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.







It’s a girl! Oh $%!#, boyfriends!

Taken at our gender reveal party on 4/26/2014. That's a pink cake!

Taken at our gender reveal party on 4/26/2014. That’s a pink cake!

As soon as we announced that we were having a baby all of our friends and family would ask me what I wanted the baby’s sex to be.  I would answer honestly that all I wanted was to that we receive a healthy baby, sporting all ten toes and fingers, and that hopefully it gets it’s looks from its mother.  Wishing for the baby to be one of the other wasn’t a big deal to me, I never found myself to be partial a boy or a girl; I just wanted Stacy to have a beautiful pregnancy and I would let fate decide what it would sport between its legs.  Only later would I discover that subconsciously I had been favoring a side.

I decided to throw a party and join together what is always the tornado of our two families together for a gender reveal party.  I had seen pictures and read stories about people hosting this type of party and thought that it would be a fun event for our family.  Also, a big part of this would be avoiding any kind of angst from either side of the family as to which set of grandparents would be informed of the baby’s sex first.  Nobody can get mad if we all discover it together.  I had a feeling there may have been some frustration when we first announced that we were pregnant, as one set learned before the other, so we were going to avoid this at all costs.

The Thursday before the party, Stacy and I went to her doctor and the ultrasound was performed.  We got to see the baby on one of the nicest ultrasound machines I have seen to date, and we also got to hear the baby’s heartbeat.  This is something that is really special and hits me in a weird way.  I’m normally pretty unemotional, but you let me hear the sound of the baby’s heartbeat and there will be tears.  The small, manly, solely for the purpose of beard lubrication type, but tears nonetheless.  It’s something out of the an episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” where Dennis is explaining to Mac how he’s feeling feelings again. Here’s a link for those of you who aren’t familiar.  I swear it’s all of the hormones flying around my house.

At the end of the ultrasound session the tech handed me two envelopes, one that contained a note for me to take to our baker, and the second held a picture of the ultrasound pointing out it the baby’s gender.  I knew that I was the only one out of the two of us who could be trusted with the ever important job of delivering the top secret note to the baker as Stacy would most certainly have opened the both envelopes as quickly as she hit the road asphalt ending of the  parking lot, and I would have received a “Hey baby. . . I kinda did something bad. . .” telephone call.  By the way, our baker rides a Harley to work and we had a conversation about how badly she wishes she would delivery cakes on said Harley. Yes, our baker at Cakes Etc. kicks your baker’s ass.

On Saturday our families would join together at our house.    Stacy’s would show up first and I would make sure to delay the bringing out of the food until 2:00 pm in order to avoid by brother-in-law eating all of the pinwheel sandwiches before the other guests arrived.  It’s a precaution I’ve learned that you have to take because that man can put down some food.  Holiday’s with Jeff are my favorite because I get to watch the with wonder and awe as he can literally eat massive amounts of food from sun up to sun down, never requiring a nap, ne’re a mention of being so stuffed he cannot move.  Jeff simply carries on as if it’s his Christmas duty to clear that plate of cookies.  And Jeff isn’t a big guy, tall yes, but he does not sport a big belly nor the health problems that you would expect of someone who can eat like that.  I should probably say that he’s really really good looking and smooth with the ladies if by chance he actually reads this blog.

I was very strict with holding that no one was allowed to see the cake until the moment that we were going to cut it, and you can imagine how extremely hard this was to do with two nagging soon-to-be Mother-in-Laws who both were both trying to see if they could spot a thin part of the cake’s icing allowing them to get a glance of pink or blue before anyone else.  I had busted my butt in setting all of this up and we were all going to learn at the exact same time dammit.  Small talk was made and a fruit and veggie try devoured and it was finally time to bring out the cake.  I brought the box  out onto the table and opened it finally giving everyone a full view.  It was a very pretty and simple cake, almost too pretty to eat, covered in white icing, sporting pink and blue fondant circles adorning the phrase “He or She, What Will It Be?.”  This was the question that seemed to bring a hint of anxiety into my body.  I made sure to move my two nephews to the opposite side of the table where the rest of the family was in order to avoid little fingers spoiling big discoveries.  Nothing against my nephews, but you can’t trust a kid around a cake, they are programmed to shove their hands in it and cover their faces.  It’s in the manual somewhere.

