Looks like I’m Not Alone

Good news. I’m pretty sure that Jesus still loves me.

After yesterday’s tantrum I was feeling really low. It’s hard to pray when you feel like a brat. It’s hard to have faith when your mood is as blue as the midnight sky and things feel lonesome and hopeless and stupid. And sometimes, even though you know things are going to turn a corner, it’s still really hard to get from blue…to better.

Hallelujah for good Christian people. It’s amazing what Heavenly Father can do with a little neighborhood help.

As of 10 am this morning we had received not one, not two, but three Family Home Evening invitations from families in our new ward here in Henderson. And we received an email today that our car is finally making it’s way to Seattle (it will then have to go to LA so I can retrieve it but at least it’s moving out of Texas).

And then a sister in the ward took my girls for a playdate today which was awesome, especially when she told me that the gym 45 seconds down the road is super cheap, has daily yoga classes and childcare for up to 3 kids, and it’s only $31 a month.

Kuh-razy. And necessary. With Jason gone I need yoga, live and in person and uninterrupted by little girls who want to share my mat.

Tonight I put the girls to bed and they wanted a song so I gave them the old standard “Angel Lullaby” from My Turn on Earth. Then on a whim (yes, it’s true) I found myself drifting into that old syrupy feel good number from Michael McLean, “You’re Not Alone.” And yes, I linked it. Don’t even try to pretend you’re not going to listen to it either.

I probably shouldn’t admit that I might have choked a little on that one, I’m sure it was due to dry vocal chords and all that. But my answer was clear tonight and I feel…loved. And remembered.

My cup is filling fast.

Still no nothing.

Sometimes I feel bad that men have to be men and they can’t tap into our minds to see what we really mean when we say things like, “I hate it here I hate it here I hate it here I hate it here!”

What I really mean is, “I hate it here WITHOUT YOU.”

My poor husband. Today he drove the last leg of his cross country trip and kept calling at the absolute worst moments: First call, playing Monopoly with Harry (is it legal to spend Monopoly money on the Sabbath?) he called right when the girls and the dog ran under the card table and upset the game.

Second call, just as I was gently depositing June in her room for trying to break off the fridge door (remember all those doors she destroyed in my German house?) my phone rang and Georgia picked up, giving him a front row ear.

Third call came right in the middle of my Mommy Time-Out when I was mentally  monologuing, which then became a verbal monologue. I know he meant well when he kept interrupting to point out how blessed we are to have Air Conditioning and four healthy kids and a dog who loves me, but what I really needed were cooing noises. Just hmm and ooh at me a little. Maybe throw in a “baby, you’re so skinny” now and then.

I finally told him that we were having a One conversation and he quickly changed tactics. It really helped. By the time I was done I felt so much better. Who needs furniture to sit on? Pictures to collect dust? Hangers? Dressers? A Repentance Bench?

He’s right. I do have four kids (and a dog) that really love me and since he’s gone I’m allowed to blast the AC to my little heart’s content.

I’ve really got to stop writing until my stuff comes.

Ship Log: T Minus 2

Two days before Jason leaves.

6:30 am: slept through DMV Drive Test alarm due to unexpected migraine and had to rush morning routine. Attempted to let my hair “air dry” while doing Driver’s License makeup. Really bad idea.

Arrived at DMV 45 minutes before official opening and received Standby number 7. Stood in the hot sun until 8:00 waiting for the doors to open.  Cursed hair.

Once inside I ate a pop tart to calm my stomach so I could take some ibuprofen for my headache. It tasted mostly disgusting but also a little bit yummy and sinful in a Car Trip Food kind of way.

Waited. Five. Hours.

By 10:30 they had called standby’s 1-5 so I was hopeful. Then two of the examiner’s got snack poisoning and went home with tummy aches. Then I waited. And waited and waited. By one o’clock it was clear: The standby line was officially going to standby and watch everyone else take drive tests for the rest of the day.

I stopped at Fill’s and purchased a 44 oz Diet Coke for lunch then sent Jason back to work for the last half of the day. 44 ounces later I was infused with a desire to mop my house. Card tables and chairs were stacked and the kids were relegated to the pool.

When all was shiny and clean I leaned back against the stove and heaved a sigh of relief.

