Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Some Days.

On a day-to-day basis, I don't think about life being any different than what we're living. It is what it is. We're together, we have AJ, we're moving home soon- all of that is great. Perfect.

But some days.

Some days, I want TBI to manifest itself into something human so I can punch it in the face. Repeatedly. And often. I'll take the physical disability hurdles over the mental ones any day, a million times over, and I reckon Aaron would, too.

Some nights.

Some nights, like last night, we have to face an ER trip and deciding how to do it without taking the baby in with us. She is not yet able to care for herself (infants are notoriously bad at that, I hear) so thank gods a good friend answered the phone and was downright perky about driving 45 minutes after midnight to spend the next 4 hours in the ER with Aaron. If baby girl weren't eating weirdly and at all hours, I would have gone but I didn't know what she was going to do. And while the ER isn't the most enthralling place to be at 3am, a screaming baby is probably less enticing. So I was here, and Aaron was in the ER. Feeling like you have to choose between your husband and child really sucks, by the way. I've been there with Aaron for 3 years. This was the first time I sent him off into the night alone.

Sometimes, many times, it just sucks. You'd give anything to take it all back. Be normal. Wonder how it would be to be moving all over the world, setting deployment goals, having homecomings, making new friends every few years, and just basically not being us. Aaron could have finished 20 years or more. I would have finished a degree and started my own career. Don't even get me started on the things he will never do with his daughter because of all of this.

Some days, it's not so bad. Every once in a while, he or I will experience something that almost makes all of this shit okay. We've met some neat people, been some amazing places, and had some truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. And some of those days, we're more than okay. We're awed at what people are willing to do for us. Just the idea of us.

But some days, we're just tired. Just so tired and it's like it's impossible to catch up. Will we ever not need help? We will go back to something that we can pretend is normal? We have so much to feel grateful for, so much love all around us and in us and in front of us, but it's just not that simple. Some days, the blessings are exploding. Other days, they are hard to see, like missing the forest from the trees.

Just some days, there really aren't any words.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What the hell, Food Giant?


I live just steps away from a Fresh Market grocery store and Trader Joe's. If I need something not available, I go to Target. If I can't find it there, I will buy it online. However, I am trying to curtail my Amazon habit since the company treats its employees so inhumanely. But I saw an ad for Beech-Nut baby food, and wanted to look at some canning jars for homemade purees, so I decided to go across the street to Food Giant.

This was a massive mistake. I have learned that a routine and consistency are key to a smoothly operated week, especially with a baby and disability in the picture. I have a system and it works for me. Convenience can be pricey but it's often worth the cost. 

First of all, this particular Food Giant is in a busy shopping center with terrible service road placement so it was kind of a pain to get there, even though it's less than a mile away. All the carts are outside the store, where the front is thick with huge storage pods (I think that's what they are) and fall squash. Dirty carts and a clogged entrance. All that is missing is this:

The layout is a bit weird. I couldn't find a lot of choices for organic produce, but there was a "healthy eating" section. I found some baby food and frozen organic vegetables, but not what I was looking for. So, off I went.

It was crowded. I've never seen more products in my life. I think this place must sell as many items as Costco. I finally find the baby food, and it seems that the Beech-Nut is on sale. Nice! It's only a few cents but it brings it down to a dollar per large jar. I gather up some Stage 1 and Stage 2 flavors and then head to check out. My cart is full, so I look for an employee operated check-out line instead of self check-out.

This is where everything falls apart.

Food Giant is apparently attempting a "work for them" model of shopping. There were at least a dozen self-checkouts, including longer conveyor belt operated aisles for larger purchases. All lanes had "12 items or less" on the signs but some were dimly lit while others weren't, and yet others were brightly lit. I am now moderately confused. There seemed to be only one or two lanes with actual employees, and of course people backed up. I decided to self check out for lack of options.

I began to make all the wrong moves. I pushed my full cart up to a dimly lit "12 items or less" self check-out stand, but was quickly corrected by a suited employee. Okay, fine. I needed to go to one with a conveyor belt. So I go find a full lane, one that resembles lanes operated by employees but with the self check-out computers at the front. I had 1.5 liter bottles of Smartwater, but they wouldn't roll down the conveyor belt. The same employee came over and instructed me on how to place the bottles on the belt correctly. He then scanned a few more items, including sending my bread items down the line first so all the cans and jars following could smoosh the bread. Awesome. I am now slightly more-than-moderately confused and more-than-moderately irritated.

So now I needed training to check-out at the grocery store. A grocery store that has employees, but operates fewer check-out lanes with staff than Wal-Mart on a Saturday the first week of school.

I am not apt at scanning a cart full of food. I have worked probably 30 different jobs in my lifetime, but working at grocery store has never been one of them. I can scan sweaters and shoes with the best of them, but not food. I had to place the scanned items on the belt before you could scan the next one, where they had to pass through a red laser line. Even checking out a dozen jars of baby food was difficult. Some of them didn't check out with the sale price, but I was too flustered to stop and go check at this point. I think this is intentional. I had to look up all the produce items manually. There were multiple opportunities to put in incorrect items, whether intentionally or accidentally. I can't imagine what their theft loss looks like.

Now I just don't care anymore, as I have no idea how I got roped into working for Food Giant and not getting paid. I am past confusion and now just quietly raging inside. It's not like their prices are so amazing that one could fail to notice that they have taken someone else's job. For free.

