Saturday, August 24, 2013

Deployments, Homecomings, and Other Stuff

  Last time I felt like blogging (a year ago this month!), Daniel had been in Afghanistan for a week or so. I was going to blog throughout his deployment, but.... I didn't.

The day he left
How was our first deployment? Thanks for asking ;) Well, you know, it was terrible. Sure, it could have been much worse. It could have been a 15 or 18 month deployment, instead of 9. He could have been in Iraq rather than Afghanistan. It could have been his 5th time to go. But as far as the experiences I have to draw on personally, it really sucked. I mean, while it was going on it, it almost seemed bearable because I had these projects I was doing, I had the kids to focus on, we traveled to the States, my Mother-in-Law visited for a while. I was sad,  and I was tired, but I was distracted. The fact that the sun rarely came out all winter didn't help. But through it all I was really proud of myself and especially the girls for how well we were holding up. We got out as often as possible, Skyped with Daniel every day, saw friends, finished projects, and you know, lived life as best we could while missing our love.

 And then he came home and I sort of fell apart. It was like I just collapsed with the relief of being able to take my eyes off the kids for one moment, to not have to wonder if Daniel was going to be blown up or have to do something that would haunt him, and to just sleep. I just wanted to sleep so much when he got back, and everything made me cry. It was like I took everything I read about how a soldier might behave upon returning, and decided to act on them myself. I was crazy happy of course...giddy even. I couldn't take my eyes off him...couldn't believe how lucky I am to have my family whole again. But then there was the crazy-pants emotion and exhaustion mixed in there. As for Daniel, it was like he never left. I might say he is a little more, uh, annoyingly organized, but that's not exactly a change, since he's always been like that.

So let's talk about the Homecoming, because that's really the whole reason I'm rambling here right now. Ah, the Homecoming. Such a sweet, wonderful, emotional time. Also a remarkably stressful time. An Army wife has all these questions racing through her mind. How will the kids act? How will he act? Will he be different, sad, tired? Will he hate the changes I made to the house? (um...he might, depending on what you did with his big screen)
And then there's the uncertainty of it all. Do you know how on that show Army Wives the soldier gets off a bus, locks eyes with his love, and she runs into his arms, and they head home hand in hand? Yeah it's not really like that. I mean, I don't know, maybe it is sometimes. But that is not quite how it went down for us. For one thing, some of you may not know, the spouses don't get to know exactly what day their soldier is returning until like..2 days ahead of time. And then you don't know what time they'll be back until literally hours before. This is all for security purposes, so it makes sense.We had a pretty good idea of course. I knew which day was likely, and that it would probably be mid-morning. Still, I had this "irrational" fear of not getting a phone call the night before and missing the whole thing. I say "irrational" sarcastically because they did forget to call me. I have a sense for these things. Anyway fortunately around 8am I had the good sense to message my friend Meghan something like "uh, when are they going to call?" and she informed me that they had already made their calls. (and yes, my name and number were on the list!) So she was able to give me the deets and the girls and I were there, with our glittery "Welcome Home" sign, in our pretty dresses. Then we waited. I was really nervous! I was really emotional! I was really impatient! Finally they announced the bus had arrived (we were not allowed to meet them at the airport for a reason I can not remember) but we were inside a building, sitting in bleachers. We waited for them to get into formation and march in. We waited while they all filed in. We waited during the prayer, the National Anthem, and a speech by some high ranking officer, which was mercifully short and sweet. Then he said "when I count to three, go and find your soldier."

Waiting for Daddy

Whoa. First of all, I couldn't find Daniel in the crowd of 150 some-odd soldiers from my spot on the bleachers (they all wear matching outfits, you know).. Second, I was going to rush in with a group of like..200 family members? It was like a scene from an ancient battlefield. Charge! Then a clash of two huge groups of people. Seriously it was chaos. I'm not really complaining, I'm not sure I could have arranged a more efficient set-up, I'm just saying it wasn't exactly what I expected. Bella ran out in front of me, following our friend Stacey who had been fortunate enough to spot her boyfriend early on. Bella ran right past in trying not to lose our child, my first words to my soul mate after nearly a year's separation was something like "oh, hey" before I caught up with Bella. But after that it was all perfection and hugs and kisses. I have never been so happy. Bella never hesitated and jumped right into his arms. Sophie..well. Sophie decided to play hard to get for a while, but she warmed up within a few hours, after he bribed her with a balloon.
Back where he belongs

 We weren't able to take him straight home because they had to turn in their weapons and all that, but we were home around dinnertime. He had to work every day for a week to get "reintegrated" and then he had some time off to hang out with us and it was heavenly having him home so much. We kind of hate it that he is back on a normal work schedule now but we're coping ;)

Whew! That was REALLY long!  Oh, and of course it all seems very obvious now, but in case you haven't heard,  I quickly learned that the reason I was napping all day and crying all the time at first was because I became pregnant as soon as Daniel returned. Sophie is obviously thrilled about becoming a middle child/big sister in late March.