How winter-time driving both enhances my marriage and raises my blood-pressure.

Most of us married folk will remember the days far gone when we were first in love with our spouses and everything in the Universe simply fell into place.  You were either like each others’ twin in every way, (‘we both love chocolate ice cream!  Isn’t that amazing!?) or you found that any differences you did have, only complimented each other in the most perfect of ways, (I hate scallops and he loves them so at dinner, he ate them off my plate!  Isn’t that just the sweetest!?).

Love was easy.  Effortless.  You felt you knew this person inside and out and he, you.  The beginning is by far the most fun and exhilarating part of the journey.

And then, fast-forward 15 years later, in the kitchen, when your husband sighs in exasperation over the completely asinine way you loaded the dishwasher, and you swear under your breath because, once again, the 57 jackets he owns are hanging in the wrong place and mucking up the mud room.

The shift from “They are the Yin to my Yang” to “Can this person do anything the right way” is slow.  Insidious.  And you wake up one day and wonder, “Do we actually have anything in common other than our children??”.

At first, couples go through the hilariously futile phase of trying desperately to show their partner the light so that they can come over to the right side of things.  This is a lively time for married couples as they try to change each other.  Exciting and infuriating battles over the correct way to fill the recycling bin, (you break down the boxes, don’t just shove them in there whole!!!  Everyone knows that!!!) to cleaning styles (you don’t just throw things in a drawer willy nilly!!  You put back everything in its proper place!!!).

My husband and I are no exception to the harsh realization that each other does everything wrong and that we are stuck with having to put up with it.  And every winter, our solidarity is challenged as I effusively try to sit in the passenger seat of my husband’s truck while he drives in a snowstorm with one hand in his jacket pocket and the other loosely grasping the steering wheel with his thumb and forefinger in the most blaze of manners.

“Um, I can’t even see the middle line.  Can you see it?”

no response.

“Do you think you should put your windshield wipers on a faster mode other than Intermittent because the snow really starts to pile up on it in between.”

no response.

“Ohmygod!  Ohmygod!  That car is like half on our side……”.

an annoyed glance in my direction.

As I lean over to his side of the truck: “What speed are you going anyway, it feels like you’re going so fast”.

“Listen, who’s driving?”

“I’m sorry.  You.  I know.  I’ll shut up.”

Hm.  I did notice my husband had some duct tape in the console of his truck the other day....
Hm. I did notice my husband had some duct tape in the console of his truck the other day….

I’ve always been a freak about driving.  Even when I was younger, I did not like to ride with other people at the wheel.  In high school, when we’d all go up to Canada to sketchy bars and speaker-dance, I was almost always the Designated Driver.  Willingly.  It was an extremely annoying job to drive home a car-full of inebriated 17-year-olds, but hey, I wanted to get home alive and I didn’t trust ANY of them with that endeavor.

But, then there was my husband.  I trusted him implicitly.  One time, about 7 years ago, he drove us to Plattsburg, N.Y to do some shopping.  I hopped in the passenger seat, chatted away for a while, got sleepy, and before I knew it I woke up in the parking lot of Gander Mountain.  I couldn’t believe I had fallen asleep!!!   I completely flaked out on my responsibilities as the backseat driver and put us in danger of having been in an accident!!!

Unfortunately, 7 years later, I’m still a Nervous Nelly about driving.  Especially in winter–the season where I White-Knuckle it all the time.

Now, when I’m driving myself or the boys in my Jeep during winter, I pretty much hunt down the nearest Snow Plow going my way and tail-gate him.  I mean, 1) they go super slow, 2) you’re driving on a fresh pile of sand and salt and 3) no one can honk and flip you off because, Hey, you’re behind a snow-plow!  It’s not your fault!!

This is pretty much my view from about mid-December until early-April.
This is pretty much my view from about mid-December until early-April.

Then there’s my husband.  His stoic nature befuddles me.  It could be raining out and 13 degrees, and he’ll say to me, “driving in bad weather is actually quite easy.  You’ve just go to let the vehicle do the work for you”.  Okay, whatever honey.  I’m just going to go wait at the end of the driveway until a snow plow passes and hope he’s headed toward Hannaford and the Bank, M’kay?  You go have fun driving in freezing rain like it’s a hot July afternoon.

