Monday, February 18, 2013

I'd Marry Him Again

Hubby and I thought hard about what to give each other for Valentine's Day. I wiped out the refrigerator and put away empty milk bottles (that have been sitting on the counter for weeks), and he came home early from work. True love people, true true love. 
a friend's facebook posting on February 14, 2013

This December my husband and I got to spend a long weekend in Las Vegas without our kids. We were at such a happy place in our relationship, and I was so excited to be getting on an airplane for a getaway with my man, that I had the urge to do some grand gesture to express my love for him. Like, something crazy. And what I kept thinking was, "We should go get married!" 

I listen to a lot of country music. And in country music, when you're madly in love, you run off to Vegas and get hitched.  (How did the whole getting-married-in-Vegas thing start? Because as it stands now, Las Vegas is definitely not geared toward helping people stay married. I mean, the strip clubs, ample ways to lose the family fortune, not to mention an ad campaign that endorsed adultery. But I digress.) 

I am a fan of grand and crazy gestures. At the risk of sounding like a De Beers diamond commercial, I'd like to show Jeff that I'd marry him all over again. But what I have discovered is that marriage is not really built for that. Or perhaps my marriage isn't, having married an architect, which means my spouse's mind is one part creative and one part engineer, but all parts definitely have their place, time, and prudent duration. 

When I expressed to Jeff my wild desire to get married in a Vegas chapel (I would have done it, truly!), the idea didn't exactly melt his butter (sorry, more country music influence there).  I made him drive me to the seedy side of Vegas to take a picture at a chapel for this blog, and that actually seemed quite lame to him. But he did it, God bless him. Here's proof: us at the Chapel of the Flowers; note the 7-11 sign right above the roof line. This was my husband's love gift to me: taking me to do something that he thought was kind of stupid. While smiling.

In our actual wedding 13 and a half years ago, not a spontaneous event but a traditional church affair that took nine months to plan, we picked Phillippians 2:1-4 for our pastor to speak on. I, at age 21, was focused on certain phrases in the passage:  being like-minded, being of the same love, being one in spirit, concepts which sounded both practical and romantic. 

My pastor, being actually married, focused on phrases in the same scripture like looking to the interests of others instead of just your own; he said this would be played out when the dishes were dirty and the baby was crying, we were both tired, and we both had to get up and go to work in the morning. 

He was right. These are the other love gifts in our marriage: I do the dishes, the grocery shopping; I cook food he likes; I book the baby sitter (or grandparent) for date night once a month. He takes out the trash; he pays the bills (after making the money) and balances the checkbook; he puts the kids to bed so I can go to a 7 p.m. Zumba class. 

This is how marriage works, not just for us, but for everyone. I reference my friend's  facebook post, above. She has five biological kids, and a foster child, last time I checked. I would imagine she and her husband show love to one another every day by working together to stem the chaos to which their lives could easily succumb. They are choosing -- and this is the key -- to see these small chores as the love tokens that they are.

And yet, it can't all be taking out the trash and cleaning the fridge. We need romantic gestures, too. I offered Jeff a back scratch on Valentine's Day evening and he looked so surprised and pleased that I was ashamed of myself. In his vows to me in our wedding he talked about how much he appreciated back rubs, and in my housewifely fatigue, I have sorely neglected him in favor of lying down flat on the couch and watching American Idol. He'd probably rather I left the dishes, conserved my energies, and gave him a neck rub. 

I want to love my spouse. Really love him. I want us to feel in love, and express it to each other. Perhaps this is why I listen to so much country music. No other musical genre devotes so much ink to marital love. Here's a piece of my current favorite country song by Lady Antebellum (download it on itunes. It's so good!). I dedicate it to my husband, who doesn't usually read my blog and would be embarrassed if he did. But I like romantic gestures, remember? And my man knew that going in. So this one's for you, baby, just a bit late for Valentine's Day. We're still meant to be.

