I’m Cheating on My Husband (Honey, Don’t Read This)

Well… paybacks are hell;
And I deserve to suffer;
But it’s so worth it.
—————————————————————–

He is traveling… My mind wanders. A sly smile crosses my face as I picture possibilities.

What to do, what to do…

And like Phineas, a voice in my head shouts: “Maureen, I know what we’re going to do today! Make pancakes for dinner so the kids will like you more than dad.”

And with that, I cheat on Frank. I use his “out of town-ness” as a means to ingratiate myself to the children. Pancakes for dinner are just the start. There’s an indoor picnic (my 21st Century name for eating on the floor in front of the TV). There’s dessert and skipping brushing teeth. There a 3D movie in my bed, lights off, just like the movies.  There’s staying up just a little extra and no book reading.

I am evil. Bwah hah hah. Any chance I get to establish myself as the cool mommy, I take it. Even if it means cheating on Frank and doing with the kids something I would normally discourage in an otherwise normal school night.  You see, I don’t volunteer in the classroom; it’s taken me the whole year to schedule a “reading” session with my son’s class; the babysitter makes a better sandwich than I do and I’m pretty sure the girl scout troop is scared of me. So I’m going to take any advantage I can.

Mind you, I’m not good at hiding my cheating ways. Thirty seconds after this posts, his email will tweedle its arrival. He will read it (at least he claims he does), so I do this with full knowledge that he is now fully aware and I’m stone cold busted.

But he’s traveling right now and can’t do a damn thing about it.   Heh heh heh…

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Oh, Great… New Guilt (flavored with Gratitude)

(the following haiku must be spoken in your best wrestling announcer voice…)

It’s a G word fight!!
Guilt v. gratitude… cage match!
The victor? Stay tuned…
………………………………………………….

I work full-time and my husband stays at home with the kids (one in school full days, one in half days). He manages the household – laundry, cooking, grocery, a little cleaning, home and car repair. I bring home the bacon, manage the finances, do some yard work and also clean house when I’m sufficiently motivated (e.g. when company is coming).

This set up has been working for us for about 7 years. In those seven years, I’ve become thoroughly experienced in a variety of guilt:

– how much I like my job
– 7am conference calls that mean I don’t see the kids in the morning
– 8pm conference calls that mean I tuck the kids in at bedtime
– That between 7am and 8pm conference calls, I don’t give Frank as much attention as he deserves and I want
– How I don’t contribute very much to the non-financial aspects of this family
– That I can’t recall the last time I made it to a dentist appointment for the kids
– That the kids more or less like him as much as me now
– That he doesn’t get much time with people over 4 feet tall
– That when I get home from work sometimes all I want to do is hide under the bed and not talk to anyone or do anything, which means he never gets a break.
– Working out since I’m already not seeing the kids much

Well, friends, I have something new to feel guilty about, and it is an interesting role reversal guilt: Frank has gotten a job.

We’ve always known this would happen. Long ago we decided that once our youngest started full-time school, Frank would return to work. We need the income to support some choices we’ve made (namely private school). And it would be nice to take a vacation to someplace other than my parents’ house. And our savings account is quite dusty… You get the idea.

But now the time has come. He job hunted, found his engineering skills still very marketable, and has a great new job starting in a month. The kids know that he is going back to work. Here is just a sampling of what I’ve heard them say over the last few weeks:

–         But who is going to take care of us (because clearly we are now going to just leave them home alone…)
–         But I’ll miss daddy
–         But daddy has always been the mom
–         But I don’t want him to go back to work

So now on top of all the other guilt that I’m experienced in, I now get to add the “I don’t make enough money to fully support us and now the kids are sad because dad has to work” guilt. Wow, that’s a fun one. Now, no one is making me feel this way. Frank hasn’t overtly said: hey, would you please make more money?  But would he rather not have to get a job that makes $XYZ and instead do something that makes some ill-defined amount of money and is super flexible? Sure he would.  And the funny thing is, I would too. These last few weeks, as we’ve managed kid and adult sickness, job interviews, extra yard work, new spring activities for the kids, doctor appointments, etc etc., it has become very clear to me how much I’ve come to rely on his flexibility and the work he does around the house.

