brother, but 10 times more physical and active. He has only felt pain twice this year and even broke a cast on his leg (he had surgery on a toe) because he’s so full of…. force? Strength? Vigor? Gusto? In a group he’s the dominant player, he’s physical and has a slap shot that rivals his Dad’s, and can throw and hit a ball better than most six year olds. He also likes to do a lot of cause and effect demolition games with his brother, where he destroys Henrik’s train track or whatever, and runs away after he steals something.  One on one though, Theo is as sweet as pie and loves babies (he has five baby dolls) and animals. He loves to snuggle and be a Momma or Daddy’s boy and actually can carry on a fantastic conversation.

Delilah is pretty happy in her new home, she gets to go outside all year long and won’t get her paws stuck to the cement this year! She gets to go on Colorado Adventures with us each Sunday, and gets run on a regular basis. She’s getting older, she’s five now, and is starting to calm down, unless she finds a darn prairie dog in our back yard or a bunny in the front, then she’s useless.

We’re not sure exactly what 2014 will bring us, a lot is up in the air, but I can assure you, that whatever it is, and where ever we spend it, it will be a good one. We wish you the happiest of everything, and hope that this year you find the good in yourself and those around you so that you can have the best this world has to offer.

Love, Abbey and the boys 


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Life (and struggles) of a Military Kid (and mom)

Recently, Henrik has created a new game, and he plays it almost daily. The game is called, "Moving to a new house". The rules are simple: you pack up everything. Seriously, everything...including the rug, and you move it to a whole different room.

The first time I caught him playing this game he asked if he and the neighbor could go up stairs "to play away from the little kids". Because they are good kids, I obliged and was proud of myself for letting him be more independent.  They were playing nicely, there was no shouting or crying, and I didn't feel the need to check on them because I could hear nice conversations between the two of them. But, when it was time for the neighbor to go, I went up stairs and saw something I'd never thought I'd see: the entire play room, THE ENTIRE play room, was in Henrik's bedroom. Toys, not thrown all over the floor, but in the bins they belong in, neatly piled into a corner. The table and chairs, the rug... literally everything except the desk that has my printer on it, was in his bedroom. "MOM! Look what we did! We moved to a new house!" he said excitedly. I was in shock, I can't believe he picked up the rug! He even took pictures off the wall and put them in his room in a neat little pile. "Wow! It's beautiful!" What else are you going to say?!

A few days later he played the game again. I knew that this meant that toys would be placed in different bins, puzzle pieces removed to a new box so "they wouldn't get lost," and a lot of cleaning for me to do after the "clean up". So we just modified the rules: "you can't remove toys from the bins or put them in any other boxes". Henrik agreed and I watched this time as he moved box after box from the living room to the front room. That night I told Eric about the game (now that it had happened again) and he said, "Do you think it's because we have moved a lot?"

DUH! That's exactly what I was thinking. This was, and always has been my fear of raising a military kid: that they wouldn't know what "home" was. To be fair, Henrik has moved more than most kids his age, even for a military kid. He's moved eight times in his three years. And, that mostly was due to the flood: trying not to be homeless, looking for stability with our family, the rebuilding process, the moving back to the flooded house, still rebuilding, the training that Eric went through, and finally moving here, but EIGHT TIMES in three years. That is a lot. Even for an adult.

I tried not to think about how horrible Eric and I were for moving our boys across the country so much. One day, the opportunity came about, and I asked Henrik if he liked to move. He told me that he liked going to new places and getting a new room. So I asked another question, "Do you want to move around a lot, like we have been doing? Or do you want to have one house that we can have forever?" He chose the forever house. He's killing me on the inside. Eric and I have decided that we will stay in the military as long as it's good for us and our family, but with this new information, do we really have to think about getting out? We are thinking about buying a house after we see what Eric's job looks like in a few months, it would mean another move for the boys, but we'd still being in the same town, so maybe it would be OK?

I tried not to think about it, but as a parent, it's one of those things that will always haunt you: Are you making the right decisions for your kids? This is one of those issues that you will constantly play out in your head 1,000+ times to see if you can get a different outcome, but I don't know the right answer.

I was a kid from a divorced family, we traveled a lot from house to house, and it was hard. I lived out of a duffel bag for a long time and hated it. As a result, when I married Eric and we joined the military lifestyle, we moved across the country right off the bat, and I made sure that I made each house a home right away. No matter the length of the assignment. But apparently, my rapid unpacking skills and trying to instill in our kids that we always have a home in the house we live in, and a home in Michigan, isn't as effective as I'd hoped. 

For a few days I was able to forget about it, or at least not let it bother me, but as we were getting ready for Christmas, and we were getting out the decorations, the stockings, and talking about Santa, Henrik looked at me and quietly said, "But mom? We live in Colorado Springs now... we don't live in Minot". I was honestly shocked at what I thought he was implying, "Yes, you're right" I quickly replied. "But Santa knows where we li..." "But HOW?" I was quickly interrupted. "We don't have lights on the outside of our house, how will he know how to find us!" he finished, deeply concerned and out of breath. I looked at him with tears in my eyes. "Santa knows if you move, he knows if you've been good, he knows if you've been bad. He knows everything. It's okay..." He didn't look convinced. "How about, we go and get some decorations so Santa really can't miss our house" I cheerfully exclaimed. Henrik smiled.

So, we went to the store, right away, and playfully walked up and down each of the Christmas aisles and talked about the decorations we liked and didn't like, ones that were big enough for Santa to see from the sky, and pretty ones that were more subtle. We finally decided on some small, but well lit trees to put on the porch. Henrik informed me, "with three trees, Santa will find us". I was happy he was happy. I was glad I was able to convince him that we had a home and could make his world better, at least this time.

I guess there isn't really a heartwarming end or silver lining to this one. I don't know how to make Henrik, or someday Theodor, know (even though we talk about it a lot), that no matter where we end up, we have new aunts and uncles, new friends, and we get to experience a new place every few years. I don't know how to tell him that eventually, he will learn a lot about himself in each of the places we go and through the different kinds of trials and experiences he has in each place. I don't know how to tell him that he's lucky that he gets to move all around the country and see so much of it when most people don't leave the state they are from, or how he's able to have such a loving, widespread military family no matter what. And it breaks my heart that he doesn't quite understand that Daddy and I are still from Michigan, and that we will always have our "home" there. We will always have gone to school there, were raised there, met there, were married there, and even returned with our kids to show them all of the things we love about our home and the family that we have there. 

