Cannon- Natural Born Leader or Traffic Cop

I have recently come to the conclusion that my son, Cannon, is either a natural born leader or will be the best traffic cop ever. This has been so perfectly illustrated to me twice recently.

I few weeks ago, I had a doctors appointment at Ft Eustis. The kids and I went for the appointment because seriously they go EVERYWHERE with me. It is very rare to see me without the kids. And if you see the kids without me you better be asking some questions. But the kids and I were finishing up my appointment and trying to head to the car to leave. Zoey is actually being pretty calm. She is walking with me holding me hand. Be still my heart, those are the sweetest moments. Cannon, however, must have downed an energy drink on his way. (Not really but you can picture his energy level.) He was literally running circles around Zoey and I as we walked down the hall. He wasn’t disrupting anyone but me. He remained in arms length.

I have learned to fight my battles. We may look chaotic to everyone else but we were actually doing really well. He stayed with me but was getting all of his energy out. We have worked hard to figure out these little tricks that work for us. Ok all the people out there giving me look because “I can’t control my kids”, I see you. And I have one thing to say, in the most Southern voice I can “Bless Your Heart”. (for anyone that doesn’t know Southern I just sweetly told them to bite me.) My children are well mannered but loud. They stay with me but run circles around me when they need to get rid of energy. Yes they aren’t the picture perfect image of well disciplined children and quite honestly, that sounds brain numbingly boring. My kids being quirky makes life interesting for me, them, and anyone who takes the time to experience us. So look all you want to judgmental people. But be warned, I can let them run wild then you would see crazy. I mean now they just yell “excuse us” as they run by, they could come up and lick you (gross).

But this day we were doing our normal thing trying to leave base. We are walking down the hall when a group of about 10 soldiers walk the other direction, meeting us. Cannon decided that this was the perfect time to assert himself.  Cannon runs up to the soldiers. Bare in mind they are in uniform and heading to an appointment obviously. They weren’t out for a leisurely stroll. They were however new guys, they looked like they just got out of basic training. Cannon runs up to the first one and holds up his hand and yells “stop”. Before I can grab him and apologize all of the soldiers stop and stand at attention. I was stunned for a few seconds watching this little three year old boy in overalls get a group of soldiers to stop mid step and stand at attention. I snap out of my stunned silence about the time I hear a guy at the back of the group whisper “Why did we stop?”. The guy in front said “He said STOP”. I apologize for Cannon, grab his hand and we all went about our way.

About a week ago I had to drop off some paperwork at the school district. It was only Cannon and I because Zoey was finishing school. We had to wait in the lobby because they needed to make some copies of our paperwork. No big deal. They had books and Cannon and I just read and talked about what he saw in the lobby. There was one lady in the lobby with us. She was very well dressed in professional wear and appeared very nervous. She was obviously there for a job interview. Cannon had waited long enough patiently and decided he needed to walk around the area. There was only 3 of us total and he wasn’t bothering anyone. So I let him walk circles around the coffee table. About this time the other lady was called back for her interview. It was also at this time that Cannon decided to assert himself again. He runs between the lady and her interview, holds up his hand, and yells “stop”. While her interviewer looked on, she immediately stopped. Cannon then looked at her and said “now twirl” and proceeded show her what she was supposed to do. The stunned woman looked at me and said “I don’t know what to do.” I said “You say ‘good job’ and go to your interview”. She sheepishly does just that and goes to her interview. The interviewer watched the whole exchange laughing. I mean you need to know how to deal with kids if you are working with schools.

So I have decided that Cannon will either be the world’s best traffic cop or is a natural born leader. Either way, be prepared for spontaneous “STOP” commands from him if you see us.

I Let One WORD Ruin Tuesday (I’m an Idiot)

Tuesday of this week was hard. I woke up optimistic about Zoey’s appointment with the developmental pediatrician. I mean, come on. Last time they saw Zoey was in November. She wasn’t potty trained. She wasn’t speaking in full sentences. She was still mouthing everything that sat still. I was ready for them to say “She’s doing awesome mom. I’m so proud of her”. That is not what happened.