So right at the end, on the very last item, I get a warning from the computer that I need to stop and bag some things before I continue scanning. But I don't need to scan anymore! I just want to check out! Please! Couldn't someone at least bag all these groceries? No. No one works at Food Giant, except for the poor man in a suit who probably hates this system more than I do. So now I had to get enough items off the belt for the computer to go back to the original screen. I go about this, then head back up the conveyor belt to check out. Finally, something goes as planned. I am having to push the cart back up and down as I do this, though, as there is no clear path of maneuvering. I then went back down the line to bag the rest of my groceries. Since I had not done this before checking out I didn't know if I was going to use any store bags, which cost five cents each (county tax). This is another opportunity of loss to the store and the county, since there is no way to predict how many bags will be used. As I finally bagged up my groceries, another person came along to begin this horrible process for himself. I told him to go ahead as I bagged up my things. I used the cart to go back out to the car even though I didn't need it. I had no place to put it and didn't know what else to do with it, besides push into a display of pumpkins. I have never felt such animosity at a grocery store before.

On my way out of the world's worst grocery store, I see a display full of portable scanners. Apparently, you can grab one of these gadgets and scan your items as you shop the aisles. Okay, cool! But what about bagging them? What if the wrong price is charged? What about honesty? Do you have to go bag these items yourself? Wait in one of the few lines operated by an employee? Or go do it at self-checkout where the computer is going to go off every ten seconds about bagging and item weight? What if you have a kid who takes things out of the basket and puts them back on the shelf? This, too, seems like a horrible experience designed to fluster the customer to the point of not caring what price is charged. "Just give me my damn goods and take my damn money!"

Can you imagine doing this with children in tow? While in a wheelchair or with another disability? Forgetting to scan an item? Scanning too many (well, that's actually not a problem considering how long between items you have to wait to continue). This was an impressively terrible shopping experience. I don't care how awesome Beech-Nut baby food is because it's not worth a trip to Food Giant.

I didn't even get to look at their canning jars, either.
I think I'll order them online.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Doing good, doing fine, so glad she's all mine.

This happy, giggly, active, vocal, plump slice of baby perfection is almost seven months and my heard just explodes with every grin she gives me.  She wakes up and plays alone for half an hour. Then when she starts getting louder, I go get her and sit her up. She smiles every time. Sometimes it's this funny bug-eyed, chin-in-the-neck and mouth-wide-open face. Other times it's softer, a little tired. She's happy to see her parents! Yay! And then we play some more. I'll set her stuffed toys up and let her choose who gets the nibble. I wait for her to fuss to feed her, but even she's crying she always flashes a smile at my boobs. She'll come off just to glow at me.

Aaron likes to flip her around and get her laughing. She doesn't really let the laugh roll yet. I like to project that it's because she's always so happy that laughter just isn't necessary all the time. She'll get a little giggle out, or talk to us as she smiles some more. She grabs Aaron's beard and blows spit bubbles in his face. Then we sit her down on the floor and pile her toys in her lap to watch her choose. Sometimes she'll fall over but she won't cry out; instead, she reaches for the nearest item to touch and work to get in her mouth. She's just that content and happy. She fusses right before naps but goes out pretty quickly.

We're sleeping a little better. It's hell when she's in bed with us, but I still love reaching over to feel her warm, small body or opening my eyes first thing to see her face. When she is knocked out her lips are pursed up in this silly puffy-cheeked way.

This journey down the parenting rabbit hole has been the most joyous path of our lives. Maybe it's because we're coming from so much pain so close to her arrival, but I just couldn't be more delighted to tend to our little benevolent dictator every day.

This has not been a struggle. This has not cost us. This has not hurt. Sure, it has its rough moments. I am sure it's going to cause us pain at some point. But right now, for both of us, we are just enjoying every single moment we can.

"Even the losers get lucky sometimes."

From Ashes Rise The Phoneix.

My friend Jessica and her wounded warrior Flip have been through it. He hasn't even reach his second Alive Day and has racked up more surgeries at Walter Reed than anyone except the guy who's been there about four years. So Jess gets on with life, gets a job working for The Yellow Ribbon Fund helping caregivers, becomes a Dole Fellow for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, and overall just really starts doing amazing things for the community. Unlike me, who kind of spent months indoors and then got pregnant and now I just stress about everything all the time. So Jess is actually kind of awesome.

Her husband is pretty awesome, too. He's a triple who most recently walked a mile on his legs with knees. He is one of very few enlisted soldiers to have earned a position at West Point, actually becoming Captain America. He is an incredible solider and leader. He and Jess met at West Point, and while she transferred to another school, they stayed together and married after graduation and commissioning. A real American love story.

I know loss. I know what it's like to rebuild your whole life, and how weird it can make you feel about your life before injury. You might get kind of possessive about whatever choices you have left to make, and the things you have left to prove that it existed. So instead of taking the furnished apartment home, or sticking around the hospital housing for as long as possible, Jess and Flip searched high and low for a great rental so they could get their things and their dogs back. I think they are the only other couple I know besides us who did this. You just want whatever normal life you can get, even if you have build it from the ground up.

So it is just completely unfathomable to me that after they get into their rental, modify it, build a fence for their dogs, buy the best adjustable cooling memory foam bed so they both can get some sleep, fill the house with fans to keep it cool because amputees' bodies don't regulate heat well, fill the kitchen with all the things one could need and want to cook again, to have a real vanity for all the fun make up- all this little stuff you don't even think about- that it could just be gone in a few minutes.

