"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown

"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Not Ready to Miss It

I spent Wednesday of last week touring another Autism center with Eli. I think it is a good fit for him. Where he is currently is amazing. I love the staff. What they have done for our little giant ... I don't have the words for my gratitude. There is no form of repayment. Nothing I can do to give them what they have given our family. But it's time for a change. Something calmer, something our whole family can take part in. Something that isn't a 45-60 minute drive each way, three days a week.

Something that will best prepare him for Kindergarten.

And that's where I lose it a bit. Eli has always been small and when he interacts with people, it's easy to think he's younger than he is. I think I have found too much comfort in that - especially in the last year and a half.

He is very much my baby. I am grateful for his cuddling, grateful for the silly, baby voice he does. I am grateful that I can carry him on my hip and swaddle him like he's so much younger than he is.

I am grateful. So very grateful.

But I am torn.

Because he isn't a baby. He isn't even a toddler. He's closer to five than he is to three and that is hardest for me.

Because to be a good mom, to be a good advocate for him, I know I need to prepare him. That his prep for mainstream school is prep-work. I know that if I am going to ask a teacher to love him and embrace him and give him a chance, it's only fair for me to do everything in my power to not hinder him from being the most ready. To treat him the age he is rather than the age he seems. I can't ask someone else to do that if I won't.

But...

... he's my last baby. I thought I would be okay with that. I thought I would be okay with that until the second doctor looked at me and told me (just like the first) that he had to be. When it isn't up to you ... when you don't get to choose ...

He's my last baby and he is so very much my baby - the way he reaches up to be held, the way he cuddles, the way he giggles. He is so much my baby. To be his advocate I need to acknowledge that he's so much more than that. To be a good momma I need to help him succeed and win his small victories and reach the goals he needs for what is to come.

Every logical part of me knows that. I know that.

But every time someone asks, "Are you having any more kids?" or "Are you going to try for a girl?" I cuddle with him a little longer.  I know I have innocently asked those same questions.

I don't ask anymore.

I know how it hurts. How you feel the little crack tapped into your heart when you politely say "who knows" to save awkwardness or simply say "we can't" and then feel badly for making anyone feel uncomfortable with the response.
They grow so quickly. Even when they don't grow much at all, even when everything about them screams that they are three when they are closer to five ... time goes so quickly.

Logan asked me not to kiss him a couple weeks ago outside of school. He gave me a high-five and a hand-squeeze instead. I'm so proud of him. So, so proud of him but I know Eli isn't far behind. And that's our hope ... that he is right in step. That his joy and strengths and "smarts" stick with him but that he one day says, "No more kisses, Mom," as he runs off with a friend. With every part of me I want that for him. Every part of me wants that.

But it's happening so fast. I didn't know I needed to be ready for this. I didn't know that Eli's first steps would be our last first steps. That his "first birthday" cupcake would be our last "first birthday" cupcake. That the last time he sat in his high chair would be the last time one of our babies sat in that high chair.

I didn't know it was the last time.

I didn't know.

They tell you it goes so quickly. Blink and they are going to kindergarten, to homecoming, to college. Blink and you'll miss it.

I'm not ready to miss it.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

To the Senior Spouse ... I See You.

I see you.

I see that you are trying. I see the burden you carry, the responsibility you didn't ask for. I see it.

I see that you go to sleep most nights running through what you said wrong, what you did wrong, what intention didn't come across the right way. You are right more than you are wrong, your intention is always good. You may think people don't see that but I do.

I see that when everyone else seems to blame you for the long nights away, for the long trainings, and rigorous schedules, your husband has probably been gone longer. Has worked in his office until zero-dark-thirty, has gone TDY for two weeks so that he can properly train his troops for the month-long rotation to follow.

I see that this time must be the loneliest time of his career for you. I see that people judge you before they meet you, that they place expectations on you that aren't fair, and that you are held to a standard different from the women beside you.

I see you.

I see that you cringe any time your child acts out or fidgets or speaks too loudly at an event because for whatever reason so many of us think you should have more control over your children. I know that you try your hardest to fulfill that undue expectation but I know they are children. No different from mine. They will fidget and talk and run away when you need them beside you. They are children and you are doing your best.