We went into our appointment like normal, chaotic. If you have ever spent 5 minutes with my children you know that we don’t do anything quietly or calmly. We come in like a “Halestorm”. Today was no different. We are loud. We draw attention. But we are happy and well mannered. We say “Excuse us” and “Thank you”. And we will scream “Good morning” to the world. Yeah, not what you expect in a hospital waiting room. Today, however, we must have had a fresh out of school nurse because she stared Zoey’s missing hand down. Not even discreetly. She stared at Zoey the entire length of the room and turned in her chair to watch her. Normally, this doesn’t bother me but today it did. We were in a military hospital. If there was any place I would expect her NOT to get stared at, this was it. It isn’t like they have never seen an amputee before. So I just couldn’t hold my tongue. I said “You know, your patients would feel more welcome if you didn’t stare at amputees”. And I may have used my teacher voice when I said amputee and stared back at the nurse. The room became quiet and she began stammering for a response. But seriously there isn’t anything you can say but sorry. And she didn’t say that. I said “My daughter doesn’t notice you staring yet but I do and I don’t appreciate it.” She continued to stammer and stutter for a response. We just walked away. A different nurse apologized. I freely admit, I did not handle this the best way. I was not the example Zoey needed but the mama bear in me wasn’t having it today.

So we make into the actual room where we get to see the doctor. Luckily with these appointments the observations are play based so there were already toys for the kids to play with. Thank God for the small things. This kept them occupied for a few minutes just so I could regain my composure. Calmed down, I was ready to move onto the praise that the doctor was going to have for Zoey. Instead I got a kick in the gut.

He came in and observed Zoey, talked with me, played with Zoey, and then calmly laid a bombshell on me. Zoey was being officially diagnosed with Autism. Cue the inner monologue of “Oh Hell NO”. Stunned, I sat and listened to his reasoning. She didn’t have enough social skills or read social cues. She did have a wide variety of facial expressions. She wasn’t having age appropriate conversations. She had food aversions. She had has a tendency to repeat words or activities. He said that she “looked better than she was”. Apparently my daughter had developed enough coping skills to mask the problems. Ummm what!!!! Zoey is one of the most social kids around. She LOVES people. She will talk to anyone, that doesn’t mean its a language they understand yet, but she will talk to anyone. And she doesn’t hold age appropriate conversations? She didn’t start talking until she was 3. She has come so far!! All of the reasons seemed pretty weak to me but I’m not trained, I’m just a mom.

I left there with my chin held high, proudly holding Zoey’s hand. Regardless of what that paper said, I was infinitely proud of her. She has beat the odds from before she was even born. She would overcome this too. I however felt defeated. I felt like a failure as a mom. How could I be so blind as to not see the problems they saw? What was I missing? I had naively thought that we were catching up and then this. Then he says “She is autistic”. I wanted to cry. And I did for about 2 minutes. Not because she was autistic but because she had something else to fight. Dammit, how much is one child supposed to fight? And I couldn’t do a single thing to help her with this fight. This was one I could support from the sidelines but could not do anything else. I will fight for my kids until the last breath leaves my body (and then if I can after that too) but I can’t fight this for her. And that hurt, A LOT.

So that night Nick took the kids outside to play in the pool. I had to have a few minutes by myself to digest all of this and honestly to really look at my own emotions with it. I realized that while my feelings were justifiable, I was being stupid. Zoey was not different when we walked out of that room than when we walked in. She is still an amazingly happy child that loves people. She is learning to talk more everyday. She is one of the strongest people I have ever met and nothing has changed about that. So someone put a label on her, that doesn’t change her. It may make things a little more difficult on my side (IEP, school, doctors, etc.) but it DOES NOT define Zoey. Zoey is Zoey. She is who she is. The baby that wakes up with the sun smiling and ready to go. The little girl who has a huge smile and yells “Good morning.” The protective big sister to Cannon. Her daddy’s princess. My warrior. Zoey is Zoey!! And I was letting a label given by someone who spent an hour in 6 months with my daughter cloud my feelings. I was being an idiot.

