Category Archives: Life as a Thirty-Something

An al fresco summer

This weekend we got out of the house more than my reclusive tendencies have been allowing lately. Friday night we were considering going out for an early dinner, but Addison snoozed for longer than expected and we got lazy. Enter a crazy idea from Mama: picnic dinner at the park.

We picked up some food and headed to a shaded park (because it was still 85 degrees at dinner time) with some grand plans of summer fun. With the exception of two falls with subsequent meltdowns, one flat on the mulch tantrum, one bruised cheek, three ant bites on my foot, one mosquito bite on the infant, one wasted kids meal and an hour late bedtime, it was a complete success.

park dinner

Despite the inevitable difficulties, I keep thinking, “This is it. These are the nights and moments that you will look back on. What will you remember?” I know my life is not the brazen string of exploring and adventures I once imagined. I am happy I had my fair share of those and don’t truly believe I’m fully done with that brand of trekking either.

For right now, though, the exploring hovers close to a suburban, single family home. My adventures involve a packed SUV instead of an overstuffed backpack and overflowing passport.

But these days are no less memorable. In many ways, they are more so. And I want to remember a husky laugh echoing from the swings, a breathless “Mommy, look at me touching the sky!” I want to soak in a summer night that radiates the thrill of breaking from routine, to take advantage of days that pour sunlight over the witching hours and draw us out of a physical and mental hibernation.

I want to borrow my daughter’s immediate agreement to new ideas: “Sure!” And then go. Do. Create. Swing, climb and jump. Maybe not across the world, maybe in no way that garners attention or envy. But in our way, the way that will linger in our minds throughout any looming winters. In the way that these four souls will remember long after the mulch has been washed from stringy, sweaty hair and the ant bites have healed and the bruises have faded and so has the thrill of playgrounds or hanging out with your parents on a Friday night.

addie clayton park2

So yes, it was muggy and strenuous at times and my toes itch like no one’s business right now, but it was a really good summer night.

Life Lately

Since we’re approaching four weeks with our new little tenant, I was thinking about how we’re adjusting to all the new. As anticipated, the first week with Asher wasn’t really an accurate gauge of true life. He was still all “what the WHAT is going on?!” shell shocked and didn’t make a whole lot of noise. His temperament is slowly changing, and while he’s definitely not a screamer, he seems to be particular. So far he does not enjoy the swing, bouncer, car seat or bassinet for more than a few minutes at a time. That basically exhausts all of our baby soothing and baby sleeping resources, with the exception of my two arms and two other appendages. Nights are unpleasant for Mama.

We’re already becoming second time parent stereotypes, throwing caution to the wind with things like stomach sleeping (usually only during the day), using a pacifier at two and a half weeks and taking the little guy out and about.

I don’t know if it’s the second baby thing or because my labor was so different this time around (birth story is in the works), but I’m finding recovery much more manageable this go around. With Addison, I didn’t even feel like going for a walk around the block until nearly two weeks after she was born. Before Asher was three weeks old, we’d been to multiple doctor appointments, Target runs and park trips. And we’re getting daily walks, either just the two of us or with the whole fam. If I’m not careful, I may do something absurd like consider having another one of these nuggets.

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Life is only now starting to resume a little normalcy. The week that Clayton went back to work, my mom came to help on the three days that I had both kids. Unless my dad and I plan to share custody of her, I don’t think that plan will work for the long term, unfortunately.

Thankfully, I’m feeling ready for the challenge of finding our new normal. After wallowing in self pity and exhaustion during late pregnancy, I am so excited to have my energy returning and actually feel motivated, rather than obligated, to be awake and active. I love getting down on the floor to play with Addison again, I look forward to running errands as a family on the weekends. I forgot how vastly different it feels to live in a non-pregnant body. Though I have no idea when they will fit into the new schedule, I am also stoked about taking on some new workouts when I get the green light.

Pregnant work out: lift feet on top of cooler, place feet on ground, take out more water from cooler, repeat.

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Basically, I am sort of annoyingly optimistic right now and I ain’t mad about it. We’ll see how long this mood can compete against zero sleep. 

