Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How the Marine Corps taught me about divine providence

I know there are a lot more important things going on than us finding out before mid-March where we're moving in mid- May.  But the suspense is killing us!  You could cut the tension in this house with a knife.  Tim sits around every night, big dip in his lip (he had planned on quitting for the New Year, but now the box of Nicorette sits uselessly on the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet.), laptop in front of him, waiting for an email and searching endless real estate listings on two coasts.

Sometime during fall, the monitor said we'd hear by Feb 1.  Then, sometime in December, he said his "goal" was to let us know by March 1.  Now that the end of February is in sight, the latest we're hearing is "by mid-March".  Deep breath..

It's looking more like Camp Pendleton, CA than Cherry Point, NC these days, based on recent communication between Tim and his monitor.  The typical length of the wait for base housing on Camp Pendleton, should we want to live there, is eight months.  You can't get on that list until you have orders.  That means if we were to get orders today, there probably wouldn't be a house ready for us by the time we were ready to move.  And we don't want to live as transients for months while we wait.  While we aren't completely sold on living on base, I feel we're being denied the opportunity.

I am doing my best to remember that God will look out for us like He always has, and we will wind up exactly where we belong, just as we always have.  A great case in point is a story about Tim that I didn't even know myself, until a few months ago.  In 2004, First Lieutenant Tim was wrapping up his three-year tour in Camp Pendleton, during which he had deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 1 (or OIF1, as it's commonly referred to) and been on countless exercises.  He had orders to Okinawa, Japan.  He knew that after his year in Okinawa, he would have the option of getting out of the Marines, and he was considering that.  Maybe then he could pursue a career as a Massachusetts State Trooper, which was his other dream job.  Then again, maybe not, but he would think about it.  In the meantime, he would not be deployable.

Only days before movers were scheduled to come to his apartment, Tim got a phone call that alerted him to an email.  There had been a change of plans.  In order to better serve the needs of the Marine Corps, Tim was being redirected to Cherry Point, NC for two years.  The Marine Corps is not dumb, and they were not letting Tim off that easy.  He was needed on the east coast for the upcoming OIF3.  And who else was at Cherry Point but little old me? (And that in itself is a long story to be told over a few beers.)

That really irked Tim, who is a consummate planner.  In Tim's -- and now our -- world, he likes to know exactly what his circumstances will be as far ahead as possible.  He likes to have details in place and a direction to go in.  When he gets orders in black-and-white, he is as good as there, and whatever needs to be done is as good as done.  However, as anyone who has either been a Marine or loved one knows all too well, there are always those moments where they say, "Gotcha!"

This story is a valuable lesson to us both, and to anyone else feeling like a pinball in the crazy machine that is the Marine Corps.  First, know that nothing is definite, not even after you have orders in hand.  Second, after you've accepted that chaos as a part of your life, you should embrace it and learn to recognize God's hand in it.

Tim's story, as you know, got better after he recovered from the shock of having to go Cherry Point.  His monitor apologetically offered to make a note in his file that Tim accepted those orders "as a favor" to the Marine Corps.  He would therefore receive special consideration when it came time to choose his next duty station.  He was past due for a "B Billet" (short term duty assignment) after spending five years in the operating forces.  As anyone who's every been a Marine or loved one knows, to be able to choose --er, have any kind of significant influence over-- one's own B billet is a lovely thing.  Tim was finally rewarded for his hard work with orders to Boston, less than an hour away from where he grew up and where his entire family resides.  And that's where we started our family.

Speaking of which, the little one is up, and will be looking for a meal soon.  Let the wait continue.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A couple random things

Tim forgot our blog address while I was out today, and didn't know how to find it.  He typed http://www.timandrachael.blogspot.com/  into the browser, and take a look at what he saw!  Duh, what a coincidence their names are Tim and Rachael, you say.  Read the post, see the name at the end.  Isn't that crazy?

Tim also wants you to know about the ginormous poop Delaney did in her princess potty today.  I'm sorry, the poop stories never end.  Poor Delaney had to go all morning long, and was in quite a bit of discomfort.  It was like she was in labor.  Long story short, while I was out, he was able to persuade her to sit on the little potty chair, and as soon as she did, out it came.  Tim was kind enough to save it for me to see when I got home, so I could share the awe and amazement.  You just can't believe the size of what can come out of such a little girl, until you see it for yourself.  Aren't you glad I didn't take a picture and post it here?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Annalise at nine months

Happy longer-out-than-in day to Annie-Banannie!

