Tag Archives: Marriage

Remember the Christmas…

I couldn’t tell you what I got for Christmas in third grade. Or for most Christmases for that matter. Sure, I remember the big stuff. The Cabbage Patch Doll that I hoped I got because I knew they were flying off the shelves. The black-and-white TV set that got me through the grogginess of many migraines with the help of “Dallas” and “Love Boat.”

But year after year as we pull out the box of ornaments for our tree, Christmases past come sweeping back. The green beaded ornament that my kids don’t really like has always been one of my favorites. My grandmother bought us grandkids a special ornament every year for our packages. She picked them out at craft shows and we all got something different. That ornament reminds me of Christmas Eve at her house—a velvet Christmas dress and itchy tights with a crotch that hung near my knees. I remember looking for the lighted Santa on someone’s porch before we crossed the bridge, and coming home and climbing into bed with my sister, the only night of the year I was ever allowed.favorite ornament

Many ornaments on our tree tell a story. There’s the fancy beaded ball my mom made that used to hang on my childhood tree. She used beaded pins to hold sequins and beads in place. Our tree stood in the living room then and I remember a Christmas long ago when my sister picked out a snowman soap for me. I loved snowmen. I loved that soap and it sat on my dresser for years, unused and gathering dust. I think I finally threw it out as a teenager. More than anything, I loved that my sister bought me something she thought I would like.fancy ornament

There’s a golden wreath with a picture of my sister and me dangling from the center. We’re teenagers and I remember that my hair looked decent that day, a true accomplishment. There’s a wooden Revolutionary soldier on a red horse and that’s the first ornament I ever remember being mine. My sister and I fought every Christmas over who had the red one and who had the white one and, more importantly, who would hang which on our quickly dying tree. My parents finally got smart and taped our names to the backs.

When I married, I brought my box of ornaments with me. My husband did the same. And his ornaments tell stories too. His grandmother gave him a new ornament every year, and those were always from some kind of craft venue too. The lid of his box lists each ornament and the year she gave it to him. There’s the little football player sporting a green uniform (no doubt an Eagles player), birds made from pinecones, and a simple Matchbox car with a yarn hanger.footballornament

Every year our kids hang those ornaments on our tree along with the ornaments their grandparents have given them. And while they sometimes make fun of our old, crusty ones and root through the bin in search of “better” things to hang, I know one day the kids will look back at all of those ornaments and have stories of their own.

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Filed under Family

After 15 Years, He Still Likes Me

At 22, I arrived at my first job fresh out of college with a degree, cheap clothes, big dreams, and little else. Happy to have work as a feature writer at a small daily newspaper, I settled into what I thought real-world living was. I found my own apartment in a dingy area of town, made my own meals, paid my bills, and still had a taste for fun and freedom. I figured if I got married, I’d be 30.

The serious dark-haired reporter who covered the cops and courts beat changed that. His deep voice carried across the newsroom. He didn’t have time to goof off. He was always on deadline or rushing to crime scenes or court.

Four months after I started my job, we were engaged. We had become fast friends. It wasn’t a storybook romance. It was more like we saw each other at a party from across the room and thought, “There you are. I’ve been looking for you all my life. Let’s get out of here.”

We just knew. It wasn’t that I couldn’t imagine the rest of my life without him; it was that I could only imagine the rest of my life with him.

Fifteen years later, here we are, a boring couple with two kids living in the suburbs. He works. I stay home. We live the American dream. We’ve had little drama. Frankly, I think it’s a good life. We laugh, we wrestle, we get on each other’s nerves, we ignore each other, we taunt each other, we get each other.

For fifteen winters he has put up with two pairs of socks on my feet, ugly flannel pajamas, and a sticky plastic strip across my stuffy nose to help me breathe. Nostrils flared, I look like a proud pig coming to bed but he doesn’t say anything, though he does roll the other way.

He puts up with the used tissues I leave all over the house year-round and the fact that I make him clean the unidentifiable objects from the back of the fridge. I suffer with the fact that he refuses to throw certain clothing away when it is so riddled with holes a moth wouldn’t touch it. I made a pact with him early in our marriage that I would never throw his things out without asking. And I don’t. I did not, however, say I wouldn’t nag about those items—or his box collection in the garage.

