Public Service Announcement II

(To clarify: This post was inspired by three things: One, the parents.com article I link to in the first paragraph; two, some frustrated-with-husband plurks from this past weekend; three, my own frustrated desire to get something done on Sunday. In other words: DearDR, it’s not all about you. XOXOXO)

Dear Husbands:

Psst. Your wife is mad at you. Especially if you have children.

It’s okay. Or it can be okay.

Do you know what your wife wants? Of course you don’t — that’s why she’s mad at you! And yes, she wants some things that you just don’t feel like doing, it’s true. But you will be amazed at how little “extra” you have to do.

Here are some things you can do — right now, today! — that will help your wife be less angry at you:

Four simple words: “How can I help?” Ask your wife this tonight after dinner. Really listen to her answer. She wants you to clean up the kitchen? Just do it. Or would she rather you bathe the children? Just do it. And do it all on your own, the first time she asks you. Your wife doesn’t want to be a nag, but if she asks you to do something and you say, “Okay, I’ll do that” and then start surfing YouTube on your computer, she’s going to have to ask you again. And possibly again, and then you will say, “I said I would do it! Stop nagging me” and then her head will explode.

Take care of the kids. No, really. You should have some basic knowledge of how to take care of the children. And, truly, I mean basic. Have a rough idea of their schedules. Know when they eat meals and/or snacks; have a clue about what they like or dislike. Know where their clothes are and how to dress the children appropriately. Do the bath thing, start to finish, once a week. Put them to bed — yes, both (or more) of them, if applicable. Let your wife clean up the kitchen uninterrupted and then sit down a read a book. We will understand if it’s not every night. And we’re not asking you to remember the doctor appointments or school details. Basic.

Let her sleep in. Some couples I know divide the weekend: He sleeps in Saturday; she sleeps in Sunday, or vice versa. In short, though, even if you can only do it once a month or so: get up with the children, and don’t let them wake her up. Let her loll in bed until 8:30 or 9 a.m. If you sleep in more often (be honest, guys), then give her a break.

Figure out how to give your wife some uninterrupted time. I don’t know if you know how many times your wife is interrupted in the course of her life with the children. If they are awake, be assured that they are interrupting her. Roughly every 30 seconds (this gets better as they get older, or so I hear). She is constantly turning away from whatever she happens to be doing (cooking dinner, cleaning, laundry, even trying to read a magazine or going to the bathroom) to “deal with” the children. Even if it’s to look at something they want her to see or stopping to say “hi” to the toddler who has run into the room for the umpteenth time yelling, “Hi, Mommy!”, it’s getting on her nerves a little bit.

There are two ways your wife wants uninterrupted time: She wants it out of the house, and she wants it in the house.

Give your wife a few hours — or even a day — off. Encourage her to leave the house. Don’t ask what she is going to do. Don’t ask when she is coming home. Don’t call her cell phone to ask her when or what to feed the children, or if they need baths, or what time they go to bed. This time alone, I almost guarantee, will pay dividends. Doesn’t have to be every weekend. Once a month, though? Would rock.

Give your wife a few hours around the house without the children underfoot. You know that really messy room you’ve been complaining about? Or have you noticed that the kitchen floor hasn’t been mopped in a while? Are boxes of things she means to donate piling up? Quit bugging her about it. She wants to deal with it, she really does. Some days it’s hard enough cleaning up the mess from that day, let alone getting to things that have accumulated. Disappear with the kids for a few hours. Take the children to the mall or the Children’s Museum, or to the zoo, or to a movie. Treat them to lunch at a restaurant. Give your wife a few hours in the house alone. That room, that floor, those boxes, will probably be taken care of. Really. It’s bugging her too.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Well why doesn’t she just tell me this stuff?” There are a few possible reasons that your wife hasn’t mentioned how upset she is:

First, it’s possible that she simply cannot believe that you don’t know what needs to be done around the house and/or with the children. She thinks that you will wake up, and start doing that little bit more — putting your socks in the hamper, carrying that basket of laundry upstairs, bathing the children. She hasn’t said anything because she doesn’t think she needs to say anything.

