kiss my grits

Last time you heard from me, I had caught a vicious upper respiratory virus. After 8 days went by with little to no improvement and I was coughing so hard my lungs were on fire, I went to the doctor. I felt a little like a hypochondriac for going to the doctor for a cough, but when she came in the exam room, she said she could hear me on the other side of the building. The virus had turned into a nasty case of bronchitis that was a hop, skip, and a jump away from pneumonia. Three prescriptions and two weeks of illness later, and I'm still not back to normal.

Right in the throes of all this chaos, my in-laws came to visit.

It's a running joke at this point that I get sick every single time my mother-in-law comes. Every single time. Like clockwork. This time was worse than most other times, but not as bad as the time I got food poisoning last year and she still sent me to run an errand for her.

This time I adopted a new attitude. "To hell with it!" was my motto. The house was not immaculate. I decided on lots of take out instead of cooking. I barely had the energy to wash the sheets for the guest bed. James had already spent weeks traveling and then working all day, coming home to mow the lawn, take care of Gracie, and cook dinner while I coughed and slept. We were both at max capacity. If they're going to come during one of the most stressful months EVER and right when I'm so sick I couldn't do the dishes without needing to nap after, then they can handle a messy house.

If the picture I'm painting sounds a bit bleak, what would you say if I told you I've slept a combined total of 6 hours since Sunday? It's Wednesday afternoon. One of my medicines causes insomnia. My MIL's visits always cause insomnia from the stress. The two together are toxic--I laid awake in bed all night and watched the sun rise. When you get to this level of exhaustion, you break down sobbing in public. Don't ask me how I know.

A little of my energy returned, and we took my MIL and her mom out to eat a few times. I took them to a coffee shop I knew they would love that sells antiques as well as coffee. It's like taking a kid to a park; I slid into a chair with my cold brew and zoned out while they perused the offerings and entertained themselves. Another mom was sitting near me. I struck up a conversation with her, which is very unlike me, but something about her just gave me the urge. She had just moved to my area. We only talked for a couple minutes, but there was definite friendship chemistry and I was getting jittery with excitement. I was choosing my words carefully, stoking the flames of potential friendship. Just when I thought things were really going well, my MIL walked up and inserted herself in the conversation.

"You have FIVE kids? Are you crazy??" she shrieked, sounding like Paula Dean waving a stick of a butter. It was like watching a reenactment of every blog post written by an exasperated mom of a large family annoyed with rude strangers.

"You must have so much fun!" I said, apologizing for my MIL with my eyes.

"What does your husband do for work? What do you do? How do you afford all those children? Why would you ever want that many?" The questions continued rapid fire as I sank down into my chair, trying to will the ground to swallow me whole. The other mom handled it like a pro, probably used to people giving their unwarranted opinions. A man walked up and picked up the baby she was holding.

"Well, there's daddy!" my MIL shrieked. He looked mortified. He was apparently her pastor and had come to meet with her about something church-related.

I gave the mom a wide-eyed stare of horror and humiliation and regret, trying to wordlessly say how sorry I was. "That's my mother-in-law. She's visiting." I said through clenched teeth. She stifled a laugh and seemed to catch my drift.

We parted to go our separate ways. My MIL handed me a piece of paper and told me to write down my name and phone number to give to the other mom. "NO WAY," I said. We hadn't talked long enough for that kind of exchange of information, and I was far too humiliated to approach her again after the scene I had been part of against my will. My MIL continued, relaying information I had apparently blacked out due to mortification: "She does some cleaning part time so she can stay home with her kids. If you give her your number she can call you and come clean for you. You need the help."

In the words of my mother-in-law, yelling at the TV when a thunderstorm interfered with the signal of the digital antenna she was forcing me to hold at strange angles so she could catch the American Idol finale, "You can kiss my grits."


for better or for worse

The past few weeks have been stupid. Just STUPID. James has been on four business trips in four weeks. He was only supposed to go on one. His car broke down. Gracie got croup while he was in Atlanta, I was up for about 2 nights straight with her, he got called to go somewhere else while he was about to catch his flight home, then I caught some demonic upper respiratory virus that's something between a cold and the flu that has kept me bedridden and is making me want to chainsaw my congested nose off, and then he was told he has to leave on his 5th trip in 4 weeks. Surprise! He's leaving on our anniversary.

