Hiding from Vacation (Vaca Day 6)

Well CT,

Tomorrow we’ll be returning to you and I’m starting to feel it.  The “it” of swimming in anything but normal, without the floatie of routine or consistency.  I’m feeling the lack of sleep, and questioning the sanity of my decision to combine a back to back late evening of gaming with my whim to catch the 5:55am sunrise.  I’m struggling with the oddness of seeing my husband every day and not remembering the last full conversation we had because although Virginia is for lovers, family vacation is not.  (The top scintillating conversations we’ve had so far this week are: “Did you put sunscreen on the kids, or was I supposed to?” and “I think I saw a jellyfish in the water.”)  In looking through our pictures, I found an unfortunate trend.  Let’s see if you can figure it out:

(Ummm, yeah, you can ignore that last picture my son took of me pretending to be attacked by a giant lobster statue…) But the common denominator for all the OTHER pictures above is simply that my husband and I aren’t in any of the pictures together because we’re always tag-teaming kid duty.  I actually think the fine-print on all family vacation contracts stipulates that couples-only pictures are strictly prohibited, with the exception of dude ranch trips or travel to Ohio and Yemen.)

As my mom said today, vacation feels like its supposed to be a delicious mini-slice of heaven on earth, and yet we’ll always be falling a bit short of perfection.  (Even with delicious food, precious family fun, surf and java.)

And eventually something about the relaxation of vacation actually draws a renewed desire for something truly purposeful and intentional in our pre-trip lives.  With any luck we leave paradise with a piece of peace, a reminder to slow long enough to savor people over agendas, and a vision of our smallness in the midst of vast creation that gives us fresh taste of humility’s wisdom.

But I’m not sure my emotions have quite caught up to all that wisdom, so for the next few minutes I’ll just finish hiding from vacation here in the AC without the kids.  I’m like a chameleon; I’m blending so well with the wall art I bet you can’t even see me.If you can’t spot me, don’t worry.  You can catch me in person in a couple days.

~Incognito Carrye

 

 

Mom Vacation Confessions (Day 2)

Hello Again CT,

I really should have mentioned where we were headed in my last update.  Oops.  Mom details.  As I write this now, we’ve arrived at our destination: Virginia Beach!

Our morning in the hotel was basically…

The Good: The waffle machine worked!!  Free unlimited eggs and breakfast sausage are always a win.  My children even adored the awkwardly frozen-fruit. 

The bad: I had to choose between “bold” and “gourmet” hotel coffee.  What does that even mean?  Can’t I have a bold gourmet without having to mix the two?  Then, my 3 year old gagged on a partially frozen hardboiled egg, and my husband was exiled to a neighboring breakfast table because nothing about hotels is made for a family with more than 2 kids.

The ugly:  Kids don’t readily absorb concepts like “someone is sleeping in the room next door” or “you can’t run up the hotel stairs alone”.  So we spent a large amount of time chasing and whisper-shouting at them, which culminated in me completely snapping at my son in a way that, really any way you spin it, I sound like a jerk.  But if he tells you I used a bad word, that word was “punk”… which was just so accurate a descriptor at the time that my mouth forgot to filter it. 

Moving on.

After refueling, I started looking for a Starbucks. I kid you not, it seemed we passed one every 20 miles in NJ, but upon crossing the state line, there was a sudden Starbucks dearth.  To my credit, I did not find it necessary to drive 20 minutes out of our way for coffee.

Not-so-much-to-my-credit, I researched coffee roasteries on our route and found an amazing one in a quaint little town where

I briefly lost sight of our end destination.  This was one of those little hipster corners just into Virginia with artsy brick buildings and lights rigged up fancy in the trees.  (Notice the fake flowers tied on the branches.)

And my sudden desire to traipse whimsically with the kids to some cute eatery clashed severely with my husband’s desire to actually get to our destination.

In the end, we nixed the eatery but I did get my coffee, which was too amazing to describe in language appropriate to use around the children. After this, we briefly stopped for essentials at a Food Lion store.  I picked up many things, but most importantly…a new toothbrush. I tried to get a picture of my kids holding souvenir shirts that we never planned to actually buy.  I’ll let you be the judge of whether that photo op succeeded. 

