I've found a new ring of hell. Buying socks. More to the point, trying to figure out sizing on socks prior to purchasing. I can already hear the "aaaagggh, these have BUMPS in them MOM!" if I don't get the right size. And by right size I mean, seven sizes smaller than his actual foot size (which inevitably, end up getting holes in them because his toes are literally pushing through the ends.) You can't even go to the store to buy socks because trying them on is impossible. So, I will add to my online cart, seventeen different pairs of socks in three different sizes. If none of them work out, I will make the trek to return the purchase. (Which isn't the easiest thing to do since the store is 30 minutes from my home) But I do this because I love my kid...and he apparently needs socks. I'm jumping in, making my best scientific guess and hoping for the best and hoping the store will accept my return of opened tried-on socks. That's what you do for people you love (and for those that need socks without holes) right? And that's what you do FOR love, right? When you find someone you love, you give it them a try, see if they are the right fit, and hope for no annoying bumps and a decent return policy. Recently, my fifth grader has found "love." I knew he thought a girl at school was "nice" (code for "crush" in fifth grade, I suppose) but yesterday, we found out how much he thought of her. We were working on homework (remember onomatopoeia's?) and our phone rang. It was HER! He stared at the phone - frozen. I told him to answer it. Probably not the best Mom-move given what happened next. "Hello." "Hello. Is this C?" a male voice said. My son's eyes bugged out and he dropped the phone. The voice was this girl's FATHER. I whispered, "Pick up the phone and say 'yes sir!' " Which he did. "Well," the father continued, "This is (insert cute girl's name here) Dad. Can I speak to your better half?" Now, even I got confused at that. Who is C's better half? His sister? Umm...no. His brother? Probably not. His dog? So I whispered again, "Say, 'My Mom or Dad?' " all the while he was turning bright red and starting to sweat. The father asked to speak with my husband. We ran outside to get my husband who was mowing the lawn. You can imagine that scene. When he mows the lawn, he is in a trance. Must keep mowing, must keep mowing. He sees nothing but the long blades of grass he must demolish. He hears nothing but the roar of the mower. Even when I'm frantically doing hurkies and waving my arms around screaming his name - he is oblivious. When he finally noticed us, he grabbed the phone. Turns out my little Lothario had given the cute girl a note at school expressing his love to her (To quote, "I love you. I know that seems weird, but it's true. Here is my phone number.") Now, as the mother of an eleven year old boy, I thought it was sweet. Apparently, to the father of the girl, it wasn't. He proceeded to tell my husband about the note, saying that he didn't think them calling each other was appropriate but they could chat on the computer. Which baffles me on so many levels. First, why call the parent? Why not just tell the girl, "You aren't old enough to call boys. Let him know that at school tomorrow." Why call us? To embarrass my son? Well, he got that right, if that was his intention. My son was HORRIFIED. He ran into the house and barricaded himself in a closet, refusing to come out. His first act of love and he was shot down, called out and crucified. I mean, the FATHER of the girl he "loved" called the house to talk to his parents. It wasn't like he asked her to marry him. The second thing is, why would he be comfortable with them messaging each other on a computer, with no parental observations -- but a phone call is no bueno? That doesn't make sense to me. We can't monitor what they are saying to each other via messaging. Admittedly, they are smarter than us when it comes to technology. They could delete things that were said. They could...oh I could go on. But a phone call? I can physically hear that. I can listen in on another line if I chose to. To each their own, but this I don't understand on any level. Plus, knowing my son and the age he is, the only thing he'll want to talk about is Minecraft anyway. I remember my first crush in fifth grade. I did call him. He called me. The calls lasted maybe five minutes. I remember I had to work up the courage to call him. Not because I was scared to talk to HIM, but because of the speech I HAD to say upon the insistence of my parents, when someone answered: "Hi , this is Eileen L. May I speak with R if he is available please?" After I got through that fifteen minute tongue twister (which I rehearsed 17 times before punching in his number on the desk phone in the kitchen. No cordless phones then. I was bound to the kitchen by a wire stuck to the wall. My mother hovered - or maybe she was just making dinner) Anyway, R would get on the phone and it would go something like this: "Hi." "Hi." "What are you doing?" "Um, playing Asteroids" "Oh." Titillating, right? And the only time my parents "got involved" was when he gave me a pair of earrings for Christmas a month later confessing that he had stolen them from his sister. Which I thought was very nice of him to think of *me* as he passed by her dresser where I imagined the earrings lay. My mother didn't think it was nice to receive stolen property for Christmas, so I gave them back...but I had to include a Thank You card. (Thank you for the stolen earrings, your sister has nice taste.) My parents didn't call his parents to talk it out. To determine what boundaries our fifth grade love had to be guided through. To embarrass the hell out of us. My son's first love stomped on by my son's first rival. The Father. Oh what a rough road love is. I just hope he doesn't give up on it. He may give up on her...which is fine. I think I had a crush on 13 different boys in the fifth grade alone (sorry R, but it's true,) so I'm sure he will move on any day now. My heart aches for him, for this embarrassment. (Though he seemed fine this morning - I wonder if boys are really pre-programmed to "get over" things so easily?! I was up half the night pondering all of what occurred!) And so I want to say to my son: Life is bumpy kid...just push on through. And if someone embarrasses you, just tell them to stuff a sock in it. And then send a Thank You card.
