Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Groove

There is this place I go during a deployment. It's called "the groove". I can't speak for all military spouses, but for some of us the groove is our safe place. In the groove I avoid the evening news and daily newspapers. I avoid any mention of the war. I guess the groove is not really a place, it's a state of mind. The groove is the time in the middle, between the fresh pain of watching your soldier get on the plane and the overwhelming anxiety and excitement that make those last few weeks at the end creep by. The beginning is the worst part. Daily routine becomes a reminder that you are alone, at least for a while.For me, trying to go to sleep in an empty house is the hardest part. I lay there in the dark listening to all the strange noises the house makes and I miss my best friend. But after a week or so I get into the groove. It becomes a new routine. I make myself busy with whatever I can and the days begin to go by quicker and the pain dulls. It's a great blessing that this groove exists. It makes the months bearable.

However, every once in a while something happens that knocks me right out of my groove. Someone says something or I catch a glimpse of the news and the reality of my situation washes over me. I feel the pain I felt when I was driving away from the airfield as Brandon boarded that plane. I feel like the next few months will be endless. I know that if I were to talk to Brandon in that moment I would break the cardinal rule of the military spouse and ask him to come home. This happened today. I got word of the uprise in violence overseas. And my downward spiral began. Against my better judgement I started to Google. Tears filled my eyes and I felt the full weight of the deployment. (I should say I FEEL the full weight, as I'm not quite back in the groove yet.) Today I feel as if this deployment will never end. Which is crazy, because I've been through a much longer deployment. The last one was 15 months! It was a whole year before Brandon even came home on leave. This one is 6-8 months. That's nothing, right? Today, it feels like years. Today I'm out of the groove.

But God always provides. I got to talk to Brandon today and he sounded good. Safe and sound! I remember that God has provided our little family, and this country, with a strong soldier in Brandon. Brave, focused, and prepared. He believes in his job and is proud to serve this country. And once this deployment is over, he'll be ready to come home.

So today I'll think about the moment when Brandon will step off that plane. I'll remember the day 3 years ago when he came home from that long deployment. I have to say, aside from Elijah's birth, that day was my favorite. Waiting in that hanger with 300 other families, seeing the plane approach the airfield, and watching the wheels touch down. Standing only feet away from a sea of camo as the commander gave his final orders. And finally, finding Brandon and holding him like I'd never let go. Today I'll think of that and find my way back to the groove.

A few photos from his homecoming December 2008. Can't wait for our next homecoming!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

When Convenience Makes You Crazy

Modern technology is a life vest for me when Brandon is deployed. My phone is basically an extra appendage. I get spoiled with short phone calls and emails daily. We even get to see each other frequently on Skype! What a blessing, especially now that we have Eli. Brandon is able to see him all the time. It just makes me so happy! But when those phone calls or emails don't come on schedule I turn into a complete lunatic. Seriously. Let me tell you a little story...

For the first month Brandon was gone we were able to talk daily on Skype or he could call from his weird foreign cell phone. Every morning and every evening I would get a Skype call. He had internet in his room so he would leave his Skype on all day and I could call him and most of the time he would be available. It was wonderful! Almost like he was just at work, here at Fort Campbell. Convenient right? That's how technology tricked me! Brandon moved to another area and no longer has personal internet. No more Skype. I couldn't get in touch with him whenever I wanted. After a few days of no calls or emails I went a little mad. I broke down his crazy phone number, found the country code, and figured out how to call him. So I dialed. I knew it was probably not the best idea. I doubt the Army gave him this cell phone for personal use. But I rationalized. I was just going to call once and it probably wouldn't work anyway. Right? Well, it did. After about 7 rings a recording, not in English, let me know that Brandon was unavailable (I'm assuming that's what the recording stated). Okay, cool. No problem. He just couldn't get to the phone. Then I became a victim of the snowball effect. After 10 phone calls, an attempt to text message, and a panicked email I realized I had crossed over to a dark place. And I was going to hear about it. Brandon finally got to his phone and called me back. Poor guy was totally freaked out and thought there was some emergency with me or Eli. You can imagine how crappy I felt when the first thing out of his mouth was "What's wrong? Is Eli okay?". I had to reply with the truth, "Uh, yeah. I just wanted to talk to you". Not good.

