Tag Archives: holidays

Turkey Gobble 5k

After the half marathon from hell, I registered for a Thanksgiving 5k for me and Clayton. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to hit my sub 30:00 goal, but after the disaster of St. Augustine, I tried to keep expectations to a minimum. Temperatures dipped Wednesday night and I figured there was no hope of hitting my goal pace while freezing. I told Clayton when we went to bed Wednesday that sleeping in was sounding better and better; I decided I would be a game time decision when my alarm buzzed at 5:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning.

gobble 5k

Without much struggle getting out of bed, I figured I could at least keep Clayton company for the ride and burn a few calories before feasting.

We missed approximately 17 turns to find the right parking lot. We pinned bibs, shed our extra layers and put on Chapstick in the car, knowing we were cutting it very close. Clayton grabbed a spot along the street and, thinking I had time for a port-a-potty stop, I started jogging to the start while he fed the meter. Everyone was lined up and there wasn’t a p-a-p in sight, so I hopped in the middle of the pack and waited for Clayton. The race started, and he still hadn’t shown up. Wife of the Year over here decided to hang back and wait for him…but not without shouting down the sidewalk for him to RUN! Why he was taking his sweet time to begin with, I have no idea.

All's well that ends with a PR

All’s well that ends with a PR

We crossed the start line with only a couple of strollers and dog walkers behind us. Actually pretty standard race procedures for me. But we took off, and I felt good. Really good. I was aggravated by the crowds, so I wanted to get into some space. And you know what’s fun? Passing people. Foreign to me, but I highly support it now.

“Why are you going so fast?” Clayton asked.

Now, I have never, ever, ever been asked that question except when I have to pee and am on the hunt for a public bathroom. So all of a sudden this became THE race. I wanted that PR and I decided I’d ride that “so fast” pace as long as I could, expecting to peter out around mile 2. Maybe if I banked enough time, I could still have a slow last mile and come in under 30 minutes.

Except I didn’t peter out. And I even had a little kick at the end when I heard a group of girls point out a sign about 0.1 mile before the finish, saying they were going to sprint when they got to it. I had not been passed up to this point because I was like the last person to start (fail proof strategy to avoid being passed). Frankly, I didn’t want to get passed at that point. So I started my sprint a tad before the sign.

Maybe I crossed the finish line and had to cool down a ways from the crowd so no one would notice the, uh, sweat dripping from my tear glands.

I know it was a silly, stinkin’ not chip timed 5k. But it was a big moment for this novice runner. A runner who desperately needed a good race to help put a terrible one to rest. A never-imagined finishing time to remember that goals don’t just loom over our heads to make us feel disappointed and incapable but help us push ourselves to be and to do more.

And to leave me wondering what else may be possible from this rickety, nearing 30 body.

I was not even trying to be fun or cutesy with those socks. They were the only option to cover all the exposed skin below my capris.

I was not even trying to be fun or cutesy with those socks. They were the only option to cover all the exposed skin below my capris.

26:13. A new 5k PR by over four freaking minutes! (Ignore that the race was 0.05 mile short.)

garmin 5k

Then I came home to some sweet snuggles that were possibly more satisfying than a PR. Or a close second at least. A snug

I hope you also had a Thanksgiving full of simple surprises that made you sweat a little out of your eyes.

On Sunday, in the cafeteria of a middle school transformed to a church atrium,
my little girl, my fair-skinned, auburn-haired baby,
waddled across linoleum towards an expanse of tiled freedom,
trailed close behind by the narrow calves of an older girl chasing her with shared glee
pinching the oh-so-pinchable sides of my baby’s belly
and laughing a little girl’s laugh.

The girls reversed, and bee-lined back to mothers wasting time before getting back to
lunch making, diaper changing, nap fighting.
And the girls began to twirl
in cotton dresses skimming ankles,
the older swooshing in a large vibrant dance,
a younger sister joining,
my part-Spanish, part-her-father’s daughter watching with wild, eager eyes
this game she must learn,
this dance that spins and spins,
these brown-skinned girls that squealed and played
in the same high-pitched, reckless,
bouncing-off-the-wall-of-windows way
that my little lady often prefers.

