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A Baby, A Cellphone, And Sleep Deprived Parents

A Baby, A Cellphone, And Sleep Deprived Parents

By the end of my pregnancy, I was tired of a lot of things.  I mean, honestly, I had a relatively easy pregnancy, but I am sure women with easier and more difficult pregnancies than mine can all agree that they were just over everything by the end.  I was ready to not be lugging an extra 30lbs around.  I was sick of being nauseated (though my nausea was only occasional at the end of my pregnancy).  I was tired of misjudging how enormous my belly actually was and therefore bumping into things when I would try to squeeze through a space I was apparently too big for.  I was over the fact that I needed to pee about every fifteen minutes.  The list could go on.

But most of all, I was tired of people telling me to “get sleep now, because I would never get to sleep again.”  That was the advice I got over and over and over.  I mean, really?  It’s not like I was some 3-year-old who thought that I didn’t need naps.  I love my sleep, and Craig LOVES his sleep, and we were already sleeping when we could.  Did people honestly think I was going to get more sleep because they told us that, or were they just trying to be funny?  But time and time again, I would hear this advice from men and women who already had kids…they would tell us with something in between a smile and a smirk on their face, like they knew something we didn’t.  They were in the “parent club,” and Craig and I had yet to be initiated, and it drove me crazy.

Well here we are now, with a three-month-old, and I am pretty certain Craig and I have been initiated.  I don’t know exactly when our initiation took place.  Was it the first time we got spit up on?  Was it when we hit the hundred diaper threshold?  Was it when I had to take Hadley to get her first set of vaccines?  Or was it this morning, midway through January, when I dressed Hadley in “My First Christmas” clothes, because that’s what was clean in her drawer?  I don’t know.  But I will tell you this, the night of October 7 is the night when I finally understood what all those parents had been talking about before.  Craig and I had been very sleep deprived up to that point, but until October 5, my parents had been in town to help us.  Now, we were all on our own, and the sleep deprivation really kicked into high gear…

A Baby, A Cellphone, and Sleep Deprived Parents

So newborn babies have to eat all the time.  I mean ALL. THE. TIME.  At first, we were having to feed Hadley every two hours, and that is from the beginning of a feed to the beginning of the next feed, not two hours in between.  While Hadley had a good latch, we were still getting the hang of breastfeeding, and she was constantly trying to stick her hand in her mouth instead of eating, so it was a bit of a struggle.  From beginning to end, with burping and everything, feeding Hadley could take over an hour.  We would finally finish, and then we’d have to start again 45 or 50 minutes later.  This was around the clock, so you can imagine we were quite tired.  Craig was trooper.  Since I had to feed Hadley, he would set his alarm, get up to get Hadley, and bring her to me.  Then he would lay down while I fed her on one side.  When I was done with the first side, I would lay down while Craig burped Hadley in between, then he would give her back to me for the other side before he burped her once more and laid her back down.  We had what we thought was a flawless system.

No system is actually flawless.

In the middle of that night, early in October, I laid in bed as I listened to Craig’s cellphone alarm going off, knowing that it meant I had to get up in a moment to feed Hadley yet again.  So I waited.  And I listened to his alarm.  And waited.  And listened to is alarm.  And waited.  What was going on?  The alarm had been going off for a couple minutes, and Craig hadn’t even hit the Snooze button.  Now I was starting to get annoyed because I was the one awake during his “shift,” and Craig was clearly sleeping through the alarm.  I opened my eyes and rolled over to wake Craig up, and my jaw dropped.  I could not believe what I was seeing.

There my sweet husband was, doing the jiggle walk that new parents quickly learn and old parents never forget, sweetly Shhhhhh-ing in the ear….of his cellphone.  In case you don’t have the picture in your head…imagine a man holding a baby and gently bouncing the baby as they walk, with his mouth right next to the baby’s ear to give the baby a soothing “Shhhhh, it’s ok, Daddy’s here.”  That was Craig, except with his ringing cellphone.  He thought his cellphone was a crying baby.

I couldn’t believe my eyes at first.  “Craig!” I said in that stern whisper-yell thing that people do sometimes.  He looked over at me.  “I need to nurse the baby,” I told him.  With that, Craig handed his phone to me, the alarm still ringing loudly, so that I could nurse it.  My jaw dropped lower.  I turned off the cellphone alarm.

