Sunday, July 18, 2010

Parenting for Boobs

I have many friends and family who are getting ready to enter into the joyful world of parenting. I know this because I have a stack of fabric that keeps crying out to me to be sewn into something gift worthy and yet each time I take it out- I have 3 sets of little hand who would like to help with the project. So then I put it away, hoping maybe later that evening I will have enough energy to try again. I don't. It taunts me. I relegated it to the corner in the other room,out of sight secretly hoping the girls won't make it into a tent and spread butter all over it when I am turned the other way. Why butter, you ask? Well in our house- butter encompasses all things of a certain consistency- there is peanut butter, butter butter, cream butter(cream cheese) - my kids love basically anything that clings, stains, starts to smell and contains the word butt. I think I just stumble on a new nickname, Bella Butter.

There are about 1 million and 1 books on parenting. I have only looked into about 3. My husband summarized one for me on a chapter by chapter basis. I didn't know if I should be pleased he was looking into the matter or entirely affronted. There are so many aspects of parenting that you can truly only learn by parenting. There are so many grand hopes and dreams that form in the expectant stages, who will they look like, will they be colicky, how can I do all the things my parents did wrong-different? Then you learn real quick that you don't have this little ball of playdough that you just mould into what you want- you have this ball of playdough in an amoebalike consistency, butter if you will. It clings, it stains, and if you don't wash it regularly it totally starts to smell. Everytime you mold one part, another part goes off in a half cocked fashion. You then have to figure out how to contain the half cocked half while molding the other half, all the while feeding it, bathing it, and loving it to pieces.

There are so many parts of parenting that are entirely unnatural.  Breastfeeding is the first one you run across. Breasts.  You spend the first portion of your life giggling at their mere mention. You spend the second part of your life either trying to prop them, dress them, frame them or merely be near them. Then you want to take this innocent little mouth, which obviously knows what to do- and secure it in a fashion that will be beneficial for both parties. Yet somehow the initial act of breastfeeding is completely and totally confounding for both parites.  I spent the first weeks with lil Phillip crying, me crying, trying to calm down while he fought against me to get at what we were both trying to achieve.  I would have the La Leche League Tome a la breastfeeding open on my knee, while trying step by step methods to make this work. I took every step possible to avoid the lactation consultants whose peronal boundaries in the hospital did not include other people's tat-tas. I mean I know it's their job- but yeesh- you would ask a person before you grabbed a jug a milk outta their fridge- I am merely asking the same courtesy.  I learned later that most of my severe discomfort was caused by a lonolin allergy and we actually did figure out how it worked.  It wasn't easy.  It was pretty darn infuriating when he would roll over and latch on to just about anything that protruded- elbows, chins, fingers. It caused me to re-evaluate what we were doing and why.  That is parenting. I decided that I wanted to breastfeed- the perfect nutrition, convenient packaging, yadda yadda. It got to the point where we were both crying and upset multiple times daily that I thought- maybe I should just give him formula and be done with it. I wandered to the commissary, gandered at a $20 tin of formula which would last a couple days, went home and gave it another go. I am not going to make a commentary on the benefits of breastfeeding, it's not the point. The point is parenting is full of these kinds of choices- weighing what benefits you want versus the pains you are going to have to go to in order to achieve them. The next battle was getting him to go poo like it wasn't the end of the world and then it was to stop screaming from 3 to 9 every night, and then it was to sleep through the night and then it was to wear a helmet while riding a bike. Someday it will be to impress on him, a good wife is more than a good set of breasts- although they are a really nice asset.

My advice is this. Decide what is important and make that happen. Whether it's breastfeeding or manners or education. Try to balance the rest and let what you can't slide. And it will slide. It took me having 4 kids, one with cancer to learn the art of letting things go.  If the whole idea of breastfeeding grosses you out, but you really want your child to have the benefits- suck it up. I have had many a friend who tried breastfeeding and couldn't get the baby latched on, ever. It happens. I have friends who took the time to pump every meal because it was that important to them. That is good parenting. Doing the best you can to give your kids what you think is best for them. It won't always be good enough and someday they will have their own kids and they will try to do things different.  You will then have to see if you let the right things slide.

