A decade ago, I was rooting against science. Not for any dire reasons. But when you are seven days overdue with your first child and your doctor estimates that said child weighs more than nine pounds, you kind of want her to be wrong. Because ...

 

Ten




Ten

A decade ago, I was rooting against science.

Not for any dire reasons. But when you are seven days overdue with your first child and your doctor estimates that said child weighs more than nine pounds, you kind of want her to be wrong. Because you’ve never given birth but you’ve heard and read allllll about it — and don’t physics just work against a giant baby being delivered without splitting the mother in half?

My OB decided it was time to induce me, but she looked me in the eyes and issued a stern warning.

“Look, this isn’t going to be easy. You’re not the least bit dilated. This is a huge baby and it’s your first. An induction probably just won’t work but if it does, it’s going to be exhausting. You need to go to sleep right now before things get intense.”

Well, holy shit. Look who was the probable recipient of the Worst Bedside Manner Ever Medal in her medical school class. Truly, a less soothing bedtime tale had never been told. I hated her, and not just in that moment. I knew I should’ve switched doctors months ago but now it seemed, well, a tad late — as I was admitted to the hospital and administered Pitocin for the herculean feat before me. The nurses came and went, assuring me that the weight estimates are never right. Don’t worry, they said. Your son won’t be as big as they say.

“Say hello to your one-month old,” the other, nicer OB on shift — the one with a normal ability to talk to patients — said with a laugh as she successfully delivered my child some 16 hours later. All nine pounds and four ounces of him.

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How that was ten years ago utterly escapes any concept of time and space to me. How that butterball newborn is now a lean fourth grader defies all logic and makes my eyes well up with disbelief.

I’m told by friends with older kids that I’m not totally insane to have the onset of double digits hit me particularly hard. It seems like a distinct corner to turn, knowing he is closer to adulthood than he is to birth at this point. And that’s remarkably hard for me to swallow.

This oldest child of mine has taught me far more than I realized. Not just about how to change a diaper, burp an infant or buy a Halloween costume before October 15. Sure, the lessons about bathing slippery newborns and breastfeeding and managing toddler tantrums and sending them off to kindergarten were all new to me and learned at his expense. The oldest bears this experimentation impact in every family for all new parents, as we inevitably consider more options than we ever knew were possible at every crossroads, often choosing poorly and always beating ourselves up for it. Our mishaps in raising them become the fables for their siblings, the cautionary tales shared among friends.

And the stakes get higher every year.

My newly-minted ten year-old, like most his age, is desperately between wanting more freedom and depending on us for his needs. I have seen him mature so much in the last few years, but he’s still a young boy who needs us. What a line to walk — for him, for me, for our collective sanity.

He equally loves facts and fantasy — his brain waffling constantly between his deep knowledge of history and the intangible surrealism of Harry Potter. His firm grasp of WWII has tested and surpassed the boundaries of my own education (Why did I not pay more attention in high school? Whyyy?) — with books about battles, both infamous and obscure, opened daily at the breakfast table.

He has little to no interest in sports, which are often the social currency of a fourth grade lunch table and playdates. When I say he’d rather have his nose in a book, it’s not some ill-disguised humble-brag or because I think he’s smarter than his peers. In fact, I’ve been met with more than one eyeroll in response. Oh, poor you — your kid is always in a book.

They don’t understand, the eye rollers.

They don’t understand that it’s easier for my child to have his nose in a book. That a world he can control — a world of reliable, historical facts — is easier for him than having a casual conversation. That a world of pure fiction with wizards and spells is sometimes more appealing than the rules of socializing.

This child will give you his heart and soul to make you laugh. He will relish the chance to recap for you what he has read about on any given day. And he will spontaneously tell his parents that he loves them. He is endlessly curious and carries an enviable sense of confidence. But a lot does not come easy for him, and knowing that has both broken and stretched my heart a million times.