“Craig!  Where is the baby?!”  Craig jumped.  I could see the panic in his eyes as he looked around on the floor.  His mind was easy to read at that point.  Did I lose the baby?  Where did I put her?  “Craig!”  I was still trying to get him awake enough to enter the real world.  “Check the cradle at the end of the bed.”  And there Hadley was, still sweetly sleeping through all of the chaos.  Craig picked up Hadley, happy to know that he had not actually lost her, and handed her to me.  “Go to sleep, Babe,” I told him, “I will handle the burping and everything this time.”

I took Hadley and watched my adorably exhausted husband crawl back into bed.  Then I thought back to all the “sleep now” advice I had been so tempted to roll my eyes at before.  Wow, I thought, They were right, after all.  I finally get it.

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On Becoming a Parent

So here we are, almost two months since my last post.  Motherhood is clearly getting all of my time and energy right now.  I don’t know how all those professional blogging moms do it.  But in any case, I know that I need to get back at it because I tend to use this blog as a journal (slash recipe book), and I know that I need to get my thoughts and stories of parenthood out before I forget them.  And I have some funny stories.  But I will try to spread them out over a few posts…I don’t want to spoil the surprise too soon or make this post drag on.  For now, this is what I have:

We celebrated the birth of our sweet Hadley on September 27, 2013, four days after my due date.  I thankfully had an easy labor, probably around eight hours total from when it began at home to when we had Hadley at the hospital.

On the left is my very last belly picture with Hadley, taken on her due date (September 23).  On the right is our very first family picture, taken just four days later.

On the left is my very last belly picture with Hadley, taken on her due date (September 23). On the right is our very first family picture, taken just four days later.

I wish I could find the words to describe what Craig and I felt when Hadley was born.  Unfortunately, there are no words that I know that could possibly describe something so miraculous.  If I ever come up with the words, I will let you know.  But I know that I am not alone when I say that when, after all the anticipation, you finally get to see this baby that you have been waiting for, the love that comes over you is unbelievable.  And you look at this little baby and think There is just no way something so perfect could be an accident or a coincidence or anything else.  Only God could create something – someone – so amazing.  I also remember thinking that it was so crazy how this sweet little 7lb 2oz baby was the size of a sesame seed when Craig and I found out about her.  I mean, think about how incredible that is for a moment.  It emphasizes in my mind that life definitely begins at conception, because that tiny little “sesame seed” was actually beautiful baby.

Hadley is nine days old in this picture.

Hadley is nine days old in this picture.  We had our newborn pictures done by Tickled Blue Photography.  Please visit the website and check out the other awesome photos Jodi has taken of babies and families.  She is seriously so talented and wonderful to work with.  You definitely need to consider Tickled Blue if you live in the Charleston area!

Becoming parents has been the most rewarding challenge Craig and I have ever faced.  The highs and lows of emotions are changing constantly with the adjustment.  Sleep deprivation can get pretty insane, and I doubt our condo will ever be really clean again (not that a spotless condo was a common occurrence before).  There have definitely already been moments where I think I can’t handle this.  But then, you look down at your precious baby, your gift from God, and the frustration and doubt and anxiety all go away, because, “Look at this perfect little baby.  I couldn’t be happier.”  And the first real smile…wow…it’s like God timed it for when he knows that parents are hitting their limit of the most overwhelmed they have ever felt, and all of a sudden your baby says, ” I love you so much, and I think you are the best parents in the world.”

So, yeah, parenthood is crazy.  It can be crazy exciting and crazy overwhelming.  It can be crazy frustrating and crazy amazing.  And Craig and I have only been at it for less than two months!  I know there is so much more to learn and experience as a parent, and I truly can’t wait!

Thoughts as We Wait on Hadley

This is it…we have made it to the end.  I will be officially 40 weeks pregnant as of tomorrow.  I can’t believe it!  I am SO beyond eager to meet sweet Hadley, I just wish she could be born NOW.  I keep reminding myself that she will come when she is ready, but I don’t know that it’s really keeping me from driving myself insane.  What a waiting game this is!