I absolutely DID NOT cry in the grocery store when he called and told me, and then did not run into my ex-boyfriend's mom while still wiping tears away and browsing the pistachio selections.


But yes.

Let me put it this way, my stoic, optimistic husband who has NOT ONCE in our nearly 10 year relationship complained about a bad day told me that he can't remember having a worse week. 

I felt validated when he said that at least 5 times over a 24 hour period where it felt like everything was catching on fire. The good news is, after a VERY dramatic 24 hour period full of intense phone calls and cancelling/rebooking flights several times, he officially is not leaving me on our 7th anniversary for LAS VEGAS. I mean, is there a worse place for your husband to go on your anniversary when you're home sick with your formerly-sick-but-still-recovering child? I SUBMIT THERE IS NOT. Not that I would be in the slightest bit worried, I just found it funny. Also terrible. I think the chaos has taken a year off my life.

And then the city decided Mother's Day weekend, when families are home together, would be a great time to work on the water main and SHUT ALL THE WATER OFF! 


Maybe it's just something about May. May is not a good month for us.

Just kidding. We got married and that's what counts, and we always have a story to tell at dinner parties. 

I'm feeling nostalgic, so here are some pictures of us from when we first started dating until now. We were such babies! We were living in North Carolina! That feels like 16 lifetimes ago. So much has changed, but the fluctuation of my weight has been the one constant of our lives. 

Some notes about us, if you don't know: I met him while on a first date with someone else. That relationship imploded shortly thereafter, and James and I started to get to know each other. Things really started to sizzle when I was on spring break in Reno, caught the flu, and was holed up in my aunt and uncle's house FB messaging him all day while fighting a high fever. I was so hurt by the way the other guy dumped me via text, that I told my mom I refused to date another guy unless he gave me cheese. I was joking but also serious, because I really do love cheese that much, and I really was that fed up with boys. I never told that to another person, and a few months later, James invited me to his house and said "Hey, want some cheese?" and tossed me string cheese. Done deal. We started officially dating on my 20th birthday. We were in a band together for a few years. I had always thought it was cool that my dad proposed to my mom on a beach--spending my teenage years in Ohio, I assumed that was out of the question for me. Once again, he didn't know that. He proposed to me on Wrightsville beach in North Carolina. We got married one year later, to the day, 6 days after I graduated from college. 

 Atlantic Beach, NC 2009

visiting Ohio on my fall break 2010

engagement pictures 2010


Honeymoon! Jamaica 2011

California 2012

The OBX-2014

THE SWELLING-2015, 2 weeks exactly from giving birth



I'm so thankful for my marriage. It is the best thing in my life. I look at our wedding photos now and laugh about the chaos the photos don't tell, but mostly I'm just grateful. They represent a wild time in our lives, and especially after losing Colleen, having those photos and memories of her there with me is so wonderful. Our lives have changed dramatically over the past 7 years: we moved to Ohio, had a baby, bought a house, switched jobs, quit jobs, found a church family we love and adore, and I finally got James to agree that a mustache is not for him.


currently, vol. 39

reading: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. I'm only a few chapters in, but it's really interesting.

watching: I'm really into American Idol this season. I stopped watching it in college, but I'm loving the changes they made and how it's being done now.

smelling: a tulip candle I impulse bought at Target after getting pulled over last week. Zero regrets--it smells heavenly.

baking: I made chocolate chip cookies to take to a picnic with some friends from church. We had a taco bar, so I bought several kinds of salsa to take. I took a big bite of the mango salsa and realized it had gone bad. You guys, I gave myself food poisoning. That's pretty much how my luck has gone this week. Thankfully, I think I'm the only one who ate it. Phew.

