Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Time Stops




In the midst of cleaning and organizing, but really making a bigger mess, I decided to stop and blog. While the mess sits. It has been a little while since I've updated. Though, there really aren't too many updates these days! We're just your run of the mill working family!

Anyway, I found these three things while going through stuff today. Every time I run across them, I kind of stop in my tracks and it all just flashes back to that moment. The moment my husband got blown up to be exact. Not the moment I learned about it, but the actual physical explosion. Because these items just make me wonder what it looked like exactly. I have played the actual event over and over in my head, but I will never really know what it looked like. He has told me multiple times, and in detail, but you know how peoples perceptions are. What I see when he tells the story is completely different than what actually happened, I'm sure!

So these three things, plus his bloodied wedding ring sat in that ziplock baggie on a shelf in our hospital room for the longest time. And now I find them in a box under our bed. He can't use the rank or nametape anymore because they're in multi cam and that's only for deployments. I'm not sure why the watch has sat in that box for two years though. What really made me stop today was the fact that this watch still works. The date is correct, and even the time is correct. How weird is that. A deployment to Afghanistan, a land mine explosion, two years later, and it's still going!

The baggie still has Afghanistan dirt and dust in it, and I will probably never get rid of it. For some reason, this tiny bag that contained all of his personal effects that day, is very special to me. It's so small. But the things inside of it say so much!

He wears his wedding right on his right hand now because he can't get it over his broken left ring finger. But I remember giving that to mom to have her clean it. I should have taken a picture of its condition first. One day I could look at it and think nothing of it, but other days it just says so much about all the events of that day - the blood, sweat, and tears our marriage would endure.

I could get really metaphorical here, but I think you'd rather me not.

I just cannot get over this watch. It's still going. And so are we. Strong.

Love him.


Warrior Open

September 26-28, 2013


We were so blessed to be invited back to this years Warrior Open! Again, they outdid themselves, and the experience was amazing. My parents drove to Texas to be with us this year, and Jason's dad came to stay with Cooper so we could truly enjoy ourselves. That was a lifesaver for sure. I'm pretty sure Cooper didn't even know we were gone.

There were quite a few returning guys, and Jason has quickly made friends over these past two years. It's exciting to go back now and see people you recognize. Since the George W. Bush Presidential Center opened, we ate dinner there the first night, and got to tour the museum. It was incredible and the food was delicious as usual!

We got to go back to President Bush's house for a chuck wagon supper again, which Jason was the most excited about because of the catfish.

He didn't play his best, but still played about the same, maybe 2 strokes better than last year. The competition got better this year though, so he placed further back. He's determined to practice more this year, and apply again for another chance to improve his game!



He had a course pro caddy this year; and he was a big help! He did a great job even though Jason felt like he let him down after bad shots. 






There is a Warrior Open display in the George W. Bush Presidential Center! 

We'll apply again for next year, and cross our fingers! 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

2nd Alive Day

I can't believe it's been two years! It's flown by, for sure.

Two years ago, I was running around the house still in my scrubs from working the night before, and scribbling notes on different scraps of paper. I called CPT  Freeborg about 15 times that day, as it seemed like every hour I thought of new questions. I remember running last minute errands and it seemed like I was moving in slow motion and the world was spinning around me because no one had any idea what had just happened to our family. And I wanted them to know. I wanted everyone to know. And I wanted them to stop what they were doing and feel bad for me. But that's just not how the world works, now is it?!

During those nine months of continuous medical care at Walter Reed, we couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. We wondered what life would be like if we ever came back to Colorado. We thought we'd never get back here. We thought life as we knew it was over. And in a way, it was.

We had a new baby, which is life changing enough! He's now a toddler, and that's just a whole other blog.

But we made it. I don't know if there will ever be a time when we say "This is it. We're back to where we were before this all happened." Because there are so many new challenges that will never go away, but there are also so many new blessings that we never would have been able to experience had we not been given this fate.

There are still days where we are having a leg conversation - discussing the logistics of which leg to bring or wear, how many extra spectra socks, liners, gray socks, crutches, shower chairs, and how much alcohol in a spray bottle we should bring to wherever we may be traveling to - when I stop and look in on us having that conversation and think "wow, I can't even believe we're talking about this right now. I really miss your leg." He usually says "Yeah, I think that every single day." And then other days it's perfectly normal to us even though it's totally abnormal in our society.

I miss not having to worry about it. Looking back on what I worried about before seems so trivial now. Most recently, our first family summer trip to the beach. We did it, and we survived it with a toddler, but the added hassle of the leg was really irritating sometimes. He told me multiple times "Every time I see someone run straight in to the ocean, I get pissed." He only actually got in the ocean twice. But we figured out a great system. He just hates being a burden on everyone, and relying on others to help him.

When bipods go to the beach, they just walk in to the ocean.

(excuse my "mom ass")
When unipods go to the beach this is what happens:

  -take crutches down to water side
  -sit in a chair to take the leg & liner off.
  -carefully wrap liner in dry and sand free towel and keep in safe place
  -crutch (in sand) to water's edge
  -try not to fall while hopping on one leg and dodging waves
  -swim/hop/paddleboard in water
  -hop out and try not to fall while waves crash on you
  -crutch back up to chair (in sand)
  -rinse leg with fresh water and dry without touching sand
  -put leg back on

And then, at the end of the day, he had to take his leg completely apart and hose it all down and get all the sand out of the foot shell so the salt water wouldn't ruin it. This took at least 30 minutes every night because the foot shell is so hard to get off every time.



Pity me?
No.
Just don't take your two legs for granted while you're enjoying your summer vacation.
Did we enjoy ours?
Hell yes.


In two years, Jason has enrolled in college and is pursuing a degree in Physics. We have gone back and forth on whether or not to move back to the East coast soon or after he's done with his bachelors degree. The jury is still out on that one. He has gone from wanting to stay in the Army, to wanting to get out and go to school full time. A decision I was not okay with at first, but now we are all extremely excited for that day. Currently, he is still in the WTU at Fort Carson playing the game until they decide what disability ratings he deserves for his sacrifices. But we won't go there either.

Two years ago today, our world changed forever. Some things will always suck, and some things have been amazing. The opportunities we have been given are unbelievable, but at the end of the day it's still just us and our sweet boy at home. We still love each other the same or more than the day we got married, and I still go to bed with (most of) my husband every night. For that, I am forever grateful.

We know now that we can get through really hard situations together. We know it with only 3 years of marriage under our belt, because we've already done it once. And I know life will continue to throw us hardships and curveballs, but I only hope we can persevere and come out on the other side looking back with smiles on our faces and love in our hearts for one another just as we've done thus far.


Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, to those of you who continue to support us in this journey. Your kindness and generosity does not go unnoticed. We love you all! 








Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cooper Months 13-18


Month 13


Dear sweet boy,

You are so smart! You are officially a walker now, and it's quickly becoming your preferred mode of transportation. Daddy thinks you look like a drunken sailor when you walk, because you are certainly still toddling, but I think it's cute. You love to climb on top of things, and fall off of them (on purpose!). Boxes are your favorite. You have a tunnel that you love crawling through and playing peek-a-boo in.

You are getting the hang of using your spoon and fork, but also enjoy feeding Sadie your meals. Every time you eat something you like, you say "mmmmMMMM!" I won't call that a word yet, but it's very clear when you like something.

You continue to amaze me with your independence, and how you love to entertain yourself. We've been going to a music class every Friday, and you are very musically inclined. The teachers have even said so. You're the youngest in your class, but still are able to clap or play an instrument along with the beat. Your favorite are the shaker eggs because they fit so perfectly in your little hands.

Diaper changes are still pretty miserable since you're getting so big and strong and love to twist away, poopy butt or not! Bath time is still a guaranteed way to put you in a better mood, and they're becoming more frequent now that you're an independent eater. You love smashing your food in your hair!

