Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sometimes, It Is Different

Today, I had a fabulous (and long overdue) conversation with my other mother. (I loathe the term "step-mother" and all the negative connotations it conjures.)

We spoke of the upcoming trip home our family was making this summer, and she asked if we would still make the (very) long drive if Big E was deployed. I was taken aback by the question, now being fully acclimated to military life. I'd forgotten that in the civilian world our plans were dependent on work schedules. Those were the days.

Now, we make plans and just hope that Big E can be there. The military is full of so many surprise work hours, trainings, and deployments that if you stubbornly attempt to plan around them, your life will remain on hold indefinitely.

People ask me what it's like, being married to a soldier--especially when we made the transition to the military after being married for 13 years. Civilians have these perceptions of how our day-to-day lives are like, a conglomerate of movies, films, books, newscasts all tangled in their imaginations. And the truth is, in many ways our lives often are very similar to anyone else's.

But sometimes, it is different. Very, very different.

I remember a phone call with a family member who was struggling because her husband had been gone for nearly two weeks to help his brother with a remodel. She had reached her limit of being a single mother to their then two young children. At the time of this conversation, Big E had been gone for over two months and the only communication we had with him was a seven minute phone call on Sundays. And sometimes, we didn't even get that. On top of taking care of our six children by myself, I was also doing part-time childcare in my home.

Sometimes, it is different.

I'm not super human. I don't have some hidden reservoir of strength that non-military wives lack. I miss my husband when he is gone. I have rough days and wish I had another parent to take over when it gets to be too much. I get cranky at times when the military interferes with our plans.

What sets us military spouses apart is not a special courage, but that we already made our choice and after signing on the dotted line, there is no turning back. Big E enlisted with my support, and I knew there were sacrifices ahead for us. The choice was made. We gave our lives over in service to our nation. And now, I either make it work or wallow in self-pity. I choose the former.

It's the same answer I give when asked how in the world I handle having such a large family.

It seemed apropos that when I was perusing some of my old poems tonight, I came across this piece I had written a couple years ago (and had completely forgotten!) about what it meant to be a military wife. The words still ring true:

The Proud Wife

She understands that she has only part of his heart.
She watches while other women complain
that their husbands work too much.
that their priorities are askew,
And their marriages suffer.
But she knows that his loyalty to his job
doesn't replace his loyalty to her.
When duty calls him away from her
She never thinks to ask him to choose.
She knows that as deeply as he loves her,
He loves his duty as well.
She cries sometimes when he is gone,
but she understands.

She understands that he gives her as much as he can.
She watches while other women complain
that their husbands don't do enough,
that they don't bring flowers,
but instead merely watch television every night.
But she knows what a precious gift it is
to have him home each evening.
She understands how he can woo her
from halfway across the world,
Sometimes with little more than
a piece of paper and a pen.
She knows that while he is her life,
she can still find happiness alone.
She talks to his empty side of the bed sometimes,
but she understands.

Maybe she didn't enlist, it's true.
Maybe she didn't choose to fall in love
with a man whose heart is sworn to millions.
Maybe it would have been easier
for her to settle with an ordinary guy.
But if anyone asks,
If anyone cares to know...
She'd rather have this life with him,
She'd rather have the sacrifice,
because she understands.

~Randi Anderson

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Family Home Evening

We haven't been all that great about holding family night in the past, I'll admit. (Truthfully, I hadn't been very motivated to do much outside of being on a computer with a good internet connection for a long time.) But we're doing it now, every week.

It never ceases to amaze me how adaptable my kids are--even my pubescent "experiencing hormonal mood swings like never before" children. When Big E and I decided to make family night a priority, the monkeys didn't just roll with it, they cheered. (They are less cheerful about our nightly scripture study, but I guess that doesn't have a sugary treat attached to it like family home evening, or FHE.)

(Yes, I'm going to be very Mormon in my post today.)

Because there are eight of us, and because everyone wants a job, I had to split things up. We don't just have someone who is in charge of the music for a particular week--we have one who is in charge of our opening song and another in charge of the opening prayer. We don't do the optional "lesson or activity," we do both a lesson and an activity (with the caveat that both can't be more than 30 minutes long--otherwise FHE devolves to boredom which leads to Family Fight Night, which is not really as fun as it sounds).

And unlike the majority of LDS families, we don't hold our FHE on Monday nights because of Big E's sometimes wonky work schedule. Sundays tend to be safe, so that's family night for us. Last week, we kicked it off with just Big E and I in charge. I taught the lesson (on forgiveness--using rocks and a backpack; it was quite ingenious), and we played the color game which involves a squirt bottle and getting a little wet (ask me about that later). I also made pudding for dessert. Big E handled the conducting, the music, and assigned out the prayers. The kids felt a little jilted because when we held family night sporadically in the past, everyone had a job. So, they were quick to tell me what they wanted to be in charge of for this Sunday.

And for the most part it went swimmingly. I even got to try something new.

