Deployment: Small Mercies

Small Mercies
Though there have been glimpses of good times and happiness (as evidenced by my Instagram feed), in general, I would say this deployment has been rough.

I don’t even know where to begin. How far back do I go? To the week he left, when the kids had strep throat and double ear infections? To February, when Benjamin began his battle with recurring ear infections and when both children had their upper lip and tongue ties revised? To March, when when we traveled to New York for two weeks and Benjamin’s unresolved ear infection coupled with his four-month sleep regression almost ended us and when Madeline had a virus that landed us first in Urgent Care in New York and then in the ER in North Carolina (turned out to be the flu, which we were all vaccinated against, and it took me out, too)? To this month? Benjamin’s ear infection is back, along with his inability to nap or sleep through the night. Madeline’s sibling rivalry has finally kicked in and she will do anything — good or bad — for my attention. And me? I’m having dreams (when I’m lucky enough to get a REM cycle) about ocean waves crashing over my head.

Perhaps, I’ll just give a glimpse into tonight at our house. As I was giving an extremely overtired Benjamin (who had been crying for the better part of the last three days) his bedtime bottle, Madeline started screaming from her room. I jumped up from the rocker, still holding and feeding Benjamin, and ran to her door. Turns out she had gone to the bathroom. Number two. In her underwear. And she wasn’t happy about her decision. In that moment, I could actually feel my frustration, my anger, my exhaustion vibrating in every cell of my body. Profanities flew across my mind faster than I could think them. WHY!?

I tried to address the situation right there on the floor of her room, while still feeding the baby, but quickly learned that it was not a good idea. So I told her to get into the tub (unfilled) and wait for me to get Benji into bed. She sobbed for ten straight minutes, while I thought horrible, ungrateful thoughts in my head as Benjamin finished his bottle. I put him into his crib and stroked his precious blonde hair. His eyelids grew heavy and each blink got longer until he was asleep. I shut his door, said my nightly prayer for him to sleep through until morning, took a breath and walked to the bathroom.

When I saw my big girl, partially clothed, looking impossibly small and sad in the tub, my rage dissolved. I took her into the shower, dressed her in jammies, put product into her sweet curls and followed her to her room. We read stories with Daddy, listened to his lullabies and then we lay there in the dark, both of us unwinding. She let me hold her in my arms. She talked and I listened for ten straight minutes, this time my mind spinning with guilt and understanding.

When her stream of consciousness started to slow, I sat up, attempting to wrap up bedtime: “Do you know how much I love you Maddie? So so much.” And with every ounce of sincerity in her body she said, into the darkness, “Mommy, I want to keep you.” I slid back down onto her pillow and wrapped myself up in her laughter, as she rolled over and licked my cheek. Thank God for small mercies. That will get me through to tomorrow.

What Pre-Deployment Looked Like For Our Army Family

The morning he deployedPre-deployment was a painful but also really lovely time for our family. We put so much effort into making Andrew’s last days home fun and memory-filled (especially for Madeline), that they ended up being some of our best days yet. There were dance parties, snuggles, late bedtimes, tons of kisses, favorite foods, too many desserts, geography lessons, extra bedtime stories, tickle fights and daddy/daughter dates, plus quiet whispers in the dark, tears, hand-holding, I-love-yous and lots of photos and videos.Daddy and littlesDaddy and BabiesCrazy kids and DaddyThe impending deployment forced our family to focus inward during what could normally be a very frazzled, stressful and isolating time. And even though, today, we’re minus one here at home, we’re definitely stronger than ever.
The Wilhelm Family

Deck The Halls!

deck the hallsI’ve had my hands full with a newborn and a two year old these past few weeks (like seriously), but we’ve been fortunate to have tons of family in town lending a hand. Just after Thanksgiving, my sister, brother-in-law, niece and grandmother were here helping out, so we took full advantage and decked the halls!

Andrew and I picked out our first Christmas tree (it only took us five years of marriage). We got it up in record time without a single marital tiff, thanks to Andrew’s solid tree-handling skills! We trimmed our pine with white lights, felt garland (which I scored at Target on Christmas clearance last year) and our collection of ornaments (an ornament from each unit we’ve been in, a handful of “Just Married” ones from our winter wedding, one from our Bahamian honeymoon and a bunch of fun ones for Madeline and Benjamin). We let Madeline and my niece, Amelia, each put a couple trinkets up on the tree, which ended up being ridiculous. It’s hard work putting a little loop over a tree branch. Nearly impossible if you’re two years old or under, really. We’re lucky they didn’t take the whole tree down…

It wouldn’t be Christmas without Christmas lights. While I couldn’t convince Andy to jump on the ladder to hang the icicles this year, I did trick him into agreeing we needed way more lights than last year. A quick trip to BJs and a hundred dollars later, we were rich in LEDs, had a remote for our front and back outlets (this is a brilliant device by the way) and you could see our house from blocks away. Is it our best effort? No. But we’ll go all out next year when we’re not drowning in pools of spit-up and diapers. That’s a promise.

Finally, we baked a whole bunch of Christmas cut-out cookies. There is something so precious about letting go of the rules and regs for the sake of having fun with your children. There were sprinkles everywhere (including about half a bottle in Madeline’s belly by the end of it), there were little bits of cookie dough mushed into the crevices of the kitchen table and under their fingernails and there was a fine blanket of flour atop it all. But there was also so much Christmas magic it ached. When our little girls bit into their homemade Christmas cookies, a twinkle in their eye that said “We’re getting away with something!” I knew it was worth any amount of effort it took to make that moment happen. As we cleaned up the kitchen, I said to my sister, “There were lots of messes and memories made. I’d rather have both than none at all.” I think that will be our family’s mission statement for years to come. Tis the season (of life)!

Check out this short film my awesome brother-in-law put together of our Christmas festivities…