Then the backdoor opened and all four kids pounded through my kitchen dripping water and Las Vegas dust clear up to the Bonus room.

And right when I didn’t think my day could get any worse, I sneezed and peed my pants.

Some days are just like that.

Dates with Dad and finding piano

Since Jason is getting ready to leave he’s decided to take each of the kids out on a Daddy Date Night. This is part of our new family movement (inspired in a moment of sheer desperation) to make sure everyone has enough love to give everyone else. We call it the Love Canteen. I’m pretty sure I’ve stolen this idea from some therapist or well-known self-help person so feel free to google it and give them credit.

In our family this means that when Harrison asks for permission to “punch June in the face” I intervene and ask him to take a breath and evaluate his love canteen. He usually needs a hug and some sister space and super soothing, non-patrionizing words. I’d say so far we’ve had at least a 12% success rate with this method.

It has taken me 11 years of parenting to figure out that if I want to get a particular result, I should probably try giving it first. I’m trying to practice less screaming and more hugging. That should be in vinyl on my kitchen wall somewhere.

On Friday Jason took June out on her Daddy date. June is in need of some super special attention right now. She’s kicking at the pricks this summer and doing the old love-me-when-I’m-naughty song and dance I’ve so enjoyed over the past six years.

This girl loves her daddy. She got totally dolled up for her date with clip on earrings and Allison’s red lipstick and enjoyed an evening of dress shopping at The Gap followed by dinner at her favorite chickaurant, Zupas.

This is also her father’s favorite chickaurant.

I took the kids to the dollar movie and by the time we got home June had Jason totally entrenched in watching “A Christmas Kiss” on Netflix. This might be the worst Hallmark movie ever made. She was in Heaven, he was in…her clutches. I should probably add that she had commandeered my bathrobe to wear over her jammies. This was mostly hilarious and slightly alarming.

Tonight he’s taking Rex out and then Harrison and then, much to her total dismay, Georgia. Georgia has already asked if she can please do a Mommy Date instead–no offense intended. I think the move has made her the most insecure of all my kids. She’s panicky when she isn’t with me. We’re working on it.

I have three goals when Jason is gone and the first is to throw myself totally and completely into the throes of my children. Not only do I have everyone ready to get busy with after school clubs but I’ve decided to once again tackle the piano at home. Finding a teacher is such a pain, especially for Rex.

I googled teaching kids piano and found the most amazing dude ever, *Joseph Hoffman. He’s got online video lessons that are totally free with a super cheap download packet that accompanies them. I watched through a few of his tutorials and I think my kids are going to love him, especially Rexy.

And then I thought, man that name sounds so familiar. I wonder if he’s the dude who arranges my dad’s choral music? So I called the folks and…

He totally is. Small world. He’s now the guy helping both my Rex’s with their music.

So we’re finding our way. I’ve got football covered, dance lessons ready to start on Wednesday, two Karate places to check out and an online piano genius that’s going to save me some serious cash. In a nutshell, today is a better day. Today I can live in Las Vegas.

 

*Joseph Hoffman has absolutely no idea I am posting this about him, no one is paying me for anything.

because moving stinks

I’m such a big liar. This whole moving to Vegas business isn’t what I am telling myself it is.

I am a seriously flawed glass half-fuller. So far this week I’ve convinced myself that I love my tiny house and having a swimming pool is the greatest thing ever. But on day five my kids are literally trying to kill each other out there during forced family swim time because we’re all so darn sick of looking at the same five faces. Apparently the pool has already lost its glow and instead of everyone jumping up to do chores so they can get in the pool, I’m now threatening them with an extra hour of swimming if they don’t get with the program (not that there’s a program).

And if I hear that door open one more time with “Mom!!!” followed by mindless tattling I think I’ll go drown someone.

Yesterday I got all the kids registered in their respective schools and it was a major weight off my shoulders. Unfortunately I quickly realized just how much I’ve been allowing the weight of my real life’s procrastinated responsibilities to keep me blissfully fogged to our current reality.

Here’s the low down. At the moment we are camping in an empty house with one lonely couch, two card tables and 8 chairs. We have three air mattresses and a TV. We don’t have our furniture, our photos, our beds or our toys. There is no dusting to do, no piano for the kids to pound on, and if I need tape I have to run to the corner and buy some.

