Sunday, September 18, 2011


As I write this blog today, I am literally beaming with pride. I think back on everything my little Maddy has overcome, and I could not be happier for her. From the moment she was born, and I heard the word clubfoot, I knew we had some challenges coming. My Google searches on that word later proved that I was right. The doctors also confirmed my suspicions by telling me that she would be behind with most developmental milestones.
At 3 weeks of age and casts reaching from the tips of her toes to the tops of her thighs, my heart ached for her legs that she was not allowed to use. How frustrating it must be to not be able to move your legs, I thought. How irritating it must be to not be able to stretch or bend your legs! But she proved to be a fighter, and she was the happiest baby I'd ever seen. It was as if she was telling me to have no pity on her, for how can you pity someone who's smiling? So we carried on, and the casts became just a part of her. They became such a normal part of our lives that her older sister even asked me one day why I had no baby pictures of her with her casts. She assumed that all babies had to wear them.
At 4 months of age, while still wearing casts on both legs, Maddy rolled over from her belly to back right on time just like the average baby. By 7 months of age, with the casts replaced by an uncomfortable brace that held her feet apart at an angle, she was sitting unassisted. By 9 1/2 months, she was crawling with her brace. By 10 months, she only had to wear the brace while sleeping and was in physical therapy. At 11 months, she was pulling up to standing. Soon after, she was cruising around the furniture. In the midst of all her incredible milestones that proved not to be as delayed as predicted, the doctors continued to express concern for her development. I was baffled and annoyed. How could they possibly see red flags when she's doing all these wonderful things?! My pride for her continued to grow despite being surrounded by naysayers, and she continued to be the happiest baby in the world. My first two children were not walking by a year old, so I showed no concern that Maddy was not walking either. She would get it when she's ready. And then one day she did. Four days shy of 14 months old, Maddy was sitting in the middle of the living room. She looked at the floor, she looked at me, and then she put her hands on the floor in front of her. She leaned forward, sticking her little bottom up in the air, and she pushed off. She slowly and carefully came to a standing position, and she stared at me with the biggest brown eyes I've ever seen. Her face showed pure concentration. Her arms balanced her wide stance, and she began to smile. Her left foot moved forward a few inches, and then her right. She plopped down to the floor and gave me a huge grin. I couldn't help but grab her and squeeze her with excitement. A mother is always proud when her baby starts walking, but my pride in that very moment exceeded anything I had ever witnessed. Two steps are hardly called "walking," but for Madison Grey, it's a huge accomplishment. And now it's only a matter of time.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Year in Review

In 9 days we will reach our 1 year mark since my husband left for deployment. You don't realize just how long a year really is until you're smack dab in it, waiting for your companion/partner to return. He has missed A LOT! I have learned A LOT! The number one thing I have learned is that if it came down to it, I know I can survive on my own. Single parenthood is not fun or easy, but I think I have succeeded. All 3 kids are still alive and relatively healthy. That is the goal, isn't it? The dog stays on his bed all day, but he seems to be ok. The yard has about 18 different grasses and weeds growing in it with a bunch of bare spots where the dirt shows through, but the kids still enjoy it. I continue to mow it every 1-2 weeks. The van smells like something died in it, and for the life of me I cannot figure out what it is, where it is, or how to get rid of it, but the oil is changed, the tires are full of air, the tank is full of gas, and from the outside, no one would know any better. The oven sets off the smoke alarm every time I bake something (and I don't burn the food!), but I have the speed of Super Woman when it comes to turning it off before the fire department is alerted. His side of the bed is covered in clean laundry, but I know exactly what articles of clothing are in that pile. Easy retrieval is essential in the morning rush to get dressed. In his absence, he has missed 3 1/2 months of Maddy wearing full casts on her legs, countless trips to Nashville to see her orthopedist, 7 months of her wearing a brace 23 hours a day, 1 1/2 months of her wearing the brace only while sleeping, several physical therapy appointments across town, her first birthday, and every celebratory milestone she has hit along the way. For Hunter he has missed a 4 hour trip to the ER to get 5 stitches in the head, countless ear infections, surgery to have his tonsils removed and tubes put in his ears (with a horribly painful recovery, I might add), numerous nightmares, his 3rd birthday,  impressive temper tantrums, and all of the potty training (which I thought would never be done! Go me!). For Tally he missed all of pre-k, riding the bus to and from school for the first time, learning how to read and write, 2 dance recitals, 3 loose teeth (so far!), her 5th birthday, and it appears that he will miss her very first day of kindergarten. During his absence I endured a painful abdominal hernia repair surgery with a lengthy recovery and was forced to hire a full time nanny for a month just to survive. I backed my van into the neighbor's parked car. A bird flew into our house. Squirrels took over the attic. I handled Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Easter, and the 4th of July without him. I conquered 2 LONG trips to NC to see family (thanks to the help of family who rode with me!). And he missed my [insert # here] birthday and our 8th wedding anniversary. As we enter the last week of our year without him, I cannot help but look back at everything we have accomplished and be proud. I could not have done it without the help of fabulous family, amazing friends, wonderful babysitters, and helpful neighbors. And coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. I can only hope that he fits back in without a hitch and does not feel like a stranger in his own home. One thing is for sure... we will welcome him back with open arms!

