Full Force Nesting – The Final Countdown

Barn Swallow

“We only have 13 more weeks!” Stacy yelled excitedly while searching Amazon for a side table for the baby’s room.

She and the barn swallow on the front porch have been acting in unison, carefully selecting their respective items of side tables and sticks, preparing themselves and their nests for the newborns soon to arrive.  I watch both of them from a distance and have been enjoying the transformation.  The excitement was there on my part, but quickly it was overcome by the panic that quickly rushed from my heart up to the back of my head brought on by the two words “thirteen weeks.”

“In thirteen weeks we will have a baby in our lives. . .  I have thirteen weeks to finish all of these house projects, thirteen weeks to make sure the house is spotless and the baby’s room is complete.  I have thirteen weeks to get over this poop phobia. I don’t think that is enough time!” I worriedly stated.

“Well, you better go find some poop!” Stacy responded back.

Stacy and I have grown a lot as a couple through this pregnancy.  We have also both grown as individuals and have started to become more comfortable with what the future holds for us.  You really start to notice how you subconsciously change your routine in order to be more prepared for a soon to arrive baby.  Stacy for one has been actively trying to work on things she does not want to pass down to the baby.  She was once a very bad worrier, she could find the most minute things, like a line of ants in the garage, and then transform this line of ants into an army of ants that are in fact presently plotting the destruction of our house which ends in a scenario where we wake up scorching in the sun resting on a bed laying only on the concrete slab of the house, the once standing walls of the house and other structural components toppled on the ground;  an army of ants laughing at us. Nowadays, she notes the line of ants, makes a statement about said line of ants, and then calmly asks if I can do something about it.  Now, if she finds a random one crawling on here that has most likely been brought in by Rosie, then she’ll have a mini freak out.  Needless to say, she’s not a bug person and more than likely will never be one.

She’s also becoming very sentimental, and more aware of her surroundings on an emotional level.  Two things that she’s done lately was to celebrate Father’s Day for me, even though the baby has yet to arrive, by giving me a copy of “Vader’s Little Princess” served with a side of pancakes, as well as giving me the day off to do anything that I wanted to do.  I went grocery shopping, worked on the ’76, and took three naps.  It was something I didn’t deserve, and it was absolutely amazing.  She even went and waited in line one morning in order to secure VIP seating for a David Sedaris in-store that was taking place at the Barnes & Noble down by our house.  I was able to sit and talk with my favorite author, ask him questions about writing personal stories about his family, and explain to him how the food at the Cat Fish Cabin in Athens, Alabama was way better ten years ago.  “Honey, you’ve got breasts like a fish!” he joked with me as we tried to figure out if fish really do have breasts or if they are just made up of two “half’s.”  I really couldn’t explain exactly how thankful I was to Stacy, and I think I may have even thanked her and expressed my gratitude to the point where she became a little annoyed.

Mr. Sedaris actually seemed thankful that I was one of only three people who actually had a question for him during the Q&A portion of the night.

Mr. Sedaris actually seemed thankful that I was one of only three people who actually had a question for him during the Q&A portion of the night.

As the barn swallow has been pulling sticks, mud, and strings from around the cul-de-sac, Stacy has been running around town picking out paints, books, and an assortment of items in preparation for Hannah’s arrival.  It’s an interesting transformation that takes place between the trimesters.  The first is mostly spent on the couch or in the bed sleeping, as even simple trips to the grocery store require the same amount of energy as Forrest Gump exerted in his entire run across the USA.  If any soon-to-be dads are reading this, this is the time to start getting used to saying “Yes darling” a lot.  Saying no really isn’t an option and when the weird cravings start to show up, you make sure you get Sweet Tarts and not Bottle Rockets.  You will quickly learn there is a huge difference.

