anniversary date

so, greg and I have an upcoming anniversary…well, look at that.  it’s tomorrow.  tomorrow marks the day we were married eight years ago.  we’ve been legal for eight years, though, lord knows, we’ve been together since we were both practically children.

often, we try to revisit the site where we were married as it’s a good excuse to go out that way.  it’s a pretty place, the arboretum, and we scarcely have any reason to go out that way any more.  our cool hang out days are over, if we ever had them to begin with.  but this year, our anniversary falls, wouldn’t you know it, on a Tuesday and unlike last year, greg is not on paternity leave this time around.  this year we thought we’d stay local.

“you wanna see if your parents can watch the older two and you and I and miles can go on a date?”  I asked greg after I got back from tim Horton’s sunday morning with our coffees (not that we’re regular customers.  it was a special occasion.  joel threw some bits of cheese into our coffee maker and clogged the water pipe.  that’s about as special as it gets around here).  he said yeah and called up his mom who was of course ecstatic to watch our older two kids any time.  grandparents.  gotta love ’em.

greg had something up his sleeve.  he had something planned.  knowing greg I knew it would probably be something really obvious and may or may not fall through completely.  as I said, greg and I have been together for quite some time.  I know his patterns.

we dropped off ruth and joel and headed to the downtown area with miles and parked and walked to our local wine merchant and bought a bottle of wine and then walked to a nearby jimmy john’s and picked up some sandwiches.  this would be just our style.  cheap wine and easy food.  I still wasn’t quite sure exactly where we were going, though.  I had seen that he had packed a sort of picnic set up in the trunk of the car (by accident, people.  c’mon.  what do you take me for?  some sort of snoop??  wink:)  so I knew we were in the picnic persuasion.  I just didn’t know where.

when he parked in the parking lot of a park we frequent a lot with the kids but most recently took them on a hot and ready pizza picnic with fishing just a few weeks before, I suddenly realized what we were doing.

when we had come there those couple weeks prior, we had of course, been all over with the kids, back and forth, pizza sauce on everyone’s faces, garbage being chased down in the wind with scarcely a few moments to toss the line out into the river.  as we were leaving exhausted, I spotted a couple reclining along the riverbank in two zero gravity chairs, leaning back all the way so they were nearly horizontal with a bottle of wine on the ground between them.  I remember all but watering at the mouth upon seeing them, looking like they were camped out for the entire evening.  we, on the other hand, were headed home to wrestle our kids to bed.  “I wanna do THAT!” I had said to greg with such longing it shocked even me.  he looked and agreed, noting how close to that experience we had come with our little excursion, yet how far away.  two different worlds.

he didn’t say anything as he walked to the river and set the chairs up right where the couple had been.  he tossed down a blanket for miles (who of course ended up going everywhere but on the blanket) and plopped down with our bottle in between our two chairs.

it was a thoughtful date and just what we needed (now if only we didn’t have the baby with us:).  we talked a bit and drank our wine and ate our sandwiches.  then we took a long walk down a nearby path with miles sleeping in the carrier and it was ALMOST like we were alone:)

what more can one ask for in celebrating an eight year wedding anniversary when you have three kids?


a date night in

greg and I have never been big “daters”.  what I mean is that we’ve never been ones to ask each other to prom much, don expensive clothes and go out on the town.  the closest we usually get, or have gotten in our life together, is usually lunch at our local coney island and then a movie.  or skip the movie.  since having kids, and especially since having the second and third, our time alone has taken a serious nose dive.  absence makes the heart grow fonder, is what they say, and I believe this.  I think part of why people want to bring children into their relationship is to spice things up a bit, force you into different roles and make being together a special treat again instead of just instant gratification.  or maybe that’s just me.  in either case: BIG MISTAKE.

one thing greg and I have been doing for a LONG time, even before our kids came along, is having date nights in, as in: stay home, chill on the couch and watch a movie or read, but more often watch a movie.  this comes with many benefits.  the beer is cheaper.  you can’t really beat a cube of pabst and though I’m breastfeeding, I feel ok drinking one can as long as the baby has just gone to sleep.  you don’t have to dress up.  in fact, pajamas are mandatory and no one minds if you smell like b.o., which I often do.  another bonus is that the kids are mere feet away, never even realize we’re having a date, and able to be frequently checked on.  or at least theoretically.

