Category Archives: Life as a Twenty-Something

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. 

Aaaaah freak out

Like I mentioned, Clayton was out of town last week, so I tried to spice up our regular routine.

Tuesday I picked up Addison from pre-school early to catch my brother’s baseball game. He coaches a high school team, and the game was relatively close. My parents came with me, so during the game I had plenty of recruits to help locate, corral and entertain Addison.

IMG_7722The weather was great, the kiddo was behaving and our team was winning.

baseball pano2

Then we tried to leave. Addison bolted in the opposite direction. I wasn’t concerned at all because I assumed she’d come back, plus I thought the back fences of the baseball fields blocked the park from the main road leading into it. I even told my mom not to worry. Look at me being so chill and relaxed, totally owning this parenting thing right now. But Addison didn’t stop. My mom and I stiffened a bit and started moving toward Addison’s direction. She was pretty far away by this point. The closer we got to the back fences, the wider the gap appeared between the baseball fences and the fence to the park. This meant she absolutely had access to the gates, which opened to the road. At rush hour. With cars going 50 mph.

Once I fully realized she could literally be on the street within a minute or two, and there was nothing I could do to stop her – I was way too far away, even if I ran, which I can’t in my current spherical shape – I freaked. We were yelling her name, and she started to slow down as she reached the fences but still didn’t stop. I was jogging at this point and in addition to desperately wanting to get to Addison, I was worrying about hurting the baby, too.

It was one of the scariest motherhood moments I’ve experienced.

She eventually did stop behind a transformer by the fence. Thank God that was there and she felt like she could hide behind it because she was probably so afraid of being in trouble she would have kept right on going. My mom reached her first, but I was just a few steps behind and my terror/rage combo shoved her right out of the way so I could deal with the runaway. It wasn’t pretty. We were in public, so there was a limit to the mad rush of emotion I could display. Probably a good thing.

I must have nailed the discipline and stern so-help-me-God tone because Addison was upset for about six seconds. Then we walked past the playground and she begged to go play. Not feeling particularly playground-y, I muttered some sort of response, potentially laden with expletives, and that’s when she lost it. By “it,” I mean motor control of her lower extremities, as toddlers are wont to do in public, forcing me to basically drag her the quarter mile back to the car on the concrete. Felt like skipping through a meadow holding a feather.

My dad drove home, even though we were in my car, so that I could cool off. I was actually sore the next day from all that activity, either because that scene was so intense or because I haven’t worked out in seven months.

Let’s see, that was Tuesday, so Addison should be free to get out of time out in about four and a half more years.

Closure & Contemplation

“The only way to find out if you’re in the right place
is to stand in the place.”
- Amy Poehler

During a brief respite from determining how I can force Amy P. to adopt me, I took a few minutes to watch this Smart Girls video of her speaking on courage. The above quote kept echoing in my head after I heard it for a few reasons.

Most obviously, I thought about our time in Virginia. Clayton and I had been so excited and optimistic to leave Florida. We’d talked about that leap for years, imagined it over and over, and finally had an opportunity. We were so ready. Never in a million years did we think that journey would circle right back to Florida two years later, at our own choosing.

nat shenandoahIn some ways, it felt like we’d failed. Scratch that, it felt like I’d failed. I was the one who couldn’t hack it less than a year in, I was the one looking for PA jobs in Florida (no one would even see me for an interview) after building up this dream of what life would look like anywhere but here. But Ames reminded me that we wouldn’t have known if that move was for us unless we actually packed up and moved. Turns out, Newport News did not hold the Noas’ glamorous, reinvented future. It did, however, hold a lot of military bases, terrible traffic and an insane job in a trauma hospital. (But weekend D.C. trips were pretty fantastic.)

nat clayton dc

So we moved on. I think about those years quite a bit, for better or worse. Maybe moving on didn’t necessarily have to mean moving back, but Clayton and I were both so desperate for relationships. Tampa had a whole vending machine of prepackaged, ready to consume friendships waiting for us. It would have been hard to take another risk in a new city at that point. Plus, I was pregnant and wanted my mommy.