SO yes, Tuesday sucked. I was given a punch in the gut but I made it worse. Ok, Zoey is now labeled Autistic. I will continue to watch her grow and develop and AMAZE everyone. I will continue to love her. I will continue to nurture her independency, tenacity, and love of live. I will continue to let her grow in a safe (yet disciplined) environment. And I will be damned if I let someone else’s label EVER cloud my feelings again.

Forced Hiatus

I have been away from my blog for much longer than I ever anticipated. But it was a needed (and forced break). As I stated in previous posts I have recently had a huge fight with vertigo. Not like regular “I’m dizzy” vertigo, like “I pass out but don’t lose consciousness” vertigo. The debilitating type of vertigo. I assumed it dealt with my recent weight loss and dropping blood pressure. This had a small amount to do with it but not the cause. The next path we explored for the cause of the vertigo was my depression medication. Vertigo was a rare side effect of my medication so I had to change this. This sounds like such an easy thing, just change which pill you take. Oh, no!! It is far from simple. I had to gradually step down the medication to “detox” myself so I wouldn’t go through withdrawal. (Seriously what kind of medicine did they have me on). Then I had to start on my new medication. This took weeks of much deeper depression than normal. I was in no condition to be carrying on conversations much less making blog posts. All my positive energy was focused on being happy around my family so that my kids wouldn’t see mom in such a negative way. My kids will eventually know my fight but I don’t want their earliest memories of mommy being my depression.

We switched my medication and my depression is under much better control. My vertigo however was still raging. I was taking anti-vertigo medication 5 times a day. I might as well have been taking 5 sleeping pills a day considering how tired I was. So sleep, basic mom functions, vertigo, sleep, repeat. It was no way to live. I told Nick “I feel like I’m losing my life. Not that I’m dying, just that I’m losing everything about me that is ME. I’m becoming a shell.” My body was in a forced hiatus. I couldn’t continue to live like this so I went searching for more answers.

I found another doctor who was willing to chase this and explore more options. I decided I needed a new doctor when my previous one said “You know WebMD can’t practice medicine.” after I told him I had been researching. I told him I didn’t care how much he laughed at me as long as he helped me. He gave me a refill of my medication. I was done. So I switched doctors and was put through a battery of specialized tests. Eureka, we found an answer. I have Meniere’s Disease. It is a rare condition that makes the inner ear sick. The inner ear controls the balance of a person. When the inner ear is sick, it can’t control your balance. It is uncontrollable. And every vertigo attack permanently damages my hearing. So lucky me. I have two rare(ish) conditions with Celiac and Meniere’s. Why?! Why can’t I be so lucky with the lottery?

As much as I fought against this Meniere’s diagnosis, I had some answers. I had a way to fight to get my life back. And I had a specialist who knew how to help me. My new specialist took me off the medication that was making me so sleepy. She replaced it with one pill proven to help with Meniere’s. I was skeptical but was willing to try just about anything. The first day was good but I was still getting the other medication out of my system. The second day I was much better but still scared to leave the house. I was terrified of having an attack while out with the kids. You can’t protect your children when you can’t get off the ground. Every day was better. I began to feel like myself again. I went from 5 pills a day to prevent vertigo attacks to taking my emergency pill once in a month. I was finally getting my life back. As much as I hate to think that I have this and will fight it the rest of my life I have always felt that as long as I know what I’m fighting and how to fight it, I can do it.

I am getting my life back. It will be a long journey. It is tedious at times. How can I get dizzy standing up too fast? Why can’t I drink caffeine? Why is salt making me dizzy? Seriously, why can’t I just be normal. But God never planned on me being normal. He had different plans that I have no knowledge of. So I will be faithful. I will fight the good fight. I will cuss (yes, I just mentioned God and said that I cuss) and rail and whine, but I will fight. I will live the best life I have.

Sacrificed So Much For The Game- I’m still laughing years later

My husband loves soccer. He played from kindergarten right through school. He even plays on the rec teams at our current base (when scheduling works out). He would actually rather watch a soccer game than a traditional football game. This was crazy to me since I LOVE football games, traditional college football games not professional. But I never realized how much he loved soccer until he told me about an experience he had in high school.

