Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

Thank you to all who are serving, or have served, our great country. Your sacrifice, courage, and dedication to the protection of our nation's freedoms is immeasurable. We can not thank you enough.
And special thanks to all the families of our servicemen. Your sacrifice does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Where Do I Begin?

Oh dear. There has been so much going on that I don't even know where to start. My mind is just swimming. I feel like everyday it is a battle to remember the basics. We are so slammed.

Let's see. Where did I leave off? Hmm...

-Ben was moved to a toddler bed, and so far we haven't had any problems. He hasn't tried to escape. He hasn't trashed his room. He has been doing a fabulous job. I feel like I am jinxing everything just writing that down, but there it is. He is a champ. Sure he fell out of bed once in the middle of the night (and somehow became wedged underneath the bed) but other than that it has been a completely smooth transition.

-My mom had her Ecocardiogram done and it was pretty miraculous. There is still a problem there, but her heart is functioning at a normal level for now so there is no need for surgery at this point. We were all so sure that surgery was needed that this was absolutely blessed news. Yay!

- Todd and I celebrated 8 years of wedded bliss last week by, oh I don't know, watching tv or something. I can't really remember. HA! If you want a nice romantic anniversary post you can see what I wrote last year for our anniversary here. I don't have it in me today. Don't worry honey, I'm not salty. It has been a good 8 years, but I'm still ticked off at you from the nasty dream I had last night.

-I had my 7 month check up (see belly pic below) and everything is still looking good. I think I am getting another ultrasound at my next appointment to check if my placenta is still lying low. Hopefully it has moved up by now. We'll see. I have noticed that I am really beginning to gain some weight now so I've decided to turn around on the doctor's scale from now on so I can't see what it says. Denial? Perhaps. But, does it even really matter? As long as doc says I'm not gaining too much too fast I'm not going to worry about it. I'll go by my trusty scale at home (which I hardly dare to step on either) for now.
I was thinking that maybe, since this is my last pregnancy (it seems), I could see how much weight I can gain. You know, really plump out. Gain as much as possible. Then I could go on The Biggest Loser (I love that freaking show) and win a ton of money. Sound like a plan? Hmm. Maybe not.

-Okay. The house situation. Here is where it gets stressful. Last you heard the house we had wanted was sold to someone else. So, because it is getting closer and closer to my due date (ACK!) we stepped up our efforts to find a place and called one of Todd's good friends from high school, who just so happens to be a very good realtor, to help us out. He gave us a bunch of new listings to look at that are in our price range with most of the things we are looking for in a house, and also offered to help us sell our house. All without taking any commission. Can you stand it? We are still running our open houses but we are now on the multiple listing for realtors to take a look at. Yay! While it has all been well and good, it has also been a lot of work.

- A week after we lost the last house I was driving through one of my favorite neighborhoods (right on top of Lake Michigan) and saw a for sale sign down one of the streets. I turned around to take a look. It is down a beautiful, quiet, dead end street where all of the houses are probably more than half a million dollars. A place we definitely can not afford to live, but like dreaming about it anyway. When I got to the house that was for sale it was the crappiest house on the block. It looked like it needed a TON of work. I wrinkled my nose and drove on. When I got home I decided to look it up online since I have always loved that neighborhood so much, and what I saw SHOCKED me. The house was selling for almost the same price we are selling our house for. How is that possible??? I had Todd do some checking and we came to find out that it is a foreclosure. Todd and I immediately called the realtors for a showing. We found that the house basically needs to be gutted. The whole heating system needs to be replaced, many of the pipes, walls ripped out, ceilings replaced, the house needs to be checked for mold. There is a huge swimming pool in the back that would need to be ripped out (I would be in a constant state of panic having a pool in my backyard, "where are the boys???" every five seconds). We ended up bringing contractors through to give us estimates of how much it would cost to get this house up and running. It turns out, a lot. But the cost of the purchase price and the construction price is still something we can afford and FAR less than the cost of the other houses in the neighborhood so there is instant equity. The house would be AMAZING when we got done with it.

We had to move FAST. The house was getting a lot of attention because of where it is located and the opportunity that it brings. We started the loan process and getting all the bids from the contractor and the subcontractors. We've been online and to local store constantly looking at countertops, cabinets, carpeting, siding, shingles, you name it, all to get estimates for our construction costs.