When I think about where we’ll be five or ten years from now, though, I don’t know that Florida is sustainable. Crazily enough, I’m the one who will probably initiate another foray outside the Sunshine State. Clayton has the personality that accepts things as they are; I am the wanderer and questioner. He can’t sit still literally, but I can’t stay still figuratively. After only a few years being back, I cherish the family and friends that fill my life but still wonder what might be waiting. And, quite simply, we won’t know if there is another place for us until we’re standing in that place

Apart from an actual get-up-and-go battle cry, A.Poehls reiterated some thoughts I’ve been wrestling with about my work. Writing as a career in and of itself still thrills me. Factor in doing it from home, on my own schedule, and in between caring for kiddo(s), and it’s oh so tempting to ride this wave as far as it takes me without changing course.

contract

But then some days, like today, I will catch a glimpse of what writing about things and people and places that truly inspire me would feel like. And I know with certainty I could do that. That’s about where the debilitating blackness of the Unknown begins to stretch out ahead. I have no idea what “writing about what I want” looks like. A book, a column, a blog that is actually maintained, a journal that never sees the light of day. Or a more creative day job that nurtures me professionally but prevents me from nurturing my family in the way I am used to.

So far, I have not felt a strong enough pull to make any effort to change my work load. I take what I am given by my current clients, weathering the hectic months along with the silent ones. Thankfully, my income has remained pretty steady and everything balances out by the end of the year. Except for taxes. God forsaken taxes.

Now that baby number that’s-it is coming along, I’ve been getting a different thrill thinking about what comes next. I am sure this was a crux, but it seemed a little pointless to dive into a new lifestyle, hobby or work situation knowing a baby was about to be on board. Could I have opened a new business or enrolled in a doctorate program in my second trimester? Sure. Would it have led to a mental breakdown ending in a murder-suicide primed for a Lifetime movie? Probably. All signs now point to the imminent end of childbearing, and I’ll be “free” to and (eek!) responsible for creating what life will look like raising babies instead of making ‘em.

It’s an exciting proposition to feel like anything is possible. I honestly feel that way, as cheesy and PSA-sounding as it is. I’m looking forward to training for all sorts of running PRs in the next decade, planning trips that require air travel and being able to take the necessary sedatives to follow through with them, visiting far away friends more regularly, and who knows what else. I was semi serious about the doctorate program. Always the scholar.

oh the places

My future second mommy Mama Amy offered an added reassurance that yes, all those plans may crash and burn—okay, not cool to use that analogy related to air travel; double my dose, please—but taking steps to stand in those places, no matter what the result, is courageous. Even more, it’s living.

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.

root

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.

Moving Forward

Today was an emotional day as we said goodbye to our family’s first church home. After several months of feeling uncertain about our place there, we decided it was time to move forward. 

In the three years Clayton and I spent at NBC as members and leaders, we welcomed our first child, celebrated Addison’s dedication and her first two birthdays, and each turned 30 joined by friends from NBC. Clayton found his passion for leading worship, and I found the sometimes hilarious, always exhausting business of baby and toddler ministry. (As it turns out, the same can be said of women’s ministry.)

loveloud c n

NBC became a warm, comfortable and comforting solace on Sundays and during the week at LifeGroups. In varied seasons over the past few years, we have found pastors and friends who have shared their lives openly and honestly and who have made us feel safe enough to do the same. We have hosted and been invited, we have served and been served, we have been both accepted and challenged. As neurotic new parents, we could not be more grateful for the ease with which we drop Addison off into arms of people who sincerely love her every Sunday morning.

dedication

When it doesn’t come naturally to meet new people or develop new friendships, moving on is met with resistance–not questioning the decision but mourning the loss of the comfortable and familiar. NBC was that familiar coffee shop on the corner, walking inside felt like second nature, time there felt refreshing and nurturing. We will always think fondly of NBC, the friendships that it brought us and the spiritual home it provided us. We’ll keep praying for its heath and its mission, but mostly we’ll pray for its people.

P.S. Sorry for being that annoying stage mom who recorded Clayton’s entire worship set this morning. 

Signs You Are in the Possession of a Toddler

You step on no less than four raisins walking to the couch. You do not stop to pick them up.

Cheerios. Purse. Car floor. Bath tub. Under couch cushions. Cheerios.

You’ve mastered the deepest, surliest but quietest ”Stop. Throwing. That. Cup.” under your breath so that no one but your child can hear you striking the fear of God in them in the restaurant.

You know not to take it personally when they throw the cup anyway.

You only bother with the cute bathing suits if you’re Instagramming.

