Ready, set, go!

By: Aimee Tafreshi

img_4345What would you take with you if your house faced destruction and you had limited time and space? Clearly your children—well, most of us would. Dogs, definitely. We faced this conundrum last week. The week started normally enough with viola lessons, soccer practice and STEM night at my daughter’s school. In the background, a hurricane churned in the Atlantic and barreled its way through the Caribbean. The weekend before, I advised my husband to fill up with gas, as you never know. He thought I was paranoid, I’m sure.

On Tuesday, he was supposed to fly out to Virginia for a work trip. By this point, the hurricane “spaghetti” models showed Hurricane Matthew working its way up the East Coast, in some form or fashion. One lone bright pink line diverged from the others and showed a possible path right along the coastline, right near our coastline. It’s just one model, he reasoned with me. Come Tuesday morning, his trip was almost called off, but co-workers had already boarded flights. The outing was now back on. I imagined evacuating the house, kids and dogs by myself. I knew his particular airline would mercilessly cancel all flights mid-week. I am a hurricane virgin. I have never lived through a hurricane nor evacuated because of one. I can do this, I told myself with false confidence.

Lo and behold, divine intervention, fate, common sense, what have you, stepped in and canceled his work trip minutes before he was to board the plane. I was jubilant when he told me the news. This hurricane was coming; I could feel it. Wednesday arrived, and the rain and wind started picking up. We both worked all day, work obligations and deadlines, as I daydreamed about boarding up the house. We didn’t have storm shutters; hurricanes weren’t supposed to come this way. Finally, the mandatory evacuation order came. It was go time.

My husband got home from work, and it was time to pack and prep the house. Our preparations did not include boarding up the house or putting up storm shutters. That ship had sailed. There simply wasn’t time. Instead, I thought about what would probably happen. The front room windows would likely shatter, and water and debris would soak everything in its sight. Unfortunately, the front room is a dining room turned home office, which means it is a staging area for kids’ artwork waiting to be filed, toothy school portraits waiting to be shared and other sentimental papers and musty greeting cards.

I didn’t really care about our beat up furniture—we have two sons—or things like the TV. All of that stuff can be replaced. What I did care about were drawings forged by small hands, endless sheets of imperfectly written preschool letters and scattered photographs.

I remembered that during a devastating fire at my parents’ house, my mother had remarked that the items she had stored in plastic bins had not been touched by the ash and soot that had ruined much of the other stuff. Ah ha! I smartly packed all of the sentimental crafts and papers in a large plastic bin and stored it upstairs, in case of storm surge. Other random things I moved included the kids’ art portfolios from their past school years, three painted glass bottles they had created on a Saturday at the downtown art co-op, and a glass Longhorn Bevo, an homage to my beloved Texas team.

I also pushed my grandmother’s antique chair away from the window, as I knew she would not be pleased if I let her heirloom get ruined by broken glass or an errant tree limb.

The things I couldn’t stand to lose the most were the things that could never be replaced. I later cursed myself for not taking down my daughter’s bulletin boards, covered with her best kindergarten paintings, and mentally pictured the papers disintegrating as the rain blasted through blown out windows.

Now it was time to pack. As the evening wore on, I thought less about packing for a short-term trip and more about packing for months. I initially packed one extra set of disposable contact lenses and then realized I should take the entire pack. My husband reminded me to take any valuable jewelry. I don’t have a ton of fancy baubles, other than a few things I wear everyday, but I decided on an antique watch my dad had gifted me, because it makes me think of him. I also grabbed a roadrunner pin that had belonged to my grandmother—she obsessively collected roadrunners—and a vintage Texas Longhorns brooch my mother had given me.

I told my other half to grab my daughter’s baby book; her younger siblings’ books weren’t quite finished, so what was the point with theirs? We also took the wedding album and some important papers to show proof of our existence.

The next morning we arose at 4:00 a.m., and as usual, I wanted to hit the “snooze” button repeatedly and stay in bed. But then my instincts kicked in, as a monster storm was heading our way, and I had better wake the heck up. We were out the door by 5:15 a.m., three kids, two large dogs, and two tired parents crammed into an SUV. My poor son woke up in the middle of the night, afraid we had evacuated without him. He raced downstairs at 5:00 in the morning, exclaiming that he was “just in time” to leave. Boy was he right.

