Hi! I'm Lauren, and I need a Lobotomy.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Worst. Mother. Ever.


I am officially the worst mother of the year. The rest of you can rest easily because I have taken the title for you. (You should probably rest easy for the entire time I am a parent – I calculate that will end… at my death. There ya go – free pass for life!!)

It all started when I spent the day trying to figure out a ton of math problems for work. This wouldn’t be so bad except that over the course of a week I seem to have forgotten math. Totally. As in – I’m not even certain that 2+2=5. That’s right, right?? It appears that way these days.

I have spent the week with a screaming two year old and a six year old that gets so mad at him that she screams at the top of her lungs, slams her door, and continues to yell. We have a rule against yelling in the house, which she clearly knows about, because the rules are posted on the fridge, but she chose to scream anyway. So, she got herself grounded (not that she was going anywhere anyway, but the point was made, which is all I ask for anymore).  



My brain is fried, to say the least.

Today I forgot about a parent teacher conference. Lovely.  I feel so bad about it. When I realized it I almost cried. I have felt like such an inadequate parent this year. I’m not sure if it is because I am projecting my own horrible first grade experiences on to the teachers this year or what. I am beginning to think that first grade teachers are all the same (no offense to first grade teachers everywhere, but I had a really bad experience with mine).

I say this to Yaya - “I feel as if I am failing 1st grade all over again!”

She tells me, “I am going to write a short story about it.”

“About what?” I ask.

“You failing first grade. It will be just a short story, with a short story line.”

I think about this for a moment as I pull into the little guy’s school parking lot.

I put the car into park in the parking spot and turn around to say to her, “I didn’t fail first grade, for the record.”

Yaya think about this for a moment and then says, “Hmm. It will make a good story anyway.”

I am officially screwed and I don’t even know what excuse to use on her teachers. If all else fails, blame Brian. ;o)

Then we get home. I think everything is going ok (after I call Brian and vent about my inadequacies at parenting, obviously).

Little guy was playing in the yard. Not quite happily but he was enjoying the snow. Yaya pops her head out the door all bundled up like she has places to go and people to see. She wants to go to the neighbors. I tell her ‘No, it’s dinner time as soon as I cook the pizza.” She throws me a look of absolute hatred and slams the door.

I usher LG in a few minutes later and ask where Yaya is. She is oh-so-slowly peeling off her winter gear and crying. “You are the Worst. Mother. Ever,” she screams as she runs to her room. I shake my head and commence making dinner.

Dinner goes smoothly and everyone is happy and eats pretty much everything on their plates. (A far cry from what transpired just 14 minutes before) Score for me!

I go to put the little guy to bed and realize I have forgotten his blanky at preschool. Not Good. I have been back and forth to his room for the better part of two hours and he still refuses to sleep. I am exhausted due to the stairs. Why didn’t I buy a ranch house?? I am kicking myself for losing the original Blanky a few weeks ago. Dang – to have two Blankies right now!!

Wait… All is quiet upstairs… Maybe they have gone to sleep! I’ll check in a bit. That silence is golden!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tiny Trip to the South


I’ve been back from Arkansas for a couple of weeks now but I am just now getting down to writing about the trip. Sorry about that!

Anywho, I made the second flight and made it to Little Rock. It was so nice to finally see Brian! You just never realize how much you miss someone until you get there and get to hug them again. I had never been to Arkansas and as we flew in on the little plane the trees and river and the rest of the scenery was just gorgeous. Being in Colorado so much of the time I really miss deciduous forests with all the undergrowth and dark secret places inside them I remember from my childhood. As we drove through town to the US Pizza Company (http://www.uspizzaco.net/) that I had read served gluten free pizza (it’s absolutely delicious and I totally recommend eating there if you are in the area) I was amazed at how much it reminded me of New England. The winding roads went up and down hills and there were quite a lot of period-style homes all over the place.

Our first night we drove around looking for the Big Damn Bridge and were totally steered wrong by the GPS. We ended up at a nature preserve somewhere in the country. No worries… We just drove to base and then tried to make a plan of attack to explore the area.

Brian mentioned Memphis was only about two hours away from Little Rock and then we decided we would go in the morning and see what it was all about. I was secretly super excited. Neither of us had been before and we thought it would be a nice little adventure. Without kids. What could be better?

I am happy to report there were no mishaps on the drive and we made it to Beale Street and parked the car. We weren’t sure what we were getting into but that is my favorite way to travel. I love to get to a new location with only a few ideas or suggestions of things to do and explore and discover as we go along.

It turns out that you can drink on Beale Street. A four block section was cordoned off by the police and you could walk up and down with adult beverages. Awesome!! Beale St. is like Duval St. in Key West but with a blues/jazz theme instead of island décor everywhere – obviously. After a rather large vodka punch the size of my head I decided that we needed tattoos. Yeah… It was clearly a drink-induced idea, but I’ve wanted one for eight years now and I guess that’s enough time to procrastinate. (I procrastinate very well, in case you didn’t know)

Vodka Punch that started it all.
By the time we found a hotel and a tattoo parlor I was stone cold sober and rather dreading my decision. I was shaking and about to pass out as Brian and I perused the fonts for my tattoo. In the end, after some intense hand-squeezing on my part and poor Brian’s hand being gouged out by my nails (lucky for him they are very short), I ended up with an awesome tattoo that is just as I imagined it for all of these years. The funny thing is - I bought all these cuff bracelets so I could cover it up and now I don’t want to hide it. It’s on full display for all to see and I’m not ashamed.

My tattoo will remind me I have the courage!

Beale St. at night is crazy! It gets so crowded that it’s hard to walk. But, it is amazingly awesome fun to wander the streets with a drink in hand and not get in trouble.

These guys were amazing acrobats. They just took off down the street with back flips, handsprings and whatnot!

Jello shot in a syringe... yup, good idea!
Notice the police car... 

This was soon after sundown - and it only got more crowded and fun later.

The next morning we woke up and decided to go to Graceland. (http://www.elvis.com/graceland/) That place is nuts… We went on the tour of the house; which is so tacky and gaudy that it’s incredible. I noticed a few pieces of furniture and accessories I’m fairly certain my grandparents owned as well. I kept trying to remember that the house was as Elvis left it and was probably very modern for the time, but it was difficult at times to take everything seriously – like I said, it was REALLY tacky! We bought the mid-priced package and went on a tour of the automobiles, the airplanes and the costumes in addition to Graceland. I must say I loved the clothes the best. It’s crazy to see so much of Elvis’s stuff in person, and reading about some of the charities and things he was involved in to make Memphis a better place to live made me appreciate him more.

The one thing that was frustrating was that half of the grounds at the museum were gift shops. It was a never ending parade of trinkets that you couldn’t get away from no matter how hard you tried as you were funneled through them on the way to and from the exhibits. The commercialism of it was a bit ridiculous and I wasn’t the only person commenting on it. I could hear whispers of people saying, “Oh, what do you know, another gift shop!” So, the shops were a bit over the top, but I am glad to say I’ve now been to Graceland. I guess cross that off the bucket list…

After leaving Graceland we decided to head down to Mississippi since Brian and I had been not been there before and we weren’t sure when we’d ever get back down that way.

It was a very pretty, pleasant drive with farm fields surrounding us and very little traffic. We decided Tunica would be where we went to see the Mighty Mississippi and get some lunch. We were ‘hankering’ for some good southern food.

Mississippi River - we missed the ride on the Tunica Queen.

On the road to the river Brian said the funniest thing after I pointed out the cotton growing in the fields: “Wow! This is the first time I’ve seen cotton in the wild!” I don’t know what it was about what he said and how it was inflected, but I broke into laughter and couldn’t stop for so long. Maybe it’s because the cotton wasn’t really in the wild but someone did painstaking labor to grow and collect it, but it was funny to me. I like to bring it up to him every once in a while and I still get a good giggle out of it. Wild cotton clearly in a field… Okey dokey then, moving right along… Nothing to see here, people…

Our lunch at the Blue and White Restaurant in Tunica (http://blueandwhiterestaurant.com/) was delicious. Trying to find something to eat was a little bit hard for me since I can’t eat gluten, but I ordered a hamburger steak with onions and mushrooms and some turnip greens with a loaded baked potato. Brian was lucky – he got to have chicken fried steak, fried green tomatoes, and something else fried that I can’t remember. Delicious!!

