Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Darling Girls, A Letter on the Eve of Homecoming

My Darling Girls,

I know you've had it rough.  The last five months have been so hard.  Everything was starting to settle down after Baby's blessed entrance into our family.  Life was starting to fall into a routine again.  Then, Daddy got orders.  And before we could catch a breath, he was gone.

And your hearts were shattered.  You didn't understand.  You were so angry.  You cried for hours at night, and haven't slept through the night since he left.  We have endured a kidney infection, pneumonia, croup, severe dehydration.  There were two hospital admissions that split us up, and countless doctor's visits.  We had to vacate the house many times for hours each time while you all were sick, so they could break a hole in our wall and fix a busted pipe.  The same busted pipe that made the house wreak of sewage for months. Strangers walked through our house for days fixing the damage.  You watched your best friends pack up and move away right after your father left.  Your hearts were broken, your family split up, and your health compromised.

But, I hope someday, my darling girls, that you remember this time. And when you do, I hope you smile.

I hope you smile because you did it!  You survived it!  We thought we caught a break with a short deployment.  Instead, we had to earn it.  You suffered greatly in so many ways.  But you did it!  Someday, when life is hard for you and you are tired, you will look at me and say, I can't do this, Mom.  And I will say, Yes you can, because you've done it before.  Despite the struggle and the suffering, you are more resilient.  No, rather, because of it.  Because of the suffering and the struggling and the sacrifice at such a young age, you are resilient.  Stronger, braver.  I hope someday, you remember all that you have walked through and smile.  Because you make me proud.

I hope you smile, too, because we did it.  We took the negative and the suffering and made some beautiful memories.  Between all the hospital runs and sick days, we had some wonderful times.  We packed into the van one early Saturday morning, and had a picnic after feeding the ducks.  We rode the train at the zoo.  We stayed up late for fun , and woke up early to snuggle.  We danced and sang at the top of our lungs.  We took a road trip to Dallas, and had a blast!  We spent late evenings at the pool, and danced up and down the sidewalk in the rain.  We played at the park and jumped into the pool in our clothes.  We rolled around the floor, laughing until we were crying.

We made joy.  We made glee.  In spite of the deployment and all the wounds this one tried to inflict, we fended them off with unadulterated happiness. There were moments when all the stress and sadness fell away and there was just the four of us, laughing.   I felt such happiness in those moments and I wanted it to last forever.

I hope you remember how Mommy could never have survived this without you.  I could never have kept moving forward if I didn't have your faces and smiles to move towards.  Our prayers together, our life together--it kept me going, it made me feel alive.

I hope you remember.  I know you won't.  You are so young.  You will forget every thing we've done.  All you will know are the stories I'll tell you and the pictures you'll see.  But the love and laughter will live on in those precious photos.  In those precious stories.

But, you will remember how much I love you.  You will remember how much I cherish and treasure you.  Because these moments, these adventures will not end when the deployment does.  We will just gain a face in them.  

Because your Daddy is coming home.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

If you had told me last Sunday that this week would be incredibly stressful, I would have laughed.  How is that different from my new normal, I'd think.  But, stressful doesn't even begin to cover it.  Truly, Murphy has moved into the guest room upstairs and put his Law into the drawers and closet.

I fought it all weekend.  Trying to put off another emergency room visit.  Keep her hydrated.   Her fever had shot up again, and she looked awful.  It really isn't fair when someone so tiny gets so sick.  Her eyelid was puffy, her nose so stuffed that I was aspirating it every fifteen minutes. Her cough was awful.  I noticed it, too.  She would cry, but no tears would come.  She had no drool.  What's left of her soft spot had started sinking in again.  My heart was heavy.  Monday morning, I took her in.  Pnuemonia.  Croup.  Upper Respiratory Infection.  Seriously?!

"We could admit her.  Hydrate her.   It's up to you."

Up to me?!  I prayed.  Hard.  I have already done two hospital admissions with this tiny one, one very recently.  I didn't want to navigate that again.  Especially with my help-mate half a world away.

"What's best for the baby?"

I took her home, and we sat.  I fed her and fed her.  Administered antibiotics. Prayed some more.  Hospital admission was possible Tuesday.  And Wednesday.  I fought so hard.  Fought her, as she screamed and refused to take more milk.  Fought to keep her fever down.

And then the curve ball.

A major sewage vent pipe in the house had separated.  The house had smelled since we moved in.
We had reported it numerous times.  They kept ignoring us.  So we had to call in the Cavalry, so to speak.  They found a huge pipe busted, and we had to vacate the home Wednesday.  They sent us to a flex home...where the air conditioning was broken.  My sweet girls were sweating, and my tiny baby with pneumonia was flushed.  I finally stood up.  I had to leave.  We went back to our home out of desperation.  I continued to push fluids as she reverted in her recovery.

Thursday, we nearly had to vacate again, but were spared at the last second.  That afternoon, my sweet Mary's temperature soared out of nowhere.  I administered Tylenol and then Motrin with no success.  She spent most of the afternoon in bed.  That night, she woke up screaming multiple times each hour.  Again the next afternoon, her fever was high.  I was very concerned.

Saturday afternoon, she went to the bathroom.  Her urine was completely red.  My heart was fearful.  Blessedly, someone came to watch the girls, and off we went to the emergency room.  My sweet girl had a UTI that had progressed upwards to her kidneys.  As they poked her multiple times to administer antibiotics, she screamed for me to help.  Instead, I had to hold her down.  My heart ached for her.

She's still very sick, but slowly on the road to recovery.  She's still resting a lot, and is not her normal active and laughing self.

So, we've slowed down again.  We are hunkering down.

We will be okay.  I know we will.  Our plumbing is repaired.  We are healing.  My poor sweet girls are improving.

I never thought I'd be so joyful to see tears streaming down my baby girl's face, to see my two year old rejoice that going potty doesn't hurt.

We made it through.  With prayer.  With help.  With support.  God always provides when we need it.

And now, I need to go evict Murphy and his Law from the guest room.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Dear Angie,

I don't know a lot.  It has taken me awhile to learn that.  Years.  In fact, I feel sometimes that I know nothing.  I will think I know enough about something in life. Enough to get me victory over that.  And in the middle of it all, I will realize how I know absolutely nothing.

I do know that you just entered into the Army Life.  Active Duty, Reserves, National Guard--it doesn't matter.  Every Soldier in each gives so much.  Each Soldier, regardless of classification, is willing to do one thing: give everything he has, everything he is, to defend our country.  I know that is a source of great pride, but also a source of great fear.  I know that, no matter how hard the day or the week or month, you must make sure the pride wins over the fear.  Never let Fear win.

