Sleeping, perchance

My youngest is a bad sleeper. My pediatrician has confirmed this as a diagnosis, ha. His non-sleeping habits have caused no little chaos to our family dynamic. I’ve been beyond tired. Combine this with tandem nursing until Connor turned three and hello extended postpartum hormonal land. Survival mode is my normal now. 

While big boys sleep, I try to fold laundry. Wesley helps by not only not sleeping but also unloading the recycling bin. Thanks dude.

Messy normal – the laundry I spent/wasted naptime folding? Baby unfolded it while I helped the toddler potty.

Some days my kids get organic meals crafted into fun designs. Sometimes things are more survival-y and they get cold canned chicken/beets on tupperware lids because there are no clean plates.

Some days this is my to-do list.

Connor weaning and potty training has made me feel somewhat more normal and this week I’ve set some new routines in place that just haven’t been possible in my baby and travel weary brain until now. A morning circle time routine should help with the noise complaints from our (late sleeping) downstairs landlords. And finally making the decision to crawl out of bed and run before the kids are up: this is a big one. When you feel like you’re drowning in exhaustion, every minute in bed is golden. But somehow making the decision to get up on your own and do something in the quiet pre-kid calm is worth every lost moment with my cozy blanket nest. Not to mention the mood and energy enhancements from the run itself. It’s good stuff. 
None of that means I won’t still be tired, pants-less, disorganized and grumpy with my kids… But it’s a start. 

A long time.

It has been a long time since I blogged. Life has raced forward, as it has a tendency to do. When you last saw your heroine…there were only two wee ones and it was post deployment/reintegration. So, obviously that went well…and now we have three boys. Hubby got orders overseas, which we never in a million years thought would actually happen. We are now 1.5 years into his 2 year tour in Crete, Greece. It is lovely, alien, and already familiar. Closing time is near enough for me to be anxious about leaving this island, which has become our home. We don’t know yet where we will be blown next by that silly north wind but stay tuned and I will try to write more frequently, as I did in the past. The old anxiety monster has tapped me on the shoulder again and has necessitated that counter measures be taken. So, I will be right here; writing, running, praying, swimming, loving, raising my voice and then apologizing, wiping bottoms and boogers, traveling, and all of the rest of the things that make up my crazy beautiful life. I hope you’ll read along with me🙂

The acquisition

“The business of life is the acquisition of memories.”

 – Mr. Carson, Downton Abbey

And this deployment has given me many. It was hard but I have absolutely grown and our family is even stronger. Yes, it was a bittersweet holiday season but far after the memories of lonely days and missed milestones have faded I’m betting I will remember the excitement at homecoming. It was one of the most emotionally charged days of my life; exquisitely tangible anticipation and joy.

And nervousness – oh, I was so nervous. What if I didn’t recognize him? What if the baby cried? What if Rowan acted up? What if everyone thought I was making too big a fuss? Not big enough? What if, what if, what if.

And as it often turns out, the day wasn’t perfect. Connor had been running a 103 fever since the day before.

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He was sick and I was tired.

The plane was scheduled to land super early in the morning – and neither kid wanted to be roused. But my wonderful Aunt showed up long before the crack of dawn with breakfast and coffee and we made our way out. We met with my awesome friend, who had volunteered her hands for holding and her camera for memory catching. We hurried up…to wait.

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And waited.

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I was shaking with nervous excitement.

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The kids started to get antsy.

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And then…nothing else mattered any more. It didn’t matter that the baby was cranky or that I actually didn’t recognize him at first. The only thing that mattered was this.

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We were together again.

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Bliss.

