Monday, October 25, 2010

The "Slump"

I ran out to the post office today after a fabulous lunch with a friend, to mail three extremely late birthday gifts. I wasn’t paying TOO much attention to Meg while we were in there, except to pick up my sister’s gift that she dropped on the floor a gazillion times. I was trying to find boxes to fit, dash down address labels, and get the right present in the right package. Whew! I could hear her giggling and babbling to herself in the stroller. Sometimes, she’d look up and say, “Mama? Mama? tik-a-tik-a-tik-a-too.” Not sure what this means, but she says it mighty seriously. I hope it means: Mama? Mama? I sure do love you. :) When we left the post office, I hurriedly strapped her in her carseat and turned around to find an older lady waiting on us to get to her car.

She said: “Do you stay home with her?” (Uh-oh, I thought...older ladies say some of the darnedest things and I couldn’t imagine what was coming next...)

Gulp. “Yes,” I replied.

She nodded matter-of-factly: “I thought so. I could tell. I can also tell that you’re a really good mom. She is just precious.”

I blushed. “Oh, thank you,” I said and hopped in my car, still smiling.

I needed that encouragement today.

I’ve been in a blogging and parenting slump. For a number of reasons. Some of which include the fact that Meg hasn’t taken a nap (until TODAY, hallelujah!) ever since we got home from our trip. I thought: she’s off her routine from traveling, she’s ready to drop her morning nap, she’s just being golly-dern stubborn. Turns out: she has a double ear infection. This infection would be her first ear infection - it wasn’t even something I had considered before taking her to the doctor out of desperation on like the 4th night of no sleep. I guess the 103.5 fever, crying out in pain, fussiness, extra clingy-ness, SUPER extreme temper tantrums (my favorite one was at the zoo when she wanted to push the stroller. Every time I lightly placed a finger on the handle to avoid hitting another zoo-goer or bush or exhibit, she would fling herself down on the pavement, kicking her legs, and crying her “ANGRY” cry.), sleep disruptions, and general malaise for like a month should have clued me in??? She’s been on antibiotics since Thursday...but oh my, the sleep situation. Why is it that when you have children, one of your biggest fears becomes this nagging doubt that a certain behavior or trend is going to last FOREVER? And why is this fear so all-consuming and compulsive? At least for me, anyway.

Some of it has to do with Kyle coming home for one day and then being sent away again for weather...on a looooong deployment. And we didn’t get to say good-bye because I was at the doctor on account of Meg’s ear infections.

Some of it has to do with the exhaustion. Oh, the exhaustion - of just-home-from-vacation-I-need-a-vacation blues, sickly mamas, sickly babies, and the quiet nights of a husband far away.
And, some of it has to do with this weakness in my spirit which causes me to compare myself to other moms thinking, “am I being as good of a Mom as she is? Is my daughter as happy as her kids? Will she still want to hang out with me once she knows that Meg’s table manners are, well, nonexistent? She seems so happy and to have it so easy - everything she does is perfect; why is it such a struggle for me?” In my weakness, I compare myself unmercifully to other women and trusted friends and I always fall short. And this practice/habit/sin turns my focus away from where it needs to be (on my daughter, helping her learn how to be independent of me and to love God) right onto where it doesn’t (on me, my insecurities, my vanities, really). Before I know it, my attitude plummets, my spiritual life weakens, and I’m questioning God’s calling of me to this life, this raising another life for His kingdom.

I’ve been in a blogging and parenting slump lately. And, it’s not for lack of inspiration. Meggie - you wouldn’t believe how much she’s growing and changing. Like, how she can say lots of new words: “di-di” for kitty, “doos” for juice or shoes depending on the situation, “ca-ca” for cracker, “ba-ba” for water or blanket, and “quack quack” for duck. She runs to pick up a ball when I say, “Meggie, where’s your ball?” and nestles her chin on my shoulder when I ask for a hug. And, oh, how sweet are her kisses. She can even blow you a kiss on command and marches herself into her room, grabs her paci and blanket, and turns on her sound machine when she’s tired (she did that just this morning). I’ve even caught her red-handed in our pantry, knee-high in the dog food. It’s because in the midst of sleeplessness, sickness, and loneliness, I’ve been feeling pretty pitiful and sorry for myself.

