23 February 2014

Because I needed something else to do . . . and other projects

Mike is currently away for training in the field, so we've been Daddyless for the past week or so. So far though, it hasn't been too bad. Little Man has only had one bad night - I think getting the Daddy-ponies was really great.

On the night that Mike left, Little Man was really upset that he wasn't there to tuck him in bed and give him kisses, so he and I had a really good chat about how much Daddy misses him and wishes he could be there. I told him that whenever he wanted to give Daddy kisses and hugs and tell him that he loves him and misses him, to tell his pony, and that Daddy would feel his hugs and kisses wherever he was and that Little Man just had to know that Daddy wanted to hug and kiss him back. Little Man snuggled up to his pony and went to sleep. When I checked on him later, he had tucked his favorite blanket around his pony - it was so sweet. And he's been good ever since. Knock on wood.

We have a pretty busy schedule, whether Mike is home or not. OT, speech, school, PWOC, pre-school, general house upkeep and shopping so that we can eat. Most days we are out of the house by 0820 at the latest - early! Hard to believe just a year ago I was just getting out of bed at that time on a lot of days (how I wish for those days sometimes!). Actually, I like that we all get up early; it feels more productive and I like that. I don't feel so lazy.

When Mike is gone, it seems to be even busier that usual. If I forget something at the store, I can't just leave for 20 minutes and hop over to the commissary or BX really quickly. I have to load up all the kids in the van (that takes 5 minutes), drive over, unload everyone (another 2 minutes) and well, you get the picture. I like to be efficient and you just can't be very efficient with three small kiddos in carseats that they can't buckle up themselves. A 20 minute trip to the store alone turns into a 45 minute ordeal - yesterday during that little trip to get another role of tape it felt like I was herding cats in the BX. They were well behaved though. Like cats well behaved. And honestly, I feel safer with wondering kids on base than I do off base.

Anyway, as if I didn't have enough going on, I decided to participate in a Mommy Market sale that is coming up this weekend. I figured it was a nice chance to get rid of toys that the kids outgrew and go through the house and do a little purging. I am planning on putting any money made towards student loan debt (almost debt free - almost!). I did decide to not sell any of the 14 bins of kids clothes that I have and am saving those for another deployment project. More on that in a minute. So I've been doing lots of sorting and organizing and entering into the Mommy Market computer barcode system and printing tags, cutting them out and attaching them to the items. I have to drop them all of on Wednesday afternoon. A friend of mine who is PCSing gave me a lot of stuff to add to the sale too, which was really great of her. So that has been occupying a lot of my spare time this week.

School is going pretty well. I had my first test this week and I got an A! In a way, it was a relief to have a test this week, as it freed up time to work on the Mommy Market sale stuff. (I.e. no chapter to read, quiz to take and paper to write.)

As for all the baby clothes that I have . .. Our PWOC has been doing a lot of inreach/outreach this year and we have been working with two organizations in Albuquerque. One is CareNet, a crisis pregnancy center that comes alongside women who find themselves in need and facing tough decisions. They offer free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, counseling and even give new-to-be-moms help with maternity clothes, infant layette sets, diapers and wipes and so on. Some of the PWOC ladies completely redecorated two of their counseling rooms and the ladies of PWOC have been donating all kinds of items to be used by them. So I decided to give my maternity clothes to them, instead of selling them in the Mommy Market.

The other organization PWOC has been working with is Joy Junction. Joy Junction is a homeless shelter and there are kids who live there with their parents. There was actually a lady who went there from the hospital after giving birth. I can't imagine bringing home a 2 day old baby to a homeless shelter. Some of the PWOC ladies donate time there, but since I haven't been able to do that, I decided to go through my kiddos old clothes and donate them, instead of selling them in the Mommy Market.

Yes, I could probably make quite a bit of money (I mean, 14 BINS of clothing), and while I felt convicted to sell stuff to get out of debt, I felt equally convicted to help others who are in less fortunate circumstances than I. Who I am to make a profit on a necessity of clothing when others in dire need could benefit? So my next project after dropping my items off for the Mommy Market is to go through all my bins of clothing and prepare them for donation. I know some stuff is stained or worn out (some things Butterfly got were second or third hand and then Flower wore them after Butterfly), so it'll be good to through all of that.