Evening out those tan lines.

Evening out those tan lines.

The standard for surfaces clean enough to eat off of has plummeted significantly.

The standard for non-food items safe enough to ingest has plummeted significantly.

There is a chip in the back windshield from that time (times?) you hurled the pacifier into the back seat in a rage after swearing this was going to be the car ride you didn’t cave in. At least you made it to the end of the driveway. You apologized later. With Cheerios.

You stroll through the mall humming “Do you want to build a snowman?” Alone.

The walls, floor, towel, sink and bather all exit bath time wetter than the bathee.

When you see duck on the menu during date night, an involuntary “Quack! Quack!” escapes your lips.

At the playground, you find no reason to intercede when your child is forcefully hugging a stranger’s child, spread eagle in the sand throwing fistfuls of dirt in the air, or screaming incoherent but most likely baby profanities at the squirrels . No feces? No problem.
IMG_4297

You only have one child but no one else can fit in your SUV due to the growing  number of shoes, stuffed monkeys, dolls and extra clothes accumulating in the back seat.

You either leave the house with three strollers in the back of the car to go to the grocery store, where you don’t need a stroller, or you leave for a week vacation with no strollers in the car.

Your dog roams the house in a perpetual state of fear and avoidance.

Your day doesn’t actually begin until 8:30 p.m. Any plans for productivity, adult conversation or finishing a full meal before that time are laughable.

Related: Your body has learned to function for 7 hours on three cups of coffee, bread crusts and a dozen rejected grape halves.

Do not keep blaming me for your low blood sugar.

Do not keep blaming me for your low blood sugar.

It takes you two hours to pack for the beach.

You spend, at most, 90 minutes at the beach.

This happens once every never at this point, so you savor it for as long as you can.
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Hollywood (the East Coast version) & Miami

Thank God for medical conferences. And my completely remote writing business that allows me to take advantage of them. Clayton attended some long-winded professional meeting in Hollywood (Florida) last week, and I carpooled with him Wednesday night to my own private vacation. As you’ll notice from the photos (or lack thereof), we aced taking pictures together.

Beach selfie. Happened.

Beach selfie. Happened.

We stayed at the Crown Plaza in Hollywood, which wasn’t slumming it by any stretch, but the conference was a block away at The Westin Hollywood, and that my friends, is a hotel. The lobby is four stories high with a glass ceiling and two rows of full size palm trees INSIDE. I walked in and was certain I’d entered heaven. A lot of people wear swimsuits in heaven, btw.

Hollywood Beach

On Thursday and Friday we had lunch together with Clayton’s boss at The Westin’s oceanfront café. It was amusing to see all of the buttoned up, badge-wearing conference attendees meeting their bikini and cover-up clad wives. I guess my plan to tag along was not all that unique. I was the only wife in an oversized Nike t-shirt as a cover-up, though.

IMG_3497

Clayton and I were able to explore a bit for dinner each night. Thursday we drove around for a long time with nothing to show for it before finding Portherhouse. Luckily it was nice enough to eat outside on the patio because they allow smoking inside, which is no bueno for my lungs. Stink eyes would have run amok.

Friday night we were slightly more prepared and headed toward downtown Hollywood. It wasn’t quite as rambunctious as we were expecting–okay, it was also 6 p.m. We’re so old. We walked around and attempted to take inconspicuous selfies, which is impossible, and artistic photos of yet more palm trees.

Downtown Hollywood

We had dinner right on the intercoastal at The Downtowner. Again, probably wouldn’t recommend indoor dining (it’s a cramped bar/pub inside), but we loved sitting by the water. We walked around some more after dinner until it was too dark to take any more palm tree photos.

the downtowner

As you should assume, every night ended with ice cream in some capacity. Totally justifiable because I worked out a total of one time. But I certainly thought about a few runs along the beach and packed my Garmin, so…that has to count for something.

We’d planned to stay Wednesday night through Saturday night and drive home Sunday. There was a teeny little hiccup when we came back from lounging at the pool Saturday afternoon and realized our room hadn’t been cleaned, and it was 1 p.m. My stomach sank a little bit, and after some troubleshooting, Clayton realized the room was only booked through Friday night, and had been that way since the trip was planned months prior. Oopsies.

Obviously, I was the picture of reason and understanding and forgiveness. At least I would have been if I was speaking to Clayton for the following hour.

