Thane turns five

The last few minutes of a four year old

Last night I went into a darkened room, as I do pretty much every night I am home, and I kissed a pair of boys good night. I climbed under Grey’s bed to the inviting cubby where Thane has been sleeping since Tiberius took over Thane’s room as a sick-room. In that darkened corner was my four year old (for another five minutes), his hands clasped as though in prayer, lying with an already beloved birthday book next to him. I kissed his forehead. He still sounds like a baby when he sleeps.

Camera “hide and seek” with Thane during apple picking

But that’s all the baby there is left to Thane. As he comes into his fifth year, he comes into his own. Thane has a tremendous sense of purpose and drive, and a deep commitment to his beliefs and ideals. This was somewhat… trying… this year as his beliefs and ideals often included things like “Not going to school” or “Making sure you heard him about what he thinks he smelled in the middle of church” (hint: it’s never good). I have consoled myself through some of his more adamant moments by reminding myself that some traits that are very difficult to parent at four are pretty awesome in an astronaut or CEO or Nobel-winning-scientist-who-is-too-stubborn-to-give-up.

Thane’s favorite time is tickle and snuggle time.

Thane’s personality becomes increasingly clear. His greatest gift is this remarkable spatial/color reasoning. He still loves to do puzzles (he tops out around 100 pieces because he has no strategy) and create symmetrical creations with shapes on our kitchen wall. However, now that he can force his fingers to obey his will better (he’s been frustrated by their lack of obedience for years) he’s really stepped up his game with Legos. For his birthday, I got him a Lego set rated for 8 – 12. I kind of figured his brother would help him. Instead, Thane did the Entire. Thing. By. Himself. I helped him find like two pieces he lost, and put on a few of the stickers.

His smile cheers me up every time I see it.

Thane is very innovative in how he puts his Legos together. He tends to develop more three dimensional creations than his brother. He does love minifigs best, and will often assemble armies of 20 – 30. His preschooler hands undo his work nearly as often as they finish it, but he persists until he matches his mind’s creation. Just for the record, Thane’s drawings and artwork are pretty normal – he seems pretty uninterested in drawing/coloring in general.

Thane, with the Golden Ninja Lego set.

When not engaged in feats of spacial reasoning, Thane loves rough-and tumble play. His favorite thing in the whole world is “tickle and snuggle time in Mom and Dad’s bed”. He simply cannot get enough rough-housing, which would be more fun if his head couldn’t be categorized as a deadly weapon. He loves physical play. He’s been doing soccer for the last few weeks, and has done pretty well. With the advantage of a younger brother, he’s gotten to attend a few of his brother’s practices and last week actually did the entire practice with his fellow-four-year-old-younger-brother-friend.

The future’s so bright – he’s gotta wear SHADES!

Lately, Thane has been working very hard on learning to read. He has phonics down (except for period confusion between “b” and “d” – which come on, that’s hard.) His patience and diligence when he decides he’s going to read is astonishing. Just don’t let him corner you for “Hop on Pop” because that takes nearly an hour.

Thane as a Skylander for Halloween.

Thane loves Skylanders, even though he never plays – he watches his brother. He still loves Scooby Doo. He loves Digimon. He wants to be read stories about super heroes. He sings songs and makes up new words – and they’re often pretty good ones! He is constantly frenetic, and it is hard to get him to sit still for – say – dinner. But when he gets his focus on, he can sit quietly for an hour. He leads off practically every statement with “Guess what” and is desperate to get his points across. Sometimes he will insistently ask a question three times or four times, but fail to listen to all three answers. He can go across all the rings in the playground, hand over hand. He sleeps with his Puppy, worships his brother, and is 45.5 inches tall (91st percentile). Thane bounces when he walks.

Thane still holds my hold.

Happy fifth birthday, my beloved son.

You can see an album of our family adventures in October here, including a video of Thane reading.

If you want more Thane, here’s an album I’ve put together of some of his highlights this year!

A tail of two puppies

Puppy's first day in our home.
Puppy’s first day in our home.

