Resilience

We always say it’s not going to happen. We’ll be there for each other, even after they move. Or we move. Or we both are flung to opposite sides of the world.

And we swear, “This time. This time will be different. This time we’ll really stay in touch.”

Military friends are a special breed.

Ever so slowly, life happens. New friends slip in to our lives, boots on the ground, in the current duty station, in your every day life friends. While they open our hearts again, it becomes more challenging to keep up with kids and day-to-day stuff and maintain all those long distance friendships. They seem to get lost somewhere in the everydayness of our new home, among new friends. And we get lost in the memories of their new place.

The calls are replaced with texts. Texts start out frequent, but slowly fade to weekly occurrences, check-ins. More and more of the detail of their daily lives are missed and so it goes. Then it’s merely pictures on social media. Those pictures of their new life without you in it, those are so bittersweet.

They sting just a little. And once again you remind yourself that it’s all part of the process. This breaking of hearts. Sometimes it’s a wonder that we do this not only once, but many times over and over, risking, grieving, and being open again.

As we got up this morning from air mattresses on the empty floor, the moving truck having left the day prior, Hannah quietly asked, “Mom, can we do the ‘Why I love moving, by Hannah’ thing?”

We do this ritual in our family where I say, ‘I love Hannah because, by Mommy’ and then list out all the reasons and things I love about her. Eric and I even did this practice before the kids were born. Items on the list include big things, but also very specific things, and current milestones etc. It’s a tangible way to say “I love you. I see you. Just as you are.”

As she asked to do this and apply it to moving, I was struck by how resilient and strong she really is. This has been a tough week for the little emotional heartbeat of our family. She loves fiercely, and her heart breaks with the same passion. She listed her positives of moving – we all did. Hannah reminded us that while the sky may be overcast – the sun still shines, regardless of whether we can see it or not.

Kids are so dang resilient.

Hearts are resilient.

Tender hearts that are open enough to get broken, repeatedly, are among the strongest ones.

Fair winds and following seas, Corpus Christi!

Advertisements

Tiny Human Advice

“My wife is really wanting a baby. She’s been showing me how ‘masculine’ diaper bags have become,” he said.

I smile.

“But I’m like, ‘Does that fit my Camaro or motorcycle?'” he continued, “I just don’t know.”

I nodded. “You’ll never be ready. No one is,” I assured him. “But the first time you look at your child, you’ll think, ‘What car?’ That stuff just doesn’t matter.”

The conversation ended as we went back to work, but it stuck with me as the day continued. What would I tell someone who is contemplating starting a family? What would I tell myself? What were some of the things I was told?

I know I half-listened and said, “Yeah, yeah…” when given parenting advice while I was pregnant. One eye on that round belly and everyone feels compelled to offer a bit (or more) of their wise words. Here’s what I would have told myself. (You know, if I had actually been listening.)

Having a child will change you. It will, no question. But the changes will go far beyond the cliche of night feedings, diapers, and exhaustion. It changes everything.

You are never ready. Ever. You have to be brave and just go for it when you are as ready as you think you are.

Kids will grow you as a person. They will make you deal with your own stuff. They will force you to be selfless.

You’ll never be more concerned with safety. For yourself, your significant other, and undoubtedly for baby.

You will hate the fact that you can’t make them instantly all better when they are sick.

You will ache with the need of wanting to fix things for them, make things better or easier. But you won’t because you love them enough to realize that a bit of struggle is better for them in the long run.

You will love your spouse more deeply than you thought possible. You think you love them to the fullest capacity right now – filling up all the possible nooks and crannies of completeness. But that child will grasp your finger with their tiny ones and you will look up and realize that a whole other door just busted wide opened and flooded over with love for your spouse – your partner in this crazy, overwhelming endeavor of raising a tiny human.

What advice would you give a person contemplating a family? What advice did you get? Did you listen?

School’s Out for Summah!