The second is what I’ve coined the “Planning and Panic” stage that has been filled with a multitude of to-do lists and information packets on all sort of subjects like baby holding techniques that do not end in death, college fund plans that the state of Alabama will more than likely end up destroying and taking all of the money out of like they did with PACT, and the right way to stimulate a nipple.  I was eating my breakfast at the bar one morning and book detailing nipple stimulation techniques, with pictures to help, was left open nearby.  I questioned the true contents of the turkey sausage on my English muffin a bit more carefully that morning.  I’ve taken in more information on topics involving babies than I ever did in my undergraduate career, and I still have no idea what to expect.  During this time we painted the babies room, of course this was after Stacy had a long discussion with her doctor via telephone as to weather or not the $50 face mask we bought her at Home Depot would even allow her to do it. We had a conversation that went along the line of me questioning,

“Are you sure that you doing this is safe?  I am fully capable of painting. I mean those masks are good enough for guys who paint all day long for a living, but the only thing they have growing in their bellies are gas brought on by roach coach burritos.”

“You can paint, but I’m just a little bit better at this type of painting.  I”ll handle this.” Stacy would sterly answer back as if it were some type of surgery.

Stacy's hardheaded self painting Hannah's room with her spiffy chemical mask.

Stacy’s hardheaded self painting Hannah’s room with her spiffy chemical mask.

I was going to paint the room, I mean I had no problem whatsoever painting the babies’ room on my own; I had already done the whole living area with the help of my parents a few weekends prior.  My mother ended up having to lay down from exhaustion brought on from standing on a ladder all day while my Dad and I ate a double decker pizza from the local take-and-bake joint which we couldn’t get over much food we received after an exchange of so little money. “Oh man, can you believe how big his thing is!” My Dad and I repeated to each other around 30 times.  “I mean it’s kind of a pain that you have to cook it yourself but the important thing is to remember to call Mom so she’ll have the oven hot for you, that’s the key to the experience”.  Stacy did not feel that I could properly stroke latex paint onto a room meant to house and protect a baby and decided that she wanted to do it herself; there would of course be a sweet “Hey baby” request that would gently float down the hall as a request for my help later and I would laugh to myself as I jumped to attention.  Needless to say, Stacy watched me like a hawk.  Perhaps she was worried that the inevitable plethora of penises and pentagrams I would paint on the walls would effect the baby mentally in some way later down the road. C’est la vie.

We also stripped and restained the dresser that was in both the rooms of my father and myself as children.  The babies room is actually filled with furniture of sentimental value like the rocking chair that my Grandfather Hendon purchased for his wife so she could have it to rock my mother. Mom wasn’t exactly planned.  My mother is the daughter of a Mississippi cotton pickin’ Delta town Farmer, the last of seven with a good age gap in between her next sibling in order of age, my master chef Aunt Judi, and all baby related furniture was long gone from their small house by the time Mom came into the world.

Here I am being a good little helper and sanding the chest of drawers.

Here I am being a good little helper and sanding the chest of drawers.

We have now entered the third trimester, the almighty beast mode of pregnancy.  The rules and the style of the game have changed.  Strange and random rib pain has creeped in, walking has slowed to more of a trot, sleep is a distant memory, and I constantly repeat to myself in Mr. Gump’s voice “I am not a smart man.”  There is normally a well maintained level of comedic and pokey banter  exchanged in our house, but lately every morning I come into work I am greeted by no less than three of my coworkers questioning what things I may have said that could have possibly set off a nuclear explosion in our quaint little house.  The main point to make here is not that my wife is crazy, or being a bitch as some Google search queries like to word it, but that I am an ignorant man; one who is a slow learner and sometimes does not think before he speaks.  I’ve watched my wife switch over to beast mode.  If I ever get less than six hours of sleep per night, I will be the epitome of a brainless zombie moping my way through the day while spewing out a sea of complaints as to how bad life is and how it will only get worse.  Stacy has found a way to function on less than four hours of sleep at times, brought on by twelve, count ’em TWELVE pee breaks per night.  It got to the point where extreme discomfort brought along from a growing baby required me to order a specialty wedge pillow (thank god for Amazon Prime) and an plethora of others differing in size and thickness, and this only added about 45 more minutes of sleep per night.  She is the strongest person I know, it’s amazing to see what all she’s putting up with, let alone the stupid things that slip out of my mouth at times.

