Saturday, September 29, 2007

Time to do the Happy Dance!

Husband, who shall henceforth be referred to as YodaMan because of his mad "use the force"ness computer skillz, returns home in the morning. I feel confident announcing this to the world since all the news agencies are covering this story. Apparently, OPSEC is a non-issue at this point.

After a week of angsting and kvetching, days of mad tidying, then retidying behind the toddlers, working fundraisers, etc. the madness will finally end.

Glory be and pass the mustard!

So the good news is I'll finally relinquish my title of Single Mom. The bad news is the mere three months (plus or minus a week or two) before they redeploy.

I'm trying not to cry, as my emotions waver between relief and a heartache at the effects of this insane deployment schedule on the sproglets and our family. I'm SO happy he's finally coming back to us. I'm dancing a jig and fighting off a manic urge to refinish the dining room table and steam clean the carpets. But at the same time, it's really hard to let myself get too excited knowing how much it's going to hurt as soon as we flip the calendar to 2008.

I have a theory: The successful Navy spouse is the one who can paste a cheery smile on her face even though she's working out the logistics of selling the kids on eBay, ditching the house, finding a job at a truck stop restaurant in Podunk, Arizona, and changing her name to Loretta Lou. Okay, it's not a theory so much as an intense desire to know I've hit some type of marker of success. /snort

Friday, September 28, 2007

On the verge of reunion...

and all I can do is freak out over how little I've accomplished. Never mind I've played the part of single mom for the last year. Never mind I was dumped in this house with unpacked boxes and two children under the age of 3 to deal with a mere year ago. Never mind my attempts to gain control over my life and to somehow convince my kids and myself that what we have is actually normal.

I've accomplished nothing.

Don't get me wrong. My house is a hell of a lot cleaner now than it ever was when we were childfree. When we were childfree, I knew I didn't have to worry about someone finding a random Cheerios that had been playing Simon Says Hide Under the China Cabinet for the last three months - just out of reach of the vacuum and its various attachments - and deciding it looked edible, blue fuzz and all.

So it's not like we're living in a filthy sty. But we're smooshed into 1500 square feet, including the half-ass two car garage, with enough furniture to fill up our last house, which rang in at 2200 square feet and no garage to claim any of that footage.

Needless to say, organizing has been a bitch, made all the more snatchy by the knowledge that we are a military family and not likely to last but two weeks beyond our organizational eureka.


So instead of cleaning, I've been supporting my teammates on team Witch Way to the Cure, walking in the breast cancer 3 day walk this November, chasing sprogs, trying to locate wall space to hang some stuff, and forgetting to eat, sleep, and pee.

All deployment and no vacation makes KL a loose canon.

Clearly I'm exhausted and a little out of my mind. Clearly I'll be gone all day tomorrow doing that fundraising thing for our walk. Clearly I have SO much left to do.

Yet I'm blogging.

Go figure.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Bathtime Incident

I originally posted this in my regular blog then realized it's germain to this one, too. After all, dealing with the aftermath without the help of my deployed DH feeds into the snark....

I'd like to relay an incident that occurred tonight, which shall henceforth be known as The Bathtub Incident of 2007.

But first I need to give you some background. Yesterday afternoon, my kids decided naps are passe and chose to fight sleep until after 4pm. I let them sleep for about two hours then made them get up. They were cranky at first, but after some dinner, they calmed down and began playing.

Later last night, I was trying to get some cleaning and organizing done and lost track of time. The littles were playing quietly and behaving, so it was with some shock that I looked at the clock and saw that it was 9:45. Holy crap! My kids never stay up this late.

I yanked them upstairs, brushed their teeth, changed diapers, dressed them, and put them to bed. After I'd had my daily constitutional and gotten a shower, it was about 10:30. I was only half-done with my own work, exhausted, and looking forward to a long day of errands and cleaning after a repairman visit. So, ever logical and sensible, I stayed up watching TV and drinking Hansen's for another two hours. Then I went to bed.

My kids woke up at 7am. WTF? They usually only wake up that early (yes, early, shut up and quit giving me that look) when they've gone to bed at a decent hour and had a decent nap the day before. I crawled my ass out of bed, got them dressed and fed, then took them to daycare, making me the most joyous mother on earth.

Sidenote: I lurve daycare days. I take the sproglets twice a week because my sanity requires it. Even when the husband returns from deployment, they shall continue with their visits ONLY to ensure they still have spots in January when the husband returns to the Middle East. But I shall not complain. I shall continue to lurve daycare days, lick the calendar on daycare days, dance naked and free on daycare days, pretend I sold the kids on eBay on daycare days, drive far, far, far, far away, change my name to Lela Mae, take up waitressing at some remote truckstop ....