We’ve been through times when I wondered if we’d ever be the same happy couple again. Nights when our young son wouldn’t sleep, my word, there were hundreds of nights. But somehow when the sun came up, we always saw things differently.

When you’re young and stupid and you’re mumbling those wedding vows in utter fear, you know you mean them, but after fifteen years you understand them with all your heart. The honeymoon ended long ago, awkwardness replaced with being too comfortable in human skin. If something itches, you scratch it. My husband has held my hair for me while I puked, put ice packs on my head to ease migraines. He’s helped me through stomach disorders that I never wanted him to witness. He probably saw things during childbirth that I don’t want to know about.

That’s when you know you’ve got it good. Between all of that and those sticky nose strips, he loves me anyway.

We’ve been married fifteen years this month and he’s still that young reporter who invited me to his house to do my laundry and cook dinner for me sixteen years ago. And he still does my laundry and cooks dinner for me.

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Filed under Everyday Life

When Date Night Goes Wrong

My husband and I rarely go out as a couple. When we get the chance for a date night, we snatch it up like kids grabbing candy from the Halloween treat bowl. So when grandparents come to town, we accost them and beg for a few hours away from our kids. The thing is, for years I just never found any sitters I liked—until now. To celebrate my husband’s fortieth birthday, I hired our new sitter and spent weeks anticipating the night out with my aging husband.

In the past, some date nights we’ve been granted have been spontaneous. A grandparent mentions, “Feel free to go out tonight,” and my husband and I are out the door within minutes. No time for chitchat or wardrobe changes—we make plans in the car. We have a habit of dining early, joining the older crowd for the early bird special. Or we go later and get seated by the couple with the screaming kid. As much as I try to ignore this, I’ve left my screaming kids at home so I can enjoy a peaceful meal for once. A meal that doesn’t involve someone squawking, “I don’t like this food!” A meal where some child isn’t climbing out of her seat and the parents are at wit’s end. I get a little deflated when that battle happens right next to me. I think, “I’ve been there lady, I really have, but I’ve been on this dating side so much less frequently lately. I’m a little more sympathetic to me right now.”

Having the luxury to plan date night is pretty rare. Saturday everything was going seamlessly. I actually dressed up for the finer establishment, switched purses even. The kids’ dinner came out of the oven just as the sitter arrived. My husband and I were walking out the door and my daughter ran to me, frantically pointing to her mouth. “What is it?” A mouth full of vomit, that’s what it was. My husband rushed her to the bathroom. I told the sitter to run home, away from our germs. In the kitchen my son bawled over his dinner. “I don’t like it when people throw up,” he sobbed. He shivered with fear, thinking of the last stomach bug that swept over our house two years ago that made him sick for ten days. Knowing a virus had entered our house again terrified him.

purse

Ready to go on the date that never was.

My husband and I put our crummy clothes back on. Like forecasters calling for snow, we were parents predicting a wave of stomach terror. It was time to stock up on Gatorade, crackers, and disinfecting wipes. We needed to run to the store for sick supplies in case we were unexpectedly shut in like last time when the virus took my husband and me down in the night within hours of each other.

Instead of the delicious dinner we dreamed about, we ate stale leftovers and spent our date night a little nauseated, pondering our indigestion, and wondering whether every grumble of our stomachs meant we would be next. We prepared for the storm, turned out the lights, and went to bed early, not knowing how many times we’d be up in the night.

But my daughter made it through. She nibbled Cheerios at breakfast and announced she felt fine. Now the rest of us wonder who’s next. We sit and wait. And for now, date night will have to wait too.

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Forty Is Just a Number

My husband turns 40 this week. He’s not thrilled about his milestone four decades of life. I think he feels kind of old, lost his youth, you know. If he drives up in a convertible and I have to put up with ten years of a midlife crisis, I’m not sure what I’ll do. Go along for the ride? As long as there isn’t a blonde in the passenger seat, I think I can handle a little change.

I’ve just never cared much about age. Forty doesn’t scare me, but I’m not quite there yet either. I still have two years (one and a half) until I say good-bye to my thirties, and they’ve been really good to me. Maybe by then I will be a weepy, wrinkly, achy mess.