My mind keeps flashing back to the quiet Saturday morning, when I took a pregnancy test while Craig was taking Jada outside because I figured I was just going to be disappointed by the negative result and didn’t see the point in getting Craig’s hopes up for no reason.  I was obviously wrong, and in an instant, everything changed.  It is funny how a little blue line can have so much power over your future.  We have spent nine months since that January morning preparing for our baby’s arrival, although I highly doubt anyone can every truly be prepared for parenthood.

I remember some people telling Craig and I that we shouldn’t get married right when I graduated college…that we should wait a few years.  We were told that we were too young, and that it was a bad idea to try to balance a marriage while Craig was in medical school.  And now, here we are, getting ready to not just “balance a marriage,” but to start a family when Craig still has almost two years left in medical school.  But the truth is, there will never be a perfect time to get married or to start a family.  If we had decided to wait for the perfect time, we would be waiting forever.  Yeah, medical school takes up a ton of time, and it’s not always easy on us.  But you know what?  Residency takes up more time than medical school.  And fellowships take up more time than residency.

So Craig and I made the decision to not wait for a more convenient time, but to jump into this adventure together.  God has gotten us where we are now, and through Him, we will be the best parents we can be.

So, as we enjoy our last few days as just Craig, Ashley, and Jada, here is a look through my pregnancy, complete with a growing belly, a baby shower, and a finally complete nursery.

So excited to find out we are expecting a baby!  Yes, I peed on that stick...get over it.

So excited to find out we are expecting a baby! Yes, I peed on that stick…get over it.

Growing Belly

Growing Belly!

Some wonderful friends back in Georgia hosted a baby shower for me when Craig and I were visiting.  I was 27 weeks pregnant.  I seriously couldn't have imagined a more beautiful, perfect shower.

Some wonderful friends back in Georgia hosted a baby shower for me when Craig and I were visiting. I was 27 weeks pregnant. I seriously couldn’t have imagined a more beautiful, perfect shower.

We also had some maternity photos taken by an awesome photographer down here in Charleston (HannahLane Photography)!  Hannah was such a pleasure to work with, and she did an awesome job.  These are just a few of my favorites.

We also had some maternity photos taken by an awesome photographer down here in Charleston (HannahLane Photography)! Hannah was such a pleasure to work with, and she did an awesome job. These are just a few of my favorites.

Hadley's Nursery

I LOVE Hadley’s Nursery! My parents did such an incredible job. I love the soothing colors mixed with different patterns and textures. This is fit for a princess!

Hadley's Nursery Collage

Love the chandelier above the rocker, the monogram above the bed, and the awesome shelves above the dresser. Have I mentioned how incredibly talented my parents are?! Now if only some of that talent could get passed down to me…

The “Reveal”

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Craig and I were so ready for my twenty week appointment last week!  They were going to be doing the big ultrasound where they check for any malformations and find out the gender of the baby.  Craig was so excited!  He couldn’t wait to see the “live feed” of our sweet baby.  I was mostly anxious.  I was so scared that they would tell me there was some sort of malformation with our baby, but my wonderful husband assured me everything would be ok.  And it was.  Our baby is as healthy as can be.  Praise God!

Oh, and guess what else!  We are having a baby girl!  We didn’t really care too much one way or the other what we were having as long as the baby was healthy, but I knew that Craig kind of wanted a girl first.  He is over the moon excited!  So many people had told us they were 90-100% “certain” (except apparently not) we were having a boy, that Craig and I were both in shock at first.  In fact, I made the ultrasound tech take a second picture to double check.  It is definitely a girl, and I can’t wait to meet her!

After our appointment, Craig and I stopped at the store to pick up a cute little girly onesie.  MUCH to my parents’ dismay, I refused to tell them separately on the phone what we were having, and I decided they would have to skype with us that evening when they were both home from work to find out.  My mom was dying…she wanted my dad to leave work early that day, but he was unable to.  So my mom had to wait.  It. was. rough.  Yet, somehow, she made it through. 😉 We showed my parents the onesie that night one skype (my mom was shocked, as she was one of the 90%-certain-it’s-a-boy people), and then we called Craig’s parents to tell them.  What an exciting night!  Beyond that, we worked hard to mostly keep to ourselves what we were having, because we knew that we would be taking “gender announcement” pics with my parents that weekend when we saw them in Greenville.  Craig and I were heading up there for his grandfather’s 90th birthday party on Saturday, so my parents and twin brother met us for lunch on Sunday before we had to head back to Charleston.