I awoke this morning knowing I had two appointments I had to attend to. First was a doctor's appointment, second was an errand I had to run. I wasn't thrilled with the prospect of having to deal with either -- it was one of those days where I didn't feel like doing anything. Sitting in front of the boob tube was about as much action as I really wanted. What I didn't realize as I begrudgingly got ready for my day: I would learn a thing or two about the world around me. I got through the doctor's appointment (blah blah blah-- here's your prescription) and then I asked Doc how his family was doing. You see, he is Syrian. A Muslim from Syria. A sweet, caring, doctor, neighbor, father of three, and husband who is Muslim. I know in my heart that the crazies over in the Middle East right now do not represent what I hope is the Muslim faith (I won't admit to knowing much beyond what I've seen on the news.) But it's so hard to separate the two, isn't it? After 9/11, after 5 deployments that my husband had to endure, after watching the last 13 years unfold and all of the thwarted attacks, the televised butchery, the murder of innocent people all in the name of Islam -- how does one separate the Muslim faith from the Islamic Extremists? Well, you ask. Ask a Muslim: "What do you think about what is going on?" Which is what I did. My doctor looked at me with tired, saddened eyes and told me in a voice so soft, that I had to lean in to hear him, that his homeland is not the homeland he once knew. He told me his family members weren't safe. His houses were demolished. He told me that Muslims are not like these terrorists. "This is not Syria. This is not my faith, what you see." The lines around his mouth frowned into deeper creases as he told me that the evil will continue to spread until the head of the body of evil is removed. "Without the head, the body will flail about, but eventually fall." Then he sighed and told me he would see me in three months. Of course, I wanted to sit down with him and REALLY get into it with him. Why?! Why don't the Muslims who aren't crazy, speak out against these nuts?! RAGE! Rage against the Machine people!! I mean, I guess I kind of get it. While I was living in Slovakia, I noticed how reserved and self conscious people were. There I was, saying "Good morning" and "Hello!" to everyone I came across, and all I got back was a quick glance and a mad dash to get away from me. I asked some Slovak friends about this and they explained that it was because of the Communists. They had only come out from under Communism a few years prior -- so their mind sets were still on self preservation. You never know who was going to report you to the authorities, so you just didn't speak to people, especially strangers. Especially strangers with a horrible Slovak accent. You don't just smile at random strangers, and you certainly don't talk politics. I suppose with the amount of oppression in the Middle East, you can take this explanation of behavior and multiply it by 2,000 years to maybe come to an understanding of why Muslims aren't raging, demonstrating, protesting? My heart just broke for my Doc. To see it on the news is one thing. I was selfishly wondering if my husband was going to be sent somewhere again if things got "going" any further than they are. Shaking my head at the idiocy and almost child-like behavior of these "armies/gangs" taking over that part of the world. But to talk to someone who's family is in danger because of where they live...that's a whole new ball of wax. I went on to my next errand...got it done and realized my tank was on empty. I drove onto the gas station and started filling up. While waiting, I decided to excavate the backseat of the car. And if you've never seen the backseat of my car -- let's just say it's not for the weak of heart. In fact, I think I found some sort of animal's heart (it could have been a dried up apple slice from McDonald's but I'm still not convinced.) As I walked over to the garbage can, my arms laden with mounds of trash, a woman comes up to me and says, "You active duty?" Now, when someone comes up to me in a public place and abruptly asks me this, I have to hesitate. In this day and age, I never know if I will be stabbed sixty-five times by some anti-military nut. But, since my car has a big old blue and white sticker on it proclaiming to the world that "we" are active duty, I answered her mumbling, "Uh, yeah...." (I was still gripping the mound of trash, thinking I could block any karate chops with the stale chicken nuggets I had found.) "Well," she said, "I just have to tell you that I think what Obama is doing to you and the rest of the military is DISGUSTING! I don't care WHAT COLOR HE IS! He could be red, orange, purple with green eyes, it is an ABOMINATION!" I was, to say the least, a bit stunned. I replied, "Um, well--" "If I could, I would go right to WASHINGTON and march RIGHT UP to Obama, and tell him what I really THINK OF HIS #!?$%! It is LUDICROUS how they are treating you folks!!!" She was getting really worked up. "With all this #!?