Sunday, June 26, 2016

To My Daughter, On Her 16th Birthday

Dear Daughter,

Your birthday is probably my most favorite day of the year! The day that you were born, I quickly realized that my life was no longer my own. You became the reason for my sleepless nights, my desire of caffeine and my desperate need for Nickelodeon! But it was much more than that.

They say a parent is a person who brings up and cares for another.  For the past 16 years, I have been “Ma Ma”, “Mommee”, “Mommy”, “Mom”, and probably a few others that we just won’t say out loud. But you have also been my parent. It’s true. You have brought me up and you have cared for me and loved your little heart out, especially in my weakest moments. 

You have given me more love and loyalty than I ever expected or ever felt I deserved. “I did not give you the gift of life. Life gave me the gift of you.” You hear me in my silence, it’s one of the greatest gifts you have ever given me. 

As my little girl, you quickly became my motivation for moving forward, especially when it seemed easier to run and hide. I went back to school when you were barely four years old. There were times when I did not have a babysitter and I would  take you with me to class. You would sit in classes with me at the University of Houston and as I learned about literature, government and history, I also learned about sacrifice, patience, and endurance. We would get stares of “Oh My God Becky...” but we would also get stares of respect and quiet understanding.

You taught me when to stand up and fight and when to sit down in silent protest. When the school you were zoned to attend did not meet my expectations or your needs, I found another school. When Black History Month was skipped at your elementary school, I spoke up until it was changed. When there was no girl scout troop near us, I stepped up, and became a leader. And when you wanted to straighten your precious curly coils, I stood by silently accepting your individuality; and maybe shed a tear or two. When you thought an orange tutu was the perfect color to wear with your teal shirt and pink shoes, I nodded in agreement. And when you thought Barney was the greatest thing since sliced bread, well, I loved you and you loved me, and we were as happy as could be. 

We have always been a team. For a while there, it was you and I against the world and we took it on with music in our hearts. But then I met your Dad. And you loved him because I loved him and that made me love you even more. And then we toured the world! And you were the most famous puff ball pig tails little girl in all of Japan! We moved a lot. We settled down in a lot places that were not our home, But we quickly learned that home was wherever we could all be together. We faced deployments, we traveled, we defeated boredom, together. And when I was at my weakest, when I faced incredible losses, you were at your strongest. You reminded me of all of the great things in life I already had. You. 

Every year that you celebrate a birthday, I don’t want time to slow down as most parents typically do. Instead, I want to see as much as I can, while I’m able to enjoy it and able to share it with you. I think about how much you are growing and how lucky I am to witness such a beautiful soul’s existence. I am so incredibly proud of you. The words just do not exist to express to you how very proud I am of you. I am so honored to be your Mother. I am so humbled by the young lady that you have become, I am so honored that I had anything to do with the beautiful human being (inside and out) that you are.
As your parent, flaws and all, I love you. I love you because you taught me more than I could ever teach you. And hopefully one day, a long, long time from now (I’m talking decades here), you will have a little bundle of joy that teaches you, what I would not have learned without you. You are enough, you are loved, you are valued, appreciated and adored. You are one of the best things that has ever happened to me (and your dads). From the moment I heard your heart beating inside of me, I knew that I had found an endless love. 

Thank you for the past 16 years and all of the things that you have taught me like,

  1.  Encouragement
  2. Laughter
  3.  Motivation
  4. Acceptance
  5. Beauty
  6.  Happiness
  7.  Grace
  8. Love
  9. Courage
  10. Strength
  11. Hope
  12. Sacrifice
  13. Growth
  14. Fun
  15. Unselfishness
  16. Forgiveness

And in return, my 16 years’ worth of advice to you (some borrowed, some original) is:

  1.  It doesn’t have to be fixed today.
  2. You can do anything, but not everything.
  3. Everyone has a chapter that they do not read out loud.
  4. Don’t stay angry.
  5. Silence is an answer too.
  6. Whoever is trying to bring you down, is already beneath you.
  7. You are a survivor. You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it. 
  8. Be graceful, have dignity and hold your head up high.
  9. Love (Again).
  10.  Remember you have the blood of the strongest most courageous people, running through your veins.
  11. Dance out of rhythm, sing out of tune, and laugh at yourself, because it isn’t supposed to be that serious.
  12. Be a Gardner.
  13. Don't be ashamed of your story, it will inspire others.
  14. Quit Second Guessing.
  15. Family is your anchor.
  16. I will always be here with you, even when I’m not.
Thank you for the memories thus far. Thank you for tolerating me, for dancing with me, for singing off key with me at the top of our lungs! For letting me embarrass you, for all of your giggles, and your “Mom, please stop, don’t, no!” warnings when I was in danger of going just a tiny bit too far. Thank you for our date nights, our late nights, our moments of silent understandings. Thank you for your quirkiness, your awesome sarcasm, and your quick wit. Thank you most of all for loving me and teaching me how to love you.

Happy Sweet 16, you’ve already done so much, yet you’re just getting started.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

One of Those Days

Today was one of those days.

You know the kind. The one where you sit at a green light far too long contemplating turning right or keeping straight. The kind when you thank the waiter for refilling your glass of water at least 45 seconds after they've walked away. The kind when even the exciting stuff such as half off your favorite drink doesn't even thrill you. It was one of those days.

The morning started alright. I managed to sleep the whole night through without waking up in a puddle of urine from either of the twins. I call that a good start to the day. My husband decided to work from home today which should mean a little bit of help with the kids. Instead it means stare downs with my husband as I clean up after him and the boys.

Then the school called. My foster daughter has a suspected case of strep. She needed to be picked up immediately and she of course can't return until after a doctor has cleared her. Which prompted a  number of calls to various urgent cares and doctor's offices to figure who accepts medicaid and who is accepting new patients. This flurry of phone conversation interrupted my husband's phone conferences, which resulted in more stare downs (I'm still not sure which one of us won that round).

Next, which when I really think about it, is the heart of why today was one of those days, is that I went to the Early Learning Center of our local school district and I enrolled my four year old baby boys into Pre-K. Seriously. They've been four years old for exactly one week and already they are going to a 'real' school.

I do realize that it will be late August before the boys actually begin attending the afternoon session of school, but I'm just not ready. I'm not. I'm just not. I'm ready for a break. I'm ready to open a bag of chips without two little boys tugging at my pants. I'm ready to stop picking up toys and coming up with creative ways to entertain the kids when I'm on an important phone call. I'm ready to meet friends at the local coffee shop and not have to run after two little guys who take off in different directions just to humor themselves. I'm ready to not deal with nap refusals and 2,136 daily questions about why and why not? I'm ready to reclaim my iPad and iPhone and to comb my hair and take a shower as quickly as the Super Why theme song. I am ready to shop the aisles of my local Target and not have to dodge the toy section, the candy section, the misplaced Spider Man Slippers section! I am ready to sympathize with the other moms who have yet to graduate to pre-k with their toddlers. Yes, I am ready for freedom.

But wait. With freedom comes restrictions. I mean, what happens one rainy morning when I want to snuggle with my Munchkins? What about long holiday weekends when there's school attendance requirements? Should I let my kids skip class in order to have a play date at the zoo? Am I really ready to give up on the afternoon giggles, the walks, the exploration adventures in the backyard? Am I ready to let go of all of their cute mispronounced words and funny sayings? Am I prepared for the connections that they will surely make with their own teachers and friends? Are they ready to be separated?

