…the red blanket…

…my girl is growing…

She just made her way past me carrying her red blanket out to the fire pit where she and her daddy are quietly taking in a bon fire.  Her sweet (and loud) voice carry through the night air, through our windows where I sit plucking away at my computer.  I should be working on a report right now, but I’m caught by the desire to catch this moment.

I look out to see their faces smiling and warmed by the orange glow.  His strong arms wrapped around her, snuggling in the last of her baby-ness.  Her curls framing her sleepy face, as she babbles on-and-on-and-on-and-on (ah…being 3 and having language skills can be so very tiring at times).

She’s asking a million questions in rapid-fire succession, interspersed with “LOOK DADDY!!!” before she’s shooting off about something else.  He’s so patient with her, taking time to answer her questions, calmly reminding her “shush” and “calm down, just a little” when she becomes just a little too exuberant.

Be still, my heart.

Joe’s been home for the last week, and I find myself wrapped in that “just-home-from-deployment” glow.

For anyone not in the military, there is something I refer to as the “post-deployment glow.”  It’s the period of time right after they’ve gotten back and everything is just wonderful…they usually have time off, they pop up in the morning and let you sleep in (after months of not being able to defer to anyone), they buckle the kid in the car (…hey, it’s the little things), hugs and kisses linger, and you don’t have to cook every single meal.

It’s one of the hidden gems associate with being a military spouse.  Granted, it’s not that way for everyone…every couple has their own areas of strength and weakness…some couples struggle when they come back together.

For all of our faults or areas of weakness, Joe and I absolutely rock post-deployment.

As unicorn-y as it sounds (and yes, I will be quoting Journey…brace yourself), there is a line in “Faithfully” that sums it up perfectly:

“…I get the joy of rediscovering you…”

I know, I know…get me a glitter pen and some heart stickers and I might as well just go off drawing JW + NJ all over my trapper-keeper.  Bring in the fairies and rainbow-flavored ice cream while you’re at it.

But if we’re being honest, after 8 years of knowing this man, I still get butterflies…

…I look out at him snuggling our baby while I’m writing this (and not working) and it makes my stomach go all flip-floppy.

This is my life. 

Not to downplay the toll that being away from each other takes on our relationship, and our child (let me tell you, it can be super rough)…but basking in this, not taking for granted nights like tonight, takes that edge off and makes those times away from each other a little more worth it.

Thankfully, most people don’t have to go through the extreme negative emotions that come with a husband deploying…but on the opposite end of the emotion spectrum…I doubt a lot of people go through periods of time where it still feels like you’re dating.

He’s escorting her in now, holding hands and discussing important things like what princess book he’s going to read her tonight.

…back to the red blanket…

Ellie is dragging around this red blanket that has become hers.  Shortly after Joe left, she dug it out of the closet and seems to remember him using it at one point in time.  It was her “daddy blanket.”  She’s been sleeping with it since and constantly drags it around the house.

Truth be told, my mom got me this blanket years ago (right after Joe and I started dating) for Christmas (and I don’t think Joe has ever actually used it).  It’s one of those super warm throw blankets that are perfect for Michigan winters in drafty homes.  I remember opening it and thinking that it was a perfect blanket for snuggling next to a fire on a crisp night…

…at that time, I was envisioning myself and Joe and a cabin somewhere with snow…

…but even sweeter is a toddler and her daddy…by the bonfire.  And listening to them as they reconnect and learn about each other…and laugh, as if the last number of months never happened.

…procrastination…

When is enough, enough?

I’ve been so busy the last few months that I joke that I procrastinate by doing other things on my “to do” list…and moments stolen with my girl are a dream.  It’s really not funny, if you think about it.

The fall is quietly rolling in, and a certain Marine will be home soon.  I’m thinking of all of the wonderful things coming in the next few months and I just need to force myself to knock out the things hanging over my head currently.

So, I’m challenging myself.  For the next 5 days…to quit procrastinating.  Stop pushing things off.

I need to unplug this week and get things DONE.

Once my massive list is knocked out, I will then have time for other things.  I hope.

…is it always greener?

I met with a new friend today for some delicious Mexican and an afternoon jaunt to the saddest circus I’ve ever been to, and had one of those conversations that really made me think.

In between sweet baby gurgles and incessant toddler babble (which is was totally not patient with…and feel totally guilty about now) we started talking about what we would do if we had a dream job…or something of the like.

Each of us entered the conversation from a different view point, but one thing became really clear for me…

I thought when I wrapped up my dissertation and became that much closer to being a doctor that I would feel this magical feeling of arrival.

(Early in August)

Me: That’s it?  I’m done?

Advisor: That’s it.  Pretty uneventful huh?

Me: Really?  Yeah.  It is.  And scary.

Advisor: How’s that?

Me: I feel like I could walk into the program in three weeks as a first year, and learn just as much as I have in the last four years.  There’s just so much more.