laughing at: this video. I've watched it three times and can't stop laughing. Feel free to hate me, but I think gender reveal parties are dumb. "No, we want to reveal something to you: you're annoying." Dead.

exhausted by: the past week. A year's worth of social engagements fell in one week. James' car broke down. He went on his third business trip in three weeks. While he was gone, Gracie woke up with croup. While holding my feverish, barking child, James called from the airport and said that instead of coming home to stay, he could only come home for a few hours because he was being sent on an emergency trip. I spent that entire night up with Gracie who was extremely sick, and I didn't fall asleep until the sun was up, and I got less than an hour of sleep total. We were out of some necessities, my friends were busy with their own families and couldn't help, and I have never felt the loss of a support system as acutely as I did the past few days. It was seriously harder than the newborn days.

embarrassed about: I was waving to my neighbor across the street as I was pulling into the driveway, and I drove straight into an empty trash can. At least it wasn't the side of the garage. I will never live that down.

obsessed with: THE VOLCANO. I've had the weirdest volcano obsession since early childhood, and I've been constantly googling the Kilauea eruption for days. I CANNOT get over that flowing lava. Cannot deal. I need to see it in real life but it's also my worst nightmare. I expect to have nightmares about it any night now, IF I CAN SLEEP that is.


gracie says, vol. 3

vol. 1
vol. 2

Gracie was still in her room and had just woken up from a nap:
In a high voice: "Do you hear the wind? Do you hear that?"
In a deep voice: "Yeahhhh, it's pretty windy out there."

Gracie sticks her hand down my shirt and then pretends to eat something:
Me: What are you doing?
G: "I'm eating donuts!"
Me: "Where did you get donuts?"
G: "In your shirt! There's a lot of yummy food in there!"

Me: "Put your toys away."
G: "I can't. I have to be a beautiful queen."

"Mommy, it's rain snowing. I need to talk to Minnie about it."

"Mommy, be a monster and say 'MOO!'"
[either monsters say moo or cows are monsters. Regardless, I prefer MOMster. #momjokes]

Driving past a storage facility, Gracie points at the storage units:
“Mama, what are those?”
“They’re storage units.”
“No, they are NOT storage units! That’s Tennessee.”

“Mommy, I’m going to eat your fingers. They’re my peanut butter sandwiches.”

Gracie opened a coloring book and said she was going to read me a story:
"In the beginning, there was a litter box. The end."

After I painted her toenails a light, sparkly pink:
"Wow! It looks just like daddy's toes!"
[I can assure you, they do not.]


and now for the mundane

James just asked me the meaning of the word gerrymandering. I knew the word but I couldn't remember what it meant or what context I'd heard it in. We both guessed a definition before I looked it up. I said I think it means loitering or something like that. James said he's pretty sure it means mansplaining.

Guess what. We were both very, very wrong.

Sometimes I wonder why we're allowed to raise a child. Also, who gave me my english degree?

This wasn't our only mishap today. It finally hit the mid-80s, and while a 55 year old ceiling fan and various open windows and doors (only half of our 55 year old windows will actually open) have kept the house fairly cool lately (it helps that it only JUST stopped snowing), I could no longer handle the warmth. I'm thankful to not be in winter clothes anymore, but after the first bead of sweat in the spring I call it quits until fall. I decided to test our AC. It's 22 years old, so I did not have high hopes. I will never forget the look of astonishment on the inspector's face when he found it to be in working condition. I found it to no longer be in working condition. I will spare you the drama that ensued, but we discovered the fuse had been switched off. My house is now a chill 68 degrees, and I'm praying that the air conditioner holds out through the humid summer heat the same way I prayed our ancient furnace through the subzero winter.

