Thursday, June 18, 2015

Father's Day: A note to my Husband

As I scramble around trying to find the perfect last minute Father’s Day gift for you, my father, my step-father, and your dad, I realized that for the last three years, your sons haven’t spent Father’s Day with their Dad. I have been with mine- all of mine,  but they haven’t been with theirs. The past three years of our life have been filled with struggle and separation, not due to marriage issues, but due to the military and the fact that sometimes, Dad’s have to be gone. When you are as young as the boys, sometimes that’s hard to understand, but now at age 5, our oldest is starting to figure it out. He often asks where you are or what you are doing. He questions why his dad has to be gone, and I am sure, that when Father’s Day finally arrives, we will have some issues to sort through with them. We’ve already sent the Father’s Day cards, but that was weeks ago to ensure that they arrived on time. But on Sunday, when they see kids with their Dad at the park or see my Dads getting their gifts, I am sure that they will wonder why they can’t celebrate with you. It is likely they will brush it off and act like any other day, but I know they feel the sadness, or even jealousy, even if they can't describe it. 

A month ago we discussed how I wasn’t looking forward to Mother’s Day at all because it was just one more holiday you were missing, and one more day that nothing was different. You mentioned that you didn’t want to make Father’s Day a big deal because you aren't here. In fact, you hinted that you hadn’t been a dad this year so you didn’t deserve it. I quickly denied that claim, but was stuck in a place of making my husband feel better about himself and trying to find a way to prove to you that he was still a good dad despite the distance. I didn't say it at the time, because I was stuck in this hard place and this conversation had lengthy breaks in time, but you really made me think about you as a father and this is what I've come up with:

You have always been there for our family. You are the one who brings logic to the table when this seem like we don't have a way out. You are the one who is the protector of the house, the finder of the monsters, the keeper of the light. You are the bedtime King, book reader extraordinaire, giver of the baths, and the one who keeps them safe. You always have adventures for the boys to go on, you bring excitement to the night, and every day, when you come home, you are the only thing in the world that matters to them. 


But, just because you are half a world away doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve this day any less, or that any of those things have changed. Sure, I give the baths, I had to show them my muscles and prove to them that they were safe, but, you are still their first choice.  Even when you are gone, we talk about you non-stop. We save a seat at dinner for you every night. We talk about what you are doing and how you are helping out those who need it. We talk about what the boys want to do with you when you come home and with excitement, they rattle off ideas and develop plans for you and them.  You are still the center of their world, you are still their number one choice for fun and adventure. You are still their Dad. See?

You are with them, no matter where they are or what they are doing. You are the one that they want by their side during parades, to snuggle them to sleep, and to watch them play and grow. You have shown them the world, and they trust you to show them more and more until there is nothing left to see. To them, you are a super hero. You are the one they look up to. You are the one that has had an impact on them like no other. Can you see all the love in those pictures? It's all for you. 

While you are gone, they have had some fabulous stand ins, our Dads have done an amazing job at taking the time to give them the boy time they so desperately need, to be the role models they are looking for, to imprint upon even, 

And while they are great substitutes, they are no match for you. They are trying not to take on the Dad role, because they are all so wonderful at the grandfather role they are in, but they know how to interject you in everything they do with them, and if you could see them interact with our boys, you would beam with pride. 

Eric, I know you can't be here to get some crazy boy-picked-gifts this year, but know that Father's Day is not a day we can just forget about. You mean so much to this family and whether you are here or not, we are going to celebrate you. And while it may be a bittersweet day, know that the day we get to see you will be the best Father's Day you could ever ask for. 

Thank you for being the best father I could have picked for my children. I love you. We all love you. 
Happy Father's Day, 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Why Military Kids Are So Cool- A response to the DoDLive Post by Katie Lange

Today was a day like any other, probably just like yours: It started off as I shuffled around the house trying to scrounge up some food for my ever picky pre-schoolers to eat before I had my cup of coffee (I never drank the one I made), and I try to mix the baby food before the baby really started to scream. I grab a slice of banana bread before I rush to the seat I'll be stuck in for a half an hour as I feed the baby and remind the boys to use proper manners. We discuss our day, I hand over napkins so that the boys can wipe up their own spills, and I wrestle a very persistent five month old as she grabs her banana and rice cereal from the spoon I'm feeding her from.

But then, my day becomes different from yours: The phone rings. The boys know the familiar tune of the FaceTime ring. They jump up as it rings and rings. "Mooooommmm" they say as they give me a glare because I cannot answer the phone with banana on my hands. Finally, my hands are damp, but clean-ish, I slide the bar. "Hi Daddy!" they say as they crowd around me. "Are you sleeping?! Ha ha hahahaaaaa, you have to sleep and we just waked up" Teddy teases. They're in my space, the baby is getting frustrated because she's not eating. "Ok! Who is going to talk to daddy first?" "I AM!!!!" Teddy takes the phone from me and heads up to our deployment desk. A place where they can write letters, draw pictures, mail packages, learn where daddy is, and once a week, a place they get to have "alone time" with their dad over a telephone.

Many of you don't know a military kid. Some of you never will meet one, and that's unfortunate, for a lot of reasons actually, but the two most important reasons I can come up with are these:  First, you'd never get a glimpse into the world that one percent of our American population does, but serves 100% of us. And two, you'll never get to see love and loyalty in it's purest form.

April is the Month of the Military Child. And April 15th, today, is Military Child Appreciation Day. In an article put out by DoDLive, we find some pretty horrific reasons why "military kids are so cool", including MREs which stands for Meal Ready to Eat. If you don't know what an MRE is,  it's food for combat situations. Learn more about them here. Is this honestly the best they could come up with? MREs aren't cool. And military kids are mostly normal kids, they don't have MREs on hand to pass out for an after school snack. They want a granola bar, fruit snacks and goldfish crackers just like the rest of us. I was deeply saddned by this article, and can't believe it's put out by a military friendly organization aimed at honoring our nation's heroes. Even the littlest ones.