% going on in the Middle East, you guys are getting the BOOT?! It's OUTRAGEOUS!" Ah, don't you love when the universe throws you a curve ball and then giggles when it comes full circle? Not even fifteen minutes prior I was almost in tears in my Doc's office listening to the horrors of what his family was enduring in his beloved homeland. Now I was standing in a gas station parking lot with rotting food in my hands with another point of view being hurled at me. "I wish you guys - the soldiers - could just tell him and this $#?&! administration to stick it!" "Well, " I said, finally getting a word in, "They aren't allowed to-- " "That's RIGHT! You aren't ALLOWED TO! It's a crying shame and I am SICK of it and I am SICK of him and I just think he is SCREWING this country up!" "Um, oh, ok..." (still holding the rotting food.) "OK, well, good luck. I just had to tell you." And with that, she stormed off to her car. I dumped my trash / body armor into the can, turned around and saw about six other people standing there staring at me. I'm sure from a distance, it looked like this woman was going off on me for doing something wrong. Or, maybe she just looked like a lunatic. I don't know. I was taken aback, to say the least. So reflecting on my day, I'm still trying to tie up the coincidence. Maybe there isn't a connection at all. Maybe it was just a strange occurrence that two separate people, from two VERY different worlds told me their opinions in two extremely different ways. But I tend to think that there was a reason. And maybe that reason is this: We are very lucky in this, my beloved homeland. We can walk up to complete strangers in the gas station in the middle of the day and scream into the open air, "I HATE our $#!?% government!" and then hop back into our cars, drive to our intact homes, to our healthy families. I didn't get a chance to see what this woman's eyes looked like as they were covered by sunglasses, but what struck me was that she had the same deep creases around her mouth, as my Doc had as he told me his opinions. And maybe that says something too.
So, it's been a while. A long while. And while I can spout off every reason under the sun why I haven't written in several months, well -- I won't bore you with those details. I will however, bore you with the details of having an 11 year old that is driving me to drink at 9 in the morning. Kidding. Sort of. My eldest child has always been -- shall we say -- a bit dramatic. His birth was dramatic, his first six months of life were dramatic, and he's always been one of those kids who can turn on a dime. Going from sweet to a full blown terror in .05 seconds flat. Yet the events that unfolded yesterday STILL caught me off guard. You'd think in the 11 years that I've known this kid, nothing would phase me. But this phase of his life....this phase...oy. He'd been "sick" all weekend. Sore throat, fever, etc. I babied him, coddled him, whipped him and his two siblings to the clinic to get a throat culture done. Got him a slushy to cool his aching throat. Let him sit in front of the television or computer for a lot longer than he's usually allowed to. Except for being sick, it was a pretty good weekend for him. And then Monday morning hit. He came down in dirty clothes. Not just, "Hey 11 year old, you wore those yesterday and the day before" clothes. Dirty, stained, smelly, (he hasn't quite caught on that he needs to wear deodorant. I haven't quite caught on that I am the mother of someone who needs to wear deodorant. I mean, I still can't decide which deodorant *I* like, let alone finding one *he* likes -- but I digress) and just gross. I told him to change. To which he replied, with the spawn of Satan eyes staring right at me, "YOU didn't do any laundry this weekend, so I have nothing else to wear." and stormed off. Uh - say what now? Well, you can imagine what happens after that. A lot of back and forth while the two younger ones diligently ate their cereal and talked sweetly to one another. You know how it goes. One kid is in 'trouble mode' and the others take full advantage. I never see the other two act so nicely to one another until the older one gets in trouble. It's like they're trying to prove how awful he is by showing me how wonderful they are. I'm onto them... though I must say I enjoy the fake pleasantries immensely. In my heart I think, "THIS! This is how mornings should be! This is how siblings should act!" But in my head I know they're just doing it to piss their brother off. He screams, "I HATE YOU!" while looking at me. ME! The one who just took care of him for five days while Daddy was away, let alone the last ELEVEN FREAKING YEARS. So I missed a weekend of laundry. Hate me?! I told him to get in the car and that I didn't want to look at him anymore. Should I have handled it differently? I don't know. I am so caught off guard by these emotional roller coaster mood swings by this boy. I was not told that BOYS do this. I was bracing myself for my middle child -- who happens to be a girl. I KNOW she will be moody (God help me) ...but I thought I had time before having to deal with her. What no one told me, what I didn't know...my 11 year old son would behave this way as well. Cut to later in the morning when I get a call from my husband. He drives the kids to school since it's on his way to work. Apparently, he got tired of the 11 