This new game, and this new worry about Santa explains a lot about Henrik. I already knew these things, but this is a confirmation that he is much more sensitive about life, moving and himself than we are led to believe. For example, he wants to stay in a room with Theodor, he wants their beds to be one big bed, but prefers our bed so we can be "close, and warm and snuggle". He can keep track of every toy he owns, and has some system in his brain where he knows that "that Tiger Jeep was left at Pal's house". He almost always has a toy in each hand and hoards toys into a safe place when he plays. It makes sense though. He's a kid who grew up with loss at age one when we lost our house and a lot of his toys to 7.5 feet of water. He's moved away from his dad twice, not due to a deployment, but due to a flood. He's seen his mom worry about finding a house. He has seen his dad work hard to build a house for our family. The same house that was destroyed in the flood.  And then, Henrik was angry and sad when we sold the flooded house because it was the focus of our life for two years, and, his dad built it. He couldn't fathom giving it to another person, even though I told him the new people would start their family there and they needed it now, not us. 

Henrik is more sentimental than I give him credit for, he's a lot like me actually.  We hold on to things and places, and we keep memories forever. It's not the stuff that makes a home, but it's the whole atmosphere for us. It's not easy for me to move around and get a new life or a new house just like that either. In fact, part of the reason I wanted to move back to the flooded house was so Theodor could have his first steps there, so he could play there, so he and Henrik could know why their dad and I chose this house for our family. And now, I'm in a position where I dream about that forever home in Michigan near family and the things I love so dearly there, but it's something I can't have just yet. 

Somewhere in all of this there is a lesson for me. I don't know what it is yet. But I know that my son is like me, and that means I have to figure out a way to make him understand that home is where your family is. And he's got family all over this country. And he's always got a home in the house we live in, and a home in Michigan. And someday I'll figure out how to make it all make sense to him. But for now, I just have to make it make sense to a three year old, and if moving boxes from room to room and talking about the kind of forever house he wants is what needs to happen, I'll do it, a million times. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Perfect Photo

If you know me, I am always with a device that will let me take a photo. I am always ready to share those photos too, in fact, my Facebook page is more about my kids than me. And, each year I love taking family photos to treasure the stage/age that my kids are in, and it's also a nice way to have at least one set of photos a year with ME IN THEM.

This year was no different, except that I've got a smokin' body thanks to a boot camp that I've been doing for the last five weeks and I wanted to show that off in some photos. As we got ready the morning of the pictures, my boys understood that this was important to me and that I wanted them to cooperate, smile nicely and be good. That however, was the exact opposite of what they did. Between the sassy, crying, mouth open, tongue out, fit throwing faces, I ended up with not a SINGLE photo of all of us smiling. Which is all I wanted.

In the car I deleted about 30 photos right off the bat because they were horrid, and then, I started to cry (after a long tantrum where both of the boys were screaming). When we pulled in the drive way, Eric suggested that I go inside, I guess he was going to talk to the boys. When they came in, they both had long, shameful faces and came right up to my legs. Instead of saying "sorry", which is what I assume they were instructed to do, they looked at me and asked for a snack. I was livid, but calmly said, "No. I am not going to get you a snack. I do things for you all day long, every day of the week and when I asked you to do one thing for me today, you decided not to. So no. I will not get up and get you a snack." They just looked at me. They didn't know what to think, and I know they didn't know what to do to fix it, so they just left the room. I only kind of felt bad. 

Yes, I understand that they are only 3 1/2 years old and almost 22 months old, but I also know they know how to follow directions and smile. I think it was so important to me because I am always the one taking the photos, so there are not very many of me, and I want them to remember when they are older, or when I die, that I was around and was doing these fun things with them. And maybe they will remember it, but I wanted the pictures for them too. And yeah, I also wanted a photo of me where I looked good!

Later that day, after I had cooled off, I looked at the photos again. I just started laughing. I'm not thrilled with the no smiling pictures (but I did send one or two photos off to a friend to see if he could swap faces because both boys smiled at some point, just not together) but I realized that these photos completely capture my life as it is today, and isn't that what I set out to do when I set up the photo shoot?

My life is overflowing with lovely, active, and carefree boys. They disobey and feed off of one another, but they are almost always having fun. They are truly living life to the fullest and being who they are. Sure, they didn't follow directions then, and they don't always, but they do when it matters and that's all I can ask for.  They are sensitive, caring, loving, and genuinely good humans. I am absolutely tired by the end of the day because they have giggle fests during nap time, they destroy a room in a matter of seconds, "swim" (create a flood zone) in the bathtub, and have been known to take chalk to my floors, but they are being creative, testing, and figuring out life and all of it's consequences (and rewards).

When I really think about it, and see other children my kids play with, I think about how my kids are a billion times more wild than their peers, but I'd rather have these experimenting, exploring, adventuring, engineers than kids that just follow directions, don't test boundaries or try to really live life.

While the pictures didn't turn out like I'd hoped, they actually turned out perfectly. And, I will proudly hold on to these photos forever (to show them when their boys run amok during their photo shoots) and to remind me how lucky I am to have boys like them. So, as we approach Thanksgiving, and I sit back and think about what I am going to say I'm thankful for during our Thanksgiving feast, I will remember this weekend and how I am truly thankful for the family and the boys that are in my life... even if they are wild and stick out their tongues in photos that will last a lifetime.


Monday, November 18, 2013

The Intimate Truth

It's not often I complain about being a mom, in fact, I've wanted this my whole life and I've got some pretty adorable, smart, and healthy boys to show for it! And heck,  I get to stay home with them and I get to participate in their growing up process, and I know that there are people who would give anything to be in my shoes.

But, the breaks are few and far between and there are days I'd give anything for time alone in the car say... on a drive home from work. But, recently, there are days where I can think about leaving them for an over night trip. Something we've not yet done. Yes. I admit, it's been three years and my husband and I have not had a night away from our kids. We've gone on dates and have spent many a nights up with wine, cheese and chocolate while we enjoy adult company, one another, or even a favorite TV show, and, if we lived closer to family and if our house hadn't flooded, I can assure you that we'd have had more of these over night trips, but living states away and with only one income, we settle for what we can get, but as a parents we've struggled to get time to ourselves. Heck, just as we get one comfortable in his bed in his room, we've got to deal with the other one! For most of Theo's life he's woken up around 11 PM wanting to nurse, wanting to play, had a night terrors, or just needs one of us.


Over the past few weeks though, our kids have been spending every night in our bed. Sometimes we don't notice until morning when we are stiff from sleeping four deep in a Queen size bed. Sometimes they wonder downstairs while we are trying to have some adult wind down time and they fall asleep in our arms on the couch.