As an Air Force wife for seven years and a mother of three incredible military kids, I wanted to share with the world why it really is important to honor these kids.

A lot of times I don't love being in the military, and about 90 per cent of the time, that dislike is because of my children. I want them to have the kind of childhood I had; filled with cousins, grandparents and a home that has been theirs for decades. A home that they will return to and share with their spouses and kids and a home that has memories of a lifetime of happiness. I feel for them every time we change pre-schools and I hate the idea of having to move during grade school or even high school. I hate the stress and behavior changes we go through every time we have to pack up and move on. I hate that they ask to play with friends that are half way across the country, and I hate, more than anything that they cry or get angry or just can't handle the stress of having their dad gone.

After our phone call, I urge my boys to get dressed so we can continue on with our day. Again, like yours. I probably tell them 100 times to put on their underwear and to put their butts away. I tell them 15 times to grab socks and shoes and when we can finally make it out of the house.

We continue on to story time, pick out our library books and play at the library. Then, leaving the library our day switches again. "Ok boys, remember what we are doing? Books, Bakery, Hardware, Subway. Today is a special day. It's Military Kid Appreciation Day". I tell them that we get to have a day out to honor them. "A day for us?" Henrik asks. "Yup", I reply. "You guys are military kids, today is about how amazing you are. You are strong, brave and tough. Today, Daddy and I thank you for helping out the military". Their eyes lit up. I don't know what they were thinking, I only imagine them thinking they are in super hero suits helping their dad keep the world safe. We enjoy our lunch, talk about our day and what we enjoyed at story time-- just a normal conversation.

On the way home, I made a comment about the trees starting to get buds on them. "Daddy's NEVER going to come home!" I hear Teddy whine as he huffs and crosses his arms across his chest. "Yes, Teddy, he will. It's just not time yet." We count the months, we talk about the seasons that have to pass before he will return and we go through the routine of questions about where and why he's away. You'd think after all this time they'd know these things and it would just make sense, but the truth is, they can't really make sense of it. They try. They're grabbing at everything trying to make connections of the life they were thrown into, but they can't get the whole way there.

I don't think deployment would be as bad if I didn't have kids, because then I wouldn't have to convince them that their dad will come home as we count through the seasons and months, and I hope to all the gods in the world that I'm not lying to my sons as I tell them that their dad will return. But I carefully watch my language and make sure I never say, "I promise".

Our days are full of moments of normalcy and moments of fret and terror. We have breakdowns and heart ache, regression, anger, frustration and more. We deal with them, all of them. We have to.

My oldest son, almost five years old, has moved to two different bases, but because of our military life, he's changed houses, and friends, and his "home" nine different times. It doesn't get easier. It's never easier. I'm better at packing and I can unpack and put together a home in a week flat, but it's not easy. We've moved so much due to my husband's separations from us that moving is now in their blood. They've invented a game, it's called, "pack it up". It's where the boys take everything they own, seriously, every toy box in the house, and pile it on to the couches or the table and create a camper where they are moving to their new house because, "We're in the Air Force, and that means you've gotta move sometimes". It breaks my heart to see them play this game. But at the same time, I'm pleased and quite amazed at their ability to process this as normal.

I've had a lot of people tell me in the wake of this deployment that I shouldn't worry about my kids because "military kids are resilient". Of course NONE of these people have ever served in the military or have been a military child, but they know, because they've heard that military kids are resilient. Part of me wants to punch them in the face as they brush off the tantrums and tears I've had to tend to. The other part wants to shrug my shoulders and agree, my kids are resilient. In fact, they are better than that. And this is what makes military kids so cool, no matter the situation, no matter the length of time, military kids are truly inspiring. Here's why:

A Friend is a Friend, is a Friend. 
No matter how many times they move, a military kid knows the drill and is used to being "the new kid". They don't care what you look like, how old you are, what branch your in, if you are a civilian or not, they just care that you are there. Military kids are open, friendly, welcoming and are good at sharing. They will play with anyone who is around and are often the first ones to start a conversation with a person at the grocery store, the park and at school.

Family Isn't Made Up of DNA.
When you are miles and miles from biological family, you have no choice but to create a safe, loving environment for yourself- and you do that with your chosen family. Military kids are used to spending birthdays and holidays with "aunts" and "uncles" that are really their parents best friends. They are used to calling neighbors "cousins". It's just the way of life. Military kids incorporate everyone into their world.

Bloom Where You are Planted. 
When your best friend doesn't move with you, or they don't have your favorite sport at your new base, of course military kids are sad. But, military parents have taught their children how to focus on the good in every situation so that no matter where you are in the world, you will find something new to enjoy just as much.

Wearing Your Heart On Your Sleeve.
Most adults aren't good at dealing with emotion, but from a very early age, military kids are taught to understand, express, and talk about their feelings. They openly express when they are hurting and are missing a friend or parent. They mean it when they tell their friends they love them and they are genuinely saddened when orders come through. But, they know how to tell their friends and how to deal with this sort of loss.

Military Bases Are Worth More Than Gold. 
Living in a community where everyone has a different version of the same story helps. Military kids (and families) thrive in communities like this because everyone is there to help out when spouses are deployed, on TDYs (away from home for anywhere from one day to months), or even the birth of a chid. But more importantly, military kids have free reign in this safe, close knit community. Kids run (safely) across streets to greet their friends and neighbors home. They have instant best friends in their neighbors because their lives are so similar, they have community centers and chapels that focus on the needs of military kids, and they have sports teams and youth events geared towards families. It's the perfect place to be if you are a kid.

National Pride
Living in a military community means honoring your flag, your country, your service members and one another. Military kids have an understanding around age two, that the National Anthem is a time to be quite, stand at attention, salute or hold your hand to your heart. They learn about what the flag represents. They learn why we defend and protect it, and they start to understand the ins and outs of what the military does. They stand with their hands on their hearts as fallen soldiers are paraded on their final welcome home through base on their way to the funeral, and they are there jumping with joy as soldiers return home to their families. They understand the true meaning of nationalism, community and pride.