In my huff, I assumed we were going to pack up and head home, but luckily my petulance doesn’t always call the shots. My caffeine addiction does. We parked it at Starbucks for (yet more) half price Frappuccino’s and I sulked while Clayton booked us another hotel in downtown Miami.

View from our 20th floor balcony.

View from our 20th floor balcony.

 

View from 11 degrees to the right of the previous view.

View from 11 degrees to the right of the previous view.

I guess it was okay.

The weather was overcast and rainy, so we didn’t really need to be close to the beach anymore. We had our nicest dinner Saturday night at the hotel’s restaurant, and I am still daydreaming about the steak I had. Which is weird because ”I don’t like steak.”

We drove around South Beach because we were too crotchety to deal with finding parking and actually walking. Watching other people have fun sure is exhausting, so we grabbed ice cream at Publix and called it a night. Stop judging us.

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Sunday morning we decided to give South Beach another go and had a delicious breakfast at Oliver’s Bistro before actually parking our car and traversing on foot. Gasp. We headed to the beach for a little walk, stumbled upon one topless sunbather, and that about did it.

Oliver's bike Miami South Beach fence the tides leslie narrow

I’m still feeling gipped about only seeing two alligators along a 4,000-mile stretch of Alligator Alley, but otherwise the trip was a roaring success. For some reason I never realized just how beautiful Miami is and how tempting it is to jet down there every single weekend.

But there is one good reason to stick around home, too. And I sure missed those 30 pounds of attitude.

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Writing about February & March in honor of April.

Some highlights from life as of late.

My old man actually became an old man. C-money turned 30, and, as far as we can tell, still has the metabolism of an 11-year old. Being the doting, selfless wife that I am, I up and got sick for his actual birthday and spent four hours of that evening sleeping. He made himself a nice steak dinner, which he got to enjoy in spurts while chasing after our toddler. The lengths I will go to to get out of cooking…astonishing, really.

Not pictured: raging nausea.

Not pictured: raging nausea.

We rode that celebration train into the next couple of weeks, though, and gathered a bunch of our friends for a brew hop. (That’s not a thing, you say? Not so, according to the dazzling invitations.)

 brew hop invite

We started the afternoon at Cigar City Brewing, not listening to the tour guide and perking up whenever we heard the terms “free” and “beer” in close proximity. It was lots of fun to hang with our old college pals and felt exactly the same except for how much slower we all moved, how much less beer we could consume and still function, the presence of some friends’ baby, and the undercurrent of stories of our own kids that lasted throughout the evening. So yeah, identical to 2004.

C tori wes cab

 nat C goggles

After CCB we headed to Tampa Bay Brewing Company for dinner. Twenty sweet friends came out, and my little hubs was pretty blown away. Not to mention, my SIL helped me surprise him with a cookie cake for dessert. Does anything say mature, responsible, professionally successful father better than a gigantic chocolate chip cookie covered in frosting? Didn’t think so.

cookie cake

We even after-partied for a bit, serenaded by a middle aged Irish tribute band with a heavyset guitarist of indeterminate gender. Rock on, Noa’s. Rock on.

 nat C gaspars

Over the course of the last six weeks, we also celebrated my mom’s 60th birthday, my brother’s birthday, my best friend’s birthday and my dad’s birthday. It’s enough, people. Stop aging, for the love.  

Everyone whined about daylight savings, meanwhile over here Addison has been sleeping past 8 a.m. nearly every morning since. Parenting win! 

Speaking of…there is an 18 month update post sloshing around in my head that maybe one day will see the light of day. Two months late, it still ain’t even close to finished. There is A LOT to talk about with this one, let me tell you. She is far, far from boring, and she keeps us all laughing hysterically and sprinting to stop her from doing a whole host of ridiculously unsafe behaviors on the reg.

Seconds before standing upright in a moving wagon with no safety restraints.
Seconds before standing upright in a moving wagon with no safety restraints.

I don’t really say “on the reg” in real life.

My bracket could not be more disastrous, but I feel like that’s a pretty common sentiment this year. Clayton is still in the running towards becoming America’s Next Top Bracket Champion at his office, so fingers crossed there.