And most of the time they are just there. Right in front of our face. Or attached to our legs, or yelling, "Daddy, tackle me!" or "Mommy, I want to hold you". Most of the time it's okay, but recently, they've been interrupting every hug, every embrace and every kiss. It's like they are purposefully trying to torture Eric and me and forcing us to remember the days where we could do nothing but lay in bed together, go on vacations or kiss when we wanted.


If Eric comes up behind me  while I'm making dinner, I can assure you that there is a kid running towards us at full speed saying "I want a hug too!" We quickly finish our kiss and offer a family hug, those are nice... they aren't just very romantic.

You know you're a parent when you are pouring a glass of wine so you can start a romantic evening with your spouse and you suddenly break out singing a Doc McStuffins song. Or when you go in for a kiss and you suddenly remember that you have a load of laundry still sitting in the wash that you started at 6 AM because someone wet the bed. Or when you realize that it's been a few days or weeks (you can't remember) since you were last intimate with your spouse, so you think, I'll put on make up before he gets home and I'll do my hair and I'll look sexy, only to find that when he actually comes home there's an exploding poop riot in your living room and you are now covered in tears, (mostly yours), feces, and there's screaming because the kid covered in poop doesn't want to get cleaned up. There is just nothing romantic about that.

Or when you decide to send suggestive text messages to your spouse because, hey, it's been a while and every one likes to live dangerously right? But then, in the middle of your sexy texts you find yourself getting something for the children and you realize that you're out of milk, so you ask your spouse to pick some up on his way home from work. NOW, THAT's SEXY.

Or how about when you both decided that tonight is the night and you're just finishing up a show down stairs to make sure that the kids are really asleep, but you yourself actually fall asleep. Or when you are slipping into something more comfortable and brushing your teeth, and your partner is freshening up too (if we only get once a year then we might as well smell good, right) and as you leave the bathroom there is a smiling toddler on your bed.




COME ON!

Well, We'd finally had enough, and one morning when I was woken up to about 15 hard plastic animals in my bed, books thrown on top of me and energy that you wouldn't believe, I pulled out a move that I swore was one of the things I'd never do. But I went against sensible Abbey and instead, I excitedly carried the boys downstairs, changed a diaper, turned on Disney Jr., gave them a box of white powered sugar donuts, juice and grapes, locked the gate at the bottom AND the top of the stairs and went upstairs to be with my husband.

It had to be done, and I knew that when I returned to the children there would be a mess, a nice powdery mess, but it would be worth it. We needed a break. Not just to be intimate, but to have a chance to be alone when we were both awake, refreshed and not exhausted from a full days work. We need to live on the wild side of ignoring the chatter, the hot wheels, and the chaos and give ourselves a moment to think, look at one another, laugh, smile and be us.

We live a busy life, with hockey coaching, Eric's work, my trips to the gym, helping out neighbors, etc, there's not a lot of time for us. But when we get it, man, is it wonderful. This Christmas, we've decided to give ourselves the best gift of all- a night and day away! It's going to be wonderful and I can't wait to have time with just Eric, being silly, and flirtting and being "young" again.

I know that some parents do it better than we do, and some don't get out at all. We've worked really hard to make our time together something special, even when it has to be in our living room. It is hard when you have two adults and two kids fighting for attention and bathroom space in the morning, and it's easy to forget about the other adult in the room, but just remember, a little smile, taking a break from laundry or dishes to return a hug or offer a kiss makes a big difference, and it goes a long way.


And when you do get that date, or that time out of the house, make it worth it. Put your phone away, be interested and invested in one another, don't talk about the kids, do an activity, or something that isn't a movie. Parenting makes us change, and we become different people when we are surrounded by small humans every day, take time to get to know one another again. And when you get home, you'll be refreshed enough to get right back into the daily grind of poop messes, tripping on cars and solving all problems, but your relationship with your spouse will be stronger for it, and yeah, you may have to wait a week for alone time again, but it will be wonderful. 

Veteran's Day

  I have to admit, nine years ago I didn't understand the importance of this day. I understood the word Veteran in the most vague of terms and figured that it probably meant more to my step-dad, uncles and grandparents. In fact, I didn't really even understand the military, where I'm from, there are no active duty bases, and the military community of reservists was small, so, I couldn't understand why people would sign up for war. In fact, I was so niave that I thought that being in the mlitary meant that you were just signing up for war.

I didn't understand the military spouse, the 50s style language of "honor" and "service" to ones spouse and country, and why so many of them stayed at home with their children instead of working. And of course, I could never understand the sacrifice of what it means to be "military".  Sure, I'd seen war movies, I'm a history major: I've read testimonials, books and papers, and I've understood on paper what it was like for those serving in some of the most grueling wars in the history of man, but to imagine what it was really like was too complicated for my small town liberal life.



But for the last nine years, I've lived a military lifestyle. I watched as the man I loved, and couldn't wait to marry, took his oath to defend this nation and put his life, his duty, and his sacrifices on the line for the good of the people instead of what was good for me...or him... or our new life. I have seen friends deploy. I've seen the hardships this job has taken on those I care about. I've seen how hard it is to reintegrate after being away from your support system or after facing war head on. And I know the struggles of being a military spouse first hand. I know what it's like to believe that I'm carrying the weight of my family on my shoulders because my husband has something he can't tell me about keeping him at work and away from birthdays, family dinners, anniversiaries and holidays. I understand now why the language is so old fashioned: because this is the kind of life we have to lead in order to stay a family, to create a home, and to feel like we belong.


For the last nine years, I've been emotional on this day. I'm emotional because I was ignorant about what this day means to so many and I'm emotional because I know it unfortunately doesn't mean much to so many. I'm emotional because I'm finally in a community with two Air Force Bases, an Army base and a Military Academy, and I can see how a community can pull together for homecomings, care, and every kind of support you can imagine.

Just because Veterans Day is only one day long and people jump on board to hand out free meals to active duty and Vets, it doesn't mean that we're doing enough. This is a sacrifice that only 1% of our population is willing to make, but it benefits all of us. It doesn't matter where your political beliefs lie, it matters that you take a minute to think about the history of this day, and where you may be if you didn't have a military or service men and women, their spouses and families on their side.



This Veterans day, I am so thankful for the service members that I've gotten to know, the ones I'm related to, and those I will never meet. I understand now what it means to give yourself to your country, and I am forever honored to be among them.






Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A New Era: Chapter Two, Super Heroes

In our house we only shoot pucks and balls. We stick to family friendly shows and movies that don't have weapons,  we have no weapons in our house unless you count vigerously waving fishing poles and hockey sticks, and we have avoided the mayhem that is the equivalent of the Princess Pink,  until now.

