Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Squishy Turned One!

I never intend to stay away from here for as long as I do. Life is up and then down, or rather busy then really, really busy! I am still learning how to get things done with a kid in the mix. One, who by the way, is nearly 14 months old now! And down to one nap a day. She isn't quite walking, but she pulls up and cruises around the furniture a lot. She babbles, growls, and says "uh oh" but just to be cute. We have a real highchair now and she can feed herself diced up fruits and veggies. We still mostly spoon-feed her, but we're getting there with self-feeding. She eats just about anything, for now. Now that she's definitely teething, she is liking cold foods more than before. She sleeps through the night and wakes up between 615am and 7am. If she's up a bit early for us, I bring her to our bed with a bottle and we all cuddle. She'll reach out to touch me and Aaron, but likes his cuddles best. I do, too.

Aaron had a month-long stay at Walter Reed, with two weeks of it in the hospital. He came back right before Valentine's Day. He missed her first birthday party here, but she still had a great one. Tons of family and friends came by and I think everyone had a great time. It was in the high 50s that day, so the party spilled outside in the sun. I had two of my best girlfriends in from across the country. It was as amazing it could be. He back up there now for a doctor's appointment then off to South Africa for a plains game safari hunt, paid for in full by Safari Club International members. He is going to have a great time living out a dream.

Aaron not being here for AJ's party and first birthday won't be a one-time thing. While we have ducked out of the military life, there will still be absences. He will require medical care and it won't be appropriate for her to visit all the time. There will be hospital stays. Even though his HO and muscle surgery went well, he will still have to go through with the bone extension at some point next year (most likely). It kind of sucks that we still can't seem to get out of the lifestyle of having him miss milestones, but it is what it is.

On that note, here are some great shots from her birthday photoshoot. I am addicted to Visual Arts by Jessica. Squishy just lights up for her and we get amazing photos I couldn't love more.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What we got.

I wasn't supposed to be here this time. I was going to wait, but then he said he wouldn't be back to celebrate her first birthday, the day of on the 27th or our little party.

So I came to make sure he got something with her. Memories for both of them. You never know when pictures and videos and notes and stories are all someone has left of you. I want her to be able to look back and know just how much love she had in her early life, even the parts she'd never remember.

She won't remember this either. I'll have to tell her about her first trip to see daddy in the hospital. It's her first because it won't be her last. This is her life. Our life. It was just my life, being the one waiting on him, but it is hers, too. She makes everyone happy and he's held her while laying in his hospital bed. He dealt with her when she stepped on his nub, fresh with stitches and wounds. That's his life.

It's just what we got. It's okay.

He was so happy to see us and be surprised. He says he's sorry he can't be her daddy jungle gym. It's like the day we both teared up when we realized he'd never "airplane" her because you need legs for that. These were different days. I've already cried a lot about all the things we're all gonna miss because war came home and nearly half of him didn't. It happens, and I'm over it.

But I cling with my whole self to what we can have, and I'll be damned if we can't have a birthday party for him and her. I will be mom and take bad pictures with my iPhone. He will be dad and feed her the first bites of cake as she tries to crawl through it. Everyone will oooh and ahhh and laugh and talk about how big she is getting. Aaron was gonna miss all that, and I just couldn't allow for that to happen. There is so much already.

There might be things he does miss. It's normal. People travel. Some parents deploy. Others save lives or go to court or sell houses or work in retail. But we live everyday with what we don't get, trust me, so I'll take what we can. I'll steal it. I'll create it. I'll build it or buy it. Whatever it takes to have a tiny piece of normal and nice.

Aaron will be fine. I will be fine. Squishy will be fine. And her first birthday party ever will be in the USO center and I was able to surprise Aaron in the hospital because of Luke's Wings getting me here. I will take "date night" with sushi while sitting on the end of a hospital bed because there aren't legs there and the cuddles as he naps. I got to see him. And he ordered the sushi. My favorite.

It is what we got. And it's more than okay. It's just perfect.

Monday, January 12, 2015

When It Matters.

I never intentionally check out of this space; life just gets in the way and I realize one day I haven't done the thing I enjoy the most. And then I wait until I have to be here, because sleep will not come with a brain still running full speed, even if I am exhausted at 9pm.

We all do our bests as parents. We all feed, clothe, and love them in the best ways we can. One can not quantify being a good parent. I know I do my best. I buy her organic baby food when I don't make it myself. I breastfed for as long as I possibly could, and now give her the best formula I think my money can buy. Her diapers are eco-conscious and low in chemicals. I balance modern medicine with more natural choices; we go to a chiropractor and her well-baby appointments. When she's not feeling well or is restless, she sleeps between me and her dad. Her wish list of toys for her first Christmas was made with development in mind. I ration all medications and read about hexane and DHA and grains and cow's milk and plant milk and and AND. It doesn't matter. None of that matters. Money can't buy love but love certainly is not enough. We have to be reasonable, encourage our children, love them, let them go, push them out, and then welcome them back in. Take them to the doctor when they are sick, raise to be respectful and kind to others, teach them to work hard, to love others, be nice to pets. When they graduate, drive cars safely, help those less fortunate, join the military, become doctors I can promise you it doesn't matter if their diapers were eco-conscious or their formula all-organic or if you breastfed for 22 months or if you went through a drive-thru twice a week.

