Sunday, May 14, 2017

To Charlotte's Mother...

After Adrienne and I had been dating for a while, and gotten to the point where marriage, kids, and future plans became approachable topics of conversation, we pretty much universally agreed: We both wanted three kids.  Two boys and a girl, or three girls, or one boy and two girls...It didn't really matter.  We just both knew we ultimately wanted to have a big family.

As time went on, and we naturally came back to the conversation, things slowly changed.  Three kids might be too many.  In fact...One kid might be too many.  We liked being able to go out any time we wanted.  We liked being able to book a hotel on Thursday, and leave on Friday for a weekend getaway.  We enjoyed the freedom, and weren't sure we wanted to restrain ourselves by the immense responsibility a child brings.  We weren't necessarily against having kids, but we certainly didn't have to be parents.

I say that because our conclusions tended to change from time to time.  We could be out for dinner, sitting next to a screaming infant, throwing food and shoving drink glasses and silverware off in the floor, while the father wrestled with another kid who wouldn't stop staring over the side of the booth and making funny faces at Adrienne, and the mother would be curled up in the fetal position in the corner of the booth mouthing "help me" to anyone who happened to be paying attention.  In the car on the way home, one of us would invariably say something like, "You know...I just don't think I want any kids," and the other would emphatically agree.

Then we might see pictures of someone's baby shower on Facebook, and our opinions would soften a bit.  "You know...I wouldn't mind having a kid, someday.  But definitely not anytime soon, and definitely only one."  The other would reply with, "I was just about to say the same thing...But, yeah, just one."

We'd see a birth announcement where someone surprisingly gave birth to triplets, and we'd look at each other and say, "Nope...A whole lot of nope."  Then we'd see family pictures of the triplets with Mom and Dad and say, "Well...I don't guess it would be all that bad."

And so it went for a few years.  No matter what "decision" we made at any given time, it would change within a few weeks.  I think, in the backs of our minds, we always knew what direction we'd ultimately go.

And I am so grateful we did.

Adrienne was born to be a mother.  When she undertakes any challenge, she pretty much universally excels.  Things just come easy for her.  But there is nothing she does more brilliantly than being a mom.  Nothing else really comes close.

I'd like to spend the rest of this entry telling you all about the amazing things she does for Charlotte, and I could speak in generalities about how she keeps our family together with her thoughtfulness and care.  I could talk about how, no matter the level of exhaustion she feels after a long day, she plays with Charlotte from the moment she gets home to the moment she goes to bed.  I could talk about how she always makes sure Charlotte eats supper, gets her bath, and reads her books for a few minutes before taking even five seconds for herself.  I could tell you how she takes time to set out clothes for the next day, do laundry, prepare meals for Charlotte, and cleans her dishes twice a day.  I could tell you how she does all that while also cleaning the mess I made in the kitchen, picking up my clothes that I mindlessly leave in virtually every room in the house, and generally taking care of all the things I don't want to do.  And I'd be telling the truth.

But, when I think about Adrienne and the amazing mother she is, none of those things really comes to mind.

What makes Adrienne such a wonderful mother are the things that happen when no one else is around.  The "conversations" they have while she's changing Charlotte's clothes in the bedroom before we leave the house.  The constant string of giggles and belly-laughs that emanate from the bathroom as they make faces in the mirror after bath-time.  The unmistakable tune of "You Are My Sunshine" being hummed from a darkened living room, only broken by the rhythmic pop of the old recliner as it rocks.  The crash of dozens of plastic pieces of food being dumped in the kitchen floor, followed by, "Oh boy, Charlotte, what are you going to make for Momma?"

One of my favorite things in the entire world is just being with Adrienne and Charlotte.  Lying in the living room floor, stacking blocks, flipping through books, playing the same song on her rocking horse over and over and over and over and over again.  Doing little else than spending time as a family.

But, the truth is, some of my favorite experiences don't even involve me.  They're just a collection of little moments where I get to soak up memories in my own way.  I can sit in a back bedroom alone, or watch through the cracks in the blinds.  I can linger in the hallway just a few seconds longer than I need to, so that I don't ruin that one perfect second for Adrienne and Charlotte.  I just love listening to Adrienne be a mother, when she doesn't know I'm there.  Sometimes, the best seat in the house is one without a view.

There's no such thing as the perfect parent.  But, Adrienne comes as close as humanly possible.  You don't have to see that to know it.  Happy Mother's Day, Adrienne.  Charlotte and I love you so much, we can't stand our lives!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

If It's in the Cart, It Better Be on the List

I'm a planner.  I like to make plans.  I not only enjoy the feeling of knowing where I'm going and how I'm going to get there, but I even enjoy the process of making plans.  I like making lists and slowly marking things off as I go.  I like prioritizing tasks and mapping out my day.  I like having the illusion I'm in control of a given situation because I've allotted amounts of time for specific projects.  When I don't have that feeling, I can almost be overcome with anxiety.