Dumping-Out-the-Bucket List

Since I’ve gotten older, some things that once seemed romantic and adventurous now just seem ludicrous and unsanitary. And now I can scratch them off my bucket list because no mildly dysfunctional 30-year-old mother of two with back problems should attempt them.

Attending Bonnaroo. I am about to embark on my second season of life with a newborn, so I’m actually quite experienced in foregoing showering in favor of wandering around in dizzying circles to the tune of screeching strangers. Sure, those strangers are millionaire musicians and mine is an eight-pound baby, but it’s basically the same thing.

1 month cry

Bungee Jumping. Okay, real talk: I don’t think this was ever a legitimate option. I did go sky diving once and would maaaaaybe consider doing that again if heavily inebriated.

Getting a tattoo. They are not hip or subversive anymore. Pretty sure most of the moms at Addison’s Baptist pre-school have ink.

Staying in hostels. If my accommodations run the risk of my stumbling into a pair of chatty, naked, Spanish travelers at 8 a.m.* when I am trying to brush my teeth, then I’m going to pass on that trip.

LG gif text*actual incident

Running a marathon. Those five hours would probably cost me about a year of training, dozens of pre-dawn Saturday wake-ups after declining delicious brown ales on the preceding Friday nights, hours away from my boo and my babies, choking down about 138 salted caramel gu’s and more peeing in public than I am comfortable with at this stage in my life. I’ll stick with the 13.1’s and under, thanks.

nat half

Showered Up: The Sequel

This weekend my more-talented-than-she-realizes mom and some dear friends threw me the loveliest, dinosauriest baby shower. I wasn’t sure of the etiquette surrounding second baby showers; this is my first second baby. But they generously offered, and I tried to make myself scarce during the planning and prep, leaving my bedroom 10 minutes before go time.

decor collage

I was nervous about how I’d fare in that kind of social setting given my bouts of anxiety over the past year, so I agreed to/jumped at the idea of having it at my house. Everything was so thoughtful and the morning ended up feeling completely laid back, even though I was wearing eyeliner. There were about 20 family members and close friends. We ate delicious quiche, banana bread, croissants (with chicken salad for those not currently vehemently opposed to poultry) and cupcakes. Carbs are a girl’s best friend.

My hostesses accommodated my persnickety wishes about games—not many, as little interaction as possible—and presents—they left it up to me to open them in front of everyone or not. By the time a natural gift-opening break appeared, I was feeling swell, so I made all the aunts and grandmas happy by cooing over little boy onesies and baby socks. Which wasn’t hard because omg so tiny and cute and blue and new and we really didn’t have any boy clothes and this one has a monster on the butt and I think I might cry it’s so adorable.

I was a straight up pro out there.

fam collage1

Remarkably, even the ongoing, very public “she’s so much bigger this time/no, she is so much smaller this time” debate didn’t faze me. Because it’s clearly acceptable to argue over the state of someone’s physical appearance in front of said person when they are at their most physically and hormonally vulnerable. Now I’m wondering if a party goer secretly spiked the beverage jug with some liquid valium. And to that guest I say, THANK YOU, KIND LADY.

fam collage2

The shower also marked a much anticipated lull in pre-arranged activity up until Falcor’s arrival. It was sitting on the calendar with glorious, unspoiled, quadratic white space behind it. Granted, we’ve already filled in like half of those once open dates with potential commitments, but the idea of them filled me with joy and made the shower all that more exciting.

I can’t thank my mom enough for rolling with my nonsensical, multiple personality texts and conversations regarding décor, games and guest lists. She knows me and made this day as stress-free as humanly possible, mainly because she took all of that stress on herself, striking a miraculous balance between my antisocial, pretentious ways and the normal, generalized expectations of the rest of society. Not an easy task, and I adore her for the effort she put into achieving it.

nat mom

So much belly touching for a modest introvert.

And my pals who each have several babies to care for, homes to manage and crazy schedules of their own who graciously gave time they didn’t have and brain power they didn’t need to spare to make this a really beautiful day.

