Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Addressing my identity as a fire wife...

Most of the people who read my blog, probably all of my regulars, already understand without me typing a word. I know that there are a lot of people who get it, whether they're involved with this life or not. To help those of you who don't understand why I would choose to call myself "fire wife" Katie, this is for you. :)

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Every once in a while I come in contact with someone who can't help but give me an eye roll when reading the title of my blog. Several people have expressed concern that I am stifling my own identity, choosing instead something that in their opinion has little to do with me — my husband's job. From the outside, I can understand this. These people who approach me are well-meaning, hoping to help me strengthen my sense of self. I appreciate the concern. However, I feel like it's a little misplaced. Here's a little explanation of my perspective about how this job has affected my life, and why I identify with it.

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First off, I've been married to my husband for just shy of 13 years. For the majority of that time, he and I held various typical day jobs. I never felt connected to any of the places he worked at. They were just jobs, completely compartmentalized away from my life. Those jobs rarely interfered with my daily routines. His employment was an afterthought as far as the effect it had on me. I had plenty of years to secure my own identity in our marriage. And I did. I still do have my own identity.

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So what's so different about this job, that I'd reference it in the name of my blog?

1 - This job is abnormally needy. My husband has a responsibility to put his job in front of our family's needs many times. I accepted that when he decided he wanted to become a firefighter, and for the most part, I'm fine with the intrusion. But it does impact my life. Because of the attention the citizens in his area claim, the job inserts itself into our marriage in ways that other employment never did. I feel like the responsibility associated with his job is like a third spouse — Duty. This agreement to serve takes him away for days at a time and expects him to drop everything when asked. I would guess that most couples with a spouse in a civil servant job can relate to the ever-present duty to serve.

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2 - My life is greatly affected by his work cycle. He'll work two or three or more days in a row and I'm on my own during that time. I am prepared at any moment to be alone and in charge of the family indefinitely. The longest I've ever had to do it was a month, and really, that's not so bad compared to many civil service jobs or jobs with lots of travel. Sometimes the days slip by without a hitch. Other cycles are bad — I'll be sick, or have a migraine, or one of the children will be having a hard time, and I just try to hold on to sanity and order for as long as possible. By the end of shifts like that I'm utterly drained. I'd use the single mom analogy, and I've used it lightly before, but I know it's not the same. At the end of my dark tunnel of a long week there's someone who will come home, give me a hug, and let me take a break. And I do the same for him. If anything, this job has opened my eyes to the amazing skills that single parents master, to hold it all together so well. Kudos to you; I admire your strength!

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Honestly, the worst part of him being on duty isn't that he's gone for days at a time. The hardest times happen when I go to bed at night, knowing he will be home in the morning. My mood relaxes in anticipation of the relief that's on it's way, for both of us, in just a few short hours. I wake up happy and plan for the day. But then that morning, as I'm getting excited about seeing my spouse again and all that I'll be able to accomplish with someone to help out, I'll get a text saying he isn't coming home; that he has been held over. I can hear the disappointment in his words. It's the jarring change in gears, mentally preparing myself for another day of going it alone and abandoning my plans that is the hardest for me.

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It's not all bad, by far. Usually, the shift schedule is a blessing. I plan around his days off, trying to schedule appointments and shopping trips when I know he'll be there. Or, at least, assume there's a good chance he'll be there. ;) It's awesome to have him around on weekdays to help get the kids to appointments with ease! And it's great that he gets to be there to witness the Halloween parade at school, attend conferences, and pick up the children after class. The cyclical nature of the job has definite benefits.

My point is, I am personally affected, as are the kids, by the drastic ups and downs and unpredictability of the work cycle. He's always coming or going, many days are spent in transition, and it's a little (okay, a lot) chaotic at times. This third person in our marriage is an un-medicated manic-depressive!

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3 - There are many people out there who label their blogs with an identity about something that they personally find interesting. There are mommy bloggers, craft and DIY bloggers, political bloggers... it doesn't seem odd to me that we would all write about something that we find compelling. The stories and interactions associated with this job are fascinating to me, and I like to share that which I find interesting and the aspects which I personally experience.

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The fire department will always be a recurring theme in my life, as long as the work remains demanding, maniacally cyclical, and interesting. It's funny — we were out to eat a while back and the couple in the booth across from us asked my husband what department he worked for. My husband was taken aback; he wasn't wearing anything fire-related. How did this guy know? "How did you know?" He asked. It was my son's impressive collection of fire trucks lining the edge of the table that tipped this fellow firefighter off. That, and my husband's haircut, the tanned skin, and his general demeanor. Someone in the service is apparently easy to spot if you know what you're looking for.

The two firefighters exchanged a few words about their departments, smiled, and returned to their respective dinners.

This couple sitting across the aisle from us understood. The way each of our families have experienced life with the fire department is probably vastly different, but there is still an unspoken bond in knowing that "hey, that family gets it; they understand." Firefighting is so often a family affair.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What October looks like in California, and what color should I paint the door?

The light is stretched long and thin. Evening comes on quickly. A few trees turn red in stark contrast to their lush neighbors. The air starts moving outside, stirring up the scent in the darkness of fireplaces being used for the first time in months. But the best part of all is that my air conditioner gets a much needed break. I can trap enough cool air in the house overnight to make it through the day in comfort.