During a high school game, Nick was playing in a game against one of the other area high schools. Just the typical high school game. Nick was going after the ball which is exactly what he was supposed to do when the player from the opposing team tried passing the ball across the field. Nick was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got the soccer ball right in the eye. He tried to shake off the impact and continue playing in the game. He realized that there was something wrong with his sight. He exits the field and makes the trip to the emergency room.

He came to school the next sporting an awesome black eye patch. His teammates and friends gathered to find out what exactly was wrong with him. After reassuring them that he was ok, they asked why he had to wear the eye patch. He calmly replied “Oh the ball detached my rectum so I just have to wear this until it heals.” Of course, laughter ensues. My husband had just told a group of high school guys that a ball had detached his butt hole. Poor guy just couldn’t understand why everyone was laughing at his pain. He had actually hurt himself and had to wear an eye patch. He was starting to get a little upset when one of his friends finally stopped laughing long enough to ask “Are you sure you detached your RECTUM?” Nick responded “Yeah. The ball hit me so hard in the face that it just knocked my rectum lose.” Yep! More laughter. Someone finally said “Don’t you mean retina? Because the retina is in your eye and rectum is your butt hole.” Nick is instantly embarrassed. How had he said something so stupid? But he had said them and he didn’t get to live them down. Even the coach said that he “Sacrificed so much for the game” at the year end awards ceremony. And poor guy, even now I will frequently bring up this embarrassing story from his past and laugh hysterically.

What’s That Mommy?

Sometimes you need to really think about what you are going to say before you answer a toddlers question. I learned this the hard way very recently.

I was recently changing my sons diaper. I know he is a little old to still be in diapers. I get it. We have tried but he has zero interest in potty training. In fact, this is the one thing that my pretty mellow child fights me on. But I was changing his diaper. Zoey decided it was the perfect time to go crazy. She was upside down on the trampoline in the living room. She had figured out how to do flips over the handle bars. So I was trying to get her to stop doing random tumbling before she broke something or herself.

I was ringmaster to Zoey’s gymnastics show while changing Cannon’s diaper. He began fighting me but calmed down while I was encouraging Zoey to calm down (calling her down and threatening to put her in time out). Cannon says calmly “Mommy, What’s that?” Don’t, I repeat, DON’T just look at the object in question and answer. I did this! I looked and he was grabbing his business. I said “Its your penis baby. Don’t worry, Its yours. It’s not going away.” Cue Zoey’s epic flip and the return of Cannon’s fight against diapers. Chaos ensued. The day progresses and our conversation is forgotten.

Later that night, we go bowling with people from my husband’s shop. Cannon walks right up to all the guys and says “I have a penis” and immediately runs away. Given that most of the guys don’t have children, they did not know how to respond. (I have to laugh because even as parent’s all you can really say is “Ok”). And I should go ahead and note that Cannon has a lisp which is adorable at this age.  So yes, my son announced to everyone that he had a penis like it was totally normal conversation. I was embarrassed for a millisecond but then I just laughed. We try very hard not to take life too seriously.

The next night I was rocking Cannon to sleep. Judge me all you want, he is my last baby. And if either of them want me to rock them I do. They won’t always want me to so I soak up all of the adorable loves they give me. This night I was rocking Cannon to sleep. He’s almost asleep when he rouses, grabs my hand, and says “Mommy, where’s my penis?” I try not to laugh when I reply “It’s in your diaper baby.” He says “oh good, I thought I lost it”. Once reassured that he didn’t lose his penis and that it was exactly where it was supposed to be, he went to sleep.

 

Bus Adventures- When your child becomes the punch line for horrible jokes.

We had a very interesting bus experience the other day. Zoey rides the special education bus to school.  All preschoolers ride it but then again Zoey is considered special education until we catch up from our developmental delays. Being born so early meant that she had (and has) to catch up on a lot of things. And she is doing amazing. She has caught up so much but we still have some more work to do. With all of that being said, Zoey rides the “short bus” to school.

