Monday, August 22, 2011

Overwhelming guilt.

I always wondered what events in my life would be the ones that taught me the greatest lessons. Who would be my greatest teachers? Today, I learned a valuable lesson about appreciation. The lesson was bestowed upon me by my children, both under two years old. It was one of those non-stop-suck-the-patience-right-outta-ya days. My littlest, the 2 month old, somehow came to the conclusion that today was a great stay-awake-from-dusk-til-dawn-and-mama-you-better-not-put-me-down kind of day. Not behavior suitable for a mama of two under two. My oldest, the almost-2 year old, decided that she just wanted it to be a mama-and-me-forget-about-the-baby kind of day. You can see where I ran into some problems. I was okay for most of the day, running a few quick errands, you know, the PX, the post office, yadda yadda. Things got done. It wasn't until around 5 o'clock when that seemingly overflowing pot of patience just disappeared right out from under me. The tipping point was when I laid the baby down to, oh – I don't know, stretch, breathe, think – for just one short little second. The moment my hands stopped touching his squishy little body, the exaggerated infant squeals rolled from his pudgy little lips, a noise I pretty much had grown used to after a day like today. Meanwhile, this was the moment when the almost-2 year old decided she was "hunggee, hunggee". Well, Mama can't fix the almost-2 year old dinner when the infant squeals are sounding throughout the house, so the toddler banshee screams begin. At this point, I've got squeals and banshee screams of various octaves, rattling my brain. "Cori, you have GOT to wait. *banshee screams infant squeals* Avery, would you just shut your mouth?" Did I seriously just tell my 2 month old to shut his mouth? Why yes, yes, I did. Cue worst-mama-ever-in-the-wide-wide-world guilt. What kind of a parent tells their child – an infant, no less – to shut their mouth? As if he's going to think to himself "well, alright, since you put it that way". It was my breaking point of the day, the week, the year? Written out, it probably doesn't accurately portray how I felt in the moment, but it was awful. My children are clearly upset about a variety of things, and instead of the levelheaded, let-me-see-what-I-can-do-for-you parent, they get crazy-hair-googly-eyes-shut-your-mouth mama with the pot of patience that has left the building. For the rest of the evening, I got to face my guilty feelings about the many millions of ways I could have handled that situation better. While they were just telling me they need something the best way they knew how, they were also teaching me that lesson of appreciation. What if they weren't here to give me the crazy hair and the googly eyes? Wouldn't I take those banshee squeals every day of the week over the mere thought of them not being around for with all the noise and the mess and the gimme-gimme-gimme attention that I have never truly appreciated? I'm not saying I've never appreciated my children, not at all. I appreciate them every single day when I wake up each morning and go to bed each night. But this is like a whole new level of appreciation. Who cares if the toddler is screaming right into my ear drum or that she just won't grasp the lesson of "let's not hit Mama on the head anymore with the plastic pot of rubber peas"? At least I've been given this opportunity to teach them the things in life they need to learn. I feel silly and dramatic even typing this out, but it really was a reality check kind of lesson for me today. It's not about the perfectly behaved children or the house with the vacuum lines in the carpet and the windows shimmering without a hint of smudgy fingerprints. Life's greatest lessons seem to come to me when I feel like I just can't handle it for one more second.

I grow tired of the looks I get from people that seem to be saying, with an air of pity, of course, "oh, a stay at home mom, how quaint to be able to play house all day long". Staying at home with the kids doesn't enable me to cook a four course meal in my pearls and hand-sewn apron, while the children play Checkers quietly in their bedroom. I don't get to vacuum in high heels (although that might be kind of fun) or greet my husband with the day's newspaper and a calming foot rub. Most days, we stay in PJs until noon, forget to brush our teeth until well after lunch, and have a hard time remembering what day of the week it even happens to be. So you'd imagine my surprise when my own two-under-two taught me a lesson that I just can't stop thinking about. I guess they decided today was a great day for learning. My life's greatest teachers are, without a doubt, my children. Who would have thought?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Clearing my head.

I've been needing to find the time to update for days, even weeks, now, but just haven't been able to find those few extra minutes to do it. This week is full of a lot of different emotions, and I'm feeling really frazzled by all of them.