We just had her checkup this morning.  She's 20 pounds and 27 3/4 inches long.  She's fallen a little bit percentile-wise, probably since she's been a lot more mobile since her last visit.  She's now 75th percentile for weight and 50th for height.  She had a routine hemoglobin test, and it's normal, but low normal.  I was asked if I've been giving her a vitamin with iron, and when I said I have, I was told to definitely keep that up.  I, too, have a tendency to be iron-deficient, and have to take a supplement.  Other than that, she's as healthy as can be.  She is still mostly breastfed, with one meal of baby food.  She's liking it a little better than before.  She eats finger foods with her thumb and forefinger now.  And best of all, she's figuring out how to tilt the sippy cup up in order to drink out of it.

She's been doing more of the things she started last month -- just quicker and with more determination.  She loves to climb.  With Delaney's coaching, she'll be climbing stairs in no time.  She pulls up on everybody and everything, and can stand on her own for a few seconds at a time.

At around eight-and-a-half months, I finally felt the edge of a tooth as she was gnawing on my finger, the way she loves to do all the time.  That lonely little stub of a tooth is the cutest.  If cutting a tooth hurt, she never showed it.  We've been lucky around here, when it comes to teething.  I never even noticed when Delaney got molars.  She just opened her mouth one day and there they were!

I have a tooth!

Since I've been used to seeing Annie as such a laid-back baby, I was surprised to notice this month what I believe is the beginning of a temper.  Oh, great.  Before, if she crawled after something I didn't want her to have, I would simply move her away, say "not for babies," she'd forget about it, and that would be the end.  Now she gives me a screech to let me know she isn't happy.  Begs to differ!  And the things I pull her away from, become her obsession.  One day, I was helping Charlie, a little girl I was watching that day, to use the potty.  Charlie was all done, and standing there.  Before I could help get her pants back up and the bowl emptied, I saw Annie trying to climb up on the little potty.  (Yes, it's a pretty little pink throne, but it's still a TOILET!)  I moved her out of the room, and then tried to quickly complete the tasks at hand.  But before I knew it, Annie had crawled back over, and she was intent on getting ahold of that potty.  Her little hands were on the seat and she was trying to reach in.  I must have that potty!  She was so mad when I picked her up, ran out, and plopped her on her dad's lap in the living room.  These little ones learn so fast that the things Mama doesn't want them to touch must be really good stuff.

I didn't do it.

[You could probably Google "poop" or "toilet" and find my blog at this point.]

She smiles a lot, but giggles are few and far between, usually brought on by tickling.  The sound is so sweet it almost brings a tear to my eye.  Since that magical night in the tub, she's maybe only laughed at her sister once or twice.  She doesn't ever act too silly unless she's tired.  Then she flings herself backward on my lap so I will dangle her upside down while holding her hips.  She doesn't make a sound, but I look down to see her mouth wide open in silent laughter.  I pull her back up and she does it again.

She has a dramatic pout.  Watch me leave her sight when she's in one of her moods -- just to go in the other room -- and you will see an Oscar-worthy performance.  Her face crumples, she whimpers loudly, and fat tears roll down her cheeks.  Mama, don't you leave me here!  Furiously, she crawls after me, palms slapping the floor, leaving a trail of snot, drool and tears.  This all seems familiar, like I've seen it before.. yes, big sissy was the same way.  But on the mornings that Tim gets the girls out of bed and lets me sleep, he says she's happy and content until I come down the stairs two hours later.  Then it's, Mama, where were you?  I've missed you terribly, I've been miserable every minute I was alone with Dada and Delaney!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Money

I've been thinking a lot lately about how we spend our money.  Tim and I are not misers, but we are very mindful of where our money goes.  We are glad to reward ourselves with things that make us happy and improve our life; and we are happy to give to others too.  But we are also putting away a lot of Tim's income -- some for the girls' college, some for a nice house when he retires, but mostly just for security in a future that is more and more uncertain.  When Tim got his raise on the first of the year, the extra money just went into savings and investments.  When he's promoted to major sometime in the next year, we plan to keep living on his captain's salary.  We're not the best at stretching our dollars -- we can't get our grocery expenditure to budge below $140 a week -- and even if we do, it just means follow-up grocery trips later in the week.  But we are pretty disciplined for the most part.  We have no debt besides one car payment.  I divide things I want into "need to have", "nice to have", and "really nice to have".  The "nice" and "really nice" things that are under $100, I mull over for a bit and then walk or click away.  If I forget about it, then I'm not getting it.  If I come back later at least a couple times, then I'll get it.  My Ergo Baby carrier and this nice little purse I just bought fall under that category.