Jess and Flip's home burned down the other night. Yesterday Jessica called and asked for a ride out to the house and lunch, which I was happy to oblige (she is the BEST lunch date ever, anyway, so I was happy to have an excuse to sip wine over sushi). I just can't get over how the house is totally destroyed. All the things they bought to make life easier. All the things they brought in from "before" injury took over. Jess said I could take some pictures and share them, so here they are:
 We pulled up to the house to find that someone had left a little reminder.
 The front porch area.
 The bedroom.
 The entrance inside the house.
 I actually can't even tell you where this was in the house.
 Flip's custom wheelchair with power assist wheels. This costs more than most cars.
 The custom electric wheelchair. Even if a lot of this will work, the smell will never leave.
 Soggy insulation everywhere.
 It's always a relief to find a shower or tub that will hold a full sized shower bench.
Headed upstairs from the front entrance.
 More bathroom. I didn't know what damage smoke and water could do on its own.
 Flip and Jess's custom memory foam, cool gel, adjustable base king sized bed. Sleep is hard to come by for the rest of your life as an amputee and caregiver, and anything that helps feels like a god-send. I can't imagine having to swallow purchasing another one of these.
 The garage leading into the house area.
 Upstairs, outside.
 I think this was a ceiling somewhere.
 While the kitchen wasn't burned, the water and smoke has destroyed everything.
 Just from the fire.
 Jess is a cook. She loves it. This whole set of cast iron is now contaminated and can't be used again.
 The landing to the upstairs.

While the donations and outreach has already surpassed any expectations, they still need us. They have at least one whole car to purchase, and might have to pay for some adaptive equipment because of program restrictions (no one is being "mean", you just only get so many adaptations in a period). They already started over once, and knowing what that is like I can not even imagine doing it again.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hurled & Birthday.

I had a birthday on the 10th, and we found ourselves out of town for it. Aaron is trying to get licensed to skydive on his own, so I got to meet some of the people who do it on the regular. They were super nice people, and all day Saturday I hung out and got to see how safe skydiving can be. Aaron knew that if I was going to make a tandem jump I would arrive to the decision without pestering. On Saturday night I told him to text his instructor and let him know I was ready to go the next day.

So on my 32nd birthday I let a giant man strap me on himself and and hurl us both out of an airplane at 13,500 feet. Even Saturday I cussed when I said I wouldn't do it. But there I was, with my husband a few people in front of me doing his own jump. He's going for a license so he can jump by himself.

I watched everyone else get sucked out; at least, that is what it looks like when others exit the plane. The camera man climbed out the side of the door to film my exit, but we didn't move. Just when I thought we were good to go, my tandem master motions for the camera man to come back in the plane. We were stuck on the seat belt! So I got an extra three minutes or so to think about what I was doing. The plane circled around, we got untangled, and began to scoot to the edge of the plane. He then rocked us back and forth a few times and hurled us out over Suffolk. I shut my eyes until we were stable, and then I began to enjoy our view. After a one minute freefall, he deployed our parachute and we floated to the ground.

I could write on for pages on the total experience, but I will reduce it to this: It worked for me because I did not have to have any responsibility whatsoever. I raised my arms when instructed then lifted my legs at the end for the landing. I'm too much of an artist-type to be able to think about things while doing something so crazy. I wanted to see the world in a new way, and I did. Aaron loves to skydive and fly airplanes and now I know something new about him. I don't think I'll hanker to do it often, but I'd do it again. I'd encourage anyone who can be amazed by the invention of man, seeing life in a new light, and just likes to get a little crazy to do it. It's amazing that I did something not terribly natural but available because some other nutjobs wanted to jump from high places and live to tell about it.

I've got some things brewing for a new series of posts and details about our impending big changes. Baby girl is doing so well; gaining and growing. I can't get over it. I have the happiest baby ever.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


I keep writing other things besides talking about Nantucket, a woman who exclaimed, "Oh, it's you! It's her!", a hippie widow friend in the spellbound town of Salem.

I am too exhausted to even recount the details I enjoyed the most within the last month. I am mustering the effort though to write at least a little bit of something, and remember the time where I would choose to write before I would eat or sleep. I loved that part of me, a small constant in the various selves I have been over the past decade (give or take).

I have been mulling over why I feel I have adjusted to parenthood so well. I mean, I think I've adjusted well. Emotionally, I have welcomed this new self. It's about the only new version of myself I have not fought. Why is it different this time?

Obviously, our Squish is very wanted and loved. We are able to provide for her and ourselves, so I don't have a lot of common external stress getting in the way of me enjoying this. If we didn't have any money or a safe place to live, if we couldn't afford formula or breastfeeding was an emotional drain, I might be struggling more.

That brings us to the very real and obvious stresses of our daily lives and disability. I mean- it's so there. My frustration comes out in horrible ways; unintelligible rage and confusion pouring from me. We were married a year before he deployed. Inside of that year, I went from my happy life in Roswell, Georgia to a happy but strained newlywed period in Mannheim, Germany to being completely shocked that I landed in Watertown, New York with my new husband. It had been a very tumultuous year for us both. Six months into a very rough deployment he was injured, so literally we have not had any peace our entire marriage. Every half year or so brings about another major life change. I desperately need some peace, but this feeling would exist even if Squish hadn't come along. As a result, I consider this part of my life as factual as our existence. It just is, so it's easy to remove it from the equation since I know it'll be there when I bring it back in. Or something.

