Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Deployment Virus

You know when you get a really bad cold or the flu and you spend the whole time kicking yourself for taking your previous good health for granted? Maybe I’m the only one, but I sit there with my box of tissues and hot tea promising myself that once this cold passes I will wake up every day with gratitude in my heart for the nose that I can breathe through and the throat that is no longer sore and my wonderful 98.6 degree body temperature. That’s a little like this deployment. 

I’d like to say I never took my husband for granted, but unfortunately that is far from the truth. Now that he’s not here every day it’s like I’ve been given clearer lenses and I see the vital role he plays in our family. This is something I would have said and fully believed about him prior to deployment, but I say it with more conviction now. I think a lot of people think that I miss him for all the practical ways he can help me around the house or changing diapers or killing the gross spider in the bathroom. While I do miss and appreciate those things, I miss him because of who he is, not what he does. I miss the person, not the extra hands.

He is a play mate for the kids. I wish that I had let him wrestle with them right before bed without complaining about him getting them all riled up. I wish I hadn’t rolled my eyes when he did goofy voices with Will at the dinner table. I wish I hadn’t made side comments about too much technology when he was watching the 20th video of an airplane taking off on YouTube with the kids. In those moments, he was everything they needed and wanted him to be. They were bonding in their own special way and he was communicating his love for them. Just because it’s not the way I bond with my kids does not mean it’s wrong.

He is a fierce protector of our family. I wish I hadn’t let out those not-so-subtle sighs every time he paused the TV to listen to what he thought was a strange noise from outside. I wish I hadn’t given him “the look” at the playground when he repeatedly told the kids to be careful. I wish I had hugged him when he reminded me to bring my pepper spray along every time I went on a walk around the neighborhood. My husband is trained to protect and sees it as one of his most important duties. He doesn’t care if he comes across as a helicopter parent or paranoid. He will prepare for the worst because if the worst ever happens, he knows he has the lives of five other people in his hands. I do not envy him that responsibility. There is nowhere in the world I feel as secure as right next to him because I know he would die before letting anything happen to me.

He is a cheerful provider. There are many out there who provide, but it is often hard to find one that provides cheerfully. My husband is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, as are many in the military. That is no exaggeration. Yes, he may be technically “off” some days, but he is receiving phone calls and texts right and left. He could be (and has been) called into work at any moment, day or night. His schedule could change at the drop of a hat. If they need him in the middle of the night he gets up out of bed, puts on his uniform and goes. 

I could continue on for a while, but my point is that I did not appreciate these things like I should have when he was around every day. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” has some truth to it, but instead I think the phrase should go “Absence gives you a clearer perspective on those things you love about your spouse”. It’s not quite as catchy. However, we often get so close to our spouse that our view of them becomes a little blurry. We see a distorted picture of faults, little annoyances and things they do that do not fit in with the way we like things done. Then we start to step backwards and the picture comes into focus. We still see the faults and annoyances, but they are smaller and much less important than we thought they were. 

The kids and I went to visit him while he was still in training. He had been away for a month and a half at that point. While we were there I tried to get him a little more situated in his hotel room by organizing the contents of his massive suitcases. There was one afternoon that he was at work and I was busy ironing, hanging and folding his clothes. Suddenly, I had a lump in my throat and tears were streaming down my face. I realized how badly I missed taking care of him. I thought of all the times I had moaned about ironing one of his shirts for church or inwardly grumbled about the pile of laundry I had to do. Now I was standing there folding his uniforms and making sure every wrinkle was out of his shirts and grieving the fact that it was the last time I was going to be able to do that for a long time.

Now I am not na├»ve enough to think this attitude about laundry or any of the other things will be one that lasts. Just as I end up almost immediately taking my health for granted once my cough and congestion subside, I know that I will not always appreciate the gift I have in my husband like I should. The piles of dirty uniforms will return along with my sinful grumbling, inward and outward. My prayer is that in those moments of grumbling I will remember the alternative. If the stacks of uniforms are missing then so is a necessary and wonderful piece of our family. If the kids go to bed panting and sweaty from another wrestling match that means they got to spend time with their favorite play mate. If he hovers as they try out the monkey bars and curvy slide it means that he’s being a daddy instead of staring at his phone. 

