Celebrating year two


Two years ago today, Spencer and I joined hands before family and friends and officially became the Johnsons.

It’s a strange and wonderful thing, being married. Braiding your life with someone else’s, creating a home, starting a family. Welcoming our son in the spring changed us forever, but we were a duo before becoming a trio. And we are a twosome still.

We were able to sneak in a “date” yesterday. Spencer was out on work-related errands, and I had a little time before deadline to take an early break. It was spontaneous (not my strong suit), and also pretty wonderful. Oliver was at day care. We haven’t been alone in a restaurant in months — and when Spence climbed from his car without the ever-present car seat, we both laughed.

“This is weird,” he said.

And it was. But by dessert — the denouement of a meal free of diaper changes, fussing or crying with one of us pacing the restaurant with an infant while the other scarfed down their food, well . . . we were good with it.

Our second year of marriage has been filled with so much love — love laced with deep exhaustion. It was, of course, the year we became parents.

The best thing to come out of 2015 — aside from our actual child, of course! — is the deep joy I feel seeing my husband become a father. As I wrote back in April, you can’t always know how someone is going to react to trying circumstances until you’re in them — and Spencer has proved time and again to be a loving, patient, devoted dad to Ollie and spouse to me.

First dance

We said “in sickness and in health,” and we meant it. If there was any mystery left in our marriage, it was definitely shucked in the ambulance taking us to Baltimore and, soon after, in the delivery room.

But there’s a comfort to that: a sense of wellbeing that comes from knowing someone doesn’t care if you have more gray laced in your hair these days or haven’t yet bothered to brush your teeth. That familiarity is what makes our house our home, and I love nothing more than plopping Ollie between us on Sunday mornings so we can drink coffee in our pajamas.

Our evenings aren’t as exciting as they once were. I’m lucky if I can stay awake to watch an hour-long drama on the DVR. We both come back from work depleted, and then we have an adorable 7-month-old (!) seeking more of the time and energy we don’t always feel we have to give.

But no matter how ornery or broken I feel, Spencer knows how to step in, put an arm around me and say, “It’s OK — we’re in this together.”

What a wonderful thing to know you have a partner, a teammate, a fan waving a sparkly banner for you on the sidelines. To know the world can be hard and unflinching, but you won’t breathe any of that when you shed your coat at the front door.

When I come in carrying the remnants of my work day, I almost always find Spencer snuggled with Ollie over the evening news. They both look up at me, two sets of sweet dark eyes, and smile.

There’s nothing in the galaxy I would trade for those moments.

Happy anniversary, Spencer! You make home the absolute best place to be. xo


Five years

Spencer and me in 2010

Five years to the day from when we first met, Spence and I will take our first childbirth class.

Could I have seen that coming? Maybe not on March 21, 2010 — but life moves fast when you’re in love.

Because we had a “date-aversary” before a wedding anniversary, I still look kindly upon March 21. When I started researching childbirth resources, the six-hour class tomorrow — filled with all the “necessities” of getting ready to bring a baby into the world — was the only Saturday available. Everything else was held during the week, broken up over multiple nights, etc., and I’m already tired with a short attention span.

And I really need to pay attention.

I’m 29 weeks along today, the first day of spring, and starting to get these jittery, anxious nerves firing through my body. In the home stretch. This is a phrase I’ve heard often lately — and even said myself — but, honestly, it hasn’t really processed yet. The third trimester sounded impossibly far away when I was struggling to keep down dry toast in those early days, and yet . . .

And yet . . .
And yet . . .

Here we are. Closing in.

I woke up at 2 a.m. this morning when Baby J landed a few good kicks to my left side. I put my hand there to feel that jerky, alien-like movement and was suddenly alert, wide awake. With each punch came the sudden, jarring thought that there is a baby in there. And that he must get out.

I know it sounds ridiculous. I mean, I’ll be 30 years old this summer — this isn’t exactly a mystery or anything. But I’ve always had a mental block regarding childbirth and have been, you know, afraid of the concept, so I was determined to know as little as possible in advance. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss.