You are turning in to a little boy, and mommy's heart is so full of joy watching you grow, but I wish you could stay this little forever and ever!

xoxo


Month 14


I can't believe you're 14 months old! Your official first word was 'Uh-oh!' It started as the "ooo-ooo" sound, and it still sometimes is. It's my favorite when you say it like that, although you do know how to say it the 'proper' way now too. You love to drop (and by drop I mean purposely throw) things on the floor just to put that word in to use. It's SO HARD not to laugh, so most of the time, I do.

You are making lots of other sounds too, it seems like there's a new one each day. You're putting different sounds together and your Daddy always likes to pretend you're saying big words like "bobcat"and "chef boyardee". He's pretty sure you say "this", but I'm not convinced yet, although you do say it often.

You are starting to put things together - when I say "Let's go night night!" You wave bye bye and blow kisses to mom mom on Skype and then walk to the stairs and whine until I come. It's like you're excited to go to bed! You love to pretend to talk on the phone. You'll use our phones or the TV remote and say your version of hello, and laugh, and then hang up. When I say "Good Job, Cooper!" You immediately smile and clap your hands.

You point to the numbers on your placemat and love to count with Mommy. You are thriving in your music class, and know what to do with almost all of the instruments. Of course you don't sing the songs, or sit still and do the hand motions; you prefer to run in circles around the group. Occasionally you'll come give me a hug and then go back to finding trouble.

Your favorite foods these days are macaroni and cheese, any and every fruit, string and shredded cheese, yogurt, applesauce, chicken nuggets, spaghetti, quesadillas, goldfish (your dad things we should buy stock in goldfish), scrambled eggs, pancakes, and milk. I try and try and try to get you to eat any vegetables, but I haven't been very successful yet.

Your little personality is starting to shine through, and with all the character you have, the tantrums are showing up more and more. Mommy is going to have to invest in some parenting books because we want you to grow up to be kind and respectful instead of doing the wet noodle and screaming anytime we try to hold your hand as you walk.

Every day, I smile when I see how much you've grown and learned just over night. You make us so proud sweet boy!

mommy loves you
xoxo



Month 15


Cooper! You are a little boy! I'm not sure where my baby has gone!

You say HI!! and Uh Oh! and wave bye bye and MAA! and DAAA! and you speak a special, secret language to your pop pop.You love to give hugs, and you love to get kisses on your forehead. 

You love Patty Cake and the book Hands Hands Fingers Thumb and It's Time for Bed. Mommy knows both those books by heart.

You love to dance and sing and run around in circles! We still go to music class on Fridays, and you thrive there. Your teacher always says that you've found the microbeat when we're playing instruments.

You get compliments almost every single day. "He's the most animated baby I've ever seen!" "He's SO cute!" "Is he always this happy?"

You are a flirt, too. If there is a girl around, you're smiling and laughing and running around in circles. That's right, running. You run everywhere now. It's getting harder and harder to keep up!

You are very big in to mimicking now. It's probably one of my most favorite stages you've gone through. It's so fun to watch you process what we're doing, and then try it for yourself.

You still only have six teeth. We've been waiting for all the rest to join us for quite some time.

The other night you dove head first in to your bath with all your clothes on. The tub wasn't filling yet, and the water was still freezing. You just baptized yourself and started drinking it and playing in it like there was no problem.

You are constantly on the go. And I mean constantly. There are rare occasions where you will find a book and sit and look at it for a few minutes, but then you're quickly back up and running. You've learned how to drink your milk and then blow raspberries and drool it all down your face and shirt. It's not one of my most favorite things. You've also learned that you prefer to be independent. When it's time to hold mommy's hand, you do the limp noodle or just sit down right where we are and cry. And people stare. It's really quite entertaining.

Though you will definitely be a strong willed child, I am so proud of who you are when I see how much joy you bring to complete strangers lives. I hope you can continue to touch others lives because you were given a very special gift my sweet Cooper.

Mommy loves you!
xoxo

Month 16

As I type this, you're talking in your own language, and trying so hard to help me type! You love the computer, because we Skype so often with your grandparents. You're probably going to be some sort of computer genius :) Your favorite words are still "uh-oh" and "Hiiiii" We're still working on "mama" and "dada" - It seems like every day you make a new syllable but are still having a hard time forming those words! I can't decide if when you say mama you're directing it towards me, or if you just like that sound.
You are becoming quite the challenging toddler. We have introduced time-out, and you're not a fan. With it though, we've taught you to stay off Sadie's bed, and not to climb on coffee tables. The next challenge to overcome is the slapping you find entertaining, and also the throwing of the food on the floor. Both of those things creep right under mommy's skin, and my patience is wearing thin for that behavior!

You are Mr. Independent these days, and want no help with anything. But, if you're stuck, you demand help right away, and make sure everyone in the house can hear you. We've been told you're the most animated baby they've ever seen, and also the loudest. Mommy still thinks you're the sweetest.


You finally have a seventh tooth - a top molar. Currently, the other two front bottom teeth are making their way through which has left you in quite the mood lately. You love milk and water, and mommy even lets you have chocolate milk every now and then. Your eating habits aren't the greatest, and we're really struggling to get you to eat better. You love lunch meat and chicken nuggets, but still refuse most vegetables. Since you've been cutting these teeth though, you really haven't been eating much of anything.

You have gone from walking to running everywhere, and still aren't a morning person just like your parents. I struggle with getting you on more of a schedule since you're such a good sleeper, I hate waking you up. Your daddy insists I need to let you have a more set nap time and it needs to be earlier so that you're not a grump when I have to wake you up at 530 on my work days.

You continue to blow me away with your knowledge. It's amazing how much you're absorbing every day. I can't wait to hear you find your voice, and tell me all the great and wonderful things I know you're already imagining. I love you sweet boy, even when you challenge me, I love you oh so much!
xoxo


Month 17

Cooper!

You are growing up so fast!

This month you have started pointing and saying "ooooooo what's that? what's this?" over and over. You say "Uh-oh!" and hi. You can still sign milk, and we're working on please. You nod your head yes and shake it no, although I haven't heard you say those words yet. You understand direction very well, but sometimes you choose not to follow directions. We've introduced time outs, and while you hate more that we won't let you suck your thumb, you respond very well to them.

You're displaying a lot of emotion these days, and are becoming extremely strong willed! Temper tantrums happen often, but are very quick. You also love giving hugs and kisses, and I could get those from you all day every day.

You LOVE the water. Bath time and swim time. Any time. You love blowing bubbles, but it usually ends with water in your nose and a little aspiration probably, which freaks mommy out to no end. I'm so grateful you're not afraid of the water, but that also makes me very nervous. You have no reservations when it comes to running and jumping in to a pool. We'll need to get you in to swimming lessons SOON to ease my mind. Luckily, our community pool has a splash pad that you love. We love that we don't have to constantly hold you for fear of drowning. You can run around as much as you like, and we all love that it tires you out!

Boxes continue to be new and fun toys for you. Currently, we have a large one in the living room with a blanket over it that your daddy has labeled your 'fort'. You love it. You crawl in there, sit and read your books, and play so quietly. You still love night time, and nap time, and welcome sleep in your bed with open arms.

We've taken down the baby gate that went to the kitchen, so you've been exploring a new room, and love having more space to run. With that, came many many more time outs when we taught you to stay away from Sadie's crate and bowls. You still test those limits by looking right at us while putting one finger on her crate. If you're caught, it's always a time out.

Almost every day we say we can't believe how much you've grown. Your friend Drew was born in your 17th month of life, and I can't even remember you that tiny. It's so hard to explain to new mommies that in no time at all, you grew up and became this sweet handsome boy!

We can't wait for you to start talking more, I'm so anxious to hear and understand what you have to say! I hope we can help you learn to be a patient, caring boy. So far, I think you're doing fantastic!
I love you sweet boy!
mommy



Month 18 

Holy Cow! You've grown up! You're now officially a year and a half old. What happened? Just yesterday we were still swaddling you and patting your bottom to fall asleep. I swear.

