Tag Archives: Florida

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.

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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.

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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. 

Do it big.

Duuuuude. natl champs screen

(Source)

I can’t stop smiling. Is there such thing as an elation hangover that lasts for like a month? Because that’s what I have. But instead of a headache, I have a permagrin and the giggles and sometimes full tear ducts when I catch that shot of Jimbo hoisting the crystal football over his head with his eyes closed or when I see the parking lot outside of Doak Campbell stadium packed with people welcoming the team back to Tally. If I’d had one more millisecond to contemplate it, I would have made the 4 hour drive with Addison yesterday to greet them.

Let’s back up. I was stomach-twisting nervous in the morning, so I got in a workout while Addison napped to clear my head and keep the anxiety at bay. That was important since I was such a vital component of FSU’s game plan. My parents arrived mid-workout and waited for Addison to wake up before removing her from the inevitable cone of profanity.

My garage obviously needed to know who I was rooting for.

My garage obviously needed to know who I was rooting for.

I had a few hours to kill so I made some stops in search of cold weather FSU gear. We were watching the game at an outdoor restaurant and the temps were going to be around 35. Stellar planning, as usual. I bought several correctly-colored-but-team-neutral sweaters but ultimately couldn’t bear not having FSU displayed prominently. The floor length puffer jacket would just have to do its job over a t-shirt and cardigan. Plus, I knew my head would be warm.

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We arrived a solid 90 minutes before kick off to eat and tremble and pace.

If you have a television or access to any social media outlet, I’m assuming you know how things played out. If it was 9:30 p.m. on Monday night and you posted about The Bachelor, it’s safe to say our friendship is irreparably damaged.

Three quarters of rage and disbelief and antisocial behavior from one alumna.

Crouching Seminole, Hidden Offense

Crouching Seminole, Hidden Offense

And then a fourth quarter that  will live on in college football history.

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Followed by a jumping, screaming, high-fiving, hugging, wife-carried-out-into-the-streets-of-Tampa celebration that hasn’t exactly ended in my mind.

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C N crazy face

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How many consecutive days can one wear FSU apparel? I figure I have at least a month until people start making conspicuous comments in public.

It was a major concern for all of us if we didn't let you know our official BCS ranking via our index fingers for the rest of the evening.

It was a major concern for all of us if we didn’t let you know our official BCS ranking via our index fingers for the rest of the evening.

Fun tidbit: Downtown Tampa has a tall skyscraper, the SunTrust building, that is lit up for Bucs, USF, Rays and Lightning games in the team colors. When we were heading towards the restaurant I mentioned that ”they should have done the SunTrust building in garnet and gold,” not realizing that peak was ablaze in FSU colors. I was giddy when I saw it and said that if we won, we were going downtown to take pictures with it. Behold.

Professional photog skills from the car

Professional photog skills from the car

Mission: Accomplished

Mission: Accomplished

We (my SIL and I, the boys were totes poopers after 1 a.m.) wanted to party into the morning, but it was a Monday night and the two spots we crashed were already closed.

I still have grand plans to make my way to Tallahassee for some kind of celebration. And I shall keep partying it up until I have no more party left in me. Probably around week eight of next season when we get upset by Notre Dame or something.

And one last time for blogland…

F-L-O-R-I-D-A    S-T-A-T-E
Florida State, Florida State, Florida State
Wooooo!

29

Happy birthday to me, suckas.

In pre-baby birthday fashion, I would have been prancing around here for weeks with a fancy countdown plug-in and a detailed wish list with pictures, size/color specifications and links for your shopping convenience. But since my little thunder stealer came along, half the time I forget that it’s even August.

Luckily, my boo didn’t forget. He’d asked what I wanted to do a couple of weeks ago, and the first and only request I made was to sleep in. Like, a sinfully indulgent 10 a.m. I suggested having my parents watch Addison, and I guess the next logical step if we had an Addiesitter was to jet over to the beach for a 36-hour getaway. If that’s where the boy’s mind goes, I’m certainly not going to talk him out of it. Off to the beach we went!

