Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

Why Do They Have to Grow So Fast?

Sassy will be starting kindergarten in the fall. In the next couple months we will have to schedule her kinder screening. At the end of this school year I will undoubtedly sit, with a box of tissues in hand, through a sappy photo montage put on by her preschool teachers and cry my eyes out.

Sassy's my last baby. I refuse to believe the last statement holds any truth. Yes, I'm in denial that my child bearing years are over. I have no idea where the last five years and two months have went. I swear to everything holy that she was just a little nine month old taking her first steps, and then I blinked. She grew up. Way too fast. Faster than I ever remember it seeming for Bubby.

Sassy goes to preschool in the afternoons. Getting ready for school, or to leave the house for any reason really, is a process with her. She has always been a ball of energy, easily distracted by something more interesting than the previous task. She never remembers where she leaves her shoes, misplaces a sock from the pair I've given her to put on, and always HAS to finish which ever episode she's watching on Netflix at the given time. Two skips around the room are required before she brushes her hair, she may have to practice her cartwheel ONE more time before she puts on her coat, and you better believe there will be some squirrel watching before climbing in the car.

It seems I'm always growling at her to "Hurry up!" I find myself wishing that she'd just get herself ready without me constantly having to hover and remind... and... and...

That was until tonight. Until we read "Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat,? Are You Waking Up" before bed. It's funny how one small thing like a book can put your whole world into perspective.

Sassy is my little kitty cat. From the time she was small she'd pretend to be a kitty. We gave her kitty personality a name - Sassy. Sassy still comes to visit once or twice a week to this day. I think that's why the book made things a little clearer.

"Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Waking Up?" by Bill Martin Jr and Michael Sampson is a story about a mama cat trying to get her little kitty out of bed and ready for school. Little Kitty doesn't want to get out of bed. She pulls all kinds of antics like practicing her purr, playing with her dish and chasing a mouse. Finally mother cat gets her baby off to school.

Sassy and I giggled our way through the book. Both of us agreeing this little kitty acts an awful lot like her. As I tucked her in, and started the music in her CD player it hit me. Pretty soon she is going to be able to get herself ready for school on her own. In less than seven months she will start school full time. She will learn to be more self sufficient. In less than 10 months she will be SIX. In no way, shape or form do I have babies, let alone toddlers. In a few short months I will have TWO school aged children.

This mama cat's not ready for that.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Journey to Finding My Birth Father - Part 1

Post three of family week this week will delve into my own family history. A bigger look at what day to day life is like for this wife between the tones. 

Three years ago I embarked on a journey that could either shatter dreams or change my life forever. The risk to my emotional well-being was huge. HUGE. Three years ago, I did not know my birth father, nor my paternal side of my family. My mother gave birth to me at a young age. Both of my parents were in high school at the time. Circumstances did not work out in their favor, and my mom and I were a small family of two. I spent twenty-seven years on this Earth not knowing my father. I spent twenty-seven years wondering his name. Twenty-seven long years were spent in front of a mirror wondering which of my features resembled his because I had never even laid eyes on a picture of him. 

In January of 2010, I was given a name. I dug up a picture. I started the process of finding my father. I kept an online journal of the process. It was not as long of a process as I feared it would be - one day the pieces just fell into my lap.

I would like to share bits of this journey here - entries from the journal. It's a process that is very daunting. A decision that is very stressful. The decision to search for a birth parent can result in many different outcomes and at times it's very overwhelming to weigh the pros and cons of taking the first step. 

This {edited} entry I'm sharing now is one of the first entries I wrote. It talks about the stage in my childhood where I realized that I, unlike everyone else I knew in my life, did not have a father. 

