Sunday, September 22, 2013

To my baby boy, on the eve of your second birthday ...

So here we are, an entire year later. 

Do you remember this kid?

Me either. 

Seems like a lifetime ago that we celebrated your first birthday. Ive spent the entire weekend trying to recall the past year, but even beyond that, the first few weeks of your life. Im amazed at how quickly my memory bank has deleted much of that time frame - how I cannot quite recall the smell of your hair before your first bath, or how I remember how tired I was with you, but I cannot recall the first time you smiled at me on purpose. I suppose it has to clear itself out to make room for the other things that its had to store there lately.

Things like how you crack us up with your dancing to the Fresh Beat Band. Or how you will rarely speak to us when we ask you to, but you are all too happy to repeat any "bad word" slip ups. Things like how you already know how to use a screwdriver, or how you arent afraid to climb to the top of the highest slide (much to my rising blood pressure's dismay).

Youve had quite a year, for being so small. We celebrated your first birthday with a huge party - our house was full of family and friends and love (and a ton of presents). We spent the fall season going to pumpkin patches, and you had FOUR different costumes for all the parties and trick or treating that we did. 

It never ceases to amaze me how you've always been the life of the party. Sometimes thats a great thing, and sometimes it means that mommy's nerves are shot, but ever since the day you were born you've been commanding attention - all eyes on you, all the time. There are times you do that with humor, and times you do that through screaming at the top of your lungs, but no matter which way youve done it, you are certainly in no danger of being overlooked.

 When you were a baby we used to say "oh, hell grow out of it". Turns out, you didn't, and you still havent. But it also turns out that this personality trait serves you well. You dont let anyone push you around. You dont easily get your feelings hurt, and you are very good at getting what you want. Though that drives us crazy now, one day that is going to be your best personality trait.

You celebrated your second Christmas, but you still werent sure what to think. 

Then we got word that we were going to move across the country. So in your second year of life, we packed up the only house you had ever known - the one we waited for you in, the one that we brought you home to, the one that we got to know each other in - and we moved across the country to the California desert. You were an amazing traveler and mover - most babies would lose their minds when taken out of their element the way you were, but you amazed us with your ability to drive and hotel hop. 

Mommy was also expecting your baby sister at this time. She was incredibly sick and there were days that she could barely get off the couch. For as energetic as you were, you seemed to know when to give her a little slack. 

Before we had you, we didnt think wed ever have a baby together. We had even given up on the idea for awhile. And then, there you were, and it was like life before you was all just a dream. The past two years have been the most amazing of our lives. Like most parents, some days we wonder what it would be like to go back to the days where we slept in, had money, could do whatever we wanted ... but we agree that life without being your mommy and daddy wouldnt be worth living. For every second that is stressful, or tiring, comes a million years worth of laughter and joy. YOU are our joy. We have never laughed as much as we do now that we have you. 

I hope that you will always be just who you are. I hope that you will always stand your ground the way you do now. I hope that you will always hold onto what you believe with such fierce intensity. I hope that you will always love as big as you do now. I hope that all the things that make you a very interesting child will make you a very interesting adult. There is no one like you in this world - there is no other John Douglas Cone that is just like you. And you become more amazing every day.

Now you are a big brother as well as a little brother. And just like with you, as soon as Gabrielle came into our family, we could not remember what life was like without her. You are a wonderful big brother - you genuinely love your sister, and already want to protect her. I hope that the two of you will remain this close for the rest of your lives. We wont always be around to take care of you, and that is why we want you to have each other. I hope that you will remember that brothers and sisters fight - sometimes big fights - but it doesnt change the fact that you need each other. Daddy and I will do everything in our power to foster a loving relationship for the both of you because its one of the most important ones you will have in this lifetime.

Its hard to believe that another year has gone by already. There are times when I am so excited to see who you are going to become, but there are other times when I want to grab the clock and make it stop going so fast. Every time we have a day that is more fussy than smiles, I try to remember that one day you wont need me this much. I remember that one day you will have your own children and your own life, maybe somewhere far away. I try to remember that this time is finite. 

I cannot believe what an incredible 1 year old youve been, and I am so excited to see what an amazing two year old youll be. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Countdown to baby - Week 8, Kids Rooms, and managing GD (all at once).