Zoey loves the bus. Absolutely loves riding the bus to school. She loves the driver and the aide. It is honestly like a field trip for her every day. Everyday when the bus delivers Zoey to the house, she yells “Its the Mommy” (Yes, it drops her at our door. We are spoiled by this. Its awesome). However this day I didn’t hear anything. I walk to the door to pick up her up and the driver said “we are having a discussion”. This means that Zoey has done something wrong and they were talking to her about it. I know this because last time we had almost the exact same chain of events was when Zoey chewed her finger off.

I looked at the bus driver and she said that they were having a discussion with Zoey. I said “Uh oh, what about?” I have no delusions that my children will do things wrong. They need to do wrong to learn. They need to be disciplined (in the appropriate way). They need to be molded and taught how to be awesome people. So I just wanted to know what I needed to address with Zoey. Was she spitting on people, was she hitting, was she talking back? All of this I was (sorta)expecting in a way because of her age. I was not expecting what she said, “Zoey was licking the window.” I was floored and without even thinking about it, I said “My child is the short bus window licker?” I knew some mother had that pleasure but I didn’t realize that my child would be the short bus window licker.

The bus driver wasn’t expecting me to say that. I  wasn’t expecting to say it either. We both chuckled because, seriously, everyone has heard the childish jokes. We recovered quickly and talked with Zoey about why that was gross and she didn’t need to do that anymore. Luckily we haven’t had anymore issues with the bus window but our glass door is another issue.

**I need to end this by saying we are trying to not take life too seriously. I’m sorry if this offended you. I said this about my own child for being so weird. I would never say this about someone else’s child. And by the same token, if you say this about my child there is a strong possibility that I will Spartan kick you.

 

I Have Depression

I have depression. The kind of depression that requires a doctor and medication. So yes I take medicine for depression. No I’m not depressed. There is a huge difference. I’ve experienced both profoundly. I was depressed when my grandmother died (the first death of someone close to me). I was depressed in an extremely toxic work environment. I was depressed when my fiancé died. I was depressed when my daughter was born so extremely early and missing a hand. I was depressed when my son stopped breathing at birth. All of these things reached on a soul deep level that made me depressed. Time helped heal most of these wounds, while a good fight and victory helped heal the rest. This is being depressed. Something caused my outlook to darken. Something caused my heart to break. Something made me dread the day. This was NOT depression.

Depression has no trigger to it. Sure things can make it worse but it is always there. Lurking, like the bad guy from movies, waiting to pounce. Depression doesn’t care that you have been doing great on your diet, you still aren’t skinny enough. Depression doesn’t care that your guy says he loves you, you aren’t worth it. Depression says “well you screwed that up again”. Depression sucks. It sucks the life out of you. It sucks the happiness from your environment. It sucks your drive to be and do better. Depression just sucks. And not just for the person who has it.

My mother has got to be a saint. She supported me and comforted me during the worst storm of my depression. And unfortunately, there is normally no helping the helpers. As the person suffering depression, we get drugs. And some good drugs. We get help, if and when we choose to seek it. The helpers don’t. They suffer through our grief. They stand strong in our storms. They hold us when we break. They encourage us when we feel like all is lost. My mom did all of this and more for me. I was lucky. And sometimes, I feel like she wasn’t because she had to be the rock for a ship fighting an unforgiving ocean.

And I put up one hell of a fight against having depression. Not just the disease, but the diagnosis as well. I wasn’t crazy. I didn’t need help with my emotions. I sure didn’t need anyone judging me on the way I felt about things. Judgey people have always bothered me and this was no exception. After the death of my fiancé I decided I was tired of feeling despair. I decided to seek help. I cried and cried when I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t strong enough. That I needed that help.

I got the help and medicine that I needed. It is still a daily struggle to be optimistic. It has taken years of training to be able to laugh at things that would previously create an explosion of negative emotions. And some days I struggle! Some days I don’t brush my hair because it just isn’t worth it. Luckily, those are normally the days that I don’t leave the house. It is during these periods that I withdraw from everyone and everything. It’s the time that I have to find my happiness again before I can be “normal”. But I ALWAYS know these periods are temporary. But these times are also strong.