I know that you are an Army Wife.  That makes me so proud!  I know you are strong, resilient, beautiful.  Proud.  I know that you love my brother fiercely.  And that love will give you victory every time.  I know you have two families who love you dearly and support you completely.  You have a wonderful husband who will make you so proud.  Proud.  Pride.  It's a huge part of what goes into this life.  It's a humble, strong virtue that will keep you going, even when you feel you cannot.  I know you are worthy of the title of Army Wife.  I know that I am proud and comforted by you being one.  Because I have a fellow sister-in-law, a fellow sister in my ranks now.  I know you will kick butt.  I know this because you are amazing.

I know that nothing will suck your joy away like this life.  I know there will be days when you feel you cannot move forward anymore.  But, I also know you have Faith.  Faith in your Soldier, faith in our God.  A God who will never leave your side.  I know He is a God who, I believe, gives us Army Wives special graces to survive this life.  Thrive in this life.  I know, on those days when you are down, trodden, so sad, that I am here.  In prayer, a phone call, in letters, cards, cheer.  I promise you that.  I will never let you fall.  Because we are sisters.

I know that nothing will give you greater sense pride than this Army Life.  Pride in your capable, strong Soldier.  Pride in your Soldier.  Your husband.  I know that people will thank you for your service almost as often as they thank him.  You will stand a little straighter, hold your head a little higher than others when the American Flag waves, when you hear the National Anthem.  Because you know the blood, sweat, and tears that weave the threads of that flag, play the notes of that song.  You will laugh about how handsome your Soldier is in his uniform.  You will sacrifice much, because of your love and pride for our country.  And I know this will slowly but definitively make you a stronger woman.

I know he will go away.  I know he goes away today for four months.  And all you will have are letters.  You will not see his face.  Those last precious few hours will tick painfully by.  I know you will stare at his face, trying to take in every distinct characteristic of his face, his hands, his eyes.  Praying you don't ever forget.  I know this will tear you apart.  I know, as you turn away after saying good-bye, you will finally completely understand the phrase, "ripping my heart out of my chest."  I know you will cry.  You may not be able to catch your breath before the next sob.  But, I know I am so proud of you.  Because you do this out of love for him.  Something most women will never have to do.

I know you are not ever alone.  You may feel so isolated, so terribly lonely in some moments, that no one can possibly understand it.  I know this because I've felt it.  I have gripped the table, the sheets, the tissues, so tight my knuckles turned white.  I have sobbed so hard that I couldn't breathe.  Because he was gone.  I missed his face, his voice.  His presence in our home.  But, I know I am not truly alone.  I know I have God.  I know I have sisters who know.  I know I have you.  And I know we have God, where all souls are united in His mercy.  There, you will find your Soldier, because God has us all in His merciful loving heart.

I know that you inspire me.  I know that I look up to you.  I know that I am so joyful, so blessed to have you a part of our family.  A part of my earthly family, but also a part of this Army family.  I know that you have added a precious, irreplaceable dynamic to my brother's life and my family's life.

I know you will survive this.  I know you will thrive.  You will stand on the other side of this stronger, braver, more mature. You will not want to ever go through it again, but you will find yourself grateful for the woman it made you.

I know I am praying for you.  Praying for your Soldier.  My brother.  I know that for every card I send to him, I'll send one to you.  Every pictures your three nieces send to their uncle, they will send one to their aunt.  Because I know that for all the sacrifices he is making, you are making them, too.

I know I love you.

I know at least this:

You are incredible.  Charlie Mike, Sister!

Friday, August 01, 2014

The last three weeks have been insane.  No, really.  Chaotic, stressful, intense days filled with many prayers and nights full of running between children.  

It started out as it always does lately.  A fever.  The two year old bit the dust first, and oozing congestion from everywhere on her face.  Her eyes--I'd never seen that--were so gunky, I was wiping them as much as her nose.  Then the four year old fell.  Then, yes, the baby.  I was hoping she wouldn't get it.  I was paranoid  because after the last major illness hit the family, she ended up in the hospital for three days.  So this time, I fought it again.  After a week of illness, I brought all three in.  A virus.  Okay.  We went home...and then I got sick.  It was awful!  Achiness and joint pain so bad that I could hardly move!  Stuffiness and gunkiness like none other.  I was trying not to stress out.  Taking care of children and feeling disgusting is mutually exclusive.  So, I just fed them.  The house did not get cleaned, except the necessary.  
We were hoping to head to Dallas to see my brother and his wife.  It's about a five hour drive without stops.  Mostly the trip, aside from seeing family, was an opportunity for me to overcome fear--the fear of a roadtrip alone with three children.  Self-doubt of course was surfacing, but I was determined to prove to myself we could do it.  And we did.  We felt so much better, and hit the road.  We had such a good time! 
"Helping" Uncle Drew.
They have a sweet home and my brother is doing amazing things in updating and improving it!  It was such a blessing to have time with family.  

But, then Anne started getting sick again.  Really sick.  By Sunday, she was hardly having any wet diapers.  I began offering even more milk and water all day Monday.  Despite that, her diaper output decreased further.  Early Tuesday morning, we hit the road.  I needed to get her home and to the hospital.  We arrived home at noon, and that evening I took her in.  At 2 am, she was admitted for severe dehydration.  I had thought many times, I wonder how a mother would deal with hospitalization while her husband is deployed.  I wonder...and here I was dealing with it.  I ended up having to leave Anne at the hospital and go home to the older girls.  I felt like someone was tearing my heart out of my chest.  I desperately wanted to split myself into two people, and be present for all of my girls.  But, I had to Charlie Mike.  

Anne was released the next day and, praise God, we are all completely well.  But, the house and the stress had just left me burnt out.  I am so thankful today that I am getting three hours to myself while the girls play at Hourly Care.  I needed a refresh.  It's so crazy how fast a mama can get burnt out alone.  I have so much respect for single mothers.  

Healthy Baby! 

So, today we had an intervention on the house.  We girls teamed together and cleaned the downstairs.  I mopped the floors and cleaned the kitchen.  A dirty house makes me really stressed out. Because of this, I sat down yesterday and made a weekly cleaning schedule.  I am pretty excited.  Printed lists were made for people like me.  I found a template, modified it, and printed and laminated it myself.  It took a lot of work, but I am very happy with it.  And I think it's going to make cleaning and handling the house alone much easier.  

My new schedule! 

I am actually excited about Monday, and implementing the new schedule!  I know, I have a problem.  But at least it bears good fruit.  

Happy Friday! 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

I'm struggling.

I am ashamed to even admit that.  Because it's like admitting failure.  I take pride in keeping a cheerful face, despite all odds.  I can find the good in almost anything, maintain a cheerful attitude.  I am a fighter.