Aaaand as we made PB&J for them in the store parking lot, I realized that we maybe shouldn’t use plastic spoons for the peanut butter anymore.OH…then my husband learned something new about me.  I don’t think I have many phobias, but apparently underwater tunnels is one of them.  And if you’ve never crossed the Bay Bridge Tunnel (we called it a “brunnel”)…well…its a whole lot of bridge and tunnel that doesn’t seem terribly attached to….what’s the word I’m looking for?…right, LAND.  We started to cross and I began firing questions uncomfortably: How long is this? How on earth do they do maintenance on this thing? How would they know if something was wrong? Look at those concrete columns!  They look crooked!  (My husband assured me they were supposed to be crooked and that they clearly have the money to pay for repairs with the $15 they charge/car to cross.  But please, you don’t have to explain that to me, you have to convince my phobia… ahem.  See below.)

If the bridge weren’t bad enough, we then had to drive straight down into the bowels of the bay, while my 6 year old rattled off how bad it would be if the water got into the tunnel and all the cars got flooded and sharks attacked us.  (Thanks kid.)

And just when we got to the lowest point of the tunnel my GPS creepily said, “Lost Satellite reception” and I told my husband that this is like a location right out of an apocalyptic film.  And I’m pretty sure right over there is where the meteor hits the water and launches a wave that sends a barge crashing into the tunnel where we all meet our ruin.  So I don’t know if the light at the end of the tunnel is a good thing or if we’ve all died.

Thankfully, our kids made it over the brunnel because upon arriving at our vacation home with family,  they are head-over-heels in love with the beach (more on that tomorrow.)

But for now, I need to use my husband’s tooth brush again before bed because I accidentally flipping threw out that new toothbrush I bought and it absorbed some unidentifiable brown liquid.  For. the. love.

Till tomorrow…

Still-Not-so-fresh-and-minty, Carrye

 

When Your Role-Shifter is Stuck

Selleck
                   friends.wikia.com

I’m a wife- a mom- a sister- a writer- a coffee drinker- a fan of Tom Selleck. (But that’s probably for another post.)  I’m lots of things simultaneously, because…well, aren’t we all?  Some of who I am overlaps neatly: coffee, for instance, can work quite nicely as a date with my husband, fuel for motherhood, an excuse to get with friends, a place to squeeze in distraction free-writing, and can even be enjoyed while watching an episode of Friends where Monica dates Richard.  (I promise that’s the last Tom Selleck reference.)

Some parts of who I am and the roles I play mix well- others don’t.  Writing, for instance, is not something best tried in the middle of watching three children.  You’re going to end up with either bizarre blogging or a bizarre household, and neither is pretty.

So while I love to write ABOUT my kids, I have to separate my role of mother and writer for everyone’s well-being.

But I’m realizing the trickiest roles for me to properly sort are those of mother and wife.  To be honest, I function most often in mother-mode.  My cue to get out of bed in the morning is usually when my husband comes in to tell me bye as he heads out for work.  When he comes home, we have an hour or more of dinner and bedtime routines with the kids, at which point my kids promptly take as long as possible to fall asleep.  Sometimes my husband and I look at each other with a sigh at 9pm wondering why the kids are still chatting upstairs, or shuffling through our peripheral to get to the bathroom while we’re trying to watch a movie.  So mom-mode is almost always on.

Wife mode, on the other hand, easily slips into secondary function.  In fact, wife-mode sometimes devolves into sorting and delegating the other roles in my life.  I coordinate kid stuff with my husband, divvy up household responsibilities like which one of us will pick up the milk and peanut butter, and discuss which of us gets a night OUT of the house.

On the nights that my husband goes out for a much deserved social or sport outing, I take my mom-role up another level, just enough to score a bedtime win, and then I’m done.  And by done, I mean I’m ready for tea and a movie or book, or some really focused time with God. Heaven forbid my children should interrupt this moment.

And heaven forbid my husband should come home when I’m still shifting out of mom-role and haven’t had my me-time yet.  Because then, poor guy, I act like this home has been my territory for the last 12 hours, and if he can’t be home for bedtime he has a lot of gall showing up before the kids have been in bed at least an hour.  The nerve of him for coming home at a reasonable time.  Geesh.

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   My “interrupted-me-time” face, obviously.

This whole blog post started because I misread a quote from an interview with Indra K Nooyi.  Nooyi said, “every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother, in fact many times during the day you have to make those decisions.”  And while she meant that you have to choose between your professional role and being a wife AND mother, I initially read it as a woman having to choose between being a wife OR mother.

