Monday, October 31, 2016

Mini Mountain Vacay: Where 'I'm so glad we did this!' meets 'I never want to go anywhere again!'

My dream of taking a trip to the Blue Ridge mountains finally came to fruition this past weekend. Once we pointed the car southeast and drove away yesterday, and I watched the rolling hills and fall colors gradually give way to flatness and green, I found myself thinking two things: 1) Praise the lawd! and 2) I want a do-over.
For years now, we -- mostly I -- have been talking about going to the Asheville, NC area for a long weekend in the fall, but I was too scared to pull the trigger. I'd ask for recommendations of places to stay from my sister and others, all the ideas would overwhelm me and I'd give up and forget about it for awhile. A couple months ago we decided to really go for it this year. The kids had two four-day weekends this month (those in addition to the evacuation), and one of those would be the perfect opportunity. Again as I'd done at least once or twice before, I turned to my sister who's been there before, and to "my people" as Tim calls them (the Marine officer spouses Facebook group) in search of the best place to stay for us and our brood. I waded through all the suggestions, weighing the pros and cons of the ones that looked most interesting. I couldn't wait to get my fall foliage fix and wear a jacket again!
Sunrise out the kitchen window. That's the chicken coop on the right. Delaney practically lived there.
We ate dinner here the first night: a very disappointing pot of chili that I had waited all day for (all year really), but somehow made it way too spicy. There wasn't enough shredded cheese in the world to put out those flames, and some high-quality beef had gone into it. Tim liked it, at least. It was dinner out for the next two nights, which turned out fine.
I found places with awesome views off the deck but I was concerned there would be nothing to do but stare at the view or get in the car and go somewhere else. Being just a few miles from Chimney Rock or the Blue Ridge Parkway or whatnot might be great for some people, but I don't consider myself on vacation unless I wake up in the morning and I'm already there. That's why I've always loved beach vacations. We might venture out somewhere from time to time, but we come back to the house and the beach right out the back door and that's where we spend most of our time. I emphasized to my people that I did not want to be stuck in a cabin in the middle of nowhere with an incredible view and nothing for four little kids to do.
Weapons safety and marksmanship training
Eventually I settled on this little place because it seemed to provide the best blending of all our interests. We got the pretty view of the trees and mountains, but not as great of a view or as high of an elevation as some other places. We got everything the property comes with: chickens, cows, turkeys, hiking trails, a pond and a fire pit. We stayed in a sprawling three-bedroom ranch home with a kitchen and living area on one end, another living area and dining room in the middle, and all the bedrooms at the other end. Plenty of room for everyone to sleep, all the amenities we're used to, a well-stocked kitchen, and I figured we couldn't go wrong there. We were only 20 minutes from Asheville and the Biltmore if we wanted to go there, a half hour from Chimney Rock State Park if we wanted to do those things. But I figured that if we stayed here there would be enough to keep us occupied so that we didn't have to go anywhere else. I knew that would be important, but I really had no idea just how much so.
Tim had this breakfast waiting for me the first morning. The fresh eggs were delish!
The first evening we were there, I was ruining our chili dinner and Joey was standing and playing with a bar stool in the kitchen. He and the barstool fell down and at first I thought, 'he's fine,' and then saw the blood gushing down from a vertical gash across his eyebrow. I still have no idea how it happened. I thought we'd need to take him for stitches, but Tim got the bleeding to stop after a few minutes of direct pressure while Joey cried hysterically.  At Mass two days later, one of the greeters asked about it and I told her. The other greeter came over and wanted to know, so she told him, "He fell off a bar stool. Mom spiked his milk with something." Her version of the story is funnier.
Once in awhile Tim's crappy phone takes a really good picture, and this was one of those times. Delaney loves to be in nature.