People talk about how parenting changes you — sometimes in tired, clichéd ways and sometimes in ways so heartfelt and true that you can’t believe the words didn’t come from your own mouth. I’m only a fraction of the way through this job and I know this change is sometimes sudden and defining, and other times it’s gradual and nearly imperceptible. But it’s there and it’s born of fierce protection, love, frustration and hope.

A decade has somehow gone by, and in exchange for the Pitocin and fear of the unknown, I now have this amazing, blue-eyed eldest of three children celebrating his tenth birthday. There are presents that he’ll open today, and then there are the ones that he has given me — the ones he can’t see or wrap.

Happy birthday to my sweet, sweet boy.

 

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2016 Exit Strategy

“What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means. I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot?’ Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?” — When Harry Met Sally

And if that’s not the least confusing thing that happened this year for you, then congratulations.

Holy shit, 2016. You need to go. My name is Kim, and I’ll be your escort to the damn door. You’ve had your fun and now it’s over — please proceed to the nearest exit.

Listen. I’m not one of those people who likes to wish things away. Generally, I like time to slow down and leave its proper mark of remembrance, because often times — especially when I look at my kids — I find it going by way too fast. But the marks left by this year feel more like gut punches and side kicks to the head.

Does anyone else feel like the world has lost its damn mind? Seriously. Lost. Its. Mind.

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I am a news junkie and I think it’s affecting my state of mind to merely read a newspaper (yeah, the old school print ones) or just browse the headlines on my computer. Forget the comments on social media — I mean, we should all have meds just to read those. Aleppo. ISIS. Disasters. War. Human rights violations. It’s so, so much to take in.

How lucky am I to live right here?

Lucky, indeed. With caveats. Because, even here, without bombs and terror and war, things are very, very shifty. There is no denying a deep divide in this country right now. A big Us Versus Them mentality on both sides of the political equation, and it’s getting to be very precarious. The way in which people speak to each other is not civilized disagreement anymore — it’s a venomous hatred of the other side’s beliefs, and it’s not like anything I can recall happening before. This divide is wide and deep and more than a little scary, I think. While it may have been brewing of years, 2016 took us in a very new direction.

And the stuff in between that will be memorialized in the year-end news — the pop culture icons we lost (I can’t even), the movies we paid to see, the words we added to the dictionary, the books we read and the shows we watched. They are all marks of how 2016 played out in its most innocent form. Would these be the things someone would find in a time capsule about this year? Or will the exhausting headlines of how we all started treating each other be the hallmark of what we leave behind?

Yes, we have our health and our home and our family and all of the things we need. Way more than what we need, and I am beyond grateful. Sure, I could bitch about 2016 having my husband lose his job, or two kids getting Celiac, watching a close friend and a family member both fight cancer, or crazy relatives who dig in their heels for the sake of being jackasses — but what’s the point? That’s run of the mill stuff of life. The stuff you take on the chin and incorporate into your days and move on. I have no airstrikes over my head and no military in the streets and no hate crimes at my door step.

It sounds dramatic, I know. I’ve been reading too much news.

I could unplug — and maybe I should — but what good does it do to bury our heads in the sand? To not stand up when civility is fainting all around us. To look away because it’s easier. I don’t think my brain can re-wire itself to un-see and un-read what this year has brought. Sometimes I wish it could.

I’m so sorry, did you think this was going to be a sweet little nostalgic post about this year’s milestones and next year’s resolutions? Actually, so did I. Whoops. But when I conjured up this year in my head, all of this flew out instead.

And there were those sweet, sweet moments, for sure. The insanity of my kids and who they are, who they’re becoming, consumes my days and is the gratifying/maddening/hilarious/frustrating bold print of my time. Their new interests and ideas and mishaps punctuate all that we do in my house, as they should. Their laughter and arguing and sass and bad knock-knock jokes are the soundtracks of our lives. And the hideous world events, the collapse of whatever else has fallen this year, are all there in italics and footnotes to shape what I do for them and how to guide them. Their story is the most important one, but it is inextricably woven, even remotely, with the headlines they are often too young to read.

