I'm just an ordinary girl doing ordinary stuff.

I just happen to be a single mom in the military.

My kids are part of the military too.

When I deploy, their heart breaks too.

They're strong little guys.

Being their mom is the most humbling experience I've ever had.

Follow the adventures

See if you can keep up with me as I serve my country holding my kids in my arms.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Changes in the Pack

This is the second time I rehomed Charlie.  When I brought him home he was a stray about to be brought to the pound.  I couldn't stand another dog in the pound.  One more dog in means another cage needed, which means someone's gotta  go.  And you know what that means-- unnecessary death.  So I brought him home.  And it was one wild ride.

With two kids (and Sean was just a little baby) in my life, I don't know what I was thinking bringing in a puppy.  And boy was he a big puppy!  With his long legs and gigantic head, Charlie ran and jumped and did all the normal puppy things.  When he got older, about 7 months, I just couldn't handle him and two little guys.  So I found him a home with a big fenced yard.  Four months later his owners called me and said it wasn't working out because their other dog wouldn't get along with him.  He's a good boy who gets along with anyone and anything, but he can be overwhelming and their chihuahua just couldn't tolerate his high energy.  So I took him back.

Now he was even bigger!  But I didn't want to give up on him.  I worked some training into him and at the time we lived in a house with a backyard, so I took the time to exercise him.  And with enough walks and backyard run time, he did great.

After my deployment I moved into an apartment.  At first it was great!  It was just the two of us, going for multiple walks and jogs a day.  But once I brought the kids back home, all hell broke loose.  I realized I couldn't take him for walks as much as he wanted.  Having to haul two toddlers down a second floor for a walk as often as Charlie wanted was just not happening.  We'd go for a long evening walk and as soon as we went back inside, he was at the door wanting to go back outside.  He started getting stir crazy.

When the kids napped, poor Charlie was sitting by the door wanting out.  If I didn't take him out, he'd find something to destroy and just destroy it.  Though he was potty trained, I would come home to find poop and pee on the carpets.  The poor thing was just so cooped up that he was acting out in crazy ways.  Shredding anything he could get his jaws on, peeing in the kids' rooms, peeing on the couch, barking at the door for yet another walk.  He was just going nuts!  Even though we walked him for an hour in the morning and two hours in the evening on the weekdays, and then three walks a day on the weekends, he just couldn't get enough outside time.  I realized he wasn't going to do well in an apartment like I hoped. 

I found a family who was looking for a dog.  The husband used to have a German Shepherd and decided their dog would be of that breed.  I spoke to them about Charlie and they were dying to take him.  So that night I packed all his toys and leashes up.  As I was doing so, my heart began to sag.  Even though he was such a pain, he was still my baby.  He reminded me of Marley in the movie Marlie and Me.  Crazy but lovable.  I reached behind the TV on the entertainment center and found his squeaky toys.

I hate his squeaky toys.  And he loves them.  He carried them in his mouth all over the place just squeaking and it drove me insane.  But I never had the heart to throw them away.  Instead, I'd just hide them and he always found them.  I put the squeaky toys in his bag.  And that's when the tears came.

I called Patrick, who did all he could to console me even resorting to humor saying "He'll be fine!  They'd probably give him a better home than yours."  Of course that just made me cry more and he immediately explained that he was only kidding.  Men!

When I brought Charlie to his new family, all the worries I had about them faded.  He went straight to their yard, which is a huge fenced area that wrapped around the back and sides of their home.  Their kids (older ones, thank goodness) opened the gate and let him in and off he went.  He ran with all his heart.  He ran in circles, jumped, rolled on his back.  I knew then that this was the life he needed.  A place to run unleashed.  A place to burn his energy.  Anytime he needed.  Older kids who wouldn't get knocked over when he decided to go on a pupy run.  Two adults in the home so one could take him for a walk while the other stayed in with the kids.  A balanced home.

They had his own room prepared-- a sunroom filled with toys and a dog bed.  They explained that he'd have free run of the house but at night they wanted him to sleep in his room.  That all changed a couple of days later when they called and said he now sleeps in their son's bed with him.  That made me happy.

They love him.  And they have room for him.  And he doesn't need to wait at the door for everyone in the house to get ready for a walk.  He just goes out their doggy door and runs.    I sent them his puppy pictures.  And they sent back stories of what he'd been up to.