The last two weeks Ive spent getting the kids areas done. I had done them before, but with the influx of new items for miss Gabrielle, I had a ton of work cut out for me making space, and getting rid of some things that I had held onto that we dont *really* need.

Lets start with the bathroom ... sweet Jesus, the bathroom.

So heres my thing. I have 2.5 bathrooms in this house. One is mine, one is the kids, one is a half bath for guests. My thought process (as flawed as I suppose it was) was that I could pull off a "kids" bathroom that would be okay for all of them. Yes, even the 14 year old.

Let me tell you about my teenager. 1: He only showers when FORCED. 2: He sleeps with no sheets on his bed because he "prefers the bare mattress". 3: He couldnt care less about his room and will also only clean that when forced. He will do anything he can to get out of toothbrushing, face washing, or generally anything that involves this particular room of the house.

So, to my surprise, he was PISSED when he saw the shower curtain. Like, could not believe the nerve I had to buy this thing pissed. I had no idea hed even notice. Sure, its not "manly" ... in fact, its pretty kid like, but thats the point. I used primary colors for everything else and I figured he doesnt even use that room enough to notice ...

So I made him a deal that if he takes an unforced shower every day for a month, Ill do the bathroom in whatever he chooses. You want to guess what day were on with that? Yeah, zero. So the effing shower curtain stays. I like it.

The green bucket is for bathtub toys, the big red one is for dirty clothes, and the yellow one is for wipes and toilet paper. We are nothing if not functional. The red sign above the towel says "So fresh and so clean, clean".

Honestly, its not THAT bad

Then I moved on to the kids room. I spent quite a bit of time on this when we first moved here, so it wasnt a huge stretch, but there were some last details I wanted to get done.

I have mentioned how base housing is the thorn in my side, yes? I mean, dont get me wrong, its not terrible ... and I am grateful to have a home that we can live in comfortably. But, just like any other base house, you get what you get ... so we work with what we get.

Though, the kids room is one of my favorites. When I started out with the concept, it was "budget". I really needed something that would fit in my budget ... and then after that the priorities were "good for two", "boy / girl friendly", and "fun". 

This is one room where I really feel like I nailed all the things I wanted to do. It cost around $200 for the whole damn thing, its a lot of fun, and it is super functional. I forgot to take a picture of the side of the room with the diaper storage and doorway gate, but you get the idea. I like that they dont sleep next to each other ... although I doubt either of them will sleep in here because they are both spoiled rotten, but I guess you never know. I took the colors from the quilt that my friend Brooke made for John, got some crib bedding that matched, hung wall stickers and Chinese lanterns, and put two of my favorite Bible verses above their beds. 

Johns is Jeremiah 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart". 

Gabrielles is 1 Samuel 1:27 "For this child I have prayed and the Lord has granted the desires of my heart". 

Both are special to each of them, for different reasons. I love that they are in here. 

Lots of play area in this room - definitely enough for the two of them! They have an IKEA toddler table and a toy bin that they can access easily. The blue bin next to the glider is the book bin. 

His and hers closet space! I finally have all of Gabby's clothes hung and sorted. Most of them are in the dresser in the changing table, but Im trying to be better about hanging things too. 

Whew, so another two rooms totally complete. And how is the rest of the house faring, you wonder? Eh, I thought that a total declutter was going to mean that the house NEVER gets dirty. And that doesnt seem to happen. Granted, its dirty with functional things - as in, the things that I pick up are things that we are using, not just things we dont have a place for. And actually cleaning up is easier as well because everything really does have a place. Still, Im still searching for that magical way to not have to clean EVERY SINGLE DAY. Maybe the secret is that you have to have the kids out of the house first ....

Also, Ive been managing my latest companion, which is the diagnosis of gestational diabetes. Its not as bad as it sounds, but its certainly not as easy as I thought. I never considered myself someone who ate terrible, but this is a HUGE BIG HUGE wake up call as to all the things I do need to change. I dont want this to be my life forever ... my diet is strictly controlled, from portions to food groups to time that I eat. I have to test my sugar 4 times a day by sticking my finger and testing my blood. I am starting to realize that I better really change the way I get to eat now, or else Im going to be paying for it later in life as I eat for survival. I think Id prefer to forgo some of those weekly ice cream trips or those late night snacks so that I can have them later in life .... not that I want to go crazy once Im off the diet, but I want to KEEP the ability to have birthday cake every few months. Id like to be able to have a dessert if I choose on special occasions. And that means that I need to change my look on food - its not a "reward", its fuel. And if I keep using cheap fuel, my engine is going to burn out. And nobody's got time for that. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Countdown to baby, Week 10 (holy crap!) - Living Room / Entry Way

You know what the bane of my "Pinterest house addiction" is? Post housing.