But that got me thinking- maybe for me, I do need to choose sometimes.  Maybe I need to get better at just being a wife.  Maybe I get so caught up in trying to be a good mom, or at least an improving mom, who teaches my kids and takes them fun places and cleans up most at least 20% of their messes, that I forget to really invest in my role as wife.  I forget to invest in my husband.  I make all kinds of excuses for my wife-role because I simply have so many other roles to fill.

But then something doesn’t feel quite right- almost like I’m coexisting with my husband in parallel worlds that are connected but somehow not quite overlapping like they should.  I don’t think it has to be that way.

My husband is a wonderful man, and he loves me more than I’ll ever comprehend.  And because I love him back I need to better learn how to fully embrace my wife-role, even if I get stuck mid-gear sometimes.

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I can post ways I’ve tried to work on this in the future, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear what YOU have tried.  Please share ways you’ve invested in your spouse and how you’ve honored that role over the years.  Thanks!

 

 

Save Your Marriage with Bad Day Points

Life is just difficult sometimes, and in a marriage I’ve quickly learned that both myself and my husband have down days.  The real problem is when we both have a down day on the same day.  It’s one thing if he comes home from work and I’m up to my elbows cleaning up a glitter-craft-gone-wrong, and he’s in a cheerful mood to support me.  It’s another thing if my glitter fiasco coincides with his obnoxiously-slow- traffic-jam-commute home.  Then it’s just a battle over who deserves more sympathy/free time.
Well we can’t prevent bad things from happening, but we CAN come up with a system to determine which of us has earned the right to claim a “bad day.”  We have a special 2 part system:  First, we keep a detailed calendar of every day of the month.  Certain days are pre-planned Jeff’s Bad Day (JBD) or Carrye’s Bad Day (CBD).  For instance, on days that I have to visit my endocrinologist (which makes me super anxious), I have an automatic CBD.  On days that Jeff has a stressful work deadline, he gets a definite JBD.  We plan these into the calendar as far in advance as possible so that we avoid overlapping.
Obviously we don’t have special pre-planned bad days every day.  Wouldn’t that just be so easy.
So clearly we have to have a point system for the other days.  We keep track of points and keep each other posted about our totals via text throughout the day.  I can get a Bad Day Point (BDP) for the following:
– If I’m late to school drop-off due to child’s inability to appropriately schedule bowel movements  
– If I take the children to more than 2 consecutive stores in 1 day (I get a point for each additional stop)
– If the coffee pot breaks
– If I have to call my insurance or doctor or pharmacy.
– If the internet won’t work so the kids can’t watch “Daniel Tiger” so my “me time” is ruined
– On the day I find out DD is no longer running their 2-5 pm Pumpkin Latte special
– If I don’t have time to take a shower
– If I take the kids to a store and they run from me, nearly knocking over the elderly, and hide in a clothes rack, etc.
– If I spend more than 35 minutes making a healthy meal for my family and neither child will eat it
– If I didn’t eat a thing for breakfast and my blood sugar is high anyway
-If I start my period
– If I cry more than 3 times in a two hour window
-If Monday cheats me and there is no new “How I Met Your Mother” episode
– I’m sick 
– If my kindle or camera or phone breaks
Jeff can get a BDP for the following:
– Has to work late
– Someone forgets to bring dessert to the office outing
– The 49ers lose
-The Mets lose
– He wakes up at the crack of dawn with one of our kids
– He has to meet with cranky clients
– An office meeting runs late so he can’t eat lunch till 3
– He has no clean matching clothes
– If I make broccoli
-If I don’t make dinner at all
– If he gets caught in traffic
– If his fantasy football team is doing poorly
– When he has to pay bills
– When I forget to tell him I planned a girls night/ or make last minute plans that involve him babysitting
– When the cable is out
– If I correct his use of “fewer” vs “less”  
These are not exhaustive lists, of course.  We tweak them as we go.  We’ve also found that certain things are Bad Day Trump cards.  For instance, if one of the kids throws up on me- I get a Bad Day Trump Card.  If Jeff should ever be attacked by bees while leaving work, we’ve decided he would get a Bad Day Trump Card.  You know, these types of scenarios.  
We use the honor system, but we can always challenge each other if we sense points are being mishandled.  We even have a complicated system of point vetoes that I won’t get into as they are much too involved.  And now our lives are simpler and healthier- If Jeff wins a bad day, fair and square, I am extra nice to him and just suppress all the things that I am frustrated about.  If I win a bad day, Jeff just smiles and nods when I don’t clean a thing and go on and on and on about petty relationship complaints.  It’s super healthy.  We are so happy.
 And, if it seems like we have tied in Bad Day Points, (even after we play a game of Twister as a tie breaker)  we simply call that day a “Date Night” and leave the kids with a sitter.