So the reason this has worked and I haven't cried too many tears over who I am now is because I am a professional at this. I have stared at a few strangers in the mirror but this is the first welcomed stranger. Becoming a parent has been the most delightful surprise of my life. And let me tell you, most surprises aren't delightful.

But this? And her? Man, I got this. Even though I am so tired I can't sleep, I love it. Even when Aaron and I are struggling, I know how to listen to my Squish. It's not that she's saved me or anything like that. It's just... I've been through a few evolutions of self. This one feels like an old friend.

For the first time.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Where are we?

I have this post about the Nantucket Film Festival and the documentary still incomplete, even though it's been over two weeks since I returned. We've been in Alabama for weeks now as it is and yet, I can't find or make the time to just write about this cool trip I took with my Squish, where I met an online friend's family, went to the most privileged island in our country, and topped it off with a trip to Salem.

I am so drained. We are desperately trying to find land to build a house to make a home. We tried to buy a house but that fell through, as those things tend to do. Everything, as always, cost thousands more than we thought it would. Everyone has something to say about what we should be doing. Patience. Waiting. Faith.

And I'm just kind of at the point where blind, unfounded faith is all I have left because I can not possibly care anymore. This has been nearly three years of never being where we thought we would be at a point in time. Recovery. What goals would be met. Success. Failure. So many setbacks. It's not all been awful.

Of course not.

But it's not even close to what I thought we'd have going for ourselves. Hell, I thought DC would be home. We'd get careers, not jobs, build that kind of future. Now I don't even know if I'll finish my degree. No clue for either of us.

And yeah, yeah. God laughs at the plans we make for ourselves. Have faith. Just pray. Look at how far you've come! Well, if the standard is simply not being dead-then folks, you are setting the bar too low. We have further aspirations for ourselves than that. We can even have normal goals and dreams and try not to consider disability as a determining factor.

But I'll be damned if disability doesn't get more votes than the actual people involved. More say. More concern.

I'm bleeding out here and lately my only joy has been my utter surprise in the delight motherhood has been. I almost feel a disconnect with those who struggle with their new selves. I suppose I had to get to know a new caregiver self, a new kind of wife inside me, so getting to know myself as a mother is old hat, at least in the sense of finding a new side to my existence. I am no longer surprised at how surprised I can be with whoever I am these days. Squish is a happy, happy baby who does new things every day. Each morning she gives me or her dad smiles that could end war. Everything about her is sweet and sound and genuine hope that will not kill. Hope in your child doesn't hurt like the other hopes you can lose in your life. Literally everything else can and will take from you without giving back. All Squish has to do is let out a rare rolling giggle and my whole day is made.

Happiness is a choice but some days it's just easier to get lost in my daughter's smile than paint one on of my own for others.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Being Mom.

At some point, I quit washing AJ's clothes separately. I'm liberally using up the last bottle of baby detergent. I know the free & clear we use will be just fine.

I don't pump as much as I used to because I nurse her almost exclusively. For purposes of obtaining some sleep, Aaron will give her a bottle either early in the morning or middle of the night this week. But if it doesn't happen everyday, I know we'll be fine. I might be tired, but I don't have any complaints.

I don't bathe her every night on a schedule. In fact, I don't bathe her at night at all. Usually I'm tired and I just can't. She gets her baths late mornings. I am sure we'll get to that whole schedule thing soon, but for right now I know what to do around 8pm every night. She lead me to it.

And somehow, I'm the only one who didn't get the memo that I would become this attachment-y, organic-y kind of mom. I knew I'd wear her (which only recently became tolerable for everyone), and nursing has been great... but everything else? Occasional bed-sharing and some nights in her mini-crib in the bedroom with us? Feeding on demand 5 months into it? Researching her preschool education options, and wondering how I can determine her "learning style" early on? Please. This is all ludicrous. Really. Admitting I have a problem is the first step to recovery.

But there's not a recovery for this. I'm a mother for the rest of my life. I've really enjoyed getting to know this side of me. For a long time, I didn't trust that it could happen. Apparently, it's quite normal to think that you won't be a good mother before it happens and to be shocked when you are. I don't know how all this actually unfolds, I just know that one day I went from being really concerned to actually just doing it.

And it's the loveliest thing I've ever done.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

4 Months. Plus.

You're getting this picture because I refuse to post one of the reason why I was drinking wine the other night. I also promised myself I wouldn't post poop pictures, because I didn't like that before I had the kid. Anyway, I was running to the shower with a baby wrapped in a disposable changing pad and screamng, "My baby is covered in SHIT!" It was actually running down her leg while she happily bounced in her play jumper thingie.

This parenthood thing... is not exactly hard. It's just new. Amazing, brand-new wonderful stuff. She's filling out and looking more like a chubby cherub baby every day. And every day she does new stuff. Today she started grabbing things I moved in front of her face. Everything is fascinating for all of us. 

No one ever tells you this stuff. The shit. Literally and figuratively. How irrational you become when it comes your kid, and what you want to do for her. Protect. Teach. Soothe. Encourage.

We had her 4-month check-up with shots today, and I surprised myself by holding her through it. I nursed right afterwards, and she was smiley in just a few minutes. I think the leg pain set in after a little play at home, so she's currently down after long cuddles and half a dose of Tylenol. I don't go for medicine even second or third on the list of things to try, but it was plain to see she was in pain. I didn't have to hear her cry for an hour to know where her tears were coming from.

And that's the beauty of motherhood to me- knowing these things with my gut. I didn't think it'd be like this... that I'd just know. I didn't think my magic would happen. I don't think giving birth equates to instant carnal knowledge, so for some reason I discounted my abilities. I just didn't think I'd get it.