It's bittersweet you know? Being a SAHM, needing, wanting and desiring a break and then realizing that you may get exactly what you're asking for. I know my children will be better for the experience of Pre-K. Lord knows that they probably need as much of a break from me as I need from them from time to time. But being a mom, much like being a wife, can be full of ups and downs and most certainly those occasional stare downs. But when you lay down each night and you run through the endless list of all that you did and did not do that day. And you remember all the good things that happened that day; and then you recall all of the bad things about that day, and as difficult as it may seem,  you simply say goodbye to it. Good night to it. Because each day is a day forward and every day forward is a blessing and a gift. And as reluctant as I am to face the reality of my four year olds starting school, it is time. And finally you wake up (if you're lucky), the next day to another day, another moment, another chance, because life does not have a pause button, no matter how much you need it to stand still.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Thomas Twins Terrifying Three's (comes to an end)

I was warned about the Terrible Two's. I was told too unbelievable to be taken seriously, tales about what to expect from two year old toddlers x2. My husband deployed soon after the boys turned two and returned just weeks before they turned three. I like to joke that he lucked out, he maintains how difficult it was to miss it all (so we both lose on that one).  Till this day, I have no idea how I survived! But survive I did....and then came the Terrifying Three's! x2. My boys discovered opinions of their own, wants and needs. They discovered favorite colors and preferences. They redefined tantrums and fits. They refused their car seat seat belts and the potty. They were invited to leave daycare (twice) and they fought, each other. All of the time and over every thing.

So here I am on their last day of being three years old and I feel terrified. I feel scared and sad and a little bit of regret. I should have taken more photos. I should have yelled less and played more. I should have been sure to not take a single day for granted. It's all so bittersweet. I am excited, thrilled even, to be done with these two's and three's. But I'm also sad to see them go.

This year my boys 'took' their independence, by force. They dressed themselves, wore cowboy boots with khaki shorts and long sleeved shirts in the middle of Winter and insisted on wearing raincoats in the blazing sun. They learned the value of putting each other first, until they found best friends of their own. They learned pride in accomplishments. They even learned shame. They 'helped' with everything. Even painting the walls with magic markers and putting random objects in the washing machine. They learned irritation. Like, really, they learned to sigh in frustration when redirected. I'll thank my teenager for that one. They also learned patience and how to say I'm sorry and mean it. They learned to play fair and to be honest. They learned the value of friendship and family and what it means to have cousins as friends. They learned to help cook and do chores. They learned to laugh at appropriate and inappropriate times.

They also taught. They taught me that time flies. That things can always get worse! That things can always get better! They taught me patience and that one must share everything! Food, bathroom time, showers, even my bed must be shared with these little monsters. They showed me what it means to be a Mama Bear and what it means to say I made a mistake. They taught me that both are quite capable of answering to each other's names and correcting me when I get it wrong. They taught me that even though they were born together, and are probably the best of friends, that they really are different and deserve their own individuality. They have taught me that even when I am at my end, the edge of sanity and at the point of where I most certainly can't go on, I can. I can, will, and do go on. They make me stronger.

Here on the eve of their fourth birthday, I am amazed at the love I have for them. The love they have for me. I am stunned at how much they know, their vocabulary, their ability to work an iPad better than me, their creative flair. I am amused at the way they create and laugh at inside jokes.  The way they reason with me and their ability to cure any ailment with a slew of kisses and band-aids.

The struggle of infertility is cruel. I will never forget how hard I fought for these boys. Every moment with them, the good, the bad, and the very terrifying ugly, is part of legacy that I will cherish forever. And I thank the Gods for every moment I have with them. Thank you for the lessons, the memories, for their existence. I am so privilege to share my life with them.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Twins & Teens

As a stay at home mom to nearly four year old twin boys and a near 16 year old teenage daughter, I have my hands (and my heart) full. And by full, I mean full of stories, tales, turmoils, destruction, laughter, OMG moments, and lots and lots of once in a lifetime memories!

As hectic as my life is on a day to day basis, I wouldn't change it for the world! Admittedly, I would make a few changes if I received a few million dollars! And I'd probably start with a full time nanny, nurse, maid, and cook! I'd probably throw in a full time in house therapist, because Lord knows we need one of those. But reality tells me that such fantasies are more harmful than helpful and so I'll take my kiddos and our never ending list of issues and live the life that I have been chosen for.