So after this moment of insanity I realized that the convenience of super awesome technology can really drive you nuts! My Dad always reminds me about his time in Vietnam. He was dating my Mom and they only had "snail mail" to rely on for communication. He would write her a letter that would take weeks to arrive. Then she would write back. By the time the communication came full circle it had been over a month. Oh man, I don't know if I could make it.

Back in the day, when only Zack Morris had a cell phone, you had to call someone's house and if they weren't home you just had to wait. Email was certainly not instantaneous. You remember the AOL dial tone. If technology was still in that state there would be no way I would get to communicate with my deployed husband so readily. So yes, I'm so grateful for modern day technology and the opportunity to talk to Brandon and Skype with him often. We're so lucky that he's able to see Eli and Eli can see him too. I just need to remember the convenience of technology is a treat. I can't let it's absence drive me crazy!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Emerging from the Diapers

Being a Mom is more amazing than I ever imagined. Oh! There are no words to describe the way my heart has grown. My life could be spent laying on the floor with Elijah and making him smile, or sitting on the couch and letting him sleep on my chest. My whole world is this little guy and I'm just so in love.

When I got pregnant I was so excited! My whole life became about being pregnant and preparing for our baby to enter the world. Slowly all the apps on my phone changed from fashion and travel to What to Expect When Expecting and The Baby Center apps. As my pregnancy progressed and the reality of being a Mom got closer and closer, I wondered if I would still be myself after all this. I wondered if I would start to see the appeal of pajama jeans. Would I want to wear high heels? Would I trade in all my handbags for diaper bags? What aspects of me would remain after this monumental, life changing event? I have to admit, I was a little scared to find out.

As Eli's 2 month mark approaches I've started to feel myself emerge again. I feel like I'm starting to make my way out of the haze of late night feedings, piles of diapers, and days spent in pajamas. I'm getting used to those things and through them I'm finding my new "Mom self". And I'm pleased to find that my new self still loves fashion! It's always been such a big part of my life, and for the last eleven months I have only been focused on maternity clothes. I'm still working on getting the baby weight off, but I'm getting so excited about wearing "normal" clothes and getting into the spring fashions! Here are some things I'm excited to try:

I know this may seem like a little thing to some. Others may feel like returning to work or exercising helps bring you out of the "new baby haze", but to me having the fashion bug is what is making me feel like part of the world again. And I can already tell that dressing Eli will add a whole new facet to my fashion obsession. Bring on the boy's clothes!

To all you Moms, is there something that made "you feel like you" again after you had your kids?

And to everyone- What are you excited about this Spring?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Gift of Time?

Here's the situation. It's Saturday afternoon and I have been wanting to get out of the house and try to do some wandering. Target, Hobby Lobby, maybe even the mall. The problem is that I have been waiting for my little Elijah to get up for 2 hours. But he is still peacefully sleeping in his swing. He's been napping for 3 hours. And it's stressing me out. I knew being a mother meant constantly worrying about my child, but what I didn't realize is that the worrying happens during normal behavior as much as it does during abnormal behavior. I worry when Eli doesn't sleep enough and then I worry when he sleeps too much. Is he going through enough diapers? Now too many diapers? Too much to eat? Too little? Ahhh! It can drive a girl crazy. But now to my question on timing....

Sleeping. The other day my son slept a lot all day long. I was grateful for this little gift of time. I showered, did laundry, and at an entire meal sitting down. Incredible. I even managed to feed him, change him, and place him in his bassinet without really waking him up. I was so ready for a good night's sleep. Then at midnight Eli woke up, and stayed up, all night long. I was so tired that I had to walk with him because I thought if I sat down I'd dose off. He wasn't crying or fussing, he was just awake, and wanted to be held. I was fussy. I wanted to cry. I just wanted to be held. Now, I know you're not suppose to wake a sleeping baby, but how to I avoid this night and day switch? Do I wake him or just enjoy the gift of time? How do I let him nap during the day and get him to sleep at night? Any advice?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Lesson's with Eli

February 2, 2012

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Trusting God's plan is something that I've always struggled with. I know He has a plan and I know it's more than I could ever imagine. It's more of an impatience thing on my end. From a young age I've had the "movie" of my life playing out in my head. I've always known what I wanted life to look like and I've planned accordingly. In college, my good friend Ginny taught me that God's plans are like walking with a lantern. You can see only slightly ahead of you, but not the whole path. The rest you have to leave in God's hands and know that He's paved the way. Now, Brandon is constantly reminding me that God has a plan and everything will happen as it should. There are times when he's so trusting in God's plan that it drives me nuts. But I know it's only because he's right. My life has rarely gone along with my plan and it's always turned out better than what I've had in mind.