The Christmas just after Thane’s first birthday, Santa brought Thane a bunny rabbit stuffed animal. Grey had one that he’d creatively named “Rabby”, that joined the similarly creatively named “Puppy”. Thane already had a stable of stuffed animals, but the impulse to buy cute stuffed animals for your babies is strong and Santa could not resist it. Apparently (according to the wonders of blogging and Picasa), Santa originally named the animal Mr. Bun. But Thane, ears still not working properly (he didn’t get ear tubes for another few months), heard Grey call his stuffed animal (which was actually a dog) Puppy. After that, the bunny rabbit was Puppy, and that was that.

Thane and Puppy asleep in Thane's crib after Easter services.
Thane and Puppy asleep in Thane’s crib after Easter services.

Puppy quickly went to being one of many, to the one and only. Grey, lover of novelty that he is, never settled on one particular lovely. But Thane fell hard and fast for Puppy. By spring, Puppy was his true love. Thane would suck his thumb, holding on to Puppy’s ear with the bottom of his fist, and rub Puppy’s ear with his other thumb.

Puppy comes on all our adventures
Puppy comes on all our adventures

I, not being stupid, promptly bought a second Puppy. From that time one, anytime “Puppy” has needed a bath, I’ve subtly swapped out Puppies so they’ve stayed in synch in disreputability. Thane, as far as I know, has absolutely no idea there are two Puppies.

Thane does know about Baby Puppy
Thane does know about Baby Puppy

Over time, Puppy has only become more important. We have to firmly hold the line on where Puppy is allowed to go (in the car, but not ok for Preschool). If Thane had his way, there would be no Puppy-free moments, ever. He wanders the house with Puppy in his hand. Puppy apparently aspires to a career as an aviator – he spents significant time airborne, flying high and long. Thane twists Puppy around by the ear or leg, and reflexively plays with Puppy, all the time. Puppy is a constant in Thane’s life.

Puppy in the White Mountain
Puppy in the White Mountain

Right before Camp Gramp, through excessive love, Thane pulled Puppy’s arm off. As I tacked it back together with grey thread (being no seamstress, assuredly), I congratulated myself on my forethought. Thank heavens I have two Puppies! But at the same time, I felt a sense of foreboding. I had hoped that they would endure a little longer. I mean, after the loving abuse the poor Puppies have accepted as their daily lot, it is unsurprising that they would come apart at the seams. They are extremely well made stuffies. But for one thing, this is a distinction between them. For another, I was afraid that they were both becoming long in the tooth.

My worse fears were recognized as the second Puppy suffered a terrible leg wound after being thumped against Grey in an attempt to wake Grey up. So now both Puppies have different, but significant trauma.

Old Puppy left, new Puppy right

So… I went and bought a third Puppy. As you can see from the photo, the condition of the two Puppies is rather different. New Puppy is currently on his fourth cycle through the washer/dryer, and holding up way too well if you ask me. I wonder if the only way to get that patented Puppy look is through actual experience as a Puppy. And I’m also really wondering if this will work, even if I get a better Puppy patina. Will Thane notice? How great a betrayal will it be to take his beloved Puppy and replace it with a lookalike? Does it matter that I’ve been betraying him that way since he could say only 20 words? Will he shrug off the multiplicities of Puppy (a possibility), or will knowing of my deceit destroy Puppy in his heart? I can think of few crimes I might commit greater than taking Puppy from Thane, whether physically or metaphysically.

What would you do? Would you say, “Hey, Thane, I got you another Puppy! Let’s put this one on the shelf?” Would you replace gray thread with fishing line and start in on some more serious surgery? Would you claim that Puppy went to a really good spa (next time it’s time for a Puppy bath) and that’s why he’s looking so much better?

Sometimes, as Thane drifts lazily towards sleep, Puppy in his hand and thumb in his mouth, he tells me softly. “Puppy is my best friend, mommy. I love Puppy with my whole heart. He’s a part of our family.”

Yes, yes Thane. He is.

