Sunday, July 22, 2018

What Life Looks Like - Deployment Light

qLife is a constant game of adaptation. Perhaps that's never more true than with military families. As My Sailor has rejoined a submarine, we say farewell to the easy world of shore duty, and hello to crazy schedules, long nights, and being ships passing in the night. So here's a little snap shot of what life is like as we prepare for the biggest deployment yet - 

We finally found a preschool for the Impossible Girl. We're very excited to share our Forest Preschool experience with other folks.
 The Impossible Girl goes to a preschool without walls. They operate in a local state park, and the kids explore, play, read, create, draw, etc outside from 9am to 1pm. There is a lunch time, but they aren't required to lay down for structured nap time. The idea behind it is sound (and our particular location is run by educators with over a decade of experience in early child development). She often comes home wet from having waded into the surf a bit at the end of the day, or muddy from having played in the mud, or with some traces of clay on her hands and face from having created something marvelous from clay.  Her staple clothing for school are leggings/pants, a fleece hoodie, suncscreen and bug repellant. She's not afraid of bugs anymore, and her vocabulary has gone through the roof. Her classmates range in age from 2.5 years old to 6 years old. She is one of the younger ones, but she learns from others and makes friends.

It's been a great place for her. Our area lacks public preschool services (unless you child has an IEP or falls under the poverty line - luckily we aren't in those positions), so this was the best solution. While most in the area run $500+ for 3 hours of school a day, 3 days a week (where they may or may not spend an hour outside), for nearly the same amount of money - she gets Forest Preschool for 5 days a week, 4 hours a day, and will be spending all of it outside.

I know you're already wondering, "but you live in Washington! It's going to be rainy and wet and cold!"
 Well, part of registration includes a rain suite that covers her ankle to hood. Like their bright yellow vests they wear during the summer time, these suits are also brightly colored, making it easy to spot the kids in the woods. And if the weather gets too ugly, they do have the option to go inside to cabin with a furnace to keep warm, but they aren't confined to a room. She's never loved being confined, so it fits us well.

So while she's in school, I'll have 4 hours to work (and workout - wahoo!) and get things done. Meanwhile, My Sailor is working a 4pm to midnight, so he's recovering. I get off work and pick up the kiddo (who is usually exahusted, so a snack in the car and then she crashes for a nap).

The next 1-2 hours are the family time for the day. Then My Sailor and/or I head off to work again. I use my Child Watch hours to see clients until 6pm ish, and then it's home for dinner and bed time. I try to be asleep before My Sailor comes home, but it's nice when he gets off early enough to chat for a bit before my head hits the pillow. Right now, he has weekends off, but I work the majority of Saturday, so we reserve Sunday for Family Day.

We know that soon enough, "Family Day" will mean the Impossible Girl and I recoup and reset.

But for now, we're consider ourselves impossibly lucky.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Solitary Forest In The Corner - Holidays Begin, 2017

 We got our Christmas tree up before Christmas Eve this year. Yeah! It just stood in the corner for about a week and a half before we had the energy to add lights. Well, I had the energy to add lights one night after My Sailor and Beanie Girl went to bed at 8pm. It was one of those rare occasions where I had no one demanding my time or attention for a few hours. So I poured myself a (rare) second glass of wine, added lights to the tree and hung up our large wreath before curling up to a heart-warmingly-corny Christmas movie (The Christmas Inheritance) on Netflix. Under that huge blanket, watching someone learn about the power of giving, I got to thinking about all the things we have this year.

This year, we gave away nearly all of Beanie Girl's infant things. Her infant car seat and strollers went to a friend who can share them with some folks just getting back on their feet and trying to get their families and their lives together. While we haven't battled their battles, we know all too clearly how scary it is to be on the brink - and just how many people are just a paycheck away from some very real problems. No matter how rough things were last year, we kept our roof, kept our wits (most of the time), stayed warm and dry, knew where we were sleeping and had faith we'd figure things out.
This year, we went back to the Military Kids and Families Christmas Party, much like last year. They had seen budget cuts, but Beanie Girl still got to play some games with us, decorate a cupcake (her choice - why have a cookie when you can have cake, right?!), and leave with a gift from Santa.
But the most precious part of this party is that we got to go together, as a family.

This year's gift is simple - spend time making memories. 
My Sailor may very likely not be around to celebrate the holidays with us as he'll rejoin the world of deployable submariners in the summer.