I understand the impact this can have on people around me.  I can easily become agitated when plans inevitably go off the rails.  I can be downright insufferable at times, to be honest.  I can be bossy.  I can whine.  I can complain.  I can even recognize all those things as they're happening, and yet am powerless to stop it.  I need a plan to alleviate my anxiety, and yet I am equally anxious when things don't go as planned (which is always the case).  I'm basically a walking catch-22.

My friends constantly give me a hard time about this aspect of my personality.  For the last couple of years, Adrienne and I, along with our friends Leah Kate and Luke, have gone on vacation to 30-A in Florida.  I will spend a week developing our meals for the week; I determine which nights we are going out for dinner, and which nights we'll eat in.  I'll make the grocery list for our meals, go shopping after we've arrived, and get genuinely upset when, on Tuesday (pasta night), Leah Kate and Luke decide to instead (on a whim, of course) go to McGuire's in Destin, forcing Adrienne and I to go out for dinner an extra night.  I mean...How dare they?

It's funny, though...That anxiety I feel about plans going awry really only applies to little things.  Changing the weekly meal schedule because we'd rather eat a cardboard box than baked fish and roasted carrots.  Deciding to swing by Old Navy on a rainy Saturday despite the fact I was fairly certain Kohl's, Ollie's Bargain Barn, and Chick-Fil-A were the only stops to be made.  Grocery store purchases without first putting them on the list.  Arriving in Louisville with no less than 3 hours set aside for dinner and drinks before a Chris Stapleton concert.  Things that literally have no bearing whatsoever on life in general.

Real things?  Major things?  Jobs...Money...House...Cars...Kids?  Eh...It'll all work out, even when it doesn't seem like it.

When Adrienne and I first got engaged, we made a pact.  We were both actively seeking employment as teachers, and were applying all over the state.  Every county or city school system (even ones with a common centralized location within realistic driving distance) that had openings for which we were both qualified, we applied.  We decided that the first one to get a job would determine where we would both go.  We could have gambled and waited around hoping we'd both get jobs around here, but we couldn't really afford to be picky.  It was an open-ended plan, but at least it was a plan.

When I got hired at Montgomery County in May 2012, we decided we were moving to Mount Sterling.  Adrienne also got hired there a few weeks later, so it appeared to be the perfect situation.  We told ourselves we were diving in head first: We were going to go to football games on Friday nights.  We were going to go to car shows and flea markets on Saturday afternoons.  We were going to make new friends and have dinner parties at our small apartment.  We were going to find the best local restaurants and watering holes, and get on a first-name basis with the wait staff.  We were going to immerse ourselves in Mount Sterling culture.  We were going to make it work.

That lasted for about three weeks.  Adrienne was so homesick by the end of August, the only part of that pact we actually kept was the one about watering holes: We'd be at a high-top table at Don Senor by 4:30 on most Friday afternoons, enjoying "a margarita the size of my face" (Adrienne's words, not mine).

So, that plan went to hell in a hand basket almost immediately.  And despite the fact it had an enormous impact on virtually every aspect of our lives, its enormous failure didn't bother me.  It was never easy, and sometimes I had no idea how in the world we were going to make it work.  I just knew we would.

Kind of like right now.  When Adrienne and I bought this house, we figured we'd be here at least 7 or 8 years, maybe longer.  It was in a great neighborhood, it was affordable, and there was room for our family to grow...It met all the needs we were looking for.  We had no reason to even consider leaving any time in the near future.

And when we least expected it, when our plans for moving couldn't have been further from our minds (we actually discussed adding on and renovating less than two months ago) a new house fell into our lap and we figured we couldn't pass it up.

Adrienne and I, along with a group of her coworkers, were in Nashville a few weeks ago and one of them was discussing and showing pictures of a house they were building to sell.  Adrienne commented, totally in passing, "Wow, that's going to be a beautiful place.  Zach and I would love to have a house like that someday."  A simple, totally meaningless observation.  It was never thought of, nor mentioned again after that brief moment.

A couple of days later, he asked Adrienne if she was really interested in the house.  She said, sure, depending on a few things.  He provided details.  Our ears perked.  We looked at the house.  Loved it.  Loved the location.  Talked about how it fit everything we wanted.  We discussed putting our house on the market.  Our house was on the market for all of six hours before we had a written offer.  We accepted the offer.  We put our house under contract to sell, and put the new house under contract to buy.  And now we're picking paint colors and flooring.  We're moving.

It is incredible how much things can change in a just a few weeks.

We didn't plan on this.  I didn't have "sell our house and buy a new house" on my honey-do list clipped on the fridge.  Two months ago, Adrienne and I were discussing new bathrooms and kitchen cabinets; we just assumed they'd be here, and not at a new house.

It's scary.  It's overwhelming.  It's exciting.  It's fun.  It's terrifying.  It's stressful.  I wonder how the hell we're going to make it work, how we're going to get everything done.  But I know we will.  I'm not sure how...We're just sort of going with the flow.  But it will all be just fine.

That is, until we move in and Adrienne tells me she doesn't want baked chicken and mashed potatoes for dinner.  It'll be planned, after all.