I’m also feeling a wee bit guilty about the nugget of resentment I’m realizing I have because him going back to work is going to mean more “work” for me, too. (that has to be the most bizarre sentence structure ever) I’ve truly benefited from him handling the daily stuff and now I’ll have to handle some of it too.  Laundry, picking up around the house, grocery shopping, post office visits, and on and on.  (Again, I’ve always “known” how much he handles at an intellectual level, but the last two weeks I’ve felt it “real time”.)  The concept of taking what little discretionary time I have in the evenings and dividing it up across more chores is not a thought I enjoy lingering on.

Part of me keeps snarking at myself: you have a great job that you love, your kids are healthy, your husband is a saint; boo hoo hoo, you have to work around the house some more so you can have your private school/vacation cake and eat it too; cry me a river.  I get that. I respect that. All good points.

That’s why I’m pleased the majority of me has been realizing how much gratitude I feel for Frank.  He graciously, and with almost no debate, pulled himself from the workforce to do right by the kids and our life during the last 7 years.  He doesn’t complain unreasonably. When I’m beat and want to hide under the bed when I get home, he diverts the kids’ attention so I can do just that. He reminds me that we are a team… I have my role and he has his, and together is how it all gets done. And now that he is the one having to change it up (again!) he’s been totally cool.

So I think it is time to end the G word versus G word battle raging in my head these last few weeks, and remind myself what my friend Lynette told me many years ago – guilt is a useless emotion. (I’ve also really enjoyed reading Becky and Susan’s posts over at Working Moms Against Guilt about their recent transitions – very inspiring; so nice to know I’m not alone.) Instead, I will keep gratitude high in my awareness and enjoy watching this family explore new routines and responsibilities (the kids have no idea that they are going to get tapped to do more around here… announcing that should be fun…). We’ll figure it out.

I’m Sick (or Why They Make You Take Vows)

Her head, heavy as lead;
Her throat, makes sounds like a goat.
South from there sucks too.

…………………………………………………………………..

I’m sick. (pathetic cough, grimacing swallow)

I have a headache – actually, anything north of my shoulder blades feels like it has been knitted together with steel wire. Stiff, pokey, extra heavy.

My sinuses have decide to expand to monumental proportions, and I’m quite confident they would have burst out of my face if it weren’t for the steel wiring.

My throat is currently home to… (I couldn’t find a word to adequately describe what feels like “my flesh having unsuccessfully met a cheese grater” so for inspiration I decided to google “images of sore”, at which point I lost my desire for further descriptive words. Don’t try that search at home, it will haunt you.)

And my fever, despite assaults by way more ibuprofen than the manufacturer thinks I can survive, has held on. 103 sucks. 103 for two days has left me gooey and useless. I spent all day yesterday in either the recliner or in bed.

To top it off, my son and daughter are also not well – fevers, infections — but they are well enough to insist on joining me on the recliner or talking to me approximately .0005 seconds after I finally drop off for a nap.   Trust me when I say that I continue with my not mother of the year streak.

Which leaves Frank. Frank the wonderful. Frank the sent from heaven. Frank the “I don’t deserve you”.

Today, Frank earned the “that’s why they make you take vows” award.  As if yesterday wasn’t bad enough (my inability to do more than lay down required far more attention from him than you might think), today topped it by a lot.  I’m not going to tell you what happened (What?!? Me not reveal something embarrassing and personal? Surely this is the antibiotic talking…). Just know that it involved me and required his help. Awkward help. God love you kind of help.

And he stepped up. Did what needed to be done without complaint. He could have made some jokes about situation, but he didn’t.  I love this man. I’d like to say that I would do the same for him. If I had a better memory I might recall such a circumstance in our 19 year history, but I don’t.  I also have a fairly horrible track record when it comes to patience for the sick. After about 36 hours you had better be well, because my attention and sympathy are waning. (This last sentence really applies to other adults, not so much for the kids; somehow the kids are blameless but the adults are faking lay-abouts…) All this adds up to some doubt on my part as to whether I would be as good to him as he has been to me. Nonetheless, I will hope that I, too, step up.

