Sunday, August 28, 2016

The First "Deployment Post"

It's been such a long week. It started out pretty well, and I remember thinking that by the end of the week I would be feeling much different.

And boy...was I right.

You would think that 4 weeks is enough time to get settled in after a move. Not the case. We moved at a snail's pace some days, because, oh yeah - tiny humans rule the house. We had minor home repairs to do, unpacking, the organizing and then reorganizing that comes with getting settled in a new home, trying hit up all of our favorite spots before Chris left, squeezing in some family time, and of course, catching up with all of our friends and family. There was always something going on, so we never really settled into a feeling of "normal" before it all got uprooted again with Chris's departure. The conversations turned into "oh well - I'll figure that out after you're gone" when it came to crossing things off the to-do list. We were literally still working on things the hours before he left, and we still didn't get it all done. It wasn't my preferred way to send him off, both of us feeling rushed and unprepared. We hardly even talked about him leaving, mainly because I was afraid my tears would start and wouldn't stop. We managed to sleep the night before he left, probably because the ongoing exhaustion trumped our worries and anxiety. I wish we had more time. But then again, his departure came up so fast that there wasn't much time to feel sad about it; we were so busy.

I'm trying my best to find the positive in each day. It hasn't been easy, though. This is the hardest thing I've had to do in a long, long time. And I'm not going to sugar coat it. This sucks. I think a general complaint about Facebook is that everyone paints this picture of what a "perfect" life they live, when we all know we have our good times and bad times, and most of the time we really only feel like sharing the good times. Well, here you go - here are my bad times.

I knew the storm was coming, and I've been doing everything I can to just keep my nose above water. There was literally a chunk of about 48 hours this week where I was constantly having to give myself a pep talk: "Just keep going. Just keep moving your body and getting things done." I felt like breaking down about every 5 minutes.

And the role of the mother comes into play a lot in this whole process: not only moving to a new house, but also saying "goodbye for now" to daddy. I want my kids to feel secure and settled, and I want to take away as much stress off of their little bodies and minds as I can. So that means sacrificing all of my time and energy and putting their needs first. I feel guilty that I can't do a better job at that right now. My stress load hit it's peak when Ava suddenly spiked a really high fever and I felt totally unprepared and overwhelemed. Thankfully we had just been to our new doctor for Liam's shots, and we talked about Ava's upset tummy. She sent me home with a stool sample collection kit (umm so that was an adventure I'd NOT like to repeat!). I suddenly had 2 kids with fevers (Liam's was from his shots) and I felt like I was running around like a chicken with it's head cut off. I had to keep putting my errands off because I just couldn't get to them. I finally made it to go get groceries right before the kids' bedtimes. Am I crazy, I thought?! And wouldn't you know it, Price Chopper was having some sort of crazy 6-hour sale...and I was stuck in the chaos of lines all the way up into the aisles. At that point, I thought, oh well - we need things and I already went to all the trouble to drag us all to the store, so I might as well get it over with! I was just in disbelief at how much I got slammed with in those 48 hours. I could go on and on but I don't want to bore you with the sucky (and poopy!) details.

This week I wanted to quit. I wanted to quit it all. Each day has made me such a ball of stress. I feel like now I have my whole head above water instead of just my nose, so that is an improvement. I feel like I'm getting closer to being able to relax again and think clearly and plan. Right now I'm doing everything in the spur of the moment: what we are eating, where we are going, and when I am going to find the time to get things done around the house.

