Picking my own poison

The past few weeks (months, really) have been stressful (hellish) as we’ve watched our estimated date of moving shift ever closer to my baby’s estimated due date.  I have lots of experience moving, and I have lots of experience having babies, and one thing I feel very strongly about is that these two “events” should not happen at the same time.

In many ways, moving and having a baby are very similar.  Both change your life, and life-changes are anxious times.  Both require a certain amount of preparation.  Both have a time of intense chaos that lasts a few days or weeks, followed by a time of less intense insanity that goes until a month or so post-event, followed by a hopefully easier, but still somewhat stressful period as everybody involved makes their final transition to the new normal.

Many of the decisions you make and the work you do beforehand, contribute significantly to the level of stress throughout the process and the recovery period.  For example, spending the last month of pregnancy cooking and baking and filling your big freezer with food your family likes to eat is, without a doubt, one of the simplest but most productive uses of that nesting instinct that pays huge dividends once that baby comes.

Savvy military moms might instantly recognize that having a freezer full of food is great for a new baby, but not at all conducive to a move.  In fact, one of the preparations for a move is to use up as much of your stocked food as possible, certainly, at least, the perishable stuff.

Another great preparation before having a baby is to have a well-sorted and organized house.

Not a house full of boxes.

The list of conflicting preparations goes on.  Hence, the additional stress. 

One thing that is good to do for both these situations is to think of all the things that can go wrong and how you will deal with them.  What if that luggage carrier you intended to put on the roof of your car won’t work (been there)?  What if you find out that your car can’t pull a trailer (done that)?  What if your household goods won’t be delivered for two weeks?  What if the babysitter gets sick and can’t watch your older children?  What if you have a c-section?  What if the baby has jaundice?  Of course, in working out these situations, often all that one can do is accept the possibility and know that you will just have to deal with it (in the case of a c-section, for example).  Other situations, like having multiple babysitter options or packing some essential kitchen supplies in your car, have tangible actions that can be taken to minimize the pain when things go wrong.

And even if you can’t do anything to prevent something from happening – like jaundice in a newborn – you can seriously consider that having movers at your house within days of the baby’s birth is not a prudent course of action.  Do I hear an Amen?

For weeks, I have been in a mental rut, spinning through different ways to handle these upcoming changes.  I came up with Plan A which, although imperfect in many ways, tried to ensure the most success of both situations.  The biggest downfall was that it was going to cost a lot of money.  Plan B cost less, but favored a successful move over a successful birth.  Plan C meant a good birth, but nothing else: no leeway if there were post-birth issues, and the move was certain to be a disaster.  My husband was not helpful in coming up with better plans.  I talked to several people, and they could help me see other issues and flaws in the three plans, but no decent solutions. 

I finally asked (begged) God for mercy and guidance, and did mange yesterday to come up with Plan D.  It’s not perfect, either, and I know it’s not done: details will change, possibly the entire time line may get shifted and we’ll likely end up executing Plan E or F or G.  But this is the first plan that has flexibility, that balances well the issues of both situations, and doesn’t cost too much (moving always costs some money, the question is how much, and that is generally answered by your personal comfort level and how much you enjoy sleeping on air mattresses…and when you are extremely pregnant or have a newborn, the answer is: not at all).

But now, at least, I have some peace of mind in knowing a basic timeline, knowing how that timeline may shift (to the right and not to the left), and knowing what needs to be done beforehand for a better chance at success.  I am much calmer this morning than I have been in a long time.


Finally, after that productive meeting of the minds with Bill that got me a working plan for the next 4 – 5 months of my life, I remembered that it was a new month.

“Oh!” exclaimed I to my husband.  “It’s a new month!”

He looked at me.

“What are we going to name this baby and who will be the Godparents?”

He laughed.  “We have plenty of time for that,” he said.

“OK,” said I.  “We’ll talk again next month.”  

Just as we did last month and the month before.

Therapy Dogs and the Making of a Legend

I realize that it is unlikely that any person who reads my blog might also read Men’s Health magazine, but there does happen to be a great article in the October 2011 issue.  They did a piece on the therapy dog program at my husband’s unit.  Because this program is new (my husband’s got the only one), it is controversial (bureaucracies do not like new things).  But these dogs really seem to make a difference to some soldier’s mental health and overall ability to cope with life.