That theory worked . . . in the beginning. Back when we were still in shock that I was actually pregnant, I consoled myself with the knowledge that we had so much time before I had to worry about a hospital stay and breastfeeding and pushing and . . . well, everything else.

So much time. Months. Three-quarters of a year.

But now, 11 weeks from D-Day, it’s time to be a big girl.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about what comes after the baby is here. We’re meeting with a day care provider this Sunday, for one, and Spence and I have already started talking about how we’ll be changing our schedules to accommodate the little guy.

Though I know nothing can really prepare you for parenthood, I’ve done some soul-searching about how our relationship might change . . . and how we’ll be growing as a family, not just a couple.

That’s intense, too — but in a different way. A good way. A way that decidedly does not keep me up at night.

But everything else?


Part of me is ready to get this show on the road . . . I mean, between the back aches, heavy belly, feet swelling, occasional bouts of lingering nausea and other fun symptoms, I’m less than comfortable. I can’t get off the couch unassisted. I’m tired all the time. The weight gain has been hard for me — and I still have months to go.

But another part of me? A bigger part, perhaps? Is totally okay with Baby J just, you know, hanging out in there for as long as he needs to. I recognize that this is a precious time in my life, and I’m not trying to rush it. Spence and I have our happy routines, and I’m content to daydream about all that’s to come.

Anticipation is half the adventure, right?

There’s something to be said for just soaking up the moment. Be Here Now — my life’s mantra — follows me everywhere.

And tomorrow, while I try not to panic and gag at the thought of all that labor entails, I will remember how I felt the day a curly-haired Spencer walked into a cafe and met my eyes with a smile. How we talked and sipped coffee on the first warm day of spring, soaking up the sunshine in a stiff breeze, and how my nerves drifted away immediately.

There was such a sense of this is right, you know? A sense of realness that I have never questioned. Anticipation buzzed right through me.

Five years later, we’ll be listening to the early signs of labor and taking notes. Later, we’ll pop over to the restaurant where we celebrated our first Valentine’s Day — probably one of our last “nice nights out” before Baby J arrives — and likely reminisce about that day at Panera.

It’s fun to remember what was . . . but even better to think of what will be.

As long as he’s next to me.


Christmas 2014

One beautiful year


Monday marked one year of marriage — and in my typical fashion as of late, I’m behind the times. Eternally behind the times. But I’m here! And I certainly haven’t forgotten!

You know, we really thought we lucked out with the weather that day: mild, bright and breezy, with temperatures in the mid-60s and plenty of warmth in the sun. As I’m obsessive-compulsive even when I’m not planning a life-changing event for 150 people, I’d checked the Farmer’s Almanac average temperatures like a lunatic in the months leading up to our wedding day. An outdoor wedding in November? Who does that? But their warm predictions held true.

What I remember most about that day was my anxious excitement to see Spencer. And the way that I managed, after months of planning and obsessing, to actually stay in the moment. That elusive idea — that I enjoy the now — is something I’ve tried to cultivate for years. It’s very easy for me to agonize about the future and analyze the past, leaving me clinging to little in the present.

The seconds that come back to me clearly are the times I was actually alone: driving myself from the hair salon to our apartment, then getting my brother-in-law to pick me up headed to the venue; nibbling on a sandwich in the bridal suite when the entire crew went outside to rehearse the ceremony.

I just kept thinking, I’m getting married! And it was all surreal until the moment I stepped out in my gown and red shoes to see Spencer, waiting for me on a shady veranda where we glimpsed each other for the first time.

Dance floor kiss

And we danced. We danced so much. I remember joking with our photographers ahead of time that they were going to be hard-pressed to get any shots of me on the dance floor. Unless under, you know, extreme duress.

But that is . . . not exactly how it played out. Of all the surprises, our endless cutting-a-rug-ness surprised me the most. Not because of my groom, of course — Spence loves to break it down — but me? I’ve never danced so much — and with such reckless abandon — as I did that night, and I love remembering the silliness and happiness that propelled us over and over again. The feeling of having all your loved ones around you, cheering and clapping and smiling, really was intoxicating.