Our journey being over we headed across the Mississippi and back into Arkansas to get back to base. It was just a nice little road trip all around. Brian started his class on Monday and I got my work done as well. Then it was time for me to go home. It was so nice to just let our sails out and see where the wind blew us for a couple of days. It’s not often we get to do that with the busy life here at home.

We did make it to my original place of interest before going to the airport. And it really was a Big Dam Bridge!!


Monday, September 12, 2011

Yesterday

Yesterday was the ten year anniversary of 9/11. It did not pass me by even though I didn’t comment on it. I thought about it all day. I think about it every day. It makes me sad, to my core, still. So much so that I can’t watch a documentary on it or listen to radio reports. I have to look away when something comes onto the TV and I have a hard time talking about it in anything more than facts. When I bring the human factor into it I can no longer bear it. I cried and cried and cried the day it happened and for many days after. Being from Boston I was terrified someone I knew was on one of those planes. My Father in Law (at the time he wasn’t my FIL, just my boyfriend’s father) was a Captain for an Continental, based out of Newark, and I was so scared until we heard from him. My Mother in Law (same situation) was a flight attendant for United. We were terrified for her. As more news came out, and I learned all of my loved ones were safe, I breathed a small sigh of relief. My dad called to tell me he was over Pennsylvania when the plane there went down and had to make an emergency landing. He wasn’t very far from the site of the crash. It was so close and so scary. I still remember the eerie silence from the skies as air traffic was shut down.

Along with the rest of this country, I was terrified with what was going to happen next. I lived in Europe during (what is now known as) the first Gulf War and it was quite scary at times. You didn’t know if the war would spill over to Europe, or if long-range missiles would be able to reach you and hit you when you played outside. We had bomb shelters built into every home we lived in – left over from WWI and WWII – and I would wonder if we would ever have to use them. We did not, thankfully, need them for anything other than wine storage.

I was there when the Berlin Wall came down. I have a piece of it somewhere. I was there when so many great things were happening for the people, yet there seemed to be an overwhelming sense of dread, like the other shoe could drop at any time and we would be scattered and scrambling, the peace over and the skies dark once again. I was in Zug, Switzerland for its 500 year celebration, and I was scared we would have to bike home in a hurry. The fear subsided over time.

We moved to Germany after Switzerland and it was in Germany that the fear set in again. I went to an International school – a school with around 180 countries represented. Many of the students were children of military officers and diplomats. We had armed guards at the school and a fence topped with razor wire. We stayed in the compound all day and were only released to people with proper ID. It brought my fear back again. I was young and idyllic and didn’t understand why people would want to hurt each other. I still don’t understand it.

And so it was that 9/11 brought back those gasp-inducing fears from my childhood and rendered me unable to function above a base level. I thought we would be living in that fear again; that uncertainty. We pulled together as a nation and tried to right the wrong. People signed up for the military, we were patriotic, we seemed to forget our differences (as long as someone wasn’t Muslim – which was not right or ok) and we banded together to try and help each other. In light of the tragedy and the prejudices going on, I was very proud of this country. Having lived in other cultures, I would always choose America and it made me proud to be from this country.

Brian rejoined the Army Guard after 9/11 – it was the only branch that would take him because of his previously broken leg that occurred while he was a Marine – and he went off to training. We weren’t engaged yet, so I spent time alone while he trained and drilled and learned his new role in life. We were married two or three days before his first deployment in 2003.

In the last ten years we have endured much and learned much and come out stronger because of it. I am sad that I lost the rest of my innocence that day. I am sad that most of us did. I had lived close enough to a war zone as a child that I thought I would be immune to it; immune to the panic and fear when things are uncertain in the future.

I did not lose a family member or friend on that day. I am so fortunate. I will never be able to express my condolences for the people that were lost that day. Words do not express my pain for them. It is with my heart that I send a silver thread of thoughts to them and hope they know that I stand beside them even though they do not know me and probably never will.

Brian and I were in Tunica, Mississippi yesterday. We stopped to get something to eat on our way back to Little Rock after visiting Memphis, TN. The TV was showing the memorial services and reports and it was hard to avoid looking. I mentioned to him that I couldn’t watch these programs. He said he can’t, either. He tried a couple of weeks ago and broke down. For both of us the memory is alive in our minds every day. As we sat there, eating delicious southern food on a highway lined with cotton, I told him, pointing to the TV, that we would not be here (meaning Tunica) if not for that. And it’s true. I don’t know when we would have found ourselves in Tunica, Mississippi, if 9/11 had never happened. I think our drive through the sparsely populated southern countryside was what we needed yesterday. Every day we are apart is enough of a reminder of things that transpired ten years ago, and that which happened next to lead us where we will be in the future.

The sacrifice we make daily is a sacrifice for the survivors of 9/11, which includes our whole country. Every single citizen. I am proud of Brian and all of our service men and women who work ceaselessly to defend our freedoms here in the USA. I have been where life isn’t as carefree as the one we live here. The people killed on 9/11, and those during the following wars will not be forgotten by me, my children and my family. We live our memorial daily. Ten years on the memories and images burned into my mind are still too raw and painful. May they all rest in peace and may we all find peace.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers


The kindness of strangers is such a pleasant thing sometimes. I often forget how nice people can be.

Today I am going to Little Rock, AK, to see Brian. He graduated from his school in TX and is now headed to his next class.

I scrambled to get myself to the airport on time. I haven’t really had more than a few minutes to sit down in the rush to get out of town and get the kids to my dad’s for the weekend. This morning, while trying to type a report, pack, and clean the house so I didn’t return to a mess, my dad convinced me to just throw the rest of the laundry (wet) into my suitcase and get to the airport. With two hours before my flight I figured I was okay. I drove to the airport, not speeding because I figured everything would be ok, and parked. I got on the shuttle and rode the rest of the way to the airport. It took a few moments to get my bag checked and I still thought I was ok.

It was then that I saw the line for security. It was long, but not much longer than usual. It seemed to move fast enough – until I got to the scanning machines. Then it stopped. And stopped. And stopped. I didn’t have my watch on and so I couldn’t really gauge the time. It didn’t seem too bad. After I made it through security I put my watch on and checked the time. I still had twenty minutes to catch the flight. I got on the train, waited patiently for it to get me to my terminal, and then exited the train. I checked my watch and still had fifteen minutes. I took a couple minutes in the shop to grab a book and then started hoofing it to the gate. I got stuck behind some people who didn’t appear to know that it was ‘stand’ on the right and ‘walk’ on the left of the walking escalator. Of course, this would be a day I would wear the inappropriate shoes to the airport. I need to look cute for Brian and all… Well, I finally made it to the gate. I thought I was good. I had eight minutes to go, after all! I took a little bit to figure out how to get onto the plane and finally asked the lady standing behind the desk.

She informed me that the flight stopped boarding two minutes ago.

I missed my flight by TWO FLIPPING MINUTES!

On my boarding pass it says the plane departs at 10:45. It starts boarding at 10:25. Nowhere on there does it say that it stops boarding at 10:35. Apparently they always close boarding ten minutes before the flight time. I wasn’t aware of this little tidbit of information. I feel as if that would be a very beneficial thing to know. I fly frequently and have never run into this problem. Maybe they could print it on the boarding pass?? I wouldn’t have stopped to get a book. I would have pushed through people on the escalator. I would have done so many things differently.

I broke down and started crying, of course.  With so little time to see Brian every hour is precious. Every minute is precious. You don’t think about those things when you are together all the time. Sometimes the people you love get on your nerves. Goodness knows that when Brian and I are together for a while we annoy each other to no end. Right now, though, I want to be with him, and every hour I sit here waiting is a little more time we won’t get to enjoy each other’s company.