The pictures turned out adorable, and it was awesome to get to announce to everyone on Mother’s Day what we are having.

"Daddy's Little Princess" and pink onesie

IMG_3506 IMG_3507 IMG_3513 IMG_3526

Craig and I are so excited to meet our little Hadley Elyse!  We already love her so much, and I know that love is only going to continue to grow with each passing day!  I guess it’s time to start getting our place together and baby-ready!  Everything seems so much more real now that we are beyond the halfway point, we know what we are having, and we already have a name for her…so if this doesn’t kick me into nesting mode, I don’t know what will!  I ordered a crib for our sweet Hadley this morning, so that’s a start!  Now we just have to focus on getting Craig through USMLE Step 1 (his boards exam all students have to take after their second year of medical school), and then we can really get to work!  Craig has claimed our guest room as his “boards study cave” for now, but it’s going to be looking more and more like a nursery pretty soon!  I am visiting my parents over Memorial Day this year, so we will hopefully go fabric shopping while I am up there.  I can’t wait!

Sweet and Sour Chicken

So, I have a confession.

I am intimidated by chicken.  I mean, have you seen my recipes?  I’m all about throwing chicken in the crock pot, because with crock pot, I can prepare everything else, and it basically does all the work.  If I’m not using the crock pot for chicken, I am usually using our George Foreman grill.  We like to buy chicken breasts on sale and put them in baggies with marinade before freezing them.  That way, when we pull them out to thaw, they already have the marinade on them and we can just put them on a George Foreman grill.  So easy.  If we are having chicken that is not from the crock pot or George Foreman grill, then I didn’t make it.

At least that was the case until this past Monday.

It’s true.  I decided it was time to conquer my fear.  I was determined to make chicken that took preparation and effort.  Not a lot, but some.  I was going to try something new…I was going to use both our stove and our oven to cook chicken.  Until Monday, I used the stove to brown ground beef, and I mainly used the oven to bake.  I don’t know why cooking chicken intimidates me so much.  It just does.

Or at least it did.

You can go ahead and give me a round of applause.  No need to wait until the end of this post.  Not only did I make chicken for dinner on Tuesday (without the use of the crock pot or George Foreman); I made sweet and sour chicken on Tuesday, and it was good.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not trying to come off as a chicken-cooking hero who took on my fear without a second thought.  I was very scatter-brained and basically going crazy for the length of the entire meal preparation.  I even felt overwhelmed by it at times.  But I did it, and now that I am looking back, it was actually not difficult.  So now, not only am I providing you with a great sweet and sour chicken recipe, but this also means that more recipes are to follow, for I have opened the door to a whole new world (cue Aladdin song) in cooking.

Recipe Adapted From: Made It. Ate It. Loved It.

Ingredients:

Chicken Breading:

  • 3-5 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup canola oil

Sauce:

  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 tbs (same thing as 1/4 cup) ketchup
  • 1/3-1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
    • amount really depends on personal preference
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic salt

Directions:

Rinse chicken, trim off fat, and cut into 1(-ish) inch cubes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Dip chicken into cornstarch, coating completely, and then into the eggs.  Heat oil in skillet.  Cook until browned (most certainly does not need to be cooked through).  Place in baking dish (try to use a dish big enough that you can for the most part fit all the chicken in one layer).  Whisk the sauce until smooth and pour over chicken.  Turn chicken pieces so that the sauce gets both sides.  Put in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes.  Turn the chicken, and then continue cooking for another 15 minutes.

We ate our sweet and sour chicken over rice, and it was great!  The recipe itself doesn’t make a ton of sauce by the time you are done baking, so if you like a lot of sauce (for the rice, vegetables, etc.), I would suggest making a double batch.  However, if you do make a double batch, you only want to pour half of it (being the amount listed in the recipe) on the chicken for cooking, or else the chicken may get soggy while cooking.  Before the chicken is done baking, heat the second batch of sauce up in a saucepan or microwave (make sure to stir it throughout heating).