As my children are nestled in their beds holding daddy dolls dreaming of the activities they will do when their dad comes home, I stand in their room just watching. They are so peaceful. They don't need to know exactly what their dad is doing, but they believe that he is a super hero. They believe that he is making a difference in the world and he will return. When I go to kiss them one more time, and tuck them in extra tight, I give them two kisses, one for me, and one from Dad. They are still learning about tomorrow and the next day, so they still aren't sure how much longer they have to wait, but they know that they are safe and happy where they are now and that they have the luxury of having their grandparents around every corner while we wait for their dad to come home. I am inspired by their ability to take this difficult situation and to turn it into something good. They don't understand that it's part of the job, but they are treating it like that. If they can do it, then I can do it. Military kids should be an inspiration to all of us. If nothing else, we should learn that military kids have it tough, but they take one moment at a time and make it through. They look for the good in the world and they let that guide them through the hardships of life.

Today, I want my oldest son to know that he makes us proud every day of this deployment.  He has so much love and has such a protector personality to care for his brother and his sister, and even me, that I am honored to have such a great young man in my life. He has come out of his comfort zone to do so, and that shows me just how strong he really is. He told me a few days ago that he wants to be in the Air Force like his dad, and while my heart screams 'no', I know that he'd make an excellent officer one day.

I want my middle son to know that he, at the age of three, is at the worst age for this deployment. Out of the last six months, he spent three of them with is dad. And now, his dad is gone again. Teddy just began the imprinting stage and believed that his dad was stronger than Hulk, as good as Captain America, and was more amazing than Spider-Man, and now, he's left in a world of confusion and anger but is afraid to say he's mad at his dad for fear he won't come back. He's sad, he's struggling for a father figure in his life, but he is so brave and so impressive in the way he's handling this, that I know he is starting to get it. He will make it through and this event will change him forever in one of the best ways we could ask for.

I want my five month old daughter to know that even though she doesn't remember her father, she knows the sound of his voice and she responds to phone calls, will stop nursing to turn to his voice and smiles at him during FaceTimes. I am so thankful for the technology, so that when he returns, it will hopefully make the re-integration more successful and she can finally have some daddy bonding time.

To all three of you, Happy Military Kid Appreciation Day. You are truly an inspiration to me and many more. And I hope that no matter the length of time we remain in the military that this experience as military kids sticks with them. I can't ask for a better life shaping experience for my kids, (and me) and while it's tough, so is life. My kids are just getting more opportunities to learn how to handle it.

And that Ms. Lange, is why military kids are so cool.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Hands Are Full

Recently I had this conversation:

Me: Excuse me, I signed my kids up for story time, but I'm not sure when the session ends...
Librarian: It will end May 13th. Do you want me to write that down?
Me: No, I've got it. I may not remember the day but I'll remember that it's a teen and I'll go from there.
Librarian: Really? Because you look like you might forget.
Me: I've got it, I'll get the right week, thank you.
Librarian: Really? If ever there was a person who might forget, it would be you. You have your hands full.

In that moment I literally had my hands full, I was carrying seven books (they each get to pick their age), two DVDs (one for each), a baby, and a wallet. But my kids were behaving, my kids were wonderful in fact. And that day was wonderful: I got to take a shower. Hell, I even shaved my legs, put on make up, actually did my hair and put on some cute new clothes. I ran errands, made appointments for the baby, picked up my kids from school (I was there early), and made a trip to the library. Sure, the Librarian was correct, I did forget the date, the 13th, but I knew it was a teen and I knew that it had to end on a Wednesday. I looked at a calendar, used the information she gave me and figured out that our last day was the 13th. Personally, I chocked that day up as a win, but still her comments really bothered me. 

Today, the same thing happened. Another comment was made about me having my hands full and while today was not as wonderful to start as the previous, before we left the house I paid two bills, did a few things for work, investigated an ENT, got my kids dressed, made breakfast (eggs even), fed a baby and myself (for once), took a shower, did my hair, got dressed in cute clothing and arrived early to story time. It wasn't the librarian this time who made the comment, but it was another mother. My kids were wonderful at the library, they were using the appropriate level of noise in the children's section as they waited their turn to enter the story time room. They picked out the books they wanted to take home, we read a book each all while the baby sat up on my lap and was quietly listening to the stories and playing with a toy. We entered the story time room and my kids sat front and center behaving and following directions, participating and dancing along. My daughter fell asleep in her front carrier. I sat there for 30 minutes smiling at my children because they were being so wonderful and it's rare that I get to see them in a classroom-like setting, and you know? I was impressed! As we were leaving and I was getting coats on everyone, I felt like I kept getting stares. I was asked by another mother the ages of my children, I told her, "almost five, three and 4 months". She replied, "that's a lot, you've got your hands full." I just smiled back. I didn't have a great answer. 

After story time my kids and I were hungry, so we went to a restaurant nearby. There was a little spat over where we would all sit, and I had to remind the oldest to sit on his bottom, and I had to quite a baby who needed to burp, but all in all, it was a great meal. I kept getting stared at by a mostly male environment as I nursed my daughter, encouraged my kids to use great manners, and reminded them that we had to use quieter voices in a restaurant. They weren't yelling and screaming, in fact, they were trying to make conversations with those around us. They were counting people with hats on, they were counting how many males and females were in the building and so on. It was constructive conversations, but we were stared at nonetheless.