Being in the home without him seemed strangely calm.  Which was a nice change.  But it also left a void.  Since I had been a single mom, I always wanted a dog with us.  Something big that would provide an appearance of security.  Not an aggressive dog, but something that might make predators think twice before messing with us or even just a single woman living without a man in the home.  Sometime after Charlie was rehomed, I visited the humane society.  And that's where I found Bruce.

With the perfect temperament and energy for a single mom with little boys in an apartment, Bruce filled a hole in my heart.  A big part of me knows he's a rebound dog.  I missed Charlie.  I missed having a dog in the home.  But he's more than a rebound.  If you keep your eye out, you'll get to know more about Bruce in an upcoming blog.

Totally Loved

Every girl loves to hear that she's pretty.  That her work was done well.  That she's smart.  Trusted.  Loyal.  And many other wonderful things.  For lots of us ladies that's our love language.  That's how we are shown love.  Through verbal affirmation.  For many of us, it's not a vanity or egotistical thing.  It's more of a reassurance.  Just like respecting our men is how to show them love, we women are emotional creatures and we are shown love through praise and appreciation. 

In my home there are me and two boys:  Caden and Sean whom I constantly care for.  Ladies you know that your children don't always like the food you cook because they want pizza instead, cookies instead, etc.  I certainly have days where I work hard at a fantastic spaghetti (well, I thought so anyway) just to have my boys eat a third of it and ask for peas instead.  Patrick lives hours away from us so he only gets to taste my cooking once a month or so.   I don't get too many "thank you for the hard work" comments.  Nah.  I get much cooler comments than that!

My boys are superb at complimenting their mama.  Last week I painted my toenails a bright red color and on my big toes I placed a white flower sticker and went over it with a clear coat.  While I was painting, Caden was observing so closely!  Finally, he said "Oh!  Your nails are so pretty Mommy.  The flower is beautiful!  Aw you're so beautiful!"  It just melted my heart.  And Sean?  He loves my hair.  Sometimes when we're playing he runs his fingers through my hair and says, "I like your hair!"  And he'll hold a lock of it and brush his cheek saying "It's so soft!"  Talk about swooping a girl off her feet.  These guys just rock at charm.

Even though I only have Patrick's embrace once a month, his eyes twinkling at me when he tells me I'm beautiful, I get a healthy supply of verbal affirmation from my kids.  And even if it might sound vain that I get such a kick outta my kids telling me I'm pretty, I don't care.  Because if the ones I love with all my heart can grin with wide eyes and tell me that my hair is soft, well darn it I'm gonna feel like the prettiest girl in the world.  Their compliments totally trump anyone else's besides God's.

Friday, March 25, 2011

How Much Do You Love?

"Look!  My arm's gone!"

I looked over at Caden, who had shoved one of his arms out of his sleeve and into his shirt, attempting to appear as if his arm was missing.  It was bedtime and we were in the middle of one of our bedtime songs. 

At bedtime, we all lay down together and I lead them in prayer.  We thank God for everything He has given us, everything He has allowed us to endure, and for His wonderful mercy and grace.  Then after prayer, Caden asks me to "say" about Patrick.  So we go into a small quiet discussion about Patrick which leads into Caden's requests to visit him.  There are times when I have to correct him because when I speak about Patrick, Caden will start praying to him.  LOL  It's pretty cute when he interrupts me and says "Dear Patrick, thank you for giving me a car.  And thank you for hugging us.  And thank you..." and so on.  I usually have to tell him that we can call Patrick instead of praying to him.

After the Patrick discussion, I'll sing them one or two bedtime songs.  So the other night, I was in the middle of a song when Caden shoved his arm into his sleeve, pretending his arm is gone.  Aware that he was just stalling sleep, I was too amused to remind him it was bedtime.  Instead, I entertained it which lead to the sweetest thing.

My eyes widened and I stopped my singing.  "Caden!  What happened to your arm?"

His eyes widened in response and he said, "I don't know!  It's gone!"

So I turned to Sean, who had now sat up in bed, and said, "Sean, Caden's arm is gone!"

Sean frowned at Caden, who was now wiggling an armless shoulder and waving his other arm.  "Where'd it go?" Sean asked, concerned.  He glanced around the bed and blamed the dog for taking it (which is a regular thing lately).

"No," I said, "he didn't take it.  Where did Caden's arm go?" 

Finally Sean held his right arm with his left hand and said, "I get you one, Caden!"  He began pulling his right arm, then moved onto pulling his hand instead.  "I can't do it!  I can't do it!"  I realized then that he was trying to give his own arm to Caden!

Finally, Caden sprouted his missing arm and said, "It's okay, Sean!  It came back!"