Up next: one nursery, one name and a whole lotta napping.

Recap of my baby shower for Addison here. I guess I like those earrings. Feel free to play along with the “she’s huge! she’s tiny!” game. It’s my favorite. 

How to Freak Out Your Valentine with Love

As much as I’d like to be too cool for school and totes nonchalant about Valentine’s Day, I’m not. Not even a little. I like holidays. I like excuses to veer from the norm, eat excessive amounts of junk and buy things that would otherwise be deemed unnecessary, e.g. polka dot ribbon. I am not the girl who expects a dozen roses (roses = no thank you) and a $200 steak dinner, but I do want a little pomp and circumstance. I love love, and it’s fun to think of new ways to celebrate it.

This year was Addison’s first year in preschool, so she I got to make valentines for her class. Hippie alert: I didn’t want to use candy. With Addie potty training–and rather successfully might I add–her life has been all manner of hand sanitizer and chocolate treats. The girl pees five times before 11 a.m.; she is her mother’s daughter.

I hopped over to the Dollar Store under vast amounts of pressure from my frugal hubs to keep things within reason. (“They are only two years old!”) I present to you sixteen adorable, “healthy” valentines that I didn’t even hijack from Pinterest.

school vday supplies

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school valentine

school valentines bunchI did forget/ultimately decide to forego her teachers and still feel bad about that. (Their Christmas gifts were on point, don’t worry.) They may have a sweet Presidents’ Day gift heading their way if I can come up with an equally adorable Abe Lincoln craft.

I guess my mom blogger status is now official. Womp womp.

Valentine’s morning began with heart-shaped perfection. Doughnuts and pregnancy take the place of pizza and beer for nine months over here, and someone better hide those bad boys until after my glucose test on Monday. There was already one, uh, missing before I took this picture.

doughnuts2We have ambitious, likely-to-end-our-marriage plans for the new nursery, so we went on a research mission to Home Depot. Clayton still has some semblance of trust in our toddler’s capacity to listen to direction and obey commands from a distance, so he didn’t secure her in a cart. Do I need to spell out how enjoyable that trip was between the rows of loose lumber, wood cutting devices and swinging model door displays?

To reward both of us for not throwing tantrums at the tile displays, we stopped at a park to let that energy out. Ladies and gentlemen, my Valentine:

C slide C slide2

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C A slideThey are the cutest.

I had to kick Clayton out for a couple of hours of Super Secret Vday Prepping, so he took A to my parents’ house. While he was gone, my little valentine elves, my brother and dad, got to redecorating the backyard.

Idiotically, I assumed my eagle eye hubs might not notice an open side garage door (with the extension cord trailing out of it) or a big gaping hole where our futon once sat. He did. And he was noticeably freaked out by the whole situation. In retrospect, watching “Gone Girl” the night before trying to pull off an undercover house heist while he was gone wasn’t the best idea for instilling confidence in one’s wife.

Once I let him in on the plan, it eased his little fretting mind. Mostly. He didn’t fully relax until the futon was back in its place on Sunday night.

After Clayton whipped up a delicious steak and shrimp combo, we took ourselves to the movies. In pajamas. With hot chocolate, popcorn and, duh, another doughnut.

movie night2I don’t want to brag is not something you’ll be hearing from me. I absolutely do want to brag about this one. It was the perfect mix of romantic and special—definitely out of the norm–but still comfortable. I was wearing a hoodie for goodness sake. Everything worked out with the technology, which was a major victory by itself. No one spilled hot chocolate on the rented projector, Maya didn’t start a yard fire with the candles and no one’s toes went numb in the chilly temps.

I hope you had someone or something that made you feel loved and celebrated this weekend. Baked goods totally count.

Weather chasers

The past few weeks have been glorious weather-wise, so we’ve been taking advantage. It’s nice to have a break from days in the 70s to enjoy temps in the 60s. Florida is so miserable sometimes. (Seriously. See: May, June, July, August, September and usually October.)

