Before having babies, you have a completely different view on life. You think you’re broke. You think you don’t have time. You think you’re tired. You think you don’t have freedom.
And then you have babies, and you realize how incredibly wrong you were.
If you’re anything like Russ and me, you realize how much time and how many opportunities you sort of wasted, thinking you couldn’t manage it.
Why couldn’t we take weekend trips to nearby cities? Why couldn’t we go on more out-of-country trips? (Granted, this is also an army problem.) Why couldn’t we garden? Why couldn’t we cook more? Why couldn’t we go for more walks, or learn how to dance together, or pick up new hobbies? Or. Or. Or.
It was only after having a baby—and especially two—that we realized we had so much freedom pre-babies.
The funny thing is, too, that we’ve become so much more adventurous—so much more carefree—in the years post-babies.
We take tons of walks. We go on fairly long drives. We learn new things together.
We rarely spend a full day at home.
And it’s all come from realizing we can’t let fear or exhaustion or money stand in our way of having a good time, and enjoying each other more fully.
Do we have some “could’ve-would’ve-should’ve” choices we wish we’d made? Sure. But do we resent where we are now because of those missed opportunities? No.
We now know we can still experience those things we neglected as young, free people. Maybe later in life, and maybe a bit more encumbered (by children, by worries, etc), but they’re not off the table yet.
It’s taken us five years and two babies to finally see the potential in everywhere we go, and everything we do.
It’s a word every military spouse dreads hearing. It’s a word that lingers like a dark cloud at the back of our minds.
And it’s something we probably all have to face, sometimes more than once, if we stay in the military for more than a few years.
Deployment is something we discuss for years after the fact.
I think everyone can agree to that.
But it’s also a learning experience like no other, and I actually don’t think our marriage would be what it is today without it.
Russ and I have talked about this topic—how deployment made our marriage grow stronger—over and over.
We were lucky with Russ’s deployment: we had almost a year of marriage before it came for us; we didn’t have kids yet; he wasn’t going to be doing patrols; we lived in a world of internet connectivity (even if it was expensive in Afghanistan).
Some have more intense deployments. Some have had multiple deployments. Some have newborns or family issues, or, or, or…
But the fact remains: deployments suck.
There’s limited communication; you’re separated for a long length of time; it’s inherently dangerous.
These are all reasons to let a deployment cause setbacks in a marriage. But Russ and I learned how to work it so the deployment actually made us stronger.
I don’t have “The 12 Tips and Tricks to Grow Your Marriage During Deployment”—no gimmicks. Just reality.
I think (I hope) even the most seasoned spouses would agree that the biggest factor in strengthening a marriage through the hardship would be learning how strong you are.
Deployments are inherently good at keeping you separated from your spouse (obviously), so you learn to be more independent than you probably thought you could be. You learn just how much you can do on your own. You learn how much you can handle—physically and emotionally.
And, here’s the key, I think: once you know how strong you are—once you realize you don’t need your spouse around—you learn to appreciate why you want them around.
Once you’ve found your inner strength, once you’ve faced your weaknesses and your shortcomings, it’s easy to accept your spouse’s, and learn to use each other to fill in those gaps.
Your spouse becomes a bonus—and, hopefully, your complement—rather than being your crutch.
The only tricky part lies in not letting your independence rule—in continuing to let your spouse in, to rely on them, even if you don’t have to.
Because, ultimately, the scariest thing to do, once you’ve learned to be strong, is to be strong enough to put your trust wholly in someone else’s hands.
So, yes, any type of hardship can teach you these lessons, and Russ and I would probably eventually be the couple we are today without a deployment, but it’s through the trials of life that we learn to build ourselves and our partnerships.
Did I hate nearly every minute of deployment? Yes. Do I resent it? No.
And, in fact, I’m grateful to have had the chance to prove to myself that I can be stronger than I ever thought possible.
So tonight, I’ll be celebrating the strength of our marriage, and thinking fondly of all the times I shoveled snow alone.
But really, I will never appreciate all that snow-shoveling. So, let’s fondly remember the homecoming, instead!
Russ and I are very habit-forming people. For the good and the bad.
One of the best habits we got ourselves into, though, in the very beginning of our relationship, was saying “I love you” often. (Once we got to the love phase, anyway.)
We say it whenever someone leaves, every night before bed, before we hang up with each other, and sprinkled in between.
Even when we’re angry or annoyed at each other.
Sometimes we go to bed mad. We argue, it isn’t resolved, and we roll over with a harrumph. Eventually, someone begrudgingly says, “goodnight. I love you.”