Sigh. Its just so ... white. White walls. White blinds. White ceiling fan. It seems like the worst color in the world to keep a house that has revolving door tenants, but I guess its the cheapest thing to maintain.

So here we are, week three of my challenge to make this damn house a home. I have to say, Im most pleased with the living room, of all the rooms so far. We definitely spend the most time in here, so it was important to me that I make something functional and fun. Bonus points for cozy.

This is sort of a mess, but its an ORGANIZED mess (thats what I keep telling myself anyways). We lost the playroom when we left GA, but there is just no way we can keep John's toys upstairs. We are rarely ever up there and there is no blasted way Im walking up and down for new toys every day. Not happening.

So we set up a nice little area for the bean. Lots of trucks, an art easel, and a box of books. I actually did go through that entire toybox and throw away the old, broken, outdated toys. That took an entire day but it was worth it. And yes, its still full, even with all of those gone ... I dont get it either.

And then we have a spot for baby Gabby. I need to put the newborn cradle on the top so that I have somewhere to put her if shes sleeping and I need to tend to something. Im not sure Ill want to leave her in the Mamaroo if John is running around and Im trying to tend to them both. He is QUICK and I think Id prefer her up high and out of curious baby reach. The brown cube holds our cloth diapers! Youd never know it, but its true. 

I absolutely love our entryway sign:

 Entryway and stairs. I put up hooks for the purses, since they always seem to get thrown on the floor. This is SO much easier. 

Also, my pictures always seem a little crooked. Makes me wonder if my balance is all off.

Not too many changes here. Moved the lamps to another place, since they were always in Johns direct line of fire. Cleaned out the cabinets in the entertainment center and organized them. Also got my P90x and Insanity so I put those in there too ... I cant wait to get started on them after baby. 

Put a few wall decorations up, moved some frames around, generally tried to fill in the spaces without it being TOO much. Printed out some pictures so it actually looks like we like each other. Took a lot of the crap out of here that didnt belong ....

So, another room done. It feels so much better to be in here with more room, and less crap. In general, the entire house is starting to feel like its opening up and getting a lot more functional and easier to clean. We still have a few little touches to complete, like getting something for securing and hiding the TV wires and well eventually have to set up a diaper / nursing box for Gabby like we have for John. One thing at a time though and so far so good!

This week Im focusing on the kids rooms. The littles room is mostly completed, but I need to get their closest organized, take inventory of Gabrielle's things, and get rid of some of the toys that are just sitting up there. The progress Ive made so far has definitely motivated me to keep going! 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

On raising the spirited child ...

In all the years we dreamed for a baby, we thought about a lot of things. We dreamed that s/he would be cute, that s/he would be smart, that they would grow up to be something wonderful and world changing.

One thing that we never really dwelled on was their temperament. It turns out - we should have.

On September 23, 2011 we delivered 9 pounds, 1 ounce of very determined squish.

From the gate, John was .... difficult. He HATED to sleep. Hated it. He cried most of the day because he was exhausted, but there was so much to see, and so much to look at, that he would fight sleep until it finally smacked him in the face. 

We affectionately named him the dictator. Because he was. One squawk from John would send the three of us running for something, anything, to stop the meltdown that was forthcoming. Because once John started, he wouldnt stop. Ever. It was like he was punishing us for not responding fast enough. 

A colic-ky baby is something that is very hard to understand unless youve been there. And, not to take away from anyones experience, but true colic is rarely solved with reflux meds, or with formula supplementing, ect. True colic is the kind where there is NOTHING you can do to make it better. There is NOTHING that the kid needs that you can give to him. You can rock, and shush, and gas drop, and colic calm until your eyeballs pop out, but it wont do a spot of good.

This was John.

You could SEE how tired he was most of the time. He was like a frat boy on a 4 month bender at this point. 

Everyone assured me he would grow out of it. And while some days I didnt know how we were going to get through it, most of the time I knew that, no matter how hard it was at the time, someday this would be something we would laugh at. And I have to say, eventually things got "better".