We actually hadn’t been on a proper beach outing this entire summer. We were due for some Vitamin D and subsequent aloe baths.

A little heavy handed hinting with the receptionist scored us two free drinks at the hotel’s restaurant. So, naturally, we started our adventure there. The hotel was right on the Gulf, and our room had a decent view.

hotel view

After a couple of hours out on the restaurant patio looking at the water, we did a quick change for dinner. We’d pushed back our initial reservations a half hour to catch the sunset, but it was really overcast and the show wasn’t all that spectacular. I know, you’re feeling so sorry for us right now. Do you know what is spectacular? Photo editing apps.

Photo attempt by stranger with vampire aesthetics:

C N bday dinner original

Voila:
C N bday dinner

My brain doesn’t even comprehend that technology.

Dinner restaurant blah blah blah adult food mumble mumble. ICE CREAM!

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We rented a forklift to get my three scoops back to the hotel while Clayton dripped his mint chocolate chip the entire length of our quarter mile walk. “At least we’ll find our way back if we get lost,” was his positive spin on losing half his dessert. Ice cream on the balcony listening to the waves break did not suck.

At 9:45 this morning, Clayton opened the curtains to a bright, sunny Florida summer day while I was still warm and cozy in a huge hotel bed. Total birthday success, even if I didn’t quite make it to 10 a.m. We grabbed breakfast at the hotel and spent the day on the beach. Despite the warnings inherent in the very concept of “Shark Week,” I did join my husband in the water for awhile. Cautiously. Intensely sensitive to every ripple and nearby squeal. Mostly floating on his lap so that he would be the one to get the gnarly scar on his calf while I could still boast nonchalantly, “I totally survived a shark attack.” It’s my birthday, I can reduce my chances of hemorrhaging in the ocean if I want to.

Can we just collectively freak out here for a second about how the guy on the Shark Week finale died during the filming of that show? Anyone?

Clayton can only lay out in the sun comfortably for 18 seconds before he starts whining like a toddler. Since it was my birthday, he made it to 30 seconds before letting out a guttural disgusted grunt that made it clear I would not be reading the entirety of “Bossypants” while working on my tan for the duration of the afternoon. We went for a leisurely walk that ended up being 2.2 miles. For serious. We logged it on a running app.

rocks beach IG

I had very high Instagrammable hopes of running into a big flock of seagulls, causing them to artistically scatter in the perfect photogenic angles. My first mistake was that the birds were about 200 yards away from us when I started my run. So people had a very long time to watch me and wonder why I up and started sprinting away from my husband. The second mistake was my assumption that seagulls would even care my post-baby hips were coming at them at a daunting 23-minute mile pace. They didn’t. So I finally reached them, anticipating some big spectacle, and they hopped their annoying little feet over six inches. I think maybe one flew away.

nat run beach

Not birthday success.

After our marathon walk, it was time to head out. We grabbed lunch at Gators, adorned from top to bottom in University of Florida garb, and tried not to vomit at the life size cut-out of Tim Tebow at the entrance. The gator wasn’t even that good. And the food wasn’t that great, either. Zing!

Our last stop was my parents’ house to pick up the little lady we’d been missing.

A shadow giraffe

In case you were wondering, no I don’t feel older.

Larger and less attractive, but not older.

 

Special thanks to my husband for a perfectly unexpected birthday treat. 

Cinco de Noa

Clayton and I celebrated our five year anniversary this past weekend with a little jaunt over to Orlando. It was the first time we’ve ever left Addison overnight, so we decided to go big and really put our (my) willpower to the test and leave for two whole nights. Spoiler: We all made it out alive and without [too many] tears. The photo every hour rule helped tremendously.

But enough about my obsession with hanging out with my kid. Let’s talk about how gloriously indulgent two nights away felt for Clayton and me. I still can’t stop thinking about how awesome this weekend was and what a well timed reminder it became for how perfectly matched the two of us are.