But, the last few days, I feel like I am losing.

She's so sad.

At first, I chalked it up to his departure.  Really, it was so sudden.  We had little more than a month to prepare, so no time at all.  I had no support system set up, no "plan of action."  I didn't have enough time to to work through my emotions, through the sadness, then anger, then self-doubt, to finally confidence.  There's a cycle to it all.  This life is always a cycle.  Instead, I never got through the sadness and anger before he left.

Now, I'm feeling the self-doubt.

We took him to the airport that day, he was blasting the AC in the van the whole way.  Those uniforms get hot.  The van was quiet.  There was nothing more to say.  We parked, walked inside, and said good-bye.

And she wept.  Harder than I've seen her weep.  In one moment, all four of us girls were in each other's arms, sobbing.  The travelers looked on, saw him walking away, and drew the obvious conclusions.  It was horrible.

We went home, and she hasn't been the same since.  She started to improve.  There was one week, when finally everyone seemed to be finding their groove.  We were happy, despite it all.  We were laughing, playing, making beautiful memories.  I finally started to feel that peace of being in control.  We were getting there-close to "making it."  We were almost to thriving instead of merely surviving.

And then something happened.  I don't know what.  But, the floor fell out from underneath her.

And she withdrew into herself.  Stopped laughing and smiling.  She hadn't slept at night since Daddy left, but then she started waking even more.  I noticed it.  I worried, because the following week would surely kill her.

Her best friend left.  The truck showed up, and she screamed.  Over three days, the movers packed their house.  Then, that horrible good-bye.  In one quick second, I saw it.  The light went out behind her eyes.  She looked at the ground and hasn't looked up again.  The little friend's departure clinched it.

Now, she won't eat.  She won't talk.  We went to the splashpad, her favorite spot, and she sat next to me staring at the ground.  Finally, she begged me quietly to take her home.  "Mommy, please.  Take me home.  I need to go home, Mommy."  I told her it would be fine, that we had to make new friends.  She closed her mouth, and stared back at the ground.  Today, on our way to hourly care, she stared out the window, while silent tears fell down her face.  She walked in, staring at the ground.  They said she was quiet all morning, just sat there.  I've never seen her this bad, never seen anyone quite this bad.

I'm a mother.  I am supposed to have all of the answers.  I don't know what to do about this.  I have no clue where to start.  I have tried everything in my power to fix this.  Different attitude perspectives, staying ridiculously positive.  Acknowledging Daddy's absence, not mentioning him for days. Distracting them when they cry for him, or taking them into my arms and holding them.

She misses Daddy.  Plain and simple.

Please, when you ask me how long he's gone this time, don't say, "Oh! Well at least it's only four months."  Please.  Because to you, it's a quick four months.  To me, it's four excruciatingly long months.  To her, it's a lifetime.  Most people don't understand it.  But most of those people aren't four years old.

Her innocent world has fallen apart.  And nothing can be done to put it back together until he's home.

Watching her suffer to this degree hurts my heart more than words can say.  So many tears have fallen when no one is looking.  My prayers call out to Him when no one hears.

Most of the time, I can fight it.  The demons.  I can win.  God helps me win.  I can maintain a positive attitude when all the odds seem against me.  Against us.  But, right now, I am trying not to drown.  My face lies.  My heart is aching.

Dear reader, if you see this tonight, will you pray for my darling girl?  Will you pray for strength for her heart?  Will you pray for this Mommy who has no clue what she's doing.  Has no clue how to help my tiny baby's aching heart?

And, if you are family or friend, feel free to stop by, to come stay for a few days.  Come, shower her with love.  I am not enough for her right now.

Friday, June 27, 2014

After wanting to do so for a long time, this evening I was finally able to prepare and drop off a dessert for the Wounded Warrior and Family Dinner here on Fort Sam.  I had been nervous about going, because I was not sure what to expect.  This is where the Army sends Soldiers and their families live so that the wounded Warrior can finish recovery and attend any related therapy to regain as normal a life as possible.  That said, there are a great deal of amputees and burn victims, among other equally as devastating trauma victims, reside here.  Below is my letter to these fine and heroic men and women and their courageous families.  

Dear Soldier and Family,

Tonight, I was privileged with the honor of preparing and bringing a dessert to the monthly Warrior and Family Support Center dinner.  I was nervous about bringing it, because I was apprehensive about meeting you.  Because I am a coward.  Seeing people suffer has always affected me deeply.  I see you running through my neighborhood with the special prosthetic every morning.  I see you at San Antonio Military Medical Center, wheeling yourself out of your appointments with your faithful spouse.  I see you outside the Center for the Intrepid when I am driving to another Well Baby.  I would see you limping through the lobby of the hospital, as I waddled by during the latter part of my pregnancy last year.

But, the Center is where you learn to function.  You all are there.  Relearning so much.  Trying to adapt and overcome.

So, tonight, I did it.  I walked inside.  And I saw you.  The older Soldier, balancing on one prosthetic, striding your bike and ready to ride.  I saw you, the nineteen year old, wheelchair-bound outside waiting for your ride.  The gentleman, leg mangled and casted, with his wife, who offered to lead me to the right building.  You, who from your wheelchair, stretched out your hand and introduced yourself.  Asked how many children I have.  And your wife, who told me her name and how wonderful children are.  Teased you about how you are like having a second child, as you sped off to chase a friend.

I saw you adapting and overcoming.

I followed you over to the Warrior and Family Support Center, and realized there is practically a whole town over there.  Fisher homes, barracks, a park with a playground.  There is a building for you all to gather together.  I parked.  In the time it took me to walk in with my dessert, apologize for the crumbled mess that didn't bake properly, empty my bag of the coffee cake, and return to my car, you were only just getting into your wheelchair to go inside.

I fed you tonight.  What an honor.

When I walked inside, I saw you, too.  The young men, practically kids, sitting with no arms, no legs, across the room.  Laughing and talking.  With your wives.  Your girlfriends.  Your children.

As I drove away, I rolled down my window, and called to you and your wife.

"Thank you so much for your help!  God bless ya'll!"

And she said it.  It was like a kick in the stomach.

"No problem, sweetie."  She looked me in the eye.  "Thank you for all you do."

ME?!  I don't do anything.  I live here, in this house and complain about stupid things.  Roaches.  Tendonitis.  Babies that don't sleep and wail all day.  Complain about my husband, safe for now, being so far away.  I live here.  In this house that has four walls and is my own.  With my children.  Most of the time, with my husband who has come home safely three times and, God willing, will come home safely a fourth time.  I walk.  I write.  I feed myself.  I do nothing, but be selfish sometimes.