It's the loveliest thing in the world.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Road Trip.

After an extended stay back home in Alabama, we took the long way back home to Maryland. Of course, we didn't plan it at all, so it was thrown together as best as we could manage.

Our first stop was in Chattanooga, where we stayed at the Choo-Choo. It's the old train station, which was converted into a hotel some years ago. It is definitely a dinosaur, and only cool if you stay in an actual train car (possible), but very pretty. The room was nothing to write home about, but it was for one night. We ate an amazing Italian meal, walked the train station gardens and grounds, and saw the model train display.

The next night we detoured to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg, which I was nervous about because it doesn't seem very accessible. After some drama trying to find an actual accessible room and ending up in a meth motel off the parkway, we set out to see The Lumberjack Feud dinner show. It was totally fun, and AJ did great. She looked around, cooed a bit, ate, and then passed out. She spit up on the floor a little bit, too but I don't think anyone noticed. We bought the hilarious family photo taken right before the show. The food wasn't bad, either. The next day, we took off for Ripley's Aquarium in the Smokies. Museums and aquariums are easy for Aaron to manage in his wheelchair, save for distracted children wandering right in front of him. AJ certainly won't remember her first aquarium trip, but she loved it. She got all excited over the illuminated tanks in the darker rooms, kicking and cooing. We also used our new lightweight stroller (Jeep Sport) for the first time, and mourned the fact that she can nearly sit up on her own.

Night three was spent at an off-the-path B&B outside of Roanoke, VA called Bent Mountain Lodge and Inn. It was cheaper than most hotel rooms, and the innkeeper was a nice older man who helped me unload all of our gear (baby stuff, disability stuff, my stuff, dog stuff, stuff stuff; we are terrible packers). We ate chips and salsa for dinner since we were unprepared to fend for ourselves, but it was worth it. I took a picture of the sunrise the following morning, since I was up anyway. It happens a lot when you're someone's food source.

It was our first family vacation with just us and the dog, and we survived pretty well! I am really glad we took the extra days and enjoyed ourselves. I'm already thinking about Gatlinburg for the fall. There's a lot more to do there for Aaron than I would have thought, and that makes a huge difference.

Hope everyone is doing peachy and all that as summer gets rolling.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

All I can say about today is that Aaron came back to me, ensuring that (for now) this day does not have to hurt as much as it could. I hope we are decades and decades away from that. It's not about us. It's about those with a piece missing. Think of them.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Picture this... and me.

So something seems to happen when your arms are filled with your very own human baby (if it hasn't happened already) and that thing is Instagram. So, since we have all this wonderful stuff going on, and I love to take poorly lit and badly focused photographs, I figured I'd sign up like all the other mommies do. So... follow away, if you want to see photos of my baby and random stuff. Like my shoes.

Friday, May 16, 2014

New Life.

I've been absent from this space for most of AJ's life. It wasn't intentional, and nothing is more blog-snobby then waxing poetic on how life is so busy I don't value writing and sharing anymore.
Cause it's just not true.

My brain feels full and splattered most days. I wake up that way. We've spent a few weeks at home, and due to the logistics of my in-law's house it's just easier for me to nurse the baby in the night. And very early morning. Aaron would do more if I asked him to, but it'd be in our bed if he did and I'd have to fetch the bottle and diaper caddy... and well, I might as well just nurse. Not that I mind. Side-nursing is one of my favorites things to do with her lately, so it's all very sweet. Even sweeter when we both doze off together and I get to wake up to a smiling AJ.
Not much is better than that.

So some very big changes are happening, and with that I think I should let go of "after blast warrior wife" and the tenacity of being a warrior wife. I don't have to suit up everyday and go attack and make sure my husband thrives. I don't have negotiate medications and surgeries. In fact, this year might be the first whole he goes without going under and having some part of himself cut on, up, opened, and discarded. Last year it was the throat and sinus stuff, but I think that was it. Was that it? I can't keep up anymore, and nor should I.

We're never going to be normal, but I don't have to fight anymore. We are doing the most normal thing in the world- growing a family- and even if I have to chase that normal-everyday life down with a stick and beat it into submission and drag it back to the house and lock in the garage to keep it, I will do that. I want all the normal things, even if I can't get them all the time.

Some people think it's a choice to live the way we do, or live another way. Something like that. And you know, I can't articulate our everyday anymore. It is just not in me because if anyone wants to question how and why things happen, even after all this time, then I can't do anything about it. I won't do anything about it, because I just don't care to explain it.

But I don't mind sharing, which I will continue to do. And writing. It's been one of my greatest loves since I became a literate person. I've been writing stories down since elementary school. I've been fortunate enough to have an interesting enough life (for better or horrible) that I don't have to make up characters and events much anymore, even if it is fun to do.

I won't tell you to "keep an eye out" or any of that, but don't be surprised if you come back one day and things look a little different. Sound a bit more... grounded.

Just know that you can always go home again, even if you take the long way and don't come back the same as when you left.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Days.

49 days of Squishy, the world's most amazing baby EVER. Aaron and I manage to laugh everyday, and while we bicker a fair amount (that might mean a lot) but so far we get over it pretty quickly.

My favorite thing to do with her is to take a bath. I hopped in one day last week and have bathed her like that ever since. She responds really well to lounging in the bath chair and being scrubbed down, but seems to really love it when I float her around, dunk her little bum in, and splash water over her stomach. She whines when she's ready for a warm towel wrap and cuddling. She lets me do what I want, and then makes it known she has a say.