When we came back Sunday, we went straight to a Mothers Day get together where my brother asked me how the trip was. “So much fun!” I answered immediately. He knew we’d only gone to Orlando, which, for Tampa natives doesn’t exactly scream vacation of a lifetime, so he looked at me skeptically and said, “Was it actually fun, or did you make it fun?”

And the best part about this weekend was the simple fact that I couldn’t tell the difference between doing actual “fun things” or just having fun being with my husband. I remembered that there’s never been a difference for us; we have fun going to Costa Rica and we have fun going to Wal-Mart.

Come to think of it, the reason for this trip’s raging success most likely stemmed from the very first stop of Cinco de Noa Weekend: the T-Rex Café. True story.
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Clayton had discovered this gem while searching for activities in Orlando that might be appropriate for a baby-less pair of adults. Dinosaur themed restaurant with indoor meteor shower every 15 minutes? Jackpot!
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If you are in Orlando, you must go. Cancel that lame dinner at Cinderella’s castle and park yourself next to the woolly mammoth. You’re welcome.

We stayed at the Hilton in the Walt Disney World Resort, which is a full sized city in itself. We didn’t plan to go to any theme parks—weird for being in Orlando, I know—but we were within walking distance of Downtown Disney, which had plenty of stores, restaurants and oddly dressed foreigners to keep us occupied and shelling out cash for two days.

After our prehistoric adventure, we almost considered driving back home because clearly nothing was going to top that idyllic lunch. But we stayed because Priceline does not issue refunds. After Clayton napped off his dino excitement, we headed to a late dinner at Crave. Contrary to the photographic implications, I did not shave my head prior to hitting the town.
DSCN2449Crave is supposedly known for their sushi. We can attest that the normal peasant sushi is quite good, but beyond that you’ll have to ask someone else because we refused to pay $18 for one of their fancy rolls. Their Cigar City brown ale is tasty, too.

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After dinner we checked out Orlando Brewing because we have always been suckers for breweries stuck randomly in industrial districts. After parking in Tampa, we followed the sounds of live music and college students celebrating the end of finals.
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We knew we would be overdressed, but man were we overdressed. I felt like it made us look even older. Then the sight of a newborn being rocked to sleep to the sounds of an off key garage band not three feet from her mother’s cigarette smoke filled my blood with rage, and I knew we were possibly out of our element. I almost grabbed that baby and made a break for it at least three times, but I was wearing heels.

Saturday we did nothing for about four hours for the first time in I-don’t-know-when-we’ve-ever-done-nothing-for-four-hours. And we did our nothing on lounge chairs by the pools on a gorgeous, slightly overcast day. I did take some time to kick Clayton’s competitive butt at a water treading competition, but then I went back to doing nothing. He went back to modeling. Apparently it was photo shoot day at the Hilton.

IMG_3366My model is cuter.

We realized we’d stayed out by the pool about two hours longer than we’d estimated. Then we realized we didn’t care. And then we realized we were starving. A short 90 minutes later, I was finally ready to head to a super late lunch/super early dinner. And where else would we go but another wildly decorated, over-the-top themed restaurant? Rainforest Café, complete with hooting monkeys hanging over my head. Eating at Chili’s is going to be so boring now.

IMG_3368Clayton was jazzed because he got to use a coupon. Everyone wins at the Rainforest Café. Except the hostess who asked where we were from and, when we said Tampa, replied with “Oh, so that was a pretty short flight.” We replied with awkward silence. Because it’s a 45 minute drive. IMG_3369After linner (lunch/dinner), we walked the length of the Downtown Disney strip and parked it on a bench to watch the videos my mom sent of Addison. Watch. Re-watch. Repeat. By the time we walked back, the Ghiradelli store was calling out to me. It shows a great deal of restraint that I waited 24 hours after initially seeing it to suggest we stop in. Things got rather scientific when I decided to conduct an experiment testing the feasibility of consuming an ice cream cone equal in weight to my body mass.