Sunday, May 29, 2011


When I was a kid, I spent many, many hours lost in my own imagination. I can remember playing house with my little sister for hours on end. My stuffed animals and baby dolls were all real, and just like in "Toy Story," they all talked and moved around when I wasn't there. In 4th grade I often played news reporter with my best friend, Jessica. One of us would look through an empty paper towel roll and pretend it was a video camera while the other one sat at the table and read made-up news stories. I just knew that one day I would be a reporter for real, or at least a journalist of some sort. My dad's house had a huge magnolia tree in the front yard, and I can remember playing under it countless times as a child. The long leafy branches made a fabulous fort. I also remember my older sister climbing it and getting stuck near the top. It was a a very tall tree. My Barbies all had names and varying personalities. My pound puppies were my real dogs, and I pulled them around on a leash. I also slept with the mama pound puppy one night with gum in my mouth, and I woke up the next morning with dried gum strung all over her head. It never came off. I had an amazing imagination as a kid, and it does my heart good to hear my own kids using theirs. I give Tally full credit for teaching Hunter how to pretend. She lives in a world of pixie dust, where arabesques happen spontaneously, and she probably wonders why everyone else doesn't suddenly twirl around unexpectedly like she does. As I sit here in the living room typing this blog, I can hear her playing with Hunter in the other room. The futon is a ship, and there are sharks in the water. I don't usually approve of them playing on my desk chair, but at this moment it serves as a boat that will roll them across the water to the island. Hunter plays along excitedly and is just thrilled to have his sister's attention and to feel needed in her imaginary world. I often find him playing with his cars, giving each of them a voice and playing out different scenarios like Tally does with her Barbies. That is most definitely indicative of her influence. It makes me wonder . . . did I have the same effect on MY younger siblings? Did I unknowingly teach my little sister how to pretend? Or is it something that comes naturally? Regardless, I am waiting for the day that one of my kids has an imaginary friend. Hunter  has an imaginary monster that seems to come and go, but mine was so real I can still see her face. Kristi Ernie was her name. She was Vietnamese and lived in the house down the street. She visited often, and when we moved to a new town, she still visited frequently. She visited, that is, until my mom sent her home one day. Kristi Ernie refused to get out of my older sister's bed, and we were arguing about it. My sister was NOT happy that Kristi Ernie was in her bed to begin with, so she was yelling at me to get her out. Finally, my mom came in the room, and for the first time, she spoke directly to Kristi Ernie herself. She demanded that she get out of my sister's bed, and she told her to go home. That was the last time I saw Kristi Ernie. I can only hope to have to speak to my own children's imaginary friend. That just might do my heart good again.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


No parent is supposed to outlive their child. For the past 5 days my mind has been completely preoccupied with what a friend of mine is going through. We became friends in Germany. Our families traveled to Belgium together one weekend when I first found out I was pregnant with Tally. We often ate at a Greek restaurant together. My friend was always volunteering and helping other people whenever they were in need. I remember her bringing me Taco Bell one night with another friend simply because they were worried about me after I had a baby two weeks before our husbands all left for Iraq. And then this friend and her family moved away as military families tend to do quite often. We have kept in touch through Facebook but I have not seen her in a couple years. After they moved it was discovered that their 2nd son had a brain tumor. He was always so full of energy and silly. He endured multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation. He put up a good fight for two and a half years. And then last week, he died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 11. Although they still live in Germany (in a different town from where we lived before), the funeral will be in Indiana. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that their hometown in Indiana is only 2 hours and 45 minutes away from where I am now. I hope that I will be able to make it. There is a feeling of complete helplessness within me that I am so far from my friend, and I can do nothing for her or her family. As long as I can work out the logistics with my own kids, I will be driving to Indiana one day this week to see sweet Nathan laid to rest. I cannot imagine the pain and torment of watching your child suffer for so long, fighting so hard, and then losing him. The world is not supposed to work that way. Lyrics to one of my favorite songs come to mind....

"Lord, make me a rainbow. I'll shine down on my mother. She'll know I'm safe with you when she stands under my colors, oh, and life ain't always what you think it ought to be, no. Ain't even great when she buries her baby. The sharp knife of a short life. I've had just enough time..."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It's a bird!

Today at approximately 12:00 noon, I was standing at the back door of my house talking to Tally who was in the back yard. She was so excited that she had just witnessed soldiers jumping out of an airplane and parachuting to the ground. The door was wide open, and suddenly something swooshed by my head. I looked back over my shoulder and saw a bird flying frantically all over my kitchen. I love to watch birds when they are in my yard or in a tree, but apparently when they are inside my house, I freak out. I yelled to Tally, "There's a bird in the house!" and I ran outside screaming. A moment later the dog took notice and started barking at the bird. I slowly crept my way back inside to keep track of the bird's movements just in time to witness him pooping as he flew over the coffee table and living room carpet. Since he was still fluttering about, I screamed again and ran out the front door. Two of my neighbors happened to be standing outside, and one of them came running to the rescue. She offered to bring her cat to my house to do the job, but I feared that my dog would eat the cat (although he would probably just lick it). The bird had landed on top of a window by this point, so we brainstormed ideas on how to catch it. Just as Tally came in with a box, the bird took off again, and I screamed while running down the hallway. Apparently I am useless in a crisis situation. Luckily, the bird then flew out the back door and everyone was safe. No one was pecked to death. Phew!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Reading is good for the soul.