I’m a nervous wreck right now, but I think it’s what I’m supposed to be.    The people around me tell me that this is a sign that I’ll be a good dad.  There aren’t many of them around due to the fact that I’m not one to just let everyone I cross paths with be a pat of my life.  It’s been noted that I am also extremely skilled at walking away without any worry as well.  Like a light switch.  I’m still worrying about the bad traits that may be genetically passed down to the baby, and trust me, I have a lot of them.  I’m worried about how good of a Dad I can actually be, will I be able to avoid doing things that will hurt feelings and hamper confidence.   Maybe Hannah will be able to see the good in others, I on the other hand think most of them are full of shit and not to be trusted. I have been mentally nesting and trying to get ready for what’s coming ahead. Lets shoot it straight, I am scared.  It’s made it a little hard to focus on the non-baby things going on around me but really right now in my life my little family is the only thing that is important to me.  You’ve got two months to get your stuff together Matt.  You’ve got two months to quit swearing and enjoy sleep. Why did you decide to train for a marathon at this point in your life? You’ve got two months until you and Stacy get to experience what you have been told will be one of the most amazing experiences of your life.  The nervousness is always there, but every now and then a little glimmer of excitement shines down through the hole in the clouds and puts a smile on my bitter face.








Running is a Drug – Cotton Row Run 2014

Me post-race back at the house sporting my shirt honoring my Grandfather Staff Sargent Arthur Lee Spencer Sr.

Me post-race back at the house sporting my shirt honoring my Grandfather Staff Sargent Arthur Lee Spencer Sr.

I found myself waking up at 4:30 on Monday morning, which was about 30 minutes earlier than I had originally planned on, with a nervous first date type of jitters in my stomach.  In two and a half hours I would be running my first Cotton Row Run 10k through the neighborhoods of downtown Huntsville, and up a “short” little hill I had heard a lot of nasty things about.  I decided that this would be my last race for a few months so that I could take time to focus more on core and strength building and I wanted to really make it count as it would be my first recorded 10k timing.  I had continued on with running my normal 20-25 miles per week and although I was tempted to join one of the Cotton Row Saturday morning run through groups, but I decided that I would allow myself to be a virgin to the hill the day of the race.

I drank my coffee and stepped outside on the back porch to see what kind of moods the heat and humidity were in and decided that I would not let them take up any space in my mind, after all, there wasn’t anything I could do to about it.  I put on my shortest of shorts and my new  running shirt which I had asked my mom to screen print my Grandfathers name, rank, and outfit in which he fought with during WWII as I thought this was be the perfect way to honor his memory.  PaPaw was a stern and caring man who always offered up a constant stream of wisdom filled one-liners like “If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need a helping hand, look at your wrist,” so I knew that he would appreciate the thought of a 10k being run in his honor.  He might have had something to say if I was only running the 5k; he was a Spencer after all.  Let me put it to you this way, the man was shot twice in his right leg and took 11 pieces of shrapnel in his left in Tunisia, went to the medic tent where he spent three weeks and then promptly rejoined his unit.  The man was the definition of tough.

After I ran in and out of our hallway bathroom three times, each ensuring myself that I had emptied my bladder and that the coffee I had at 4:40 was out of my system, I finally headed downtown to the race.  It was an impressive site to see all of the runners walking up to the start line.  A see of red, white, and blue brought along a feeling of solidarity that people were still taking the true meaning of Memorial Day seriously.  I really appreciated that.  This wasn’t just another run like all of the others where I was going for some personal record, it had a stronger meaning for me personally and with the pictures of lost loved ones carefully pinned to the backs of others, I realized that I was not alone.