Besides just having this as a sweet and sour chicken meal, Craig and I both think that this also makes a great finger food.  It would be fabulous for a football game or New Year’s party, with some toothpicks next to it and maybe a small bowl with the second batch of sauce for dipping.  A certain party favorite!

Making Time for Quality Time

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Making Time for Quality Time

So med school basically takes up a ton of time…and money.  It’s tough figuring out how to spend “quality” time together, because when Craig does have a break from school, and when I do have a break from working, cleaning, and cooking, we just want to sit and veg out on the couch.  We sit and watch the NCIS marathons on USA, and then all of the sudden, it’s time for bed.  Even if we do decide we have just enough time and energy to do something fun together, we definitely don’t have enough time and energy to plan time together in advance, and then follow through with it.  I mean, there are definitely a ton of cool and exciting things to do in Charleston, but most of them require a bigger budget than what we have, plus advanced planning.

Craig and I have really enjoyed having more time together this summer.  Craig’s had more time in the evenings and on the weekends to spend time with me and help out around the condo.  I’ve had more free time since Craig has been able to help out some more around our condo, and I’ve enjoyed the free time that has given me to spend with him.  We’ve also gotten to visit both of our families this summer, which is an obvious highlight for me.

However, the summer is quickly coming to a close, and Craig and I are  dealing with the realization that not only will med school continue to require more and more from Craig, but also that we are not going to get another summer like this.  Essentially, this has been Craig’s last summer vacation ever.

So, in preparation for not having the time or energy to come up with fun, easy, and inexpensive ways to spend quality time together once the summer ends, I decided to use some of the extra time I do have right now to brainstorm in advance.  I searched Pinterest, other websites, and of course my own, brilliant mind to create this list.  So now, when Craig and I do have a little time to spend together, we will have a guide of ideas to help us out.  Some of these are things we’ve already done, and some are things we want to do.  Some ideas are better or worse depending on general location (it’s way easier to go to the beach at this point in our life than going to hike in the mountains), and some are even specific to Charleston.  Still, I think this list is at least somewhat relatable no matter where you live, and I hope to add to it in time and continue to pull ideas from it in the future when we don’t live in Charleston anymore.  In the end, I am very happy with this list of mostly free or inexpensive quality time slash date ideas.

Free(-ish) Quality Time/Date Ideas

  • Play Tennis
    • Ok, so I’m quite terrible at tennis…as in I don’t know anybody that I’ve ever met who is as bad as me.  That being said, Craig enjoys tennis, so I try to make a point to hit the ball with him every now and then.  Plus, my skills can only go up, so I really don’t have anything to lose.
  • Throw a Frisbee
  • Outdoor Picnic
    • It may seem funny that I am specifying for a picnic to be outside, but I want to stress the idea of actually packing all of the food up to take somewhere else and just get out of the home, as well as enjoying some nice weather.  Especially since I work from home, it’s nice to be able to just get out and have a change of scenery and to get some fresh air.
  • Go See the Lighthouse
    • There is a lighthouse just off the shore of James Island that Craig has never seen, and we want to make a point to go visit it together.  Obviously everyone doesn’t have a lighthouse nearby, but I’m sure there places near everybody’s home that you just never make the time to go explore, and you definitely should!
  • Take a Walk on the Beach
    • It’s really sad what a rarity it is for Craig and me to go walk on the beach, considering we only live a few miles away…We need to fix that.

      Enjoying quality time on Folly Beach together while I enjoy getting to wear this fabulous hat that I got at the market in downtown Charleston.

  • Waterfront Park
    • This is a popular place where you can walk near the ocean, and there are also fountains that kids can play in.  I know I’ve seen those fountains other places, the kind where the water shoots up from the ground.  It’s fun to enjoy the breeze of the ocean while we can people watch and see little kids playing in the fountains.
  • Explore James Island County Park
    • This is a very popular park that is about a seven minute drive from where Craig and I live.  They do Christmas lights here every year, but we want to go explore all the other aspect of it, as well.
  • Take the Pup to the Dog Park
  • Sketch and/or Make a List of “Dream Home Must-Haves”
    • I really think that Craig and I could be happy just about anywhere, but it’s still fun to think about.  Being that neither of us are really artistic, this mainly means that Craig is looking through realty websites while I am looking through homes on Pinterest, and then we show each other our favorites and say why we like them.
  • Go Hiking
    • This is one of our absolute favorite things to do together, but we don’t get to do it very often considering we live at the beach.  If only we could plop a mountain fifteen minutes outside of Charleston…

      Craig and I went up to the mountains for our first anniversary, and we went on a fifteen mile hike one of the days we were up there. It was so fun and exhausting at the same time!