I absolutely love the feeling of finishing a good book. It is a feeling of satisfaction, yet, at the same time, a feeling of disappointment because there is no more of it left to read. Sometimes I wish a good book could just go on forever, and every night as I get into bed, I can look forward to reading it. The very end of the day is my most favorite time to read. All the daily chores are done, the kids are asleep, there are no interruptions, and I am able to read until I just can't keep my eyes open anymore. Rainy afternoons are great too, most definitely with a cup of coffee at my side. My most recent good book is Sweet Jiminy by Kristin Gore. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in about five days from cover to cover. My house might have suffered a little bit while I took advantage of every opportunity I had to read, but it was worth it. Sweet Jiminy is the second book of Kristin Gore's that I have read, and I loved the first one just as much. She may very well be surpassing Jennifer Weiner as my favorite author. Now the never ending search for a good book continues as my last search comes to an end.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Painting by the Window.

I cannot help but chuckle as I listen to my 2 oldest kids (ages 5 and 3) carry on a conversation while they paint on their little kids' table by the dining room window. After about 10 minutes of diligent painting, Tally, my 5 year old, gasps and says, "Oh, Hunter! Your picture is so beautiful!" Hunter shows a huge grin on his face as he responds, "You think my picture is bootiful?!" And he continues to add more paint strokes to his paper of multi-colored scribbles, his face beaming. Tally continues to praise him, saying, "Yes, it is, like, totally beautiful. So pretty. I love it." So now even if he thought about quitting (which usually doesn't take very long), it is no longer an option. As Tally completes picture number 3, Hunter finally finishes picture #1, which might possibly have more water on it than actual paint. The two of them go back and forth between bickering ("Hunter, you're mixing the colors! Look! You've ruined the yellow! I wanted to use yellow and now it's brown.") and gentle, kind praises of love. Hunter apologizes for ruining Tally's favorite color ("I'm sorry, Tally. I am so, so sorry.") And Tally moves on to picture #5, designating each one of her paintings for someone different (but most of them for her BFF next door). Listening to the two of them actually getting along for once melts my heart. I can only hope that as they grow older, they will continue to love each other and become the best of friends. This world needs their love.

Hunter's Painting

One of Tally's Paintings

One of Tally's Paintings

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


There is much truth to the saying, "When it rains it pours." This week, it has been pouring. It is only Tuesday, but I already have my eyes set on Friday. The week just needs to end. My mood has been altered by an extreme lack of sleep, thanks to Hunter's operation that occurred over a week ago. I haven't gotten a full night's sleep YET. Earlier this week I received news of my husband's grandmother (whom we named our first born child after) being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I only hope it does not progress too quickly and that she will still be of a somewhat sound mind when he and his brother both return from their deployments this summer. The icing on the cake, however, occurred this morning in the doctor's office. Maddy had her 9 month check-up. As we sat in the waiting room, a couple sat off to the side of us playing with their own 9 month old baby, when suddenly the husband loudly blurted, "What in the world is on your baby's feet?!" I felt all the eyes in the room turn to me and stare down at Maddy's brace. Look up the word insensitive in the dictionary and you will see his face. Who does that?! I briefly gave an explanation, and then, fortunately, our name was called. His rudeness has stayed with me ever since. The rest of the check-up went well. Maddy is in the 95th percentile for height and 80th for weight, so she continues to be my biggest baby, but she is healthy! She is being referred for physical therapy because she is not yet crawling and is not even close to being able to pull herself up to the standing position, nevermind walk. When she sits, her legs automatically stretch out into an amazing split position because that's how she sits with the brace on. She's a happy baby who has no idea of what challenges she has already overcome and what challenges are yet to come. I hope the physical therapy will quickly get her on the right track. And if I ever see the insensitive man from the waiting room again, I would love to smack him over the head with the brace.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Her Special Feet

My little Maddy is now 8 1/2 months old, and I cannot help but marvel at how big she has gotten in what seems like a short amount of time. Knowing that she is my last baby makes me want to hold onto her a little longer. I don't mind rocking her to sleep every night (as opposed to putting her in her crib awake). I love holding her tight while feeding her a bottle. (I know soon she will be holding the bottle herself). As she sits on the verge of crawling, I am not in a hurry to push her along. I want her to be successful and prove to everyone that her casts and her brace will not cause her to be behind, but at the same time I want to hold on tight to the baby in her and watch her play with her toys as she sits happily in one spot. Maddy is so special to me not only because she is my last baby, but also because of everything she has been through with her beautiful little feet. I did not write the entire following paragraph, but I wish I had. The words hit very close to home...