So, I needed a little encouragement today. It came from the lips of a kind stranger. But what I need even more is to be reminded of God’s grace, of his gifting of Meg to Kyle and me for these relatively short years, of the assurance that his mercies are new every morning. I need to give thanks, to acknowledge the joy that bubbles up in little moments throughout the long days, and cling to him in our sleeplessness, sickness, and loneliness. I read these words the other day:

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:14

They said to me: Even when things are hard (and boy, have they been!), the hardness won’t be forever - for God promises good things to come. Indeed, I shall expect good things while I still live. But, I must wait on God’s moving and direction. Don’t get overanxious and be tempted to “make them happen” or feel down because my feelings and this situation just aren’t getting any better. Instead, depend on the Lord for everything, serve him bravely, and let his hope be my confidence that [ her naps will return to normal, her ears will heal, he’ll teach me how to be the best mother to his child, Meg, he’ll bring Kyle home safely again, he’ll ease my loneliness in this alone time] in his timing and for his glory.

Lord, I’m waiting on you. Help me to believe the truth in these words. Thank you for my family - that even this particularly hard time is a blessing because of the treasure their presence is in my life.

How do you combat the “slumps” in your life? What promises speak to you? I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday is MDO out day for Meg and me. I had big plans of dropping her off, scouring Hobby Lobby for ribbons to make her "gamecock" bow for Halloween, and searching the plant nursery for fall mums, pansies, and decorations. BUT, last night was a rough one. I didn't sleep much because of "being down and out, feeling poorly," as some say, and neither did Meg. The crazy girl is teething her molars (these will make tooth #11 and #12) and she finally woke up screaming at 6:00 this morning. I rocked her for a while, put her back to bed, and we got up at our usual time of 7:00 with a little medicine and a huge breakfast. After I left her classroom, I did go to Hobby Lobby, but skipped the nursery. Now, I'm tucked back into bed - trying to recover from being sick, which as can be expected, occurred at the same time as Kyle's latest departure. Such enforced bed-restriction does, however, give me time to reflect on, reminisce about, and record our adventures in Virginia.

We pulled into Athlone Farm late on Friday night - after a grueling 2 day drive with puppy and baby in tow. Meg and Douglass were both fantastic travelers, though, as previously stated. My grandmother was there to meet us with my Aunt Cecil and her two friends from New Jersey - there visiting a college-age son at Lynchburg College. Meg immediately began to run in circles around all the adults and furniture...her little legs pumping for joy at no longer being restrained in a carseat. Saturday was spent getting Meg accustomed to the new place, but Aunt Cecil and I did make it out to one of our favorite Amherst spots, Vintage on The Main, an old home on Main Street that's been converted into an antique/vintage shop. My dad also arrived on Saturday, and he was quickly acclimated into his new duty - following Meg around. She was fascinated by this little brick step down into the sun room and spent hours walking up and down this step. In typical Meggie fashion, she wanted someone with her the whole time holding her hand; she would reach the step, turn around and hold out her hand for the first available adult. :) When she wasn't climbing this step, she wanted to be climbing the stairs to the second story. By the end of our trip there, I was thankful we live in a ranch-style house!

On Sunday, Kyle, Grandmama, Dad, and I went to church. All of us were a little nervous about how Meg would behave in the "big" service, and for the first ten minutes our fears seemed warranted as she was trying to climb up the back of the pew, using hymnals for leverage and attempting to escape under the feet of the lady behind us...but do you know? After that, Meg perched herself right between Kyle and me in the pew and looked at books THE WHOLE TIME, occasionally swinging her feet back and forth. She charmed the whole congregation during communion. We took her with us to receive a blessing, and she stood on tiptoes on the altar pillow, trying to peer over the railing. We love her inquisitive nature.

