Then and Now

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April 6, 2007 was the last time I was excited about doing laundry.  My housemates were gone so I had the washer and dryer all to myself and Season 2 of the Gilmore Girls to keep me company between loads.

I was halfway through folding my first load when I received a text from a friend:  “Wanna do something?”

I hesitated.  We were already planning to see a movie later that afternoon, and after the crazy week I had had, I needed time to my self – but I really enjoyed spending time with that particular friend, so I tapped out a quick reply:  “I’m in the middle of laundry and the Gilmores, but you can join me if you want.”

He showed up at my door ten minutes later.

After two more loads, three more episodes, and half a dozen rounds of  “Whaddya wanna do?”  “I don’t know, what to you want to do??”  – we decided to go shopping.  I needed a dress for a wedding and he agreed to help me pick one out.

Back then I despised shopping even more than I do now, so it didn’t take much to distract me.

“You should buy rollerblades,” he said, as we walked past Sportchek.

Rollerblades?”

“Rollerblades,” he confirmed, steering me inside.  “Let’s just see what they have, okay?”

Twenty minutes later I left the store with a heavy bag and and bright red cheeks.  I had never worn rollerblades before so I held his hand to balance –  and mine was still tingling.

“What now?” I asked, avoiding his gaze.

He reached for the bag.  “Now we go rollerblading.”

 

* * * * *

 

April 6, 2015 I woke up dreading the mountain of laundry I had to deal with.  I’m okay with sorting, washing, and drying but folding is definitely not my favourite.   I prefer folding  on Friday night when Say Yes to the Dress is on, not a weekday morning when I have to wrestle each item out of the hands of a “helpful” two-year-old.

Nathan had the day off but I didn’t.  I had three days of work for a four-day weekend, two of which we spent out of town.  You do the math.

And transcribing medical documents is no easy task with three people playing hockey in your office, which also happens to be your kitchen.

After more than an hour of listening to my frustrated (and highly exaggerated) huffing, Nathan decided I needed a break.

“Let’s go to Swiss Chalet!  They started marinating their chicken in the dipping sauce.  It’ll be fantastic!”

We decided to drop the kids off for lunch with their grandparents and turn it into a “hot date”.

If that’s even possible at Swiss Chalet.

We were settled in at our booth, perusing our menus, when Nathan broke the silence.

“We had Swiss Chalet eight years ago today, remember?  It was busy, so we took it back to your place, and I lit all those candles …”

“And I thought you were crazy.”

“And then I put  my hand on top of yours …”

“You were such a romantic.”

“And I haven’t let go since!”  He grinned proudly, like our getting together was all his idea.

It’s been eight years and I still don’t think he understands quite how much work I put into letting him think it was all his idea …

 

Yesterday marked eight years of dating for Nathan and I.  In some ways, dating looks a lot different now than it did back then – but in other ways there’s really no difference at all!  It’s been eight years of dates at Swiss Chalet, eight years of Gilmore Girls marathons, and eight years of lit candles decorating the coffee table while we hold hands.

Believe it or not, it’s even been eight years of rollerblading – though when we head out these days, there are two extra feet strapped into teeny tiny rollerblades, and a stroller to hold onto while I struggle to keep my balance!


Caught

 

We took down our Christmas tree yesterday.  I love putting the tree up – pulling the boxes out of the storage room, unwrapping each ornament.  We have some that we bought together after we got married, some that my grandma passed on to us when she downsized a few years ago, and some that Topher and Ellie have made.   I love remembering the story behind each ornament:  The glass ball Michelle decorated with Ariel’s name when we boarded at Zephyr Ridge, the green “Diego” balls Topher got the Christmas when he was two and obsessed with that show, the dog ornament we bought to represent Chloe’s first Christmas.

Taking the tree down is usually a job that I do by myself.  Ellie naps in the afternoon and Topher does quiet time, so I carefully remove each ornament, wrap it in tissue paper, and place it in the box for next year.  I  love all of our ornaments but there’s one in particular that I hold a little longer before I tuck the tissue paper around it.

Topher and Ellie both have “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments on the tree, but this ornament is for the baby that we lost.

The one who didn’t get to have a First Christmas.

* * * *

This year Nathan helped me take down the tree.   He was handing me ornaments one by one, and when he came to that one – he paused.  “When did we get this?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, taking it from him quickly, hoping he would accept my answer and move on to the next one.