year old's tantrums that continued in the car as well. So he pulled over and told the 11 year old to "get out unless you straighten up." Well, eldest son didn't feel like straightening up. He felt like getting out...and taking off. Running full speed in the opposite direction of the car. Which then started a maelstrom of screaming and tears from within the car (windows down, thanks to the younger children.) My husband had to CHASE my son to get him back in the car. PEOPLE WERE COMING OUT OF THEIR HOUSES WITH PHONES IN THEIR HANDS! I mean....there are no words. I'm sure they thought my husband was trying to kidnap this "poor frightened child" (where in reality, this poor child was acting like the devil incarnate and if they wanted to keep him for the day, I would have gladly gave them permission) PLUS the two screaming banshees in the car. I was horrified FOR my husband. This occurred on a very busy road...I'm sure many people witnessed this absurd and, yes, embarrassing moment in our family's life. Somehow, everyone got back into the car, and got to school without the Police getting involved. Thank God. I can only imagine what my mug shot would have been since I hadn't showered and was still in my jammies when this all went down. Knock knock. "Mrs L? You are under arrest for not doing laundry this weekend. No you may not put on clean clothes, come with us." When it was time to pick up my sweet angels (cough cough) from school, I got into the six mile car pick up line and waited. Waited like someone waiting in the DMV. I didn't want to be there. I didn't want to face the attitude. I didn't want to be told how much I was hated. (I did in fact do laundry earlier that day... I had a guilt free conscience.) They all came out...marching to the car. I held my breath. My 7 year old got in first and proclaimed, "Mommy, there was an incident this morning!" I acted like I had no idea what he was talking about. I asked everyone in the car what he was talking about, but their lips were sealed. Sibling bonding I suppose. As per usual, later that evening, I got the requisite "Apology Letter" from my oldest. I have about 167 of these to date. In it he states, "I think you and I both know that I don't really hate you." Ah, warms the heart doesn't it? This morning was quite different. Different in the way that I brushed my hair and put deodorant on before coming downstairs to get the kids ready. You know...in case the police show up to take me away.
When your nine year old is threatened at school repeatedly ...mornings are hell, days are gut-wrenching and nights are tormenting. A truly heartbreaking event -- to watch a child who once loved to go to school, who loved to socialize and had pride in his school, become one of the many kids who are getting bullied. I hate the word bully --a word that people glaze over...until it happens to your child. Then the word stops being just a word - it becomes a lifestyle. Bullies damage your child and change our world. They aren't the characters in movies that trip the underdogs, they aren't the 1980's film jocks picking on the nerds....these are CHILDREN inflicting emotional and physical pain on other children. First graders are getting beat up at schools. 9 year olds are being told they will be followed home and watched in their sleep....that their lives will be "ruined." Creepy old men aren't saying or doing these things. CHILDREN are. I have seen my son's personality change. I have witnessed his demeanor morph into someone I don't recognize. MY son. The one person I thought I would know in and out forever...he has changed. We have taken steps to ensure this behavior will be stopped at his school --at least directed at him. But who knows what this other child has planned for other kids. I wonder...do these bullying kids "plan?" Do they wake up in the morning and think of new ways to torture their peers? Are these kids born this way? Is it something they learn? All I know is since this all came to a "head" last week, I've been worrying about my child's life being threatened. I think "Columbine" (and yes, they are in third grade, but what does this other child have access to at home?) ...I think "suicide" as bullied kids have been known to...I can't even go there. Mostly, I think "What will be next?" and "Who will be next?" And a part of me cries for this kid...this child...who has been mentally abusing my son for the last three months. He is after all, the same age as my son. Why isn't he being helped? Can he be helped? Bullying. Something I never saw coming. Something I never thought much about except I would hit the roof if MY kids ever did anything of the like. Something I thought was just "kids getting picked on." But it isn't. It has escalated far beyond that. It is a behavior befit to grown adults who are usually admonished by society. Threatening to follow my son home, watch him in his sleep and ruin his life? My God. An 8 year old has these words in his vocabulary! For now, I will be a hawk, circling over my children ready to swoop down on any suspected mite that crosses their path. I am on full alert. I am bristling with the need to protect. I will get my son back...but I wonder...will he be the same boy he was four months ago?
