I Am My Beloved’s

Dearest DearDR,

Happy eighth anniversary.

I know we’ve been struggling lately (individually and together), but I also know that my life is better with you than without.

We survived the hardest thing that parents have to survive. We should be able to make it through different schedules, lots of work hours, and lack of sleep. That’s just life, you know?

I love you, probably more than I show. I will try to be better about that. I made a vow on that altar eight years ago, and I intend to live up to it, every day, for the rest of our life.

With this ring, I thee wed.
With my body, I thee worship.
With all my wordly possessions, I thee bestow.

All my love now and forever,

He Sang at Our Wedding

He was a big guy. I mean, when he hugged you, you were rather thoroughly hugged.

He loved music. He traveled with a set of percussion instruments, some of which he showed my daughters on a recent trip to Pittsburgh. Monkey was, of course, fascinated.

He loved my husband. They knew each other for 20-odd years. They used to camp together up at Kinzu. Those are some of my husband’s best memories.

He sang at our wedding, a song by Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe called “The Meeting.” (For those of you keeping track, those are the members of Yes, minus Chris Squire.) I think I cried hardest during that part of our wedding ceremony. It’s a gorgeous song, and he had a beautiful voice.

He had family here, but when he came, he almost always stayed with us. He was fussy: He brought his own pillow, and a little alarm clock. Often his own milk or cereal, too — he was diabetic, so he was careful about what he ate.

He usually came to see us once a year. He loved Penn Brewery, and tried to get here for Ocktoberfest. He came for Christmas every year, to spend a little time with DearDR’s family.

He was such a large soul, such a generous heart. He was beset by troubles and struggles — financial, emotional, health. Yet, he always was smiling, he always was laughing about something.

We don’t know of his last days. The last time I spoke to him it was in early June. He was trying to come see a band playing the Arts Festival. If he wasn’t in too much pain, he said. If it was okay, he said. I was worried because the girls had strep, and I knew he was compromised because of his treatments (he had cancer). He ended up not coming in; on the phone message, he sounded exhausted.

I hope he found peace. I know he found love.

We’ll miss you, Tim. May perpetual light shine upon you.

Public Service Announcement III: Be Nice to Each Other

Sunday night, for the first time ever in my entire life, I cooked a steak.

It was not for me, but for my husband. (For the record, I still think preparing chicken is the most disgusting thing in the world.) It is part of my strategy for getting DearDR to eat better food and learn portion control. He also had a lovely salad of Italian baby lettuce, strawberries, celery, and carrots. (No cheese, no nuts, not for DearDR for a while.)

See, DearDR needs to lose weight. Also, his triglycerides have to come down (to quote his doctor, they are “exceedingly high”), and quickly. If he can’t get them in line — and keep them in line — through diet and exercise, he’ll have to start taking medication.

DearDR is only 40 years old. And I plan on keeping him around a long time. I’m going to help him be a better eater and lose some weight.

A while back, Heather Armstrong at Dooce was reflecting on whether marriage or child-rearing was more difficult. (For her, the latter.) There are days that for me, the two run neck and neck, but part of that is due, to my discredit, to my poor attitude. A kind of “leave me alone” attitude. There are days that I seriously question whether I am cut out for this wife-and-mother gig I’ve gotten myself into. (Newsflash RPM: Too late!) Some days I just feel my household is out of my control, the budget is out of my control, my children are out of my control, and so-help-me if DearDR asks me to make him a sandwich, I’m going to lose it.

But then I get a good night’s sleep, and my children do something amazing, and my husband makes me laugh, and everything is all right again. A glass of wine and some quiet time at the end of a day do wonders, too.

I was having one of those cranky days last Wednesday (note to RPM: adjust the attitude in time for Lost night), and DearDR and I sniped at each other. And then he got his numbers from the doctor on Friday, and I got some perspective.

Remember a few years ago when those “Tips for a Good Wife” were making the rounds of the Internet? I’m not going to say that those are a good idea or anything (I am feminist, hear me roar), but something can be said for being nice to each other.

When your spouse comes home, stop what you are doing (unless this involves leaving a child undiapered or in danger) and hug and kiss him or her. You may not feel like doing it, I know. Do it anyway.

Pick up the occasional treat for your spouse — you do it for the kids when you’re out and about. Just a little something that says, “I thought of you today.” A book, a DVD, some (inexpensive) flowers, a nice beverage or chocolate. I think we all do this early in our courtships, and then it goes by the wayside, especially as other things take precedence. Bring back the treats! DearDR has given me bookmarks, and I’ve been thrilled to know that I am on his mind.

Prepare a meal for your honey — or simply provide one. Whichever spouse does more meal planning and prep needs a break. Give him/her one. It can be as simple as bringing home a Costco pizza to bake at home, or suggesting the family go out — even Eat ‘n’ Park can be a relief.