When we went to our swim lesson I wore the baby in the front pouch and carried the swim bag. Henrik held my hand and Theo held his. We were in a nice line, no one was being silly, we were just walking. "Oh, you have your hands full" said another member. I just flashed a quick smile as I entered the locker room. All was well as they prepped for class but after class it was a little more challenging as I got the two boys showered, dressed and brushed their hair all while holding their sister. We were started at again. Maybe it was because the boys look like twins, maybe it's because they both happened to pick out blue shirts which made their twin-ness more of a possibility, maybe it was because I was no longer baby wearing and I had to do all of this single handed. Maybe it's because I have three kids. I'm not sure but I felt watched and for the first time really felt uncomfortable as a mother. 

A while back a friend (who also has three children) was told that she had her hands full, and her remark back was, "yes, full of love". And I liked that answer a lot. But it's not my answer. Of course I love my children. Of course I dedicate my daily life to their education, their safety and their comfort. Of course I would do anything for them, but answering that my hands are full of love isn't want I want people to hear when they make a comment about my life. My hands are full. They are literally full of keys, a phone, a diaper bag and my infant daughter. But they are also full of keeping track of my two sons. They are full of exhaustion and little hope of a full nights sleep. They are full of comfort that everything will be OK while their dad is away. They are full of strength that I can not only carry seven books, two DVDs, and a baby and not drop anything, but also strength that I can take care of myself in the process. They are full of worry that one of the boys won't stay close as we go into a parking lot, or that they will get lost as we make our way through a busy room. They are full of fear that I won't succeed in this process. They are full of artwork made for me from school, things they want to mail to their dad, and their soggy, muddy gloves from the playground, but they are also full of hugs and kisses for my return at pick up time. They are full of love, so much love that it makes me beam when I think of them. 

My hands are busy every second of every day tending to boo boos, keeping their treasures, congratulating achievements, high-fives, wiping noses, directing clean ups, changing diapers, making food, cleaning the house, putting away laundry, doing my job (yes, real work), doing "mom school", reading books, building Legos, wiping up baby spit-up, doing butt checks after they go to the bathroom, stimulating three kids, connecting with my friends in group texts and talking to my husband. My hands are full of of snuggles, kisses, and soft, chubby hands just waiting to have their turn at "mom time". My hands are full. They are sticky, they are dry from washing them because they are covered in snot and whatever that is over there. But, they are well used, and they are full of life. 

I'm hurt and a little offended that society thinks that my third child, or maybe the fact that I have two boys so close in age, means my hands are full and I can't function at life. My kids are good kids, they are wild at times, they play off one another and become silly, they don't always listen, and they are curious. But they have kind, wonderful hearts that stand up for the people they love and question the things they don't quite understand or don't believe to be fair. They are full of life themselves and are eager to share it with all of us. I, like all of you, have days where I don't get to eat a real meal, take a shower and cannot wait for nap time. But I am making it. I am doing it. I am living each day like it's meant to be lived. I want my kids to know that life is hard, it's always throwing curve balls at you, but I want them to see that their mom can handle it all and still make time for them, herself... and even have a little fun together. So when people tell me, on days that I think I'm kicking ass, that I'm struggling at life. I want them to know, I'm not. I'm living. And I'm doing it well. My hands may be occupied by three kids under five, a host of other objects and covered in baby puke, but my hands are full of life, and that's exactly what I wanted in this world. 

So the next time I'm told by complete strangers that my hands are full, I'm going to look back and them and smile. I'm going to stand up taller, pull my kids in closer and tell them, "yes, they are, very full of life". Then I'm going to move along with my kids dressed as super heroes and give them each an air high-five as we exit the building because, we are kicking ass at life. We made it out the door on time or early, no one peed their pants in public, and we probably brushed our teeth. We are together, they are laughing, I'm wrangling, and we are off on an adventure that will bring us closer to one another, and hopefully, when they are older, and perhaps when they have kids of their own, they will remember to live. To live in the moment, to cherish what we are given and to give life all we've got. Because if your hands aren't full of life, then you're not doing it right. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Skating Lessons

In the midst of the chaos of moving and having a baby, I asked each set of grandparents if they could help with something special. I wanted each of them to have some special activity to do with the boys while we were home. I wanted this because I'd get a few hours to myself, but I also wanted them to have sometime with their grand kids in an area that is important to them and my children. I wanted the grandparents to fully experience my boys' talent, their pride in accomplishing something and their enjoyment from their hobbies. I asked Eric's parents if they would search around for a hockey/skating program for the boys. Hank and Theo had been in skating lessons for about 12 weeks before we moved and they were quite impressive and quickly advancing.

Hockey had become quite the activity in our house. With Eric being a college hockey player with a few bragging rights of his own, of course it brought joy to him when his boys loved skating and playing around on the ice. But to me it was different. Hockey had become so much of my life with Eric. I remember staying out late going to games with his parents in freezing rinks for games that didn't start until 9 PM. I remember countless hours of riding home with Eric after his games, his hands still smelling like hockey gloves (it's why we never held hands, that smell always rubbed off onto mine) and Linkin Park playing on the radio. I remember following the college score boards to see Eric's name rise to the top, I remember watching practice after practice and learning the plays along with Eric. And now, to watch my boys was a special gift. Eric says they have no choice, they have to learn how to skate, and he's right, if they don't learn now, they won't be good skaters at age 12 if that's what they decide to do. But for our boys, it's not a chore. They enjoy it. I think that part of the enjoyment is because we are playing and skating in a rink with a box named after their dad, with a giant banner of their dad hanging from the ceiling, and with t-shirts with their name on them in the gift shop. It's different here. Here my boys have a history that makes up who they are and who we are as a family. When I watch my two and four year old glide and skate past others in their class I think, "wow, the genetics are strong in these kids" but I also think, "what am I getting myself into?!" I love watching the boys skate. They do it proudly, without complaint and always come off the ice with a smile. After their lessons, Eric joins them to chase them around the ice, play games with toys chasing them (so they will skate faster), and even carry them as he skates so beautifully around the rink.