I hate odd numbered years and, more specifically, prime numbered years. They feel unsettling and like bad luck to me. But hey, if a perfectly even year like 2016 can make this much of a fucking mess, then I think I’m going to have to just look 2017 square in the eye and deal.

And by deal, I do mean not bury my head. Not watch the fainting of civility. Not look away.

The real trick is not getting too consumed. Because I could spend all day enraged and exasperated over every headline, but there are board games to play and holidays to celebrate and growth charts to update. Cupcakes to bake (gluten free, of course). Homework to check. Lives to plan. Curveballs to duck. This is where I’m most needed — both feet firmly planted at home, with a constant, diligent eye on the outside world.

And lest you think I’ll spend tonight rocking in a corner while mumbling about the end of days, don’t worry. There will be a house full of friends with champagne and laughs and none of this gloomy talk. I may be a little serious these days, but I know perfectly well how to be the person who doesn’t kill a party. And party tonight, we will — to celebrate the high points of the year and wish for better days ahead for everyone. I hope that your glasses are raised and full tonight as well, and spent with those who make you happy for all of the good. Because there is still so much of it.

Will we work it all of this out in 2017? Nope. I think we all know it’s going to get worse before it gets better. But I do think the better comes from you and me and all of us who don’t bury our heads. All of us who know the next chapters can be better than the current one.

In the meantime, 2016, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

 

 

The Oddities of Gratitude

Health. Family. General well-being. Caffeine. Like most, I am thankful for many things, which seem to be amplified during the holiday season. One thing for which I didn’t expect to feel gratitude was the loss of my husband’s job.

We sort of knew this was going to happen. His company was bought and, invariably in those situations, there are many job casualties. This deal was in the works for quite a while before it was finalized, and so we had some time to mentally prepare. And when we turned down the opportunity to move to Denver for him to work for the new company, it was just a matter of time before the inevitable phone call came that showed him to the door.

And so, in early October, my husband commuted to his office in midtown Manhattan for the last time and turned in his laptop and company ID badge. He stopped buying a monthly train pass and sent the last of his suits to the dry cleaner.

After working for 30 years, he was out of a job for the first time.

And he is, in a word, thrilled.

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My husband is a very, very prudent guy. He plans, analyzes and takes methodical thinking to some serious next levels. He isn’t reckless or even impulsive. And so I thought this situation, although not a total surprise, would make him hyper-focused on job-hunting and generally angsty about what comes next.

Nope. Not yet, anyway.

What the practical side of him has produced instead is a very clear awareness of what he has been given: time he has never had, to use for things that he normally can’t do.

Those things are wide in range, both time-consuming and simple. Seeing the kids off to school. Sitting at our kitchen table to have a cup of coffee instead of running for the train. Repairing the garage. Golfing. Taking me out to an occasional lunch.

Like so many people who work hard every day, his job meant that we didn’t see him much during the week. Between the commute to the city and his workload, he was usually gone for about 12 hours each day. It meant a quick goodbye to the kids before school in the morning and little to no time to see them before they went to sleep at night. The fact that he is here now to drive them to school or pick them up or bring them to any of their activities and see them in action is thrilling for them.

At first, his presence in the morning was odd. It felt like something was off. Our AM routine here is a well-oiled machine that is one minor timing error away from becoming a shit show. There is simply no room for dawdling. We are running late before we are even awake. And so, when my husband rolled down into the kitchen on the first morning of his home-everyday tenure as we were in the midst of the madness, it was more than he bargained for. While it was clear that he wanted to help, it was like watching someone mistakenly walk into a rave and then try to back away slowly — while I ran laps around him, in a sweat, to make it out the door with the kids and the backpacks. For a man who has managed massive corporate projects and teams of people across multiple time zones, the before-school F5 tornado was a pinnacle of insanity he hadn’t yet mastered.

