July 10, 2013

It Wasn't Supposed to be Like This

Has it really been almost a year since I've wrote on this blog? I know that I posted my farewell to the Atascadero Fire Department back in March, but the last post before that occurred all the way back to last summer...yikes! So this is how blogs just fade away...

Life is busy. Between all the duties that come along with being a wife and a mom, as well as my responsibilities outside of the home, I'm just exhausted at the end of the day. And truth be told, being a mother these days has not been fun, so I really haven't wanted to write about it. 

Benjamin is hard. Really hard. As in, I usually cry at least a few times a week, if not daily, from sheer frustration with him. You've heard of the term "strong willed child?" Ben could be the poster child for that book. The two of us are so much alike. We both fight for control and power and we do it poorly, in the form of threats, screams, and hands thrown up in exasperation. On one particular night, the defiance from Benjamin was so bad that I recorded it on my phone so I could play it for Nathan later. He has torn apart his room, knocked over furniture, screamed in my ear, glared at me with the fiercest determination a four year could muster, and slammed his door so loud that the walls shook. I have said things  I never thought in a million years I would say to my own child, and thought even worst things. I've had to literally clench my hands into fists by my side to prevent myself from striking out at him. I never knew it was possible to love your child beyond comprehension, but dislike him so much you can't even look at him at times.

I am ashamed. It wasn't supposed to be like this. I was going to have the best behaved children and for the few times they did get out of hand, I'd handle it like the pro everyone (including myself) expected me to be. But I don't have the best behaved children. Not even close. And I honestly don't know where we went wrong. He was such a good baby...the happiest one around! Then he turned three and it all went downhill from there. Now we have an almost five year old that I am scared to take out into public for fear of one of his "meltdowns." I actually cringe before I tell him "No," out of fear of what he will do when he hears it. Not that it stops me from actually saying the word. I can at least say with some amount of pride that I do hold my ground and make decisions based on what I think is right, not on what my child will or won't do as a result of that decision.  Perhaps that is why I am so confused as to how we got here. Benjamin is very intelligent...how does he not understand by now that screaming and throwing a fit never gets him what he wants? As in never ever! Perhaps he is just that stubborn, that he figures he can break me some day if he just keeps at it? If that's the case, Lord help me. 

I am not the parent I thought I would be. I used to strive for perfection. Now I understand that isn't realistic. Right now I would settle for "good," or even just "okay." Why oh why can't I control my temper and my words when Benjamin loses control? How in the world can I expect him to remain calm and poised when he doesn't get his way when I can't even do that myself? 

Can anyone else relate? Anyone? Please tell me I'm not alone here!

I've rambled here. I want to write more...like about all the good and sweet things my precious first born son does (like greet his little brother every morning with a hug and kiss), but I'm weary. It's been so long since I've written, even just a few paragraphs have taxed me, especially on a subject as vulnerable as this. Next post will be all the positive things. Promise.