Can you hear it? The staccato tone?
The funny thing is, this simple reminder that we love each other is often enough to cool our heads and make us get over it.
Often, we roll back over, and finish the discussion, apologize if needed, and end the night with a more genuine “I love you.”
It works in any situation.
Love as an argument-ender; who could’ve seen that coming?
During Russ’s deployment, the need to say it often was intensified, for obvious (yes, those) reasons, and I think it serves as a great reminder even after the fact.
Not to be morbid or doom-and-gloom, but you never know when something could happen, and it’s comforting to know that we never leave each other without the actual, verbal reminder that we love each other.
It’s easy to get caught up in life, to go months without remembering to say something specifically nice to one another. To assume the other knows what you think about them, how you see your relationship, how much you appreciate them, and even how much you love them.
We’re all human. We all have moments of insecurity.
Even in strong marriages, we can take each other for granted, or feel as if we’re being taken for granted, in one way or another.
Sometimes the things we think are incredibly obvious are the things our partner is struggling with.
Does he still find me attractive? Does she think I’m funny? Does he want to be around me? Does she think I’m a good father? Does he love me? Does she love me?
You might think the answers are obvious–that you’re conveying your feelings to your partner perfectly. But maybe you’re not.
To me, stating the obvious can only be beneficial to a relationship.
So we’ll keep saying “I love you” two, four, twenty times a day.
Because we don’t always remember to state all the obvious things about our relationship.
(The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right?)
I never realized how much of a problem I had with stress eating until (surprise, surprise) I had a kid.
I’ve had a problem all alone, but I never noticed it until the pattern began swinging out of control.
Have we talked before about how being a parent is one of the most stressful things in the world? Because it is. Right?
I’ve noticed that on particularly bad days, my brain is screaming at me to dip a chocolate bar in some peanut butter and scarf it. Or grab some deliciously salty French fries. Or down an entire pint of ice cream.
This morning, when I told the toddler we were going to the store, she ran to my room to grab my old purse. How adorable, I thought, as she slung it over her shoulder proudly.
“Mama’s purse,” she grinned.
When we got to the store, however, she started talking about “funny,” over and over, but I carried on with my shopping, talking to her about funny things.
Finally, I realized she was saying money.
I glanced down to see her holding up a stray quarter that had been relegated to the bottom of the purse, and nervously debated taking it away.
And then she said, “eat the money,” and I jumped for it.
She had a huge meltdown: screaming, throwing the purse, pulling my hair–the works.
As I wrestled her into the car seat, buckled up the baby and myself, I tried to reason with her (again).
She continued screaming.
I drove to Burger King, telling myself I only wanted a fountain Coke; knowing I’d spring for the fries, because I deserved them with the day I was having, and then I might as well just get a meal.
Then I drove past it.
My mind was yelling, “feed me fries and caffeine!”
But I didn’t.
I took a breath, explained to the (now quietly sniffling) toddler why we can’t eat money, promised her we would be nicer to each other (because I don’t always handle tantrums perfectly–what?! I’m not perfect?!), and drove us home.
I made us lunch–ate the leftovers from dinner, put the toddler down for her nap, got the baby down for hers, and ate a mini cookie butter sandwich.
Because I’m totally not perfect.
I stress eat. But I’m working on it.
So I’ll stop whining, and wine tonight to little (in this case, very little) victories.
What’s your “something to w(h)ine about” this week?
It’s a term unknown to many, loved by most who’ve tried it, a terrifying decision to those who haven’t, the accidental choice of many second-time parents, and my personal favorite baby theory.
If you don’t know what it is, baby-led weaning is essentially skipping the purées, and starting you six-month-old baby on whole foods right from the start. If you’re interested in learning more, check out this website!
To me, baby-led weaning (BLW) has been an amazing decision. We’ve never stressed whether our babies were getting enough. We’ve rarely had to coach our babies through their meals. We’ve gotten to teach our girls that meal times are for family time, because they eat when we do, and they eat what we do!
Our girls are some of the best eaters I’ve met–the toddler has only recently begun to refuse certain foods (because toddler), but they’ve both been known to chow down on anything: green beans, pork chops, curry, chili, orange chicken (a favorite), quinoa, squash, hummus, asparagus, etc, etc.
And this is all with or without teeth.
I could go on and on about the benefits I’ve seen with BLW, but I know it’s not for everyone.