I have never fully admitted this struggle but felt it was necessary. As I open our lives up to all of you, I realized this needed to be shared as well. Maybe some of you are struggling and need to know you aren’t alone. Maybe some of you are the helpers and haven’t heard Thank You enough (we can never say it enough). But I definitely realized you all needed to know that my absence from writing sometimes isn’t because I don’t want to, but because I am fighting a huge battle and need to be victorious before I come back. This is therapeutic for me and I love it. But on the days that loving anything is hard, I make sure my computer is off and I soak in all the unconditional love that surrounds me. Because even though people suffering from depression don’t always see it, we are all loved, valued, and treasured. We are important. We are amazing.

Christmas Cookies- How did that get awkward?

I love to bake. So for Christmas I normally bake goodies for gifts. This Christmas was no different. I was making goodies for our neighbors. We weren’t really close. They tended to keep to themselves and I respected that. But were friendly though and they were good neighbors, so they got baked goods for Christmas. I fixed a special kind of Puppy Chow Chex Mix. Its my own special recipe because I don’t really like a lot of chocolate. But I digress, I was making big batches of this to give away for Christmas gifts.

I made a big batch and divided it up and got it ready to give away. Apparently my kids and Nick had different ideas. We ended up watching Polar Express and eating my White Trash Chex Mix. So I ended up making a second batch the next day. It was this day that I found out Cannon was tall enough to get stuff off the countertop. I found him covered in powdered sugar stuffing his face. So I couldn’t give that batch away either. I made my third big batch of the Chex mix. The third batch “somehow” ended up missing. I honestly don’t know what happened to it. I don’t know if the kids hide it somewhere, it went to work with Nick, it got eaten when friends came over. I just don’t know . But I do know that I wasn’t making any more.

I went to the grocery store and bought Chips Ahoy cookies. I was done cooking and took the lazy way out. I admit it. But I brought them home and put them away. High enough in the pantry that the kids could not reach it. I told Nick that the pack of cookies was for the neighbors and to not bother them. Later that evening, I wrote a note explaining why they were getting store-bought cookies, grabbed the bag of cookies and put them in a pretty Christmas bag. I walked them over to the neighbor’s house and left them at the door because they weren’t home. I also included a note explaining that my baked goods kept getting eaten so it had taken me a while to get them.

The next day Nick walks into the kitchen. He turns around with a bewildered expression on his face. He asks “Where are the cookies?” I thought that he was kidding me. I had told him they were for the neighbors and I had delivered them last night. He laughs and says “no you didn’t”. He laughs some more and then asked me if I really did. I told him I had. I reminded him that I told him I was and that was why I had hidden them in the pantry so they wouldn’t be bothered. By now his face had dropped. I asked him what was the matter. He starts laughing and said “I’ve eaten some of those cookies that you just gave away”. Apparently he didn’t understand my explicit directions and ate some of them.

I told him that he had to go to the neighbors the next day and explain why I had given them a half eaten bag of cookies. Luckily, the neighbors were very understanding. In fact, they told us that they thought it was a joke considering I had included a not saying the kids kept eating the cookies. They also said that they had already eaten some of the cookies and it totally didn’t bother them. I now make sure and put a bow on all baked goods that I plan to give away as soon as they are cool enough. That I way it’s very OBVIOUS if any has been eaten.

Active Shooter Situation

Last week I had one of the most frightening experiences of my life. I had to go grocery shopping, a super normal occurrence for me. So I loaded up both kids and we set off to Walmart. Again, I’m there enough they know the kids by name. I loaded both kids in the shopping cart and I gave them snacks to eat while I did my shopping. This game plan is the only way that I keep my sanity and get most of the groceries on my list. It was our normal routine for shopping.

We moved to the back of Walmart to get the milk. We ALWAYS need milk. I was making my way down the chips aisle when I heard loud bangs. I honestly didn’t think anything of it because when we first came in the workers were moving pallets around to change the displays. That quickly changed when I heard the yelling and the sound of people running. I couldn’t figure out what they were saying or why everyone was running. I mean it was Walmart so there was no telling what was going on. Then I caught the one word that was being repeated by every employee “Shooter! Shooter!”. I look to the other end of the aisle and see even more people running out, all yelling “Shooter”. Then it hit me. My kids and I were in an active shooter situation.