I was expecting to sit on the interstate for 12 hours and pee in plastic bottles, after seeing many nightmare traffic jams on the news over the years, but the one thing you can count on with an island is that people don’t like to wake up early. We made it to Tallahassee in record time. Our hotel room wasn’t ready until more than six hours later, so we bided our time walking a verdant nature trail, stuffing ourselves at a local diner and playing at an expansive park with fellow “evacuees.”

The next day, the storm track looked ominous. The models showed it shifting west with the eye wall going directly over our small historic town as a Category 4 or worse. At that point, I wanted to cry, not just for us but also for the entire town. I was worried for those who decided to stay and ride out the storm, worried for everyone’s homes and worried that our quaint historical island would be wiped off the map. I fell asleep not knowing what would face us on The Weather Channel the next day.

Promising news beamed in with the sun on Friday. The storm had shifted east, and our town would be spared the eye wall. I’m no meteorologist, but this meant less wind speed and less chance of total devastation. That evening, while the hurricane whipped through Northeast Florida, we attended a friend’s hurricane party, held at her in-laws’ sprawling property. Her mother-in-law had gone all out with homemade salads, a variety of chips and dip, pizza and drinks galore.

As we chatted with new friends, improbably brought together by an unlikely storm, our children played exuberantly on an oversized, outdoor hammock, erupting in laughter each time they tumbled off together onto the soft ground. The kids danced around each other, blowing bubbles and playing hide and seek among the protective trees. The end of the evening was capped off by glow in the dark bands the little ones wore on their necks and limbs as they twirled in the dark. I didn’t know what was happening to our house, but I knew I was happy, and that we had everything we needed. Most of all, I felt grateful and content.

We traveled home Saturday and were amazed that our house was largely unscathed by the storm. Others around us weren’t so lucky, and those in places like Haiti face yet another devastating recovery. I’m not sure why our small town was spared, but through this experience, I realized that we have very little control over nature or even our own lives, at times. I learned that if I had to walk away from my house and give it all up, I think that I could. And also, I plan on investing in some good storm shutters for next hurricane season.

Aimee Tafreshi is a freelance writer and attorney who also contributes to Nameberry.com and her own blog once in a blue moon, aimeetafreshi.com. She is also a mother and professional chauffeur to three spirited, young children.

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Summertime, and the Livin’ is (Sort Of) Easy

It is safe to say that I have been on a blog writing hiatus for the past month or so. I felt sure that once school ended for the year I would have nothing but time on my hands. Time to write. Time to clean and cook. Time to relax. I suppose I underestimated the amount of undivided attention an almost one year old requires. Now don’t get me wrong… I love taking care of my little guy and feel extremely blessed to have the opportunity to stay at home with him from now on, but holy Hell is it hard! Baby Jack- soon to be Toddler Jack (not to be confused with Simple Jack)– is in to absolutely everything. He is an ER trip waiting to happen (happened, but that’s a whole other story).

And the kid is not a napper. Who are these people whose children nap for 2-3 hours at a time? What is their secret? I am lucky to squeeze a 45 minute nap out of my child each day, and I have so many things to accomplish during those 45 minutes that I accomplish absolutely nothing. It’s all kinds of awesome. I am really good at starting tasks and really, really bad at finishing them.

In addition to neglecting every major bullet point on my to-do list this summer, I have also been busy traveling. In June the hubs and I took our first baby-free vacay to the land of hipsters and heat… Palm Springs. My husband was a groomsman in the destination wedding we attended. I was happy to hold the title of wedding guest extraordinaire (self-appointed title, but title nonetheless). I had no obligations other than to show up to the rehearsal dinner and wedding. I took it upon myself to take full advantage of the pool and more importantly poolside bar. It was glorious… And then I was SO ready to be home with my sweet little boy.

Why we decided to fly out of LAX the morning after a wedding I will never know, but it’s a good thing that there was a cute little muffin baby waiting on the other side, because I can say with some degree of confidence that I wouldn’t have survived that brutal trip home otherwise.

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The Texans of the group paying respect to one of our favorite locals in a little film shot in town called Dazed and Confused. If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it tonight. 

About a week after Palm Springs, Jack and I trekked it down to the Texas Riviera (gulf coast) with my parents. It’s almost like the Mexican Riviera, except pretty much the complete opposite. Despite the brown water and stinky sea-weed covered beaches, there is something rather charming about our little coastal towns. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia aspect that draws us back year after year.

