12: Mahalo

Whoever thinks moving with a baby is easy needs to have their head examined. Maybe six months ago when he was a newborn it might have been easy, but now? Now he’s crawling and forever trying to chase down his two BFFs. 

“Chance, where are you?” This time I’m not playing with him. We’ve got movers coming to help us get everything out of the condo and into our new house. I do not need them stepping on my eight-month-old adventurer. “I swear, we should have named you Chase instead,” I say when I find him trying to crawl into the dog crate out on the balcony. 

He screeches when I pick his chubby body up off the floor. Independent, this one is. I should have seen it coming. He was born on April Fool’s Day, of all days. The c-section was awful, but even with my big hips he was too big to fit through. I really didn’t want to have  surgery but I wanted a healthy baby more. He refused to come out on his own, so my doctor had to go in and get him. Little stinker. He hasn’t done one damn thing since that he doesn’t want to do. 

His teen years might kill me. 

Assuming I survive his toddler years. 

All I can think, most days, is that I am grateful I didn’t have him three or six years ago. What a disaster that would have been. Not just for me, but for him. I wasn’t ready back then. Some days I still question if I’m truly ready but I think most parents have those doubts. There are parents who have five kids and still question if they’re doing it right. 

The front door opens and in come the dogs, with Eric right behind them. He’s gained a nice tan over the last year that he’s been living in Maui with me. Things between us are really good. Better than they’ve ever been, actually, which is kind of amazing with all of the big changes that have come about. While I never technically asked him to move here to be with me, I think there was an implication of some kind. I also think he finally understood what I meant about when things are right, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. I’m sure he never saw himself selling his business or moving across an ocean to be with me. Yet here he is, and he seems to have caught the Aloha spirit the same as I have. 

We go surfing together all the time. He’s way better at it than I am. We take the dogs to the beach, and we jog together. Chance loves the water. Doesn’t matter if it’s the ocean, the bathtub, or the kitchen sink. He loves getting in there and splashing around. The first time I gave him a bath after he was born I was afraid he’d throw a fit over it because most babies don’t like to be cold and wet. Not my kid. I think he was actually pissed when we took him out of the bath. Go figure. 

The box in Eric’s hand suggests that he stopped at a place nearby for donuts, which is just fine with me since all of our kitchen stuff is packed up to go to the new place. I’m starving and I could use the sugar jolt. Mr. Chance was up three times last night. Finally, I brought him to bed with me so he could nurse at will. It’s easier than getting up every forty minutes. 

“I cannot wait to be settled in the new place,” I say to Eric as he puts the donut box down on the counter in the kitchen. “I’m so over everything being in boxes.” 

I’m also over my curious baby trying to climb into the boxes. 

“I know, I know. We’ll be out of here soon and we’ll have new places to pull Boo Bear the Second out of,” he snorts. 

“The fence around the pool is going to save my sanity,” I say. Until he learns to swim, that fence is staying there. That’s something we’re working on already, actually. Baby swim classes are a thing. Who knew?

“Yours and mine too,” he says. He leans down to kiss me quickly. “He’s real lucky he’s cute.”

“Who knew you could love a twenty pound meatball so much?” I kiss my son’s big head. He gives me one of his toothy grins and my heart melts a little. Those little bottom teeth poking up get me every time. 

“Certainly not me. Do you want me to take him so you can eat? The donuts are still warm.”

I have no problem handing Chance over. Very quickly I learned that I don’t have to do it all. Eric is more than capable of handling the baby while I eat a hot meal. Eating in shifts can be annoying sometimes, but we’re getting through it. Chance lays his head down on Eric’s shoulder, which also makes my heart melt a little. I open the box of donuts and pluck a freshly glazed beauty from inside to take a bite. Of course that gets Chance’s attention because now that he’s cut two teeth, he apparently thinks he can eat all the grown-up food. 

“Sorry, kiddo, you’re not able to have donuts yet,” I say before taking another bite. I do, however, offer Eric a bite. I can share. 

“Mmm… thanks,” he says after taking the bite. “This time tomorrow we’ll be having donuts in a lot more space. Which means we’ll be getting more exercise chasing this dude around.”

“Seriously, we should have named him Chase. We missed a golden opportunity.” 

“I’m sure we still have time,” Eric laughs. 

“Maybe he’ll get a sister and she’ll be less… on the go.” I would have another baby if Eric is interested. Pregnancy wasn’t awful. The delivery sucked a little bit, but the end result is worth it. 