Home sweet home. It’s hard to feel connected when there’s nothing to sit on.

I’m trying not to think about Jason leaving us next week. I have so many dear friends who have done far longer deployments and mandatory separations, three and a half months is nothing. I just…really like him. I like having him around and even though I’m quite capable of running this team solo I have to say it’s all so much better with him here.

To all my friends moving this summer (and I know there are a lot of you) please know that you’re not alone in this wilderness of no friends and missing cars. It’s a hard process and I’m with you. Finding a good grocery store, a dry cleaner, a karate place and a dance studio. Convincing your kid to play sports in a strange city where he doesn’t know anyone is hard but in the long run it’s going to pay off.

Right?

Today I will do laundry in this house that is my home. I will mop my kitchen floor (or have a kid do it), hang up the extra clothes from my suitcase, and try not to yell about the broken appliances.

Six months and I should start feeling better.

 

 

home and plugged back in

I’m writing in the dark. I just opened the box to Mac my new best friend and possibly Jason’s biggest rival so I won’t be so lonely and wouldn’t you know I can’t see a single word I’m typing unless I highlight it after the fact. It’s kind of thrilling, who knows what I might say?

Well, we got a house with our pool. Seriously I don’t know what I was so worried about living here. We’re going on day four and my little fish have spent most of their waking hours learning how to drown each other. Who knew water wings were so resilient? Pool rules here are simple: no dunking, eating, or drowning. So far so good.

I looked into swimming lessons down the road at some serious looking swim school and was pleased to see that they do indeed take their swimming seriously. It would cost me over $500 per kid for a 3 week swim session. Seriously. I quickly decided that while their safety is important to me perhaps I should play Frau Von Schwimminbad and teach the kids myself. My niece Allison is here soaking up sun and being entirely delightful and between the two of us we’ve managed to teach everyone the basics–as long as they have goggles on.

Rex is a fish in the water and doesn’t know it. He swims back and forth under water for long lengths and holds his breath forever but the second he finds out he can’t touch the bottom he literally sinks and begins to drown as fast as he possibly can.

Georgia is loving the pool but seems to think this life jacket business isn’t stylish and it bothers her. She wants to see her cute swimsuit so she can lounge around on the steps and be glamorous–red lipstick and all. Allison is keeping her well stocked. It’s like living with Ester Williams minus the propensity to actually swim.

Harry learned to dive on day one and June is the absolute best (oh don’t look so shocked). She never wants to get out and is quite content to practice what she’s learned. Of course the moment her feet hit dry land she begins to cry about life in general–daddy leaving, daddy staying, no friends, it’s hot, green hair, etc. That girl is so ready for school.

But the best part is that I feel content. I feel like we are where we’re supposed to be and I think when our stuff arrives at the end of the month and I get Jesus back up on the wall and the kids in school I’m going to be quite happy here.

Now if only the car would come.

 

Where’s my car???

Our car was supposed to come in by July 12th but apparently it’s lost somewhere in the wide world of shipping. It could be sunk to the bottom of the ocean for all we know and I’m not even kidding. The last time we actually got a real human on the phone they said they were confident they would locate it “soon.” I was a little surprised at Jason’s hopeful regurgitation of this news. “Don’t worry babe,” he said, “They said it should be here soon.”

Have I just gotten overly cynical in my 10+ years of working under the federal government, because I kind of laughed at Jason. When the powers that be can’t give you a date and try to band aide the issue with “soon” it’s kind of like the doctor telling you that a bone marrow test might be a little “uncomfortable.” They have no idea where Big Green is. Until he’s located and delivered to Washington state (via Houston) the kids and I are pleasantly stuck here taking advantage of my family and seriously outstaying our welcome. My sister Kerry’s family is headed for sainthood, and I have to say that being here has prompted me to make a few new and improved parenting goals. Thanks to their good example my kids get a time-out if they leave a dish on the table for me to clean up. Why didn’t I think of that before??