I know you teach them to honor the flag as best as possible, teach them service and sacrifice and the importance of what these mommies and daddies do. They are military children. You give the same hugs when they can't understand why daddy keeps leaving. You kiss the same bo-bos and make the same "cereal for dinner" nights when the day has been too hard.

I see that you are just like me. That you miss the love of your life. That you feel the weight and the sadness and the heartache. That on top of all of that, you feel the pressure from the hundreds of families who know your name. I know you don't want to let us down. I know you don't exactly know how to do that. 

That's okay. I don't know either.

I know that every night he is in his position, you will not get a full-nights sleep. You'll wake up at midnight when he finally makes it home to sleep for a few hours before heading back into the office. Or on those few nights when he actually makes it home before the sun sets, his phone will ring from the commanders and first sergeants  below him giving the report on the latest issue.

I know you will eat more dinners alone than you ever thought possible while he is "home".
I know you can't show your difficulty. I know you don't get to feel weak. That your struggle through whatever separation or deployment is something you feel you must manage on your own. That you don't get to be broken. That you don't get to check-out, because you have families depending on you. Everyone is watching.

I know you feel that.

Some of them want to see you fail. No matter what you do. No matter how kind you are, how devoted you are, how present you are - they want to see you fail them. Let them go.

I know you don't know as much as we believe you do. I know you know somethings you will say you don't. That's just part of the role you were placed in. You can't change what people think of that.

I see how hard you are trying. I see how much you care.

I see you.

I know that when you see his boots on American soil for the first time in a long time that moment is you and him. For just a moment, it is just a soldier and his wife, just a father with his children. And then the phone starts ringing again, and the hours get long again and you eat dinner alone ... again.

I know you are tired. I know you don't get the credit you are due.

I want you to know that I see you. That I appreciate you. That I know you love your soldier. I know you want to do everything in your power to support your soldier and to support these families. There is no difference between you and I but the pressure that is placed upon you, what is expected of you.

I see your intention. I see you are trying.

This time won't last forever. Do your best; give your best. 
I'm rooting for you.
Because I see you.



Friday, April 11, 2014

It's Been A While

Knock. Knock.

Anyone there?

It's been a while.

A really, really long while. I'm sorry about that.

It's been quite a year for us. Quite a year. I had to step away. Our family had to step away. I think I'm finally ready to come back. Slowly I will share it all with you.

Let me break it down in simplest form and then we can go from there. Within a three month period (February - April 2013) our lives were jerked in every direction possible. I don't even have the words.

So here we go.

In February of 2013 Eli - our littlest, our "little giant" - was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum.

In March of 2013 we found out we may be leaving the Army far sooner than we ever wanted to because of (essentially) a filing error. (I'm not sure how much I will ever get into this but know we are staying, all is fixed, we are in a really great place).

In April of 2013 (after an extremely emotional doctor's visit) we essentially found out our family will have to remain a family of four.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

One hit after another.

It took me some time. It took us all some time.

When I started this blog, my intention was always to keep it strictly military life related. To talk about where we fall in the Army Community, how our life weaves and flows within in. Because of my choice to restrict my blog in that way, I couldn't write.

This year has been a struggle to find my place again. To find my place in the military community when I couldn't be the active part of it I had always been in the past. I am just beginning to see how the new roles I have taken on serve a different purpose in this life and in the people it connects us to. I am still learning how to let go of what I have always done and realizing the worth in what my life is now - still very much a member of the military community.

So I am going to ask you to go back with me nearly a year as I carry you through it. It won't all be military. It won't be deployment. It won't be field exercise separations or FRG or teaching or anything this journey has been before. It will be a journey from the eyes of a momma to a "little giant", from the eyes of a military spouse watching the military she loves change in a way she does not understand, from the eyes of a not-yet-thirty-something woman accepting that every milestone reached for her children will be the last time she experiences them.

It will be sad and hopeful, ungraceful and humbling. We have had the hardest year of our marriage, of our parenthood, of his military career.

We. got. through it.

I hope you are still there. I hope you will stick with me. I hope we can thrive through from here on out.

Let's get started:

Eli the Little Giant - The Day He Was Diagnosed

Eli the Little Giant

All I wanted to do was get out of the store. I just wanted to leave. But for whatever reason my cashier was the slowest cashier, taking extra care to be sure everything was placed in the bag a certain way, very methodical, very precise. 