Now, you're in to everything. And I mean everything. The trash can, the toilets, the drawers, the dog crate, the cabinets, and the dirt. You are a climber. You have gotten yourself on top of the kitchen table multiple times, and love to climb up on to the couch and chairs with us now, and then roll off on purpose. You said no to the high chair, and wanted to sit at the big table with us, so we got you a booster seat, which makes you look like an even bigger boy!

You can sign "more", "please", "all done", and "milk". You wave bye bye, and I think you say "bye bye guys!" every time. At least you say the same set of syllables every time, so I know you're saying something in your own language. You wave hi, also. "Uh oh" is still a big hit, and you do try to say "all done" or "all gone" also. A crowd pleaser is "Ohhh wow! What's that!?" And you say it at the top of your lungs. When everyone laughs, you put your hand over your mouth, crouch down, and laugh along with them. Along with the increased communication, the whining has also increased. I'd be lying if I said I couldn't live without that. Once you start learning more words, I anticipate that will subside. At least I hope so.

You are smarter than ever. You follow directions very well...when you choose to! I've lost count of the amount of time outs you've had, though. But you're learning every day. Learning what not to do and what is ok and allowed to do. For example, throwing toys in the trash can is not allowed. But throwing trash in the trash can is allowed. I know it's hard for you to know the difference right now, but we're getting there.

You are a little fish. You LOVE the water. You have no fear. You will put your face all the way in all by yourself, as well as each side of your face so your ears go under which is quite impressive for a child of your age. My guess is you like the sound or feeling of the water going in your ears. So far, no ear infections...Your newest love for the bath is bubbles! You eat them, and hide toys in them, and whine when they're all gone. You also always throw a fit when we take you out of the tub, which sometimes takes the joy out of giving you a bath.

You also almost always throw a fit when we put you in the car seat. A stand up, lock your legs, twist your body around, and hold on to the front of the car seat for dear life kind of fit. It's awful. It is miserable trying to get you in there sometimes! And you're not so gentle about getting your diaper changed either. Again, you love to twist your body around, and go up on to your hands while I still have your legs in one hand, if I've even been able to hold them that long.

If you fall asleep in the car near nap time, your naps are usually done for. Even if it's only for 15 minutes, you think you've slept for 3 hours, and it's all downhill from there. That makes it awfully hard for your mommy to leisurely shop these days. But that's ok, since we need to be saving for your college anyway!

The challenges aside, you're still a very sweet, and extremely handsome little boy. You still love to share hugs and kisses, and I'll never tire of those. Watching you grow and learn is the highlight of my every day. I can't wait to see how much you learn in the next 6 months!

I love you, sweet Cooper!
xoxo
Mommy









Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Recovery

Whoops...sorry about the delay in updates! Something about having a toddler makes me not able to sit and write like I used to!

Jason was discharged on Thursday! We totally weren't even expecting to leave until Friday, and I even accounted for maybe staying until Saturday just in case. So Wednesday evening when Jason said "What are they going to do tomorrow? Why do I still need to be here?" And I didn't really have a good answer, we wondered exactly what we would do for the next couple of days. He was already getting stir crazy.

Cooper was safe and sound at our friends house for the night, and if I had known, I would have packed up the car before I left the Fisher House Thursday morning. I got there and waiting for the Dr to round, except it was his resident rounding which was fine. She was super nice, and is probably younger than me. What's that they say about they keep getting younger? I'm starting to feel that way and I can't say I enjoy it much. Anyway, she was very patient with all our questions even when I wanted her to go in to extreme detail about what it looks like in there. I wanted to watch that surgery so bad. He said no. The surgeon, not Jason. Although Jason probably would have objected if he agreed.

We said "So what's the plan now?" She said "Well, do you want to go home today?" We were kind of like deer in headlights like uhhhh I guess? Ever since this has happened, Jason has become very anal about infections and germs, etc. He thinks he pushed himself to hard too fast last time (I tend to disagree, but maybe that makes me callous) and is afraid of doing that again. So I was shocked when he said he wanted to go home that day. She went and got things in order, and started the ball rolling for the day.

Zach, a prosthetist that just moved out here and happens to be working alongside Jason's surgeon, came from Walter Reed. Small world, right? Jason saw him a couple times for adjustments while we were at Walter Reed and his normal prosthetist wasn't available. They kept telling us they'd send Chris over until we realized Chris was the prosthetist and then we requested Zach just because we knew him. Any form of familiarity at this point is very welcome. So, he came in and cut Jason's hard cast off and he was Jason's new best friend after that. He gave us a donner, shrinkers, socks, and a pretty cool clamshell cast that can come off and on as Jason pleases. The nurse put on a really crappy dressing that we knew would not last a week. Good thing we still have a box full of wound care supplies at home. That would be on the to do list when we got home.

The surgeon also came in and removed the drain which Jason was not thrilled about, and gave him prescriptions, and sent him on his way! We ordered lunch and waited quite a while for it since the meds were still kind of making him nauseous. By the time we left the hospital, it was 3pm, and I still had to go to the Fisher House and pack everything up. After we finagled everything in the back so that Jason could stretch out in the back seat, we headed down to pick up Cooper. Except that it was rush hour. Not that this is DC rush hour or anything, but it still took us about an hour vs the 20 minutes it should have. We stopped at Target to fill the prescriptions, and picked up dinner for our friends, and finally made it around dinner time.

By that point, Jason was done sitting in the car. He was still feeling nauseous off and on because of the meds, and sitting in the back seat didn't help him much. As if those friends who watched Cooper pretty much the whole time we were in the hospital hadn't helped enough, they let us stay with them that night because Jason really didn't want to get back in the car. We were still about 50 minutes from home. Jason was hit hard by the narcotics, and was running a low grade fever; every time he took the meds, he broke out in sweats. He still does, so I guess that's his bodies reaction to those drugs.

We left the next morning, had breakfast at Chick-fil-a, and both boys slept the whole drive home. Ever since, Jason has been his old self! He's already going stir crazy not being able to move around as fast or as much, and when we go out, he grumbles every time we have to get the wheelchair out. He says he's having horrible dreams, and the only reason we can think, is because of the narcotics. But, no nerve pains, no phantom pains, and the swelling is very minimal. We've done a couple sponge baths, because with all that sweating, there's no way he'd make it a week with no bath at all!

Next follow up is Thursday, he'll take another x-ray, and hopefully tell Jason he doesn't have to wear the clamshell anymore! Stitches won't come out for another two weeks probably, and he's already not looking forward to that.

Hopefully we can find something to keep him occupied until he's up and walking again, or it's going to be a long 6 weeks!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Post Op day 2

I told Jason this evening, as we were reflecting on the day, "You know, I'm starting to believe in this God thing a little more - even though it sucks that your leg is gone, when it happened was probably perfect timing..."

I mean, can you imagine having a 16 month old and going through what we went through at the same time?! People did it all.the.time. And I don't know how. I spent my days at the hospital, from morning to night, and sometimes over night. I absolutely would not have been able to do that if Cooper had already been born. Yes, we were on the East coast, and we would have had plenty of family help, and would have needed it that much more, but I still cannot imagine. 

Because today, Cooper and I arrived at the hospital a little after 7, and waited for the surgeon to make his rounds. By that time, he was so done, we had to go. There was no stalling, no 'one more kiss', no nothing. It was "Ok, gotta go get him outta here! Love you, see you later!" Oh, and "Happy Anniversary!" So this is what true married with kids life is like, huh? Don't get me wrong, I felt horrible. I hate leaving him here. But I knew I wouldn't really be of any use, and I needed to spend time with my sweet boy. The previous night was horrible for us both - we got back to the Fisher House around 9:15pm, and he had fallen asleep in the car which is horrible for us. Anytime he does that, it's like a power nap for him, and he won't nap afterwards, or go to sleep at night apparently. I nursed him in the room, and put him down in the crib right next to my bed thinking that if he could see me, he'd just lay down and go to sleep. Ha. He stood up and peered over the edge of the crib, reached for my hand and put it to his cheek while sucking his thumb. If the bed was big enough, I would have let him sleep with me but they only had a room with two twins so that wasn't gonna happen. He started babbling, really loud, screaming, laughing, giggling, etc. Mind you, it's now pushing 11pm. There are other people in this house, and I did not want someone knocking on the door because that would have just pushed me over the edge in my overtired state. There was a lot of "please God let him go to sleep. please God give me patience. please God give me patience." I laid him down about 15 separate times like they do on the Supernanny and said "Good night, I love you!" holy cow. I think it was 11:30 before we both finally fell asleep. But it was a night of 'oh please don't let this wake him up' as I tried to readjust as quietly as possible. Then they emptied the dumpster and that was that. 0530, and we were up for the day. For a kid that usually sleeps for 12 hours, I knew he wasn't gonna last long this morning. 

