Thursday, March 29, 2012

Everything's a Miracle

I love this one - Meggie Megs at the Park
 Seriously.  I’ve tried to write a blog post like four different times this week.  Each time I tried, it just didn’t feel...right.

For example, this is what I started to write yesterday:

There hasn’t been an update for a while.  Actually, Kyle asked me over lunch if I was going to blog during the girls’ nap time.  I told him no because I wasn’t sure I had anything positive to say and if I was only going to be negative, why write anything at all?  And also because the girls had nap time from hades yesterday - up, down, up, down, cry, climbing out of bed, potty accidents, up, down, ... - and I wasn’t sure if they were planning a repeat performance for today.

I know some of my friends have been asking for pictures of the house.  The truth is: I haven’t taken any yet because it’s not finished and I guess I’m afraid if I post them looking like a mess now that no one will come back and see them how I really want you to remember them - which is 100% put together and perfect - like I’ve got it all together. 

I suppose that’s really why I haven’t written anything either.

(sheepish smile...)

Because I owe it to's an unfinished picture of the kitchen.

and from the other side.
 It’s been a week of tumultuous emotions and tears and hormones.  All normal things - most prompted by normal reactions to our big life changes.

I’ve tried - really tried - to accentuate the positive, but mainly I just feel the loneliness of a new place creeping in. 

And the loneliness is not with the move necessarily.  Not with the new place necessarily.  Or even the starting over necessarily.  More with the way all those things make me feel.

I’m a feeling person.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel things so strongly - even while I recognize that my feeling quality is a great strength; it’s what draws me to counseling, it’s probably why I’ve been blessed with daughters, it’s behind my passion for art and reading and theater and connection.

But, it’s also how I take in information about my world, how I process information about my world...and when that information tells me that I’m just not home yet, and my “logic” tells me not to trust my feelings, but my feelings are what seem REAL...I end up just feeling wrong, somehow. 

I know my feelings will catch up with time - I’ve moved before, past history tells me that I’m going to be okay, so I’m trying to give myself the grace of time.  To get comfortable with the expanse of time needed to start a new life.  Not to jump into busyness, but to dwell within that which makes me uncomfortable. 

Being patient with myself.  And embracing the work in process.  Letting God reveal His plans - not making my own because THAT’S what would make me feel better.

All the while learning how to do this moving thing as a parent.

Meggie’s a whole lot more resilient, I think, than me.  From the moment we arrived, she’s been working it out in her mind:

“This our new street, Daddy?”

“Mama, it’s our new house! I see our new house!”

“This is Meggie’s new house, Daddy.”

It’s obvious to me that part of her very design fits well within the structure of a military family.  Seems like she really is meant to be a nomad. 

Sometimes, though, I still wonder how I got here - it’s not so easy to see the purpose for myself.  I’m a creature of habit and deep relationships and home.

Home can be here, too, home can be here, too, home can be here, too.  It’s become my mantra and my prayer.

Like last week, there are pinpoints of promise that I want to share, glimpses of God’s love and compassion that I want to, have to recognize.

Kyle and I took the girls out to the park around the block from our house.  On the way there, pushing the girls in our big, double stroller, I shuffled gravel along the street with my feet.  “I’m just starting to feel so lonely.  I just wish I knew more people in our neighborhood.”

(Because we really, really did have the world’s best neighbors in OK.)

A few minutes later, I saw a young girl around Meg’s age on her scooter, her mother following swiftly behind.  As our girls fell right into play, we started talking.  Turns out she’s the founder of an Island mom’s group - with 35 moms and even more kids. 

I’m already getting emails for play dates.

I love how this picture of Meggie captures her love of life.

She later busted her lip open on this slide.
Darling AV

never seen so many palm trees in my daily existence.  kinda exotic and refreshing.

with a little help from the boo-boo bunny, Meggie braved her first busted lip.
 Meggie bursting out in her own song: “I LOVE MY MOOOOMMMM-YYYYY!” 

Her newfound favorite phrase: “Mommy, can you hold me for a minute?”

My precious AV waving “hi” and “bye” and saying, “uh-oh.”  And rolling over from her back to her tummy for the first time at 9.5 months last night.  We all saw it, were there when it happened, a family of four reading books together in the baby’s room.
She also tried puffs for the first time this week.

She LOVED them.

once she got the hang of chewing them up...

...she wanted to share. :)
A new coffee pot to wake us up before the kids every day this week.

A spontaneous trip into base for diapers, gas, and a car wash.  The car wash.  It’s become our new family activity.  Meggie’s eyes wide as porcelain Dutch saucers, and as blue.