when ruth was a baby and young toddler this could be true, because, though she’s a night owl by nature, once girlfriend is asleep she’s pretty out cold.  my sons on the other hand…well, they are a different breed of cat.  the extremely light sleeper kind.  no matter what time night or day.  something as seemingly silent as me typing on this keyboard right now might stir them.  they are BOTH like this.  so, even our humble date nights in have been paying the price lately.

like yesterday for instance.  greg and I waited as they tossed and turned and eventually drifted off to sleep in various shaped and sized heaps then “snuck” back out to take a bath and watch a movie on our library’s FREE video streamer (another bonus).  I say “snuck” because of course as soon as joel sniffed my absence, he stumbled out rubbing his eyes, asking for juice.  I looked at greg.  he looked at me.  I widened my eyes as if to exclaim, “my god!  will this kid never stop??”  because joel has been the real thorn in our side lately, being 2 almost 3, his stubbornness and irrationality being matched only by his cuteness.  but, he was up.  and we were up.  so, there was nothing to do but go about our “date” with a third wheel.

we hopped into the tub.  joel sat by the side watching as we steeped in the hot steamy water.  I tried to converse as normal, like he wasn’t there, but he kept rudely interjecting things like, “mom?  MOM?  hey, mom?  in the morning, I can take a bath, OK?”  I felt the sharp edge of bitterness within me but i somehow managed to round it out before it cut him.  “yes joel.  you can.”  one of the main struggles of parenthood: how to keep from resenting your own children.

we finished up and set up the movie on the couch.  joel was talking excitedly about how he wanted to watch Bob the Builder.  i said no.  dad and i would pick out a movie.  we settled on the couch, joel in between us, snuggling in for his date night with mom and dad.  i scanned the titles and came up with a romantic comedy.  i quickly had to turn it off and switch titles because the people in the movie were referencing explicit sexual acts.  joel is pretty oblivious to these things still.  if it were ruth, she would probably understand everything and be scarred for life.  but i wasn’t sure, so i settled on something less racy.  i was still thinking that he would drift off and i could carry him into the bed and be alone with greg for a tiny amount of time at least.

but that little bugger sat there, would you believe, through the whole movie??  eyes just plastered to the screen, a confused look on his face, thumb in his mouth.  until MIDNIGHT.  at that point, the other brother awoke in need of milk and comfort and so finally, we just gave up and called it quits and went to bed.  boys: 1.  mom and dad’s marriage: 0.

these instances are equal parts adorable and infuriating.  i try try try to focus in on the adorable aspect, i really do.  but it can be hard when i just simply have almost no time away from the kids.  not even to stay up late to reconnect with my spouse, or to get up early and type this sort of thing in the morning (can you believe he is up again at 7 AM???  adding insult to injury: now not only do i not get a break from joel, he’s going to be in a god-awful mood all day long and his “sleep schedule” is thrown way the hell off.

SIGH.  well, hopefully your day is off to a more auspicious start than mine is.





photo documentary

do others do this?  i know that you all know that i am a stay-at-home parent (what more can i do but yell it from the rooftop towards the oncoming traffic on greenfield?) and my husband works full time.  therefore, he misses a lot of what goes on between ruth and i when he is not around.  it is not uncommon for him, after being home for a few minutes, in the other room with ruth to yell something like, “she just said________!!”  and me, after rolling my eyes to no one but myself will respond with, “i know, greg.”  wondering why i can’t just be left alone for five minutes and what does he think goes on here all day?  we just stare at each other?   there isn’t hardly one thing that she has begun to do that i haven’t been the first witness to.  i like it that way.  i hold fast to anything that gives me clout in my little domain.

however, most days when greg comes home and asks what we did all day, i feel  a vague pang as i scramble to mentally reconstruct the day, mostly coming up with, “um….we ate….something….”  i find that it helps to document my days.  with photos.  and videos.