Cake cutting

So what have we learned more than 365 days into this beautiful, crazy thing? For me, I wondered if marriage would “feel different” — like waking as one person and emerging another. Almost immediately after the ceremony, I was greeted as “Mrs. Johnson” . . . and I thought, That’s it? Just like that: in one way, out another?

Though it was strange at first, I love being a Mrs. — and rarely slip up and sign the old name. After 28 years as a Snider, I figured the transition would be rocky. I’d have moments of uncertainty, moments of longing to perhaps return to what was familiar and “normal” and true.

But I haven’t. Spence and I quickly developed a new normal — a normal for us — and often laugh at what feels like our “never-ending sleepovers.” After living at home until the ripe ol’ age of 28, I thought I would panic at the idea of changing residences . . . but we’ve actually moved again, of course, and I’ve adjusted. Very, very well.

Spencer and I are a team. Marriage does feel different — because I know someone is constantly in my corner, always waiting with the porch light on. Asking about boring things like what I had for lunch. Sipping coffee next to me, still in pajamas, and happily wandering grocery store aisles on Monday nights.


The past year has been filled with laughter and challenges, joy and a little stress. Buying our first home (and renovating said home), moving again, vacationing in California, celebrating our first holidays as a married couple . . . and heading into 2015, life will change and evolve and expand again.

Though we can never know what’s in store for us, I know one thing for sure: I wouldn’t want anyone else by my side. It really is a beautiful thing to know, deep in my soul, that I’ve married my best friend. I look forward to the months and years and decades to come . . .

. . . one popcorn-filled, hot chocolate-swilling sleepover at a time.


Giving her away: one year later

One year ago, I was preparing to give my sister away.

And that’s truly how it felt: giving her away. Three years my junior, Katie has been my partner in crime since the day she was born. We lived under the same roof until the morning of her wedding, just a wall apart for 25 years, and the day she married — though joyous and much-anticipated — was undoubtedly bittersweet.

It’s hard to admit that. I love my brother-in-law and love him for my sister; it’s nothing like that. My fear was purely, purely selfish. I didn’t want to feel anything but happy for her on September 28, but I was so scared and sad for myself. Just weeks from my own wedding in November, the swiftness with which everything changed — a giant rug suddenly torn away — was like being shoved into an icy river. Sans clothing. In January.

But now, a year later, I can reflect on that weekend with happiness. With clarity. So many of the fears I had about us moving forward — that we wouldn’t remain close; that we wouldn’t see our parents often; that everything would be fractured, different — have not come to pass. As always, my imagination is worse than any reality could be . . . and though things have changed, of course, they are not bad.

They are good. Great, even.

I looked through Katie’s wedding photos last night, remembering all the anticipation and excitement and anxiety we experienced in swift tumult leading up to their union. As I walked the aisle as maid of honor, I remember clutching the best man’s arm because I was legitimately afraid I would fall over — because of my high heels, partially, but mostly because “I Won’t Give Up” was playing and everyone was there, watching, and it was really happening.

The moment we’d anticipated since we both got engaged — on the same day — was here.

It was surreal. That’s the best way I can describe the entire day: surreal.

But surreal can be beautiful, too.

My own little pots of ‘creme’

I’m an “eat dessert first” sort of person.

Not that I actually do it. I guess I mean I’m the type to check out the dessert menu at dinner before perusing the actual entrees. Like any self-respecting 3-year-old, I would much rather sink into a bowl of ice cream than eat a piece of chicken — and if it comes down to choosing a “light” meal over a heavier one so I can have a slice of cake afterward, you know I’m going to do it.

Or, you know. I’ll eat the heavy meal and the cake. I’m still a work in progress.

My boyfriend and I were out Wednesday night to celebrate our second anniversary. It’s hard to believe we’ve only known each other two years and very hard to believe we’ve known each other two years. Our relationship has been one long conversation — the highs and lows; the dips and turns — and I don’t feel we’ve ever really stopped talking.

