Category Archives: family

The Village that “they say” is so important.

Breaking my silence only to say that the “village” it takes to raise a child should consider appearing only when and/or if requested, and its opinions can be left at its home base. Nobody said anything about needing a village for unwanted advice, opinions, orgrabbiness. It’s not that I need time off from my son as much as I need time away from the village. I’ve never had the village offer to clean its shit out of my truck, or offer to fix the door panel that mysteriously broke while I wasn’t driving it, or spontaneously clean house. It just shows up and dicks up the things I’ve cleaned, put away or fixed.

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My husband is a blessing.

My husband is a treat. Last night, after all the family had left post-FIL’s graduation party, he claps me on the shoulders and kisses me on the forehead. “You’re a good wife.” Okay… Thanks… “You are. And an awesome mom.” Sometimes, he knows just what I need to hear. And then this morning, I wake up to this:

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The whole receipt is scribbled out. Written at the top, “CHRISTMAS DON’T ASK”. God love him.

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So, make housework easier.

I said yesterday that I didn’t like doing housework because I wasn’t good at it. So I looked into FlyLady and found that maybe it’s not so bad after all – when you do it right.

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Here’s a picture of my shiny sink. That’s the first baby steps in FlyLady lessons: shine your sink, so you can get a sense of accomplishment. When I first looked at FlyLady, I passed it off because I thought it was kinda stupid, but now that I have a baby, 4 dogs, and 3 adults to take care of it may not be so bad after all. It’s a big house, and there’s a lot of work to do on a daily basis. I can’t do it all in a day, not to say I haven’t tried.

In two days, I’ve done dishes, done a load of laundry a day, put away clothes, taken care of the dogs, and all my other usual daily activities. You start off easy with basic habits, like shining your sink everyday and getting “dressed to shoes” (which is making sure that you put on all your clothes and your makeup and do your hair before you ever get started in the morning). It’s really amazing noticing a difference that you feel in between wearing jeans and tennis shoes to get all your stuff done, versus wearing same pajama pants you wear to bed.

Not that I don’t love my pajama pants. But they’re not conducive to productivity.

The trick, if you decide to try FLYing (or already do), is to not get wrapped up in the imperfections – the scratches in the stainless steel of your kitchen sink, the old stain in the toilet bowl, that rough patch in the floor that never seems to buff out. Do the best you can. Go for clean, not perfect. It’s not about the destination, its about the path.

Go shine your sink. If you’re like me, you will feel better immediately.

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I am not a good housewife.

I would suck as a maid. I don’t dust, I hate to vacuum. My most hated chore is folding and putting away laundry, mostly the folding. The putting away irritates me because it all ends up in a pile in drawers, and then how can I put away Tue rest?

It wouldn’t bother me if I didn’t feel like such a disappointment to my husband.

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Worthless day.

The MIL is at home for the week, since she took off three days and the county gives them two for Thanksgiving. I don’t know if it’s that it seems like she has gotten so much done while I barely managed to get eight invoices typed, or that I just had an off-day. It’s hard for me to adjust to sudden changes in schedule when not on my dime, and having her in the house with me 24-7 is not something that I would opt in to given the choice. If she helped me get more done, then yes, but it usually just ends up that I’m taking the boy back. It didn’t help that I had no real schedule for today, and somehow I feel guilty for that.

I don’t know how women did it in the 40s and 50s. Raised to it, I guess, because I can’t do it all. I can barely keep the floors swept. But then, I am cleaning and cooking for four grown adults, four dogs, and a baby – and most of the time, the dogs seem to be better at keeping their space clean than the people. It never fails that by the time I get to the back part of the house, the front needs cleaning again. And before you say anything about getting the rest of them to pitch in, let me add that I can’t even convince 354 to put his socks away in the hamper most days. (And he wonders where they all go…)

I need a maid. Or, a decent babysitter. Either would help me out tremendously.

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That lonesome feeling…

I have heard many LEOWs talk about being “married single,” the idea being that we are often left to our own devices to raise our children and socialize with our friends while our husbands are on shift, or training. I didn’t understand it quite as well when 354 and I were courting. How could I, when even though we basically lived together, we still had separate lives? After we got married, it became clearer. Married but not getting half as much time together as an average couple, having to fight to spend quality time together, having to adjust (and fast) to the stress of the job as it affected our relationship. With him on nights, it was exponentially harder – a newlywed couple, hardly together unless you counted being in the same house as “together.” He slept while I worked, and I slept (mostly) while he worked, only seeing each other in passing from one shift to another. There were nights I didn’t sleep, up worried because of the call he was on, while the dogs huddled around the bed as they sensed my worry. There were more times spent in anger or frustration that should have been spent in partnership or in discussion. I wasn’t the best wife – I never considered myself the best candidate for marriage in the first place – and I didn’t try very hard to compromise at first. There was a turning point, where both of us said and did things we knew we would regret, and we did, and we apologized. It’s hard enough to be married; it’s so many times harder to be married to someone in public safety. Human nature already makes marriage hard. The job makes it harder.