how did people do it before the digital age?  as a kid growing up, i remember snapping pictures, thinking they were gonna be awesome, waiting to fill up an entire roll of film (24 pictures?  that could take months) then taking the film in to arbor drugs, filling out the forms, then going back after a week to pick them up only to find that half of them were all dark because your finger had been over the lens and the rest were all crap and from things you couldn’t even remember happening.  to find a frame-able photo was rare indeed.  it is amazing that parents from my moms generation and before can even remember anything that happened with their kids (actually, i secretly believe that a lot of what my mom says happened never did.  it has happened before that she will be pointing out a picture, telling a story of someone’s birthday and it will be the wrong season in the picture).

who needs a photographic memory when you have a photographic documentary of each day?  any time ruth does something new, i snap a photo.  i take a video.  when i leave the house, i always make sure to have my keys, phone, and camera with fresh batteries.   if i had to pick out of the three which i was least willing to part ways with, it would be the camera (usually no one calls me any ways except my in-laws, and i can always climb in a window to get back into my house).  but just try and take my camera from me and see what happens.  i’ll pop a crack in yo ass.

i find it much easier, and more gratifying, to simply hand greg the camera, “here.”  then stand by as he beeps through all the pictures, smiling to himself, laughing, and perhaps asking questions along his virtual journey through our day.  it is kind of like he was there with us, a floating observer, a witness to our misdeeds and moments.

it’s much less frustrating this way.  plus, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, and believe me, after greg gets home, i need a break from talking.

greg’s 28th

anyone who has a kid knows that the best birthday gift is having a day without your kid.  on greg’s 28th birthday, which also happened to be presidents’ day, we got a get out of kid free card, the entire day to ourselves.  we tried really hard not to seem too giddy while we were dropping her off, too anxious to leave, but i’m sure that at this we failed.  what to do?

we decided to visit the henry ford museum as it was free admission for presidents’ day.  no one seems to believe me when i say that one shocker about becoming a parent is the physical burden that goes along with it.  going somewhere without a small child must feel like a work horse having the yolk lifted after a long days’ plowing.  you actually stand up straighter, seem to have lost about fifteen pounds, can breath more deeply. we skipped up to the museum entrance like a couple of preteens, holding hands and all.  it was then that we realized the fatal flaw in our plan.  every single person living in the detroit metro area was also at the museum, enjoying the free admission.  greg doesn’t mind crowds, but i will admit that i sometimes have a suffocating fear of large groups of people.  i sometimes simply can’t take that type of humanity.  the streaming collage of people type.  it makes me feel small, like i’m disappearing, like i’m drowning, and also like, “why the hell did i have a kid?  look at all these people everywhere.”  any psychologists reading this, feel free to have at it (if you need any more keys to unlocking my particular brand of crazy: i am a scorpio and a middle child, the only girl, my parents didn’t go to college and i’m polish).  greg, trying to avert a public meltdown by me, took my hand and led me into the clocks exhibit.  never heard of it?  that’s because it is not only hidden, but the most boring corner of the museum (except for the farm equipment.  shudder).  there was no one around and something about staring at old clock faces is calming.  if you actually had the patience to read the interpretive signs, it’s not a bad exhibit, and goes through the entire history of keeping track of time and the advances in clock-making.  at one point, greg read an excerpt that said that the evolution of clocks and their increasing accuracy lead to a corresponding increase in anxiety among americans and the token obsession with punctuality that is still around today.  damn those damn clock-makers.  there would never be any obsessive clock-watching if there hadn’t been clocks.  i tried to imagine a life without clocks, living life in bigger chunks (day, night) than on an hourly, sometimes by-the-minute level.  i couldn’t do it. at that point, i happened to look up at the nearest clock to see that our precious time was dwindling.  it was time to move on.