Kyle back in flight school, studying a new plane.  Recognizing the flight pattern of his plane over the coast by our house.  Imagining his patience with students.

A conversation with my frousin.  Talking about deep things and funny things - like things people say when they see our redheaded, Irish daughters.

The Texas State Aquarium today with the old friend of one of my old friends.  Meggie dancing to the music of the dolphin show, AV nibbling on my keys, still little enough to be perched right near my heart.  Meggie crying, “Mommy, LOOK! A big, big, big, BIG fish!”

Meggie nearly catapulting herself over the railing and into the ocean.  Me, screaming, “MEGGIE!!! NOOOO!!! Put your feet on the ground!!!” into my new, old friend’s ear, startling her 6 month old angel baby.

The splash pad, Meggie leaping about in her water-drenched clothes, a little scared of the big bucket when it poured a waterfall, running back to me: “Mommy, can I hold your hand?”

Meeting a kind neighbor - who just moved in this week - who’s also just as desperate to meet people as me!  She has a little dog named, “Annie.”  We have a little dog named, “Douglass.”

Peaceful, prayerful walks on the beach.

Oh, yes, and this darling conversation which I want to remember always:

Kyle uncovered all the letters and post cards I mailed him during my senior study abroad trip in college.  I pulled out one note and read it aloud.

“Ugh.  I can’t believe I even wrote that stuff.  I’m embarrassed.  It’s so, so, soooo mushy and sentimental!”

He replied, “I kept every word.  I fell in love with you all over again when you mailed me those letters.”

I made a face. 

And Meggie piped up from the couch: “Daddy, are you in love with me, too?”  She smiled. 

So did we.

Knowing nothing is coincidence.  Everything is holy.

the girls at the beach this week.

they really are happy here.
excited Allie Ballie
the Red Seaweed.
if you look closer, you can see her four little top teeth poking through
hmmm...what is this???
"Daddy says it's not good for eating."
"But I'm going to try it again just to be sure."
"Nope.  I guess it's STILL not good for me."
"And it's all over my feet."
"And in between my gums." EW.
"Good thing he's here to pick me up and keep me away from that stuff!"

that's my trusty old Camry you see.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Diary of a Mad Fat Girl Book Review

I’m crouched over our beloved kitchen table, a genuine, historic pub-table come over on the boat from England, whose scratch marks and knife gauges speak of much more raucous action in the past than  its modern day battles with squishy cheerios and baby drool, writing. 

This kitchen table is centered in our new, fluorescent breakfast nook.  I’m crouched because I’d be blinded if I looked up.

We just moved in.  And, yes, I know paint can be changed.  But, who has time for that anymore?

Thankfully, we did have time to meet a friend of mine from grad school - who’s also down here for a time - at a playground.  Which means that I faced my fear and conquered the bridge over to the mainland.  Even while I crested the top, though, my knees were shaking and I felt sweaty all over.  Since then I’ve driven over a handful more times and it gets easier, phewie.  And just like Madeline, it makes me want to say, “Pooh-pooh!”  Meggie would love that!

Slowly, the boxes are making their way into a demolished pile on the garage floor, and slowly, random bits of our life are spreading themselves out on the counter tops.  Playdoh sticks to the floor in abandoned patches, hardening.  I’m a thorough worker, but not a fast worker, so this process might take awhile.  I have to live in a space for a while before furniture placement makes sense to my non-spatial eyes - a characteristic that I think is beginning to drive Kyle a little batty as he’s used to working at a speedier pace.

Kyle’s taken the big girl out on in the jogging stroller.  They’re running down the beach - a far cry from their normal route in our old, tree-lined neighborhood in Oklahoma. 

The baby girl snoozes in her crib in the front room.  How she can sleep in there, I don’t know because the morning sun streams right through our curtains and onto her strawberry-blond tufts of newbie hair.  But still, she sleeps.

This week as we moved, I’ve been engrossed in a high-energy, contagiously fun new book which has served to transport me out of this muddled mess and into a BIG adventure.

Diary of a Mad Fat Girl explodes with grown-up humor as “Ace” Jones, the lovable, womanly-figured, instantly-relatable heroine, narrates a series of events in which she and her best friend, Lilly Lane, with the help of other characters, spy on their other best friend, Chloe’s, husband “Dick Richard” - a supposed womanizer with the intent of rescuing Chloe from the abusive relationship.  Along the way, Ace battles her own insecurities about life, a long-time love with Mason McKenzie, and unfulfilled dreams.  A drama-filled, small Southern town in Mississippi and forays with Ace’s precious Chiweenie dog sidekick, Buster Loo, round out this unforgettable, break-out novel.