We have finished the castings and are five months into the brace. I am amazed at how well my daughter (and I) have handled this whole ordeal. And I'm glad I didn't know everything that would happen before it did.
If they had told me before hand how far they would move her foot at each casting... I would never have taken my child to the doctor for such abuse..
If they had told me before hand how much she was going to hate having the casts removed and put back on time after time, I would have left the first cast on for life...
And if they had told me before hand that I would miss her turned in feet.. I would have taken a million more photos of them (the few I have are my favorites).
Clubfoot can be a long, exhausting road, but the end is near (even though it doesn't seem like it).

Although the road has been rough, and she and I have traveled it alone (without her dad), I have to say it has been worth it. My only regret is not taking enough pictures before it all started because I cannot wait to show her later just how far she has come, especially when she is a track star or ballerina.

Friday, March 18, 2011


I woke up Wednesday morning feeling very anxious and quite hungry. I was surrounded by young children enjoying their breakfasts, and I was not allowed to eat one crumb. Not one drop of coffee or juice. Surgery was only a few hours away. Just after 8:00 that morning, I kissed my kids goodbye, wished the nanny good luck, and my mom and I were on our way to the hospital. Check-in time was 8:30, but I was 8 minutes early. The nurse welcomed me in, led me to my room, issued me a gown, poked my arm with an IV, and I waited. Nervously, hungrily, thirstily, I waited. Several hospital personnel came in and spoke with me, explained the procedure, and informed me on what to expect - after I'm asleep they would insert a catheter; they would put a tube down my throat and I would breathe through a ventilator; they would make 8 incisions in my abdomen and insert a piece of mesh to cover the hernia; the surgery would last 90 minutes. A nurse came in and put something in the IV. I was chatting with my mom for one more minute . . . and then I heard a man's voice telling me it was all over. There was an oxygen mask over my mouth and nose. My stomach was in severe pain. I couldn't breathe. A woman's voice was right next to me, but I couldn't open my eyes. "Laura, you're having a panic attack. You're hyperventilating. Take slow, deep breaths. You are ok." I still couldn't breathe. It felt like hours. The woman asked me to rate my pain from 1-10. In between breaths I said 8. My eyelids were so heavy. Oh, the pain! "I administered a narcotic into the IV," said the woman. "How is your pain now?" I said 7. Then almost immediately, my pain level dropped to a 2. My lungs were working again. I slowly opened my eyes. "Your surgery is done!" said the woman, who happened to be a nurse. "I'm going to leave the oxygen mask on you until you fully catch your breath. You gave us quite a scare there." I breathed a deep sigh of relief and observed two men in the recovery room with me, one on each side of me. We were separated by curtains, and I could only see their feet. I wonder what they thought of my breathing show. Exhaustion set in. After a few minutes, the nurse wheeled my bed out of there and back into the room where it all began. I was still a bit whoosy as nurses came in and out. My mom was there and then she wasn't. The surgeon came in and spoke to me. He said it went well, but I couldn't remember anything else he said. A nurse removed the IV from my arm, then she handed me my clothes and told me I could get dressed. I told her I was going to throw up. She handed me a blue plastic bag and an alcohol swab. I waved the swab in front of my nose, and after a minute the nausea went away. I dressed myself in the bed with as little movement as possible. The nurse helped me out of bed and into a wheelchair. She told my mom where to meet us, and my mom disappeared. Everything was happening so fast. The nurse wheeled me down the hall quickly. Too quickly. We passed a man in another wheelchair, and I wondered if his feet were one of the ones I saw in the recovery room. A minute later we were outside waiting for my blue van to pull up. Two nurses and my mom helped me into the van as I  cringed with every move. The ride home was uncomfortable. We pulled into the driveway, and my mom helped me out of the van and into the house. I was tired, and I was in pain. I sat in the recliner, and I stayed there for hours. The kids were excited to see me but confused as to why they couldn't get too close. Maddy cried when she wanted me and cried harder when she couldn't have me. Tally witnessed me throwing up in my trusty blue plastic bag a few times, and she looked terrified. I didn't want her to see that. I kept nothing down for the rest of the day, and I ate very little the next day. But here I sit two days later, still uncomfortable, especially first thing in the morning, but with the help of pain pills it is bearable. I am able to walk farther today. I walked all the way across the downstairs without giving out. Every few steps, I stop and wince with pain, but the more I move, the better I will get. Never do I ever want to go through this again. I don't know which is harder . . . the recovery or the effect my "absence" has on my kids.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bunny Slopes are Easy?!