When I realized that we were in a dangerous situation I knew we had to get out of there. I immediately started running and pushing the cart with both of my babies as fast as I could toward the exit. However, the carts are very hard to push loaded with groceries and two kids. I ran into the cooler stationed in the middle and turned the cart over. At that time my kids, who never stop moving, stood immobile. I pushed them towards the door yelling for them to run. First Zoey fell. As I scooped her up and pushed her to run again I watched Cannon get jostled and he fell. At this point I screamed “my babies, my babies” just so that the people running would know there were children there. Two vendors actually scooped up my children and cradled them as they ran outside. The older gentleman that was carrying Cannon tripped and fell in the doorway. He pushed Cannon towards me, still creating a barrier between my son and the inside of the building.

Once we were outside, I immediately looked for a low lying area that was behind a barrier of some sort. That meant that Cannon and I headed toward the ditch behind Walmart, behind a line of trees. I saw the vendor carrying Zoey running in the opposite direction. I screamed for her. He immediately brought her back and stood between the building and us. I can honestly say that I have never been more terrified for my children than at that time.

I immediately tried to get in contact with Nick. Due to the nature of his job, he isn’t allowed to have his phone with him at times. I didn’t have his office number because I had a new phone. I called EVERYONE that I could think of to get in contact with him. I even called his chief, who is absolutely amazing. She was on the ball to make sure we were ok as soon as she found out. I even called the spouses of the nightshift crew looking for a way to get hold of him. I know that he couldn’t do anything in an active shooter situation but I will be damned if he wouldn’t know of our whereabouts in the case there was a way to get the children out. I finally got hold of one of his coworkers and a mutual friend. I do find it odd that she was in an “active shooter” training when I called to tell her that we were in an “active shooter situation”. She immediately made the calls necessary to get hold of him and everyone that needed to know.

By now the kids are playing in the ditch. Oh the blessed young mind was just excited mommy was letting them get dirty. The sound of sirens was everywhere but there were no more gunshots. The atmosphere seemed to change from terror to bewilderment. People began to come out of hiding and mill around. I, however, didn’t let the kids out of the ditch until we talked with the police. I knew well enough not to race back into a building that could hold an additional shooter. We were safer where we were and that was where we would stay until I knew it was clear.

Eventually word reached the people behind the loading zone that the shooter was in custody. We came out of the ditch but I still didn’t go back into the building. I couldn’t take my children back into the place that was such a threat to their safety so recently. And apparently I wasn’t the only person who felt that way because there were several of us that were loitering around the back. One of the employees went in to get my purse and brought it to me. I thanked the two men that carried my children out. I found out they were father and son but didn’t get their names. I wish that I had, they will always be the shining point in this event.

I freely admit at this time I was unsure of what I needed to do. During the event, the kids’ safety was the most important thing. I had a plan and focused on that. I was making sure they were as safe as I could make them. Now that the threat was over, I didn’t know what the next course of action should be. I had gotten in touch with Nick and knew he was on the way. I however couldn’t get to the van without taking the kids through the crime scene. I was NOT doing that. Plus with the adrenaline still coursing, I knew I wasn’t ready to drive. So we stayed in the empty area of the parking lot near a grassed area and the kids played. A police officer came to check on us. Cannon ran up to him and hugged his leg. Zoey waved like she was in a parade. The police officer took the time to hug Cannon back. He kneeled down to eye level with Cannon and said “Isn’t it neat that Walmart is having a fire drill like they have at school? You are such a big guy for helping mommy and your sister out”. He didn’t need to do that. I’m sure he had so much more going on that day than to comfort my little family.

Nick finally arrived. This was a feat in itself considering all traffic was rerouted and not allowed to enter the parking lot. He had to go in a back way to an adjacent parking lot to get to us. But he got to us. He went to get the van. On his way up there a Walmart employee said “Sir, Walmart is closed for the day”. I find this funny because the entrance was taped off with crime scene tape, emergency vehicles littered the parking lot. Nick said “I know. I’m trying to get to my van. My family was in there.” He walked forward and told a police officer that he was trying to get our van because he didn’t’ have car seats for the kids and it was the only way for us to leave. The police officer said “The brunette with the ponytail, daughter with one hand, and son running around like crazy?” Yep, that was us. He escorted Nick to the van but wouldn’t let him approach until he did a sweep of the van for bullet holes and/or bullet casings.