After big hugs and kisses, I settled them back down for bed and we all slept soundly together.  But before I drifted off to sleep, I couldn't help giggling at the sight of Sean trying to take his own arm off to give to his one-armed brother.  After my giggle fit, my heart just sighed and I asked myself why kids were so much quicker to give their own arm for another than we adults.

Have you ever given whatever you had for someone else who needed it?  Have you ever loved someone else enough that you'd sacrifice your own money, time, clothes, etc just so they could have what they needed?  Have you ever given a shoeless person the shoes off your own feet?  This is the kind of love God has for us.

He loved the world so much that He has given His only begotten son.  So many of us know that bible verse, yet lots of times we forget to actually feel it.  We don't relate to it enough to actually appreciate how much God loves us.  Imagine having a son and then sacrificing him to pain and suffering that would lead to his death just for the lives of others.  Others who don't know it even happened.  Others who do and turn the other way.  Others who don't believe it.  And others who will hurt others.  Thankfully there are some who do know it's true.  Some who thank our God for His love.  And some who realize that He loves us THAT much and so they choose to live their lives for Him as best as they can.

It is amazing to me how children can have a love like this so much more than adults or at least quicker to act on it.  It's because the world hasn't had a grip on them, they haven't been molded by the world.  It makes me hug them tighter and touch their faces, praying that I can lead them to keeping God's work on them fresh and unspoiled.

I thank God for His wonderful works, His saving grace and love for me.  I pray for his forgiveness of my sins.  And I pray that He will keep my eyes and ears open to the daily reminders he sends me that tells me He is here with me at all times.  I pray these things in Jesus' name, Amen. 

May you have a wonderful day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Too Blessed

I have a confession to make.  Returning to my home unit after deployment was a scary thought.  Scary enough that I started losing weight about a month before leaving my deployed unit.  In fact, I acted as if I wasn't leaving.  Up until the week prior to my departure, people would ask when my last day was and I'd spout out the date and would shrug nonchalantly when they raised their eyebrows in surprise and said, "Wow!  That's coming up quick!"  I procastinated in starting my out-processing checklist.  It was like a big black spot on a good article in a magazine.  Even though I knew it was there, I'd try to read around it anyway and just get annoyed that it's there in the first place.  I used the "If I pretend it isn't there, I won't deal with it." concept to cope with it.  The truth is, I was scared shitless.

I didn't exactly enjoy my home unit.  I've served here since the summer of '07 and haven't yet taken a liking to it.  Not that the location is bad.  The town is small and quiet, just the way I like it.  There is a beach just minutes from my base.  If I want a woodsy environment, Patrick lives a few hours north of me and his home is in a tiny quiet town surrounded by trees and country life.  Cost of living is fair.  The local people are equipped with charming southern hospitality.  So... I'm stationed in a great location.  Could it be the base and its mission?

No.  The base is fairly large with great facilities.  The mission is... well, it's a mission.  Not a special mission but a normal one that requires the average amount of sacrifice from its people.  I don't have to work nights and worry about not seeing my children.  I don't work 12 hours a day.  Nothing ridiculous is asked of me.

I think it's my job.  The unit is small enough to be considered a family and large enough that you can pick out a favorite.  Like all families, there are cliques and "cool" people, the weird folks and the "black sheep."  There's gossip and manipulation.  But there's also kind of that "No one picks on my brother but me" mentality.  And right before I deployed, there was some gossip about me that was spread.  Even though I knew better than to take it personally, I did.  It hurt my feelings and humiliated me.  So, the thought of going back really stressed me.

I've prayed a lot and God has put it on my heart to return with an open mind. And all I've been doing since I've been back is observing, analyzing and adjusting. Whether I like it here or not doesn't matter, it's the attitude I plan to have about it.  Instead of coming to work with a scowl on my face, I've been polite and determined to get my work done.  And to be honest, having a better attitude about it has actually helped me cope with being here.  I feel... content.

Ephesians, Chapter 4 Verses 11-13 says "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."

After lots of prayer, I finally asked myself "Who am I to complain?"  Honestly, I am just a silly human.  I didn't create the world.  Or the universe.  I am not entitled to anything.  God has blessed me with a job, where others are jobless.  I have a home, where others are homeless.  And I have my children, when others have lost their own.  I am blessed!  God has kept me from being too poor to feed my family.  He has given me family to be with my kids while I was deployed.  He has shown me so much love and grace.  I have nothing to complain about.  Nothing at all. 

