Thursday, May 26, 2016

Military Wife - Week 1

I hardly think I've earned the right to call this post that, as I have been a military wife, or going through the actual military wife experience I guess, for just 4 days now. But in some ways it feels like much longer.

Chris left on Monday for COT with the Air Force, and is a Chaplain Candidate in the Air Force Reserves. His training is 5 weeks long, and then after COT graduation he has an additional 5 weeks or so of specific Chaplain training.

This has not been a short journey. When Pastor welcomed Chris and Job (a young man at church who enlisted in the Army and left the same time as Chris) to the stage on Sunday to pray for them before leaving, he mentioned how Chris has been pursuing military chaplaincy pretty much since he knew us (7+ years). And yes, that is true though it hardly seems like it. When he first started going to Bethel Seminary (and even before that) I remember Chris talking about his passion for ministry and the military, and how a Chaplain seemed to be a perfect marriage of the things that he was passionate about. We ran into roadblocks along the way, which Chris will tell you ended up being good things (as are all things on God's timing, are they not?) but last summer was officially sworn in.

Almost a year after swearing in, he left for COT on May 24th this year. It was a bit hectic trying to prepare for it. He was finishing up Greek 2 (and other Seminary classes, though none quite as trying) as well as moving, and trying to pack all that was required for COT. And it was a lot. It is truly amazing how much they recommend that he bring with him. The list of military uniform, casual, exercise requirements alone was long indeed, and then there were other things (recommended a computer, printer (!), batteries, hangars, towels, etc. etc. etc...).

During the week leading up to Chris leaving, it was hard emotionally on me to think about it. Whenever coworkers asked about it or I saw something on television or Facebook that talked about military I would almost instantly start to tear up.  I tried not to think about my best friend leaving for that long, but as I was helping him pack and prepare I was encountered with it a lot.  We went to a marriage conference (Love and Respect by the Eggerichs) with some friends of ours about a month ago and during the conference they would talk about things men or women could do to improve the love/respect they show to each other in marriage. I remember thinking throughout most of the conference that Chris was such a great example of showing love and meeting those characteristics that I wanted to cry just thinking about him leaving because I have been so blessed with such a great help-mate.

I will admit that there is, of course, an additional emotionally overwhelming element with being pregnant, because I'm definitely a crier when I am pregnant so any additional excuse to let down the water works and it's going to happen.

The hardest part was, of course, on Monday morning when we went to drop him off. We went out to breakfast with the girls and then I dropped them off at the Carpenter's house before we headed to the airport. I put together a small bag with a mini pooh bear (to remember Heidi), a mini pig bear (to remember Sophia) and some treats for traveling and a card. I couldn't hold it together very well (and even thinking about the drop off again here is making me start to cry) and so we didn't get airport pictures of him leaving. And on the drive back to work I was just bawling.  I got to work early and had some time before seeing patients, which was good because I was still a wreck, but my mood was helped by my coworker bringing me a giant cookie. Cookies do wonderful things.

There are a couple of things that have been somewhat bothersome to me as I have been on this journey, and I know they are all well-intentioned so I do not lecture or anything like that, but just find them interesting. First, none of this has been unilateral. Chris did not decide on his own that he was going to do military chaplaincy and that was all there was to it. This was prayerfully considered and discussed as a decision that the two of us made. We both knew that being in the military didn't just affect Chris, it would affect both of us. If he is in the reserves, he is sacrificing a weekend away every month to fulfill his duties. If he goes active duty, we may be moving all over, wherever the military tells us he is needed. A decision like that is not to be made without discussion.

I think perhaps one of the things that people say that bothers me the most is when they ask, "so how is being a single mom?" I don't know. Ask somebody who is. I do not say this sarcastically or bitingly, but rather to say that I am not without support. I have great respect for single moms who have had husband who left, passed away, or were perhaps never involved to begin with and they have embarked on the parenthood journey truly on their own. This is not me. Chris and I made a mutual decision which we entered knowingly, understanding that we were both making sacrifices. We are both in the military, though I am doing so without the orders and uniform. His sacrifice is to leave home and family and spend 10 weeks in sweltering, humid Alabama heat in the summer to work towards his goal of chaplaincy. My sacrifice is to stay with the kids while he is away.  Chris is a wonderful man who did not keep me in the dark or ignore my feelings as this was pursued. I can still contact him. I was able to see him yesterday. I am planning to travel to his graduation. Soon, he will be with me and our girls again. I am not a single mom. Again, it's not that I don't understand what people are saying when they ask me this question; it's that I feel it takes away from women who are single moms, who are going through that battle.