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Stability and subtext

The deployment literature says the first 6 weeks are the “emotional confusion/disorganization stage”: where you feel abandoned, lost and overwhelmed. Crying frequently. Insomnia.
We are 7 weeks in and and I’ve been there, done that (still not sleeping).
The next stage is billed as “adjustment/recovery” where we have established routines, communication and I feel confident and less angry/despairing. A couple of weeks ago I told a friend that I didn’t think we would ever get to that point – that I would probably just cry the whole time. That may well be true: to an extent. The holidays are upon us and he is missing out. We are missing him. But. We are…well…stabilizing. I don’t cry while making pancakes or driving much now. The tears have been traded for a constant dull ache. Something is missing. He is missing.

But we go on.

I threw a Halloween get-together.

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Mad props to my mom and aunt Char, who helped soooo much with party prep and kid wrangling that day!

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We are planning for the holidays and for my upcoming birthday. We text and Skype. Boxes are being sent both ways. I am happy. I enjoy my boys and life is good. I am acutely aware on a daily basis of how very blessed I am. Still, his absence is the elephant in every room – the unvoiced subtext in every conversation. And that is where he will stay – always in my thoughts – until he is in my arms again.

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And the picture was crystal clear

Several weeks ago, this happened.standingdad

We waited in a room for two hours and then in a few quick moments we cleared the room and they were rushed onto a bus. A quick kiss. A few waves of a baby’s chubby hand. A frustrated preschooler who just wanted his dinner – not really understanding the import of that moment. And then he was gone.

We’ve been fine in the weeks since. Sure, there was the stomach virus that knocked us flat. And there have been the tantrums and nightmares, but I was prepared for all of that: I figured it was coming. After all, it was in the deployment literature.
We are keeping busy. Connor has gotten his first teeth and Rowan is quickly improving at soccer. We are having play dates and doing some preschool with Rowan. I am delighting in our precious boys and praying for my husband. It’s all good.

But sometimes, quite unexpectedly, I will cry. I will cry while making pancakes. While driving down the interstate. I hide those tears from the kids. No one has to know about those moments of weakness.

Tonight though, like many nights that we Skype, being able to see him but not reach out – through the miles – got to me. I try not to cry in front of him either. But tonight particularly, the internet connection was really good. The picture was crystal clear, no pixelation. All the better to see the tears shining in our eyes, the big fat drops that traced down my cheeks.

So, let me officially state: this is hard. We are doing it. We are ok. But it is hard. And that is all I have for tonight.

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Objects of my disaffection

We are close to leave day. Packing close. Our house – in addition to being flooded with baby things – is now overrun with new boots to be laced, new uniforms to be washed/prepared, new bags, new socks, toiletries – mounds of stuff to be packed. I hate it all. I hate the bags spilling out into our hallway, congesting the top of our dresser. I loathe each piece of paraphernalia: each piece like a brick, one on top of the other, building the wall which will separate our family.

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A few minutes ago I leaned in the doorway, glowering at the bag on our bed, accumulating neat rows of folded clothing. And then it occurred to me: each one of those shoelaces and Velcro patches will soon be taking care of my husband where I cannot. I won’t be able to offer a comforting hug after a long day, so new sheets, please do it for me. There will be no foot rubs for sore feet after his 12 hour, six day a week shifts; new socks, please provide comfort for them. Multicam rain jacket – yeah, ugly, I’m talking to you – please give my husband warmth and dryness in your embrace until I can again.

Perhaps I can take comfort in this frame of mind until he leaves. The uniforms will be gone. The bags will be gone. On the surface, order will be restored to our house. Then I am sure his side of the bed, his toothbrush, the dust gathering on his Xbox, all the things that have no place in his life for the rest of this year, will take over screaming at me.

But that’s a problem for another day. For today, I will go hug my family and feel blessed that we are still under one roof.