I was lucky enough to run into some old friends that I hadn’t seen in a while such as Ken who to me is best known for hosting amazing taco night feasts at his house.  He had been training his butt off for Cotton Row and  lost a lot of weight since I last talked with him while I shoved bean burritos in my face.  I was also lucky enough to catch up with one of the local Contracting Officers whom I took classes with while receiving my undergrad at UAH.  This guy was a KO for a reason and pretty much ended up teaching one of the classes we were both enrolled in.  He was a living and breathing version of the FAR.  You want to talk about stories? He once told the class about a meeting in a building overseas, I believe in either Iraq or Afghanistan, where a guy chooses the elevator over the stairs and ends up getting assassinated because of this poor health choice.  Yes, someone was supposedly waiting in the elevator to pull off some James Bond type maneuvers. Contingency Contracting is a hell of a thing, and its the main reason I always remember to take the stairs these days.

Remember those sole purpose for beard lubrication tears I talked about in the last post? Well boy did they try to show up again when a 90 year-old veteran who survived the June 6, 1943 invasion of Omaha Beach told the crowd that “If there ever was a Hell on earth, that was it,” I think all of us stopped to think about how lucky we were to be standing in our respective spots.  I felt that if anyone had any doubt that they couldn’t finish this race, or that they were going to finish in the time they wanted, it was quickly dissipated by the realization that what they were about to face was nothing close to what the man standing on the podium in front of them had been through.  Taps was played and shots were fired in remembrance and we lined up in preparation.

I don’t remember much about the start other than I was trying to wiggle my way through the mass of people I was in the middle of.  I should have started a little bit farther up towards the start line and maybe I would have cut about 30 to 40 seconds off of my time.  I continued on through the streets of Huntsville and saw some parts of town that I had never had the chance of experiencing before. I was thankful that I had decided to not join in on the training runs now as the run was more exciting because I didn’t know what beautiful home would be around the next curve.  I have to add in here that the spectators composed of the residents of Huntsville were absolutely amazing.  People waved and cheered, and I even got a few “Hey man! Nice Beard!” shout-outs as well.  This was the first race where I had seen spectators take it upon themselves to set up drink tables because they just knew that I poured the majority of my last cup of water I had .5 miles back on my head when I really should have poured it down my throat.  This made me thankful to be a part of the running community in Huntsville.  And to that beautiful soul standing on the corner of Franklin and Randolph, I could have kissed you for handing me that cup of water right when I needed it because you could see the frustration in my eyes at the realization that my right shoe had decided to come untied but you said what I needed to hear, “Don’t worry about it honey, you’re almost there!”

Here I am trying out some new hill walking techniques.

Here I am trying out some new hill walking techniques. Photo Credit: Greg Gelmis of We Run Huntsville

At about mile mark 2.5 I realized that I was about to face what I had only heard in whispers, the dreaded hill.  It was impressive to say the least and while I had been keeping a steady pace, and from what I could tell hitting negative splits, I realized that this was about to change.  I had to stop running and slow down to a climb where I found it was best to stride as long as possible and put my knees into my face in order to make it up.  The thought of amazement at the fact that anyone would want to live in a house located on a hill like that as the money they spend on car brakes each year must be astronomical seemed to keep my mind off of it.  I have to say thank you to the home owner who was blasting the theme to Rocky as it provided me with a laugh and an energy boost to get my butt up the hill.  Yes I did indeed raise my hands above my head in celebration once I had slayed the beast, but I was saddened that no one else was joining with me.  It could have had something to do with the fact that a few people were busy puking.

I finished out the race at 51:14, a time that at first I wasn’t proud of but after taking into consideration the heat and humidity, I was happy with it.  I finally have my benchmark time and I’ll be ready for that hill next year.  It will never see me coming.  I am thankful to be a part of an amazing running community that puts on amazing races run by even more amazing volunteers.  We’ve got a good thing going on Huntsville. And hill, I’ve got your number.