In the weeks that have followed, he has since learned the best approach in the morning is 1) keep your head down 2) find a place to be helpful 3) do not speak with me until the second cup of coffee has reached its halfway consumption mark and 4) accrue massive bonus points for making the lunches that I swore I’d do last night but didn’t because I fell asleep on the couch.

We are all finding our way in this brave new world.

In all seriousness, this notion of having another set of hands during the day is remarkable. And because I’m keenly aware that this arrangement will not be permanent, I need to maximize my returns. As such, I have outsourced some of my most painful domestic tasks to him.

  • Goodbye, math homework assistance.
  • Sayonara, school lunch prep.
  • Tally-ho, car pools (at least some of them, anyway — divide and conquer!).

And do you know what has been really life-changing? I don’t have to schlep my three year-old to any of his siblings’ activities. None. If you, at any point in time ever had a three year-old — or have just been in the presence of one — you know that there is no bigger dream-crusher than a small yet headstrong child who was unwillingly woken up from his nap and brought somewhere he doesn’t want to go. No more, my friends. No more. People see me at school pick-up — all hands-free, completing full sentences and possibly even carrying a hot beverage — and I am probably unrecognizable without bending over a stroller to negotiate with a writhing child while picking up the trains he has thrown along the sidewalk. Was that how things used to be? How uncivilized. I just can’t recall.

Beyond the daily domestic grind, do you have that to-do list for items in your house that need attention? Not things like buying groceries or folding laundry. I’m talking about the long-term tasks that nobody ever has time to tackle and you swear that this weekend, this month, this spring break, this year you’ll get to them. But, alas, no.

My husband and I took that list/scroll and agreed on the things that the gift of time would allow him to tackle. You know how people on TV want a new Lexus with a bow for Christmas? I just want the fucking hell hole that is our spare room to be organized enough not to disgust me before 2016 ends. He is an organizational master and I can’t wait for him to MacGyver the shit out of that room.

Longer term, we are thinking about some travel on the horizon. It seems counter-intuitive to book vacations now, but my husband is a big proponent of making the most of his time off. He knows that he’ll never have this again — the extreme flexibility to go places and take trips, big and small, near and far. We have always been alike in making travel a priority instead of spending on other things like expensive clothes or cars. I mean, my yoga pants are sort of on point, I guess, but that’s about it. My husband drives a 2003 car with almost 200,000 miles on it and I am rocking the minivan. But we’ve both always agreed that travel was important to us. So, while we have him home, we are going to try to get as much of that done as possible within the confines of the school calendar. We shall see — you know what they say about the best laid plans.

To be clear, there are some downsides to this entire new full-time-husband-at-home arrangement, in case I made all of this sound like kumbaya, coffee and rainbows. It’s not. As much as I love having another set of hands at home (he shot down the manny reference, and even balked at Domestic Intern, but whatever), I’ll be honest and say that it does take some getting used to. I kind of like my alone time — is that bad? Also, not to be petty, but the amount of junk food sitting around this house has skyrocketed to completely unacceptable levels. Why, I had no idea that Ring Dings came in holiday packaging. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the curious emergence of my husband’s affection for retail. Remember the first time you went to Target without any kids in tow and had a decent chunk of time on your hands to just browse? Yeah, he’s just getting around to that. It’s a whole new world for him and his red cart. #cantstopwontstop

There is also a slightly alarming Clark Griswold side of him that was previously unknown to me. With the holidays upon us, he has used his newfound time to significantly up his exterior seasonal decorating game. He always hangs some lights on the house at this time of year, but we like to keep it simple. Or, apparently, we don’t. Apparently, when someone doesn’t have to go to work, he likes to go to Walgreens every single day and pick up yet another box of lights to hang on anything that will stand still. If you don’t know where I live, I am pretty sure you can now see my house from space. And — bonus — nothing helps your unemployment status more than a soaring electricity bill.