At first I was a little turned-off, though, by Ace’s constant self put-downs about her body.  She bemoans being “fat” and talks a lot about food in negative ways, comparing herself to ex-lingerie model, Lilly.  Her negativity and poor body image frustrated me - as a woman and mother to two young daughters.  It’s difficult enough to teach healthy body image these days without popular literature poking fun at different shapes and sizes.  But, in the end, Ace confesses that she loves pizza, bacon-cheeseburgers, and beer more than she would love having a skinny-minny form.  In a rare moment of true confession, she confides that she’s happy in her own skin and confident.

She’s also sought after by two different men who find her curves appealing - and more than that, her infectious personality.  I thought these two things - Ace’s own confession and her inward-seeking love interests - redeemed her earlier complaints. 

And, on many levels, I know many women relate to Ace’s struggles with weight in our culture.  I know I do.  I feel like different scenarios have prompted my own unhappiness with my weight since my teenage years - and I’ve definitely been emotionally eating through our whole moving process.  I’ve thought of Ace every time I’ve ordered an extra helping of fried pickles at Sonic since arriving on the island a week ago.  Again, Ace’s transparency about emotionally eating - and awakening self-knowledge makes her appealing as a heroine.

The author, Stephanie McAfee, through Ace, writes with a hilarious and powerful voice.  I especially loved her creative choices of similes.  Some so witty that I found myself actually laughing out loud - or giggling about hours later as a particular scene would come to mind.  From start to finish, the action was fast-paced and Ace and her friends seemed so REAL and conversation clever.  The group of friends in the novel had such ease in their relationships - I found myself envious of their long-standing ties from childhood.  I love the kind of friends that know who you are to your very core - and serve to remind you through difficult situations like Ace’s do continually for her.

Occasionally, I would flip back to the “About the Author” section and re-read McAfee’s bio - her characters were so approachable that I couldn’t help but imagine that a lot of the thoughts, cares, concerns of the characters were influenced by McAfee’s own experiences.  As a reader, this quality made me feel a connection with the author and an affection for all within the pages of the book. And, FUN FACT: McAfee originally self-published Diary of a Mad Fat Girl as an e-book...and e-book that then rose to the New York Times best-seller list!

One note of caution: the novel uses STRONG language A LOT and does contain mature subject matter.  I would not recommend this novel for young or teenage readers.  Some scenes were hard for me to read just because I tend to be a bit more naive (a little more Anne of Green Gables and not so much Sex and the City)...and the 30s single scene is one in which  I have no personal familiarity.

But DO read with these things in mind if you’re in the mood for a light-hearted, boisterous, action-oriented, witty, romantic literary treat.
If you’re intrigued, come follow along as we discuss Diary of a Mad Fat Girl as part of the BlogHer Book Club.

The review above is a paid BlogHer Book Club Review.  Although I’m receiving compensation for my participation, the opinions expressed are purely my own - with no pricetag attached. :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Howdy, Texas!

We made it! 

In one piece minus several hundred saltwater tears as we prayed over our house and waved farewell to our neighborhood in OK.

We took two days to drive all the way down here practically to Mexico.  I have to brag and tell you that my dear husband drove the van with BOTH GIRLS the whole way (THE WHOLE WAY!!!) while I followed in the camry.  Introvert that I am, that time was precious for reflecting on what was lost through the move and dreaming about our new life.  I blasted the music up loud, ate yogurt covered pretzels, and soaked up the solitude.

On Wednesday night we slept in a hotel right outside of Austin.  "Slept" is a word I use very loosely.  Actually, it was more like pacing the floor with a screaming baby, kissing boo-boos from the toddler who fell out of the big girl bed, and screaming in horror at the cockroach who decided to join our slumber party.

Three of us deserve gold stars for behavior on the drive.  Kyle for driving the girls to TX, Meggie for riding (most) of the time in peaceful silence, taking in sights from the road, and Allie V for falling back asleep every time big sister threw her paci in protest.

I'm discounting myself because I also spent the ten hour drive not only reflecting, but stewing.  Turns out I'm not a bit like Rosie the Riveter and a whole lot like a pillar of salt.  At one point I even said to Kyle, "Ok, so if you look in your rear view mirror and you don't see me, just know I've turned back."  I was only 30% joking.