We spent almost two years out of public safety, as civilians. After he applied, and was accepted, to his current department, things went back to our normal. I’ve gotten used to having the bed to myself more often than not, which is only convenient since I have to get up at least once to feed the baby. I’ve gotten used to trying to do our chores and my projects around him asleep in our part of the house, which was easier when it was just us and the dogs (or maybe it was easier when I had almost an entire house to myself). I’m still getting used to having a car to myself again, and the ability to go places almost whenever and wherever I need or want to.

I feel the same sense of loss from my husband now that I did when we were first married, with the presence of our son in our lives. I understand more readily being married single, now that I experience it as a young mother and LEOW. My husband obviously loves our son, but there’s not much for him to do while Little Man is still… little. And worse than that, not that he means to spend so much time away at work, or asleep in the bed, but there are so many others in the home that are raising his son while he’s patrolling. We live with his parents until we get our feet under us, and a place of our own. There are always a pair of hands looking to take the responsibility of caring for our son – out of love, thankfully – when it should be me and my husband raising our child. Instead, it’s me and his parents and his aunt and uncle, with 354 kind of in the background. And it makes me sad to see him with Little Man, knowing how much he loves his boy, and knowing that the only time he gets to spend with him is the short time between sleep and shift.

It’s like being a part of two different households – two ships passing in the night, to borrow the cliche. I never knew how hard it was to be the LEO mom until now, and I suppose that’s a given. How can you know unless you’ve been there?

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Walking the line.

The other morning in church, I was in the restroom “fixing” my son his early lunch. I came out of the restroom with him under a blanket, and met a woman with a young girl in tow. She had that “look” on her face, the one that says she’s headed to the parking lot, and someone isn’t going to be happy when they get back. The girl was trying not to cry; as Daddy called it, “sub-subbing” through the end of a fit. As they crossed the foyer and passed me, the woman stared me down as if daring me to say something. I smiled a little, and headed for the water fountain before I went back in the sanctuary. About the time they made it past my shoulder, the little girl said fearfully, “But I don’t want to go see Daddy.” I turned to go back into the service, just in time to see the mother, jaw clenched, grab the girl with one hand around her jaw and the other on the back of her neck, and jerk her into the ladies’ restroom. The girl immediately began to cry again, nearly screaming, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Mama!” I heard the skin-to-skin contact even after the restroom door swung closed. My stomach knotted up. I was torn between going in there and saying something, or minding my own business. In the end, I walked into the sanctuary and took care of my son, feeling like a coward.

I am all for corporal punishment. I was spanked and thumped and snatched as a child, and I turned out fine. I think the reports of increased mental instability due to spankings are a load of shit, and the folks doing the studies are largely tweaking their findings to support the anti-spanking “movement.” As cliche as it will sound, my parents were spanked, their parents were spanked, and so on. I don’t have any axe murderers in my family, just a few crazies. And we all know how to use our heads and our manners, even the lead-than-stable members of the family. I think a lot of parents in my generation, and the previous one, are using corporal punishment as an excuse to get out of the scary parts of parenting – the discipline – and they are doing their kids a huge disservice.

That said, there is a distinct difference between corporal punishment and outright abuse. My husband saw abuse everyday at his old department. Domestic situations turned violent over something small, like a dirty sock or a book out of place, often fueled by alcohol or drugs. A child routinely coming to school with new bruises every time his mom broke up with another boyfriend. Teenagers out sleeping in vehicles, at friends’ houses, in the garage, or at the park – anywhere but at home in their own beds. Abuse goes beyond discipline. Abuse is violence done for violence’s sake, done wholly out of rage on a weaker individual because of their inability to retaliate. It appears in all walks of life, from the worst-kept projects to the highest-bid mansion. It doesn’t matter where it happens or who is doing it. Abuse is unacceptable, no matter what reason you can come up with to try and justify it.

Discipline is unpleasant, but it is not ugly. It is necessary, however unpleasant. Everyone disciplines differently, and that’s fine. I believe corporal punishment works, for one, because my father implemented it (Momma tried). I knew my limitations, and I knew where the lines were drawn that would get me a serious talking to, and the one that would get me a spanking. My father never beat me, or yelled at me just for the sake of it, or told me that I was worthless or stupid or a waste of space. He spanked me when I did something I deserved it, raised his voice when I raised mine, and told me that I wasn’t using my head, that I could do better, that I was wasting my talents. To this day, I respect my father for doing his best to raise a daughter as a single father. His methods may have not been the greatest or the most appropriate by current psychological standards, but he was effective. I learned manners, I learned right from wrong, I learned limits. I was not a kid that could be talked to, or reasoned with, for a long time. I required corporal punishment because I was hardheaded, and that was what got through to me. Not every kid works that way.