So I got an email on a Sunday a couple of weeks ago which read: "At Ft. Campbell, arriving at airport tomorrow. Pick me up." Which left me completely stunned. He was home. He was in the U.S.! He was going to be HERE tomorrow! SIX MONTHS EARLY! My thoughts raced from, 'oh crap this house is a mess' to 'oh crap, I need to lose twenty pounds before tomorrow!' (weight loss had been my goal for this year-long deployment-- sigh) And then...how am I going to keep this secret from my kids? And then, should I call the local news and have the big reunion televised?! So many things to think about and decide in the next twelve hours!
I quickly canceled their impending Dentist appointments for the next morning, feeling guilty since it had been six months. But my sister pointed out (she was here when I got the surprise email) that it was OKAY to cancel for this reason. My sister is, quite frequently, a voice of reason for my cluttered, unreasonable head. I then had to make the decision: Do I bring them to the airport or bring them to school and surprise them at school? After mulling that over and remembering that my oldest would be quite suspicious if I took him out of school for a little jaunt to the airport, I decided on option B. Surprise them at school. But still....do I call the press? Should I?
So the next day, I dropped them off, ran to the store, got balloons, ran home, threw up a sign (which my sister and I had luckily found in our basement -- a sign that has been used at least twice before) that welcomed Daddy home, and tried to look my best as I drove to the airport...wishing like hell I had at least lost five pounds. Damn you muffins from the commissary! Traitors! I was nervous. I hadn't seen him in person in five months. We've gone longer before, but the nerves just come anyway. Finally, after waiting and waiting and looking very anxious (I noticed a few security guards glancing my way a few times -- I was pacing around and getting up and down) his plane arrived! I am not kidding when I say to you he was the LAST one off the plane. Seriously. And the first thing he says to me after not seeing me for five months? "Where are the kids?!" Ok. Then he hugged me and asked why I was crying. What?! I felt like asking, 'Why aren't you?!' But I didn't. He gets nervous with PDA....especially in uniform.
I guess I should have brought a sign and some balloons to the airport so it made sense to people watching....but come on. He's in a uniform, I'm crying and hugging him hard. What else would it be? But no one said anything to us, and we did get a lot of strange looks. I guess people didn't know he was deployed. I assumed everyone did. (wink) We ate a quick lunch sitting across from each other. I kept looking at him and feeling like he had never left. That the last few months didn't happen. How funny that time does that. How marriage does that. I was so excited to bring him to the school, I just wanted lunch to end. I kept looking at him, reminding my brain that this was real.
We got to the school and decided to surprise my little girl first. So we had her called up from Music class. Hubby hid while I stood at the top of the stairs waiting for her. She came up and I started filming....then she saw her Daddy. "DADDY!" she yelled and ran to him. He picked her up and she said, "Wow, you're really high!" They hugged and kissed and she kept staring at ME. Finally she asked, "Can I go back to Music now?" Ummmm....okay? So, off she went. Not the reaction I was expecting. Good thing I didn't call the news crew for that tear-jerker. Okay, on to oldest son. He came around the corner while I was filming and he said, "What are you doing?" I said, "I'm filming your teeth!" (he had just lost one of his teeth) when he turned the corner and saw his Daddy. He ran up to Daddy and jumped into his arms. He didn't say a word. Just squeezed his eyes shut and held on for dear life. (Should have called the news for this one) My husband was trying to hold it together, so he put my eight year old down and asked, "Were you good for Mommy while I was gone?" (HA! Ummm...not so much) My son looked at me and said, "Was I Mommy?" End scene. Let's keep this on a happy note everyone! (I did respond with a quick, "Yes! Of course!" -- ahem)
So then we all drove over to the preschool (I went down and got my daughter out of Music class) to surprise my littlest guy. He was outside so we had to do a covert mission. We ducked, parked and walked the long way into his classroom. His reaction was precious. He saw Daddy...yelled, "Daddy!" ran and jumped into his arms. When he stopped hugging Daddy, he wiped his eyes with his whole arm and said, "I cwying" then (best part) leaned towards me for a Mommy hug. Made. My. Year. (Someone call the news RIGHT NOW!)
