Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Going to Bed Alone

"Give a guy a badge and he thinks he can do whatever he wants."

That was a comment posted on Facebook under a viral video of a cop just doing his job. This is the attitude that my husband and I, as a LEO wife, have to deal with on a daily basis.

Right now, Justin is working fire division, which is an underpaid and underappreciated job in itself, though his heart is in law enforcement. But since our city is a Department of Public Safety, all officers are trained and work in both patrol and fire division.

Every day I watch my husband leave for work there's a whisper of "He may not come back." in the back of my head. It's unnerving sometimes to watch him strap on his gun belt and put on his bullet proof vest, knowing that he may have to rely on those to save his life. I watch him kiss our babies and pray that after 10 hours he gets to come home.

As a wife of a public safety officer, every siren makes your heart jump. When he's working patrol and responds to a car accident, there's that fear that some idiot not paying attention will plow him down. When Justin's working fire and responds to a structure fire, there's the fear of a roof caving in on him. And there's always the fear that someone with a chip on their shoulder is waiting with a bullet for my husband.

I get why some people have such a bad attitude towards law enforcement. The whole "a few bad apples" thing. But most officers I know go into the field not for glory (and definitely not for money since Missouri's average salary for LEOs is under $30,000) but for an intense desire to protect and serve. It's something in their wiring that makes them willing to risk their lives for a stranger. So, to lump all officers in as "pigs" or "power hungry" is a huge insult to those who just want to make their world a little safer for their families.

But what does it mean for me, the wife of a LEO?

It means that most nights I put the kids to bed by myself. It means that most nights when he's on duty I go to bed alone and sleep fitfully until I hear the key turn in the lock after his shift. It means that there are certain restaurants that we can't go to because workers there have been arrested by my husband. It means that when we do go out to eat, Justin always sits facing the door and I watch him take note of the exits. It means that sometimes I have to listen without question when he tells me to turn around and go the other way because a game of "Name that Felon" just go a little too close to home when we are grocery shopping. It means the reminders to know your surrounding and be on guard are constant.

Birthdays are missed, as are anniversaries. Meals are wrapped up until he can get a minute to stop and eat. Or I cook, pack up the food, and drive with the kids to the firehouse to have supper with Daddy only for him to recieve a call in the middle of the meal and have to rush out. Phone calls are cut short. Text messages go unanswered. "I should get off at 11:00." means he'll probably be rolling in around 2:00 am.

Being married to a public safety officer, you learn to do a lot of things on your own. When a 24 hour shift ends up being a 36 hour shift, you just have to adapt and learn not to get angry. It gives me a much greater respect for single moms, that's for sure.

Holidays are another obstacle. Christmas sometimes means getting up super early and opening presents before Justin starts his shift. It often means going to family gatherings alone. And tomorrow night when you all are celebrating maybe watching the city's fireworks display? My husband will be standing close to where they're setting the fireworks off, ready to go if something goes wrong. He won't be with me.

July 4, 2011. He was able to have lunch with us before having to go on duty.

Divorce rates of law enforcement are higher than the national average. Maybe it's the crazy hours. Maybe it's the financial strain. Or maybe it's the habit these officers have of bottling up what they've seen and dealt with and having a tendency to shut out those who love them most. Sometimes it's really tough to hang in there when all I want to do is scream at Justin for missing this or that or just coming home and crashing for hours without so much as a hello. But I have to hold on because I don't want us to become another statistic.

So, why write all this?

Because, that cop that pulled you over for speeding may have just left a house where he had to stop a man from beating his wife and children. And those firefighters you scoff at as they take a leisurely lunch may have been out at 3:00 am responding to a fire alarm at a nursing home.

I'm not trying to get sympathy or anyone to feel sorry for us. We (together) chose this life and knew what we were getting into. But, tomorrow, as you celebrate, remember that there's a mom with three boys heading to the station to steal a minute and kiss with her man in uniform.

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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Calling of a Stay at Home Mom

I had a hard time titling this post. I am not an expert or anywhere near being in a position to give advice. I just want to share my heart.

When I was 17, I thought I was well on my way to some lucrative career. I wanted to go to college and I wanted to be successful. I was smart, top ten in my class, and focused. And then God intervened. I don't know how many of you can claim that God placed a specific calling in your life, but I can. At 17 years old, after much confusion and a prayer of desperation, God told me that I was going to marry that boy, have his children, and stay home to raise them. And that was it. No education, no career. And wonder beyond wonder, I didn't fight this calling. Somehow, I trusted His word and went against pretty much everything that anyone "older and wiser" told me.