Second, she assumes that it is her role to do “everything” and since you work full-time (you do work full-time, right?), you deserve a break today. This is very sweet of her, of course, but here’s the thing. It’s not helping her be less angry. And when she snaps — and she will lose it sooner or later, sooner if she also works outside of the home — and throws something at your head, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

I know, I know, she doesn’t do everything. But that’s how she feels. So help her out a little bit.

Third, she has told you. She has asked you. And you either haven’t really heard her, or after agreeing to do certain things at certain times or on certain days, you haven’t followed through.

No, your wife is not perfect. And yes, she could possibly manage her time a little better, too.

Here’s another a big, important point: Your wife doesn’t want to be angry with you. She didn’t get here alone, but she feels alone — and angry, right now. Be her partner; help her out. She didn’t marry your and have children on a whim. She loves you.

Public Service Announcement

An open letter to husbands:

Your wife’s birthday is a very, very special day. And it should be treated accordingly.

It is the day that the beautiful woman whom you charmed (and/or conned) into marrying you was born.

It is the day that (in many cases) the mother of your children was brought into this world. Which means, also, that it is the day that your green bean supplier was born.

You like green beans, don’t you?

Go to the calendar — now, go — and mark the day of your wife’s birth on it. Big, bold lettering — use a sharpie, maybe a couple of stickers. Make it stand out on your palm pilot — have it play her favorite song on your work computer calendar.

On the day of your wife’s birthday, do something special. Actually, do whatever she decides she wants to do to make it special.

If it’s on a weekend, get up, and get yourself and the kids out of the house. Let her sleep in on her birthday. You and the kids can pick up her present now, or some cards, maybe even a birthday cake. Doesn’t have to be fancy, but chocolate will probably win you some points.

Do something that lets her know you are aware that it is her special day, and that you, too, celebrate the day that she was born. Send flowers to the office. Leave a wrapped present under her pillow. Make her breakfast, or lunch, or dinner.

Hire a babysitter and take her out. Or send the kids to your parents’ (or her parents’) house over night, and stay in. Light some candles.

Buy her a spa certificate. Or even better: schedule her a spa day on her birthday. Drop her off, and let her know you’ll come get her in a couple of hours.

Do not, under any circumstances, do something you want to do on her birthday. Do not buy her a present that you would like for her birthday. I understand that sometimes husbands get confused and think what they like is what their wives like. Please disabuse yourselves of this notion, stat. (Credit: BurghBaby)

And if your wife wants to go out to dinner with you and the kids, then go. Even if it means going up to the horribly crowded consumer mecca nearby. Entertain the children during the wait, eat at a family-friendly place. Take them to the germ pit at the mall and let your wife shop for a little bit. It’s her birthday.

If you are angry with your wife, put it aside. Please do not ruin her birthday by fighting with her — or fight with her early enough that you can get it all out of the way soon, before dinner or her spa day. You have a right to your anger, but she has the right to her special day. Work it out.

Remember: Birthdays are not just for children. (Credit: ClumberKim)

Also remember: Before you and the children came along, her birthday was a day all for her, a day that she probably set aside to do something on her own: go to a museum or a movie, or spend a day in a bookstore or a coffee shop, reading a book.

Christmas is about the kids (and baby Jesus); everyone does something special on Valentine’s Day; Easter is a weird day to give gifts; Mother’s Day… she tends to think that’s for your mother (you have to train the kids to treat her special on this one). One day out of the year, her birthday should be “her day”. You have the power to make it so. You can make it or break it, buddy.

Make it.

Let it all be about her and whatever she wants.

Love it. Love her. Show it. Celebrate it.

She deserves it.

…Baby, One More Time?

No, I’m not pregnant. Not even “trying”.

It’s just that the other night, out of the blue (okay, not totally apropos of nothing; we were watching Lost Season 3 on DVD, and Juliette had just told Jack she was a fertility doctor) DearDR said, “Do you want to try for another baby?”

To which I was quick to respond, “Not right now.” I’m such a wit. Or twit. Your pick.

But it’s had me thinking for a couple of days now.

In truth, I always thought I would have three children. Technically speaking I did have three children, of course, but I thought I would be raising three children.

I don’t know why three. My mother had three children (really three, not three with an asterisk like me). I mean, I have never made plans according to what my mother did (as she can well tell you), so I doubt that’s it. (Although, as the third aside in this paragraph alone, I will admit I am turning into her. That’s to pre-empt DearDR from pointing it out later, if he ever reads this.)