A boy and his Puppy
A boy and his Puppy

I was going through my blog posts, and it appears I refer to Puppy in almost every developmental update I’ve done for Thane. Here are a few:

Dear Trumpet

Trumpet and I getting together for Easter
Trumpet and I getting together for Easter

My Dearest Trumpet,

You were absolutely my first love. Obviously, you weren’t the first instrument I dated. Piano and I went out for a few years before we met, and I had a crush on voice when I was a little girl. But I fell head over heels for you. I remember the time we played Cappriccio Italien together. There were all the good times at the Evergreen Music Festival or with the Tacoma Youth Symphony. We had fun in pep band (well, even though we rolled our eyes. I still have the third trumpet part – the best part – to “Sweet Child of Mine” memorized). I used to drag you everywhere. Do you remember that 15 days driving trip across the US when I practiced with you at rest stops and behind hotels?

I don’t think I’ve ever been more in love with you than I was in high school. You made me feel like I was flying on a dragon when we played Gabrieli together. You were with me in one of the best moments of my youth, when Dr. Cobbs winked and told us – for an encore – that we were going to “crash the ship again” in Scheherazade.

I cannot imagine how my life would have been without you, and I wouldn’t trade our time together for anything.

In the normal course of events, though, I went to college. And although I formed a brass quintet (I cannot BELIEVE that site is still up!) and tried playing in the college symphony, it just wasn’t the same. I don’t want to say we’d grown apart, but we both moved on to other things.

After that, it was like we were Facebook friends. Oh, we’d get together a few times a year at Easter or Christmas or for special occasions. But even though I tried to rekindle the spark by looking for a nice symphony orchestra – or even a brass ensemble – where we could be happy together… it just didn’t work out. I spent a long time pining for you. Over a decade, I remained true. Ok, so there was that one fling with the cornetto, but it that was over quickly.

Finally I had to admit, though, that it was over between us. Things would never be the way they were. I guess that’s the way it goes, isn’t it? You can’t go back to the way things were when you were 17. And I moved on.

You know that I’ve been seeing a new instrument – guitar. And it’s been good to me. I mean, the guitar is patient and kind. It gets along a lot better with my friends than you ever did. I could see guitar and I building something beautiful together – not like what you and I had. Nothing could ever reach that. But, you know, a comfortable life together. We were just starting to get serious, you know. Talk about some investments together. Sign some papers. That kind of thing.

Then all of a sudden, you want back in? Really? That wind ensemble that reached out to me; with the amazing looking repertoire, and the schedule I could actually do… but that is on the same night as guitar lessons… let me get this straight. You want me to break up with guitar, and come back to you? And you’re saying that it won’t be just like it was, but it will be great again between us.

The question is, my dear Anduril1, do you mean it, or are you just playing with my heart again? I don’t want to break up with this good and loving instrument just to have my heart broken again. But I can’t really pass up the change to be with you again, either.

I’ve asked to audition in December – gives me some time to see how guitar and I are working out. But… don’t break my heart, trumpet.


1 Yes, that really is the name of my trumpet. What can I say, I named it when I was like 14 and the two things I loved best in life were trumpet and Tolkien. DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT?

Ten years ago

I will be here
I will be here

We are in last phases for our trip to Istanbul. The boarding passes are printed. The bag are packed and by the door. The chargers are being slipped into luggage. The debate is raging whether fresh grapes will cause any anguish in security. I am seconds, seconds away from putting the auto responder “You’re on your own, suckas!!!” (or the professional version thereof) on my work email.

I worked very hard today, and it’s tough beginning to peel my mind away. I’m awash in all the details of two very consuming projects at work. There’s the million and one things I do to keep my household and my family running, “Ok, Mom, Magic needs to get her pill morning and night. Thane eats Life cereal with milk… with his hands. You might want to wait until after breakfast to dress him. And if there are apricots in the farm share, would you mind dicing and freezing half a cup? I’m just short for a batch of jam.” All these things that I carry and remember and think about… now is the time to lay them down. If I haven’t explained something to my mom, well, she’ll figure it out. If I haven’t addressed an issue at work, well, they’ll either have to cope or wait. If I’ve forgotten something, it will have to remain forgotten for a week.