March 13, 2013


He took a box to work today. When I asked what for, he said, “So I can clean out my locker.” Oh. That.
The next day, we stopped by the station to visit. “Hey, Benjamin, I’ve got a job for you! Come help me clean the engine,” the engineer called to our oldest child. As Ben helped Jason hose the fire engine down, the one his daddy has driven his entire career, I snapped a picture with my phone thinking “This is the last time he will get to do this here.”
“I turned in my resignation letter today,” he quietly told me later, as the boys played in the ladder truck. I looked at my husband, watching for signs of sadness, regret, hoping he didn’t see it in my own eyes. Only one of us can mourn at a time, in order to boost the other up. We are a team, so I try to keep my heartache in check until I can read my husband’s emotions. He always gets first dibs, considering that it is he that is leaving a job of fourteen years, not me.
At his going-away party last weekend, I was overwhelmed with pride and sorrow as I watched Nathan try to keep it together as he spoke to the group. How does one put into words almost half a lifetime of experience and gratitude and growth? He was only 17 when he started working for Atascadero Fire Department, just a boy on the verge of adulthood, searching for his future. In one season as a high school cadet, he found it.
“I’m a firefighter for Atascadero,” he told me the night we first met. He was a mere 19 years old. “Currently, I’m a seasonal, but in a few years, after guys retire, I’ll have a chance to be full-time.” I was in awe of this man-boy, who was so confident who he wanted to be, where he was going to go. He spoke in such a way I had no doubt he would get there. Sure enough, three years later he was a full-time, permanent employee, just like he said he would be.
I thought about all this as I watched my husband. His co-workers spoke about his time at the department and lamented how much they were going to miss him. The precious thing about small departments is that the men that make up the department are more than just co-workers. They live together for 48 hours shifts, and work as a team and depend on one another in crisis situations they encounter every shift. They play practical jokes on each other and cook together and train together. Holidays and birthdays are celebrated as a shift, should that day fall on a work day, and it is not uncommon for families to join the crew for dinner some nights. The guys work on each other’s houses, loan each other tools and vehicles, vacation together, and watch each other’s kids. When Jason stood up to speak, he said it perfectly: “Nate’s my brother. We’ve lived together for six out of the eight years that he’s been full-time. I’m really gonna miss him.”
After Nathan thanked everyone through the lump in his throat, it was my turn. As I faced the group of people that had been our extended family for the past fourteen years, I had a flashback to the first summer we met. We had only been dating a month when AFD hosted a Fire Muster, which is an event for fire departments from all around the state to come and compete in friendly games related to the fire service. After the competition was over, the traditional BBQ and dance took place. The after-party was held in the streets in front of City Hall. “Do you want to dance?” Nathan whispered in my ear that evening as a Faith Hill song began to play over the night air. I will never forget slowly twirling in the street under the stars, as well as the watchful eyes of the bemused firemen and their wives, a young girl falling in love right there in that moment. Four years later we danced our first dance as husband and wife to that same song, in front of the same firefighters and their wives. Now Nathan’s firefighting family was officially mine, too.
Fast forward three years, to the birth of our first child, followed by our second son two and a half years later and my heart is full of images that will never leave me:
·         Keith Aggson greeting my infant baby with a fist bump and the classic “Hey, Buhh-dy! What’s happen-in?”
·         Jason Smith teaching Benjamin how to simulate bodily function noises, a rite of passage for all boys apparently.
·         Matt Vierra showing my boys where all the snacks were kept at Station 1 and telling them to help themselves, anytime.
·         Benjamin sitting in the chair next to Bill White’s desk at Station 2, both of them doing “work.”
·         Andrew Luera whipping out a pencil drawing of a train during one of our visits, which still has a place of honor on Benjamin’s bulletin board.
·         Paul Netz teaching Benjamin how to back up the engine, who in turn taught Brayden. Now both of them can motion their arms and cross them when the driver has hit his mark. Brayden even makes the air brake noise at the right time.
We will never forget Atascadero Fire Department and all the people that encompass it. They watched Nathan and I transition from teenagers to adults, from a dating couple to a married couple, from a family of two to a family of four, and AFD will forever be a part of our history. While we may be moving to a new department, Nathan will always consider himself an Atascadero Firefighter and I will forever be an Atascadero Firefighter’s wife. Because that’s how family works…it’s never really “Goodbye,” but more like, “See you later.”
So to all the people of AFD who have helped shape our family into what it is today, we say “Thank you…and see you later.”
B-Shift through and through.

Future firefighter

July 2002, coming home from first Out-of-County assignment

Swearing-in Ceremony, 2005

Rodeo-Chediski Fire, Arizona, 2002


November 30, 2012

Christmas Card 2012

Blessed Family Religious Christmas Card
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View the entire collection of cards.

August 31, 2012

Summer Wrap Up

I had great plans for this summer. It was going to be three months of unscheduled, relaxing bliss before diving into the business of fall. Umm, yeah...not so much.

