Just Call Me Gumby

Disclaimer: This post is going to be a venting session. Here it is, 3 1/2 months since my most recent post, and all I’m going to do is come here and complain. But this is my little space on the internet and my prerogative I guess. So here goes.

 
JD has been on a “normal” schedule for several months now and it has been blissful. I finally feel like we can be a full-time team with household and parenting duties. We cook dinner together, I go grocery shopping by myself(!) while he keeps L at home, I can count on him to pick up L from daycare when I have an appointment or have to work late, and I even get to sleep in sometimes on weekends. You know, normal things that become somewhat of a novelty when you’re married to someone who works non-traditional hours.   (Side note: I have no idea how parents with 2 unpredictable schedules do it).

So one evening, he comes home and tells me that he’s been put on a special project that will allow a small group of officers to focus on a specific problem area in the community. This in itself is great news- JD has felt for some time that something along these lines needed to happen and he is very excited to be included in it. I am happy for him because I know how much it means to him.

 
Of course, there is a catch. He goes on to tell me that he will be working different hours while on the project and will be transitioning to the new schedule in only a few days. Being a planner (and the administrator that keeps our household running smoothly), I immediately start asking questions. What would the hours be? What days would he be working? Would we know in advance? Would we be getting a schedule mapped out? My mind raced with all the things we had coming up, including 2 trips up north for a wedding and a graduation. We had counted on him having those weekends off. We had counted on him being off duty by 4pm so we wouldn’t be up all night driving.

 
He didn’t have those details yet. They were still being ironed out at that point, but he was under the impression that it would be a lot of night shifts. I didn’t say anything for a minute while I processed my frustration, then sighed, kissed him on the forehead, and told him I would do what needed to be done to accommodate his schedule.

 
Just call me Gumby.

 
As it turns out, the new schedule IS mostly nights and evenings, and while it’s not completely sporadic, it’s very difficult to track.  (Want to plan something with us a month from now?  Too bad, I have no idea if he’s working.)  Also, I anticipate it will change at some point- likely at the last minute. Regardless, I will be here to take care of L and manage whatever comes our way because that’s what I have to do. Being a LEO Wife means always coming second to the needs of the city and the whims of the department. When your spouse is assigned something, there are no other options. There is no opportunity to sit down and talk it over. No chance to weigh in on the impacts to your family life. (I can tell that the schedule change is starting to bother L. She sees him less on this schedule than she did on his regular patrol schedule and keeps asking where daddy is.) The demands of the police department make for an unbalanced family life. It gets old.

The real icing on the cake is that he can’t come home with me for my stepbrother’s wedding because he has to work that weekend now.  So I get to make the drive with L alone and I had to call my family last-minute and inform them that JD wouldn’t be coming.

The good news is, I’m not bitter about it.

Just kidding, I totally am.

 

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JD’s New Job

So, JD recently switched jobs within the department.  He’s still a LEO, but moved to the Community Squad where he’ll move away from 911 calls and move towards proactive police work and more community outreach type projects.  After 5 years as a beat officer, he was starting to feel burnt out so he’s definitely ready for a change of pace.  I’m excited to see him pursue something new, especially since he’s so great with people and I think it will be a good fit for him.  Selfishly, one of the things I’m most excited about is the schedule change.

I’ve definitely referred to (code for: complained about) his schedule many times before.  He used to have to work 12 hour shifts every couple of days, including every other weekend and work night shifts every other month.  I got used to it, but it still sucked a lot of the time.  Night shift month was hard on both L and I.  She acted out more when he wasn’t around and I got tired of carrying so much of the burden alone.  Because his shifts were so long, he couldn’t help with daycare dropoff or pickup even on day shift months (he left for work before daycare opened and arrived home after it closed).  Plus, with a non-traditional schedule, there were so many things JD missed on weeknights and weekends that people with “normal” schedules plan- birthday parties, social gatherings, and even the occasional weekend road trip.

On top of it all, a few years ago I had to start traveling for work on occasion.  This added a whole new dimension of complication and frustration.  There are plenty of working moms at my company who travel a LOT more than I do.  I’ve asked a few of them how they manage it with kids at home.  The answer is almost invariable “Well my husband really steps up.  He’s great.”  Whomp. Whomp.  I mean, my husband is great too, but it was nearly impossible to accommodate business travel around those 12 hour shifts and night shift months.  So how did I manage?  JD’s grandparents helped us out a TON.  L did several overnights with them while I was away and I probably owe my job to them to be honest.  And while they were always willing and eager to help (not once did they ever say no or do anything that made me feel bad), I still felt guilty and stressed turning everyone’s life upside down for the sake of work trips.