Sure enough, as soon as we got in the car to drive down to our friends house, he was asleep. And that didn't bode well for the afternoon nap, but I went with it. I caught a quick cat nap in the target parking lot until he woke up, too. We spent the afternoon with our very generous friend, and I put him down for a nap around 2. I pried myself out of her house after he was asleep but I really didn't want to leave him again. (TMI alert) Tonight was my first night not nursing him before bed since he's been born. Like, for his entire life, he's always had a night time routine of reading, rocking, nursing, and bed. And tonight he didn't have that, and I wasn't the one putting him to bed. And guess what? He didn't even know the difference. That made my heart hurt a little bit, because he no longer really truly needs me. Someone else could take my place if it came to that. That's a sucky feeling. But, in the grand scheme of things, I am SO grateful to have such a go with the flow baby. He went to sleep with no problems tonight she said, and I only hope he'll sleep in tomorrow morning too for her. Clearly, I'm hanging on! I'm going to have to learn to embrace my growing boy or I'm going to miss out on him! 

So, I left, and went to about five different places to get Jason an anniversary dinner of California Pizza Kitchen and Cheesecake Factory cheesecake. Of course then I hit the afternoon traffic and that was annoying, but here we are. Spending our anniversary in a hospital room watching Friends, eating starbursts and skittles and drinking pepsi like the good ol days. If it weren't for our friends, we wouldn't be able to enjoy this time together, even though it's a sucky time, I at least feel better knowing I'm here with him, supporting him any way I can. We are so grateful for their help...I almost can't even put it in to words. 

As far as his pain goes, he's off all IV pain meds, and it's well controlled with oral meds. We're not sure when they'll take the hard cast off, but we're kind of hoping for tomorrow. He crutched around the halls today (I missed that) and said he felt much better getting up and moving around. He ate a real lunch, and obviously a real dinner which is a huge improvement from yesterday when I could only get him to eat two chicken noodle soup noodles. He's been sitting up in the chair for most of the day too. 

Seriously though, I keep getting deja vu or flashbacks or whatever you want to call them. I just had the thought "Ugh, I'm exhausted...I don't feel like walking back to the room..." Except that there's no walking, it's driving ~8 miles back to the Fisher House and we're in Colorado this time, not Maryland, so I can't go home this weekend, or to the beach either. Bummer. It just feels all too familiar, and almost comfortable...and weird that it feels comfortable. 

I think tomorrow will be another day of pain control, maybe a few more laps in the hallway, and a poop or two since he has nothing else planned. We're hoping to be discharged by Friday, and we're also hoping to get the cast taken off tomorrow or Friday too. 

Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers, things seem to be improving a lot faster this go round! 

Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

ERTL

Here we go again...under very different circumstances this time though. Leading up to the surgery, the most common comments from him were "This is just so weird; walking in to surgery perfectly healthy and then I won't be able to walk for 2 months again. I'm so not looking forward to getting put under again either. Ugh."

Once he was admitted, and in bed, he started to calm down a bit. "It's all coming back now. This is all so familiar." The doctors in and out, nurses in and out, anesthesia, plastic surgeon, etc. Except it was kind of new for me since I always missed out on that routine. They used to take him down at 4 and 5 in the morning, looooong before I got there. Most of the time he was already done with surgery by the time I got to his room.

Today, I wasn't allowed in the recovery room (as I type this, he's probably in recovery) so I hope he does ok waking up. We emphasized absolutely no ketamine! Anesthesia offered him a spinal, but he refused. Interestingly, they were going to use the same anesthetic that we use on our c-sections, so I'm very familiar with it and know that it's not as debilitating as I think he thought it would be. He said he just didn't like the feeling of pressure on his spine when they inject stuff. I tried to explain that he wouldn't be numb constantly like he was with the epidural, but that it would offer more pain control. I didn't want to be too pushy though, and he said no multiple times, that he'd rather just wait and see how he feels. As a nurse, I'm always telling patients not to be a hero, to try the pain medication before it gets out of control and you're miserable. There's a very delicate balance between being a nurse and a wife, and I'm still teetering on the edge I think. He used to get so mad at me for interrupting doctors and grilling them with questions. I think now he's gotten used to it, and he's also realized that we are his only advocate. Doctors always say they care, and they do, but in reality, this is just another day at work for them. It's so easy to forget that you're dealing with someones husband, father, son, loved one when you're doing another routine procedure that may not be routine to them. I'm guilty, so I know they are too.

When they (finally) brought him up to the room, it was kind of like deja vu and kind of nostalgic and very surreal. Here we are again I thought. At first glance, he looked exactly the same as when I saw him for the first time at Walter Reed. His leg was big and wrapped, and propped up on pillows. He had that look on his face like "I'm so happy to see you, but they won't believe that I'm in a lot of pain and if you talk to me I'm going to start crying..." Yes, I got all that from a facial expression. So they get him all settled in the room and I ask the PACU nurse how he handled coming out of the anesthesia. She said he had a hard time and was alternating between crying and not breathing enough. This happened before when he came out of surgery and had hallucinations and then they snowed him because he told the nurse his pain was "a hundred and f*cking sixty, what do you think it is?!"

Later he told me they weren't very nice to him down there which broke my heart that I couldn't be down there fighting for him. He said he tried to scratch his eye and they said "What are you doing?! Stop! You need to breathe!" Ok, yes, breathing is important, but you don't have to yell. I assume they were yelling, maybe they were just being loud and stern, but for a guy coming out of anesthesia almost in tears, my guess is yelling won't help your cause. And then he said she told him "Why are you crying?! That will only make it worse!" Oh man if I could have heard her say that. I wish he would have just told her to you-know-what and blame it on the anesthesia.

We're still struggling with the pain issue a little; I know he's in pain, but he'll wake up for about 5 minutes and have a normal conversation with me, and say he's in so much pain and that he's nauseous, but then he goes right back to sleep mid sentence. I just hope it stays controlled overnight because he'll be by himself. I hate having to leave him, but I'm missing my little boy!

We have been absolutely beyond blessed with friends who are so willing to help. Cooper has been with a friend of mine from work since last night and I can't tell you how much of a blessing that has been. Initially, I was planning on just bringing him with me and sucking it up, but after my long ass morning I realized there's no way that's going to work. He'll be with me tonight and a good portion of tomorrow morning and then I think he'll go back to her house for the afternoon.

But to be able to sit here and write this and enjoy the quiet, and not worry about chasing around my never still 16 month old, is such a blessing.

Before I leave him for the night, I hope to get him awake enough to eat something. Room service closes at seven and I don't want him waking up after it's too late and be hungry and not able to get anything. They won't let him order anything until he's able to tolerate crackers and such, but he won't even eat that for me right now. He says he just doesn't feel like eating at all..and goes back to sleep. Ha.

It's just so weird being back in this chair next to his hospital bed. I keep waiting for my mom to come through the door thinking we're back on the east coast or something. I keep forgetting we're really only 45 minutes from home home this time, and that we won't be here for 6 weeks so we better not move in. At this point, it's hard to visualize discharge time though since he's in so much pain and so out of it.

I know it will come. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

on mother's day

Officially, I've had three mother's days...only I didn't know I was a mother yet for the first one. It's just an odd feeling that I still find myself in awe of. The fact that I even get to call myself a mother is amazing. 

