Gratitude, Always

There is tired, and then there’s tired. The kind of tired you feel when you have done way more than there is time for, more than you’d planned, and are sleep deprived on top of it all. It’s the kind of tired you feel when you have to tuck your chin down, keep your feet moving and focus only on the task in front of you.

“Just one more thing. Just get through this,” I told myself as I daydreamed of sleep, looking forward to when this was all over. The truck was getting packed, little by little. The ultimate adult Tetris game being playing by my master-packer husband as oddly shaped belongings filled tiny niches here and there. I wondered as we do every move about the necessity of so much stuff.

For a person who really doesn’t like moving (and the associated stress), it’s ironic that we are a military family. There are aspects about it that I do enjoy; the setting up of a new house, arranging things, and the adventure of it . The part I detest? The packing and the cleaning of the old house. All the nitty gritty cleaning – baseboards, windows, blinds, and ovens. Not my favorite at all.

This move is hitting our little deep-feeler daughter hard. She is very melancholy, expressing her desire to go back to Texas as that is the only home she really remembers. I comfort her the best I can and remind her that it’s okay to feel yucky and whatever which way she feels about all of this. That feelings are what they are and the best way to get through these patches is to just wade right into them and feel them. You can’t avoid the bitter-sweetness, the frustration, and the sadness. The only way is to go through.

Our last night in the mostly-empty house, we did what we usually do. We read a bit of our book, currently book 3 of The Chronicles of Narnia. As I finished, nestled between 2 kids and 3 dogs in our king bed, both kiddos wanted to chat instead of the usual pleading of ‘just one more chapter!’

“What do you want to talk about?” I asked.

“The move,” my daughter quietly replied. The volume of her voice inversely proportionate to the weight of what’s on her heart and mind.

Ever putting the positive spin on hard things, I reminded myself of what I’d explained to her earlier, that the only way through hard things, is to go through them.

“Okay, how about this,” I prompted, “What if we start by each saying 3 things that really suck about moving?”

“YES!!!” they both giggled and begged to be the first to rattle off their yuck list. Hannah asked to swear out loud once. Why not? If that’s how you feel, get it out!

Their frustrations and heartaches vented, as well as mine, we moved on to our gratitude list, things we are thankful for or that give us comfort. All of us agreed the dogs are at the top of that list. Jacob was thankful for his computer and Minecraft, as always. Hannah snuggled in close and ticked off her list.

Exhausting their lists, it was my turn. My over-tired mind contemplated the things I was grateful for. There were so many things. “I’m thankful for the way homeschooling has opened up our schedule to more flexibility,” I began. “I love that no matter what four walls surround us, be it a hotel room, a new house in a different state, home is where the 7 of us are.” They nodded their agreement.

As they drifted off to the last sleep in our house, I was thinking of the tiny little rambler that fit us so well. The morning sun I’d marveled at as it streamed in across the floor each morning, the proximity to the beach, walking paths lined with jacaranda trees and birds of paradise, and a large back yard for the dogs flooded my sleepy brain. A hardworking husband that continued packing well into the wee hours of the night, the ability to see that we were making progress, and the knowledge that this phase doesn’t last forever all came to mind.

“Thank you,” I whispered to the quiet house. “Thank you.”


Inside Out

Have you seen the latest Pixar film Inside Out?

I love how recent animated movies are shifting away from the typical “damsel in distress” or “good vs. bad guy” themes and moving more into deeper territory. Inside Out depicts the inner monologues of a young girl and her family, and how so often the voices in our heads can steer us into the right or the wrong direction. It also beautifully illustrates that we need joy and sadness, for without one, there isn’t the other. Like so many children’s films, there’s plenty of humor for the entire audience, but there are some wonderful, more substantial themes.