Advisor: And that’s why you’re going to be fine.  Because most people don’t get that.

…I remembered that feeling and that early August conversation clearly today as I sat munching on chips and guacamole.  As we chatted about life and dream jobs and “what would you do if you could do anything…” topics, I realized how much of my life lately has been wrapped up in things that aren’t bearing the rewards they should be.

“But are you passionate about what you do?”

And as I sat and thought about her question, I realized that the passion is what was missing for me.  Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.

“Yes…No.” (Pause)  “I’m not so sure that I’m as passionate about it as I am good at it.”

I’m good at what I do.  Very good.  And I know that with every relationship there are ebbs and flows…and work is no different.  There are days and weeks that I want to stand on my roof and scream out how much I love what I do!

But.  The longer the weeks get, the more I loose my temper with my little miss, the crazier the house gets, the more neglected the dog and my health get, and the more guilty I feel because I just can’t bear to loose 3 hours on a Saturday morning to do ballet class for my little (something she LOVES and is developing passion for).

I’ve lost my balance.

If I could do anything.  Anything.  I would write more.  Reflect more.  Get it down, more.

“So do that.”

…and here “that” is.

I think in some sense the grass is always greener…but I do believe that you can find harmony between both sides (or however many “sides” you wish you were part of).  You can find other things that make you happy, that feed your passion…and find that balance between duty and indulgence.  Whatever that may be for you.

…a different life…

Sometime.  Just sometimes.

I wonder what it would be like to have gone a different path.  To have a different life.

What would it be like to have stayed in Michigan?

To have not gone to Mississippi?

To have matched on match day?

To have a husband who is home all the time?

To be close to family…

…life is full of choice.  And where we are, I fully believe, is by some magical combination of destiny and free will.  We are where we are lead…

…but as the fall is rolling in, I find myself thinking of Mt. Pleasant. 

And our little home on Fancher.

…and for a moment, I let myself wonder what life would be like if Joe and I were in Mt. Pleasant.  If we stayed on Fancher…in our little Cape Cod with the navy shutters.  

How different would our life be?

But after allowing myself to miss the sweeter parts of my memories…I am mostly relieved.  

…I’m happy to have taken that leap of faith.  

To marry that man I was so scared to love.  

To travel and live.

To make a life for ourselves, to include a little curly-haired miss and a fat-ass dog.

…I’m happy it’s not different.  But on this late, random Sunday…my heart aches a little for a simpler time.  

…and that little house on Fancher.

playing princess

…being present…enjoying moments, and cherishing the small things.

In the last couple of weeks, as things have picked up in life (at work for both Joe and I), I’ve not been as present as I would like to be…but I’ve not totally failed at my New Years Resolution…not totally.

Joe and I have both made an effort to be present for Ellie and for each other.  And while there are times when we’re both on email while she’s being babysat entertained by the television, we have made some positive gains.  For instance:

1) We try to all sit down to dinner a couple of times per week.  This means music on, at our table, to a homemade meal.  Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve cooked a lot more, and my slow cooker has gotten some serious use.

2) We do story time every night.  Whether it is one or both of us, wrapping up the day while cuddled under covers on her big-girl bed is just magic.  Lately she’s into hearing stories read to her…it’s become less about looking at the pictures.  And while I may not have jumped right into Little Women, I’m having a wonderful time reading When We Were Very Young every night.

3) Mommy & Ellie date nights.  With Joe making his way through another flight syllabus, he’s been spending a couple of nights a week flying.  This typically means that Joe doesn’t get home until well after Ellie (and I) have gone to sleep.  On these nights, I pick up Ellie from school and sometimes we treat ourselves to a night out.  Last week we ate at El Cerro and went to Michaels to pick up supplied for some new princessy stuff (and fun little things for a certain party that’s coming up in the near future).

4) Lazy mornings with Daddy, following night flights.  If there is a silver lining to Joe being gone at night, it’s that he (for the most part) gets the morning off.  A typical morning in our household involves being up by 6, out the door by 7:20 and off for a full day of work.  The mornings that daddy is home?  They are pretty much heaven.  They are full of snuggles and breakfast, and mugs of coffee with my favorite Marine.  And while both the Bean and I have our day underway by 9, it’s lovely to have that extra hour and a half.

…it’s not much.  But it’s a start – right?

All of this to cherish the moments we have with her while she is little, and to fill her memories and childhood with special, quality time with her parents tuned in to what is going on.

When I thought about this, about my resolution/goal for the year, I thought about making life better for Ellie and Joe.  I didn’t really get that this would make my life so much more full.  It’s nice to tune in to the ones we love, to suck up all the loving you can get…to enjoy the moment, and have something of quality to pull from when life gets busy, or you’re far away.