Clayton, with all his sports medicine experience, served as my trainer and sat next to me quietly, periodically wiping the chocolate off my chin and giving me back rubs when I started to fade. I’m happy to report that the findings are conclusive: my sweet tooth supersedes all laws of physics and physiology. My husband is so proud of me. At one point he left me in search of a bathroom but came back quickly after catching the picture of me sitting alone on a bench trying to stop the melting drips of cookies ‘n cream with my face. I guess it was sort of a sad sight. Not to me, though. It was probably the happiest I’ve ever been.
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Yep, my cone was the one hunting the weaker one.

We made reservations at one of the nicer restaurants on the strip and headed back to the hotel to get ready. Maybe your experience has or will be different, so I won’t tell you where we went for dinner, but I will tell you that we will not be going back except that late night rendezvous I’m planning to egg the joint. It was awful from beginning to end, from choosing to walk the eight miles from the hotel in heels, to getting seated right in the entrance and continuously forgetting if we had actually been called or if we were still waiting, to our nearly inedible entrees. No bueno.
IMG_3382It tasted exactly like it looks.

We decided neither of us was allowed to mention that dinner ever again. We even went back to the hotel to change out of our Sunday best into our Saturday denim and sandals to really get the stench of that hour off of our bodies. We walked back to Downtown Disney—much more pleasantly in flats—to an Irish pub that had a duo playing music outside. Best anniversary downgrade ever. It was right up our jeans and t-shirt alley. We threw caution and post-partum weight loss to the wind and ordered potato skins at midnight. That’s big time partying right there. We stayed out until after 1 a.m. Look at us being hard core.

Then we had a hard core breakfast at Perkins Sunday morning before heading to my parents’ house to body check any aunts standing in the way of our little nugget. Some serious snuggles were in order, even though Addison didn’t seem to recognize the fact that I’d been out of her life for 48 hours and that she should have been screaming in excitement upon my return. Brat. But I still chewed the crap out of her thighs.

Since Addison’s obviously okay with it, I now fully support weekend trips at least once a month. Just not to Orlando where sushi is $18 and regular coffee is $4.

Happy Cinco de Noa (and matching dino shirts) to us! DSCN2452

On Being Back

Last month was the year anniversary of our very first home purchase. Coincidentally, it also marked the first time my carpal tunnel eased up from all the paperwork we had to sign. Since our family became a trio, I am constantly looking back and comparing where we were a year ago, two years ago, five years ago, to where we are now.

It feels like we lived a lifetime in the past two years. Our time in Virginia seems hazy now, and we honestly don’t keep in touch with anyone we met except for Clayton’s former boss. And that’s only because Sean likes to continually remind Clayton that he has a standing job offer if we ever move back. (Which we will not, Sean.)

What I do remember about working and playing in Virginia is the wide openness of the future. We had never lived outside of Florida, and then all of a sudden, we’d done it. We had all of our sad, college-quality belongings in a tiny apartment with snow piling up right outside our door the first weekend we were there. At least at the beginning, we were hypnotized by the romantic ideas of adventure, escape and newness.

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The short list of perks of Newport News included easy access to a whole smorgasbord of intriguing cities and small towns. What I miss about that life is deciding on a Thursday to go away that weekend. I miss planning trips simply because we stumbled on an incredible deal on Priceline. Of course we can still do that here, but there is little that is unknown to me about this place. I know Tampa like an old pair of shoes I can’t bring myself to throw away, the way the soles are worn in deepest under the ball of my foot, where the shoelaces are fraying. We go way back, and while sometimes that comfort is exactly what I love about living here, it’s also the piece that the eternal wanderer in me rebels against.

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Something tugged at Clayton and me, both separately and together, that pulled us away from being safe and expected. That something has stirred at the base of my heart since I was 15 years old, and it still rustles when the scent of adventure wafts across my path. When friends without children plan vacations to Africa. When single girls mention kickball games and staying up way past Conan on a weeknight. When advocates introduce a cause that ignites my hunger to do something that matters. These are the adventures that I see just out of reach for a new mom, a housewife, a work-at-home part-timer.