My baby, with green-gray eyes and gold-flecked hair,
clapping, squealing, eager to be dancing
with other A-named girls.

There was so much sameness,
there in the different shades of skin and hair and eyes,
there in the twirling and escaping
and joining of hands.
And on a sunny Sunday morning,
I hoped that the mother of those girls who took my baby’s breath away
with laughter
and chasing
could hear the faintest sound
of history pounding deep in bones
of a ‘beautiful symphony of brotherhood’
tapped in quick-step rhythm
by little girls’ twirling toes.

“With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together.”

- Martin Luther King, Jr.
August 28, 1963


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

C N bday dinner

My brain doesn’t even comprehend that technology.

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

nat ice cream2

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. 


Just checking in quickly to confirm that, yes, people who blog daily with kids and jobs and dogs are superhuman.

We are gearing up for a week-long vacation in Maine, with a brief stop in Boston. I will be excited once 1) all of Addison’s belongings are actually loaded into our car for transport and 2) the dang flights are finished. Figuring out how to take my fly-happy pills while breastfeeding has proven challenging, so I may be going it with just a prayer and a 4:30 a.m. mimosa.

Work is picking up, which is both exhilarating and exhausting. Thankfully my mom volunteered to Addiesit a couple times a week. For now, I’m foregoing entrusting my one and only offspring to a 16-year old texting-while-diaper-changing,boyfriend-inviting-into-my-house babysitter. And exhale.

Clayton and I are expert planners, so when the time came for us to get ready for our first vacation with an infant and plan for Addison’s first birthday the weekend after we return home, we also decided to throw in a master bedroom redesign. If nothing else, at least the bedroom furniture I’ve had since I was 13 is officially out of commission. Buh-bye particle board. Hello legitimate wood dresser, reading nook and “are you kidding me that your shoes are on the new ottoman?” ottoman.


I also tackled updating a black tv stand to use as a pink book shelf in A’s room, crafting some new art for her room, two mind (and savings account) blowing trips to Hobby Lobby, a novel-length list of ideas for the upcoming birthday of the century and redoing the gallery photo wall in our entryway.






(Any thoughts for a wall treatment for that ginormous blank wall behind those photos? Oh, and rates for your services to actually come and execute said treatment.)

Maybe I’ll have a chance to post some pictures of the master bedroom “after.” Most likely I won’t, so just go right ahead and lower those expectations now. For the “before,” just imagine a freshman dorm room pieced together with help from childhood bedroom furniture, Craigslist acquisitions and absolutely zilch on the walls. It was a special kind of cozy in there.

The rest of the week will be a whirlwind of packing and cleaning and proofreading other people’s poor grammar and list making and list losing and list re-making and baby chasing and coffee drinking. Or, what I like to call The Everyday at Casa Noa.

I hope your summer has been full of Florida-caliber sunshine and free of mosquito bites!



I’m not even pretending like this post has any other purpose than to upload pictures of my kid on Easter. You’ve been warned.

In a way, Easter started out Saturday night when I leaned over to Clayton sweetly and said, “I need to tell you something, and you can’t laugh at me.”

Pause for my sincerity.

“I want to run tomorrow before church.”

Pause for Clayton’s echoing laughter.

So, obviously, I woke up Sunday morning at 6 a.m. and had to run. There was no other choice.


The reality of that ever happening again is Leann Rimes slim, so I tried to soak in the silence and focus on the magnitude of the holiday. It’s a pretty big deal.

After a few dirty looks from Clayton when I returned home 15 minutes later than I meant to, our day was officially a go. He left early for band rehearsal and I had the task of prettying up a post-run me and a squirmy Addison. My 9 a.m. arrival time at church turned into 9:30 without blinking an eye. We may have had a few distractions.

basketsYes, my husband got Cinnamon Toast Crunch for Easter. Don’t be too jealous.

A egg

After trudging through a forest of egg dishes and baked goods (praise God for little old ladies who love to cook), our service kicked off with some rocking music from a studly worship leader. Addison could barely contain her Latin hips and forceful clapping. (Do you think we’re just a little enamored with our gal?)