You.  You gave everything you had.  You did not want to be a hero; you just followed orders, earned a paycheck.  You threw yourself on a grenade to save your brothers and sisters in arms.  You stepped on an explosive, not knowing it was there.  You woke up lying down, bleeding and burning in wretched pain.  And today, you smile.  Some of you stand.  You walk through the pain of an artificial leg, strap on an arm everyday.  You look in the mirror that, to me, shows the burn scars of a hero, and get past the immense change of your appearance.

You let your family help you.  At first you are angry, then you accept it.  Life is different for you.  You will never go back to the normal that existed before you left this country that day.  No, you are brave enough to move through the physical, emotional, and spiritual agony and pain to regain a new normal.

A normal that I saw tonight.  The selfless help for a lost woman.  The nineteen year old who laughed when I offered to let my four year old bedazzle his wheelchair and leg brace.  Yes, you laughed, that would be awesome!  She would do great!  The two older Soldiers who rode off on their bicycles, with three prosthetic limbs between the two of them. The young man with emaciated legs, driving his wheelchair across the street to go to his barracks.

You.  You are my biggest hero.  Because you have moved forward, despite nearly impossible odds, and fought again.  Fought a personal war so horrible, so hellish, and won.  You were sitting and standing tonight, happy.  Kind.  Confident.

You were there.  What a testament.

Please.  Do not thank me.  I am a selfish, weak human being who feigns confidence from the title Army Wife.  I am no hero.  I merely support.

You are my hero.  Despite the scars, pain, and seeming impossibility, you have won.  It may not feel like it, but in my eyes you have won.  Because you are still here, smiling.  And I would bet that annoys the hell out of the enemy.

So, thank you.  Thank you for protecting me.  For protecting my country.  For embodying freedom.  Thank you for protecting my own Soldier, for whom I take every breath, get up every morning, and continue to run this family.

Thank you.  For fighting.  For falling, and then standing up to fight again.  And winning.

God bless you.  God bless your family.

Monday, June 23, 2014

I was blessed recently to receive several bags of maternity clothes from a very dear friend.  I mentioned the clothes while talking to someone, who I hardly know, and how I am excited about any future babies with which we are blessed.  That I was hoping to have at least four children, maybe upwards of six.  But, ultimately, God is in charge.

"Oh. So ya'll are going to be the next Duggars?"

I get that a lot.  And I'm never sure what to say.  I happen to agree with that family about a lot.  God, the importance of Faith.  Raising children with morals and values.  We choose not to use birth control.  I really admire them for raising a large, faithful family.  It is by no means easy.

I do want a large family.  People ask me how many we want.  I honestly don't have a number.  I don't decide that.  I really believe that--for us.  I am not one to judge; I do not make other people's choices.  I worry only about what goes on within my family and my home.  I play a role in my family's salvation, and seek to set an example of Christ for others.  I'm not always perfect, but it's what I strive to do.  "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."    

But, when people ask me if I am going to be the next Duggar, I'm insulted.  Not because I don't want to be compared to a large, happy, conservative family.  Rather, do they honestly look at my children and my desire for more beautiful souls merely as numbers?  Oh, 19 kids?  Oh, you want like 12?  It's not a number game to me.  They are not statistics, not points on a number line.

Each one is a precious, unique irreplaceable soul that I am humbled and blessed to return to God.  I am loaned a person to form and protect, to teach them about love and God, and then to return each to His home.  That is what this is for me.

My precious babies; my precious people.

Nothing fulfills me more than taking care of these little people.  No, it's not always easy.  I do have days where I cannot wait to get them in bed and have time to sit down.  But, I absolutely love taking care of them.  Bathing and dressing.  Playing and chasing.  Giggling and laughing.  The hugs and kisses.  I love cooking for them, cleaning for them.  Teaching and forming them.  Serving them.

I have never been more terrified of the world as I have been since becoming a parent.  One walk through the clothing department at Target or the mall gives me a panic attack.  Little girls dressed like adult woman--like woman I would never dress like.  Teenage girls and young women wearing skirts that are smaller than the length of thigh that they show.  Like it's nothing.  Barely covering their bottoms.  I get it now--what they would say.

"That's someone's daughter."

The lingerie models, the inappropriately dressed women.  They are someone's baby.  That is a soul, a human being lent from God.  I'm terrified of raising girls.  But, I'm doing it.  One day at a time.

It's pretty easy right now.  The toddler clothes are still cute and mostly modest.  I can find shirts and skirts and pants that cover and are sweet.  Innocent.  But, my oldest is dancing on that cusp.  Most of her 5t clothes fit her, and she's only four.  Next shopping trip marks a transition I've been dreading since she was born: the girls' department.

I am, at times, fearful of raising children in this military life.  Where their father--a critical role and influence on their development--is in and out the door for long periods of time.  I'm worried about what this will do to their development, if it will negatively impact them.  I need only to take one look at my resilient, independent girls to realize that we will be okay.  Even from Afghanistan, Daddy's doing everything he can to stay involved, stay engaged.

I firmly believe that God helps those open to His will for each person.  He will not ask of you something that you cannot finish.  Cannot do well.  So, I will pray and guide and lead by example.  And be open to any more souls God would like to bless us with.

I am not trying to "be the next Duggar."  I don't think the Duggars are trying to be "the Duggars.  My family is merely making the choices we feel are right for us.  Listening intently to the plan God has for us.  One baby at a time.

And I am by no means "done."

Friday, June 20, 2014

I did not encounter this with the last deployment.  There was only one, then.  And she was so little.  She would take all of her stuffed animals from her bed and put them by the door, one by one, at five in the evening.  And then she would sit there, until I picked her up and put her at the table to feed her.  She didn't cry.  Not in the beginning.  She didn't ask for him, at first.

Because she didn't understand.

Now, that tiny one understands.  And so does her younger sister.  They wail, whine, weep.  They ask for him constantly.  They bring me the iPod, bought not for music but specifically for maintaining communication, and beg me to call Daddy.  Sorry, sweetie.  We have to wait for Daddy to call us.  And they cry again.

The Daddy dolls go everywhere with us.  The last few days, one was MIA.  I could not find it anywhere.  Emotions were high.  We found him in the car this morning.  Relief.  Sweet relief.  My tiny two year old held him all the way to daycare.  And then she wept when I left her.

"I wanna go home!  Please take me home!"

I almost acquiesced.  But the sweet daycare worker comforted me.

"She'll be alright, Mama.  She'll be ok."

