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.


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.