Shifting seasons…new routines

I have severe adult ADD, attention deficit disorder.  It is actually really diagnosed, and a real mental health disorder.  It is often debilitating.  Right now since I’m nursing I cannot take my medication and am relying on natural methods to keep my ADD under control and help our family function.  This summer has been brutal where we live, and tomorrow we are set to break the record for the hottest summer in history, and the worst drought in 80 years.  This has pushed us to live indoors all summer long.  The worst part about that is one of the best treatments for ADD is being in nature.  I highly suggest for ALL parents reading the book “Last Child in the Woods”  It is a fantastic read for all parents, and will explain why ADD is on the rise among both children and adults.

As a result of being unmedicated and not being able to pursue my primary “treatment” of outdoor time our family has lived in some chaos this summer.  I loathe chaos.  Chaos is the best word to describe my upbringing and is why I’m so intense about pursuing my ADD treatment, even when I cannot take my medication.

However the seasons are changing and this is so good for my unmedicated self, and my poor unmedicated family.  First there have been a few days here and there where it isn’t above 100 degrees and I can get outside and experience nature.  But secondly and most importantly we have a new routine and strict schedule to follow.  School has started and that means we have specific places to be every single day of the week that never change.

Routine can be hard for the ADD mind, but it is vital to us also.  As summer ends and the school year begins we have a specific routine.  Right now I’m setting alarms for everything from snacks, to getting dressed for school, to actually leaving.  Eventually it will become a routine and I won’t have to set the alarms anymore.  But it marks the end of chaos for my children, chaos has been the word of the summer.  And we all breathed a sigh of relief as our new routine started and we realized that we were indeed going to thrive.

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According to the five year old

The baby smells like chocolate and cheese….

I love the descriptions children have of things.  How they see the world around them, and the observations they make.  When I made an effort to actually listen to what my kids were saying I realized they make perfect sense.  I see so many things in the world that I wouldn’t have ever seen had I not been listening to them.

And the baby really did smell like chocolate and cheese.

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That family…

This afternoon there was a family at the bowling ally.  The kids were excited, but a bit wild.  They were having fun but after about eight frames they little ones started to meltdown into piles of kid shaped goo on the floor.  One got super sassy with her mother, and another broke a glass, while the baby started crying to nurse.  The parents were obviously tired, at their wits end, and about to give up all together.  As the water glass hit the floor while the little boy was attempting to fish out the french fry he deposited upon his previous sip the mother and father gave up in exasperation and said “That’s it, it’s time to go home”  Screaming children were packed up, and shoes were returned.

As the mother was standing at the counter, so disheartened that yet another outing with her children had ended in a broken glass and frustrated words, an older mother approached her.  She said “I see you here and want to encourage you.  I have four children.  The oldest just had her first baby, and the second is in India on a mission trip.  I’m here alone with my youngest.  Your kids aren’t going to remember the broken glass or leaving the bowling alley early.  They are going to remember spending time with mom and dad and each other.  They are going to remember how much fun they had bowling and that daddy got two strikes and they each got a spare.  They aren’t going to remember how patient you were with them, but they are going to know the next time they mess up you will be patient again and help them along.  I know you are tired, but it will be worth it.  Now, when you go to the car, remind them about how much fun the afternoon was and thank them for spending their time with you.  Don’t mention the behavior issues you struggled with, but rather congratulate your children on the things they did well.  You’ll be rewarded for it in a few years”

And yes…it was a balm to this mama’s soul today.  Because as I tucked my little ones in tonight I heard them thanking me for a fun day.  What could be better.

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This morning

I woke up to find my five year old working on a letter to her daddy.  He is gone again and she misses him dreadfully.  A few deployments back I created a daddy envelope.  She writes him letters when he is gone and puts them in the envelope and the faeries deliver them to him and then he brings them all back with him and they talk about them in some special time.  Of course this requires a little help and planning on the part of mommy and dadd, but she doesn’t know that yet.

This has really helped her on those days where she feels like she just can’t go another minute without daddy and where she misses him more than she can bear.  She’ll write him a letter, which have evolved from crude scribbles to actual words and pictures, put it in the daddy envelope and then wait.  These letters are special and private, only between her and her daddy, and I’m instructed to never read them.  She still can maintain her special relationship while he is away and the magic of childhood insures that he gets all the letters as soon as the faeries deliver them.

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Not losing yourself in motherhood

Being a mother is a calling and a mission.  The job that God has given me at this point in my life is to pour His love into them to raise responsible Godly men and women.  I couldn’t ask for a harder, or more rewarding mission.  And it is the primary focus of my life.  To teach my children the joy of Jesus loves them…I can’t believe I have been asked to do it and I’m filled with humility and awe.  I love it.  I love being called to it, and I constantly seek to improve my mothering.