We viewed this film while on our mini vacation to visit friends. Along the way we went to a waterslide park which was fun, and sparked the memories of waterslides I went to as a kid. I LOVE the water and always have. Any vacation was met with the question, “Does the hotel have a pool?!!” because to kids, the pool IS the vacation. I did not have a fear of heights that I remember growing up. For whatever reason, that has changed. My stomach does flip flops, I get panicky. It’s not pleasant. I have to concentrate and focus to push through it. The voices in my head were raging as I gulped down some terror approaching the stairs. “Do not look up,” I told myself. “And when you get up there, don’t look down.”


Hannah was screaming, “BEST DAY EVER!” racing up the slippery steps and Jacob was taking two stairs at a time trying to beat Eric to the top, wind blowing his inner tube around crazily. Death grip on the railing, my knuckles clenched white,  Eric asks, “How are you doing?”

“Fine,” I mutter, just trying to breathe. Trying not to envision the minions plummeting down to their deaths. Hoping I wouldn’t biff myself too badly on the slide, I kept telling myself that it would be worth it. “One step at a time. Look only at your feet. Just get to the top, the ride down will be worth it.”

And you know what? It was.

I kept climbing up every time the kids shouted, “Let’s do it again!!” Each time I swallowed hard, focused and just did it. It was a blast. I’m never going to be that cool mom that sun bathes on the lounger. That’s fine, but it’s just not me. I want to get in there with them and play, even if the voice of fear in my head is screaming, “NO! You’re going to DIE!”

I want my kids to remember me in the moment, not always taking a picture of the moment. I want them to be having fun with me, not around me. I want them to see me get my hair wet and crazy, but with smiles on our faces. If I want them to know how to breathe in a moment and revel in their own joy, I have to lead by example. 

No matter what the pesky voices in our heads say!

For Just This Moment

For just this moment I want to cry. I want to be mad. I want to scream.

Like any other doctor appointment, I come with my emotional armor.  I’ve been through this what seems like a thousand times before; I get my hopes up that this time, this time, it will be fine. He won’t freak out. He will just do as he’s asked, nothing will hurt, there’ll be no tears. There’s only been 1 appointment like that in the last 5 years. I was on cloud nine for a week after that day. I thought we might be turning a corner. After repeated meltdowns, we’ve come to the conclusion that our son is just a person for whom the world can be scary, he doesn’t like people touching him, and textures and tastes freak him out. It’s just the way it is. We’ve learned to manage it. And dread doctor visits.

We wait in the office with everyone else waiting their turn to see the ophthalmologist, the kids are happily playing with assorted children’s toys on the floor. I am gearing myself up for a tantrum, like so many before. Gray haired ladies smile sweetly at the kids.

His name is called and we head back to an exam room. I can already see him looking at the equipment and sizing up the experience  of whether or not he should be afraid. I assure him there will be no shots.

The doctor does some vision tests and it becomes evident that he cannot see out of one eye. He wants to do some further testing – the kind that require the dilation eye drops. One full-on meltdown later, eye drops in, we are walking to a little area waiting for his pupils to enlarge. He curls up in my lap and I rub his back. He’s tired. I’m tired. God bless my daughter being easily entertained by the toys again. More examination, bright lights, eye tests and despite my son’s best efforts to kick the doctor in the groin, the same conclusion is made: he really can’t see out of one eye. This is serious.

Words are mumbled in Charlie Brown teacher language that we’ll be referred to a pediatric clinic in Seattle for further testing to confirm. He can’t see out of one eye. Something about optic nerve apathy. The doctor asks me if I have any questions for him.

I have so many questions but my mouth has gone dry and I can’t form words.

“Is there something I missed? Could I have seen this coming?” Doc reassures me that my son may not have known anything was different, it may have been this way his whole life, and we are only seeing it now because his eye has started drifting, which is what prompted this appointment. The doctor also says that aside from being a pilot, there’s not much he wouldn’t be able to do, but this isn’t something that can be fixed through glasses or surgery. There really isn’t much to be done, other than wait for the confirmation with the specialist.

So for now, we wait.