Plus, life tends to slow down when you start being in the moment, and not focused on what else needs to get done.  Which is bonus, because Ellie is growing up too fast.  Maybe this is part of my effort to bottle her up and keep her my sweet little nut forever.

But, despite my best efforts, my little one is growing up.

I am constantly amazed by the words she uses, the phrases she has picked up, and how she interacts with others.  As she’s getting older, she’s starting to show preferences…everything from crackers to toys she plays

Today, we’ve been enjoying MLK day.  In this house it means being home and catching up on both house work and regular work between naps and playing with trains.  Between baths, snuggles, and putting in “pig-ponies” (pig tails).

Ellie is into anything that has to do with pink, sparkles, dressing up, or princesses. Couple that with her obsession with our dog, Tubby, and that should effectively set the stage for what I walked in to this afternoon.

As I was wrapping up lunch, I heard:

“Look-a you, Tubby!  You a pin-cess,” coupled with “You so boo-ti-ful.”

As you can imagine – someone was thrilled to be her victim playmate for the afternoon.

What?  You only WISH you could be this awesome.

My poor damn dog was all “princessed out”, complete with headband and pink glitter lipstick smeared across his snout.  He didn’t seem to mind all that much…

At least they were matching.

He got a treat for his efforts, and we snuggled in for nap shortly after.  As I lay, listening to my little hum herself to sleep, I couldn’t help but smile at this funny little chick that is growing up before our eyes.  Granted, she’ll eventually learn that putting lipstick on the dog isn’t the best idea (neither is sharing said lipstick with him), but what stuck out to me was her level of complimenting him.

“You so boo-ti-ful!”

“You so pretty, Tubby!”

“Mamma, you look a Belle!” (Apparently, I bear some resemblance to Belle from Beauty and the Beast – particularly after Ellie has finished my hair and make-up).

And I was SO happy to have heard it.  To have caught it amongst the daily grind of life.

My little girl has started complementing others.  And she does so with originality and sincerity, with a sweet smile on her face and urgency in her eyes.  As if what she’s saying is the most important thing she has ever said in her whole life!

This.  This trait is something I hope she holds onto forever.  I hope that she grows knowing that making others feel good is important, mostly more important than making ourselves feel good.

Life today consists of running and racing and barely finishing one thing before diving head first into the next.  It’s full of fast food dinners and mothers needing to remind themselves to enjoy the young life of their littles.  It’s full of bullying and social networks that make it impossible to escape the cliques and the mean girls…impossible to leave them at school and have home be a safe haven. 

As evident by the randomness of this post…my head has been consumed with deadlines and rushing and projects and fitting in down time with my precious family and missing my baby as she grows and stressing about who she is going to be when she grows up, what she’s going to face, how she’s going to handle it.

But this afternoon, I played and cuddled, and came upon a special memory of my babe and her puppy playing princess.  Of Ellie’s sweet little laugh, the confidence she had in her ability to make Tubs a princess, and the genuine, pure, precious little nature of her. I witnessed Tub’s gentle spirit as he laid with his head in her lap, wagging his tail when she squealed, not protesting too much when she poked his eye with the end of her headband.

And it was sweet.

It was so damn sweet. 

…life and tea…

…for me, busy thoughts at the end of the day are often silenced by a good mug of tea and some snuggles with a certain Marine.

Tonight we’re watching a Food Network Challenge where the chefs are cooking with “waste food” (food that cannot be sold).  The basic premise of the challenge is to force the chefs to create something with items that are being thrown away/discarded because they aren’t good enough for typical American consumer.  I know that the point of the show is to open viewers eyes about the wastefulness of American consumers, and it has mine.

But my question is – how to change it?

We consistently throw away and waste food in our house.  Joe and I actually just had a conversation about this.  We get rid of SO much stuff in our house that goes unused.

…but how to stop?

I think it’s time to action-plan in our house.

…the perfect timing…

I swear.

Kids are programmed to do something ridiculous at just the exact moment they shouldn’t.

I also think this ridiculous thing, when it happens, is not only embarrassing…but so beyond crazy that it leaves those who witness it wondering your ability to parent.

Case and point:

After picking Elle up from school (and hearing how brilliant and sweet she is…you KNOW her teacher is now my new favorite person) we went to the commissary to pick up last minute dinner items.

Somewhere between the shelves of coffee and the Goldfish crackers, this handsome older gentleman wearing a veterans hat walked by, pinched her cheek, and commented on how sweet she was and what a great hat she was wearing.

He was super sweet in that Santa Claus meets high and tight meets retired General kind of way (I *think* that’s what the stars on his bill meant).

Does my child smile? Does she say “thank you”?

Nooooooooo…(though she was prompted to do both.

Nope.  Not even close.

My sweet, brilliant little girl growled.

GROWLED.

Then flexed her arms (very dramatically), and yelled out “GUN SHOW!”

…and that, my friends is how you develop your reputation as a psychologist in a very small community.