Once he started to get more mobile, he was a lot happier. Mind you, this was five months. John wanted to GO, and he wanted to go NOW.

But even though things changed, they didnt change like I thought they would. The colic spells lessened, but I had never seen a baby attack life with such vigor as John. He was loud, he was high speed, he still nursed constantly, he was on the go constantly, he laughed loudest, he cried loudest. He knew what he wanted, all the time, even when he was just a teeny tiny. 

Yes, you. 

About the time that I just imagined I was failing as a parent, a friend who also had a tiny dictator (we can spot our own) introduced me to Dr. Sears's section on the "high needs baby". 

Thank you! Finally, someone who totally understands what John is about. Words like "intense", "draining", "demanding", all the things that let me know that someone REALLY understood what life was like with a John. 

Dr. Sears was the first to convince me that there was nothing wrong with John. And there was nothing wrong with me. That its not because I fail to set a schedule, or that there is some inherent flaw in our genetics.

Its just the way he is. 

Seems like a cop out, doesnt it? I dont mean that we arent responsible for a lot of things. Anyone can tell you that I devote my life to this kid. We dont do a lot without him, I am very proactive about learning, playgroups, whatever we can do to explore and grow our minds. But while I am responsible for teaching him morals, right from wrong, responsibility, I didnt make him WHO he is, to the core.

And, although it sounds awful, its not always the worst thing ever. As John has grown, we have marveled in his personality. 

For as many times as he is headstrong, difficult, impossible, determined, or tantruming (which, is often) he has just as many times where he is hilarious, curious, animated, and entertaining. 

Ive come to realize that most people will never understand why I am still so quick to head off any incidents. Why I will leave to get him from daycare (that I have finally put him in for a few hours a week! Im socializing him) because sometimes I just know when John is having a John day - and honestly, during those days its not fair to him or to anyone else to ask him to be out of his element. 

A lot of people say that they have no idea what Im talking about when I say how "bad" he is. I take that as a compliment, because that means that Im doing my job well. I think it means that Im a good mom, and that I know when John has had enough, or is about to break down in a serious way, and I know how to head it off.

A kid like John takes a lot of pre-planning. I must know where the exits are at all times. I must always have something distracting, or the knowledge that were going to be 15 minutes late for everything. 

It means in the future that we have to allot for a lot of sports and physical activity, because he has way more energy than anyone Ive ever met, and we have to direct him to safe and healthy outlets for that energy. It means he's likely going to struggle in school, because it will require a level of concentration that he may not posses. 

But it also means that we have a little entertainer. We have a kiddo who runs and runs and runs, but then he crashes and is the sweetest cuddler youve ever met. We have a kid who loves to be kissed, hugged, loved on, ect. 

We have a kid who feels so safe with us that he has no fear. That might be a bad thing, but it shows that he doesnt doubt that mommy and daddy are right there to pick him up - and at this age, thats how it should be. I dont want him to be self reliant yet. I want him to need me, even with another baby on the way, because he is a baby, and I am his mommy. And mommy isnt a job that lasts forever - you morph into "mom" way before you know it, and theres no going back.

Ive also heard stories of another high needs baby. He cried for seven months straight, he was as hyperactive as they come, he was always INTO something and was in the ER more times than anyone could count. He was exhausting and demanding and animated ... he was just like John, so the story goes. Then he grew up, and he became a man who used his un-ending determination to marry a girl, and to love her so much that they made a baby that he was the best father in the world to. That little dictator grew up into one of the best men Ive ever had the pleasure of knowing.

They say the apple doesnt fall far from the tree, after all.

So, I continue to attempt to be the perfect mother to this kid. Some days I cannot imagine making it until bedtime, especially when weve had 4 battles at 743 am and there is no daddy, or grandma, or auntie around for backup. Some days I fall into bed and think, I cannot possibly do that again.

But then I think of one of my favorite quotes. 

Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have. It’s about understanding that he is exactly the person he is supposed to be. And that, if you’re lucky, he just might be the teacher who turns you into the person you are supposed to be.” – Joan Ryan

And I know that God made John exactly who he is. One day, his determination, his persistence, his overwhelming zest for life will serve him in exactly the purpose it should. I know enough to know that he is just who he is because he was created for a purpose. And while I may have carried and birthed him, he belongs to a higher purpose ... and Im not even trying to argue with that. 