I think the other thing that has bothered me is that I have had people suggest that perhaps he isn't taking time to communicate with us while he's away. It was brought up after I mentioned that he has been very busy since he's been down there and hasn't called us daily.  Nor did I ever expect him to. This is, again, part of the sacrifice. I knew looking at the COT schedule, starting with PT at 4 a.m. and continuing through daily classes, study, and on top of all of this working on Greek 3, that expecting an hour phone call everyday was unreasonable and unlikely. Chris is doing a job; he is not on vacation or at summer camp. He is working toward a goal, and working very hard towards it, which is something that I admire about him.  He is a determined hard worker, and he is not going to go into this thing and give half effort to it. That would not be honoring Christ, himself, myself, or the sacrifices we have dedicated to make while he is away.  His first day there, after landing in Alabama and taking a bus to the base, he did not even make it back into his room until it was nearly lights out. His second day started with training at 4 a.m. and again not returning to his room until almost lights out. I do not expect him to "make time" during this schedule. I do not feel neglected or ignored. I am sending him messages throughout the day so he can feel like he is a part of my day, but I am not expecting a response back, especially because I can see that he hasn't read the messages until whatever time it is that he can get back to his room. Last night, he called us on FaceTime. It was WONDERFUL to see him, dressed on his ABUs and looking very official, and to see the room he has with his roommate. 10 years ago this would have been a very different experience. But last night, when he had an opportunity to in his schedule, he called us to see us and spend time with us when he had other things to occupy him, including studies. So, I do not feel as though he should be making more of an effort to talk to us all of the time when every minute of every day for the next 10 weeks is essentially planned out, nor would I ever want to put that burden or additional expectation on him.

Whew, there was a lot said there. Long story short, we are both sacrificing, and I am so happy he is following God's will in pursuing something that he has great passion for. Moreover, I am overjoyed to be a part of it. I can't wait to see where it leads us. I am also overwhelmed at all of the support I received; I had so many messages the day that he left offering prayers and love and support and anything that I needed. I have amazing family and friends who I know are there for me and praying for Chris and myself, and I could not ask for more. God has truly blessed me, and Chris, and I am excited to see where we go from here.

"No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." 2 Timothy 2:4

We told Heidi to look up for the camera. And up she looked.

First bump. Kind of hard to tell.

The next several are our attempts to take a nice picture to send to Daddy. Nice. ;)

Well, got 2 out of 3 of us smiling. We'll keep trying.

Busy Month

Ah, here it is the end of May and I find myself wondering, as I seem to almost every year at this time, where the spring is going.

This year our family was perhaps busier than usual. Between doctor appointments and follow-ups for one thing or another (mostly routine, for my pregnancy and Sophia turning 4), we were also preparing to move which we completed last weekend and preparing for Chris to leave, which happened on Monday.

We debated about what the best option would be for our family for a while. Our apartment was indeed starting to feel cozy (and, after baby #3 comes state law says we need to have 3 bedrooms), and with Chris leaving and the lease up on May 31st it seemed to make sense that something different be done. We are staying with my in-laws for now, and I have to admit there is an additional feeling of security. Not too long ago we had the incident where Chris' tires were all slashed, and we were on the bottom floor which is fine but sleeping on the ground floor does make one feel like intruders have an easier time of getting in. There is also some extra help; with me being pregnant and still not always feeling well, sometimes being able to come home from work and not have to pick up the girls and take them somewhere else is very helpful. I am incredibly grateful to my in-laws for allowing us to stay with them for this interim period until we can figure out the "what next" piece.