I’m learning that sitting quietly in the passenger seat of the truck and trusting in his ability to drive in bad weather is not always easy for me, but I’m getting better.  Because I do trust him.  I trust that man more than any other person on earth, to be totally honest.  So, when I find myself holding my breath in my seat and grabbing for the “oh shit” handle, I try to remind myself that he’s got it under control.  I try to remember that while I cannot drive in the snow and look for deer in every goddamn field we pass without crossing the yellow line–that he can, and does, and it drives me frickin’ nuts, but what are you going to do???

When we we’re younger, we think there is no better feeling than being in love.  Than discovering  this other perfectly made person.  But there is.  I’m learning that there’s the feeling you have when you trust someone so much, that even though they go through life with an almost entirely different compass, you let them do it their way and realize that everything turns out fine.  And you feel better for it to boot.

That even though he’s passing the damn snow-plow instead of riding its ass like he should be, he’ll get us all where we need to be.

Neither Sheila E nor The Artist Formally Known as Prince have any kids. Maybe that explains why they’re keeping me up so late.

I have a question:   Will I ever sleep like I did before I had children, or, like when Kirstie Alley replaced Shelley Long on Cheers, will it just never, ever be the same again?

I am still not sleeping like a normal human being, even after 6 years.  I try hard not to blame my children for this, but as far as I can remember, I slept far less fitfully in my twenties–even after pulling an all-nighter for a philosophy paper on The Cave (I got an A+), or bar-hopping until 2am.  Or, maybe it was just because I could sleep in until 1:00.

Okay, so it might not be their fault currently, but it used to be when they were infants.   And apparently, I’m still on infant-time.  By the way, I analyzed and conjured up the idea for this post while lying in bed last night, around midnight, listening to two out of the three boys in this house snore like it was nobody’s business.  Unfortunately, I do some of my best thinking in the “quiet” of the night when no one is asking me to wipe their bum, fix their Buzz Lightyear toy, or make them another bagel with cream cheese.

I’ve realized there are a number of reasons for my chronic lack of sleeping through the night:

1) I have what my husband has coined “Bionic Hearing”.  And he’s right.  I have better hearing than our dog.  How did I get this Bionic Hearing?  From my kids, that’s who.  Any mother will attest to the quick-learned ability to hear our newborns fuss or whimper for us in the night.  But, while I assume most other parents eventually resume sleeping more soundly as their children grow…..apparently I don’t.

My husband and I could be sitting downstairs in the living room watching a t.v. show and all of a sudden, I’ll sit up on the couch:  “push MUTE for a minute someone sneezed”, I demand.  He slowly grabs the remote, pushes mute and looks at me with a mixture of curiosity and annoyance as I tilt my head.  And then my youngest sneezes for the second time upstairs in his bunk.  “Yup, I knew it was him. “.

“You’re an alien” he responds, disgustingly pushing un-mute and getting back to the show.

Gazeuntight
Gesundheit.

So, with my Bionic hearing, it gives the term “sleeping soundly” a whole new meaning.  I hear the sound of the furnace kick on in the basement, I hear the house creak, I hear the sound of my dog getting on and off her bed downstairs, I hear the sound of the ice machine kick on and make ice, not to mention the sounds and movements that come from my kids and husband.  I know who got up to go pee, who’s changing positions and who grinds his teeth.  Hm.  Re-reading all of this…….it even feels a little creepy to me.

2) I’m a restless sleeper to being with.

I will get into my bed at 8:30 at night and I’ll get in and out of it at least another 7 times before morning.  I have to pee, I’m thirsty, I forgot to turn the Christmas lights off, I left my chap stick downstairs on the kitchen counter, I heard one of the boys rustle in their bed so I better go make sure they’re both covered up.  In the process, I find my youngest just about to fall out of his bottom bunk, so I have to shove him back in his bed and on and on.  And then, after I’ve gotten in and out of bed a few times, I just toss and turn for another 45 minutes before I start to actually slip into unconsciousness.