I was 19 and just four months out of high school when I married Justin. And four months after that, I was pregnant with our first son.

So, now that I told you the beginning, let me say this. Justin has never made over $30,000 a year. We are a family of five (right now) and live on about $28,000. We own two paid off vehicles (albeit high mileage and older models) and rent a nice two bedroom townhouse. It's getting a bit cramped right now, but we are staying put. We have less than $10,000 debt with the majority of that being medical bills. But it hasn't always been like that. At one point we had close to $25,000 in debt and we recently faced a foreclosure on a house that we couldn't sell because of a bad market. (But that's another story for another time.)

I have only worked sporadically and always only part time, mostly for my parents. The only period where I worked full time was for four months when Justin was putting himself through law enforcement academy. I worked so that he could focus on school, and then quit once he attained a job.

I questioned my calling at one point. I felt like I needed to be "more than just a mom". So, I went back to school and was thoroughly miserable. If you've ever walked out of the will of God knowingly, then you'll know how I felt. Empty, scared, unsure of every step I took. But pressure from the outside left me sitting in my car crying after dropping my two year old at the sitter's. I cried out to God and asked him where he wanted me. Home was the answer. I dropped out the very next day.

I hear a lot of working mother's say that they really just want to be home with their kids, but that they can't afford to. And I'm hear to say that if anyone "can't afford" to stay home, it's me. We live just above the poverty line. But, I believe that if a person is willing to sacrifice, then they can fulfill any calling that they feel has been placed on their life.

What sacrifices am I talking about?  Well, we were a one car family for almost two years until we paid off that vehicle. Then that freed us up to buy a second car for Justin. Both of our vehicles have over 140,000 miles and are, by no means, fancy. We rarely buy name brand anything. We don't take vacations. Our clothes come from the clearance racks or Goodwill. We eat out about once a week and we can usually keep our tab under $20. Our furniture is all hand-me-down and used.

And yet, our kids are happy, healthy, well-adjusted and fiercely loved. It has been implied to me that because my kids don't have the very best things that I am not a good mother. But, I look at my sons, with their closets full of clothes, bellies full of home cooked meals, rooms with warm beds and many, many toys and books to entertain them, and I am content.

So, I say to you moms who want to stay home but "can't", examine your life. Do you "need" to have that late model car that comes with a $400 a month payment? Do you "need" to go on a week long vacation every year? Do you "need" to wear $70 jeans or buy your kids $100 pairs of shoes? I think if you really and truly want to stay home, then if there's a will, there's a way.

I may step on a few toes with this post. But this is my heart. I am in no way judging or demeaning mothers who want to be in the work force. I am speaking to those who are working, but would really rather be home with their kids.

Listen to any calling that God places on your life. And, for the love of Him, follow them. Pin It Now!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Heavy Doody Booty Paste (or The Defeat of The Diaper Rash from Hell)

The teething has begun. Oh, yes. The slobbering. The fussing. The rashed-out chin and neck. The chewing on all the things. And the diarrhea. The acidic, stinking, diarrhea.

Royce's bottom has had the worst diaper rash for about 4 days now. I'm talking fire engine red, bleeding, screaming during diaper changes kind of rash.

I tried everything in my arsenal. Desitin, Butt Paste, Anti-Monkey Butt Cream (heehee), and even prescription Nystatin. And nothing helped at all.

So, of course, I go to my trusted friend The Google. I type in "home remedies diaper rash". And I read. And read. And read. And I finally settled on what has become the trifecta of diaper rash treatments.

Treatment #1: Baking Soda Bath.
Dump some baking soda is a warm bath and plunk your child in it for 20 minutes.

Treatment #2: Air, Air, Air.
After I got Royce out of the bath, I set my blow dryer on warm and aimed it (from a very safe distance) at his bare heiny. And then just let the little booty air out as much as possible. Right now, Royce is in the floor on a towel, naked from the waist down. Air, people.

Treatment #3: Heavy Doody Booty Paste.
After going through everything in my stash and then googling, I used different recommendations to come up with this dandy of a butt cream. It's wonderful. Royce went from bright red and bleeding to a mild pink in 24 hours.

To make this, you'll need one part of each:

Diaper rash cream with 40% zinc oxide
Petroleum Jelly

It's important to make sure you use the 40% zinc oxide cream instead of the regular 12%. It just works better. And the Mylanta (or Geri-Lanta, cuz I'm cheap) just needs to be the plain regular strength.