when you are married to a biologist, you can always find little chunks of wilderness (whoa-whoa, as ruth calls it) no matter where you are.  i followed greg as he walked into a tangled bunch of trees and somehow ended up on a little serene path along the rouge river.  for those that grew up in dearborn, the smell of the rouge is something that brings back childhood memories.  like a cigar, it is sweet and pungent, earthy and a little sulfurous.  the fallen trees and debris around us was like the wreckage of a hundred ships, the path was sandy,  “this is the most degraded ecosystem i have ever seen” greg said as he broke off a piece of Japanese knotweed, an invasive species, and handed it to me.  “i will cane you with this” i said wielding the hollow cane, channeling my younger playful self.  we reached a sewer outflow with a concrete platform above it and sat together, observing the river.  you could tell we have been together for ten years by the 2.5 feet between us.  there was a time in our early dating years when we would have been instantly making out, any time we were out of the public view.  now, the thought crossed my mind, but only as a joke, a throw-back to the old days.  if i could only have back some of the hours i spent in my youth kissing.  i could write a novel.  or take like eighty baths in a row.  the sun was getting lower in the sky, which meant it was, again, time to move on.  we made our way out, spotting a white-breasted nuthatch, chickadee, and hairy woodpecker all taking turns eating from the same cracked walnut.

the last thing we had to do was to  make greg’s birthday cake, a cinnamon coffee cake recipe from my dad’s mom, and to drink some beer.  everyone knows that cakes turn out better if you drink beer while you’re making them.  and blare john mayer.  ok, perhaps i got a little overzealous with the sugar which may not have happened if i wasn’t two beers deep, but, hey, i don’t know about you, but i like my cake sweet.  at one point, i said, “greg, can you believe you’re 28?  i remember your 18th birthday.  that shit is crazy shit.”  he raised his beer in salute.  i did the same.  then, we put the cake in the oven, sat in the living room and waited, looking out the window together, aware of our past, hopeful of our future, enjoying the present.  “happy birthday, you tool.” i said.  “aw, babe” he said, “i love you, too.”

some things that greg and i never do any more

this is more about the wedge-like quality of offspring in a marriage that begins with conception.  the gap just grows wider with every hammer strike, or life event (keep in mind, of course, that this is my experience as a stay-at-home parent while greg works full time.  we are recreating the henry ford assembly line right here in our own home.  i have no idea if the same occurrences, well, occur when both people work).  take our daughter, for example, who is like a physical wedge in our bed, driving us apart, on top of being a metaphorical wedge also.

it just struck me the other day while i was doing something that i haven’t done in a long time that there are probably many more things that i just hadn’t thought of or realized that i never do any more (um, any english professors out there reading this, please excuse my run-on.  (who says run-ons are bad?  i like to see them as a literary tool of expression.  they are my go-to tool of choice when i want to really drive home a point.  the point being that i don’t have a point, or that i have one, but i just can’t remember where i last placed it)).  i was taking doofy, our dog, for the LONG walk around a nearby middle school and back which we, at one point, when we had time to do things like this, clocked with our car to be 1.2 miles.  as i was out there in the cold night, greg home with ruth, not a soul was out.  dearborn in the winter is like that.  a ghost town.  it occurred to me then how long it had been since i had gone on the long walk.  i was suddenly hit with the memory that, before ruth, nearly every day, greg and i would get home from work (oh, weren’t we on the same page back then?) and immediately leave on a long leisurely walk with doof, who at that time was our daughter.  as i power-walked through the crisp, cutting night air, i remembered the leisurely strolling pace we would walk, just chatting, going over our day, things we were thinking about, or just silently walking.  wow.  a different world, to be sure.  not only do we not take walks like that together any more, would we, even if we had the chance?  i am surprised myself to realize that, no, we wouldn’t.  we have entered a different phase of our lives and have become different, just by the sheer lack of time and freedom we now experience in our daily lives.  if ruth was gone long enough for us to leisurely walk the long walk, we would probably be too busy cleaning or running the many neglected errands or just zoning out to “the bachelor” to waste time walking our dog, who is now, to her great disappointment, just  our dog (this is another instance where i wonder what my past and future selves would think of each other upon meeting).

some other things occurred to me while i was on this train of thought that we don’t do any more:

1) this may be a little tmi, but take baths together.  yes, our bathtub would seem to have been taken out of the set of the wizard of oz munchkin land, but we used to make it work.  i wouldn’t describe baths together as romantic, but intimate.  the kind of intimacy that comes from being crammed together in a small place, hunched over, every crease, wrinkle and bulge exposed by the harsh bathroom light fixture.  now greg and i take quick showers when we can and the only one who takes baths is ruth and she hates them with gusto.