Another truth is: I really want another boy. I mentioned this in my Crazy Eights post. And I know DearDR brought it up because he, too, wants another boy. It’s a guy thing. Especially an Italian guy thing. Although it turns out, we are firmly in the majority in preferring a boy over a girl (in a future pregnancy; I wouldn’t trade my girls for anything…). For completely different reasons than those listed in that article. (I know in part DearDR wants a boy to carry on the family name. He’s the last shot.)

I don’t want a boy for him, though, I want a boy for me. Because (rumor has it) mothers and sons have a completely different relationship than mothers and daughters. More akin to the father-daughter dynamic.

As a first-hand witness to my mother’s relationship with my brother, and comparing said relationship to my relationship with my mother, yeah, I get that. He was special to her — not more loved by her — it’s just that there was truly something different about their dynamic. It was more peaceful, maybe… more hopeful. It’s hard to describe. Suffice to say that I remember being on the outside and looking in at my mother’s relationship with my brother, and thinking, “I want that at some point in my life.” (Not the relationship with my mother; a relationship with a son.)

To clarify: I did not have a bad relationship with my mother (with either of my parents). As a teen, I butted heads with my father — we were each as stubborn as the other. In my early 20s, after Mom saw my tattoo, she did threaten (in writing, in a letter about three days later) to never speak to me again, because of, and I quote, “the things you have done to and with your body”. Which, to sum up in my mother’s eyes, included piercing my lip, losing my virginity, smoking, and getting a tattoo (not necessarily in that order). I’m not sure she knew about the birth control pills.

Anyhoo, I have gotten way off track here.

To attempt to return to the subject and in the spirit of High Fidelity (the movie with John Cusack, not the book by Nick Hornby; I haven’t read it yet, and I just caught some of the movie today), here are the Top Five Reasons to Immediately Have My Tubes Tied:

5. I have very stressful pregnancies. Der.
4. Every child I have seems to put my writing career further out of my reach.
3. As if it’s not bad enough, I’m sure another child would be financial suicide.
2. I’m pretty sure my perinatologists’ reactions would be, “You again? What are you, out of your mind?”
1. I’m almost sure my midwives would kill me.

(I would never, ever have my tubes tied, for the record. DearDR’s not getting snipped, either.)

Plus, what if I have another girl? I mean, I wouldn’t care, as long as she was healthy and happy and all that, but poor DearDR. I don’t think he would be able to handle the hormones, especially once they hit puberty and I hit menopause.

Top Five Reasons to Try One More Time:

5. It’s a baby!
4. It would totally mess with my in-laws.
3. It’s actually possible it will be a boy. I thought it was more likely that older moms had girls, but not according to this article. She adds, “(Actually, there is about a 51% chance that everyone will have a boy! Older mothers are also more likely to have boys according to some recent studies.)” I wish she had linked to those studies!
2. I just don’t feel like we’re done. Even after Bun was born, I didn’t have the feeling, “That’s it; we’re done.” More like, “Oh, good. She’s here; she made it. Maybe when I get over this, I’ll think about having another one. It’d be nice to have a healthy, living baby boy.”
1. We would have an excuse to have lots and lots of sex.

Listen, people, not having sex as a method of birth control is fool proof, but frankly, it sucks. And technically, NFP isn’t NO sex, but it’s so… rigid about when to avoid sex if you don’t want to be pregnant that it feels that way sometimes. Especially when we’re horny at the same time (DearDR, it probably goes without saying, is horny almost all the time) and/or I want to feel close to my husband.

Also… well, let’s just say, I was no virgin when I got hitched. But, baby, I saved the best for last.

Meatless Monday: Comfort Food Redeux

At some point in our marriage, DearDR mentioned a dish that his mother used to make that he really liked. He called it Beefy Cheesy Macaroni. From his description, it sounded a lot like a dish my mother used to make that we called goulash. (It was not true goulash, which I know is an Eastern European recipe. That’s just what we called it for some reason — we are not Eastern European in heritage, so I’m not really sure where we picked it up.) I asked if he would mind if I tried a vegetarian version of it. He said go ahead.

After a few tries, I got it down, and it is another favorite of the house. I’m probably going to make it this week, with the cold rainy weather settling in.