Although, I do plan on using these blogs to work my way into the REALLY nice nursing home. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Countdown to baby: 11 weeks and Kitchen / Dining Room

This week was my kitchen / dining room experiment, and it was a CHALLENGE!

Ive realized a few things:

First, I cant have a Pinterest house on an Army post. We live in generic, white walled, cookie cutter housing. No painting, warm colors, ability to really change anything that would take a lot of work to un-do. While Im not complaining, it is a challenge to make a "sanctuary" within the sterile, cheaply made walls we reside in.

Second, the kitchen is never going to be clean.


Now, I dont mean that its going to be dirty with a bunch of yuck. But, its never going to be CLEAN. I tried to follow the Fly Lady emails, but she always wants me to shine my sink. And I cant, because there are always dishes in it. They are rinsed off dishes, but they are waiting their turn in the dishwasher. We do a load of dishes a day, sometimes two.

However, I dont think thats a bad thing. The kitchen is a constant hive of activity in our house. We eat 90% of our meals at home, so there is always something cooking, or simmering, or in various stages of prep. The kitchen will never be showroom clean, because we are always making a meal, or a snack, or cleaning up from one. We sit down for family dinner every night, at 6 pm sharp. I think its important, and its something I hope to be able to do for my children as they grow.

With that said, my main concern when getting this area in order was FUNCTION. I need to be able to have everything in a certain place, I need it to be a quick clean up, and I need to not freak out when John is in my kitchen.

Here are my results:

One of my first orders of business was the counter. I got this bucket as a catch all - nothing else goes ON the counter. It goes IN the bucket. And I clean out the bucket once a week. See what I did there? It means that the bills / wallets / papers / ect have a place. And thats what I was missing before - a place. 

Next, we HAD to have a tablecloth. Im not really a tablecloth sort of person, but once I had a toddler that eats at the table, I totally get it now. This is a plastic topped one, so I can wipe it off. That is so important, I cannot even say that enough. I CAN WIPE IT OFF. Life is so much easier.

The dog bowls are still in the dining room. I have yet to find a better place for them ... I guess well keep all the food in one place? 

Okay, listen. If you dont have a TV in your kitchen area, you are missing the boat. No, we dont watch TV when we eat as a family, but when its time to prepare dinner there is nothing better than closing the door, turning on the shows that YOU NEVER GET TO WATCH BECAUSE NO ONE IS QUIET, and having a little zen. Allen wins because it makes me enjoy cooking. I win because in the morning I let John watch a program with breakfast while I get my coffee and bearings together for the day. All around, best purchase ever.

Also, the computer is in the dining room. This is a logistics issue really. The desktop MUST be in a public area, turned to where everyone can see. Oh, you let your 14 year old have unrestricted access in their room? Thats awesome for you, but our family doesnt roll like that. Its also password protected, and only Allen and I have that password. Devon can have it when we deem appropriate. This is also a bonus because he doesnt sit in his room for hours on end. In fact, he is very rarely in his room. He spends 90% of his time downstairs. While that is sometimes tiring when youve had a long day, hell be out of the house before we know it and one day well wish we had that time back. 

On to the kitchen. I added some accent towels to give it a little bit of a homey feel. The HUGE difference is the one you cant see. I went through all our cabinets, threw away a bunch of things we didnt need or use. I then reorganized everything by usage. I also put everything out of Johns reach except for two drawers full of plastic cups and lids that he can take out and play with to his hearts content. That has really reduced frustration, because he reaches less for things that I really need and is content with his own items. We also dont have anything under the sink at all and keep all cleaners in the top laundry room cabinets. 

I dont trust child locks to be John proof. 

So there we are, two more rooms down. The biggest misconception I had was that doing this was going to ensure that everything was clean at all times. Now, thats not true. It still gets messy. But the GOOD news is that when it does get messy, its a snap to clean up.

Allen and I can be hoarders, both of us. We are notorious for saying "we will totally use this later", even when something is outdated or broken. This challenge is forcing me to get over that, and really evaluate what we use, what we dont, and what we need to keep. Im finding chores MUCH easier to stay on top of now because Im not constantly dealing with items that just dont belong. Apparently thats how people actually keep a clean home  - who knew?

I also saw a segment on the Today show that said clutter can actually make you fat.

This week Im working on the living room, and let me tell you, thats a challenge as well. Im excited to keep the clutter train moving on out of my house!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Why you dont say things you dont say to a pregnant woman.