We are beach people, so I was thrilled when we took Jack down to the beach the very first morning and he absolutely loved it. He squealed in delight! He giggled with glee! We could not keep him out of the water! And then he got nailed in the face with a wave… So long beach and hello pool.

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Jack loved spending time in the pool with his papa.

 We also got a day of rain while at the beach. Luckily, the Texas State Aquarium wasn’t too far away.

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Jack pointing at all of the “doggies” (aka fish). 

Not long after our trip to the coast, it was time for the annual 4th of July neighborhood parade. We live in an older neighborhood in town. In fact, my mom grew up on the very street that I now live on, and she has proudly walked in the parade for the past 50+ years, and my sister and I spent every 4th of July as children dressing up for the parade. Needless to say, it’s a pretty big deal in my family.

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With two summer trips and a holiday down, it is time to plan Baby Jack’s first birthday party. I can’t believe my sweet boy will be one in a little over a week… Check out the adorable invitation I created on Shutterfly:

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I’ve been all over Pinterest searching for decoration, cake, and food ideas for the big day. Stay tuned for my next blog post documenting the day I attempted to make a “practice” cake for his birthday. That day was yesterday, and it’s safe to say that I am still recovering from the whole debacle. It was quite the sh*t show.

Dumpster Diving

As noted in my previous post, I am more than a little spacey these days, but the events that transpired this afternoon redefine “spacey” entirely.

I am a person who thrives on routine. I haven’t always been this way; I was beyond impulsive up until a few years ago. I’d even venture to say reckless. When I reflect back on my twenties, it is no exaggeration when I recognize that I am lucky to be alive. Okay, so that may be a tad dramatic, but still.

You see, I am a Virgo. Growing up I would scoff at the descriptions I read of the Virgo personality. Clean freak? Um, no. Punctual? Maybe on a good day. Quiet? Not this girl.

But something changed in my late twenties. All of the sudden, I craved organization and order. I grew cautious and practical. I suddenly loathed the spotlight.

I saw this magnet a few months ago and had to laugh.

Bad-Virgo

I personally do not find myself bitchy (other than occasionally) or annoying (though others may disagree?), and I am still not very sure of what shrewd means despite Googling it, but the rest fits me to a T.

Thankfully I found the counterpart to the above magnet online tonight.

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It made me feel *slightly* better about myself, at least.

The point of this rather long astrological analysis is that I have a daily routine, and today… Well, things went a bit awry.

I leave work every day around 3:30. Sounds great, right? I also wake up at five in the morning and am required to teach children things as early as 7:30 a.m. That my friends is the opposite of great.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are my days to ship LWO orders. When I get home from work, I prepare the boxes and head directly to the post office before picking up Jack from his in-home daycare. And because the Virgo in me despises clutter and our recycling bin is perpetually full, I often bring the boxes our inventory arrives in along with me to dump in a few select dumpsters along the way.

And yes, I am aware that this behavior is frowned upon (illegal?). I am banking on my “sexy as hell” factor (the magnet says it so it must be true) to serve as my get out of jail free card.

After hitting one of my favorite dumpsters, I opened the sun roof and cruised over to the neighborhood post office. It was a gorgeous day in the A-Tex today, and I was feeling good. When I popped the trunk to unload the goods however, my stomach dropped and panic set in.

Holy crap. I threw one of our shipments into the dumpster. Six boxes of formula and a shipping label thirty minutes shy of its expiration right down the drain. Ughhh.

Thankfully, I am an industrious Virgo who does not give up without a fight- Unless of course we are talking about diets. Then all bets are off.

Without hesitation, I returned to the scene of the crime. I scaled the the side of the dumpster.

And

I

dove

right

in.

It was only slightly awkward when a resident at the apartment complex visited the dumpster to toss her jumbo trash bags in.

After a solid minute of digging, I had a rather unfortunate realization…

All of our shipments were in fact in my car trunk, right where they belonged. “Baby-brain” had reared its ugly head once more. And because I am an efficient Virgo, I managed to climb my way out of the trash, dust my self off, and feign dignity long enough to ship the orders by closing time.

Now that is what I call dedication. Thank God I am a Virgo, because quite frankly, I don’t think a Pisces could’ve handle it…

Only kidding.