For most of my adult life, I haven’t been able to remember my age. Twenty-something. Twenty-three, no seven? After I was legal, I really didn’t care. Now that I have kids who can speak and who are good in math, they don’t let me forget. “No, you’re 38.”turning 40

I think having kids helps me maintain a youthful spirit. When you play chase in the yard, pretend you’re Padme Amidala, immerse yourself in dolls and Harry Potter, and hear fart talk 24/7, it rubs off on you. My dad always says, “You’re as old as you feel,” and I agree. I look forward to a Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Little House book as much as my kids do. I let my spirit decide my age. The actual number can’t get me down.

But seeing my husband as he approaches 40, living with someone almost as youthful as I am who plays with the kids and lives this same life, I’m starting to see his perspective. I’m starting to get it, to feel it.

My mind may still feel young but my body is aging whether I want it to or not. Every winter now, my joints swell and ache. My fingers become stiff and the morning cold greets my body with a shock of reality. I’m sure it’s arthritis but I don’t want to take a multi-pill regimen every day. I’m too young for a day-of-the-week pill pack.

My eyes deceive me. For the rest of my life, I will always hear the story of the time I pointed up to the tree at the zoo and told my kids to look at the pretty bird. It happened to be a red panda, and I happened to be the butt of many jokes that day.

I fall asleep on the couch on Friday nights mouth gaping, tongue lolling, and mumble “I’m awake” from time to time. I’m cold from August through June. I always need a lap blanket because it’s so darn chilly. As I sweep the hair off the bathroom floor every morning, I wonder who will go bald first—my husband or me. It looks like we’re both regular contributors.

I hope once 40 passes, it will be just another number to my husband, to me. I hope it won’t crush my spirit, and loud music and Star Wars will always be fun. I hope my husband and I get a second wind and embarrass our teenagers by staying out late, holding hands, and partying too much.

But regardless of what we do, how old we really are, and what time we go to bed, I’m glad we spend all of our birthdays together. It will lessen the sting when 90 approaches.

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Filed under Fatherhood

Good Dads Need to Be Celebrated

While my kids don’t have the perfect dad, he’s pretty darn close. And I’m not sure whether they know it. It’s one of those things they may not know until they have kids of their own. But one day they’ll know.

Along my blogging way, I’ve met many dads who feel that fatherhood is shortchanged. Good dads need to be celebrated.

My husband is one of those dads. Although I usually write about my experiences as a mom, today I’m going to talk about him. I usually write about my decisions as a parent, but the truth is, he’s the other half of my team. I only give my side of the story. I couldn’t do my part without his.

1. From the moment my son was born, my husband dove into fatherhood. He took an entire month off work to be with his newborn son. Paternity leave. At night we took shifts on the couch with pillows propped precariously so we could get some sleep, the only thing that worked. Warming bottles of formula and changing a soiled diaper became an Olympic two-person sport at which we became adept in our sleep-deprived fury.

2. Night-time wakings have cursed this house for many years. As soon as our babies cried out, my husband’s feet hit the floor and he zipped across the hall before I had even sat up and opened my eyes. I’d walk in to find him already rocking and shushing. Never did my husband complain that this getting up in the night business was my job.

3. He has slept countless nights on our kids’ floors when they couldn’t fall back to sleep, covered around only his torso with a thin baby blanket and using a stuffed animal as a pillow if that’s all that was available.

4. He plays with the kids every evening after dinner, whether it’s wrestling, tag, a card game, catch, hide-and-seek, kickball, or just taking a walk. Every night he is a family man first, human playground second.

5. While I tend to act like a 10-year-old 90 percent more often than he does, he always makes dinner more lively when he tries to lick his plate when no one is looking or keeps a serious face when he sticks his smelly foot in your face and asks, “Hey, does my foot stink?” It’s the element of surprise that gets us every time.

6. He doesn’t always let the kids win. If you play a game with him, you’re on your own. My kids will be better for it when they’re older, though right now I don’t think they’d agree.

7. He does my daughter’s hair in the morning and lets her pick out her clothes because if I do it, the morning starts out in tears. When he does it, fits of giggles echo down the hall.

8. He doesn’t miss a game, a practice, a play, anything. Though I don’t need to reveal our sideline conversations. The kids should never hear those.

When we have a rough time in our small family, my husband and I get through it and then we laugh. There’s no one else I’d want to muddle through parenthood with.

Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads out there who are their family’s heroes.

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What Does a Crazy Rash Diagnosis Have to Do With Marriage?

Balance. It’s always been the strength in my marriage. While I quietly freak out with worry that my children need to be rushed to the emergency room, my husband calmly looks up from his reading fighting an eye roll and says, “Karen, it’s fine.”

While I submit my children to constant examination, poking, prodding, and “let me see it just one more time,” my husband checks out the Phillies’ score.

When I snuck away to Google a bull’s-eye rash that mysteriously appeared on my son recently, my husband calmly explained that it was a flare-up of eczema.

As I diagnosed my child with Lyme disease, panicked, and then came back down to earth with the realization that it could just be a spider bite or…or, well, nothing, my husband read a book.

I’m not trying to paint a picture of a lazy, clueless husband. There have been times when he’s been panicked and I’ve been the calm one. But between us, one of us manages to always be sane. One of us has to be rational. We balance each other out.

Before I called the doctor and committed to adding $100 to our huge deductible, I mulled over the situation. It could have been nothing. But it looked like something. I didn’t know what it was. I could call a nurse friend I know. Sure, she was an OB/gyn nurse. I could run my child through the streets and knock on doors to see if anyone had seen anything like this rash. Surely they would see the crazy in my eyes.

After exhaustive comparisons to rash photos on the Internet, I called the doctor’s office. After one hundred questions, of course the nurse told me to bring my child in. After I got my children out of school early. After I endured ten straight minutes of my son telling my daughter to be quiet because he couldn’t read with her talking. After the torture of being cooped up in that tiny eight-by-eight room, the doctor finally came in.

The doctor examined the rash site. It was not a fungus caused by ringworm. It was not Lyme disease. Looked a bit like, yeah, eczema.

I am pretty good about listening to the voice of reason. I freak myself out a lot. About half the time I can talk myself out of my nonsense. The other 49 percent of the time, my husband does. The other tiny percent? Well, the doctor gets a good chuckle.

“Glad you took him for peace of mind,” my husband said.

Balance. And no I told you so’s. Even though he did.

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Filed under About Mom

What a Ball Taught This Wife About Her Husband in 20 Seconds

Across the street lives a not-so-nice man. I’m pretty sure if the kids are ever in the road when he comes home, he’ll squash them like a squirrel with his truck and never look back. When my son was three, this grouchy man yelled at him for getting a cool stick out of his yard. My son still gives him the stink eye whenever he sees him, and we never so much as touch a blade of his grass now.

The other night, my husband, son, and I tossed a ball around on our driveway, ignoring Mr. Meany, working in his yard. Until our bouncy ball rolled into the street and toward Mr. Meany’s driveway. The three of us looked at one another in horror, our eyes bulging like waterlogged diapers. Silently I beckoned for the ball to stop, to come back, to roll six feet to the left and hit the curb. But the laws of physics cannot change for one errant playground ball. Speed was not in our favor. That blue rubber ball gained momentum and rolled up Mr. Meany’s driveway as he walked up it toward his garage.

Hang on to your balls, kids.

I looked to my husband, the man of the house, sure that he would handle our awkward situation. He took one look at the ball’s position and sprinted away snickering like a cat that tipped a garbage can. The punk. My son stood paralyzed with fear, looking from his fleeing father to me. I knew he wouldn’t retrieve the ball. He won’t even go to Mr. Meany’s house to trick-or-treat.

I gulped. I wanted to avoid a confrontation with Mr. Meany. When a stray toddler steps foot into his yard, he yells, “Get out of my yard!” Neighbors have told me of past run-ins when their kids’ ball landed in his yard and he scooped it up and said, “Mine.” For a small frame, he delivers a whopping blow: unfriendly and no second chances.

It seemed if we wanted our ball, it was up to me. I dashed across the street and hoped Mr. Meany wouldn’t yell at me. Why my husband nominated me for this job was beyond me. I yell back when provoked. But wait, the ball started rolling down the driveway! Mr. Meany looked down and watched it roll past him. I grabbed it off the end of his driveway and ran. No eye contact. No words exchanged. Quiet on both sides of the street. My kids didn’t need a vocabulary lesson anyway. And now I know I can count on my husband to run away from my every beck and call.

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