I leave him sleeping as I rise early
Always up before the dawn
The house is dark, but I see clearly
Kettle sings a morning song
The bacon's frying, babies crying
I soak up the sights and sounds
Minutes turn to days and I wish that I could slow it down

If grease is the soul of the kitchen
And coffee the drink of the gods
Routine too perfect to mention
Time is a thief I would rob
We're meant to be, baby, hold onto me
I'll never not be your girl
'Cause love is the heart of the world

Oh, and hope is the soul of the dreamer
And heaven is the home of my God
It only takes one true believer
To believe you can still beat the odds

We're meant to be baby hold onto me
You'll never not be my girl (I'll never not be your girl)
'Cause love is the heart, love is the heart,
Love is the heart of the world

Friday, February 15, 2013

Yogurt Parfaits, My Achilles Heel

I am aware of my ability to intimidate others as a homemaker. There are women in my neighborhood, my ministry circle, my school who believe that I can do anything having to do with frosting, fabric, or construction paper. They know I can throw a mean baby shower and bake a killer birthday cake. They call me Martha Stewart. They look at me with awe. 

They should have been here yesterday. 

My sweet first born daughter turned nine years old on Valentine's Day, and I signed up to bring the treat for the class party. Our school just instituted a new no-cupcake policy for birthdays, which is too bad because my cupcake skills really shine. Instead I decided to bring fruit and yogurt parfaits with red sprinkles on top, in ice cream cones. I saw the idea on Pinterest. Only on Pinterest, they were laying down in sugar cones. I bought stand-up cake cones. 

I filled said cones with blueberries, strawberries and vanilla yogurt on a tray. While I deftly did this, one of my best friends called to ask if I could process her new nursery decor with her. Uh, no, sweetie, my brain is occupied. While on the phone, I realized there was no possible way I was going be able to drive a car to school with these on the front seat. At this point BFF begins to giggle. She is a very mean friend.

 Fortunately, a fellow Girl Scout mom was on her way to pick up cookies from my house (I am currently our Daisy troop's cookie manager, and the volumes I could write on this subject...). I barely know her but asked in desperation if she could drive me to school. I made it not two steps through the back door when half my cones fell over, and three landed (SPLAT) on the sidewalk. 

Desperate yell to Daisy mom: "They all fell! Just leave me!" 

Mystified Daisy mom drives off.

Desperate run into the house. Slip on yogurt. Land on rear. 

Call to BFF. "Take me off speaker, I am going to swear!"

BFF: "I thought 32 yogurt parfaits in ice cream cones might be a problem."

"Why didn't you say anything?!?"

"Well, there have been other times I thought one of your crazy  ideas wouldn't work and you pulled it off." 

"New rule: if you foresee a problem with one of my 'crazy ideas,' tell me!"

At this point my friend is laughing so hard (and also her nanny in the background) that I can almost hear the tears dripping down her face. I'd like to take a moment at this juncture to mention that many of my crazy ideas -- like the monster truck track cake I made for her son last week -- have been for her. Mean friend. 

To sum up and end the suspense, I did manage to get all 32 yogurt parfaits into very ugly plastic cups I had on hand, shove them into Rubbermaid shoe boxes (photographed in my car, at right), and arrive to the class party only a few minutes late. Yes, I did have yogurt all over my pants, and yes the kids did laugh at the extremely soggy ice cream cones that at this point had been on a wild ride. But the can of whipped cream I brought along appeased them. And my daughter was happy. 

This is almost the end of the story. When I went home, bringing with me three kindergartners (it was my day to carpool), I spent a good 45 minutes power-washing vanilla yogurt off the sidewalk and cleaning my kitchen floor, which bore definite signs of struggle with what I know think of my Achilles heel: vanilla yogurt. The substance that brought the great homemaker down.