But I'm not here to talk about today's shenanigans. I'm not entirely sure what I'm hear to talk about. I guess I'm here to rewrite the post that was dominated by The Most Ridiculous Day Ever. Every single thing was resolved: I called Chick Fil A and they found the lost toy, which was great news because there was A LOT of crying over it. I finally dug my debit card out from the bowels of the car, as you know I got a warning instead of a speeding ticket, and other than the meltdowns, Gracie checked out totally healthy at the doctor. I am very grateful and relieved, but that doesn't mean I didn't wake up the next morning with stress acne, because I totally did.

My mom was here last week. We finally have a functioning guest room. It still needs a desk and some things on the walls, but it is actually a room I'm not ashamed to have guests in, which is good since James' family is coming to visit in a few weeks.

I'm now taking reservations for the rest of the year, so book your vacations! We have air conditioning! (For now!) Whether you like it or not, you will be woken up by a toddler tornado anytime between 6:30 and 7:15, but I promise you hot coffee and to remember to get the bath toys out of the tub before you shower. 

My mom came to help me out while James was in Atlanta for work. Thank goodness, because the threenager drama nearly brought the house down. I needed that moral support, especially when Colleen's birthday last week rocked me more than I expected it would. We had only one day with good weather, and we visited coffee shops and yarn stores. It was wonderful, though I'm not sure I can go back after I was chased out the door of store by a yelling employee because unbeknownst to me, Gracie had waltzed out clutching a bright orange embroidery hoop. I was mortified, but that's just the theme of my life lately. And always.

I convinced my mom to stay an extra day. She was a saint and offered to grocery shop with me, and since James had gotten home that morning, she offered to watch Gracie so we could go on an early anniversary date. She had no idea I'd been having an internal pity party thinking we wouldn't have a child-free anniversary date. It was short but so wonderful. I sat at the table in the restaurant, shocked that just a few short years ago we could go out like that anytime we wanted! We were always alone! I wouldn't trade motherhood for anything, but I cannot even begin to remember what that sort of freedom is like. It was another lifetime ago. 

With the return of nicer weather, I've been resuming my evening walks. I still miss the neighborhood I used to walk in. There were sidewalks! I live on a beautiful country road, so no complaints there, but there's hardly a shoulder to walk on. Every few minutes I have to look behind me and jump in a ditch to avoid oncoming traffic. Most cars generously swerve to give me extra room, but some cars barrel down the road literal INCHES from me. More than once I've braced myself to get hit, thinking that jamming to Shape of You by Ed Sheeran is probably not the best way to go, and maybe I should rethink my music choices. I'm not sure if I want those lyrics to be the last thing I hear. I should probably turn my 90s playlist on and listen to NSYNC or something similar. Much better. Much less embarrassing for the EMTs who arrive to save my life.

These are the things I think about while walking past small family farms and telling myself I should be running instead of walking.

On the bright side, I found SHEEP!!! SHEEEEEP. I actually, literally, screamed and ran across the street to introduce myself to them. They walked right up and started talking to me. We're friends now. It's nice to finally have some decent neighbors.

Just kidding. Every one of our neighbors is over 50. EVERY ONE. To be honest, it could be over 60. We basically live in a retirement community and it is GLORIOUS. No loud music, no bright lights, just silence. All the time. My mom couldn't get over how quiet it is. James looked at me the other day and said "You know what I don't smell right now? Pot." Praise God. We do get the occasional strong whiff of manure that about knocks me over when the windows are over, but at least it doesn't give me a migraine like the pot did.

Wait---there is the guy diagonally behind us who is a little too fond of his chainsaw. While I'm not one to care about sports, I have ONLY ever see him wear a Michigan shirt, and that's risky business in the heart of Ohio. They have Michigan adirondack chairs in their yard and a Michigan flag, and I always wonder if his immediate neighbors hate him. Come to think of it, the chainsaw may be less about the fallen tree in his yard and more about self-defense.

You know that? That seems like a much better definition of the word gerrymandering instead of election rigging or whatever it allegedly means. Allow me to use it in a sentence:

"Looks like Gerry's over there meandering around the yard with his chainsaw again."

Much better. I'm available for any and all dictionary rewrites. It gives me something else to think about during my long country walks.