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How to turn an alien pig into bacon

Hubby went back to work after a week off for a family visit. Boo. The visit was awesome; lots of fun and a great birthday party for hubs. With the fun behind us, it’s time to hit deployment prep hard. Accordingly, today so far, I have moped on the sofa and played with play dough. Very productive. This deployment can just go fly a kite.😡20130819-124033.jpg

 

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Don’t be that guy

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It seems that it is a funny balance, this milspouse thing. They tell you that it is important not to be isolated while your loved one is ripped away from you, that you should take all the support you can get. But then again…how much should we really say about it? Do we really want anyone to know we are going to be all alone for however long? My generation finds its support and comfort through the internet and social media. But it could be dangerous to say too much. In a culture that doesn’t find it strange for a blogger to real time stream her baby’s birth for the world to see, it seems odd, this needing to self edit. I don’t want to be isolated in this, because that will drive me crazy. I also don’t want to violate OPSEC or leave us vulnerable to crazy home invaders.

**Note to crazy home invaders:

Just sayin’.

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Whisper

Last night I couldn’t sleep again. So I decided to do more baby carrier research, as you do. While digging through a message board about carriers people recommend sharing between tall husbands and short wives, a poster’s signature happened to catch my eye. It said she was the proud mom of two kids; and one happens to be a five year old battling a brain tumor. The big C word. Every parent’s worst nightmare. As I went to sleep I thanked God for my healthy children and thought – man, I bet that woman would give anything to only be worrying about a deployment. How blessed I really am.

This morning Dan came home with a funny look on his face. I asked what was wrong and his answer didn’t really surprise me; although I think my heart did stop for several beats. He has been moved up to primary. We are now truly looking down the barrel of our first deployment. I knew he didn’t want to tell me, didn’t want to start the morning with that news, but he couldn’t keep it from me either. As strange as it seems in upsetting moments, time does continue on: we moved on with our day. As we have become accustomed to, as soon as hubby’s boots were off we gathered on the love seat for devotionals and prayer. Rowan’s devo was about God’s joy in any circumstance and our couples devo was about love overcoming all. Whisper. Whisper. The devotionals and the story from last night – I heard it loud and clear; the still, small voice whispering in my ear that all is well, that God will be with us through everything.

I would like to say I’ve been fine for the rest of the day, that I felt God’s peace in the situation and have already cried most of my tears in preparation for this moment. Instead, I had a massive panic attack and decided to go to Target. I’m afraid that ruins the story, but hey – truth in advertising😉

For the record, I am less panicked now. Specifically, I’m feeling a strange mix of:

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More on this and other stories, after the break.

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Absence

The sky looks pissed
The wind talks back
My bones are shifting in my skin
And you my love are gone

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I’m enjoying the stormy weather this week. I don’t really want the sun to shine while I’m processing the news that our first deployment is on the horizon. Hubby found out last week he is alternate for an upcoming deployment. Hopefully he won’t have to go – but since he could be substituted at any time, we have to prepare as though he is. It won’t hurt to prepare either way: if he doesn’t go now he will for the next. His rotation is up.

Finding out about an impending deployment seems an awful lot like finding out you are going to have a perfectly healthy limb arbitrarily amputated. You know it’s coming and you know it’s going to hurt. You can already feel the pain. You go about your life and little everyday things remind you how much they will suck once that limb is gone. Forget about imagining special or difficult stuff. Thinking about those will just crush you.

I’ve been surprised by the force of my emotions on this one. I’m an army brat and I knew what I was getting into from the start. Or at least I thought I did. I’ve been a single mom. I’m totally capable of going it alone. Or at least I thought I was. Did you know high stress is a risk factor for mastitis? Me either until the high fever struck. That was fun. Particularly since hubby is still on nights and I pretty much had to go it alone while sick. A circumstance that prompted even more tears at the realization of the inherent foreshadowing.

So I’ve been processing and preparing my head. Lots of googling and a Pinterest board later and I feel like I might be capable of surviving this without too much bitterness or a nervous breakdown.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 NASB)

     God has this all in hand. We will try not to let dread destroy our joy in this pre-deployment phase.

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And when it comes we will take one day at a time. Some days I’m sure I’ll be ok. And on others I won’t. Sometimes it’s ok to not be ok. And I’m ok with that.

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