Way Back When

Its been a long time. Life gets in the way. Injured kid, potty training kid, suddenly we are prepared for an unexpected deployment, I could go on and on….But that’s not what’s important today. Everything will be fine and time marches on.

Today, I need to write more for me than for anything else. I have approximently 12 years to figure how to have a conversation that I know I want (and need) to have with my teenage children and it wont be getting any easier. This is now relavent for unrelated reasons that I won’t go into now.  This is going to be long, but perhaps someone in a similar situation could still benefit from my experiences. So here goes nothing…

I was married once before, and it was an abusive relationship. *deep breaths* There it is. Not many people know anything about it, or perhaps little bits about “my ex” when its a relative moment, my husband has only heard bits and pieces (but enough to get the gist). And here is my story:

After high school I did the whole go to college thing, but soon ran out of money (couldn’t get a co-signer to get approved for a reasonable loan) and came back home. A few whirlwind of months of working later I was living with my boyfriend in a one bedroom apartment half way between the jobs we had at the time. 18 year old me felt so independent and it felt “so right”, like it was meant to be (blah blah blah), all was good with the world. Sure, there were some “signs” my mom and friends started to see “red flags” but 18, then 19 year old me didn’t care. “There’s no way, they aren’t right. They don’t live with us, they don’t really know” (blah blah blah). Not too long later we were engaged (that only made sense, we were “practically married already”), and then 20 year old me walked down the isle one August and kick started what was going to be “the perfect small town life”.  (and, YES, I was having second thoughts, but blew that off as “cold feet”)

Alright so back up a few months, throughout the engagement (bridal shower, wedding planning, etc) my mother REALLY started to see signs and red flags that something just wasnt right. Again, 20 year old me ignored these warnings and happily let him “take control of things”. We started house hunting, and purchased a super cute home in the middle of town with a closing date just about a week before the wedding. His being the better credit and income we put the mortgage only in his name (which made a lot of financial sense, honestly, getting a better interest rate). He made a “joke” before closing that now if anything happened the house would legally be his, and he liked it that way “just in case”.  But I blew that off too, he was just being funny, right?

So the marriage had a little rocky start, but moving is stressful, I had gone back to school and started a new job which is stressful, so in my mind we just needed a little extra effort – I knew the kind of wife I wanted to be and was striving to fulfill this roll. I have always had a “I can be better” attitude so it took next to nothing for him to turn ‘I can do better’ in “you should have done better”…and that’s where it started. With classes, and both of us working I was still 100% responsible for all meals and house and yard work. I would get up at 3:30am to go to 1st shift of care work while he worked a 9-5 and he would get home at 5:30pm and the house wasn’t spotless with dinner on the table I would hear about it. Subtle comments at first that soon turned into things like “what did you even do all day?”- even though I also had worked a full shift at my job.

I took everything as an indication that I needed to work harder, countless conversations with my close friends – words that I can’t even recall now but I know they were trying to tell me. Everything that I needed to know but just couldn’t force myself to hear. I did more, I worked harder, at the same time he wasn’t even coming to bed at night anymore – there was zero affection left in a relationship that had started out so focused on affection and making each other happy. I reached out to his best friend, and was soon after told that us having a “private friendship” made him too uncomfortable. Hindsight is 20/20 and oh was I so so blind at the time. I was SO lonely and so frustrated with myself because I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.

The verbal fights started when I (a natural fighter) just couldn’t hold it in anymore. “What am I doing wrong?” “Why am I not good enough”….but everything always ended with me in the wrong, picking fights for no reason when he “works so hard so I could have everything I wanted” (while I also had a full time job). As things went downhill I put up the front even stronger “everything is wonderful” and all of that bullshit. The ONLY one who knew anything was his best friend, and even how much he tried it still was putting a band aid on something that needed stitches. I’m sure a lot of you have seen #HeMightNotHitYou that is the point we were at here.