You might be asking why I have kept the clothing for so long. Well, when I first got pregnant with Butterfly, I really felt like it would be financially wise to save any baby stuff that we buy/acquire for all the future children we would have (at the time, I thought we would have more than three children, and more spaced apart). I didn't see the point in getting rid of something just to have to buy it again a few years down the road. The went for clothes, and well, everything. Since Mike had a vasectomy last summer, we are finished having children, unless some miracle happens. So why hold onto that stuff? Time to pass it on to those who need it.

So that's been life since Mike has left for training. And it has kept me busy - business definitely helps take your mind off of things!

What do you do to keep you busy?

16 February 2014

Gettin' Real Over Here

Mike and I attended the pre-deployment briefing at the Airman and Family Readiness Center on Friday, and as I left the building with the dozen or so papers, brochures, handouts and so on to help us transition to life half a world apart, I thought, "Well, this feels real now."

Really real.

Not that the three week training Mike has already been on didn't make things feel real. Dropping him off at the airport, kids asking for Daddy, explaining over, and over, and over again that Daddy is at work in Ohio (where his training was), then the joy of reuniting. There was even a mini-adjustment period, ha ha.

The past two weeks that Mike has been home have been fairly stressful as we prepared for the deployment, for his next training, and the home front with a deployed family member, as well as the Force Separation Board. Not to mention all the sickness that's been going . . . Butterfly and Little Man with the stomach bug the weekend Mike got back, then Mike got it, then I had some flu-like cold the next week . . .

Saturday was very bittersweet. Mike and I took the kids to Build-A-Bear in Cottonwood Mall and they each got to pick out whatever stuffed animal they liked, and Mike did voice recordings for each of them to put in their stuffed animal. All three of them were immediately drawn to the My Little Pony's that were available - Butterfly picked Twilight Sparkle, Little Man picked Rainbow Dash and Flower picked Fluttershy.  The kids were so patient while we waited in line (it was apparently a very busy day in Build-A-Bear), and they hugged their to-be-stuffed animals tightly. When it was our turn, the lady took Mike to the back hallway where he could do his recordings and then we went to stuff the ponies.

Flower went first since she was the youngest. She stood on the little pedal to fill her pony with warm stuffing and then it was Little Man's turn, and then Butterfly's. After their pony's were stuffed, they picked a heart to put in their pony's, rubbed the heart in their hands for warmth and love, rubbed it on their funny bone for humor, on their head for intelligence, gave it a kiss and put the heart in. Then the lady sewed their pony's up and they were off to be groomed.

Putting in the recorded device.

Butterfly helping stuff Twilight Sparkle.

Preparing their pony's hearts.

Grooming Rainbow Dash with Daddy.
I stood back and watched all this and tried really hard to hold back my tears. And of course, I took pictures. It was very bittersweet. It was a sweet family outing and we had a good time together, but thinking of what the outing meant was hard. I don't think the kids understand that Daddy is going to be gone for a really, really long time yet. Knowing that they have something that they can hug that has his voice in it is comforting.

Right now they think it is great fun, and I hope they will find it all a great comfort in the months to come.

Afterwards, the kids got to play at the mall play place for a little bit, then we rode the train around the mall (very fun!) and then we had lunch at Johnny Rocket's together. It was a great day as a family.

When we got home, Mike resumed his packing for his field training. My stomach turns with anxiety when the "mo-bags" come out. Such is life though, and to me it felt like a precursor to the real thing - the deployment.

For now though, life goes on. We took Mike to the airport this morning to leave for his training and we most likely won't have contact with him until it is finished in two weeks. In the meantime, we'll listen to his voice recordings and look at pictures of Daddy and, of course, pray for him.

08 February 2014

Testing Results

Butterfly had some more testing this week, to see if she is on the autism spectrum scale. I am very happy to report that she is not! Yay!

There are still some things that we are worried about - she still has significant language delays, and her fine motor skills are still lacking considerably, however, she had made incredible progress through therapies and pre-school since August.

Butterfly will now play with her siblings, even inviting them to play with her on occasion - which is a huge deal! She is communicating so much better as well, often telling us "I don't like that!!" whenever something happens that she doesn't like, which can be anything from being disciplined, to having something for dinner she doesn't want to eat, to her sibling trying to play with her or help her. I'll take that over screaming and biting any day.
Flower and Butterfly playing dress up (gotta love post-Halloween clearance!)
 Our next step is to decide what kind of Kindergarten program Butterfly will be in. Her current teachers, myself and the educational diagnostic team don't think she should be in a general ed Kindergarten class, unless she has an assistant to help her. She would just get behind and fall through the cracks. My biggest fear is that she will get frustrated with school and learn to hate it, which I don't want to happen. So whether she has a mix of a general ed class with some special ed or something along those lines remains to be seen. We should be having an IEP meeting soon.