Stacy and I joined hands behind the table facing the crowd of family members who all wore anxious faces.  I turned to her and asked if she was ready, she signaled “yes” with a nod on her head and leaned in to give me a quick peck on the cheek.  I suddenly became extremely nervous.  My hand joined her’s on the handle of our off brand cook knife and it started to shake and sweat while I put my other hand around her side.  Why was I getting so worried? I hadn’t been concerned with what the baby’s gender would be until now.  We raised both of our hands up together and quickly sliced the first cut into the unsuspecting cake.  Nothing.  We pulled the knife out of the cake and to our surprise there not one single blue or pink crumb indicating the gender and allowing us to commence celebrating.  “Cut a big piece!” my Aunt Judi yelled out.  Stacy quickly took the command and slammed both of our hands down issuing the second blow to the cake.  Once again I could not see anything other than the white icing of the cake.  Stacy then let out an excited “OH YAY!” followed by, “IT”S A GIRL!!!!”  Excitement set in on me as I quickly hugged and kissed Stacy, a few more of those beard lubricating tears showed up, and I repeated Stacy’s excited declaration and followed it with “oh shit. . . boyfriends,”  in my head.  My dad looked right at me at this moment and I swear he was reading my mind and through The Force communicated “Yep, that’s only one of the many worries you’re going to have.”  “A little girl? Matt, you don’t know anything about little girls!” rang through my head.  Right then I realized that subconsciously I had decided that we were having a little boy based solely on the fact that I know things that little boys like as I used to be one.  I was scared and elated at the same time.

Now don’t take this as I am not excited that we are having a girl, because I don’t think I can truly explain my level of excitement.  I was so excited to sit at home and later that night told Stacy that we had to go to Target that night and buy some little girl clothes because we had been waiting for FOREVER to know what gender we could buy for.  I gathered up all CDs of female lead rock ‘n’ roll bands, I’ve even went and made the decision that we will paint our 1976 Dodge van pink or purple if my daughter actually wants to drive around in the thing one day.

The thing that scares me is the objectification of women in our society today.  It’s the stuff that I had a stance on before, but now with the new knowledge that I’ll be bringing a little girl into this world, it frustrates me more.  Ever since Stacy yelled out “It’s a girl,” I’ve had a different view on the world.  While standing in the checkout line with my four packs of mesquite turkey and a bag of mushrooms I found myself to be more concerned with how scantily clad the woman on the front of Cosmo was.  I repeat to myself more and more the fact that these women are someone’s daughter.  Don’t get Stacy or I started on the Hardee’s commercials.  I was talking with my boss about this and he only solidified the worry by responding with, “Oh you just wait, the beach will no longer be fun for you.”

Not to be a total downer, but we live in a pretty crappy society today, one where narcissism runs rampant and people are looked at more for the clothes they wear on their backs than the goodness they have in their hearts.  Women work their butts off in a world where they are payed 30% less than men who do the same damn job they do!  It also frustrates me that every piece of baby clothing that features puppy dog designs is blue.  Can I get some gender neutral puppy designs y’all? Is that too much to ask? Are you saying that only boys love puppies because that is a lie! Just ask my wife.

God I hope I’m not an overprotective parent.  But I know that this little girl is going to be made up of a combination DNA of her mother and father, two very hardheaded people who don’t take a lot of crap from others.  I know she’ll be smart and independent just like her mom, and on top of that she’ll have an amazing heart.  I’m excited to bring this little girl into the world, I feel like it’s something that I was meant to do.  I had someone tell me “I’m being such a woman” about this whole pregnancy the other day.  If that’s your view of it then yes, yes I am.  I have not been this excited about something since the day that I said yes to Stacy on a Autumn covered mountain in Huntsville.  More excited that I was before any show Fistful of Beard (my old band for my new followers) ever played in the four years we were together.  I’m more excited that the one time Matt Skiba looked at me right in the eye and nodded in appreciation for the way I was partying in the pit once in Atlanta.  Scared, but excited.  I’ll deal with the boyfriends when we get to that part in life, right now I’m going to get used to liking pink.