I always forget just how challenging moving is until I do it. Moving. Is. Challenging. I think I'm still exhausted from it and that was over a week ago now that we finished moving out. We have the storage unit full almost to the brim - and this time I was careful to even label the authors that are in the boxes of books so that my studious seminary husband can access them if necessary. I also had to be sure to finish Harry Potter again so I wouldn't need to dig through looking for a certain book number in the series :)

So we got all moved in, and yesterday I turned in the keys and it is all official. I quite frankly was not expecting any kind of a deposit back because Copper the Wonderdog destroyed the blinds within about 10 seconds of moving in so that he could see outside. But we'll see. I did put a lot of working into cleaning and redoing the rest of the apartment and I thought it looked even better than when we moved in. There was always kind of a funky smell there, one that would return if we left for a period of a week or so.

Coming up VERY soon is the Walk for Life. I need to be dedicating more time to it now that I can. This spring has been especially challenging with what we have going on, and little Bethany is sapping the energy out of me more so than the previous pregnancies did, though perhaps it is her sisters who are sapping the energy out of me ;)

Coming up even sooner is a visit from Nana and Papa! They are with Stephen, Meghan and Claire in South Carolina right now and will be here on my birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!) and while I am sad to take them away from Aunt Meghan, I can't wait to see them.

Heidi officially has enough hair to do pig tails. Sort of. I did her first ones a couple of weeks ago, and it was ridiculously adorable. She is also developing this odd kind of crack/cut in the crease of both pinky toes and I think it may be a combination of sweat and heat. I am going to try using baby powder or Gold Bond drying spray on her feet to see if that helps, with a combination of petroleum jelly and wearing socks or flip flops to keep those feeties nice and dry. She loves riding bikes with big sister though more often than not will just walk her bike around rather than ride it.

Sophia is riding her birthday bike like a champ. She's really getting the idea of steering and controlling the bike down, and even watching for surroundings. We usually let them ride in a little cul-de-sac circle near us and she does a great job watching for cars and will scoot quickly to the side of the circle if she sees a car.  Soccer lessons start soon and we can't wait for them! Bought some little mesh athletic shorts today. We are just about ready to go! Starting in 3 weeks. She'll have a blast.

I am 27 weeks pregnant this week; the last week of my second trimester. Bethany is growing and moving and kicking like never before, and I think has even managed to grab a hold of something on my insides and give it a good pinch. It's interesting, I have had so many people say things like "So is this the boy?" or, when we found out we were pregnant to begin with, "trying for that boy?"  I have even had people express DISAPPOINTMENT to me when I told them it was a girl. "Oh, I was hoping you would have had a boy this time." "So, you didn't get your boy? That's too bad." Um, no. No it isn't. There is a Creator God who knows FAR MORE than I do about my life and who has made my daughters. I should clear this up, then: I am not disappointed that Bethany is a girl. Nor am I disappointed that we have 3 girls. I am overjoyed at a third healthy pregnancy. I am overjoyed that I have been blessed with 3 girls. Please don't express disappointment. I am not disappointed. Please don't think that I was trying for this 3rd time to get a boy.  Chris and I were not attempting to get pregnant so that we could have a boy. We were attempting to get pregnant so that we could have a 3rd child. It just so happens that the third child is a girl. And I can't wait to meet her and welcome her into our family in approximately 13 weeks.

Too cool to wear the sunglasses the right way

Announcing that she is 4!

Chris writing on the shower wall before leaving about Arsenal finishing about Tottenham on the table this year, in literally the last game.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Candy and Chocolate!

Shortly after her third birthday last year, Sophia asked me if her next birthday party could be candy and chocolate themed. Sure! I thought. That sounds so easy! How fun would that be for a theme? Interestingly enough, she would periodically bring up her birthday over the last year and would always talk about this particular theme. She never waivered from wanting Candy and Chocolate!

And sure enough, thanks to Pinterest, it was fairly easy and came together pretty well, and was also not a very expensive theme to fulfill.

I love to do her birthday parties over the lunch hour. Especially because we still have both Sophia and a little sister who need naps, so we can send kids home fed and happy (and sugared up, this year) and ready for a nap! At least, mine were ready.