NBC family

We spent the afternoon at my grandmother’s house eating a gluttonous spread of ham, vegetables defiled by mayonnaise and sugar, and dessert. So American. So unashamed of our casseroles. It was the usual mix of booming voices and side corner sarcasm from the cousins’ circle. Except this Easter I got to roll around on the floor with a crawling infant and fail horribly at snapping a useable photo of her in a stain-free dress. I did manage to get about 38 shots of her blurry booty scooting away from me. Way to go, Mom.

DSCN2250 DSCN2264

Then she found her shoe. Which made it the best Easter EVER.



Also new this year was the glorious 30 minutes Clayton and I spent napping on the couch in total confidence that out of 12 obsessive family members, someone was most likely watching our baby. New tradition? I think so.

Once we came home, Addison got to dive into her Easter basket. Quite literally. She loved the eggs, and I was extremely grateful I hadn’t wasted any money or effort on filling them. We sat outside for awhile without shoes and looked like those neighbors. We’re already on the HOA’s list, so whatevs. Just add it to next month’s snarky letter.

A in basket

A outside top

 A outside egg instagram

  Happy Easter from the Noa’s!

nbc noas

The Claytonism

To celebrate twenty-nine years of one truly rad guy, I though I’d pay homage to the hilarious, usually well-intentioned, sometimes downright insulting thoughts my husband shares with me. He doesn’t always run things through the ol’ mental filter, so I often get blindsided with a random comment to which there is no response but a confused stare while I allow him to reformulate his thinking and try again. After that, there is a ballet flat to the jaw.

Here are a few of my favorites.

“Hey, Karate Kid!” (In response to my foray into the precarious world of headband wearing.)

“Oooh, cool. Like Rambo.” (In response to yet another headband attempt. To Clayton, it is actually a compliment when he compares you to a movie from the 80’s. I know, I don’t get it either.)

Me: Can you please put your socks away after I wash and fold them so the dog won’t eat them?
Him: Babe, I’ll try. But I probably won’t.

“It’s okay. You’re Cuban.”

“Wow. Did you get bigger?” (Daily, upon entering the house, for the last three months of my pregnancy.)

Me: I’m going to run 4 miles.
Him: Okay. So I should expect you in a couple hours?

“So that’s why your ears stick out.” (While looking at my tee ball team photo displaying my unfortunate cover-as-much-face-as-possible hat styling choices.)

“Did you guys work out? Smells like you did.” (We didn’t.)

But for every one of those mishandled remarks, there are 100 mornings where I wake up to fresh coffee. For every accidental slight, there are 50 dinners cooked. For every comment about my weight, well, those are actually pretty costly for him.

I love this man so much, and I love celebrating his being in the world.

Spring 2006 0722009
Clayton bday park

For My Valentine

The first time I really noticed Clayton, he was dressed as Anakin Skywalker at a Halloween party. I only knew who Anakin Skywalker was because the latest Star Wars movies were out and Hayden Christensen is dreamy. Whoever this guy was, he was Hayden’s doppelganger, messy dirty-blonde hair and laser blue eyes that tripped you up in the back of your throat.

Clayton and I fluttered around the same circle of friends for awhile as I flirted awkwardly and mildly stalked his intramural games. Our first date was more convenience than romance—we each already had tickets to the same performance for a theater class we were taking. Looking back, I’m certain this was Clayton’s frugal way of going on a first date on the cheap. The first part of the night was supremely uncomfortable. I had worn my go-to corduroys, but they seemed to have lost their magic. Turns out, corduroy lost its magic altogether around 1979.

I missed half of the performance looking sideways at my sweaty hand resting in a come-hither lilt across my leg, just waiting for Clayton to sneak over and soak up that sweat in a rom com-worthy maneuver that would result in The Hand Hold Heard ‘Round the World. Well, my hand stayed put for three hours. And so did his.

v day collage1

After the show, my roommate called to ask if we could pick up some ice cream on the way back. That call probably changed the course of Hayden’s perception of me. I like to think he fell for me somewhere between the Ben & Jerry’s and frozen pizza. All I know for sure is that we dropped off the ice cream at my dorm room and made our way to Landis Green. We stayed put for six hours.