Your baby will gag as s/he learns how far back foods go. This can be terrifying. We still get moments where the baby is gagging, and my husband and I freeze, waiting to see if she can simply cough the food out.
Your heart jumps into your throat, and you feel every second that baby is gagging.
And then, she spits out the chunk of pork, giggles, and reaches for half a brussels sprout.
Your baby will make a huge mess.
(But my toddler probably makes bigger messes than my baby at this point.)
So you strap a bib around their neck, place a vinyl tablecloth under the high chair, and get ready for fun!
Because, in my experience, babies love eating, if you give them the chance to explore on their own.
If you’ve never heard of BLW, I strongly encourage you to at least look into it, and see if it would be right for you and your baby.
Because 1. Baby gets to touch, and taste, and chew, and swallow, and work on fine motor skills–all in his/her own time.
2. Mommy and daddy get to eat dinner at the same time. No special meal times for baby, and no need to leave your own to get cold while you spoon-feed!
3. The motto “food before one is just for fun” is a lot easier to swallow when you’re not thinking you have to use up that entire jar of baby food you whipped up/bought–you just hand the kid some of your meal to explore!
4. I’m like a super mom, and know everything, so obviously you should listen to everything I say. (*sarcasm*)
But, really, watching my girls develop their eating skills and learn which foods they like and don’t, without bias, has been amazing. And I only want to share that with the world.
You (or your significant other) birth this tiny, innocent being, care for it, nurture it until it grows into an intelligent (though–let’s face it–sometimes dumb) toddler.
And realize your sweet, innocent thing is no longer so innocent. (Hopefully they’re still sweet sometimes.)
For us, Lily growing into a toddler happened at the same time we had our second child, which, specifically for the purposes of this post, means pacifiers were a presence in our house again.
Lily had never really taken to a pacifier too much–though we tried, believe me–so we figured having a baby who required pacifiers would be a nonissue.
Boy, were we wrong.
Lily began taking the pacifier from the ground, from Kinley’s mouth, from the car seat. She began climbing our bar-stool-height dining chairs solely to climb onto he table to retrieve a forgotten paci.
She began reaching between crib bars or stretching her little fingers over the countertop.
And, when we caught on to the act and began scolding or moving pacifiers to less-accessible places, she just got smarter.
She started waiting until we abandoned a paci on the couch, allowing us to believe she was following, then circling back to retrieve the paci.
She started patting Kinley’s face, slowly inching her fingers toward the pacifier, waiting for me to turn my head.
She started hiding under the table when she found a stray.
The lengths we’ve had to go to simply to keep a pacifier inaccessible have been tremendous.
The biggest thing we’ve learned, though? Our toddler is a little sneak.
So why am I w(h)ining tonight? Because I’ve had to play hide-and-seek with too many pacifiers today.
Ooh, whenever my husband says these words to me, I see red.
Night fights are probably the biggest thorn in our marriage’s side, and these three little words have the capacity to send those spiraling into chaos.
Before we had Lily, Russ and I hardly fought. I would even say rarely. And then came the kid.
We stopped sleeping; we started arguing in the middle of the night.
Core-deep exhaustion and frustration over an awake or fussy baby do not mix. Oh baby, do they not mix.
And when I’m vocalizing my frustration, whether in words not meant for wine blogs or in guttural animal sounds, my lovely, attentive, incredibly-helpful husband likes to ask me, “is that helping?”
Of course, I know he’s just trying to calm me down, by asking me to look at my reaction and work to fix the problem, instead of spiraling into anger. But in the middle of the night, do you think I hear it this way?
You get one guess.
No, I typically then go in exactly the wrong direction with my anger.
Is that helping? Am I meant to be helpful to the children only every second of my life? Can I not vent my frustration to help myself? Am I not allowed to have negative feelings?
My poor, sweet husband–who, at this point is also frustrated, probably with the situation, but definitely with me for “overreacting” to the situation and certaincomments.
The worst part about night fights, though?
We know we’re overreacting; we know neither of us means the things we say to (and think of) each other in those moments.
But we Just. Can’t. Help. It.
In the end, the only thing to be done with a night fight is to huff ourselves to sleep, sheepishly apologize to one another in the morning, and try to forget the whole ordeal.
Because we’re all human. We all get frustrated. None of us can handle losing massive amounts of sleep.
And I’m betting we’re not alone in these night fights.
So whine about it, wine about it, and sleep on it. If you can.
My amazing friend (and fellow July-2015-baby mama) inspired me today.