I learned something really neat last week.  It is kind of a guide to prayer.  It isn't a rule or anything, but something that helps us pray with integrity.  It uses the acronym of ACTS.  Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.  Here's something I found on ACTS:

ACTS (Click here for the source)One structure for prayer is given by the acronym "ACTS", representing adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication (or intercession.)  This is one order, where we start off focusing on who God is, and praising him for that. Others find a CATS pattern helpful, beginning by clearing out of the way the things that sadden God in our lives, before we can go onto praise him.  Let's look briefly at each in turn : 
Adoration is to adore God, to worship him and to fulfil the commandment to love him with all of our heart, mind and soul. As we spend time in adoration, we praise God for who He is - our Creator, our Sustainer and our Redeemer. (more about praise and adoration.)
Confession allows us to clear away the things in the relationship between you and God which are displeasing to Him.  All of us have sinned. St John writes in his epistle "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (I Jn 1:8,9)  (more about confession.)
Thanksgiving.  From childhood we are brought up to say "Thank You" when someone does something for us, or gives us a gift.  Each moment God is blessing us, every minute we can recall the wonderful things that God has done for us, and the gifts that we have been given. And so, we need to be constantly thanking God for his blessings. In writing to Timothy, Paul makes it clear that we also need to be giving thanks for everyday, worldly things " I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—  for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." 1 Tim 2:1.
With all this said, I've got to repeat that I'm pretty darn content.  :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

After the Deployment

So I've been without a computer for about a month.  My wonderful little pink netbook has died.  It just ... DIED.  No warning or anything.  And a replacement has been really low on my list of things to purchase.  I had more important things to buy... like a couch.

You know it's pretty bad when a couple of guys bring a couch into your home and your toddlers jump for joy saying, "A couch!  A couch!"  And your 4 year old jumps on it, hugs the pillows and says, "I missed you, couch!"  Thanks, Caden!  Now I feel like such a jerk.  :P

We're all moved into the apartment and have been just getting things settled and organized.  It is nice having my bed back!  And it is especially nice having a washer and dryer hooked up.  Oh!  And speaking of the washer, I was quite proud of myself.  I hooked it up all by myself.  I even figured out how to balance it.  You know how the washer and dryer wobbles when you first get it in?  Well, I learned (and not by accident, but by actually Googling the answer!) that you have to tilt it towards you at about a 30 degree angle and let it drop.  It balances itself.  How cool is that!  So I got to finally do my laundry!

Since I've been back, I've focused primarily on getting the family back together and settling in our home.  I didn't realize what a job that would be.  Whew.  And there is one big thing that has identified itself as an unfortunate deployment side effect.  Kids and separation anxiety.

The first night I was home, Caden woke up at midnight whispering, "Mommy?"  When I opened my eyes, I saw him creeping up to me really quietly.  "Yes, honey," I answered.  He gave me a big hug and said, "Thank you for getting me."  During the remainder of the week, he'd wake in the middle of the night and say, "Mommy?  You're home?"  Talk about breaking my heart.  As sweet and innocent as it was though, it escalated rapidly.

If I leave the room, he follows me just to make sure I'm not leaving the apartment.  He'll say, "Mommy?  You'll be right back?"  And if he and Sean are doing something naughty, all it takes is for me to say, "All right, guys, we need to have a talk about this" and Caden is quick to run to me and say, "Mommy please don't get mad!  I don't want you to get mad!"  The look on his face is something stricken and panicked.

Daycare is getting harder every day.  In the morning, he cries because he doesn't want me to go to work.  He wants me to stay at daycare with him.  He cries about it in the car on the way to daycare.  And then he cries on his way to his class room.  When I leave the room, I hear him screaming "I want my mommy!!  I don't want her to go to work!"  The poor little guy. 

What I've been doing about the daycare anxiety is simply encouraging him for going, asking him about his day, showing him how cool it is that he's in daycare.  When I drop him off, I tell him I'll be back to get him before the sun goes down.  It seems to be making a difference.  When I pick him up he gets excited and tells me, "Look mommy!  The sun is still up!" 

Sean, on the other hand, is going through his terrible two's.  So Mommy leaving him at daycare doesn't upset him at all.  He had far more important things to scream about.  Like other kids having a ball and not him.  Or that his Buzz Lightyear toy can't wear Woody's cowboy hat.  Or that Charlie licked him.  Or that Caden has an "aircrane" and he doesn't.  Whew.  I can't wait for him to get over this phase.

I've got so much more to write about this post-deployment transition.  But I'm using my work comp and if you tell on me, I'd be in a bit of trouble.  ;)