Running is a Drug – “It’s Not a Diet, it’s a Lifestyle Change.”


Running is a drug that I am hopelessly addicted to. In fact, running is something that has completely changed my life. If you had told me five years ago that I would be running at all, let alone anywhere near 13.1 miles at an 8:50 per mile pace, I would have boisterously laughed in your face.  After I laughed in your face, I more than likely would have finished off that days pack of Marlboro lights and drowned my pathetic excuse for sorrows in a few craft beers, or on a rough night a good number of Pabst Blue Ribbons.  Don’t call it hipster beer, PBR is delicious and cheap. (Insert your mom joke here).  Then I would have bitterly rolled over the fact that someone as stupid as you could even think of something like that. I wasn’t the happiest person deep down inside, years of bad decisions and an inability to recognize who I really was had left me with a nihilistic and bitter view of the world.  It wasn’t a great place to be.  I mean I’m still an ass sometimes, but yes, running did change me for the better.

I decided that I was going to start running right after Stacy and I decided that we both wanted kids.  I was sitting in the garage on a Saturday morning with a cup of Folger’s Columbian in one hand and a Marlboro light in the other; this was how I started every morning, reflecting on all the drinks I drank last night and what stupid things I may have said that could possibly require some damage control.  While listening to the mocking birds  tease the neighborhood cats with the fact that they would never be caught and all their efforts to change that were futile,  a montage started playing in my head.  It featured a very attractive actor, tall, bearded, fat (in the sexy way though) very much similar to myself (okay it was me), man who was playing with a toddler and struggling to catch up as the child ran through a field.  The next scene featured me in my mid 40’s, struggling to get down the bleachers of a ball field to congratulate my kid on the teams first big win.  Yes, John Cougar Mellonhead was playing in the background.  And then at last at a wedding I was bound to a wheelchair due to poor health brought on by poor choices, too fat to stand on my own two feet and interact with others on an eye to eye level.  I didn’t like any of this.  It bothered me deeply that my life could be like this if I didn’t do something to change it. Writing this down it seems like such a silly daydream, something straight out of Tuesday afternoon daytime program.  I had seen those around me who had let food and lethargy take over their lives to a very serious point.  It is a very ugly thing.  The funny thing is that they always seem to be the most opinionated on the activities of others, although it’s only an failed attempt to cover up their unhappiness within their own life’s.  I did not want to be one of these people.

I started running because I thought it would be a great activity to pick up to help me quit smoking, and it also helped that my good friend David would always talk about how running allowed him to eat whatever he wanted and drop weight.  Now the eat all you want view is nowhere near the right reason to start running, but it got me into it.  I started out walking and jogging the Greenway by my house; I was barely able to jog for a straight minute.  I look back at this now and laugh due to what training and dedication allow me to do today.  After a while David talked me into training for my first 5K which was a silly distance to me at first. 3.1 mile? Why in the hell would anyone want to run something like that? I mean we have cars y’all.  I started using a Couch to 5k app on my phone which instructed me on how to properly train and not burn myself out.  It was hard at first but slowly progress came along.

Now making running a main part of your life is not an easy thing to do, there are many worries that come along with it.  For one I would always worry about what the other people would think of me as I passed them. Were they making fun of me in their head? “Look at this lard trying to get fit;” I know this may seem silly but I guarantee you that 99% of people who start running feel this way. The other 1% are cocky jerks who work in finance.  Oh the snot proudly resting on my mustache how it worried me so, although perhaps they were overshadowed man boobs I had acquired due to all that Mountain Dew and double Whoppers.   I had gotten to a point in life where I really realized how truly unhappy I was with the way that I looked and how I felt.  I had always been the fat kid, I had formed my personality around being the fat kid.  The person that I am today has been formed through the experiences of an obese kid who at one point in life turned off his emotions to the world and accepted that due to him being fat, he deserved to be bullied.  “Fat ass” is something that I was called a lot. On top of a plethora of other things, but that would always hurt the most.  You can toughen your skin, harden your heart, and become stoic to the rest of the world but no matter what, those two words will always hurt.  Running was my tool to take that away from the bastards and bitches who liked to use it against me.  Running is a tool that saved me and helped me to find a new kind of happiness.  Running taught me to feel good about myself and to feel pride in every step I took.