Tim and I both feel in the end that I chose appropriately for the season of life we're in and the challenges that I have because of Joey -- namely, crippling fatigue because he sleeps so poorly when we're away from home. We can't be having big adventures in the mountains right now, especially in an area we're so unfamiliar with. Maybe a younger, more energetic mom could handle all that and a high-maintenance baby, but I am maxed out. So it was great that the kids had so much to amuse themselves with right there at the farm without us having to load up and drive anywhere. They had target practice with Timmy's bb gun, they visited the chickens and collected eggs for our breakfasts, hiked the trails, and floated around the pond in a paddleboat. It was just a simple kind of vacation where I felt no pressure to be anywhere and do anything special. It takes so little to please them. Timmy and I played a game of War one morning next to that big window with the picturesque view, and that was special. The air hockey table in the basement got a lot of use during "quiet time", and was probably Timmy's favorite thing of all. Delaney couldn't stop talking about being chased around by the turkeys. Annie was a good shot with the bb gun and loved competing with her siblings -- little Annie Oakley. The three of them had a blast one morning digging for worms (that they never found) in the compost pile. Tim let me sleep in on Joey's extra-early mornings, and then while Joey was down for his first nap I could have my coffee and go through my waking up process, which can take a while.
View from Buzzard's Roost. OK, so the sign at the bottom said 3/4 mile, I could have sworn. Tim says it was 1.75 miles according to his watch. The website says a mile. It was described as a leisurely walk, but I guess that depends on your definition. The girls and I climbed easily if not impatiently, with me saying, "We'll get to the top any minute." I couldn't wait to see the "panoramic views" boasted on the website. The walk just kept getting longer and steeper with no end in sight. I said, "There's no way Timmy's getting to the top of this mountain." He was further back with Tim who had Joey on his back. Timmy whines on every walk. I finally got to the top and was like, 'You've got to be kidding me.' See the picture above? That one small clearing in the trees was the only view there was. Tim later told me that walk was the most painful thing he'd ever done in his life, trying to motivate Timmy along. I still can't believe they made it. 
We put on nice clothes on Friday night and went out to eat in downtown Asheville, and that was fun. The kids were on their best behavior (even Joey parked in his stroller); and we ate noodles and seafood out on the patio while listening to live music and taking in the sights. I'd never seen a "Pubcycle", but every so often one would go by blasting music with people pedaling in the back. I guess they're getting to drink while touring the city, and burning all the calories from those drinks while they're at it. Win! I'd love to see more of Asheville another time. There are so many things to do and see, but all of that wasn't for us this time around.
The milk is not spiked!
One of these days I'll get my do-over, and Joey will be older and it will be different. But maybe it's because I'm fresh off my first good night's sleep in days that I have the perspective it takes to say you know what, I'm glad we did this and I'm glad we did this now. We had so much quality time together, and it was time spent outdoors that we don't get at home with it being so hot and buggy. The kids loved having their dad playing with them every day all day. It might not have lived up to my expectations, but my expectations can sometimes be pretty unrealistic. I must have thought to myself a hundred times throughout those three long nights, 'I wish we could go back home!' or 'I wish we'd just stayed home!' In fact I did utter the words to Tim Saturday morning, "I can not handle one more night of this. I'm losing my mind. We need to get out of here!" But then I revived myself with a cup of coffee and that view again, and I knew I was going to do another night. When he came back in a little while later with the kids he was relieved to hear me say, "We're going to have one more great day and one more crappy night, and then we'll head home!" (My rallying cry) It was the only thing to do. Memories like this are what the kids are going to look back on the rest of their lives.
P.S. I have renewed admiration for my parents taking all of us camping when we were little kids, babies and toddlers. That is, an experience similar to this one except with no indoor plumbing and no walls, doors or climate control. I really don't know how they did it but if I were to ask my mom she'd probably say "It was a different time," "I'd grin and bear it" or "offer it up." The (spoiled) apple that is me fell far from the tree. Thank you, Mom and Dad!