I’ve still been running, but not really training for anything major. The several months of distance training burned me out mentally for now. I did run a 15k the weekend of Clayton’s party with my Jacksonville friend who was way too easily talked into running 9.3 miles.
Actual conversation
Me: Come a day early and run a 15k with me.
Her: Ok.

 tori nat 15k

I had some goals initially, but knowing that I hadn’t trained properly made me more realistic about what I should expect. And, shocker, I did not hit those goals. But I tried hard—and am still trying–to focus on the positives: my overall pace was a wee bit faster than my half marathon PR, and I was definitely middle of the pack in my age group, as opposed to back of the pack. Sounds silly, but that is a big improvement from when I started running seriously.

I was also so very tempted to call it a day when I realized my goal time was unattainable; I walked a few steps and that felt niiiice. But I told myself to get over it and run, there were strawberries to eat and beer to be gulped and cookie cake to be demolished. I needed to burn some mad calories heading into that weekend, so I kept on and hit my secondary goal of not being a pansy.

run addict
Taken less than 72 hours after I’d sworn off running for-ev-er.

The current plan is to do more speed work and focus on smaller distance races, mainly because come May, there is not a race over 5k to be found in Florida. We would all melt and perish trying to run more than three miles in summer. The first hard workout of this plan was this past Saturday when I had a hot date with some hill repeats. I loved it. It’s crazy and masochistic, but I love the challenge. Plus, the miles and the time go so much faster. 

We caught a Braves spring training game and were hooked up with some free Dave & Buster’s games. The rest of our group left after dinner. Our foursome (with a focus on one 30-year old in particular) hung around until stupid o’clock high on the “but it’s free! and you can shoot stuff!” endorphins.

C Brant Rambo

Those are all the big time bullet points from the last few months. I feel like my life is decently exciting until I try to write about it. Hello, snooze fest. But there you have it. Maybe that Addison post will be coming your way shortly because, let’s get real, she’s awesome and you need to know about it. 

Enough

I wrote this post several months ago but found it today and still got smacked in the face by it.

__________

Last week, up to my elbows in soapy water and covered head to toe in the mess of motherhood, I lost it. Full on tears dripping into the clean dishes lost it.

And the most maddening part of all was that I ruined those clean dishes (not really, I totes put them in the cabinet anyway) for a phantom. For a nothing. For an imagined problem that nags at women and moms with an incessant chirping of you are not doing enough!

I am surrounded by strong, ambitious superwomen. They inspire me continually. But because we have been numbered and categorized since our first breath, my instinct is to begin numbering and categorizing the theirs against the mines. This friend does this job, and this job, and raises this baby, and volunteers there. That friend works there, works out that many days, earned that degree, and takes her baby to the library. That girl wakes up at this time, works those hours, cooks those meals, and always wears mascara.

And, inevitably, what follows is the conclusion that

I am not doing enough.   

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What is “enough?” How am I supposed to know when I’ve reached it? When I can’t put down the computer until midnight every night? When I have to find someone to watch Addison five days a week? When I have structured, age-appropriate Pinterest activities planned and prepped for her every morning when she wakes up? When my husband comes home to a hot, home cooked, edible (<– key word) meal every night of the week?

Why are we am I in an all-consuming, head-down, relentless pursuit of a goal that is wholly subjective and indefinable? What am I even chasing? If I look up, what is ahead that drives me to justify neglecting the truly valuable in anticipation of some fleeting, self-prescribed merit?

Stop. Look to the left and to the right. That is the goal. Those are the milestones that build a city of memories, a lifetime of timely pauses and spare minutes. The race is not against mothers or friends or women who do things that I can’t or never will. The race is with them, a shared marathon with some paving the way, others coming behind and the  beautiful synchronization of friends striding beside you. Swooping in with home cooked meals that will taste better than any concoction you could dream up. Busting out their own hot glue gun and ribbon when you don’t have any more space in your head for DIY crafts. Walking into your house and scooping up your baby with the warmest familiarity.

Time to enjoy the space between afternoon naps and dinner, with a swing in the yard or wagon ride in the driveway, is not

wasteful

or insignificant.

It is not a consolation for not having more important commitments.

It is

enough

and so much more.

When responsibilities are met, and the must-get-done’s are done,
breathing, deep and slow, for a minute or an afternoon, is okay.

When did it stop being nourishing and start being indulgent to read a novel that wasn’t accompanied by a test that counted toward a degree, to take a nap because you were up three times with an unhappy baby or just because you are tired, to let the laundry pile up one more day because a lunch date with your daughter is way more fun?