Once Henrik started school his world expanded, which we knew it would, we just weren't sure how it would play out as he was around kids who wore super hero shirts and played "bad guys" on the playground. Occasionally, through the years, Henrik has been drawn to the bold reds, blues and greens that the Super Heroes wear and has asked, "which character is on that kid's shirt". We've always answered him honestly and have somehow managed to stay away from purchasing clothing with superheroes on them.

It's not that I don't want those shirts or toys, heck, I love the angst of a good super hero film and would love to sport a retro version of a comic book hero t-shirt, but I don't want to have to deal with the "fighting bad guys" or "shooting bad guys" all day long. I'd rather my kid created towns with Legos and drew parking lots and drove cars, or even created the best train track in the world by themselves. I'd rather read, or play outside or do a project than have to deal with "AHhhh I'm dead" and plastic weapons scene.  To me, there is such a negative connotation to those things that I'm honestly afraid of. I don't want my kid to be the kid on the playground getting talked to every day about kicking or shooting. I don't want my kid to be the one that other kids go home to and say, "Mom, that kid is mean, he kept telling me I was the bad guy and he was the good guy and then he was shooting me". You see, it's not that I don't have a problem with the figurines, or the clothing, but, I don't like the violence. And perhaps it's because I'm a girl and was just never around it, but I already have enough wrestling and hitting and pushing in my house, I don't know if I have room for bad guys too.

It's hard enough being a military family and being in an environment where we go through security at the gate just to get on, and are greeted, usually by a man, wearing all types of weapons on his person. When Henrik one day asked why we had to stop and talk to the man at the gate I simply told him that he was keeping us safe. MISTAKE! To him, that implied that we were not safe. Dang. How do I teach a child how to be careful of his surroundings and yet still feel like the world around him is good? When he asked if bad people were trying to come to our house I told him no. I then told the boys that the men at the gate were protecting us and were heroes that helped make the world better. They were making sure that we lived here and were allowed near all the cool stuff Daddy works with. Situation averted? For the moment it was enough and now my boys like to have the windows down and like to salute to the gate guards on our way through.

Being in the military we are also faced with another issue, the military bases we live on and go to frequently, have static airplane displays, Henrik, who is in love with learning, asks all about them (I'm getting pretty good, BTW). "What's that big one called, mom?" "Oh! That's a B-52, a bomber! That one was actually flown in a war called Vietnam, and one of my professors in college actually flew on that bomber." DANG! I thought, I did it again! Wait for it..... "What's a bomber?" Henrik excitedly asked. Go ahead Abbey, walk your way out of this one... to shield or not to shield? That is the parenting question, isn't it?

"Well, it drops bombs on places that are not nice". He didn't say anything else. A few seconds later as we were driving up the Academy, I spotted a huge herd of elk. I said, "Moooove elk! Get out of the road! We don't want you in the road," in a joking manner. This spurred an interesting conversation in our car, "where do elk live?" "Are elk nice?" "Dat's not an elk, it's a MOOSE!"

Then Theo started yelling, "GO AWAY ELK WE DON'T WANT YOU HERE!" Fan-freeking-tastic, now I was teaching my sons about bombs and some how have implied that we don't like wildlife. Great. Parenting win right here folks.

"No, Theo, we DO want them, they are part of nature, we just don't want them in the road," I tried to explain. Then Henrik said, "Mom, where do they live?"
"In the woods, probably in a den or just under some trees."
"What's a den?"
"A little shelter, like a bunch of branches that fell over, or some weeds and sticks..."
"We should just bomb it and build them a house," he said matter of fact.

WHAT?! I didn't know what to do. I felt completely helpless, but at least he wanted to build them a house, right?  So I finally said, "No, Henrik, we want them to live in dens, they are not like dogs or cats that live in houses with people. They are wild animals. And it's not nice to drop bombs on animals or people, but sometimes we do drop them on buildings. I can't explain why, really, but sometimes, we drop bombs on places that are not nice to other people."

Silence.

Good, I thought,  we were done and let out a sigh. We pulled into the field house at USAFA and just as we came to the top of the hill, Henrik yells, "OOOoooh! A Missle! See it mom? See it?"

Head. On. Steering Wheel. Defeat.

So, after that day, I decided to not cringe every time they asked about bombs, or shooting. I answered them honestly and told them that we just cannot play shooting games AT each other and we can't drop bombs on one another, and most importantly, we cannot play shooting games if the other person doesn't want to play. They seemed to be fine with these rules and often are found making shooting noises when they find an L shaped object, hanger, or Lego creation.

 I get it, it's natural for people, especially little boys, to want to destroy stuff, I just don't know if I'm ready for it. I mean, as a parent, where do you draw the line? I have a three year old and a 21 month old, are they too young? How do I teach them about the world or things they see on TV (like the End of the World video game they saw every other commercial during the baseball playoffs?) How do I teach them that Soldiers and Airmen and their DAD are heroes, when really, some of the jobs that these men and women set out to do are harmful to others and I may not agree with? How can I make that agony of good vs. evil from a Super Hero movie relevant to my sons? How can I allow them to play these good guys against bad guy games while they start to discover the good and bad in others and the world, but not let them shoot other people? It's not that I don't want them to know about guns, it's that I want to teach them proper use and how to be extremely careful around them or kids that may have them. I want them to know that Super Heroes exist because there ARE bad people and sometimes we need a little magic to help us see the good in the world. And the whole idea of a Dark Knight is too much to handle at this age, but is SO important when I want to teach my sons about how to be a good man and do what is right. If only I had played with Action Figures instead of Barbies, maybe I'd know the answer.

The other day, Henrik casually came up to me holding a hot wheels car that happens to be Optimus Prime, "Mom, I think I want a car that turns into a robot". Again, surprised. "OK"I said. And because I knew we weren't going to just go out and go buy him what he wanted, I told him I would look for some and we could put it on his Christmas list. He was satisfied. And now, here we are, in that point in a child's life where they genuinely want big boy toys or the "it" toy of the season. He knows that these transformers exist, I've showed them to him actually, at the 5 Below Store, but it was small and didn't have any parts, so it was mostly a car. He didn't know their names until now, and up until this point, he self named these characters "Heroes" probably because they are boldly colored and have a lot of muscle. We also have a few from Happy Meal prizes as we traveled from North Dakota to Michigan and the boys happily played with them and didn't really care about what they were or why. But now, Henrik knows, and it's a big deal.