It started with a Memorial Weekend Camp out with the extended family and their extended family. We went to our local Santa Margarita Lake to celebrate cousins Wyatt, Weston, and Walker's birthday, as well as their dad, Uncle Ray's birthday. Yep, all four of their special days fall within six weeks of each other. So each night we sang happy birthday to at least one person, opened presents, and devoured sweet treats in their honor. It was tough, but we managed to get through it. :)

In mid June, Benjamin was honored to be a part of my cousin Taylor's wedding to Kevin. He made such a cute ring bearer and it was just precious watching him pull the wagon his daddy made as a teenager down the aisle. The day was magical and filled with love and promise and hope.

One week later, we loaded up the camper again and took off for an 8 day trip that included stops at Yosemite, Tuolumne, Mammoth Lakes, and Devils Postpile. Like almost all of our camping trips, we hiked, biked, fished, slept, read, and played in the dirt. (Well, the boys played in the dirt. I tried to stay clean. Just because I live with all boys doesn't mean I have to act like one.) As fun as it was to see new places, it was quite exhausting setting up and tearing down camp so many times. The drive home was brutal, too...eleven hours in the truck...yech.

As soon as we got home, I began a new weekly bible study/play group with the boys. My friend, Robin, hosted it at her house in Santa Margarita each Friday and I helped her think up, prepare, and implement the kid activities. It was a great, unique bible study format and I hope Robin is gracious and crazy enough to do it again next year! Along with that, I was also already deep into another weekly women's bible study with a group of friends, this time sans kiddos.

July was spent planning and preparing Benjamin's 4th birthday party, which consumed every available inch of space in my head (and closet) that wasn't already filled. I had the great idea of carrying out the "friend" party on the same day as the "family" party...might have to rethink that for next year! Very fun day, but very exhausting, given that I had less than an hour to clean up one to prepare the other! Oh, and on Benjamin's actual birthday (July 30th) we surprised him with a train ride from Paso Robles to San Luis Obispo, followed up with dinner and presents with the Fisher family. The boy is obsessed with trains, so he was beyond excited when we told him that for his birthday we would go check out the train station (like he'd been asking for). Imagine his face when I pulled out tickets from my purse and told him we got to ride one!

July also is the month of the Mid-State Fair, which is an annual tradition for us (and every other person in our small community). I think it was a toss-up as to which was the boys favorite part: the cinnamon rolls or the bus ride from our car to the fairgrounds. It was around this time that some friends blessed us with a 16 foot wide, 3 foot deep swimming pool. So of course in the midst of the craziness, we dropped everything to set it up and play! Even Nathan stopped his work on our new backyard and patios (did I mention that?) to swim with us. Perhaps that is why we were given this pool...it was truly our time of togetherness as a family of four this jam-packed summer.

August brought another fabulous camping trip to a new place for us, called Dinkey Creek (up by Shaver Lake). Between the rock slides, the natural pools, the mounds of fluffy dirt, and the fire helicopters that flew overhead several times a day (which Benjamin got to get a personal tour of!), my little boys were in heaven. We literally gave them two baths every night. Before they could come into the camper bathtub, they received a "pre-bath" with the outdoor shower first. That's how dirty they were each and every day. After four days at Dinkey Creek, we drove about 30 minutes to Wishon Reservoir to meet up with the Fisher family for three more nights of camping, boating, and fishing before heading home.

Now September is here. Already I've had meetings and training sessions for the two Women's Bible Studies I will be a part of at church (yep, Tuesday's will be full days for me!) and I just received the roster for the newest batch of little ones I will be caring for on Wednesday mornings at Berean Church. Awana's will be starting up, too, and I am looking forward to working with Benjamin a couple days a week on kindergarten readiness material. Oh, and our anniversary is September 10th...7 years! In October we are camping for four days at Refugio, we have a Dave Ramsey event in Fresno, and a 2 day women's leadership retreat...

Yep, I had great plans for the summer. It turns out God had even greater plans, though, and blessed us with new friends, quality family time, new places of His creation, and opportunities for growth and reflection and learning. Let's hope the same can be said for this fall, because I'm ready. Bring it on. :)

August 8, 2012

Happy 4th Birthday, Benjamin!