It's a time when I see my children the most happy, and in turn, that makes me happy. I could honestly care less if they choose hockey to be their sport, I think Eric may feel differently. I do love seeing my children excel at something and if they choose to quit a talent then I'll have a problem with it. Eric and I have often discussed their skills on the ice, we laugh because Theo insists on falling or crawling on the ice because he wants to be a goalie. He shouldn't be a goalie though, he's got an phenomenal shot for a 2 year old. And we wish for Henrik to believe in himself just a bit more because that child can skate. He has a stunning stride and his long legs, yet lower stance make him the perfect candidate for a hockey or speed skater. We laugh about how because I'm a stay-at-home mom, I'll be the one getting up at ungodly hours to take them to practice in the minivan when I swore that I'd never drive a minivan and I'd never take a kid to practice before sunrise. I've learned to love these skating lessons that happen mid-afternoon on a Sunday when my children should be napping because my family is doing something we love.

Today, when we went to their new skate lessons I had a bad feeling the second I walked into rink. When I went to complete their registration, the lady processing the paperwork wouldn't listen to me about the classes the boys should be in. Instead, she told me that because they had never been in lessons at this rink and because they were under age 5, they had to start at the first beginner class. I was livid, but it wasn't her decision, she was just doing her job. After they were all laced up, and we put the boys with their teachers, I tried to address the situation with their instructors that my boys had already passed this class, both teachers rolled their eyes at me and said that they would test the boys. I asked them if they would move them mid lesson once they saw how capable they were, they said "sure" like I was a crazy parent thinking my children were better than their class. I got even more upset when the first 10 minutes of their class were spent OFF THE ICE learning how to get up after you fall. Theo's teacher kept telling him to do it differently, which was odd to me, because he was the only kid who could get up. I became that parent, I hated myself for it but I could see the looks on my boys faces like they had been let down. I leaned into my boys and told them to do what they knew and that they should just do it how they learned it. I told them to do their best to show their teachers that they knew how to do this already so they could get into a better class. They did. They were still corrected on how they stood up. Does it really matter? If you fall, and you get up, does it matter how you got up? Or that you got up?

When they were finally allowed on the ice, assistants actually picked up my boys and moved them to a location where their class would be held. SERIOUSLY? Isn't this learn to skate? My boys can skate, let them! Then they spent the next 7 minutes SITTING on the ice making snow angels. I was really upset at this point. YES, that is good for the kids who SHOULD be in that class, but my kids were bored out of their minds, not challenged and looking at me like this was the stupidest thing they had ever done. I feared that this was going to kill their love of skating and hockey. So, I became that parent again. This time I didn't feel bad about it. I told Henrik to skate over to a class that was doing what he was learning when we left Colorado. He skated over. I told him to start doing what the class was doing while I went and looked for someone in charge. His new teacher wouldn't let him skate because he wasn't "assigned" to her class. He was picked up and carried to the woman in charge. I was livid. I tried to explain to this woman that he was in the wrong class. She asked his age, I said 4. She told me that because he was 4 he had to be in this class. I explained that he and his 2 year old brother had already passed Snowplow Sam 1 and 2 and they should NOT be with kids who are crying and making snow angles on the ice. She said it was policy. I said, then I'd like my money back. I didn't pay $160 for my kids to spend their 25 minutes of instruction sitting on the ground when they could skate.

She then offered to test Henrik. She admitted he should move up, in fact, she even had him skip a class and put him in an even higher level. I told her that Theo should be moved to Snowplow Sam 2 instead of Sam 1. She mocked me as she remembered that I told her the boys already passed that class. I replied, "he's two, while he is talented, I don't think he should be in a class with with 6 year olds just yet. Maybe next session he should be with them, you already put Hank in a class with 14 year olds". She told me to relax, but I just couldn't. It was now the "end" of their instruction time and for the remaining 30 minutes the children were supposed to go to the other half of the ice and skate around, however, there were 70 kids on the ice and no one to direct them. It was a jam of children who had never been on ice with skating gates taking up space. I heard another parent complain that there was no direction for the last 30 minutes. The same lady who I spoke with before, said, "There's 70 kids out there, it's the first day. It will get better". The woman replied, "but what are they supposed to do out there if there isn't an instructor out there?" She was  was hushed and then never got a response. A second later the director called over one of the figure skating teen assistance and actually said, "Skate around and look like you're doing something, parents are getting upset". Were we ever.

Henrik came over 10 minutes in and said he was done. I explained that this was different than our lessons in Colorado and this was how they did things at this new rink. "I don't like it" he said, his head hanging low. I didn't like it either. I didn't like his defeated stance or attitude either. I finally convinced him to skate two times around. When he completed it, he came back and pouted at me. Tears started to fill his eyes. I took him off the ice, "What's up buddy?"

He made a fist like a little kid would and wiped his eyes so that tears wouldn't actually fall, "I miss Dad. I want him to skate with me". I lost it, right there. I started to cry, but I tried to keep them back so he could see me being strong or whatever. I failed. I could hardly speak, my voice cracked as I said, "I miss him too. I wish he was here. I know he's really proud of you for trying out a new class and a new rink..."

"But I want to skate and they won't let me," Hank interrupted.

"I know, but I talked to the person in charge and they will get it right for next time, next lesson you will have fun, and if you don't we will just finish our commitment and then take a break from hockey until we can find a program we like," I tried to sound excited, though I was just as pissed as he was.

"I don't want to play hockey," he said as he lowered his head.

"Yes you do! And you're great at it, heck, you even showed the director that you could skate backwards and she moved you up! It will be better next time I promise. And next time, I'll take a video for dad and we can send it to him".

Hank nodded in agreement.

Finally the lesson ended. Theo came off the ice first, "I did it. I was the best. I was cawing for you because I didn't wike it doh". I took off his helmet, "I know buddy, I heard you I just wasn't allowed on the ice. We will make it better next time." He wiped snot all over his sleeve and said, "I wike Ms. Donna", She was their instructor at home in Colorado, "I wike dis teacher, but, I didn't wern anyfing. I'm da best at standing." I laughed because, it was totally true, he was the only child who was standing in his class, the rest were struggling to get up, but for some reason, they wanted to correct the way Theo got up. He actually spent the whole lesson standing doing nothing while the kids around him slipped and cried for 10 minutes.

