The Longest Week

I’m typing this as I sit on the plane next to this… Which is deceivingly peaceful given the 48 hours leading up to Thanksgiving. Or even better, the entire week. 

We started off with a bang. Fevers of 102 for both kids, an eye infection, ear infection, and sinus infection for Mitchell and three (better described as THREE!!!) days they had to stay home from school. Luckily (about our only luck this week) two of those days were my days off work. The other day I had to go home early to pick up Sick 1 and Sick 2. But they were getting better! Or so I thought. Mitchell’s eyes then started getting suspiciously red with green discharge, his fever held steady at 99 for a few days, so I snagged them a weekend appointment at the pediatrician. After our little consult, we treked our way in the few-degrees-above-freezing pouring rain where we waited nearly an hour at the pharmacy (soaking wet) for the meds. Oh, and I forgot snacks and their bottles, they hadn’t eaten yet, and my unharmonized little choir made sure to voice their opinion loud and clear. I was getting some not-so-nice looks from some retirees sitting in the lobby. Parenting fail at its finest, and everyone knew it. After we completely disrupted the full, but silent, waiting room with my screaming kids, we braved the freezing rain again and loaded up in the car. Oh, no rain jackets and I left the stroller canopies at home so I was toting along two crying, cold, soaking wet babies.  My bad, sorry kids. They sent Mitchell home with eye drops and some antibiotics, assuring me he was no longer contagious. At which point I went home and used up two full Clorox wipes containers on the house and assumed that would be our last trip to the doctor this season. Ha! We’d be back four days later. Keep reading at my expense. 

Mitchell’s eyes cleared up overnight, and it looked like things were starting to turn around! In fact, after a 14 hour work day on Tuesday and 12 hour workday on Wednesday, I was starting to get caught up on a few things. Not 30 seconds after I was telling Steve I was catching up on my stack of things to do, my phone rang. It was the daycare number, and my heart sank. I just knew someone was getting sick again. But I was wrong! Instead, Mitchell tripped over his cute little feet and banged his head into a bookshelf. By the time I was on my way, it was cleaned up and he was outside playing, but the nurse said it most likely needed glue (possibly stitches), and he should probably see a doctor. So home from work I went again. I picked up my little bruiser and dropped into pediatrics. I’ll take a minute to say how awesome Mitchell’s treatment was. Afraid they’d refer me to the Emergency Room where there would be a three hour wait, I went to the counter and pleaded Mitchell’s case. Not only did they bring him right back and find a doctor, HIS pediatrician (Dr. Barros! We love him!) came right back to see him. After a quick look, they let me decide whether or not to glue it (that sounds so funny), and we opted for some Mickey Mouse stickers and headed back to day care. Glue meant Emergency Room and Mitchell was already traumatized enough, and it really wasn’t bleeding. So back to daycare Mitchell went with a bandaid on his forehead and a knot the size of a golfball. It’s not like we had family pictures with grandparents planned this weekend. 

And back to work I went. Off at 5:45, rush home to get the dogs, at which time I discovered Loki has learned how to escape his kennel and ate a loaf of bread, two packs of tortillas out of the pantry, along with all of the Christmas ornaments from the bottom half of the tree. I thought I was putting the not-breakable-or-sentimental ones on the bottom for the kids, but my strategy proved useful none-the-less. Dogs in the car, picked up the kids by six. They were the only two kids left at the daycare, which I felt a little bad about, but my boy with his big old shiner came running to greet me with a hug, and that’s the best feeling there is. Loaded up the kids, and straight to the kennel to drop off the dogs. Should be easy, right? Silly me. We get the dogs dropped off at our usual kennel. It’s about 35 minutes away, out in the country, and run by a sweet Marine wife who gushes over the kids about as much as she does the dogs. We’ve been using them for about four years. Once the dogs were settled, we headed back. The road that takes you back is a two lane road with a 55 MPH speed limit. It curves a lot and it’s not lit. There are no shoulders or medians, and the traffic is pretty heavy because it’s the road that connects to the airport. So when I felt my tire start making the flapping sound, I started looking for a place to pull over. Nothing was close enough, and before I knew it, the tire lost all of its air suddenly and we were left driving on the rim. I cringed as I drove about 200 feet to the first place I could stop, but it was completely dark and we were on a curve with literally nowhere to go, and I’d rather pay for a new wheel than get rear-ended with the kids in the car (been there, already done that this deployment). We found ourselves a nice dirt road, which led to a trailer park on the right and a dive bar on the left with a parking lot filled with motorcycles. A biker bar. Great. At this point, it’s pitch black dark, there are no street lights, and my only ambient light was the neon signs from the bar windows. Thankfully I had a flashlight with me. I tossed Julia a bottle and evaluated the tire. Yep, still flat. At that point, I heard the phone ring and saw the screen light up “Dad.” I was tempted to ignore the call, seeing as I was a little busy digging to spare tire and jack from the depths of the trunk, but I figured I’d give him a little laugh at my expense and picked up. Concerned for our safety, he suggested I call our insurance company and asked if I was safe. I assured him I had a flashlight and a gun, and reminded him how he raised his daughter, and told him I’d call him back after I finished changing the tire. He got his laugh and we gave him a phone call 15 minutes later when we were on our way. So we headed the 30 minutes home on our donut with Loki’s kennel in my passenger seat because there was no room for our spare tire anywhere else but the back. Every time I turned, I had to peep through the little holes in the kennel and I had no arm rest… I mean this is a kennel for a 75 pound German Shepherd in my passenger seat. Oh, and I was still wearing my nice work khakis and a button-down. Because who doesn’t want to change a tire on a wet dirt road in JCrew? We finally made it back to town and I start scoping out auto repair shops. After all, we had a flight to Kansas ten hours later and I didn’t want to leave the car sitting at the airport on a donut for the week. Family Tire? Closed. Tire Country? Closed. Giving up hope and heading toward base, I knew there was one last possibility up ahead, but wasn’t holding my breath. After all, how many auto repair shops are open at 8 pm on Thanksgiving Eve? As I drove by, they had one of their bay doors open and I saw a couple of mechanics standing under a bay door smoking. Their open sign was on, and though I knew they probably just forgot to turn it off, I made a U-Turn into their lot and mentally prepared my saga.