Cuddle. Watch a movie together. Spend special time on a regular basis with your significant other. I know for DearDR and me, this is challenging because of the children and our schedules. We are trying to bring it back. (I’m not talking about green beans. I’m talking about intimacy.)

I know this is all common sense stuff, but I also know I lose sight of simple things — over and over again. When DearDR and I married and talked about having kids, I told him I wanted us to remember that we were married first. And then I forgot — or, more likely, I get so frustrated with what I perceive is my bad job on the spousal and/or parenting front, and I want to chuck the whole thing and go away for a week.

Some day, it will be just DearDR and me again. I don’t want us to have to try to reconnect when the kids leave home. I want us to take the little steps we need to take to stay connected. Now and forever.

Couples Quiz

I picked this up over at ClumberKim’s place. It’s standing me in good stead since I’m still in the woods.

What are your middle names?
My middle name, which used to be Marie, is now my “maiden” name. (I hate that term, maiden.) I tend to use it professionally. His middle name is Reed, after his maternal great-grandfather.

How long have you been together?

Our first date was October 1, 1999. We got married September 1, 2001. Coming up on 10 years!

How long did you know each other before you started dating?

We were acquaintances from college, so we probably first met in 1990 or so? We never really hung out, but we knew each other to say hi or have little conversations.

Who asked whom out?

DearDR asked me to have dinner with him. I had to email him about a month later to see if he meant it, though. I didn’t actually give him my phone number the night he asked me — I told him I was in the book. Unfortunately, DearDR didn’t have a current phone book at the time.

How old are each of you?

DearDR is 40; I am 38.

Whose siblings do you see the most?

We see his sister a little more often than my brother, even though we all live in and around Pittsburgh. My sister we usually only see two-three times a year. We live next door to my in-laws. It’s actually pretty even, though, between holidays, birthdays, and random family events.

Which situation is hardest on you as a couple?

Our biggest source of conflict is the household duties. I feel that he doesn’t help out enough; he feels that since he works such long hours (and he does) and makes most of the money, that the household should be my duty. Unfortunately, since I also work and take on the majority of the kid stuff, the state of our house suffers. We both hate it, but until I can hire someone to help me out, it’s the way it’s going to be. It causes a lot of friction, because when he complains, I get very defensive.

Did you go to the same school?

We both went to Duquesne University. Technically speaking, I finished before he did, because I graduated in 1992 (is that right??) with a bachelor’s degree, and he didn’t earn his Ph.D. until 2004, when I was pregnant with Monkey.

Are you from the same home towns?

No. I grew up in Erie and he grew up in Coraopolis.

Who is smarter?

Well, now, that depends. Book smart? School smart? He is, no doubt. But I have more common sense, and a lot more pop culture savvy.

Who is the most sensitive?

He is, hands down. I am clueless.

Where do you eat out most as a couple?

Most often when we’re on our own, we really enjoy Bocktown Beer & Grill.

Where is the furthest the two of you have traveled as a couple?

We went to Italy on our honeymoon — landed in Rome on Sept. 10, 2001.

Who has the craziest exes?

I’m going to go with him. Because, let’s face it, he dated women, and women are crazier.

Who has the worst temper?

He says he does. I asked. I think I get angry more often, but when he gets angry, he gets angrier.

Who does the cooking?

Me, me, me. Unless it’s pancakes and eggs on Sunday.

Who is the neat freak?

Sigh. We both want our house to be much, much neater. I clean more, but he cleans better (when he cleans).

Who is more stubborn?

I am.

Who hogs the bed?

Neither of us. I do hog the covers, though. When a kid ends up in bed with us, she hogs the bed.

Who wakes up earlier?

Me. Every single day.

Where was your first date?

Kaya in the Strip District. The next night, we went to a Pens game together. The day after that, we ran into each other at a Steelers’ tailgate party. You can see we were meant to be together.

Who is more jealous?

He is. And why shouldn’t he be? I’m hot (hahahahahaha!).

How long did it take to get serious?

I knew in the first month of dating him that we were going to get married. It panicked me a little bit, but I rode it out. Eleven months later, we got engaged. Since my dad reads this blog, I think that’s all I’ll say about that.

Who eats more?

He does. I eat better.

Who does the laundry?

All me, again.

Who’s better with the computer?

Hmm. That’s an interesting question. We each know how to do different things on our respective computers — he’s a PC and I’m a Mac — but all-in-all, he is probably a little more tech savvy.

Who drives when you are together?

Usually he does. This is fine with me. I drive enough as it is. Besides, we’re usually running late, so I can do my makeup in the car.

Top Ten Reasons I Love My Husband

DearDR has been implicitly under fire around here lately, and I just want it noted for the record, that I utterly and completely love the man. I’m not perfect either.