When we got back in the car, I was furious, I needed to let off steam. I was able to call Eric. I told him everything and he just agreed with me that it was stupid. He said, "If noting else it's a chance for them to be on the ice" as he tried to calm me down. "It's NOT! If anything, these next six weeks will be an opportunity for them to hate skating and do nothing. I don't want them to do nothing, they are capable, great skaters!" I heard myself there. But I didn't care, I didn't care if I was a hockey mom or a stage mom. My whole philosophy to parenting and life is that it should be challenging and fun, and this was just a waste of money making my children miss their father and hate an activity that our family loved. Then I started to cry, "And the worst part is, Eric, Henrik said he wanted to skate with you and this hockey rink wasn't fun. I knew we'd have an "I miss daddy" day, but I didn't expect it to be so soon".

"Are you cwying, Momma?" Theo asked softly from the backseat of the car.
"Yes" I replied as I sniffed and wiped my eyes
"Why?" Asked Henrik, "Is it because this was a horrible day and they didn't even let me skate?"
I started to laugh, "Yes actually. It's a silly thing to cry about, but that's why I'm crying. That and I miss dad and want him to be here with us for skating."
"We miss Dad too" the boys said in unison.

Eric calmed me down and I drove home. The boys and I made being together and doing fun things the priority for the rest of the day. It felt really good to get on the floor and make Theo laugh as I poked and tickled him as I flew him in the air. It made me happy to see Henrik submerse himself in Legos and feel accomplished at his building skills after he had no pride this afternoon. Seeing his bright smile as he showed me his underwater car/submarine with a camera and a whale-like tale to help it move made me see even more that this rink was not the right place for us. I'm hoping it will get better, I'm hoping that next week I can see the same joy on the ice from these boys that I'm getting while we played all afternoon.

That evening at dinner, Henrik said, "Mom, how was your day?"
"My day was frustrating," I said.
"But other than the hockey part, how was your day?" he clarified.
I laughed, "My day was fun. I liked playing with you boys and seeing you so happy." Henrik seemed satisfied with my answer. I asked Henrik the same question, he thought for a second, "I miss dad. I wanted him to be at hockey with me." "MEEEE TOOO" chimed Theo.

I assured them that we'd keep Dad posted on their hockey lessons and that we'd send pictures and videos to him while they skated. I let them know that Dad was proud and that I missed him too. It's a really hard place for me to be in. Hockey is something Eric wants them to learn and it's something I've grown to love because of what it does for our family, but without him, would it be the same? I guess only time will tell. And it's one of those things that a deployment wife has to do while her spouse is away: find a way to keep the love and fun in the family while her partner is gone. I'll get there. I'll feel more confident about it soon. We just have to take it one day at a time.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Happy Birthday, Theodor

I have to admit it, I just couldn't get into this birthday celebration.

Most of the time I'm excited about celebrating the birth of my children, it's not just a day for them to get presents and eat as much frosting as possible, but it's a day for me to reflect on their life, my experiences as their mother, and to remember all of the joy I had the moment they entered the world. This year was different though, Theo ages quickly, it feels like this 4T wearing, physically huge, very smart, very ambitious child was already three. It has always been a challenge parenting him because he's just older and bigger than his age in every way. But now, as I look at his behavior at the dinner table the night before his birthday, I think, "well, he's only two." But in reality, tomorrow morning he won't be any "older", his behaviors won't change for a few more months, and we'll actually be in the three-nager stage instead of knocking on it's door. Now people will think I'm lying less when I tell them his age, but they still won't believe me when I say he's three and not five, and even though he's old enough for preschool and some enrichment programs, he still has squishy features, loves footed pajamas and wants to snuggle. He's always hated the word "baby" let alone being called one, but when I look at him I see how he still is one.

Maybe it's his age that was bothering me, maybe it was the fact that he couldn't nail down the type of birthday party he wanted, we went between horse and pony party, zoo party, Elsa party, Super hero party, Spider-Man party and sports party a million times. Maybe it was because my husband was gone, maybe it's because we were living in a new place and he didn't have any friends to celebrate with. I don't really know, I just knew I wasn't as "together" as I wanted to be for this birthday. So I figured that since I wasn't prepared for this birthday, I could be prepared for something: I was going to get him whatever he asked for.

For weeks I had been asking him what he wanted, there were two things that were consistent: a Spider-Man costume and an Elsa Dress, with crown, and braid. I double checked about 100 times with him to find out if this is really wanted and he always said yes. So, I went online and selected exactly what he asked for. I told my husband that's what Theo wanted, and he said, "get the kid a dress, it's what he wants" and that's when I hit the "complete order" button and smiled, I married a good one.

On the 21st, we had an Elsa party, Theo picked out the Frozen themed cupcakes from Kroger and we went out that morning to buy some Elsa balloons. When it was time to open presents, I couldn't wait. I got just as excited as he was. His eyes were already huge at the notion of presents, but when he tore off the paper and saw the Elsa braid and crown, he was so happy. He wanted it on immediately. When he opened the dress, he demanded it go on right away, in fact, we stopped opening the rest of the presents so he could make himself "beautiful".

I couldn't believe it, Theo put on the dress, braid, crown, slippers and gloves. He spoke softly, he held himself differently, more feminine. He asked if he looked beautiful. He danced around the living room to "Let it Go" and asked to look at himself in the mirror. We obliged and played along and had fun doing so. I was in shock as this dress transformed my Thornado of a child into... a princess! Hanky complimented him on his dress and how pretty he looked. I just couldn't believe what was happening in my living room.

After insisting that I put my hair in braids like Anna, and after singing "Let it Go" about four times, we opened the rest of the gifts.