But anywho – back to my main point…

After I gave myself a talking to for my stupidity and pulled up my big girl panties (I was still teary, of course, and other people in the terminal were giving me funny looks) I put myself on standby and wandered around, trying to figure out what to do with my sorry self.

I had lost a piece to my phone charger in my travels yesterday and my phone was dead. I teared up a bit because I didn’t want to use a pay phone due to the outrageous charges that whatever company has the pay phones in DIA charges. I wandered aimlessly, contemplating going to the USO room or getting a drink. I know it was only 10:45 in the morning, but don’t judge.

Instead of going to the USO I found myself drawn to the already very crowded bar. I took my red eyes into the bar and sat down at the corner furthest from the door. The gentleman next to me turned to look at me and I said hi. He nodded. I was still shaken from my experience and told him I had missed my flight by two minutes – something I don’t normally do because usually I avoid people I don’t know. I think it was because I was so miserable inside still.

I ordered a bloody mary and the man next to me left. The waitress brought me my bill and it was $0.00. I don’t know who this man is, but I sure wish I could thank him! (So here is my thanks, not that he will ever read this)

A few minutes after he left, and while I was still trying to figure out what to do with myself, two other people came in and sat next to me.  They were about my age and the guy said hello. I’m sure I looked more than a little bewildered still. I was taking out the new, cursed, book I had bought out of my backpack when the girl he was with asked me if I was in the military. I am using one of Brian’s camouflage book bags as my carry on. I said “No, but my husband is.”

I started to turn away but then I worked up my courage and asked if they had a phone I could use. I NEVER do that. Usually my stinking pride keeps me from asking people for help.

Not only did the guy let me use his phone to call Brian to tell him to not to speed to meet me at the airport, he let me use his charger to charge my phone. I now have 7% battery life, which is enough to call Brian when I get into Little Rock. I thanked them profusely but they told me not to worry about it – it was the least they could do for all the sacrifices my family has made to keep them safe. I think that is something I will always carry with me in my heart.

Right now I am imagining my bag circling round and round and round on the carousel – alone and desolate, wondering when its mommy will be there to collect it.

I know I don’t often ask for help, but I’m glad I did. I will always be grateful to the nice people I met at DIA today. I am calm and ready to travel, ready to meet whatever obstacles come my way. But God help me if I don’t get on the next flight!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Flashback

It’s been a little while since I have had a memory, or flashback of sorts, from Brian’s deployments in Iraq. Today I had one. I wasn’t prepared at all. I was checking the news, like I always do in the morning, and this article http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/08/06/afghan-president-31-americans-killed-in-helicopter-crash/?test=latestnews was the first thing I saw. I felt like I had been punched in the gut.

I started shaking, and almost crying, because all at once I was hit with the memory of what it was like for me, on the family side, when Brian was shot down in February of 2007. I can't even begin to imagine what I would be feeling right now if Brian hadn't made it home to me. I am very fortunate.

Brian went to Iraq the first time as a door gunner. He volunteered to go with an aviation unit instead of wait for his artillery unit to be activated. I figured that being above the fighting was safer than patrolling the streets, which he would have done with his other unit. Shows how much I know!!

For about a two week stretch, starting in January of 2007, I was completely on edge. There were numerous helicopter crashes with very few survivors and every time I heard of a new one I was worried it was Brian’s. I wasn’t sleeping, I was so very scared, and it took all I had to try and take care of YaYa and go to school. Everyone advised me to stop watching the news and checking it on the internet, but at that point I was way too addicted to any information I could get about anything at all. Because I wasn't sleeping I would stay up all hours of the night, constantly refreshing to see if there was anything new. When there were no new crashes for a week or two I let my guard down.

It was a Wednesday morning when my phone rang with a number that meant someone was calling from Iraq. I panicked. I knew in my mind that if something happened to Brian they wouldn't call me, they would show up at my door, but it didn't stop my fear. I wanted to faint. I was getting ready to leave for school and I was trying to feed YaYa so we could leave. I was in a hurry because I had a big test in physiology that day. Brian never called me in the morning and that added to my fear. I answered the phone.

"I just want to let you know I'm alive," Brian said. I was relieved to hear his voice but I had no clue what he was talking about. How could he be anything but alive if he was talking to me on the phone?

"Ok," I said slowly, still trying to figure everything else out.

"I can't talk long, but there was an incident and I'm alive. I'll tell you later."

"Ok, but, what happened?" I asked, knowing he wouldn't tell me, but I had to try.

"We were in a helicopter crash, but everyone is ok. That's all I can say. I just wanted you to know I am ok in case you hear anything on the news."

I was shaken and shaking and more curious than calm, but I knew I couldn't ask more questions. We said our goodbyes and I headed down the mountain to meet my dad, who watched YaYa while I was in class. The crash was mentioned on the news all morning and I was grateful Brian had called so I didn't have to worry.

When I met my dad he asked me if it was Brian's helicopter that was involved. I don't know how he knew, but he's pretty smart like that. I confirmed and then rushed to class, to take a test I was in no way mentally prepared for. I proceeded to fail it miserably.

That night I went to dinner at my dad's house and it was all anybody talked about. To add insult to injury, that very same day I was IMing with an old high school friend and she told me that a friend of ours had died. I was in such shock from the helicopter crash that I didn't even realize she was telling me it was one of my best friends from high school that I had only recently gotten back in touch with. (fyi, I have a habit of dropping in and out of people's lives, it's just the way I am - I build a lot of walls around my soul) I didn't put it together for about a week; it took that long to process almost losing Brian. Then I started crying all over again. It was a rough go there for a while.

The next morning I looked for any information in the newspaper I could find and it was buried on the very, and I mean VERY, last page of the paper. I have the clip-out somewhere, but it wasn't very big. I figure it was because nobody died and it wasn't sensational in that way, but in a way I think it was more amazing that everyone survived. A brick falling from the sky is not a very safe thing to be in. 

Here’s an excerpt from an article I found online after the crash. It’s an article about Scott Upton, the pilot of the Blackhawk. You can find the whole article here: http://www.usawoa.org/downloads/CW4ScottUptonEarnsDFCSep07.pdf. I posted only the part about the crash.

“It was before noon in February when Upton and the pilot of a second Blackhawk were transporting troops from one forward operating base to another. They were on their way to Taji, about 20 miles north of Baghdad. It was daylight when Upton saw a “fireball” flying into his chopper, known as No. 503 among Utah’s cache of Black Hawks.

The impact on the chopper’s fuselage, Upton said, “felt like someone punched the whole aircraft on the side.” His left door gunner, Brian Carver, instantly returned fire. Upton’s crew could see at least one vehicle and the source of enemy fire coming from the barren landscape. Upton dropped 503 to about 30 feet off the ground at a speed of about 150 mph, trying to make himself less of a target. Upton asked for a damage assessment, and the news coming back from pilot Lloyd Nelson was good. Everything was running fine at the time and everyone, including crew chief Joe Bass, was OK.

The chopper, however, had been hit four times. He learned how bad the damage was when he tried to turn the aircraft after flying for about a full minute, which put the Blackhawk about three miles away from where it was hit.

He thought about flying back to Balad. “I heard a loud boom,” Upton said. The chopper’s nose dipped and pulled to the right, still traveling at about 150 mph. About 300 feet away, Lance Robb, pilot of the second Black Hawk helping with the troop movement mission that day, saw what was happening. “I knew that I had a tail rotor problem,” Upton said. In short, the tail rotor “disintegrated” in the air. “It was, ‘Brace for impact,”‘ he thought to himself.

But there was a berm. He came in tail first, slamming to the ground as he slid about 100 feet. The berm ripped off the left tire, and the chopper rolled onto its side not far from a house. People in the area moved in. From three miles away, the enemy would have been able to see that one of their targets was down. They would be coming soon. Upton heard gunshots. “I’m thinking the enemy is coming,” he said. He climbed out with his semiautomatic rifle ready. But the fire came from Chock 2, the second  Blackhawk that now sent out warning shots for Iraqis moving to the crash site. So the Iraqis stayed away. 

