Category Archives: Daily life

Finding Center

1BL_3779I sit sweltering at the kitchen table. The temperature has been reaching up to 106 degrees this week and our house has no ac. I lean my head against the wall and notice that from this vantage point the church in our tiny village is exactly centered between two of our porch columns. I vaguely wonder if it would make a good photo. My camera is all the way across the room though and it’s just too hot to move. I feel a bead of sweat slowly trace down my cheek. So I sit and think about the little village church. If you are native to Kathiana it is the church you would attend every Sunday and every holiday. How very different that is from my own church hopping experiences back home. I briefly ponder where we’ll make our church home if we find ourselves moving back to Arkansas. Neither is a given, the move or the church. It’s been a long time since we had a church to call our own and it would take consideration to choose the perfect one for our family. As sunset approaches I watch beautiful golden light bathe the whitewashed village church and I think about the people who worship there. Is it the perfect church for them? Probably not. But all the same they go. They join their family, friends, neighbors, enemies and even the guy who ran over their chicken week after week and they make it work because it’s their home.

As we wait to find out where we will be moving next – these reflections on “home” sit heavily upon my chest. I’m well versed in platitudes on the subject: “home is where the military sends you,” “home is where the heart is,” but platitudes bring me no peace in this period of transition. Nevertheless I move on day in and day out, making lunches, changing diapers and doing all the normal things that can sometimes feel even more a burden during times of limbo. But I’ve been surprised to find that this time the burden doesn’t seem too heavy and I’m mostly able to be at peace in it: in the small moments of every day life and in the assurance that all things work according to a higher plan. In the next couple of weeks we will be set upon a new path and I pray that we will walk it with equanimity, grace and above all, faith. Because while we may not have been born into a small close knit village with a default church, I know that there is a plan and a place for us; be it putting down roots this time or more short term stops along the way. And like that little church, centered and bathed in comforting golden light, I will carry on content in that knowledge.

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Time

It’s funny, living this semi-nomadic life. We exist outside of place, not time but it often seem like time moves at a different pace for us. We come, we go – we sever ties, or just wrap them up and freeze them for later. We go and then come back and time has skipped along – we see it in new gas stations, the growth of children and in the new products lining store shelves but it seems wrong with time only having dabbled, dragged, dripped and scuttled along.  

But here it is, almost a new year. My baby is two, the big boys so big. And our stint overseas, initially a year, then near three – is almost over.


 There will be endings and new beginnings. We long for stability; a home where we can hang shelves and have pets. And a mini van to soothe the cramped car blues (not to mention the bad news from the mechanic about my aging Subaru). A homeschool co-op and my kitchen aid mixer from storage. All the little strings of our lives that have been stored here and there, shoved into nooks and crannies or merely a chest of hopes to await a day when it will all come together. Coming home is an exciting prospect! 

But there is fear here too – it comes unbidden and unwanted. Job change is scary enough but it’s that and everything else. The missing of beaches, and novelty. Job security and holding patterns. The unknown is scary but God knows and that does bring me peace. I’m no stranger to these periods of tumultuous change, these times when I am standing on a cliff in the dark with only faith to guide my next step. I guess I always hoped it would become easier with practice or time. Maybe to an extent it does. I don’t have the luxury of ruminating over the anxiety with three small needy boys. I just press onward. Onward. Ever onward. 
And so here we are greeting another new year. We hope to do so with grace, peace, trust, and joy. But I can’t promise there won’t a wee pinch of trepidation along the way. 

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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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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Pregnancy pillow tutorial

Clearly I have spent my pregnancy thus far crafting (or being sick) instead of blogging. Good intentions, and all that 😉 But here is the pregnancy pillow tutorial that I promised on FB!

I am now in my third trimester and sleep has started to become elusive. I just can’t get comfortable and I wake up through the night with my joints hurting. This happened last time around with Rowan and I ordered a pricey total body pillow, which I ended up hating and returning. I didn’t want to use part of the body pillow for my head. I also didn’t want to pay $70 for a different kind of pillow that might not work either. So I set out to make something of a giant U shaped pillow – something to support my knees, arms, tummy and back while allowing me to use my own pillow for my head. I made plenty of mistakes along the way, which I have tried to document. Don’t do as I did 😉 First off you will need some supplies. I used:

A really hideous mystery sheet from the linen closet (it was either a Queen or King, I’m not sure)

Thread

Sewing machine/scissors

Safety pins

The stuffing from 4 old pillows (washed and thoroughly dried – after two cycles in my dryer, the insides of the stuffing was still wet on my pillows. You may need to take the stuffing out – pull apart and allow to air dry for a couple of days, so allow time to do so)