In the meantime we have been having a lot of showings for our house. Now that the house is showing up on the realtor's multiple listing the interest is growing. However, I am living in a constant state of chaos. I've had people at the house everyday this week. Sometimes twice a day. Keeping the house clean and presentable while still allowing my boys to live and play in it has been a major challenge. Especially since I have only had a few hours notice for some of the showings. We have a couple of people interested in the house right now, but because they just started looking (and one of them has to sell a house too) they want to look a bit more before putting in an offer.

Life is busy. And stressful.

I keep wondering what I would do if someone bought our house and the construction on the new house wasn't done yet. Where would we live? Could we go and live up at the in-laws' cabin for a while? Will the new house be ready by the time the boys are back in school this fall? Where would we live while they are going to school? The baby will most likely be here before the house is done. Where will I put her? I guess I could get a moses basket for her and she could sleep next to my bed. And maybe keep her clothes (that I don't have yet) in a box in my room. I guess that wouldn't be too bad. Hopefully it would only be for a little while. I don't know.

My head is flooded with paint colors, flooring tile, shower/tub combinations, siding choices, cabinet stains, and carpeting options. I feel a little bit crazy. Sleep has been hard to come by lately. I'm stressed. Last week I was sick again and Todd is convinced that it is because of stress. He vowed not to tell me anything about the new house anymore, but I don't think that helped.

Nothing is even definite yet. We are still in the loan process stage. Waiting for the appraisal to come back at a decent amount, yada, yada, yada. Blaaahhhhhh.

See why I haven't written at all lately?

This really is all good stuff, but is still bringing me so much stress. I feel like Debbie Downer. And I do feel guilty complaining about it. We are so lucky to be able to even have the options we have right now. Todd's job is so secure, he is busier than ever. We are very blessed. But this house stuff (along with a bunch of family stuff that I can't write about) is very stressful. It has left me a little down because I SO want to be soaking up this pregnancy. Never did I dream I would be having a little girl, and I feel so distracted right now that I am not enjoying it to the fullest. Makes me mad at myself.

I am really working hard at just trying to enjoy my growing boys and my growing belly and leaving all the rest to God's will. I can only do what I can do, and there is no need to stress. Right? Right.

So. There it is folks. Aren't you glad I haven't been posting? Haha.

I'm sorry I haven't been around to visit. I will be back again when things calm down. For now we are going to try to get up to the in-laws' cabin this weekend to help put the pier in and do some yard work and such. Maybe when I get back we can all play the name game and you can help us narrow down a list of little lady names. Yay! Girlie names!!!!

I hope you all are well and good, and have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

WW- Belly Shot- 7 Months

Okay, people. There is your shot. I know I have been absent for quite a while. I'll have to do a summary of what has been going on the last week or so. Just not today. No time! But I did want to give you a belly shot because I am always obsessed with lady's baby bellies.

And yes. I've been stress eating, as indicated by the bootie. But can you tell me this? Why do I look smaller with my belly covered? Is that weird or what? You would think that more layers would make me look bigger, but it doesn't. See?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Another Milestone

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Yesterday the boys and I went to pick up Ben's big boy bed. Daddy dutifully took down the crib and put the bed together the minute he got home from work. We hauled the bed upstairs, and after carefully washing the bedding we set it up in Ben's room. To say he was thrilled would be an understatement. He crawled onto the bed and didn't want to come off. He bounced, he sat, and he showed all of his stuffed animals their new home. He even practiced lying in the bed to get a good feel for it.

When it was time for dinner Ben had to be pried off the bed, kicking and screaming. I think he liked his new digs.

That night we kept the same routine as always except we included a gate in his doorway to our nightly ritual. I told Ben he would get juice in the morning and any kind of treat he wanted if he slept like a big boy in his bed. I tucked him in, closed the door, and sat outside of his room waiting. And listening. Nothing.

I turned the monitor up so loud I could hear him breathing, and the ceiling fan whirring, but other than that the room was silent. I crossed my fingers and hoped it would be an easy night as Todd and I talked about how stressful each new transition seems to be. More so on us, though we hide our panic, than on the boys.

I lie awake all night listening for any moans or cries that might come from Ben's room. I held my breath as the ambulance sirens (Ben's biggest unexplainable fear at the moment) blazed past our house at 1:00 in the morning for the fourth time this week. Still, no sound from Ben's room. An hour later I heard cries. But they didn't come from Ben. I quickly ran to Tommy's side to shush and comfort him. I solved the stuffy nose problem, and put him back to bed. As I tip-toed over our creaky wooden floors I prayed that Ben would sleep through the chaos. He did.