I have freelance projects every week.
I am a full-time mother.
I volunteer at my church.
I take care of Addison while Clayton volunteers at our church.
I handle the cooking (or ordering) of our meals, the cleaning of our house, and the organizing of our schedule.
I keep my body healthy.
I go to a small group once a week.
I see friends and family as much as I can.
I write sporadically on a blog.

In what universe would this collection of identities not be enough?  I feel so compelled to fill in the gaps of every hour in order to feel accomplished, to be sure I am making the most of my time. But I know in my head that making the most of my time is defined by what and who gets most of my time. And I don’t what that to be a computer. Or a stranger. Or a brochure or web page that will wither and die.

Making something requires an intent to create, a choice to design a life that has some growing room, some space around the edges to relax for awhile. To allow for minutes that spring up when a cat finds its way into the backyard and needs to be watched through the back door, when the play area at the mall is completely empty for the first time ever, when your kid discovers how to flip over her toy table and climb on top of it but can only get down with a Mama’s hand.

Those seconds will sprint right past you if you are not so very diligent in making time for them.

And I have told myself I do not want to miss them.

I do not want more clients if it means less time with Addison, I do not want more volunteer commitments if the joy of giving is replaced by dread, I do not want quiet moments with my husband at the end of each day to be hijacked by exhaustion.

I want to find enough

laughter surprises spontaneity fulfillment joy confidence beauty

right here in this moment. Because I am certain it is there. I just have to stop and look.

 

Christmas & New Year’s 2013

As my husband has deemed it, Happy Flu Year! You may be able to guess, we’ve had a blech go of it around here lately. But let’s back up to before my body revolted against me.

Clayton had to work a half day New Year’s Eve. In normal people hours, that would equate to getting off at 12, but in the medical field a half day is going in at 7:30 and getting home at 3. What the rest of us slackers would call overtime. I’d tried to finish wrapping all the presents and packing and cleaning and whatnot, but I had Addison, so…yeah. I definitely didn’t finish. Or start.

Not staged.

Not staged.

Have you ever tried to wrap a present with a pre-toddler in the immediate vicinity? It should be a new way we torture prisoners of war. Don’t touch the tape. Get off the wrapping paper. You didn’t grab the scissors, did you? No, stop opening that, it’s not your toy. Give me back the tape. Where did I hide the scissors? Seriously, stop sitting on the wrapping paper. Do not hit the dog with that roll of paper. OMG, where are the scissors?!

And then just as you’re admiring your gleaming, bunchy, barely in tact, freshly wrapped present, a tiny finger darts in out of nowhere and rips the thing wide open.

This, times 28, was my present wrapping experience this year.

Proud of her mayhem

Proud of her mayhem

 

Anyway, we didn’t get on the road until 5 p.m. because we have sensors for beginning trips at the tip top peak of traffic. Any other plan would be too easy. We dropped off Maya at my parents’ house and made for Gainesville. We stopped at Perkins for a depressing orange and blue themed Christmas Eve dinner. I didn’t want to be Scroogey, but I’ve never spent Christmas Eve in a restaurant, and I don’t intend on ever doing it again. Especially a restaurant called Perkins.

car

We finally made it to Clayton’s sister’s house around 1 a.m. Since it was pretty late, Addison did fantastic on the ride. We played one episode of Barney on my phone (I stick it under the head rest of my seat facing her. Who says you need all the fancy bells and whistles?) and then she passed out.

Luckily she was good in the car because as soon as we exited the car, the tune changed. Loudly. She would not sleep in the pack and play ever. For the four days we were there, she took one nap in it and that was it. Otherwise, she was ninja kicking us or falling asleep directly on top of my face throughout the night or napping en route somewhere in the car.

Christmas hangover

Christmas hangover

Honestly, I did not have the highest expectations for spending Christmas with my in-laws. The relationships are many and complicated, as is the case in any family with that number of people. But Christmas was the best kind of chaotic–kids shouting (4 and 34 year old kids), tissue paper flying, claustrophobia settling in as everyone crammed into Clayton’s parents’ living room. All of his five siblings swear that the room has shrunk to half its original size since they were little. There was a sweet sense of nostalgia to see Addison opening presents in the same room that Clayton spent his Christmases.