Following this event there has been lots of conversations. * I DO NOT know for certain and these should be taken only as what I have heard.* I have heard that this was a very specific targeted event. It was a couple in a domestic dispute. The victim was working on the premises and the shooter made her leave at gunpoint. The victim did die from gunshot wounds. The sheriff was pulling into the parking lot and watched the incident occur and almost immediately took the shooter into custody. Again, I was hiding my kids in a ditch because I didn’t know the whole situation but knew that my kids were in danger so this is what I have heard.

Some people say that this has been blown out of proportion because it was a domestic dispute.  I completely understand your point of view. I get it. But I will always remember this as a terrifying experience.  I did not know how many people where shooting. I did not know where they were located. I did not know how many people were targets. But I did know my kids were in danger. And I did know that it was my job to keep them safe and the only way to do this was run and hide. I do know that I have never felt more helpless. I do know that I still feel like a failure because I couldn’t get my children out fast enough, that I needed help getting my children out. But I do know that given the situation or any like it, I will ALWAYS do what I need to do to make sure the kids are safe.

Many people have also focused on the hate that a person must feel to carry out such a situation. Again, I get it! But I am choosing to look at the positive. I choose to remember my dad being hours away on Google Earth trying to find an escape route for his babies. I choose to remember the way that my friends have called and checked on all of us and made all the calls I couldn’t in the middle of the situation. I choose to remember how my husband’s squadron rallied around him and his family to make sure we were ok. And I choose to remember the two stranger who scooped up my children and ran with them out of the building and out of danger, shielding them with their own bodies the entire time. Because I know that despite all the ugly in the world, there are still amazingly, beautifully good people in the world.

Getting Zoey’s Pulse

My son and I are sitting in an Urgent Care facility. Not a fun way to spend the day, especially after spending hours last night in the Emergency Room with my daughter last night. Unfortunately the flu has found our house. Zoey was running a fever and nonstop crying. Cannon has a fever and puking. With both of them being preemies, they don’t have as strong of an immune system as others. So when they are sick we don’t risk it and get them medical care. Sitting in these waiting rooms has brought back tons of memories of other doctors visits we have had since Zoey was born.

When Zoey was born her lungs, like everything else, weren’t as developed as they should have been. We were playing catch up. Now she was able to breath on her own like a champ but couldn’t fight respiratory issues.  So after her NICU release we were referred to a specialist. During our initial visit with her respiratory specialist we had a new corpsman at the military hospital we were going to. She seemed to be a little flustered and she had a higher ranking individual teaching her. Honestly giving her Zoey as a patient was just not fair. Zoey had a horrible fear of doctors and fought as hard as her little one year old self could.  Seriously, she was a little beast. Oh she looked adorable but would take that nub and throat punch people. Poor corpsman never stood a chance with Zoey as her patient.

After fighting to get Zoey calmed down enough for them to approach her. I watched in equal parts amazement and amusement as the corpsman attached the monitors to Zoey. I made eye contact with the teacher in the room and gave her a smirk. Of course she saw what was happening and knew it wasn’t going to turn out good. The corpsman looked at the equipment in utter confusion, exchanging glance between Zoey and the equipment. Finally she looked at me and said “ma’am your daughter doesn’t have a pulse”. I said, as straight faced as possible, “of course she doesn’t, that’s her prosthetic.” I then smiled and suggested she use her actual arm. With a complete look of embarrassment, she turns to look at her supervisor who just gives her the look. She then turns to me and says “well that explains it. I didn’t think it felt right.” The rest of the visit went along regularly but I have to laugh when I think back to the whole exchange. I know prosthetics are not normally on children that small but seriously, how could she not tell? I can almost guarantee that she’s never mistaken a prosthetic arm for a regular one again.