  • Board Games/Puzzles
  • Make a Fort and Watch a Movie from Inside
    • We actually did this the weekend that I first made this list.  Neither of us had built a fort in years, and we’re going to be doing this type of stuff when we have kids anyway, so we figured we would give it a shot!  Since we were building a fort, we decided it was only appropriate to watch Disney movies over any other movie.  And now Craig has seen Cinderella!
  • Nerf Gun Wars
    • Craig is under the misguided belief that he has a chance of beating me at this.  Come on!  I grew up with two brothers the same and almost the same age as me, so let’s be real.  Craig doesn’t stand a chance.
  • Volunteer Together
    • Craig and I volunteer with the 2-year-olds at our church together, and I can’t tell you how rewarding it is.  Not only is it fun and amazing to see what a difference you are making, but it’s a wonderful feeling to see your significant other be giving of him or herself and make a difference to others.
  • Make Pizzas Together
    • With Craig’s dairy allergy, this is really the only way we can have pizza, but I think other people would really enjoy it, too.  Instead of doing take-out or delivery or something frozen, make your own!  Be creative and try new toppings.  The great thing about pizza is that it’s really hard to completely ruin.
  • At-Home Fondue
    • If you don’t have a fondue pot, just use a crock-pot.
  • Bake and/or Cook Something New
    • I stress the idea of this being something that neither one of you has made before, or else that person may end up making it alone while the other person watches.  The idea is to get both people involved.
  • Go for a Bike Ride
    • Don’t forget your helmet!
  • Rollerblading/Rollerskating Outside
    • Craig and I don’t have our own, so I’m think I’m might try to confiscate my parents’ stuff since they haven’t used any of it in about fifteen years…
    • Don’t forget to wear a helmet!
  • Exercise Together
  • Visit a Well-Known Point of Interest Nearby
    • We visited the Angel Oak on Johns Island, which is one of the oldest living organisms east of the Mississippi River.  It is 65ft tall and estimated to be 300-400 years old.  It is 180ft at its widest spread point, which is longer than any other live oak in America.  There are a lot of other Charleston POIs that we want to visit while we live here, but we did this first because it’s completely free and close to where we live.

      This picture does not do the tree justice for how incredible it really is. It’s seriously amazing!

  • Dinner on Our Back Porch
    • Even a tiny change in scenery goes a long way!
  • TV Show/Movie Marathon
    • If you are going to do this, make sure to be active about choosing a theme and maybe mixing it with another idea (like doing a puzzle if you’ve already seen the movies or baking something).  Just make sure to not turn this into vegging together, because that’s what we’re trying to prevent.
  • Watch Football
    • Or any sport that you both love!  Find a team you are both passionate about, or be competitive and pick a game with rival teams between you two…you could even wager house chores or something on the outcome.
  • Breakfast in Bed Meets Dinner and a Movie
  • Play 20 Questions About Each Other
  • Read Out Loud Together
    • This may sound silly, but Craig and I really love doing this.  We just lay down on the couch together with a book that interests us both, and we take turns reading to each other.  We’ve done it with relationship books, pediatric case files, the Bible, and other books.
  • Make a Bucket List for You as a Couple

Low Cost Quality Time/Date Ideas

  • Go to a Roller-rink
  • Go Ice Skating
  • Rock Climbing on a Rock Wall
  • Coffee Date
  • Minor League Baseball Game
  • Minor League Hockey Game
  • Bowling
  • Miniature Golf
  • Go-Carts
  • Local Improv
  • Arcade
  • Whirlyball
  • Take an Art Class Together
    • Groupon always has these offers coming up, so next time you see one, go ahead and grab it!
  • Go to a Shooting Range

Quality Time/Date Ideas That Require a Little More Time/Planning and Money

    • Dinner Cruise
    • Go to a Big College Football Game
    • Go to an MLB Game

      There isn’t any MLB in the Carolinas, so it was quite easy for me to convert Craig to be a Braves fan. This is at a Braves game this summer that we went to see with my whole family. It was a lot of fun!