We went to Dinosaur World with some friends who also have a toddler. (And happen to be expecting—it’s the water, kids. Don’t drink it!) Shockingly, I’d never been to DW even though it’s less than an hour away and my self proclaimed dinophile status. Too much longer and I would have had to turn in my badge to Jeff Goldblum.

The park ended up being larger and more exciting than I’d anticipated, especially the part where a dino came strolling on by on a leash. True story, even though I have no photographic evidence. I basically loved this place and would totally go back by myself to read every plaque and take notes in the museum. Addison and her buddy found a small enclosed loop trail where they could run endless circles and burn endless energy with minimal supervision, so that was also a major win for all the parents involved.

Difficult lighting situation.

Please note the discrepancies in excitement level.

Oh, was Addison supposed to be in the picture? My bad.

There is something to be said about being utterly ridiculous every now and then.

dinosThis week Addison had an appointment with a new pediatrician. Yet another perk of our new insurance—switching all of our primary care providers. Anyway, don’t let me spiral down that rabbit hole. Thankfully he was awesome and she chatted away like the highly advanced verbal superstar she is. Stop rolling your eyes, it’s true! Just ask her grandma, a trusted resource for completely unbiased and objective information regarding Addison’s intellectual capabilities.

Because it’s toddler law, I bribed her with basically anything she could ever want as long as she held it together for the visit. She did! Her request was “a pink treat,” so she took down some cake pops outside like a boss.

photo 1Then we met Clayton for lunch at a park near his work. After my weekly emotional meltdown, we had a lovely afternoon by the water.

photo 4Boots + a bump.

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A Nat oldsmarSome days she likes me.

Weekending, poorly

We have water! In the house! And not in a gurgling puddle in the yard! Hallelujah!

The plumbing “crew” of one 14-year old boy spent most of the day Friday digging a new hole for pipes around the trees of doom. I saw the actual plumber for about four minutes total, so I’m not sure how child labor laws factor in here, but all I know is we got water, apparently that sophomore has a full time job, and I ain’t asking any more questions. Clayton refers to our still raised new dirt line somberly as the Trail of Tears. I think the more accurate Trail of Tears would be the path from that leak to the bank where the plumber cashed our check before closing on Friday. Dude didn’t waste no time.

Saturday turned into a massive catch up day. I don’t know if it was a dose of the prego crazies taking hold, but the idea of not having water all week made the house seem extra germ-filled and completely sticky. So we divided and conquered most of the house and the piles of laundry that had accumulated. We are out of water for five days, the city is out for the next month as we probably used it all that morning.

The job was finished in enough time for our friend Tori to stay Saturday night. She was originally going to stay Friday, but we didn’t want her to show up and have to say, “We’re so glad you’re here. If you have to go to the bathroom, the Citgo is on the corner.”

We escorted her around town to all the hot spots, i.e. that one coffee shop/bookstore where we take everyone to act like we’re super hip even though the only time we go is to show it off to out of towners. We were all quite enamored with the bears in the hot chocolate.

bear hot chocA fellow book nerd, Tori proved to my husband I am not the only person who finds great pleasure in wandering around aimlessly staring at books I have no intention of purchasing. There’s at least two of us in the world! Three if you count Rory Gilmore, which obviously I do.

(Related: There was a little girl named Lorelai at the playground the other day and it took every ounce of restraint I had to stop myself from skipping over to her mother and girlcrushing her to death with something like, Whatever heinous crimes or general absurdities you commit from this point on, it doesn’t matter to me because I am already certain we were meant to be bffsies.)

(Kind of also related: If you didn’t understand any of the last three sentences, why are you here?!)

And then we rounded out our humiliating display of hard core Noa weekending at Ruby Tuesday and a three-year-old birthday party, where I assured our childless guest there would only be one other kid and we’d stay for a half hour, tops. Two hours and SEVEN children under four later, Tori had disowned me as a friend and started walking back to Jacksonville.  Not really, but I wouldn’t have blamed her. Hopefully the homemade ice cream cake helped. Certainly the Yuengling did.