We took a trip to the botanical gardens in our area. It was so nice to get outside again, since I've cocooned myself on the couch for the last few months. I'm feeling better and better each day and am eager to interact with the world again. The gardens seemed like a good place to start. Here are some of our pictures:

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I didn't tell them to hold hands; they just did that. :)

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I had to share the face plant. :) It didn't slow her down at all; she just got up and started chasing dad again.

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Now that I'm finally waking up, I'm hoping to get some fall decorations up. Maybe I'll even paint over the current dark peach color that graces the front door. It's old and chipping. But the problem is, the house's trim is in the same dark peach, and I can't change that right now, so I'll have to do a color that coordinates with it. Anyone have any great ideas? Here's a picture:

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Monday, October 10, 2011

I'm thinking the 5th birthday is the best of all birthdays.

Children turning 5 have it all. Simple birthdays are enchanting, every toy is awesome, kids are nice in general, school is fun, Mom and Dad provide food and drink when needed, yet a 5 year old is mature enough to do things independently and begin to feel the joy of being in control and mastering skills. The possibilities of the world all seem to be attainable. You wanna be an astronaut who wears a pink tutu when you grow up? Sure, no problem! A five year old can gaze with wonder at the future from the security and comfort of a world where everyone smiles. Life is all about feeling loved and having fun.

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We celebrated my Kindergartner's 5th birthday this weekend. I was worried that he would feel slighted, since I really couldn't do much this year due to the morning sickness. There were no party favors, fancy decorations, finger foods, or games. Instead of having a friend party, he chose to have just a family party and go miniature golfing. Thank goodness!! That made preparing for his birthday much more manageable for me.

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(Playing miniature golf with young children is dangerous!)

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Cheater!

The birthday boy did manage to make one legitimate hole in one:

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Even though there weren't tons of kids and a big event, he still thought it was the best day ever. I always worry for nothing. His class celebrated his birthday at school, we went golfing, and at home there were balloons, a cake, and presents to open. That's all he cared about. I bought flowers and some fall decorations, but those were more for me. He totally didn't care. He didn't even mind that we celebrated his birthday a day late since his dad had to work. It didn't take much to make him feel like the king of the day.

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My over-zealous little present delivery guy:

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"You wan cookie?"

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Going all out for a birthday party is fun for me, and for the children. It's exciting!

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But I've come to realize that it isn't necessary. At least, not for this 5 year old.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Thanks for the encouragement, I need it!!

Thank you all so much for your support and excitement for our latest pregnancy! I love that #4 has just as many fans as #1 did. He or she is lucky to have such great friends and family waiting for the big day. I am very excited and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be Mom to another little person. My family didn't feel complete. In the back of my mind there was always a sense that someone was missing. I think this little one is the missing piece of our family.

I'm happy!

With that said, I am also miserable!!!

I've done this pregnancy thing three times before. I thought I had experienced all that my body had to offer in the way of symptoms and reactions to the surge of hormones. I assumed that I knew what aches and pains I might expect. I thought that in three pregnancies, surely I must have gone through it all, right?

Sigh. I was wrong. Dead wrong. Or, more accurately, sick wrong. The "morning" sickness is really kicking my trash this time around. In my other pregnancies, sure, I felt sick the first three months, but I never needed anti-nausea medication. I'd have periods of feeling blah, but then the rest of the day would be just fine. This time? I get little 15 minute spurts of feeling only slightly sick. The rest of the time I am somewhere between "please don't make me get off of this couch" and "a coma. Put me in a coma!"

I am near the end of the first trimester, so hopefully things will let up soon. In the meantime, my house is falling into serious disarray. My husband being stuck at the station for 5 days in a row this last week didn't help the situation. It's really embarrassing, so if you knock on my door and you see me hiding, know that it's not you; it's me — and my house!

My children have been, overall, very good about letting me stay laying down for the better part of the day. But they're small, and they still do have their moments. Like the fire rescue in the snow scene my 2 year old reenacted using all the salt in my canister for the snow, a tiny fleet of metal fire trucks, and apple juice squeezed from a juice box as the hose — in the living room, of course.

He also came to me with this the other day:

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I must say, very creative!

For the most part, they've been very good. My daughter and older son have taken over the kitchen table as their craft station. They spend hours making a mess down there. I'm happy that they can entertain themselves for so long. I'll peel the cotton balls off the table later.

And every once in a while, they do something incredibly sweet — like this:

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I found my oldest giggling and reading in bed with her little brother and his upside-down book.

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Really, it was a ploy by my 2 year old to get out of the dreaded bed time. He's getting smart. He is learning that the way to win the bedtime battle is with sweetness instead of tantrums.

Or, there was this moment. My daughter was given a bag full of little hearts at church, to leave whenever she does something nice for someone. Here, she made her brother's bed:

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So it's not all gloom and sickness and misery. But it is very, very messy around here! :p I will have the energy to do things like clean up and cook dinner and shower regularly in the second trimester, right??

Oh, and you should see the hormone-induced mood swings. It's crazy. I got teary-eyed this morning because I heard a flock of geese flying overhead. A flock of geese! What the...??? I'm not sure why that made me emotional! Oh, my poor husband!
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