And there are the moments as a family when Aaron and I can barely stand it. The other day he had Bright Eyes playing in his bathroom, and listened to "First Day of My Life" a few times and I could hear it as we nursed and cuddled. I started crying around the middle of listen two of the song, as the lyric "I'm so glad I didn't die before I met you" came out through the door. Aaron rolled in, and we all made a sweet memory together, as a family.

Then I explained to him something I'm not sure he had ever considered before: Without him, I wouldn't have anything I have now. I wouldn't have our little family at all. Not the puppy, not the baby, not the husband. This is the family built out of injury. What we have is maybe because of what happened in September 2011. I have to thank the worst day of my life for giving me the best days of my life. I'm not grateful for Aaron's losses, but...

When I figure that out, I'll let you know. It's a give and take on a daily basis. Acceptance is not the same as moving on. I don't think "moving on" is necessarily what happens. 918 days later... but I don't count so much anymore. Not since I began counting baby. 49 days. I wish I'd figured it out sooner.

At least I figured it out now.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Next Part.

Last spring, before I knew how much and how everything was going to change, I met with Shoulder2Shoulder to discuss shooting a short documentary. Shorts are around 15 minutes, meaning that your story needs to make an impact and follow through. At the time, it was going to be aimed at the wounded and military community. We met with and selected a director, an NYU Tisch school grad who had already established herself with her thesis short. She usually worked with narrative, but after our coffee "date" became inspired to shoot our journey, and I am so glad it worked out. Above all else, I gained a very dear friend from the experience.

So it is with glee, excitement, and a little anxiousness that I am so very thrilled to announce that The Next Part will be debuting at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. When we began shooting, we had no idea where it was going to go, or even what story we were going to tell. We didn't even know I was pregnant.

So if you fancy us, please follow the The Next Part facebook page and check out the website for the film.

Monday, March 3, 2014


The DC area is on its 532nd snow day of this winter, but we've been on an extended vacation since Aaron's last surgery in November. Retirement followed, with the holidays behind it, and then baby came end of January. So while it's been busy, we've really had nowhere to be (save for the hospital on my due date, that is). So what do we do all day?

Well, we get organized. We hold and feed and cuddle and stare at our baby. We cook. We clean a little. Nap. Stare at baby some more. I read things on babies, breastfeeding, and the news. Take pictures. Snack.

And I know this isn't a real life, and we have to start doing things here soon. School, appointments, stuff. Aaron has a better reason for taking this time than I do, considering he worked for 10 years before being in recovery for over two. He's worked harder than anyone else I know, and now he gets to enjoy his family for a bit.

But it's been hard on all of us.

And we're doing something we never even dreamed of, because when you lose a lot you don't dare hope for too many normal things.

One day, we'll be a little bit more like everyone else with jobs and school, at least things that we'll do during business hours, and we'll try to do all the chores after five and on the weekends. But for now, we are going to take this little break. We're going to cuddle like it's the end of the world. We'll let this new little human get to know us. Take pictures of a puppy sniffing a crying baby.

It doesn't have to be so difficult anymore. A lot less is going to hurt. It might not always be this way, so we'll revel in it now. Just a little bit longer.

 A few weeks ago we tried a headband.
 Chilling on daddy's nub.
 From October 2011 to Valentine's 2014. Not even two and a half years apart. Just... unbelievable.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Baby Things.

So, thirty or so days in, and I feel like maybe we're getting the hang of this a little bit. We're starting to see some regularity in a few things, and I feel brave enough to introduce some scheduled activities a few days a week. We were going to start every-other-night baths tonight, but our little Squishy girl has had a very upset stomach today and I am not going to subject her to something else new. Thank Zues for gripe water and the ability to hold and cuddle her as much as she desires. She smells a little, so hopefully tomorrow is better and I can clean her. We gave her some thawed milk today, and I wonder what was in it. We'll try again from that batch in a few days, and if this happens again I will throw it out. Poor girl (and me, for having to throw out milk).
We have also found a few regular items in our baby stash. So, as a new mom, I feel compelled to write about it since it is probably the most interesting thing in my life at the moment. Introducing our baby favorites!

Tommee Tippee Bottles: Ya'll, I bought and registered for Avent and Dr. Brown's but got a very good Tommee Tippee coupon from Target. I wish I had not bought Dr. Brown's because unless you have a gassy baby, there isn't any reason to take on those bottles. I am currently giving away my box of 5 Dr. Brown's. The Avent are great, by the way. Aaron and I both like them a lot, but since Avent has its own pump and storage system, there aren't adapters out there. Also, the bottles don't have storage lids, but disposable storage seals which doesn't appeal to me at all. I like the Avent nipples best and the bottles are quite sturdy, but Tommee Tippee has been just as great. Also, the Tommee Tippee are smaller than Avent but hold just as much ( 4/5 oz and 9 oz). The bottles do have lids and pump adapters, which was the deciding factor for going forward. With good deals, coupons, and gift cards I ordered lids (6 to pack) and pump adapters, along with some extra nipples and larger bottles. Aaron didn't like that I ordered blue along with pink, but I am determined that blue does not mean "boy." I really liked the "prince" bottle design, but I can't gender neutralize the word "prince" like I can the color blue. Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature bottles are made in China, but are BPA free. I do not wash them in the dishwaser but with Babyganics bottle soap. I allow the bottles and pump parts to soak so there isn't a need for a ton of scrubbing, if any.

Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive: I have bought several different brands of diapers. The first were Babyganics organic, which are waxy and stiff. I swear they were first too big then became too small. I regret trying these diapers and returned the unopened packs. Then I tried Honest Company diapers, which are super cute and not so waxy and stiff, but still not a great fit. I love the wipes though, and am currently awaiting an Essentials bundle to try some other products. I put the monthly delivery on hold for now, but maybe they'll work in the future. I think the mission and quality of diaper is great, but nothing has worked as well as Pampers Swaddlers. I did learn that no diaper will ever fit as well as a newborn diaper, because the margin of weight is the smallest. The size ones go from 8 pounds to 14, which is a lot of time for a diaper to be a bit big and a bit small, but they still fit better than anything else. I tried some Target size 1 diapers and I think they run bigger than the Swaddlers, so I have benched the pack until she's 10 pounds or so. I would really like to get her into an organic diaper or Target, but if it they don't fit I won't force it. So until then, I'll be entering Pampers Rewards numbers into the site. We are done trying to save money on diapers because trying them is expensive! Baby Gear Lab is like the Consumer Reports of baby stuff and had the best diaper review, by the way.

Swaddler wraps: OMG, these are the best. I also have used the zipper newborn "pod" in the these early weeks, which helped with diaper changes (the bottom zips as well as the top, so we could unzip the bottom and leave her arms wrapped). She responds really well to being wrapped up in these, especially for a late night nursing session. I already have a few in the next size, but don't rush it: they are huge. So finally something that baby will use for awhile. I came across some info on a lactivist site about how swaddling isn't comforting but basically wrapping the babe into submission, but I am not sold enough to stop making baby burritos just yet. She self-soothes when we wrap her in a blanket, though (sucks on her hands), which I really like her doing since she did it her first day in this world. However, we've gotten a little heavy with the pacifier use, so she's fine wrapped tightly with as long as there is a paci in her mouth to start. She does spit it out before sleep, though. I don't know how I feel about pacifier use yet, and how long we'll allow it: a year? Two years? Should it have been never? Argh. But for now, I'm a parent who wraps her kid and gives her a dummy to suck on to soothe her. Everyone is happy.

Even though TriCare Standard/Extra approved a pump to be covered by insurance (Medela Pump in Style Advanced), we are currently renting a Medela Symphony from the hospital for about $2.50/day. The hospital pump pulls ounces more milk from me than my portable, which has been important since my supply shrunk a little lately. I am very lucky that I can pump and still feed her whenever needed, so I want to stash as much as I can to help get me through the summer when we'll be traveling a lot and I won't have the Symphony anymore. If you're going to be at home for any length of time and are able to breast feed and pump, I really suggest forgoing buying a pump and instead renting one. These things retail for over two thousand dollars, so it's not like anyone other than Michelle Duggard would benefit from buying one over renting. Also, if you rent and don't get a pump, it might be covered by insurance, as well.

Our little Squishy has been doing quite well these days, save for today. Aaron and I make a pretty good team even if we don't get along all of the time. We work together on a feeding schedule and trying to stay on top of the housework. One of us needs to start doing things outside of the house more often, though. We are around each other quite a bit! He went to the grocery store today; I went and got some pants that fit, which don't have an elastic top. What a novel idea. And on that note, I'm off. Hope you're all doing fabulous!

Monday, February 17, 2014

21 Days Of Baby.

We're 3 weeks out from surgery and birth, and so far it hasn't been too bad! I started feeling much better after 2 weeks, and now my incision site just burns a little. We've had a ton of amazing help, from my in-laws to my mom and some friends and even a newborn sitter. We've been able to stay about water with the house and not completely lose our minds.

Aaron is doing an incredible job as a new dad. I think he's adjusted better than I have. He takes the late night feeding and I do the early morning. He dozes a lot during the day whereas I have to actually go to the bed to sleep for an hour. Right now, Aaron's got the baby sleeping in his arms. We know we have to start putting her down more, but for now she's little and new and all the love in the world isn't going to hurt her. We'll focus on sleeping habits and schedule in a few more weeks. For now, we enjoy.

As far as baby girl is concerned, she's a mover and shaker. Diaper changes are usually a battle of legs kicking and torso twisting. You'd think we were torturing her. She eats a lot already, and thankfully I've been able to keep up and pump some extra for night feedings and the fridge. If I really committed to it, I think I could feed her all day and pump a day's worth, but ugh- I'm pretty wore out as it is! I'll address it later. Right now I'm just so thankful I've been able to nurse. That said, I'm no "lactivist." To each their own, and just because a mother doesn't nurse doesn't make her any less of a parent. Fed babies are healthy babies and that's the end of that.

As far as recovery, I feel about 90%. It took nearly two weeks for me to feel good enough to drive, which I wasn't supposed to do until the doctor cleared me at that point, anyway. During those first two weeks, I made a few trips out for supplies. It is only the past several days that I feel that I could put on real clothes and get out for a little bit each day, even just to walk around the block or pick up milk (the grocery store is literally right next door). I've piddled around the house so laundry and dirt don't back up, and some days are better than others. I'm still wearing my pregnancy jeans, but I look pretty normal, I guess. My body is not the same and just because I'm "tiny" doesn't mean this is what I want to look like for the foreseeable future. I can't wait to be cleared to exercise. It'll be good for me to be able to go jog a bit and lift some weights.