When we went trick or treating at the zoo we came to a station where Spider Man was handing out comic books, actually, he let the kids pick out their own, and I was really impressed, they had all kinds, ones with your typical Super Heroes and some with characters that were more silly and some with Elmo.  Since my kids wouldn't go to the table, I grabbed the Elmo one, and the one that did not have the Avengers or Bat Man on it. Yes, I did it on purpose, I could have flipped through the book, but instead I assumed that there would be robbers, weapons, and "scary" villains that I didn't want to expose my sons to. Shame on me? Maybe. Henrik was thrilled to see Spider Man, he was very curious about him and cautious too, but ended up giving him a hi-five and was pretty proud that he'd actually met Spider Man. And that's where I felt even more conflicted. Here was my son, dressed like a Scuba diver holding his candy bag tightly, but so in awe of this character he knows as a Hero.... and to have the opportunity to actually meet him! But does meeting an idol make my son want to be like him? Does it mean he now wants to fight crime and hurt bad guys? Or does it mean that he found someone who was pretty cool and he just got to hi-five him?


Later, we went to a Halloween party where one kid, about six years old, was dressed up like a ninja. (The only ninja my kid knows is the Fruit Ninja). This boy had at least three different knives and swords with him and handed one to Henrik to play with. The kid wanted to have a sword fight and Henrik looked at me every so carefully. I told him he could play, and as he took the smallest knife (I guess we'll have to teach him about that) he let out a huge smile. He was so happy to be able to participate in an actual boy game with an older boy! He didn't really understand what would happen after they banged swords for a while, but neither did I, and to my amazement, the older boy didn't "go for the kill" or stab himself for the dramatic "I'm dead" scene. Instead, they decided that they were done and went to play play-doh, the knives were used for cutting it. I'm surprised that I let him play, I think Eric was too. I think that we're still on the same page as far as weapons go, but at that moment, for some reason, I knew it was important to Henrik to participate, and since were were right there, it seemed to be OK. And again, I'm torn.

Yesterday we went to a birthday party, the theme was Princesses and Super Heroes, it was a wonderful party where the girls were given crowns and the boys were given capes. Henrik wanted to wear it, in fact, he never took it off. He loved every second of being a Super Hero, he some how knew all the poses Super Heros make and declared he had "Super Fast super powers",  he held his cape out with such confidence and pride, and he ran around the playground with his friends yelling, "To the rescue! Super Heroes are coming!"

When I went to get the boys so they could come in for some food, I put out my hand for Henrik to grab. Normally, something he'd initiate, but instead, he said, very politely, "Mom, Super Heroes don't hold hands unless they are rescuing or with their Super Hero Friends". I was taken back, I smiled and then let out a little sigh.

Later that night, the boys wanted to go outside, and of course they wanted to wear their new capes. It was so wonderful watching them run around and holding their capes out, I really don't know where they learned it, or how they think that capes make a world of difference to a hero, but they do, and while it's a little sad to see it happen (because I thought they were still babies), it's absolutely adorable. There they were running about, "rescuing" and yelling, "SUPER HERO!" Their smiles were huge, they were getting along wonderfully and it made me happy to see them playing this big kid game in such an innocent manner.


When it was finally time to come inside, I asked Henrik about Super Heroes as I assisted him with his shoes, "Who were you rescuing? What do Super Heroes do?" Henrik looked at me like I was silly, but then, he stood up (while trying to balance while I slipped off his socks and shoes), put his hand out and said, "Mom, I rescue people who need help." 'Like who? What do they need help with?" I replied, yes, I was fishing here. "Like, some people need to be saved from a fire burning their house, or a flooooooddddd..." I tried really hard not to tear up, "And how would you rescue them?" I was seriously holding back tears and trying not to let my voice tremble at this point. Henrik answered, but spoke quickly and waved his arms about, "I would scoop them up and fly them away to a safe place and then I would help them build a new house like Daddy". I gave him a huge hug. And he wiggled out of it only to grab his cape and quickly turn away yelling, "TO THE RESCUEEEEEE".
   
                           

I guess, what I've learned from all of this (it was a very busy few days) is that I don't have to buy clothing, books or let them watch shows that have weapons, bad guys or violence, but I have to let my boys play these games. I have to teach them the proper way to play and how to be safe. I have to teach them what a true hero is and why it's important to be one. I must let them go off into the world and see good and evil, and I must let them learn how to walk away when they are uncomfortable, don't like it or feel unsafe. I can't hide or shield them from everything, and I don't want to be that parent. I also have to be proud, when Henrik gave me those answers about what a Hero does, I was astonished. I guess between car races and playing in dirt he's heard me when I've tried to teach him about helping others and being a good person. No matter how I feel about it, we are now at a phase in our parenthood where we have two BOYS that want to do older, more adventurous things, and sometimes it will involve a cape and super powers.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

A New Era: Chapter One, A New Friend

There are multiple times through the course of parenthood when you realize that your child is growing up and is no longer that sweet smelling baby you could hold for hours on end. For me, I've had a lot of those moments, but over a two month period I've been shocked at how sentimental I've gotten while watching my boys grow. It could be because my husband and I have been going back and forth on the "another baby" discussion for months and the thought of no more pregnancy, deliveries or even alien poop could be in my near future. Or it could be because I'm in awe of how much my boys know and what they pick up and discover on their own. It's also a possibility that I'm just a crazy mother and wants to be a part of my kids lives for as long as possible because I know it's not that far away that they won't want to be snuggling or climbing on top of me every second.

A few weeks ago, our oldest son had his first real play date. For hours before the play date he was bouncing off walls, couldn't focus and talked my ear off as he told me what he and his friend would do. We discussed being a good friend and what that meant, as well as how we can make him comfortable while his friend was over. As I tried to get Henrik to settle down and eat his breakfast, he just looked older, I swear he was taller than when he woke up that morning. And I could see this big boy excitement that he exuded in every possible way. It was exciting, it was a big day, we were now at the point in his life where he could pick his own friends and invite them over and actually have relationships on his own.

For years, we've been having play dates and have "played with friends" but they are all kids of my friends, not his. And that's not to say he's not friends with them, but they are kids that he's just been around. And now, he's made a friend at school and wanted to hang out with him and "do stuff".  It's an odd feeling as a parent, one where you are happy that your child has branched out, introduced himself, was a polite enough kid, a friendly enough kid and outgoing enough to make a friend on his own accord. You're proud of that, obviously, it's what you've been doing for years as you teach them how to be in a social setting, but it's also another step in their life where they are able to step away from you and become their own independent person (another thing you obviously want). It's also a moment where you freak out a little bit and think, what if the mom and I don't get along? What if we don't parent the same way? What if I don't like the kid?