Will she?  I wondered the same with my now-four year old.  She was a wreck for months when our Soldier came home for the birth of her little sister, only to leave again.  He returned home again for good, and she had horrific separation anxiety for months.  Behaved, at times, like a possessed child.  It was scary and heartrending.   Eventually, she calmed down, but we struggled with behavior issues for nearly two years.  I don't know how much of that was just toddler, and how much was a deployment and four moves within a year.

Now there's two suffering.  And I hate it.

The two year old asks about bad-guys, talks about wars.  She doesn't like wars.  Wars, she says, are where bad guys live.  Wars are bad.  My heart aches to hear this come from such a tiny person.  She shouldn't know these words, be able to verbalize these concepts.

I hear the crying at night, the begging for their Daddy.  "When is he coming home?"  "How many more days, Mama?"  Weeks, my love.  Months.  I see how prone they are to sudden crying, their breaking hearts.  They won't let go of me sometimes.  So I sit.  And I love them.

But, I see a strength that most other children their age don't have.  The four year old says we can do anything.  She smiles and calls me her battle buddy, that we will get through this together.  Because we have each other. Last week, I spoke so sharply, because my own heart was aching.  As soon as the cutting words left my mouth, I felt so guilty.  Without a word, my sweet four year old came over and just hugged me.  She knew.  She could sense it.

We've held each other crying, the three of us.  The five-month old is fine--as long as somebody feeds her.  But the three of us--we are clinging to each other.  Holding on while the hurt washes over, holding fast to comfort another's aching heart.

They are strong.  

I know they will hurt, I know they will have to deal with aspects that most children won't.  A year without Daddy.  Months without Daddy.  But, my prayer is that this forms them into more resilient adults.  Makes them stronger.  More confident.  Flexible.

I play a large role in that occurring, I know.  I must be kind, loving, stable.  I must be two parents at once.  Be a model of resiliency, of confidence, too.  But, it's also okay to let them know I'm hurting,also.  That I miss him, too.  Because that's okay.  It's a lot of pressure.  But, I have prayer.  I have Him.  And I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me. 

I know, sometimes, I approach Him like my children approach me.  Targeting my anger towards Him, wondering why He's allowing all this to happen.  Why he won't stop the phone breaking, things going wrong, the children screaming.  Why He won't help me.

Because he's my Father.

And sometimes, we have to endure things that are absolutely rotten.  Because going through the hard times, the seasons that bring us to our knees, makes us stronger, more resilient.  And we have to learn that.  The sweet little ones have to learn that.  have to learn that.  To them, I am Mommy--big, strong, grown up.  To Him, I am but another little child. His child.  And I have a great deal to learn.  My Father can't fix it, no more than I can fix it for my children.  But He is there to comfort me, show me it's okay to hurt.  Just as I am there for my children.

They will be ok.  I will be ok.
We will all be ok.

We will be stronger for this.  We will be more resilient for this.  We will get through.  Our Soldier, God willing, will come home safe and sound.  And we will have learned great lessons.

Because Christ strengthened us.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

From Nowhere, From Everywhere

I had an assignment for my graduate class, to write an essay on where I am from.  Honestly, the essay was a little hard to write since we said good-bye to our Soldier again yesterday.  But I am proud to live this life.  Mostly just proud to serve and support such an amazing man.  

I come from red, white, blue.  From greens, blacks, and browns.  Olive drab.   I come from everywhere and nowhere; I have no hometown, but have had many homes.  Everywhere.  Kansas.  Texas.  Italy.  Korea.  Many more.  There is consistency in my nomadic existence.  Moving to a new place every year or two.  It’s like a clock, ticking.  You hear it all the time.  And then the alarm goes off; you feel it.  It’s time to move on.  Time for the familiar smell of cardboard, the sound of ripping tape.  Time to say good-bye to friends you made.  And likely, you’ll never see them again.
I come from places far from extended family.  Grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins were all strangers to me.  I hardly knew them.  I kept in touch with only a few, because the others didn’t respond to letters I wrote.  The letters were the only way I knew of forging and maintaining a relationship with anyone outside of my home.  Outside of my life of change.
I come from constant change.  Nothing ever stays the same.  Homes change.  Locations change.  Languages changed.  His role in our family changed.  Here and then gone, here and then gone.  Tearful good-byes, sporadic phone calls, trips to the airport to pick him up.  Again.  Watching Mom sleep alone, sit alone, eat alone, live alone, function alone.  Wondering how she did it, wondering if her heart hurt as much as mine did. 
I come from watching him serve.  Serve others.  Serve us.  Serve his country.  Our country.  Watching him leave at 5 a.m and come home at 7:30 at night.  Respond to emails and phone calls constantly.  Working out, staying fit.  Staying ready.  Ready for the call.  The call that, lucky for him, never came.  Though, it came in other forms.  Watching him lead, direct.  Implement change and good in the hospitals.  Watching him change and benefit lives.  People.  Because he saw them as people. Never did I think I would find someone as humble and serving as him.
I come from choosing to reenter this life.  From meeting him, and knowing he had that serving heart.  I come from knowing what I said yes to.  I do.  I will.  Serving him, who serves us.  So noble, so humble.  So giving to us, to his men and women in uniform.  To his family.  He loves deeply, commits deeply, gives deeply.  Inspires me deeply.
I come from constant good-byes.  For long periods of time.  From rocking wailing children, aching with separation.  From hugs and kisses.  I come from War.  I come from praying for peace, strength.  Patience.  I come from resiliency, but also from exhaustion.  I come from pride in him, in our country.  I come from knowing firsthand what we give..  Our lives together.  Our evenings, our memories that we’ll never make, our time together with our children. 
I come from lying in bed alone at night, fighting the ache in my heart, praying he’ll come home soon. Just praying he’ll come home.  Praying I’ll hear his breathing next to me again.  I come from worry—fear of death, fear of the doorbell.  I come from breaking down, giving release to hot tears, when no one is looking.  I come from Faith.  Hard, real Faith.  Because, sometimes, Faith is all I have to grasp.
I come from what we call family, though we share no real relation.  I come from those who will drop everything to come help.  Bring dinner.  Bring flowers.  Hugs.  And wine.  Who will hold you tight when you are aching and watch your children so you can catch your breath.  And I do it for them.  I come from the Family who understands what you give.  Understands separation.  Because they give it, too.  They live the separations, too.
I come from Welcome Home!  Posters, tears, hugs.  I come from the other end of, “Thank you for your service.”  You’re welcome.  I think.  From the house strewn with decoration.  With red, white and blue.  I come from trying, again, to find normal for us, a new normal.  Giving up control, letting him lead again. I come from trying to refit our lives together.  Struggle, friction, humility.  Being home.  Together.  I come from cherishing every moment—every single moment—because we don’t know when the call will come.  The call to go.  Again.