Here are some examples of what I won't part with money for:

First, there's the cleaning lady that we considered several months ago.  Some friends of ours -- busy moms with little kids -- managed to find a cleaning lady who would clean a 1700-square-foot house for about $100.  That's dirt cheap if you didn't know.  You have to provide your own cleaning supplies.  There's another catch, as I found out later from one of the couples -- she will break your blinds and then not tell you; and she will leave debris in your backyard, and not put things back where they belong.  But the idea of vacuumed floors, dusted surfaces and squeaky clean toilets even once a month appealed to me.  Tim and I discussed it at length over the period of a few days.  He was, not surprisingly, completely against it.  I couldn't seem to make a good enough argument as to why I needed help cleaning this house.  Finally, we agreed that we would clean together -- field day, if you will -- every week.  He said he would try to be more involved.  He said that just to placate me and get me off the case; and he does pitch in from time to time even though the weekly field days never came to fruition.  But I'm over the idea.  No way am I paying someone to go through my house, roughly cleaning my house with no regard for our things.  So, my conclusion for the economical cleaning lady -- nice to have, but not even necessarily "nice" if she is so careless as to break things and not have the decency to tell you.  And I definitely won't pay twice as much for a good cleaning lady.  Maybe I could do a little less blogging and more cleaning.:)

Another person that we've entertained the idea of hiring, is a babysitter.  We even created an account on Sittercity, and interviewed a good candidate for the job of just occasionally taking these children off our hands.  After creating this nice profile with descriptions of our kids, we left the account dormant.  Now here's where I reveal how I'm a cheapskate.  Do you know what babysitters charge?  $10 to $15 an hour.  Try as I might, I can not imagine what awesome, life-changing thing I or we could be doing out by ourselves, that would warrant paying someone $10 an hour to enjoy the company of our little ones.  And I know I ought to be ashamed of that attitude.  Babysitting is how I got my start, and it's hard work.  It's how I earned spending money as a 12- to 15-year-old.  Money was tight growing up and my parents weren't just handing us money.  Many mothers weighed the cost versus benefit of hiring me for between $5 and $10 an hour to watch their kids, and decided I was worth it.  So I ought to be more supportive of the babysitting industry.  As I told my mom, maybe if the right teenage babysitter comes along, I'll hire her in that spirit.  I'll support my local 14-year-old babysitter.. if I ever find her.  And I will not be cheap when it comes to paying her.  I'll round up to the next hour.  Until then, we have agreements with other parents around here, to watch each other's kids for nothing.  All we have to do is quit being homebodies and make plans, starting with our anniversary next month.

As for Tim, he's wanted many new things for a long time, and they are all expensive:

- A motorcycle.  It's very annoying that anytime I ask him what he wants for his birthday or Christmas, this is the answer.  He says, "Can't you just picture us riding around on one?"  Yes, we'd make such lovely organ donors.
- A new truck (his '02 Chevy Silverado is starting to fall apart, but still runs and is paid off, so that's not justified).
- A new TV, which I've always said no to, but he's wearing me down.  He's told me once they come out with 3D TVs -- and he says it's imminent since ESPN is going to start broadcasting in 3D -- we're getting a new TV.  To that, I just yawn and roll my eyes and think, 'Boy, what fun will it be to watch Dora and Snow White in 3D!'

Tim wants all kinds of big ticket items, but says he'll wear his clothes until they fall off.  Priorities.

Now here  is one of my crazy what-ifs.  Sometimes on a weekend morning when Tim and I are sleeping and we hear a little voice calling, "Mama, Dada, the clock turned yellow!"  I think, 'What if there were a button I could press on the nightstand that once pressed, would summon a nanny to come to the house to get both the girls out of bed and feed them?  (Once pressed, the button would also put a $20 charge on our American Express -- I have to make it somewhat realistic.  After the first hour, an additional $10 an hour would be charged.)  The nanny would care for the girls until one or the other of us finally made it downstairs, probably two hours later.  Then I think, good thing we don't have that option!  We'd go broke.  How could we have the discipline not to press that button and roll over and go back to sleep?

I feel like I'm sharing a lot here.  So, what are some things you save on and what are some things you splurge on?  How do you decide on the expensive ($100 or more) items?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Delaney at two years, seven months

Delaney, Delaney, Delaney.. Yes, she drives us crazy, but we do have plenty of reasons for keeping her around.  In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families, Steven Covey says that we ought to "envision everyone wearing a T-shirt that says, 'Be patient; I'm not finished yet.'"  Not a one of us can claim to be a finished product.  I know I owe her a little more patience, being that she is still very new to the world, and just trying to figure it all out as best she can.  And we do love her so.

This month had lots of ups and downs, but we can sum it up with more than just POOP!