I got even more awkward for the several months after that, refusing to speak when we were together and communicating Nell-style when he’d ask what I wanted for dinner or what movie we should rent. I have no idea why he stayed put for those mute six weeks or kept inviting me over. Maybe because I’d respectfully laid the corduroy to rest.

v day collage2

I finally got my crap together and began to dazzle him with jokes he couldn’t understand because I mumble when I’m nervous. In July, I showed up to my apartment with a bouquet of flowers waiting for me and a note asking me if I would be Clayton’s girlfriend, with a box for yes and a box for no. The Princess Amidala to his Anakin Skywalker…is a clever comment I would have said if I could have formed intelligible thought. I couldn’t. Instead, I found the brightest, most obnoxiously yellow t-shirt I had and drew a giant box with a giant check in it next to a giant “YES.”

An hour after we’d been hanging out at his apartment he finally noticed the shirt.

Kidding. It only took about twenty minutes.

v day collage3

But since that day, we’ve stayed put for almost ten years. Through long distance dating, through PA school, through a wedding, through other questionable fashion choices, through more outlandish Halloween costumes, through the cutting of the long blonde hair, through ten Dolphins and FSU football seasons, through the sarcasm, through moving away from everything we know, through moving back again, through raising and then parting with our first fur child, through incessant pregnancy and non-pregnancy-motivated requests for frozen yogurt, and then through

the explosion of madness that is parenthood.

And sure, there have been angry runs. And angry shopping trips. And angry road trips to nowhere. Little breathers that give us space to process why I am right and he is wrong before we come back together and discuss how right I am and how wrong he is. But in the soil of this life, I am so reassured to know that there are four heels dug deep into the earth. Two pairs of hands that grip this family with relentless commitment to keeping it sewn together.

v day collage4

He still makes me laugh out of my gut without trying. He still melts the stubborn out of my shoulders with one of his smothering hugs. He still walks between me and the road to keep me safe. He still gets my sarcasm without thinking I’m a horrible person. He still wants to hear about everything I did during the day, no matter how many descriptions of baby bowel movements that includes. 

We aren’t going anywhere. My heart has found its counterpart, the piece that completes its shape and gives the familiar, dependable rhythm to the chaos of the everyday. Of that I am confident. Of him I am sure.

I love you, Dollface. And I am so comforted to get to stay put with you for always.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

v day collage5

P.S. Blogs count as Valentine’s gifts, right?

2012 in Pictures

Do you know what I call a 2012 wrap up post before summer 2013? Victory.

Here are some highlights from the craziest year of my life, stolen from our unashamedly narcissistic Christmas card.

January: This little coffee bean was a’brewin’. We also moved back to Tampa from Newport News, Virginia. We shacked up with my parents for about two months.
sono 17 weeks1 (2)February: We escaped for a sweet Valentine’s date at the restaurant where we had our wedding reception. I chose to wear a shirt that would not fully button thanks to a blossoming Addie bump and also to stick it out with highlights that obviously passed their prime.

clay nat vday4

March: We bought a house! And were somehow so outrageously excited we ended up looking like crazed lunatics in every picture but this one. (See reject photo below.)
Normal happy:

Hide your loved ones happy:

April: Probably the slowest month for the Noa’s. Not a reference to Clayton’s finishing time in this race, I swear, as opposed to someone who only showed up to waddle pregnantly around the finishing line and snag free bagels. It was most certainly not a slow month for my brother and his gal, who got engaged! My notable contribution was a collection of blurry photos captured from the bowels of the nearby bush I was crouching under. Neither party is identifiable in the pictures I took, but it’s the thought and grass stains on maternity jeans that count. 

proposal 1

May: Miss Maya joined our family! We spent the next few weeks Dog Whispering it up. We love the little lady, but I still miss my Bryson.  
m picnic island

June: We shopped, assembled, washed, organized, prayed, napped and braced for what was just around the corner.

