Monday, August 31, 2015

When You Can't Stand Your Husband's Favorite Thing

Please indulge me a minute as I begin this post with a ridiculous metaphor:

It's like sitting in a crowded auditorium in, let's say, Switzerland, watching two presidential candidates debate in German. They are arguing back and forth and the audience interjects applause or disapproval at appropriate times, and I get the feeling that even if I happened to speak German I would scarcely understand the policies over which they are debating anyway. Honestly, they could elect a St. Bernard to run the country for all I care.

Actually, a man debating a St. Bernard would make for a much more entertaining event. Certainly the St. Bernard would have wonderfully heroic stories of rescuing stranded skiers on the slopes.

I begin to imagine myself lost on a freezing Alpine mountain, overwhelmed by the looming threat of death, but looking quite stylish and not-at-all-fat in my svelte new ski suit (WHATEVER IT'S MY BLOG).
Oh look! It's me!
Suddenly, I hear the distant bark of a friendly St. Bernard who guides me to safety. My husband is so grateful that he promises to never ever take me to another Swiss presidential debate and we spend the rest of the trip feeding each other fondue in our mountain top chalet.

Actually, I'm not even sure the Swiss  have presidents. Or St. Bernards. The only things I know for sure about Switzerland is that they ski a lot and eat fondue. At least they do in my blog.

I have never visited Switzerland, but I have been to several sporting events with my husband and I have found them about as enthralling and as difficult to decipher as two middle aged persons arguing in German. 
Statue of famous baseball dude. I assume.
Usually when I accompany John to a sporting event there is always a moment in the car when he reaches over, grasps my hand and holds my gaze with a silent smile. I have decided he does this for one of two reasons: either he is temporarily overcome with his undying love for me or, more likely, he is offering up a silent prayer that I please, please not embarrass him with my complete and utter ignorance of all things athletic.

I like sports about as much as John likes art museums or musicals. Sometimes I feel terribly sorry that he didn't marry a wife who is more interested in sports. I bet a sporty wife would know all the appropriate times to yell things like "c'mon Ref!" or "where's the flag?!" A sporty wife would not ask him cringe-worthy questions at a basketball game like "how many more innings are there?" Or, at a hockey tournament, loudly inquire in front of his friends "does this mean they are going to do an instant death round?"  If you do not understand why those questions would make someone grimace then I love you and we should be best friends. 

If you know my husband at all then you know he is a die-hard fan of the Baltimore Orioles which, I have learned, is a professional baseball team. Even though we live a few states away, he manages to make it to a couple games a year and last summer he even managed to con me into following the Orioles to Chicago for our anniversary trip.

John has told me that he would one day like for us to retire to Baltimore. He has a grand vision of us buying an apartment downtown, becoming season ticket holders and following the O's around the country for away games. 

I told him I'd rather retire to Guantanamo Bay. Then I felt bad of course, because he really is passionate about this baseball team. I mean, he swears he loves me more, but when I suggested he get a tattoo that said "I love Anna more than baseball" he wasn't exactly on board. 
Which way back to the hotel??
He has also always wanted to visit Camden Yards (the Orioles' stadium) on opening day which, unlike the retirement plan, was something I could get behind. In fact, he referred to it as a "lifelong dream." Naturally, I encouraged him to make it happen because you must always encourage someone's lifelong dream. Consequently, one of my lifelong dreams is to take a Mediterranean luxury cruise. Just think of it, I mentioned to John, we can revel at the beauty of the Ancient Greek ruins! We can explore antiquities in Istanbul! We will tour the colorful Amalfi Coast with Alessandro, our personal Italian guide !! John looked at me incredulously and said, "But the O's don't play in the Mediterranean."

And that is how I ended up in Baltimore this past April on opening day with my husband and 2 boys. (Some amazing family members volunteered to keep our two-year-old and because of them our trip actually felt like a vacation, so THANK YOU, FAMILY.)

John assured me that opening day at a ballpark would be magical. He promised the excitement and electricity in the atmosphere would be unparalleled to any other game I had attended, and as we entered the gates, merging into a buzzing sea of orange and black, I thought he might be right. Maybe this was the day that the greatness of baseball would be revealed to me and I would finally fall in love with the game and OH MY GOSH ARE THOSE CRAB NACHOS?!?

Oh yes, I did.
My usual method of watching a sporting event generally goes something like this:
1. Focus on the game
2. Immediately begin thinking of something else
3. Try to clap when our team seems happy
4. Combat boredom by taking periodic trips to the bathroom
5. Cry happy tears of relief when it is all over

(Oddly, John employs a very similar coping strategy whenever I drag him to a musical theater performance.)