For this moment, I am mad. This is an ouchie I can’t soothe. I can’t fix it, I couldn’t have prevented it. It just is. I’m not a person to cry out, “Why me?!” or “Why our son?” because really, why not? Crap happens. Life can be difficult and tragic. It’s not always fair. There are far worse things in the world than not being able to see out of one eye.

I get all of this.

But for now, for right now, I’m sad and I’m mad. I want to kiss his little drifting eye and make it all better.

For now, we wait.

Emotions and Gunk

What a day. It was a doozy. No – It was BRUTAL.
Deployments suck no matter what. When separated from the one you love and you don’t know where they are, can’t talk to them whenever you feel like it  – it just plain sucks.
It sucks it sucks it sucks.
But you work, you keep busy, you hang with friends, workout, shop, try new recipes, travel – do what you have to do to pass the time. And the time does pass. Homecoming FINALLY arrives and bliss returns.
Then you add kids to the mix and it’s just a whole other deal. This is my first deployment with kiddos and I was so unprepared. I knew it would be hard, but I was completely unprepared for the emotional aspect of watching the kids miss their Daddy terribly, not fully understanding why the heck Daddy can’t be with them, and I can’t do a damn thing about it. I can’t be Daddy. I can’t hug them and make them feel better. I can’t fix it.
And as a mom, that’s all I want to do. That’s my job.  I’m the kisser of boo-boos and it makes it all better. I can’t kiss their little hearts when they are missing daddy. And it breaks mine.
We’ve been meeting with a counselor from FOCUS – an organization that teaches resiliency/coping techniques to military families. I have to say – it has done so much for us. They’ve given us tools that help us all articulate and normalize feelings.  For Jacob this has been so beneficial.
While this program is awesome and I’m so glad to be able to take advantage of what it has to offer, the flip side is that I am more aware of how this separation affects the kids. (And instead of staying busy, I’m having to deal with all this gunk.) Basically it’s emotional hell. It goes back to the frustrating helpless feeling. I’m the mom, but I can’t make it better. The only thing I can do is teach coping skills and normalize big scary feelings.
Before we even got out of bed this morning, Jake was dreaming about Daddy. He does this often and it makes me smile that at least he gets to play with him in his dreams. But this morning he said someone was “shooting daddy”. Not quite sure where he picked that up. And then later in our session with the counselor he expressed his fear that Daddy wasn’t “safe” that he might be “killed”. Didn’t even know he knew that word. Through play he also expressed that he was scared that Daddy wasn’t going to come back.
This is just so hard.
I don’t have any answers for him. I don’t know which magic words to use that make his fears go away. All I can do is trudge through the days with him as best I can. We talk about his fears and feelings, and discuss how we can get back to feeling okay and happy again. I hope I’m teaching him coping skills that he’ll use throughout his life. I guess that’s all I can do – model for him healthy ways to deal with life. That and pray for guidance and know that I’m doing the best I can do.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Wow. What a day. I’ll apologize up front if I am a bit incoherent! These kinds of days I never seem to have trouble falling asleep – I literally collapse into bed.  And why I seem to save it all for one day is beyond me. You’d think I would be better at spreading out activities over the days – but lately it has been feast or famine!