Finally, I pulled out a lounge chair to sit down in the sun and ponder where I went wrong...and sliced my foot open on a rusty chair leg. Forty five minutes on the phone of trying to find my immunization records followed, in which I found out -- thank God -- that my tetanus shot is up to date. 

What have I learned from this fiasco? Well, apparently not much. Because on my counter currently sits two pounds of white chocolate and two sticks of unsalted butter. I am about to attempt homemade petite fours for my daughter's French-themed family dinner tomorrow night. Also on the agenda: lemon cupcakes. Yes, it's an extra step, but I really feel I should have a back-up plan in case my French dessert flops.

And BFF, expected at the family party, might get a petite four in the face.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Color Purple

I don't like the color purple.

I know, some of you are shocked. You love purple. And that's the thing about purple. It's a strong color about which people have strong opinions. 

For eight years I have been the mother of a girl, and yet I have maintained a purple-free household. The occasional purple t-shirt we have purchased, but there has been no bedroom, no birthday party in which purple has prominantly featured.

Until now.

My eldest daughter's bedroom is now Bher's Premium "Hosta Flower" lavender with a white and purple duvet on the bed and purple curtains on the window. 

Sophia turns nine on Valentine's Day and what she wanted more than anything in the world was to redecorate her bedroom. While she was still in the womb, Mommy got to choose her colors.  Following the height of Pottery Barn baby fashion in 2004, I chose pink and green bedding with Vanilla Milkshake on the walls (Daddy said no to pink walls, or they would have been pink). Since infancy, we've obviously bought a big girl bed and a desk, but the vintage "Dick and Jane" art was still on the walls and the color scheme the same.

Slowly, Sophia has shed her baby accessories (a baby carriage-shaped vase that her first bouquet of flowers came in) and added age-appropriate trinkets (Harry Potter Legos, soccer trophies). It's been a blending of how Mommy envisioned her first baby girl to be and who she actually is becoming.

But now, in an obvious metaphor, Sophia has declared herself her own person, and I, very wisely if I do say so myself, have embraced it. Even championed her cause to Daddy who was still championing the yellow walls (he likes purple less than I do, and also dislikes painting).  See before and after photos!

And here's the odd thing: I love the new purple room! It's beautiful and soothing and so well-suited to my wonderful, creative girl.

Even more, I love the opportunity to ponder a great truth of mothering: We can try to direct our kids to what we like or wish for them, but ultimately loving them is about learning to love who they actually are and what they love. I have tried to shape my daughters' palettes with healthy food; their musical ear with diverse artists; their creative impulses by exposure to beauty; a love of learning by much reading; their relationship to God by exposure to His word and His love. (My mom did the same thing, and blames herself, by the way for my dislike of purple, because she dressed me in it constantly). But ultimately, I'm not in control of who they are and what they choose to love.

I know the future will give me ample opportunities to love what they love. Maybe it will be lacrosse. Maybe I'll be sitting (cheering silently) at chess tournaments. Maybe it will be admiring their first tattoo (oh please no!).

During both my pregnancies, I dreamed a dream of my little girls and imagined out their lives. So far, they have both surprised me and surpassed what I expected. They have, of course, exasperated me with unanticipated challenges as well. But I keep dreaming my own dreams for them, clinging to them loosely and giving their lives over to God.

Meanwhile, I'm getting lots of practice in the color purple. Before I tackled Sophia's walls, I made my new baby niece a quilt in the challenging shade. My sister in law, pregnant with her third daughter, decided it was time to bring violet into her household as well. I struggled with the project; it's so much easier to be creative in one's own familiar palette, but when it was done, I loved it. As I love my darling sis-in-law, and my new baby niece Hailey who I've not yet met (she lives several states away).

I hope she will love the color her mommy chose for her, but perhaps she will want Vanilla Milkshake walls when she's nine. We're dreaming dreams for her, our little five-day-old baby, but we still don't really know what she will be like, what she will love. Won't it be exciting to find out.