Upton and his crew emptied the broken Blackhawk of equipment and “sensitive” items while they secured a perimeter around the helicopter with guns drawn. Two OH-58D Kiowa Warrior gunships flew in within minutes after Wyatt Smith in Robb’s chopper radioed about a chopper down. The gunships allowed Robb to land his Black Hawk and cram aboard Upton, his crew and passengers, stacked like cordwood inside. Within about five minutes, or what “seemed like forever,” Robb’s helicopter arrived safely in Taji."

Brian points to the bullet hole above his head.

What was left of the helicopter after the crash.


Brian would be happy to share his story, I don't know his side of it very well (kinda sorta mentally blocked it), only my part.

He did say to me later that when he realized they were going down, as he tightened his seat belt thing, that I was going to be pissed because he hadn't updated his emergency contact information when I had moved. He would have been right.

For his efforts in suppressing enemy fire, Brian was awarded the Air Medal with Valor. He doesn't like to share that with people, but I am very proud of him for being able to think so quickly and help save the lives of his passengers and fellow crew members.

I am lucky. I got Brian back. I almost lost him but I got him back. The families of the 31 soldiers and 7 Afghanis won't be getting them back. My heart goes out to them. My heart goes out to everyone who has lost friends and family members in the wars, those who still have loved ones in harms way, and those who may have someone over there at some point. My tears don't mean anything. I don't think I know any of them. I cry for the loss anyway.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ode To My Computer

Oh, Computer
Computer of Mine

How I used to love when you started right away
How I loved that when you woke from your nap you were happy to see me
You roared to life, ready to tackle the day

Now it seems as if you dislike me

Why, Computer?
Why?

I wish we could go back to the old days, back to the old ways
I wish you could be unplugged for more than ten seconds without dying
I wish you were able to open more than one window before giving up and ‘not responding’

Why do you turn your back on me when I need you most?
When I am in a jam and need a phone number, why do you ‘not respond’?
When I am in a bind and need directions you still are ‘not responding’

What have I done to turn you away?
Is it because I filled you with pictures, songs and stories?
Is it because you are tired of being my electronic slave?

I am not sure if they make Xanax and Prozac for computers, but I will gladly look into it for you
In the meantime, oh sweet, darling computer of mine…

Start ‘responding’ or you will be replaced.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Little Puddles

I put little guy in the bath and sat there, watching him splash in the bubbles. TMI, so stop reading if you can’t handle that… I had to use the toilet while he was in the bath, and he started screaming that he had to use it as soon as I sat down. I’m not good at being rushed, so I told him to go ask YaYa to help him since I was a bit busy, if you will.

He took his little naked butt down the hallway, or so I thought, to have YaYa help him out. He came back a few minutes later much more relaxed than he had been when he ran off. I asked him if YaYa had helped him and he looked at me like I had three heads. I took that as a ‘yes’ and didn’t think any more of it.

After he was done in the bath I did the usual routine and got him to bed on time. When I went downstairs to let the puppy, Beau Digby, inside I felt my foot was wet when I went to open the back door. I looked down to investigate more.

The puddle was a distinct yellow color and I knew the puppy had been outside all evening. I know he didn’t do it. I know that our older dog didn’t do it because she hadn’t done that in eleven years. It left only one culprit and I knew where to point my finger – upstairs in the little guy’s bedroom. He didn’t go to YaYa for help (as she confirmed later). He went to the back door like a puppy learning to be housetrained.

I think that’s a good sign, in some ways, but I’m worried he’s going to be one of the feral children of http://cogitz.com/2009/09/03/feral-children-living-with-beasts/ or http://listverse.com/2008/03/07/10-modern-cases-of-feral-children/. There used to be a really good website with more information but I haven’t looked at in years and I can’t remember the URL.

When I got over my initial shock I couldn’t help but laugh as I wiped up the mess. Little guy is so used to living with dogs that he thinks the proper place to pee is in the yard. Not sure if that’s good or bad, but it’s interesting to see how his brain processes information. Now if only I could get him to poo out there like the dogs do… (He could poo in a toilet; I’m not picky as long as my diaper changing days are behind me soon!)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How Sweet They Are

It is not any surprise if you have read any of the past posts on this thing that K (F calls her YaYa, so that’s what she’ll be from now on) and I have been having a lot of conflicts. Every once in a while she comes up with something that makes me re-evaluate things.

I picked her up from school the other day and we stayed after a few minutes so the kids could play on the playground equipment. They LOVE to do that, as I’m sure most kids do. I was tired and so I sat down on the bench to watch.  YaYa came over and sat down next to me. We were sitting in silence until she looked around and saw a little girl in a wheelchair.

“Do you see that girl in the wheelchair?” she asked me. I braced myself, wondering what she was going to ask.

I responded with, “Yup.”

“Do you see that lady with her?” I nodded. “That’s her Mommy.”

“Oh, really?” I knew this already because I’d seen them at the school before. The little girl is a new Kindergartener.

“That girl is very lucky.” My curiosity was immediately piqued.

“Why is that?” I asked, wondering what in the heck she was going to say.

“She’s lucky because her Mommy gets to stay with her all day long at school. I wish you could stay all day long with me at school.”

Wow, I thought. I was speechless. I guess I thought she really did hate me all this time. I will hear her in her room, stomping about, yelling that she hates me; she hates my rules; she hates everything else about this house, but I guess it’s just a way for her to relieve stress. I don’t stop her. I know you have to get it out somehow. She wowed me with her ability to think beyond someone's physical characteristics. 

She really is a sweet, caring, kind person. I know that. I do. I know there are worse children out there. When we are in the thick of it and she is testing my control and I have to force her to follow my rules it’s easy to forget that we do need each other. YaYa is a much better arguer than I will ever be and I just want to give in and let her run the show, but I know I can’t. I know that I need to stay firm with the rules but it really hurts when I have to punish her. I don’t like to see her sad. I don’t like it when she yells at me.

YaYa says a lot of really mean things to me when she is mad. I try not to take it personally and I try to understand she is just testing the waters and trying to figure out her place in life. The next time we have a blow-up I will only have to remember this conversation and know that she doesn’t, in her heart, think I am ruining her life and that she really hates me.  I think that will be enough. (for now)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Glutenation

I had the worst glutenation (my word, but I'll let you use it, hehe) yesterday than I have had since I was told I could no longer have gluten in September of 2010. It was awful, but at least it solidified the fact that I shouldn’t eat the stuff.
Some of you know my story, some of you don’t. I am going to put it down now so that I can get back to what I really wanted to write about in the first place – which was the glutenation of 7/24/11… Be warned – this is a long one (more of a short story, to be honest).

Four years ago, it must have been May, 2006, I woke up with my feet feeling really funny. They were sore and itchy. I looked at them for a long time, trying to figure out what was going on. They were red and swollen but I couldn’t see anything that would have caused it. I did the famous WebMD search to try and narrow down what was going on. All that I could come up with was plantar fasciitis and some other things I don’t really remember now. Nothing really fit what I was feeling so I didn’t worry about it too much. Throughout the day things were getting worse. At the time I was working in a kids club at a health club down the street from my house and so I was on my feet the whole day. It was painful, but not the worst pain I’ve ever had. I went home that afternoon and chased my little, then 2-year old, daughter around some more. By the time I got her to bed my feet were burning. I spent more time on the internet trying to figure out what was wrong.
When I went to bed that night I tried raising my feet up on some pillows, hoping if I got them higher than my heart they wouldn’t be so swollen. It wasn’t working and I couldn’t sleep. At all. They were burning so badly by this point that I thought I was going to go crazy and saw them off with a dull spoon. I finally got out of bed and soaked some towels in cold water, put the towels in plastic bags, and wrapped the bags around my feet. That worked a little bit and I was able to get some rest. I had to re-soak the towels once during the night. I got as much sleep as is possible with plastic bags on your feet.