I 100% believe that I have not totally lost my mind because I respected my surgery and have allowed myself to recover from it. That said, I've been privileged enough to have support around to make sure I didn't have to do anything I wasn't supposed to do. But let me say it again- a Cesarean is not an easy way out, nor would I even suggest it as an equal alternative to vaginal childbirth. I am still glad I had it scheduled, but it's a guaranteed very rough following 10 days to 2 weeks. I will not be cleared for "normal life" until 5-6 weeks. I can feel my incision if I make a sudden move or just walk more than usual. While the whole journey the past 21 days has been better than anything I could have expected, we've still had challenges. I can't imagine doing it alone or with little support. God bless those women.

Well, our little Squishy is up again and she probably wants to eat again. It's a regular thing.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Just A Few Weeks Ago: A Birth

Our birth experience was everything I wanted it to be, and so far the first few weeks of parenthood haven't been any more challenging for us than for anyone else (but it can be very challenging). I like to think, relatively speaking, it's been pretty easy. It's a huge adjustment and all of us- from baby to puppy- have had our moments, but this has not been difficult in the way that I understand difficult to be.

We scheduled the surgery for Monday, January 27th. I've been asked a few times why I elected to have a Cesarean, so here it is: Even in my 38th and 39th weeks, I did not show one stitch of labor. Not one Braxton Hicks, not one millimeter of dilation. I had seen several women (most first timers, as well) go into induction for vaginal delivery under the same circumstances, and my slightly-educated guess was that anyone doing that stood a 50/50 chance of ending up in surgery anyway and usually after a long, hard, difficult labor full of interventions, from Cervidil to hours of Petocin. As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing natural about that nor did it seem like something I wanted to do. Yes, a vaginal delivery even with every intervention is more natural than surgery, but all those drugs aren't nice to anyone. Had I gone into labor, I would have welcomed it, but I did not. So anyway, each woman should be able to choose the birth she wants and have it supported. I think every birth is beautiful, and no birth is worth more than another. I do not debate methods of safely bringing a fragile infant into the world, and neither should anyone. So there is that. On with it!

And you know what? Everyone involved, including my doctor, are damn happy I agreed to surgery on my due date because she wasn't coming into the world any other way! Of course she'd need her own special tunnel out. After walking back to the OR and having the epidural administered, my doctor and his support staff quickly got to work. It was uncomfortable, but I was feeling good with the epidural and oxygen (oxygen is amazing, by the way, and I could become a junkie on it). I shook a little bit, but felt very present. Working, kneading, smiling at Aaron, hearing him telling me to just look at him, and then bam! A jolt. My doctor pushed on my chest to pull our little girl out. He said he cut my uterus, nicked the sac, and saw big, fat cheeks. He realized we had a bigger girl on our hands than we initially thought. And out she came, kicking and screaming with all the vigor and anger of someone ripped from their comfortable home! Red, swollen, unraveling her limbs our Alexandra Jayne was 7 pounds and 12 ounces. No one is quite sure how she fit inside of me, but it certainly explains why I never felt a hand or foot poke me, but only knees and elbows: kid was folded in me. She was checked over and given to Aaron. He introduced her to me, and when I said hello her eyes shot open. Whether it's true or not, I like to think she knew who I was right away. It was just the moment I needed. Overall, it was a very strange trip. You drive to the hospital and a few hours later you become a parent! Little AJ had some irregular breathing so she was wisked away. I really wanted to be present and participate in her firth bath, but I let them do it in the nursery since it was told to me that it could regulate her and I could have my baby sooner. Done deal. We'll live without a full day of vernix. Aaron came back with her about twenty minutes later, and I got to hold my daughter for the first time. There's a funny picture of me with my hand on hand, in a total "what now" moment.

I stayed in the hospital four nights, and am very thankful I did. C-sections aren't an easy way out by any means; in fact, it's major surgery. I had an organ cut open and my skin. My intestines were removed and put back. Things tugged and pulled on that had been in one place for 31 years. I watched a video on BabyCenter to see what I was getting into and I'm glad I did, as it helped me respect what had just been done to me. I was in some pretty serious pain for the first two days, but did begin attempts at breastfeeding while there. Once my pain was managed, I felt much better. I even showered once! Aaron stayed with me the whole time and took some nighttime feedings and did all the diaper changes. He is a champ with swaddling, as well. I'm a very lucky lady to have him!

Since being home, I have felt a little better every day. The first 10 days post-op were the roughest, but after that I was able to stop the pain meds and manage a few outings. I pump a lot, and AJ latches fine but we're still having some issues. I'm giving it 6 weeks before I re-evaluate what we're doing. Aaron washes all the pump supplies and bottles, and I do the laundry. She sleeps in a moses basket in bed with us when she isn't in the nursery or baby swing. She's quite a heavy sleeper, so much so she won't wake with early hunger. I have to wake her, and it's difficult to tell what's good when I'm breastfeeding during the day. If we bottle feed at night, it's pretty regular. I was super stressed for a few days about scheduling and normalcy and OMG WHAT AM I GOING TO DO. Then I realized I was being ridiculous and decided that we're not even going to try to schedule anything until at least 8 weeks, although I've been told the real magic number is about 15 pounds, as far as getting the kid to do stuff and all that jazz. So for now, we're enjoying every newborn moment available to us. We've gotten through the first weeks with his parents and other help, and my mom's on her way now. I think we just might make it.

 Daddy gets his first cuddle.
 Last moments before we became parents.
Our introduction. 

It's been amazing so far. I couldn't be luckier.