Friday, February 28, 2014

Expectation Vs. Reality

Recently I was talking to my good friend, Cori. I was admiring a beautiful little heart pendant that she was wearing, so  I asked her where she'd gotten it.

She replied that she bought it for herself, and then she added that she wished she could say it was from her husband...but he really didn't do things like that. I kind of laughed because I understood completely. I confessed my husband isn't really a sentimental jewelry buyer either. "What about your pearl necklace?" She reminded me.

Oh yes. My pearl necklace.

At some point during our first year of marriage, I mentioned to my husband that by our five year anniversary I wanted him to buy me a pearl necklace. I thought I was being pretty fair by laying out my expectation and desire (so I could be properly hurt if he didn't fulfill my wish). Somehow I'd gotten it into my head that the gift of a pearl necklace was the most romantic gesture of pure love a husband could offer (which probably has something to do with the fact the both my mother and grandmother had been gifted a pearl necklace from their spouses).

Well you can imagine my surprise when on our four year anniversary my husband jumped the gun and bought me a pearl necklace. I opened the box, my body teeming with anxiety, and immediately I knew I'd been let down. Pearl necklaces are not all made alike and this one was not what I was expecting. It was cheaply made, stiff, bumpy, discolored in spots...I was devastated. This is what I'd been waiting for?

Like a good person, I didn't let my disappointment show. Especially since he was excited to have surprised me a year earlier than demanded hoped for. I stayed quiet...that is until one day when I exploded (over something entirely unrelated) and during my rant I accused him of never listening to me and buying a cheap necklace (yes, I went on his amazon account to confirm he bought it on sale from $35 dollars). Before you write me off as a psychopath please note that I was pregnant at the time and my rant seemed totally justifiable in the moment.

My husband, being the darling that he is, instead of becoming defensive and angry started saving up for a real pearl necklace. One that would satisfy the whims of his spoiled wife. I opened a beautiful, classic pearl necklace on our fifth anniversary. You might expect the moment would be marred by the memory of my psychosis, but it wasn't. I was extremely grateful and again was reminded of what a sweet man I'd married, who fulfilled my desire (after I'd verbally assaulted him).

Although I had this expectation of a grand romantic gesture, and I still love my pearl necklace to this day, it was not the most romantic thing my husband has ever done for me. Some of those include:

  • Picking up dinner on the way home from work so I wouldn't have to  make it.
  • Carrying me up to bed after I fell asleep on the couch.
  • Giving me a couple hours to myself so I could go read in the park with an ice cream while he and our daughters crafted handmade Mother's Day gifts.
  • Cleaning the bathrooms before he leaves for work so that my load can be lightened.
  • Supporting our family both financially, and emotionally in every way. 

So really, it is the little things. Would I turn my nose up at a grand romantic gesture? No, of course not. I'd eat it up in a second. But after nine years together I've come to appreciate the little romantic gestures that he makes on a daily basis to show his love for me, and I hope I'm doing the same. Truth be told, the expectations of my life pale in comparison to the reality of what I've been given. I just didn't know I already had what I wanted.

So Hollywood, you can keep your flowers, chocolates, and diamonds. I'm happy with my man who will scrub toilets, fold laundry, and share a frozen yogurt with me.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Confessions of a Hungry Girl

I had my monthly chiropractor appointment today. The usual questions were answered.

"How is everything?"

"How's the neck?"

"Anything new?"

I normally answer the last question with Nope regardless of the actual answer. But today I said, "I think I've gained some weight."

He laughed and looked at my chart. "It says you were 110 here on your first appointment. I don't believe that. I think you are the only woman who lies about her weight in the opposite direction."

I get it. No one wants to hear about someone complaining for being "too skinny". But when I was in grade school one of my nick names was Ethiopian. With my over-active metabolism and inability to sit still, my doctors were worried about me. I had to drink Ensure. Do you know how weird it is to have Ensure packed in your lunchbox next to the JELL-O cup?

I hated its chalky taste. But, the real problem was that I hated almost everything. Beans. Peas. Any vegetable that was green, red, orange, or white. Or yellow. Sour Cream. Cream Cheese. Whipped Cream.

My food groups are fruit snacks, chicken nuggets, and ice cream (the only kind of cream I will eat). Those are also the three things I would take to a deserted island. And some sprinkles.

But, today as I proudly told my chiropractor that yes, I believed I had gained some weight, I stepped back to think about what has happened to me since grade school. Like most women, my weight has fluctuated between I Think I Look Good and Yup, My Jeans Do Not Fit. I gained 30lbs after living in Europe for 3 months. I had only two food groups then: cake and beer. Unfortunately, I can't even remember the last time I had cake.

But, I do remember the last time I ate McDonald's. It was Monday. Glorious Monday. And the Saturday before that. And the Friday before that. And the Thursday before that.