K woke up early, as was always the case. She was an early riser. I was not. I unwrapped my feet and noticed the swelling hadn’t gone down but they were no longer red. I jumped out of bed like I usually used to do but popped right back onto the bed. My feet hurt to stand on. I mean really hurt. I was scared to get out of bed but I had to get K out of her crib and feed her. Her bedroom was in the downstairs of the house and I winced my way there. We had breakfast and I left her to her own devises as I scoured the internet for anything that might give me an idea of what in the heck was going on.

I still had to work that morning and so K and I gathered our belongings and got in the car. I had to drive even though we lived literally a two minute walk away. It took longer to drive there than to walk. But I had to drive. I knew there was no way I was going to make it if I walked. Driving the car was almost as challenging. The car was a stick-shift and using the clutch and gas was excruciating.

My mom stopped by to visit while I had the kids outside at the playground. At this point I was shifting back and forth on my feet because I was trying to relieve one of the pressures of standing. My mom noticed something wasn’t right and she tried to tell me to go to the doctor when I was done with work. I didn’t want to go because I was still convinced it wasn’t serious. It took three more days of plastic-bag wrapped feet and no sleep before I finally had enough. I called into work because I couldn’t walk. I was crawling around on my hands and knees at home, trying to keep it together and get things done that I needed to do. I called my mom in tears and she asked me to explain everything to her again.

                “It’s burning, and swollen, and itchy and tingly.  But it’s numb at the same time. I don’t really know how to explain it. It sounds so bizarre when I say it.” I told her.

                “Hmm,” she said thoughtfully. “You should look up neuropathy. That’s what Nanny has and your symptoms sound similar. It’s the same thing your great grandfather had but they didn’t have a name for it then. He would come in crying from the fields and Nanny would rub his feet. And call your doctor. You need an appointment.”

                “Ok, fine.” I was trying to hold back my tears. I called and made an appointment for that afternoon and spent some time looking up neuropathy. It fit so well. I was so scared.

My mom came over and drove me to the doctor. He agreed it sounded like neuropathy but then told me that it was probably because of my diet and lifestyle. I was too young to have neuropathy. His implication that I wasn’t taking care of myself made me so mad. With a two-year old and a husband at war there sure wasn’t a lot of time for fast living. But whatever, Dr. He took a lot of blood and gave me a sample of Lyrica.
I took my first pill when I got home. I was waaay out of it mentally, but for the first time in four days I had none of that pain, numbness, tingling or burning, and all that other stuff I can’t describe still to this day. It was a blessed relief. The medicine worked like a dream, aside from the fact that I never really regained my mental capacity while I was on it.

I did become depressed when I had the diagnosis of neuropathy. It was like all of my hope and dreams were flushed down the toilet. I wrote a very heartbreaking email to my husband. I didn’t think we’d be able to have more children because the medication could cause serious birth defects. I wouldn’t be able to do some of things I loved, like skiing and hiking, or dancing and ice-skating. It was a lot to take in. I remember telling him to divorce me because I was defective and he shouldn’t love me anymore. I told him that many, many times after the diagnosis but he swore to me he wasn’t going anywhere.

When my test results came back in they showed that I was deficient in B12, so I endured weekly B12 shots for six months. If you have never had a B12 shot I highly recommend it. But only if you’re a masochist. They hurt like heck! And the pain lasts for a day or so and you can’t sit or lay on the area you got the shot in, or really move your limb. I also had an electromyography (EMG) but it showed that the nerves in my legs and feet were functioning properly. So, low B12 was the official diagnosis.

After six months it seemed as if everything was getting better and I was weaned off the meds. It was amazing how much clearer my brain functioning was once I was no longer on the medication. I felt like I was getting my life back. The neuropathy would flare up every couple of months or so and I would go back on the Lyrica. Things would get better and I would stop taking the meds. This cycle lasted for a couple of years. Around November of 2008 it started getting bad again and I was about to go on the meds when I found out I was pregnant with the little guy.

I was overjoyed and over scared. I was grateful that something had kept interfering with me getting to the doctor. I was terrified of going ten months without my medication. It was a pregnancy not without complications.

Brian deployed in April of that year, and not long after he left I started having major stomach pains. I was scared to death something was wrong with the baby. My mom rushed me to the hospital where, as luck would have it, I was in labor. I was only six months pregnant. They managed to get the contractions under control and did a bunch of tests. They believed I had a placental abruption, which is where part of the placenta detaches from the uterus. I was put on strict bed rest. Like, I could only lie on my left side and I could only get up to go to the bathroom and take a shower. Sitting down, of course. Thank goodness my mom and sister were able to move in and take care of K and myself. I was in the hospital at least once a week with contractions or high blood pressure. After one stay they managed to lower my blood pressure, but they lowered it to the point I passed out. I managed to stay alive, as did little guy, pshew. But all of this is another story, so I will stick to the imperative stuff.

Back to the neuropathy. I think the reason I was able to tolerate the neuropathy during the pregnancy was because I was lying down for four months.

After F was born I waited a while to go to the doctor because I was nursing and I didn’t want to make him sick. We were out to dinner for my mom’s birthday when the neuropathy symptoms shot up my left arm. I started crying. I wanted all of this to stop. I was so sick of it. After a minute I regained my composure and managed to eat like a civilized person. The next day I called my doctor.

When I went in to see my new doctor she listened very intently. It was a relief to be believed for once. My old doctor thought I was making everything up. This new doctor thought it might be MS and so I was immediately sent for an MRI and given a referral to a neurologist. MRI was negative. Every single test they gave me was negative. I had to stop nursing abruptly and F was weaned within four days so I could go back on medication.

 My neurologist was just as bad as my first doctor. By this time my brain felt like it was being zapped from the inside, as if I was standing next to an electric fence and holding on for dear life. Every sound was magnified in my head and I couldn’t stand loud noises because they sent a shockwave through my nervous system.
It was then that my neurologist decided I was suffering from anxiety. Yeah, buddy, I’m suffering from anxiety. It’s been three years and nobody has any clue what’s wrong with me. You betcha I have anxiety. But it’s this ‘situation’ that gave it to me, not the other way around. He put me on Cymbalta, which had the desired effect of making things WORSE, and I wanted to die. I wanted to give up. I went to a spouse retreat put on by the Army in January of 2010 and was not doing so good. I had to skip most of the classes to sleep and I wasn’t able to eat much so I was very weak. It was in this state that my husband’s Major saw me and decided that it was okay to get Brian home a couple of weeks early. I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it until he got home. I was in terrible condition and I needed some help.

Brian got home and went with me to my appointments. He went with me to the neurologist and decided it wasn’t me with the problem; the guy just wasn’t really listening to me. He was a migraine expert and wanted me to fit into that little box. I thought I was having a problem communicating, but even with Brian there the doctor really wasn't listening to me. I requested a transfer to University Hospital and finally, after almost three and a half years of mostly silent suffering, we were getting somewhere. I had more x-rays, blood, and genetic tests than I’d ever imagine needing. I was hopeful for once. After a few months of not know what was going on, I was beginning to lose my mind again.

My family, friends and I came up with possible auto-immune diseases and we asked my neurologist to test for them. Everything was negative. I almost wanted something horrible so that I would at least know what was wrong with me, even if it meant I was going to die next year. At least it would mean I would know what I was up against.

Lo and behold, at my September appt., with a round of negative tests once again, my dr. suggested I try gluten free. She’d been reading a lot about the damage gluten causes, and had a patient about my age with the same symptoms, and once he cut out gluten he was fixed. I was scared, frightened, angry, my emotions ran the gambit. I couldn't, at the time, live without gluten. My life was a never-ending revolving door of gluten-filled products. I immediately bought a Red Baron pepperoni pizza on my way home and proceeded to eat ¾ of it. I immediately fell into what I now call the ‘glucoma’ (gluten-induced coma - my term, aren't I clever??). I recognized it since I was now aware of it, but prior to knowing I never understood why I fell into an almost-stupor after eating a meal with gluten in it. Which was pretty much everything I ate, like I said before.