You see, she is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and the brains (and beauty) over at The Family Foodnag, and in talking with her this afternoon about a possible collaboration (in other words, me shamelessly using her ice cream maker for wine purposes), I got to thinking about my journey with food.
When I first moved in with Russell, I suddenly had to figure out how to feed myself and another human, on a budget, with zero cooking experience, less meal planning experience, and the pickiest palate. I had no clue where to start.
And then I signed up for a meal planning service that, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, changed my life.
If you know me well, you probably have heard me talk about it relentlessly, and I accidentally try to convert my mom every time I visit her.
Having my weekly meal plan set for me took so much stress off my shoulders–How do I meal plan? Where do I find meals? How do I make a shopping list?–I was able to focus on actually learning how to cook. And how to enjoy foods not on my usual, go-to list (namely: fried chicken, burgers, and pasta).
And I was surprised, but learning how to cook became fun, y’all.
Russ and I started out cooking together, which made dinner so fun! We’d created it together! Every night, we stood in our (very generous for newlywed 22-year-olds) kitchen, and worked together to create every meal.
We were experimenting with spices and meats and cooking techniques, and it was amazing how much my palate expanded in those first years.
Of course, when Russ deployed, my best friend Nicole jumped in, and we started cooking every night together. She was already an amazing cook (I mean, she’s Italian and Greek, so obviously), so I learned even more with her. Especially with her being a vegetarian. I grew to realize just how many vegetables I actually do like. Tofu never caught on for me, though.
And then, when Russ came home and we had our first babe, we started taking turns, and cooking became a bit of a…well, a respite from the needy baby I’d been holding all day. (Right?)
I gained more confidence on those nights it was my turn to fly solo in the kitchen.
When things started getting crazier–Russ started working later (or traveling for work), we had a second kid–I started taking on all of the cooking.
And I love it.
The kitchen is mine now, and I move through it like a seasoned veteran, cooking with ease foods I never would’ve imagined myself eating, let alone preparing. Let alone seeking out.
For me, cooking has become a passion, and eating good, nutritious meals as a family has become a hard rule in our household. Anyone messes with family dinner time, and I become the cranky toddler. (That’s not to say my actual toddler doesn’t help me there some nights.)
Because I’ve grown to love it, I can’t wait to share my experience with my girls someday. (The way I shamelessly share my passion for eMeals with anyone who asks about meal planning.)
I can’t wait to teach them the things I’ve learned and the values our family has created together.
And, when the time comes for my babies to leave our little nest, I hope they carry a love of cooking (with or without wine) with them into their own lives.
Most of all, I hope they learn as much about themselves in their adult lives as I have in mine.
Because it’s been so fun learning just how much more of a well-rounded person I am than I ever thought I was. And, oddly enough, cooking has taught me that as much as anything else.
So, tonight, I’ll be wining to my newfound love of cooking! (And the fact that my husband comes home from the field, but mostly the food thing.)
It’s a statement military spouses hear all too often. One meant as a compliment, as a statement of awe at his/her commitment to living a life full of uncertainty, hardship, danger, and heartache.
It’s something we’ve probably all heard. It’s something you might’ve said once.
But it isn’t true.
Most military spouses didn’t seek out this life–we fell in love. We fell in love with someone who happened to be in the military or on the path to it, in one way or another.
We fell in love, and now we battle all those hardships–those long nights alone; those evenings wondering if he’ll make it to put the kids to bed; those days spent by the phone, waiting for a five-minute conversation; those countless worries when he’s away; those explanations to friends, family, coworkers, children about why we can’t make certain plans, ever.
But we don’t do it because we’re somehow stronger than those who aren’t military spouses.
We do it because we have to.
“I could never do that.”
But you could.
If this was the person you chose, if this was the life they chose, you could do it. You would.
Because that’s all we’ve done. That’s all we’re doing.
We just do.
We choose to love our spouse more than we hate the hard times. We choose to love the beautiful friendships we’ve made more than we hate the difficult goodbyes. We choose to see all the amazing adventures we’ve been afforded more than we see the ones we’ve missed.
It’s a hard life, sometimes. But it’s one we choose, every day, to live with. Not because we’re super humans.
Because we are humans in love.
And you would, too, I bet.
So the next time you meet a military spouse, don’t sell yourself short. Because your life has hardships we couldn’t fathom, either.
Because you’re pretty damn super yourself.
And don’t sell that spouse short, either! That person probably works really hard to do the things they do, survive the things they do–because we’re regular people, too. Surviving what we have to for the one we love.
So here’s to you, superhero–no matter how you’re earning that title!