After Tori left Sunday, we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and headed to a manatee viewing center about 45 minutes from our house. The center is connected to a Tampa Electric power plant, and the gobs of manatees are attracted to the warmer water and toxic run-off. Kidding; I assume they test that stuff, but who knows? Mama just wanted to squeal at some cute manatee snouts. Because this picture can be deceivingly unimpressive, I’ve taken the liberty of finding the more obvious manatees. See? Gobs!

manatee spottingAddison was being a lot like Addison and not having it at all when we were actually checking out the manatees. So she was stuffed in the stroller and left to her own whiney devices while Clayton and I tried to find sharks in the water.

A manatee

Once Addison woke up a bit and had the universal toddler medicinal remedy of a snack, she was ready to party. We walked the half mile trail to an observation tower, some of which was covered in shells. Have you ever tried to make forward progress with a toddler engrossed in finding shells? No, you haven’t because that is an impossible feat of nature. Every shell was delightful. Every speck of dust was necessary for “my collection.” Like most two-year old activities, it was adorable for seven minutes and excruciating for 20.

But then, at the tower, there were STEPS! That drew her attention away from the ground and into the sky and she manhandled those five flights with energy to spare. My little power lifter. I probably should have taken a picture of this part, but nope.

Since I actually completed some form of physical exercise, I spent the majority of the walk back deciding my reward. Something that would clearly provide twice the number of calories I’d just burned. We stopped at Sonic for shakes and slushes and tantrums before I let Clayton make dinner while I worked on yet more laundry.

We capped off the weekend with Felicity narrowly escaping machine gun-wielding apes. I want Maurice as a pet.

(Source)maurice

The Leak Heard ‘Round the Neighborhood

Life this week has been reminiscent of that one summer I spent in Australia when we were allotted three bathroom breaks a day, took an average of four showers a week and washed our five outfits even less, beating our clothes against rocks and hanging them over foliage to dry.

Let’s back up. Last week I checked in on our water bill and noticed that it was, oh, five times our normal monthly cost. The bar graph of average usage was actually quite comical. Normal, normal, normal, we need more ink for this month. Because of MLK Day Monday, we couldn’t start dealing with the problem until Tuesday. Ugh, that guy and his revolutionary upheaval of atrocious civil rights violations. So inconvenient. The mysterious part was that we couldn’t find anywhere inside or outside the house that indicated a leak or excess water build up. So naturally, we were all whatever, it’s probably the meter.

JK. That is so not us. We were all OMG the leak is in the foundation! Our house is going to be ripped apart and the insurance won’t cover it and there are CHILDREN and BABIES that are going to fall in that massive hole and it’s all over for us!!! How can we live without a FLOOR?!?!

Spoiler: we still have a floor. And we can account for all of our children.

Did you know that normal, run of the mill plumbers don’t actually come and find a leak? Nope. They come out, check to make sure you didn’t somehow miss a giant bubbling puddle of sewer water in the middle of your house, and then refer you to a super professional Leak Detection Specialist. In other words, a weathered gentleman in an SUV who pokes around in your yard with the Leak Detection Specialty High Tech Equipment, or what looked like—to the untrained eye, of course–a metal pole with a handle.

The L.D.S. was worth every penny (and it was a lot of pennies), because he poked in just the right spot to send the leaking water pouring out of the ground and into the yard. And that’s where his job ends, by the way. If you have any pennies left, they will then go back to the plumber who has to re-reschedule another appointment to actually fix the leak.

The leak, which happens to be in a pipe located under a root the size of a fallen redwood. I don’t know if your natural inclination would be the same as my husband’s, but Clayton thought surely we have to destroy that root before the plumber charges us to do it. And yes, that seems to make a lot of financial sense when you’ll be charged by the hour and just getting to the leak could take several hours. However, that would make sense in the middle of the day, with adequate lighting, and the appropriate root-destroying accoutrements. We had neither.