She asked to invite her entire Sunday School class, which we did. Her friends Taylor, Ellie and Sarah came (Sarah is Ellie's older sister), as well as Dylan and Lindsey (and baby brother Liam) came, as well as "Auntie and Uncle" Erica and Eric.

For her birthday this year, my Nana sent her a Sofia the First doll and dress-up dress. When Sophia opened it, she immediately asked if she could wear it, and then requested to wear it for her party, which she did. And looked adorable. I made her a little necklace with a big bead in the center to be her "amulet" and she loved it. She spent the day pretending she could talk to animals. So cute. 

She also helped me pick out the cake on Pinterest - she wanted a S'mores cake, which fit right in with the candy and chocolate theme. I kind of made up my own recipe but used the one I found as a guide. As an aside, here's what the cake was: devil's food chocolate cake (box mix!) in two layers, with the middle being cream cheese mixed with marshmallow fluff and a little powdered sugar, mixed in with graham cracker crumbs. The same thing was on top of the cake, which was also covered in mini-marshmallows that were toasted under the broiler for a minute to have the camping look. Then the sides of the cake were slathered with chocolate frosting to hold chocolate Hershey bars in place. Yum.

Also on-theme, we picked out a piñata. She picked out a crown-shaped one. When I described a piñata to her, she absolutely fell in love with the idea (candy falling from the sky?!). I also did an "arrangement" made out of giant lollipops, giant lollipop décor using cellophane, and had multiple jars of candy to create a candy store type of feel to be the party favor (pick your own candy)! I made the bags using our printer and put together just something small on a word document, but it turned out so cute.

We had a fun time playing on the swingset at Oma and Papa's, followed by the piñata, hot dogs and burgers, and gifts before going home. Sophia had a blast, and I had just as much (if not more) fun watching her. Heidi loved the "suckies!!!" that were all over the place. She just loves her suckers.

I can't believe my baby girl is 4. She is still a little cuddle bug, and actually last night came into our room around 2 a.m. and woke me up and said "Mommy, can I snuggle with you?" There are some nights were I am less receptive to this than other nights, especially because it seems like pregnancy sleep is harder to come by, but I am trying to remind myself that these moments are few and far between, and will be fewer and farther between as she gets older before they disappear completely and I'll be longing for them. 

And poor girl. I have been on a shorter fuse than I should ever be lately with packing up the house, and yesterday I had just pulled out the oven to clean underneath it. It had not been cleaned for a year and a half and it showed. I was trying to scrub grease off of the walls when I heard Heidi crying. I went to go check it out and saw her holding a container of a set-in stain remover laundry thing. I think it had fallen off the top of the stacked washer/dryer with the previous load because it was unbalanced and I could hear it working a little lopsidedly when it was running the spin cycle. Anyway. Because I am a terrible person I lost my temper with Sophia, because she knows better than to be playing in our room and the poor girl is who I directed my fear of Heidi getting poisoned at. She cried, and I immediately recognized (thankfully) how in err I was and asked for forgiveness from God and Sophia for yelling at her. Then through her sweet little tears she explained to me that she was trying to put it up out of Heidi's reach when she saw it on the floor, but that seemed to make Heidi want it more so she took it from Sophia (which is why Heidi was crying in the first place). I am REALLY a jerk.  It was a great reminder to myself to NOT jump to conclusions, and to listen to my daughter, and to show her the patience and love she deserves to have. She really does look out for her sister, and even when she has crazy ideas about cleaning, like using handsoap on a washcloth to wash the walls, she loves being my helper and doing what she can.

She is starting soccer this summer, with her friend Taylor in the class, and I can't wait for it. It sounds like the location is at a park, with hopefully a nice swing set so Heidi can burn off some steam while Sophia is learning how to be the next Mia Hamm.

I still just can't believe that she is 4. 4! That is getting dangerously close to 5, and 5 is Kindergarten. I remember thinking that Kindergarten seemed like a different world away, a different lifetime, and now it seems like I am not prepared for her to be in school - where am I going to send her?! Being anxious will solve nothing, so I won't worry about it, because what I do know for sure is that wherever she goes to school, she is in God's hands and that's a lot safer place to be than anywhere else.