So this post is dedicated to my beloved.  Thank you thank you thank you for picking me. I’m a better person for it. I promise to do my best to never put you in a situation that nominates you for this award again.

Men, Magazines and Me

A sewage eating
rodent died in Frank’s colon
gack…help…must…not…breathe….
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I have been trying for ages to find something to write about that would fit the above haiku. It is one of my all time favorites, obviously not for its artistic quality but for how I believe every person living with a grown man can identify with it and readily reflect back to their own version.

I know, it’s gross, but if you are here looking for high art, then I suggest the back button. (Note, my last posting was the anomaly, not this one…)

Anyway, my inspiration was cleaning. About once a month, usually with the waxing moon, I am possessed enough to clean and straighten the house to mother-in-law acceptability. This time, as I was working my way through one of the bathrooms (“… playdoh goes downstairs… coat hanger to the closet… legos to AB’s room… fork (fork!?! eww, who eats in here!?) to the kitchen…”) I came across our requisite stack of magazines. Well, HIS requisite stack of magazines. If there is a publication about something with wheels, he receives it at alarmingly quick intervals. And then he reads each one, cover to cover.

In 30 minute increments.

Twice a day.

In one of two bathrooms.

Yes, I have two bathrooms containing stacks of his magazines.

Now, I have no issue with his love of literature. I have no issue with the regular exercising of his internal organs. My issue is that said literature keeps expanding said exercise periods such that I’m not sure he does anything but poop between dropping off the kids in the morning and picking our son up before lunch. I also resent the number of trees killed between his magazine obsession and, well, his other paper filled endeavors.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it were just a few magazines. I mean, as a guest in someone’s house, it is always interesting to nose about in their bathroom reading material on your way to picking through the medicine cabinet, right? It gives great insight about your friends, and provides much gossip for the car ride home. But I’m a little self-conscious about what people must think when looking through ours… Here is what I imagine goes through their head.

1. Good grief, how much reading can one man do in the bathroom?

2. What’s the difference between Rod & Custom and Hot Rod Magazine? All the cars look the same.

3.  This is a book called “Building A Shed”. It has 218 pages. What in god’s name does he do in here?

4. Street Rodder? Car Craft? Really? I didn’t know that there were this many magazines about cars. See point 2… I’m confused. Wait, is that a hot chick on the cover… cool.

5. Fine Homebuilding Magazine. Never heard of it. “15 different ways to put in stair railings”. Man that sounds boring.  What’s in the medicine cabinet…

And then they emerge, a little shell-shocked, because the medicine cabinet only reaffirms their belief that we are a little weird  (6 different types of children medicines, most out of date, 3 tampons, 2 tile samples and bag of cough drops).

Oh well. I picked him nearly 20 years ago, so I guess I’m stuck with him (plus, as I’ve said before, I’m no picnic either).  I’ll just keep buying Febreeze and insisting that he purge the magazines every 2 months or so.

And to potential visitors, you have been forewarned. (Apologies in advance.)

A New Definition of Normal (Not for the Squeamish)

First the dog threw up…
on the kid…. and then the kid
threw up… on the dog.*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When work gets a little nutso, I tend to call my husband. His voice just seems to lower my blood pressure and remind me what really matters. Today was like that: I called him as I was heading to a meeting and told him “I just need a little normal”. He laughed, wondering how bad it must be if the happenings at our home seemed normal, but proceeded to tell me about his morning, AB’s morning, etc. And then he told me about our “normal” dog.

Seems Lily the wonder poodle went out to poop this morning, very normal indeed, but then she pooped two or three more times while in the yard. That’s not normal. When she finally came back in, Frank noticed that she still had poop hanging out of her bottom. Again, not at all normal; in fact, a little alarming since this has happened a few times in the last few days.  Then he shared the best part of all: as he was pulling the poop off her bottom, he pulled a paper towel out of her ass.