This is why we go on vacation. Because we must see how much we are laying down, and then when we return we can choose how much to pick up again. Maybe, perhaps, the perspective of that freedom of going away will show that some of those things we work so hard to sustain are not worth the energy they sap from us. On the other hand, some things we deal with as mundane requirements of our day to day life are revealed as the shining jewels of existence they are. (See also: bedtime reading time)

I am so ready for this. Tonight we will crawl on a plane — the same flight, I think, I recently took to Amsterdam. It feels funny to have Schipol become, instead of this exotic destination across the world, a familiar place where I’ve mapped out the Starbucks, thankyouverymuch. (Funny note: also on the flight will be a friend from church headed to his family in Denmark. The world is a small place.) I promised a colleague in Amsterdam I’d wave as I landed. I have a bunch of Euros from my last trip to unload, so I think some good chocolate at that nice stand is in order.

Then I start travelling space I’ve never traversed before. Never in my life have I been to Turkey — not even as a squalling bairn (which is, for the record, how I was dragged through much of Africa and Europe). I will set foot on Asian soil for the first time in my life, this trip. We are hoping to visit Hagia Sophia, the underground cistern, the Bosporus. We may take a day to go and visit Ephesus. My husband and I will read, eat, walk, talk, read books, play games and celebrate (get this!) TEN YEARS of married life. Ten years ago this week, we honeymooned in Greece when we did largely the same sorts of things, plus the beach.

These new things – experiences, memories, contexts – will provide rich fodder for my mind and spirit when I return. I know this. I still draw strength from the joy of our pre-kid trip to Austria & Italy. I’ve packed all these books on Byzantium so I can truly BE there and feel the weight of 1500 years of history. I will breathe Belisarius, Justinian and Theodora. I will hear the echoes in ancient cathedrals. I will, I’m sure, meet new characters from legends I have not yet learned.

Sometimes, lately, I have felt rather boring. The things running through my mind… they are largely not things you would be interested in. Much of the time I’m not even interested in them. Not that this is why I have not been blogging lately. No no, trust me. I am perfectly willing to blog about boring stuff. I haven’t been blogging lately because I am SUPER BUSY. But even if the super busy isn’t much affected by wandering Byzantium, the boring will be. My mind will have all this new stuff to process — things I have learned and done for the joy of them, instead of for the need of them. I am so excited about this.

And then there is my love. My husband. My joy. My partner in chaos, parenting and gaming. We are very good partners and enjoy each other a lot… when we can focus on each other. But through necessity, many of our interactions are tactical. “Who’s picking up the kids today? What are we making for dinner? Did you pick up the cat food? Do the kids sound too quiet to you?” I so intensely look forward to talking with my husband about the larger things in the world – those same things I’m eager to put into my mind. After ten years of marriage, I love my husband deeply. I also like him. I can’t wait to be with my friend and my beloved, and to have a great time.

So it’s time to kiss the kids and wish my parents luck with Camp Gramp. It’s time to shut down the computer for (gasp!!!!) like 9 days. It’s time to fill up a memory card with tourist pictures.

I will pick you up when I return. May blessings abound.

Patriot’s Day

Today is Patriot’s Day in Boston. I’m a big fan of made-up holidays, so I have a certain fellow-feeling with the day, tempered only by the fact I don’t get it off. Boston has an excellent tradition of “historic” holidays (usually revolving around some Revolutionary war thingy) that just HAPPEN, though sheer COINCIDENCE to be on the same day as something even the historically ignorant might care about. For example, amazingly Evacuation Day (a holiday for state workers) MIRACULOUSLY always occurs on St. Patrick’s day. As for the coincidence of the Boston Marathon, the earliest baseball game of the year (the Red Sox ALWAYS have an 11 am home game on Patriot’s Day) and the recreation of the Battle of Lexington… well, let’s just say it’s three great tastes that taste great together.

You can tell which companies are Massachusetts companies vs. which companies happen to be headquartered in Massachusetts based on a) whether this is a holiday on the calendar and b) if it’s not, what percentage of people show up for work that day.

My sons’ preschool is a true Massachusetts institution. I work for a global company. This means, of course, that there’s no preschool but I have to work.

I’d actually been waiting for a day like this. I knew one would come. It was very wrenching for me to pull my sons out of the care of a woman they called Abuela – grandma – who had cared for Grey since he was 8 weeks old. But the round trip commute was not possible. I knew that putting the children in daycare in our community was a good long-term solution. Still, I kept my eyes open for just such an opportunity. See, Abuela doesn’t believe in taking vacations or holidays or nights and weekends. She’s taken kids 3rd shift, for days at a time, and over weekends. I knew she’d be up for taking the boys (assuming she had slots) on a day that preschool was closed.