The first physical incident occurred on my 21st Birthday, I had wanted to go out with friends (he did not, it was a weekday), so I had bought some drinks for us to celebrate at home – he was already 21 but didn’t go out very often. He got home from work and went straight downstairs to play xbox – and never came back. He said that he thought it was stupid that I wanted to drink together “just because its your birthday”. After I couldn’t even tell you how many times of asking him to come upstairs, I went downstairs upset, disappointed, frustrated, and most of all wondering why I wasn’t good enough for him to spend my birthday with me. Words were exchanged, I grabbed his sweater at one point and he thought I broke the zipper which set him off even more. Being a fighter I said “I should just break your xbox, then you’ll have to spend time with me” to which he replied “break my xbox and I’ll break you”. I took a step forward and he wrapped his body around me and threw me across the room. my legs hit a chair, my head hit the wall, and in one swift motion I was all the way back up 4 staircases to our bedroom. I called his best friend and told him what happened frantically before he could make it up to the room where I was. Honestly, I can still feel the fear and the pain as I type this and that is something I NEVER want either of my children to feel. (its all a part of healing but I need a little break, and a beer, right now)

After this, I had a bag packed and hidden, but didn’t think I’d ever use it. I knew we were at that point, but I wanted so desperately to make it work. There were a few more incidents, mostly late at night when he wouldn’t come to bed, or during the evening when I just so desperately wanted his attention. The day that I left in the middle of a fight, I got my bag went to the door and yelled to the house (he was downstairs) “this will either be the stupidest or the smartest thing I’ll ever do” and walked out the door.

My story doesn’t end there, there was court ordered counseling, a suicide threat if I left again, a restraining order (which ended in his sister stalking me), and countless extremely scary, ridiculous situations. The worse it got, the more I knew that I made the right decision. Now, I didn’t make the best decisions to try to get my life back on track (again with the hindsight thing), but I realized this and made the decision to change my life which got me into the Army. And for me, that was the best decision that I’ve ever made.

This may be the abbreviated version but its a start for me. And I hope that anyone that is in that “its a start” phase can be helped to realize that there may be more going on.

This is healing for me, this is a big thing for me, I don’t talk about it and I’m going to need to know how to talk about it. This is a good place to start.

 

 

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Strong Girl

At only a few days out from turning 2 my daughter is already doing everything to be just like me. This is adorably terrifying. From the moment that the ultrasound tech said “looks like we have a girl!”, I have been absolutely terrified of raising my girl.

Already she has this fierce, strong, stubborn, bursting personality and all I can do is encourage the hell out of it. She loves cars, building blocks, and tools; and still screams with delight when she sees a princess. She loves to run and climb and play in the dirt; and wants to help clean the house and cook dinner every night. She is my Wild Child, and even through everything that drives me crazy, I could never change a thing about her.

As she grows I’m doing my damnedest to set a good example, but still letting her see the bad with the good and the balance in between. Everyone has good days and bad days, and sometimes you just need a break, and that’s all ok. She will know that when she has good, bad, and in between days we will always be here to support her.

If I had to guess based on right now, she will be my child the joins the military and jumps (falls) out of planes or travels the globe on wild adventures (both, perhaps), but she still has 16 more years to figure out who she is going to be. (Then, if she is like her parents, a few years later she will change directions and change her life completely.)

When she wants to learn how to do the things I’ve always loved I will very happily teach her. But when she wants to do her own thing, I’ll do what I can to help her learn those too. I don’t wear makeup, but the day she comes home from school and wants to try it out we will watch some YouTube videos and figure it out. I’ve never been found of cheer leading but the day she wants to join the squad we will sign her up. As long as she never comes home to say that she no longer wants to be an Oakland Raiders or Nashville Predators fan anymore, she will never be met with anything but support.

Raising this strong willed, fierce, loud, amazing girl already is a roller coaster ride and I know the hills will only get higher from here. But we are strapped in and holding on tight, bracing for the road ahead.

Grow free like the flowers, my little Wild Child. Stay perfume sweet and whiskey strong.

 

 

The Game of Life

Today I want to talk about the Game of Life (and no, not the fun drinking game). My children have a wonderful way of reminding me that life is all one big game. If it isn’t this way for you, I really suggest that you change your point of view.

The easiest way to be successful in persuading my little ones to do the things I wish for the them to do is to make it into a game. Everything we enjoy doing is because we are constantly making games and finding the fun. More adults need to apply this outlook to their own lives.

At (damn near) 2, my daughter is hands down the best example here. Look at potty training, there is absolutely nothing fun about potty training but I’ll be dammed if my daughter isn’t enjoying it. Potty celebrations, cookies, you name it – we’re doing it. 2 year old pictures, which had been an absolute pain in the ass, the key was to just play a picture taking game and each kid took turns taking pictures of the other one (while I held my expensive camera, of course)…boom – pictures of her smiling and laughing.