Half sheet.

Totally intact.

And after he did this, he proceeded to pull a second half sheet paper towel out of her ass. It appears that just like a canister of wet wipes, when you remove one, the next one pops up, waiting to be extracted.

Oh my god. I don’t think normal will ever be the same again.

We then had a great time with the puns. It is no longer “select a sheet” but “select a shit”.  Plus, the new selling line is the “quicker pooper-upper”. This went on for several minutes and I encourage you to add your own thoughts in the comments section.  He then threatened to rinse them out and lie them side by side with other slightly used paper towels to see if I could tell the difference. The call ended soon thereafter.

(For those of you wondering why I feed my dog paper towels… we caught her red-handed on Sunday licking the “breakfast-bacon-draining-paper-towels” which she had fished out of the garbage; had no clue she had already scarfed down two.)

Anyway, before I ended the call, I proclaimed my continuing appreciation for my husband and his willingness to deal with these types of situations. (I would have collapsed immediately upon noticing the fluffy end sticking out; he doesn’t rattle near as easily.) I returned to spread sheets and conference calls, but kept reflecting on the visual image of him, with the kids mesmerized by his side,  pulling out the paper towels like a magician fishing scarves from inside his clenched fist. I’m sure people wondered why I kept smiling.

(Note: Thanks to Frank for the wet wipes and magician metaphors! Stolen with his full knowledge.)

(*by the way, only the first 8 syllables are truth; the rest is just funny to visualize)

Will I Ever Eat This? A Tour of our Pantry

He paused, fork in hand,
then “om nom nom nom”, gulp. “ahhh.”
The well fed man smiled.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We recently went an abnormally long time between trips to the grocery.  One night, as we gazed into the pantry for inspiration, I was struck by the extraordinarily bad choices we’ve made in terms of food selection. Let’s take a closer look…

Water chestnuts. There is only one dish these are ever used in and they always seem an afterthought. I’m sure someone who knows how to cook with them will set me straight. In the meantime, I can’t imagine these will ever get used.

2 cans of asparagus. Whoever invented this hates vegetables a lot and the people who consume them even more. I like fresh asparagus. Eating canned ones is like eating a skinned, half alive snake.  No where in the history of canned vegetables are the canned versions so different from the fresh.

Artichoke hearts. I know I bought this in order to make a party dip.  But no one invites me to parties. And if I bring this, no one will ever ask again.

9 large cans of chicken.  I have to chaperone my husband when he goes to Costco from now on. Canned chicken is by far one of the most disgusting foods out there. It has a gelatinous covering and the springy feeling of something you step on in the lake (we called that graw-doo where I come from, don’t ask me why). Ick. He puts it in canned soup to get the protein count up. I put it in the trash when he isn’t looking.

Six cans of baked beans. We clearly hate each other, the children and the dog.

Four boxes of stir fry rice noodles.  Frank dreams of making the perfect Pad Thai recipe. It appears that the recipe starts with “Buy as many boxes of rice noodles as your spouse can tolerate.” Once day, he’ll actually make the damn stuff.

24 oz package of Wild Alaska Smoked Sockeye Salmon. Expiration date of December 2017. This isn’t a shelf life, it’s a half-life. And who eats that much smoked salmon (do the math – it’s nearly 2 pounds! the box is the size of a standard mud flap!). I am so dreading when he does open this in 2016, insisting we eat it before it goes bad (“It’s fish! How can you tell??”).  Exhibit two of why he shouldn’t go to Costco alone.

dinner fork shown to provide perspective

That’s it. Throw in some dry goods (flour, sugar), more pasta (a gross of boxed mac and cheese, also from Costco), some crackers (mega box of Goldfish, the official snack of single-digit kids) and several varieties of tomato based products, and you pretty much have our pantry scoped out.   I’m just going to pretend that we eat mainly from the perimeter of the grocery store, just like “they” tell you to do, and not worry how woefully bland and uninspired (and a wee bit frightening) our pantry is making you right now.