In time this 15-month case of the flu will be a distant memory. For now I’m keeping the tissues and Tylenol close.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Let the little children come to me

This morning I went to the grocery store with my kids. The nice cashier talked to all three of my kids and complimented me on how precious they were (I agree, naturally). She asked Will how old he was and asked if he was starting kindergarten this year. When he said "yes" she turned to me and said with a smile "Oh good, you can get him out of the house for a while". I explained to her that we were homeschooling to which she replied, "Oh, don't homeschool! Give yourself a break and get him out of there!".

This was sad to me on a few levels, but the main thing that disappointed me was that she said this right in front of my soon-to-be-five-year-old. She switched from her baby talk to her adult voice in about half a second. Then she turned to the lady behind me in line who had also commented on how cute they were and said, "They are precious, but aren't you glad they're not yours? Mine are grown, thank goodness!"

Look, I get it. We all have days where boarding school sounds like a viable option. After the last couple of weeks with my 3-year-old I have seriously considered putting her on an airplane to stay with her grandparents for the remainder of the summer. I have had more than a few days where I want to pull my hair out and I look enviously at the childless women doing whatever in the world she wants with her day. Doesn't everyone experience this with their respective jobs? But think about how my kids perceived what that woman said. Sometimes people think they can't hear them because they're young. Trust me, they are soaking up every word. Even if they don't fully understand it, they are getting the message that they are burdens. They are picking up signals that Mommy would be much happier if they were out of the house during the day. Even if this wasn't the intention of our friendly cashier, she subtly told my children that they are not important enough for my days to be this exhausting.

I didn't walk out of the store angry or bitter but concerned that my kids know how much I love them and how thankful I am that I can be at home with them every day. Yeah, the days get long. Sure, I look forward to the times I get to run to the grocery store alone. But so many times fellow parents, even professing Christians, I run into act as if the choice to have children is all about me, myself and I. Many people are surprised at the number of children my husband and I have, especially once they hear our age. They laugh and say, "You guys are crazy! I got so tired after two that I had to quit."

When you think about it, we usually only have a fraction of our children's lives that involve that daily sacrifice that makes everyone so tired. Obviously, we always worry about, love, and take care of our children until we die. However, that intense instruction and correction is only for a while and then they're gone. God has chosen to use us to create these people and we have no idea what He is going to use them for. We hope it's some sort of service in His army. It's unlikely they'll be President, but think about all the lives that they are going to touch in one way or another. That is part of His plan. God planned everything about the person that happens to be your child. He chose you to care for him/her. It's a privilege, not a decision we base on our dream of opening our own donut shop. Having children is one of the most important jobs we are given and I do not want to tell God I am unwilling to accept another child because I just started sleeping through the night. Am I seriously unwilling to give up sleep for another person made in His image?

It is not my place or my intention to tell anyone how many children to have. My main concern is that the world's view of children not seep into the way we bring up our own children in the Lord. It's subtle and it's usually said with a smile, but the world does not want us to value parenting. They want to tell us that we should be comfortable and that we need a break. Be aware and ready to kindly defend your most important work.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Five-year Anniversary

Our five-year anniversary is coming up in a couple months and since life seems to be getting busier by the day, I figured I better go ahead and write this now. The more I learn about my husband, the more I love him. These are some of those reasons. If you'd like to learn more about him too then read on (but don't fall in love with him because he's mine).

He loves music. If it's a Saturday night when Andrew's not working you can bet he's sitting on our back porch, beer in hand, watching some burgers on the grill and listening to movie soundtracks on his headphones. The volume is turned up to earsplitting so that he can hear every note of every instrument. Sure, you can catch him rocking out to some Jimmy Hendrix or Alan Jackson once in a while, but lyrics can often ruin a song, according to him. "Just shut up and play," he says. Steve Hackett is his favorite Pandora station and he cranks it when he wants to relax.