Today, for his 40th birthday, I am listing the top 10 things I love about him. In no particular order.

10. We went through the most difficult thing that parents can go through. And he was there, the whole time: the four days in the hospital, and the months and years of emotional recovery afterwards (heck, we’re still not over it, never will be). Gabriel’s loss, two years into our marriage, made our love — which I thought was pretty solid to begin with — even stronger, and brought us even closer.

9. He is a great father. Bun and Monkey utterly adore him, and he adores them. He is interested in them; he thinks they are beautiful and smart; he tells them that. I can see it hurts him to not be around them more. He’s not just the doting dad, either. He sets limits with them, takes on discipline issues, and will occasionally take Monkey out from under my feet when Bun is napping on a Sunday.

8. I mentioned this once before: People give DearDR stuff. This past month alone, he’s gotten a free — and very cool — laptop and a new Verizon phone for me — kind of Verizon’s version of the iPhone. We haven’t launched it yet, but it looks totally rad and I’m psyched about it. And I’ve never been psyched about a cell phone.

7. He’s very, very smart. He knows a lot about a lot of different things, so he’s great to have a conversation with.

6. He’s funny. No one else, ever in my life, has made me laugh as much and as often as DearDR. It’s probably one of the top things I treasure about him.

5. He works hard. And he’s good at being a psychologist. DearDR does not have an easy job. He sits and listens to people tell him their troubles all day, every day (except Sunday… well, unless you count me telling him my troubles that day). And he helps them — he helps them move on, get mentally well, get the help they need (whether government wrap-around services or medication). He makes a difference every day.

4. He is as into Lost as I am. He (almost) never misses our Wednesday date night, and even when he gets home all hungry, he fixes himself a sandwich during commercials so that I don’t even have to get off the couch. He doesn’t have time to do all the Lost homework (as it’s been called), but he listens to me explain the homework, as well as my own theories.

3. He is, overall, a good partner for me. He gets my back when I need him to; he tempers my anxiety with patience (as much as he can); and when I am having a bad day and he is not, he usually manages to cheer me up and bring a smile to my face.

2. He makes wine. Plus, he gives me well-rated store-bought wine on special occasions — to drink on other special occasions.

1. He’s a very talented green bean maker.

Happy Birthday, DearDR. I love you.

Sleepy Sunday

I hope the time change treated everyone well. Not us. The girls were up at the new time of 7 a.m. It wasn’t pretty.

We had a loverly Saturday night, though. My parents were in town, and we met a bunch of people for DearDR’s 40th birthday dinner. DearDR knew about dinner, but didn’t know about the bunch of people, so he was surprised when we sat down at a big table and when people kept showing up. It was a nice night.

And we got to share one of our favorite local, non-chain places with friends and family. The Bocktown Beer and Grill is a great restaurant, and their selection of beers is daunting if you’re adventurous. I had three I hadn’t tried before, and I was so happy about my choices.

First was the Troeg’s Hopback Amber, a beautifully colored reddish ale. Although the hops were the strongest note, it was incredibly smooth, without the hoppy-bite of an IPA (my usual style of choice). A very good starter.

Then I had Rogue’s Yellow Snow IPA with my dinner. I had been reluctant to try a beer with such an evocative name, but one sip of DearDR’s and I knew I had to have one. It’s a very pleasant IPA, with lots of bitter hops and no aftertaste.

My final beer of the night was just a sample of Atwater’s Vanilla Java Porter. I say “a sample”, but samples at Bocktown are 3-4 ounces, and might cost you a buck or two. (If you just want a taste, on the other hand, that’ll just be a sip or two, for free.) The Porter was a delicious dessert: smooth, with a deep brown coffee taste overlaid with notes of vanilla.

All-in-all it was such a pleasant night. DearDR was happily surprised at who showed up to fete him (his actually birthday is Wednesday), many bearing gifts of wine or books. The food and drink were wonderful, and there was a lot of laughter. Not a bad way to spend some time.

Now, let’s see if I manage to squeeze in a nap today, and I’ll call it a close-to-perfect weekend.

A Bear for Bun

Because Bun was sick, DearDR brought a little something home from his work to cheer her up. It sings the perfect song for our Bun, and it definitely seems to bring a little smile to her spirit.

I do kind of wish Monkey had been otherwise occupied, though. She’s a little too concerned about getting some attention.

And sorry if the tune gets stuck in your head.

Updated to add: I changed the settings on the video, so it should be viewable now. If not, try this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQ9xkTbgWlQ and my email is albamaria30 at verizon dot net.

The Valentine’s Day Saga: Part III

Wherein I make DearDR prove his love for me. Or he proves that he is a patient, patient man.

So we’ve established why, exactly, I am not crazy about Valentine’s Day.