Washable marker or something else to mark fabric with

First off I folded my ugly sheet in half (I did it wrong sides facing, but you should do it right sides facing – so you are marking on the back of the fabric). With the assistance of my husband, I piled pillows all around me – just where I wanted support – and he marked where everything stopped and started. For the record, I was totally not still in pj pants at 4:00 p.m. – I would never wear pajamas all day long! Just kidding. Some days I joke that they are my new SAHM work uniform 😀

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To come up with the dimensions, we used a pillowcase to wrap around pillows in various widths  (one I liked for between my knees, another for hugging with my arms, another for what I thought would do on the side I usually have my back to – just to keep me from rolling over on my back) – after unrolling the pillowcase, we measured it and added an inch or so for seam allowance. We most likely made this part far too complicated and could have just eyeballed it. Either way, here are the dimensions that mine ended up with (I am 5’2″):

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After cutting out my shape, I put a few safety pins around the edges so it wouldn’t shift while I was sewing. I sewed around all of the outside edges (except for the side which was on the fold) and down the inside U leaving a 6″ open space to turn inside out and stuff through. I used about a half inch seam allowance. After sewing, I cut out the inner U (this obviously could be done before sewing, but I just felt like the middle staying in there might make the whole thing more stable and easier to sew), and made some little clips around the curves.

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Then I laid out my pillowcase fabric and traced the shape of my pillow. I cut out the shape with about an extra half inch for seam allowance. This curtain wasn’t as big as my sheet, so I had to piece it a bit and it was a pain. But hey, I was using what I had!

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Note the right side falling off of the fabric – I had to cut that side from the bottom part of the curtain.

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Tracing the right “leg” of my pillow on the bottom part of the fabric.

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Here I started cutting the pillowcase out, but forgot to leave that extra half inch for seam allowance – I started cutting correctly as soon as I realized, but that bottom corner is a bit wonky. Don’t do as I did!

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While I was cutting out and sewing my pillowcase, I threw my pillow into the washer to get rid of my washable marker from our many measurements. You could do this too, unless you didn’t make as big of a mess as we did 🙂

On one side of the pillowcase, you are going to have to cut extra fabric to overlap at some point to create your opening. I have never covered a cushion of any kind before so I made this up as I went. You could probably google a tutorial to get better instructions on how to do this.

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Sew around the edges of your pillowcase just as you did for the pillow and turn inside out

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Time to stuff your pillow!

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After stuffing the pillow as much or as little as you please, you can sew up the edge by hand (or be so lazy that you attempt to sew it up by machine, leaving you with a very sloppy edge and several things knocked off of your sewing table from the maneuverings of a gigantic pillow). Then, with great effort, stuff the finished pillow into the pillowcase. It was seriously hard and for a while I thought it couldn’t be done. Maybe if you have better pillowcase skills than I do, you could do a different kind of opening so this part would be easier.

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Now, because your preschooler has been such a good boy to let you sew all morning (kind of uninterrupted)  let him try the pillow out first. He will invariably use it upside down. Also, by all means let him put his dirty little boy feet on the pillow where you rest your head 😀 And…yay!!!! You have a brand new pillow!!!  I have not woken up once with aching joints since I have been sleeping with it. Total epic pillow win!

I know this wasn’t the clearest set of instructions but if you have any questions feel free to ask and I will try to answer the best I can!

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What to do with an onion that has sprouted

What does one do when you have a sprouted onion? Well first I asked my new husband if he was keeping it like that in the fridge for a particular reason? A science experiment perhaps? Having ascertained this was not the case I instantly formed a plan to incorporate it into a lesson for little man (meaning I forgot all about it for over a week, until today). I googled madly and decided to plant it and see what we get scallion-wise. I peeled the outer layers off and dug a hole in a pre-existing empty planter outside the front door. Then kiddo planted and watered it, as seen below.

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Then we talked about what things plants need to grow big and strong. Full of the fun and learning, no?

And on the newlywed front: we are settling quite nicely into domesticity. Family walks, church, collaboration on discipline…it is all going rather smashingly, I think. From time to time the suddenness and magnitude of the change hits me, as is to be expected IMHO. In contemplation of these changes I look at the help and time I now have to guide little guy. I look at the easygoing, gentle, goofball man I was blessed with as a friend and partner and just marvel. What a blessed woman I am.
The wedding/job/moving stress are off, but we still are in quite a state of flux, which you (now) know makes me a nervous wreck normally. We may or may not move again and will there be continuing education and new job paths ahead? Will we be blessed by the growth of our family? Will we all continue to adjust to our new roles? Parent/military wife/spouses/stepson/SAHM? Even in the midst of these uncertainties I am unusually calm. DH is taking his role as spiritual leader seriously and is keeping us immersed in prayer. We are staying active. And I have a partner in crime – someone to stand back to back with through the trials. Life is full of the awesome-sauce. And that, my friends, is all for today.

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