A funny thing that's never happened before happened on Sunday. I guess Meg outdid herself with all the excitement of travel (a.k.a. not sleeping a wink in the hotel on the way to VA) and seeing all the family, but she actually fell asleep in her high chair during Sunday lunch. In the midst of conversation, we turned to see if she wanted seconds, and she was slumped over, eyes fastened shut, and a spoon hiked in the air. Oh. MY. We all laughed a good bit before shuttling her up to the bedroom. :)


Aha, behold the expectant, "I'm waiting for my followers," gesture.

Both my mom and Aunt Pam got to Athlone on Monday. Though the weather forecast had been sunny before we left home, while we were there, we had mostly rain. Kyle and I escaped on Monday to while away the time before my mom and aunt arrived by climbing CrabTree Falls (one of the highest natural waterfalls in North America). In the rain, we couldn't see much of the falls, but it was still lovely to get away together. Meg, left at Athlone with Grandmama, was a little less enthused. She discovered the "outside" on our trip and reveled in the freedom of flying around on the wide open spaces of the farm. She didn't understand that heavy rain meant she had to stay inside and would stand, pounding on the windows and doors.


We went walking on this beautiful old trail by my grandparents' house everyday - it's a converted railway bed. This occasion was the only one I carried Meg...I think we've WAY outgrown the Baby Bjorn! :)


Now that she's past her "stranger anxiety" phase, Meg loves "meeting" new people and expresses her open personality with smiles, dancing, and giggling. I kept wondering at how different Meg must seem to my family who last saw her at 3 months, before she was rolling over. On this last trip, she was twirling, running, climbing, tumbling...every sort of physical accomplishment. My mom even helped Meg learn how to climb into and out of chairs, her favorite sort being rocking chairs. Now, on the other side of our trip, mama is having to teach Meg how to "sit down" in chairs. :)

Tuesday brought our day trip to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home in Charlottesville. Tuesday was the one day out of most of our week characterized by warmth, sunshine, and the first hints of fall. Kyle and I spent almost five hours there, but could have spent the whole day. We started with a tour of the house, then walked around the gardens, ate our picnic lunch by the fish pond, went on a tour of the slave cabin row and the history of slavery at Monticello, and ended our time by walking past Jefferson's grave. We were both inspired by the scientist that Jefferson was, his many creations, and the way he used his home and grounds to test out hypotheses. His expansive gardens will be the impetus for our own vegetable garden in the spring and summer. One of our favorite memories of this day was sitting in the shade of an ancient tree, imagining the life of those famous people, lived so long ago. To remember the day, we bought two seed packets of plants developed at Monticello...we'll have to wait a couple of seasons before planting time, but I love the idea of harvesting something that Jefferson did once, too.

Jefferson's watch tower in the vegetable garden, overlooking the vineyards


I loved these purple "globe" flowers - we brought some seeds home to plant


Most of these pictures were just practicing with my new camera, BUT this one stuck out because I somehow captured a butterfly in flight. LOVE!






We also brought home a little melon seed

view overlooking the vegetable garden

While we were gone on Tuesday, Mom took Meg to the mall in Lynchburg. According to the report, Meg made tons of friends at the mall, climbed in and out of those big shopping cars for kids four dozen times, and even received special attention and chicken nuggets from the manager of Chick-Fil-A. This girl sparkles every where she goes, I tell you! My mom and Meg really enjoyed their car rides together...Mom was the one that introduced Veggie Tales to Meg and now she will.not.listen.to.anything.else.in.the.car. Seriously. As we pulled back in on Tuesday evening, we were greeted with the happy scene of Mom pushing Meg in her green stroller down the lane with a frolicking Douglass at their heels. :) I also have to mention that we were greeted secondly by fantastic dinners prepared every night by Aunt Pam. My favorite of her creations were Poblano peppers from her garden, stuffed with cream and cheddar cheeses, dipped in milk, breaded and baked in the oven. Hmm-mmm. I loved these little treasures so much that I bought some peppers at the farmer's market here in OK and will be attempting to recreate them this weekend.