Once again, we've been blessed with friends and family who came to our aide. We wanted to take Beanie Girl to a Disney park before My Sailor deployed. My family helped make that happen.
Beanie Girl is a bit speech delayed and didn't talk much. Until she saw the castle.
Then all she could say was, "Wow!"
We heard that word a lot that trip.

Why didn't we wait until it's a memory she'll remember?
Because if families always 'wait until they'll remember it' you'd never do anything beyond the mundane. Travel encourages that natural sense of wonder and curiosity kids have about the world. Why introduce them to relatives when they are infants? They'll never remember it.
The simple answer is - it's really not all just about the kids. For us, anyway, it's about bonding. After all, the memories aren't just for the kids.

We've done walks and hikes and rock hunts of all kinds this year. Beanie Girl had her first swimming lessons at the Y, and she's kept us on our toes daily.
We've explored events with friends and family, and sought some help when we needed to.
We had a two or three date nights out this year to catch movies in theaters.
I added another writing job and a temp job in to fill some financial holes when the gym slowed down a bit.
We learned to do it all with no child care beyond that of my few hours available at the Y.
We even lost a member of our house this year.

One of my clients recently commented on our lifestyle, as a military family. The description I've settled on is,
"Our life is a constant exercise in adaptation."
Through it all, we've learned that we have an abundance of things we may not have fully recognized before. Things that can't be wrapped and put under a tree.
Things like -
Clydas had moved with me from my hometown in California to Washington. He was my companion, and rescued me more often than I rescued him. He was my first dog. His downturn in health happened quickly. He left me no doubt it was time to say our goodbyes.
Physically having to carry him through those few days made me realize who grateful I am for the ability to do so - to respond when those I love need me. And it made me even more grateful for the friends and family who offered to help when the time came to say farewell.
The house will always be too quiet without him.
The courage he gave me to move through life - from divorce, depression, back to life again, adventures again, love again, marriage again, moving, and motherhood will stay with the paw print he's left on my heart.
It's been tested this year. But no matter what was going on, My Sailor has been the one feeding it. When business ebbs and flows (as it does) and the stakes are higher now (Beanie Girl), it's been My Sailor who has had the steadfast hugs and reminds me that we'll figure it out because we always do. And I choose to believe him.
And he's usually right (at least about this).
 When the going get tough, the tough get going.

My family is coming up for Christmas this year, and I can't wait to visit with them.
And no matter what happens in 2018,
I bet it's going to be an adventure.

Let's Recap - 2016 Christmas Post (2017 coming soon!)

We live in a very Norwegian little town. Every year, our little town of Poulsbo throws a strange sort of party. Every year, a clan of vikings kidnaps a maiden (St. Lucia) and lights a big ass bonfire right on the waterfront in the middle of downtown. The shin-dig starts off with lighting the Christmas tree, and dancing around it in big circles (no skill required kind of dancing... okay, so it's more like an organized shuffle, but it's entertaining to witness and be a part of).
Beanie Girl Does Julefest 2016

It was a crazy day for us, but it was also a fun tradition to begin with Beanie Girl.

And best of all, it was free.

It's been no secret. This has probably been the hardest year on our pocket books ever. It started last year, when little got sick right around the time I got back from Maternity leave, causing me to take even more time off work to see her gentle soul through some trying times. While Beanie Girl was busy building the best immune system ever, Trainer Girl (me) was frantically rescheduling and losing sessions here and there - sessions we can't afford to lose since we were making financial decisions in the blur of new-parenthood. As most people operating off very little sleep, we made some unwise financial decisions in the heat of the moment (you know, like putting groceries and gas on credit cards...) and have spent this year working hard to get our heads back above water. Like many, we don't make enough to get help, but also don't make enough to stay current on everything all the time, so it's an uphill battle.

While we've made some head way on our debts this year, in the spring (you know, about when Beanie Girl got pnuemonia, after me being out of work to sit with her during a bad cold the week before which I think was her 3rd virus since her August birthday - a tough start for a lightweight kid),  Our resources were completely tapped out financially and something I never thought would happen was happening.

We were starting to get hungry. Literally. The pantry was empty, and the bank account was too. I was constantly searching for ways to increase my pay, but to do so w/o needing child care services was grasping at straws. (Let's face it, Sunshine Rewards doesn't pay that well.)