P.P.S. I read this piece by Suburban Turmoil maybe only a week before we left on this trip and said to Tim, "I always think of mountains in the fall and the beach in the summer, but after reading this Lake Lure is now on my North Carolina summer bucket list." We have a high probability of getting orders to NC in a few months, and I am totally counting those chickens before they hatch.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Joey: 10 Months

Throughout those many months of longing before we were blessed with Joe, it was always a newborn baby I pictured in my mind's eye. A soft, fragrant newborn sleeping peacefully in my arms. I just wanted to hold another teeny tiny baby of ours. It occurs to me as I look back over the last 10 months that the stage of babyhood that we're in now is so much more enjoyable than the newborn stage. I think that's the way it was with the other three too. Newborns are exquisite, and finally having that little one out of my belly and in my arms was always amazing; but then the days and weeks after that were an exhausted blur. I never felt like I relished the newborn days the way I hoped or expected to, because it was so much work and I was so tired and sore. Then with Joey being colicky, I felt like it was all I could do just to survive until he came through that phase. But now.. he fills me with so much joy. He keeps amazing me more and more as I look into his eyes and see his mind working. He keeps finding more ways to express himself, and is so playful and silly and curious. We can't get enough of loving on him and making him laugh. I told him today that he had exceeded maximum cuteness. I just want to gobble him up!
I love his drowsy nursing sessions, when he closes his eyes and rests and I stare at him and hold his little foot in my hand. He hasn't been my best nursling overall because when he's awake and alert he is super impatient, antsy and distracted; but based on those sleepy nursing sessions, I feel like we can at least make it through cold and flu season before weaning. That's my goal. In the meantime, he is eating more and more solid foods, and is a pro with a sippy cup. He tries a little bit of everything we eat. Sometimes he'll eat a lot of what I'm eating and other times he gives me this look that's hilarious, like, woman, are you trying to kill me? and lets the food fall back out of his mouth. Case in point, today's tuna at lunch. Can't really blame him for that. Plain tuna is not much fun to eat.
Joe took a bite out of the pumpkin and discovered it wasn't too tasty.
We have a crib set up for him in Timmy's room, but we are no closer to getting him in it. He's been sleeping mostly well in the guest room though. I still do the dream feed at 10, and then he sometimes makes it until 6 when he's allowed to get up. When he wakes up and cries before that (usually around 4) I just go in there and tell him to lie down, pat his bum, whisper sweet nothings and tell him he's got to go back to sleep. He typically does. Timmy's room isn't much farther for me to walk and Timmy's a heavy sleeper, so what's the hesitation? Well, for one thing there's no space in Timmy's room for the glider rocker. His changing table and clothes our still in our room. So once he's in the room with Timmy I'll be nursing him in one room, changing him in a another, and putting him to bed in another. It's kind of a mess, but at least we'll only have to deal with it for a few months before we move. 

By December it will be done. Maybe I'll bite the bullet and do it right after the time change since that's going to mess him up anyway.

Like his three siblings before him, he is developing preferences about everything. Here are some of his likes:
-  Ice cream (I shared a little with him once when we all went out for ice cream; it would have been rude not to. At least he didn't demand his own cone!)
- Baths (he crawls as fast as he can, slap-slap-slap, toward the sound of running water.)
- Going for rides in his running stroller
- Opening cabinets and removing the contents one by one and scattering them around
- Climbing everything 

Here are some his dislikes:

- Being changed or dressed (it's a wrestling match every time)
- When someone takes something away from him (he tightens his grip and emits a piercing shriek)
- When someone, usually a sibling, won't get out of his face (he whines loudly and tries to push them away.)
- Hotel rooms, as he reminded us during our Atlanta "hurrication". We brought his own little pack 'n play and bedding, his white noise machine, he had a nice dark little corner of the room, and still he slept worse and worse every night we were there. It was pretty painful for us, especially me as I strove to keep him quiet so the other kids wouldn't wake up. By the time we finally got the all clear to return home, I was at the end of my rope. Relieved just wasn't the word. Immediately upon returning home he started sleeping much better.
At his 9-month doctor visit he weighed in at just under 19 pounds, only in the 20th percentile. He's small but mighty. He's still in 6-12 month clothing and size 3 diapers. He's got fat little feet like Delaney's were.