When Jesse enlisted in 2007, we both knew the very reality of him going to Iraq or Afghanistan and how quickly it could be. Instead, he was sent to South Korea, where he spent 2.5 years, most of which was very happily spent with us together as a family. When he received orders back to America in the late spring of 2010, we immediately contacted his gaining unit to find out the deployment schedule. Much to our dismay, but not really our surprise, we learned that his gaining unit in Fort Polk had a scheduled year-long deployment to Iraq beginning in January of 2011. We prepared ourselves mentally for the deployment, and began to sort through the various emotions that come with that kind of news. When we arrived at Fort Polk and he began inprocessing in September 2010, his orders still stated that he would be going to the deploying unit… until a few days later, when they suddenly switched him out to another unit. This unit, his current unit, had just gotten back from Iraq in May 2010, and had no future deployments on the calendar at this point in time. We were elated, absolutely thrilled with the news. I knew that while he was so obviously happy that he would get to spend yet another guaranteed year with his daughter (and little did we know, our son!), he was also dealing with the soldier side of his emotions. At this point, he'd been in 3 years and had yet to see any of the action for which he joined. I can't fully understand those emotions, and I don't think anyone could until they were in the situation, which so few people ever actually are. He knew it was his duty to go, but how could he say he was unhappy about spending even more uninterrupted time with his family? We dealt with the feelings, and moved on. Just a few months later, in January 2011, just days after coming back to Fort Polk from Christmas vacation in South Carolina, he was propositioned to volunteer for a year-long deployment to Afghanistan with one of the brother companies in the brigade. While my immediate reaction was, "are you freaking kidding me? There's no way I'm going to encourage that", we went on to discuss it in depth, and given the timing, we agreed that it would be a good, sound move for our family. He volunteered along with many of his buddies, and we began preparing ourselves yet again. As the days and weeks went by, his buddies slowly drained out of his own company into the deploying company, but still Jesse sat there, waiting and waiting to move to the new unit. Weeks went by, and he was the only guy left that had volunteered that was still just waiting. He questioned his NCOs about it, to which they replied, "give it time, you'll go, it just takes time to get everyone there." The waiting continued. The real emotional rollercoaster started when one day they would tell him they were full of his rank and wouldn't need him anymore, to literally the very next day, being told that he was "absolutely going" since he hadn't deployed yet. The flip flopping happened for weeks, day after day. When we hadn't heard anything about it for a few weeks, he questioned his superiors again, when they told him that he could switch to the deploying unit in as little as 12 hours with absolutely no warning, and that he wouldn't be clear until they actually left for Afghanistan in August. That meant, we had to mentally prepare ourselves for something that could very well happen, just as likely as it wasn't going to happen, for the next 4 months, after we'd already been in limbo for the past 4 months.

As August grew closer, I began to breathe a little easier, while still not allowing my guard to be let down. It is August 10th, and the company has left for deployment. My husband sits safely beside me, without talks of a deployment in his future at all. It's certainly a mixture of emotions, most of which are overshadowed by my absolute thankfulness that he is here, not there. I've been up and down, and cried so many tears, and let me feelings get the best of me too much over the last 8 months, as we sat in limbo, having no idea what the next year held for us. Why is that I don't feel like I can breathe any easier at all?

My brother, the one who used to attend and help coordinate anti-war rallies, is deploying to Afghanistan very soon, dangerously soon. Of my three siblings, he is by far the one I am closest to. We grew up together, much more than I grew up with the other two siblings because we are much closer in age. We fight like cats and dogs, still name call even as adults, but he can make me laugh almost as fast as my own husband. He's one of my very best friends. I'm having a hard time dealing with his leaving, as is the rest of my family. It's hard in any case, no doubt, but no one in our family ever suspected he would be one to join the Army. I can't really imagine what my mom and dad are going through this weekend, as they work through their very own set of emotions, which are completely foreign to me. Sending your brother, or even your own husband, off to war is one thing, but your child? I can't even think about the possibility because it hurts too much. Of my parents' four children, two have gotten uncomfortably close to enlisting themselves, while the third actually went the whole nine yards and sits now, waiting to enter that war-torn country, as his company's medic. I only hope the next year flies quickly and safely for him. It helps knowing that he seems entirely pumped to go on this adventure, and I think he will have one of the most powerful experiences in his lifetime.

As Jesse grows very closely to the 12 month mark until he ETSes (ends his service) from the military, we have begun to weigh all of our options a little heavier, and look at the various possibilities with a much stronger eye. While our families lecture us on how dumb it is to leave the Army now, and how awful the economy is, we try to reassure ourselves and block out the negativity. Unfortunately, after months and years of hearing the same old drivel, they've appeared to have invaded our own thought processes. We are confident that we would be able to find some kind of work once he gets out, but I can't shake the terrifying thought of the health insurance battle I know that we will face. We still have a considerable amount of debt, including our car, and that's keeping us from running full speed ahead into the civilian world. Fortunately, a large chunk of that will be gone by the time his ETS actually comes, but not enough to really put my mind at ease. We're both working toward our degrees, albeit at a snail's pace, and neither will likely be done by that point.

Is reenlistment really an option at this point? Did I really just admit that to someone other than myself and Jesse? The thought makes my queasy. Jesse has been in four years now, all without a deployment, and if he gets out, he would be "safe". Granted, he would still have 3 years of Inactive Ready Reserves, where he could technically deploy at any time, but the likelihood of that is fairly small. The puzzle pieces of getting out aren't coming together quite as perfectly as they were at one time, and I don't quite know what I need to make them fit together again. He won't know what his reenlistment options even are until at least October 1st, but I'm hoping for one of two things. I hope that either the options they present are completely not worth reenlisting, making the choice to get out as easy as it was a few months ago. Or if that doesn't happen, I hope he is presented with something that is super wonderfully "where do I sign?"awesome which would make the decision to stay in quite a bit easier. I don't know want his options to be middle-of-the-road, good or bad. One way or the other, something black and white. We need this decision to be as easy as it can be.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Early morning.

It's the early mornings like right now that I really enjoy in my day. The house is silent, save for the humming of the air conditioning and fans throughout the house. Cori and Avery are sleeping so quietly and peacefully, and Jesse is at his early morning PT session. I am free to do whatever it I want, whether it's lounging in bed for an extra couple of hours, spending some time on the computer without little hands grabbing or tap-tap-tap-ing on the keyboard, or I can decide that maybe I'd like to get started on my daily cleaning a little early. Whatever I decide, it's one of the only decisions I make throughout my day that is completely of my own preference. It's a nice feeling.