About thirty minutes before his friend was to arrive, Henrik paused and looked at me with a cocked head. "Mom? Will you snuggle me on the couch?" I was surprised. "Your friend will be here very soon, are you sure?" "Yes, I just need a cuddle," he replied. It was heart melting, DUH! Of course I was going to hold him and hang on to every second of that cuddle. It was a reminder that while I was observing and reacting to the loss of the baby era, there was also this moment where he still needed to have me to help him settle down. I asked him if he was ready to play with his friend and Henrik just looked straight ahead, stroked my hand with his fingers and said, "I'm just ready to cuddle now, I don't want to talk". And I sat there, until the doorbell rang, loving my little big boy.

When his friend arrived it was like Christmas, we had to get out every toy and show him every cool thing about our house and yard. And then, just like they do at school, they went off and played wonderfully with one another laughing, creating, building and playing. They were a great fit. I completely understand why Henrik chose this boy as his first friend. It's really comforting to know that your kid has chosen a good human to be around and admire as a peer. I got along wonderfully with the friend's mom and we easily fell into great conversation as we got to know one another. Phew! And Theodor loved every minute and wasn't jealous at all of Henrik for having a friend over. Theo was the typical little brother who wanted to play with them, and because they are good kids, they let him.

When it was time for his friend to go, Henrik and his new friend gave chest bumps, high fives and hugs to one another. And as we shut the door, I saw this proud look on Henrik's face for his accomplishment of being a good friend and sharer. I think he was also proud of himself for actually being old enough to have a friend from school over. As we sat down and got ready for nap time, I asked Henrik if he'd had a great time. He smiled at me and said that he'd love for him to come over every day. I laughed and told him that we'd make more play dates with his friend. It wasn't long after that conversation that Henrik drifted away to sleep for his nap, and fell back into that baby phase that is so hard to let go of.

For now, I don't have to let go, but we're teetering and dabbling in this "Big Boy" world where Henrik desperately wants to be, but also is held back by his need for his nap, frequent three year old tantrums, his love of warm milk and his desire to snuggle. It's an interesting journey, one, I'm sure that will span several years, but it's so nice to see this glimpse of who he will become as he enters boyhood, his teenage years and eventually as he becomes a man. And while it's easy to be astonished and proud of your child for being so wonderful, it's also important to take a little pride, or at least give a little smile as you watch your child discover the world in front of them.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Can We Have It All?

I have a confession to make. It's a bit embarrassing, I'll explain why in a bit, but I'm afraid that if I don't share this information that that knot in my stomach won't go away. Here it is:

I want a job.

I KNOW! I hear some of you gasping, some of you saying, "NO! You're a fantastic mother why would you want to work if you can afford to stay home?"I hear some of you saying, "Finally! She realized that she had so much more potential than being a stay-at-home mom". And that's where this inner struggle begins... I think you're both right.

 I LOVE, and wouldn't trade anything in the world for the hours I get to wipe butts, pick up vomit, play cars for the 1,000th time and do more laundry than seems possible. I wouldn't trade the fights with a three year old for blaming ME for HIM pooping in HIS pants, or the fight with a 20 month old who just can't seem to figure out why hitting is bad. I wouldn't trade the hours of fighting nap time or the number of cups of coffee I drink or the glasses of wine I drink at night as I zone out to The Voice because I'm too exhausted to do anything else. I wouldn't trade anything for the chance to spend as much time as possible with these tiny humans I created. 

But, 

At the same time, on occasion, I come across my reflection during middle of a tantrum and I stand up and look at it for a second. I am a college graduate. I'm still young, and good looking. I am an excellent public speaker, an alright writer, and a hard worker. I was an Administrative Assistant and a freeking Executive Director!  Why on earth am I putting up with this crap? I should be out there, doing something that gives me something for my work. I could be earning good money to pay off our debt and become a two income family, man, what a difference that would make. I could go somewhere where I get compliments during the day, talk about the news around the water cooler and use my brain instead of listening to something incomprehensible due to snot, tears and whining. 

And, 

Every once in a while I pretend I'm on a reality show or married to a prince, or a famous something where I can have it all: fame, fortune and family. 

But that's not my reality. I chose, one year ago actually, to step away from my career,  my 10+ years of non-profit experience, and my current role as an Executive Director, to take care of my family when we needed it most. I decided that a job, a new baby, a flooded house, a toddler, and a husband who was gone all the time, was too much for my sanity and I wasn't doing ANY of my jobs well. And I wasn't happy either. At the time, I was congratulated for actually acknowledging that I was doing too much and taking time for me and our young family. I was happy and people were happy for me that I was able to FINALLY be a real stay-at-home parent instead of a work-at-home parent. It was all I ever wanted in life actually. And here I am, on the one year anniversary of being a stay-at-home parent, admitting to all of you that I've turned in numerous applications for work from everything from being a nanny to being an event planner, to working for a radio, to being an Admin assistant, and I've been turned down for every one. Or ignored, that always makes you feel good. 

I'm so torn: my family could use the extra income. I could use some intellectual time and even a few hours away from my kids each week, but in return, I'd be giving up alone time with Theodor while Henrik is at school. I'd be giving up playtime and home school time with my boys that I'm honestly, really good at and enjoy. I'd be giving up all of the little things like their achievements, their 10+ word sentences, their abstract thoughts, their smiles and laughter for time away. I understand it works for some of you to be away from your kids, but for me, it's so hard. 

I don't understand why I can't find a job I can do from home? I don't know why when I've asked in an interview, for a job that could totally be done online (like I did it before online for another job), if I would be able to work from home a few days a week,  that the reply is that, "there is no way possible to work from home a few days a week". Really? Why? You just want someone to send emails and compile data. I don't understand why I have this stay-at-home parent guilt. Why is it that I want to contribute more to my family? Is it solely base on money? Is it that I can taste being debt free and I just do have the job to do it? Or is it because I am unsure of myself and the impact I'm leaving on my boys. Is it because I want them to see (like I saw) their mother getting a Master's Degree, or that I make the world better one person at a time? Or is it because I'm afraid that my sons will see that women stay home and raise children because in the military it's just easier than switching jobs a million times and having two 1099s and a handful of W2s. Or is it because I think that society is judging me for stepping out of the workforce for family, it's so.... 1950s. 