Back to the auto zone, we just got a used Jetta wagon for Jason, it’s a TDI which means diesel and 45+ miles to the gallon. Jason dragged me all over the northwest for an entire week hunting for the best bang for his muffler until he finally happened upon some poor Russian dude who had exactly what he wanted (actually this was the fourth Russian dude we’d met selling a TDI). I pitied the fool when Jason started the haggling process. The guy was practically in tears by the time they were done and Jason managed to get a car for $2000 less than we had budgeted. We need to get the windows tinted ASAP so at least there’s a little money for that.

This is the second in our gently used car buying spree. In Germany we bought Big Green, a Ford Excursion we found on the Lemon Lot before we moved. It’s a loaded 2005 and only had 84K miles on it, plus it’s a diesel. The poor guy who took it to Germany didn’t realize that you can’t get very far with them in Europe unless you want to pay the funeral costs for all the innocent old German ladies you’ll kill while driving through the villages. His family is now grown and the car had been sitting still for years.

Talk about a buffalo hunt. The moment Jason got behind the wheel of that massive beast he started to giggle, which kind of ruined the effect. He wanted me to test drive it (since it’s apparently going to be my car) and I will admit there was fear in my eyes when he boosted me into the driver’s seat. I didn’t take it out of the parking lot because it was so out of control massive. We kind of got a disgusting price for it because the man just wanted to get rid of it and no one else would take it. Funny, apparently they have a bit of a cult following here in the states.

Driving Big Green through villages is a panic attack waiting to happen because I swear that car has a mind of it’s own. You want to go one way but the car is already doing something else so you just have to hold on and go with it. Turning? Oh! Yes! Right! Hold on kids it looks like we’re taking the autobahn again. I think that car is smarter than me. But now that I’m back in the states I feel like the roads might be able to contain it. Some.

So now I’m just waiting. Jason took the Jetta and left this weekend for Vegas via Utah to get house keys before he heads back to Germany for a few days. I’m wishing we were all with him. Our fun summer plans that included a week or two in Utah have been completely thwarted and that bugs. But, I’m sure the Lord has us here for a reason so I’m trying to find something useful to do with my time (the kids pray every day that they’ll please find Big Green so we can have our car back).

I need to be better about tracking my time here.

house hunting and fighting makes for a great get-away

I need to write, I want to write, I write in my head all day long but unfortunately my computer is floating around in the middle of the ocean on the way to Las Vegas and I have nothing to write on. It should be there by mid to late August. In the meantime I’m at the whims of people in my family with keyboards and internet.

So we got a house in Las Vegas. Last week Jason and I took five days off from the kids and our wonderful Northwest vacation and actually paid money to spend a week in…the desert. I can think of a lot of words for Las Vegas but I’m going to stick with that one. Let’s just say it was hot. Also, it was really warm outside. Then there was the heat to deal with. And if I hear my husband lecture me one more time about the values of dry heat I might just stick him with a hot poker–aka any pointy metallic item left outside for more than 2 minutes in the pounding Las Vegas sun. And yes, we lived in Maryland so I know what humidity feels like. Still going to complain.

The good news is we finally and accidentally found the best real estate dude who found us the best rental. This took us a few try’s including spending a morning with an old man who didn’t really care about showing us houses but instead wanted to regale us with stories about his childhood investigative exploits. Serious. Burned an entire morning trying to get away from him, bless his heart. (If I sound cranky it’s because heat makes me cranky.)

But the evening of our first day after seeing only 6 houses we drove into our future neighborhood, passed the chapel on the way in, and instinctively knew–before even seeing the home–that It Was The Place. We took one look at the big green cesspool in the backyard and high-fived. Once they get the gators out of it and scrub it up real pretty it’s going to be perfect. The house is smaller than my 6 levels of German tile, only 2 floors and about 2300 square feet, but it’s going to be just right. Huge backyard for Las Vegas and none of the neighbors can see our pool which is important to me. I’m just not comfortable with the fish bowl that makes up most of the suburban areas we saw. But the best part is we found a place in Henderson relatively close to Jason’s work. Hallelujah for a short commute.

It was a good thing we took five days because renting a home is not easy. This is the first time we’ve rented since we were newlyweds and we had no idea it was such a lengthy process. Our lease didn’t finally materialize until our last day there. Hoops, cashier’s checks, stuck at Hash House A Go-Go while we waited…such a tough life.