And, while I’m actually sitting here writing for once, I’ll say that I’m mentally residing in this very weird, limbo state. I’m happy he’s home. I’m worried he’s not working. I want him to enjoy his time off. I worry that I don’t know how long it will be. I am confident he will find a job. I worry where that job might be. I want us to make the most of this opportunity. I don’t want to be broke.

{I’m a worrier.}

It’s a bit of a see-saw. I mean, I can’t speak for everyone, but it seems like a long-term income is generally a good thing.

But I know that, once the holidays are over, the job search will kick into high gear. What will happen next is anyone’s guess. And so, even in the uncertainty of this situation that we can’t control, my worry is actually second to my gratitude. I am thankful for this time — a time I know we’ll look back on at some point with nostalgia. Holiday Ring Dings, excessive lights and all.

 

 

 

 

Kitchen Reno PTSD

I think we can all agree that this isn’t a home improvement or interior design blog. In those cases, I’d have much nicer fonts here and a fresh new color scheme each year.

My niche is perhaps best described as chronicles of domestic failure, in which case our most recent renovation fits right in here content-wise. So don’t worry, I’m still on-brand. Wait, I don’t have a brand.

Anyway, I mayyyyy have mentioned a few thousand times that I reluctantly agreed to gut our kitchen this summer and exile the family into the basement while the work was being done. I am here to declare the project complete. In all honesty, it has been finished for over a month, but my lingering renovation PTSD is still flaring up now and then.

If I were to summarize the project in a list of potential movie titles, here are some that come to mind.

 

Meet Two People Who Will Never Have an HGTV Show

Twelve Weeks Without Sunlight (Or, I Never Want to See My Basement Again)

83802390482309450234982497414012784n12 Uses for a Hot Plate

You Can Microwave THAT?

I Can’t Sleep Without the Sound of Nail Guns: One Toddler’s Story

How to Lose Your Shit Choosing a Backsplash

The Summer We Used Enough Paper Plates to Circle the Earth

 

Let’s lay out the basics. First, I don’t have a big kitchen and that wasn’t going to change with this project. It’s a galley kitchen from 1909 and, short of putting an addition on the house, there wasn’t a viable way to make the space bigger. But what we did instead, that was of equal value, was update everything and reconfigure the space to make it way more usable. I wasn’t aiming to have a giant kitchen. I just wanted to change the look, keep the broken drawers from falling out onto my feet and get rid of some wonky features.

Like this. What the hell? Why would I want to stash plates or platters in strange little slots that jut out inappropriately above a poorly fitted microwave? Would it be so that I could more easily access the fucked up too-tiny-for-even-your-smallest-tchotchkes corner shelving situation?

My eyes, they burn.

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Or this. You know, the old freestanding shuttered non-pantry-food-pantry. Because there was literally no other space to store a decent amount of food in the kitchen. In my dreams, this piece of furniture serves as the primary kindling in a kick-ass bonfire. And can we please not overlook the curious yet completely nonfunctional half wall/ledge/molding thing? Our best guess is that this is where the original house ended and they — just grasping at straws here — kept it as a nostalgic feature. No fucking clue but it had to go.

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Speaking of ill-conceived walls, this was the big to-do item: take down that awful half-wall between the kitchen and family room. Open it up! Not that I didn’t enjoy the 2,893 extra steps each day that I got from walking over while cooking, just to peek around the corner and address the multiple calls of “Mommmmmyyyy” from the kids playing over there. It was like a constant game of Look What Child-Sourced Destruction You’ll Find Here Every Time You Try to Step Away.

 

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Taking out that wall meant a steel beam and all kinds of structural issues that were bound not to go entirely smoothly with a 100+ year-old home. It also meant we’d also lose use of the family room during the construction.

And so, down to the basement we moved. It was fine(ish), mainly because my wine fridge is down there (that room was our first renovation).