From there it was a blur. We showed Daddy our new scars, our new toys, the sign "we" put up for him, our Tai Kwon Do moves, our gymnastics moves, and generally caught him up with our lives. Daddy decided to take us out to dinner. The kids voted unanimously for IHop. Pancakes for everyone! It's reunion time! That is where the day was made complete. We were all enjoying ourselves, getting tired from the long day of surprises, when the waitress put the receipt on the table. We thanked her and then a few minutes later she came back and said, "Umm...someone ended up taking care of this for you." We were shocked. This has never happened to us before. We've gone out to dinner with Hubby in his uniform before, but since we live in a military community, it isn't like people are jumping at the chance to pay for our meals. We aren't "special" here like we might be outside of a military community.
Then the paranoia set in. Who paid? Were they watching us? Did we order too much? TELL US WHO PAID!!!! It ended up being a family that was sitting close to us. After dinner, we got up and went over to thank them. They said they just wanted to thank us for our service. (I was thrilled when they said "our service"-- because I do think the kids and I serve too) I let them know that Hubby had just gotten back that morning from a deployment and they were thrilled. They had no idea. They just paid because they wanted to thank us. What a great ending to an amazing day. But wait...it got better.
As I was finishing my conversation with this generous family, I feel a tap on my shoulder. Who was it? My daughter's Music teacher. Full circle I tell you! She was laughing and said, "I didn't think she was supposed to stay in class once she told me that Daddy came home, but she was in such shock, she just sat down and started singing!" I think that made my husband feel better...knowing that his six year old daughter didn't love music more than him, it was just the shock of it all. That night at the IHop, everyone was welcoming him home, congratulating the kids and I. Making us feel so very special. I thought that would happen at the airport or at the school. The way I had planned it ( or, more precisely, imagined it) But it didn't. It happened at the IHop, an unplanned, spur of the moment decision that ended up flooding our family with well wishes and heart- felt thank you's from strangers.
I guess I should have alerted the press to meet us at IHop.
This weekend was hard. It was a three day weekend; one that is given to military families on our Post to enjoy together. Well, when your family isn't "together" like ours is -- it makes for a really long weekend with lots of voids to fill.
I decided to treat the kids to a movie. The movie I took them to? "A Dolphin's Tale" -- which would have been great except there was (spoiler alert!) a soldier who comes home from "a war" injured. Well, that got my littlest one going. My oldest two were like, "Oh, we know that won't happen to Daddy, he's just working in an office." Which is what we told them before he left. Did we do the right thing by painting this picture of Daddy sitting behind a desk to quell their fears? I don't know. And that is one of the biggest problems with deployments-- never knowing if what you are telling the kids is the right thing or not. I know my husband has "fudged the truth" to me in past deployments, to keep me from worrying, so I suppose doing the same for the kids is okay.
After the movie, I brought them to watch trains pass by, waving at the conductor and listening to the whistles. I could see on their faces how they wanted to just jump on that train and feel the wind rush on their faces -- to have it take them far away from this life we were living on this long weekend (or, maybe that was just me.) So, instead of throwing everyone on a speeding locomotive, I did the next best thing. I took them to the Carousel Museum across the street.
They had a blast, listening to the blaring carnival music, riding the horses, bunnies and tea cups. I wandered around while they rode (my almost forty year old stomach cannot withstand the joy of this carousel anymore.) I am always drawn to this one particular horse at the museum. It is wooden, known to be one of the oldest of its kind -- pre-Civil War era. I stared at it, thinking of how many wars this horse has seen. How many soldier's kids have ridden on its back - and out of those countless kids, how many of their Daddies made it back home.
Later that night, my oldest asked me why Daddy had to do a job that didn't make us rich. I tried to explain the difference between a calling and a job. And that Daddy's particular calling doesn't exactly make big bucks. I tried to explain why being a soldier for nearly 26 years is something honorable, courageous and worthy. But to an 8 year old whose life dream right now is to own a DS, honor and courage don't mean much. I hope someday he realizes that my husband's job meant more to our family- our country- than a lot of other jobs that pay a lot more. I hope someday he realizes that honor doesn't buy you DS's, but it does fill one with pride and self worth.