But, we arrived nonetheless - a weary, bedraggled, homesick crew - after climbing over this enormous bridge that connects the mainland to the island where we live.  I mean, Kyle told me you had to drive over a bridge to get here and I have nothing against bridges, but this one is as steep as a roller coaster.  Straight up. in. the. air. 

I may or may not be leaving the island for the next 2-and-a-half years.

When we opened the door to our new house, we were assailed by the smell of wet dog.  Then, were blinded by the hideous paint colors in the kitchen.

I didn't say anything because I knew how hard Kyle had worked to find us this beach bungalow, but my senses were overwhelmed with the "different" of it.  So different from the home we left.  I sank onto the tile floors and held onto my babies.  Squeezed my eyes shut and tried not to cry.  That night we slept together in the new master bedroom, snuggled all four on top of our full-size air mattress like a pile of puppies, scared to touch the carpet.

Friday was my 28th birthday.  And the day the moving van came.  Weird birthday.  New place.  The movers unloaded everything in time for the carpet cleaners to get here.  I split my day between sitting curled up in the front seat of the van so that Allie V could take her naps and runs to Sonic.  Thank goodness for a Sonic on this island!

I'd heard this place was humid, but boy howdy, is it ever.  Of course, Meggie's hair immediately sprung up into thousands of perfect, corkscrew ringlets...and mine, well, rather resembles a frizzed-version of a tumbleweed.  Great.  

Meggie's adjusting well, though she's taking us through our paces, testing to see if our boundaries still hold for her in the midst of this different.  She went through the same thing after Allie came home, so we were on alert and ready for the testing.  After that first night, though, she's slept in her room by herself in her practice big girl bed - which is the air mattress we moved in there.  She loves the freedom, and falls asleep without a peep most nights.

Allie V's adjustment is taking a bit longer.  I think the stress of the move and a new environment is making her acid reflux come back. UGH.  We're back to the days of screaming when she eats, not eating, and not sleeping.  Little Miss has slept with us every night since except for last night - so maybe we've turned a corner?  Her room is the last one to really be set up because she spends so much time in there or out here trying to eat and play - but I think (hope!) she'll settle again once her surroundings more match her room from home.  And with the help of her medicine which we've started her back on.

I'm ok unless I really let myself "go there" in my thinking about how much I miss home...and then I panic.  So I try not to get that far.  It usually happens when I'm staked out in the bathroom, pumping.  Oh, and the stress of the different is severely depleting my milk supply.  So, we're REALLY not going to go there.

Big. Sigh. OK.

AND. BUT.  I know, believe, trust, pray that this change is for our good - for our best, even. 

The different is not all bad.  Our beach bungalow has a ton of built-in storage, so even though it's smaller, it feels like we have more space. 

Papa flew in the night we got here, and has helped lift our spirits immensely!  He brought us doughnuts and coffee every morning, enticed Meggie out to the park so that we could get work done, and completely reorganized our garage.  It probably would have taken us the entire time we will live here just to do the work he's done in a few days.  He's distracted us from the different in a wonderful way.

Meggie's happy to be in her big girl bed, and fully potty-training time is almost here.

Kyle's happy in his work, which will make us happy at home, too.

We went on a date night for my birthday and I had fresh-from-the-gulf mahi mahi.

I already know two friends here.  TWO!

Our beach bungalow faces in the east, which means that the sun sets in glorious fashion over our backyard and into our master bedroom windows. 

I step outside my new front door and hear the calls of seagulls, smell the spray of salt, feel sticky-hot asphalt and scrub grass and sand under my feet.

We had dinner tonight on a pier five minutes from our beach bungalow.  They served us fried seafood as we watched boats whiz past and pelicans search for fish.  Happiness descended over my heart.  And I had a thought:  I live here.  I live here, where most people vacation, and we can do this anytime we want.

The beach is literally a few sleepy streets over and we walked over the sand after dinner, surf pounding on sand after afternoon thunderstorms.

The different is different, but it's not all bad.  There's friends to be met here, and tears to be shed when it's, again, time to move.  
nothing left in here but a sleeping baby in her car seat...
time to G. O.
we've been doing a lot of playing with packing paper.
and taking naps in packing paper.

there was some moving of the refrigerator action
sweet getting-four-teeth-in-at-once Allie Bo Ballie

the girls have been playing really well together through all of this

AV and her Papa note: these walls actually look normal. they are NOT normal in person.

outside the beach bungalow on one of their many excursions to the playground

AV at our pierside dinner tonight

the beach by our house

Daddy and his big girl

Mama and her two sweeties.

the family.

the boys and girls

Daddy and his little girl

the classic AV stare

on the beach with my littlest love.