Yesterday was the last day of school. A day that we’ve all been looking forward to. No more having to get up, schedules to keep, or homework to complete. As I walked up to pick up my tender-hearted little girl, she ran to me and buried her face in my lap. I asked her if she wanted to go hug her teachers or say goodbye to any of her friends. As I looked into her brimming little eyes threatening to spill over, her lips trembled and I knew. “I just want to go,” she said in a small voice. In the car she let it all out, sobbing all the way home that she hated having to say goodbye to people.

As a military family, it’s what we do. And our kids do it right along with us. So far, she’s been so young with our moves that it didn’t really affect her. But no more. She knows now. She gets it. And my heart breaks right along with hers. Between hiccups, she cried and said, “Sometimes I wish we weren’t military so we didn’t have to keep saying goodbye to the people we love.” The end of the school year, for her, represented what she knows is coming sooner or later; we will move to a new place and start over. Again.

Having a good cry, a FaceTime session with Grandma and later a bike ride with Daddy, a sense of acceptance and moving on settled in. They are so resilient. It’s tough to be sure, but they do bounce back.

It’s now day 1 into our summer break. I’ve been up for exactly 4 hours.

Four hours into “vacation”.

We’ve eaten breakfast, my daughter has painted. The dog has played fetch 36 times. My son has reached the next level of Minecraft. I’ve been attempting to study. She has had at least 4 costume changes so far. The sadness of goodbyes has started to fade.

Have I mentioned that my daughter has been painting? Yes, painting at the table. Five beautiful new masterpieces now decorate our kitchen table, drying on the not-so-good kitchen towels.

Have I mentioned that she is also a talker a story-teller? A non-stop talker story-teller, in fact. As I sit here attempting (for the thirty-seventh time) to read the same paragraph, she is making up stories about her paintbrushes and “how they land – SPLOOSH! – into the paint. Just like a swimming pool! See Mommy!? Watch him splash into the pool of red! He doesn’t have a bathing suit though. But he doesn’t need one. He’s a paintbrush!” She then dissolves into a fit of giggles at her own joke. “See Mommy?!!”

“Yes, I see.” Mommy really really needs to read and concentrate right now…

Elmo’s voice counts loudly from an iPad. Barbie and her friends and accessories are strewn all over, awaiting their demise at the hands, er jaws, of our dogs. The phone rings, snacks are requested, games will be played, studying will get done (even if it has to be after they go to bed). They will play with other kids at the gym (Thank you gym childcare workers! You will be saving my sanity and I’ll get to work with clients!)

Despite the adjustments – this summer is going to be a blast! As my daughter has unknowingly demonstrated, there’s a time to be sad, to say goodbyes and see you laters, and to adjust to new schedules. But it’s also about embracing what is, waking up and being excited about what this day may bring.

Even if it does involve paint, play dough, toys all over and a little less alone time. 

Bring it Summer!

11138500_976783239000782_860024893799292445_n

New

Everything.

Everything has changed in the last two months. New city, new state, different climate, new house, new bigger bugs, routines – all of it.

And, my first started kindergarten this week.

As I sit snuggled with him in our rocking chair, feeling the steady rise and fall of his breath, I smell his washed-last-night hair. Everyone tells us how fast it goes. I just want to inhale this moment and press pause. Savor it.

The first day was rough, coming home from school telling us how he didn’t like school, it was too long, he didn’t make any friends, etc. (It didn’t help that a scheduling fiasco at Hannah’s school made me late to pick up Jake, prompting all sorts of chaos.)

I had to learn the intricate child pickup route, and that if I don’t go early enough, both Jake and I get to wait an additional 40 minutes.
I learned that after just 2 days, my son has “got it, mom!” and to just leave him at the door. He didn’t want Hannah and I to walk him into class anymore. I learned how to swallow the catch in my throat and the sting in my eye and simply wish him a good day.