Oh no… It just occurred to me that he’s probably going to buy capers to go with the fish. Which we will forget we bought come 2016. So we’ll need to buy another jar of them. Because everyone needs 2 jars of capers and 2 damn pounds of smoked salmon…

Coon-Zilla

A 10 pound raccoon
Versus a middle-aged man.
Well this should be fun.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Raccoons used to be cute creatures to me. Fuzzy, with that little lone ranger mask that makes them seem even more like a cuddly toy.  I remember my friend Stephanie had a favorite stuffed toy – Randy Raccoon.  They shared a bed. He was cute too.

There are no longer cute raccoons in my life. There is only the asshole raccoon that has been living inside our porch roof rafters. We’ve been hearing him off and on for a while. Thought perhaps he was a rat. We’d get geared up to do something about it and then he’d go all quiet on us… so we talked ourselves into believing it was our imagination or noisy pipes.

Then he came back. And started making a lot more noise. He was building a loft, moving in furniture, making himself a right cozy little nest. Something had to be done.

You might ask how we was getting in. Well, apparently he can either levitate or, like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, he has unimaginable talent for hanging upside down by his fingertips and then pulling himself into a small opening in our soffit (the underside of the roof overhang). In any event, there was a clear place he was getting in, we just didn’t really think that was how he was doing it. Oh well, score one for the raccoon.

So, yesterday, my beloved closed up that hole. He hoped like hell that the raccoon was not inside when he did this. Does hope actually work for anyone? Because it sure did not work for us.  My sweet was wrong (normally I would relish seeing that in writing; not so much today). He trapped the critter in.

And so, last night, we heard him scampering all over. The way our house is made, he had a lovely walking path from the porch, directly over my desk in our home office toward another porch. And by the sounds of his walk, he was pissed. Frank went to bed, but I was up working late and I swore, based on the noises he was making, the coon had somehow acquired power tools and a hammer.  When I came to bed, Frank assured me that the varmint wasn’t going anywhere, that it wouldn’t chew through our concrete and lath ceiling and come visit us durng the night. And most importantly, he promised he would get him out of there the next day.

Today is the next day. And Coon-zilla struck overnight. That little nuisance did indeed get out. He chewed his way out. But not down, into the house as I feared, but up, through the freaking roof. Yes, I said he chewed through the roof.  He chewed through plywood and shingles to free himself. We now have a coon sized hole in the roof over the porch.

Apparently I was right about the power tools.

The only good news in all this? The porch had a leak we couldn’t isolate, but the new skylight in the roof clearly points out the soft spot. So we can now add this roof repair to the top of the “many things we have to spend money on because this is an 86 year old home” list. Oh joy.

As I head to bed tonight, I rest happily knowing the hole has a temporary patch on it (only Arnold SchwarzenCoon could get back in), the ceiling has been quiet, and the “have-a-heart” trap by the pond is armed with giant marshmallows. Score one for the humans.

Am I being replaced?

Sitting here jealous
of homework and puppy walks.
I don’t wanna work.

”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

The change has been quite subtle… My daughter would run to Dad as much as me when she hurt herself and needed comfort. And then the kids would call me Dad (granted, they would call him Mom).  But a few weeks ago was the hardest blow… my stay-at-home-dad-husband did a very mom thing. He was thoughtful. As in “full of thought”. He thought ahead, planned and did something for one of the kids that officially granted him entry into mom-hood.

I was devastated.

I’m ok being called Dad. Hell, I go through a rolodex of names when I talk to my kids too. But I always saw myself as occupying unique space as “The Mom”. I thought ahead enough to buy the birthday gift before day of the party.  I realized that my girl was sad and needed comfort before the tears arrived.  I was sensitive, I was interpreting what was important and I was acting to avoid a problem. And dammit if he didn’t do just that.

If I were honest with myself, I’d admit that I was hoping this would happen. It can be exhausting being the only one who thought this way and I often bemoan (in my own petty little head) that he “just doesn’t get it”. But I’d be lying if I didn’t take some martyr like satisfaction from thinking no one could do this job but me; that no matter what, I am mom and therefore better. And slowly now I’ve had to get used to sharing the spot light.