Most of the week, the kids' napping has NOT aligned very well, so no breaks for me during the day! Liam appears to FINALLY be cutting a tooth, and so he is cranky and not sleeping super great at night. He wants to lay there and cry after I nurse him. A crying, inconsolable baby in the middle of the night is so, so hard. Ava had a really, really hard night when Chris left. We had never heard her cry like that before. We felt TERRIBLE. She had a couple more tough nights after he left, but she seems to have adjusted. I have to say, I am so proud of Ava for how she has been doing, though. She's a tough girl! We talk very openly about where daddy is and that he is going to be gone for awhile. It was so hard for us to tell her that daddy was leaving; it was pretty heartbreaking. Thankfully our iPhones allow us to facetime, text, and share an icloud photo album! Text!!!! I can't believe it - his last deployment was not like this AT ALL. It's hard to say what the rest of his time over there will be like, but for now, the kids get to SEE their daddy EVERYDAY through facetime! So that's been a real positive this week!

My military mom friends tell me the first month or two is really hard as everyone is adjusting to daddy being gone, and then you kind of settle into your groove and things don't seem as bad. I am ready for some days where things aren't so crazy - I've had some help this week so I've had a few breaks here and there, and that has made all the difference. My new goal is to work hard and make the most of my days so that I can catch up on everything and then have these tasks behind me and RELAX!!

And it's been kind of hard to be in public and to be subjected to the comments from strangers this week - the whole "wow you've got your hands full". I have to just smile and try to quickly walk away while I fight the tears and think: you have no idea. I really didn't even want to leave the house this week for that reason. I needed to get out for a variety of reasons, but I wished I could be invisible. It's really, really hard when you know that you are barely holding it together - the littlest thing can send you over the edge and break you down. I am very much a reclusive person at heart, even though I also like to be out and about and socialize, too. I just wanted to hide this week. To hunker down until the storm passed.

The kids' Daddy Dolls came in, and they are PERFECT. Ava's is pink on the back and Liam's is blue. It made me teary to open them! Ava wasn't too interested at first, but as soon as I encouraged her to include her daddy doll in the bedtime routine, she was hugging him and kissing his face and holding him during her bedtime story. Now she keeps him in the crib with her at night. I hold Liam's daddy doll up so he can see him, and he stares at his face and smiles! It makes me feel a little better that they have something to look at and hold when they want.

We are inching our way towards a new routine, a cleaner and more organized house, and that feeling of "I've got this". I'm not quite there yet, but I'm feeling like it's on the horizon! Say a prayer for us all; we sure could use them!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Liam's Half Birthday!

6 months...half birthday...Liam is growing up fast!!

This has been the craziest month in awhile.

We moved halfway across the country...back home to Kansas!

It was quite the adventure, but overall it went really smoothly, all things considered!

We only lost 1 box and 1 floor lamp. Thankfully there wasn't anything irreplacable in that box, but frustrating nonetheless.

Liam baby is growing leaps and bounds!! In these last few weeks he has become a much stronger sitter, even though he still can't do it independently yet. He likes you to sit on the floor so he can sit between your legs and play!

He's getting around really well! He scoots backwards and rolls and can turn himself on his belly. He is always somewhere different everytime I see him in his crib over the monitor. He prefers to cram himself into the same corner of his crib to sleep! I'm loving all these baby milestones and new things he can do! He can entertain himself a little better and can stay awake longer and...

...he's moving passed the short nap phase!!

THANK GOODNESS!!! My little 30-minute nap babies - what a frustrating phase! He now only has one short nap per day, usually. Now his naps are 1.5 hours on average, sometimes a 2 or 3 hour nap! This makes it so much easier to "schedule" my day a little bit more, except that now it seems like someone is always napping, so it will be a little more tricky to get out of the house! At least I have more opportunities to get things done with only one kid awake and more one-on-one time with each baby!

But I won't complain. It is seriously such a blessing when your kids improve their sleeping habits! He still wakes twice a night - lately it's been around midnight and 3, but he's really inconsistent about that. I'm looking forward to more sleep at night. Hopefully that will be coming up in the next few months!

We started Liam on food!! Ava was super eager and was swallowing food just a few days into Baby Led Weaning. Liam? Not so much...he likes to hold food a bit and move it around on the tray but so far hasn't reacted positively when it enters his mouth! I think it will take him much longer to come around! He loves his sippy cup, though - mainly to just chew on the spout. When he actually does get some water out, it usually makes him stop in his tracks and frown or gag on it! He makes the best faces - I feel bad for the little guy, but it's so funny I can't help but giggle!