Six months after his all-fired rush to crawl at four months, he's still crawling happily, cruising somewhat, and not trying to stand his own yet. I don't anticipate any first steps happening until at least 11 months.

Can't wait to see what the next month holds, but wow, it is going by fast.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

My Sunday Best Episode 7: Evacuation

I don't have a great picture of my Sunday best, or rather my Saturday evening "best", but Delaney snapped this picture of me earlier on Saturday. I wore this shirt to Mass later, along with my mint necklace, skinny jeans and booties. It sounds put together, but I feel a little 'blah' about the few items of clothing I've been mixing and matching since we had to pack up and leave in advance of Hurricane Matthew. I wish I would have packed at least a couple more outfits, because it's looking like we'll be gone a solid week once this is is said and done, and the washers and dryers here are $2 apiece to use.
We ended up going to Atlanta after several hours of Tim calling around trying to find a place that had suites available and breakfast included, to try to make us as comfortable as possible. Tuesday was a crazy day that started out just like any other day, until Tim got a phone call and we found out we'd have to leave the next day. I didn't like having to scramble around and pack bags and get the house ready on such short notice, but that's the way it goes sometimes. I was just grateful Tim wasn't traveling, and the two of us got to do this as a team!
Our hotel suite at Embassy Suites is really nice. The first room is a living room, with lots of seating and a big TV. Behind that is a little hallway with a bathroom, closet, sink, mini fridge and microwave. Behind that, and behind a door, is the bedroom with two queen beds and Joey's pack 'n play in a corner next to the dresser. Tim remembered his white noise machine (yay, Tim), so it's on the dresser, and he's got a nice dark little nook to sleep in. He slept well the first night and I thought things couldn't get any better, but he's gone more and more downhill since that first night. Made to order breakfast and drinks from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. are included. I've been enjoying my little margarita every night.

The good news is that the damage was minimal on Parris Island, where we live. There was the flooding which is par for the course with heavy rain, a few trees down, lots of tree limbs down, but no damage to any of the houses that I've heard of. The surrounding city and town were a little worse off, and I think the general is waiting on the all clear from officials there, before telling us we're allowed back on. I've been eagerly following the updates as they clear the roads, restore power and get the hospital back open, because these things all get us closer to going back home.

I have not been handling the sleep deprivation so well, with Joey up all the time at night and thinking that 4 a.m. is a great time to start the day. I keep forgetting to try to enjoy this little trip we all get to take together, because more than anything I want to our home and our routines. I keep getting sad about my plants that are dying on the back porch, but I know plants are easy to replace. We are suffering only minor inconveniences compared to so many people, and I keep reminding myself of that. I'm ashamed to even be complaining.

We've been keeping ourselves busy as much as possible, checking out a local walking trail, park, the Georgia Aquarium, doing a little bit of shopping, using the hotel pool, and maybe keeping ourselves a little TOO well fed at restaurants. We found the best little pizza place yesterday, and I have a feeling we'll be making our way back there before we head back home.

We were talking about going to the zoo today but Annie woke up this morning with a fever, and has spent most of the day either sleeping or resting, and not touching her chicken noodle soup. I stayed with her while Tim took the other three out for a walk and lunch. Currently it is naptime/ quiet time for everyone but me since Tim gave me a few extra hours of sleep this morning after another rough night and as a result I'm not tired right now. We'll probably keep it a quiet rest of the day. Timmy keeps asking about the pool so we'll probably do that after dinner.

Here are a few pictures of what we've been up to:
Because I'm a dork, one of the first items on the agenda after our arrival was to get Tim to take my picture in front of the Cobb Energy Center. It's the CDC in season 2 of The Walking Dead, and I was excited to see it was right across the street from where we're staying.
Joey's up from his nap now, and I'd better pay him some attention and start figuring out how the rest of this day is going to go. Annie seems to be perking up a little bit since she was the one who jumped at the chance to go get him out of his bed. 

Linking up with Rosie for My Sunday Best.