It is thought that Butterfly could have a learning disability along the lines of visual motor planning or visual spatial planning, but we just have to wait and see. A learning disability cannot be determined until she has been in school for at least a year or more - probably around the age of 7 or 8 is when we would determine a learning disability.

The good news is that Butterfly is greatly improving through therapy, and that she can get help, through the school system and through private insurance (for now). I am very grateful for that.

For now I'll leave you with this precious picture of Butterfly and our kitty, Galileo. Last week Butterfly was upstairs playing and I heard her call down to me that she put a band-aid on Galileo. Fearing a sticky, fur-pulling mess, I raced upstairs and this is what I found:

In the throes of Uncertainty

And I'm not talking about this country's political and economical climate, although it's certainly deplorable enough.

Mike is currently home in between pre-deployment trainings and it has been a very busy (read: stressful) time. Is there a pre-deployment period that isn't busy or stressful? Getting training done, weapons qualifications updated, medical checks done, updating his will and all that, preparing the family, etc, etc.

It seems the mental worry of the months of separation, thoughts of parenting alone while your spouse is at war, leaving for war and all that entails is not enough to have on our plates right now.

There's the whole Force Reduction and Separation stuff too.

Currently, the Air Force is doing a giant force reduction - cutting back its' member by around 300,000. For some airman, it's something happening that doesn't affect them because they are in a critically manned field. Apparently, Mike's career field is not one of those critically manned fields. We knew this was happening and there was a small chance Mike could be forced out, but we weren't too worried about it.

That has changed.

When Mike came back from his three weeks of training,  he went to work like normal but when he came home from work on his first day, he came back with forboding news. Everyone at work is extremely worried about the up coming force reduction. One of out every three airman in his career field is being forced to get out of the Air Force. Those are really high odds.

So on top of the deployment stuff Mike has to take care of, he has to worry about making sure he has all of his stuff in order for when his case goes before the Force Reduction Board, because it will. While he is deployed and when he won't be around to defend himself. I hope and pray that he has an amazing Sgt, which I think he does. He's been going over all his prior EPR's with his Sgt, making sure all of his awards and medals are in the system (i.e. proof that he was awarded them), making sure all his volunteer activities have been noted, his school work on file (and he has a 4.0 GPA currently at Liberty Univ.) and so on.

And of course, we have to talk about options if the Air Force does force Mike out. Which we sincerely hope will not happen, because Mike really wants to make a career out of his Air Force service. Where will we go? What will Mike do? Go back to school full time and then on to medical school? Find a job somewhere? Will I go back to work full time? Part time? (Mike has informed me that he wants me to finish my degree as quickly as possible - which could be done by December, but I'll put the kids in daycare at least part time, if not full time, which I don't really want to do.)

Mike works hard and he does a good job at what he does. He has the highest score you can get on every single EPR, save one, which was the next highest score. He has two associates degrees and is working on completing his bachelor's as fast as he can, he volunteers at the local chapel, at the Balloon Fiesta, at Special Olympics and other places, his PT scores have never been anything less than excellent. Supposedly this Force Reduction is to maintain the "cream of the crop" in the Air Force, and if Mike isn't that, than I don't know who qualifies.

Even while I assure Mike with his past hard work and achievements, and myself, we still worry. I know we shouldn't worry, that everything is in the Lord's hands, but the uncertainty of it all is hard to swallow. The military is full of uncertainty, but even amidst the uncertainty, there's the knowing you have a job, have a paycheck, have benefits at the end of the day. So this uncertainty is new and unwelcome.

Lord willing Mike will make TSgt when he tests for Technical Sgt before he deploys. Because if he makes Tech, than all of this will go away. They need TSgt's in his career field. So for now, we're praying that Mike will be able to stay in the Air Force, and that he'll make TSgt.