From what I understand, the diaper rash cream soothes, the petroleum jelly is a moisture barrier, and the Mylanta neutralizes the acid in the poo. I think the Mylanta is probably the most important part of the three.

You just need to mix up a small batch (it tends to separate) with a spoon in a plastic throw away container. I used a baby food container.

I applied at every diaper change and topped with a light dusting of baby powder to keep too much from rubbing off on the diaper.

So, just go ahead and buy some Mylanta the next time you're at the store. Ya know, just in case your baby gets hit with the diaper rash from Hell. Pin It Now!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Baby Wearing Basics: DIY Pouch Sling and No-Sew Stretchy Wrap

Sorry, I've been kinda AWOL these past few weeks. Between rodeo season and just the chaos of have three small children, I've kinda slacked.

Today I want to talk a bit about baby wearing. I did not wear my oldest and only wore Hudson (the middle child) a little bit. But with the new baby it's a different story. I don't go anywhere without my sling or my wrap. Having a toddler and an infant requires the use of both hands at all times.

I have a few reasons that I baby wear but the biggest one is convenience. I know that a lot of people equate baby wearing with attachment parenting or "crunchy" moms, but that's not always the case. I would not really classify myself as either. I like the closeness of having the baby right there against me, but, like I said, I also very much like how easy it makes my life.

Where I live, baby wearing is not a common practice and it does elicit some stares and questions when I'm out in public. I live in a small town and am starting to get recognized just for wearing Royce. So, to answer some questions, I thought I would do a couple of videos to go over some basics of baby wearing.

Right now, I use a pouch sling and a stretchy wrap, both of which I made myself. These are very, very simple projects. I used a tutorial that I googled two years ago for the sling. You guys can just search it on Google or Pinterest to find a similar tutorial. The stretchy wrap is literally just five yards of jersey cut in half down the length.

So, without further ado, enjoy these short little videos. I hope the cute baby makes up for the no make-up, messy haired, yoga pantsed mama. :)

How To Wear a DIY Pouch Sling

How To Wear a DIY Stretchy Wrap-Front Carry

I highly encourage you to do more research and read, read, read about baby wearing if you are at all interested. And safety first! If you use the carriers, please ensure that your sweet baby's face is not covered and that they can breathe properly at all times.
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Friday, April 26, 2013

When Insecurity Is Your Security Blanket

Insecurity has been on my mind lately. Every time I put entries in my food diary on My Fitness Pal. Every time I have to jump up and down to get my skinny jeans over my heiny. Every time my toddler collapses into a tantrum in the middle of a crowded store. And definitely every time I drop Maverick off at school in my pajamas.

Insecurity leads me to question every decision I make in the parenting realm and in my marriage. I don't know about you, but I pretty much have a constant stream of  "Do I look okay? Am I doing this right? Are they judging me?" running through my brain.

I let myself go on comparison streaks. I pit myself against a skinny 21 year old who has never carried 7 pounds of baby in her belly three different times. Or the mom who has these super well-behaved children. Or that sweet, funny yet not dorky, bubbling personality standing with legs that have a thigh gap. Or, OR....the mom with a "real job".

Insecurity is easy. I really believe it's our default. It's easier than trusting God. It takes less effort to wallow than it does to stand up and be confident in who God called us to be. It becomes our comfort item. We cling to it because we just don't know how to function without holding tight to our list of faults and comparisons. 
But here's the deal. Every time I let insecurity win, every time I hold tight to that security blanket of self -doubt, I'm telling God that He didn't do that great of a job on me. When I question my God-given callings and talents, I'm questioning the Creator of sunsets and baby toes.

When we reduce ourselves to a list of pros and cons we reduce our identity in Christ. When, after pursuing God's best, we doubt, it's like painting over a beautiful mural with builder's beige. As children of God we need to pray and read his Word and be confident and encouraged by the message we recieve from communing with our Creator.

He loves us. Let that be our security.

Do you ever feel anything like I do? Do you struggle at all with insecurity?

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

DIY Milk Glass Pedestal Bowl

Every few years I have a shift in obsessions. When I was first married it was Blue Willow dishes. Followed by vintage teapots. And up until about a month ago it was vintage Pyrex. Now, it's milk glass. Ever since I painted my kitchen table and made my very pretty black and white damask table cloth, I've been dying for a milk glass pedestal bowl to use as my centerpiece.

The search began. I found a beautiful hobnail one at Goodwill for $2. But it had weird sticky brown substance in the bowl. I put it back and now I'm kicking myself. I totally could have thrown on some rubber gloves and tackled that mess with some vinegar and baking soda, but I guess I was being a wuss that day.