I see it every single day I work - women becoming brand new moms at a very young age, or starting over after not having a baby for 5 or 10 years, or becoming a mother for a 4th, 5th, or 6th time. It doesn't usually spark anything awe inspiring in me, but since it's mother's day, I gave it a little more thought. To be given this gift is out of this world amazing. It's so cliche to say that you can't truly understand until you become a mother yourself, but it's the only way I can seem to put it in words. 

Now, I look back to when I was a teenager and horrible. I can't imagine what kind of stress I was putting my poor mother through. Even still, I know I stress her out, and she's always worrying about me. Almost every day, I think about the day that Cooper decides he doesn't need me anymore, or when I'm not the first person he runs to for help or comfort. When he meets someone to marry and brings them home to meet us, and I have to smile and hug him and say "I'm so happy for you!" But I know I'll be thinking about the days I'm living right now. I'll remember living in this house, chasing him around, counting, singing, dancing, and tickling. 

So many people come up to us and ask how old he is. "16 months", I'll say, and they almost always come back with "Ah, I remember that age..." and they look so nostalgic. And right now while I'm living the tantrums and stubbornness and while I'm shaping who he will become, I have such a hard time believing that I will ever miss this stage. 

And then I know there will be a day that he won't stand at the front door and cry when he sees me leave, or when I won't be the only one that can comfort him. 

Shortly after he was born a friend asked "Doesn't it just break your heart to hear him cry like that?" He was 2ish months old at the time, I think. I said "No." Because I will be the first one to tell you it took me a few months to bond with him. Looking back now, I wonder if it was a little bit of post partum depression, or it could have just been our stressful situation, but I know I sound so callus when I say that. Feeding him was painful and not the beautiful picture they make it out to be, and since I had to do it every 2 hours, I was so down on myself for feeling so negative towards him because he didn't do anything wrong. All I had to do was feed my baby and it was miserable to get through every.single.time. 

But now, now when I see him standing at the front door crying out for me as I leave, I can literally feel my heart breaking off in to little tiny pieces. I want to run to him and scoop him up and hug him so tight. I can see the pain and confusion on his face, and I just want to explain that I'll never ever leave him. I can't help but want to fight all his fights for him, and be his ultimate protector, forever. I don't know how I will ever let him go. How will I ever let him make his own mistakes and learn from them. How will I ever not worry about him. 

Sometimes I wonder why people go through this parenting thing at all - it can be so miserable! I have to raise this beautiful boy in to a productive member of society,  pour my heart and soul in to him, and then let him go do everything on his own. Then what?! Holy unnecessary anxiety, Batman. This is still at least 17 years away! Maybe in these next seventeen years I'll figure out the trick to this crazy mess. 

For now, I'll continue to look at him and think "Holy crap, we made him. He is absolutely perfect. I can't believe I grew him!" I absolutely cannot imagine life without him. I have been so blessed. Thank you for making me a mommy, Cooper, you are my pride and joy every single day. 
I love you, I love you, I love you! 


"It's a big world, baby, and you're little for a little while..."

Jason - Month 21

The only new, exciting, scary things happening this past month were surgery preparations. Follow ups, consultations, second opinions, army red tape, etc. Tricare is now managed by United Healthcare and of course, his surgery is falling right in the window of a big grey area where we don't really get an authorization number for the surgery because apparently United is having a hard time issuing anyone authorization numbers for any requests. So we were given a blanket waiver letter and assured his surgery will be covered by insurance. If I've learned one thing from being an army wife, it's trust no one.

We've been on the phone every single day with the surgeons office people who are supposedly in charge of the insurance portion of everything, and they've been awful. They never return my phone calls, and she's never available when we call. I keep telling Jason this is the civilian world, and things are a little different. But, I still have a hard time with the concept of it all. It shouldn't matter if we're military or civilian, if you're in the business of patient satisfaction you should do everything in your power to make sure your patients/customers are happy. These people certainly are not. That feeling makes Jason really uncomfortable about the surgery, which is understandable, but at this point, what are we to do? They didn't get us the pre-op paperwork until two weeks before the surgery, which leaves us scrambling to make last minute appointments for a pre-op history and physical and lab work, and we have to drive back up to Denver for his pre admissions stuff at the hospital. Frustrating. I always try to cluster care when I'm at work. These people certainly don't have that as a priority, and when your patient is active duty and has a 16 month old, sometimes it's hard to just drop everything and drive an hour and a half for stuff we could've had done a while ago. 

I'm hoping I'll be able to stay at the Fisher House in Denver while Jason is inpatient. According to the map, it's about 8 miles from the hospital. And I'm hoping Cooper will adjust ok, and sleep well at night because we're going to be exhausted! He keeps saying "I'm so not excited about this surgery. I just don't want to deal with this again!" But we did get a second opinion (where we also waited an hour and a half to be seen...) and even though we were pissed for having to wait that long, the doctor was really nice, and said he studied under the surgeon doing Jason's surgery. He had nothing but great things to say about him, and said he would definitely do the surgery, that it was a great idea, and Jason was a perfect candidate. So that was encouraging, and makes us feel a lot better about the whole thing. 

Now it's just a matter of preparing everything so that we're (I'm) not running around like crazy people afterwards. Having Cooper will be challenging, and I won't be able to sit at the hospital all day long with him like I used to. I'll feel terrible about that, but I know he used to get annoyed with how late I'd stay there with him because he was so tired. So Cooper and I will take advantage of the staycation and go to the Zoo which is pretty close to the hospital. Hopefully he'll have a play date or two with a friend who lives up there too! I'm just trying to figure out how I'll get over to the hospital early enough in the morning to see the doctor when he rounds. I missed the doctors almost every day when we were at Walter Reed and I can't believe I did that. But then, I was just in "get me through today" mode, and wasn't thinking big picture like I should have been. If it's anything like last time, he'll be doped up on pain meds and won't remember anyone coming in at all. 

Sadie will be boarded for about a week while we get settled back in at home, and then Jason's Dad and his wife will come for a week to help. I'll try to squeeze three shifts in while they're here to help, and hopefully we can schedule his follow up appointments around my working. Same for the rest of his recovery. My parents will be here for about three weeks, and then his mom will come in from England for a week. That should put us at about 5-6 weeks after surgery, and I doubt he'll have his leg that soon, so I'll probably have to work 8 hour shifts until he's back up and walking which is a huge bummer for me because that just means it's that much more often I'll have to get up at the crack ass of dawn for work, but it's certainly not permanent. We'll do it. We've done it before, just in different circumstances. At least we're at home this time, and he can be a little more comfortable. It's less convenient here, he won't be able to use his wheelchair anywhere because they don't make handicapped accessible baby gates, so he'll get really good at using crutches - my only rule is that he doesn't go up or down the stairs on them. 

I think it will be good. He'll be able to be more active, and he'll start to feel better about himself. 

I will try to go back to my one a day updates while he's going through his surgery and recovery. We're not a very religious family, but I never turn down prayers. 

Next time you hear from me, Jason will have a spiffy newly shaped stump and hopefully no infections! 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Jason - Month 20

You know, I am always reading about other wounded warrior wives, and how involved they are, and I often wonder if I should be like that too. It's not really my personality, but then, who really wants to be their spouses mother? And what spouse wants them to be?

But I'm starting to wonder if I need to throw myself in to it. I wanted so badly to go back to normal, and we really have almost gotten back there. I must be fooling myself. We'll never be normal again. But, I work 60 hours a pay period, and he goes to school part time. It really is quite perfect. We have a routine. Except that he needs that surgery. And now with all the Tricare switching to United Health Care or whatever it is, it's a big mess. Am I supposed to be calling them and making sure they're covering this stuff? At Walter Reed we didn't have to worry about anything. Oh, how I miss that! I don't know the first thing about dealing with insurance companies, except that I refuse to call them if at all possible. Obviously we're going out of network for this surgery and as Jason is quickly learning, dealing with civilian providers is not all it's cracked up to be. I guess since he's only known the military health system his whole life, he doesn't have a good appreciation for it. I do. I know that waiting 30-45 minutes in the doctors office waiting room is pretty normal. I know that once you get in to a room, it still means you will have to wait another 30 minutes. I also know that civilian doctors are horrible about communicating with one another. And that we will likely have to follow up over and over and over again until we get what we need. Jason doesn't quite understand all this.