I learned that my son didn’t speak up for three days when he didn’t get milk for his lunch – even after I’d set up money for it. By the end of the week he asked the teacher and they showed him how to go in and just buy milk by telling the lady his name.

He’s learning so much every day. He’s sleeping like a rock at night, completely wiped out from the day.

He’s learning the true value of the weekend.

New stuff is scary. Transitions are exciting, but unsettling. As the cardboard sea around us begins to diminish, we are getting used to the new. Though a rough couple of days, they are adapting. We are adapting.

It’s all new. And every little thing’s gonna be alright.

Let Them Be the Hero

So often, I rush in as the mom to “help” my husband with the kids.

Regardless of whether or not he asks for my help.

Especially after a deployment, it is so incredibly easy to just jump in and handle any situation with the kids. I’ve been doing it the whole deployment anyway, so why stop now? What I’ve come to realize is that I need to consciously take a step back and let him get back into the groove of being home and handling the kids. Even if it’s bumpy. Even when it’s not how I would do things. Different is just that – different. But it’s not wrong. (You would be correct in assuming that I have tendencies toward perfectionism and controlling behavior.) But, I’m working on perfecting that!

I wasted no time after Eric’s homecoming to get out of the house, mostly for my own sanity, but also to give the minions and their dad a chance to reconnect, without my interference – well intentioned though it may be. Sometimes I get it right. Often I jump in and have to back track. And sometimes I get it all messed up.

Tonight though, tonight was one done right. Eric had assumed that Jacob was done with dinner and tossed his last piece of pizza. (Jacob said he was done, left the table and went in the other room to play.) 30 minutes later, Jacob comes in and wants his last piece of pizza. Eric looked at me, feeling horrible, looked back to Jacob and said, “I’m so sorry, buddy. You said you were done. I tossed the last piece.” Jacob then sighs that big 4-year-old sigh, slumps his shoulders and whines, “But I wasn’t donnnnnnnnne!” (In my mind, I know this kid loves this Hot Rock Pizza we get at the farmer’s market,  I would have saved it for breakfast, but whatever. Eric was cleaning up, the kid said he was done – so I didn’t give it another thought. )

Instead of rushing in to try to soothe Jake, I whispered to Eric (who still felt bad) that perhaps he could offer him a pudding. That way, the dessert came from Daddy and they could work it out between them. Eric’s face lit up, Jacob was more than happy to have a pudding, and all was right with the world once again.

How easy it would have been to rush in and get a pudding for Jake and undermine Eric, not to mention make him feel even worse. I think as mothers, especially after a long deployment, it’s “just easier to do it” ourselves. But then they don’t get to be the hero. They don’t get to stretch their parenting legs and get back into their groove. If we are to model a marriage for our kids, shouldn’t we show them how to treat a spouse by example? We don’t always get it right, but we love and respect each other in our marriage. We trust each other. Our actions are our best lessons to our kids on how to treat each other. (Not to mention what to look for in a potential mate.)

I love watching my husband be the hero his is to our kids.

And me.

IMG_2478

 

On Transitions

I don’t like transitions. Point A is fine. Point B is great. The messiness of the in between is scary and uncertain. I don’t like the messiness. At all. And for me, this applies to multiple areas of my life.

In potty training my daughter, the convenience of Pull-Ups is great. But, I am overjoyed at the idea of being a diaper-free family. Getting from Pull-Ups to being completely diaper free: messy. Literally. Who knew you needed an ENTIRE roll of toilet paper for one visit to the bathroom. Apparently my daughter believes this as we have clogged the toilet not once, but multiple times.

Messy.

While training for my first triathlon, I’m excited about each individual portion (swim, bike, and run), but the transitions leave me feeling nervous and scared that I’m going to forget something I’ll need, or that it’ll take me too long and I’ll be dead last. (Horror of 1st world horrors, I know!)  Yes, cognitively I understand that it’s my first time doing this and there’s bound to be a learning curve, but I like to “know it before I know it”, as my mother says. I keep telling myself that if I can just make it through the swim portion (and not drown) and get on the bike, it’ll be fine! And it will.