Here I am sitting on the floor, at 2:15 a.m., next to my son's favorite spot in the whole house- the makeshift changing table on the bench at the foot of our bed. After 2 hours of trying to convince him that the cozy bassinet (which came with soothing vibrations and sounds) would be more comfortable. Or the awesome baby fort I made for him on Brandon's side of the bed would work for sleep. I know that allowing your infant to sleep in the bed with you is sometimes frowned upon, but I also know the motto of a few of my mom friends is "Do what you gotta do". Don't worry- Eli refused the baby fort, along with his bassinet, his swing, play gym, or anything else I thoughtfully picked out for him. My plans to make him comfortable with all these things has gone by the wayside. So I've decided to give in and sit here vigilantly, my hand is resting lightly on his chest to make sure he doesn't decide to topple over, and listen to his little baby noises expressing delight, interest, and contentment with watching the shadows on the ceiling.

As I sit here I begin to realize the lesson my son is teaching me. It's the same thing that Ginny, Brandon, and so many other in my life have. He's teaching me that I can't plan for everything, because those plans will not always work. That the best plan I can have is to trust God's plan, and know that He is here next to us making sure we don't topple over.

Touche, Eli. Thanks for the lesson.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why Grocery Carts Are Scary

January 19, 2012

Okay, just a short rant today.

I have an irrational fear of taking Elijah anywhere that I'd have to put his car seat in a grocery cart. I tried it once at the PX, on our first outing after Brandon deployed. I ended up walking on the side of the cart pushing it with one hand while the other one held Eli steady. After I got inside and out of the elements I tried to adjust the car seat again. Fail. It just didn't fit. So I ended up putting him in the big part of the cart, wobbling around until I surrounded him with towels (that luckily were on my list). Embarrassing. I felt like I was wearing a sandwich board that said "New Mom: She Has No Clue". I know that no one was watching and judging (at least I hope not), but I felt on display.

I decided to try again. I went to Walmart last night with determination! I had a short list and if I hurried I could get everything before Eli woke up and went into full meltdown mode when he realized he was in his car seat. I parked near the cart return, took a deep breath, and got out of the car. I managed to get Eli into the cart, more securely than at the PX, only to find that Walmart's carts are a little taller than other carts. And I, being a hobbit, could not see over the car seat once it was in the cart. How do people shorter than 5'7 see over the car seat? I had to power through, going slowly, and only running into 2 people. Both very gracious and understanding. One man's response was "It's okay, it's Walmart." Loved it.

I proud of myself for completing the shopping trip, but does anyone else have this problem? Or any suggestions for solutions? I welcome any and all advice. Anything to decrease my fear of grocery carts.

It takes a village!

January 30, 2012

It takes a village! Or at least is did for one week. I just had one of the greatest weeks in the history of weeks. My friends visited! Grace and Jaron and their 9 month old son Emmitt, and Caitlin all came to visit us out here in Tennessee. It was amazing. Jaron had to work all week in West Virginia so he was only around for a few days, but the girls and Emmitt were here for a glorious 7 days! It was perfection. The three of us and the little ones just sat around all week cooking, talking, and tending to babies. It felt like the dream we always had of raising our children together. I have to admit that after Brandon left I was pretty down. I was trying to figure out how I would take care of Eli on my own and somehow find a way back to being myself at the same time. I wanted to go to Nashville and shop. Heck, I wanted to take a trip to Target without having a panic attack. And to make matters worse I had reached my limit on how much macaroni and cheese I could eat. I never thought I'd say that! Then the cavalry came...

The girls being here really lifted my spirits and motivated me to move forward. Seeing Emmitt, 8 months older than Elijah to the day, and how much he's grown is incredible. He's so happy! And he reacts to everything with such expression. His crinkled little nose when he laughs is my favorite. I can't wait for Elijah to be there. Also, I was able to see Grace mother round the clock for a week. We talk frequently on the phone and I ask her a million questions, but to get to see it in front of me was so helpful! Caitlin made coffee every morning and cooked almost every meal for us. I will be eternally grateful for the week of home cooked meals (plus the leftovers in the freezer). When we weren't learning new yoga moves or eating delicious food we were just sitting enjoying each other's company. We frequently turned on the TV, intending to watch mindless shows or movies, only to mute it 5 minutes later so we could talk. We took turns holding babies, changing babies, and showering.