So My Sailor reached out to his family and I reached out to local, more immediate resources -  a community that had helped us with so much before - our local Buy Nothing project. They helped us fill the gaps by cleaning out their pantries and freezers and offering us what they didn't have any use for anymore. For the price of gas, we got frozen turkey from the Thanksgiving before, home jarred Salsas, baking mixes (more than a few meeting our Gluten free needs), protein shakes and more. It filled the gap and until the next paycheck.

We learned to be resourceful. (And that says something, since I've always been pretty damn resourceful to begin with.) With the thanksgiving left overs gifted to us, we made huge pots of soup and stews that got us through those lean weeks. (My mom had given us the gift of Cloth Diaper Service, so that was one think we didn't have to worry about.)

And we've learned a lot.

Most of our clothes this year are second hand - either hand me downs (which we've continued to hand down to others), or Goodwill finds, with the odd pair of pants here or underwear there that's new. And There Is Nothing Wrong With That. 'New' doesn't always mean 'better'.

We have let go of the things we don't need.  I've sold some musical instruments I no longer play and Disney art peices that I wasn't particularly attached to, and My Sailor as sold one of his guns - because in the end, they are just 'stuff' anyway.

We made some hard decisions. My Sailor reupped for the military, and we're looking toward the future as things continue to upswing.

Through it all, we've caught up. Slowly but surely, the small decisions are adding up and we're making progress.

And we're still together. We're still a family. Nothing changed. And Maybe We've Just Learned the Greatest Lesson of All this Year....

Santa taking photos on stage
Today, Beanie Girl went to a military Kids and Family Holiday party. It was a free event that My Sailor had signed us up for. I knew she'd get her picture taken with the jolly old elf himself, and that she would get a present. I was expecting something generic (like a candy cane). Instead, Santa knew she liked Rapunzel and her age - and she was given 2 toys! One was a doll of Rapunzel that she was enchanted by, and the other was a developmental ball toy I'd been wanting for her, but had yet to see a quality one cross the Buy Nothing or Goodwill 'shelves'. It was like Santa knew...

Our foam, family made frame
There were 2 bounce houses she was a bit too small for, and a few other games, including a cookie decorating station (which we didn't do because a) no 16 month old needs THAT much sugar, and b) they didn't have any gluten free ones anyway and we opted not to brave the allergic reaction for a cookie...), a frame making station (which we did as a family) and a few other grab bag goodies. She came home with a coloring book as well.
Doing a Scratch Art ornament and gazing at her new doll
I looked around at all the different families... some dressed up for Santa. Some just rolled out of bed. Some looked as though they wanted for nothing, while others looked as though they barely had clothes for the weather.

And I sat there fighting back tears more than once...

I've had more than enough in my life and had more than enough need as well.

But when the need has arisen, I've always been looked after. Even this year...

Despite making progress, we're on a complete shoestring. Our 'gift' to our local friends was throwing a Murder Mystery pot luck dinner party at our house last night - and it was an amazing night (that I managed not to take one... single... solitary... photo of... ).  We'll have enough food left over not to need to go grocery shopping again until 2017... We didn't expect that!

But I sat there during the party, fighting back tears, reminded of all of the generosity that seems always to come my way when I need it the most - when I'm short on cheer or necessities.

One small example, Beanie Girl recently grew out of her hand-me down winter coat... and the weather has rarely gotten above 35. So we layer up as much as we can, and don't spend much time outside. Still, she needed a good coat. I heard of a store with a huge sale and asked a friend I needed to spend some time with to come with me to the mall and browse and catch up.  The coat we found was slightly out of my price range - but it just so happened my friend was looking for a Christmas gift for Beanie Girl. Not just any gift - but a useful one.

See that little pink coat with the silver stars in the photo above with Beanie Girl's bag?

She loves it.

Needless to say, it's useful.

We can't repay our friends, family, and Buy Nothing in kind, necessarily, but this year they have all served as fantastic reminders for me -

There is no 'giving season' anymore than there is a 'needy season'.

Speaking a need isn't 'shameful'. 
It gives people who the chance to do good, to give, to be part of the solution to someone else's story.

This year may have been a skinny one, but we've made magic on a shoestring - and those who helped us make it are the threads.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Tales from The Bathroom Floor

***I wrote this under my other blog back in April. For some reason, it isn't letting me share it any other way, so I'm reposting it here.***

I've seen way too much of my bathroom floors lately.