You'd have to be married to him for five years to figure it out, but he's also quite musically talented himself. He would never let you hear it, but his singing voice is soft and sweet and always on key. He took guitar for a while in high school and I plan on forcing him to take it up again someday because I have a feeling it's his hidden gift. You can't get much hunkier than a guitar-playing military man.

If you are lucky enough to be his friend, he is as loyal as they come. He will jump at the chance to help you. He will pick up the phone whenever you call or return it as soon as he gets the chance. He will call you regularly. He will move heaven and earth to be there for any special events in your life. One of his biggest dreams is to have the resources to buy his friends and family anything they need and he talks about it frequently. He will love you unconditionally and never expect a single thing in return.

He is protective; of his country, his friends, his family, his children and complete strangers. His desire to protect is not something that started when he joined the Navy. It's one of the main reasons he enlisted. But it's not just the love of justice and sense of duty that would compel him to jump in front of a bullet for you; it's his genuine love for the Lord and his love for you.

He is fascinated by storms. We both are, actually, but his fascination reaches new heights. The Weather Channel is often background noise in our home. A distant rumble of thunder will send him running outside to squint at the sky and evaluate the fierceness of the clouds. He watches the radar hoping some light rain will turn into armageddon. Once a storm does arrive, it is never destructive enough for him. I don't think he will be satisfied until we get an F-5 tornado combined with a hurricane and tsunami and we are floating on a raft waiting to be rescued by helicopter. Then he will finally look at me and say, "That was a good storm."

It's a common compliment to a husband from a wife, but it's true. He is an extraordinary dad. If you think I'm just saying that then take a look at his work schedule. He leaves the house around 3:45 AM and does not return home until close to 6 PM. I expect him to crash, but instead he's running around the house chasing the kids, tossing them on the bed and playing a game Will affectionately calls "The Hulk Game". He faithfully leads them in Bible time every night and takes his responsibility for their hearts seriously.

He coached me through three labors and held each of those babies with tears in his eyes. He grieved with me through two miscarriages and took on all the responsibilities that I couldn't. If I have a hard day as a mommy he is able to return home from his own exhausting day and cheer me up before he even takes his boots off. He shares my intense love of sweets and Bill Murray movies. He shows me what it means to fall humbly before the Lord. He has given me a busy and wonderful last five years and I can't wait to see what the next five bring.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Homeschool to school

Quite a few people over the years have asked me what it was like to go from being homeschooled for nine years to spending high school in a "real" school. Now it's mostly parents deciding which path to take with their own children. So, I decided to finally write that down since I never have.

My answer is mostly "It was great!". And it was. I loved my high school years. I know many people at the same school, even in my same group of friends, felt very differently, but that christian private school life was perfect for me. I met so many lifelong friends there. I met my husband there. My mom worked there. My brothers used to go there. My teachers were amazing. It felt completely like home to me.

However, I had the advantage of being able to compare the two worlds. The homeschool denim dress world against the "real" school world (I know, I know - it wasn't a public school). Now that I'm out of school altogether and can look back over all those years it's like watching a movie. I know some of my memories are probably warped and not quite accurate, but these are the things that strike me most about the transition.

The artificial things became a priority. Appearance was not near as important to me before I went to school. My mom laid out my clothes for me until I was probably eleven or so. And even then I think she had to tell me it was time for me to start picking them out myself. Of course, I was a girl so hair and make-up was a fun hobby for me, but I never took it seriously. To this day I'm a very unobservant person. I can have a conversation with someone for two hours and walk away having no idea what they were wearing. I never ever notice people's shoes. Ever. So feel free to walk around in slippers all day. All of that was multiplied in a good way when I was homeschooled. I rarely gave it a second thought if I was friends with someone that had a big mole on their face, wore long denim skirts or if their hair was always frizzy.