One afternoon, Grace and I went to run errands leaving Caitlin- known as the "baby whisperer" in some circles- with the babies. When we returned we half expected Caitlin to be lying in the middle of the floor and crying. We should have known better. The Baby Whisperer struck again an we returned to two happy and fed babies and chicken enchiladas in the works. All she needed was a Skinny Girl margarita in hand to complete the picture of ease in the house. (The Skinny Girl margaritas did make an appearance later along with some Just Dance 3 on the Wii!)

I can't say how grateful I was to have them here. Jaron did so much for us while he was here. Including finding me a grocery delivery service in the event of those frequent Clarksville downpours so I won't have to brave the crowds in the rain. It really gives Brandon a piece of mind to know that I have friends like these to keep me company while he's gone.

So now that it's just us two again, and Maya, I feel more confident, a little stronger, and much healthier in mind and body. Thanks friends! When can you come back?

5 Bedroom, 3 bath Nursery

January 17, 2012

On October 15, 2011 Brandon and I officially became home owners. Oddly enough the big things in our life always happen in October, starting from the first time he asked me out in the 6th grade. We arrived in Clarksville in September but had to wait for our house to be completed. So basically I spent the entire summer and all of September "nesting" in my head in preparation for our little bundle of love. I obsessed over colors and organization. So when we finally moved in it just got worse. Now I could physically see what I was stressing about. How many bins did I need under that changing table? What size? I have all this stuff and where should it go? I Googled "changing table organization" and bookmarked all pages I found with ideas and inspiration. Even after Grace told me that once the baby comes I'd learn exactly what I needed and everything I thought may go right out the window.

Well, she was right. I planned everything perfectly. I got the perfect, color coordinated bins filled them up with everything I thought I would need. It started out like this...

The decorating was not done at that point, but the changing table was flawlessly organized. 4 weeks later and this is our "changing table"...

So much for the nursery. I wish I was one of those Moms who had everything in it's perfect place for the arrival of the baby. And I wish I had the energy to walk across the house for every diaper change and use that organized table. But instead this is what we have. A makeshift changing table at the foot of our bed. It started out with just the diaper bin and a cloth to change him on. But after several diaper changes with either Brandon or myself sprinting across the living room in the dark to grab more wipes or an outfit change we decided that all the bins should come. So this our changing table. The living room is now the home of Elijah's favorite things- his swing and his play gym. The kitchen has all the bottles and bottle washing materials. The man cave has all of his laundry and will eventually be the home of his pack n' play. His monitor travels to almost every room in the house. Except the nursery. So far the only thing we use in the nursery is the glider. (Which is fabulous!) I know this will change as he grows older, but for right now, Eli's nursery is a 5 bedroom, 3 bathroom house that Brandon and I just happen to live in.

And we love it!

Deciding to Blog

February 2, 2012

I've been thinking about doing this since Brandon deployed, but my last attempt at blogging trailed off after one month. So I decided to journal. I've been writing to Elijah about his milestones or silly things he does during the day. I've also been writing my thoughts in case I decided to resurrect our blog. I've decided to do it. So here goes. I know the dates will be confusing, but the posts will be in order. Thanks for reading :)

The Ever Changing Life

January 15, 2012

2 am used to be the middle of perfect REM sleep, or a successful night out in Vegas, or a late night walk on the beach after dinner and drinks in San Diego. Now 2 am brings the sounds of gentle fussing from my little Elijah letting me know he's hungry and in need of a diaper change. Odds are this will happen again in another 3 hours. Thinking about a successful night out in Vegas, or any other city for that matter, now involves entrusting our little boy to someone else and trying to let loose without wondering if I left enough bottles or if he's throwing a fit. Don't get me wrong, these changes have not made me sad (I have to admit I thought they would make me just a little sad) but they make me nostalgic. Kind of like remembering college or high school and sometimes wishing for those care free moments, but realizing the much better place I'm in now.

We have a son. A sweet little boy. And this 8 pound 10 ounce baby has turned our lives upside down in the most miraculous way we could have ever imagined. We had 3 wonderful weeks together before Brandon deployed that were full of round the clock feedings, dodging urine sprays, and more laughs than tears. Eli, Maya, and I will definitely miss Brandon. He is the Varsity member of this parenting team and manages to always have a cool head. But for his sake and ours we will power through these next 250 days, photographing and videoing every little change. And recording it here.