Thursday, December 31, 2009

1 Birthday + 1 Anniversary = A Very Special New Year's Eve

Two enthusiastic shoutouts to one of my favorite married couples and a mother who is out-of-this-world.

This New Year's Eve marks a birthday milestone for my mother and a 5th wedding anniversary for my brother and his wife.

Knowing that we'll be able to celebrate occasions like this in closer proximity in the very near future puts a big o' smile on my face.

Happy Birthday, Ma!

Happy Anniversary, Tiana and Kyle!

And Happy New Year, everybody!

Know Pain? No Gain!

During our week filled with "lasts", we had a quite the "first": the first time calling Poison Control.

Isaiah found a cup of Gain in the laundry room Tuesday evening and decided to take a swig. I was busy in the kitchen when I heard that distinct sound of gagging/puking. When I realized it wasn't one of the girls, I followed the sound to one very sick little boy doubled over by the washing machine. At his feet was a red cup surrounded by a puddle of thick, teal blue fluid. I had passed by that half-filled cup at least 11 times that day with no other thought than, "I wonder what J has in there?"

I yelled out to him, "WHAT WAS IN THAT CUP?!" He answered, "Gain" as he came rushing into the room. I grabbed the entire bottle and looked up the number for Poison Control. The guy who answered was surprisingly laid back. (One of my main concerns is the fact that while Isaiah is now mobile and extremely curious, he is absolutely non-verbal. He can't tell us his tummy aches or if his head hurts). PC informed me that very rarely do kids drink enough detergent to reach toxic levels. It tastes BAD. Mariah commented that she couldn't understand how something as yummy- smelling as "Apple Mango Tango" Gain could possibly taste that bad.

J fed him a bowl of ice cream as recommended and soon my happy, non-puking, little boy returned. Although, he did seem a bit disappointed that something as yummy-smelling as "Apple Mango Tango" Gain could possibly taste that bad.

But his breath has never smelled better.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

One for the Road

I don't know where this road
is going to lead
All I know is where we've been
and what we've been through

~"It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" by Boys II Men

They say that in the military, there are no "goodbyes", just "see you later". But today as we await the company coming to pack up and move us across the country, believing that doesn't make it any easier saying goodbye to some of our favorite people from the last 2 years.

From bus drivers to babysitters, the Brownies are going to miss you and all you have meant to our family.

See you later.

Monday, December 28, 2009

While the Cat's Away...

...the mice seek therapy.

Life can be messy. Complicated. Confusing. Overwhelming.

While I am absolutely flattered when people say I am a "strong" woman, the truth is I'm just doing what I can with what I have been given.

And sometimes along the way, I need a little direction. A shoulder to cry on. A hand to hold. Someone to listen. I appreciate my support system of friends and family, but sometimes that which needs to be laid out there requires the eyes and ears of a stranger.

I started seeing a therapist almost 6 months ago. No coincidence that it was right around the time J deployed. J and I had a rough sendoff and unfortunately, things don't tend to get much better from halfway around the world. Mix in the needs of my special little boy and making sure his older sisters were also feeling the love and it was easy to see how my feelings of being overwhelmed morphed into feelings of being pushed to the edge.

I chose an Army Chaplain because I knew I would get counsel from a Biblical perspective, which is really important to me. So once a week we would meet. And he would listen. He would let me talk and talk...and very often, cry. Being able express myself was liberating. He reserved judgment and never tried to tell me how I should feel. Instead of telling me what I should do, he nudged me to search my own heart and soul--to allow God's word to minister to me. I bought books, studied the Bible, and eventually experienced a huge breakthrough.

Admitting I needed help took a huge leap of faith. Actively seeking it was even bigger. There is such a stigma attached to mental health--especially in the military. No wife wants to think she's somehow derailing her husband's career because she believes she's been labeled "crazy". Honestly, I thought long and hard about even blogging about this. But at the end of the day, I know for sure that it takes a strong person to say, "Hey. I'm in over my head. Someone toss me a life jacket. Preferably one with a little cross on it..."

So in that sense, then I guess, yes,--that does make me a strong woman. Sometimes I just need to be reminded.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

This Christmas

Christmas came early with the arrival of my husband from Iraq. So Christmas morning at our house was very special this year. It was practically perfect ~ itty bitty blue tree and all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pump It Up

While J was in class on Monday morning, the kids and I attended Isaiah's physical therapy practice's annual Christmas party at "Pump It Up". They had a blast. Well, the girls did. For Isaiah, the jury is still out.

Hitting the slopes with Mr. L ~ P.T. extraordinaire!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Reunited and it Feels Surreal

J's plane touched down in Seattle late last night, just as the kids and I were pulling into the cell phone parking lot. And although it had been the end of a very long journey, what his arrival also represented was the start of a new beginning.