    • Go to an NHL Game

So many ideas, and I’m sure I will add more!  We’ve had so much fun trying new things together, and we can’t wait to try out more of these ideas that we haven’t tried yet!

Basically a World Traveler

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Well….maybe not  a world traveler, but this was a big step for me.  I did something crazy…unheard of, really, if you know anything about me.

I took a trip…on an airplane…by MYSELF.  Yep, that’s right.  I was the only passenger I knew on that plane.  It was intense.  It was exhilarating.

Something I love about Craig is that he is totally understanding of how much I miss my friends and family, and he is very supportive of me going to visit people whenever I can.  Of course, neither of us enjoys the idea of being apart for extended periods of time, and we always miss each other when we are apart, but Craig understands that I may go crazy if I could only go visit people when he had time to go with me…because that would basically be never.  Not only does Craig “allow” me to travel and visit my friends and family, but he encourages me to.  And sometimes, it takes him giving me a little bit of a push in the right direction to make those trips, especially when the trips are made 100% of totally new experiences for me.

A couple weeks ago, I flew up to Chicago to visit my college roommate, and one of my best friends, Melissa.  She is in Chicago doing a volunteer year with the Amate House.  I hadn’t seen Melissa since my wedding day, and I was so excited, yet so terrified.  It was my seventh plane trip ever, and my first plane trip as a solo traveler.  It was also my first time ever going to Chicago, and I really didn’t know what to expect.

To be honest, I basically went into panic mode in the week leading up to the trip.  I know that sounds a little crazy, but you need to cut me some slack.  At twenty-three, I had never been on a plane by myself!  What if I got lost?  Or missed my flight?  Or the plane crashed?  Or I couldn’t find Melissa when I got there?  And Chicago?!  That is a big, scary, city.  Yes, I know I shouldn’t really be phased because I’m from “Atlanta,” but metro-Atlanta is NOT the same thing as Atlanta.  I mean, I’ve spent time in Atlanta, but that is usually in the way of I have a planned destination, I go there, and I come back.  I have never just decided to walk around and explore Atlanta.  Plus, Jada hadn’t been home from the hospital for very long at that point.  What if something happened to her while I was gone?  (I can only imagine how hard I’m going to have to fight these worry instincts when we have children.)

I know that all the above thoughts may sound very ridiculous, but I did not begin this blog as a way to only show the Ashley that I like others to see.  I began this blog as a way to be real, and those thoughts are what was going through my mind.  Once the worst case scenario thoughts began, there was simply no stopping them on my own.  Thankfully, I have a wonderful and loving husband to help.  I’m not sure how many times Craig told me that everything would be fine and that I’d have so much fun while I was there, but it was a lot!

Heading to security to get on my first solo flight EVER. Can’t wait to see Melissa!

Finally, the big day came, and I packed my bags for Chicago.  Craig and I drove to the Charleston airport, and this was it.  Turns out flying alone isn’t scary, after all.  It’s just the same thing as flying with someone, except you don’t have your someone there to talk to.  That’s really the only difference…go figure.  Thankfully, I found out that this plane trip would really just be a baby step to a real solo airport experience that I may one day experience, because the Charleston airport is absolutely tiny.  It is nothing like the Atlanta airport, and I was flying into the smaller of the two Chicago airports.

I got to Chicago Thursday night, and Melissa met me at the airport.  I purchased a three-day bus/train pass, and we headed home.  Melissa lives in a house with five other girls and two guys.  Everyone there was wonderfully welcoming.  They take turns cooking meals each night, and that night we all had tacos.  Delicious!  Then Melissa and I went upstairs to her room where we did a Google Hangout with some girls from our group of friends in college.  We caught up some, and then we went to bed, knowing we had a big two days ahead of us.

We found out you can use props in a Google Hangout. Quite awesome.