Two years ago this month I was still living in Germany, although our time there was running short. It was the tail end of ski season, and although I previously spent four years in the mountains of NC and now almost 5 years in snowy Germany, I had never in my life been skiing, nevermind snowboarding. Suddenly, the opportunity presented itself to go snowboarding in the Black Forest with two friends, Allyson and Jacki, and leave all our kids at home with the husbands. Sounds dangerous, but it was so appealing! I had to jump on it. The husbands had all gone on this amazing trip a few weeks earlier, and they assured us it was only 3 hours away. We rented our snowboards, found some snowsuits, packed up my stylin' minivan, left our 5 kids with our 3 husbands, and hit the road. Black Forest or bust! I plugged the address into my GPS and cruised on down the autobahn. We were so excited to be kid-free and actually doing something fun and exciting. Allyson was the only one of us who had much experience with snowboarding. She was our designated instructor for the day. We were an hour or two into the trip when we suddenly realized we were getting dangerously close to the French border. Why are we headed towards France? we thought. Isn't the Black Forest in Germany? What we had not expected was that the GPS was taking us just barely across the French border and then back up into Germany. That would be fine and dandy . . . except Allyson and Jacki did not have their passports. I had mine only because I had left it in a hidden compartment in the van. Before we knew it, we were at the border. Allyson, being Canadian, was fluent in French. Mine was a little rusty. Plus, my mind went blank when I was face to face with the border patrol agent and realized we might have a problem. Allyson spoke up when I rolled down my window and said nothing but "Bonjour!" and showed him my passport. She exchanged a few friendly words with the man and then told me to go park. I pulled the van into a parking space next to the border patrol office building. Allyson and Jacki went into the building while I sat in the van and waited. And waited. What is going on in there? I wondered. Should I be worried? Should I go check on them? I could totally leave them right now and freak them out. But I won't. What are they DOING?? Finally, I see them come out of the building and walk towards the van. They both had papers in their hands. They climbed into the van as I started the ignition, ready to continue our trip to the Black Forest via France. "We have to turn around," Allyson said. "We have officially been denied entry into France!" She and Jacki started laughing. I sat in disbelief. They showed me their papers which clearly stated that they were not allowed to enter the country. We all laughed about it together as I turned the van around and thoroughly confused the GPS. The GPS recalculated the route but kept trying to direct us to various French border patrol stations. Finally, after several tries, I ignored the GPS and back-tracked to the autobahn. Long story short, we found our way to the Black Forest, but our three hour trip ended up being five. Allyson was an awesome instructor, but I was a horrible snowboarder. She and Jacki put me to shame. Over the two hours that we were on the slopes (the BUNNY slope), I successfully completed about 84 nose plants, 65 summersalts, 98 self body slams, and 13 butt slides. After one especially brutal tumble that harshly knocked the wind out of me, I sat in the snow for a minute to catch my breath. As I sat on the verge of defeat, a 12 year old German boy came flying down the mountain behind me. He skillfully snowboarded dangerously close to me, purposefully spraying me with cold, wet snow. The nerve! I thought. No adolescent show-off is gonna beat ME at this game! With my feet still strapped into my board, I ungracefully flipped over onto my stomach, hopped onto my hands and knees, dug the edge of the board into the snow, and carefully balanced myself into an upright position. I slid down the slope, first slowly and then quickly gaining speed. I was excited and proud. Look at me! I thought. I was doing it. I had gone at least 50 feet. And then it happened again. I crashed and burned. And it was brutal. I waved my white flag, unstrapped my boots from the board, and walked the rest of the way down the mountain with the board in my arms. The 12 year old can have this mountain. I am done. Allyson, Jacki, and I made our way back to the van, ready to start our trip home, hoping it would only take three hours. I changed a setting on the GPS that prevented us from even attempting to cross the French border, and soon enough we were cruising down the autobahn. Maybe an hour or two into our return trip, not far from the city of Strasbourg, France (but still in German territory), we heard helicopters and sirens. A few French and German police motorcycles sped by on the other side of the autobahn in the opposite direction. Then a few more. They were soon followed by police cars and more motorcycles. What is going on?! We passed an exit for a small local airport. More police sped by. And more. Then there was a whole group of police cars, all with their lights flashing, and in the middle of that group were three plain cars with the windows blackened. They were followed by yet more police, and then it was over. Must have been someone important. Then it occurred to us that Barack Obama was giving a speech in Strasbourg, France that day. His speech had just ended. Could it be? Did we just witness the presidential motorcade on the way to the airport? No wonder security into France was so tight!. I guess we'll never know. But I am fully convinced that is exactly what we saw. It was the perfect conclusion to a very adventurous day . . . besides finding our children happy, safe, and healthy in the care of our husbands of course! And it only took us three hours to get back.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Belly Part II