But that isn’t an excuse to take it too far.

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Not Murphy’s Law; maybe Army Law.

A combination of “Hurry Up and Wait,” which I’m told is unofficially the true U.S. Army slogan, and “Everything Will Be On Hold Until It All Happens At Once.” It seems to be the thing, especially in the past couple of weeks.

Sunday week ago, I wrecked our Crown Vic. Totaled it, as a matter of fact. If it wasn’t for the pine tree at the top of the embankment, I would have rolled completely. 354 was supposed to be gone on two jobs out of state for the week; I had, as a matter of fact, just dropped him off to leave. As it was, he stayed in town. We had an appointment Wednesday, with all expectations of being in the hospital that afternoon and a baby in arm by Thursday.

Our expectations got shot down Wednesday afternoon after the results of the amniocentesis came back negative – lungs too immature to induce, come back next week – and I spent the rest of the day in a mild depressive state combined with discomfort from a pissed off kid and a disgruntled uterus. I stayed in bed and got up only when I was forced, out of awkward social necessity, to attend church that evening.

BUT that was the only bad part of the week. We sold the Crown and my POS Grand Cherokee, and put that cash to a down payment on another vehicle – a family truck, an ’02 Expedition, with enough room for the kid, the dogs and whatever else we decide to pack in it. 354 got in touch with a captain in one of the departments he had applied with over a month ago, and found out where his application had disappeared to (not file 13, thankfully). And despite getting put on standby for a week with regard to the arrival of the boy, he is more than healthy, still plenty large and growing, with a good strong heartbeat.

This week has been quieter, which has been a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it’s given us time to finish the nursery (yes, finish) and prepare the truck, get the house ready, and do… whatever else needs done. 354 has heard back from more than one department, all wanting to know (months later, thankyou) if he was still interested in a position. We’re waiting on good things from one of them soon. We got a good report from the doctor on Wednesday, and they gave us an induction date. So here I am, sitting in a hospital bed in a very comfortable room, getting ready to change my life for the better, forever. Hooked up to monitors, got an IV ready for tomorrow…

Hurry up, and wait.

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Learning by example.

The values we aspire to teach our children are important, but the values we show our children are inevitably what they learn, no matter our intention. If you teach that all people are worthy of respect, while putting down people in another class, of another race/religion/lifestyle, I can guarantee your kids will act as you do.

“Do as I say, not as I do.” That was a familiar refrain when I was growing up. As a youngster, it meant I was to listen to my father and obey his words. Now that I’m older, it has another meaning: my father knew he was a flawed human being, and wasn’t going to be bothered to change his ways to be a better example. Don’t get me wrong, he was an example of many things, some good and some bad. A lot of my “teaching” was through lots of thought on my part, not from any conscious example of his. As an adult, even if mostly in years, I know that my daddy did and said many things he shouldn’t have, and made some mighty poor decisions, as all humans do. I also know that he taught me, through example, that actions speak louder than words; that honesty, no matter how painful, is always the best policy; that sometimes you have to swallow your pride and apologize; and that if you say you’re going to do something, you better damn well follow through.

My mother taught that all opinions are valuable; that people are equal; it’s important to think for yourself; and that family will always be there for you. What she showed me was that you can get what you want by manipulating others; people are only valuable by what they have to offer you; thinking for yourself means nothing if you don’t agree with the “powers that be”; and that you can pick and choose what family you have, or at least what family you prefer to interact with when you feel like it.

From both of my parents, I learned how to be a loner with friends. Someone with few memories of the past beyond what I chose to remember, or at least create to my liking (sometimes I have trouble telling the difference). My “broken home” shaped an odd amalgamation of simultaneously repressed emotion with explicit outbursts. My life experiences through high school only served to reinforce my outlook, and if it hadn’t been for university (despite its rough beginnings), I might have mistaken my reluctance to interact with others beyond my daily scope with true independence for the rest of my life.

My parents aren’t bad people. They may not have been the best parents all the time, but they tried. What they didn’t teach, I learned elsewhere – usually the hard way. It made the lesson stick a little more, and the bigger the lesson, the better I took it to heart. In some respects, it might have been better if I had been shown by mom and dad than the life experience, but it’s too late to change it now.

This comes up in my head now that I’m about to take on full-time motherhood. I worry, like all first-time parents, if I’m going to be a good mom; if I’m going to pass on more bad things than good from my life. I think all parents should worry , at least a little – after all, how can we check ourselves if we don’t examine our words and actions? The thing that I keep telling myself is that, unlike my parents’ divided style of child-rearing, I can learn with my kids while I’m teaching them. I can teach my children that it’s okay to be human, to make mistakes and learn from them, even if that means having to apologize or make amends at the expense of pride.

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Dear Mother-in-Law.

I love you. You’re great. Thank you for taking me into your home and your family with open arms. I got lucky as mother-in-laws go.

But you fucking irritate me. A lot.

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