Uncertain.

The two week period before the hubbs goes on deployment – MESSY. And sometimes ugly. We are both separating emotionally and it’s just rough. We both know it’s coming, so as a defense mechanism we pick little fights and push each other away as if that will make parting easier. Every military family goes through this transition. The first day of the deployment is better than any day within this two week transition period!

And the transition back to family life after a deployment: MESSY! (But fun, too!)

I like knowing. I like concreteness. It’s comforting.

Faith isn’t concrete, yet it’s comforting. We don’t concretely see the wind, but we feel it and know that it’s there. As much as I don’t like transitions and the uncertainty and messiness they can bring, they are necessary. Often it’s only after I’ve arrived at point B that I can look back with 20/20 vision and see just how the “messiness” of the transition served a bigger purpose than just getting to the destination. That whole “life being a journey” and all that.

While I don’t know if I’ll ever LOVE being in the messy and uncertain, I can say that I understand it’s value. Enough to grit my teeth, smile and fake it ’till I make it!  And learn to enjoy it along the way, even when I can’t see with that hindsight vision just yet.

IMG_2537

Dear Straight Mom of a Curly Kid…

Dear SM (Straight Mom) –

She hears you sighing when you attempt to brush her curls. She hears your comments about her “rats’ nest”. She’s listening. She hears you.

She gets the message.

So let’s change it.

First, since you don’t have curls, there will be a bit of a learning curve. Please check out sites like these: naturallycurly.com (reviews of products in all price ranges and more!) or Deva (product and how-to videos!).

Educate yourself, so you can educate her on how to best take care of her tresses. The Deva site also has sample questions to ask a prospective stylist! Curly hair can (and should) be cut dry. To quote Lorraine Massey, “We don’t wear our hair wet. Why should we cut it that way?” Many stylists will underestimate the shrink factor. The hair dries, and what was thought to be a trim actually chopped off 4 inches!

Then figure out what type of curls she has…curly, kinky, etc. Then based on that – find out what products work best for that specific type of curl. All curly types need hydration. Shampoo is dehydrating. Look for hair cleansers with no sulfates and no parabens. You want something with NO lather. There is no magic in lather. I use DevaCare No Poo, but there are quite a few no/low lather cleansers on the market.

Throw away the brush. Curls should not be brushed out. (Okay, maybe for Halloween, but that’s about it!) No longer are we in the Marsha Brady world of 1000 brush strokes for hair health! I don’t own a brush. Keep a wide-tooth comb that in the shower and ONLY use it with conditioner in those locks.

Marcia Brady brushing hairCondition, condition, condition! Curly hair is thirsty hair! A great conditioner makes all the difference. It will help to keep frizz at bay and help the hair hold styling product much better.

A curl defining product is a must. This can be a gel, creme, or a spray – or a combo of all of the above. On my two-year-old, I’m not going to slather her curls in gel, but I do use Ouidad’s Botanical Boost. It gives a bit of curl definition and helps to detangle out of the shower/bath. I use Deva’s ArcAnGel on my own hair and really like the hold. Not too much crunch, but some definition. On days that are humid, or when I used to live in Hawaii, I liked Tigi’s Curls Rock styling creme.

Above all else, give your curly kid the tools to help her look and feel her best. Don’t add negativity to what she already may be feeling about herself. We may think “it’s just hair”, but it’s not. It does go deeper.

Final deep curly thought:

“I often have the fantasy that curly girls are mermaids who have had to adapt to life on dry land. We come from the sea. The ocean is in our blood. It sings through our heart and lungs, our skin and hair. Our curls require the nourishment only a watery environment can provide. Both ocean waves and curly hair are forces of nature that can’t be tamed. We can only accept and admire their power and beauty.” Lorraine Massey, author of Curly Girl: The Handbook.

Go forth and be curly!