She's more affectionate these days.  Only when she wants to be, not when prompted.  That's important.  I think the unasked-for acts of love and sweetness are best of all.  It could be a big hug out of nowhere.  It's saying, "I love you too, Mama (or Dada)," as we're leaving the room after putting her to bed.  Once, she held her sister's face in her hands and giggled, "You're cute, Annie."  She's probably very aware of how we melt like butter when she is loving with us.

She plays with her sissy now, and I guess I hadn't noticed how much she was NOT playing with her before.  Then one day, I saw the two of them rolling around on the floor and was like, wow..  At first I wanted to interfere because Annie's just a baby, and you have to be careful with the baby, blah, blah.  But then I just stopped and just watched instead.  Delaney was grabbing her and pulling her this way and that, and Annie didn't seem to mind at all.  On the contrary, she seemed delighted to be the center of her sister's attention.  [I do have to keep an eye on them, though, because Delaney will just as likely lay down on her sister and not let her budge, and not seem to care that she's crying!]
Now I'm hearing all the time, "Annie, come over here!"  "Annie, come on up! (as she looks down on her from the top of the stairs)  You can do it!"  I just sigh, smile, and am happy to see them becoming friends.

I'm also seeing a little bit of jealousy.  Delaney wants to go into the Exersaucer and call herself a baby; she wants to drink from Annie's sippy; she'll whine and whimper in order to be picked up.  I try to humor her for the most part, but I also remind her that, yes, the puffs are just for Annie, but that's because there isn't much food she's allowed to have.  I point out that "you can have a cookie, but she can't."  I also remind her that as the big girl, she has to make sure she keeps her crayons and markers up where Annie can't get them because she's just a baby and can't have them yet.  I think this occasional desire to be the baby is to be expected. One of my earliest memories (from when I was about 3 1/2)  is asking for my dad to hold me and feed me a bottle that was intended for my brother.  He said OK, laid me on his lap and began feeding it to me.  I promptly jumped up and said, "Yuck!" as I'm sure he expected I would.

When Tim and I are correcting her about something, she sometimes exclaims, "Mama (or Dada), stop talking to me!"  Don't we all wish for a mute button sometimes?

Sometimes she makes me smile in spite of myself.  Once, when I was not inclined to be happy, since I'd found her in her room after nap surrounded by diapers, she said, "Sorry, Mama.  I clean up."  She began picking up diapers and as she did so, she looked at me and said, "Are you happy?"  She's also started saying to me sometimes, with a big smile, "Happy face."  How can I not smile back?  It's very good of her to remind me to smile.  It is also surprising and new to see her paying attention to my feelings.  Could this be the beginning of empathy?

For my part, I try to remember to let her know when something she does makes me happy.  When she shares with a friend without a fuss, or puts the piece of merchandise she's been holding on the counter at checkout time, I tell her that is very good and I'm proud.  One day I went into her room and found it (somewhat) neat, and her still clothed.  I was thrilled. I told  her how happy I was to see no mess, and her with her clothes and diaper still on.  "Good job!"  She said, "Thanks!"
Delaney drinks hot chocolate after playing in the snow.  Again.

She sings to herself a lot, especially at naptime and bedtime.  The Wonderpets song is probably her favorite right now, and she sings it so perfectly.  It's adorable.  Old MacDonald Had a Farm is another favorite.

She has the words to her (current) favorite books memorized.  One of those favorites is If You Give a Pig a Party.  I start sentences and she finishes them, and I like this new interactive style of story time.  "You'll need to find pajamas and .. blankets and pillows for everyone!"  "When she sees all the pillows, she'll probably want to start a .. pillowfight!"  

She's been eating so well lately, at least for breakfast, lunch and snacks.  I mentioned to Tim one day how much she'd been eating, and he said, "She needs to keep the supplies coming for her art."

I did not plan on talking about poop again so soon after my last rant, but I feel I would be remiss if I didn't give you an update on that situation.  We seem to have found a solution in the last few days.  I finally took the advice of some friends and put her zippered PJs on backward (the very same ones I used to safety pin on the front; but there's too much elastic on the front, so she was able to stretch her way out anyway).  It really bothered me to do that, because I thought, how could that be comfortable at all?  But it doesn't bother her, aside from her initial confusion about why she was being zipped up the back.  Then I set the baby monitor up in a place where she couldn't get to it (under her mattress).  Just by listening, I have a good picture of what she's up to.  I can go change her before she even starts attempting to get out of her clothes.  As a bonus, we get to hear her talking and singing about how the Wonderpets save the day.  She's been spending more time napping and less time preoccupied with what's in her diaper.  Win-win.  I wish I'd thought of that before I gave her the cold bath.  *Shudder*

She's up there for quiet time now, and I am hearing some noises and wondering what she's up to.  I can tell you one thing she isn't up to!