Everything made sense now. I did a lot of research on it and decided it must be what I have. Because I stopped eating gluten before they could test me, I will never know if I have true celiac. I say I do, because it’s much easier. I don’t know if this nerve pain will ever go away, but it has gotten so that I can get through the day and even walk. I started skiing again this winter, and that hadn’t been able to happen for three years. I was fired from my office job because of all of my issues, but now I have a much better one and I can make it through the day. Some days it becomes almost unbearable, and side effects from the medication (currently Neurontin) I have to take for the rest of my life can sometimes leave me unable to drive for days, but I feel like it’s so much better. I have a life back. I have MY life back. (at least the part that is salvageable when the warpath the gluten was taking on me is over)

Which brings me to yesterday, the whole point of this novel… I was glutenated. At the airport. Drat. It happened without me even knowing. I ordered an omelet with potatoes, hold the toast, not expecting the potatoes to be deep fried. I figured pan-fried, like most places make them. I had both pepperoncinis out of Brian Bloody Mary’s and when we stood up to leave the restaurant and walk him to his gate I mentioned that there must have been a lot of alcohol in those peppers. Or I got glutenated (another one of my snazzy words). I prayed I was drunk and put it out of my mind.

I got home and managed to get F into his crib before stumbling to my room. I thought the bed looked comfortable and so I lay down. Yup. It was comfortable all right. So comfortable that I passed out feeling like I weighed 1000lbs. At 11:00 AM. I couldn’t lift my head, my arms, my hands, not a thing. I was paralyzed. Kira cut her hand and I couldn’t get her a bandage. I had to have her bring me a piece of tissue and the tape so I could try and create my own. It was awful. I remembered that feeling from the night I ate the pizza, the last night I willingly ate gluten. I didn’t like it. I used to joke about what I would do if I got accidentally glutenated again; about the gluten-eating frenzy I would go on if I was afforded the opportunity. Not anymore. No more Red Baron pizza and Jimmy John’s with the bread instead of the unwich… give me a moment while I salivate over the death of ‘The List’ (and it was long. very long). I don’t EVER want to have that happen again. I don’t remember much from breakfast until 3:00PM, when I woke from my glucoma. I also happened to get glutenated at dinnertime. This time I wasn’t in the glucoma, just sicker than a dog until this afternoon. Was it worth it? Oh, heck no!!

So yeah, that list I was secretly cultivating for the next time? I’m putting it through the shredder. My intestines have healed now and I’m not going back! (that neuropathy, and everything that comes with it, though, is here to stay) I am proud of myself for saying that the era of gluten is over for me, which takes a lot of courage from a recovering glutenaholic!! Maybe there's a meeting I should be looking for somewhere...

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Flood


A toddler left alone will be rather destructive... in case you weren't aware...

My cousin came for a visit the other night. I am eternally grateful to her. And eternally grateful to the other people that break up the monotony that is my life! Thanks to all of you, you know who you are!

Anywho...

My cousin and I went out front for a quick break from the disorder that is the interior of my home and the screaming children that inhabit it. When we returned five minutes later (don't call cps, we were literally on the front stoop) there was an amazing amount of ingenuity that had happened. I immediately noticed that there was small chair AND a stool pulled up to the automatic water and ice dispenser in the awesome fridge we have.

I knew something was amiss and so I looked down. I noticed water. I didn't notice a whole lot and so I didn't pay much attention to the water on the floor. I went to the bathroom (TMI???) and when I came out that is when I noticed the extent of Apocalypse that played out in my kitchen. There was water from one end of the room to another.

We looked at the little guy.

"Did you do this?" my cousin asked.

"Ye-eah" the little guy said in the sweetest voice ever.

"Do you have a towel?" My cousin asked me.

I grabbed one from the dryer as all the 'dog' towels were dirty and who knows where, what with the move back from Steamboat and all...

When I came out of the laundry room I noticed everything else. The light was hitting the floor just right and you could see everything. It was everywhere. It was amazing. An inch deep in most places. Your feet sloshed through it when you tried to go anywhere.

It was a wet mess. To say the least.

I wish I had a picture. All I have is a bit of the aftermath. It was five minutes and the little guy went on a destructive war path. (see above picture - notice the wine glass? it's a necessary evil...)

It happened again today, but not quite to the same extent.

At least now I know how to use the fancy lock on the fridge!! Score one for me!!!

Acting as Single Parent

Tonight we had a blow-up of epic proportions. My little doll was kicking at me and screaming that she was going to throw hard things in my face. I took her to her room and blocked her in there with my body. We decided a few days ago to come up with some house rules and their consequences. We did it together and I felt confident that they would sink in and set a precedent as to what we expected out of each one of us as a family.

I thought it would make sense to her. We posted it on the refrigerator where she could read it whenever she got out of line and I thought we had an understanding. I'm not sure if it worked or not tonight. I like to think it had, but threatening me brought everything to a whole new level. I am proud that I stayed calm in the midst of the turmoil, but nothing I said or did managed to calm her down.

Finally, after about 15 minutes of the fracas, I managed to get her into bed when I told her I would hold her while she cried.

It is in the moment that we are in the most despair that our walls come tumbling down and we finally hear what the other person is saying. My sweet little girl finally got into bed, after telling me she was in no way going to bed again, and let me just hold her while she cried. A lot came out then. She is missing her daddy as much as I am. She is missing him more. (I am not knocking my husband, just stating my truth. I know this will change as life progresses) He is her rock and her strength in a way he will never be mine. I rely on him, but my dad is the person who talks me off of the cliff because he knows just what to say and how to say it. My mom is my best friend, but my dad is my safe harbor in the turmoil that is this life. I know that is how my husband is to my daughter. I don't know how to reassure her when she feels her life is falling apart. I don't know how to be the rock she stands on when the seas get too deep. I can only hold her and tell her I know how she feels.

I don't know if what I do is enough. In fact, I know what I do isn't enough. I don't have the strong arms that give her so much shelter when she is in despair. I don't have the deep voice that can calm her hysterical crying. All that I can do is hold her to try and shelter her from the storm of emotions she is facing.

I have a small sense of what she is feeling, and I only hope I can convey some of my remembrances to her when she misses someone. My parents divorced when I was 9 and I only got to see my dad twice a year and we only got to talk on Sundays. We lived in Germany and he stayed here in the states. I guess in a way I was lucky because I had a father figure in my step-dad to make up for it a bit. He was someone I could go to for the male companionship when I missed my dad and the strength he could provide me. I was fortunate in that I had my dad for 9 years and then my step-dad came immediately into the picture. I never missed the strength that a man could bring for the family.

I have to be both parents. I read recently about a military wife that said she never tried to pick up the place her husband left when he went to war or training. I don't understand how she felt she could only be the 'mom' and left the 'dad' figure to dissipate in the breeze and the hole that he left behind. I think you have to be both parents when you are on this journey. You have to give the love and cuddles the mom gives and be the strong one when things fall apart, like a father would do.

It's very hard. Sometimes the children resent a parent for trying to fill in where the other leaves off. Sometimes they like to feel as if the balance is still there. I think it must be hard for a parent to come home and feel left out of the decision making. I think it must be hard to be away for so long. I may get really upset at my kids, I may think things I later regret, but I am so grateful I get to be there. I am so grateful I don't miss graduations and recitals and all the other things that come in between in which you have the ability to show pride in your children.

When I have to spend an hour calming down a child who wants to physically harm me, I have to understand where they are coming from. I have been there. I know what it's like to feel all alone in this world and that your only ally is the one person who can't be there when you need them. I wish my husband were here (and not only for the help with diaper changes - peee-ew) to help me out on this roller coaster of parenting. I wish he could put his strong arms around us all and tell us everything was going to be okay. I understand why he does what he does. In the meantime I need to be strong and caring, which is a bit overwhelming at times.

I will hold my children when they cry; the despair they feel needs me to heal them. I am the only one here. I tell them they feel like their hearts are breaking. But, like a scar that needs to make extra skin to heal, their hearts are growing bigger. When the heart grows bigger, unfortunately there is more room for hurt. It's what you do with the extra space in your heart that makes you special. You can fill the space up with hate and hurt, or you could fill it with love and compassion. I prefer the later. There may be something to the world if we have the compassion to understand why people do what they do, and the understanding of what it is that causes them to do it.