“Let’s get through all of this before we start talking about having more.” Eric’s free hand ends up on my butt. “I don’t mind practicing the second this one is napping.”

A knock on the door let us know the movers had arrived. 

“Ha! Not today, bud. You want to get that while I get the doggos in their crates?” I don’t want Artis getting underfoot. She’s really good at that. 

“Yep. Soon we’ll get that practice in,” he winks. He gives me a quick kiss before going to answer the door. 

I herd the dogs out to the crates on the balcony. Björn only needs to be told to go to his crate. Artis, on the other hand, needs an escort. Once the dogs are where they belong, I go back inside to greet the movers. Eric is going to stay at the apartment for the load up. I’m going ahead to the house with Chance so that I can get things set up and put away when the movers deliver everything. 

“Okay, I’m going to leave this in your very capable hands,” I say to Eric and take the baby back from him. “We’ll be ready for you at the house.” 

“I’ll let you know when we’re on our way,” he promises and I get a kiss goodbye before he gets busy showing the movers what they need to load up. 

I’ve already got Chance’s diaper bag and a bunch of stuff loaded into my SUV to take over to the house. Important personal papers and valuables I thought would be best for us to transport ourselves. They’re going to stay in the car until it’s just us in the house. I thought about bringing the dogs but again, they would just get in the way. I know they’re going to want to explore and it’ll be easier if Eric and I are both there to have them on their leashes until they get used to the new yard set up. 

Chance and I go down to the car and he throws a little fit when I put him in his car seat. In less than two miles, he’s sound asleep in the back. Fine by me. It’ll certainly make my day easier if he’s having a snooze while I work. 

🐻🐻🐻

When our realtor was showing Eric and me houses, I didn’t instantly get this amazing feeling like the house we picked is meant to be our home. Driving up, I’ll admit there’s nothing all that special about the house. It’s actually rather plain looking, if I’m being honest. To me, it’s a blank slate in a lot of ways. When I think about it, it seems more like the landscaping is meant to shine instead of the houses in the area. There are some that have a ton of character, but our house is way more about the outdoors and landscape. 

The house was only built three years ago. Inside it’s modern enough for Eric, who prefers neutral colors in the kitchen. I think it appeals to his Scandinavian sensibilities. I don’t mind the clean look of sharp lines. I love the large island in the kitchen. Our kitchen isn’t huge, but it doesn’t need to be. We do a lot of grilling, so having a bigger outdoor kitchen is more important than a big indoor kitchen. Chance’s portable crib is set up on the covered lanai where it’s out of the way of the movers. Boxes are all going into the garage. Furniture is being put where it needs to go. We have a three car garage at the new house. 

I’m excited about this big change for our family. I smile when I walk into the house with Chance on my hip, still asleep, and find that Eric has put a photo of the three of us on the fridge. The picture was taken on Halloween. We dressed up at Gomez, Morticia, and Pugsley Addams. Artis made a great Wednesday. Björn is too dignified for costumes like that, and that’s okay. My little meatball baby is sweaty as heck, but he’s really out because there is no fussing from him when I put him in the Pack ‘n Play. 

I walk through the house and open the sliding doors to let the outside in. With the flip of a switch, the ceiling fans turn on outside. It’ll keep the lanai nice and cool. The sky is so blue. Our house does offer an ocean view from one side and a mountain view from the other. It’s heaven. Palm trees everywhere and beautiful, vibrantly colored flowers dot the landscape. As a little girl growing up in rural Louisiana, I never would have pictured myself living here. But here is exactly what I need. 

Then I into the bedroom that Eric and I will be sharing and I open those sliding doors as well. I want to let some fresh air in and paint smell out. They say that paint is now fumeless, but I’m not sure I agree with that. A soft shade of gray has gone on the walls in our bedroom. I told Eric that I want something soothing and spa-like, and I got it. When we started house hunting I told him that I want our home to feel like a sanctuary. I want it to be a peaceful place where our son always feels safe and loved. I think this house is perfect for that. 

We closed on the house last week and already had painters in. Chance’s room is now a soothing shade of blue with turtle decals on the wall. The new house isn’t huge, but it’s sitting on two and a half acres of land, which is plenty of space for the custom pool that was already in the ground. There’s also a lot of grass for two dogs and a rambunctious little boy to run around on. My favorite part truly is the lanai, because I suspect it’s where we’ll be spending most of our time when we’re home. 