I just can't figure out where this new weight is coming from.

Monday, February 24, 2014

How “Just Looking” Can Be Dangerous

I am three years into a new career. It’s great! I’m still continuously learning new things about myself, my new profession, and the people I serve. However, three years into a new career is not exactly the ideal time to begin looking at houses (I can’t even find it within myself to switch apartments so I can get a dog, which is something I desperately want, let alone buy a house…). And yet, here I sit, browsing through Zillow with a few specifics in mind for a home.

Now, I’m just looking, but sometimes “just looking” can be dangerous. I have fallen in love with at least three houses I could see as homes. (DANGER!) The last one was a doozie--Gorgeous, spacious, a yard for a someday-dog, appliances included (luxurious!!!). We’d only just met earlier today, and yet… There was something special. I found myself browsing through the photos, picturing my furniture in the living room, picturing my mail scattered on the kitchen counters and my tacky magnets stuck to the fridge. I looked at the square footage, the double garage (no more scraping ice from the windshield!), the deck in the back yard... And then I had to snap myself out of the daydream.

What’s the best way to do that and protect myself from heartbreak? Find a flaw. That’s right, friends. Whenever you’re online shopping (or in-store shopping), the best way to prevent yourself from getting in too deep is to convince yourself that you’ve not fallen head-over-heels. So, in this case, I set to work. I looked at the price history of the property (could have gotten a great deal in 2005, but now this one looks overpriced...and I’m too much of a deal seeker to fall for that). I looked at home buying guides online (to convince myself that the whole process is just too overwhelming to even consider at this point), and I looked at the realtor’s listing. That was the one that indicated the perfect reason for me to fall out of love with this house. It mentioned the words “sump pump.”

I’ve lived in Iowa my whole life. When a listing says “sump pump” that means water in the (lovely, recently refinished) basement. That also means I don’t want to deal with it. But, just to be sure, I Googled how to check if an address is prone to flooding (in case anyone is wondering, it’s And I had my answer, in all-caps, bright red font: THIS PROPERTY IS HIGH-RISK.

I may have been spared this time, but I fear this (tempting and risky) process of falling in and out of love with homes on the internet will continue… But at least I’m safe for now.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Confessions of a Prideful Mom

When I was first married, my husband and I were having a nostalgic moment discussing our childhood.  He told me that his parents would tell him and his siblings that almost every problem they were having was a pride issue.

I scoffed.

Not everything can relate back to pride . . . right?

Turns out I'm not always right (much to my chagrin). I have come to realize that most of my problems are related to pride.  Obviously there are some that are completely beyond control.  My daughter being prone to ear infections, my son's problems with vision and crossed eyes, my husband's diabetes, my apparent inability to be a comfortable pregnant woman. All of these have nothing to do with pride.

Isn't there a pop culture reference to having 99 problems and something not being one?  I must sound horribly out of touch in asking this question, but what can I say? I can sing every song from Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

Well, let's think about the things I perceive as being problems in my life.  I do not look physically at all how I feel I "should, " I am not great at keeping every inch of our home clean.  I do not have anywhere near enough storage space.  My living room also happens to be a toy room, a family room, a tv room, a den, and often times a dance studio. Which means that it is not as nice as I want.  My home is not perfectly decorated.  I do not have enough money to let my husband stay home with us every day.  There is not a single time in my recollection that all of my laundry was done.  My car is the place goldfish go to die. No matter how I try, it's always dirty and full of toys and blankets.  I let my kids watch too much TV, et cetera, et cetera.

Do any of these things matter?  Honestly, no. They obviously matter to me, but it's because I am quite prideful.  If I were forced to sit down and really list my priorities, these things wouldn't be on them. But, because I have this crazy idea of how my life "should be," I have this insane feeling of inadequacy when I don't accomplish them. Which, let's be honest, is always.

What would happen if I let go of my pride? If I let go of all of the "shoulds?" What if I stopped letting silly things control my thoughts?  Well, I would venture to say I'd be a happier person, a nicer mom, a more considerate wife.  I'd say all around there would be improvements.  And yet, I hold on to my pride as if it were a lifeline.  For the life of me, as I sit here writing this, I cannot explain to you why.  I don't know what I get from being prideful.  If you come up with something let me know.

So here I am. Admitting to the fact that I am prideful, and selfish.  And hoping beyond hope that I can be strong enough to let it go. It obviously doesn't benefit me.

I believe it is in times such as these, when we can accept our less than perfect aspects, that our lives have the opportunity to become truly lovely.

Here is to being productive without feeling like you have to do more, or it's not good enough. Here is to being healthy for the sake of being healthy.  To taking care of my home, and spending more time enjoying the mound of toys my kids have, because heaven knows there are parents who would love to give their kids so many toys they can't find storage space for them.  Here's to accepting life's lovely moments without letting the hand of pride sneak in and make them less.