But first, the "reintegration".

Basically, it's what the military calls the gradual process of learning how to be a family again. After so much time apart, J has learned to survive our separations doing things his way. And I have been doing what I need to to make life manageable for me and the kids. What works during a deployment doesn't always translate in the redeployment. And that's the tricky part.

Mariah asked me earlier this evening, "Mommy, when will it feel like Daddy isn't just visiting--like Granny or Ti-Ti?" It is a completely baffling phenomenon having a husband/father feel like a guest in the home you have made together.

I am over the moon having my husband safely home. After 14 years of marriage, that man still gives me butterflies. Readjusting to living together and parenting together isn't instant just because we love each other. But because we love each other, we will work at it. Before long, it will feel like J never left in the first place. And hopefully he won't have to leave us again anytime soon.

Welcome Home, Baby. We missed you.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Philadelphia Freedom

J had an unexpected vacay in Philadelphia this weekend. From the base in New Jersey, he and his new BFF and traveling buddy, an Army officer also headed home to Seattle, were supposed to fly out of Philly, into Chicago, and then out to Seattle.

Blizzard 2009 had other plans. They spent the night in Philadelphia.

They were re-booked for an early morning flight that was, you guessed it--cancelled. They were put on "standy-by" for an afternoon flight. I cannot begin to express the amount of frustration involved in having your returning soldier so close yet so far away. Talk about a roller coaster ride. I've been believing all along that God is in control--always has been, always will be. Knowing that with my whole, whole heart has made this process easier to bear.

But it also doesn't hurt to have connections.

J contacted his handler with the White House Communications Agency in D.C. to explain his dilemma. They are expecting him to report for duty early next year. My ever-enterprising husband requested Air Force One. Instead, he got a confirmed seat on the next flight out today and a First Class upgrade.

Alas, he also looked out for his new BFF. He is confirmed for the flight, as well. But the soldier, who happens to outrank J, will be flying coach.

And they just boarded... :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

There's no place like home...

If clicking his heels 3 times was an option for J, I'm positive he wouldn't hesitate. No matter how ridiculous that would look in combat boots.

My husband left Iraq on Tuesday. He was finally able to catch a flight out of Kuwait on Friday. He called from Germany yesterday afternoon to inform me that he was headed to New Jersey after a pit stop in Iceland.

And that's about the time I started to hear rumors of a historic snow event dumping its way up the I-95 corridor.

Am I getting "Punk'd"?

Thank God he landed safely in New Jersey. And if his flight home gets delayed or cancelled? Well, we've made it this far ~ what's another day or 2?

At least that's what I keep telling myself...until I believe it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


There's a scene from the first Jurassic Park movie where the kids are hiding from the dinosaurs in a huge commercial kitchen. The "experts" monitoring in another room convince the kids' grandfather that they are safe--unless the dinosaurs have suddenly learned how to turn doorknobs.

The scene cuts back to the kitchen door--specifically the knob that is now slowly turning. Enter the doorknob-turning Velociraptor.

Now, enter my doorknob-turning Velociraptor:

Yup. He has learned how to open doors. Lock up your daughters and hide your Quaker instant oatmeal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


J has been out of Iraq since Tuesday. Yay! But we have yet to see him. Boo! He's in a little place I like to call Limbo. It's near Iraq, but not in a war zone. Yet it's still thousands of miles from home. From there, soldiers going on R&R Leave have priority on the flights heading back to The States. What that means for my dear husband is that he could--in theory--be waiting for days for an open seat on one of those flights.

We are trying to take it all in stride. We changed our moving date, which is probably--strike that--definitely a good thing. No more wondering how we are going to get everything done and be out of the house by Christmas Eve. No more worrying about having to endure Merry McNuggets for Christmas dinner. Not having to explain to the kids why Santa didn't visit because we crossed the state line. Nope, we are off the hook and having Christmas all together here at home this year.

Oh snap!

We are going to be here for Christmas this year!

I have done zero prep. No tree, no decorations, no presents ~ nothing. What to do? What to do? When I mentioned my dilemma at Isaiah's PT session this afternoon, they immediately told me to told me to go. To leave Isaiah and go hit up the local Target. I could not get out of there fast enough. Along with the loot I bought for the kids, I found this little gem:

Can't you just read his mind?

Yup! It's a tiny, shiny blue tabletop tree! And it lights up. It's perfect. Simple and fun. There was no way I was going to attempt to retrieve the 6.5-foot monster from rafters above the garage.