I called her to ask and the joy in her voice was apparent. She’d missed me. She’d missed the boys. Their friends had missed them too. When I asked if she could take them for a day, she sounded super-happy. I felt happy too, this morning, retracing the steps of my habitual commute. I thought about it. The length of time I spent doing that commute ties with the most durable pattern I’ve ever had in my life. For six years I tread those roads, with minor additions, changes and modifications. I’ve only ever lived in one house for six years… all other places I’ve had shorter tenures. I slipped right back in to the habit. It was hard to even think about the fact this was now exceptional, it felt so ordinary and at-home. The glorious brisk, bright morning seemed to make the familiar path into a dance of spring.

As the boys and I walked up the steps to daycare, I thought about the differences in them. Grey has become obsessed with Star Wars — an obsession given to him by his new preschool compatriots. His reading has come a long, long way. He’s asking complicated vocabulary questions. If Grey has changed incrementally, Thane has changed radically. He’s ceased being practically deaf. He’s started talking (oh has he!). He walked up those stairs on his own feet for the first time today. Heck, I pretty much never even put shoes on him when I was bringing him to Abuela’s, since the ice and snow were disincentives to asking him to walk himself. As I waited the (long, familiar) wait for the door to open, I wondered if he’d remember her. Two months — nearly three! — is a very long time when you’re not quite 18 months old. Would he run in? Rejoice? Be afraid? Turn away?

The door opened. Grey ran in with hugs and “I missed you!”. Thane stood at the door, and then pelted in too, to be picked up by a woman who loved him and held him close — happy to see him, marveling at how he’d grown. Then she put an arm around me, too. “I so happy to see you!” And she was. And so was I.

For lunch, the boys likely had Abuela’s rice and beans which is “So delicious. You would love it mommy. It’s not like YOUR rice and beans.” (Hey, I’m trying.) She’s probably noticed that Thane talks non-stop and screeches a lot now. Grey is likely borrowing Pablito’s DS (assuming Pablito’s parents don’t have Patriot’s Day off, which you never know). Isaiah is probably teaching Grey something fun and inappropriate. (Grey: Isaiah knows about EVERYTHING. ME: Don’t I know it!) I have heard that Devin pitched fits for weeks after Grey left, because he missed him so. (This is entirely one-sided. Grey was like “Devin who?”)

I’ll go and pick them up after work, and I’ll practice my Spanish some more to attempt to keep the rust from forming. We’ll chat and gossip a bit.

Before, my last words when I left were always, “Hasta manana” (see you tomorrow) or “Hasta el lunes” (until Monday) or variations on that theme. This time, and every time now, I do not know until when that “hasta” is. Grey has decided, this last week or so, that he has three grandmas. I wrestle with the evident truth of this. She and I share a love of these children and a common history, but little else. Not even a common language. On the other hand, that is so much. Of course I include her in my Christmas cards, keep up with her daughter on Facebook, the easy things. But how can I honor her grandmahood, and my sons’ love of her, while the realities of my life march on? All I’m sure of is that the attempt must be made because there are few things more precious than someone who loves your children and whom your children love — related by blood or not.

My husband turns 33

I spend most of my family-blogging words on my sons. There are several reasons for this. For one thing, they tend to say and do funnier things than, say, the cats. Also, they will not correct me if I apply selective editing to tighten up the tales of their goofballery. Finally, they do not claim that just because I was an English major, I am not permitted to use words in whatever way I deem fit. Like goofballery. So generally they make easier targets for writing about than, say, my husband.

However, my SONS are not turning 33 today, so I will risk grammatical corrections and the fact my that my target will actually read what I write to tell you about my husband.

First if all, he’s 33 today.

Which is divisible by 11, in case you’re curious.

Give me the camera
Give me the camera

My husband claims that before he met me, he was innocent of sin. He did not know what the “Snooze” button on the alarm clock did. Long before he met me, however, he was deeply immersed in the world of the RPG – Role Playing Games. He spent his childhood reading supplements and devising fantastic adventures with intricate maps and completely consistent world-views. When he grew to adulthood, he put aside such childish things in order to focus on more mature pursuits: rules systems. He wrote several of his own and has an entire bookcase of rules systems, which he’s generally read cover to cover. I remember he once turned to me and said, “Brenda, I think I’ve actually read everything on the internet about these games.” Granted, that was when the internet was a smaller infinity, but still.