How is it, then, that I’m still learning so many new things about him? New and funny things? Cute and silly things? After 730 days together, we still have “getting to know you” conversations. They’re deeper than they were at first — more comfortable, easier — but still there. That flutter of excitement at learning a new “secret.”

It makes me think about how well we know other people. The sides and shades we see; the moments we choose to share. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll reach a point when I can look at Spencer, shrug and say, “Well, you know all my stories.” And actually mean it.

I hope not.

But back to dessert. The place we chose is a local haunt known more for its bar than dinners, but I hadn’t been in years — and remembered they had an excellent creme brûlée. The memory of that luscious vanilla creme, tart blackberry and crusty crystallized sugar has never left me — and I was determined that, if we were going, I would reunite with that dessert again.

There was a moment of panic when I didn’t immediately spot the creme brûlée on the menu. I flicked through the pages, scanning each item with disinterest. Without the promise of that memorable dessert, nothing captured my attention. It wouldn’t be the heart-stopping meal I craved.

But then I saw it: not just a creme brûlée but a sampler, complete with vanilla, raspberry and chocolate versions. Top of the menu (right in front of my face, of course). Dinner was good, but I was desperate to move on to the next course.

It didn’t disappoint.

We talked over the creme brûlée, sharing little bites as I sampled Spencer’s bread pudding. Walking back to the house hand in hand, we laughed about how I saw something about a “dessert flight” online — a sampler of every dessert a restaurant offers — and how I would take that over a “beer flight” any day.

I’m not much of a drinker, but I can roll with some whipped cream and cake.

And he indulges me. I’m a lucky girl.

This is love

Sitting at a high table in a local Panera — a cafe I’d visited a thousand times, with a thousand people — my palms were as slick as a water slide. I’d just finished reading The Help and, contrary to my usual modis operandi, had forgotten to bring a book for the wait.

I was always early for dates.

We met online, exchanging a few clever emails before agreeing to meet for coffee. I’ve saved every one. Reading them now, I have to laugh — we were really honest with each other. Everything we shared in those moments, those first tiny glimpses into what our lives together would be like, were true. Photography. Cooking. Family. In just a few notes, we shared so much.

I texted to tell him I was waiting, though I didn’t want to make him nervous. I was a little anxious, yes, but only because he was my third date in a week. The first two, though pleasant, didn’t compel me to call or email them again. I let them fizzle out.

But him — I liked him already. I had a good feeling. My hopes, despite all logic, were high.

And he met them.

I can see him walking into Panera, pushing his long curly hair out of his eyes. He offered a giant smile and I thought, yes. That smile stopped me dead. I tied myself to it, like an anchor; I immediately wanted to hold his hand or touch his shoulder. Waiting in line for coffee, I might have.

We sat outside although it was chilly, eager to take in an unexpectedly glorious weekend. I talked about my job, my hobbies; he shared many of his. He was wearing a red T-shirt and green shorts, an incongruous combination. I immediately liked that he hadn’t fussed with his appearance, hadn’t worried that I would judge it — or him. On the other hand, I’d selected my outfit carefully: jeans; a blue top cinched together at the waist with a black bow belt. Flats, because I didn’t know how tall he would be. Hair down and loose.

The wind eventually whipped so hard, my eyes were filled with tears. We had to head inside — then, in a moment of boldness, I suggested we get dinner. We slipped next door to a Mexican place and ate, talking more about school and friends. We laughed often. We had so much in common. He listened to everything I said, nodding at just the right moments and sharing his own stories. He was wearing his nervous face — a look I know so well now, but one I hadn’t discovered then.

Now, I know the contours of his face. I can close my eyes and conjure his eyes, lips, teeth. I look for him in every crowd; hear his voice sometimes before I see him. I hold on to him. I feel so lucky that love found me.

We met a year ago today. I love you, Spencer; thanks for feeling like home to me.