Four generations

Four generations

We went outside to watch the kids fight over the prize present: four wheels of pure awesome. The car belonged to our nephew, but that certainly didn’t stop the girls from promptly kicking him off. It was a pretty fun morning despite the sleep deprivation.

She was a little too comfortable in the driver seat.

She was a little too comfortable in the driver seat.

We all headed back to my sister in law’s house for a late lunch and lounging. Like every night, we attempted to put Addison down and were met with shrill protesting, so we held her until we went to bed at some stupid early adult bed time.

One highlight of the trip was seeing ”The Desolation of Smaug” while Clayton’s mom watched Addison. I was completely confident and trusting and supportive of this decision and did not tear up when we pulled out of the driveway or obsessively check my phone and Clayton’s phone during the movie. The movie was good, but I can’t get over how pretentious it is that the correct pronunciation of “Smaug” has about 12 syllables.

Thursday and Friday I woke up feeling sore from head to toe. I attributed it to sleeping (or not sleeping) in a different bed, juking away from Addison’s flailing limbs all night and general exhaustion. My sister in law had been sick, so I knew there was a chance I’d caught it, but powered through. I did not want to be the lame in-law who came to visit and napped the whole time.

Clayton, his sister, Addison and I went over to downtown Pensacola for lunch Friday. It was a lot colder than we’d planned for, but it was a nice little break. After we drove a sleeping Addison around for a two hour nap we met up with Clayton’s other siblings and their kids for a date at the park. I didn’t have much time to notice how bad I was feeling while dodging my nephew’s pretend laser beams. Don’t worry, I got in a few good shots myself.

A tunnel

The whole crew–all 12 of us, including four kids under five–piled into Outback for dinner Friday night. If there is a sweet tea shortage in the south, you can thank us.

Friday night was no bueno. I had a fever and could not sleep, just laid there feeling hot and getting dropkicked in the rib cage. When we woke up Saturday morning, it hit me even harder. I felt awful. We packed and ate breakfast before leaving, and then we spent ten hours getting home. Ten hours crunched up in the passenger seat with a fever and full body aches and chills. What a delightful traveling  companion.

Saturday night was the worst. I was huddled on the couch, head and body radiating heat. Clayton scared me when he took my temperature, read the thermometer, took it again, and asked, “Are you feeling okay?” He left and came back with more medicine, even though he’d just given me some. I think I topped out around 102 and sweat it all out throughout the night. Thankfully I woke up Sunday feeling light years better. Still sick, but nothing like the previous few days. What a fickle little devil, that flu.

Things were looking up. Addison and Clayton were congested, but nothing major. We hung around the house Sunday doing nothing that we’d planned to do, like clean or unpack or take down Christmas decorations. And then Monday the bottom fell out with poor Addie. She wouldn’t nap unless draped on top of me. Of course she gets a pass when she’s sick, so I was fine with it. But when she woke up, she was clearly miserable. That lasted the rest of the day.

Later that night I went to get her because she’d started crying, and she was burning up. Her fever was just under 103. She wins. Long story short, we ended up at the doctor at 6 p.m. New Year’s Eve and the pharmacy shortly after. She tested positive for Influenza A, which also confirmed that I’d had that nasty little bugger.

Fighting off the flu with smoothies

Fighting off the flu with smoothies

Since then it’s been a sniffly, crying, gagging-on-Tamiflu party up in here. My clients are ready to sing my praises after I was sick a month ago, Addison was sick three weeks ago, I was sick last week, and Addison is sick this week. I’ve only had to reschedule the same phone call three times since I can’t get any sitters to watch Addison while she has the flu. This generation, such pansies.

Arsenal

Arsenal

Eventually we will get back on track. I will dust off my cardiovascular and muscular systems and actually exercise again. I will unstrap the Lysol disinfectant from my husband’s hip. We will remove our lifeless, sagging, fire hazard of a Christmas tree from our home. And perhaps I will think about a reflective 2013 post and plan for 2014.

But for today, we’re still sickies. We will eat our meals in front of the Disney Channel and leave our tissues on the carpet until we hear Clayton open the garage. We will play in our tent and maybe walk around the neighborhood. And hopefully we will not shatter a vertebra trying to finish off that Tamiflu.

Self-commissioned quarantine

Self-commissioned quarantine

Happy 2014!