I mention role-playing first because when I think about what makes my husband who he is, it’s right up there. But that’s hardly comprehensive.

Adam loves delving deeply into arcane problems. He’s currently being tempted, non-ironically, by a book called “Growing Object-Oriented Software, Guided By Tests”. He used to complain that no one would ever play obscure gaming systems with him. Now he complains that he doesn’t get to do test-driven agile programming. Previous deep-drinking has included medieval sociology (where he’s more knowledgeable than I) and aikido texts.

His #1 repetitive complaint is that he doesn’t have a photographic memory and can’t remember everything he’s read.

Adam and sons
Adam and sons

This might make him sound like a distant academic. He’s nothing like that. I love, love watching him with our sons. He’ll cook with Grey and hold one-sided cooing conversations with Thane. While I was watching baseball, Adam was sending pitches across the back yard to Grey. There is a lot of tickling, chasing and zombie-noises when the boys are all home.

If you’re met Adam, you were probably dazzled by his smile. He has a great smile, which always includes his eyes. I don’t think he knows how to fake-smile.

His dazzling smile
His dazzling smile

He makes an amazing chocolate cake.

Adam is an optimizer. He’s always looking for ways to make things better; for the most efficient and most logical way of doing things. Once he arrives at what he thinks is an optimal solution, he’s happy to stick with it until and unless data presents itself that there is a better solution. I love variety. I’ll go out one way and come back another only because they are different. This boggles his mind.

He listens to techno when he programs.

His body is composed of 60% pretzels, 30% iced tea and 10% trace elements.

He mixes three cereals in the morning in order to arrive at the optimum combination of texture and taste.

Adam loves songs. He has a beautiful warm tenor and he’s not afraid to use it. He specializes in Celtic/Irish songs and folk ballads. When we were in Saudi Arabia and Washington State (you do not want to KNOW about our phone bills that summer), he used to sing me “Road Go Ever Ever On”. I thought he was an English major when I met him, because he quoted Kipling and Byron at me until I was bedazzled. I never stopped being bedazzled.

His actual degree was in Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology — but he hated Chemistry.

He has an astonishing ability to fall without hurting himself. Usually he hurts himself doing things that you couldn’t possibly think you could hurt yourself doing, like walking down the hall.

He reminds me to pray.

He is a remarkable husband. He supports me when I choose to do something, advocates for my needs when I subsume them, compliments me even when I feel unlovely, never fails to look me in the eyes and tell me he loves me, and holds my hand as often as he can.

This is the 14th time we’ve celebrated together on his birthday. The first time I got him a wax dragon candle thingy.

I could run through a thousand more bullet points and still fail to capture just who he is. He is my husband and I love him.

How I will always see my husband
How I will always see my husband

PS – Watch this space for the comment from him with corrections or clarifications! 😉

A date – NOT the fruit

My brother (commonly known as Gospel) is living with us this summer while he does his Field Education for Fourth Presbyterian Church in Boston. The deal is this. We give him room, board, laundry facilities and an unlimited supply of sharp cheddar cheese and Dr. Pepper. In exchange, he does the dishes, mows the lawn and provides free babysitting. So far, so good.

Last night, we availed ourselves of his services.

We’ve gradually been trying out some of the local restaurants in our new home town, but with one (and then two) kids, anything with a cloth tablecloth has been past our reach. A night out is hard enough for us when we have to line up a babysitter. We do that like once a quarter. But with the babysitter problem temporarily solved… we decided to check out one of the local hot spots.

I must say that to date we’ve been underwhelmed by the local fare. The Indian Bistro (Rang) is pretty good and we’ve found a great pizza place, but Stoneham specializes in Roast Beef and Seafood shops, and mediocre Italian. Our expectations were not exceedingly high.