 

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It’s not lost on me that, with all of the insanity going on in the world, it’s ridiculous to complain about a kitchen renovation. I get that. So let’s focus on the absurd.

Like the time capsule wallpaper we unearthed during demolition.

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Do you prefer the spring florals or the patriotic bald eagle collection? I mean, any decorating choice I made could only go up from here.

Progress felt slow at times. OK, most times.

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But, many weeks and take out dinners later, we got there. Here are some before and after shots from a few vantage points.

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Wall down. Steel beam in. Shuttered hideous pantry thing gone (possibly on fire).

And, to firmly cement my standing as a suburban mom in her mid-40s, let me tell you what I’m really excited about.

  • The garbage disposal in the sink. I’ve never had one before and I have to stop myself from testing its limits just because.
  • Soft-close drawers. What sorcery is this? The entire soundtrack of my family has been significantly altered by the absence of ancient drawers slamming 24/7.
  • Dedicated storage for the affectionately termed school lunch mess of shit. It warms my jaded heart to have an actual slide-out shelf where the random tupperware/food storage/thermos situation doesn’t look like a Jenga World Championship round that I’m always one bad pull away from losing.

My bar was set pretty low, apparently. I marvel at the phenomenon of not yelling “Watch out! OHMYGOD, the drawer will crush your foot bones, be careful, goddamnit!” every time someone opens a (soft-close) drawer. It just stays, even when pulled all the way out. This is awesome news that should significantly impact my health insurance deductible.

But really, that wall coming down was life-changing. While it technically created a peninsula instead of an actual island, I’m not about to get all hung up on fucking topography. The reality is that it’s my command center and the center of my universe. My new Keurig is plugged in there. My shiny new hanging file drawer is there to stem the Countertop Paperwork Mountain Range effect. My view into the family room is unobstructed, so I am the first to witness the he-said-she-said sibling altercations before they can be misrepresented. We added bar stools on the other side for the kids. {OK, so maybe only two fit well and it’s like The Hunger Games at mealtime, but whatever.} All in all, it is a 42-inch slice (or slab) of quartz paradise.

Now, it would be silly to think that we are all settled in our new kitchen. Mostly because my husband, an Engineer and Project Manager by trade, loves nothing more than a challenge to optimize any given storage situation, especially a new canvas like this. And so, my new kitchen joy is often tempered by screams of “Where did you move the spices?” or “The spatula was here at lunch time and now it’s not. Damn it!” This experiment with kitchen equipment placement is on final notice, though. There’s no reason our marriage should survive four renovations, only to be undone by guessing where the coffee cups have been relocated.

And so, we’re basically back in business. I’m back to cooking on an actual stove and lowered my take out food order per week average dramatically. My daughter, ever at the ready to practice for her Chopped Junior audition someday, has taken over my favorite spot and claimed it as her prep station.

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My husband, when not on his quest for optimal placement of the paprika and rosemary, is loving his most favorite purchase: the new TV in the family room that I did not know was part of the secret plan. I’m actually starting to think he did this renovation solely to justify this stadium-like screen that makes all male guests completely overlook the new kitchen.

And the next renovation? Never say never. But certainly not until after I can locate my measuring cups.

 

 

 

 

Love Letter for 50

I bet you don’t find yourself writing love letters very often. I know I don’t. But it’s not that I never did. I’m a sap at heart, and I bet my husband can pull out a fair amount of sentimental cards I wrote on special occasions of years past.

But I think that was a long time ago. Before three kids and everything that comes with them. And maybe the tenor of those love letters has changed over time, even if the sentiment has not.

Today is my husband’s 50th birthday. And, if I’m being honest, I spent most of his last day in his 40s being sort of cranky with him. The way you do in a marriage when stupid shit goes wrong, nothing of substance, and just throws off your day.

And then, as I always do, I kind of let my crankiness peter out as normal perspective took over and all was well. This left me thinking more about my husband’s big day and the pressing issues at hand. Like what kind of cake we should all eat.