Anyway, I started to look on Etsy.

 Most of the pedestal bowls were $15-$25 plus like $15 in shipping. Let me remind you that we are a family of five living on a firefighter's income. So, yeah....That wasn't going to happen.

As I was doing my weekly Goodwill run last week I found this cute little clear glass bowl with scalloped edges for $2. Duh. I skipped an aisle over and grabbed a 50 cent wine glass. I couldn't wait to get home! Visions of E6000 and spray paint were dancing in my head.

I'm sure you guys can figure this out on your own, but here's a gratuitous tutorial for you anyway.

What you need:

Clear glass bowl
Wine glass
E6000 glue
White spray paint

Wash and dry your bowl and wine glass.

Glue the bottom of the wine glass to the bottom of the bowl. The trick with E6000 and glass is to apply a thin coat to both surfaces and let them sit for 5 minutes or so before sticking them together. Let the bowl and glass dry for at least 4-6 hours before trying to pick up.

Oh hey, Natalie Portman!

Spray paint (I'm a fan of Krylon) your newly created pedestal bowl. Light coats. Always light coats. I think I did about 4 coats. It was windy that day and my paint is a bit uneven but you can't tell unless you hold it up to the light.

Let it dry and fill it with fruit. As long as you don't paint the inside of the bowl, then it's food safe. Otherwise, I suggest only putting wrapped food products or fruit and vegetables that you plan on peeling into the bowl, just to be safe.

This little beauty should  satisfy my obsession until Mother's Day or my birthday or the next time someone wants to buy me a present.

What's your decor obsession?

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Birthday Letter to My Middle Child

Dear Hudson Rhys,

Your birthday is tomorrow. You will be two years old. I cannot believe that two years have passed since we welcomed you to our family. What an addition you have been!

I still remember the day I found out I was expecting. I cried big, fat tears of joy. I had all but given up on giving Maverick a sibling. And then that beautiful second line popped up on that dollar store pregnancy test.

The first three months of carrying you were hard. I was sick. I never actually threw up, just had the worst constant flu-like feeling and would get carsick even while I was driving. Finally, the second trimester rolled around I felt amazing. I had tons of energy and my nesting instinct kicked in full force. I sewed so much while you were in my belly that after you were born I would put your bouncy seat on the kitchen table while I stitched to soothe you.

38 weeks pregnant
You made me beautiful. If every pregnancy was like yours I would not stop getting pregnant. I positively glowed.

You were born by scheduled c-section at 39 weeks. I loved your birth. I was calm and relaxed and since it was scheduled I wasn't the least bit groggy. And I recovered so quickly. You came out with the most beautiful skin I had seen on a baby. You were this perfect, bright-eyed, olive skinned baby boy who instantly stole my heart.

Nice to meet you, sweet boy.
Today, you are my funny, funny boy. You have this sense of humor that is beyond your years. You are crazy, a daredevil who loves to almost give me heart attacks. You try to eat everything. And I mean, EVERYTHING.

Sir Taco Face will tolerate none of your shenanigans.
You are sweet and cuddly, but can flip a switch and have a temper that is out of this world. You definitely must have your way or we experience your wrath. You are extremely destructive. You are why we can't have nice things. You are my strong-willed child, without a doubt. I'm pretty sure Dr. James Dobson had you in mind when writing that book. You challenge me every single day and I know God uses you already to
grow my faith and patience.

You go by many nicknames. Chubs, Bub, Grumpy Cat, Scrambles the Death Dealer. But I usually just call you Sweet Boy.

Human version of Grumpy Cat
You love your brothers so much.  You are always concerned about baby Royce and always excited when Maverick gets home from school. But you also like to beat them up.

You and your "Magick"

You and baby Royce
You love trains and firetrucks and tractors. Your favorite show is a bad 90's kid's documentary about firetrucks that plays on a loop all day. You love to ride four wheelers and horses and to just be outside in general.Your favorite foods are pizza and candy and anything in a 32 oz styrofoam cup.

Every day I look at you and shake my head wondering what recessive genes combined to make this blonde-haired, dark-skinned, stocky-built child. You look nothing like your brothers. You are my wild card.

You are a mama's boy who is also absolutely crazy for your daddy. And your grandparents. And your aunts and uncles. You are just one loving kid.

Making faces in the mirror with Mama
Maverick is my blessing. Royce is my sweet surprise.

You are my reward.

"I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him." -1 Samuel 1:27

Happy birthday, sweet boy. Pin It Now!