We now call it “Beefy” Cheesy Macaroni

1 pound elbow macaroni
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Olive oil
1 package soy crumbles (I use Morningstar Farms)
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
Dried basil and oregano to taste
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1. Prepare the elbow macaroni according to package directions.

2. While the macaroni is boiling, in a skillet saute the garlic in the olive oil. Add soy crumbles and saute until warmed through.

3. Add crushed tomatoes and herbs to taste. Let simmer on low for about 15-20 minutes.

4. Drain the macaroni and set aside, or put into serving bowl. Add cheddar cheese to “beefy” tomato sauce and cook another 5 minutes. Spoon the cheesy tomato sauce over the macaroni. Toss and serve hot!

This is definitely an under-30-minute recipe, which is another reason it’s a favorite of mine. If you want to try it with ground meat, I’m sure it will be just as tasty.

I got almost 13 hours of sleep last night, so I am a functional human being again. I have a ton to do in the next four hours, and Bella has the girls, so I better scoot!

Six Years

My mother-in-law recently informed me that at our wedding, a number of people related to me mentioned to her that they had thought I would never get married.

This did not surprise me. I distinctly remember being 16 years old, and my mother saying to me, in tones of exasperation, “You’ll never get married. You’re just going to have a bunch of lovers.”

I was, in my mother’s words, bohemian. I was artistic, dramatic. I was, to my parents’ view, untraditional.

For the most part, I didn’t trouble over this idea of getting married or not. I didn’t have elaborate fantasies about my wedding day, or my husband, or children. I dated, I had lovers and a few, as the kids say now, friends with benefits, even a few one-night flings.

Then, after a particularly painful break-up in my late 20s, I re-evaluated a few things. I moved into an apartment on my own, and started to figure out what I really wanted in a partner. I had already figured out what I didn’t want (the hard way, which is either unfortunate or, possibly, the way these things are figured out).

I wanted someone who made me laugh. This was close to top of my list. I wanted someone who was interested in me, for me; I wanted someone who was interested in my life, my family, my wants, goals and desires. (My recent ex and I had split at my brother’s wedding, of all things, because I finally figured out that he didn’t really care about MY life. It was cool if I wanted to stick around and be in HIS life, but we weren’t headed to OUR life.) I had recently returned to the church, and I wanted someone who shared my faith. I wanted someone with a strong family life, because that was something I enjoyed. I wanted to have fun, but I also wanted the option of not having fun, of being able to feel other emotions: sadness, frustration, anger — and of being able to express those emotions without getting grief for it.

And then, when I was 29, I ran into DearDR. At the time, of course, he wasn’t DearDR. He was an acquaintance, someone I knew from college, and then later, someone who lived in the same city neighborhood as I. Granted, we were in a bar on the South Side; I was with friends, he was with his sister, his brother-in-law, and his cousin. He and I started to talk. He bought me a Maker’s Mark on the rocks. Two hours later, two hours that felt like two minutes, his crew was leaving.

He said to me, “Will you have dinner with me sometime?”

And I said, “Yes. That sounds good.”

He said, “Can I have your number?”

I said, “You can look me up. I’m in the book.”

The next morning, I woke up and thought, “Holy crap, did I actually say that?” Yeah, I really did say that. In an enterprising scramble, I got his email address from his BIL, who was an acquaintance of mine as well. On our third date, I thought to myself, “I could marry this man” — a thought I had never had, about any man. Our fourth date was the wedding of two close friends of mine; he told one of the guests (out of my earshot), “I’m going to marry her.”

And he did.

And he makes me laugh, even when I am crying sometimes. And he lets me cry and be pissed off and scared and frustrated, and he lets me express it. And he lets me be happy, he often is the source of my happiness. And he is a wonderful father to my children. And he is my lover, and my friend, and my partner. He is interested in me, and I in him, and we have our life as well as our lives.

Happy anniversary, my dearest DearDR. I love you — you are the love of my life. I never saw you coming, but I am so glad you are here.

Cooler Heads Prevail

I spent some time looking for this post because it is on my mind. DearDR and I had a tiff yesterday — well, a bit more than a tiff, truth be told. And for an instant I thought (much later, after the not-tiff) about writing about it here. Because there are things going on with us that are hard. Not leave-each-other hard, or hate-each-other hard. But married-people hard, married-people-with-kids hard, married-people-with-kids-going-through-some-shit hard.