The best part is that there’s a covered walkway that leads to a second structure. I suppose it’s technically a second house that could be used as a rental property if we want it to be, but it’s going to be office space. At least for now. There’s a bathroom, a kitchenette, and two workspaces in there. At the back, on the poolside, there’s meeting space for clients if I ever have them over. It’ll likely be play space for Chance when he has to come over to the office with me. 

I get a little bit of unpacking done before Eric and the movers show up a few hours later. The internet is already set up. We had the techs come out last week. Eric and I decided to go with streaming services instead of standard cable. We don’t really watch a ton of TV anyway, but I like being able to watch the news sometimes. Local stuff, not the news channels. I’m glad we didn’t immediately move into a house together. Buying a house can be really stressful. Pregnancy is stressful enough. Getting set up for a baby is a big deal. It would have driven me completely batshit crazy if I had been trying to get organized and prepared for a baby with my house all in disarray. I fully admit, I’m a person who goes into hardcore nesting mode. Poor Eric.

“You want to oversee the bedroom stuff and I’ll get Chance’s room in order?” I suggest. Divide and conquer seems like the best way to go about getting our shit together. 

“Yeah. Sounds good to me.”

“Almost done,” I say with a smile. “Am I going to pick up the pooches or are you?”

“I can.” He comes over to give me a quick kiss. “I’ll be glad when we’re done with the condo.”

“Me too. I mean, I’ll miss it, but it’ll be good to have the stress off our shoulders. Am I ordering pizza for dinner tonight?” I don’t think we’ll be unpacked enough to cook. 

“Sure. If you want you can order it and I’ll pick it up on my way home,” he offers.

“Sounds good to me. I’ve got beer in the fridge for later, by the way.” I’ve got enough breast milk already in the freezer that if I have to pump and dump for the next day, it’ll be just fine. 

“Thanks. You didn’t have to do that, but I appreciate it,” he smiles. “You’re going to be a good missus if you say yes when I finally get around to asking you.”

“Let’s get this house set up first, yeah?”

“Ma’am, where are we putting the crib?” 

“Duty calls,” I say with a smile. Chance reaches for his dad, so I let him go with Eric while I go to the nursery. 

I’m not looking forward to setting up the crib again. Hence the beer. 

🐻🐻🐻

I don’t return home until a little later at night. I have pizza and pups in tow. It took me a couple months to get the house sold in Portland and for my business to transfer ownership to Jade and Felicia. They were sad to see me go but excited about the baby and the fact that I had a new life I was moving onto. I had no idea what I was going to do once I arrived in Hawaii. I had money in savings thanks to the sale of the house and business, so I wasn’t in a major rush. Besides, my little terror was born a little less than a month after I arrived on the island. I wanted to spend time with him and give Sookie as much help as possible. I obviously can’t breastfeed him but I can give him a bottle after she pumps so she can get some sleep. Once a week we take a solo trip together to the beach with the dogs so Sookie can have a little time to herself. His reliance on her these first few years is vital, but I can take as much burden off of her as possible. Sending her to get a pedicure and to have an uninterrupted nap is important for her sanity. 

So far, I’ve loved every minute of this move. The only thing I miss about Portland is having easy access to my mom. No matter how crazy she is, she’s still my mom. 

While I was at the condo I also picked up one last thing. Something I’ve been holding onto since right after Chance was born. Sookie and I did things pretty backwards, but there’s one last step I’d like to take. If she’s not ready I’ll continue to ask until she says yes, but I want to make her a Northman too. She shouldn’t be the odd man out. 

“Honey, I’m home,” I call out when I walk into the house with the pizza Sookie ordered. The dogs are still in the car. I want to get the pizza squared away before I let them roam around. This is going to be their first time in the house. I’m already looking forward to Artis spazzing out. 

“Yay! I’m starving,” Sookie says. She’s got Chance attached to her, as usual, only this time he’s getting his bedtime snack. 

“Good. Did I miss anything while I was gone?” I take the pizza to the counter. “I’ll go get the dogs in a minute.”

“Not really. I got Chance’s sheet on the bed so when he’s ready to conk out he can go in his own bed. The monitors are set up too.” Sookie takes a seat at the island. 

I kiss her temple and whisper, as if Chance can’t hear me, “Once he’s out we can get the first christening in.” I rub his head before I walk around the island to start dishing up the pizza. “Think we should give our older kids a slice today? They’ve spent a lot of time in their crates.”

“I think they’d like that a lot.” 

“Okay. Here. You eat while it’s hot. I’ll bring them in and let them roam a while.” I slide her plate of pizza over to her. 