Next up was the Spider-Man costume. Theo, just as excited about that costume as he was about Elsa. He asked we remove the dress and he put on the Spidey suit. As soon as he had on the Spider-Man gloves he was transformed yet again into a crime fighting, bad guy stopping Super Hero. He jumped off the couch and landed in a "Spider-Man pose", he wrinkled his nose, furrowed his brows and used a deeper, more aggressive tone of voice. He became Spidey, just like he became Elsa.

I truly could not believe my eyes, before me, I had the most rough and tumble boy switching back and forth between a "boy" character and a "girl" character. And each time he did it his actions and tone changed, his body language changed, he changed. I don't think I'll ever forget how he tried to get into the toy cabinet to grab his Elsa, Anna and Olaf barbie toys but couldn't open the door because the baby swing was in the way. Instead of being his usual self and throwing everything in his path away, he asked for Hank to help. Hank was wearing the Spider-Man costume.
"Hanky help me! You're stwonger, you're Spider-Man," he cried from across the room.

Hank was too busy to help out as he was landing like Spidey jumping off the coffee table and couch. I looked at my sister and back at Theo. "Theo, you can move it, you're strong too!"
"No I'm not."
"Yes you are. Elsa is a Queen and she is the ruler of a whole kingdom. She's brave and strong as she goes off into the mountains to figure herself out. She made a castle out of ice! Of course you can move that swing." He just looked at me, once he realized that I was right, he picked up the swing and moved it out of his way so he could get at his Frozen toys.

Did my son really just believe that a girl wasn't strong enough or mighty enough? Does he really think that Spider-Man is tougher than Elsa? Apparently so, and I can see that in his behaviors and the way he portrays each character when he's dressed as them.

For a child who has NEVER seen a super-hero-action show in his life, and has only seen Frozen one time, for a child who has only been in school for two weeks, and for a child who has parents who encourage creativity, being yourself and being open to all walks of life, I was completely surprised to experience this with him.

How could it be possible?

After the hype of presents was gone, the boys went downstairs to play. I came downstairs after cleaning up to find Hank dressed as ELSA! This is a child who has said, "I don't want to go down that aisle, it's the girl aisle because it's all pink" and "I don't like Princesses". We've always responded with "There are no girl or boy toys, and Dad wears pink". But to see him be fully supportive of his brother in a princess dress made my heart melt to see that he was just as welcoming and open as we are trying to raise him. But when he had the dress on, I just stood there with my mouth open. He too wanted to see how he looked. He mentioned that he liked wearing a dress because there was more room for his legs, but he didn't like how it got cold under the dress. He asked for an Anna dress to play with so he could play with his brother. He left it on for the remainder of the night as the boys played Super-Hero-Princess and saved us from all evil and bad magic. It was a moment that I'll remember for ever, it was a birthday that I will never forget.

That night after convincing the boys that they shouldn't sleep in the costumes, I came down to look at Facebook. I wanted to post the pictures of Theo and Hank dressed up as Elsa but was afraid of some potential nasty comments from a particular group of Facebook Friends. I vividly remember a day I responded to a parent as she commented on Theo's Doc McStuffins pink socks while he was baby wearing. I quickly and bluntly said, "What's wrong with him wearing pink and playing with a doll? You mean I'm teaching him to be a great big brother and how to be a great dad?" She didn't ever say anything to me about his love of dolls again. And I was fearful of what people may say on the internet, because let's be honest, we all think the internet makes us invincible and we all are a little more mean there. I posted them anyway, why should I be afraid of what they were going to say? My kid was happy and that's all that mattered.

In the morning I had lots of "likes" and comments in support of Theo and his dress and not one negative thing.  One person said I was a great mom, but I simply responded, "In this house we like what we like, we are who we are and who doesn't love Let it Go"? I'm not a great mom. I'm a good mom who would do anything for her child. I would never let my boys, or my daughter do anything that was harmful to themselves or others, but if they feel like doing something out of the norm, then why stop them? There are way bigger battles to fight along the road, exploring what is familiar to them, pretending to be something they idolize and letting them figure out who they are is more important.

This birthday that I was under prepared for and sort of dreading, actually turned out to be one of the best birthdays. Seeing his joy as we sang to him, seeing the excitement as he tore off wrapping paper even though it was Christmas paper, and seeing the delight as he played with his new toys made me remember what it's all about: him.

Monday, January 12, 2015

I Just Had A Baby

I wanted to put it out there because I know I'm not the only one...

My jeans don't fit. Not even my "fat pants".

I know, there's an article circling the internet right now that is all about how "you just had a baby" and how you should give yourself a brake, but I don't want to feel like that. I want my life back. I want normalcy, I want out of those maternity pants, I want my almost perfect daughter to stop puking all over everything, and I want to have an outing with friends, or heck, I'd settle for a good, timely texting conversation or a Facetime with friends. I want to eat a meal that I can cook instead of grabbing something on the go in between juggling three kids and nursing. I'd love to go on a hike or to the gym. I'd love to run, and I hate running. I'd love to have pants that fit, really, that's what I want the most. 

 I hate pulling up on the nylon that should be covering a pregnant belly but instead is covering a nice little post baby pooch, but the battle is pointless as they don't stay up because my baby belly is gone and my hips are starting to move again, and, they don't look cute anymore.

But at the same time I'm conflicted. I hate that there is pressure on women to lose all their baby weight by the time you are deemed "recovered" by a doctor. Did you know it takes about two years for your uterus to shrink back down? And I whole-heartedly agree with that article, I had a freeking baby! Give me a break, in every aspect of my life, I need it! 