But all of that is behind us, because with JD’s new schedule he now works Monday to Friday 8 to 4 most weeks of the month (one week each month he has a second shift 4 PM to 2 AM).  And while the transition has been a little strange for both of us (the other night we turned to each other and said “it’s kind of weird being together all the time”) it’s been amazing to have him home on weeknights and every single weekend.  I finally feel like we’re a true team and we can tackle all of the household and parenting tasks together.  I have his help for the morning routine/daycare dropoff and his help in the evenings getting dinner ready and getting L to bed.  On weekends I can go grocery shopping All. By.  Myself.  (ALL BY MYSELF!)  I never have to worry that he’ll miss something a friend has planned or an important event.  This past weekend we drove to Atlanta to visit my sister… because it was a holiday weekend… and we can do things like that now. 

I’m not saying there weren’t some benefits to his old schedule and there aren’t trade offs with the new one.  We both miss the weekdays the JD got to spend at home with L- the new schedule means that she has to be in daycare full-time.  We’re both getting used to the fact that we don’t really have one-on-one time with L or really any of the alone time that the old schedule allowed. Most of these things can be remedied- we talked about each of us doing a mommy-daughter day and a daddy-daughter date once a month so we still get our one on one time with Loralai but allow the other person some time to themselves.   But, at the end of the day Loralai actually loves daycare and gets excited to go play with her friends and it’s totally worth the trade off of having her there full-time to be able to have JD home on holidays and weekends.

I have no illusion that JD will have this schedule for the rest of his career.  His squad could change the way their schedule works or he could move to a different unit- there are a lot of things that could change.  But for now, I will enjoy a bit of “normalness” that’s been inserted into our lives.

Halloween and Life in the New Neighborhood

So, I’ve never been huge on Halloween, but it’s one of those events that has taken on new meaning since having a kiddo. Over the past few years, I’ve rediscovered the fun of dressing up and have had fun coordinating costumes with L. I’m trying to take advantage of it for as long as I can. I know there will be a time in the not so distant future where she’ll pick something I’ll have difficulty coordinating with… or worse, she won’t WANT me to coordinate with her. So, this year I took hers shopping and let her pick which costume she liked. She picked the bumble bee, so I naturally had to be the beekeeper. Fortunately for me, this was relatively easy (I like to coordinate, but I’m also lazy so I’m not the type to spend hours planning and crafting an outfit). I already had rain boots and a straw hat at home, so I ordered a painter’s suit and mosquito netting off Amazon (seriously, I have an Amazon problem… Prime has been worth every penny). Here is the end result:

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While this wasn’t L’s first Halloween, this was the first year we took her out Trick or Treating. We probably could have taken her last year, but she was just as content handing out candy, so we didn’t bother taking her around the neighborhood. Now that we’ve moved, there are a lot of families in our new neighborhood, including our neighbors who have 2 little boys around L’s age. So, we made plans with them and another one of our friends with 2 kids to go out together.

As suspected, L followed the lead of the other kids and picked up on the concept pretty quickly. She followed the others up the driveway and I watched as she politely held up her bag, then gleefully ran back down the driveway to show us her treat. “Mama, look!” she cried as she opened her bag so I could see, “I got candy!”

“That’s great, honey!” I replied, almost equally as thrilled. Her excitement = my excitement.

She ran to the next house, and the house after that, and the one after that. This trend continued for the next few blocks, until she had a half-full bag of candy, which is quite a bit for a kiddo her size.

We headed back to the house, and our neighbor set up his fire pit in the middle of the cul-de-sac and blocked off the street so the kids could run around safely. The adults enjoyed pumpkin beer while the kids had a blast goofing around with each other till L was so exhausted she asked to go to bed (parenting win!)

There’s something about this new neighborhood that makes me feel like our family found the place we are meant to be, live, grow… like we are finally, truly home. Without siblings of her own, nothing makes my heart more full than watching L play with the other kids in our neighborhood. As for JD and I, we’ve made some pretty good friends of our own. We had amazing neighbors at our old house (who we are trying to convince to follow us to our new neighborhood), but now we have a community of people we love.

Moving Up and Moving On

Quick update: we sold our house.  (I know, I know.  Once little sentence, yet such huge implications.)  To some, it might seem like it came out of the blue, but it’s an idea we’ve toyed with for the last year.  Then, one day, we found a house we loved online and just like that, we we decided it was the right time.

To say the process has been a roller coaster would be an understatement.  There was the initial high of finding a house we were excited about, the tedious work of getting our house market-ready,   the pressure of showings and getting feedback (some good, some bad), the relief of going under contract, the excitement when our offer was accepted on the new house, the frustration of repair negotiations (for both houses), the stress of our timeline and for everything needing to fall exactly in place with both our buyers and sellers for it to all work out.

When we bought this house, it all seemed so easy.  We found something we liked, put in an offer, asked for a few repairs, and closed a month and half later.  But the process of buying and selling a house at the same time is…. well… awful, quite honestly.