When Tommy got up at 5:30 to go to the bathroom and accidentally slammed the door I cursed under my breath. Still, Ben slept.

Todd, Joey, and Tommy got up and went downstairs while I waited in bed for any noise from Ben's room. Finally I got up at 6:30 with Ben still snoozing in his bed. A few minutes later I heard rustling on the monitor and I rushed up to his room where he was chilling and relaxing.
HE DID IT! He slept all night in his big boy bed without any fussing or complaining. No crying. No getting out of bed. No rummaging through his drawers and tossing clothes around. No playing with toys. He was A. Big. Boy.

I was so proud of him. We all danced around and sang songs of Ben's big-boyness. We got him juice! We got him COOKIES! We jumped up and down and clapped our hands. And he loved it.
He was a happy boy, clearly so proud of himself. Later in the morning he even let his brothers sit on his bed for a few minutes, though he constantly reminded them, "Mine!" Just in case they got any funny ideas, I suppose.

It went better than I could have imagined. I am so proud of my little big boy.

Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed and my breath held for naptime.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Day In The Life

Todd's best friend, Nels, is a mixture of John Wayne and a fuzzy blanket. He is all tough and manly on the outside, but warm and snuggly on the inside. The kind of guy, all of his friends say, that would give you the shirt off his back. And he has. Literally. He would do anything for those he loves, and is much more a brother to Todd than a best friend. It was a "no brainer" that he would also be our firstborn's godfather. He is a member of our family.

The first time I met him he was wearing shorts that were actually torn off army pants, a Hawaiian shirt, and combat boots that came up mid-calf. And it was July. I immediately knew he was a character but I didn't know just what an amazing guy he was.

Ten years back Nels had gone through a very rough fight with testicular cancer and won. Not a year after the cancer was gone he took on a pine tree while skiing and lost. He completely shattered his pelvis and couldn't walk for some time. He takes hit after hit, and what would make most people feel cursed made him feel lucky. He just kept telling us how lucky he was. He is inspirational.

I think one of my favorite memories of Nels comes after Todd and I were dating just a few months. Todd and I were talking about getting married and when Todd left the room a surprised Nels decided to take me aside and ask me "my intentions". I was immediately endeared to him for looking out for his "little brother".

A few weeks ago Nels departed for his second tour in Iraq. Nels has been a in the National Guard for over twenty years and is now a First Sargent in the Infantry. If there is anything he loves as much as his friends and family, it would be his country. He is a consummate soldier and has been asked numerous times by his superiors if he would be an officer, but he has refused. He wants to be in the trenches as an infantry man with his brothers. He feels he needs to be there making sure the younger soldiers under his command are safe.

Nels posted an entry on his Facebook account the other day that gave us an intimate look into what life is like in "the sand box" the second time around and going on 40 years old. I know we all appreciate our soldiers and the sacrifices they and their families make for us everyday, but I thought this brings the images of those sacrifices to focus. I asked Nels' permission to post this today, and he gave me the okay. I know it is a bit long, but take a minute to read it. He is an amazing writer and a amazing guy.

(Nels, Joey, and Tommy right before Nels' first deployment)

28 APR 2009: I just flew into Kuwait, and boy are my arms tired.

We had a 4 day pass starting last Sunday night. Most of the guys with wives or steady girls had arranged for them to come down. Those of us that are orphans were left to raise a little hell. Most- all, really- of the people at my rank are married, and therefore had better things to do with their time. Younger guys really don’t want their Platoon Sergeant watching over them while they are on their off time. In any case, I ended up meeting some Brits in El Paso learning the newest bits of the fine art of shooting down airplanes. They lamented the fact that there aren’t many countries with airplanes worth shooting down any longer. But if you are ever in need of an ad hoc drinking buddy, find a British soldier.

I couldn’t find a room in El Paso after the one night I had reserved, so I went out exploring New Mexico. I was ready to get back to base after the second day. And not just because New Mexico is dull, even though it is. It’s a bit hard to explain, really. We were focused preparing to come over here. ‘Mission’ was all we had been doing or thinking about for the past two months- and in the outside world, everything kept moving. I became conscious that I was standing straighter, talking shorter and a little more serious then the few people I saw. I’d listen in on conversations in diners and bars, and was more than a little confused. Any way, I was just ready to get on with it.