My children remind me of my strengths and weaknesses daily. When they snap at each other, I remind myself to be patient. When they are kind, I revel in how good it feels. If I knew then what I know now, I would parent differently- but then we wouldn't be where we are today. People who wait to have children later in life will not necessarily be better parents because they are mature. Sometimes that maturity can work against you in the world of a child. They are inherently immature little creatures.  Just say the word breasts when one is around, you'll see.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Things that keep us going...and going...

More than just coffee. More than just a hug. There are the finer things in life that get me through each day, like stuff my kids say.  Generally it's embarrassing. Most likely it is inappropriate. And it is almost ALWAYS funny.  Phil and I will look at each other and begin to laugh hysterically until our sides hurt and tears roll down our cheeks. All the while we are positively reinforcing the lack of internal monologue that I know my husband often wonders where I got, (see honey, see)? Everytime I think- I have GOT to write that one down, but I rarely do. Not because I am not on the way to get pen and paper or my ipod even(it has this handy note function) but because funny comments almost ALWAYS are followed by some biological or messy crisis.

There was the other night when Bella out of the blue yells to her sister- "Sleep tiiiiight, don't let the aliens get YOU!" Don't know why they had trouble getting to sleep after that. They weren't afraid- just all wrapped up in pretending to be aliens.

Or Lily, following a particularly bad sneeze- "I can't get rid of the Bless-yous."

There are often meaningful and heartfealt conversations over dinner- usually involving some biological or messy incidence. Most involve flatulence, of which we are trying to convince Bella is inappropriate dinner theatre entertainment.  So this morning, at breakfast she makes a mad dash from the table(another occurrence we have been trying to discourage) and immediately returns declaring with a tangible amount of pride-"I'm sorry I had to fart, but I did it in Phillip's room!"  I wonder how Phillip felt about that, considering he was still sleeping in there at the time.

A couple of months ago- more like 6 weeks, but who's counting- let's round up- we got some beta fish. You may recall an unfortuante incident involving the droppage of less than sturdy gold fish and the subsequent upgrade to beta fish. They are hearty because if you put two together, they will fight to the death- they are also called siamese fighting fish. I spent the first week watching my son and husband like hawks around the fish, fearing the second I turned my back I would have to be scooping fish remnants from another fish's bowl.  It helped that 2 of the betas were in a single tank with a clear divider- the boys seemed to be satisfied with the little buggers just charging each other and bouncing off the glass.  So after a few weeks, the two became a little sluggish and their fins started looking bad. I decided to put them each in their own tank. They have not taken the separation well.  Now instead of cleaning 1 bowl daily, I have 2. One fish got moved to the bathroom, to decrease clutter in the kitchen. Both Lily and Bella offered to care for the fish in their room. I just couldn't deal with waking up to finding one or another child "snuggling" with dead fish or feeding them unsupervised.  The blue fish got to hang out in the bathroom, since he went better with the decor.  He did not seem to agree. He took to floating on the bottom of the tank. I finally moved him back to the kitchen, to which my husband responded "what? He didn't like hanging out in the bathroom? I'm surprised he's survived this long. He probably was on the bottom to get away from the smell."  Thanks for the support.  "You totally love the fish."  I have to disagree. Love keeps me from allowing the fish to mort, but it's not love for them. They are cool, fun to watch, but a pain. Their food smells. It's really more self preservation and preventing myself from having to perform last fish rites over the toilet as Lil Phillip declares we should really drive him to the ocean if we want to return him to the sea because then he won't have to go through all the pipes.  It is preventing me from having to explain things to Lily who decided after the goldfish died that it was Ok- "when my fish dies, I am going to get a cat and when the cat dies I get a dog".  Not sure that's how the whole circle of life thing works. Right now I say- you don't need a cat you have a fish and I have to take care of that.