I don’t think the week would have been complete, however, had we not had a good solid disagreement, also known as a knock-down-drag-out-kick-you-out-of-the-car-and-threaten-to-drive-to-Pensicola fight. Personally, I think Jason and I have been getting along way too well during this move. So well that in hindsight you might even say we were apathetic. Now that would be a tragedy. Thank goodness for miscommunication and hypersensitivity, our marriage is safe again.

For the record, if you happen to have one of those Celestial marriages that never fights or disagrees stop reading about a paragraph ago and go kiss your spouse. Good on you.

My poor husband. Sometimes I think he’s right when he tells me I’m bat crazy and oversensitive. Honestly, when I think of how mad I got about his opinion on end table decor it’s mostly embarrassing and incredibly stupidifeeling, which is a word that describes how stupid you feel when you realize it honestly was ALL YOUR FAULT.

However, it’s a good thing Jason isn’t perfect either or he would have left me a long time ago. In fact, he actually tried to leave by way of the car door and chose to walk the 5 miles back to where we were staying in order to cool off in the 107 degree heat instead of driving in the air conditioned car where we could fight in a climate controlled environment. I might have stealthily parked and watched his pilgrimage in case he calmed down and wanted a ride.

He didn’t.

But the good news is that despite the merry-go-round of apologies–you’re ready to say sorry but they’re not ready to forgive so then you get mad again and then they say sorry but you’re not ready to forgive so they get mad again–and despite the fact that I had a few moments where I considered taking the rental car and leaving him afoot for the rest of the week, by some miracle of dual humility we finally decided to love each other and kept our date night to do a session at the temple (which was probably the reason we got in such a silly fight to begin with, that darn devil).

Making up is the best, most wonderful thing ever. There is nothing better than holding my sweetheart’s hand and knowing that he’s determined to keep me, hypersensitivity and all. Thank goodness for my favorite two phrases, “I’m sorry” and “I’m sorry too.”

So here we are, back in Elma at the farm waiting for my Sister in law Heather to come for a few days before we wrap up our trip and head south. We are constantly drawn out to our little ten acres to swim in the pond or check the fresh cut hay or stand around at twilight looking at the view and getting bitten by mosquitoes. It’s amazing to feel like we have a place in this world.

Can’t wait to someday get home.

Can’t get out of bed…

The closer we come to leaving here the harder it is for me to get out of bed in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a morning person on a good day but habit/kids/need to pee usually has me up and running by 8 at the latest. Okay 9.

I am having a hard time. Family seems to make me feel better, Jason makes me feel better, but as soon as we start looking at houses in Vegas and talking about the logistics of our life I get panicky. That and the fact that all of our homes are currently up in the air: Trying to sell our Layton house, trying to find another renter for our German house (the guy was a total snarf bag), trying to find a place to live in Las Vegas that doesn’t have a school rating of 2. All of these things chase me under my covers and keep me from putting on a bra, makeup or contacts.

I don’t do well when I feel anxious AND ugly. Part of my anxiety could also be due to the wild diet pills I started taking this week but I’ve got to do something besides yoga. Honestly though, my weight gain and loss is at the bottom of my priority list right now. I just need to get through this summer still smiling.

Jason informed me that he’s scheduled to leave for training on Aug 17th and our household goods will arrive on August 22nd. I don’t know who is going to move boxes for me or help me hang things or figure out how to shift the couches around. Everything about Las Vegas makes me upset. I keep telling myself that I can do this, it’s not going to be as hard as our shift to Germany was. I can think of a few friends who live there and will probably be willing to come help me but even that feels distant and hypothetical.

I’m not the only one struggling in my family. Little Rex’s food anxiety is at an all time high. He’s going to be 9 this month and I’ve got to say, I’m about done with his finicky eating. Last night we made bean burritos for all the grandkids. Bean burritos, people. Beans, cheese, tortilla. Can I hear a Taco Bell? Rex has eaten bean burritos hundreds of times, it’s supposed to be on the short list of “food Rex will eat.” The night before we had a big episode over his unwillingness to try the stroganoff and he missed out on dinner and ice cream because he wouldn’t even take one tiny bite. The kid was practically curled up in the fetal position by the time dinner was over. What the heck?