By now I think weve all seen those lists that detail ALL the things you should never (under any circumstance) say to a pregnant woman. I think those lists are the best thing ever, especially considering the amount of those comments I get every single day of my pregnant life. I think everyone gets the point, but now Im going to explain the reasoning behind it.

I have had a lot of friends read those lists and then apologize. See, they had said those things to me and they really didnt understand why they were such a big deal, or why anyone would find innocent comments so offensive. Thats fair enough, so here I am, speaking on behalf of all the women who have been on the receiving end of a comment that made you cry, and not been able to explain WHY (and had it chalked up to "hormones", amiright?).

So, lets imagine that youve been horribly sick for a few months. Its not life threatening, but it is debilitating. You have to navigate this sickness, plus all of your normal responsibilities, and you have to pretend that you ARENT sick because no one can know. In the course of a few months, through inactivity and eating whatever you can manage to keep down (carbs, always carbs), you might have put on a few pounds. Hey, you might have put on MORE than a few pounds. But its not your fault, right? Youll lose it when you feel better and besides, youre just trying to get through this awful, all day sickness ....

Now imagine that all of your friends, and most of your family, and even a lot of strangers, say something EVERY TIME THEY SEE YOU. That something is along the lines of "OMG, youve gotten really fat", "wow, you are SO BIG, is that normal?!", "why have you let yourself go like that? My friend Jane had the same thing that you do and she didnt show it until she had it for at least seven months". Or the kicker, "when I was sick like that I stayed in all my pre-sick jeans the whole time!".

I think you get the point. I feel like some people believe that commenting on how "huge" someone has gotten is just a form of "look, youre pregnant!". The fact is that a lot of us dont hear anything about pregnancy. We hear "huge", which translates to "fat". So imagine that for the better part of 6 months (or whenever you might start to show), every single day someone says to you "holy shit youre fat". Eventually, no matter how strong your self esteem, that will wear at you.

As it wears at you, you will begin to look in the mirror more. And in the way of your beautiful blessing, the thing you prayed for, hoped for, went through hell for, will be a big huge block of letters that will say FAT. And instead of being proud of your big huge bump of life, you will be ashamed. You will try to look as small as possible, and some days you wont even want to go out of the house. You will preempt any conversation about your due date with the words "I know, Im really big. I know, its crazy. I know, by xx date I wont be able to walk. I know". It will become your mantra, to try to use as a shield so you dont get any hurtful offhand comments.

Now imagine that you are over the sickness and feel just fine. But for some reason, you have grown a large patch of discolored skin on your face. You cannot cover it up - its there for the world to see. You didnt ask for it, its just the way your body works and thats what you have to live with. Its not hurting anyone. Its not cancerous or going to hurt you. Youve been in consult with your doctor and he or she assures you that its only temporary and really, you are perfectly healthy.

But, its the same thing. EVERY WHERE you go, people gawk at you. They stop and ask "are you SURE thats okay?", "is it cancer?", "have you talked to your doctor?". After awhile youd want  to scream, because OF COURSE YOU HAVE. And if something was wrong, your doctor would helpfully tell you, wouldn't they?

This seems to be the case with short girls who get very huge (or anyone really, but I have to sympathize with my fellow short girls). Yes, we get BIG. Guess what? There is no where for the baby to go. We have no torso so we tend to grow OUT. Thats a good thing! That means that there is a baby growing inside of us. But when you hear from person after person "are you SURE its just one?!", "is your doctor okay with you being THAT big?" and always "my sisters cousins friend is as far as you and she doesnt even show!".

*On a side note, I have heard from my very tiny friend that this is not a phenomenon reserved for women who get very big, and that she heard all sorts of opposite comments from being very small - "are you sure the baby is okay?", "God, gain some weight!", ect. Equally hurtful, no doubt,

Please believe that the majority of pregnant women are seeing a doctor or midwife. Those medical professionals monitor the pregnancy, and even the weight gain. They will inform the woman if she has anything to be concerned about - weight gain, weight loss, or otherwise. That is their job, and why they get paid. These questions produce the same result as above.

Pregnancy really is a blessing, there is no doubt about that. Every day with your baby is a gift, and I wouldnt want anyone to ever think differently. It is difficult, however, when you might fall outside what society as a hole thinks of as "normal", which is whatever they or their immediate circle have shown to them.