Squish wasn't herself this past Friday, and we ended up in an after hours pediatrician's clinic, with a diagnosis that probably was right but not severe enough to warrant the antibiotics I gave her four times. Her behavior improved but the side effects of the medicine increasingly got worse. I decided to pause dosing her and called the nurse's line. I know this is risky. But it had been 24 hours since her last dose and the side effects were getting worse, not better. Even though it wasn't an allergic reaction, something terrible was happening to her and I was the one giving her the thing that was doing it to her. I know, I know- probiotic, thick diaper cream, yoghurt. But none of that was going to help her diaper rash stop from getting so bad it did eventually become raw. None of that was going to help her to absorb her food's nutrition faster than she could expel it. I bargained for an appointment, and in the end I learned a very important lesson: I am her mother, and I know when something isn't right, and no nurse's line is ever going to convince me otherwise ever again. Not even for a few hours. She's going to stay off the amoxicillin and we're going to get her gut and little butt healed as fast as we can. None of this would be happening if I hadn't kept calling, kept asking trusted friends, kept listening to myself, although I didn't listen fast enough.

This isn't my fault, but I still feel a ton of guilt. I did the best I could with what I had at the time. In short course, I will have my happy baby back. Her perfect little butt will heal. We will recover from this. She is loved by so many. Her grandmothers have been here to help since dad is off to Walter Reed for more surgery with his father in my place (this was decided months ago, and another source of guilt and concern for me and a separate post). I know it will be okay.

I am sure worse is down the pipeline and this will be a foggy memory soon enough, but I won't forget the day I realized that I might just be a great mom: it's the same day I felt like like an inadequate one.

And that's one thing that matters.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Some Days.

On a day-to-day basis, I don't think about life being any different than what we're living. It is what it is. We're together, we have AJ, we're moving home soon- all of that is great. Perfect.

But some days.

Some days, I want TBI to manifest itself into something human so I can punch it in the face. Repeatedly. And often. I'll take the physical disability hurdles over the mental ones any day, a million times over, and I reckon Aaron would, too.

Some nights.

Some nights, like last night, we have to face an ER trip and deciding how to do it without taking the baby in with us. She is not yet able to care for herself (infants are notoriously bad at that, I hear) so thank gods a good friend answered the phone and was downright perky about driving 45 minutes after midnight to spend the next 4 hours in the ER with Aaron. If baby girl weren't eating weirdly and at all hours, I would have gone but I didn't know what she was going to do. And while the ER isn't the most enthralling place to be at 3am, a screaming baby is probably less enticing. So I was here, and Aaron was in the ER. Feeling like you have to choose between your husband and child really sucks, by the way. I've been there with Aaron for 3 years. This was the first time I sent him off into the night alone.

Sometimes, many times, it just sucks. You'd give anything to take it all back. Be normal. Wonder how it would be to be moving all over the world, setting deployment goals, having homecomings, making new friends every few years, and just basically not being us. Aaron could have finished 20 years or more. I would have finished a degree and started my own career. Don't even get me started on the things he will never do with his daughter because of all of this.

Some days, it's not so bad. Every once in a while, he or I will experience something that almost makes all of this shit okay. We've met some neat people, been some amazing places, and had some truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. And some of those days, we're more than okay. We're awed at what people are willing to do for us. Just the idea of us.

But some days, we're just tired. Just so tired and it's like it's impossible to catch up. Will we ever not need help? We will go back to something that we can pretend is normal? We have so much to feel grateful for, so much love all around us and in us and in front of us, but it's just not that simple. Some days, the blessings are exploding. Other days, they are hard to see, like missing the forest from the trees.

Just some days, there really aren't any words.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What the hell, Food Giant?


I live just steps away from a Fresh Market grocery store and Trader Joe's. If I need something not available, I go to Target. If I can't find it there, I will buy it online. However, I am trying to curtail my Amazon habit since the company treats its employees so inhumanely. But I saw an ad for Beech-Nut baby food, and wanted to look at some canning jars for homemade purees, so I decided to go across the street to Food Giant.

This was a massive mistake. I have learned that a routine and consistency are key to a smoothly operated week, especially with a baby and disability in the picture. I have a system and it works for me. Convenience can be pricey but it's often worth the cost. 