I am going to tackle this.  It won't be quick, and it won't be easy, but I like a challenge.  Well, a challenge that isn't too challenging.  I have downfalls, and I have imperfections.  But, when I see the way my kids look at me and the love in my husbands eyes when he comes home from work, they all seem so insignificant.  I am going to try and see myself as others, the ones who I love most, see me.  Definitely sounds like a win to me.

Be stronger than the pride?  It's not easy, but I am willing to try.  Are you?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Truths I've learned from Anne of Green Gables

My grandparents own a cabin in Island Park Idaho, where I spent many summers as a child. There was a large collection of what we called "cabin movies," which were essentially movies that were kept at the cabin that we'd watch obsessively every trip.

Among our collection was the Megan Follows version of Anne of Green Gables. I have been thinking about Anne (spelled with an E) recently, and decided to read L. M. Montgomery's novels, along with watching the movies again. Here are some truths I've learned from Cordelia Anne Shirley.

1) Cultivate your imagination “It's been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.” 

2) Apologize profusely and sincerely "Oh, Mrs. Lynde, I am so extremely sorry," she said with a quiver in her voice. "I could never express all my sorrow, no, not if I used up a whole dictionary. You must just imagine it. I behaved terribly to you--and I've disgraced the dear friends, Matthew and Marilla, who have let me stay at Green Gables although I'm not a boy. I'm a dreadfully wicked and ungrateful girl, and I deserve to be punished and cast out by respectable people forever. It was very wicked of me to fly into a temper because you told me the truth. It was the truth; every word you said was true. My hair is red and I'm freckled and skinny and ugly. What I said to you was true, too, but I shouldn't have said it. Oh, Mrs. Lynde, please, please, forgive me. If you refuse it will be a lifelong sorrow on a poor little orphan girl would you, even if she had a dreadful temper? Oh, I am sure you wouldn't. Please say you forgive me, Mrs. Lynde."

3) Dream Big “Oh, it's delightful to have ambitions. I'm so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them-- that's the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.” 

4) Learn from mistakes 
Anne: "But have you ever noticed one encouraging thing about me, Marilla? I never make the same mistake twice".
Marilla: "I don't know as that's much benefit when you're always making new ones".

5) Learn from failures “I've done my best, and I begin to understand what is meant by 'the joy of strife'. Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing.” 

And always remember...

"Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

DIY Giant Ruler

I've been eye balling this project floating around on Pinterest for quite some time now. It's super cute and I like the idea of being able to take your family's growth chart with you when you move, but I thought it looked sort of large and intimidating so I kept putting it off. And you know what? It turned out to be so easy! All you need is some wood and a sharpie and you've got yourself a giant ruler a la Pottery Barn.

1 x 8 x 6 piece of wood (any kind will do since you will be staining it your color of choice)
Wood stain (I used light walnut)
Measuring tape
Cost: Around $15 for wood and stain
Time: Around 4-5 hours

For my first step I began mentioning this upcoming project to my husband weeks in advance, this way by the time the weekend came that I wanted to work on it, he was emotionally ready to help with "arts and crafts." Once this step was complete, I went to Home Depot with the forewarned and willing husband to purchase a 1 x 8 x 6 board and some wood stain. We agreed that this sounded like a very odd measurement for a piece of wood, but we found it easily, it's basically six feet tall and one foot wide. I'm still not sure what the eight refers to. Then I bought the tiniest container I could find of a light walnut wood stain since you will only be using a coat or two. The total cost was about 15 dollars, and would have been free but I realized as I had rummaged through my purse for five minutes at the checkout counter that my toddler son had stolen my Home Depot gift card out of my wallet and hidden it somewhere.

Next I got my board ready to stain. But first my helper had to come and check it out.

And then walk back and forth across it several times.

And then I had to argue with my husband about what corner of the house I could possibly put this in that my son might leave it alone for a few hours. Then I was ready for staining.

I paint a lot of furniture but I had never stained anything before. It turns out it's much better than painting. First of all I didn't have to sand! And second of all I only needed one coat! I used a regular paint brush, painted with the wood grains, and made sure not to over-do it (that was hard.) Then you leave it for about 5-10 minutes for it to absorb and then wipe any excess away you would like with a rag. It takes 4-6 hours to dry so then I used that time to apologize for arguing with my husband.

Next I checked on it in four hours to see if was dry, before I could even open the door all the way my son darted in past me and walked the length of it in his Ninja Turtle footie pajamas. So I checked the bottom of his feet and no stain! The board was dry and ready!