My life early on was good. Even though my mom had me at seventeen - in the middle of her senior year of high school, I was well provided for. Obviously my mother was there for me, but so were my maternal grandparents, and both sets of great grandparents, along with a few other close family members. 
My mother and I lived with her parents for the first couple years of my life. My grandparents spoiled me immensely. I was the center of their world. It was really like I had two mothers - Grandma and Mom. Grandpa was, and still is the strongest father figure in my life. He wasn't home a lot because of his career, but when he was I felt safe and special. Looking back,  I realize just how much he did for me. My mom and grandparents made sure all my wants and needs were met. I couldn't have asked for a better first few years. 
Around age three, my mother and I moved out of my grandparents' house and into our own place that was on my great grandparents' (my grandpa's mom and dad) farm. It was also around that time that I started going to preschool, and spending time at my cousin's house playing. My world was growing from just my life inside my grandparents' house.
As I was out in the world more, I became more aware of how the world worked. I began to realize there was more to my little world than my mom and grandparents. I can remember being at home one day playing, I remember exactly where I was standing when it dawned on me that people are supposed to have a "dad". There was no one in my life that I called "Dad". I can remember thinking it was strange. I wondered why I didn't have a dad. It was at that point that I first realized my life was different.
I do not think at that point I thought much more about the situation. It was the reality I lived in - I just realized that my reality was different from everyone else. I can't imagine that I fully understood the role a father played in some one's life. I just knew it was something, or someone, that most people had and I did not.
It is amazing to me that at three and four years of age, I was having that kind of internal dialogue with myself. When I think about the fact that Sassy was four just a year ago, I can't fathom her contemplating such life issues and trying to figure out their answers at that age. 
I'm in no way saying the absence of my father negatively affected my first few years of life. It just laid the ground work for many issues that came up later in my childhood, and still now in my adult life. As I come to grips with these issues, I realize they are things that need to be worked through. Some of these issues can be resolved with a little counseling and some self reflection. Other issues are a little deeper. Some are a result of questions I have that I personally can't answer. Only one person can answer those questions and that's the reason for I decided to take this journey. 
Before having any information on my father, I was never sure if I needed him in my life. I knew I wanted a name, and most definitely a picture, but there was a huge possibility that was all I needed. Perhaps after having this information, I could close the chapter on that portion of my life. At the time I didn't think I had anything to lose if I decided not to search - I had went my whole life until that point without him, so what's the rest of my life going to matter?
After getting a name and a picture, I new without a doubt the search wasn't over. I knew I needed more. I began working on the issues I could fix myself, but there were still questions only he has the answers to. 

I plan on sharing the entire journey to finding my father. Even though I've located him and met many more members of his our family, it's an ongoing process. It's an emotional process. This is one thing I did not expect - finding him was not the only key to the puzzle.

My father and brother

Thursday, January 24, 2013

GIVEAWAY: Crocheted By Rae

A few months ago I received an email from a reader who stumbled upon my blog via Pinterest (You can find me on Pinterest HERE). Ironically she lives less than an hour from me, and her husband is also a firefighter. After many chats online, we have grown to form a friendship thanks to our husbands' service.

Not only is Heather a sister fire wife, but an amazing crafter as well. She has her own shop on Facebook called Crocheted By Rae. You will find an extensive variety of items offered in her shop - from children's and adult hats and winter accessories, to phone covers, baby booties, kitchen accessories and much more.

Heather has been working on a new item for her shop. She's ready to debut her item at Crocheted By Rae, and would like to host a giveaway here at LBtT! What is this adorably wonderful, absolutely gorgeous item?

A lion bonnet!

How sweet is this? Look at the ears!

How cute would your little one be in this bonnet for his first photo session? Or for her first Halloween? This would make a WONDERFUL addition to any photographer's photo prop collection, too!

I asked Heather to share a bit about herself and the item she's giving away to  ONE LUCKY LBtT reader! Here's what she had to say:

Hello everyone! My name is Heather, and I’m a stay at home mom/fire wife.  I have been married to J for 2 years and we have one son, R, who is 18 months old. J has been a volunteer/paid on call fire fighter for 9 years, and is now the Secretary of The Board of Director’s for his department.  Things get pretty hectic around here, and that’s why I love being able to work from home. I have been crocheting for 10 years. I mostly made blankets and scarves, until I was pregnant. Once nesting kicked in, I was teaching myself new stitches so that I could make different things for my baby. After getting so many compliments on my work, J convinced me to start selling them and Crocheted by Rae was born (Rae is my middle name, and it’s what I was referred to most of my life). I never imagined it would grow as big as it has, but I am loving every minute of it. This lion bonnet is new to my shop and be introduced right along with this giveaway. It can be made in sizes Newborn-12 months, and the winner will be able to choose the size that they want. A matching diaper cover with the lion’s tail can be purchased separately in my shop if one is required. I look forward to seeing you over at CBR, and GOOD LUCK! 