No such luck.  He knows I know the story behind every ornament on our tree.

“It’s … for the baby,” I finally said.  “The one that we lost.”

“Oh.”  He turned it over in his hands, reading the inscription.

* * * *

“Do you still think about it?” I asked later that night.  “The baby before Ellie?”

“I do,” he said slowly.  “But not like you do.”

I didn’t push it then, but now I’m almost wishing I had.

We don’t talk about the miscarriage.

Two days after I remember Nathan coming into our room and giving me a searching look.  “Are you going to stay in bed forever?” he asked.  “No,” I mumbled, before rolling over and burying my head once again in my pillow.  I knew I couldn’t stay in bed forever (and I didn’t!) but I also knew that Nathan and I grieve differently.

I can’t think of words to describe how much I love Topher and Ellie, and how grateful I am to have two happy, healthy children – but I still think about the one who is missing.

Putting that ornament on the tree each year makes me feel a tiny bit better.   My husband might think I’m completely crazy  – but then again, maybe he doesn’t.

Maybe it helps him too.

Maybe he can’t think of words either, and maybe that’s why we don’t talk about it.

* * * *

This morning I pulled the box of Christmas ornaments back out of the storage room.  I searched through at least a dozen carefully wrapped tissue paper packages before I found the one I was looking for –

And I put it in a prominent place on the mantle.

He didn’t get a First Christmas.  He didn’t get a first anythingbut he was loved, he was wanted, and he was celebrated.

And we remember.

Date Night

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It was Tuesday.

Date night.

Earlier in the day I had been looking forward to it, but now?

Now I was tired.

Both kids had been up multiple times the night before and neither had napped during the day.  I was scrambling to bath the kids, tidy the house, and make dinner before my mother-in-law arrived to babysit.

Six years ago I would have spent hours getting ready – picking out a new outfit, doing my hair and make-up, painting my nails – but now I budget approximately fifteen minutes for self-beautification.

I glanced at my watch.  Nathan was due home any minute, so it was probably time to start getting ready.  I parked the kids in front of the TV with some cheerios and disappeared into my room.  The dinner theatre was “business casual”.  I knew what I wanted to wear, the question was whether or not it would fit.

Or whether or not it was clean.

It wasn’t.

It had been almost two years since I had worn that particular outfit, back in my pre-Ellie days, and it was covered in more dust than a quick spot clean could get rid of.  I sighed.  Now what?    I finally settled on a skirt and top and plugged in my flat iron to do my hair.  I heard wailing from the living room.

“TOPHER!  What did you do to Ellie?”

“Nothing, Mommy!” was his response.

“Then why is she crying?”

“Oh. Well.  I accidentally punched her in the head.”

Accidentally is Topher’s new favourite word.  I don’t think he quite understands what it means …

I snuggled Ellie for a few minutes until she was calm and I was  reasonably sure she didn’t have a concussion, then let her empty the bathroom cabinet while I finished my hair and make-up.

Nathan arrived home.  “DADDY!  DADDY!” the kids yelled, racing to the front door for hugs and wrestling and tickles.

I stirred dinner, which I had completely forgotten about while I was getting ready, and which was by then completely stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Oops.

The doorbell rang.  “GRANDMA’S HERE!”  I scurried around, grabbing whatever random out of place items I could find and throwing them in our room, which has essentially become a storage room for anything that doesn’t really have another home.  We keep the door closed whenever we have company so people think we’re super tidy even though we’re really not.

We said our goodbyes to two sobbing kids (Seriously.  We need to get out more!)  – and we were off.

We had an hour before the theatre opened and we could pick up our tickets, so we sat in the lobby and talked.

About the kids.

Once we were inside, we found our table, then filled our plates at the buffet.

I filled mine with things that would be easy to share with the kids before I remembered that I didn’t have to.  I didn’t have to take spaghetti and meatballs or chicken fingers and fries – but I took those things anyway.

Nathan took extra cookies to bring home to Topher.

While we ate, we talked.

We laughed about the  lame jokes we were sure Topher was telling Grandma.  “What kind of socks does a bear wear?”  “I don’t know, what kind?”  “A bear doesn’t wear socks, silly!  He has BEAR FEET!”

A former co-worker of Nathan’s passed our table and stopped to chat.  Nathan pulled out his iPhone to show him pictures of (what else?) the kids.

The lights dimmed and the show started.  We both enjoyed it, but when the lights went up for intermission we both checked the time:  Nine o’ clock.  Bedtime.

We’re old.

We debated whether or not to stay for the rest of the show.

“It’s date night!” Nathan finally declared.  “I’m on a hot date with my wife and we’re going to stay for the whole thing!”

So we filled our plates with more dessert to sustain us through the rest of the show, making sure to take extra for the kids.

The evening ended at eleven o’clock.  We both crawled into bed, exhausted.

“That was a good date,” Nathan mumbled, drifting off to sleep.

“Mmmhmm,” I agreed, snuggling under the warm covers.

Then I heard the door open.

“Mommy?”

I’m sure I groaned then, but looking back, it was the perfect ending to a perfect date night.

Life looks a little different now that we have kids, marriage looks a little different now that we have kids, and date night looks a little different now that we have kids – but I wouldn’t change any of it.

Well, except maybe the spaghetti and chicken fingers.  That herb crusted prime rib looked awfully good …

True Romance

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It was the summer of 2011.  We were at Laurier Park, on a dirt path beside the river.  Walking on either side of me, her arm linked in mine, was a young woman, waiting for an answer.

The question?  One asked all too often when you’re the only married woman in a group of singles who are praying desperately to fall in love:

What’s the most romantic thing your husband has ever done for you? 

I remember racking my brain, trying to come up with an answer they would deem “acceptable”.  Nathan is many things, but “romantic” has never been one of them – at least not in the traditional sense!

“He wrote me a song,” I finally said.  “He sang it to me when I walked down the aisle at our wedding.”

It must have been the right answer, because they oohed and awwed and gushed about it and I congratulated myself for my quick thinking.

But now, three years after that conversation and six years into our marriage – I’m not so sure I would give the same answer to their question.

I might tell them about the time Nathan took six months of riding lessons to keep my horse in shape when I couldn’t ride.  Or how he strapped a stuffed toy into the carseat and carried it in and out of the car for two weeks before Topher was born to “practice remembering the baby”.  Or the time he pulled over on the side of a busy highway to pray for a dead coyote and his family because I was a crazy hormonal pregnant woman.  Or how he made sure my pad-sicle supply was always fully stocked in the days after childbirth.  For that matter, the fact that he stands unashamed in the checkout line at the grocery store whenever I send him to buy feminine products!  I might tell them about the time he caught Topher’s puke in his hands while we were on an airplane or the time he slept on the couch with me and Chloe (the dog he “tolerates lovingly”) when she was sick.  Maybe I would tell them that he deals with boogers when our kids need assistance (because that’s just disgusting!) or that he’s watched all seven seasons of the Gilmores with me, not once but twice.  He gets up with the kids on Sundays so I can sleep in, and he tells me I’m beautiful when I feel anything but.  I might tell them how he works hard at a stressful job to provide for our family, and how he is always supportive of my writing, even though there are other things I could do with my time that would earn more money.   He makes me laugh when I’m about to cry and he loves me when I feel unloveable.

Nathan did write me a song, and he did sing it to me when I walked down the aisle at our wedding, but my definition of romance has changed.  It’s not about the grand gestures, it’s about the little things Nathan does every day that show me he loves me.  

Tomorrow marks six years of marriage for Nathan and me.   Six years of choosing to love each other through the highs and lows, the good times and the bad.

Here’s to at least sixty more!

The Rug

Nathan and I bought a rug this weekend.  I should edit that to read “Nathan and I finally bought a rug this weekend …”  We’ve needed a rug since we bought our place but  could never agree on what to buy.  We’re complete opposites when it comes to decorating (and most other things!) – Nathan’s all about solids in neutral colours; I prefer patterns in bright colours.   After five years of cold feet, I finally gave in and we settled on plain white.  Some things just aren’t worth fighting over.  Some things are (like whether or not Topher should have a doll stroller to push his bears around in, and whether or not I should feed the neighbour’s seriously underweight cat …) – but a rug?  Puh-lease!  It’s white.  We have two kids and a dog.  Even if I absolutely hate it , how long is it  going to last?

Besides, cold feet suck.  For me, because duh, they’re cold, but also for Nathan, since he’s my number one choice when it comes to warming them up.  A rug – any rug – that keeps my feet warm is in everyone’s best interest.  Nathan was much more tolerant of my feet on his back when we were first married … Oh, how things change!

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