Now for the confusing part. My husband and I had a long discussion about quarter inches and eighth inches and finally came up with a plan. Then after I started drawing it in pencil my husband looked at the Pinterest photo and said, "Oh this is supposed to look like a ruler? Forget what I said then." So we had to start over. Basically we decided to leave out the eighth inch lines or it would look too busy. I made the quarter inch lines one inch long across, and the inch and half inch lines two inches long across. But in hindsight I would have made the half inch lines an inch and half in length because when calculating heights it's kind of confusing which lines are inches and half inches. Does that make sense? No.

First I drew the lines in pencil and then went over them with a sharpie. You could use something fancier like a paint pen if you wanted but honestly I thought the sharpie turned out just fine. This part of the process takes a really long time and will make you want to cry. Grab a Diet Coke and ask your husband to make you a treat. It will help.

Next the foot numbers. I printed out numbers 1-6 in a font called Median Pro enlarged to 400% (just in case you want your numbers to look exactly like mine because mine are so awesome and you want to be just like me!) Then I cut them out and then cut them out again in cardstock so they were easier to trace on the board. Then I positioned them on my board and drew the foot lines a little longer so you could tell exactly where they were. Then I noticed there was poop on my rug. That was an added bonus.

Then I traced the numbers, first in pencil, then with my trustie sharpie.

And it turned out like that. I was planning on filling them in but I liked how they looked outlined and I decided not to risk it when I had put in so many hours on this project already!

Next we had to hang it. If you want to lean yours against the wall like this then start measuring from one inch and your board will go up to six feet. If you want to hang it on the wall because your toddler will probably tip this over on himself then start measuring the bottom from six inches, that way you can hang it six inches off the ground and it will still be accurate in height. That's why my board measures up to six and half feet tall (not that anyone in our family will ever be that tall.) Naturally we forgot to buy anything to hang it up with when we bought it so we went back to Home Depot. First I checked under the fridge (a popular hiding spot) for my Home Depot gift card.

About a million magnets and somehow a DVD but no gift card. It's like my husband won that Wii bowling tournament for nothing! We decided not to screw the board into our rental home you're welcome landlord, though that seems to me to probably be the best way, and went with several heavy duty command strips instead. Is there anything command strips can't do? It's really not that heavy, only a couple pounds, you could also get one of those sawtooth picture hanger thingy's and just put that on the top of it, but we were pretty sure the toddler would have had that off the wall in no time.

It's hanging in a narrow hallway so it's impossible to get a picture of the full thing in one frame, but trust me it's awesome.

Next I got my son and tried to measure his height.
He refuses to stand up next to it.

Then I had a nice long laugh about how I just spent five hours making this growth chart for someone that refuses to be measured.

Happy crafting!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Staff Picks: Movies for a Valentine's Day

We're back at it again with some staff picks.  We decided to be timely in our picks this month and share movies that you can watch with your sweetheart for an inexpensive Valentine's date. Or movies you can watch in your sweats with a bowl of ice cream on a date that happens to be smack dab in the middle of the month of February.  Or with your kids, whom you love dearly. Or just anytime because movies are great.  There. Bases covered.

Lindsey - My suggestion may seem odd because it is an animated children's movie, but I cannot stress enough how much I want everyone to see this movie.  A Monster in Paris.  My sister happened upon it with her three boys (ages 2, 6, and 8) and they watch it so often, I ended up watching it and falling in love.  I'm not even sure how to explain the plot except to say that a monster is accidentally unleashed on the city of Paris, but it's not what you would expect.  It's funny, well animated, and nicely acted.  The music is beautiful and catchy (we may have recently purchased the soundtrack). It is utterly charming.  Go, watch, and thank me later.

Lis - Hitch is a fun movie with romance that guys seem to like. Will Smith is one of those actors that everyone seems to love. There are different types of couples that get together in the movie, and it gives hope to everyone that love can be possible if you just get the right opportunity.

Paige- My favorite romantic movie, which is saying something since I typically don't enjoy them, is Sense and Sensibility. First because Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman are in the same movie. Second because it's wonderfully witty. Third because it's the only romantic movie that my husband happens to enjoy as well. It's the trifecta. Fun fact: did you know Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay?

Megan - I discovered the French movie He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not at the International Cinema   on campus when I was in college. It's a completely brilliant movie that plays from two different points of view, so for the first half of the movie you think you're watching a completely different kind of movie than you discover you are in the second half. I will just warn you that it is not a romantic comedy, but the surprises are the best part, so don't go reading the plot before hand. Bonus: it stars Audrey Tautou of Amelie fame (which I think it why I watched it in the first place.) If you want something different than the same old sappy chick flick this year, this is your movie. (Even my husband loved it.) (Side note: This movie used to be on Netflix, but appears to only be available on DVD now. If your appetite for Valentine's-appropriate French movies must be appeased and you didn't plan ahead, let me suggest the excellent Romantics Anonymous, which is about two incredibly awkward, shy people attempting to fall in love - and is available on instant watch.)