(side note)
When we went to Denver to see this specialist again, we get there 45 minutes early (which was a compromise since he wanted to get there 2 HOURS ahead of time...) and the receptionist tells us "We're running about an hour behind because we had a fire drill..." great. How do we entertain a toddler for that much longer in this cramped space where everyone has a broken leg and we need to keep him from touching them all?! It was hot, and miserable, and Cooper was so done by the time the PA came in to answer our questions. The PA. Not the surgeon. I was so irritated. Then they get there and make it seem like this surgery is no big deal and everything will be fine, and I've all but lost my train of thought and cannot remember any of the questions I wanted to ask because I did not listen to my mother and write down a list of the questions beforehand.
(end of side note)

Nevertheless, they make it sound like this will be a walk in the park...no pun intended...and everything will likely turn out fine. But we can't help but worry. I'm probably worrying profusely, while he worries a couple times a day, but that's just the difference between he and I. I worry when I go to bed at night, and when I wake up in the morning. I worry during my work days, and during my off days. I worry every.single.day. I worry that his immune system isn't strong enough. That they'll open his leg up and cut off that bone and stir up something nasty and he'll loose more of his leg. I worry that he'll end up loosing his knee because the infection will spread. I worry that he won't even come out of the operating room because I've seen too many episodes of Grey's Anatomy where all kinds of weird and uncommon shit happens. I worry that he won't have enough antibiotics on board and he'll get an infection after we're already home, 2 hours away from the hospital. I mean he just got his wisdom teeth out and got an infection. It seems like he's always sick. I worry that it won't help his pain. I worry that he'll struggle with nerve pains again. I worry that it will make his pain worse, and then I'll take full responsibility because I'll feel like it's my fault for getting the ball rolling and scheduling it in the first place.

And it happens to be his twentieth month out from injury. The same month that the gentleman from Walter Reed died in after his injury. Now, every morning, and sometimes in the middle of the night, I wake up and make sure he's still breathing. Or make him call me or text me so I know he's ok.

I know that mentality doesn't help, and I'm trying to change my mindset because that will just drive a person crazy. And the whole reason for all this worrying is that we planned this surgery. We have a date, and it's over a month away still. But we have all this time to sit here and think about every single what if. The last time we were in this situation we didn't have time to think about the what ifs. I was still in survival mode. The thought "What if he gets an infection and looses his entire leg?" NEVER crossed my mind. Seriously. All I could think about was "When is the next surgery? What are they going to do? What is the plan? What are all his medications and when does he take them? Is his pain controlled?..." It was a surgery every other day for a couple weeks, and it was routine. He got to the point of enjoying being put under.

More and more he feels so defeated. He's all but given up an active lifestyle because he just doesn't think he can anymore. It's one infection after another, or another Army red tape line to cross. He said "I've never been that guy. I was never the guy to go to sick call or even go to the doctor. Now I'm living at the hospital." I've told him over and over, and even when he was still inpatient at Walter Reed, that we would be in and out of the hospital for the rest of our lives. I don't think even I fully understood the extent of what I was saying. But now I do. Where ever we decide to settle down, we'll have to make sure there's a military hospital nearby. We don't have to, but it will make it easier.

More and more I feel like I'm stretching to find the right words to say to him. It's harder and harder for me to be encouraging because I'm feeling it too. Another infection ultimately means more work for me. Yes, that's selfish and borderline bitchy, but it's true. "I chose this life, I can't complain." But watch me.

Jason's response to the Boston Marathon Bombings was "That sucks. I know what they're feeling. Except that when I deployed, I knew there was a chance of getting hurt. They all just went there to cheer on family and friends and now look what they have to deal with the rest of their lives." He said everyone at school was asking him if he was ok. Of course he is. There's no PTSD on his records. He thinks about it every single day. "If only I had just stepped 3 inches to the left..." I know for a fact that goes through his head at least once a day. If he's thinking about what I'm thinking about it's the "Oh man, these people have no idea what's in store for them over the next couple of months. Please God give them strength to get through it, and their families to stand by and support them as they go through this recovery that will take so much longer than they ever imagined."

We are still recovering.
And we're clearly far from done.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

keeping calm...

My heart is so heavy tonight. Just through Facebook, we learned one of the guys Jason was at Walter Reed with passed away. We knew him, but haven't stayed in touch since we left. I remember him more than any of the other guys we encountered there, though. Jason said once Cooper was born and I didn't go with him to OT and PT as much, he and this guy (whose name I'll keep private) started talking more. They had a lot of fun with their OT, Joe. 

I remember when he first started coming down to OT, he was so weak and pale. He was injured about 2 weeks before Jason and spent the better part of two months in the ICU battling infections. He was then inpatient for another 5 months. He would get tired so fast just from getting in to his chair and going down to the therapy room. That's how I remember him when we left. 

They were still at Walter Reed, and I would assume living in building 62 like we were, when he passed away. He was engaged and they were in the middle of planning their wedding. Like I said, we didn't have a chance to get to know them on a really personal level, everything I'm writing about them, I learned from Facebook. 

It's just hitting really close to home tonight, and I need an outlet. It has been on my mind nonstop since we found out. I mean obviously he struggled with a lot more medical problems than Jason ever did, but I can't help but wonder what our future holds after hearing that. 

His mom and fiance just spent the last 20 months of their lives trying to get him back to good health and walking again so they could return home and build a life together, and now what? I cannot even begin to imagine what his fiance (or mother for that matter) is feeling right now. To look around that room in building 62 and just have to pack it all up and go home without the husband she fought so hard for, for so long. To cancel all the wedding and honeymoon plans. To replay the moments of the day when she found him unresponsive. Over and over again. 

My heart literally aches for her. I find myself back in the emotional state I was in when I initially got the news about Jason. All the what if's and 'how can you even begin to understand?' keep running through my head. You'd think getting that phone call that your son/fiance was injured was one of the worst days of your life, and then you spent 20 months getting through everything they told you he wouldn't survive...and then an even worse day of your life happens. Why? For what freaking purpose?! 

So often, I think we are in the clear. Life is normal. We are good. We will have another surgery this summer, and it will fix his leg pain forever, and we'll never have to look back. Or will we? Will getting the surgery open up some kind of raging infection that has been festering in there for the last 19 months? Will he survive the surgery? It sounds bad to even say that, but there's always that risk to any surgery. But, there are risks to just getting up and driving to school or work, too. 

Right now I'm going through scenarios in my head - "If I wake up and he's not breathing, I need to push him to the floor, start CPR, and call 911 and put them on speaker phone. Is it 1-and-2-and-3-and breathe like neonates? Or is it slower? Or faster? But they changed it so it's not just three compressions any more...and our doors are locked at night. How will they get in? I can't leave him to go unlock the doors...." 

Seriously. That's what's going through my head right now. Xanax anyone?! 

Going through this trauma, and becoming a mother, has not been good for my anxiety. It's things like this that makes me never, ever want to leave the house for fear another tragedy will happen. You think you're in the clear since it's been 19 months and you haven't been hospitalized for well over a year, but who really knows what's going on in there?! It makes me want to take back all the mean things I've ever thought about my husband because if something were to happen, I'd never forgive myself. 

We will never be rid of that part of our lives. Not that I want to be. I didn't want to forget about all the wonderful people we met (this family included), and all the saviors who helped Jason in his recovery, but we did want to move on. It feels like no matter how far we go, and how many months and years pass, there will always be reminders that will take us all the way back to August 2011. Then, emotionally, I'll be starting all over again. Thanking God he's alive, pleading with God to let him live a full, long, healthy life, and praying to God to keep him safe every single day. 