My 4 year old has already started to catch onto the games, and therefore push back a little. So we have had to change things up a bit and make him think that he is the Game Master. He “makes” chores into games for his sister, or we make anything and everything into a competition, and with the genetics they have that alone is usually a winner. Its all about finding what they consider to be fun, life is great when you’re little.

Making little games and little goals out of your everyday life isn’t hard to to, and trust me, it makes things so much more enjoyable. Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget how to make a life along the way. Life is a game, find the fun.

(And, I know it took longer than 10 seconds to read this, so drink.)

 

My Vilage

When they say “it takes a village”, they aren’t only saying it to make moms feel better about their given situation, or about the new “problem” she’s having with her child. The village mentality may be an old wives thing, but it legit. If you have it, you know what I’m saying; if you don’t you’re problem rolling your eyes so hard at me right now.

Regardless, currently, I am missing my village. When my son was born, and even before, we knew that with both of us active duty we would need plan a, b, and c, and back ups to the back ups for everything. We (I, mostly) had so much help and support and never had to feel like I was ‘going at it alone’ or ‘didn’t know what I’m going to do’ when we were juggling weeks in the field, 24 hour duty, deployments, or just an unexpected late work day. No matter what I had to figure out there was always someone that could help me, and that was amazing.

My village consisted of quite a few families and we were always there for each other no matter what. We were always picking up and dropping off kids to accommodate everyone’s crazy schedule and the twists and turns life throws in the way.

Then there is the more personal side for my family – family and friends that live a little (or a lot) farther away, but that will always be there as soon as physically possible if needed. I still have all of them, but they are not right down the street and no matter how well intended, that just usually doesn’t work.

The ease of finding care aside, even though its great to always have someone available, mostly what I’m missing the support. The being with each other through every step of everything, good and bad. Now I’m not saying that long distance relationships can’t be great – all of ours are – but its just not the same. A phone call or text is no where near the same as sitting down together while the kids play and talking about whatever new issues are going on in your life. That’s what I really miss.

From the outside, “it takes a village” really sounds more like ‘moms its ok to need help through daily life because kids take a ton of work’, but for me the village is all about me. A little grasp to hold on to sanity before the kids rip it away from you completely. A first hand reassurance that you’re not f-ing this up nearly as much as you think you are. I’ve got the kids shit handled – buts that’s about all that I have handled. I need my village to put my piece back together at the end of the day.

For me, the village is so important, and now that all of mine have officially moved away I am missing it very, very much.

Never Say Never

My husband and I learned very early in our parenting adventure that you “never say never“, but of course that hasn’t stopped us.

Recently we have crossed another one of those “never” boarders that we had made for ourselves: making kid food and adult food for the same meal. In the principal of the matter this really bothers both of us, but neither of us have the energy left to fight this fight anymore.

My four year old has become an extremely picky eater…and extremely doesn’t really even begin to cover it. On top of that, he is sitting in the 20-something percentile for weight already and just keeps getting taller. I’m pretty sure that he is only staying in the 20’s because I give him a Breakfast Essentials shake every morning to try to make up for everything else he is refusing. It’s not even that there are only a handful of foods that he is willing to eat, it’s that hes not in the mood for certain foods (ie. whatever I’m making).

We have tried everything single tactic that we can think of – and quite a few suggestions from our trusted confidants. NOTHING HAS CHANGED. I have lost track of how many times he has gone to bed without dinner because we won’t make him something else. He has made himself throw up at the table because we have a ‘you have to try it’ rule. I know he is only four, but I am SO done with this.

Tonight, I will be making an “adult pizza” with homemade pesto sauce and chicken, and a “kid pizza” that will be half cheese and half pepperoni. I think its ridiculous, but I know that without the kid food, he won’t be eating anything.

So one more of our “never”s are now blown away….only, what?, 10,000 more to go before they are off to college or whatever they choose to do. Such is the journey on our crazy ride of life.

My Gun, My Choice

In light of recent events – and mostly the media’s take on things – we are going to digress from the wonderful world of parenting for a minute to talk about something I happen to be rather passionate about. Gun ownership.