In a previous blog I wrote about how baby #3 tore up my stomach pretty bad. She was so big (my only 8 pounder) that my stomach muscles completely tore apart, which resulted in an abdominal hernia after her birth (or maybe before??). In that previous blog, I also expressed the unknown about how in the world I was going to allow my husband to have a fun two weeks at home in the middle of his year-long deployment but still manage to have a stress-free surgery at some point, either before or after his visit. Well, plans changed, and I finally decided to go ahead and have the surgery while he was home. That way we could enjoy ourselves as a family for the first half of his stay, and then the second half would be dedicated to my surgery and (painful, so I've been told) recovery. My mom bought plane tickets to come help with the kids, I bought plane tickets for a nanny to come and stay with us after my husband and mother are gone (I'll go into detail about her in a moment), and all arrangements were set and ready to go. Well, the universe apparently disagreed with me, and the week before my husband's arrival, I was plagued with a persistent fever, nasal congestion, chest congestion, and fierce cough. Long story short, four days before the date of surgery, I was completely shot down by the nurse at anesthesia and was not cleared for surgery (which was planned for Valentine's Day). I was very disappointed and once again began to question how I was going to pull this off without my husband. It seemed hopeless. But the glass is half full. After a couple days of sulking, I realized that at least now I can enjoy my husband and our family time for the remainder of his visit. And so I did. Turns out everything was not in my control afterall, and it was all decided for me. I remembered being told quite often by a good friend in Germany that things happen for a reason, and that suddenly became so clear.

Johnathan has now been gone (again) for 7 days. He is back in Afghanistan, and the kids and I are back into our routine. My surgery has been rescheduled for March 16, which is just over two weeks away. My mom was able to change her plane tickets for then, and I changed the nanny's. Speaking of this nanny, it's kind of funny how things work out. Her name is Melissa, and she was an intern in Hunter's daycare class in Germany when I was working. Hunter was just a baby then, but they seemed to develop a special bond. We kept in touch (yay Facebook!), and she has spent the past few years working in Child Development Centers in Germany, Italy, Japan, and England. Now she is back home in California and was looking for work right about the time that I was trying to figure out what to do about my surgery. Suddenly the idea struck me that I could have a live-in nanny (I believe the correct term is "au pair" - sounds so fancy, doesn't it?) to help me with the kids. The surgeon told me my recovery will be very painful at first, and I should expect to be somewhat out of commission for a good 4-6 weeks. I can't even drive for the first 2 weeks. So Melissa became my answer. She graciously accepted the offer to come stay with us, and all my problems were solved. My mom will be here the first week and will leave 4 days after my surgery, but I claim her as my own. The kids will have Melissa, and I will have my mom. Then for the following few weeks I will feel very established just saying that I have an "au pair." I can't help but tilt my head back and flip my hair when I say that.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Longest Week Ever

In one week (or less?) my husband, who has been gone for 6 months, will be home from Afghanistan for two whole weeks. I am ecstatic. The kids have not been told, and I plan on keeping it a surprise until the second they see his smiling face.  I only hope I can capture their excitement on camera when they see him in the middle of the airport.  Little Madison was only two weeks old when she saw him last. I am so anxious to see how she will respond to him. When he left, she had not even begun her casting on her legs, and her little feet were still turned completely inward. He will be amazed at the progress she has made with the casts and now the brace. When he left, Tally was 4 and had not begun Pre-K. Hunter was 2 and had not begun preschool. Now Tally is 5 and is over halfway through Pre-K and Hunter is 3 and happily goes to preschool twice a week.  Everything is different in our house, and he will resemble a stranger in his own home. I cannot wait. Inevitably, as with every soldier who deploys for such a long period of time (and we’re only halfway through!), he will most likely have already changed some. Just little quirks that you notice over time have developed or disappeared. Habits change. New habits begin. Attitudes and opinions change. And suddenly becoming a “single” mother of three has most definitely changed me. My responsibilities have grown. Some of my own habits have changed. I have become much more laid back in some areas and perhaps more uptight in others. My changes will become much more evident to him the longer he is here. I can only hope that whatever changes have taken place in our individual lives will not cause problems between us but will rather bring us closer together. Being apart for so long brings back the butterflies that were present when our relationship began (over 12 years ago!). It takes time to become familiar with one another again. Will he still drink Rock Star energy drinks excessively? Should I even bother to buy some? Will I be allowed to brush my teeth in the bathroom while he takes a shower at the same time? Will I feel comfortable changing into my pajamas with him in the same room, or should I go somewhere else to do it? I should probably clean up the garage and the back yard before he arrives since those are his “manly” spots, and I have most definitely abused them since I gained control. So many thoughts go through my head in anticipation of his arrival. As exciting as it is that he is finally coming home (despite it only being for 2 weeks) , I know that this will be the l-o-n-g-e-s-t and s-l-o-w-e-s-t week EVER. And I cannot wait.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Belly

