For My Husband on Fathers Day

Posted on 6/21/2015 07:49:00 AM

Everyone knows I abhor sentimentality, so I'll make this brief.  

I've alluded to some struggles we've had this year and if I've made mine sound in any way bigger or more profound than his, I've been self-centered and guilty of the same navel-gazing everyone claimed bloggers are subject to in the last decade.  In fact, many of the dilemmas I've grappled with recently are in trying to figure out just how to support him and make his life a little easier and the trouble is I'm either not doing a very good job or I just can't.

For Mother's Day I got this:



A barbed wire cactus to hang on the wall.  There is a long history to this cactus and how I tried for years to get The KoH to steal one from a Mexican restaurant we frequent and he was too damn ethical to grab it while I distracted the owner with my good looks and poorly pronounced Spanish.  Then I tried to get him to buy it and he actually did try many times and each time the owner refused, saying it was simply not for sale and he couldn't even sell it to customers like us who supported his restaurant for years, but then a few years later, we went in for dinner and the cactus was gone and we asked about it and the owner said, "Oh some customer wanted to buy it so I sold it to him," and I was like, "NOOOOOOOOooooooooo."

So The KoH found a bale of barbed wire when he traveled back to Nevada this Spring and packed it IN HIS SUITCASE and brought it back, then made this for me  in the basement the night before Mother's Day.  Best. Gift. Ever.  Also: suck it, Mexican Restaurant Owner.

(Just kidding; I still love that guy even though he gave away my cactus.)

The other thing I got for Mother's Day was a croquet set we could use to teach the Shortlings to play Extreme Monster Croquet.  This is a game invented during my internship with my fellow interns and housemates wherein the course usually took up the entire neighborhood and had so many obstacles and non-traditional turns, you needed a map to follow it and could often take your life in your hands to get from one gate to the next.  Then we'd argue vociferously about whether this person went through the gate the correct direction before the car almost ran over it and if that person properly jumped the stream before sending that other person's ball forty yards out into the front lawn of the mental hospital and every game would end like this:



Our Mothers Day croquet tournament took it easy on the Shotlings, but we made sure to include at least a few proper course hazards.



The sharp left turn required after this gate made it acceptable, but only just.

The fact that The KingofHearts knows me well enough to know that these two gifts were better than any Mother's Day bunch of flowers or candy says quite a lot about how much better he is at marriage than I.  I don't know if I have a better gift for him this year than many of these things, but I tried.  If I could give him anything, it would be a break from all the nonsense he's had to deal with this season.

I don't think most of us fully appreciate the depth of influence fathers can have on their children and families and perhaps that's because many dads simply don't try to do so.  But you know who does try?  This guy: 


Every day, he is an active participant in our lives and quite honestly, that alone is more than a lot of people get.  He reads to them.  He listens to them read to him.  He packs lunches.  He does chores around the house.  He fixes things when they break.  He worries about their social, emotional and educational development every bit as much as I do.  And yay for him for being a partner in all that.  But he's also fun to be around: funny, sweet, creative, smart and more supportive than he usually gets credit for.  I tease him a lot for his obsessive benders, but the truth is I only do that because I know he can be a good sport about it and I don't mind his obsessions so much; I'm glad he is interested in things (though I wouldn't mind getting back that three years of my life where every discussion had to have a fishing metaphor in it).  

Today he will be attending a dance recital because that's when The Caterpillar's studio scheduled it (I know, RIGHT?!?) and while I know he'll enjoy the five minutes she'll be on stage, I know the other two hours of the program while other peoples' kids dance, he'd rather be somewhere else.  But he will go and he will sit there because I refuse to be those parents who get up and leave in the middle of a performance because their kid has already gone on and they're no longer interested.  And he'll do it without complaint because that's what a Dad does.  OK, he might complain a little... ok a lot... but he's gonna go of his own free will and choice... -ish.

So Happy Fathers Day to one and all.  You aren't lucky enough to have this guy in your life, but your dad is probably good too.

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For the Grandparents

Posted on 6/15/2015 11:24:00 AM
Our church held a youth recital this weekend, which I think is a really cool thing to do.  They apparently started this last year to give kids who study music an outlet to share their talents and to reinforce the parents' support of music education.  It's not a "play stuff appropriate for church only" event.  It's just a recital of what they're working on if they take lessons outside of church.  It's wonderful; I'm in full support of this.  But what is even more wonderful is that the administration of this congregation is also in full support of this and not only allows this to happen, but enthusiastically dedicates time and resources to something like this.  Doing stuff like this in prior congregations wasn't prohibited, but it was almost always relegated to a back room somewhere, hit with a whole bunch of ridiculous requirements, and usually like pulling teeth to get it done since in general, the decision makers weren't musicians and didn't really see any use or importance.