Photo Op

This weekend, we had Jack’s six (almost seven) month pictures. Originally my husband and I planned on making an appearance in some of the photos, but a day or so before the session, we changed our minds. It’s not that we don’t want a family picture documenting Jack’s six month of life. We absolutely do. We just don’t want a family picture documenting our current state of being… Let’s just say maternity leave kicked our asses financially, and we are both guilty of distracting ourselves with some good ole’ comfort food. It’s cheap and it makes us happy. Who can say no to that? Clearly, not us.

In addition to the extra pounds we are lugging around, we haven’t had a whole lot of extra cash to spend on clothes- At least not for ourselves. Baby J’s wardrobe, however, is quite impressive. In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would derive more pleasure out of buying clothes for my son than for myself. It probably has something to do with the fact that I don’t have to try anything on, allowing me to pay no mind to the fact that I can no longer shop in the junior section to save a few bucks.

Ahh, parenthood. We’re poor and fat, but we sure are happy.

I emailed the photographer prior to our session to let her know that the shoot would solely involve Baby J. She of course had no problem with that, but did mention that she would need either my husband or myself to play “airplane” with Jack so that she could get some shots of him in the air.

Naturally, I told my husband that she needed him to play airplane for a few shots, excusing myself from the possibility of appearing in a picture. It was looking like a yoga pants + ponytail kind of a day.

And then my husband came bouncing down the stairs in a collared shirt and a pressed pair of chinos, his hair perfectly combed and his face freshly shaved.

WTH?!? We had a deal! I couldn’t roll up to the park looking like some kind of scrub with a husband and baby who who were dressed to the nines.

“You’re wearing that?” I scoffed, hoping my condescending tone would cause him to rethink his look.

Of course my passive aggressive plan failed miserably, and I ended up feeling like a total b**ch for being so selfish. In record time, I pulled myself together, ditching the yoga pants in favor of skinny (maternity) jeans and boots. Yes, I am still wearing maternity jeans. They are comfy, and I don’t particularly have a desire to shell out $150 (minimum) on designer jeans that will hopefully swallow me whole in a few months… I’ve really got to lay off of the comfort food.

At the end of the day, we ended up taking several family shots, and I couldn’t be happier with our decision to do so. Jack will only be six-months old for so long, and I know that I will treasure these precious fleeting moments forever.

Plus the photographer uses Photoshop, so here’s hoping that she finds a way to discreetly “trim the fat” while doing whatever it is one does while using Photoshop.

I won’t tell if you don’t tell.

Happy Sunday!

-LWO

Plan B

On January 31st, 2012, I stood on a beautiful white sand beach and exchanged wedding vows with my better half.

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The following day, we hopped on a ferry and embarked upon the ultimate honeymoon vacation.

St. John.

Tortola.

Jost Van Dyke.

Virgin Gorda.

For ten glorious days, we traipsed around the Caribbean without a care in the world.

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We ate. We drank. We celebrated.

We dreamed. We laughed. We loved.

It was hands down the best vacation of my life. When we returned home from our honeymoon, I was chomping at the bit to plan our next trip. We would need to travel during the off-season to afford where we wanted to stay, as we would be fitting the bill this time around. I researched islands until I was blue in the face and finally settled on Nevis, a tiny island near the top of the Lesser Antilles archipelago. We would travel in November and call it our Almost Anniversary Trip.

Leading up to the trip, I spent countless hours researching the best bars, beaches, and restaurants on the island. I bought cute swim suits and flirty dresses. Our couples massage was in the books.

And then October rolled around, and everything changed.

You see, B and I weren’t planning to have a baby for several years. We wanted to travel and hold onto our freedom for as long as the biological clock would allow. Evidently, the universe had other plans for us.

It’s funny how abruptly life changes when you find out that you are expecting. My husband and I began saving money instead of living paycheck to paycheck. We made responsible decisions instead of acting on every fleeting whim. We cancelled our Almost Anniversary Trip and earmarked the funds for Baby J’s birthing bills.

B and I haven’t made it back to the Caribbean just yet, but we have shared two of the most glorious years together in the comfort of our very own home. And thanks to Baby Jack, we laugh harder, dream bigger, and love stronger than we ever imagined possible… There is no denying the allure of an island vacation, but in all honesty, the Caribbean has nothing on my sweet little family.

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