On Friday, Melissa and I both had work to do.  We got up in the morning, walked to the train station, and headed to Melissa’s office.  She gave me a tour of her work, and then I headed across the street to Argo, a trendy tea place that thankfully sells coffee as well (I’m definitely a morning coffee drinker).  I worked on my computer for a couple of hours and left to walk around and explore the touristy area and the shops.  I have to say I felt quite independent exploring by myself, even if it was only for twenty or so minutes in a super touristy area.  Then Melissa and I met up for lunch at The Soupbox – a soup and sandwich restaurant that can be described as nothing short of incredible.  It was cold and rainy that day, so my clam chowder (double Craig-Unfriendly because of dairy and shellfish, so it’s something I NEVER get) in a bread bowl was perfect!  After lunch, Melissa went back to work at her office, and I cozied up in a nearby Starbucks to continue my work for a few more hours.

So high up in the sky!

Finally, the workday ended, and Melissa and I were ready for our weekend festivities!  After work went to the Signature Room, which is on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Building, for a couple of drinks.  The elevator took us up at a ridiculous speed, and our ears were popping on the way up.  That night, we went to a local Mexican restaurant near Melissa’s home for dinner, and then we watched a movie and caught up on life.

Lake Michigan is HUGE!

Saturday was our day full of adventures and touristy activities.  We went on what we later deemed the “Park Tour of Chicago.”  From Millennium to Lincoln to Wicker to Hyde, I definitely got my money’s worth from my three-day bus pass during Saturday alone.  Even with all the bus and train riding we did that day, our feet and legs were still killing us by the end!  We walked and walked and walked!  We saw The Bean, explored some cute shops, found a sweet hipster bookstore, and walked along Lake Michigan.  Nearby Lake Michigan and Hyde Park, Melissa also showed me CTU (Catholic Theological Union), where she just found out she had been accepted and will be attending grad school.  I think I’m seeing more visits to Chicago in my future.  🙂  We ended our day with me having my very first Chicago style pizza, because no trip to Chicago is complete without it, followed by a happy hour with Melissa’s friends at a bar called “The Spot.”

I got up very early Sunday morning to take my SECOND solo flight ever.  And I wasn’t even scared.  🙂

My trip to Chicago was really amazing.  I’m so thrilled that I finally got to see Melissa after ten months, and I really loved getting to explore Chicago.  I’m also so thankful that I have a husband who encourages me to go out of my comfort zone and try new things.  I don’t know that I would have gone to Chicago if it weren’t for Craig telling me to, and now I know that I would have missed out on so much!

I’m going to end this post with some fun facts I learned about Chicago while I was there, because what’s the point of being a World Traveler if you don’t gain culture and knowledge from those experiences?  🙂

My Fun Chicago Facts:

  • The Sears Tower is no longer called the Sears Tower!  It’s name was officially changed to the Willis Tower on July 16, 2009.  However, everybody in Chicago still calls it the Sears Tower…maybe as some form of rebellion to the name change; I’m not really sure.  If you visit Chicago, just make sure to stick to calling it the Sears Tower if you want to stay on everyone’s good side.
  • The train that I mentioned taking all throughout this post…it’s called “The L,” which is short for “elevated.”  You’ve probably heard of it (though I hadn’t).  Apparently  it’s really well-known because it is elevated.  All I know is that it is way cooler than MARTA, and I’m basically a pro at riding it by now.
  • In Chicago, I’ve found that the term “park” is very loosely used, and it really just indicates a huge area of the city that includes some actual park by the same name.
  • Millennium Park is full of really weird attractions that Melissa and I are determined were placed there for someone’s personal people watching amusement.  This includes The Bean, as well as two tall waterfall towers that play giant recordings of people’s faces.  Weird…

    Creepy waterfall face that just stares and blinks.

  • The Bean is actually called Cloud Gate.  I don’t know why, since it clearly looks like a bean and not a cloud or a gate…but whatevs.

    Does this look like a Cloud Gate to you?

  • Deep dish pizza has the “toppings” on the inside of the pizza.  It’s crazy and delicious!

    I am super ready to eat some DELICIOUS pizza!

  • Chicago has happy hours where the drinks are free.  No, I don’t mean they are basically free or that a couple options are free.  I mean that the drinks are free.  Beer, wine, or liquor.  I’m still in disbelief at that concept.  How do the bars make money with that?  I don’t think I will ever know.
  • If I ever had to move to Chicago for any reason, I would no longer be alone in my love for hockey.  However, I would most certainly be alone in my love for the Redwings.
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