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I can’t predict what this life will look like five years from now. Will we have one five-year-old or three kids under school-age? Actually, I can pretty much guarantee it won’t be the latter. Maybe I’ll have jetted over the ocean to soak in a Mediterranean sea or to sleep in a tent serving food to starving kids. Or maybe I’ll have joined up to fight a battle against some worldwide monstrous foe like sex trafficking. Or, most likely, I’ll be right here penning taglines during naptime and jetting to the park in the afternoon to elicit some seriously important giggles on a rusty swing.

What I am so, so grateful for today is that any of those scenarios makes me smile. And proud. I know there were some sacrifices we had to make to grow roots in Florida. The Noa’s will probably never make another trip to D.C., despite my love affair with its grayness set against its significance. I may never live within day trip distance of a mountain hike. And my relatives can show up at my door totally unannounced.

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But here is home. Maybe not forever. But for our little family right now, this is where our heart is.    

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Dear Addison: Three Months

Dear Addison,
Today you are three months old! Stop it. Stop getting older. I don’t really like it.

But I do like the collection of moments that these three months represent. More sleep (like a ridiculous amount of awesome overnight sleep. Keep it up, girlfriend.), morning giggles, afternoon pajama parties, long walks in the not-quite-as-hot heat of a Florida fall and too many field trips to count.

You come with us every Tuesday night to our LifeGroup and have never cried. You come to church with us every Sunday and, because I am unashamedly selfish over you, you sit with us. Sometimes your dad or I have to take you to the back of the room and rock you to sleep, but you’re still such a superstar and never make a scene. I can’t say that you’re not distractingly adorable, but at least you’re not wailing your lungs out. 

addie fsu2

Yesterday was the first time your dad sang at church. After a hectic morning getting you ready by myself and managing a devastating (to your outfit) poop and spit up assault, I barely made it there in time for his solo. He worked on his part all week and was so nervous about it. Now, I never asked him, but to hear the difference from his practice sessions in the car to the powerful, moving sound on Sunday, I just have to assume he saw you out there in the crowd and had the nudge to go all out.

Just your presence alone has a magical way of inspiring us to do more, to be more. Without a formal conversation, we have both become so much more motivated to pursue the things that we always claimed were important. And it’s happened because of you, sweet girl. We want to give you all the best in this life because we cannot comprehend how blessed we are, and that starts with parents who are serious about being their best selves. Dressing you up and buying you toys is certainly more fun than I expected, but what I seek to give you above all else is a picture of the God I believe in and the chance to experience real faith for yourself. Your Dad and I hope that our lives point you to an amazing grace that will free you to have the most abundant life possible. And, of course, I’ll make sure you look cute in the meantime.

3 months church collageThis month also marked the first time someone watched you without me or your dad there. We went to a Florida State football game (which they won, by the way). There were just a few tears as we pulled out of the driveway, but I missed you the whole time. Luckily, you were in great hands with BeeMa and Abuelo, and they knew I would need a steady string of pictures sent to me throughout the night. Later this month, you also got to spend a morning with Aunt Ally. She knows about the picture-for-every-minute-I’m-gone thing, too. It’s so comforting to have the dearest people in our lives available to watch you when we can’t. Allowing you to form relationships with your family was one of the main reasons we came back to Florida, and I do not know what I would do if I had to rely on strangers to care for you. Actually, I do know what I’d do—I’d never leave you.

abuelo beema addie collage

You’re making so much more noise these days. I’ve never heard anything more precious in my life. I want to record your coos and giggles and listen to it on my runs. It just doesn’t seem possible that I could be in pain with your baby voice in my head.

I suppose the theme of these recent weeks is that I simply cannot get enough of you. And that’s perfectly fine by me because pre-adolescence is already too close for my liking. Presumably you will not be as inclined to laugh when I kiss your tummy and my made up songs about bath time will not be as hysterical during those awkward days. 

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Last week, I was given 15 extra minutes of free time. So I plopped down on the bed with you, my fingers scooping you under your squishy arms, my thumbs gently steadying your wobbly torso. I sat you on top of my bent knees, and you became one of very, very few people in this world who have heard me sing. And you became the only person in the world who has heard me sing directly to and for them.