It’s ridiculous.  My husband hates trying to fall asleep next to me because most of this occurs during the first hour or so.  And he’s snoring before he’s even fully horizontal, which is a whole other story that I’ll get into later.  I’m not positive, but I think I’m just so go-go-go-go all day long that it just takes me a little longer to simmer down enough to fall asleep.

And the biggest reason I’m ready to fall asleep by 7:00pm:

Why, oh why am I still in infant mode??
Why, oh why am I still in infant mode??

3)  I became so accustomed to getting up every two hours to nurse and change my boys when they were babies, and for some reason, I pretty much still do even though there is absolutely no reason for me to whatsoever.  Now, while I don’t physically get up and get out of bed every two hours, I do wake up pretty often.  Even if it’s just to switch positions.  But then, if I hear something it might wake me up a little more and then I’ll realize I have to pee again and then I figure since I’m up I may as well go check on the boys and make sure they’re covered since it’s 20 below zero out and I realize the furnace shut off and it’s now 60 degrees so I turn it back on and then I realize I’m thirsty again, and then once downstairs I notice our poor dog’s water dish is empty.  It’s like a Domino Effect.  It’s so much safer for me to just Stay.  In.  Bed.

Are other moms like this???  Or, do most moms go back to sleeping through the entire night knowing that if their kid gets cold, they’ll eventually figure out to pull the blankets up themselves?  Oddly enough, I don’t really feel over-tired most days, so I can’t tell if I just have ‘impaired judgement’ about my sleep, or if my body has simply adjusted to functioning on broken sleep really, really well?!

I know that I do sleep heavily some nights and I have the dreams to prove it.  Like the time I was on a synchronized swim team, or the time I was put in jail, escaped, but  felt so guilty that I went back and turned myself in again (too much Orange Is The New Black that week), or the time Stephen Colbert invited me over to his house for dinner with his family (we had lobster).

The thing I’m learning though, is to try not to get all bent out of shape if I don’t sleep heavily for 8 hours.  Because once I start fretting about it, then I’m not only lying there awake, I’m lying there awake and  anxious. I try to remind myself that I’m still laying and resting even if I am having really random thoughts.

” Crap, I’ve got to remember to get my cauliflower and curry soup out of the freezer in the morning because I want it for lunch.  And I’ve got to pick up more Children’s Motrin at Hannaford on the way to work.   That cashier person at Hannaford looked so familiar today.  Is her name Lucy?  She doesn’t look like a Lucy, she looks like a Sheila.  Sheila E.  Sheila E.   Who the hell is Sheila E?  Why am I thinking of a Sheila E???  Oh yeah, that drummer girl from the 80’s who played with Prince, or The Artist Formally Known as Prince I guess I should say.  I heard he was really short.  Like 5 foot 2 or something crazy like that.  It’s so weird to think I would tower over Prince.  He probably has a huge presence though, so that would cancel out how short he is.  He’s so amazingly talented.  He really rocks.  ‘I guess I should’ve know by the way you parked car sideways that it wouldn’t last.’  Great, now I’ve got Little Red Corvette in my head.  Shit.”

prince
And these two apparently keep me awake as well. Sweet Dreams everyone.

If the way to a man’s heart is through his belly, then I’m still not sure why mine stuck around for so long.

“Your pancakes used to suck.  They were horrible.”

So said my loving husband just two days ago, as I served him up some homemade pancakes for breakfast on a Sunday morning.

“You’ve mastered them now”, he said between eager mouthfuls,  “They’re awesome”.

And he is so right.  Before we were married and before I had children, my “pancakes” looked more like rpm microgroove vinyl records.  Black.  Flat.  Hard.  The only thing that made them even remotely edible, was a huge douse of maple syrup, and even then they sometimes hurt your throat going down.

if the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.....I'm still not sure why mine stuck around then.
I have just three words for you:  Finger.  Licking.  Good.

But, like everything, after countless attempts at making them and tweaking this and adding that and taking away a dash of so-and-so, I can now make the most fluffy, moist and mouth-watering pancakes you’ve ever eaten.  IHOP-worthy.  When I announce that I’m making pancakes, everyone gets excited.