We went to Melissa’s Main Street Bistro. It was AWESOME. We timed it so we’d get seated about 15 minutes after curtain time at the local theater, so when we arrived we had the place nearly to ourselves (it filled back up as our meal went on). Their menu rocked. The entire thing was interesting and appealing – from drinks to dessert. The kitchen was open so you could watch them work, if you weren’t too busy staring into the eyes of your beloved. The food was really excellent — some of the best I’ve had recently. And I’d even had the foresight to bring along some conversation starter topics so we wouldn’t waste a romantic dinner talking about scheduling swimming lessons for Grey. It was a wonderful, romantic, delightful dinner. We will definitely be going back.

It was incredibly restful and relaxing to spend an enjoyable evening with the man I love. We’ve been married nearly nine years, together for almost thirteen, and he keeps getting handsomer.

Quintessential Adam
Quintessential Adam

On my own, pretending he’s beside me

So I have a secret for you. I actually really love my husband. Shhh… I know it’s not kosher to be madly in love with the father of my sons, but there you have it. The truth is out.

This morning I woke up without complaint at 7. (This is how you know it’s really love.) I got myself and my boys ready to go. We drove to the airport, where I spent half an hour saying goodbye to my husband. From the drama, you’d think he was being deployed to Iraq and I wouldn’t see him for another year and he stood a good chance of being killed. In reality, his company runs a big conference every year and every salaried employee is expected to be present and help out. My highly trained, brilliant engineer of a husband is spending 7 days in Nashville doing coat-check. I haven’t decided whether this is a brilliant team building technique, a misguided attempt at cost savings (sorry, engineer salary + travel expenses = much cheaper to hire a local), or some combination thereof.

Regardless, he is gone until Friday and I am missing him sorely already. Let me say first that I really, really don’t know how single parents do it. I don’t have to show up to work. (Actually I had this giddy moment of freedom when I realized that I could be gone as long and as far as the contents of my diaper bag could get me. For a split second I tried to figure out how far I could get and come back. Then I remembered I didn’t have my cell charger….) I don’t have huge monetary constraints. (Hello takeout!) Heck, Grey’s daycare will take him as a drop in which is very likely what I’ll do once the week returns. But man, it’s hard to wrangle two kids by myself. Walking somewhere and not carrying anything or anyone is a huge luxury. You should’ve seen me wrestling it all at IKEA. I couldn’t buy the tasty carbonated beverages due to a tragic lack of hands. The meatballs were purchased with a VISA and at the cost of future feeling in my right thumb. And Grey and Thane were actually being really, really good!

When I was doing my anticipatory dreading of this, I worried about how I would handle the boys when they’re doing their tandem weeping/screaming routine. Granted, entertaining and tending to my sons is definitely a challenge. But I think the hard part will be the loneliness. I was already feeling pretty lonely, spending my days in the company of two people younger than most of my jeans and Spongebob Squarepants. But at least my husband would come home at night and I would deluge him with all the thoughts that had piled up in my head during the day. But I don’t actually have to talk to another adult in person until my brother arrives sometime on the Thursday/Friday border. Of course I will. Tomorrow is church. Monday a friend is going with me to the Museum of Science with the boys. I’m quite sure other things will appear on my schedule.

But mostly, I miss my husband. I really like him. I like doing things with him. My sons are also his sons, and I can lean on him as much as is needed to do those things which need doing.

May my husband return to me soon.

My handsome husband
My handsome husband

Christmas Night

Fortune smiles on me.

Last night, after a leisurely day of doing stuff (including baking spritz cookies) Skarps and I headed to church. I was, once again, Mary in the Christmas tableaux. There is something about sitting up at the front of the church, with bright lights shining on you, knowing without looking that the pews are filled with parents, holding their children in velvet finery, eager and excited for what tonight and tomorrow will bring, and staring lovingly at a doll laid in a hay-filled manger, that brings the sacred close. My husband standing close by me, silently pretending to be the patient one who claimed a son who was not his. Sitting still in my blue gown and my chilly sandalled feet, I can only think of how much love there must have been that first night. Love of Mary, for this son she had brought into the world in such uncertain and difficult circumstance, love of Mary for the husband who guided her and protected her while honoring her purity, love of Mary for the God for whom she risked everything. There is Joseph, so kind where many other men would have turned their backs, loving his wife and the boy he will raise as his own son. The shepherds came to see the spectacle. The wise men came to see the king. And if God can be ascribed human emotions, how bitter sweet it must have been. To have a part of your own divinity be seperated from you, to have it live, breathe, eat and need tending. And to know that the worst of all things will happen. But yet, there is beauty in that moment of birth — whether it was ever there in fact, the moment has been beautiful in the imaginations of so many, it is beautiful by common consent.