Fast forward to February 2000. DearDR and I have been dating for about four months. DearDR (and he will tell you this himself) is head over heels for me.

He wants to do something for Valentine’s Day. I go through my whole song-and-dance about why I don’t do Valentine’s Day, and it’s just a Hallmark holiday, and we shouldn’t pay any mind.

DearDR completely ignores me. “We’re going out,” he says.

“Fine,” I huff. “But we’re going to do what I want to do.”

So I took him to see the Pittsburgh premiere of the Vagina Monologues at CMU.

Now, if you’re not familiar with the Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, it is exactly what it sounds like: a number of monologues about the vagina, all performed by women.

Yes, I made my boyfriend sit through a play about bajingos, va-jay-jays, lady business — because Dave Boore broke up with me on Valentine’s Day in 1983.

We weren’t even having green beans at the time.

And he still asked me to marry him.

Later that evening we shared some wine at Casbah and just talked. After that, he twirled me into his arms on the sidewalk outside and gave me a kiss I felt all the way to my toes.

Is it any wonder I said yes?

Happy Valentine’s Day, DearDR. I love you.

Bun Love

The instant Monkey was born, she had her daddy’s heart. There was no question. Monkey was born with her eyes wide open (you’d be awake, too, after being squeezed like a sausage for three hours), and, DearDR says, looking right at him.

With Bun, it has taken longer for her to assume the mantle of ‘daddy’s girl’.

Part of it was the timing. We had intended to wait another year before even ‘trying’ to get pregnant. Bun was born a year early, and as my husband also says, “It’s the first time a [Our Last Name] was that early for anything.” So DearDR wasn’t quite ready for round two with another girl.

The anxiety that Bun put us through, albeit unintentionally, didn’t help either.

But as of late, Bun has just as much (i.e. all of) her daddy’s heart as Monkey. Don’t get me wrong, of course DearDR has loved Bun from the outset. It’s just that I can see him warming toward her the way he instantly warmed to Monkey.

At times that we are together as family, “divide and conquer” used to mean: I took care of Bun, and DearDR took care of Monkey. But even that is being switched up. He is just as likely to take Bun under his care as Monkey. (Still not crazy about taking them both at the same time, but he’s getting there.)

The way he touches her face when they are together, and the way he lavishes his attention on her… The level and type of the attention that used to be Monkey’s exclusive right has expanded to include Bun. The same exclamations that DearDR used to say to and about Monkey now apply to Bun as well. “I love you so much, Bun.” “She’s so beautiful!” He has even elected to put her to bed instead of Monkey.

I can see that Monkey is a little insecure about her Daddy’s expanding affection. As a result she is turning back toward me. She wants me to bathe her, even when DearDR is available. She wants to help me with dinner on a Saturday night, rather than hanging with Daddy and Bun. This week, with my in-laws out of town, she has asked me to take her to school or to DCL’s. Unfortunately, I leave too early for work to be able to do that. That has been difficult for Monkey to accept.

Heck, Monkey can’t figure out why I get up in the middle of the night to shower and go to work in the first place. I should be able to wait until the sun comes up and take her to school. (I kind of agree with her on that, but such is the bed I have made.)

As for the girls, and who they prefer, it all depends who is at hand. If I am there, and they are not getting their way, they revert to ” I want Daddy!” (Monkey) or “Dada!” (Bun). Of course. I’m sure DearDR gets a lot of calls for “Mama!” in the mornings.

Don’t worry, Monkey. You’re still Number One.
It’s just that Bun is Number One now, too.

Random Thoughts: Aftermath

Bun rang in year two in spectacular fashion. First, she stayed up all night long. I may have mentioned that. I don’t remember. So very tired.

I am pretty sure she is harboring another ear infection — either another one (her third) or the same one she had last time. Or maybe that was a sinus infection.

Either way: still sick.

And then, to top it all off, she took a craptastic dump in the tub. I’m telling you, that thing was a foot long. Monkey could not jump out of the water fast enough. Bun didn’t seem all that pleased with it, either. Which is good, negative reinforcement, n’at.

Oh well. She got a cake.

I’m pretty sure that look says, “Has anyone noticed this thing is on fire?”

And she opened a couple of presents.

See that face? The pale color, the bags under her eyes? That is not the face of a perfectly healthy 2-year-old.

Performance Goal for 2010: Stop getting ear infections.


DearDR smoked a cigarette last night, hanging outside with a buddy from work.

And it’s all I could smell on him when he got home.

And it was driving me crazy. In a bad way.

DearDR doesn’t smoke. I mean, he’ll occasionally (very seldom) puff on a butt to be sociable. He doesn’t even inhale.

I asked him not to do that again. It’s not fair for him to have one if I’m not having them.

He agreed with me. He’s a good man. And smart!