Looking back on it now, the behavior seems familiar. 

He wasn't remotely phased that my barely-three-year-old was screaming at the top of his lungs, hitting his brother, thrashing his head back because he had seen a Thomas the Train book and I hadn't given it to him. I honestly don't know if he really noticed but the woman at the other check-out, there was no question she noticed. 

Her eyes pierced me. That look on her face - that look of disgust. She wanted me to know she thought I was the worst mother on the planet in that moment. She didn't look away when my eyes met hers, she just let them dig deeper, shamelessly letting me know how much she thought I was failing. 

In that moment I felt broken, and helpless, and defeated, and angered because why couldn't I stop this? Why couldn't I keep him from acting that way? Why couldn't I calm my own son down?

was failing.

When Dr T first brought up the need for an evaluation I didn't know how to react. I didn't see it coming. I just ... I hadn't thought about it. I really just hadn't. And even when we went forward, I was convinced that this was just me doing everything wrong as his mom. That I was failing and unable and unsure and not a good mom to my littlest little. I thought we would come out of that evaluation with no diagnosis but a mother who was unable. 

In the moment that doctor put her papers on her lap, when she put her hands together and leaned in towards me, I knew that what she was about to tell me was not what I was certain was going to be said.  I knew in that very moment that my heart was breaking - right then. I knew that our family was changing.

I knew it during the evaluation. I saw things I hadn't noticed before while she was playing with my baby. When she broke it down for me, I knew she was right, I had seen exactly what she had seen and before then I just hadn't.

And for a split second I felt relief. 

For a split second I didn't feel like a horrible mother who couldn't understand her son. For just a moment I didn't feel like I was incapable or unworthy or unable. For just a second I felt like I could breathe again.

It has hurt so much to see the stares, and to have to apologize, and to have to explain why we don't usually bring him to people's houses. It has been so hard to watch a meltdown that makes me feel helpless and inadequate as a mom. 

I have just been so tired.

We have always called Eli "mighty", "strong-willed", "little giant". He is strong and determined. Fearless - sometimes too fearless. 

He brings so much joy. He is happy and fun and funny and loving - except in the times when he isn't. He is always at my side. I am his safety which is the very reason I couldn't see it. I am his comfort. He is mine. 

This begins a new journey. Little by little we will enter into his world and little by little we will bring him into ours. 

Eli is our little giant. Fearless. Able. Determined. How incredible it will be to watch him thrive. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What Military Spouses Know

Several weeks ago I watched my husband take a knee before a new widow and present her with a folded flag on behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army, and a grateful nation. 

The words are simple and heart-felt and somber. The act is heart-wrenching and humbling.

That memory gives me chills.

It will never leave me.
.................................................................

This life becomes part of your soul. Seeing a flag rise and lower instills a quiet pride. Hearing the startling pops from a twenty-one-gun-salute rings deep within your heart. Taps over a blackened sky brings both comforting tears and humbling sorrow.

Seeing a folded flag between two straight hands ...

That consumes you.

Our community knows sacrifice in a way that never leaves us. We do not go numb to the names and the attacks and the fear. It is part of every single day of our lives. During deployment, part of every hour, every minutes, every moment. We feel it in everything we do.

We know fear. We know agonizing fear. We know guilt. We know relief. We know the guilt one can feel after that showering of relief.

We know conflict. We know heart ache.

We know how to cry in silence and pray through dehydrating sobs.

We know how many times a heart can break and be healed, break and be healed.

We know emptiness. We know sorrow. We know despair. We know weakness. We know strength and selflessness. Duty and honor. Joy beyond words and pain beyond tears.

We know what it is to fight to breathe. What it is to have your heart wrenched from your chest and be asked to keep living, to keep breathing, to keep thriving.

We know what it is to truly be first while being asked to be second. What it is to see complete innocence and resilience in a military child.

We know what it is to tell time by moves, and children's milestones by what foreign soil their daddy/mommy was on or what sea or ocean they sailed through.

We know what it is to love someone other than family unconditionally and how to maintain those relationships across regions and states. We know what it is to offer without expectation and give our time without compensation.

We know how fulfilling it is when we give and how breaking it can be when this nation takes.

We know death. We know life.

We know love. By God, we know love.