I studied your face with each line. I wanted to capture in my memory the sparkle from your gray eyes, the light in your expression as you learn and discover. You look back at me with such trust, even when something is new to your eyes or ears, and I feel a crushing burden of responsibility to you. You sat there on my knees, not an inkling of fear in your face, listening to a string of words trickle from my tongue in a simple melody. Words you can’t possibly understand through hearing alone, but must feel in your tiny soul mean something stronger than a silly game or nursery rhyme.

The movement of your brows, the round curving of your nose, the lengthening of your smile. I was given 15 extra minutes, and I spent them all with you.

I’ve been beaten down, I’ve been kicked around,
But she takes it all for me.
And I lost my faith, in my darkest days,
But she makes me want to believe.
They call her love, love, love, love, love.
They call her love, love, love, love, love.
She is love, and she is all I need.

Well I had my ways, they were all in vain,
But she waited patiently.
It was all the same, all my pride and shame,
And she put me on my feet.
They call her love, love, love, love, love.
They call her love, love, love, love, love.
They call her love, love, love, love, love.
She is love, and she is all I need.

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You have completely rewritten what love is to me, baby girl. How in the world could it get any better?

From My Whole Heart,
Mama

 

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3 months fam

In transition

If Clayton and I were to write a list of all the major transitions we’ve undergone, are undergoing, and will undergo in a span of nine months, you might run out and fill the Xanax prescription for us. Looking at it on paper seems terrifying, which is why I’ve avoided it.

When we told people our plans—move from Virginia to Florida, get a new job, move in with my parents, buy a house, have a baby, reconcile the major political parties, decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil—we watched as their eyes grew wider and wider as the answer to their innocent question “what’s new with you guys?” grew ever longer. It was pretty unusual for us to have anything new, much less so much new stuff that people forgot the beginning by the time we made it to the end. We also had a sincere suggestion to “go ahead and sign up for marriage counseling.”

But today, sitting down in the middle of all the upheaval on my parents’ sunny patio, I don’t feel that weight. A little indigestion from the growing nugget, sure, but not the pressure that I expected.

And this is precisely why we are here, in a cramped bedroom in the house that holds decades of my memories. Because this place is safe. This place is comfort and warmth and shelter from that list that feels like it’s growing every week. We are checking things off, we schedule what needs to be done, make appointments to meet serious-sounding professionals in their offices to sign stacks of papers, make handfuls of phone calls to grown-up companies to be put on hold for 14 minutes and sit in new waiting rooms anxious to hear the steady, rhythmic, enchanting pounding of our coffee bean’s heartbeat.

On top of those necessities, we laugh with my brother and his girlfriend. We wonder what gourmet meal my father is preparing each night. I go shopping with my mother and spend afternoons with my grandma. I cuddle my best friend’s new baby every week and see him changing in my arms and see her as a beautiful mother with my own eyes. We get invited to Super Bowl parties. We meet family for birthday dinners on a Monday night and my husband and I giggle at baby names before falling asleep.

We are living. We are awake with new possibilities arising from familiar faces and places. We are rejuvenated within the blankets of support and encouragement that we haven’t felt for two years.

So I will trip over boxes tiptoeing to bed. I will work from a couch or dining room table rather than an office. I will wait to decorate a nursery. And my husband will play musical cars every morning that he is blocked in on the driveway.

Because this life is filled with so much love.

And this life is every single thing I was hoping for.      

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fashion show8

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Three’s Company

It was sayonara to the southernmost non-Southern state yesterday, and I returned to Virginia last night.

How else would we commemorate something?

Sunday night, we celebrated/mourned addict-style and introduced my curious mother and father to the world of pay-by-weight frozen yogurt shops. I was slightly disappointed with my $5.89 performance and realized I really thrive on the competition element involved when Clayton accompanies me. If my bucket of yogurt does not cost at least 40% more than his, I’ve utterly failed. Without the comparison, the motivation for topping delirium just wasn’t there.