2) drink lots of beer.  recently, we had some people over for new years eve and at one point, i looked into the kitchen sink and saw that the lower half was completely full of beer bottles.  “whoa,” i said, “this looks like three years ago.”  we used to have a weekly tradition of watching hockey night in canada and drinking lots of beer.  these days, our tradition is to eat dinner with greg’s parents and watch elmo’s world videos.  the only thing our sink is full of are dirty dishes that i never seem to get around to.  i dunno, i guess that some people might think it irresponsible to simultaneously care for very young children and drink lots of beer.  whatev.

3) avoid greg’s parents like the plague.  i am still a firm believer in screening calls, but i am more than likely to instantaneously call my in-laws back to take them up on an offer to take us to the museum or invite us for dinner, whereas, a few years ago, i would probably have half-listened to the message before deleting it and then never calling them back.  actually, these days it is more likely that i would be calling them to ask if my mother-in-law would like to join us on some activity (for those who know me in real life, i never go anywhere without one or both grandmas, sometimes even papa thrown in there too, just for extra support.  my posse).  i tell people all the time that my mother-in-law is like my bff.  she is probably the only one, besides greg, who knows blow-by-blow, what ruth is doing these days, what new thing she says, her activities.

4) watch movies.  i always say that coffee-drinking is my religion, but if i had to pick a second one, it would be watching movies.  i grew up in a house where we watched movies like it was our job.  we didn’t talk so much as let the actors in movies communicate for us.  (no  one could put the loss of our first family dog into words, but we all cried watching “chip, the war dog” at the end).  so, you can understand that, by not being able to watch movies, it’s like missing a piece of myself.

5) disappear all weekend without really knowing where we were going.  greg and i are not the best planners. most of the time, we have a vague goal in mind, throw everything into the car that we think we might need and then just leave.  quickly (as though by lingering some fatal flaw in our plan would come to light and we would have to cancel.  either that, or we would just lose the motivation to go).  this is also how most of our summer camping trips would commence.  we have been known to forget such important things on these trips as pillows, underwear, flashlights and not have anything in mind for food.  one thing that i find particularly unnatural about having kids is that so much is planning and forethought (two things that make me cringe as though saying a particularly dirty word).  there is the comfort of the child to consider.  how long is the car ride?  how many stops will we have to make?  the naps.   will her sleeping be thrown off?  supplies.  do we have changes of clothes?  diapers?  wipes?  cream?  a thermometer?  tylenol?  toys?  books?  not to mention food.  what will the baby eat?  is it healthy?  of substance?  and so on and so forth ad nauseum.

6) go out to eat.  with ruth, it is out of the question.  she would no more sit in a high chair through a meal than she would actually eat an entire human-sized meal (see: ruth doesn’t eat and i’m convinced must have the ability to photosynthesize).  i miss the senate and flamingos and all of my other favorite cheap greasy spoons.

greg at flamingos drinking coffee

7) spend a lot of time and money on coffee.  i’ll bet you didn’t know this but at one point, greg and i were both your friendly neighborhood baristas at starbucks.  that’s right.  i could foam milk with the best of ’em, pull perfectly timed shots, add your extra caramel with a flair.  greg also has a friend who writes a coffee blog and we were on her tasting panel for a hot second.  so, there were many mornings where we would grind just the right proportion of carefully selected beans to the corresponding amount of cold tap water brought to a boil in a french press, wait three minutes and then sip away through a relaxed morning of conversation and coffee critiquing.  nowadays, it’s like dump in the pre-ground cheap costco blend as fast as possible and get my brain going so i can forget about my terrible night’s sleep and spend a couple of blissful hours high on caffeine before ruth wakes up and then i’m on.

there are probably more that i’m not thinking of, but for now, this list will do.  these are just some of the superficial changes that have taken place since becoming parents.  to all the parents out there: what did i miss?  to everyone else, have a big french-pressed coffee in my honor while watching a movie and not calling your in-laws back.