I got a tattoo, cause it seemed like the right thing to do while in Roswell, and called some of my guys to link up. We went to a nice little Texas Bar called “Whiskey Dick’s”, it was as classy as it sounds, the kind of bar you see in movies about Texas. My boys all felt about the same way I did. “It’s weird out here, let’s go.” So the guys with families said goodbye, and we orphans resigned ourselves to being sober for a year, and we reported back to duty.

From there, the automatic pattern takes over. We liken it to the forced road marches that we do. You stop thinking, because thinking just makes you more aware of the dull ache, and just put one foot in front of the other. So we pack, and do paperwork, and ensure that everything is ready to go, clean and check weapons again- and you do it all on autopilot- form up, shot records good, stand in line for chow, stand in line to draw your rifle back. And the next thing you know it’s time to board the airplane.International travel is never fun. But the Army…

Wake up at 6 am (26 APR Texas time- 2 PM Iraqi time) to make sure that bags are ready to be inspected at 10 (6 PM Iraq), dogs sniff and check bags. Each man’s gear weighs about 250 pounds, spread between two big, standard issue duffle bags and one large ruck sack. Bags are loaded onto trucks, driven to airport, tents cleaned and turned in, guys walk shoulder to shoulder through the compound to ensure no trash clutters the desert. Wait for the bus. Get on the bus. Count heads. Count weapons. Count sighting devices. Count night vision. Verify everything is correct. It is. Go to holding area. Place carry on bags in neat little rows. Dogs sniff, and we are good. Wait for Colonel, who we’ve never seen before, to give send off speech. Yawn. Wait for Colonel, who we’ve never seen before, to tell us that we are the best he’s ever seen and how we have trained so hard that he is certain there is nothing we can’t do. Roger. Board the airplane, a civilian DC-10, and wait to take off. Plane off the ground at 5 PM (1am 26 APR Iraqi time) Fly to Bangor, Maine, because that is where all these flights go to refuel before leaving America, and experience one of the coolest traditions about deploying courtesy of the Bangor VFW, Legion, VVA and their auxiliaries.

Every soldier needs to leave the aircraft as it gets fueled, so you walk into the airport. The Bangor Veterans Organizations greet every flight of deploying or returning soldiers at the exit. If you are deploying, they say “we’ll see you when you get back”, when you come home they say “Glad you made it home safely”. We got there at 11 PM local time, and there were about 20 people to shake our hands as we walked into the airport. They ensure that the food counter is open 24 hours a day, and you can order their specialty, a Lobster Roll. They have been sold out the other times I’ve been there, but this time I got one. It was delicious. Even at $10.50, worth double that. The veterans come around and talk to guys, let them use cell phones free of charge and take photos that they will email to loved ones for you. To be honest, I am getting a little choked up thinking about it. It is a marvelous gesture, this small community of veterans, in a small community in America, working as hard as they do. There were 2 WWII vets there, they must be 90 years old at the youngest, who came down to the airport at 11 PM, to pat us on the back. “Hey fella, I’ll see ya when you get back!” “Thanks for being here, sir, you don’t know how much it means.” “Yes, Soldier, I do.”

Back on the plane and fly to Leipzig, (used to be East) Germany. Greeted by a guy who appears to have a skunk on his head with horizontal stripes shaved into it. Have two hours in the airport- go to the gift and refreshment shop, see some very odd T-shirts and ‘Swiss-Cannabis Tea- for quick relaxixed feeling’. PVT Martin, we are not in Kansas anymore. Today’s Germans are so different from the old farmers next door.

Now the journey gets a bit rough. 260 Gis +/-. Sweaty, farting, confused and tired, get back on the plane at about 4 PM local. 5PM Iraqi. Not sure what day it is anymore. It doesn’t seem like the sun went down. Get to Kuwait city at 10:45 PM. It’s stuffy, but not hot when we get off the plane. Now for the pain. Get onto something like a bus, but smaller. 40 men per bus, with weapons and bags digging into ribs and kidneys. Ride to an area where we all have to get off and wait. Count heads. Count weapons. Count sighting devices. Count night vision. Verify everything is correct. It is. Go to holding area. Drink some water. Smoke- Thank GOD! Get back on the bus. “It should be about a 2 hour ride” 3 hours later, everybody and their brother has a bladder filled to bursting point. Get off the bus, stand in line for porta pot (there are 6 for 260 +/-, and don’t dare use the sand). 5 minutes, line has moved once, get back on the bus. Get off the bus, ahhhhhh, relief. Unload bags and move them to tent in 35 minutes- quite impressive, really. Go to asinine briefings- in one, we actually heard a woman say “Kuwait is a dangerous place- really” Uh, no it’s not. Last incident was 2004. Two questions pop into my mind: “Is this really your sum total job in the Army?” And, “is that smoke I smell?” The answer to the latter is no. Because I don’t have a nose in my ass.