Jill - Perhaps this one is only coming to mind because I rediscovered it when a friend was going through my DVDs the other day, but I am going to throw Bend it Like Beckham into the mix. It has some romance to make it holiday appropriate, some soccer (erm, it is a British movie, so we should probably say football) to satisfy the part of you that is driven bonkers by Valentine's Day and a good chunk of Punjabi dialogue thrown in to make you feel multi-cultural. When it first came out (more than a decade ago! Yikes I am getting old!), my five sisters and I went through a streak of watching it so much that our then-four-year-old sister could quote it almost entirely. Unfortunately, that included the rare mild swear word (sorry, Mom), but oh the memories. Basically, I offer up this movie with a lot of love in my heart, so go forth and enjoy!

Melissa- I could probably list a hundred movies that I would enjoy to watch with my sweetheart. I envision myself with my legs strewn across his lap as we cuddle to the witty musings of a Nora Ephron movie, but that's not how it ever works out for us. Usually we end up arguing about how often we've watched "Melissa movies" recently or how we've had an influx of "Adam movies." Whatever movie we end up deciding on usually entertains us, even if the other didn't want to watch it. My suggestion is White House Down, staring Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum (Tatum Channing? Chatum Tanning? -- Most confusing name ever). It exceeds every ridiculous expectation you could want. It's about a Secret Service wannabe (Tatum/Chantum/Tanning?) who takes his daughter on a tour of the White House after a failed interview. Good thing he's there, because the White House is suddenly under attack and EVERY SECURITY PERSON WITH ACCESS TO A GUN IS IMMEDIATELY ANNIHILATED. The lines are brilliantly cheesy. There are no less than nine thousand explosions, and Tanning Chatum finds an opportunity to needlessly remove his shirt mid action scene. It's a plethora of twists and cliches all rolled in one. But if it had been my pick, I would have gone with Crazy, Stupid, Love. It's one of my favorite rom/coms  and it stars Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling so you can't lose. Wildly inappropriate for children.

Cara- I think Valentine's Day can be a great day for celebrating romance, but above that I think it's great reminder to share your love--romantic or otherwise--with those you care about.  And so, in no particular order, here are some films that celebrate love of all kinds. Big Fish is a film about a dying father, his skeptical son, and how stories can bring people together (I cry every time with this one...). In Her Shoes tells the story of two sisters struggling to embrace themselves and their past. While this may not necessarily be your typical "snuggle up together" movie, it does make you think about connections, trust, and love. Life is Beautiful brings together romance, laughter, hope, imagination, fatherly love, and sacrifice in the harsh reality of World War II. Last, but not least, the Anne of Green Gables series (and the others in the Anne canon) covers the gamut of love, from her search for a family (despite not being a boy who can help on the farm), to finding kindred spirit friends, to falling in romantic love. But be sure to set aside a weekend...or two...or be able to watch the whole, wonderful, thing!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Don't pity the people sitting in silence

When I was in college, I was pretty sure I knew most everything I needed to know already. Especially when it came to dating. One thing I knew for certain was that I would find my soulmate when I finally found someone who I could always talk to. No matter what, we would just always have something to say to each other. Road trips, mealtimes, even watching a movie- we would be so full of things to say to one other that we just wouldn't be able to hold it in. I went so far in my certainty that I used to pity couples I saw in restaurants just sitting there, not talking.

"How sad," I used to think, "their fire has gone out. Their spark is no more. What a boring life they must lead. Woe is me if I ever befall such a fate!"

What wisdom a handful of failed serious relationships apparently bestowed on my twenty-year-old self!

Let's just say that I have since eaten my words, many times over. Now, in all the wisdom of many more failed relationships and one (thus far) successful marriage, I would like to tell that little whipper-snapper college student that those couples weren't doomed to a life devoid of love. In fact, most of the time they probably had very good reasons for enjoying their meal in peace and quiet.

For example, (1) someone in the duo might have come from a large family. Several dates into dating my now-husband I thought that there was something wrong with us. We seemed to get along just swimmingly in almost everything- except while eating. As soon as a meal began, the conversation would dry up, only to spring back to life as soon as the server cleared our plates. Odd? Yes, until I finally realized that as one of ten kids, my husband learned early in life that meals were no joke and apparently somewhere amidst the chaos, he stopped talking while eating.  I accepted that and we still, to this day, do not talk much until the food is gone from his plate. Luckily, he eats much faster than I do, so conversations during meals do occasionally occur.