But I still gave it a pretty good whirl. And, after a little pep talk, the folks got the hang of it. I wondered aloud what the heck my mom was waiting for with the Land O’ Chocolate laid out before her and she looked at me sheepishly and responded, “I’m trying to be healthy.” Ha, I say to that. And then I remember something like physically placing my mom’s hand on the spoon stuck in the Snickers bowl. I genuinely believe opting for fro-yo over ice cream builds up a credit of 1500 healthy points to begin with. Then it’s a virtual free-for-all just to break even. You seem confused. Maybe I’ll explain it all in a pamphlet or something.

The drive. Oh, the drive.

Sucks. That’s what that drive does. Thankfully, when I have clear skies I can stay on the “happy-to-be-scootin’ along” side of the spectrum, which is far, far away from the “OMG-I’m-just-going-to-pull-over-at-this-truck-stop-and-see-if-they’ll-give-me-a-room-for-the-night-and-how-much-they-charge-for-dogs” end of the spectrum. Trust me, those showers are not for the faint of heart.

The only notable incident involved a chicken sandwich and honey mustard situation. Good thing I decided to sit alone in Zaxby’s and eat lunch safely stationary and within arm’s reach of an endless supply of napkins. Or, I was driving with my pinky nail at 70 mph trying to dislodge dripping honey mustard from in between my wedding band and engagement ring. Yeah, it was definitely one of those two scenarios. Still, it didn’t impress the passengers very much.

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“We’re back. In Newport News. Again.”

“At least we’re out of the car.”

If you can name where I borrowed the major themes of that quote, we should be BFFsies if we’re not already.

You should also know that my husband is more thoughtful than yours and he crafted a welcome home sign for me out of expertly selected printer paper, ink pens and highlighters. There were also flowers, in addition to a feast for dinner and brownies for dessert. So, for serious, your husband probably needs to take a class or something.

P8222135It was extremely helpful in reminding me that we are here. In this moment, we exist in this space, in this city. We can dream and plan and connive and search, but today we live here. I don’t have to call it home, but I must submit to feeling at home with my husband, wherever that might be. The future waits, but I have to see what is in front of me today. And if I’m honest with myself, I’ve got a pretty sweet view.

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B-day

The ol’ two-seven was fabulously relaxing. I’m enjoying the simpler things in my old age. I had a nameless accomplice, whose boss would not be pleased to find out he or she was not woozily sitting in an emergency room but rather munching on birthday coconut shrimp here:

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It was everything I miss about Florida: the sand, the surf, the seafood, the steaming hot humidity that creates a condensation mustache right above my cherry chapstick line. Sigh. So much to love.

We took a really cute couples photo. But you can’t see it. It’s my birthday and I’ll crop out secret companions if I want to. In any case, I have basically perfect form for fully extended camera maneuvering.

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For some reason, my birthday is not complete until I’ve spent money. Doesn’t have to be mine, I just have to spend some. So that happened.

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To be a bit more practical (since it turns out it wasn’t my money I was spending), I told Urban Decay to suck it and went with an eye shadow set that looked more like something you’d find at Costco than something sold at Sephora. With lip glosses to boot. That’s called bang for your buck, friends. Since I wear makeup about 1.37 times a week, this should last me until Christmas of 2042.

My pops has discovered the fine art of cooking and has become quite a maverick in the kitchen. In the Top Gun way, not the Sarah Palin way. He offered to make me whatever I wanted for my birthday dinner. I forgot I wasn’t turning 11 and asked for pizza. Yeah, I’m ridiculous. But pizza is awesome. It was also a little freebie present to myself when my brother shed a tear when he found out our menu didn’t include the words sirloin or medium rare. When I remembered I wasn’t a pre-teen, I added a last-minute request for sangria.

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We capped off the night with a Rays victory over the Red Sox and my introduction to Words with Friends, which now explains why it’s taken me three days  to blog about my birthday. I’ve been way too busy getting my ass kicked by 38-point words like “jog.”

Play me! I’m “natalienoa” and I’m pretty awful.