Anyway, so I returned from dropping them at daycare and welcomed the repairman into the house. He had a difficult time fixing a few of the problems, so I had time on my hands to do things I hadn't planned. I began messing with a shelf at the door to the second bathroom upstairs, clearing it off, preparing it for newer, bigger, better, 99% fat free, trans-fat free, no GMO, High Fructose Corn Syrup free goodness. I had it mostly cleared by the time the repairman left and it was time for me to go address my other obligations* for the day.

After the horrible crafting I had to do - ugh! I loathe papercrafting!! I loathe it, I tell you! - it was time to grab kidlets from daycare. Alas!

I grabbed the spawnlets, who were in rare form and acting as if I were the last person on earth they wanted to see (hey, poop factories, the feeling's mutual!), and we headed home. After two torturous hours of eating, pooping, spilling, screaming, fighting, nosepicking, and booger eating, it was finally time to put them in the bath and get them to bed.

I ran a bath for them, popped some bubble bath in there, and threw them in. They immediately calmed down and began to play. Woot, thought I. Maybe if they play for a good 15-20 minutes in the tub, it'll be late enough they'll actually sleep until 7:30 or 8 tomorrow. So I let them have at it. I soaped them up, rinsed them down, then went back to the shelf at the door to their bathroom and picked up where I'd left off earlier this morning.

They played for about seven minutes and thirty-two seconds, not anywhere near long enough, and began to bitch and moan that the bubbles were gone (in toddler-speak, this means they said: "Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!111!! Mamaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!! Where bubb-oooos go????????!!111!!??? Where bubb-oooooooooooossssss??!! Oh no!!!!!!!!!!!!1111!!!!! Mamaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Help, deese [please]." Actually, that was the older child. Younger child was playing harmony with: "Mamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamam!!!! Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!! Mamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamamam!!!! Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!").

Side note: I am quite short. I can't see anything below the solar plexus on the kids when I'm standing at the bathroom door, so I could not confirm these things as I cleaned. I merely took the kids' words for it.

As I am the most bath-savvy mom ever, I raced to the rescue with a fizzy ball. You know, the ones made with citric acid that go all Mentos-and-Coke when they hit bath water. This one was made with some kind of calming something-or-other which might once have been lavendar from the scent but had long since faded to a kind of au lait color. Turns out it didn't matter.

Instant. Hit.

They played and played and played and played, and I cleared and cleaned and cleared and cleaned. And lo there was giggling. And lo there was cleaning. And lo it came to pass that the fizzy had dissolved, but I was close enough to the appropriate hour to begin prepping them for bed. Woot, thought I. Just one more minute cleaning and clearing.

And that one more minute is what did us all in.

My elder sprog had begun informing me that the fizzy was "broken," which I knew meant that it had stopped fizzing. Then he said it was "all gone gone," which obviously meant it had dissolved into mere molecules of once-sudsy happiness. But then he said: "Oh, there it is! Uh oh, Mama. Fizzy broken!"

I thought nothing of this, so intent was I on imminent success. I figured the fizzy hadn't quite faded into nothingness and had hidden in some toy or body part and reemerged just when the kids thought it was gone for good.

Oh no. Not so.

The elder began to insist I come investigate the fizzy because it was "broken!!!!!!!!!!!" So I took that two steps into the bathroom from the door and looked down. He held it out, and I thought, "Hmm, it must have really dissolved and put itself out. But why does it look bigger....?"

I blame the lack of sleep last night. Totally. Because even when I took it from his hand and felt the texture of it, then looked at the bathwater that had gone even more cafe au lait-colored than it had been, I still didn't clue in. It wasn't until I'd taken a step towards the toilet that a primal scream had begun to bubble up in my throat, held back only by the vomit that was racing to beat it to my mouth.

My younger spawn had SHIT in the bathtub.

Oh my fucking gods.

I was holding SHIT in my hand.

I took up the spider/snake/scary bug dance, threw the murky turd in the toilet, danced and screamed to the sink, danced and screamed while I scrubbed my hand. "Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god!"

"Mama?" said my elder.

"Poo poooooooooo!!!!!!111!!!!!" I responded.

The look on his face then was classic. As scalding water and bubble gum-scented barfilicious soap coated my hand, he looked down at the bathwater that had, in the last twenty seconds, sprouted about four more "fizzies" and some not-entirely-digested broccoli relics from dinner the night before, and developed a look of pure horror as he attempted to vault out of the tub.