If that is not the case, then the silent couple might also be (2) in the middle of a huge fight. This one would perhaps on the surface appear to support twenty-year-old me's theory that the silent couple must not really be in love, but I hate to break it to twenty-year-old me that even people in love fight. They fight, but most of them are not being filmed for a reality TV show, so their fights do not involve much public screaming and throwing rolls at each other over a romantic dinner for two. Unless, of course, they are the couple my husband and I encountered on a rare night out not too long ago, but I am pretty sure they were drunk. All bets are off when alcohol is involved.

You know, it could also be that (3) the food that this seemingly poor, silent couple are eating tastes really, really, really good. I once read a memoir a sous chef in a crazy up-scale resyaurant. At his establishment, it was not just tolerated for couples to eat in silence, it was expected. How else were the patrons to truly appreciate the great creations they were eating? Next time you encounter a silent couple, ask yourself, what is on their plate? Does it smell good enough to steal for yourself? Then the love probably hasn't faded from their lives, their vocal chords have simply been overpowered by their taste buds. I bet you didn't think about that, did you, twenty-year-old me?

Do you know what else twenty-year-old me definitely did not think about? Maybe those couples sitting in silence are simply (4) basking in the quiet. Maybe that quiet meal is the first quiet meal they have had in months. Maybe the majority of their meals, nay the majority of their waking hours are spent in the company of grabby, whiny, screaming, laughing, food-throwing, nonsense-babbling, toy-banging, attention-grabbing, heart-stealing kiddos who make them simultaneously want to tear their hair out in frustration while crying with how much they love those small little humans. Maybe those two people sitting across the table from each other saying nothing are not falling out of love, but rather love each other so much that they are giving each other the precious gift of silence. In fact, now that I have gotten all of this out of my system, I have now decided what I would like for both Valentine's Day and my anniversary next week. I want the gift of silence. Sweet, sweet silence...

I don't know what you are talking about, Mom-
dinners with me are SIMPLY DELIGHTFUL!

Twenty-year-old me, don't you worry your pretty little head. You will find a man who you love and who loves you, but yes- you will become one of those couples you used to pity, sitting and saying nothing at the dinner table. Just go ahead and eat those words right now, please. Those, and many, many more things you were so sure you knew back then...

Monday, February 10, 2014

Things That Matter

Before I got married, I had a very different idea about what matters for a relationship (of a romantic nature, mostly) to work. There were lots of things that I thought really mattered, and sometimes I actually lost interest when I saw these things weren't present in a potential prospect (which probably was because there was something else going on that wasn't working, but to me it was always THAT THING.)

Some things I thought mattered: 
  • Music taste. I wanted someone who would go to concerts with me, rock out on road trips, reference songs in normal conversations all the time. Also, it would be nice if he were a singer or a guitar player or something, since I liked to sing and wouldn't it just be so cute if we could sing, together? 
  • Writing ability. I was just so bothered if they didn't punctuate correctly. What good would love notes be if they made me cringe grammatically? (My husband is a really smart guy, but I proofread his stuff for him before he submits it to clients - and in fact, it doesn't seem to matter.) 
  • Political affiliation. Because I was SO INTO THAT. In that obnoxious collegy way where you really have no idea what you are talking about but you are really passionate. 
  • Movie taste. Book taste. It was obviously important that we be able to see awesome deep films together and read the same books and discuss them at length, because we would always have time for that. (As it is, we like to watch movies together occasionally and can usually pick something with both want to see, and we both read a lot, but most of it is totally different stuff.) 
  • Similar interests. Because my college interests were going to be SO permanent. It was essential for him to love England and WWI history and opera and whatever else I was so very into at the time.
And then I think I had some vague notions about being able to talk to each other, sense of humor, kindness, blah, blah. 

When I met my husband, a couple of these things seemed like they were part of the attraction. The first time I rode in his car, he was listening to The Jayhawks. I didn't know ANYONE who listened to the Jayhawks. It was fate! He was into history, which I dug. We could talk about politics, we could talk about books, we could pick out movies to watch together, including nutty documentaries. We'd go on long drives and talk and listen to music. We liked to cook together. It was perfect. 

It turned out there were lots of other things that were really perfect as well. We could talk about anything. We could hold each other and offer comfort during frustration. We could make each other laugh. He was genuinely thoughtful and kind, and he liked to surprise me. 

And then we got married and moved to a totally new place, and I learned that a whole different set of traits were important. And then I got pregnant and had morning sickness for 5 months and that brought out a NEW set of things that mattered. And then we had a baby, and good grief, who even thinks about those things when they're dating? 