As we celebrated our wedding anniversary just a couple of weeks ago, I started thinking    about how many times my poor husband had to sit down at the kitchen bar and await being served disgusting pancakes before they started to actually resemble pancakes instead of drink coasters.   I imagine that in the beginning of our marriage, each time I announced I was making homemade pancakes, he would inwardly groan and roll his eyes, but always belly up to the bar like a good sport.

I do believe at one point he actually said to me, “maybe we should just buy some Bisquik”.

But, he hung in there.  He didn’t give up trying them and I didn’t give up trying to make them.  Neither one of us threw in the towel on the pancakes and bought Eggos.    I eagerly watched him try his first bite and he dry-heaved gently stated that they were a bit too salty, or not quite finished, or that maybe he would just have some cereal.  I sometimes felt embarrassed, or frustrated, even sometimes angry, but never resigned.

Pancakes are a lot like Marriages.

In the beginning, none of us knows what the hell we’re doing and we pretty much suck at everything:  communicating, fighting, compromising, etc.  It can sometimes feel like a clip from Dumb and Dumber.  And I think both people have to have loads of patience while their partners work hard to get the hang of it.   It’s like the blind leading the blind, and you just hope and pray that somewhere along the way, you learn that calling your husband an asshole probably isn’t the best way to get him to help you with the laundry.

In the beginning, I used to complain that he never did the dishes.  As I was doing the dishes (how’s that for awesome communication?).  No wonder he was confused.  He used to complain that he had to do laundry, as though it were a chore relegated to me and me alone.  No wonder I was livid.  That was year 2.  We were clueless and trying to rock-climb in flippers.

Now, I ask him to help me bang out the kitchen together, so that we can watch Orange Is The New Black.  And when he’s sitting watching his favorite show, I give him a basket full of clothes to fold so he can make himself useful while he does nothing.

There is so much less nagging and blaming and arguing, simply because we’ve gotten more skilled at being married.

I’ve learned that, in marriage, patience is prudent.  Both of us are rife with faults and, in a sense, even though we’ve both had to eat rock hard pancakes that left us more hungry than we were before, having stuck through it, there’s nothing more satisfying now than having those fluffy, moist, homemade pancakes soaked in warm maple syrup just melt in your mouth.

Bon Apetit!
Bon appetit!

Dinnertime: Is it about the dinner, or the time?

I really wanted to scream at the top of my lungs that night.  It was dinner-time and I was engaged in yet another battle with my 4-year-old over what I had made for dinner.  No matter how many times I readied myself for the fight, I almost always lost.  Whether it was losing the battle of wills, losing my temper, or losing out on being able to have some quality time with my boys.

My frustration was at its boiling point and I could feel the scream linger in my throat.  But I swallowed it.  And then I just started to cry.   I didn’t know what else to do.  Dinner-time.  Otherwise known as, I-don’t-like-what-mom-made-and-I’m-going-to-whine-and-negotiate-and-cry-and-ruin-dinnertime- time.

I have two picky boys, so dinner has been a chore for the last few years now.  As time passed, I began to actually dread dinner time and would find myself getting on-edge and snarky with people knowing the battle that was ahead of me.

“What are we having?”,   “What are you cooking?”, “I don’t like Teryaki Chicken”, “That tastes yucky”.  “Please try it”.  “I don’t WANT to try it”.  “Eat 3 bites of it, or eat nothing at all”.  “Nooooooo”.

Dinner had become, simply put, one big long twenty-minute food fight between parents and kids.   I can remember feeding my children grilled scallops and peas on our back deck in the summers when they were two years old.  And then one day  they decided that if dinner didn’t involve chicken tenders or PB&J, they didn’t like it.

They eat what you put on the table or they don’t eat anything at all and that’s that”.

I swear, if I hear just one more person say this to me, I’m going to tie them to a chair and force-feed them the burnt Risotto that I screwed up the other night.  Well, this “tactic”…… it’s not working in my house.  And the reason it’s not working is because I can no longer stand the nightly arguing anymore about what I’ve made for dinner, who doesn’t like this, who doesn’t’ like that, how many bites they have to eat before they can get down, threatening putting them in their rooms if they don’t follow the rules, and so on and so on.