But as I was surrounded with toys and dishes and laundry (dirty and clean) and screaming children and a baby who needed to nurse I realized that I was drowning in my mothering also.  Right now I’m solo parenting and my life completely and totally revolves around my children without breaks.  I have no adult to talk to at the end of the day, unless we are lucky enough to Skype, and I am the only one who handles quarrels, bitterness, messes, poop, screaming, and snuggles.  I wanted so badly to sit down with a book and read…without a poop emergency at some point during a paragraph.  I wanted to remember that I was a woman outside of motherhood.

Sometimes we aren’t allowed to have that luxury.  My children have gone through periods where they are all sick and my husband is deployed and for days or weeks I have no break from a child.  None.  Perhaps I’ll get three or four minutes to regroup in the bathroom, but when your children are sick they are needy and nobody can fill that but mommy.  Those periods are difficult because we really have no place for anything in our lives but motherhood.  And that is okay.  Those periods are fairly rare, and pass, and make us stronger as a family.

But right now my children are all healthy and happy and I realized I had not been out of the house without a child with me in over a year.  I had lost myself in the role of mother, and forgotten the role of me.  Without knowing who I am and being in touch with myself I cannot be a good mother, wife, or daughter of God.  My personal health, including my mental health, is vital to the health of this family.

So tonight I hired a babysitter for all three of my children and I left the house for an hour and a half.  I left a bottle of pumped milk for the baby in case he got hungry and went out by myself.  I browsed at a store, looked at some books and magazines.  I thought about buying some fabric to make some curtains, and looked at paint chips for what color I would like to paint my dining room.  I was intentional that I was not shopping for the children, I wasn’t doing a chore like grocery shopping.  I was browsing for me, and me alone.

And it was better than therapy.  I dreamed of things I hadn’t for a while.  I found some inspiration for projects for my home, and yes even my kids, and I remembered times with my husband that I missed dreadfully.  It recharged me in a way that I didn’t realize I needed so badly.

I’m glad I took some time for myself and realized I was drowning in my motherhood forgetting it was a calling, not my existence.

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The value, and trials, of spouses groups

Navy spouses clubs have a bad reputation.  Really.  Every community in the navy seems to have a bad impression of navy spouses clubs.  Sometimes for good reason too.  But the reality is most clubs are at the core filled with women (and some men) who want the same things, support, friendship, comfort, and love.  Sure some spouses clubs have drama and gossip and cliques.  It comes with the territory of any large group of women.  (I will from here on out refer to spouses groups as groups of women.  Yes, some men are in some groups, but by and large it is women’s groups)

Despite the reputation of spouses groups, they are an invaluable resource.  A spouses group is filled with women who understand what you are going through, who have kids your age, who have husbands who work with yours, and are in many ways instant friends.  Since the navy is a hugely diverse group it is rare that you are separated by boundaries that often separate civilians.  You all make roughly the same amount of money…you usually have kids in the same age range…your husbands have a lot in common…race doesn’t matter because the military is the most equal of all playing fields.  You are most likely going to find people who you agree with on a variety of subjects, and find people who stretch your mind to new limits.  But most importantly you will find people who you can be friends with, sometimes lifelong friends.

The spouses club is filled with women who know what it is like to wave goodbye to your husband, lover, friend, and children’s daddy and not know for sure when he’ll be home.  That is invaluable.  Civilians don’t understand what that is like, and often it is met with pity.  Or civilians will try to compare their husbands three day business trip to your husbands six month cruise.  It isn’t that civilians have bad intentions, or don’t honestly want to empathize, but they truly don’t understand what it is like.

Some spouses clubs have been poisoned with ugliness.  It it truly sad when cliques get in power, or worse when women who are trolling for men when their husbands are deployed are involved.  But the far FAR vast majority are good groups where you are going to meet some of your best friends.  Don’t judge a group based on reputation alone.  Check them out.  See if it is something you want to be a part of and get involved.  Being a part of the Navy community is worth your time and effort and could be one of the best parts of your navy life.

 

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The ebb and flow of friendships in the navy

Twelve years ago I had a best friend on our navy base.  She and I saw each other every day, multiple times a day.  We were important parts of each others lives and as close as sisters.  When my husbands ship went on its six month cruise we ate together every night.

Then we moved away and started to talk less and less.  Eventually we drifted apart and now we only speak via the occasional comment on each others Facebook page.  Its okay.  I have no regrets about our friendship or the way it went.  It followed a natural path.

On that same base twelve years ago I had another neighbor who I wasn’t super close to.  We went to the same church and updated each other after we moved via mass emails.  When myspace came along we became myspace friends and started to chat more regularly.  We had our first children together, both daughters, and gradually started chatting more and more.  Today I count her as one of my best friends, though I haven’t seen her in ten years.

Friendship in the military is an odd thing.  You meet new people at every duty station and sometimes you form intense friendships that die natural deaths or blossom into a lifelong friendship that you wouldn’t give up for the world.

It is okay for friendships that were once very intense to die as you move apart and into different places in your life.  There is no need for guilt.

And perhaps I was writing to myself here tonight

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