While carrying Baby #3 for 9 months and growing quite exceptionally large, my belly took a serious beating. As my midwife put it at my 6 week post-partum checkup, my "guts fell out." In other words, I have a hernia. My abdominal muscles stretched and pulled apart so much that they pretty much no longer exist. There is a gaping hole in my abdominal wall, and I guess she was correct when she said my "guts fell out." That description does not create a pretty mental picture, but if I told you which organ is actually protruding through my abdominal wall, you would most likely cringe and have an even worse mental picture, so I will spare you the details. Regardless, the hole is BIG, and it has to be fixed. I have been walking around like this for 6 months now after being told to simply "lose more baby weight and we'll talk about it." So I did. I ran with a vengeance for several months until cold weather struck the Tennessee/Kentucky state line, and I am back down to my original pre-baby weight (or possibly below it). My eating habits as a "single" mother of 3 probably had something to do with it too, but I'll blame the running. So earlier this week I re-visited the surgeon with whom I talked to before, and he confirmed that my belly needed to be fixed, especially now that I suffer from random spurts of nausea, mild pain, and overall discomfort. I am not supposed to have any more children following the surgery, however, because pregnancy will undo everything they fix. So while they're in there, they will also perform a tubal ligation, or in layman's terms, they will tie my tubes. I am fine with that. I've always only wanted three kids, and I have reached my goal and am perfectly content with my three beautiful children. The surgeon first said we could do it in February. I would love to, but my beloved deployed husband is coming home for 2 weeks in February, and I refuse to ruin his vacation by forcing him to take care of me while I recover from abdominal surgery. Therefore, I will have the surgery in March. Recovery will not be easy, especially with 3 high-energy kids, but I can do this. Several members of my family have suggested me going home for the surgery, but I cannot imagine being gone for so long or staying in someone else's house for well over a month while I attend pre-op appointments, have the surgery, and then have post-op appointments and recover. Plus, and maybe this is the real subconscious reason, but there's just something comforting about being in my own home (OUR own home) while my husband is deployed. I don't know why, but I just want to be here where I can easily be found if needed. But all that aside, it is hard to believe that March is really not that far away. I will be relieved to have my stomach fixed and have my guts pushed back in. Now if we could only do something about the loose skin...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stuck in the Mud

Have you ever done anything that made you feel completely stupid? Take a minute and think about that. Please. It would make me feel better if you did. At least then I would know I am not alone in the world of people who do dumb things. Let me first defend myself, though, by stating that I am a horrible nighttime driver. Horrible. Blind as a bat. Anyway, tonight I had a meeting at 6:30. I had to drop the kids off at their childcare location at 6. We ventured out, and as we neared the childcare center, I realized I had missed my turn. The words from the email flashed in my head. If you get to the light, you've gone too far. As I approached that light, I became irritated. I had not seen the turn at all. So I went through the light with hopes of finding a turn-around spot soon after. Nope. So I made one. I quickly turned left and tried to do a wide U-turn in an area where hay had been placed over the ground. Little did I know that hay was covering pure mud. Thick, mushy, dirty M-U-D mud. I threw the van in reverse and did not move an inch. Put it in drive and did not move an inch. I continued this pattern until I had my front right tire completely covered in mud all the way up to the rim. I was not going anywhere. The voices coming from the back of the van tried to be helpful but eventually earned a negative response. Mom, why aren't we going? Mom, this is not the daycare. Mom, are we lost? Hey, Mom, where are we? Mom, can we go now? Can I get out? And then the baby starts crying. Oh yes. It's feeding time. I thought I was going to be able to make it to the meeting before feeding time struck.  Not gonna happen. Not today. Finally, I realized I could not fight this battle alone, so I got out of the van in my favorite black mary janes which immediately slid and sank into the mud. I flagged down the next passing vehicle. It was a very nice, older man in a pickup truck. He attempted to push the van out while I floored it in reverse. It did not budge. A soldier wearing running shoes, pajama pants, and a hoodie pulled over and helped. The van did not budge. They tried sliding rocks and eventually a rubber floor mat under my front tires, but nothing worked. A third man stopped and joined the party. Then a fourth. He spoke of chains and the possibility of pulling me out with his truck. But alas, after 40 minutes, the van flew out of the mud trap with full speed, and fishtailed onto the road. All I wanted to do was run and hug each and every one of them, but I knew I would just fall in the mud. I thanked them all graciously, and we parted ways. Forget the meeting. I went straight home thinking about nothing but the fact that all four of those men probably needed new shoes after that.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Birth Story II