But yelling was involved. And head-busting anger. And then I thought, I could get this off my chest and write about it.

And then I thought, “Only it’s not my story. It’s our story, and not such a great part of our story. Which is usually much nicer than this.” So, sorry, I’m not writing about it here.

Also because I think some of my friends stop by here every now again. Probably hoping to see pictures, or other videos. Which, in the latter case, if I could download them from my flip-camera, you would see. But we lost the thing-a-ma-jig that connects to my computer for downloading purposes, and haven’t replaced it yet. And a couple of those friends may hear about this tiff, because they are up on the background of why that kind of tiff may have occurred. But most people I wouldn’t tell this not-nice-story to, not because they are lesser friends or anything like that. Just ’cause. Some people you let inside of your side of a marriage, but most people you don’t. Because it’s yours and your side. And his marriage and story, too. You can’t let a lot of people see the dirty laundry.

Oh, and I also like this post because my husband, too, is a manly man, like HBM’s, and, lastly: we are not perfect, but we are perfect for each other. More on that later, because Saturday is our anniversary.

How Do They Know?

Background
When I began this weblog, I was on maternity leave from my favorite job yet, a full-time writing gig at a marketing communications firm. The work was challenging, always something different from day to day. But about a month after starting, I discovered I was pregnant with the Bun. Completely unplanned.

After the Bun was born, I knew I couldn’t return to work within six weeks. I just couldn’t do that to my little girl. In short, after six weeks were about up, I spoke with my employer. He agreed to use me as a freelancer again, until I could return, maybe when the Bun is six months old or so.

Two weeks later, I was still waiting for a freelance assignment from them. I thought I had completely screwed up my chances of working with this firm, which I was depressed about because I really liked working with them.

And then, a day after lamenting the death of my career with DearDR (okay, so it’s not dead, just on hold again), I got a call from the firm. They needed me to write a story.

So I tried the WAHM route

In order to do the story, I needed to conduct a phone interview. I had Nanny come over from next door to hold the Bun and/or otherwise tend to her needs while I did the interview. All went smoothly. Nanny even offered to hang out while I transcribed some of the tape, made dinner, and picked up Monkey from the babysitter. Aside from a killer tension headache that descended as soon as the phone interview was over, things were great.

The following day, Monkey was at the babysitter again, and I was determined to transcribe the story from my DVR (digital voice recorder, if you don’t know). And I swear, Bun knew it. She was extra fussy, seemingly determined to depart from her usual cycle of eat-sleep-poop. She wanted the mama, if not actively feeding her, then at least holding her. I sighed, I cajoled, I rocked, and in between fussy periods I transcribed madly. I worked nearly to the neglect of personal hygeine (I did sneak in a quick shower) and definitely to the neglect of nutrition, skipping lunch almost entirely (I ate an apple).

Aside

I am a big fan of the daily shower. I crave it; I need it. I know it is something that women with children, especially S/WAHMs — and especially if there is more than one child present — give up or at least put off until another adult family member is present in the house. Not me. If the Bun is sleeping, I jump in the shower.

I don’t take long showers; I don’t need to shave my legs every day or anything (or even every week!). I just wash the basics and brush the teeth. That’s all. It makes me feel like a real person. I don’t style or blow dry my hair. Occasionally I get to moisturize afterwards, but I will even sacrifice that if I need to. Which given the cold outside and the dry heat inside is a true sacrifice, if you ask me!

Back to the point

Okay, trascription is done. I have a hunger headache and Monkey is home. Bun is being the same Bun she has been all day. I will not be writing this evening. I get everyone fed, although not enough for me. Monkey is fraying my nerves, even to the point of getting an extremely rare spanking. I don’t like to spank, but 1) she was purposely pouring her soy milk on the rug and 2) I was fried.

Also at this point, I suspect I am coming down with something. My head hurts, I am aching all over and my throat hurts. I feel as if I have a fever, although I don’t feel warm to my own touch. The only working digital thermometer in the house is the one I stick up Monkey’s butt to see if she has a fever. “Great,” I think. “I have to write this story tomorrow and DearDR and I have just made plans to go out tomorrow evening, albeit with the kids, and now I suddenly have the flu or something.”