We walk outside the briefing tent and the sun is up. It was 0600 28 APR Iraqi Time (10 PM 27 APR Texas time) We have been travelling for 29 hours, up for 43? Really have no idea what day it is. It doesn’t matter. Ground Hog day number 1. It feels hot, but we know worse is coming. It was probably in the high 70’s, was pushing 100 for a high. It will get much hotter, so we are a bit relieved. Jet Lag starts to kick in. I resolve to stay awake and sleep tonight, maybe that will help to get over the change. I make a lousy optimist.

The effect of being here takes a while to set in. Kuwait, still only in Kuwait. There is dust in the air, the distinct smell of freshly pumped porta-pots and ‘black water’. (Black water is the stuff that drains out of the showers and picks up its own sweet/rotten odor) Iraq will smell worse; it has the added tinge of burning and rot. There is a good reason that you don’t see many posters for the Middle East in your local travel agent’s office. It kind of sucks here. It is an uncomfortable place to be.

The smells take many of us to a place we had hidden. We have become good at using one another for stress and anger relief. We, a couple of us, talk over smokes about feeling the anger rise up. There is no specific cause for the anger. It is just the emotion in the background. It is a feeling that comes with being aware of everything all the time, knowing that people want to kill you, knowing that you need to be ready to kill them, being here, ignoring the heat, cursing the smell, knowing that your life is on hold for another year, wondering how some things might have turned out if it wasn’t for this war. Angry that it isn’t a ‘real war’ any longer. Just angry. I don’t know what causes it, but I am angry. I was angry. Many of us are angry. I guess it’s a good thing, too. Sometimes it works as a tool, anger. WOW, I’m tired.

I talk with some of the older guys. I was here with some of them before. Another guy has come to us since we got back last time. He did 2 tours in Fallujah with the Marines when it was a bad and deadly place. Another, younger, guy did 15 months humping up and down the mountains in Afghanistan, where the fight was much different and more personal. We share stories, most we have heard and told before, but they are retold. They are stories of narrow escape, of gallows humor, of disgusting and revolting things that have happened. We have been training now for a year, so there is not much we haven’t heard. But we laugh as hard as we ever have, and that is how we cope, I guess. Our own little grunt support club.

I will go to sleep soon after typing this, and visualize fishing. Casting, really. And all will be right with the world.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Kindness of "Strangers"

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek
I know this has been said so many times before that it is fast becoming cliche, but I never knew what I was getting into when I started blogging. Never did I imagine that I would actually make friends with strangers and take comfort in their wisdom and kindnesses. And yet after yesterday's post it is clear to me that is what has happened.
I swear I have the best bloggy friends and readers in the WORLD. It is like you know exactly what I need to hear and what to say at the right moment. You have all been so inspirational to me through the past year or two whether it was dealing with my father's illness, day to day dealings with my little monsters, or even loosing the "dream" house. You are the best! And not one of you has told me to shut my whiny trap yet, though I probably deserved to hear that more than once.

I really want to thank you all for being so kind.
To say that I am feeling better about the house situation is an understatement. I know that the right situation will fall into our laps at exactly the right moment, and I am truly not worried about it anymore. Todd, my mom, and all of you are exactly right. God's plan is always best, and I trust Him. But thank you for reminding of that when I needed to hear it. You all continue to amaze me.
Today I received a package in the mail from Laura at Lunatic Fringe. She sent baby girl the sweetest little sleeper and the most gorgeous slippers along with toys for the boys and a beautiful card. I am blown away. A "stranger" wanted to send my kids something special. I swear it makes me want to cry.
Thank you so much Laura. It was so incredibly thoughtful and I can't wait to see the little lady in her adorable outfit and shoes. And the boys thank you too. :)
Yep. I definitely have the most amazing bloggy friends. Again, thank you all for your kindness and support. I am so appreciative. I hope you all have a fabulous weekend.
Updated: On Monday I received another surprise package from the lovely Kelley. She makes beautiful girly items and sells them on Etsy. She sent me some adorable handmade bows, and even some sweet little headbands to attach the bows to in case little lady is a baldy. Isn't that thoughtful? There are bows in every color. I just love it! Thank you so much, Kelley! You are such a sweetie!

Words To Live By

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson