Suburban Snapshots

It's Not Like I'm Serving
Frozen Pot Pies

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm not posting a list of things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving, though it is lengthy and names just about everyone who's been a part of my life this year. Instead, I have a confession.

This year, I ordered my Thanksgiving dinner.

That's right, all of it. From the turkey to the cranberries to the pie. "What next?" you might be thinking, "A personal assistant?" But no. This year we had no idea what we'd do for Thanksgiving. My mom will be marching in the Macy's parade (as a safari clown, and despite standing in front of the TV through every tiresome dance routine, there will be no glimpse of her, and she probably won't have the opportunity to ask Anderson Cooper to flex for her or to see how tall Matt Lauer is in real life) which means she won't be cooking.

We try to stay local to get the most out of the long weekend and also because neither of us is particularly fond of spending eleven hours in the car for a four-hour trip (true story). Steve suggested that instead of hoping my sister's relatives would take us in and send us home with conveniently packaged leftovers, we host dinner ourselves. I was raised to believe that if there aren't fifteen people crammed around an eight-person table, if you can actually hear the conversation you're involved in, it's not a holiday.

I invited our neighborhood friends and any relatives whose plans might still be up in the air -- in my family, there's a good chance that plans are up in the air until someone's actually carving a turkey. And it turns out we'll have a nice group of six adults, three kids, and a small after-party to finish up our case of Two-Buck Chuck.

At first I wanted to attempt the fifty-mile Thanksgiving, where any food we ate would be raised or farmed within fifty miles of our town. Then I wanted an organic turkey, but that seemed silly when I also wanted my grandmother's stuffing, which uses an entire tube of Jimmy Dean sausage. And there has to be pasta and sauce.

Then a friend told me that a restaurant up the road was packaging entire dinners to go. I looked at my collection of pots, all of which were in the sink, opened my tiny, vegetarian oven, peered into my fridge, full but stocked only with questionable Rubbermaid containers and expired salad dressings, and I made the call.

I'll still prepare the pasta and meatballs myself, so even with someone else doing most of the cooking the mess in my kitchen will be authentic, and the gathering at my table will be raucous and joyful.

Happy Thanksgiving to every one of you and your families.

Fell in Love with a Girl

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I haven't written specifically about Anna lately mostly because she's been super awesome and I didn't want to be the mom who's like, "Oh my GAWD you guys, everything my kid does lately is the best thing EVAR!"

She's in ballet now, and my previous gender-neutral, zero-princess-tolerance self cannot even stand how sweet she looks in the pale pink leotard and tights, tall with thin arms and legs, no question that she's her father's daughter. She's still clumsy but eager to perform her improvised spins and leaps for the teachers, crash landing while the rest of the class practices pliƩ-and-stretch.

She actually eats things — whole things — though some days those whole things might be whole bags of Pirate's Booty. She's found my sucker button, the one she's pushing when trying to stay up later than normal and she says to me, "Mama, I really missed you while you were away on that trip." She drops her head and looks at me out the very top of her eyes, lips in a perfect frown, buying herself ten more minutes on the couch.

Over the summer when she sat rapt through a two-plus hour local production of The Wizard of Oz, she also started paying attention through entire movies. Now I'll overhear her singing songs from Tangled, from school, from the radio, and I realize that she's picking up a lot more than either of us thought.

And she's funny as hell. Not just when she's being overly dramatic because I won't let her wear her ballet slippers outside, or when she's dancing like a tranq-darted wallaby, but on purpose. She writes her own material, "Mom, have you ever heard of a TOASTER crossing the road?" There's no punchline, but she laughs so hard I can count her teeth. When she tells these with friends it starts a chain of bad-joke telling and hysterics. I've witnessed it, and it makes me proud.

Three started off a little rough, but heading into four she's pretty much everything I imagined any daughter of mine would be. I still see each of us in her, but so much of what I glimpse is her own little self; her klutzy, joyous, beautiful little self.

Back to Our Regularly
Scheduled Programming

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Now that I'm not home by myself five nights a week armed only with my iPhone and a wooden spoon, I'm free to write about how badly it sucked being at home by myself five nights a week.

It sucked out loud.

It sucked far more for Steve, who actually had to be awake all night, then somehow manage to de-zombify long enough to keep Anna out of harm's way two days a week while also participating in fun family activities on weekends, when all his body wanted to do was collapse on itself and slip into a deep, quiet coma.

His shift was from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m., so he'd walk in the door just as Anna and I were waking up. Usually she'd want nothing to do with him and would figuratively and then literally kick him square in the nuts when he'd come to lie with us in the morning. I'd get her ready and off to school, then sit to work and listen to Steve's apneic breathing until around 2. It felt lonelier having him home and unconscious than it did having him off at work. When he accepted the third shift I thought, we are going to be together every. waking. hour. But I ended up seeing even less of him than if he'd been on the nine-to-five — turns out there weren't many waking hours.

In our previous routine I had a husband who was awake and lucid for several hours per day. He'd do dishes, laundry, he'd vacuum. And then his position changed and for three months he slept, and when he was awake he wanted to sleep, and when he was alert he was kind of cranky. We'd bicker more, the house was a mess, we couldn't go out to weeknight dinners or rent movies, we'd have rushed sex in the time between getting Anna to sleep and sending Steve out the door (admittedly this wasn't all bad.)

It was three months that felt like forever, they were exhausting, I kept remembering that this wasn't a temporary situation but an indefinite one and tried to get used to the idea. Steve really liked the work and after a tough year, he was feeling good about being out there hunting and gathering again.

Thankfully Steve landed a new job working half a mile from home with a schedule that gets him through the door by 3:30 p.m. He has real benefits that include time off and a 401(k), movies at night and spontaneous dinners out. Anna still doesn't want to see him in the morning, but I'm more than happy to not be alone at night (she types from a hotel room sixty miles away).

I'm happiest for him, glad that our family is on a reasonable schedule again, and I have a ton of respect for the tired, dedicated people who keep this place running while the rest of us tuck into empty beds, waiting to be woken by the sweet sound of your keys in the door.

Spousal Communications

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

If you've been in a relationship for longer than twenty minutes, you know that many exchanges with a significant other require some interpretation. Below are helpful translations of common household interactions.

The Husband Subtext Decoder:

"I cleaned while you were gone." = "Anything I had to hand wash is still sitting in the sink fermenting what will eventually become the key ingredient in a herpes vaccine."

"It's not in there, I checked." = "When I opened the cabinet door and gingerly moved my head from right to left, then promptly exited the room, I didn't see the thing I was looking for."

"Do you want me to make dinner?" = "I'd rather cook than finish the hand-washing in the sink, because what the crap is growing on that stuff?"

"Does this shirt look okay?" = "Does this shirt increase my chances of having sex with you later?"

"I have to run to Home Depot, need anything while I'm out?" = "I hope you don't need anything while I'm out, because chances are I'll take longer than the Donner Party and I already forgot what you asked for."

The Wife Subtext Decoder:

"I'm making such a good dinner tonight." = "I'mma dirty every single pot and pan we own, even the good ones that need to be washed by hand."

"I did all the laundry." = "Which is now sitting in four laundry baskets getting wrinklier than Joan Rivers' real face."

"Give me five minutes, I just have to do a work thing." = "I just posted a picture to Facebook and I'm compulsively refreshing my page until somebody comments."

"Check out my new jeans." = "The comfort and fulfillment of your penis relies heavily on your reaction."

"I'm running to Target for a birthday card, I'll be right back." = "We have at least eighty dollars in the account, right?"