Once I went to school those things started to stand out to me more and I became critical, judgmental and proud. Listening to conversations at school I figured out that if you're a girl and you naturally have a hint of a sideburn then you will be talked about. If you wear the same hoodie every day you'll get laughed at. If your hair is less than silky then someone will make a hurtful comment under their breath as they pass you in the hallway. I started hearing things about other people in the school that I had never even noticed before. But once they were pointed out to me I thought maybe I should be noticing them. Maybe it is ridiculous that the girl I sit next to in math never wears make-up. So, naturally I started to become more critical of myself. I started picking out all of these things about myself that I didn't like and imagined people were probably talking about them too. I realized I wanted everyone to think I was pretty and I was concerned about giving anyone a reason to start talking about me.

My passion for learning faded. I really mostly enjoyed school when I was homeschooled. Not math. Never math. But everything else was fine with me. I had a passion for science. I remember getting my new science book in the mail at the beginning of one school year and racing up to my room to read it right away. When I was in elementary school I started something with my friends called "The Nature Journal". We would go around and collect leaves and observe animals and color pictures and make copies to hand out to our other friends. We loved doing that.

I also absolutely loved reading. I would go through tons of books a month and each one I liked more than the last. My mom was great at giving me educational, but fun books to read. It took me a while to realize how educational they were because I just enjoyed reading them so much.

Once I got to school all of the above became "dorky". The people who loved science and read about it in their spare time were called nerds. "The Nature Journal" story was a dark secret I needed to keep unless I wanted to be mocked until the end of time. Reading was just something you did because you had to try and pass the next test in English. Even then, it was really just skimming or typing in sparknotes.com. I realized with all the homework I had each night and weekend, I rarely had time to just sit down and read a book. I began reading books, not for the joy of reading, but because I had to get the facts so I can take the quiz on Friday. I'd jot down the answers and then forget anything that happened in that book because it was time to fill my brain with new facts from another book for the next test.

I think I made high honor roll the first semester, but my grades were on a steady decline for the rest of my high school career. I suddenly had so many other things to worry about like getting a dress that would look as good as the other girls' for the dance and acting like I barely studied for that test I took because it would sound dorky if I said I was up until midnight pouring over my notes. My passion for learning was slowly decreasing and my passion for petty things was growing and growing. 80% of my life was spent with my peers who were whispering encouragement to follow that path in my ears. Obviously, I take that responsibility on myself and do not intend to blame anyone else for that decision to essentially give up on school. My point is my environment change is what triggered it and encouraged it, in my opinion.

It opened my eyes to the reality of the world. Like most kids, this is a good and bad thing. It's always sobering when you make that jump from innocence to horror at the evil in the world. There were words, terms and concepts I had never heard of before I went to school. I got all the typical responses of shock that I was such a sheltered, uninformed, innocent little girl that had never heard this sexual slang being thrown around the ninth grade. But is that really a bad thing? Of course not, but I started to feel like it was. I felt pretty dumb sometimes that everyone understood whatever inappropriate thing that was being talked about and I just had to laugh along like I totally got it. I lacked the maturity to stand up under that and remind myself that even though I was the only one that didn't get it, that was okay.

But school also opened up my eyes to how blessed I was. I met all kinds of people, even within a private christian school. I realized my parents were awesome, godly people that worked so hard to raise their kids in the Lord. I realized I had sweet older brothers and we got along ten times better than many siblings I observed. I learned my mom was an even better cook than I thought she was after eating at a few friend's houses. I realized there was no other job I wanted more than to be a wife and a mom. I realized depending on God in any and every situation isn't just something they teach you in Sunday School. It literally carries you day to day. And I learned it was a wonderful thing that I got to spend the majority of my first years with my mom as my mentor instead of my peers.