I get Monkey in bed, nurse Bun a little longer in front of the tube, and then take us up to bed. I am feeling some despair.

The Next Day

I feel better. No achey-ness, no sore throat. Okay, I am ready to write. I just have to get DearDR to be with the kids. I should have know that maybe things aren’t going to go that well when DearDR goes in to get Monkey that morning.

See, the night before, she had been coughing. I had asked DearDR, when he got home from work, to give her some cough syrup. He put the cough syrup in a syringe (not with a needle, the kiddie medicine syringe type thing). Monkey refused to take the medicine. So my wise Ph.D.-toting husband leaves the syringe in Monkey’s room where he thought she couldn’t reach it.

The bad news: there is no place in Monkey’s room that she cannot reach since she has learned that just about anything can be employed as a step stool.

The cough syrup was red.

I keep hearing DearDR say, “Why did you squirt this all over the wall?” I have no idea what he is talking about. I can hear increasing frustration from him, and finally Monkey starts to cry. I get up, and see the mess on the wall, on her bedsheets. It is about 7:30 a.m.

It worries me when I am the paragon of patience in my house. Because I am not. Patient. At all. But today I am much better than DearDR. He was angry with Monkey, sure, but he was even angrier at himself for leaving the medicine in the room.

In any case, I try to write. And I do write. And in between writing and trying to focus on writing, I play with Monkey, clean up the mess she made in the bedroom, feed her lunch, get a little snappish with DearDR, and pump two bottles for Bun. Ah, yes, the electric breast pump twice in one morning. I was stressed on my behalf because the writing was not going well for so many reasons, and I was stressed on DearDR’s behalf because I know what it’s like to have the two kids on your hands.

But I do write. It turns out okay. I email it by 2 p.m.

And Then We Try to Have Sex

During what is supposed to be Monkey’s nap and when Bun is sleeping. It’s not so much that I want to exactly, but we have to. Sooner or later. It seems like we have an opportunity, and we should take it. And I know DearDR does want to.

Monkey is not napping, she is in her room singing. Sometimes she is singing “Happy Birthday”, and sometimes “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” (or the part of it she knows, which is “Dinah, blow your horn”). She is singing loudly. DearDR and I are trying to be intimate and laughing our heads off at the same time. And then somehow, Monkey figures out we must be upstairs because she starts calling, then screaming for us.

We persevere. We do actually have intercourse, although only one of us has an orgasm. It’s not me and (and I am not just saying this) that’s okay. In this case it is the act that counts, actually doing the act, actually putting something in where babies come out, that is the hurdle that needs to be jumped for me. It is uncomfortable, and it is ridiculous to be doing while our older daughter is calling for us from the other room and, before we are done, our younger daughter starts crying from another room.

We wash up a bit and get our clothes back on. Everyone is rescued from their crying. DearDR thanks me. And we go out as a family, and it’s nice. Chaotic and tiring, but. Nice.

A moment of quiet

Both the children are sleeping. My husband is out with his father. If he were here, we could be getting jiggy with it, but he’s not. I have laundry going because one always must have laundry going.

I confessed to DearDR that I am afraid of sex right now. I am afraid it will hurt; I am afraid I will disappoint him. I am afraid of getting pregnant again. At the same time, I think we need to start moving toward some type(s) of intimacy. Kissing, petting, spooning… other ways of orgasm. Because the way we are living, it’s just getting more difficult (I would say harder, but that would look like a pun) to move toward intimacy.

Sometimes, when we have problems, I feel like while we are good at acknowledging the problems, we aren’t so good at solving the problems. We communicate well (much of the time), but that’s all we do in some cases. Like the sex issue lately. Last night, he heard me out, and acknowledged my fear. I offered him some relief last night; he said, “why don’t we do something tomorrow afternoon?” That would be now. And he’s not here. I asked when he would be back from his shopping trip with his dad, and he said he didn’t know.

We have to start doing something, but we can’t do it alone. Know what I mean?

In the meantime, I am trying to get in the habit of pumping milk once a day. Are you familiar with the electric breast pump? Not the most comfortable way to get milk out of the boobs. Efficient as all hell, I will say. But fun? Comfortable? Not so much.