            Me?  I come from nowhere, because I come from everywhere.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Charlie Mike. Again.

It's all bringing back so many horrible emotions and memories I never wanted to feel or remember again.  The packing.  The shopping.  The preparation for separate lives.  The children.  The poor, poor children.  It's so different this time, and yet so much the same.   I didn't want to go back to this again.

We are preparing the household, purchasing gear, stocking the house.  He's packing bags.  Tonight.  Buying socks.  Locks.  Duffle bags.  I'm writing his name on those red luggage tags.  The same kind I wrote on in our little house in Killeen.   When he left the last time.  We are having realization hit us after living in denial.  We just found out a few weeks ago, and here we are.  On the eve of his departure.

I have a picture of little Elizabeth sitting on his bag from the last time.  Now, we have three young ones that could sit on the bag.  Crazy.  Three little ones who, despite their young age, have to live without their father.  Again.

Four months.

Adrienne, you are whining?  About four months?!  At least it's not a year.  That's what that 1st Cav wife in me is yelling.  No.  Praise God!  It's only four months.

But it's still four months.  Four months of worry--fear of the doorbell.  Four months of evenings far too quiet and still.  Four months of holding down the homefront with three children four and under.  Four months of children living without their father.  Wondering why he left.  Wondering where he went.  Four months following several months of severe illnesses.  Of caring for a newborn that has had feeding and health issues since long before her birth.  Handling all of it.  Alone.

I'll be honest.  There are moments that the crippling fear surfaces.  Those voices of doubt arise.  It's then that I want to give release to the hot, urgent tears threatening behind my eyes; to beg, plead with him not to go.  But, instead I say a prayer, grasp for God, and move forward.  Because he deserves better.  He deserves strength and courage.  Love and support.  Hugs and affirmation.  Because I am confident I will handle this with grace.

Yes.  I will do this.  Tasks will take longer, and require that incessant pre-planning for the most efficient way of accomplishing them.  Leaving the house will be an endeavor.  Church will be a comedy show sometimes.  But, we'll do it.  We'll push through.  I will wipe tears, pray for patience as I deal with another meltdown from frustration.  I will swallow the knot in my throat as I explain for the hundredth time that Daddy's on his long trip.  He's not coming home for awhile.  I will dole out three times the hugs and kisses, make extra time for cuddling.  Fill our lives with rest, relaxation.  And activities to keep us busy.

I will finish my last graduate class.  Hopefully write my thesis.  Sweet Elizabeth has tumbling classes.  We will venture down to the park, picnic basket in tow.  I am going to make pasta salad (he hates pasta salad), and bean salad and we'll eat like queens.  All of us.  We will attempt a road trip or two.  We will have Movie Nights and I'll let them take long baths.  We will dance to music.  We'll spend our mornings lazing at the pool.  We will run in the freshly cut grass in the evenings.  And we will laugh.  We have plans.  Not merely to survive.  But plans to thrive.

And, when no one is looking, doubtless I will give release to those tears when the day has been extra hard.  I'll give my struggles to my Lord.  And, when I have no more tears to cry, I will stand up and move forward.  For him.  For our girls.

Four months.  Yes, I can do it.  Will do it.  Forget those insecurities--I have lived this.  I have survived this.  I have attained victory in this.

Charlie Mike.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

I remember vividly the day that she was born.  I remember that my mother was sitting very still that Christmas morning, rushing through the present opening for the first time ever.  I remember that as soon as the wrapping paper came off the final gift, my mother stood up and said she was going to get the baby from the hospital.  I remember going in later that day, and holding her tiny body.  I remember that tiny body in the swing, the kind you had to crank.  And we older kids sometimes fought over who's turn it was to crank the swing.

I changed her diapers.  I fed her bottles.  I remember wondering that, if it was this wonderful to have a baby sister how much more wonderful to have babies of my own.  I remember staring into her fresh, small face, wondering what life held for her.  What did her future hold?

Who is Laura Louise going to be?

She's going to be beautiful.  She's going to be strong, courageous, gentle  kind.  She will have a temper the likes of which you've never seen, but the beautiful humility to apologize when it bites you unwarranted.  She dreams and lives.  She fights and accomplishes.  She is sure and confident.

And she's getting ready to graduate from college.  This girl with the red hair that used to dance to her music as a two year old.  The one who tore her bows out at school, the tomboy.  The one who played with G.I. Joes and little cars.  The feisty Ginger who gave her all to everything she was passionate about.  This girl, whom I taught for many grades.  Tutored.  I helped her grow.

And now she's blooming.

"I don't want to go!  I know it's the right thing to do, Addie, but I don't want to go."

I knew that fear in her voice all too well.  The eve of her departure for college, and she sat in my kitchen terrified.  Thrown together through very different but very scary and inevitable circumstances, she and I laughed and cried over Skype that winter.  Mostly cried.  She spread her wings and left for college; I navigated a deployment with my husband gone for a year.

We became so close.  And I knew, when the days got tough, and my heart was aching, when I didn't think I could move forward in that black hole of loneliess, I knew who I could talk to.  Who would help me though those dark moments.

Laura Louise.

And she did.  Perhaps, it's quite possible that she has no clue how much she helped me through that time.  Knowing I could call her when tears were pouring down my face, and my body wracked with humiliating sobs.  There was a side of me that year that only she saw.  On Skype.

She always answered my calls.  Always.

And I like to think I helped her, too.  I've talked her through navigating that confusing world of boys and men.  Helped her pick which classes and how many.  I edited her papers.  I laughed with her.  And I cried with her.  As she let go of home and grew into her self, I held her hand.

And then I let go.

I don't know when it happened, but at some point, she didn't need me as much anymore.  She stood on her own and moved forward.  She didn't cry very often at all.  She didn't seem scared anymore.  She was confident.

This red-haired, gorgeous woman glided onto stage, taking the audience to their knees.  Everytime.  She dazzled the crowds.  She morphed into people and lost her self in the drama.

"I'm going to go to L.A.  I'm going to act."

And she will.  She will dazzle them and bring them to their knees, too.  She will keep her Faith, she will hold strong to her morals.  Because she's a fighter.  She's confident.  She's kind and beautiful.  And smart.  So smart.  She'll take the acting scene by storm and, eventually, she'll make it Big.  I know she will.  Because everything she has put her mind to, she's accomplished.

And yet I know, no matter how big her world gets, no matter how many followers on Twitter, or number of homes she has.  I know.  When I need her, when she needs me, there will always be Skype.  Because she's faithful and loyal.

And she's my sister.  That graduate, that actress, Laura Louise--She's my sister.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Please Excuse the Mess

Yes, please.  Excuse the mess.