Speaking of giggling, it's so easy to make him giggle! He's really ticklish and little games make him light up! He's more emotional than Ava was (baby Ava was happy pretty much 99% of the time...toddler Ava is a whole different ballgame, haha) but when he's happy, it's the best thing ever! I love that he will snuggle into my neck - melts my heart every. single. time.

He's doing a lot more talking too - he mastered "dada" before Chris left! But I don't count that as his first word because he doesn't associate "dada" with Chris yet. He likes to blow bubbles and sometimes I hear him chattering in his crib before he falls asleep!

It's funny to look back on when we just had one child, and how at the time we thought it was so hard and time consuming. Now I think, man that was so much easier!! There's always something going on and messes to wipe up and diapers to change and getting a dropped toy or a lost sippy cup for someone.

Ava is becoming more and more of a particular toddler with each day that passes. She insists on eating about every 10 minutes. She wants the tv on so she can ignore it and then run off to go play on her iPad. You turn the tv off, she notices! So we are trying to work on that one - drives me nuts! She is quick to anger but about half the time I can distract her by being silly. Or it just makes her more mad; you never know! The other day she lost her mind because she wanted a bite of my banana and I would only give it to her in the kitchen, but she wanted me to sit down on the couch so she could eat it there. I'm all about picking my battles...but this one was ridiculous. Her list of demands is getting out of control, so she was due to hear a "NO" from me - can't get everything you want, Ava!! Some days she's really picky about her food. And some days she will eat things that surprise me.

Ava sure loves her brother! She's always wanting to check up on him or love on him or rub his head or belly. She wipes his chin and brings him toys. Today I heard her spontaneously say his's evolved from "Bia" when I was pregnant with him (it's his nickname now!) to "Wee-uh/um" after he was born, and now it has become "Bee-bum", hahaha!!

P.S. Graco customer service is so awesome!! We had an issue come up with the car seat (we used it for Ava for about 10 months and then Liam used it for about 3 when the issue came up) and I contacted Graco about it. Long story short, they offered a full replacement! We opted to go ahead and upgrade Liam to a convertible seat and bumped Ava up to a new toddler seat! I was really blown away by their customer service. It never hurts to ask, when in doubt!

I have no idea what this next month is going to look like. I am hopeful but I'm also preparing for some pretty serious toddler meltdowns and poor sleeping habits and lots of wine and chocolate for mommy. I have some goals for myself to eat well and work out, but I'm also going to give myself permission to be a slob and be lazy and eat crap if that's what I need to do to cope once in awhile! I am so incredibly grateful for my wonderful friends and family who have already been so supportive and have been sending sweet messages to me - it really means a lot!!!

Military life isn't for everyone. It's not always my favorite but it does have it's perks, too. Right now we are just on the "sucky" side of things. I have learned so much about resiliency over the years, and I'm sure I will learn so much more over this next year, too.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Great Move of 2016


In summary, those are my thoughts on the last 2 weeks.


Ok so not really - we were actually really organized and kept routines to make the kids feel secure during this CRAZY moving experience!!

My poor brain is just worn out from trying to keep up with it all!

Our plans changed like a million times. One thing I've learned with the Army, more specifically PCSing, is that there will always be last-minute changes and you just have to suck it up and figure out a way to proceed that will yield the lowest amount of stress. But stress is inevitable so you know it will still be hard!

Where oh where to begin...