After centering myself following my mini panic attack, it hit me. Christmas to me is not defined by the gifts, the decorations, or even the mighty (or in my case, not so mighty) tannenbaum. Those things have their place. But at the heart of the matter, it's about Jesus. And Jesus is about love...the kind of love that sustains a soldier until he can finally catch a flight home.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ghost of Christmas Past

It felt a little like deja vu ~ snow falling the week before the kids' Christmas Break. We haven't gotten anything close to what we experienced last year when the kids ended up with an early start to their winter vacation. But the 2-hour "icy dusting" delay today was a little too close for comfort.

Isaiah walked outside in snow all by himself for the first time yesterday. Aaaaand he didn't really like it. He found it safer to drag me around by the hand to explore his own miniature Winter Wonderland.

He loved looking up at the snow coming down--even as the flakes landed on his face.

Gosh I love my Snowflakes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wish Me Luck!

I'm entered to win a lotion/balm/salve gift basket on my latest addiction: the "To The Max" blog! I can so relate to Ellen's daily triumphs and challenges of raising a child with cerebral palsy.

And bonus: she gives away some really nice stuff over there. :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Naughty or Nice

Remember when I said I was going to cut myself some slack with our photo Christmas cards this year?

After failing to get "The Perfect" picture of the kids, I decided to go in a different direction. There are currently 2 versions of the B family's 2009 Christmas cards in circulation. I've dubbed them the "Naughty" and "Nice" versions.

Stay tuned for the reveal of them both.

Brain Freeze

What is it about J's car that entices every bird within a 2-mile radius to poop on it? It's not bright or flashy. It sits out in front of the house and not even under a tree. Since J's homecoming is imminent, I took it upon myself to de-poo it yesterday.

The frozen garden hose should have been my first clue. It hadn't been above freezing for a few days. But it was 37F then. I figured the water in the hose hadn't had a chance to thaw. So I went in the mud room and filled up buckets with warm water and car soap. I pulled J's car into the driveway and doused it with soapy water. The mess came off surprisingly fast. That gave me incentive to go ahead and wash the entire car.

I was ShamWowing when I realized that the water had stopped running down the driveway. It was s-l-o-w-l-y freezing.

In my good deed I had unintentionally created a death trap. I had turned my driveway into an ice-skating rink. The air was above freezing, but apparently the ground didn't get the memo. I have no idea what I was thinking. I don't do cold well.

Fortunately, it's supposed to warm up to the 40's today, so I'm hoping that gives the ice a chance to melt and evaporate. And just in time, too ~ it's supposed to snow tomorrow.

Wake me in the Spring.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hazard of the Job

Could you still get workman's compensation if your boss happens to be 37 pounds, 41 inches tall, and is absolutely adorable? I was hoisting The Boy onto the bed Tuesday night so he could talk to Daddy on Skype. I had an awkward grip on him with my left hand when suddenly his weight shifted. My yelp startled even me.

I didn't realize how bad it was until the pain kept interrupting my sleep. By the time I woke up and tried to go about my morning routine, it became clear that something was going on with my wrist. Sitting in an ER was out of the question. But Isaiah did have a physical therapy appointment scheduled. I decided I'd ask his PT for his opinion.

After examining my wrists, he concluded I hadn't broken a bone or torn a ligament. What I did have was a pretty pronounced sprain. He said he hears about injuries like this often occurring in the parents of his Special Needs kids, which was both comforting and terrifying at the same time.

In order to give the wrist a chance to heal without re-injury, he recommended a splint. He fitted me for one he had there at the practice and gave me some "Biofreeze" to apply a few times a day.

When people ask me what happened--with a bright pink wrist splint, it is inevitable--I'm prepared to look them straight in the eye and say with conviction, "Special Needs parenting: it ain't for wimps."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

10 Years of Sunshine

She missed being a Millennium Baby by a few weeks, but as far as I am concerned ~ she arrived right on time.

Although I thought for sure I wanted a boy, from the moment she was born, I knew Mariah was destined to be my second, sweet-faced daughter. There hasn't been a day in the last 10 years that I have ever wished Mariah was anyone but the delightful girly-girl that she is.

Happy 10th Birthday, my Ya-Ya!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Deep Fried Weekend

Weekends = Rest. Relaxation. And dough-frying.

And although a pesky sore throat, congestion, and 3 kids kept me from resting and relaxing, I did find enough energy to make funnel cakes this weekend.

I first tried funnel cake years ago--probably in college. Once I had that first taste, I couldn't believe I had been missing out on such fried goodness! From that moment on, whenever there was a fair, carnival, or festival happening, I made it my mission to find the funnel cakes.

I bought an at-home kit from a school fundraiser a few months ago. Savannah pulled it down from the shelf yesterday and asked if we could make it. I felt like poo, but how could I resist? It is funnel cake, after all.