Dear Benjamin,

Last week, you turned four years old. I can't believe it's been that long since the very first day I met you. As cliche as it might be, it truly seems like yesterday I held you for the first time and anxiously awaited your first cries, signalling to me that you were okay. (You were.) Though our first days at home are a bit blurry, I clearly remember the overwhelming love I had for you from the minute we made eye contact.

Do you know that love, Benjamin? Do you see it? Do you know how often I think of you, worry about you, pray for you? One of my favorite things to do is daydream about your future and reminisce about your past. It's been a hard year, between your last birthday and this one, for you and I, so I've relied on these mental escapes, as well as never-ceasing prayer to get us through.

You see, Benjamin, you've got a couple of things going against you. You are my first born, which means you are the guinea pig, so to speak. I've never raised a four year old, so I am trying everything out on you for the first time. So while you get the prestige of being the oldest, that also means you get all my mistakes and failures. The other setback you have is that you are just like me. In some ways that is wonderful (our nose is fabulous!) but in other ways, it's not so great. My stubborn streak runs right through the core of you, as does the desire for control and authority. There are times when those qualities come in handy (such as when you are a CEO of a Fortune 500 company), but when you are four, they usually spell trouble in the form of time-outs and tears...for the both of us. So many times I find myself telling you (in not such a nice voice, I have to admit), "I am the parent, you are the child!"

In moments of failure, such as when I raise my voice (too often), say hurtful things (my most shameful admission), or throw my hands up in frustration because you don't meet my expectations (which are usually too high), I find myself begging God to intervene and instill in you a very deep, impenetrable knowledge that I love you more than I can possibly explain, because my sinful, outward actions do not always accurately portray that love. I desperately long to be a perfect mother, but I am coming to terms with the fact that it just isn't possible. Luckily, you have a perfect, Holy Father who not only fills in the gaps, but loves you more than I ever could. All I can do is try my best and continually go to my knees and pray that today I can and will demonstrate Gods love and compassion and kindness to you, a boy whom I love to the moon and back. Do you know that, Benjamin? Do you know my love for you??

Sometimes it is easier to explain love through tangible items. So here is just a sampling of things I love about you, my oldest child:
  • Your desire to be held and "snuggled up tightly." I hope you never outgrow this!
  • The dreams you have for your future. You currently plan to be a firefighter, an ambulance driver, a police officer, and a race car driver, "so you can help people." I'm not sure where race car driving fits in, but as Daddy pointed out, everyone needs a hobby. :)
  • The confidence you have in everything you try. Whether it's riding a bike, diving into a pool, learning a new lesson in school, or memorizing scripture, you have a can-do attitude about it. You always say, "Okay...I'll try!" If you don't succeed the first time, you patiently listen to our advice, nod, and say, "Okay, I'll try again." I love that! Do you know what a gift that is, my son? The gift of perseverance, especially at such a young age, is truly something to treasure and will carry you far in life!
  • Your compassionate and forgiving nature. When I mess up and find myself apologizing to you, you always say to me, "It's okay, Mommy, I forgive you." Usually you follow it up with, "Now say "I forgive you, too" to me, Mom," which always makes me laugh.
  • You share my love of reading, which I so desperately wanted to pass on to you. I have a long list of books I wish to share with you and I have great plans to continue our nightly reading ritual for many years to come.
  • You have the memory of an elephant. I do not have this ability, so I envy and admire it so.  Sometimes it isn't so wonderful, such as when you are recalling one of my less-than-stellar moments, but most of the time it comes in very handy (such as when I miss my exit and you remind me where we are going!) Again, this gift will help you in many aspects of life, especially when it comes to taking tests in school. :)
The list of things I love about you could go on and on, Benjamin. My prayer will continue to be that you always, always, ALWAYS, know you are deeply and immeasurably loved by me, no matter what. Never forget that.

Here are some pictures of your fourth birthday party. For months I planned out a pirate party for you, complete with a treasure map (drawn just for you by your Uncle Ray), an enemy pirate water balloon attack, a story all about how you became "Captain Benjamin", a plank, a shark, and buried treasure. I hope you enjoyed it! (Though I have a sneaking suspicion that you did...)