When we found the house we wanted, we were NOT ready to put ours on the market, nor were we prepared to carry two mortgages, but houses where we live are selling quickly, and in order to get an offer in on the house we wanted before someone else snatched it up, we needed ours on the market ASAP.  It took 3 weeks for us to get new carpet installed, get the house power washed, have someone come in and paint upstairs (the dogs had scuffed up the walls and with our vaulted ceilings we couldn’t do it ourselves), and get half of our belongings moved out of the house and into a storage pod.  This meant daily work for both JD and I- cosmetic work around the house, packing, and cleaning.  If we weren’t at work, we were working on the house.  We were afraid that after all the work and decluttering, it would make us want to stay and not even move at all.  But the funny thing is that once we made all of the changes, it didn’t feel like our home anymore.  It was time to get the thing sold.

Our realtor suggested we list the house on a Thursday so we could get a lot of showings in the first weekend.  Of course it worked out that JD was on night shift on our list weekend; luckily, we arranged for him to sleep at a friend’s house, a LEO on the opposite schedule.  That left me on my own to deal with the showings.  To save myself a lot of extra work cleaning up after and wrestling 3 dogs (+ a toddler) in and out of the house, we boarded 2 of the pups for the weekend (probably some of the best money we’ve spent in the home selling process).

We had 2 showings Friday night, and neither of them went very well.  Your home is very personal, and when you put it out there for the world, it’s hard not to take some of the feedback harshly.  It sounds ridiculous to say we were discouraged after only 2 showings, but every minute we couldn’t put an offer on the new house was a minute we felt someone could snatch it away from us.  People tried to tell us “there are plenty of other houses out there” but we just knew that this was the house for us.  Besides our expected needs (an extra bedroom, more storage, a fenced in yard for the dogs), we were adamant about getting a nice lot, while not moving too far from our current location.  We live in suburbia, so finding a spacious lot is hard, and the house we found has over an acre that backs up to protected woodlands.  This house was a rare find and we knew we wouldn’t find another like it.

Saturday, we had 4 showings.  I woke up, did the last minute prep work, vacated the house for the day, and crossed my fingers.  The feedback Saturday was more positive, though by the end of the day, we had no future showings scheduled and were getting worried again.  But Sunday morning, we received an offer, and were able to negotiate and go under contract.  Though it felt like an eternity, it only took 2.5 days; I wasn’t kidding when I said houses in our area are selling quickly.  And by some miracle, the house we wanted was still Active, so we were able to put in an offer and we reached an agreement with the sellers on Monday.

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We breathed a sigh of relief thinking the worst of the process was over, but we didn’t anticipate how frustrating repair negotiations would be.  I won’t get into the gritty details, but I’ll just say that our buyers were asking for more than we thought was reasonable and our sellers were pushing back on what we thought were reasonable requests.  We probably would have gotten screwed by both sides if it weren’t for our awesome realtor.  It took a lot of stress and a few tears to get there, but we finally landed in a spot we were comfortable with for both the buyers and sellers.

So that’s where we are today.  Repairs are finalized, the Due Diligence period is over, and as long as there aren’t any unexpected catastrophes, we should be closing on both houses in 4 weeks.

Of course, the light at the end of the tunnel has always been the house we call our dream home, the house we plan to call home long-term.  Meanwhile, though we always knew our current house was a starter home, there has been the surprising sadness of knowing we’ll have to say goodbye.

There were a lot of firsts here.  It was the first home we lived in as a married couple, the place we found out we were going to have our first baby, the first place we brought her home to, first smiles, first steps, first holidays, first birthdays, first bike rides.

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It was the little house that survived a (small) tornado.  It was the house that brought us some of the greatest neighbors ever, who we could always count on for a fun evening of drinks and grilling, or to keep a key handy for lockouts, or to come over and mow the lawn, unsolicited, when JD was post-surgery and out of commission.

It was also the place where my mom lovingly painted the mural in L’s room- the one thing I’m really struggling to let go of.  I remember when we came to look at the house and we walked into that bedroom.  The late afternoon sun was shining through the windows, and I said “this would be a great nursery.”  It was a great nursery.  It became my favorite room in the house by far, and I have to say goodbye (with a secret prayer that the mural gets to stay).

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Most importantly, it was a place of love.  It was the place that busted at the seams when we had family visiting from up North (though no one seemed to mind since we were all together), the place where a young couple made memories, and the place that same young couple became a family.

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Love.  So much love.  We’ll carry the love and memories with us and hope that we’re passing it on to another family who will create their own loving memories here.

Halloween Recap

Although this wasn’t L’s first Halloween, in some ways it felt like it.  Last year, she was only 9 months old, so Halloween equated “this bulky thing you put on me is weird and annoying, mom.”  She looked darn cute though!