Had a fantastic workout this morning – the best in a quite a while. We were sweaty hot messes and it was awesome! Definitely gonna feel that tomorrow! After lunch and playtime with the cousins, we rested a bit (although not long enough for Hannah as she was in rare form!) Then had a snack before running some errands.
Normally I’m not a big fan of having chips in the house, and if we do, it’s tortilla chips. (Mostly because I “can’t eat just one!” If it’s not in the house – I don’t eat it. But Jacob wanted “daddy chips”. They are the the chips Eric eats. How do you say no to that? I didn’t. He ate them and was comforted.
And then Hannah and Jacob fought over the bag:
After the chip bag holding crisis of 2012 was overcome – we hit the road with 3 stops. We were headed to the craft store, the bike store (Jake’s bike is broken) and then the party supply store to prepare for both upcoming birthdays. Why I think with little to no nap that the three of us would make it to all three stops is beyond me.
After we got our goods from the party store, we headed to Michaels. I cannot escape this place with just what I need. They always have other “goodies” and ideas for projects I just can’t seem to turn down. I had a project in mind – and it turned into 4 different projects for 3 of us. But more on that later. So then we hit the bike store for 1 bolt and 1 washer. They don’t sell the kind we need. Of course they don’t. Why would it be that easy to stop at one place? So pile the kids back into the car and down to Home Depot we go where they”should have that bolt.”
After we found a human to help us in that cavernous store, and that human looked in 4 different places 37 times all while I was trying to keep the minions in the cart and not grabbing the loose bolts and washers out of the tiny little drawers, he offers me a bolt that he “assures me” will work.  But more on that in a bit.
So by this time – we are all hot messes, too many stops and Jacob just wants to get home to his project.
So here’s the project run down:
I was making this:
It’s a “feeling thermomether’. Green is “happy good feelings” and the red is “Mad uncomfortable feelings” It’s a tool that we were given at our counseling session for Jacob to be able to articulate how he’s feeling. (We go to Focus – a group on base that trains military families resiliency tools for deployments/family separations and reintegrations. They are FANTASTIC!) I picked up the poster board, markers and sticky-back velcro for the “feeling foxes” that have different emotions and where they fall on the thermometer. We are still getting the hang of it, but not too shabby, if I do say so myself! I managed to even color inside the lines!
Before I set up the kids with their projects and aprons, I attempted to re attach Jacob’s bike wheel so he can ride it. Out come our shiny new bolt and washer and….
it doesn’t fit.
Shocking. So after all the trips and the fiasco at Home Depot trying to find the right one, it’s wrong. And did I mention that in the process of trying to fix Jacob’s bike, one of the drawers on Eric’s tool box is locked open and I can’t even close the thing? It’s completely jammed. Really? Ugh. So I left it there to do art.
I set Hannah up outside with some finger paints and she created this masterpiece:
Jacob found a “treasure chest” at Michael’s and wanted to paint it black. He tells me that “black” is the color that “puts him in the green and makes him feel happy”. Can’t complain when he’s using the tools we are teaching him! Ha! He also found a bag of big beads to make necklaces and bracelets. So we get those, but after being told not to put them into his mouth to spit them into his chest (they are small enough he could still choke) and he did it again – the beads went “night-night”.  And let me tell you how much I LOVED digging the dang things out of the grass – as he had one by one slid them all down the slide!
So he painted black on his chest – here it is all black and drying atop the grill outside.