It started on Monday night. The week had begun bright and promising, with a great walk and talk with a friend, but car trouble kept me from my awesome Tacoma clients. (Boo hiss!) Come 1am on Tuesday morning, I suddenly needed to more closely inspect my toilet by way of losing my dinner there... over and over for about 6 hours. When even water wouldn't stay down, we packed up and headed to the ER.
After about 6 hours in the ER (where they threw every anti nausea drug they had at me, ending up with what they called a 'migraine cocktail' - after I'd thrown up something that tasted like the saline solution they'd put in via IV...) I was sent home with still more anti nausea meds and explict instructions to not 'chase the nausea' for the next few days.

I don't remember much of Tuesday. Our entire household pretty much slept through it. After The Lady in Grey came to our rescue to let The Impossible Girl run around a bit while My Sailor sat with me in the ER, we all came home and snuggled into bed and slept until dinner time. All three of us...

By Wednesday it had already been - that kind of week.

I was feeling better in the morning and thinking that maybe this was just one of those nasty 24 hour flu bugs. I  planned on going through with all of my appointments.

My Sailor, knowing I had had about 1000 calories in 3 days, thought I was ambitious...

And he was right. By the end of my first appointment, I was so dizzy I could barely stand. So I sat for a while, picked up The Impossible Girl from Child Watch, and went home, canceling or rescheduling my evening appointments.

So one more day of rest it was.

Then I work up Thursday hoping to get to my evening appointments in Tacoma. I was able to keep a homemade smoothie down foe breakfast just fine. But The Impossible Girl was impossible to get to sleep the night before. In fact, she slept from 3am until 7am... That was it. The rest of the night was a screaming fit that would not stop. (Gas pain plus molars plus being a baby is hard.)

Although I hadn't thrown up since Tuesday,  the dizziness struck again (likely due to exhaustion) and long drives at night, spinning rooms, and anti nausea meds don't mix... so again, I was rescheduling my day.

But the day at home was hardly restful. The Impossible Girl was attached to me physically the entire day. And everything was a battle. No, not everything, breakfast was good, but everything else, from getting dressed to walking across a room was accompanied by screaming herself hoarse and tears.

Finally, sitting across the bathroom floor from her as she screamed at me across the room, I absorbed the weight of utter surrender. It just wasn't worth the battle - changing her soiled diaper was not worth this. I knew she was uncomfortable and guessed that was why she was crying, but the prospect of getting her diaper changed was completely overwhelming to my equally as exhausted toddler. She had run across the bathroom away from me and was letting me know how she felt in no uncertain terms. I offered her a hug if she'd come over to me. She didn't, probably (accurately) feeling that I'd sweep her up and change her (god forbid...). So after a good 8 minute stand off of her in of constant tears, I scooted over to her (which elicited half laughter through the tears and hollers) and offered her a hug at her place.

'Meet people where they are.' It wasn't a lesson taught to me in Foster care training. I'm not sure when I figured it out. Maybe it's because that is where most of the people who have greatly influenced my life have met me - where I was, rather than were they may have wanted me to be.

Anyway, it worked. She took me up on that hug. Collapsing into my shoulder. I laid back on the cold tile and hugged her to my chest, rubbing her back.

She stopped hollaring, and just sniffled softly, gradually relaxing. Sure, she still needed a diaper change, but right now, she needed comfort more.

I'm not sure how long we lay like that, against the cold tile floor. My mind filled with the agony of my nearly entire week of canceled work, the intense demands of the last few days, the fact that I still hadn't recovered, My Sailor was also still sick, and - to put the cherry on top- the damn giant great pyrenees would not stop barking all day long, I decided to join her in sniffling a few tears of frustration and surrender for myself- but no more than a few.

It's these moments that feel so big, but are really so fleeting that I understand the test of motherhood. There will come a day when she doesn't come to me for comfort like this, when the house will be too quiet, when everyone will be well and busy again. So, for now, even in the pit, I'll try to remember that the lesson is always - meet her where she is, and she'll come to you. No ulterior motivations. Even if it means spending a few more minutes in a nasty diaper.

We did end up getting outside for a walk (once she let me get her dressed, a few hours later) and picking up a few supplies at the Dollar Store to do a new craft project. (Finger painting!) And all in all, after the stressful day, she finally fell asleep about 30  minutes before her usual bedtime with little to no fight, and I happen to get emails from 4 new prospective clients today.