There's a pile of laundry in my living room.  Toys in the entry way.  And in everyone's way--all over the house.  Strollers in the dining room.  There's clean dishes in the sink to be put away.  I need to finish folding the laundry that's still on the racks.  It's been dry a few days now.  I need to plan dinner.  Finish cleaning the kitchen.  There's applesauce smudged on the table six inches from my computer. 

This week, I have cleaned bathrooms, bedrooms, and the living room.  I've cleaned the kitchen.  Over and over.  And over.  I have swept and mopped.  The laundry was was.  I had washed it, folded it.  Put it away.  I did the dishes.  I've wiped up every surface in the eating and cooking areas a million times.  Per day.

But, I look around.  And it looks like I've dong nothing this week.

Please excuse the mess.

But, please.  Don't take that as an apology.  Because I stopped.  At some point during the day--each day--I stopped.  Stopped wiping.  Stopped cleaning.  Stopped sweeping and mopping.  I stopped folding and putting away.

And I looked down.  Into those precious faces that seem to mature far too fast.

And we lived.

I stopped cleaning.  And caring.  Instead, I made bubble solution.  And took all of my kitchen utensils outside.  And we made bubbles in the warm sunshine.  I put three tiny hands into messy paint and we made hand print pictures.  We played in the wading pool.  Baked coffee cake and cookies.  We took a walk to the park. I tickled and snuggled. And we laughed. 

Please excuse the mess.  Just kick it out of the way.

Because, someday, there will be no bubble solution, no slotted spoon tossed into the yard.  There will be no grass in the wading pool--there will be no wading pool at all.  The tickles and the giggles will be sporadic.  And then nonexistent.  The applesauce drying next to my computer will be gone and the table will be immaculate.  The laundry will be done quickly, with no distractions.  The dress-up lying on the floor will not be there.  The hands will be too big for the hand print nonsense.

Please excuse the mess.  If you need me, I will be in the kitchen making cookies.  Or next to the wading pool. 

I will be living.  The housework will get done.  Eventually.  Not as fast as before.  When the house was silent.  Before life filled it.  Before I started--we started--living.  Really living.

Please excuse the mess.  I am getting ready to add to it. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

I didn't grow up in one house on Main Street, USA.  I didn't even do all of my growing up in the USA.  I didn't go to just one school, attend one church.  I don't have that "one bedroom I spent my whole childhood in."  I didn't have one consistent set of friends during my childhood years.

I lived in at least ten different homes.  I grew up in a small starter house in San Antonio, Texas, in a duplex in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and in Blackhawk Village in Seoul, South Korea.  I grew up in Italy, with Venice practically in my backyard.  Other places, too.  My family divides our chapters of memories based on our location at the time.  "Remember in Benning, how we...."  "Remember that time in Rucker...."

I said good-bye to friends, turned down achievements, accomplishments, coveted positions in school.  Because the Army was moving us again.  I spent weeks, and sometimes months, without my father.  I stood proudly by him when he received promotions.  I had a passport at the ripe age of ten.  My youngest sister was barely a year old when she first received one. 

I lived behind barbed wire.  I learned at an early age that that piece of laminated paper was like my soul--I should never lose it.  I had my father's social memorized for as long as I can remember.  His "last four."

I proudly watched my father serve for 23 years in the United States Army, and what a fine officer he was.  With all the moving, leaving, hardship, and tears, it was at times such a tough life.  I said good-bye and lost touch with countless people.  I cried in high school when my best friend called me from his house for the last time.  I knew I'd likely never see him again.  The editor in chief of the school newspaper--"No, thank you.  I'm moving this summer."  Ripped my heart out.  All the times I watched my father leave for days, weeks....months.  Wonder how my mother could stand sleeping in a bed alone.

I'd do it again.  I loved it.  

I am resilient.  I am strong.  I am proud.  I am an Army brat.

I got the boot when I was a Senior in college.  I turned 24, and without any hesitation, the Army cut me off.  I had lost all military privileges, my healthcare, my ID card.  I felt totally lost.  The life in which I'd grown up--the comfort of barbed wire, the love of the Army family--I was now separated from it.  It was a huge transition for me.

And then I met him.  The man who stole my heart.  

I did not realize initially that he was a Soldier.  Not at first.  But, I was so relieved to learn it.  When I realized that this was the man I would marry, I was so grateful he was active duty.  I was so excited that he was a United States Army Soldier.  I was so proud.  I can do this, I thought.

We now have three tiny girls of our own.  One has watched her father leave for war for a year, even before she knew what any of that could mean.  She screamed for her daddy as he walked away from us in the airport following R&R, wondering why he wouldn't turn around and come back to her.  The other saw her Daddy for the first four days of her life, and then he left her.  Both have experienced four moves, four homes.  They are four and two years old.  This summer, they will say good-bye to their best friends next door.  And they will probably never see them again.

They will attend different schools--many schools.  They will turn down accomplishments, achievements, and honors.  And they, like their mother, will do it with a smile outside and a heavy heart inside.  They will carry that sorrow with them forever, but stand with pride that they did.  They will watch their father pin on new ranks, and stand proudly with tears in their eyes.  Because they get it.

They will again watch their father leave for war.  So will the youngest.  All three of them will stand there, wondering why he has to go, but still standing firmly for their Daddy.  They will cry at night, when no one hears.  They will push through, praying and hoping he comes home.  And, when they are old enough, they too will fear the door-bell ringing.

They know the comfort of barbed wire.  They will have their laminated paper soul.  Know their father's "last four."  They will divide chapters by location.  Know the bittersweet smell of cardboard and tape.  They will sit around, someday, and see who can remember the most telephone numbers or street addresses from their childhood.

And, despite the hardship, someday they'll be grateful for this life. Because it made them better people.

My girls are resilient.  My girls are strong.  My girls are proud.  My girls are Army brats.

April is the Month of the Military Child.  These children don't have any choice in living this life, yet so many of them do so with a strong and resilient attitude.  We thank our Veterans.  We thank the spouses.  These children deserve a huge thanks, too.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

It was in the dark, isolating, "middle of the night" hours when the thought struck me.  I was lying awake, as the precious newborn began to stir for her next feeding, and my four year old was enduring yet another coughing fit.

"You are only moving foward.  Not backwards.  You'll never get this time back."

It scared me to the core of my being.

The husband and I (mostly the husband) have been organizing all of our digital files, predominantly pictures right now.  We are looking at photos and videos from the time we both dove into the digital camera world.  Mine began on the cusp of my college graduation, and his encompassed his European adventures while a bachelor Soldier.  We were in two very different parts of the world, living two very different lives.