The Georgia side of the move was really organized and we were prepared for the typical PCS experience. The last time we moved, I was 28 weeks pregnant and Ava was about 17 months old so that was super challenging. I was excited to have full range of motion this time but worried about juggling 2 babies during it all! Our moving crew was great - we found out it was a family business and they were all family! And they would be the ones to unload us in Kansas too - quite rare to have that happen! They were so great and considerate and tried hard to keep us comfortable for the 3 days of packing and loading. They left out some toys for the kids "just in case they wanted to play with it" and one of them spotted our air mattress in a closet and asked if we needed it (YES!!! I forgot to pull it out!). A typical crew just comes through like a tornado and packs anything and everything in sight. This crew had the capacity to understand the few areas we had in the house that we didn't want them to touch - some things on the kitchen counter and a wall of our bags in the dining room. They worked SO fast and were gone in time for Ava's nap each day. The kids did well with all the chaos. I was worried Ava was freaked out but she really followed our lead, and having a plan and maintaining our routines (as best as we could) really helped her, I think. I'm so grateful my stepmom could fly out and help me occupy the babies during this time - we escaped to the park or went shopping to stay out of the house in the mornings. We were excited for the house to be empty so we could set up all the temporary beds and kind of get re-organized before we left for good a few days later.

We had a day of rest after the whirlwind of the packing days. I was completely beat. I might have been pregnant and exhausted for the last move, but I was getting a full night's sleep. This time, I have baby Liam who wakes 2-3 times a night, so I was dragging! And I was quickly growing tired of having to nurse Liam on the floor all the time. Ava woke with a little cold so it's a good thing we had that day of rest. On Sunday we drove to the beach! We wanted to go one last time as we have no idea when we will get stationed near a coast again! We kept out our beach tent and our swim suits and towels. Ava had so much fun learning how to build a sand turtle by herself, going into the ocean with daddy, sitting on the shoreline and waiting for the waves to crash with mommy...she could have stayed all day! But we also had to consider Liam, and while we were in the shade of the tent and there was a strong breeze, he was getting hot. And he was getting sand all over himself from me building sandcastles with Ava. Suddenly everything was very messy and we kept getting sand further and further into the tent! So we decided to rinse off and change the babies and go sight seeing in Charleston and let the babies cool off and nap in the car. So it was a short trip, but it was worth it to visit the beach and to burn an entire day out of the house! If you're ever in Charleston, Isle of Palms beach was so great! They have things available for purchase if you're the typical tourist and forget things (we forgot water!! Duh.) They had bathrooms and changing rooms and outdoor showers, too!

Monday was another rest day. Liam was showing symptoms of a cold too. Great - 2 sick babies! Chris was sick just a few days prior. We revised our plan to hit the road the next day and organized all the bags and gathered all the last of the things around the house. We had a lot to put into the cars - food, a little bit of cookware and paper plates, all of our open liquid items (2 boxes full!), all of us had one bag/suitcase of clothes + an extra for the babies (you know, all those diapers and wipes and TOYS), our air mattress, sheets and pillows, light bulbs and batteries...gosh the list just goes on and on! Not to mention all the dirty laundry and sand-covered beach stuff that was piling up! We made the decision to pay to have our house cleaned for move-out this time, and that was definitely money well spent! I can't imagine trying to clean the house from top to bottom before we left town!

Tuesday was the day we began the drive, but first - Chris had his SCCC graduation! It wasn't until 11:30 so we had to sit around all morning until then. I started feeling yucky and both babies were still sick so we didn't want to go to the park and wear them out when we had such a long day ahead. So I was really nervous for graduation - it was at Ava's lunchtime followed by naptime. I was afraid both kids would be screaming and I'd be so embarrassed! Chris said he only heard Ava once - we sat clear in the back and Ava was immediately handed her snack, and then when she got restless, I gave her the iPad. Liam was super tired and did his usual "I'm tired and I need to fuss about it", but I put him in the ergo and stood and swayed until he was asleep. I'm glad I was in the back and there weren't too many people there, and there were other toddlers who were struggling so I didn't feel so bad! After the ceremony, I took the kids to pick up some lunch and Chris met us at home. We ate, packed up, and drove away from the house for the last time! We didn't leave town until 2:00 - an hour or two later than we were hoping for. We needed to make it to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky for the night, where we had plans to stay at a friends' house. You know how expensive it is to stay in a hotel with pets?? Dumb. And the one that says "free pets"?! Yah they only allow ONE PET. Also dumb!!