Sitting up there, half-blinded by lights and blinking hard, I felt every piece of the history, pageantry, doctrine, faith, tradition, and hymns. I stole a forbidden glance at one of the shepherds. He was young, a first-grader named Noah, and oh-so sincere. He raised a hand to shield his eyes from the wonder of the angel Gabriel’s message, next to his father where the podium usually stands. He knows the truth. He could tell it to you if you asked.

And then my husband, in the guise of Joseph, carefully escorted me down to the pews. And quickly I shed my blue robes and snuck around the church to play “O Holy Night” and “Joy to the World” on my trumpet. And afterwards I stood with my newly-returned-from-Puerto-Rico Sunday School kid next to me, and talked and rejoiced in my friends.

In the car, my husband and I sang through the Christmas section of a borrowed hymnal.

At his parents house, in front of the fire, we sang for them of the six-winged Seraphim. The cherubim with sleepless eyes.

Today, I have recieved a wealth of gifts. But the best of them were the joy in my grand-parents-in-laws’ faces as we talked to them. The enthusiasm with which my nephew exhorted us as we attempted to put together his pirate ship gift. The care with which my brother-in-law cooked our Christmas dinner. The health and vigor with which my father-in-law ate too much of it. The delight of calling my familiy, and comparing gift notes.

I got things, too. Many things. But the best things of this season are not things at all, but the chance to be a spiritual being. The chance to tell people you love them, and to hear it back. And the opportunity to be, just for a moment, Mary gazing at the Jesus-child in his manger, wondering at all those who came to honor his birth, and treasuring the memories of it in your heart.

What Love Looks Like

I hear people say that there’s no such thing as a perfect relationship — that they don’t believe in the love stories. In general, I think they are wise. I think that the fairy-tale of love is far, far away from what life truly offers. And I don’t think people should wait until they meet the person who dribbles rose-petals on their path and makes their heart go ka-lump every time they’re around. (And I really, really, really don’t think that when you can talk to your beloved without feeling butterflies in your stomach, it means that you don’t love them anymore and should move on.)

One problem with that, my friends. I am in a relationship that is marvellous and wonderful in pretty much every way. And despite having waited for 8 years in the expectation that at some point the ka-lump of love might diminish, it hasn’t. I love my husband far more today than I did 8 years ago, when he was a dashing sophomore and I a sweet and innocent freshman.

My husband is concerned with my guilt and stress levels. He says that they are past healthy. (Which made me feel guilty about how much I was feeling guilty, quite possibly proving his point.) So yesterday he allowed me to do all the things I felt needed to be done — up to a point. At about five he gently but firmly steered me to the couch. He removed my shoes. He lit a fire in the fireplace, and lit up the candles. He put up with me while I considered which book I would like to read (“Acorna” by Anne McCaffrey). Then I made a comment on how I wished I’d gotten around to making Spritz cookies like I promised so that I could eat them. Then he went into the kitchen (which he had earlier swept and mopped) and made me spritz cookies in the shapes of Christmas trees and stars, with sprinkles on them just like I like. And he brought me water.

My friends, that is true love. You don’t know how much he does for me, or how kind he is to me, because it’s the fabric of my everyday life. If I told you every time he did something wonderful, I wouldn’t write about anything else. I hope I don’t take it for granted, but I am not surprised when my husband is thoughtful, kind and generous. He is also funny, charming, playful, patient and handsome. And a darn good GM.

I do not know if this kind of relationship is possible for everyone. I don’t know if we got really, really lucky in meeting each other and growing together. I don’t know if the desire for such a relationship is unrealistic… just because there are people who do win the lotto does not mean that everyone can win the lotto. But I do want those of you who think it is impossible to know… a loving, kind relationship full of joy is not a dream. It is not a Hollywood fabrication. It does exist — and it can be hoped for.