It has become more and more evident that for the most part people only see the extremes when it comes to 2nd amendment and gun ownership issues. This goes both directions, whatever is the opposite of someone’s current point of view, they are only seeing the extremes. That is ridiculous, we need to normalize gun ownership, gun safety, and everyone’s right to choose what is best for them.

Personally, I don’t feel like this should even need to be a discussion. My ability to have a gun in my own home should be no different than my ability to own my kitchen knives. Both can be deadly if used in a malicious or unsafe way, both will cause no harm if used properly. Whatever your reason to want to own a weapon – be it for personal safety, hunting, or hobby – as long as you’re not trying to kill anyone, there should be no issues.

I honestly feel that the vast majority of this out of control gun rights debate would be silenced with widespread proper education. Start mandatory gun safety classes in schools. (Yes, I just said that.) Teach our youth about guns, how to handle them, clean and care for them, and – most importantly – to respect them. Let them handle a real (unloaded) gun, talk about the good and the bad, take the taboo away.

Now, let’s go a step further. I know many middle aged, or older, adults that have never handled or fired a weapon. Be honest, when you have never experienced a situation it can be very scary. Let’s end that too. Offer public classes on the basics: the different types of guns and their uses; proper care, cleaning, and storage; different types of ammo and its uses; and how to handle and shoot a gun. Suddenly, better educated adults are making more educated decisions. I will always respect your want to not own a gun, but now you don’t have to be afraid of them anymore.

 

Now, I don’t live in fantasy land, I understand the amount of pushback there would be for these types of “unnecessary” programs. “A waste of time and money”, “Will only make things worse”, “Will create more criminals”, I can hear it all now. This is why it is so important. How many accidental shootings could be eliminated if having a gun was no different from having knives in your home? We teach our children how to be safe with cars, knives, rocks, and sticks; but suddenly its taboo to teach our children to be safe with guns? That needs to end.

 

I’m not saying arm the entire society (again, the extreme that I know some of you are seeing here), what I am saying is this doesn’t need to be such a big deal. I’m not saying take away all of the gun laws, there still needs to be regulations. I don’t want a bunch of drunk people running around with their guns (although I have never once gotten drunk and thought it would be a good idea to start playing with one of our weapons…), but think about if you had a designated concealed carry, just like a designated driver. Could we eliminate some of the late night robberies and raping if criminals didn’t know if someone in that group was carrying a weapon?

 

Criminals will always be there, no matter what. If there is an extremist that wants to kill people they are going to find a way to kill people. When someone uses their vehicle to purposely cause destruction, accidents, and death we don’t look at stricter vehicle regulations. When someone goes on a stabbing spree we don’t look at taking away everyone’s knives. I’m failing to see why this is so different. We need to take away the taboo, we need to normalize what it is to own and care for guns in your home.

 

Normalize gun safety. Normalize gun ownership. Respect everyone’s right to choose what is best for them. Take away the taboo and start seeing how things will improve.

 

Better Tomorrows

I have to admit something – I have been kind of dropping the wife ball lately.

Today makes two days in a row that I did not get up with my husband and make his coffee and lunch and see him off to work. Last night I was so wrapped up in a project at home that I didn’t get around to dinner and we went out to eat. I am behind on laundry (who isn’t?! Seriously…), I still need to reorganize the pantry to make the new foods the kids want to eat fit, everything could use a really good dusting, I could go on and on and on.

I am very blessed to have a husband that honestly does not care and just goes with the flow. In fact, he often reminds me that I do not need to wake up early if the kids aren’t already up (which is kind of rare here) and he can make his own lunch. BUT these are things that I enjoy doing for him, and I know he does enjoy being on the receiving end of it. If the pile of clothes he dumped next to me on the bed this morning is still there at bed time, he is just going to put it back into the basket for later — and is seriously ok with that.

We have had the “I don’t do enough” talk many a times, all of which have received nothing but support and the pointing out of how much I am doing for our two little monster children. Our days are currently filled play, and learning, and chaos, and sometimes the things around the house get pushed to the side. And that is perfectly fine.

Right now, not everyday lives up this imaginary standard that I have created for myself. I am learning to accept that. Its been difficult for me, I am always striving to be better than the best, and I feel like I am falling short.