Sunday will be January 23, my "baby" boy's 3rd birthday. On his sister's 5th birthday, I wrote a birth story blog, so I owe it to him to write his story. Just like before, we were living in Germany. I was teaching kindergarten. By the time I was 38 weeks pregnant, I had been preparing for maternity leave for weeks. Although you do not get paid for maternity leave, teaching is not a profession that you can just take leave and not prepare ahead of time. I  had been very busy making lesson plans, making copies of worksheets and other activities, and preparing all sorts of materials for my substitute. Luckily, I was great friends with my substitute, and she was an actual teacher, so I wasn't too worried. But we were halfway through the school year, and I had been working so hard with all 25 of my kindergarteners, so they all held a special place in my heart, and I knew them well. I was actually sad to know that I would be leaving them for 8 weeks. On Tuesday, January 22, 2008 I drove the 20 minutes to my doctor's office in Birkenfeld, Germany for my 38 week checkup. While administering the ultrasound, the doctor noticed that the baby had not grown since my last appointment a week ago. He looked at me with his gray handlebar mustache and said with his thick German accent, "You want to have the baby?"  "Now?!" I said. "Tomorrow," he responded. "You come in at 7, we induce you, and later that night you have the baby." I was thrilled. I was 2 weeks away from my due date, but I felt HUGE and uncomfortable, and I was very ready. As soon as I stepped outside, I called Johnathan and told him the news. Then I called my friend and maternity leave substitute, Kelly, and informed her that I was going on leave early. I spent that whole night packing my bag, packing the baby's bag, snuggling with Tally and trying to explain what has happening (not very easy with a 2 year old), and calling my family in the States. I barely slept that night. The anticipation was killing me. Bright and early the next morning, January 23, 2008, we dropped Tally off at daycare at 6:30 and made our way to the hospital. Kelly had already agreed to pick Tally up from daycare that afternoon, so we did not have to worry about when to pick her up. We arrived at the hospital by 7, and I was induced at 8:30. The doctor assured me that I would not feel anything for 4-6 hours, and then the baby still might not come until late that night or the next morning. He was wrong. The labor was fast and furious. It was intense, and I felt every bit of it. At 11:30am I began to push. I pushed a total of 3 times. Right before push #2 began, I heard a phone ring. I watched as my husband pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and say, "Martin here." That was how he always answered his phone. Is he seriously taking a call right now? Is he really talking on the phone as I deliver our baby? Seriously? It was Rich. Leon Richardson. Johnathan's right hand man. His first sergeant. His timing was impeccable. The call was quick. Right before it ended, Rich got a good earful of push #2. I'm sure it sounded like he was right in the room with us. I did not hold back. Just as push #2 ended, push #3 began, and Robert "Hunter" Martin was born at 11:47am. He was 7lbs 7 oz and perfect from head to toe.
Hunter, Day 1

When Tally met Hunter

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


It's hard to believe, but February is only a couple weeks away. When I think of February, I think of a frightful day 2 years ago in Baumholder, Germany. It was 2009, and I was a first grade teacher. It wasn't even lunch time yet, and I got a phone call on the school phone just outside my classroom. "Mrs. Martin?" said the woman's voice on the other end. "Yes?" I responded, realizing immediately that it was the receptionist from Tally and Hunter's daycare.  Oh great! I thought as various scenarios ran through my head. Hunter got bit again. Or he has a fever (which always meant an ear infection). But instead, I heard her say, "Tally's been hurt on the playground. Two of her teeth have been knocked far back and are barely hanging on. There is a lot of blood. She needs to be picked up and seek medical attention." What?! I thought. How can that happen? "Ok. I'll  be right there," I said with tears welling up in my eyes. I stepped back in the classroom not even knowing what to do. I couldn't just leave. I had 25 first graders counting on me, all staring at me wondering why I was pacing around the room and crying. I just wanted to run out the door to my baby girl who I could hear screaming in the background of the phone call. I did not have an aide, so I buzzed the secretary on the intercom and told him I needed a substitute NOW. Ten minutes later, my substitute arrived. I apologized for my lack of lesson plans, gave her what I had, and ran out the door. I pulled up to the daycare, literally ran inside, and saw Tally, still screaming inconsolably in the arms of a caregiver. I looked at her bruised, puffy, bleeding mouth and saw the two blue teeth pushed way too far back. Two other teeth next to them were now crooked. She reached for me, I grabbed her, and quickly listened to the story of how it happened. She had been playing Monster on the playground with some boys (she always played with boys!). She was the monster, and the boys were chasing her. As she ran, the biggest boy caught her and pushed her. She instantly fell forward with the momentum of her speed and the power of his push, and her face hit the side of a concrete car that was on the playground. Fast forward 25 minutes, and I was speeding to the dentist's office with her (still) screaming in the back seat of my van. She had paper towels and gauze gently stuffed in her mouth, but I could not stop the bleeding. The people who worked at the dentist's office were amazing. They took her back right away, took x-rays of her mouth, and then took her away to examine the damage. They said she would probably calm down and do better if I was not in the room. I paced and paced around that waiting room for what seemed like an eternity but turned out to be 10 minutes. Finally, the dentist came out to see me. I had tears in my eyes, and he assured me that she was ok. He told me that she had indeed calmed down and was no longer screaming. Then he told me what I had already known. The two front teeth had to come out. He said they were very loose and had no chance of surviving. He was able to slide them up into place, but as soon as he let go, they went right back to where they had been. The other two teeth affected were questionable. They were crooked, but he thought they could make it. I agreed to let him remove the two badly damaged teeth, and they came right out without any effort. I took his word for it that the two crooked ones would be ok. Tally and I left there that day with two teeth in a cup and a pack of ice on her mouth that continued to bleed. I took her home, let her rest after such a traumatic morning, fed her pudding, jello, and pudding, and I kept her home the next day as well. Her mouth hurt, and I hated to see her in pain, but she sucked it up and was a real trooper. From that day on, her smile was very different from what it had been. The two crooked teeth bothered her for months. She was constantly playing with one in particular with her fingers and her tongue, and once, I caught her tying a string around it, saying she wanted it out. It rested on her bottom lip when she closed her mouth, and she couldn't stand it. That July, the two crooked teeth were removed. My 3 year old baby girl was missing 4 of her top teeth, and they will stay missing until her permanent teeth come in at age 6(?). I think her "new" smile gives her more personality. But I hope that we never relive a day like that again!