“Thank you.” Sookie picks up a slice of pizza and blows on it a few times before taking a bite. “Mmm… so yummy.” 

“It smells good. Be careful. If you drop any on Chance he may take that as in invitation to steal the whole slice,” I joke. 

“Oh Lord, help us,” she laughs. “He’s bad enough with those baby breadstick things.” 

“I turned around the other day while he was munching on one. I thought he threw it on the ground but he just ate it crazy fast. He should not be chewing on shit yet,” I laugh too. 

“He’s got those little toofers that– ouch! Listen kid, there are nerve endings in that udder,” Sookie says to Chance. “Damn, those things are sharp.”

“Might be time to start weaning him,” I suggest. 

“Nah, I’ll quit when he’s ready.” 

“Your call. I miss my girls,” I chuckle. “Okay, going to get Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.” 

“Okay. I closed the sliders so they can’t get loose without us.” 

“Thanks. Artis would spend the rest of the night in the pool otherwise.” I rub Chance’s head on my way past Sookie. “Oh, before I go.” I pull the ring box out of my pocket, open it and set it on the counter in front of Sookie. “Any interest in being my missus?” I ask casually. 

Sookie literally drops her pizza on her plate. She looks up at me like I’m nuts. 

“Seriously?”

“Seriously. I love you like crazy, you know that. It doesn’t have to be tomorrow, even though I would happily sign a marriage certificate right now, but yes, I’m asking if you’ll marry me one day,” I say. 

“Wow.” Sookie considers it for a moment and then asks, “Can we revisit this when I don’t have a baby on my tit?”

“Yes.” I lean down to kiss her. “Timing has never been my strong suit.”  

“That’s true,” she agrees. “But I promise I will seriously think about it.” 

“The ring isn’t going anywhere. If you’re not ready, I’ll keep asking until you are or until you tell me to stop.” 

“Fair enough.” 

I rub Sookie’s shoulder before I leave the room so I can get the dogs. I know she doesn’t make decisions lightly. Just because I’m ready, it doesn’t mean she is. She knows I’m not going anywhere and I don’t think she is either. We have a great relationship. This is the first time it’s ever been as good as it is. 

I open the door to the car so I can let the dogs out. I’ll bring their crates into the house in a little while. For now I’m going to let them run and figure out their new digs. Sookie has their beds set up so they know they have a safe place until their crates are in the house. More than likely they’re going to end up wherever Chance is. That’s how it usually happens. As soon as I open the door to the house the dogs tear off to sniff every inch of it. They’ll get their pizza slices later. It’s not too often they get a snack like this. 

I find Sookie and Chance right where I left them. 

“If he’s done I’ll take him so you can finish eating,” I offer.

“Yeah, he’s out cold,” she tells me. “He’s snoring, he’s so out. All that crawling really takes it out of him.” 

“It does and I’m okay with that,” I chuckle. I gently lift him off of Sookie. He’s getting so damn big and solid. I quietly take him back to his room since Sookie said his bed is set up. I lay him down before leaving the room to go back so I can eat finally. 

“You know, I think we should hit the hot tub before bed,” Sookie proposes. 

“I think that’s the best idea you’ve had this week,” I say. 

“You haven’t even seen what I have in mind for what we should do in that hot tub.” 

“Mmm, that’s true,” I grin. “You’re usually pretty good with water plans.”

“Am I? I never really thought about it.”

“The shower is usually the only time we can get frisky,” I remind her. I pick up a slice of pizza. Half of the slice is gone in one bite. So. Damn. Good. 

“Well it’s not the only time. It’s just the most convenient time.” 

“That’s true too.” I notice the ring box is closed. Her hand is on her lap so if she’s put it on I can’t see it. “What’s the first thing you want to tackle tomorrow?”

“I want to finish getting the kitchen in order. Then I want to unpack the rest of the linens and things like that. The decorative stuff can wait. My clients know I’m not working for the next week while we get settled, so I can get the house together before I start on the office.” 

“Okay. You know you’re the boss in all of this. Let me know what I need to do. I have another week before I start my new job,” I say. I secured a job as a receptionist at a veterinary clinic. I’m the first male receptionist they’re going to have but with my experience, I’m confident I’m going to do just fine. 

“Are you excited?” 

“I am. No offense, but I’m ready to get out of the house and get a paycheck again,” I chuckle. “And having benefits is great.”

“I don’t take offense. I understand needing time away from the circus.” 