I’m still working on it, but now I just keep telling myself: We will do better tomorrow.

Whatever that means.

Traveler Attitude

Every time we take a vacation, no matter if its just a few days or a whole month, my kids return with the worst attitude ever. Things are no different this time. We have been having behavior issues, to put it lightly, since we got home on Sunday.

I have been reassured through family, friends, and things I’ve read that this is considered “normal” behavior and “all kids go through this”. Normal or not, I’m about fed up with it. Yesterday, being the first whole day home, I could not leave a room or sit down for more than a few seconds before all hell broke loose. Going out in public was a nightmare, I actually cut our errands short (which I never, ever do) because I was going to loose my damn mind.

My crazy person rant to my husband when he finally  got home (at his normal time) was met with “remember he’s only 4” and “shes a toddler”; which solidified that I was, in fact, going crazy. Although, this one time, the attitudes did not cease to exist when he walked in the door and in some sick and twisted way that made me feel a little bit better.

The days are long and the years are short, but you still do not need to tell me to cherish every moment. I do not, and will not, cherish the times that they are more than I think I can handle. I will not cherish the times that not listening turns into meltdowns and screaming, and (newly) door slamming. Regardless of what I will miss in the future, I am living it right now, and right now it can get really difficult.

But in the end I always have to remember this one thing:
All of things my hands have held, the best by far is you.

-Celia and the Satellite sung by Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

 

 

Find the Damn Socks

Anyone with children knows the perils of how things can just randomly disappear. Turn your back for a few seconds and a room can be torn apart. Packing for a trip can be a whole different level of disastrous.

This weekend we are taking a little mini-vacation to visit from friends in East Tennessee. Nothing fancy, just a quick Friday-Sunday visit, but we are all very much looking forward to this time with good friends.

During the packing process, and within a few short unsupervised minutes, my son managed to loose 4 pairs of his good socks. Not the ‘I got ten in a pack so I don’t care what happens to them’ socks but the sport style, keep your feet cooler socks. Four pairs, just vanished somewhere in my not-so-huge house, never to be seen again.

This is a fiasco that has been going on for a couple days now (I’m a super early packer for any kind of trip). This situation is now met only with immediate tears from my four year old, who just simply cannot remember what happened after he noticed the socks out on his dresser.

This as once again been a much needed reminder to me of how sometimes we need to step outside of the turmoil of everyday life and see beyond the hardship of this exact moment. One of the most cherished pieces of advise I have ever received was from one of my AIT Platoon Sergeants: Think beyond the momentThis is something I try to go back to every time I get too caught up in something.

Yes, we may of lost 4 not-so-cheap pairs of socks but that is all they all: socks. Socks that probably wont even fit him anymore in a couple months (which will be, without a doubt, when we find the damn socks). We are fortunate enough that those four pairs of socks can easily be replaced, and until we do I can just do his laundry more often. So I’m letting go of damn socks.

Think Beyond the Moment, my friends, when life gets hard just take a moment to remember the hard wont last forever. This emotionally fulled, difficult moment will be gone soon and you’ll be in a new moment.

Making Plans

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”
(-‘Goodnight’ written by John Lenon for The Beatles)

If I had to have a motto for this life it would be, hands down, “it didn’t go as planned, and that’s okay”. I am a firm believer in this, every time you make plans the universe just laughs.

I think that as long as your end is result is “happy”, the rest of it doesn’t much matter. For its not the destination of life that is desired, it is the journey you take to get there. Once you can learn to go with the flow and ‘hunt the good stuff’ out of every twist and turn, that’s when you’ll find real happiness. And really, that should be your main goal right there – happiness.

My husband and I have been making a lot of plans lately, short term and long term. A little piece of me knows that none of this is actually going to go the way we are planning. We’ve already had one major plan change, and things have only just begun on this part of our journey.

Currently neither of us want to admit that we are a little (read: a lot) freaked out about what the next five years will bring our way, but when we discuss things you can tell. Its a good, excited, anticipation sort of freaked out, with a smidgen of overwhelming truth of the bad that sometimes accompanies the good.

The good, the bad, and the ugly, we will as always make it work. The crazy twists and turns have brought us to a pretty great place thus far, no reason to think trend won’t continue. As long as we are always there to support each we will always have what we need: our family, our love, and our happiness.