Not all of us look like maternity models. Some of us have long torsos and the baby can stretch out, some of us have no torso and we carry the baby 5 feet in front of us. Some of us glow, some of us lose all of our "pretty". Some lose weight, some gain weight, but unless you are one of those rare people who dont care who you offend (and if that is the case, there is a karmic envelope with your name on it somewhere ....), I think its safe to follow the "if you dont have anything nice to say, dont say anything at all" rule, when it comes to pregnant women.

You dont have to lie to anyone - if your pregnant friend looks crazy and terrible, you dont HAVE to tell her shes beautiful (though, it wouldnt hurt). But asking her something snarky or hurtful certainly doesnt seem to have any benefit either. Trust me, she can see who she is in the mirror. She knows when her maternity jeans are too small (yeah, who knew THAT could happen), when she cant see her feet anymore. She knows that she doesnt look like her best friend, or her neighbor. She knows that she isnt exactly going to be asked to pose for a perfect maternity ad. She knows it, and she lives with it. Let that be enough.

Pregnancy seems to be one of the times where people believe its okay to say whatever they want. They seem to believe that pregnant women have a forcefield where comments wont crush their self esteem. Thats so opposite of true - in fact, during a time when your body is undoing all the work that youve always put into it, when you cant find any clothes that fit you, when you dont look the same as the people around you ... pregnancy can be even harder on your self image. If you toss in there a history of poor body image and low self esteem (and trust me, you dont know who has or is suffering from that), it can be a very dangerous thing to keep tossing out offhanded comments to someone. It can hurt way more than youd imagine.

Im probably a little over sensitive on the issue, given that I am a freak of nature (yes, I admit it). At 5 foot nothing I grow STRAIGHT OUT, and my last baby was over 9 pounds. I gained a lot of weight, and I had a lot of horrible things said to me. This pregnancy Ive been lucky to be surrounded by a group of supportive, uplifting, positive women who are so generous with compliments and quick to tell me that I look beautiful because Im creating life. I cannot express how much those words are like medicine when you need it the most. Im challenging everyone to be THAT friend. The one who goes out of her way to tell her friend how beautiful she is, how gorgeous her baby will be, and how NORMAL she looks (even if she doesnt, consider it your karmic payment for the week).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

You are the best thing, thats ever been mine.

Warning, this will be a picture post. Because I can. Isnt the point of blogs so that you can talk as much as you want, even if people dont give a damn about what you say?

On the eve of our sixth anniversary, I feel a bit reflective tonight. Six years ago, as I sat in a rented bedroom in Arizona, there is no way I could have imagined what Id be doing today.

Six years isnt *that* big of a deal, in the long run. Anyone can be married for six years really (unless you are Kim K, but lets not set the bar too low). Heck , in six years you barely have time to figure out all the things youd like to put down in your divorce degree.

BUT, for me, six years seems like a long time. Its a long time for two kids who dove in head first. Its a long time for a girl who had no idea how to be a wife - or, anything like it really (ha, just ask most of my ex's). Its a long time for two people who have never set down roots in the time theyve been together, who have only been on a handful of real dates, and who have been apart almost as much as theyve been together.

I, admittedly, had a lot to learn about love. I didnt grow up with any real male figure in my life as I navigated my formative years. I didnt know much about how marriage or families worked. Most of what I knew came from tv - that marriage should be fairy tale, it should complete you, it should be softly lit and always go right.

Over the years, I had to learn what love really looks like. Real life love - the kind that is busy, and imperfect, and not at all what you might expect. I had to learn that romance comes in forms that no one tells you about. I had to learn that romantic movies are like porn for women - they might be nice to look at, but it doesnt happen in real life.

Sometimes romance is a guy who will find a way to crash your birthday party, just for a chance to meet you (he may or may not be intoxicated - Im not sure that was part of the plan, but it worked in the end). 

Love might be the guy who, when faced with the breakup speech, says "thats nice, lets go get married". Now, in some circles that would also be referenced as "creepy", but in this case he was good looking and wasnt on probation, so it was cute. 

Romantic could be the girl who was so excited to see the boy, that she rode 20 hours on a Grayhound bus, each way, just to see him for 13 hours.

Love could be when the girl drives for 2 days to see the boy, to have a courthouse wedding ....

... with two strangers as witnesses (they wore cutoff jeans no less) ...