On a base level, my kids remind me that humor can cure just about anything, even if unintentional.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Pilot's Wife

You've heard about her. She's a knockout. She's blonde. She makes him look gooood. The pilot's wife.  Leggy, blonde, voluptuous- whether real or enhanced....yeah. My favorite article title this week was the Onion's "Trophy Wife Mounted". All that in conjunction with the arrival of the Air Force's newest air superiority aircraft got me thinking.  I am none of those things. Well except for the one, I do make him look goood. 

I can't tell you how many times I've gotten to know another military wife only to be asked, what's your husband do?  Oh he's in the 27th, 60th, 199th- whichever squadron was the flavor of the year, followed by my asking "what about you? Do you work?" Gracefully steering the conversation away. There are only 2 responses to the truthful answer- My husband is a F-15 pilot. They are ohhh! and oh. In my early years, other wives warned of potential reactions. I once had a man pull his wife away from me and say- that means he's an officer. Like I was contagious. Mind you I had just prevented his dog from running away and his wife and I were in the midst of a lovely conversation while our children played. After that I was more careful what I said.

I am immensely proud of my husband and what he does. He doesn't just fly a very expensive aircraft, he defends freedom. He's a hard worker(sts), leader, an instructor and a friend.  One of the toughest decisions we ever made was to make the move from the Air Force to the Air National Guard. It meant being far away from family and friends, permanently. But the up side was that he would have more regular hours and not deploy. As we left the Air Force, I knew part of him was disappointed at the possibilities that were being left behind. One of those possibilites was the chance to fly the F-22.

Then, as he was on his first 6 month "deployment" the rumors started. "We might be getting Raptors". As with any rumor, especially in the military- you believe it when you see it.  Rumors of orders, TDYS, available housing, new jobs come and go. And then there are constant budget cuts. Multi million dollar aircraft end up on the chopping block. So a few months ago, things started moving around in the squadron. That only means one thing- change is a comin. The first pilot left for training. It was happening, but like other times you wait and see. Phil aka Buddha was slated for training at the end of next year- that is a long time away. Then a position opened up this September for the training course. That means another 4-6 months away. Again, I've kind of been in denial. Mind you it's July. Almost mid July. I should be planning, arranging- but with most things military- they change and they like to change last minute. I'll believe it when I see it. Even my mom questioned it- Dr. so and so's son is in the marines and said the f-22's are done- are you sure that's what he is going to train in?

Well last night I saw it. We went out to KoOlina on a rumor that there would be a practice demo by the F-22 Raptor. I don't impress easily. It blew anything I have seen out of the water. It is one fine piece of kabillion dollar merchandise. If you have the means, I highly reccommend picking one up, they are so choice. Watching the excitement in my husband's eyes was priceless. As with every time he flies, it made me a little nervous to know that he will be doing this and that this aircraft will again make him deployable. It shows me our lives are again changing as they do in the military even if you try to switch to the Guard and try to convince yourself it's easier. The fact of the matter is when your husband climbs into a fighter jet on a regular basis- your life is different.

I can't count how many times I've been told- You don't act like an officer's wife or I would have never known you were a pilot's wife. Apparently I missed the memo.  Is there a handbook? I have never been one to fit in the mold, or size 6 jeans for that matter.  I have been lucky enough to know some of the most amazing women who happen to be both officer's wives and pilot's wives. I have known amazing women who are not. Like anything else, we are a crossection of women brought together by a common bond. It takes a special woman to put up with the long hours, A- type personality, OCD, ADHD, competitive nature man. Military or not.  She needs to be able to hold her own at a formal and in the bar. (neither of which I enjoy btw.)  I know everytime he steps in the jet, he may not come home. I am grateful when he does and grateful that his job is less dangerous than a lot of the alternatives in the miltary. So as we embark on this newest phase phase I am cautiously optimistic. I am looking forward to the new friends we will make and the old friends we might see. I am not looking forward to the separations, but sometimes you need those to remind you exactly what it is you are working towards and how lucky you are.