I remember my first day of school so well. I had memorized my schedule the night before, terrified I was going to go to the wrong class on accident. I even dreamed about it. And, of course, I went to my math class instead of my history class first thing in the morning. I ended up walking into my history class ten minutes late and there were no chairs left, so I had to sit in the teacher's chair. I felt every person's eyes on me as I blushed and walked across the room.

Later that afternoon I sat in the front row of my Bible class where the teacher put a stack of five identical papers on my desk.

"I think you gave me too many," I said.
"You're supposed to pass them back," said the irritated boy behind me. I heard the quiet giggles from around the room and blushed all over again.

The great thing about these experiences is they did prepare me for later in life. Aren't we supposed to look strange to the world when are Christians? There are plenty of times that we are going to feel dumb or be laughed at, but the trick is resisting the urge to compare ourselves to the world and choosing to look to Jesus. I would say I failed pretty miserably at that in my high school and college years, but that failure has motivated to choose wisely now. My life happened exactly how it was supposed to happen and I am beyond thankful for the years I had at home and in school. And now I know how to pass papers back. So I've got that going for me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A day in the life

This is not meant to be one of those "look how hard my life is" type of posts, but more of a "look how hilarious my day was".

We are currently a "one car family", so if there is somewhere I want to go I need to take Andrew to work in the morning. No biggie. I couldn't even do that for a while in Silverdale because he worked in a restricted area, so dropping him off there was not an option. I decided today that I wanted to get the kids to story time since the library is just around the corner and Will has always enjoyed that. Andrew said he should be finished early with training at the gym, so I figured that's perfect. Maybe we can swing by and pick him up on the way home at eleven.

We roused the kids at 6:45 this morning and scooted Andrew off to the gym. I came back home with the kids and checked some things off my to-do list while they played and watched a couple shows. Before I knew it we had to leave for story time in 25 minutes and I still hadn't showered. Somehow we were able to arrive five minutes early (after two wrong turns) and had a fun time listening to stories about PJ's. Well, Annie and I listened while Will hid behind my chair and disrupted everyone with dramatic wailing when I suggested he sit on the floor with the other kids. He's not what you would call a social butterfly, but it's no skin off my nose. He buried his face in my leg as we collected our free sticker and coloring pages at the end and we were back in the car.

I balanced Annie on one hip and a package on the other at the post office while Will refused to listen to my commands to stay right next to me in line. He skipped around the room waving and saying hello to each person in line behind us while I tried not to wonder why he turned into such a ham at a post office, but refused to make eye contact with anyone at story time. Oh well. We mailed our package and drove over to Walmart to pick up some prints (making two more wrong turns). By the time we arrived Annie was asleep in her car seat and I knew if I stuck her in the stroller, forcing her to be awake, she would be an angry screaming banshee all the way to the Photo Center. So, my solution was to push Will in the Sit N Stand with one hand while my other arm supported the sleeping Annie on my shoulder. I'd figure out the whole which arm do I use to pay for my prints thing once I got there.

Once we finished that adventure and returned to the car I checked my texts and saw that Andrew actually needed to be picked up between 2:30 and 3. That meant the kids needed to take early naps. Which meant they needed an early lunch. Which meant I had thirty minutes to get home, feed them and get them to sleep if I wanted them to be somewhat rested for the remainder of the day. Okay.

I was feeling like a rockstar thirty minutes later with two sleeping and fed kids and some time to myself to eat my lunch and do a little cleaning. Then I realized it was commissary day. And the commissary is right next to where I was picking Andrew up. And two trips to the base did not make sense, so I needed to make my grocery list stat so that we could go straight there after collecting Andrew.

