Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The End of an Era

It happened! It's here! The time has finally come! 

Basic Training Graduation
Now, did I say it would happen while I'm on unpaid maternity leave? Yes. Did it happen that way? Yes. Is that our luck? Yes. (woe is me)

Probably a week after we got home with Natalie, Jason's PEBLO called with the news. His VA ratings hadn't changed, the Army ratings increased 20%, but nothing from the VA. They assured us we could submit claims after he gets out, and that is ratings will "definitely increase". But we won't be able to do that until he's out, and even then, who knows how long the process will take. You've seen the VA in the news lately…it seems nothing good comes out of that organization, and that's really scary!

So this is it, he's getting out!

Talk about scary.

He's on post picking up his clearing papers as I type this. Last night he said "Every time I've cleared a post, it's to go to another one…not to be done forever. This is scary."

It's amazing how something he's dreamt about for so long, probably since he was in basic (ha!), is finally here, exactly 10 years later, and now he's scared to leave it! I can understand, though. I believe the Army brainwashes these guys (especially infantry guys), and it becomes a crutch. They get so used to the routine, being treated like children, and the guaranteed pay, they don't even know where to start when they're out and have complete control of their lives. Jason has it mostly figured out by now, though. He's been through multiple chains of command at the WTU since he's been here 2.5 years waiting for this day, he's had plenty of time to figure out his life after the Army.

The plan stays the same: We will likely buy a house out here (once he's out and they will finally approve us for a loan), he will finish his bachelors degree (which right now he still wants to be in Physics), and then hopefully we will be able to move back East. I will stay at my current job which is one of the main reasons we're staying here for now, it's SO flexible with his school schedule and our daycare is on post which as a civilian, I still have access to. Now, if things could go as planned for the next few years, that would be awesome! But…we all know how that works.

What I'm most excited about is being able to pick up and go wherever, whenever we want! To be able to plan things and trips months in advance! What I'm not excited about? The giant pay cut we're about to take. So far, we've survived my unpaid maternity leave by just sitting at home and hardly eating out/ordering out at all. I'm rather impressed with us. We haven't had to dip in to our savings yet! But, he's still getting paid. Luckily, when he stops getting paid, I will have been back at work for about a month, so we should be OK financially. We will still take a pay cut,  even with me working, but we will survive! We are blessed that he will be able to go to school full time and not have to work because of the GI Bill, and we are blessed that I still won't have to work full time.

Because Jason is in the WTU, he gets the privilege of being put in the lowest financial category for daycare, meaning what we pay is out of this world cheap right now. Once he's out, it's based on income, so I'm hoping it's not too crazy expensive - especially since it will be doubled! I was thinking of keeping Natalie out of daycare a little longer since Jason will have the freedom to stay at home with her while I work.

So, there you have it. Almost three years after he was injured, he is finally getting out. All that waiting and we still didn't get the results we hoped for. We will still have to fight hard once he's out, or he'll likely get lost in the system. At first, it felt like I had been punched in the gut - of course all this would happen now. We just had another major life change with this second baby, why not throw this on top of it. But now that I've had some time to process it all, it will certainly work out. Maybe not as awesome as we had hoped - at least not yet - but the timing really couldn't have been better. He'll be out before he starts school again which means he has the rest of the summer to clear, out process, tie up loose ends, last minute doctor appointments, etc. We'll be able to go on our beach vacation with no worries about leave since he'll already be on terminal leave. And then he'll come home, and start school without having to worry about calling his squad leader every morning to 'check in' and still go to PT and pull duty throughout the semester.

I am so excited for him. This is a huge step! He is handling all this change and responsibility so well! His main concern has always been us, and how he will support his family, which I am so, so grateful for. I've loved him for almost as long as we've been together, he's always been so considerate of me and my feelings, but I love him even more now. After all he's been through, he's coming out on the other side shining even brighter than he did in the Army. He's not letting any of this get him down, he's not milking the system, he's so humble and undeserving, and still so driven and even more motivated now than before.

It will be surreal, I'm sure.  A life without the Army. Many people at the WTU have asked him to work there, to be a staff NCO, or work there as a civilian after he's out. I always thought he should be a prosthetist since he knows a lot about it now, and likes to work with his hands. He said no. "It's already a huge part of my life. I don't want it to be my job, too." He has always said he wants to get as far away from the Army as possible. Unfortunately, now, it will always be a very real, and very obvious part of his life. A story he will tell often as our kids grow older and more curious, as their friends ask about it, and any new friends we should make along the way.

Cooper notices his missing middle finger more than his leg right now. "What happened your finger, Daddy?" while pointing to it. "You got hurt?" "Yes, bubby, my finger got hurt."

If that's all he notices, because his daddy can do pretty much anything other daddy can do, I'd say we're in good shape!

10 years later

Natalie: Month 1

Dear Natalie,

It's almost time for your two month post (you're six weeks old), and I debated doing them together, but I have some time while you're napping, and your brother is occupied with his iPad.

What a whirlwind your first month has been! Maybe not for you, but definitely for your father and I!

Mom Mom and Poppy were here for your first month, mostly to help with Cooper while we learned all about you, and how you like or don't like things.

What we have learned so far: you're very unpredictable, you still haven't found a schedule you like, you get overstimulated very easily, and then over tired, and then you just won't sleep, you do not like having a dirty diaper for long, you do love to be held, you like to be in the swing, you don't like to take milk from a bottle, though you're not a great breastfeeder either, you make every face under the sun when trying to pass gas or poop, you are awake more at night (still!), you do like baths, you will NOT take a pacifier, we are still praying you will find your thumb (you have a couple times, but not for long), and you're finally growing out of your newborn clothes.

I have been beyond stressed trying to figure out some sort of schedule for you. Probably very unnecessarily stressed, as I'm sure it will work itself out eventually. The hardest part is not comparing you to your brother. Even so, he wasn't on a schedule at six weeks. And I specifically remember him getting over tired and then screaming for what seemed like ever, too.

What Daddy and I have decided is that we aren't giving you enough time! You're still only six weeks old! The last two nights you've slept for 7hrs then 6hrs, so maybe we're turning a corner, although I'm not going to get my hopes up!

It sure makes going out a lot harder. Now, I'm afraid you'll get to overstimulated and then it will throw the whole day off. I know you'll get there eventually, and that I shouldn't rush this time, because I know I'll miss it when you're running around like your big brother!

Daddy says he is most excited to see what kind of personality you will have and if you will have curly hair like your brother (I doubt it!). We are biased, but you are the prettiest baby girl we've ever seen!

This one will be short since you don't do too much these days but eat, sleep, and cry!

Even still, we love you, our answered prayer!