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This was also the first year since JD started with the police department that I can actually remember him having the night off.  We debated taking advantage and actually taking L trick-or-treating (who knows what his schedule will look like next year), but decided she’s probably still a little too young.  Instead, we hung out on the porch and handed out candy.  As it turns out, L was probably just as happy doing that anyway.

I was a bit worried that all the kids in costumes would freak her out, or that she would catch on to the fact that she was giving away all of our precious candy (leaving none for her), but she actually took on the role of Official Candy Giver-Outer enthusiastically.  She spent most of the evening parading around with the candy bowl, and when she saw kids coming up, she would take a piece of candy out of the bowl and put it in their bag, then wave as they walked away and say “bye!”

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It’s funny how parenthood makes you see things from a fresh perspective, how something like Halloween, which I stopped appreciating several years ago, is new and exciting again.  Now I get to see things through L’s eyes, and there is so much joy in that.

Where Have I Been?

Well, well, well. Where have I been?

I could give the usual answer- we’ve been busy. Busy with work, with a toddler, with vacations, severe seasonal allergies, and… well… life.

Here’s the thing though. Yeah, I’ve been busy, but I could have found time to blog if I’d really wanted to. I just wasn’t feeling motivated. When I first started this blog, I wanted to be A Blogger. I wanted it to grow. I wanted it to be a thing. I wanted it to be a place where other moms and police wives could come and relate. The one thing I didn’t want was for it to be forced, for me to blog for the sake of blogging, and that’s what’s kept me away for the past few months.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy blogging, because I really do. Sometimes, I’ll feel inspired and the words will flow. Lately, not so much. I think I’ve just come to a place where I want to focus on certain things in my life (family, friends, personal relationships, and work) and let the other stuff just be.

As for the blog, that falls in the category of “just be”. I don’t want to shut it down or say “I’m done!” because I don’t think I am done. I’m just not going to feel obligated to it anymore or let myself stress if it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  It’s going to be more organic than that.  There will probably be ebbs and flows, and I’m okay with that.

I’m not sure if I even have anyone left reading this, or if anyone will stick around to see if I ever decide to post; I just wanted to share, just in case.

For those of you who may want to be caught up, here’s a picture recap of the past few months:

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Shift Work: A Blessing In Disguise

Okay, I admit it.  I complain about JD’s work schedule a lot.  I bitch about night shift, and feel jealousy towards the couples who seemingly take their in-sync work schedules for granted.  I would see families grocery shopping or enjoying a lazy Saturday morning brunch and envy them (I mean, honestly, who is jealous of grocery shopping?!) because moments like that are harder to come by for us.

As I’ve mentioned, the bright side of JD’s injury is that it forced him to go on light duty, which is a Mon-Fri gig.  We were blessed with a summer of togetherness with plenty of available weekends for family grocery shopping (score!) and lazy brunches.  He transitioned back to regular duty and his regular schedule this week.  Looking back on this summer, what I learned is that maybe JD’s usual schedule is actually perfect for our family after all.  Maybe I had spent so much time envying how “easy” other people have it, that I was blinded to the fact that our life, schedules, and routines are actually pretty great.

Yes, I would love to have every weekend to spend as a family, but the trade-off is that he gets to spend several weekdays at home with L every week, and I didn’t realize how much of an impact that made until the schedule change. Not only do they get a little daddy-daughter bonding time, but it means she doesn’t have to be in daycare full time (better for her, and makes me feel less guilty about being working mom).  This summer, not only did we transition her from an in-home daycare to a daycare center, but she was going full-time due to JD’s altered work schedule.  BIG transition for all of us.  I still think a daycare center was the right choice for her, but it really wears her out.  She’s a great napper at home, but her naps at daycare are pretty short (I just think she has trouble relaxing the way she can at home), so between that and the fact that she’s on sensory overload from everything going on, she’s exhausted by the end of the day.  I think cutting back to a few days a week will make a big difference for her, because she’ll get “breaks” during the week where she’s home, can sleep in, and can take super good naps.

I’ve noticed this summer that she’s been really clingy with me.  There have even been several times that she’ll reject JD and come to me instead.  I actually attribute this to his Mon-Fri work schedule.  Not only was he not home with her at all during the week, but every 2 weeks he worked second shift, meaning he left for work before we got home and arrived home after we were asleep.  That meant 5 nights in a row that we didn’t really see him at all, which was harder than his usual night schedule, where it’s only 2-3 days in a row and we got to see him for an hour or so before he left for work.  This was a lot harder than I anticipated (I thought feeling him crawl into bed every night would be a dream come true, but this pales in comparison to some good, old-fashioned face time) and I think it was hardest on L.  She still got excited to see him and played with him, of course, but I could tell that their relationship had suffered a little bit.

So, back to the usual schedule we go, with a bit of relief from all of us.  We’re thankful for a summer of togetherness, but also thankful for a little perspective.