... and she hurried him back to the barracks and spent her wedding night alone. 

Love is when you become a family, with no hesitation or footnotes. When you both accept that there are challenges ahead and it wont be easy - but whats his is yours, and yours is his. 

Romance is a 4 day road trip, in a VW bug, 6 months after you get married, to create yet ANOTHER new life, in the one place you really didnt want to go to. Romance is being able to laugh when your AC gives out in the middle of death valley, and you see someone throw a TV over a fence as you drive by ... lost ... again. 

Love is shacking up in a tiny apartment thats all you can afford, and all you can find, because you are in the middle of a huge new place with no idea how to navigate it, or the Army. Love is deciding you absolutely need a dog, and love is a girl standing in front of a cage at the Humane Society and MAYBE strong arming a little boy out of the way, for the perfect puppy. Love is Sammy Lou, who has been our faithful, hungry, loving companion since that day. 

Romance is a mixed family, and flying (through winter storms and heart attack landings) cross country ALL THE TIME to keep us together, and where we needed to be.

Love is when your wife just has to have this little, feral, side of the road puppy. Love is when you dont say no to that, you name him Duke, and he's the worst dog that you cant help but love.

Romance is fighting your apartment complex in such a way that they actually let you out of your lease with no penalties, so that you can move your family on post in a much better neighborhood and bigger house.

Love was this Christmas / birthday where we almost lost our poor sick Sammy, and where he drove for hours to find what we needed to save her. 

Love meant a lot (a lot!) of goodbyes. 

And it meant that in ten months, this was the one time she saw his face:

But that ended with this: 

and it REALLY ended with this.

Love is getting the post deployment surprise that you were told you never would ...

Romance is getting orders all the way across the country, buying a house before you see it in person, and moving 3000+ miles away while 20 weeks pregnant.

Romance is assuring your pregnant wife that she gets more beautiful every day (even if shes just getting fatter). 

Romance is accepting all of your wife's crazy ideas about freestanding birth centers and no medication. Romance is holding her hand through 20 hours of labor, and being the one to pull your sweet baby boy into the world. Romance is being the first one to see his face, and him take his first breath. Romance is knowing you really did bring him into this world.

Love is learning how to navigate a newborn and a teenager, both who needed more than we ever could have imagined. Love is meeting it head on, even on the days when it got tough, because we knew that the kids needed us to be stronger than their challenges. They needed us to be the rock they could build off of. 

Love is saying "see you soon", again ...

This time with just a little bit more to miss. 

Romance is appreciating to the fullest when an Army decision actually goes in our favor (had to happen once!).

And romance is also deciding that if hes going to be home, then its worth driving back to Arizona to spend the summer with him. Even if it wipes your savings, even if its with a 9 month old ... nothing is worth missing out on months of time together. 

Love is the joy on your faces the day you find out that your family is growing again!

And romance is the man who will hold your hand when you find out that your family wont be growing right now after all.

Love is the guy who will come home the day after the hospital, head in his hands, and break the news that you are moving back across the country, to the middle of the desert, in a matter of months.

Romance is when you get news that you are pregnant again. He will tell you to rest. He will clean and prep an entire house for renting. He will hold your hand as you get that first ultrasound. He will understand that you have to cry for a few minutes before the tech can even begin because you are shaking and terrified. 

He will take you to Disney (pregnant and horribly sick) to help make up for it.

Love is when he drives 2 hours to find out what your rainbow baby is. Love is when he is so excited to have a baby girl, because its a baby her. Love is a man who loves being a father so much that he cant wait to do it again, and again and again. 

In the past six years, Ive definitely learned a few things about love and romance. They are the things that are between the lines - the worry on his face when your baby is sick. The years you can look back on and say - he never left me. The way you can get mad at him because you are secure that, no matter how ridiculous you can be, hes still going to wake up tomorrow and want to be beside you.

Love is fighting, learning, growing. I see so many people now a days trade in for a "better" model. They want the grass that they are sure is greener, and maybe that works for them. Hey, Ive had to kiss a few frogs too, you know? But I am so hopeful that one day I can look back and I can see the same guy beside me that is now. That I can make 500 pages of these entries that detail all the things that you can see, and that show all the millions of things that you cant. 

So here we are. Six years, 4 duty stations, 3 (almost) kids, 2 dogs ... 1 life. Its been a hell of a ride and I cant wait to see whats next.