After pleading my case (I’ve done a lot of that this week) the mechanics laughed. They didn’t say much, except they’d fix the tire, and they certainly did. Whatever we ran over made a pretty significant hole, but we were out of there in thirty minutes. After they changed the donut out, I tried to follow them into the office to ask them how much I owed. At which point they refused to let me pay and told me to have a Happy Thanksgiving. I was planning on giving them a pretty darn good tip too, but they wouldn’t accept any money. I think the old mechanic was caught a little of guard when I thanked him and told him I could hug him, but he just told me to come back and see them. Oh, we’ll be back. With all of our business and a plate of homemade cookies.

Relieved but exhausted, because I’d been going non-stop for 17 hours at this point, we pulled into the driveway. The Christmas lights hung unlit because, you guessed it, the fuse blew this week. And this mom had no time for fixing that. I got the kids in bed (finally). They were already asleep, so no dinner or baths. After a quite smooth car seat to crib transition, I finished packing everything up and collapsed into bed for a solid four hours of rest. Hallelujah!

My alarm clock buzzed at 3:45 am and we were up and off. I will say the kids behaved as best as I could have ever asked them, but flying solo with two toddlers is always… interesting… no matter how smooth it goes. We checked our single piece of luggage at the counter. Usually when we fly with Steve we can check our bag for free, but this is not a courtesy the airline extends to those holding dependent ID cards. The nice man at the counter was gracious enough to point out, “If you were traveling with your husband you could have checked this bag for free!” I bit my tongue, and chose not to say, “Oh well I’m actually enjoying Month #5 of deployment… the loneliness is great, and there’s nothing more I want to do than fly by myself, outnumbered, and spend the holidays without him!” But I instead graciously thanked him for waiving the four pounds of extra weight we were toting in our bag and told him to have a Happy Thanksgiving. I wish I had counted the number of people I overheard saying “by herself?” or “by herself!” Some tones were sympathetic, some tones were complimentary, some tones just came across like I was downright crazy. Either way, I hold tight to my favorite parenting motto of all – Full Hands, Full Heart. 

We had a quick layover in Charlotte, and I was looking like the parenting pro I am not pushing the double stroller from one end of the airport to the other. Literally end to end. I looked at the map and there were not two gates farther from each other than ours. Figures. But the double stroller was a lifesaver and we had ourselves a nice little walk before boarding our second flight to Kansas City. On which the kids crashed. Slept the whole way. And I just sat and stared at these two little blessings I love more than life. 

We arrived in Kansas City by noon on Thanksgiving Day. Originally when I talked to my Dad at the airport about picking us up, he used the pronoun, “we,” leading me to believe both of my parents were picking us up. So when the car pulled up and it was just my Dad, the following conversation ensued. Infer what you will. 

Me: “Oh, is Mom at home?”
Dad: yes.
Me: Is she fixing Thanksgiving dinner?
Dad: Yes.
Me: Oh good, I’m starving. (As I think to myself, I really want to stop at Quik Trip, but I’ll wait for the delicioius Thanksgiving dinner waiting at home.)
A little bit later… Me: Is she fixing deviled eggs? That sounds really good.
Dad: I think so. She bought a bunch of eggs. 

Forty-five minutes later we pulled into the driveway to a very excited Grandma. Shockingly enough, I actually got the first hug! And the grand babies were promptly smothered with kisses. Much to my surprise when I went inside, my hunger turned to curiosity when I went to the kitchen to find no food. I casually mentioned when they planned on starting dinner, to which they replied, “Oh, I don’t know.” I then asked a little more bluntly, “We’re eating Thanksgiving dinner, right?” To which my Dad replied, “Yea, Saturday.” Apparently I was supposed to clarify which day we were eating Thanksgiving dinner, because it wasn’t on Thanksgiving. No one gave me the memo! Then my Dad so kindly said, “I thought about stopping at Quik Trip on the way home.” Really? I got a consolation prize in the form of a gallon-sized ziplock back with leftover shredded turkey from my mom’s first grade Thanksgiving feast. All that effort for no Thanksgiving dinner! But I can’t even complain because I threw that leftover turkey in the microwave, topped it with some gravy, and it was delicious.

So, long story short, we made it to Kansas. I got a nap, went Black Friday shopping with my mom and my brother’s girlfriend, got my nails done, had a hair appointment, and yes, eventually had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner Saturday with my family. More on that later, but the “getting there” deserved a blog post in and of itself. The “getting back” was a little less interesting, if you don’t count the airline breaking a wheel off the stroller. Just picture me pulling our carry-on bag while pushing a tripod stroller loaded down with two kids and a carseat to the back row of economy parking. But besides that, smooth sailing.

After getting here was all said and done, I’ve come to a conclusion. I am officially a veteran military wife. If we can get through this week with no tears (on my part at least, there were lots of tears from Mitchell and Julia), and still come out laughing, we’re doing okay. When I got out of the car and saw the tire, I literally laughed. We are beyond ready for this deployment to be over, but we’re doing okay. July, check. August, check. September, check, October, check. November, check. Now it’s time to see what December has to offer. 

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