It hit him hard, too. We were watching Inside Combat Rescue and every commercial break, we'd talk some more about it. "It makes me not want to get the surgery." "I can live with the pain for the rest of my life if it means I get to live." he says. Later, he can just tell by my blank stares in to space "You still thinkin about it?" "Me too." I want to do something. But I know they will be inundated with people - just like we were (we called it the Purple Heart Carpet) - and then it will subside. I'm just racking my brain trying to think of what I would want from someone in this situation. Something meaningful, not another card to add to their collection. I'm still blanking. 

He hugged Cooper extra long and tight tonight, as did I. We had conversations with each other without even speaking - just eye contact - because we both knew how lucky he is to be here, right now. Why is that so easy to forget? Why do we take that for granted so quickly? Why does it matter that he leaves his towel on the floor or doesn't do the dishes right away? Why can't it just matter that we're both alive and have a beautiful life with an even more beautiful son? 

And so maybe I'll just stay awake all night to keep a close eye on him. Because that wouldn't be slightly psychotic. But that's how I'm feeling after all this. 

Keep Calm, Stephanie. 
Just keep calm. 


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Jason - Month 19

Still waiting on a surgery date. Still waiting on the VA to come back and let us know what they've decided about his disability ratings. Still waiting on the eczema to go away, for the itchiness to stop, and for the nightly routine of steroid cream and slathering lotion everywhere to come to an end.

Other than that, we've just been surviving life in the WTU and hoping the furlough doesn't affect us too terribly. It's still unclear how his medical retirement benefits and Tricare will be affected.

We're talking about buying a house here in the Springs, and we plan to be here for as long as it takes for Jason to finish school. I'm more than ready to get out of this rental home and finally make something my own after all the pins I've seen on pinterest. It's just one more thing to add to our list, and quite frankly, I'm lazy. I don't feel like dealing with the VA for a loan, or the bank for a loan, or packing and moving and unpacking. But I'm sure we will survive it, and it will all get accomplished. Just one of those things I just want to happen instead of it being a long drawn out process. I'm also afraid we won't be able to find something we love out here. The architecture style is much different than we're used to. They don't build colonials out here, that's for sure.

Anyway, not much to write home about this month. Once we get the surgery scheduled and the planning for that underway, there will be much more interesting posts :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jason - Month 18

A little late, but that's ok.

We took a trip to Seattle to argue our case about Jason's disability rating. It was stressful to say the least, getting everything in order last minute to go, travel logistics with a toddler, and switching around my schedule at work. It was worth it, I hope. It seems like it will be, but we won't officially know for another couple of weeks.

It was intimidating to go in and sit in front of the board. Jason was so nervous. He did such a good job, though. His lawyer was really excited when we were all done. There were so many formalities, and I felt like I was in another world. It was all recorded, and so at the beginning they had to say certain things as part of the official record. It sounded so weird. We were in a conference room with three people on each side of the table. So it wasn't like we were on trial or anything, but I know Jason was nervous sitting across from a full bird colonel with a booming voice.

He explained what happened, in detail, and explained each of his injuries and how they would prohibit him from doing his job as an infantryman. I remember him saying "...I would basically become a burden to my other soldiers, and that isn't safe." I felt so bad for him in that moment. I know this is taking a lot out of him, and he wants to get out of the Army so bad right now after dealing with the all the WTU crap, but to hear him accept defeat like that broke my heart a little bit.

In the end, in their official format and booming voices, the president of the board deemed Jason unfit for duty with a total of five unfitting conditions. Again, he hung his head and I could just see his entire Army career flashing before his eyes. He'd never let it truly sink in that he's giving up a huge part of his life, because then he'd have to face the fact that his future is still uncertain. That, and he's just a guy, he'd never be emotional about such things. My heart still broke for him in that moment.

They never interviewed me, I guess Jason's account was detailed enough. I certainly would have loved to give my two cents though. I think we all know that!

And, can I say - Thank God for the Ventura family! If it wasn't for them, I'm not sure what we would've done with Cooper while we were at the hearing. That would've been interesting, to have a 13 month old crawling around an official hearing. We are forever indebted to them for watching him that day!

Now we wait.

And in the mean time, we get to make the following decisions:

Jason needs another surgery. Do we do it in Denver, or back at Walter Reed, or somewhere else?
Our lease on our current rental house is up this summer. I'm over this house.
Do we move to another house in Colorado Springs? Do we buy? Or keep renting?
Do we use our final Army move to move back East and be closer to family for help when needed?
Or do we use it to move ~20 miles away?
Do we stay here and let Jason finish up school but be painfully far from built in babysitters (and the beach!)?

Sounds like fun?

Not so much. It's caused Jason and I to argue more than we've ever argued in our relationship. Every day we have another idea about whether or not we should stay or go. (there are a lot more factors to be weighed in to our decisions than I've listed)

The surgery is called an Ertl, and involves cutting his tibia to be of equal length to his fibula and then using the cut bone to bridge the two together. This results in a much stronger base for him to bear weight on instead of the very sharp tibia that most of his weight ends up on currently. This would shorten the nub a couple inches, and then they'd revise the scar as well. He would be without a leg for 6-8 weeks, and when he is cleared for weight bearing again, he'd have to go through the prosthetic fitting process all over again. They tell us the swelling wouldn't be near as bad as it was last time, so hopefully the process wouldn't be as long. I do know it will be a pain, and Jason will likely be in pain again, and he's not excited about that. The problem lies in the fact that he wouldn't be able to crutch around the house and hold Coop at the same time. We'd need help if I plan on working, and I think our families have agreed to help, I just hope we can cover the amount of time he'd be out of commission.

This also means we'd probably have to miss our highly anticipated beach trip :( I can't tell you how disappointed I am about that, but this surgery won't be an annual thing either, so we will survive another year without the sun, sand, and salt water.

When I look back on the last 18 months, it feels like 10 years have passed. I'm tired. Just tired of making big life changing decisions, or adjusting to another new normal, or planning something we didn't plan on planning. Such is life, and we're not the only ones with heartache and hardships, I'm well aware. But sometimes I'd just love to not worry about anything, and just sit on the beach without having to worry about when we'll be able to afford to come back.

I'd also love to be newlyweds again. We still haven't even been married for three years, and when people ask, I have to think twice before I speak, because I could swear it's been at least five. I just want to be young(ish) and married with our first baby. And that's it. No leg junk to throw in to the mix.

It's the month of love, but it's been more of a bah humbug kind of month in this house!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jason - Month 17


I mean, this looks like a scar to you, right? 


Well, we get to uproot our family for three days, lug a one year old and all his crap, piss people off at work because I'll have to change my schedule last minute, and Jason will have to miss a day of class, to go up to Fort Lewis and argue that this needs to be in his file because the VA failed to recognize this painful scar.

Let me tell you, this scar has gotten way worse. I wish I took monthly pictures of Jason's scars like I do of our son. I have one from right after the surgery, but not too many after that. At least that I can find in the 11,500 pictures I just organized the other day. There has always been an open area on part of his scar. When he was still in the hospital, the occupational therapists told me I could pick all his scabs so long as they were ready to come off. Every night, we'd sit and pick and pick and pick. So much so that I'd have to ask to have his sheets changed because of all the skin flakes and scabs that had fallen off. It. was. gross. Nevertheless, there was one really dark scab about an inch long that was really deep, and took forever to come off. In the picture to the right, it's the darker spot towards the right side of that scar. When it did fall off, there was a little cavern as Jason likes to say, left. They explained that the scar had kind of folded in on itself, and that's just how it would heal. It never gave him any problems, and was mostly just really gross looking, until recently.

Now, it's painful, and obviously way bigger than when he started. When he puts his leg on, the scar spreads apart and is almost unbearable for him. He limps a lot, which is not good for his hips, and most of the time will just take the leg off if we're at home. And let me remind you, we have a one year old who requires baby gates. Jason has already face planted in the kitchen from hopping around the house and missing the ledge from the baby gate. He's promised me he wouldn't hop anymore, the last thing we need is another injury on top of this one, but that only lasted about a week before he decided getting his crutches from upstairs was way too much work since he'd have to go upstairs on the painful leg.

