Suburban Snapshots

Fall Stuff I Like
No Pumpkin Anything Edition

Thursday, September 25, 2014

This post is not sponsored, it's just fall, and each season I find myself changing wardrobes and learning to love new things (tights) and let go of others (shaving). Here's what I like lately — some of them are splurges but I never splurge unless: It will match everything else I own/I will wear, use or carry it almost daily/I can hide it from Steve.

1. Rent the Runway ($30-$300) I've rented two dresses and joined the Pro program because it saved me $50 on my anniversary rental. Granted, I could easily buy a nice frock or two at Marshalls for what it costs to rent one (mine were about $100), but I've never worn dresses that felt so amazing on my body. The customer service is excellent despite the lack of a published phone number. My emails are always met with a pleasant response and if needed, a quick reconciliation. I'm making up excuses to rent dresses now.

2. American Apparel leggings ($28-$38) I am not a small person, and I mean that (See below. That's me with a fully-grown adult man.) I'm almost six-feet tall and roughly 35-30-46. Dat azz makes it hard for me to find things like tights, undies, bikini bottoms (sub-shout-out to Athleta's Full Tide bottom), and leggings that fit well, don't bind and are long enough. I take an XL in these  and they are so comfy, they don't slide down, they haven't yet stretched out, and compared to the $12 pair I bought from Old Navy that tore in two wears and were capri-length on me, worth their price. I have both winter-weight and jersey versions and they are constantly on laundry rotation. These are a key part of my fall/winter Mom Uniform.

3. Pack-It lunch bag ($20) A friend recommended these to me when Anna's camp lunch kept getting hot during the day, and my daughter who eats exactly two food items would come home with most of her lunch intact because, "It got mushy." Her tin lunchbox felt like an armpit. You've got to remember to put the Pack It overnight in the freezer and you have to wash it by hand when it comes home full of grass clippings and stained with let's-not-even-ask, but it does what it says and keeps her lunch cool for hours. They also have excellent customer service.

4. Timolino tumbler ($25, I know, but read) I googled "best travel mug" and this was America's Test Kitchen's top pick. So I bought one for Steve, promptly filled it each morning before he could ("Why does my tea mug smell like coffee?" — Steve), and bought a second because he kept sulking at me. I am not lying when I tell you that I can fill this with coffee at 8 a.m. and still have a warm sip in the bottom at 3 p.m. I wouldn't close the lid and toss it full into a briefcase, but I can close the lid and shake it to mix the cream up without so much as a drop escaping. It's also fun to watch the people in line next to me shield themselves when I do that. The mouth hole fits a straw for cold drinks. I donated all my other travel mugs to Goodwill because I am a true philanthropist.

5. Hue Denier tights ($14) Like the AA leggings, these stay in place, and they're soft and cozy without being binding (as in, I can wear them without feeling like I should be strung up in a Little Italy shop window). They have a cotton crotch so Anna can watch me get dressed and then yell that I'm gross for not wearing undies, and probably tell her friends over lunch that her gross mom doesn't wear undies, and then I notice the principal looking at me disapprovingly or maybe I'm imagining that part.

6. This soup recipe ($10) Just make it, adjust the spiciness to your liking. You can find the paste in the ethnic section of almost any grocery store. You can even use veggie broth and get rid of the chicken for a vegan version that is just as good as the original. Give it to people you might need to help you move one day.

Lastly, there's a pair of knee-high, low-heeled black boots on my list, but I don't know how much I truly love them because I have to wait for Steve to do something REALLY dumb before I can justify buying them. I'll keep you posted. What are you guys into these days?

Ten Years and a Hundred Yeses

Thursday, September 18, 2014

You'll think about leaving when you can't stand his tone of voice or his running critique of your driving. You'll fantasize about what it might feel like to spend money without having to justify every purchase. You will wonder why he didn't comment on how obviously fantastic you look today. You'll want to smother him for snoring and leaving sealed lunch containers in the sink, and you'll calculate how many years you have left until the sound of his cereal crunching drives you criminally insane. You might imagine warming yourself by the fire you'll kindle with the hundreds of piles of papers and receipts he deposits all over the house. You dream of spending a full day in winter with the thermostat cranked into the seventies.

Still, you hug him while he folds the laundry and ogle him when he gets out of the shower. You tell him to take care on his motorcycle and schedule his doctor appointments. You cook his favorite food and buy the good beer, and you try to remember to get your wet towels off the bed before he gets home. You're secretly proud that he still gets carded even as you're called "ma'am," and not as secretly take some credit for how well he's aging. Even though you might never agree on a budget you try to spend less, and he learns that splurges are a necessary part of living. Each day without trying, you appreciate something about him — that he gets up early and works hard, that when he hears a tiny voice call for Daddy at 2 a.m., he goes, that he listens to you tell the same story ten ways to fifteen different friends without comment. That he understands you're just a little crazy sometimes.

Your first "yes" is the one that gets cake and a champagne toast, but the truth about marriage is that you will decide over and over again to say yes. Yes when it's not brand new anymore. Yes when the frozen slice of cake is long gone and the forks are tarnished. Yes when you're flat broke and on each other's last nerve. Yes when you've been hurt. Yes when the work never seems equal. Yes when all you want is space. Yes when there is no resolution. That early yes is important. It gets you here, and this place is really good. But there's devotion in these later yeses, there's time and joy and disappointment, there's knowing that marriage is a choice you make again and again.

Today marks ten years of yeses, and and I'd repeat every one.