However, I was determined that on this day, on opening day, surrounded by my loves, I would be so enraptured by the magic of the game I would not lose focus for one single second. I was feeling quite optimistic when we settled into our seats. Sure, the temperature was hovering around 48 degrees and my fingers were starting to go numb, but I was ready to show my support for the team by scarfing down every last white-cheddar-and-lump-crab-covered kettle chip as the players took their places.

Actually, I couldn't help but wonder if the chill in the air was slowing down the players, who seemed to keep the game moving at an even slower pace than normal. We watched as the pitcher threw the first ball. We watched the batter not swing at the ball. The pitcher threw another ball. The batter did not swing. All of this throwing and not swinging took about 27 minutes. I'm sorry if this description is a little boring, but just imagine how it felt actually living through it.

Finally, they let the poor guy walk to first base and a new player stepped up to the plate for another round of throwing and not hitting and throwing and OH MY GOSH IS THAT A CRAB AND MAC-N-CHEESE HOT DOG?  

 It was. Apparently it is a legal requirement to include crab in every dish in Baltimore.

In fact, that very morning at a popular local diner I ordered the Crab Cake and Fried Green Tomato Eggs Benedict and declared that I had found the thing I am going to eat for brunch in heaven.
They even serve a Crabby Bloody Mary because IT'S THE LAW.
You know where else has a lot of crab? The Meditteranean. At the thought of a tropical paradise, I couldn't help but imagine strolling down an exotic Maltese beach, looking very stylish and not-at-all-fat in my colorful sarong and coordinating bathing suit. I am enraptured by the dazzling blue waters when my foot is abruptly and precariously caught between two jagged rocks and, horror of horrors, the tide is rising rapidly. Alessandro, our personal Italian guide, hears my screams and leaps into action, trying but failing to free my foot. All hope seems lost when suddenly, another figure emerges. "Get back, Alessandro! This is my wife WHOM I LOVE MORE THAN BASEBALL and I will be the one to save her from a watery grave!"

And right before I could concoct the perfect rescue scene, I was jolted from my daydream by a deafening roar from the crowd. Everyone was on their feet ecstatically cheering for our team and I had no idea why. I didn't even know which inning it was or how many outs there were or if we were even winning or not.

However, I was composed enough to snap a picture of my heroic husband hoisting our middle child in the air to celebrate the moment.
Forget famous baseball dude, they need a statue of these cute guys. 
And, it turns out, that moment was my favorite part of the entire trip.

It wasn't the electricity of the crowd or the phenomenal play that I will remember. I doubt I will ever appreciate the game the way he does, but in that moment I was filled with happiness and excitement simply because he was happy too.

Maybe we don't need to be passionate about all the same things, as long as we are passionate about each other.

Just then Jack leaned over and asked, "Did you see that double play, Mom? That was awesome."

I replied with a blank stare at first and then a smile slowly began to spread across my face as I realized what I just heard. Not the thing about the double play, whatever that is, but the fact that my 5-year-old is somehow more knowledgeable about baseball than I will probably ever be AND HE THINKS BASEBALL IS AWESOME.

This is huge.  There is at least one other person in our family with whom John can share his love of baseball. And it is not me! Our marriage is saved.

I reached over, gave Jack a big hug and said, "Yes, that was an awesome double play."

And, with a sigh and a smile, I let my mind wander where it pleased.

I should probably start planning that Mediterranean cruise.

Bye, Baltimore! I'm sure we'll be back!
Just not for retirement.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Moments that Moms Need Most

It was Saturday night. The kids were finally in bed. The mess called dinner had been wiped up, rinsed off and the dishwasher hummed softly. The bathwater had been drained and the plastic toys stacked precariously along the sides of the tub.

I gathered discarded clothing and forlorn playthings in my arms as I made the trek up the stairs. There was a baseball game on TV. My husband sat engrossed, directing the players as if they could hear him (a quality I've always found endearing, personally). It was the top of the 8th inning, which meant absolutely nothing to me except that the game would last at least 30 more minutes, which really meant that I would have 30 minutes ALL TO MYSELF.

The thought of 30 restful minutes by myself with no interruptions sent me rushing up the stairs with the hurried enthusiasm of a young child who has discovered his mother's stash of sour gummy worms and must stuff them all into his mouth before she gets out of the bathroom. #truestory

I jumped into bed, burrowed in the covers, surrounded myself with pillows and propped my laptop on my knees. This is my go-to form of relaxation, "internesting," as John calls it. I sighed deeply, relishing the moment, and flipped open the computer screen, ready to kick off a killer Saturday night. What first? Should I catch up on some blog reading? Organize my photos? Right after I check Facebook...