It’s wearing me down.  If there aren’t threats and whining happening AT the table, then there is a screaming and thrashing child upstairs in his room as the rest of us are all trying to sit quietly and finish our dinner while my 4-year-old pounds on the door.

We were dangerously bordering on looking like a scene from hells kitchen.

waddya mean you don't like spaghetti??  You did three weeks ago!?!?!
What do you  mean you don’t like spaghetti?? You did three weeks ago!?!?!

I don’t want my kids to associate eating with stress, threats and anger, even if they are eating their Brussel Sprouts.  As a matter of fact, it seems likely there would be far more potential for future eating disorders when eating has been paired with shame, guilt, and anger.   I’d rather them enjoy the act of eating and associate it with hanging out and talking and connecting with each other, not stress.

The questions I started asking myself were, “Is all of this stress and anxiety and arguing and temper tantrums really worth making my children eat their beans?”.  When they leave the table hungry because, “well if they don’t like what I cook then they don’t eat anything at all”, really worth the fact that for the next two hours before bed-time, not only will I have a cranky and over-tired child who has been at school all day, but he’ll be hungry on top of that, which means twice as many meltdowns and an increased inability to control himself because he’s tired and hungry?  Then not only was dinner shot, the remainder of our evening is going to suck as well.

Are my children really going to grow up to be gluttons who eat whatever they want whenever they want because I didn’t force them to eat my homemade beef stew or nothing at all?

And I’ve decided no.  Dinnertime at our house is going to focus more on the time aspect.

None of those things is worth it to me anymore.  I want my dinnertime with my family to be about connecting with them, talking about our days, hearing about the things they did at school, cracking jokes and just having a stress-free twenty minutes.  We all have busy, hectic lives and at this point, coming together as a family in an enjoyable way, outweighs my need to have them eat every single thing I put on the table in a game of wills.

This doesn’t mean they are going to eat Pop-Tarts for dinner.

It also doesn’t mean that I’m going to force-feed them quinoa (what is that stuff anyway?  People always used to bring it to potlucks and act like it was some kind of chocolate truffle).

What the F#*@ is quinoa?????
What the F#*@ is quinoa?????

And the thing is, they do eat a lot of healthy food.  During the day, I put out bowls of fruit on the kitchen counter.  If they want to graze…… graze on fruit then.  I put the yogurt and cheese sticks and applesauce in the fridge on the shelf they can reach.  I make dinner and ask them to try some of the things I’ve put out.  If we’re having things like Haddock or something like that, I’ll make them each something they like and then ask them to have some of the vegetable I’ve put out.  Once in a while they are brave enough to try some fish or other meat.  And there are also the rare times that they’ve been brave enough to try something new and actually liked it!!!  Go figure!!!

The other night, during our new, no-fighting dinner-time, the boys announced what they’re plans were when they each got a girlfriend, which I quickly reminded them they would not be able to do until they were 14 years old.

Si was going to take her for a nice long walk down our dirt road and into the woods and bring a picnic.  Sam was going to drink Dr. Pepper with her and bring her hunting, although she was going to have to wear camouflage and follow him and be quiet because he knows where the good spots are.   It opened up the greatest conversation about how to treat girls and how to always help with the dishes and talk nicely to them and so on.

Would I have been a better parent if I spent the twenty minutes making them choke down Haddock and steamed broccoli?

This picture is bullshit.  You can clearly see the girl in blue is saying "hurry the hell up and take the picture because this piece of asparagus is so gross and the girl in pink isn't even trying to pretend.
This picture is bullshit.  Asparagus.  Really.  They’re clearly being forced to look happy here.

I’ll tell ya, what I’ve learned so far, is that having a quiet dinner and connecting with my children emotionally is way, WAY more important to me then making sure they eat just the right portions from the 4 organic food groups.  My kids are picky.  They don’t like onions.  They will someday.   I didn’t like them either once upon a time.  Now, I love them.  I want them in everything.   Teaching good eating habits is a lifelong ordeal, not just something you drill into them when they’re young.  As long as you’re not sitting in front of the couch everyday inhaling an entire bag of Cheetos, it’ll all be okay.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go draw up a chart to show my kids just how many more years they have to wait until they’re 14.