So maybe today the bathroom floor is exactly where I needed to be.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Shutter Bug and Parking It

The Impossible Girl at Fish Park, running bridges.
I'm pretty lucky that My Sailor is a shutter bug. Honestly, I'm usually so busy living that I forget that these moments are important to record too.  Luckily for me, he has a pretty good. He takes the pictures. I do the editing and sharing. That's the deal.

So, on weekends, we've taken to doing a walk and a small picnic or a mini-road trip somewhere.

Okay, so truth be told, these are both of these are born of necessity. A car ride puts The Impossible Girl to sleep, and, since she is prone to waking up as soon as we park, these car rides can last an hour or more. And walks/hikes are a cheap way to get out of the house when wallets are tight and we're all about at our wits end. But it dawned on me the other day, when a Child Care staff member asked if we take The Impossible Girl on hikes because she LOVES being outside and in the dirt discovering nature whenever she can be.

That was awesome. As much as I complain about her screen time, which is unavoidable in today's world, we get her outside EVERY SINGLE DAY. And not just outside to walk from a parking lot to another indoor location - but actually spending time OUTSIDE. I've always been a nature girl. In fact, we have a camping trip planned and I'm already looking forward to exploring new woods, trails, and what not. 

Fish Park in Poulsbo is one of our usual haunts - usually on a hunt for painted rocks (thanks to the talented folks at Kitsap Rocks) or out for a picnic to let The Impossible Girl burn off some energy.

Last month we were at the fish park quite often -

Hanging out with my favorite little alien.

The Impossible Girl rocking her Angel hoodie - From Disney's Lilo and Stitch series

One of our napping/road trips lead us to Port Townsend for lunch.

  The Impossible Girl quickly discovered the perfect size playground. Usually a bit of a wallflower, she surprised us by diving right in with the other kids, climbing the stairs and riding the slide over and over and over.... you get the jist...

 And wasn't too thrilled when it was time to move on.

She teaches me a lot every day.

A lot about patience.

A lot about guidance.

A lot about courage.

A lot about fear.

A lot about love.

A lot about her.

A lot about marriage.

And a lot about myself.

I guess she's not the only one growing up.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

My Husband The Hero or "I kicked the Sh!T out of it."

Today My Sailor was a real hero.

When our septic tank had some serious issues back in May, I made a trip to the laundromat with The Impossible Girl to do some laundry we couldn't do at home.  Somehow, in balancing baby, laundry, giant change jar and detergent, I didn't check that the lid to the detergent was on all the way... and, of course, it tipped over and spilled all over the inside of the trunk of the T (my trusty 2006 Pontiac Torrent).  I sopped up as much as I could with towels I was going to wash anyway, and decided that the traces of blue goop left over would just have to stay for the moment. The bits that had absorbed into the car were just a new air freshener.

Anyway, more than a month later, I go to pop the trunk and it makes the popping sound, but won't open. There is no key hole as an option to open it either. It's key fob or nothing.

To add to the problem, it's my lean season at work, so the wallet doesn't have wiggle room for car repairs right now - and of course my right brake light is out - and we're going camping with family.

So, being the resourceful gal I am, I Google "how to manually open your tailgate of a 2006 Pontiac Torrent". Turns out my car (for some strange reason) is missing the opening other cars have in order to manually open it from the inside. (Sigh)

Just as I'm about to give up, My Sailor offered to take a look at it.

After about 10 minutes, I hear a loud Bang. Thinking he gave up and just slammed the doors, I come outside to find the back is OPEN!

After high fiving him, and still in a state of complete and utter shock, I asked, "How did you do it?"

"I kicked the shit out of it."

"And it worked?!"


"You should be in IT."

The culprit? The ever changing weather had caused the detergent that was stuck inside the lock of the tailgate to gum up the works.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pumpkin Picking 2013

Here are a few photos from our pumpkin gathering outing to Mosby Farms in Auburn, Washington. It's great to sneak out for an adventure every now and then. While it is out of the way (and it was like pulling teeth to get S along for the ride) a good time was had by all.  We arrived just before closing, so we weren't able to do the massive corn maze, but maybe next year. 

 Capped off our trip with a visit to their farm stand for a few fresh, local preserves! Yum....