So the drive wasn't completely awful, BUT ATLANTA WAS!!!! OMG the traffic. We were delayed by almost 2 hours AT THE START of our drive. It really sucked. But the kids were doing so well, so that's what we were focusing on! We made it it Chattanooga around 7 pm, and we stopped and got out so Ava could play a bit and we could all stretch our legs and eat. We put the kids in pjs and pressed on. Ava was in the car with Chris and I had Liam and the cats. I think we only stopped once prior for gas and to feed liam, so we were doing pretty good! We got into Ft. Campbell at about 10:45. We were so exhausted. We quickly unloaded and got the kids in their beds. Ava slept fine, but Liam was all stuffy and was really restless in his sleep. I ended up sleeping on the floor in his room or else I knew I'd never really be able to fall asleep.

Day 2 started with the kids waking at a normal time (no sleeping in for them!) and we packed up and hit the road again. We got breakfast on the road and made the familiar drive we'd made many times before from Ft. Campbell to KC. This was the leg of the trip we were most excited for! But we also knew we had the horribly boring drive across Missouri on I-70: the worst part of the whole drive! We were able to keep the kids on the same schedule and make the same stops until the very end: Ava fell asleep for a late nap, but Liam needed to stop and eat and my car needed gas. So Chris arrived at our house before I did. BUT WE MADE IT IN ONE PIECE, and that is what I am thankful for! Liam was getting pretty mad at the end. Poor kids lived in their car seats for 2 days straight - not fun!! We took a look around our new house - I still can't believe we bought it long distance! I think we were kind of in shock, getting to see it in person for the first time! I immediately felt like home! We got our essentials unpacked and had some Chipotle (it's down the street now!!) and got the kids in bed.

Whew. The exhaustion was hitting a new level. Liam was making me get up every 3 hours at night. But the air mattress is actually pretty comfortable, and we had all our bedding and pillows so I was sleeping well. We endured a week and a half between the two houses with no furniture, so we were SO HAPPY to finally see that semi pull up!! The kids and I disappeared to my sister's house so the kids could play and nap. When we returned, the crew was already done and gone and our house was full of boxes!

My brain is so tired and my body is so tired I can't even tell you what all has happened in this blur of these 10ish days that we've had our stuff. The kids slow us down, for sure! Liam is always needing something, and we are having to take naptimes in account when we need to run errands or hammer on the wall or do something in their bedrooms. This has been a different experience than moving into a rental, because everything is 100% ready for you. This time, WE own the property, and there are lots of little jobs to do. Leaky toilet, clogged drain, buying/installling blinds, buying/hanging curtain rods...lots of little incomplete things around the house. Chris has been to Home Depot probably just about every single day since we've been here! And we've been baffled by poor Ava's room - it gets up to 85 degrees during the day, and we are trying everything to cool it down. The next thing we have to try = $$$. Welcome to the world of homeownership, I guess!

I really really really just want to take a day and sleep. That's what I really want! With 2 kids that were sick, I was sick, and all of this on top of it, and Liam preventing my sleep at night, 6:30 a.m. comes around so quickly!!

But today we finally got internet and cable!!! So, so excited for cable! We didn't have it in Georgia, and it turns out that we really missed it! Of course right now all we are watching is the Olympics! Track and field events start tomorrow!!!

So, we are here! We are all healthy! We are enjoying the last bit of time before Chris leaves!

And just earlier today, my heart was starting to sink a little bit. I haven't bothered to open the door that leads to him being away for a year. But I think I've reached out for the doorknob. And I got some butterflies in my tummy. And not the good ones. Eeek!! I'm not going to think anymore about it. I can't just yet.

I need to go to bed before I regret staying up this late! I'm sure Liam will be calling for me soon anyway!