The next couple made me a better mom and a better wife. Troy continues to use then as a shining example for "attitude is everything." Have you heard that quote that "life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond?"
Lesson 1: Love God. Love People.
No matter what anyone tries to tell you, when you have a baby, it changes your marriage. You don't do it on purpose, but you can't help it. Everyone tells you "be married for a few years before you have kids so you really have time to enjoy each other get to know each other." Well, we were married for almost 4 years before we had Avery and as it turns out, we definitely knew each other before she was born, but it didn't make one bit of difference.
Things change when you have a baby. You can't plan for it. You don't know how you or your spouse will react. You think that you can handle it. You have great days. And horrible days.
There are parts of my body that have been completely off limits since Avery was born. I have become a nagging nagger. Troy has been subject to the crazy. As a family grows, there are just more things to do. Especially when you have a dog and buy a house. No more sleeping in until 11 on weekends and lounging all day. You have to cook food and eat meals. Babies can't eat cereal and ice cream for every meal. Well, they shouldn't. It happens. On your days off work, you can't "do nothing." Days off work are work days at home. It's a huge adjustment.
Rob and Cynthia would never let that 10% ruin the party called life. Ever. If life gave them lemons, they'd make sangria and bring some limes and tequila.
ROB AND CYNTHIA WITTWER
Rob and Troy met at East Carolina when Troy was a freshman in ROTC. Rob was "the old guy." I kid. But really. Troy was a young, impressionable 18 year old and Rob was going back to school to get a nursing degree with his GI bill after serving 4 years in the Marines. AND he was married. AND he had a kid. Not to mention he didn't live on campus. As it turns out, Rob was the cool guy.
One of Troy's first memories of Rob was at an ROTC tailgate for a football game. Rob showed up with a kid. ALL of these irresponsible college kids drinking and playing beer pong. And who's the guy who brought the freakin' kid? Rob. Troy remembers watching Rob and his 2 year old play football the whole tailgate. He doesn't remember who he talked to, anyone he met, or who played at the game. All he remembers is thinking, "there's a good guy right there." And later telling me, "that's the kind of dad I want to be."
Rob and Cynthia got married young. I think they were 19? And then immediately started popping out kids. By the time Troy and Rob graduated (they were in the same commissioning class) Rob was up to 3 kids. During Troy's college career, he spent many many nights at their house. Rob and Cynthia GOT it. They invited people over, knowing that they wouldn't be able to go out with a gaggle of kids. Instead of going to parties, they had parties. They had taco night every week (Troy always brought avocados), dirty Santa dress up parties, and as Rob's birthday is on leap year, the year his birthday day actually fell, they had a power rangers party. Hilarious.
Rob went to full time nursing school and worked at Olive Garden. And helped Cynthia. She waited tables and was a bartender while Rob got his degree. She was the poster child for supportive military spouses everywhere. They bought houses and flipped them while they lived in them. And moved over and over. Haha. I have helped them move several times, the most recently into their house in Maryland.
I remember meeting Cynthia while she was hugely pregnant with surprise baby number 3. We went over for taco night and I remember thinking "how are they doing this?" How is Rob in nursing school full time and working full time? How do they have energy to host parties every week? With 2 kids and one on the way? And how is such a tiny little lady not falling over with that huge belly and still waiting tables? They are making me feel so inadequate! HOW DO THEY DO IT?? How are they keeping it together and so happy? I need their secret. I think I have figured it out:
Lesson 2: Work hard. Play hard. Choose to be happy.
The next time I met them, I was helping them move. They moved a couple times while the guys were in school. After they flipped a house (while raising 3 kids and going to school and working) they couldn't sell it for the price they wanted. So rather than rent it out, they decided to sell the house they were currently living in and move into the flipped house and wait it out for the market to improve. Cynthia had just had Preston, baby number 3. She was a rock star. She was packing and nursing at the same time. And feeding kids. And chatting with all Rob's friends.
I offered to supervise the kids in gymnastics while she ran errands (buying cleaning supplies for the new house, etc). I rode with her to gymnastics (Brennan was like 5 and Aiden was about 3? and Preston was maybe 3 months old) and was in complete awe watching her keep them together in the parking lot. We pulled into the gym. Those kids knew exactly what to do. The older 2 unbuckled themselves and hopped out of the car and stuck their little hands on the tail lights while Cynthia lugged that heavy infant carrier out of the car. I was like "uhhhh what can I do??" all intimidated by Cynthia's organization and lack of order barking. She was like "oh nothing." I went in and watched the kids and rocked Preston in the carseat, terrified he would wake up and I would have to manage a crying infant. Just one kid...I was freaking out. Anyway, he was fine the whole time and Cynthia got her errands done.