I suppose someday he will come to realize that being a military kid of a deployed Daddy is also is a job of honor and pride. Because while everyone else is on a trip as a "whole family" and we are "just" watching dolphins try to swim with no tail, trains ride by with no seats for us, and carousels spin with antique horses who have seen many wars through wooden eyes -- we are making our way through this deployment with courage. Just no DS.
We passed the 100 day mark, and I thought it would be a day of celebration. Hooray! 100 days! Whoo hoo! But, like a lot of things I expect out of my kids, it turned into the exact opposite. Instead of cheers, I got tears. I really thought they would be excited that we were (almost) a third of the way "there." My son, however, quickly did the math and realized that 100 days only meant that we still had 265 days left. Wah wah wah....disappointing to say the least. I still brought them to McD's for a celebration dinner. (More for me, so I didn't have to cook)
I've been trying my best to go with the flow, to let things be, to not get angry over the little things, to not stress over the news, to just take it hour by hour, day by day. Yeah....not going so well.
We've had flooding. We've had precious loss of life. We've had knock out, drag down fights (kids vs. kids). We've had illness. We've had schedules that would make your head spin. We've had visitors cancel. We've had car troubles. We've had nightmares. We've had many, many tears. (mostly mine) And still, I'm trying. I just keep going. Because, really, what choice do I have? I keep joking with my husband (when I hear from him) that even divorced people have every other weekend off -- that this is just ridiculous! I know. Not the nicest thing to say to a deployed spouse, but he caught me on the day that "nobody" stopped up the toilets (again) and "nobody" spilled a container of orange juice all over the floor.
And then came yesterday. After dropping off my daughter at a lovely birthday party, I took the boys home and -- after giving them sufficient amount of time to 'relax' (why at 8 and 4 they need to 'relax' is beyond me - but hey) -- I told them to clean up the family room. You know, the room the kids destroy on a daily basis. I told my 8 year old to vacuum. (I had read somewhere that he is, indeed, old enough to handle this job so I felt quite comfortable telling him to do this without the guilt of child labor hanging over my head) Well, 8 year old looked at me, sat down on a chair, folded his arms and said, "I am not going to clean." Huh? Whuh? "Excuse me?" I said. "I am not going to clean." he replied. I sat there, quite calmly, while on the inside I was seething. Thinking of all the instruments in my reach of which I could spank his tush with. "You aren't going to clean?" I asked instead. "Nope." again he replied.
So I vacuumed. I vacuumed like this child's face was the carpet. I know, I know. I am sounding very unlike the previous paragraph where I was "going with the flow" and all of that bull. But really, who can "go with the flow, take it easy" when you've got attitude like that being hurled at you at the speed of -- oh I don't know-- an 8 year old? I was ready to scream. I was ready to punch a wall. Instead, I vacuumed.
And then, it was time to go pick up my daughter. In the car, I informed my 8 year old that he wasn't going to the movie night party a friend had invited him to. "BUT WHY?!" he cried. Please. Really? You can't figure this out? You, who could stomp on my 100 day parade with your lightning fast math skills? You can't figure out why? "Because you didn't do what I told you to do, therefore you don't get to go to the party." Ha. That's what I felt like adding. Ha. ha. ha. Can't beat me at this kid.
And then I felt the first blow to my head. (as I was driving mind you). He had thrown something at me from the back seat. He was screaming. He was exorcising a demon, really. To look at him, he could be cast in any horror movie. Writhing, squirming, squealing. And then I said, "And now you won't be going to Cub Scouts." So there. Nanny nanny boo boo.
Fast forward to me, going to bed last night. I find a note on my pillow. A kids video camera next to it. The note says, "Mommy, please watch video #41" So I did. And it is my 8 year old via "The Blair Witch Project" filming himself, begging for mercy. Promising to make his bed, promising to clean up, promising his 8 year old world and everything in it. And at the end he said, "And if you still don't let me go, I guess I'll just think of Abbie." Abbie is our sweet 8 year old friend who lost her life last week.
And I went to bed thinking that I must be doing something right. Because if an 8 year old, who was a demon for the day, could reflect on his behavior and come out in the end thinking of a little girl who would love to do anything, let alone vacuum, for one more day....then the next 100 days wouldn't be so bad.