First of all, this particular Food Giant is in a busy shopping center with terrible service road placement so it was kind of a pain to get there, even though it's less than a mile away. All the carts are outside the store, where the front is thick with huge storage pods (I think that's what they are) and fall squash. Dirty carts and a clogged entrance. All that is missing is this:

The layout is a bit weird. I couldn't find a lot of choices for organic produce, but there was a "healthy eating" section. I found some baby food and frozen organic vegetables, but not what I was looking for. So, off I went.

It was crowded. I've never seen more products in my life. I think this place must sell as many items as Costco. I finally find the baby food, and it seems that the Beech-Nut is on sale. Nice! It's only a few cents but it brings it down to a dollar per large jar. I gather up some Stage 1 and Stage 2 flavors and then head to check out. My cart is full, so I look for an employee operated check-out line instead of self check-out.

This is where everything falls apart.

Food Giant is apparently attempting a "work for them" model of shopping. There were at least a dozen self-checkouts, including longer conveyor belt operated aisles for larger purchases. All lanes had "12 items or less" on the signs but some were dimly lit while others weren't, and yet others were brightly lit. I am now moderately confused. There seemed to be only one or two lanes with actual employees, and of course people backed up. I decided to self check out for lack of options.

I began to make all the wrong moves. I pushed my full cart up to a dimly lit "12 items or less" self check-out stand, but was quickly corrected by a suited employee. Okay, fine. I needed to go to one with a conveyor belt. So I go find a full lane, one that resembles lanes operated by employees but with the self check-out computers at the front. I had 1.5 liter bottles of Smartwater, but they wouldn't roll down the conveyor belt. The same employee came over and instructed me on how to place the bottles on the belt correctly. He then scanned a few more items, including sending my bread items down the line first so all the cans and jars following could smoosh the bread. Awesome. I am now slightly more-than-moderately confused and more-than-moderately irritated.

So now I needed training to check-out at the grocery store. A grocery store that has employees, but operates fewer check-out lanes with staff than Wal-Mart on a Saturday the first week of school.

I am not apt at scanning a cart full of food. I have worked probably 30 different jobs in my lifetime, but working at grocery store has never been one of them. I can scan sweaters and shoes with the best of them, but not food. I had to place the scanned items on the belt before you could scan the next one, where they had to pass through a red laser line. Even checking out a dozen jars of baby food was difficult. Some of them didn't check out with the sale price, but I was too flustered to stop and go check at this point. I think this is intentional. I had to look up all the produce items manually. There were multiple opportunities to put in incorrect items, whether intentionally or accidentally. I can't imagine what their theft loss looks like.

Now I just don't care anymore, as I have no idea how I got roped into working for Food Giant and not getting paid. I am past confusion and now just quietly raging inside. It's not like their prices are so amazing that one could fail to notice that they have taken someone else's job. For free.

So right at the end, on the very last item, I get a warning from the computer that I need to stop and bag some things before I continue scanning. But I don't need to scan anymore! I just want to check out! Please! Couldn't someone at least bag all these groceries? No. No one works at Food Giant, except for the poor man in a suit who probably hates this system more than I do. So now I had to get enough items off the belt for the computer to go back to the original screen. I go about this, then head back up the conveyor belt to check out. Finally, something goes as planned. I am having to push the cart back up and down as I do this, though, as there is no clear path of maneuvering. I then went back down the line to bag the rest of my groceries. Since I had not done this before checking out I didn't know if I was going to use any store bags, which cost five cents each (county tax). This is another opportunity of loss to the store and the county, since there is no way to predict how many bags will be used. As I finally bagged up my groceries, another person came along to begin this horrible process for himself. I told him to go ahead as I bagged up my things. I used the cart to go back out to the car even though I didn't need it. I had no place to put it and didn't know what else to do with it, besides push into a display of pumpkins. I have never felt such animosity at a grocery store before.

On my way out of the world's worst grocery store, I see a display full of portable scanners. Apparently, you can grab one of these gadgets and scan your items as you shop the aisles. Okay, cool! But what about bagging them? What if the wrong price is charged? What about honesty? Do you have to go bag these items yourself? Wait in one of the few lines operated by an employee? Or go do it at self-checkout where the computer is going to go off every ten seconds about bagging and item weight? What if you have a kid who takes things out of the basket and puts them back on the shelf? This, too, seems like a horrible experience designed to fluster the customer to the point of not caring what price is charged. "Just give me my damn goods and take my damn money!"

Can you imagine doing this with children in tow? While in a wheelchair or with another disability? Forgetting to scan an item? Scanning too many (well, that's actually not a problem considering how long between items you have to wait to continue). This was an impressively terrible shopping experience. I don't care how awesome Beech-Nut baby food is because it's not worth a trip to Food Giant.

I didn't even get to look at their canning jars, either.
I think I'll order them online.