Last night he did the exact same thing. It might have brought out the Ms. Hannigan in me and I might have seriously threatened to take his birthday away. I told him that if he couldn’t eat that burrito then he wasn’t ready to turn 9. Birthdays are a really big deal to Rex. But even that pressure didn’t pry his mouth open long enough to even taste his plain old burrito. So I did what any good parent would do and revoked all birthday privileges and told him to go sit in the car until it was time to leave. Cause that’s obviously the best way to handle a kid who’s having an anxiety attack.

Twenty minutes later Jason and the boys came into the kitchen with Rex flanked by his dad and brother who were both holding his hands. Poor Rexy, his face was puffy from tears and I could see that they’d been working with him. Is it bad to say I didn’t feel bad for him? I crossed my arms and moved out of the way. Jason quickly made him a new burrito and cut it in thirds while I watched. They sat down like some kind of support group and Harrison put his hand on Rex’s shoulder.

“Trust your heart,” he whispered to Rex, patting his shoulder and cheering him on. Don’t ask me what the heart had to do with eating a bean burrito but I stood to the side and watched my sons make it through this trial with love and teamwork and random heart logic, something I hadn’t been willing to think of. By the time Rex was done the burrito wedge had been eaten and my boys were fist bumping and hugging like Rex had just walked a tight rope over a ravine.

Maybe that’s all I need to do right now. Trust my heart and let my little family support me through this trial. I do feel better just sitting and writing it out. I might be able to go put some lipstick on after all.

Home.

We have been home for two weeks now and I’ve come to the conclusion that I spent the first week in hiding. I’ve spent three years being mostly untouchable and unreachable to family and friends stateside and now that I’m home the thought of anyone and everyone being able to get a hold of me during regular daylight hours makes me claustrophobic. I’m having a bit of a readjustment and that’s okay.

I cried the morning I left Germany. I sobbed my way to the airport and the kids and I sang out goodbyes to every landmark we passed. I didn’t know how we were going to handle this transition.

But the instant we hit the ground in Seattle Germany was history.

Friends, we are home and America is incredible. It’s been two weeks and the only thing I’ve missed about Germany is Jason. He flew in last night and my family is finally together again. I drive down the road and cry while I listen to country music, I hug my Daddy every single day and laugh when my kids come in from the creek covered in mud because they’ve been trying to float a log.

We’re spending most of our summer limbo time in Elma, WA where my family lives. They’re spread around the area on a collection of hobby farms. My parents live in a farmhouse on 100 acres with cows that like to chase small children. This time home we opted to stay out at my sister Kerry’s apartment. It’s been…dream like. We have cousins all over town, up the hill and down the road and out the back and just about any direction you can point a mopey child.

Harrison has suddenly developed a love for football courtesy of his 6 boy cousins who dragged him outside our first day here and made him learn to catch and throw. I watched my girls playing up at Aunt Sara’s with five of their little girl cousins on Saturday and could hardly stand how happy little girls in swim suits running through the sprinkler made me feel. Or maybe it’s the hours of long conversation I’ve logged with my sisters and my suddenly older nieces, Megan and Diana and Allison who went and grew up while I was gone. We have all these generations of girls and I have missed this so much.

I’m ready to be home. I want to be in Elma and I never want to leave. When I think of all the years that I swore I’d never come back because a small town could never make me happy…what a dummy I was. It’s not places it’s people, specifically MY people. We drive out to our farm every few days and walk around the field planning our house and our barn and our horse pasture and where we’ll put the well and the sewer.

I spent so many years suffering from extreme wanderlust. It was a painful thing, a weight in my chest, a dog that chased me everywhere I went. Germany was the first place we’ve ever lived that I felt comfortable and happy and I was so afraid that when we left I’d lose that peace.

But here, waking up with my sister Kerry letting the dog out and listening to my girls follow her to go feed the cows and chickens, watching Harrison and Uncle Mathew during lawn mowing lessons, sitting in my mom’s kitchen and remembering that I can go hug my Dad whenever I want…

This is life. This is the life I want. This is where I want to be.

I am home and it’s amazing.