02 February 2014

Going on a Bear Hunt

This past Tuesday, Butterfly's class at school had a field trip to Pope Joy Hall for the play "Going on a Bear Hunt". As with the last field trip, I dropped Butterfly off at school at 0900 and then headed over to one of the University of New Mexico's parking lots and hopped on the shuttle bus to the college campus and walked over to Pope Joy Hall, which is located on the University of New Mexico's campus.

Butterfly's class got off the bus shortly afterwards, so the wait wasn't too long, which I was thankful for because it was very cold outside, despite the New Mexico sun shining down on everyone.

Butterfly was excited to see me, and I chatted with her best friend, Emmalina, for a little bit as well. We headed inside and found out our seats were upstairs in the Mezzanine section. Since Butterfly's friend is in a wheelchair, this presented a little bit of a problem. Ms. Michelle, Butterfly's teacher, explained to me that she thought we got the same seats as before, on the bottom level because they have a wheel chair student, but something must have happened. There was an elevator to the second level, but there were still two sets up stairs to go up and then down to get to our seats on the balcony. I hope Ms. Michelle wrote a letter to Pope Joy to tell them about the mix up.

It was definitely a full house! Before too long, the lights went down and the play started. It was an audience participation play, so that was interesting. It was neat to see the actors running out into the audience or throwing things out to them. At one point, they was a lot of water gun shooting at the kids, during the "river" scene of the play. (Butterfly did not like that and buried her head in my arm.)

Overall though, Butterfly had a really good time and really enjoyed it. She loves going to the theater and I'm sure we'll be going to see a lot  more plays and musicals together, on class field trips or by ourselves.

Butterfly's class does a theme every month, and January's theme was "Going on a Bear Hunt", so all month her class has been reading different versions of the story, and doing crafts about the bear hunt and the day before the play, Butterfly's OT at school made an entire obstacle course based on the bear hunt, complete with grass to wade through, mud to walk through, a river to walk through, a forest to navigate, a snow storm and a cave with a bear. I so wish I could have been there to see Butterfly go through it.

I do love that I have the ability to accompany Butterfly on her field trips with school and I look forward to doing it again in the future. The kids are growing up so fast!

Hair Cut

I decided on Thursday morning that I would cut my hair. And since my hair was down to about the top of my butt, I thought I would cut off at least enough to donate to Locks of Love or another charity that makes wigs.

I really did not think this whole thing out enough.

The last time I cut my hair, my good friend Karen over and she carefully combed my hair out and braided it and then afterwards she cut off just a tiny little bit more, so that my hair was still pretty long.

My first mistake was not asking my friend because I thought she had a lot going on in her life and I didn't want to be a burden. I should have let her make that decision, instead of assuming.

My second mistake was going to the base salon, which does not have the greatest of reputations around the base.

I went anyway. I had to get my eyebrows waxed and I figured while I was in there, I would just get a hair cut as well. I explained to the lady what I wanted and she carefully measured out eight inches and cut away.

I told her that I wanted as little as possible cut off after that, and no layers. Just straight across.

My third mistake was using generalized language (as little as possible) and not concrete language (1/4 of an inch, or maybe even 1/2 an inch).

So she started cutting. And she just kept snipping. And snipping. And snipping. And finally, quite worried, I asked her if that was enough and I thought it was. Honestly, I just wanted to get out of that chair and go recover.

Because she had cut off another three or four inches. It was so short, I couldn't even put my hair back up in a bun. I wear my hair in a bun almost every day. It's my go to comfort hair-do. It looks nice, it keeps kids from messing with it, it doesn't get in the way, it's fast and easy and can be done wet or dry. And I couldn't put my hair back up in a bun.

The hair dresser got a bag for my hair donation and we went to ring everything up. I kept mentioning that it was really short, like really, really short. She made some comment and I just replied that I would cry about it later.

After paying, I fled to the van and tried to hold back my tears while I picked up Little Man from school. Thankfully my good friend Angel was there picking up her son and I told her what had happened and that I was really upset and she was very comforting.

When I got home, I put "Dinosaur Train" on for the kids and went to the bathroom to inspect the damage. And I cried, and cried. I may or may not have used a towel to muffle my sobs so the kids wouldn't hear and get worried. My hair hasn't been this short for well over a decade and I have to say, I am very attached to my long hair. And my hair wasn't even cut straight, it looks awful (in my opinion) and I was just so upset about the whole way things turned out.