This congregation is new to us since we moved and the girls have been having some growing pains getting to know the kids their age there.  There are more of them, which is one of the reasons for our move, to be honest, but, if I'm being honest, I think an unanticipated side effect of that is these kids have already organized themselves into groups and my kids aren't yet assigned to one or more of those social groups.  The Dormouse is a bit at odds with this and doesn't feel like she fits in.  She's never experienced cliques at church before.  There weren't enough kids her age to worry about that kind of thing in the last congregation - they were just all in it together.  In fact, one of the really lovely things about the last congregation we attended is that all the kids, even the teenage girls whom I worked with, were weirdly above that teen-girl, mean-girl thing that you see so much in kid groups - especially girl kid groups.  I marveled at that the entire time I held the position of Young Women's President - how even though the young women there had diverse experiences and backgrounds and went to different schools and were in different social groups, they were never unkind or snarky with each other that I ever saw.  I never noticed anyone trying to exclude anyone else in that way teen girls are so masterful at doing and I never heard any one of them complain that someone else did it to her.


I've been trying to help The Dormouse see that this is just a more difficult time to make friends in life and it takes a little longer, so just give them a chance.  I'd chalk this up to her being a pre-teen and having my DNA, but I've noticed this with The Caterpillar too.  When we go to a church event, The Caterpillar runs around, trying to say hi to people in her class and "talk to her friends" (which she considers all of the people in her class to be) and they look at her like an apparition, then simply walk off.  It's unclear to me whether they are shy and just don't get her unique brand of instant-friendliness, or if they're actively trying to snub her.  I want to believe the former, but it's been a few months now and the momma bear in me is starting to get pissed.


Last month at a church picnic, I found The Caterpillar sitting by herself under a tree.  I walked over and asked her if she was all alone.  She said no, that she was waiting for her friends, then clarified, "...my tiny friends."  I started to wonder what imaginary people she had to make up to get her through the event, but before I could ask, she told me they were in the bathroom and getting permission from their moms to come back - as if to prove to me they were real.  Turns out she was playing with the little kids three to four years younger than her because all the girls her age had wandered off and left her.  She was having a good time, directing them like a circus ringleader, so I said nothing.  It probably bothered me more than it did her so I thought it best to keep my trap closed.  But I filed it away and continue to wonder what I should do - if anything - about it and if so, when.  


I shouldn't be surprised, because the adult women - mothers of these children - are all very nice.  They consistently greet you in the hallway, they all know my name and seem to be genuinely happy we are here.  I have no sour observations to draw on, but my experience so far in having a conversation with any of them has been tricky.  I often feel like I'm talking to a robot that has been programmed to greet everyone and be incredibly friendly, but does not know the next human step to take.  I sort of get that same, deer-in-headlights-look-then-wander-off experience The Caterpillar has been getting from their daughters.  It's a little Stepford-Wife-y, but my history in making friends with adult women is sketchy at best, and this is me:



I don't need another friend,
I already HAVE TWO.

...so I'm willing to sit back and give them the benefit of the doubt -- or just not care, whichever is easier.  Seeing my children have a difficult time with it is a bit heart-wrenching.


That is why I encouraged the Shortlings to participate in this recital and sat in the audience with a smile plastered on my face last night while thirty-two - THIRTY-TWO - kids, who all needed their moment in the sun, dressed up in their best and brightest and played music they had worked on for the past several weeks.  It was long and most of it boring to everyone but parents of the one performing and some of the kids seemed to have the "one piece or two short pieces max if playing different instruments"  rule applied only loosely to them, but we sat through it all and applauded loudly each time some kid walked up and did the metaphorical, "Look what I can do."


The sacrifices you make for your children, they are many and varied.


Hey! Look what my kids can do.


The Caterpillar:





The Dormouse:


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Writer's Block

Posted on 6/05/2015 02:22:00 PM
“I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward the consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it -- or my observation of it -- is temporary?”  
- John Green

These last six months, in many ways, have been some of the most difficult of our marriage.  Not THE most difficult, mind you, but a close second, anyway.  

It reminds me of this time shortly after we got married mumblesomething years ago and we bought and moved into our first house.  Then everything went to hell in a handbag.  We moved in.  We were pretty much children back then and only barely made enough to get by after the mortgage was paid.  And before we made the first payment on the house, I totaled a car.  Then exactly one week to the day while driving me home from the Metro station I was now obliged to frequent, The KoH totaled his car.  I was driving in the first accident and got a lovely seat belt bruise/burn from my left shoulder to my right hip from being thrown forward and then I was the passenger in the second accident so I received the same mark from my right shoulder to my left hip and walked around for a month with a giant X on my torso.  I remember sitting on the median of the highway, waiting for a tow truck to come and watching pieces of The KoH's truck bouncing up and down on the road as other cars drove and just laughing because it was too ridiculous to cry.  These were not even the most significant things that went wrong that month.  We started referring to April as "Wrecktember."