You see, I want my boys to see that women can do anything. I want them to see the hard work a stay-at-home mom (and parent too) does all day and why a mother would be a great addition to any business. Especially one who is qualified. I want them to see that a woman does more than cook, clean and raise children, because one day, maybe they will feel the whispers society gives a man who stays home. Or because one day, they too will have a wife in my shoes. I want them to see that moms can make money and work and make family dinner. I want them to see me for me and appreciate the things and sacrifices that I've made, for them. 

Is it even possible to have it all? Do I really want it all? Tonight when I picked up the toys while Eric put the boys to bed, I found a masterpiece of a creation that Henrik built with and for his trains. I saw the "farm" Theodor made by lining up all of his animals in the corner of the play room. I got to really look at their artwork and their home school projects and think, "Man, I'm doing a great job with them". And I smiled because they impress me and amaze me every day. Would I notice that if I added work to the mix? Maybe. Probably. But would it mean the same thing as it does tonight? I'm not sure. 

I think I'm torn for a few reasons: 1. There about a million stay-at-home parents in the military because it's easy, affordable, and probably the best thing with such an unstable, transient career. I feel like I fall into the "perfect military spouse" category by doing just that. I've never liked to "fit the mold". 2. In my experience, it's very hard to answer the question, "Do you work?" When you meet someone new. "I stay home with my boys" is usually followed with a "right now". Why do I do that? Is it because I think people judge me for not being smart? For not having a degree or experience in the work field? Is it because I'm just self conscious? And 3. I think society is trying to push the stay-at-home experience for a multitude of reasons concerning the education and health of a child, yet the business world doesn't make time for kids, or families. WHY? 

When I look into my soul and really think about what I want, I want a job where I can work from home. I want a job that I can do that is flexible, yet challenging. I want time for my family, because there is NOTHING more important than family in my mind. And I want something that can contribute to the financial success of my family. I want to be an equal in the financial world, not a dependent (which happens to be a word I despise because of being in the military sector). I want to be able to take my kids to and from school and teach them lessons on a variety of different things at home. I want to be able to see my kids have fun in the afternoon riding bikes or building towers. I want to be around them now because they won't want me around them forever. 

I am still actively looking for a job. I am still going to be very picky about what it is I choose to do as a job or even a career because, quite simply, I want to be able to make it to the pumpkin patch or art museum when their classes go. If I'm going to leave my boys to work, it's going to be worth it for all of us, not just me. But I'm looking for a job so that I can gain some of my independence back. It's not because I want to get away from my children, but because I deserve to do something for myself. 

I think it is possible. I think I can take pride in doing "work" and raising my children as long as I wait for the right fit for us. I think I can relax and stop pressuring myself into finding a job because maybe, right now my job is to be with them until the universe is ready for me to work. And right now, when my boys play house, I'm honored that they fight over who gets to be the Mom.  Sure they pretend to go to work, a lot actually, but if Daddy isn't around they assume that's where he is, even if he's out golfing. I want my boys to think of me as someone who will be around to hold our family together through a deployment, a crisis or a disaster. Sure, Daddy has the muscle and ability to fix anything and protect us, but Momma has the glue that holds it together. I guess that's the message and image of me I want them to have, and I think that I've already done that when I really sit down and evaluate my life and relationship with my boys. 

A while back, I changed my Facebook "work" section to "Stay-at-home Mom" you know why? Because it's hard. Because it's something I am proud of. Because not everyone can do it. And when my future employeers look at the gap in my employment experience, they will say, "What did you do for a year?" and I can honestly reply, "I was a janitor, a housekeeper, a chef, a caretaker, a teacher, a leader, an organized multi-tasker, a doctor, a nurse, a financial planner, a butler, a mechanic, a project manager,  an event planner, and an expert on giving hugs to solve the world's largest problems". When they look at me, completely confused, I can say, with pride, "A mom. I was a mom." 



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Dark Side: My Breaking Point

It's been a rough week at my house, we've had two visits for the ER, we've battled croup, had steroids, visited the doctor three times, and are now fighting a nasty virus that has left my house smelling like a fraternity bathroom. I've dealt with anti-vomit drugs that of course aren't working and diarrhea diapers that always happen to explode... on me. 

I vowed to the Social Media Gods that when I became a parent,  I would never post pictures of poop exploded diapers or vomit on walls (and I still haven't) but, this week especially, I've used social media as an outlet as a call for support or ideas on what to do. I've become "the parent" that I so often see mocked or ousted for "over sharing". People who are around kids all day get it, even some friends who aren't parents have offered support (and that's how I know they are true friends) or suggestions, or are even laughing with me when the nurse suggested that I give my almost 20 month old broth to keep him hydrated. 

You see, I've turned to social media because it's my only break in the world of motherhood where I can break free from our quarantined house and "talk" to others about my day, and some of them care, and those that don't just skip over me in the Newsfeed. So here you are, as loyal readers of this blog, either to support or to just find another "over sharer" and laugh, you're reading, so I win, and here we go....

For the last eleven days I've been dealing with sick kids, and for a while, it was lovely. Henrik was the sweetest kid around. He'd say things like, "Theodor, please stop crying I just want to sleep" or "Mommy, can you snuggle me?" And how could I ignore those loving and kind words coming from a kid with a seal like bark and a fever? But as the days went on and Theo got sick too, the attitudes shifted from sweet and pathetic to obnoxious and whiny. I get it, they don't feel well, no one likes to be sick and heck, for a three and 20 month old, one day of feeling sick is enough, let alone eleven. As the days went on, Eric and I just stared at one another and mouthed "OH MY GOD" while secretly laughing at their demanding remarks, their tantrums and fights with their blankets and toys, and even their comments to one another, but as we approached day nine I think I hit phase one of my breaking point.

My status on Facebook was all about puke:

Theo has had 5 coughing attacks that resulted in vomit. I was puked on in each case.

Hank fell and busted open his lip. I was bled on.

We returned our library books and I realized as we walked in that Hank was still in his Pjs and I was wearing slippers and my shirt on inside out.

While we were there, Theo had an exploding diarrhea diaper.

When we left the library Theo was wearing a different outfit and no shoes.

Oops.

You'd think this is a bad day post, but it's not. I'm laughing. It could be because I haven't slept in a week, it could be because I was THAT mom, it could be because its funny. Either way, happy Monday. I hope you laughed today.

See? Can you tell I'm on the verge? It's true I wasn't having a bad day, but I knew I was nearing it and I knew that there was no way I'd win, so just keep on laughing. Right? I spent a lot of the day laughing when I posted again:

Theo is 7 for 6. This time he not only puked on me but also my dinner. Still laughing, hard actually, but, Eric, you should bring home some wine and dark chocolate.