So with a disclaimer that I've only been married three years and that I also understand that other people's lists of things that matter will be totally different from mine, here are some new things that I've found really matter to me. 
  • We make each other laugh daily. I knew that this would be something I wanted to have in my life, but sometimes one of us says something and I just feel so glad that we are so funny to each other, especially when I know other people (including my college self) would probably think we are so lame.
  • He knows how to handle things when I start disagreements. Sometimes I get frustrated. Sometimes, whether it's his fault or not (it's usually not), I take those frustrations out on my husband. Sometimes I really don't want to talk about it. But he always knows when to drop everything and sit with me until I am calm enough to articulate my emotions and explain my needs, because he knows I need to talk it out before I can move on. 
  • We can come to a consensus about money issues. It isn't even that hard. We can agree that there are things we don't need or can get used, and we can agree that sometimes we need to wait for things. We can agree about what matters to our family and save accordingly. Money can be stressful, but I'm never afraid that the stress is going to come from a fight about money. We aren't rich, but we can figure out how to make our budget work for us and still be happy. 
  • He doesn't keep score. It's pretty easy to start feeling like the other person in your partnership isn't pulling his or her share of the weight when it comes to taking care of the responsibilities that come with taking care of a family, paying the bills, keeping a house in order, etc. This is because people have a tendency to overestimate our own contributions and underestimate other people's. My husband is really good at just doing what needs to be done, no matter how much he has done that day. We're both working toward the same goals, so it doesn't matter who is doing what. We understand that sometimes one person is going to be shouldering more of the work for the family, and we accept it because we know that the balance will shift later. 
  • He flirts with me - even when I'm embarrassed. I'm such an awkward flirt, and sometimes I feel dumb when my husband flirts with me in front of other people - but I'm so grateful that he does it anyway. 
  • We listen. No matter what it is, if I need to talk, if I have a problem I need to discuss or he's feeling frustrated, I know we will be able to talk it out and listen to each other until we understand each other and figure out something that works for both of us. 
  • We find each other interesting. We both love to learn, but we're always learning about different things because we have some different interests - and then we can share the things we learn with each other. I love learning new things or discussing things and getting new perspectives from him. 
  • We trust each other's opinions. We consult each other when we're working on projects, and we help each other produce our best work by offering feedback and encouragement. 
  • Bonus: He's not afraid of babies. I know this sounds funny, but my husband's only younger sibling is two years younger than he is, so it's not like he was raising babies as a teenager or anything. He didn't babysit or have many nieces or nephews and he didn't have any experience with kids - but he just decided he could do the whole father thing and did it. I learned very quickly that I could count on him to change some of the diapers, take the baby out when he got home from work and I desperately needed some alone time, swing a crying newborn who was just crying for no discernible reason (without getting stressed out), talk through decisions with me, and support my decisions when I needed him to back me up and boost my confidence. 

This is not a comprehensive list, and I'm sure it will continue to evolve as our relationship does, but I love discovering new things that matter and are wonderful. (Also, happy birthday honey!) 

What have you discovered matters/doesn't matter to you? 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Confessions of an Awkward Date: Part III

I've saved the best for last, and this one is a doozy.

In May of 2005 I was 19 years old, attending BYU-Idaho. The summer semester had just started, and I was finding my footing after a semester at home, working to pay for school. You might remember from confession part one, that I had sent a boy off on a mission, and he was still very much gone, and very much missed.

On Saturday night, first week of school I had just gotten out of a hot bath, I was in my pajamas, and I'm sure I had a bowl of popcorn, sitting down to watch a chick flick by myself. You know. The typical night for a college student who'd given up on a social life at the ripe old age of 19. My cell rang. It was my biology lab partner, Adam, whom I'd met just days before.

"Hey, what's up?" I asked.

"I was wondering if you wanted to go out on a date tonight. I could pick you up in about thirty minutes. Some friends and I are going to a bon fire out at the sand dunes."

I didn't want to go out on a date. Not with him. Not with anyone. I was in my pajamas. So I stalled. I said I'd ask if my roomates had plans that night. I stepped away from my cell phone and tried to come up with a stellar excuse. My mind was an empty fog of nothingness. I couldn't refuse.

"Yeah, sounds great. I'll see you in a little bit."

So I rushed off and got ready as quick as I could. I had no make up, wet hair, and somehow I was able to get ready for a date in less than 20 minutes.

I waited. And waited. And waited some more. He was 30 minutes late before he called. Our embarrassing conversation is seared in my mind for all eternity, and this is exactly how it went:

"Hi. It's Adam."

"Yep. Hi."

Empty silence.

"Umm, who is this?"

What. In. The. World. He didn't know who I was. He didn't know who he'd asked out on a date. My superior feelings of charity for going out with this guy when I didn't want to were quickly fading.

"This is Melissa." Nothing. "Marsden." Nothing. "Your lab partner."

"Oh. OH okay. I'll be right over."

While I had been waiting for him to arrive, He'd gone to pick up the girl he though he'd invited on a date, waited around for her before asking why she wasn't getting ready. Found out he'd never called Katie, he'd called some random girl named Melissa. He decided it would be rude to take Katie, the girl he was dating, so he came to pick me up. How generous.