I hope I can teach my children that. Despite the loneliness and despair when someone you love isn't there to hug and be with there is hope for happiness and everything good that comes from that.

Until then, I hug the tears away and hope anything I say or sing to them helps them somewhere along this journey of life.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Funk

I have to admit that I have been in a bit of a funk the last few days. I think I am starting to pull through it, though.

The low point was when I was lying on the floor in the office, completely overwhelmed. I have a house that looks like a tornado came through and I had absolutely no motivation to do anything about it or any way to coerce/force my daughter to help me. She yells at me that she’s ‘not going to help me’ and I ‘can’t make her’ over and over and over again until I want to put my hands over my ears and scream.




There are not enough mommy-breaks available in the world to compensate for the onslaught to my ears. The constant noise and yelling, and not being able to get a break from it, was wearing me out.

I felt as if nothing was going to get better. Ever. You know how you can stand on the beach, right where the waves hit the shore, and every time a wave returns to the sea some of the sand is dug up from beneath your feet and you sink a bit? (sorry for the long sentence…) I felt like that, only I was sunk so far down that I could barely breathe anymore and the waves were relentless. I was being pounded down and down and down until I didn’t know how I would ever resurface.

As I lay there, gasping for breath, about to cry, my sweet little guy ran over with his blanky and started to rub my face saying ‘Mama, Mommy’ and I had to smile a little bit. Then my phone did that little sound thingy that meant I had a notification. I peeled myself off the floor and went to look for my phone. Low and behold, I had a text message from a friend! She said she missed me, and that was a big help to my shattered mind.

For the last few weeks I have felt as if I’m on this rollercoaster ride of parenting all by myself. I know everyone has challenges in parenting, and as far as that goes I am very lucky that everyone is healthy and mostly happy. (aside from when I do that parent thing and actually MAKE them do something they don’t want to do – see above picture) I don’t want to complain, because I generally am a very strong person, however, I have been very lonely. I don’t have many friends with kids, and since I am essentially a single parent right now, I have no way of doing the things normal adult people do.

My little guy has to be in bed by six or he turns into a holy terror, which means anything that happens in the evening is pretty much out. I make exceptions, but they are very few and far between. I don’t have the energy to keep up with him if I do try and keep him up any later, which leads to him walking all over me. Normally we have to leave within fifteen minutes of getting anywhere because he has become his terror-self. It’s not fun. At all. So I get lonely. Sometimes very lonely. Sometimes lonely enough to find myself in a puddle on the floor.

I’m not very good at asking for help. I know people would be there for me if I would just reach out and ask, but my pride keeps me from the help that’s out there – only a phone call away. People tell me that they don’t know how I do what I do, what with a husband constantly deployed, or gone for training, or something for long periods of time, and raising two small children while dealing with my stinking neuropathy. But I don’t think I’m strong at all. I’m just a really good faker. I look like I have it all together, but it’s just a front. Inside I’m a wreck, constantly wondering when my carefully constructed façade is going to crumble and people will see the real me. All my flaws will surface. I think, at times, I’m right on the edge of the precipice that decides whether I keep it all together or go down the cliff and crumple at the bottom. (guess my secrets out – not that it changes my ability to ask for help. yet.) I do what everyone does when faced with an obstacle – I put one foot in front of the other and plod along, even when I find my mind overcoming my abilities to stay in a straight line.

It all boils down to what I decide to let rule my life. Do I let loneliness and sadness and despair overcome the happy light I feel I have within me? I don’t think I’d like me very much if that were the case, which would lead to more bad feelings. That’s a downward spiral I don’t want to follow.

Today I feel as if the ‘real’ Lauren is coming back to me. I was worried I’d almost lost her completely yesterday. Even this morning it didn’t feel like she was very close to me, but I didn’t feel quite as bad. My hope was returning, and that’s what I really live on. It’s what keeps me able to face whatever comes next. I was afraid I’d lost my ability to hope. Without hope I really have nothing and no way to get through the day. I think that’s the same for everyone. So, hopeful Lauren is back, and hopefully I’ll be able to hold on to her this time.

In the end, I would like to thank my friends who called me Friday and Saturday, that seemed to know just when to call, just the exact moment I needed them, when I was too far gone to reach out for that help. Maybe the universe was sending some unseen, unconscious forces to them letting them know I was seriously drowning and needed them.

Maybe next time I’ll be able to ask for help. Maybe. Don’t hold your breath, though!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Breathe and Count to Ten

I need to remember to breathe and count to ten before engaging in an argument with my six year old. I will not win and she will scream and the neighbors will think I am killing her. I keep waiting for the police to show up. Maybe they will give me the lobotomy today.

Today I told her, after we had played at the park for a good forty-five minutes after school (what a nice mommy I am!), that in order to have any friends over she would have to pick up her bedroom. Being the good mom that I am I allowed her some time to play in the backyard before the rain came today thinking that she should have plenty of time to pick up her room before bed-time, and tomorrow she could have friends over again. Next thing you know, I look out in the yard and she is gone. I have a moment of panic until I hear her next door and see little brother standing at the part of the fence she goes over to get next door. Yeah, I was a little mad. The rule in our house is that you don't go anywhere, not even over the fence to the next door neighbors, without telling me (or someone who is in charge). That got her sent to her room to clean up immediately. We aren't fooling around about safety in this house.

Well, that sweet child of mine was up in her room for about ten minutes before she came out screaming and crying that it was too much of a mess and she needed help picking it up. I was in the middle of steam cleaning the play room - which I can guarantee you contained none of my mess, yet I was picking up after her. When she told me she needed help I about lost it. Perhaps if some small girl would help clean up more regularly, so that I wasn't the only one doing it day in and day out, I would be more inclined to help her. The mess in her room isn't bad, mostly costumes, books and dolls. It would be a quick job - nothing compared the 'exploded' room (which looks pretty good right now, if I can pat myself on the shoulder). I know for a fact I didn't make THAT mess, either.

What followed was twenty minutes of her writhing in agony on the floor at the bottom of the stairs screaming at me that it would 'take for hours'. I agreed with her, and told her it might take days if she didn't get up and get on it, and until then no friends, or maybe another round of grounding. Nothing was working. Then she told me that my voice sounded angry, and here is where I should have held my breath and counted to ten before saying anything... I was in the middle of trying to make mac and cheese, because I knew part of the cause of the meltdown was hunger, and I told her, "I'm sure my voice sounds angry right now. I only asked you to clean up your room. I spent two days cleaning the play room, and I know I don't make a mess in there, so am I supposed to clean up after you, little brother, and daddy? And then my stuff on top of it all? Am I your maid?" She shook her head 'no' and slunk out of the room.

A little while later - "But your voice sounds mad at me and everyone hates me!" She wailed, starting all over again. I tried to discern if something was going on at school but all I got out of her was that my voice hated her. And I didn't like her. And it wasn't fair. All of which isn't true, but as I know from experience, there is no consoling her when she gets like that. I just have to ignore it and let her get it out of her system.

I was a little smarter this time and I simply told her my voice was going to take a time-out from talking right now since it wasn't saying the nice things she wanted to hear. A lot more crying from her, but I didn't waiver, and my voice took a long time-out.

Dinner was served and everyone is going to bed early tonight. Wicked early.

They aren't always such little monsters, and I can usually pinpoint what's causing the meltdown, and it's usually just a matter of fixing the problem and everyone will calm down. When food takes longer to prepare and it's a hunger-caused meltdown, watch out, but when it's exhaustion causing them to lose it, that's a bit harder to fix, especially when they haven't had dinner yet. You have to fix one and then the other, because as it was pointed out to me tonight, 'it's just not fair to send someone to bed without dinner. That's not nice.' And she's right, it's not nice, but I sure would like to be able to do just that sometimes.

To end on a nice note, we finally uncovered the play kitchen in the playroom yesterday and found all of the food and serving utensils. When little brother saw it he immediately went to the phone that hangs up at it and called his sister at school. He babbled for a minute and then told her 'bye bye' before hanging up the phone. It was super cute. Those are the moments that make all this other harder, almost impossible sometimes, stuff worth it!