Speaking of this life I've been chosen for, I have to admit, no matter how hectic life can get, I am happiest when I'm at home in the midst of a stare down with the people who mean the most to me. My husband, my daughter, my sons.

Let me introduce you to my life.

My husband and I are going on ten years of marriage. We met online (eHarmony), while he was deployed to Iraq. He returned home, I picked him up, and three days later, I became an Army Wife. I should add that we secretly eloped and later had a beautiful wedding. Within months, I left my job, the city that I loved, packed up my then six year old daughter and began an adventure that would take us all around the world and would bring me great joy and unfortunately much pain. I am currently very happily (and miserably, depending on what day it is), married to my very best friend and biggest supporter. We have survived losses that most couples never recover from and I am so very proud to call him my other half!

I have a very emotional and high maintenance 15 year old daughter who will be celebrating her Sweet 16 in a matter of weeks! I think I'm more excited than she is. Definitely more excited than my husband is. My daughter and I toy the line between parents and friends and I must admit sometimes those lines become blurred. While I appreciate being her friend, being her parent is my number one priority and she does not always understand or agree with that. It makes for an interesting relationship, let me tell you! More importantly, my daughter is my biggest cheerleader. For many years of her life, when you include my husband's deployments, it's been just she and I. Sometimes she's had to step up in ways that other girls her age never have to. On the other hand, she's led a very privileged and sheltered life, much different than my own or that of my husband's and in today's world of social media, it's created a level of entitlement.

I also have a 13 year old step daughter who usually lives with us full time. Unfortunately, when her father deployed two years ago and she went home to see her mom for the summer, she never came back. Last year, my husband returned home from his third deployment and the court drama began and is still ongoing. However, my (step) daughter, who I hate to refer to as my step daughter, is truly the most creative and kindest person that you will ever meet. She is the type that will invite the entire school to her birthday party and then have a big exchange of gifts so that everyone leaves with something they love. She is my little helper and hugger and she truly has a genuine giving heart.

Then there are the twins. Oh, twins...They say twins are so special, so awesome, so deeply anticipated and desired. So...Neat. Let me assure you, our twin boys are nothing but neat! As a matter of fact, as I type this, I am quite sure that they are pulling all of the boxes off the top of my daughter's closet, to retrieve a ball that mysteriously got thrown up there in a fit of rage. Now, both boys know that Sissy's room is OFF LIMITS, as well as ball throwing. But both boys also begin speaking another language when it comes to disciplinary actions and I'm not sure that we ever see eye to eye on any issues of that sort. However, my twins, as neat and tumultuous as they may be, are indeed the most amazing miracles in my life. My husband and I both dealt with Secondary Infertility. After years of naturally trying, adding infertility drugs, adding infertility procedures, freezing sperm, and surviving multiple losses, my husband and I became the very proud parents of two precious little boys who were born on Cinco de Mayo. I actually got pregnant while my husband was deployed to Afghanistan, but that's another story for a different time.

Then there's me. A stay at home mom who loves her kids, but occasionally tries to run away from them. I still date my husband and even though we both aren't the same people that we married (and thank God for that), I am still insanely attracted to him. My husband and I are respite providers for foster parents and we are currently temporary guardians to my daughter's 16 year old best friend, who now lives with us after recently being removed from her home.

We have a busy household, which means that  I am always looking for a steal of a deal in order to keep our household going. I review products on Amazon for free or deeply discounted in exchange for my review and it's a great way to get items that I really want and need at a really affordable price. Convenience is important to me. I love to craft and as much of a headache it is to my husband, I celebrate every holiday and we entertain a lot. I am an event planner. I plan everything from business luncheons to weddings to themed birthday parties. I LOVE creating lasting memories. I also love to write. This blog is sort of a tribute to the things that I have been through, am going through and look forward to, from the eyes of an Army Wife and a Mom of Twins and Teens

Welcome to my world!