The Benefits of Kvetching
About Your Husband

Monday, September 08, 2014

Every six months or so, the things that irk me about my husband all rear up at once and I spend a couple of weeks dwelling on them, scrutinizing them, and being generally aggravated. It's not fair, and I do my best to not pick a fight each time I feel like he's missed an opportunity to show me affection or pay me a compliment. I've known for fifteen years that this isn't how he shows love, yet I still get frustrated because for me these are simple gestures. Similarly, my husband would have sex ten times a week and there's not enough Red Bull in the world for me to manufacture that kind of energy.

When I post about Steve publicly, what I say is true. He's an involved dad, he does all our laundry and cleans out the shower drain, he lets me get my way most of the time (even when it means I have to sit through his trademarked lecture on budgeting like I don't know it verbatim), and he is always trying to improve himself and our lives. This is where his love is.

But when I post about Steve privately, that's true too. Or it's true under the influence of my frustration. I share with close friends or in private Facebook groups, or both if I feel like his current offense/mood/comments warrant a larger opinion pool.

Inevitably I feel a little bad about the rant minutes after it's out, I soften and point out that I know I'm lucky, that I have a hard-working, loyal husband who looks great holding a guitar. This is one benefit of oversharing — saying the things somewhere helps me get perspective on them. The other benefit is that always someone will want to make me feel better by offering a story about their own spouse, and wow, husbands.

Among my confidants there are no perfect matches, no one completing anyone else. It's revealing to see what we've each decided we can live with. There are compromises and frustrations and things that will never, ever be resolved. So I look at my gripes against Steve and my friends' gripes against their own husbands and I realize I've done pretty well. It's not because these other spouses are horrible, I know them to be mostly great. It's just that their not-so-great parts aren't things I could easily live with, and probably Steve's not-so-great parts aren't things some of my friends could live with.

Eventually my sour mood passes, stories about friends' husbands remind me of how little I tolerate from my own, and while "Oh God it could be so much worse" is no reason to jump at a marriage proposal, after ten years, sometimes it's just the reminder you need.

Self-Preservation and the
Oblivious Grade Schooler

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

This isn't going to be a sweet, poignant piece about watching kids grow, finding their own way in the world, every day leaving us more and more. No. This is going to be me, a fairly new parent, asking you, who've parented longer than my six years, when I can reasonably expect my kid to stop being so perilously oblivious to her surroundings. At what point do you think I'll be able to say, even twelve times instead of sixty-thousand, "Stay to the side. Watch for that intersection. Here comes a giant, loud, bright yellow school bus," and have her actually snap to attention? Because this week's experiment with riding a quarter blessed mile to school has ended only with multiple new grays and an escalating alcohol dependency.

"It was so much better in the 80s" nostalgia was fresh in my head after some Facebook quiz or other about Alf or Shrinky Dinks or some shit that I was probably too poor to have had anyway. "Let them free range, give them space, parents today are so overprotective." So I did, I let her ride her bike to school on Wednesday, and despite the thirty new gray hairs and hoarse voice, again on Thursday. She wore a very nowadays helmet and I did my best to hem her in against the grass for the trip from our driveway to the bike racks.

"HIIIII HANNAAHHHHH!!" she shouted gleefully as she veered into my right ankle. "WAIT UP EMMMIEEEEEE!" she giggled and sped ahead of me while swerving into the middle of the road. She doesn't think to look behind her as she maneuvers around parked cars and pot holes, she steers wobbly and one-handed with every wave, she is always, always looking anywhere but where she's going.

I don't have the constitution for this.

Our ride home Thursday afternoon wasn't the nag fest of our morning trip into school. I only corrected her when she drifted toward a minivan out of which dangled the arm of a classmate, flapping a disembodied good-bye. That night when she asked to ride with another girl up the short street directly across from the driveway where I was sitting with a friend I said, go ahead, kid — I'm no coddling, overprotective mom! I am all kinds of chill. After all, I was raised in the 80s.

I watched Anna and Katie ride up the small hill while my friend Steph talked into the side of my face. The girls looped around at the top, and then Anna stood on her pedals and started pumping her hardest back down toward us. She's forgetting she has to cross a street to get back over here, I knew. I bleeping knew. Steph knew too, and then we both saw headlights. I'm not sure who stood first or who yelled "STOP ANNA" loudest, but there we both were, flailing in the driveway, watching this kid head straight for a car.

Anna stopped after far too much shouting. The driver must have seen Steph and me standing there or he saw the girls on their bikes, and I don't know what it is that causes your immediate reaction to be, "Oh thank God she's safe NOW COME HERE AND LET ME THROTTLE YOU," but I could barely speak between clenched teeth as I told her she was done riding her bike for the entire long weekend. D-O-N-E done.

I didn't touch her or even yell, but she read me. She rode an atom's width from the curb on our trip home, looked straight ahead, listened to my direction. But for how long? Just a week earlier she'd done the same thing on foot, darting into a busy street when she spotted friends on the opposite side. We spend so much energy doing everything we can to keep our kids safe and alive, can't they throw us a goddamn bone once in a while?

I remember being a kid and doing dumb things. Sometimes I still do dumb things, but I also spend a lot of time trying to avoid dying. I just need a little confidence that some day Anna will work harder toward self-preservation. I need someone with older kids to tell me that eventually they at least become somewhat more aware of their surroundings, that they can understand peril without living in fear of their own mortality. And I need a sponsor, because if this keeps up much longer I'm going to have to start going to AA meetings.