Much of the controversies have come from potential violations of regulations: pets are not allowed in barracks, only service dogs are permitted in buildings, working dogs (K-9) must be kenneled in certain ways, etc.  Therapy dogs are not exactly service dogs (like seeing-eye dogs) and they’re definitely not K-9, trained to sniff out drugs or guns or attack fleeing bad guys.  There have been growing pains as the unit has had to help define what a therapy dog is and how the dogs may live and work on post.

The Men’s Health article doesn’t talk about any of these issues.  It talks about the soldiers and how the dogs make them feel, how the dogs have improved their lives, calmed their nerves, soothed their tempers, and given them something outside of themselves to think about.  It’s an interesting read, and I hope that subscribers will come away with a greater appreciation of what some people suffer in the name of Freedom.


On a completely personal note, the article is a great keepsake for our family.  First of all, there a chest-up photo of my husband that takes up almost the entire page.  It’s nicely photo-shopped to remove any blemishes and add in a vague stubble, I guess for artistic purposes.  Secondly, Bill is quoted several times, and his quotes are added in twice on the 8 page article as a highlighted blurb. 

And lastly, and best of all, my husband, my husband, is described as “a buff, hard-bitten combat veteran” which sounds so very cool.  I had no idea I was married to Rambo.  I am so thrilled to be wed to such a walking example of testosterone-laden heroism.  Ladies, feel free to drool over my husband’s picture, but remember, he’s all mine.

I plan to take this article to a frame shop and have it mounted in some way.  It will hang on the wall of our home, and our daughters’ boyfriends will read it and know they can never compare (and hopefully worry about what Daddy might do to them if they break his little girls’ hearts).  Eventually, our grandchildren will read it and say to each other, “Wow!  Grandpa served in Afghanistan.  He must have been a really tough guy.  See, it says so right here.” 

And the myth will grow.  And I’m ok with that. 

Working weekend

Ever notice that men write the biggest tear-jerkers?  What is up with that?

We got burnt to a crisp on Friday at Jekyll Island, GA.  It wasn’t a pleasure trip; we were there “on business” at a mandatory fun, family event for my husband’s unit.  Bill had to twist my arm to attend (NOT).

The event was hosted by local businesses and groups, and the media was present.  Here is one article:

Sense of Normalcy

It’s touching.

Blue Star Museums

Once again, the Blue Star Museums Initiative begins tomorrow, Memorial Day, and goes until Labor Day.  Last summer, we happily took advantage of the free museum admission offered to military families at participating facilities.  I noticed one new addition in my local area to last year’s list, so check your state, even if there was nothing on it last year.  This is only the second year running, so we can hope that it will only get wider participation every year.

I went, I wept, I wimped

My husband returned from Afghanistan 343 days ago.  I haven’t been counting (I used a date calculator), but I did not need to look up the date.  December 18th is a very important date for me, as is February 23rd, the day he completed his Kosovo deployment in 2004. 

I am thankful to have my husband home this Thanksgiving.

My friend, Laurie, did not mind too much that her husband was not home in time for a turkey dinner.  Her husband came in late last night.  Since my kids were all in bed, I offered to go and take pictures of their reunion.  I assure you, we homefront survivors want those pictures, but we’re not taking them ourselves.

So, I went.

And I wept, sort of.  I had to keep pushing images from last December out of my mind and repeating to myself, “Do not cry, do not cry, do not cry.”  It’s hard to hold a camera steady if you are sobbing, and I wanted to do a good job.  I felt like I was living in a Hallmark movie.

After their initial hugs, they stood facing me for a formal shot and then I beat feet out of there.  As I headed for the exit, I passed a woman taking pictures of her husband holding two infants.  “Would you like me to take a picture of all of you?” I offered.  “Sure,” she replied, but with a questioning tone (who is this random stranger available to take pictures?).  I didn’t explain myself – I clicked and left.  I hope that poor woman had help this past year. 

I’m not much of a Black Friday shopper.  I think I went once, before I was married and had very few people for whom to shop.  But the Army post is halfway between my home and Toys R Us, and the toy store opened at 10 pm, and I have a $10 coupon.  It was not yet 11 pm when I left my friends, so I thought it would be a great idea to get some shopping done while I was all pumped up and happy from cheering and flag waving.