I did post on Facebook about the circumstances and had some wonderful friends rally around me and encourage me and I did feel better afterwards. I'm still getting used to it and I still can't put it in a bun. I've been doing ponytails, which feel really weird and the kids play with, but oh well. Hopefully my hair will grow back pretty fast.

Little Man and Flower were very sweet to me all afternoon. Little Man kept bringing my trays of tea and cakes from the pretend kitchen and Flower gave me lots and lots of kisses. They really are so sweet and I am blessed to have them.

And, as my best friend Sam put it, "there's a little kid out there crying just as hard, or harder, as you because they lost their hair [to cancer treatment], so you're going to help them out a lot." Very true and so I'll leave at that.

Yes, I know I"m not smiling, but I wasn't in the mood to smile when I was taking this selfie

And Phase One is done!

We are officially done with Phase One of this whole deployment thing! Mike is back home from his first part of training and we are all so glad to have him home with us. Our family is complete again.

The third week was better than the second, but not as good as the first. Maybe if I hadn't cut my hair (that's another post), it might have been right up there with the first week. I think that first week is going to be THE week to compare all other weeks of Mike's absence to.

We did have some sickness at the beginning of the week, with Little Man, so I missed chapel. He was over it pretty quickly though and we were off with our week. It was fairly busy as week's go, but over all it wasn't too bad. I have to come realize that it takes me at least one hour to put the kids to bed by myself, more so if we do baths. Brushing teeth times three, putting on PJ's times three, reading stories times three, getting sippys of water times three, tucking in and prayers times three and so. It seems like I do a lot of running back and forth getting one last thing ready for bed time. Turn on the night light. Turn on the music. Fill the humidifier. Fill the cats' water cup in the bath tub (because usually the kids pour it out) and so on. So when Mike leaves again I'll have to make sure to start the whole bed time routine fairly early, much earlier than I have been. At least if I want the kids in bed by 1900.

Little Man was still up at least once every night asking for Mike, and one night we did have a little cry together about missing Mike. I hope he knows that he isn't alone in missing him, that we all miss Daddy and his sisters and I just show it in different ways. On Thursday night, Little Man was up three or four times during the night, so come Friday morning I felt like a new-mom zombie while we were at Science Camp.

Then Friday night rolled around. Everyone was in bed by 1930 after stories were all done and I went downstairs and started in on some school work. I was trying to finish up my chapter in my text book and was just six pages short when Butterfly started yelling for me (which she rarely does). So I went upstairs and she was in the hallway crying. But not for Daddy; she was really sick. She had a pretty high fever and was complaining that her hands felt like they were on fire. So I put her back in bed, changed her into some much lighter pajamas and got a cold wash cloth and put it on her forehead and hands because they were extremely hot. After an hour or so I also gave her some Tylenol, which I was hesitant to do because it's expired, but I thought better than nothing. Over the next three hours, her fever went down, then spiked at 103.7, then went down to 100.2 and finally broke around 0100. I slept on the floor next to her bed because she had been breathing fairly rapidly when she had her fever and seemed to be in pain, but once her fever broke, her breathing was back to normal. Around 0400 Little Man woke up crying and I went in to find that he had vomited. So then I was up and down for the next four hours changing sheets on his bed and clothes on him. It was a very long night, to stay the least.

So thus Saturday morning rolled around, and this was not how I pictured the morning of Mike's home coming (see above picture). I changed our plans to picking Mike up at the curb pick up instead of going into the terminal. When it was time to leave for the airport to pick Mike up, the towel and bucket came to, although, thankfully, we didn't have need of it.

At least Mike is home though and the kids are enjoying spending time with him. Little Man has been glued to him and the kids have all taken turns cuddling with him.

Butterfly had a surprise for Daddy at dinner (that I didn't even know about). She recited the whole "Going on a Bear Hunt" play to him (three times)! More on that field trip in another post, but anyway, she and I had gone to see that play on Tuesday, and her class at school has been learning about the Bear Hunt all month. We were very impressed that she could recite the whole story, complete with sound effects and hand motions. I got quite a bit on video (the second and third retelling were quite helpful in this) and I am so glad that I did! It was a really wonderful surprise!

The week was full of ups and downs, but it ended very well, at least as far as Mike being home (Butterfly and Little Man have been sick all weekend). Despite illness, the house is full of joy and happiness again and we are thoroughly enjoying having Mike back home. So until Phase Two starts, we will love on him and cherish our time with him.