And that's not even what I mean when I talk about the worst time in our marriage because in addition to "Wrecktember," there's also been "Sucktober," "Blowvember," and "Debtember."  Trouble tends to follow us in packs; it always has.

In the last six months, The KingofHearts has been laid off and we lost the contract on the house we were buying.  We had some medical issues of our own, which I'm not quite ready to talk about just yet. We had to cash out a retirement account and ended up paying way more taxes on that than we were expecting (and we were expecting a lot).  We remodeled our old house with mostly our own four hands, put it on the market, sold it, lost the contract on that, sold it again, had a month-long argument with the prospective buyers who learned that once, half a decade ago, a raccoon had gotten into the attic and we evicted him within the week, but they worried they were going to be murdered in their sleep by the errant raccoon when he came back with his Raccoon Gang That Returns To The Scene Of The Crime Every Five Years and what were we going to do to make them feel better about that, huh?!?  I suggested we tell them not to worry, the Monkey Fighting Snake up there in the Monday-to-Friday Attic would most assuredly scare off the raccoon and then we post this photo on the attic door, but our long-suffering real estate agent suggested this wasn't quite the right tack to take.

Finally on the last day of that contract, it turned out that these buyers couldn't even secure financing, despite a letter their bank wrote for them saying they were approved for the amount. (The bank said they wrote it in error: "Our bad.")  So we lost an entire month of market time, three other viable offers, and put the house back on the market.  We sold it again in a matter of days, but then almost didn't get to complete the sale because the county had screwed up something about the filing of the title four years before we even bought the house and threatened not to let us sell it, but we certainly could continue paying the mortgage they gave us when they let us buy it without a secure title.  While dealing with all that, we had a flood in the new house, we lost a close family member suddenly, lost a close friend suddenly and another friend is currently in the hospital.  This after an already difficult previous year of helping friends and family manage illness and loss. 

Some really great things have happened too, but not without clawing, scratching and fighting for them tooth and nail, which seems to be how most things work out for us anyway.

All of this is not to try and elicit sympathy, but rather to put it in perspective here and to possibly explain how as much as I want to write about this and work out my thoughts, my inner voice has almost completely gone dark lately and I don't know how to start it up again.  I've tried over and over to sit down and put some of these experiences on screen... for maybe no one even, other than myself and my kids one day.  To try and show how we all eventually deal with times like these and if we are strong - and most of us are - we get through them.  We might get through them with grace and we might not, but we get through.  And how even at the darkest of these times, there is still so much joy.

So I sit at the keyboard and I put my index fingers on the J and the F and this comes out:

....
....
....
....
....
....

And then I shut the computer and go look for whatever new catastrophe has happened that day.

Today we are spending a ridiculous amount of money to have a few dead trees on the new property cut down because they are threatening the house and with our luck as of late, it's only a matter of time before a stiff wind blows them over and we can hang mugs off the limbs coming through our kitchen wall.  It's the prudent, adult thing to do, but what I really want to do is take the money, purchase a plane ticket and get on the first flight out of here.  I don't care to where.  Just away.

I know we will get through the dark times because we got through others and they were much darker, but for now I just wish it would STOP for a minute.

So instead of working, I'm sitting here on the floor with my feet up on the fireplace, watching Larry, Moe and Curly (*not their real names) try to take down a single tree without killing any other trees, hitting the house, or dropping said tree on one of their bodies. A big branch just hung up on another tree and while one of the guys walked under it, it started to drop.  The other two yelled at the top of their lungs, "HEADACHE!" and he jumped out of the way just before it came crashing down to the spot where he'd been standing.

There is a chipmunk under my herb garden who looks just as amused by the arborists as I am.  He's been back and forth most of the morning. He watches The Stooges for awhile, then runs off to - I don't know, find a nut - and comes back a few minutes later to watch some more.

This morning, I woke up early to find a coyote poking around our yard, followed by a couple of lazy deer who seem to have missed the memo that someone lives here now and are always surprised to see us moving around by the window.

A beautiful swallowtail butterfly just lit on the azalea bush, despite the fact that the chainsaws are making such a racket a few feet away from him, I can't believe he wouldn't be scared off, and a hummingbird flew up to the feeder we hung outside.

I think the universe wants to be noticed.

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Washington, D.C. Metro, United States
Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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