Meanwhile, my younger child sat there with a shit-eating grin on his face, and all I could think, as I dashed to keep my shit-coated three-year-old in the shit-infested water was, "Oh PLEASE tell me he didn't actually eat any."

Side note: I inspected his breath and have concluded he did NOT sample his poo. All hail baby Jesus.

What followed need not be mentioned. Suffice to say, the kids are now clean, I am divested of everything I ate today, there are no more poo chunks in the bathtub or in the bathtub plumbing, a pile of laundry awaits a sanitizing cycle in the washer, and a pile of bath toys awaits a trip to the trash.

I am forever changed. I shall never be the same person again.

*Crafting is an obligation, much like drinking pumpkin spice lattes and eating date bars.

Port Partying

During deployments, and even just short underways, sailors stop off at various and sundry ports, where they have the opportunity to get away from ship life for a little while - usually at most a few days - see the sights, witness the culture, and oh yeah, get wasted.

While I love that they're able to make these stops and get some down time when they are working 7-day weeks with unreasonable hours and undue stress, it's always bittersweet to hear from DH when he makes these port visits. Amid the joyful voices and celebratory planning is my own poisonous streak of bitterness, twining between my words, wending its way through phone lines and the ether separating us.

When is my port visit? When do I get downtime, time away from the stress, where I'm not on call 24/7 with the kids and work and cleaning and life in general?

I always feel immediate guilt. His own stress must be incredible, not to mention inescapable when you're floating in the middle of the ocean on a big piece of steel. But he chose this life. I didn't. In fact, I begged him to throw this life over in favor of his family. I wanted a life with a true partner, a husband and father to our children, not the life of a single mom bereft of the minute freedoms of single motherhood.

Then he calls or e-mails or text messages (if he's in the US) with blow-by-blow details of his escapades. I hear after the fact about opportunities for tawdriness that he passed up, I hear about drunken escapades, I get pictures of revelry in a Russian bar in Hong Kong where they have to don fur coats to take shots of vodka in a deep freezer. And the bitterness wells up, overflows, and hardens into a coat of tinny armor over my skin. I head for bed or a shower or a last-minute cleaning session before the day ends and try to forget that he's gallivanting about some foreign city, surrounded by a festive attitude, while I pray that my kids make it through the night without starting up another pukefest.

The next day, I wake up slightly less optimistic that I'll make it through this deployment or underway in one piece, and hope that it isn't obvious to the rest of the world how close I am to cracking.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hardest Job in the Navy

I know I've commented before on the favored patronizing "compliment" of commanding officers - that being that spouses have the hardest job in the Navy. I ran across this post this morning and thought it states my frustration better than I could ever manage. So here it is. Enjoy.

"Spouses/Family Members serve Army, too."

I would like to say something about those who have been "drafted" into the military by a spouse or parent. Our sacrifices frequently go unnoticed, and the importance of our contribution is often overlooked or taken for granted. Family support of the military member is critical to his or her performance. Contrary to the belief that soldiers are only as good as their leaders, the truth of the matter is that the soldier is only as good as the people who support him or her in their everyday life.

We live on an Army post. Every morning at 0700 we are awakened to the sound of reveille. At 1700 hours every day a cannon fires which signals the end of the work day. At 2300 hours every evening we are serenaded by Taps. Every house on our street flies an American flag, not just on flag day, but every day. Patriotism isn't something we celebrate only on the Fourth of July, it is a way of life for us. In every house on post lives the spouse and family members of a soldier, but the soldiers aren't always there. They are in Bosnia, Saudi, Korea or any one of a hundred other countries throughout the world where they might be needed, and we are left to "hold down the fort".

I have a plaque that says, "Army wife - toughest job in the Army." This is an accurate description of ALL military family members of all branches. I am not just speculating on this, I speak from experience. I am a military spouse who is also an Army veteran. It was much easier being a soldier than it is being the family member of a soldier. I volunteered to be in the Army. It was what I wanted to do. I was drafted as a military dependant, and there are times when it is not what I want at all. Soldiers choose to live this lifestyle, but the family members don't. This fact does not diminish the sacrifices they are required to make for the sake of their country. They must be resourceful, capable, independent, and if you don't have at least a little bit of gypsy in your soul, the nomadic lifestyle you are forced to live can be devastating.

Military dependents are anything but dependent. We are a uniquely adaptable group of talented individuals from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. We are required to be ambassadors to the world in the truest sense of the word, and we do, as a whole, represent our country well.

We may be reluctant patriots, but we serve judiciously, and we serve with pride.

©Cheryl Harvey Hill
Veteran, WAC/ARNG/USArmy
Originally posted at Open letter to America