I drove up, took one look at the line to get in the door that stretched across the toy store, across the big store next door and around the corner, and I wimped out.  I kept on going to the other exit and drove straight home, no conquering victories to report.

Divide and conquer

Tonight I am the mean mom.


I don’t do sleepovers.  We’ve done a few, but they generally don’t work out.  Lots of “over”, very little “sleep.”  And even if the disruption isn’t in my home, my children are cranky and out of sorts the next day.  Delayed disruption.  No thanks.

I have done several late-nighters – watching someone’s children in my home until late (or having someone watch my children at their home late into the night).  I don’t mind them so much.  Generally you only need to dole out lots of popcorn and put on a movie and before you know it, it’s time to go home.

Tonight, though, is a school night, and I needed children – my children, at least – to go to bed at a reasonable hour.  My friend’s son had a playoff football game two hours away, beginning at 7 pm (and she called me at 7 to say it had been delayed…11 and 12 year old boys beginning their football game well past 8 pm at night on a school night…priorities?).  Her husband is deployed; there is no way I could, in good conscience, allow her to schlep her 4 other children (ages 11 down to 3) all the way down there that late at night.  I have done these things myself, and they are the events that break us.

Afternoon playing, pizza dinner, ice cream dessert…no problem.  Pajamas, brush teeth…all was good.  Then the fun came to a screeching halt. 

I segregated the families.  Mine: up to bed.  Hers: living room with books.

“But why?” several little girls wailed.  The other children gave me the no comprendo blank stare.  “She can’t be serious,” they seemed to be thinking.  “She’s never done this before.  She must be out of her mind.”

Nope.  Not out of my mind.  Just very serious about having a peaceful evening.

And it was very quiet and peaceful.  My crew behaved as per usual with the girls going off to sleep and the boys re-enacting the Normandy invasion in their room (but the room is far away and I can’t hear them).  My friend’s youngest fell asleep almost immediately on a chair.  The others looked quietly at books. 

It was about a half hour ago that the 5 year old came in and said, “Miss Michelle, can we watch a show?  We’ll keep it down low.”  I am quite certain his older sisters set him up for the task.


There was a pause, and then a look of complete shock.  Suddenly he realized: my mother has left us with a big meanie.  He turned and walked away, speechless.

“You could go to sleep,” I called after him.  And you know what?  He did.

A specific prayer request

I received this email…friend of a friend…and I think it’s such a fabulous way to support the troops.

Blessed friends,

Some I have had the opportunity of talking with directly, others are hearing this for the first time: I have been deployed to Afghanistan in an emergency status to fill in for a chaplain that was killed here recently. I will be here for ten months, in a region that is highly dangerous and hazardous in many ways to my Soldiers and the local populace. We are here to make life better for the locals, and we have our work cut out for us.

My men and I are greatly in need of your prayers: prayers for protection, for perseverance, and for hope and courage in the face of the challenges we face. I am asking that each of you commit to some time of prayer, either daily or weekly, with some specific prayer or scripture verse you will pray and reflect on, in our behalf. If you so accept, I ask that you send those verses/prayers so that we can know them and join in as well. If your prayer or verse changes, please update that with an email–even if it is a different one every week/day. My goal, vision and hope through this project is not just to surround my men with a prayer hedge of protection, but to get all of us praying more and taking time to acknowledge the presence and purpose of God in our lives.

Thank you in advance for your support!
This is from Fr. Kevin Peek.  I’m not going to post his email or snail mail addresses here, but I’ll email anyone who requests it.  Or you can post your scripture verses here, and I’ll be sure to forward them.  He has limited internet access, so I don’t want him flooded with spam.  If any of you belong to a prayer group that wants to spiritually adopt him and his troops, I suggest one email from the group to help minimize the volume in his inbox.

Random Saturday

Bad night for sleep. First, Katie came into our room because she was scared. Bill had her sleep on the floor next to him. Then Jenny brought Mary in because Mary was scared. I pulled Mary into the bed. Jenny went back to bed, but couldn’t fall asleep, so she checked on Katie (in the top bunk) and freaked out when she saw the bed was empty. She came back to our room, so we put her on the floor next to me. She was shivering with fright, and asked where the dog was. I assured her that Greta was in her usual spot in the corner, on guard against all bad guys. I got into bed and lay on my right side facing out, Mary to my back, Jenny just under me.