When we both worked, no matter what, I was still the chief parent.  We only had the one kid then, and she preferred me; I made a lot of the rules; I made a lot of the kid decisions (yes, some exaggeration, but not a lot…I’m not a wench, it just mostly works out that way when you’re the mom, right?).  And then, he became chief parent, he was in charge most of the time – and I tumbled in stature.  It was very hard for me to get used to.  Still, I lived off the fact that both kids would prefer to hang out with me rather than with dad if given the choice.  And I was sure I still had a unique skill set that the Y chromosome was incapable of duplicating.

Snf snf. I was wrong. I’ll get over it.  Statistically speaking he was bound to do something like that at some point, and it hasn’t happened again since then so there’s still hope. But there’s no going back.  Right now, and likely for a while, this is the right choice for our family, all things considered. My life is blessed and I’m more settled right now then I’ve been in a while, much in part to how wonderfully this set up is working.  It’s just that the view is different from this position and I’m not sure I’ll ever be totally ok with that…

The Pleasures of Date Night (not Balls, part 3)

Date night’s reminder:
“Oh, so that’s why I like you”
She says with a smile
.
At a long week’s end
Four words bring joy when uttered:
“Tonight is date night.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I find date night so important that it deserves 2 haikus. You see, we were married for 9 years before we decided to have children. We were “dual income, no kids” and loved every minute of it. Then one night in bed, I looked at Frank and said “Honey, I want a baby”, and neither of us laughed, so… we began our journey into parenthood.

I have zero regrets about having children. It suits us. We love them. They tolerate us. The dog hasn’t run away. Everyone gets along as much as 4 people who are forced to eat and travel together can. All good signs that we’ll make it through.

The key to our success as parents (and by success I mean that we haven’t harmed each other yet) I think lies fully in our decision when our first was 5 months old to have date nights about twice a month. It is a glorious opportunity for me to remind myself why this man – who makes mind-bending noises and emits smells that cause my eye lashes to molt – would be worth picking again.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m no picnic either. I believe I’m being coy when I ask “So, what did you do today?” when I really mean “What?! You haven’t started dinner yet?” But all memories of that which drives us crazy about each other melts away when the back door clicks shut, and we scurry to the car to make our escape.

So, here are my words of wisdom gleaned from 9 years of date nights:

  • Keep it simple. A cheap meal and walk around the mall holding hands is sometimes the best.
  • Don’t always do a movie… you can sit in the dark and not talk anytime.
  • Have it start early enough that you still get home in time to get a decent night sleep, or whatever you might want to do.
  • Don’t over plan them. 80% of our date nights are decided in the driveway before turning onto our street. We have a few options, decide at the last-minute and don’t sweat it. I tried for a while to plan elaborate date nights (anything that requires a ticket in advance is elaborate for me), but my life is already full of responsibility and decision-making… date night shouldn’t be.
  • Don’t stop. We took a break from date nights after our second child was born – boy did we miss it.
  • Pay for a good sitter. You won’t worry and that’s worth a ton (nothing dulls a date night more than fretting about the kids). There have been times when the budget was such that all we could afford to do that night was pay the sitter – we didn’t care. Our sitter is the best ever: one of our kids’ prior day care teachers who has children of her own, knows CPR and I trust with my kids unquestioningly. As Visa says: Priceless.
  • Related, make the expense a line item in your budget. If you asked me “date night or housekeeper” or “date night or no new purse for 2 years” I would pick date night without hesitation (and then get my mom to buy me a new purse). I plan to be with Frank for the long haul, and I don’t want to be one of those couples who, when married 30 years, does nothing but bitch about each other to anyone who will listen (jokes about body functions don’t count). Date night will prevent this.

Alas, if you were looking for something about how date nights have kept our love life wonderfully alive and hot-hot-hot, well, you missed the part about us being married for nearly 19 years and having 2 kids. That isn’t the point. The point is: I love what we were before we were parents enough to keep tending it.

And so the balls trilogy comes to a close.

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