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But, bless his heart, off we went as the sun was setting to the local cheap power tool warehouse (because, Nat, it costs the same to buy one here than to rent one at Home Depot). One of us was in a big ol’ hurry to scoop himself up a [specific name that I don’t remember] saw. The other one had spent six hours sitting on the floor cleaning out the second bedroom and organizing old paperwork while almost six months pregnant, so she could barely straighten her legs to get out of the other one’s vehicle and waddle across the parking lot. To paint you a picture, Frantic McFrenzy darted a few steps, felt bad, turned around and came back, couldn’t wait any more, darted a few steps in front, felt bad, came back, and so on as we walked into and around the store looking for the money saving saw of redemption.

In all of our blade comparing excitement, I forgot the one reason I’d agreed to go with Clayton in the first place: the opportunity to use a working toilet. Ours has been merely a collection receptacle, just so you get your necessary dose of TMI here. So, on top of my prenatal stiffness, I was working with like a five hour bladder. Not ideal.

Cut to 8 p.m. and Clayton is still outside in the dark, sawing to the light of his iPhone flashlight app and, concerned spouse that I am, I’m curled up watching The Bachelor not so secretly hoping Clayton is preoccupied through the handing out of the final rose. Or at least until one of these chicks cries.

When he comes back in, he brings with him 1. lots of mud and tree shavings and 2. a noticeable air of disappointment.

“Well, that went about as expected.” To know where our expectations typically land on the optimistic to pessimistic spectrum, please see above reaction to water bill.

Tree root still splayed out over top of our busted pipe, almost mocking in its undaunted façade. Water meter still spinning like a whirling dervish when it’s turned on. We’ve been keeping the water completely turned off for the majority of the day, rather than pay $128 to make a pot of coffee.

Remind me to tell you about that one time I was in charge of turning the water off after Clayton had gone to work and there were winged, clawed beasts waiting in the meter hole when I, and my basketball stomach, bent down to wrangle it. Maybe the garbage man had to stop, get out of his truck and assist the pregnant woman on the verge of hyperventilation. I would have hugged him but I’d already maxed out my awkward capacity for the day.

Guys, we’ve really been roughing it in our air conditioned house with electricity and take out meals.

The plumber comes back tomorrow and we’re hoping he can de-root and de-leak by COB. We are not at all worried that removing the tree root will cause the gigantic pine tree to fall backwards on top of our house. No, hadn’t even crossed our minds, even though we have some experience in that department. We really need to find our homeowners insurance policy.

trees text  But hey, silver linings–we have a new saw and now we know BOTH Ashleys are cray cray.

Hello, old friend.

In one of the Daniel Tiger episodes (sorry non-parents), there is a song that goes
When you feel so mad that you want to roar,
Take a deep breath and count to four.

Here is where I would dramatically count to four with hand motions if you were my two-year-old.

My little blog sabbatical has been full of many, many days of wanting to roar. So I took a quick minute–okay, several months–to take a deep breath.

At the beginning, it was a lot of useless gasping and gulping and choking on stale air. Hopefully I will share more of that story later. But for now, with lungs that finally feel full and four easy ticks of the fingers, I’d like to come back. Perhaps only for today, perhaps for longer. No promises; never any promises on that front. Non-committal for life, yo.

Here is where it gets fun.falcor profile

Baby Numero Dos, or Falcor temporarily, will be joining us in May. And we are ecstatic.

Pregnancy has been mostly smooth sailing so far. The hormones seemed to have a calming effect that came at the perfect time. Life is so messy–plans are unplanned and courses rerouted all the time, so we welcomed this exactly-at-the-right-minute news with open arms.

Other happenings while I was away:

I was nominated/tagged by Molly (theregoesmollyrose.com) to complete a blog survey like 17 months ago. Oops. But there’s one more day’s worth of content ready to go at some point.

I missed yet another email to my blog account for many months thanks to never, ever checking that account. Sorry, lady-who-emailed-me-in-October!

Addison turned two in July and is pretty much ready to take over the world. She is a talkative, sassy fireball. Some days feel like a nonstop duel against her gigantic personality, but there are other times that I can’t help but shrug and marvel at her.

I turned 30. Let’s move on.