“I’ll be going from one madhouse to another.” I love my madhouse, though. Speaking of madhouse. “Where did you put their bowls? I’m going to give them their pizza.”

“Bowls are outside right now. They’re to the left if you go out the slider. I didn’t want us tripping over them until we figure out where to keep them. I don’t really want them in the kitchen with our creepy crawler on the loose,” she chuckles.

“I’m with you on that.” I pull two slices of pizza from the box. “I don’t even think I’ll need the bowl. They’re going to swallow them whole.”

Sookie laughs and says, “I hope not. I’m not interested in doing the Heimlich.” 

“Neither am I.” I call the dogs. They come running from the back of the house. 

I take the dogs into the backyard since I have them distracted with pizza. They both sit pretty for me and wait patiently for their respective slices of pizza. I set them in their bowls and make them wait a moment before I release them to eat. I’m watching them when Sookie comes out, slipping her arm around my waist. 

“This is all ours, Honeybee,” I say, wrapping my arm around her shoulders. 

“Yep. Think you’ll get tired of that sunset anytime soon?” From where we’re standing we can clearly see the ocean and the sun setting in the distance. 

“Never.” I kiss the top of her head. “It’s even better that I get to share it with you.” 

“Ditto.” Her hand settles on my chest and something catches the light. When I look down, I notice the engagement ring is on her finger. 

I smile at that. “It fits, huh?” 

“Seems to. Looks good too, if I do say so myself.”

“I agree. Have you done anymore thinking? Any interest in being a Northman?”

“I thought about just trying it out for a while, but I think I’d only be delaying the inevitable.” 

“I’ve known I want to marry you for a while. I wanted to wait for the right moment to ask. I saw you sitting there and decided it was the right time.”

“Oh yeah, ain’t nothing sexier than breastfeeding,” she snorts. 

“I wasn’t waiting for a sexy moment. I looked at you sitting there happy and exhausted and more beautiful than ever.  Breastfeeding or not, it felt like the right time to say something.”

“Your moment is your moment. Turned out okay.” 

“So is that a yes or a maybe later?” I assume it’s a yes, but you know what people say about assuming. 

“It’s a yes.”

I lean down to kiss her. It took a long time for us to reach this point. It was a very bumpy road. Sookie is worth every twist, turn, and bump. She was my soulmate when I met her over a decade ago. I’d had my doubts once or twice over the years but it turns out those doubts were just my own personal demons. I know I have my forever in my arms. 

Chance Northman

Home Sweet Home

 

THE END

13 thoughts on “12: Mahalo

  1. OMG, that baby is just too cute! I want to pinch those chubby cheeks! I’ll attest to the fact that moving with a baby is hell. No idea what possessed me to do it, other than getting the hell out of Hooterville. Yep, don’t try that one at home, kids. Wait until the baby is older & you get friends/family to babysit.

    Meg & Missy, thanks for such a terrific story! This was so needed during these crazy times. You two are lifesavers of another kind. Bless you both, stay healthy & stay safe!

    Like

  2. OMG, estoy muy conmocionada para tratar de pensar en inglés así que lo siento pero escribiré en español. Son exactamente las 08:20 am y después de mucho intentar dormir y no poder, decidí leer el primer capítulo. Está claro decir que no logré quedarme en el primero y después de llorar mucho entre los capítulos 2 y 11 aquí estoy, absolutamente feliz de que compartieran esta historia y cruzando los dedos para poder leer algo nuevo pronto. No nos olviden! Cuídense mucho y gracias por hacer que por un par de horas olvidara el encierro de la cuarentena. xoxo!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That baby is super cute! I have to agree about his head, especially in that knit cap – he’s a meatball! Thanks for such a happy ending and a story full of growth.

      Like

  3. I just loved this story! Such a rocky beginning to a wonderful ending. Thank you so much for continuing to give my favorite couple more adventures and sharing them with us.

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  4. Sweet, beautiful, just…. thank you wonderful ladies.
    The addiction arc was wonderfully done. You are right. Recovery never stops, and it was wonderful to see Sookie realise that and commit to recovery, no matter the set backs. Too many people put too much pressure on themselves, not just about addiction. Failure seems to be something too many people can’t forgive themselves for. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for trying in the first place.
    Sigh, yep, raw spot. Not an addiction, unless you call perfectionism and addiction.
    Any way….

    Thank you. This was a great story. I enjoyed all the ups and downs! And thank you as well for posting it all in one go!

    Hope both of you, and you families are safe.
    Cheers and hugs
    ~Gwyn

    Like

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