Wednesday and Thursday were special days for my love and me. Thursday (September 30th) was our four-year-wedding anniversary. Suddenly, "four years" sounds established and feels more "settled." Our family volunteered to watch Meg so that we could get-away for the night in celebration. We chose a bed-and-breakfast called Stonerige Inn.
The Inn was secluded down a windy gravel road close to the downtown heart of Lexington, a short hour drive over the mountain from Athlone. Through the rain in Lexington, we toured Lee Chapel, the resting place of Robert E. Lee and his family and beloved horse, Travelor, at Washington and Lee University, the Stonewall Jackson house, Stonewall Jackson's gravesite, VMI, and the Marshall Museum at VMI.

We ate at a restaurant called The Red Hen for our anniversary night, picked because it advertised using fresh and local farm produce. Also, because it was located right across the street from the Stonewall Jackson house - we felt like were just a little bit closer to history there. The Red Hen, which Kyle jokingly called 'the hen house' for the rest of our visit, was the perfect spot for an anniversary dinner. It was tiny, allowing for only about ten candlelit tables with an open kitchen so that we could watch the chef prepare our entire meal. When we got there, the waitress told us that it was "market day" and Tucker, the chef, always prepared a special menu based off of what he found at the farmer's market that morning...YUM. We both ordered the three course market day option including: a fig and arugala salad with feta cheese, trout with kale and new potatoes, and a chestnut soup for desert. I was expecting the chestnut soup to be "vegetably," but it was sweet and reminded me of vanilla and apple crisp. The best part of the night, though, was our dear conversation. Kyle and I remembered back over our four years and thought about "the hardest parts," "the best parts," "the parts where we felt God was particularly moving," and how different our family is now that graduate school is behind us and our lovely Meggie present. We talked about how our expectations of each other or the qualities that attracted us to each other before marriage have influenced each other after marriage, and talked a little of the future. I am grateful for Kyle's strength, his passion to serve our country, and his "level-headedness." After four years, I feel like my respect and appreciation of the way he leads our family has only grown and I love him stronger, wider, deeper, higher than when we first said, "I do and I will."

Friday was our last full day with family. We packed it full of running around the farm, taking pictures, and Meg even had an opportunity to visit a friend's horses down the road. A satisfying vacation - we miss our dear family, but love the memories fresh in our mind.


petting the horse

We were informed that "Mr. Baggins" was a "nibbler..."

not quite so sure of the big "duh-duh" (every animal right now is "duh-duh"...could be short for either doggie or douglass, Meg's doggie)

Enjoy the pictures:




When she makes this "scrunchy-up face," I totally see her Da-Da. :)


there's no greater sight in the whole world than a happy girl


We always get the comment that Meg is tall...BUT OH MY - check out her long legs! I guess that's what you get when your daddy is 6'7'' and still growing!


Most of the time, she looked like this: running and squealing with laughter


and this...


and like this


She has a new-found passion for rocking chairs as of our trip


I adore my Grandmama...and look who she's looking at down below...




swinging




exploring


Yes, I do believe she's gnawing on the fence post, here.


She explored everything, our little scientist.


and can climb steps





The memorial garden in honor of Grandaddy-so restful and peaceful, just like him...



The sheep barn


The corn crib


The cows


4 generations of Powell Women


discovering a magnolia leaf




she has such intensity and focus


love this one of my dad watching his granddaughter



running wild

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

whoops...

Ok, I feel silly - I accidentally sent a professional email out with our blog link at the bottom - and panicked that the recipient of the email would follow the link and see all of the unprofessional information about our family on the blog...so, I restricted access to the blog just for today to get past the embarrassment of seeming so-not-like-a-professional person.

But, I'm back and ready to post. Well, I had every good intention of writing a long post about our Virginia trip tonight, but was struck down by a vile cold. I'm, instead, heading to bed with some peppermint tea. Praise be, it's only 8:30! Health permitting, I will be writing said post tomorrow! (That and if I can figure out how to upload pictures from my new camera in an efficient manner.) Night, night, dear readers! :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Funny Thing Just Happened...