Sort of. I did think about cake (because I usually do), but also about so many other things on this milestone birthday.

When I met my husband back in 1999, he was 32 and I was a youthful 26. And photo quality was sub-par, apparently.

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17 years later, he is turning 50.

50.

The thing is that I sit here, on this dusty old blog, year after year, and wax poetic about my kids on their birthdays — their milestones, their interests — to remind my future self with these word time capsules just how they’ve changed each year. Maybe I should do a similar write-up for my husband today, but not so much about what has changed, but what has stayed the same and remained the very bedrock of who we are.

Sure, I had a bunch of really cheap jokes up my sleeve about aging, but none of them are any good. Not even the one about priority seating at our three year old’s college graduation in 2035 because my husband will be unspeakable-years-old.

And let’s just get it out of the way. The thing that pisses me off to no end. The thing that should piss you off, too. The man doesn’t really age. Sure, there are a few more wrinkles and perhaps slightly less hair, but overall, he’s a freak of nature and we should all hate him for this.

I recently met him for breakfast after his annual physical, where he casually referenced losing “a few pounds.”

“A FEW? HOW MANY?” — As a lifelong student of weight loss, I demanded to know.

“A few. I don’t know. The doctor asked me if I improved my diet (not really). If I started exercising (hell, no, not even a little). And then he looked over my blood panel with a shrug and said it was working for me.”

As he ate a fucking bacon, egg and cheese on a roll.

So he has his good looks. But that’s not all.

This past Saturday, we threw a party for his birthday and had all of our close friends here to celebrate. We had casino tables and a bartender under a big, weather-proof tent.

 

 

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We had the greatest cake in the history of cakes, which only notched up my daughter’s drive to appear on The Food Network, but was ***almost*** too pretty to eat.

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***I can’t stop eating it.

 

We caught up with friends from near and far who came to party with the guest of honor. And party, we did. Holy shit, do not ever make fun of 50 year-olds because this is what time my clock read when the last person stopped drinking in my kitchen.

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For the record, that works out really well when you have young kids. Really well.

Before they turned my home into a rave venue and set me back 8883 light years in sleep, I had asked them all to give me one word to describe my husband, which I collected for a toast I gave at the party.

Everyone had free rein because I promised not to disclose who said what. Under those circumstances, you’re bound to get a few snarky adjectives.

NOPE.

This is what I got:

Sincere
Generous
Gentleman
Gregarious
Mensch
Genuine
Caring
Precise
Zen
Kind
Aplomb
Meticulous
Unflappable
Trustworthy
Cheerful
Fantasty football genius (with the use of creative spacing, this is apparently one word)
Patient
Methodical
Thoughtful
Loyal
Upbeat
Optimistic
Fun-loving

Come on. Pretty amazing.

What did I learn from this? Well, first of all, I learned that one-word assignments really stress some people the hell out. Holy shit.

But more seriously, I found, after 17 years of knowing him — including 11 years of marriage, four homes, three kids, one pug and little sleep — all of the things that drew me to him are also obvious to everyone else.

There are people out there who get along with everyone. People who are universally liked and well regarded. I was lucky enough to marry one.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m not always easy to live with. {Try to at least pretend you are stunned, even a little.}

And yet, this man, with all of those words that our friends provided to describe him so accurately — this man chose to spend his life with me. And that makes me the luckiest person I know.

And while all of those words rang true, I have one more to add.
Beyond.

His character?
His kindness?
His patience?
His generosity?
His effort on any given task, big or small?

All just beyond.

The life he has built here with me and with our children?
Beyond what I ever could have wished for.

And so, on my husband’s 50th birthday, a love letter may look different than it did when we were dating, or when we were newlyweds. Maybe a love letter now is a toast in front of our best friends and then being cranky about everything two days later, only to bounce back and say that I have always known you are the most spectacular husband, father and friend. You are my beyond.

Happy birthday. xo

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