And again a few minutes later when:

Theo just coughed out the remaining puke from dinner and I literally laughed out loud for 2 minutes or so. Best.conversation.of.the.day:

T: Oh no. I puked on the floor.(stomps feet in it, like it's a puddle)

H: I guess I shouldn't have given him all my chicken. (Shakes head)

A: That's why your plate was empty (didn't notice because I was cleaning up the vomit)

H: You just asked if the chicken was gone. It was.

At least Hank got all the wipes and started to pick it up.

You can thank me later for filling your newsfeed with puke updates.

But today, after the laughter, another late night at the ER, and being woken up by a child who, while climbing on you, tries to hold in the vomit as long as possible hoping to beat the odds and swallow it down instead, as he makes the infamous gag/puke noise (God I hope he figures out that puking, while not ideal makes you feel better, before his twenties).  And as I quickly tried to move the comforter out of the way, he finally gives in to his natural reflux and vomits all over me, the quilt and every layer of blanket, all while the three year old screams, "He puked where I was watching my show!" And, as I ask for assistance from the three year old, who says, "I can't carry those things down while I hold my cars! I'll drop them. I just can't handle it, Mom". I knew that today would be more than trying. 

Downstairs, as I'm putting everything in the wash, the boys demand food, and while I know Theo will puke it up, I give in. The kid hasn't eaten in days and I think, maybe if I give him the meds, he'll stop puking and be able to keep down some Cheerios. Wrong. Minutes after he gets his medicine, he pukes all over the table and Henrik demands cereal with milk. I clean up, snap at Henrik to "WAIT and RELAX". After everything is cleaned up, and I put the rags in the wash bin in the laundry room to be rinsed, Theo is happy as can be and asks for breakfast. Sure. Why the bleep Not. I give him crackers and juice. He pukes again before he can even get the food in his mouth. 

Henrik is now screaming and whining about who knows what, I'm cleaning up, again, and trying desperately to get Eric on the phone to come home to help me out. Of course he can't come home because he has to meet a Special Agent today and the FBI reschedules for no one. Not even a desperate military wife and mother who is in tears, exhausted and yelling at her kids in a crazy, manic voice while her three year old just plain cries and the 20 month old is in tears, naked, covered in vomit and asks for her to hold him. 

I ran to the laundry room and shut the door. The boys were just crying, loudly. I tried to calm myself and took a few breaths. I was yelling at my kids from behind a laundry room door. If my neighbors were home I know they would have run in despite the bio hazard of a house and come to help because of the noise coming from inside. I called the doctor again (because I was told that if Theo vomited after taking the anti-nausea drugs that he needed to be seen) and I have to talk to a nurse...

She runs through the series of questions: Do you still live at this address? Is your phone number this? Do you have other insurance? "Look lady, " I snap. "I've been to THIS office three times THIS WEEK. Nothing has changed. I've been to the ER twice THIS WEEK. My kid is vomiting and won't stop. He has the runs and a fever and it's been going on since Friday. I need to see a doctor TODAY. NOW. I CAN'T TAKE IT ANY MORE." "Mam," she says calmly, "How many times has he puked in the last 24 hours?" "A million." I reply. "Mam, I'm going to need a serious number."  "That is a serious number. I can't count any more. He's puked three or four times since 8 AM and it's 8:43." She's quite for a minute and I can hear her typing. I'm sure she's putting in the computer that I'm a raging crazy woman. "Is that the child crying in the background?" REALLY ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW? "Yes," I reply snidely. "He's naked and covered in vomit and instead of being able to clean him up I'm talking to you." "I can get you in at 9:30, you need to be 10 minutes early, you may not take other children with you, you need to bring your ID card with you..." Instead of fighting with her about taking Henrik with me, I just said "thank you" and hang up. I had no choice but to take Henrik with me, remember? Eric had to meet with the FBI and no one wants to take in the brother of a really sick kid. 

After I hung up and cried for another minute or so, I noticed that I never started the washer. Great. We arrived a little early, I sat in the parking lot drinking my luke-warm coffee and telling myself that it will be okay as I closed my eyes and took deep breaths. I was in shock. I only remember being this mad twice. I only have been this upset with my children two times in three and a half years, and I wasn't even really mad at them. I was just at my breaking point. 

The doctor confirmed that this was a separate virus from the Croup and there was nothing he could do. He offered his sympathy and assured me I wasn't crazy (sure, he didn't see me this morning) and I was doing the right things. He told me this could go on through the weekend and I could expect the exploding diapers another two weeks. I dropped my head. "Really? I'm just sooooo tired." He nodded and said, "You can do it. You're already on top of it: you're keeping him hydrated, your following ALL of the doctor's orders you've been given, and you're kids are quietly drawing on paper in the exam room. Usually it's a disaster in here and kids who are as sick as him are just crying." He smiled. Oddly, at that moment, I felt like despite the morning events, I was doing a good job, I was proud and that maybe I could actually do it. I smiled at my kids, shook his hand and we left. 

I resorted to Facebook again:
Update: Theo is puking up the anti-puke drugs. Went back to see the doc. It could last a while...
#sendtowels #sendcoffee #sendlaundrysoap #findmysanity

Before I put them down for a nap, I took a potty break and of course Henrik barged in, "Mom! Look what I found! It's a cookie and it has paper in it!" "Yes, cool. It's called a fortune cookie." "OPEN IT!!! It has a message for you." He jumped up and down and had a huge smile on his face. I smiled too. I opened it. I read it and smiled again. "What did it say? Did it have a good message?" he asked eagerly with his hands close to his mouth like he was prepared to be shocked. I handed him half of the cookie, "Yes. It says I'll earn a large reward." We did a "Cheers" with our cookies and he ran off. I think I earned my reward right then and there: unconditional love. No matter how crazy or tired or frustrated I get, no matter how many pukes I have to clean up or how many sleepless nights I have, I still have these boys, and the best reward of all is realizing that. 


Even though I totally lost my cool today, and as I sit here and try to type all while holding a puke bucket, and have a 20 month old half sleeping and half puking up hot dogs draped over my arms, I'm realizing that this is NOT over (I'm really not making this up). Thankfully,  I have wonderful friends who have offered to drop food off on the porch so they don't get their kids sick, I've got family sending care packages, and I've got new movies and books from the library. Even though a break and massage would be lovely, I've really got to be the one to take care of the boys because when you're sick, you just need your mom. And all I need is social media, the ability to laugh, wine, good friends and a lot of snuggles. Though more laundry soap and towels could be useful.