So, how do you win this wonderfully absolutely gorgeous item? 

Mandatory entries include liking Life Between the Tones and Crocheted By Rae on Facebook, as well as visiting Crocheted By Rae's profile and picking one item (besides the lion bonnet) you'd like to have and sharing that item in a comment below. 

Bonus entries are available, make sure to use up all your entries to increase your chances!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Children's Fears

Continuing with the family theme this week - I've noticed a change in Bubby recently. When 374 joined the department, Bubby was five. Everything was fun and exciting to Bubby - Daddy's a firefighter and that's really cool! He didn't yet understand the danger issue with Daddy being a firefighter. Until now.

Recently Bubby has started worrying when 374 is out on a call. He gets very antsy and asks a lot more questions. It's not unusual to find him sitting next to the scanner listening. Night time is harder for him than if it were during the day. If 374 is gone for bedtime the anxiety he faces seems to be a bit worse.

Over the summer, 374 was taken to the hospital from a fire scene by ambulance. The kids weren't aware of it at the time, but that night when we got back from the hospital and picked the kids up from the sitter it was apparent that he had been to the hospital. He knew Daddy had been on a call, and put two and two together. He began asking questions, and we explained things to him in an age appropriate and need to know manner.

A few months prior to that incident, he was at a big hotel fire where we had to drop him off to meet his department on scene. Bubby saw how big the fire was. It did not resonate with me at the time how him having a visual of the scene would affect him. He had never been to an actual working scene before. 374 had drove him passed place where he had put fires out before, but not ever a working scene. Looking back on things, this is when his worry set in. Bubby was a nervous wreck all day that day, and actually burst into tears when 374 returned to the station and climbed out of the truck. I remember him running across the truck bay and enveloping him in a bear hug.

I don't ever get worked up or nervous in front of the kids. I hide my anxiety from them and deal with things by keeping busy around the house. I'm trying to do the same with Bubby. Our neighbor across the street is also a fireman on the department with 374 and he and his wife have a daughter our childrens' age. The three of them like to play together while the dads are gone - especially when the weather is nice. They are usually out in the front yards waving to the parade of trucks as they go out, which usually leads to the duration of the call spent playing in the yard.

Like I mentioned previously - if that call is a long one, or runs over into bedtime  that's where I'm having a hard time. No matter how much I tell him that Daddy is trained to stay safe and that he's out helping someone who needs assistance, it seems nothing will do but Daddy himself.

The other night I came across a product on Pinterest from Huggs to Go. What?! Like you don't lose hours of your life on Pinterest  daily weekly too! It's a firefighter stuffed doll. The face has a clear pocket to place a picture of your firefighter. You can also purchase the recordable version where you can record a 10 second message that the kids can play back. I'm wondering if something like this - being able to hear Daddy's voice say goodnight, or say I love you will help. I think this might be what both our kids get in their Easter baskets this year. What do you think? Do any of you have one of these dolls?

Do you have an older child who worries about your firefighter while they are on shift or out on a call? What helps for your children to ease their fears or anxiety? Please leave your tips and advice in the comments below, I'd love to hear from you!!!

The photos scattered in this post are courtesy of Kristy, Danielle and Heather. Thank you ladies for sharing these photos for Family Week this week!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Making Memories Between the Tones

As I have mentioned before in posts, family is a big deal at 374's station. The next few posts from LBtT will be focused on family. The between the tones part of living the fire life. On any given work night, you can probably find a kid or two helping out while washing a truck or stocking water on the trucks. They've been known to pick up a broom and help sweep the bays or help stock the pop cooler.