From A Stay-at-Home Mom, With Love

Dear Husband,

Sometimes when you come home from work I seem frustrated.  Sometimes I attack you with too many complaints about screwing on the soda lids so darn tight, or I greet you quickly between throwing sauce on a pizza and sending one of the kids to timeout.  I don’t want things to be tense and chaotic when you come home- or in general- but maybe if I give you a window into what is going on inside my maze-like mind you will be better able to understand  (even though I still ought to respond better):
First of all- I’m SO grateful that you work to support us.  (That’s an understatement.)  As much as I feel that I have more than a full time job at times with the kids, I feel extremely blessed to be home with them- to see our kids growing up in small and big ways… to be able to plan my own weeks (around the whims/needs of the kids of course)…to be able to go outside to the park in the sunshine when I know you are stuck at a desk inside…to be able to sit for a few minutes to check e-mail or facebook without someone looking over my shoulder to see if I’m on task…and to be able to snack and grab a coffee at will.
That said, when you come home to see the kids I know they are getting to that cranky twilight zone.  I know that they can be needy and testy and whiny.  I know that it is hard to come home to that and suddenly have to turn on Daddy mode when you’ve just finished a long day of work.  But it is at this very moment that I have often lost every shred of patience that I have with the ever mounting whines and tantrums.  I have had just one trip to the bathroom that wasn’t a group fieldtrip, and may have almost resorted to using the monster puppet to scare our son into the carseat so I could get Charlotte to school on time.  The tantrums and stubbornness that you are experiencing for an hour and a half before bed, I have been dealing with off and on all day.  And most days I would kill for that half hour commute you have both ways- because a car to myself is a rare moment of calm and bliss.  Even though I pray for more patience than I sometimes show, I think, in an unspoken expectation, I rely on you to come home and be fresh off the bench- ready with superhero patience when mine is giving out.  So is it natural for you to be frustrated when you come home to grouchy kids?  Yes.  But I sometimes get annoyed at your frustration, as natural as it is, because I desperately need you to outlast my own weakness.
Then, when you are with the kids on your own- whether I go out for a girls’ date or to get some alone time at the grocery store- you should know that I have this expectation that you will spend some time really, really playing with the kids.  This may seem unfair- I know you need your down time too- but truth be told, I feel guilty every day for the amount of time I don’t actually spend with our kids.  I’m WITH them all day, sure, but I find I’m spending so much time cleaning, or keeping on schedule, or trying to sneak in a few minutes to myself, that I don’t make enough time to really see them- to really play- to really be present with them.  And I bring this guilt to the table when I leave them with anyone, including you- and somehow it makes me feel better to think that while I get a break from the mom thing, they will be getting all the attention that I would want to give them if I were there. It frees me to know that I’m not the only person that is filling them with attention.  But I may take this expectation too far.
Finally, I get controlling about too much- I probably over critique everything from how fast you can change a diaper to what kinds of foods you are giving them.  I am not overly organized- I do not have a specialty or degree in this, but this Mom thing is essentially my life right now.  It does not justify my actions, but I tend to get a little snippy at times when things don’t go the way I always do it- because on the day to day stuff I kind of run this place.  Not without you, obviously, but during the day it is all me.  And maybe that goes to my head a little bit- or maybe I feel a little better about myself if I think I am the clear expert at how many carrots vs. chicken nuggets should go on their plates, how to efficiently diaper, and how to best deflect our son from locking himself in the van to “drive” it himself.  But I know that what I really want is for us to be a team, and that I undermine that every time I tell you how you should do things, instead of creating dialogue.  
In short, I really want our kids to see us as a team- and I want them to grow up knowing that we each love them and interact with them in our own special ways and through our unique personalities.  I get frustrated sometimes- but it may just as often be related to my own feelings of shortcomings as it is to something you did.  I love our kids and I know they love each of us and look to us to fill them and acknowledge their perspective and their daily triumphs, joys, and sorrows.  I know that our roles with them won’t be exactly the same and their really is no clear “fair” when it comes to parenting.  But…  
I love those crazy kids…and I love you too.  Always.  
Sincerely,
Your Stay-at-Home Wife