P.S. As soon as I fed them the house calmed down. And wouldn't ya know it - my darling dearest is up there right now, cleaning her room and singing. Little brother is still in bed, though...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Intruder

I have this almost irrational fear of an intruder being in my home. I know I shut and lock all the windows and doors every night. I know that I know we have an awesome alarm system and I set it every night, but sometimes I wake with an irrational fear (irrational fears is another topic for another day - I have plenty) that someone is in my house. Despite the fact that I know the dogs would alert me to someone in the house, I think there is a person lurking in the shadows, ready to hurt me and my family.

Last night I reached a new low. I went to bed early, looking to catch up on some sleep I have lost recently, and hoped a bit of extra rest would be the answer.

Around 3:30AM I woke with a start and wondered what I was doing so wide awake. I then heard a noise from downstairs that sounded like someone in the house. There was a bang, as if a door was opening and shutting, and then silence. My heart started pounding and I immediately freaked out. FYI -I go to freak out mode WAY too easily.

It took about fifteen minutes to calm down before I heard the sound again. When I tried to listen more clearly, despite my pounding heart, it sounded as if someone was scraping rocks out of my front walk way - a weird sound, but not unlike the sort of sound the guy made in Home Alone who had the shovel who turned out to be harmless but everyone thought was a murderer and grave robber. I was more afraid than Macaulay Culkin's character. And he was how old??

I peeked out of my window, looked in the direction the sound was coming, and all was going good until I saw a movement. It took everything I had not to scream the most blood-curdling scream I knew how to let out. Then... I saw the flag come waving back to me in the breeze that had picked up overnight. Yeah - I had put that flag out earlier in the day and completely forgotten about it in my terror in the dark. Go Patriotism!! Nevertheless, my heart was pounding and I could hardly breathe.

I fell back asleep as the sun was coming up. The dogs barked to be let out at their usual 5:55AM (I don't know how they time it so well!) and when I went downstairs I noticed I was completely fastidious in my locking up and alarming everything and my terror in the night was for nothing. Freak attack abated this time, but I'm sure whenever that happens again my terror will leave me as white as a well bleached sheet. Until then, if anybody wants those landscaping rocks, feel free to take them. Please just leave me a note about it so I expect you so I don't have to be so afraid. Thanks!

'The Grounding'

Well, I feel as if the infamous 'grounding' may have bought me some time. After three days of not having friends to play with, my darling dearest may have finally had it sink into her head. 'The Grounding', as we call it, has caused the little one to think twice about what she says to me and those around us and how she reacts to things she doesn't like. I realize it's only been one day since she has been 'free' but already she is behaving better and using those manners we've instilled in her since day one. Perhaps she has realized that I, mommy, 'AM THE MOST POWERFUL BEING IN THE WORLD'. [spooky voice] Haha - it will probably just teach her to be sneakier in the first place.

We had her neighbor friend over today, and when said friend started to get mad about little brother playing in the playroom with them, my sweet child calmly explained that he was allowed to play in the room because it was for both of them. There was some resistance from her friend, who is an only child and I sort of expect it from her, but they eventually figured it out. I was surprised that my rules were followed, for the most part. The most resistance was from neighbor friend, but she eventually acquiesced to my wishes and that helped immensely.

Yesterday, DD's last day of grounding, I forced her (as she would say it) to clean the room we so fondly refer to as 'the exploded room' aka the play room. It took her hours, like she had predicted (but totally avoidable if she picked up more than she played - so her fault, not mine), but eventually it was finished. I was able to vacuum the room for once and tomorrow I will steam clean it. It feels nice to have a clean main floor of the house (aside from the foreboding piles on the tables which I must deal with soon) and hopefully after we tackle the upstairs it will all be more manageable and won't cause us all to fall to tears at the mere thought of picking up.

I think the fear of being grounded again may cause her to think twice about her actions. (pray for me) At first I felt as if three days was a bit harsh for a six year old, but the recommended six minute time outs were clearly not having the effect I had hoped for. When we canceled a play date Friday evening because of 'The Grounding' she was very hurt and embarrassed. I hope this will carry through for a while and I'll be able to maintain some semblance of peace in our household. Or at least until daddy gets home and mommy gets a weekend off... yeah right! (But if I do get it there will be tiny wines for all!!!)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Boarding School: Revisited

I am seriously considering revisiting that boarding school idea I've had rolling around in my head. We had another breakdown tonight. This one involved violence. I haven't experienced that before. Today was my daughter's first day of first grade (we have year-round school here) and I should have known better than to let our neighbor come over because my daughter would be tired, but I allowed it because they have so much fun together. The girls were making up a game, playing nicely together, and the little guy was running around crying (screaming, really) because he was hungry, tired, and he's been sick for the last couple of days. I was losing my mind because loud noises send shock-waves through my nervous system and the sound in the house was an almost unbearable level. When the little guy tried to get in on the game they were playing, my darling daughter screamed at him to get away from her. I had enough at that point and asked her to pick up the game (and the non-washable markers they were using to colour it with) when s**t hit the fan.

Being the sweet girl that she is, that little girl screamed at me that she wasn't going to do it and she didn't have to. I asked her again, and when she refused to pick everything up I told her to go to her room. If I thought the poop hit the fan before I was sorely mistaken. I didn't know the poop could fly as far as it did when it hit it the second time. I again told her to go to her room because she needed a break. She promptly backed herself into a corner, yelling at screaming at me that she hated me. When I went to grab her to remove her to her room she pulled a wrestling move of some sort and managed to get past me.

It was at that moment that I regretted this open floor plan that we have. She ran all around the house but managed to get stuck in the laundry room. I was trying to carry her up the stairs when she wrapped her scrawny, yet surprisingly powerful little legs around the rungs. I managed to pull her up the stairs, she was hanging on for dear life the whole way, and get her to her room.

Then the poop started flying at a completely new level... When I tried to leave the room things started flying at me. Literally. When I felt the shoe hit me that was it. I shut her in the room, holding the door shut to keep her from escaping. She told me she wasn't going to stop throwing things until I let her out. When she was younger I had to turn the lock around to keep her in there. I won't do that now, because she no longer needs to be locked in for her own safety at night, but gosh darn it, I sure want to!

After about twenty minutes she calmed down, and until I put her to bed she was calm in there, perhaps realizing why she was in there, and the rest of the evening progressed smoothly. I've decided instead of sending her away to a reform school, which would be the easiest choice, we are going to do some counseling. I hope that living in a military community, where people are experienced with deployments and the fallout left on the young children, that we will be able to get her some help. Until then she is grounded until Sunday. This will be WAY harder on me than it is on her.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Entertain Me. NOW!

I have a little girl who needs to be constantly entertained. If we aren’t in the thick of utter action, always, all the time, every second of every day, she is pouty and angry and not fun to be around. If she doesn’t have something to do or someone to play with every moment she is awake she will throw a fit, be rude, and generally be unpleasant. We have tried to explain to her that we don’t need to be busy at every moment; that sometimes it’s nice to just sit around and do nothing or not have a plan of action every day, but it just isn’t sinking into that pretty little head of hers, which is not so pretty with her lips puckered into a frown-y pout with her eyebrows furrowed. We have tried begging and pleading with her. We have tried threatening her. We have screamed and stomped our own feet out of sheer frustration. None of it seems to work. I hope this is just a phase and she’ll grow out of it, but I’m worried she will grow up to be one of those angry, bitter adults that nothing will please and are absolutely rotten to be around. I hope with the right guidance she won’t become one of those. It’s very difficult for me to understand because I was, and always have been, a very laid-back, go with the flow kind of person. Gah. Double Gah. I guess I just have to keep pushing through, knowing I am not the first parent to deal with this sort of stuff. Let’s pray little brother doesn’t follow in her footsteps!

P.S... I purposefully made run-on sentences in this post. And no, I'm not correcting them. I was mad! I ramble when I'm mad. Deal with it! ;o)