Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Journey of 380 Days

I remember Day 1 like it was yesterday.  The day he left.  No fanfare.  No hugs and kisses goodbye from the girls.  A quiet, solemn departure in the middle of the night.  As he kissed me goodbye, slipped out the door, and rode with our neighbor to the airport, the journey began...for both of us.

 My first day would grow more interesting, by the minute, when I was with the two big girls in the back bathroom, doing their hair for the day, and I called for Allye.  When she didn't come, after repeatedly calling her, I began checking the doors, to ensure she hadn't left, and then my phone that tracks all coming and going through our security system.  Nothing had been opened.  After we searched and called for several minutes I ran to my neighbor's house just to make sure she had not pulled a Houdini on me.  She came running back with me, both of us calling and screaming.  This wasn't our first rodeo with a missing Allye.  After a few minutes we found her.  Curled up in a tight corner.  Behind a chair in her room.  That I had looked behind.  My neighbor pulled her out and hugged her as I started crying hysterically from fear and relief.  She turned to me, put her arms around me, and there we stood in the middle of the nursery, both wondering if I would survive this...because the journey had just begun...Day 1.  Rock bottom.

 I became increasingly thankful that each day was new, and that I got to bring the wisdom from the day before with me.  But I won't lie.  Those first few weeks were awful.  I had purposely held my parents back from coming, thinking we needed to settle into our new life before we brought in another set of people, whom these girls adore, just to rip them away a few days later.

 Let's just say I was re-thinking that plan.  I held strong though, and little by little our roots were taking hold.

I quickly realized that while I could control how things went at home, it would be the outside influences that rocked our world in a whole new and more extreme way.  We all had heavy feelings on board, and the slightest mishap or insensitivity of another created far more than a ripple effect.

It was quite a bit more pronounced in some.  I won't name names, but she turned ten this year.  This is where my "village" became really important.  On the brink one day, I went in to drop her at dance and told the sweet office manager to please relay to Mrs. Katharine (the teacher) that we NEEDED to have a really good night, and a little ego boost would not hurt either.  Whew!  A mother's work is never done.  Never.

 As time passed, we began to grow and know that we were doing great.  We spent a lot of time away from home creating memories together.  NOW.  More than one person has commented, quite positively, about me taking the girls all over the place.  Here's how it is.  It is always a good plan to take my girls out to experience new things and have fun.  However, there are three of them.  They have more moods than are humanly possible.  It is a given fact that one, or all, of them are not going to be happy at some point, or all of, that day.  They are going to fight in the car over which movie to watch, the radio station we play, that someone's leg is in their space, that they are thirsty/hungry, need to pee, just can't take it anymore, the list goes on and on.  Can I get an AMEN?

But...I can let this stop me or I can let this grow me.  I always choose to let it grow me.  I am not trying to give them a perfect childhood or a perfect me.  I am trying to give them a memorable childhood with me in it.  I am going to regretfully snap at them, forget snacks and drinks, hurry them along when they want one more minute, negotiate to get my way, compromise to give them their way, buy too much for them, buy too little for them, the list goes on and on.  I have done thousands of these outings and trips at this point, and I am not sorry for a single one.  I will only ever be sorry for the ones I didn't take.  That I know for sure.

For us, the key to time passing quickly was the holidays.  We typically made big plans, usually involving a trip to North Carolina, where my parents live.  A little timeout for me and some extra love that only grandparents know how to give.  When one holiday was over, we started looking toward the next one.  This way, we were always looking forward.  Never backward.  Forward.  That is all we knew.  Forward.  The only way to make it to the end.

 As I reflect back, the hardest times were when one of them was sick and their birthdays.  I think Nate would agree with me on this.  As parents, we all know that when a child is sick that child requires extra from you in the way of time, love, and attention.  We also know that there is that one special day, each year, that children look forward to more than any other...their birthday.  For Nate and me, this is always a special day that we reflect on my pregnancy with that child, what we felt and experienced, and how we can't believe that child is that age.  We all do that last one.  Right?  So I would say birthdays were quite hard for me this year too.  Plus, he is the calm in all of my birthday storm.  Let's not forget that there are 3 birthdays to plan, execute, and celebrate - in less than 30 days.

As Christmas came around I got this overwhelming feeling that I wanted to buy ALL.THE.THINGS.  I told Nate and my mom that I had no idea what had come over me, but I wanted to give them all that I could.  I wanted it to be big, and to lavish them with so many wonderful things.  This is a far cry from my normal personality that wants to be a gift minimalist to teach more about time, love, and togetherness over materialism.  I can only explain it like this.  I was proud.  I was so, so proud of them.  They had done it.  They were in the tunnel and the light was finally in view, and I was celebrating them!  And I did.  And I am not sorry for it.

#reallife  #blurrypictureisbetterthannopicture #bestoutoftwenty
 Our Christmas elf, Eli, made and brought us a countdown chain for the 30 days leading up to Nate's arrival.  Eli really doesn't understand how the military works.  Things happen.  Like our daddy got all the way to the day of departure to have his flight cancelled.  Thankfully we got word in plenty of time to not tear that last link.  Then it was decided.  It would be torn by all five of us at the airport.  And we did.

 Just as he left in the middle of the night, he would arrive way past bedtime.  Excitement had every girl up that morning before 6 a.m.  Yep.  That feeling and thought that just went through your head.  Me too.  BUT....memories not perfection.  We had waited 380 days for this single moment and time was not getting in our way.

 And when those doors opened...


 We had him back...safe and sound.

 Where he belongs.  

With his girls.
Girls insisted that we all wear camo colors.  Daddy's favorite.  ;)

  My Dear Girls,

What a year we had together!  I will forever cherish this time with you, watching you grow in ways that I never expected.  Each one of you is truly amazing!  You have experienced the sorrow of a missing parent, the hardship of having only one parent, and the love that can happen when sacrifice, obedience, and determination collide.  

I remember, when we were having a particularly hard moment, I said this..."One day each of you are going to experience hard moments.  Hard seasons.  Disappointments.  Moments when you don't think you can do it anymore.  That you can't go on.  I want to show you this year that while it is hard, I can do it.  I can't do it perfectly because I am not perfect.  But I can do it with the best of intentions and love.  When you are in the middle of those hard moments I want you to look back and remember this time and know that if I could do this, so can you.  We can do hard things.  Don't you ever tell me you can't because I have shown you that you can. And one day you will show me that you can.  And I will be cheering you on."  I believed it then and I believe it now.  Hard things happen.  Let it grow you.  In fact, go ahead and BLOOM.  


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