And then I heard it. That one sweet word which is so filled with love and tenderness, until it is uttered after 9:00pm with the same inflection as a dying cat.

"Maa-mee? Maaaaaa-meeeeeeeee??" the little voice pleaded, peeking around my bedroom door.

GAAAHHHH!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! WHY???? is what I wanted to yell very loudly, but instead, with uncanny restraint that should probably earn me some sort of medal, I quelled my exhaustion and frustration enough to hiss between clenched teeth, "NOW WHAT IS IT?"

"Mommy, I just want to give you one more good-night hug."

I eyed him suspiciously. This was approximately his 27th request since being tucked in. Against my better judgement I ever-so-tenderly barked, "ok, fine, but make it quick."

 My son slowly sauntered over to my side of the bed. He set his worn, blue blankie on my lap, wrapped both arms around my neck and squeezed tightly. My laptop slipped off my knees as I returned the embrace. Maybe it was because he had just turned six, or maybe it was the way his once-tiny body now practically ran the length of my own as he crawled in beside me, but something sent a pang through my heart as I watched him.

"Do you wanna hear all the X-Men I know?" he asked. Stall tactic number 28.

"How do you know about X-Men?" I replied, taking the bait.

"My friend from swim lessons. He knows all of them. There's Wolverine and Cyclops, they're good, and Magneto is the bad guy and he has the coolest superpower..."

But I was only half listening. My brain was confused. Wasn't he just two years old, toddling around the house with a paci and this same raggedy blanket? I must be really exhausted. I blinked and shook my head to clear the fog, but there he still was, nearly 4 feet tall and using words like "magnetic forcefield." He will be starting real, official, all-day Kindergarten in a few short days. He is reading and writing, swimming and biking. I can see the young man he is becoming and yet, here he still sits with all his baby teeth, rubbing the silk of his old blankie.

On a whim I reached up and gripped his tiny bottom tooth with two fingers. To both of our shock and amazement, it wiggled.

"JAAAAAACK!" I screamed, breaking out of my stupor, "YOU HAVE A LOOSE TOOTH!!!"

A dumbfounded giggle was all he could manage until his father walked in the room. "DADDY!! I HAVE A LOOSE TOOTH!!"

I glanced at John and immediately recognized the same look of throat-catching disbelief spreading across his face; not that he couldn't believe his son's tooth was loose, but that he had failed to realize our firstborn child was now old enough to have a loose tooth.

I am not normally the weepy mama. I didn't shed a tear at the first preschool drop-off or when they moved to big boy beds or even at any of their births. It's not that I'm an unfeeling robot, I think it's more that I have a control freak tendency to brace myself against these typical tear-jerking moments. Conversely, something sappy will catch me off guard and I will end up weeping into my potato chips over a Hallmark commercial. Or the stupid Giving Tree book. Don't you see, kids? The tree gave EVERYTHING to the boy (sob) and the tree was (sob) HAPPY. Is this not a metaphor for our lives??

This is probably why I did not need a tissue for preschool graduation, but now I began to choke back sobs over one tiny wiggly tooth. And don't tell him I told you so, but John suddenly needed his t-shirt to wipe something out of his eyes.

Jack glanced between the two of us, not sure what to make of the sudden outburst of emotion. "Um, are you guys ok?"


I took this to remember these brothers with all their baby teeth.

Also, I may print it out and clutch it to my chest as I uncharacteristically weep throughout the entire first day of Kindergarten.
Then Henry, unable to sleep with all the commotion, came barreling in to investigate and it took all but 5 seconds for the boys to end up a tangle of limbs and giggles, steamrolling my nest of pillows in the process. Also, the term 'boys' includes their 6 foot 3 inch father, whom it appeared was having the most fun of all in this spontaneous wrestling match. 

I tried to shush in between belly laughs, Shhhhh! You'll wake up the baby!, although it almost seemed a shame she was missing all the fun...almost.

The baseball game was over, as were any hopes of a restful half hour to myself, only now, it didn't so much matter to me anymore.

I did not get the chance to relax that night, but when I finally did go to bed, I felt invigorated and inexplicably happy.

I suppose there is no rest for the weary mom, but instead we have these moments. And these God-given moments are even better.

These moments of laughter fill me up until my heart overflows with contentment. These occasions of togetherness are the answers to a prayer I didn't even know my heart had prayed and they keep me going day after day. These bittersweet instances remind me of the brevity of childhood and leave me longing for more of these moments.

These are the moments that I need most.