Then, our pictures slowly began to mesh.  Duplicates images, taken from different perspectives.  One wonderful day, those perspectives became one perspective when we went from two cameras to one.  From dates and day trips to everyday life together, the subjects changed, too. 

And not long after, they captured Life.  In its truest and tiniest form.  Babies.  Born in the wee hours of mornings, after many hours of work and worry.  Babies.  Who looked to us for security, food, warmth.  Babies.  That turned into toddlers and then preschoolers.

Time moves only in one direction.  Forward.  There is no rewind.  And, more painfully, no pause.  Only forward.

They've been so sick this week, the older two.  Fevers, aches, pains, coughs, sneezes.  Screams and thrashing.  Trips to their bedsides every thirty minutes through the night, while feeding a newborn.  Trips to the E.R.  I feel as though I've been running between them with thermometers and medicine all week.  Lying awake at night, listening to the cough with the horrible truth that I cannot do anything to alleviate their discomfort.  Focusing only on what I can handle--making it through one day.  Praying they'll be better tomorrow.

Last Friday, I celebrated 5 amazing, blessed years to my wonderful husband.  Even a year off from that day, I pictured in my head wonderful plans.  Five years is a milestone.  A small one, but a milestone nonetheless.  I was so excited.  We had reservations at a very nice restaurant.  I had a pretty dress picked out.  Presents bought.  Plans made.

As I raced through the week taking care of sick babes, my Friday night went from a much anticipated break to the realization that, sadly, we were going to be staying home.

But, despite the setbacks, it was beautiful.  Quiet, relaxed.  Still a celebration.

Because I won't get this back.  These moments with my husband on the couch, just talking, will never be lived again.  Those moments smoothing back matted hair from a feverish and sweaty tiny forehead will never be present again.  Only past.  The countless trips to the bassinet to once again reinsert the pacifier into that little mouth.  Past.  Little becomes big.  Small grows larger and larger.  Babies become toddlers become kids.  And then they grow up.

And all we will have left are those pictures.  Those videos.  Those tiny views into a world, into a present that has become a past.  No more baby smells.  No more raspy, sickly I love you, Mommys in the middle of the night.  No more stolen hugs and kisses from sleeping little ones on the way to bed at night.  No more temperature readings, pleadings to take just one more sip, demands to stop fighting--again.  No more laughs and giggles, smiles and grins from tiny faces.

So, today, as tired as I am, as exhausted as I am, I find joy in the seemingly endless trips into their bedroom to stave off more coughing, to love them through the fever, warm them through the chills.  I treasure the hours spent by their side, comforting them through the aches and pains.

Because someday, this will all be gone.  All I will have left are the memories.  The Past.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

When I look at the three of them--really look at them--nothing else in the world matters.

"What is the one thing you want to accomplish in your life?"

I was issued that question so many times while growing up, mostly in a scholastic atmosphere.  I've had several goals that have stuck out through my life.  Goals I wanted to achieve, regardless of the sacrifice it took. 

Get a bachelor's degree in English Literature.  Done.

My master's.  And I'm nearly done.  But, only nearly.

Write a book.  Yeah, that one's still a dream.

But, fundamentally and before all else I've wanted to be a mother.  I know.  Eye rolls.  Sounds lame.  But, it is, deeper than any other goal, the one thing I have wanted to do my whole life.  Not necessarily right away.  I wasn't the one who went to school to find a husband.  I hadn't been scouring the world for Mr. Right.

But, I wanted a family.

The moment that first tiny body is laid on you after his or her birth, everything about you changes.  The way you think, the way you live, the way you exist.  In a way that most cannot comprehend until that child is given to you.  A fragile soul, a tiny body.  Your responsibility is to raise that child into a healthy, responsible, and faithful functioning person.  You either make or break a human being.  You either instill a healthy mindset or shatter a child's heart.  It is as simple and as complex as that.

I have now had the honor of having three human beings laid upon my chest.  I have had the privilege to carry  and nourish three different souls inside of my body.  I have three people in my home that I helped create. 

I had always wanted to be pregnant during Advent.  While the mother of God prepared for His birth, I could prepare for mine simultaneously.  I had no idea what I was in for.  Though, perhaps, neither did she.  She rode, nine months pregnant, on the back of a donkey.  She didn't give birth in her home, where likely she would have preferred.  She had Jesus in a dirty, filthy stable, surrounded by farm animals.  Probably not a part of her "birth plan."  As I rode on my own journey to our little Nativity, preparing for our own birth, I held this image in my head repeatedly.  And the last two months and then birth of our recent precious one, though a positive outcome, was not what I had envisioned.  Like the Holy Birth, however, our  sweet one was just fine. 

Oh, you don't need another girl!  I'll pray you have a boy!
Pray for what God thinks is best.

"If it's a boy, are you done?" 
Not a chance.  God willing.

What are you going to do with all those girls?!
Love them!  Treasure them.  Teach them that real beauty is inside, and that they are precious and wonderful as God's children.  As my children.  I will kiss them.  I will hug them.  I will love them.  I will shower them with praise and affection.  When I am too hard, when I fail, I will apologize.  Ask their forgiveness.  I will take their fragile hearts and strengthen them with my love and teach them of God's love.

One of my dearest friends has three boys.  Three precious, beautiful boys.  And I told her this: When God gives a mother the same gender over and over, it's because He sees a strength in that mother.  A virtue.  A capability to raise those precious children.  He gives us what we need. What our children need.

I never prayed for a boy.  I never prayed for a girl.  I prayed for healthy.  I prayed for what God saw fit for us.  What He needed us to have.  And we have three precious girls.  I am so blessed! 

In  world that insists that certain numbers of children and particular genders are what makes an "average" family, what constitutes a "typical" home, I am so honored that God sees fit for us to break that mold.  We get to be the different ones.  Lots of pink, many bows, little shiny mary janes.  Lots of tights, dresses, and slips. 

Your poor husband!

Seriously?  Have you seen him with these girls?  He's surrounded by women!  What a lucky man!  Women who idolize him!  He's always a hero here.  A super man.  A tender, loving, kind father.  I've seen his face three times as a tiny bundle of pink is laid into his arms.  I have seen his eyes mist and his face become so...soft.  I've watched him hold the tiny bodies just below his face, and the tender love with which he gazes at that tiny girl.  Three times.  Three sweet girls.  There needs to be more girls loved like this man loves his daughters.   My poor husband?   No.  Then, you cannot possibly understand.

I have children!  

My dream has come true!

Will you have more?

Oh, sweet  Lord in Heaven, I hope so.  More souls to cherish, more people to love.  I love people!  My sweet little people!  And someday, who knows, the Lord may bless us with some blue.  I have no regrets.  No.  Because I have my little pink bundles.  Healthy, loved baby girls.