G-man was over our refreshments, and I had forgotten to ask him if he needed me to pick up anything from the store yesterday. (We try to avoid shopping on Sundays, unless it's a real emergency. FHE treats do not constitute an emergency.) So, on the way home from church, I rattled off some things we could make from scratch. He chose cinnamon rolls. I have never made them before.

Shall we do a mini-bullet presentation about the making of cinnamon rolls like I did about Christmas card-making a few posts back? Yes, let's.

Things I learned about making cinnamon rolls:
  • Bread flour is awesome. I picked it up after my less-than-impressive tryst in the world of french-bread-making last week (that's a whole 'nother ball-o'-wax). I will never use all-purpose flour again if I can help it when I'm making any yeast bread recipe.
  •  I really, really need a proper mixer. (Yes, I'm eyeballing you, KitchenAid. One of these days...) My poor hand-mixer tried its best, but it didn't quite make the cut.
  • Living at a ridiculously high altitude and in a ridiculously dry climate (seriously, it can mummify the living if you don't drink enough water), has a surprising and frustrating affect on how bread dough rises. (Yeast is strangely fickle in this environment.)
  • It's always good to have a friend who is far more experienced in baking and cooking a mere phone call away. (If you're reading this, Andrea, I mean you.) Especially if the dough is not rising like the recipe (written for people who live at sea level with proper humidity and a warm climate) says it should.
  • And I'll never get over how much more fun baking is with little people in the kitchen. I seriously don't know why I used to keep them out all for all those years. I should have taken more photos.

G-man getting his bake on. He's melting butter and sugar in milk.
The rolls before they went into the oven. This round of rising took forever! (Apparently because it's so cold and dry here.)
As the rolls were baking, we had our FHE. Little E was conducting this week. (Basically, he welcomes everyone to our gathering and announces who is doing what.) Princess was in charge of our opening song--which she chose to be "Scripture Power." I said our opening prayer--or "invocation." (Yes, we totally use proper terms!)

Banana gave our lesson this week (she requested that job!). I was impressed with how much work she put into it. She taught us about faith using stories from the scriptures. (Daniel and the lion's den, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the Bible, and the brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon.)

Lee-Lee selected our activity this week: a round of Uno. The rolls came out of the oven about this time, so G-man split his time between the game and helping me whip up a quick glaze for the rolls.

The fam enjoying some friendly competition. (G-man and Mommy not pictured.) From right to left: Little E, Big E, Lee-Lee, C-bear, Banana & Princess. When I joined the game, I ended up helping C-bear while Banana helped Princess. It was a close game, but Little E eeked out the win in the end.
After the game, C-bear chose our closing song ("Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"--yes, we really sang it) and Big E gave our benediction, blessing our refreshments.

The finished rolls.
G-man's treat was a huge hit. Banana could not stop raving about how good they were, and since one of my "love languages" is Words of Affirmation, I was grinning like an idiot to have had a huge win as Suzy Homemaker. Big E is taking the left-overs to work tomorrow to share with his battle-buddies. That's a ginormous compliment from him.

Maybe one of these days all this stuff will be old hat to me and I'll stop being constantly astounded by how amazing being "just a mom" and "just a homemaker" is. I hope not, though. I hope I never take any of this for granted ever again.

I love my life.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lee-Lee Talent Showcase

My oldest daughter, Lee-Lee, has always wanted to be a singer--since she was a tiny tot. Up until the age of about 10, we'd pat her head and say, "That's nice, dear." She wasn't a bad singer, just not really remarkable in any way either. But then, overnight something happened. I remember hearing someone singing in our house and being floored with the beauty. It was Lee-Lee. She had gone from being a pretty good singer to having real potential. And she's only grown from there.

She was asked to give a performance last Sunday during our Sacrament meeting at church. (For you non-Mormon folk, that's the general congregation meeting, usually held before Sunday School.) Now, we're unable to record--either video or audio--during the meeting (we consider it sacred), so I recorded one of Lee-Lee's rehearsals.

Keep in mind that this was a rehearsal--and she is only 14 years old without any formal voice lessons. (I also had to use my cheap digital camera to do the recording.) It doesn't fully reflect how the actual performance went (I totally cried). There is something very special that happens when Lee-Lee performs in front of a proper audience--everything comes together perfectly.

She chose the song herself--"Virtue" by Jenny Phillips. And if you're interested, these are the lyrics:

Because I love the Father,
I want the minds of men
to be lifted when they look at me.
Because I am His daughter,
I want my devotion to Him
to be what they see.

I don't need the attention of immodesty.
I am confident in my divinity.

I didn't come to Earth to compromise.
I came here to hold up my light.
No matter what the world may do,
I'm a daughter of God,
and I'm holding on to virtue.

I want to lead a life
that is full of so much good
it attracts the light to me.
So I'm trusting in my Father
to magnify the beauty
He has placed in me.

I am confident in my divinity.

(Repeat Chorus twice.)

Big E and I are rather proud to be Lee-Lee's parents. She's turning out to be an amazing young woman.