Eight weeks ago, I had a baby via unplanned, emergency c-section.  I also packed up an entire house while parenting three kids and moved across the country.  We had Thanksgiving and Christmas, and a whirlwind family vacation, just the five of us. I also said, "see ya later" to my husband because he'll be working away from us for a very long time, and I moved in with my parents. My life has been everything but the calm, quiet, baby snuggling, recovery that we all had with our first child. And since my life has been everything but relaxing, my mind is telling me to get back to normal life, but my body isn't ready. I've been dying to get back into my size 4s and my all-time healthiest point in my life just prior to becoming pregnant with my daughter. And now, as I hold my baby after a somewhat excruciating but horribly short first workout, I want to eat chocolate.

This all started when we were at our hotel on our family vacation, my daughter has horrible reflux and every time after she eats, she burps and pukes for about an hour. Every time. While the boys were at the pool, I was bouncing Sweetie and burping her with all my energy. I happened to bounce her in front of a mirror. Up until this point, I thought I looked pretty good. In fact, I thought, "heck, I can be happy with this body! Some women are this size or bigger after three kids, and I'm only at 7 weeks post baby!" My husband thought I was sexy, I thought I was sexy, but for some reason, at that moment, I saw a different side of my body as I struggled to hold, burp, and pull up those damn maternity pants. So after she was calm and puke free, I went to get the regular "fat" jeans I brought on the trip. I put them on, and while they fit nicely in the legs, they were too tight for my waist. Actually, that's not totally true. I could button them, but I was left in such discomfort that I had to take them off immediately.

A few days later I tried to retire the maternity pants again and just wear regular clothes that included a nursing friendly shirt instead of a nursing shirt. It lasted 20 minutes. The pants hurt my incision and made my belly too constricted to make it through baby bouncing, playing cars and wrangling children. So I stood there, in front of a full length mirror in my underwear as my husband's eyes lit up and he gave me the nod. It was hard to take him seriously, as I just took off my "fat pants" because I was too fat for them. I placed my hands on my stretch marks; number three did a number on me. More stretch marks this time and a fancy new horizontal scar to add to my Mom badges. I'm not embarrassed by the stretch marks, or the scar. In fact, I love them, they tell the story of the most important aspects of my life. I earned them and wouldn't trade them or try to hide them,  I just wished my pants would fit and it was socially acceptable to have a belly after baby.

So tonight, since I've reached the magical 8 week post c-section mark and I am allowed to resume normal activity and life, after I put the boys to bed and got the baby comfortably asleep, I did what would be to me a simple work out, only it wasn't simple. My arms were weak and I couldn't do "boy" push ups, my abs were pulling and stretching as I did sit-ups and crunches. I laughed at myself after I caught my reflection in the window, my giant boobs flopped around like a spoof cheerleader film and they ached as I did jumping jacks. It's both funny and depressing at the same time.

After I fumbled through that workout, I picked up a fussy baby, refilled my water bottle and successfully avoided the cabinet with the chocolate. Then I sat down, and gave her a long kiss on top of her head. That new baby smell is so intoxicating. Then I started to write. I realized that exercise is important to me so that's why I felt like I needed to do it today. I missed it, it was my favorite time of the week when I could escape my crazy children and get out the stress of the day in a good sweat session. I missed that. But I realized that my "depression" or perhaps anxiety is not because I'm fat.  I'm actually happy with the way my body is coming along and I cut myself some slack because I did just have a baby 8 weeks ago and dammit, I do look good.

No, this anxiety is because I hate my maternity pants and my fat pants, and, I'm afraid to go to the store to get pants two sizes from my ideal size and one size larger than what I own because I hate shopping post baby. Just like that article suggests, there's nothing more depressing than going to the mall when you have to time it around a feeding, lugging your children, or with a nursing newborn strapped to your body as you try to find something cute and trendy when we really all know that I'll be covered in spit up and boogers before I even get home. There isn't anything more annoying when the younger-than-you-kidless employee stares at you blankly after she asks you if there is anything she can help with when you try to describe your needs in pants and a shirt that leaves your incision free from pressure and your boobs accessible. And, there isn't anything more horrifying than trying on jeans. It's horrible when your body hasn't gone through changes and it's about a million times worse when your body has.

Part of me wants to workout for hours on end so I can fit into those "fat pants", and avoid the store. The other part of me wants to throw in the towel, eat the WHOLE cabinet full of chocolate and fill those maternity pants right back up. Since there's a war on leggings and I'll have to leave the house eventually, I'll have to face my fear and hit up a store. Only this time, I'll do it confidently. I have to. I have a daughter now. 

I'll face the reality that I've given up the glory days and have traded it in for something better. I need to teach her, even though she's only 8 weeks old, that I am comfortable in my body and who I am. I need her to know that I am proud of the changes and hardships my body has gone through so I could become a mother. And this isn't just about her, it's about her brothers too. They see me naked, they've noticed the scar and know why I have it. They need to know that I'm not embarrassed or shy because my body doesn't look smooth like it used to. They need to see that I am comfortable and happy in my body so that they can learn to respect all body types. They should see their dad admire me and think that I am beautiful so that they can learn that they need to be supportive and loving to their partners as changes come to them and their bodies. And because they are observing everything, they need to know that it's OK to like your body, no matter how it looks, the don't need to see me pinch the pooch or get stressed out about what clothes I'm going to wear. Heck, they wear shorts, a sports jacket with no shirt under it, a tie and slippers and call it golden. If they can do that, I can wear and buy jeans that fit, even though they are larger than I want them to be. If they can be so confident, then so can I.

And I need to do it for me. Yes, I have a million reasons why I'm not a cross-fit poster model just a mere 8 weeks after my daughter was born, but those reasons are so much more important. Right now, I need to learn how to care for the three of them, maintain a schedule and make sure we all eat. I have to juggle work, and their school, and laundry, god there's a lot of laundry. But each day, the boys see me do a little workout and they join me. I need to rebuild the confidence in myself as I battle hormones and sleep deprivation. I need to start to make time for myself again as I've been selfless for too many months. And, I need to fight the stereotypes to show that women do have to wear "fat pants" or even a size bigger than their "fat pants" because, you see, I just had a baby.