You will see kids of all ages. Those old enough to participate in the cadet program are there right along side their parent - at meetings, at the station after a call helping clean up and at trainings. You will also find the young ones helping with these tasks too - they can't wait to be old enough to join the cadet program. It's a constant fight with my kids during the school year when 374 goes up to the station on Thursday nights. Meetings and work nights over lap with bed time in this house. During the summer, I have no problem letting them spend the evenings up there with him. Some nights I have to walk up there and drag them all home. I love that they get that time with him - seeing him do something good. It's heartwarming to watch his fellow firefighters and their kids - to know that this life of service is normal to them. To know that most of these firefighters have served along side their fathers, uncles, and/or brothers at this station or have a family member who serves on their community's department. The discipline and selflessness they learn to know as normal is amazing to me.

Our area mostly consists of volunteer departments. Departments that wouldn't run without these firefighters giving their time to their community. I can already see this rubbing off in our oldest. Bubby approached me a few weeks ago and asked instead of gifts at his next birthday in May, if we can ask for supplies for a local cat shelter because he'd like to donate things for them. He's seven. Of course I immediately agree that it would be a wonderful idea, and made sure he knew he'd be giving up the opportunity to receive gifts at his party from those who attended. He ensured me he understood, and that it was exactly what he wanted to do. These memories and lessons that they are learning is what makes all the rough times worth it. All the dinners we eat alone because he flies out the door, all the events we attend without him because of some class or some training hours.

I love sharing pictures of my own children with their father at the station, so I asked my readers to share a few of there own. Like I mentioned above, my kids don't spend as much time at the station The pictures scattered in this post are just those. I picked the ones that showed children with their parent - stealing a few minutes to make memories between the tones. Thank you to Ann, Chris, and Whitney for sharing pictures with me to use in this post! Your kids are adorable!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Today was pajama day for Sassy's preschool class. They have been learning about night and day this week. Today they all wore their jammies to school and brought pillows and blankets to have a "night" day. Sassy had to go big. She wore her "Cozy in my Pa-llamas" jammies. She had to bring her Baby Lllama (Llama Llama Red Pajama), her pillow pet, her blanket and a pair of slippers. She was super excited to go to school!

Yesterday afternoon I found the boys in the middle of the floor playing army. This bucket of army men and vehicles was on sale for under $7 at Toys R Us right before Christmas. It is one of Bubby's favorite gifts. He plays with it daily. They had a great time playing.

Monday, January 7, 2013

So Fresh, So Clean!

If you have spent any time here at LBtT before, you probably have already noticed things look much different this visit!

If you are a first time reader, welcome! Take a look around!

I hope first time readers, as well as return readers will enjoy the new, simple and clean layout that is now in place. My vision for LBtT is a user friendly, clean blog that focuses on the content. Nothing flashy, nothing overly girly or overly manly.

This layout wouldn't be possible without the help of Kristen at Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. She was recommended to me by another blogger I follow. I was instantly pulled in to her simple and clean designs. She was very easy to work with. I have a hard time getting ideas out of my head and onto paper sometimes, I'm a much more visual person and have a hard time describing things sometimes. However it was like Kristen was inside my head. Communication was easy, frequent and prompt. I would use her again, and recommend her to anyone looking for a blog layout!

I am excited to launch this new design. I hope you enjoy your stay. Please subscribe to my blog, follow on Twitter and/or Facebook, and feel free to pass my links along to anyone you know who may be interested. I have big dreams for LBtT in 2013. We have big plans as a family, I have great topic ideas, and I would love to offer more giveaways and contests for my readers! I couldn't be more excited!!!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Second to the Station? Not Quite...

Being a fire wife is not always bubbles and sunshine. I have my pet peeves as well. Lately I've been dealing with more instances of this than usual, so I'm taking the opportunity to vent.

One of the major gripes you will hear from fire wives - whether they are new to the lifestyle, or have been around for years is that they feel second to the fire department. I've heard it from full time career wives and I've heard it from volunteer wives.