At 2:15 I was putting the finishing touches on my list with Will snuggling next to me when Andrew called and said he was ready to be picked up and that he needed me to bring him his badge. I told Will to go potty and dashed into our room to grab his badge and threw my semi-completed list in my purse. I woke up a very sleepy, very angry Annie and decided there was no time for a diaper change at that moment since Daddy was waiting. We quickly got shoes on and started to head out the front door. With Annie on my hip again I slammed the door behind me and began to walk down the porch when I noticed our dog, Kimber, dashing by me out into our front yard. My complete confusion went away when I looked back at the door and realized the dead bolt was somehow out, so the door hadn't closed at all when I thought it had. I used my key to open the doors to the van and told Will to get in his car seat. He was now bawling his eyes out screaming "My puppy! My puppy!". I also noted his shorts were shimmying their way down to his ankles since I had forgotten to button them up again after potty time.

I hurriedly buckled Annie into her car seat and ran towards Kimber, praying she wouldn't take off down the block like I knew she wanted to. Well, that prayer was answered with a solid "no". She was off like a bullet. I sprinted after he at first with my messy bun becoming much messier and the 95 degree weather making me sweat like crazy, but she was way too far from the kids for me to continue chasing her. I booked it back to the car to buckle a devastated Will into his car seat and told him we would go drive after the puppy and catch her. No sooner had I hopped into the driver's seat than I realized the front door was still wide open. Ah. Closed that and drove half a block down the road where we saw Kimber standing triumphantly in someone's driveway. I inwardly groaned when I noticed a mom with five or six kids standing on their porch watching this three-ring circus. However, I was grateful when one of the older boys came sprinting off the porch alongside me saying "Will she bite?". I assured him she wouldn't and we were able to corner her in a small side yard. She cowered down and kept her ears back as we took the walk of shame back to the car. I waved and thanked the boy for helping and drove back home to drop Kimber off.

We finally picked up Daddy at the gym and made our way towards his work. Halfway there he got a call that he no longer needed his badge and was free to go. Quick U-turn and we arrived at the commissary where the kids pulled on each other's seat belts in the shopping cart the entire time and alternated screaming and crying.

We ended the day with my famous Mac n Cheese with cut up hot dogs and some lively discussions with Will about alligators. I'm hoping for an extremely boring day tomorrow.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Forget to remember

I'm in the process of creating Will's video of his third year in this world. His birthday is in July and Annie's is in January, so every six months I have the pleasure of putting together a compilation of videos and pictures of their past year set to music. I plan to put them all on a DVD and give it to them when they go off to college (or whenever they leave our house and I'm left crying in their empty bedrooms).

I admit part of the reason for this project is selfish. I love having a way to look back over their short little lives so far and see how much they've grown. I have also always had an obsession with looking back at old pictures and videos of myself. I used to sit for hours as a teenager watching videos of myself and my brothers when we were younger. Yes, it reminded me of a simpler time. Yes, I liked to fast-forward to the Christmas when my dog ate my mom's cinnamon roll. But it also gave me some perspective. I've found one of my biggest flaws is how hastily I lose perspective. I forget to remember all the blessings in my life. The memories from when I was young, like my kids are now, are hardly possible to recall, but even as we age we forget things that happened last year and last week.

We wonder why our parents are so protective of us because we forget the millions of hours they poured into our lives to make sure we were well fed, educated, happy, healthy, wise, faithful, obedient. We wonder why people are jealous that we have siblings because we forget the nights at the dinner table that we laughed until we cried at the joke that only our family thought was funny. We cry out to God when we don't get what we want and ask why He's punishing us because we forget (or choose to forget) the thousands of blessings He has given us that He never had to. We hop on our expensive computer and post a Facebook status about how hard it is to have no money. We complain about the challenges of being parent and doing the very daily tasks that were done by our own moms and dads to shape us into who we are.

Of course, I know everyone has not had the same family and life experiences that I have. Some have more to be grateful for than others, but the one blessing we all share, whether we realize it or not, is God's mercy to us.

So, I guess my hope for this video project is a little perspective for my kids someday. I want them to remember how much their dad and I absolutely loved them even when we made mistakes. When they are tempted to play the victim I want them to remember the love that Christ has clearly shown to them their whole lives and to feel that deep thankfulness we rarely feel. I want them to remember how easily we forget.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above