July:  Yeah. That happened. And then we didn’t sleep for two weeks.













August: Slightly more sleep. Falling so much more in love. Hard to believe her thighs were ever that proportional.
1 month cry

September: Back in the saddle. And by the saddle, I mean real clothes and makeup for one of the happiest days of the year and the answer to lots and lots of prayers—my brother got hitched and my pal became my sister.

noas alvarez's grandma

October:  A Halloween throwdown with an appearance by the Joker. I showed extreme restraint by only purchasing two costumes for my infant.
fam2November: A trip to the pumpkin patch and our first trip to see Clayton’s family. Our girl never looked at her car seat the same way after spending 16 hours in it. The unsuspecting traveler at pump 2 never looked at me the same way after I breastfed in the car at the gas station.
fam steps

December: Baby girl’s first Christmas! And the one and only Christmas where we spent less than $20 on presents for her.
Whew. This year we are going to keep the party rolling by going to bed at 9, banning any more babies and keeping Red Box in business. Happy [10 days into] 2013! 

Christmas for Three

Clayton and I rolled over to look at each other on December 26, blinked for a few seconds, and then groaned at how utterly exhausted we were.

“I feel like I got hit by a truck,” I whined.
“I feel like I did the hardest workout of my life,” he muttered.

Christmas was quite the tiring affair with a mini-me in tow. But it was also more meaningful and special than it has ever been.

The season was celebrated with get-togethers and festive events that lasted about three weeks. The kick off was Clayton singing with our church at an outdoor shopping center on December 4th. It was a little hard to embrace the Christmas-ness of that performance in the balmy 79 degree evening.

On December 9 we threw a surprise retirement party for my mom. Girlfriend was completely caught off guard.


Since she was unaware of the party, my mom planned one of her own on the 15th, which made two for us that night. We also made a last minute trip to visit the big guy that afternoon. Addison was less than impressed.

santa suit collage with sant

We were part of a group organizing a toy drive for a pediatric nursing home through our church. December 18th we had our group over to our house to wrap and arrange the gifts.

lifegroup gifts

We had loosely Christmas-motivated dinners with friends the 19th and 22nd. December 23 we spent the afternoon and early evening with my dad’s sisters and cousins from that side of the family for an early Noche Buena celebration. Yes, sometimes I am Spanish. Rarely, but sometimes. (Sidenote: One of Addie’s Christmas presents counts to three in Spanish and it makes me way too happy thinking I might not raise a complete Gringo.)


Dec 23 Collage









I swear she has a neck in real life.

On Christmas Eve we enjoyed a casual chili dinner with my parents. That night Clayton and I jumped on the Christmas Eve pj bandwagon and started a new tradition by giving each other a new pair.

And, as always, we had a full day of festivities on Christmas Day where everyone got completely, outrageously spoiled. Clayton, Addison, Maya and I began at home opening our presents to each other. I got Addie exactly one present: a book. I hope she doesn’t already resent me.

If I try to wait until I have time to recount each of my favorite moments in detail, this post would never get published. Instead, maybe 3 billion pictures will capture some of the memories. In a nutshell: Addison was unbelievably happy and content through all of our running around and, though we thought she wouldn’t understand the “present phenomenon,” we were sorely mistaken. It took her about 8 seconds to figure out behind that colorful paper (which was as equally entertaining as the present), there was a bright, shiny new toy to play with.

DSCN1866  He’s a serious gift shaker. Babe, if it walks like a shoe box and talks like a shoe box…








And the best part of all had to be her growling in approval at all her new swag, captured here at the very beginning. Then she took to flirting with her Daddy.

Lots of themed outfits for the peanut. In any pictures where she is not wearing something festive, it’s a safe assumption that particular outfit had already been sufficiently pooped on to warrant a costume change.

As magical as Christmas was before, it was all magnified seeing things through a baby-sized view. So incredibly fun and exciting. But also more exhausting than it’s ever felt. Although Addison can’t tell me she agrees, her 14-hour sleep-eat-sleep-eat cycle on the 26th did that for her.

Now who wants to come sanitize that big ol’ mountain of new toys so the kid can actually use them?