I am guilty of feeling this way from time to time. 374 is NOTORIOUS for saying "I have to run to the station to do XYZ, I'll be back in a few." In a perfect world, this means he drives ten seconds down the road, pulls into the station parking lot and parks. He would get out of his car, go into the station and promptly take care of business. He'd be back home in a reasonable amount of time for living as close as we do to the station. However, this is not the reality I live in. He may go up to pick up a paper or form. Nevertheless, o visit is complete without doing a once over on his gear, reading every piece of paper on the desk and doing a complete lap around the bay and all the trucks. Recently he ran up to take a storage tote back that we borrowed for a fundraiser. Ten minutes would have been more than adequate time for him to get there and back. However twenty minutes later he still isn't home. I wasn't surprised, I've become used to it. That evening dinner time was approaching, and in my frustration I decided I was not cooking and ordered dinner in. No consulting him, no asking his opinion - he was going to like it and deal with it.

374 is also known for being prompt. VERY prompt. Now usually this is a positive trait. He's never late for work, he's always where he says he'll be on time or early - fire station included. Do you hear my sarcasm oozing in that last statement? Work nights, trainings, and meetings all usually start at 7:00 pm. Again, as you've heard me say (or read me type) time and time again - we live ten seconds from the station. So what time does he usually leave the house? He used to leave around 6:25 pm. "I don't want to be late!" he'd exclaim. I always gave him some cross-eyed look while I tried to figure out how it would be humanly possible to be late. The longer he's been on the department, I've gotten him to lax up on his departure time. Usually I can get him to stick around until about 6:45 pm. It wouldn't be that big of a deal, but the 6:00 pm hour is the time that we are getting the kids wound down, bath time activities are commencing and stories are being read. Sassy and Bubby usually request 374 for these activities, and it's much harder for me to get accomplished when they know he's going to be leaving soon. They don't want to cooperate because they don't want him to leave. Oh how I loathe Thursday evenings.

The other biggie for me is the pager. The pager that goes everywhere, at all times. It sleeps by our bed every night, with the volume cranked up. He would bring it to family functions that I didn't feel was appropriate - weddings, birthday parties, etc. Sometimes this is still a huge point of contention between us. It's hard not to resent the damn thing sometimes, quite honestly.

I always thought this was just his eagerness for something he loves. I always envisioned every other firefighter  waltzing through the door just a few minutes before their event for the night started. After talking to my neighbor and fellow fire wife, as well as other fire wives in my online support group I've learned this is not the case. He's not the only one. It's just the way they are. I've been told the fire station is a time warp. They can't walk in and take care of business and walk right back out. They are drawn like a moth to a flame. (Haha.)

I am not as frustrated with all of this as I used to be. Sure, when the kids are more upset than usual over his departure, or when he insists on running up there real quick when I'm trying to leave to get groceries or complete a task that I need his help with I still stomp my feet and mutter under my breath as he walks out. It's hard not to feel like they would rather be at the station, that it's their escape. What's important, I think, is to voice your feelings to your firefighter in a non-confrontational way and set boundaries together.

I've come to realize that there will never be a quick trip to the fire station. I just have to accept that. He's like a kid in a candy store. I know the phone number for the station, and if I really need him quickly all I have to do is pick up the phone and call.

He's also become better about what time he leaves the house. I know it's just HIM to be early to things. He's the same way with his full time job, or any other commitment he has. He's not trying to get away from me as quickly as possible. He wants to get up there and get things taken care of  SO HE CAN GET BACK HOME TO ME. The exact opposite of how it made me feel.

We have come to a some what compromise on the pager. Sure there's times I wish he'd just leave it home, but he doesn't. However we have come to the agreement that if we are out on a date, it does stay home. It's rare we get time to go out sans kids, and he appreciates that. We take every other event on a case to case basis. If it's one of our children's birthday party, depending on the severity of the call and the man power that has responded, he won't go. He still has the pager on him, but we decide at that time. This same thing goes for other family functions as well. So far it's working, I just need to remember he has a job to do - an important one where people are counting on him.

Being a fire family definitely has it's sacrifices. Those sacrifices are different depending on the type of firefighter. It's a big adjustment to get used to those sacrifices especially if your spouse wasn't always living this lifestyle of a firefighter. When he comes home and tells me how he saved a structure from further damage, or how he cut someone out of a car so they could quickly get them loaded in the helicopter, it puts it all back into perspective. He's doing something wonderful for our community. It's not that he's trying to spend less time with his family, he's just fulfilling his calling.