Kyle and I are cheering on the South Carolina Gamecocks. They are playing (Kyle adds over my shoulder: currently demolishing) Alabama. Kyle keeps jumping from the couch shouting, "THEY ARE LOOKING GOOD!" (meaning the Gamecocks.) I start feeling sorry for Alabama...I have this ridiculous problem of sympathizing with the losing team.

I say: "Awww...poor Alabama." They miss a fieldgoal.

Kyle - with disgust - replies: "No, stop it. You can't say, 'poor Alabama.' They haven't lost a game in three years. They are the bullies of college football. You need to cheer for them to be demolished and destroyed!"

Just thought you should know. And share.

Also, here's a cutie patootie picture of Meg and Daddy watching a Gamecock football game last year when she was just a wee bebe...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Birthday Bash

whoops - just totally checked my drafts folder and found Meg's birthday party post...here you go...

After scrambling our schedules around because of a last-minute change in K's flight plans, we mailed out invites for Meggie girl's 1st birthday party. I began thinking of a theme soon after she was born (I know, I know, it's the planner in me...) and had settled on an old-fashioned, late summer picnic "just like in Anne of Green Gables." In my imagination, I envisioned potato sack races, three-legged races, homemade ice cream in crystal bowls, and sunhats. And, then I remembered this was a ONE-YEAR-OLD'S party! :) We did, though, have a picnic. The plan was for everyone to arrive around 11:00, eat on arrival around little picnic spots set out in the playroom and living room, go outside at about 12:00 to play relay races and games, come back inside for cake and icecream, and then do presents. The plan went mostly as follows except that I forgot to factor in the 104 + degree late August weather and accidentally hid the huge vat of icecream behind a melty bag of Sonic ice in the freezer.


We made a 12 month poster for Meg - we had one picture from each month of her first year..it's in purple and green so that we can hang it in her room

So...after lunch, we made it outside for two games before coming back inside. Instead of the games, Kyle pulled out his guitar and played old-fashioned children's songs on his guitar. The sing-a-long was probably my favorite part of her party because most of the kids were sitting on a picnic blanket in front of Kyle, singing or dancing to the music. Meg even got in the middle of the crowd and rocked back-and-forth in her "I've-just-learned-to-walk-and-keep-my-balance" stance. He ended the sing-a-long with "happy birthday" and we let Meg "smash" into her cake. The cake. OH MY - Shauna, our neighbor who's a chef and specialty cake baker by trade, offered to make her cake for us. It was a four decker, chocolate on chocolate cake in the shape of a picnic basket. She included a table cloth, corn, cherry, and ants out of fondant on the top and made Meg her own smash cake as a watermelon. It was the hit of our party...and the hit of the days since for me! :) We had to peel a little of the watermelon fondant off for Meg, but then she dug right in, taking the cake in by fistfuls in her own still dainty way. I cleaned her off after cake eating, changed her outfit, and set to opening presents. I loved the way all the children crowded around to see what was inside of each package. As a grown-up, I've forgotten the magic and mystery hidden in a wrapped gift. Even if the presents are for someone else - EVEN if they're for a baby, children love to uncover the treasure inside...oh, if we could all bask in these childlike moments and see the extraordinary in those things that have become ordinary to us with age! Meg sat on my lap for the first unwrapping and then played with that toy while I unwrapped the rest of the packages. She has really enjoyed playing with her new toys since then and we've tried to be good about trading the toys in-and-out so that each keeps its "new" feeling.


outside games


the sing-a-long


the CAKE




eating the CAKE


Probably my favorite memory of the day was seeing most of our Oklahoma "family" in our home, watching Meg - ever the extravert - wander from group to group, and getting to visit with some of the Navy friends that we don't see often because of flight schedules, conflicting deployments, and the distance between our houses. Sigh...a great day was had by all, especially the birthday girl.