Fast forward 6 years and Troy and I are moving to San Antonio last summer. They had lived there for several years. Avery was about 6 weeks old. We stayed with them for 2 weeks while Troy and I house hunted. They treated us like family. I remember the day I flew there. It was awful. I had gotten up at 3 am east coast time to catch a plane to San Antonio and was breastfeeding so Avery was like a hungry hippo. I was exhausted by the time Troy picked me up at the airport and dropped me off at Rob and Cynthia's. He had to go immediately back to work because it was only like noon or something. It was the first time I'd seen them or spoken to them since Troy's graduation and commissioning day. So over 4 years. I was a little nervous. I just remembered Cynthia being super mom and I was feeling like a mess. A hot mess.
So I go upstairs to nurse, being all private, and try to take a nap. Well Avery won't sleep a lick and I am trying to "rock" her to sleep inside a dresser drawer. Not kidding. I put Avery in the top drawer of their big dresser and was rolling the dresser in and out gently (not closing her in!) to fall asleep. It was NOT working and I was exhausted. I was crying and distraught thinking "I AM THE WORST PARENT EVERRRRRR." Cynthia sticks her head in the door at my LOWEST moment (I AM NEVER SLEEPING AGAIN.........) and says, "I want her. I'll take her." Hands all grabby and held out expectantly. I handed her right over and crashed immediately face first into the bed and slept for 5 hours.
When I woke up, Avery was STILL ASLEEP! Cynthia had put her to sleep immediately and she'd been sleeping for almost 5 hours. She is seriously a baby whisperer. I was determined to learn her ways and soak it in. I learned the tightest baby swaddle ever. It is unbreakable. By the end of the 2 weeks, I was straight up nursing without a shirt on in their living room and that whole "privacy" thing went out the window on day 2. Thank God Rob is a nurse and not a creeper. Their poor kids got an in depth education about female anatomy and how mommies feed babies. Cynthia was a serious breastfeeding cheerleader. I totally think God put us together for that time period because I needed a mommy mentor. I needed Cynthia.
Rob and Cynthia arranged for us to have a sitter so we could go out. That's right. You read it correctly. Avery was less than 2 months old and we left her with a sitter. In a house that wasn't ours with a girl that we didn't know. And everything was fine. Apparently having date nights is super important. Your kids will grow up and leave you and get lives. If you don't keep your relationship with your spouse number 1, you'll be left with crap when your kids become adults. When I look back at those 2 weeks at their house, I can honestly say it was a turning point for me as a mom and a wife. Cynthia was like, "you do what is best for your family and your baby, screw everyone else. Don't listen to 'experts' or whatever. You know your baby better than any book."
And also not to take myself too seriously. Laugh when you mess up. We were outside having dinner with a bunch of their neighbors and Avery was asleep in her stroller. The automatic sprinklers turned on and we all shot up and got out of the water. I looked up when I was safe from the showers and was like, "uh, where's Avery?" Yeah, I totally left her to get soaked. I was all "SAVE YOURSELF!!" Oops. I gave myself a hard time about it and Cynthia thought it was the best thing ever.
Rob and Cynthia treat each other so well. They are so in love. They are so supportive of each other. Sometimes it makes me gag, but I think it's mostly because I'm jealous of the absolute passion they have for each other and for their kids. I feel like they are the perfect example of "the American dream." They went through a lot at a really young age and made their own way to get somewhere. Rob enlisted and used his GI bill while they both worked in the service industry and had kids. Cynthia moved and moved and waited patiently and now has a KICK BUTT job that she rocks at. It's 10 years in the making but they are true examples of how hard work pays off. And making things work even when it's really hard. And being happy about it. And realizing how to make the best of a crap situation. And not quitting. And always having fun. They will totally draw you in and hold on tight.
In addition, you can tell they genuinely enjoy each others company. How many couples do you know that seem like they merely tolerate each other? They always have fun together. Even when they're doing nothing. Or going out. Or doing P90X together. For the record, that's true love. I could NEVER let Troy see me sweat and struggle like that. I'm afraid he would stop loving me. Anyway, can't you just tell how much they love each other??
I think we'd have a great time in Vegas Wittwers. What do you say? Let us host you for once ;) Thanks for the memories. More to come...