I heard a noise, so I opened my eyes. Jenny was standing right in front of me, and it startled me, so I yelped. Bill, fast asleep, heard my cry of alarm, so he abruptly sat up, yelling, “HOO? WHA? HUH?” This scared the daylights out of Jenny, who screamed and jumped into my arms.

This is one of those scenes in a movie that you think is silly because it wouldn’t really happen. And then it does.

The three of us haven’t gotten much sleep since 4 am.


As soon as Bill gets back from his bike ride, I’m heading out to the store to buy the last few things I need for my month of meals. I have 2 more dishes to prep and the sauce for some meatballs to make, which means I’ve completed 27 1/2 meals. I’m pretty pleased with myself, although I admit to being a geek when I make a batch of chili and get excited that the huge amount is enough for two meals so I’ve already made a meal for October!!

It’s a good thing I’ll be done today, because my meal plan begins tomorrow. I’m not done blogging about it…I just need more time. Still flying by the seat of my shorts.


There are some really really wonderful people in the world, and my family is fortunate enough to benefit from their generosity. Time share/condo owners have donated off season beach rentals to a program called Warrior Vacations. Next week(end), we will be staying for free on Amelia Island in Florida for 4 nights. We are all looking forward to this time away, although I have predicted at least two crises from Bill’s work to interrupt things. Bill had yesterday off, and there were two crises just for yesterday. The holiday weekend is still young. Who knows how many more there may be?

I had planned my meals as easy to take along for the trip, but now I’m doubting that we’ll have a full kitchen there. If we do, I’ll probably hit a local grocery store for some easy foods. This means that my September month of meals should last me through the first week of October. Cool.


Except for one child who needs to finish a novel for Religion and one child who needs to take a math test, we have finished three full weeks of school. Due to visitors and other distractions, it took us 3 weeks to do the first week, but we’ve been on track for the second two weeks. I’m pretty happy about this. I’ve arranged the school year in groups of 3 to 5 weeks followed by a catch-up week…or a week off if we’ve stayed on track. Next week will be gloriously light. I will have the kids bring some reading along, but other than that, we can have a guilt-free vacation.

Should be lovely.

Battle Buddy

An emergency came up last evening and I had to bring home my friend’s five children for a likely overnight stay. Eleven children aged 12 and under are extremely noisy. Of course, just to make things interesting, my husband and I took them all out to the local ice cream shop.

For once, nobody asked if they were all ours.

All was fine and my friend picked up three who were still awake when she got back late last night. As we were going to bed, my husband told me I was a good friend.

“I’m not doing anything I don’t expect my friends to do for me…not that I’ve ever needed something like that…wait, I dumped our kids’ at Rachel’s house when I had a D&C…see, that’s just how we are.”

Just two nights before, I was running out to the all night grocery store to buy formula and a bottle for a breastfed baby whose mommy had to run his sister to the ER. Her husband is deployed, the friend watching her son (the same one with last night’s emergency) has a deployed husband, and my husband was deploying when I had the D&C. This is just the nature of our lives right now.

We’re more than friends. We’re battle buddies.

Following my own orders

We didn’t get home from baseball until after 9 pm last night. It was 10 before the kids were bedded down and I remembered that I needed to change the dates on some documents for my husband. He would have done it himself, but one was a JPEG file I had created, so it was complicated.

It didn’t take long to complete the job. I printed a copy of the changes, emailed him the new versions, and showed him my work. Finally feeling “done,” I sat on my chair next to his chair to relax for a bit before bed. It had been a long day with a field trip to an organic farm, ballet class for the girls and then the baseball game.

After a minute, his GI Blackberry buzzed telling him he had a new message. “Go to bed,” I growled at the electronic leash. “It’s nearly 11 o’clock at night. Why would somebody be up this late sending you emails? Don’t these people ever sleep?”

He picked up the thing and looked at it. “That would be your email,” he said.

“Oh, go to bed,” I growled at the phone again. And then I did.