The training for my first 5k would continue and I would get up to a point where I could run continuously for two miles at a respectable 10 minute 30 second pace.  And then came the day of my first 5k, you want to talk about nervous? I kept it hidden from David that I almost threw up twice BEFORE the race due to nerves.  I think the fact that I had only run two miles was what scared me the most, and the idea of sudden death via heat stroke or some other random incident that kills fat runners, you know the kind you hear in the news all the time, was the only thing that was on my mind.  Well we started that race and David kept me motivated, continuously coxing me the whole time, and I only walked only once to take a breather for about 30 seconds due to side stitches setting in.  I finished that race with a time of 36:16 and damn was I proud.  I felt a feeling of success that could not compare to any other achievement up to that date.  I was hooked on a new drug.  My life drastically changed after this, and I had a wonderful support system in my wife Stacy who would always work with my new schedule and be my personal cheerleader for a big lifestyle change.

I continued to train, run regularly, but after a while I hit a lull. I started to lose faith in myself and would fall for easy excuses and self pity such as it being too hot or that I was never going to lose the weight I wanted to.  This is not typical of me as I am extremely hard headed and driven, but every now and then I let the negative thoughts in my head get the best of me.  I kept trying to go back to what a family friend told me at the beach one year “It’s not a diet, its a lifestyle change,”  but my excuse was that lifestyle changes are tough I ended taking a break from running for about two months.  A positive change would later take place thanks to a super enthusiastic little running coach..  I was near the end of my college journey at UAH in Huntsville, Alabama and that meant that I had some credit hours that I needed to fill up with classes that didn’t involve finance or the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulations – the government contracting bible) and all its gloriousness.

My adviser Cheryl did what she did best and explained to me that the easiest way to burn through these credits was to take a Health and Physical Education course which would allow me all sorts of different opportunities from losing golf balls on the back nine to toning my inner ninja via three different martial arts course.  I took what I thought would be the easy route and enrolled in a class called Run/Jog/Walk where I would be introduced to running coach and spitfire Jane.  Jane was a short petite lady with curly blonde hair who always sported a pair of running sunglasses that came from the same product line favored by bad guys in 90’s action movies.  Her excitement level would always be turned to an 11 when it came to the beginning of class every day, she was elated to have the chance to guide people into the world of running.  She would be the first person to actually give me a well needed education in running, what the proper rules for road safety were, what you needed to do in order to avoid any catastrophic injury in the future, and most importantly how to train correctly.  Jane would set our daily course and come and run up along side of you at some point to check in on you and offer encouragement.  Who knew that with a little education and a whole lot of motivation I would be running distances of 4+ miles and have dropped 15 pounds in only three months.  She was the pusher and I was the addict who was hopelessly and happily hooked back on running.  One of the things I remember most from Jane’s class is her lectures on the topic of not being in the mood to run and how you “Just need to get out and say I’m going to just run one mile, and the rest will continue after that.”  I use this every time I am having a crappy day and the sight of my running shoes and the 5 minutes it takes me to get dressed and geared up disgusts me.  I owe that little lady a lot because she helped me to set a goal of achieving a 10k (6.2 miles) by May of 2014.  I learned I was much stronger than this and have now dropped over 40 pounds, completed two half-marathons, and have my first full on the books for December.  All it took was a little push from someone.

This has been a rather long post about something that is only slightly related to the baby, but at the same time it will have a huge impact on our babies life.  I want to show our child how important a healthy lifestyle is and I really hope that one day she will want to go on runs with her dad.  I also hope that maybe anyone reading this who wants to make a change in their life understands that it is totally possible.  You are the only person stopping you from doing it.

More posts to come, I promise the next one won’t take so long, the next one will be about our discovering the sex of the baby! Thanks for reading!