See how the folds are continuing up his nub now? Never there before. I don't know what's going on, but this will likely require a surgical revision, if not more than one, which will mean no leg wearing for at least a couple weeks each time. I'm not sure if you've tried, but carrying a one year old while using crutches is not advised, especially if I'm your wife. So, that would mean no work for me.

And the VA apparently forgot about giving this scar any sort of rating. The scar on the leg that he's missing half of. They just decided it wasn't going to give him any problems ever, I guess.


And, pictured above, also a 0% rating. These injuries apparently don't affect his daily living, so they don't deserve compensation. Just don't even get me started.

Back and forth, back and forth, that's how we've spent this month. "No, it won't make a difference whether or not you go to Fort Lewis, the outcome will be the same." "Are you kidding me? It makes a huge difference if you show up here in person!" Great. So three weeks before his formal hearing, we're deciding last minute to go. Trying to figure out childcare for the time we're in the hearing, and rearranging our lives for the billionth time for the Army.

Jason does not handle this stress well; I seem to thrive on it which seems odd. It kind of motivates me to prioritize things that need to be done now, and things that can wait. I refuse to come out on the other side of all this and wonder if we did everything we could. I want to know that we're doing everything we can now, before it's too late and we're sitting at home with our thumbs up our assess saying 'coulda, shoulda, woulda'!

We're trying hard to stay positive, to not jump down each others throats in the midst of all this, and to count our blessings. We have wonderful plans for life after the Army, but we are really trying to keep things in perspective as we know the Army generally has very different plans.

For now, the VA claim is our focus, because it will determine how the rest of our lives are lived in financial terms. I know the light is at the end of the tunnel, and while that is a very scary thing, it is something else to look forward to.

Cooper - 1 Year

Turning one is one of those things that you never remember. But I will always remember my sweet little boy at his first birthday party. It is so surreal, he is so big already.


In your first year, you have learned how to sleep through the night, breastfeed, suck your thumb, crawl, stand, walk while holding on to things, dance, clap, talk, sign, feed yourself, play peek-a-boo, smile, laugh, cry, and give mommy hugs. You are so smart. You have likes and dislikes now, and a major dislike is vegetables these days. You still love applesauce and yogurt, and those are the only things you allow to be spoon fed to you. Everything else you must pick up and put in your mouth yourself. You were born in Maryland, and have visited Virginia many times, also England, Texas, North Carolina, and Colorado.

If we say "Where's Cooper?" You put one hand over one eye and smile. You also do the same while you're nursing.

If there's music on, you wiggle, dance, laugh, and clap. You use measuring cups as drumsticks and beat on everything to hear the sounds. I'm sure you will be musically inclined.

You love to throw toys, go pick them up, and throw them again.

In and out, in and out. Mom Mom always says it's a Piaget developmental stage, and you sure do love doing it. Put it in. Take it out. Over and over again.

You've mastered the sippy cup, and are so busy throughout the day, you really don't like drinking milk from the cup or bottle anymore, just mom, when she's home. Daddy manages to get that milk in you though because he stays home with you most days, and you love to wrestle together.

You love to play with Sadie's toys too. Sometimes you try to give them to her, but she doesn't quite understand that you're helping her out yet. She thinks you want to play and starts jumping up and down and racing around the room when you crawl towards her with one of her toys.

You understand the word "No" but also are testing your limits. You know when you're somewhere you're not supposed to be, or playing with something you shouldn't be because you look at us with a very sly grin and wait to see what we will do. Saying no doesn't stop you in the least. It's when we move you or take away whatever it is, that the temper flares.

You continue to love bath time. No matter your mood, a bath always leaves you smiling and laughing. You love to splash and eat the bubbles.

You still have only 6 teeth. I've been waiting for those other two bottom two to break through, but still no luck. You are able to chew everything we give you just fine though.

When we give you a new food to try, you usually give it a few chews, and give us the yuck face and stick your tongue out until all the yucky food falls off. After a few tries, sometimes you'll eat it, other times you'll continue to refuse.

---

Your first birthday party was the Saturday before your actual birthday. A lot of friends came to help you celebrate, and you had a blast. You LOVED your cake. Mommy made you a yellow cake with chocoalte icing all for yourself, and you wasted no time digging in. In a matter of about 20 minutes, you had the cake in crumbles and were still shoveling it in. You probably would have eaten the entire thing had I let you. We went straight to the bathtub to get it all off afterwards. If it was summertime we probably would have just taken you outside and hosed you down!

After cake, we opened presents, and you were so excited to play with all your new toys, but still enjoyed the tissue paper just a little bit more.

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On your actual birthday, the 7th, Mommy and Daddy took you to Denver. We ate lunch at the Aquarium and you loved the fish. You wanted to touch them all! You had fish sticks for the first time, and ate almost all of them! Then we took you across the street to the Children's Museum. Most of the museum is geared towards older kids, but there was a large section for kids your age, and you had a ball. You loved playing in the different houses, and were especially fond of a cash register that opened and closed. You kept putting eggs inside it, and took them out again. You and Daddy did some laundry in the tree house, and then you planted some vegetables in the garden. You went down the slide a couple times, through the tunnels, over the bridge, and then went fishing. You sat in a boat, and climbed a tree.


You slept the whole way home, and I hope you had sweet dreams. We tried to give you the best birthday we could, and we will always strive to do that.


My sweet one year old, mommy loves you so much. You bring joy to my heart every single day, and I often catch myself staring at this sweet boy we created in awe. Thank you for the most wonderful year of our lives to date. We can't wait to see how you grow and learn this year!

xoxo
mommy

Saturday, January 5, 2013

growing up

Here's one thing I never thought about before marrying in to the military life - birthday parties.

We just celebrated our son's first birthday, and while it was a wonderful celebration, I was so homesick. Yes, all that really should matter is the fact that my sweet boy is turning one. Whoever wants to help us celebrate that fact is more than welcome, but the problem is we don't have that many friends out here any more. The ones that came to the party are our very near and dear friends, but there was no family.

Maybe it's just an all around emotional time for me, but it hit me especially hard today as we sang "Happy Birthday" to Cooper. I remember in the very moment I blew out his candle, I was literally telling myself to etch these memories in to my heart forever because there was no other family here to witness it.

Having Cooper has made me realize this. Before, birthdays were still celebrations, but certainly not milestone and emotional celebrations such as this. They were "let's go out to eat somewhere and then get drunk" celebrations. Now, we're creating childhood memories for our firstborn. And that's a huge deal to me. Man, I'm getting deep here.

The point of my emotional tirade here is this: I miss my family. I miss being able to go home for dinner, or Christmas, or birthday parties. It makes me second guess our decision to buy a house and further establish our life out here. Will I be able to give Cooper the best childhood memories possible? I hate knowing that he won't be able to see his grandparents very often. So when he does see them, he will be afraid of them because they're his grandparents, and they're old, and lets face it, who wasn't scared of their old grandparents when they were little?! Only those who saw them on a regular basis like Cooper won't be able to.

I know the reality is he won't remember a thing from this party. And when he's old enough to remember his parties, he'll be old enough to have made friends of his own (I hope!). Then we shouldn't have to worry much about whether or not our party is fun since there will be a billion kids running around making themselves sick off cake and ice cream and all will be right with the world.

Here's where I realized I need to start reaching out to friends here, because they will hopefully to become our extended family. Jason and I both are perfectly content sitting at home every single weekend doing nothing, but that doesn't get you great friends either.

Here's where I also realized that mommy needs to grow up and quit getting so emotional about these things.

Having a baby was supposed to make me grow up, but it's only made me an emotional wreck when it comes to anything 'my baby is growing up' related. And that is what is happening. Every single day. He learns something new, he hugs me tighter, he melts my heart. Anyone who is reading this already knows I am crazy. I mean, I already think about the day he gets married and leaves his mommy. Seriously crazy. (But that day does terrify me!)

Thank goodness I still have at least a good 17 years left with my sweet boy before any of that happens. So for now, I'll try to focus on each day and remind myself to hug him as tight as I can for as long as he'll let me.