Suburban Snapshots

With Love for "Dotter"

Sunday, October 28, 2012

We start our days, we kiss our families, drink our coffee, send spouses off to work and wait impatiently for children to dress for school. We take for granted the comfortably routine, where even the morning's frustrations feel soft and familiar.

On Thursday afternoon, this appeared in my news feed:

My routine of sitting down to work stubbornly didn't want to be interrupted. Surely I'd been misreading Bridget's blog for the past 2 years, surely where I believed all this time that "Dotter" was her child, she must have actually been a family pet. This is in no one's plan. This is neither comfortable nor routine. This can't be.

But my denial was evicted with the air leaving my chest, the involuntary contorting of my lips, unseated by the reality that a woman I've known through 2 years of shared stories, comments, and emails, had suffered the loss that we all spend so much time trying not to consider, the one that compels us buy $500 car seats and wait with our kids at the bus stop. It's the reason we don't watch the news anymore, it's why we pay for swimming lessons and bicycle helmets.

On Wednesday evening, Bridget lost her 11-year-old daughter in a car accident. Her bright, thoughtful, generous daughter, taken in a horrible instant.

I've never met Bridget in person, but over 2 years she's made me spit-take onto my laptop, she's told stories about her dad and sister that have doubled me over, she's posted hilarious texts from her husband and teenage daughter that I've dictated to my husband between guffaws, and on several occasions she's silenced me with gasping laughter.

Over 2 years I've admired her as a writer — today I grieve for her as a mother.

Please help us support Bridget and her family. We've set up a fundraiser to cover practical expenses so that they have time to heal with one less worry. Any donations, prayers, and kind thoughts are welcome. Donate here until November 2nd, leave your messages in comments. Thank you.

The 5 Stages of a Family
Photo Shoot

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Twice a year I go from being a laid-back mom with a sink full of dishes and a duvet full of socks to an all-out, Type-A, this shit is B-A-N-A-N-A-S Stepford Wife; those two times are on Anna's birthday and at Christmas.

I photograph and design Anna's party invites and our holiday card. I don't do themes, but there are special outfits and picturesque locations and the expectation that my family will humor me for just half a bleeping hour so I can get this thing shot. Sometimes I include our dogs because apparently I hate myself.

So off to my mom's we went. She's got a huge, pretty yard with acres all dressed up for fall in New England. The drive up was the last part of my plan that went smoothly.

Anna hadn't napped. We'd been running around most of the day so that by the time I'd bribed pleaded threatened convinced her to put on her picture outfit she was despondent about wearing The Godforsaken Hat. I forgot to pack my own make up and had to make do with my mom's -- she still uses the kind of eyeliner you have to soften with a match. While I was busy trying not to set my face on fire, Anna found a bag of Cheetos. When Steve pointed out that she'd caked her fingers in dayglo-orange dust, she did what any other 4 year old would do and wiped them on her new, cream colored, cable knit dress.

Once he got her cleaned up and I called MENSA to see about preschool enrollment, I handed the camera to my mom and we headed outside. I anticipated a quick, reasonable session. Here instead are the 5 Stages of a Family Photo Shoot:

Stage 1: Vogueing

Stage 2: Godforsaken Hat tossing

Stage 3: Impromptu choreography

Stage 4: Resignation

Stage 5: Amazement that something this beautiful could possibly be mine

But shit you guys, I've got a long night of Photoshop ahead of me.

Learning to b Positive:
A Giveaway

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Right now, I have friends who are dealing with excruciatingly bad circumstances. I know families coping with devastating illness. I love people who are experiencing losses, and struggling through hardships. I know some amazing humans who I look at and wonder how they function each day -- regular people who are braver than any movie hero, as strong as any soldier, and tougher than I hope I ever have to be.

And I guess the thing that keeps them from collapsing in on themselves is their ability to be hopeful, to see the positive in what those of us on the outside consider hopeless. Because life isn't always good, and it's not always fair, and frankly, sometimes it sucks pretty hard.

The b Positive Project was created out of a desire to help families stuck in difficult situations. Its founder wasn't in a great spot in his own life and decided that instead of wallowing in misery, he'd send some kids in-need to a baseball game. His plan worked, it succeeded beyond his expectations, and so he kept going. And he's still going.

What I love about the b Positive Project is that it doesn't sell the message that life is awesome all the time, but that even in the midst of life kind of sucking, there's goodness. There's laughter, there's still life. "In light of adversity, b Positive."

I'm no hippie, but I believe it. I've seen people find reserves of positivity during some overwhelmingly bad times. I have friends who are there right now. Somehow, they keep going.

If you think there's some truth to this and want to wear the message, leave a comment to be entered for a b Positive tee. They're soft, comfy, and cut to be flattering (I can only speak for women's, but assume the same goes for men's.) I'll choose a winner on Friday the 19th at 9 a.m. 12 p.m. ET.

So next time you're about to end a status update with my recent pet peeve, "FML", consider what's going right for you, get a little perspective, and see if you can't b Positive.

FYI: I don't share or use any email addresses you provide when commenting. I'm not that savvy.

Despite the Fact that My Dogs Don't Read Or Understand English

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Hey dogs, let's talk.

First, listen. I know one of you is gravely ill. I'm heartbroken over it and despite everything I'm about to say to the three of you I will miss you every day once you're gone, Bertie. But you know, we've been SUPER extra nice to you lately; giving you more treats than the others, letting you take up half of our bed despite your recent snoring episodes, and only cursing you out a little bit when you beg to go outside and then come scratching at the door .003 seconds after I sit back down. And yet I continue to clean up turds that are distinctively yours from every room in this house. I'm taking care of you, Bert, and you are literally shitting all over me.

Which is an excellent segue: I need all of you to stop shitting indoors. You know, this is your house too, you little ingrates. The poop doesn't pick itself up and throw itself down the toilet, that's ME, the woman who adopted you (That man who lives here? I ambushed him with every single one of you and Stella before you. True story.), feeds you, spends money for your care, provides cozy blankets for snuggling and occasionally notices that your water bowl is empty. And listen, I can handle the random accident -- just today the smaller female human peed in her pants at school because she wouldn't put down the Etch-a-Sketch and walk to the toilet. I know sometimes we leave you for longer than we expect and you just can't hold it. But when you roam the yard for 10 full minutes only to come inside, slink into the kid's room and drop one on her shag rug? That is just inexcusable. And goddamn, why are the rug bombs always so mushy?

Also, I know you guys love my cooking, and I love tossing you the occasional chicken heart or sausage end. Know what I don't love? I don't love almost falling ass over tea kettle literally onto the boiling tea kettle because you won't stop herding me, waiting for food to fall. Boys, you are Dachshunds, not Shepherds. If you doubt this fact just try and climb the stairs on those fat little thumbs you call legs. Now, out of my kitchen before I get the squirt bottle.

In closing, let me just say that despite the above complaints we really do love having you guys around. You're class-A snugglers, you're freaking adorable, and you're very good to the smallest resident human (I appreciate your tolerance for her aggressive affection; I see the panic in your eyes, I know what you tolerate.) I'm comforted by the familiar sound of your paws clicking up and down the hardwood floors, though I'm not as fond of the familiar sound of your nightly synchronized butt-licking.

Dogs, I will fulfill my promise to care for you and love you until you're all neatly lined up in mahogany boxes on the mantle, and even after that. I'll continue to share my bed, my dinner, and my paycheck with you, and frankly, I don't think requesting that I not step in your crap on my way to a midnight pee is too much to ask in return. Deal? 

Because if I don't Talk About Sex I'm Going to Talk About Dog Poop

Monday, October 01, 2012

I'm finding myself talking a lot about sex lately with married girlfriends. It's dirty and fascinating and sometimes sad, because often the situation isn't a balanced one.

Whenever I post status updates about Steve's advances, one or two comments will say something along the lines of, "I'd like to have that problem." And while the reality of a husband too tired for or uninterested in sex isn't one I live in, I am close with women who are there now, or who've dealt with it, argued over it, been frustrated and sometimes angered by it.

I also have friends who struggle with guilt over their own indifference to sex, or who don't feel guilty about it at all given the work they do for their households and just wish their husbands would roll over and go to sleep for a change. And there are others where neither spouse is particularly motivated toward physical intimacy and content to live mostly as loving, committed companions.

Steve and I have been in a couple of these places. There were months when I felt I could easily do without, but tried not to let more than 3 weeks pass because the nagging guilt would finally get to me. There have been a couple rare occasions when he's been too stressed out or exhausted and I've let him sleep instead. There were months when anytime we could get Anna to spend quality time with Nick Jr. we'd sneak off for 15 minutes, and date nights that could have resulted in really embarrassing moving violations (pun not intended but awesome).

If our parents are still reading: YOU KNEW THE RISKS.

We still have those moments, and through our most prolific stint -- owed largely to our time in counseling and a whole lot of learning about marriage and each other -- I've gotten better at seeing sex not as a chore and instead as one of the ways we maintain our relationship as a couple and not strictly as two people relentlessly responsible for raising a third human. It's also a delightful addition to my regular workout routine of bending over several times a day to pick up dog shit and dust bunnies.

I like our pace, even the waxes and wanes. What's working now is that Steve figured out what I needed and I figured out how to respond to what he needs. We enjoy each other and have stupid fun together. There are still nights when the familiar hand on my hip causes me to roll my eyes in the dark, anything but in the mood, but now there's no tension, just a quick swat and a rain check.

Where do you fall? Ebbs, flows, aggravation, stress, are you like teenagers on weekends? All the time? Do you talk about it? (Note to my parents: DO NOT ANSWER THIS and WHY ARE YOU EVEN STILL READING?) I wonder how we all manage, and how we can help each other do better.