I was feeling pretty stupid by this point. After all, even though I didn't want to go on a date with him, I was extremely attracted to him. Now that I knew I wasn't his choice, I was his accident, I was embarrassed.

You know what though? After the initial mortification had worn off, we had a great time. And almost a decade later we are still having a good time. Because he married me. Take that, Katie.
An awkward confession deserves and awkward photo to go along with it. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

How to Talk to Women

We thought about making some super cute Valentine's for you guys to use or sharing some inspirational stories of true love with you, but when we looked over our collective output as a blog team, we discovered that we mostly had a ridiculous collection of advice and stories, with the occasional touching bit here and there, so that's what we'll be sharing with you over the next few weeks. We can direct you to those other things if you'd like later. Happy month o' love! We'll let Paige kick it off as only Paige can. 

In honor of the month of love I thought I would give you all a little gift. My husband has some excellent tips on how to talk to women. It's an art form really, one that he has carefully mastered, and since Valentine's Day is approaching, I thought I would share some of his pearls of wisdom with you.

When your wife cooks a loving meal for you, here are several suggestions of things to say:

My personal favorite-
"This doesn't taste like my mom makes it."

"Oh it's great baby." (A promising start...)
"But it would be much better with different ingredients."

Describing the dinner I had prepared to our dinner guests-
"It's a curry dish." Pause...
"But not like authentic curry...."

Before even tasting it-
"It looks wonderful baby. But maybe next time let's make it differently."

Discussing our Thanksgiving travel plans and deciding we were going to stay home-
Me: That will be fine. I can cook Thanksgiving dinner for us!
Josh: I'll call around and see what restaurants are open.


Ideas for finessing your pregnant wife:

One night I was in tears crying about how big I was and I told Josh I looked like a walrus.
"Oh baby you don't look like a walrus!" (Another promising start)
"You don't have any tusks."
I patiently waited for more reasons but that was the end of the list.

After complaining to Josh that no one had given me the compliment that I was "glowing."
"You're glowing honey." Pause...
"Actually you're more glazed.
Like a doughnut."

After asking Josh if another pregnant woman with the same due date was skinner than I was-
"Well.... Um.... Well... She's probably just not as hungry as you are."

One day I stopped at KFC on the way home from work because I constantly craved their potato wedges and used to order the family size for just me. I called Josh to tell him I was going to be late coming home.
Me: I had to park and wait because they had to cook more wedges.
Josh: Well they probably didn't know you were coming, next time you should call and let them know ahead of time.

Josh and I were at a burger place and I had finished my french fries and desperately wanted to order another order but I was embarrassed and I wanted him to tell me it was ok.
Me: Do you think anyone ever orders two things of french fries?
Josh: Maybe people that are on documentaries about obesity.

Almost a year after giving birth I came across an old picture of myself pregnant.
Me: Wow. I think I was maybe the largest pregnant woman that has ever lived.
Josh: Yep.
Me: What?! I even asked you when I was pregnant and you said I was normal sized!
Josh: Of course I was going to lie to you. You were bigger than me. 


Always take the opportunity to comment on how much women can eat. Ladies love that.

One day we went to Five Guys and I ordered a double cheeseburger and the cashier asked me if I was sure I wanted that (what kind of a jerk says that by the way) but before I could say anything Josh responded-
"Don't worry, she can really put it away."

One day we were driving along in silence and I asked Josh what he was thinking about.
Josh: I think I'm going to buy stock in Frito-Lay.
Me: How come?
Josh: Because you alone are always going to keep them in business.

At a new restaurant one night, the waiter brought our food out and I was surprised at the portions-
Me: Wow. This is a ton of food! How am I going to eat it all?
Josh: I'm sure you'll find a way.


Other ideas of how to sweet talk your significant other during every day life:

I have a floral patterned shirt that I like to wear, I've had it for years and Josh had never said anything about it until one day-
Me: Have you seen my floral shirt anywhere?
Josh: You mean Mildred?
Me: What?
Josh: That's what I named your old lady shirt.

One day I located the nearest drive-in movie theater and excitedly asked Josh if he wanted to go-
Josh: Oh ummm.... With just you or with other people too?
Me: Just me.
Josh: No thanks.

One day I was bummed about something and I told Josh that I felt like everyone hated me-
"What are you talking about? No one hates you!" Pause...
"Except this person and this person and this person, oh and all of our neighbors...."

And lastly, we were having dinner with a new couple we had just met, I was talking to the wife and Josh was talking to the husband, I listened in to their conversation just long enough to hear this little gem-
Other husband: Oh your wife runs? She should go running with my wife!
Josh: Well she runs, but not very far. Or very fast.