Worth the effort, for sure. And it's a good thing there was a ray of sunshine in my weekend because this morning got off to an unexpected start. As I was standing by the kitchen window fixing breakfast, I noticed some debris blowing up into the yard. I thought to myself, "Hmm. That looks like stuff I have thrown away."

Sure enough, while we were sleeping, a wind storm blew up and was wreaking havoc in the neighborhood. I opened the garage door to see two of three of our receptacles missing. Fortunately, the trash was picked up on Friday, so only one bag of trash fell out. But the other can was full of recyclables that get picked up every other week. There were cans, bottles, cups, far as they eye could see. Trying to pick up trash while the wind is gusting is ridiculous. The bag I had been using to recollect blew inside out--not once, not twice, but three times. Yeah, that was fun.

Before this weekend is over, heat up some oil: I think I'm going to need more funnel cake.

Friday, December 4, 2009

To Serve and Protect

But who protects them?

Our community is still reeling in the aftermath of the worst act of violence against police officers it has ever seen. An ex-convict went into a local coffee shop and executed 4 police officers last weekend---officers who were just sitting having coffee on a beautiful Sunday morning. Preparing for their shift one minute, gunned down in cold blood the next. In a few short moments, a total of 9 children lost a parent. The Lakewood Police Department lost 4 of its own. And we were all left wondering why. And wondering where the killer had gone.

Lakewood is a close-knit community just beyond the gates of our military installation. It has a huge, familiar shopping area that was a welcome sight after living overseas for so long. In the hours following the shootings, there was shock, grief, and fear. After all, there was a crazed gunman on the loose who obviously had no regard for life and nothing to lose. Then came word that he was located....and killed by a Seattle police officer on routine patrol. There was a collective sigh of relief. Through the pain, there was a sense that it was over. But how had he eluded police--inflicted with a gunshot wound, no less? Apparently he had been aided by friends and family members. As much as I love my family and friends, if you show up on my doorstep bleeding from a gunshot wound, I'm dialing 9-1-1 even before I open the door.

I am outraged and disgusted by this. All life has value, but his family's arrogance and lack of remorse on his behalf is downright insulting. They were on the news last night--enraged that they weren't allowed inside the courtroom for the proceedings of a relative charged with abetting. They. Were. LATE. The victims' families managed to be on time...

The Memorial Service for the slain officers is set for next week. I suspect they will have to shut down Lakewood----the turnout is expected to be massive.

My husband is in a war zone. As much as I hate to admit it, I'd expect a call saying he has been killed on the job. But sitting in a coffee shop? Not a call I'd ever expect. Or ever want to answer.

In remembrance of Sgt. Mark Renninger, Officer Ronald Owens, Officer Tina Griswold, and Officer Greg Richards.

Big Day for My Big Sis!

Today is my sister's birthday! She's the one faking sleep with me in the picture.

And it's a BIG birthday. I guess it would be impolite to disclose a lady's age without her permission, so I'll just put it like this: I'm in my mid/late thirties. And Char and I are a few years apart. And she is older than I am.

You do the math.

I love you, Charlene, ~ enjoy your birthday "surprise"! Very soon, you will find the entire Brownie Bunch on your doorstep. :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

DeFence's Down

Like the Berlin Wall, our backyard "rent-a-fence" has finally come down. Our contract was up in October, but we decided to leave it alone until early December. November was a dark and rainy month that had me rethinking the decision. But the fence is gone now and of course, the sun is supposed to be shining for the next several days.

Which means, there hasn't been any rain during my mother's visit! She flew out from the East Coast around Thanksgiving. She said she wanted to lend a hand with moving prep. I secretly think she wanted to make sure the kids and I were all right. We love spending time with her. It is so heartwarming for me to see her unique interactions with each of my very different children.

For me, sometimes it just feels good to get let go and just be the child again. The way she loves and respects me as an adult, a wife, and a mother is humbling. And can I tell you how awesome it is having another set of grownup eyes, ears, and hands around here?!

Mariah put it in perspective this way: my van battery died one evening this week after my mom, the kids, and I had been shopping at Target. While I searched frantically for someone to call, my mom was able to locate our "24-Hour Roadside Assistance" card--a card I didn't even realize we had. (I vaguely remember hearing about it the night we bought the van, but I have never needed it). My mom kept me calm and rational. But most of all, she was there. I couldn't even imagine being stranded with the kids all by myself.

While we were waiting on the cavalry to arrive, Mariah and I went back inside Target on a snack-finding mission. While we were waiting for Isaiah's chicken tenders, we had this conversation:

Me: Tonight has really taught me a lot, Mariah. I need to get a set of jumper cables, I need to know where my assistance card is, I need to have more emergency contacts, and...

Mariah:...and---you need your mom.

Yes. Yes, Mariah--I do need my mom.

Love you, Ma, and I miss you already!