Somehow during all the painting projects – I decided I needed a little color too!


 I still haven’t figured out how the heck I got it on my leg.


Jake played a bit while I cleaned Hannah’s now poopy diaper. Then he looks at me and says he needs to be changed too. Fantastic.
So between the paint, the dirty drawers, and the backyard being a painted disaster – off to the bathtub we go. Then it dawns on me, that I NEED to mow the lawn or by the time we get back from our upcoming mini vacation – it’s going to be a forest back there and I won’t have time to do it.
So then I drug out the lawn mower while the kids played/fought with each other.
So after the 3rd time of warning Hannah that hitting is “not ok”. She was going to bed. Awesome. Fighting sleep for an hour due to being over tired and Mama trying to cram too much into one day. I got paid back by an hour and half bedtime routine.
Whew. Days like today make me want to be a slug the next! But my lawn did get mowed!
Here’s to a less busy tomorrow!

Making Lemonade

Today was a rough one. Not for any particular reason…just weepy, over-emotional, overwhelmed, missing my Hawaii peeps, missing the hubbs, church this morning was spot on, and oh yeah, I’m a woman! Ha!

After church and braving the grocery store for ONLY FIVE items that inevitably turned into 25 – I felt a little blah despite the sun making a seemingly rare appearance. The kiddos and I puttered around the yard, picking some weeds, Hannah picking some radishes that weren’t quite ready yet, me fixing my little garden “fence” after Hannah tore it out, digging the wormy strawberries out of Hannah’s mouth – you know, the usual! Jake was riding his “monster truck” (aka – the Dora quad):

and while not an unproductive day…I just felt antsy and kind of blue. Last weekend’s half marathon was one of the worst races for me as far as my mental self talk was concerned. The time was fine, especially considering the conditions, the fact that the hubbs left 2 days later, etc. It just was a tough one mentally. Usually my races like that start out great – lots of race energy and adrenaline. The first 2-3 miles usually FLY by. And while some miles are tougher than others, you muddle through those until you come to the miles that bring the endorphin high where you feel you are soaring and don’t ever want to stop. It’s like body and mind and spirit are completely peaceful even while thinking all kinds of thoughts. I feel on top of the world, making eye contact with another runner, encouraging each other with a simple smile and a wave and all is right with the world.
None of this really happened last weekend. The rain kept running into my hat and down my face. Looking at other runners I saw the same trudging-on-but-I’m-really-not-into-it-today looks. After the first mile I was asking myself, “Why the heck do I do this again?” Oh yeah, cause it helps me stay sane and it’s cheaper than anti-depressants according to my friend Nina!! 🙂 And she’s right! There is a “losing myself” and clearing my mind that I don’t get any other way.

I felt defeated with the race. I have been working out, but I know I can go harder. And my cardio days have been virtually non-existent, due to a sprained toe in part, but mostly laziness. I get caught up with the kids, they don’t want to ride in the stroller or the weather is crap blah blah excuse excuse blah blah blah.

What would my Hawaii self tell my Washington self? Probably something like this:

“Stop being such a whiney baby. If you don’t like the way it’s going – DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. You know what to do. Don’t gain a bunch of weight back and use the damn deployment as an excuse!! (yeah, I swear at myself sometimes! 😉 Seriously! People you know do this with 4 and 5 kids. Get a grip! And get moving!”

So I got on my treadmill and ran a couple of miles. It felt SO good to sweat and just run without thinking about time or distance. Sure, I had to stop and break up a couple of kid fights, and peel Jake out from under the treadmill because he “just wanted to look at how it works”. But I got my sweat on and that’s what I needed to do to make my sour lemon attitude into some refreshing lemonade!

See You Laters and Welcome Back!

Now that we have our internet up and the house is starting to look like a home as the cardboard sea subsides…..I had to take a moment to share our See You Laters and our Welcome Backs!
Jayde was my neighbor in Hawaii – STRONG CHICKS!! So much fun to workout one last time where it started for us!


 And the two of us with the BEST trainer in the world!!!  Just ask her – she’ll tell you! LOL!
Annnnnd full on ugly cry!!!


 How do you thank someone for changing your life????!! You pay it forward! (And that’s what I plan to do…stay tuned!!)
The sweetest Aussie I know – Kai!! (Okay, she is the ONLY Aussie I know!) Always keeping me on my toes – I love you girl!!


And hanging out with our good friends that last night before the flight….


 Sweet Hailey giving hugs!!
 Battle Buddies for life baby!!!



….leavin’ on a jet plane….don’t know when I’ll be back again….
Breakin’ out the Uggs for the COLD Washington weather!


And the drive from Sea-Tac produced this in our backseat:
Most likely because the view was this:


But my mom was a rockstar and when we walked in to the new house she had a few surprises for us! Toys for the kiddos, food in the fridge and pantry and this:


Getting settled a bit and really enjoying the gas fire place!!


And a new addition: (insert angel chorus here)


Unpacking proved to be a bit rough on Hannah:


 It’s starting to come together and each day as we make more of a dent, the urge to tear my hair out lessens!
 And we got some new Washington gear! Hats and gloves all around!
So stinkin’ cute it kills me!
All in all it was a very smooth transition and the kids have been troopers!
Welcome back to Washington Baby!!
%d bloggers like this: