The Blogger’s Husband (and other naming dilemmas)

So, here’s a question: how should I refer to my husband online?

Some of the bloggers I read have invited me right into their homes and introduced us to their family by name: Rachel Held Evans has her Dan (Go, Team Dan and Rachel!) Kristen Howerton has a feisty daughter named India: I would recognize her spunk at 100 paces, even if she wasn’t wearing rompers. Ashleigh Slater goes with Ted. Glennon Melton has her Craig, Chase, Tish and Amma. And I know Jen Hatmaker has Brendon, Remy, Sydney, Gavin, Ben and another kid whose name I don’t know so they must be either very private or very boring (who am I kidding: clearly the answer is private. Boring is not an option if you are a Hatmaker.)

Others are more cryptic. I know Sarah Bessey has an “Anne with an -e” (of course!), but usually she calls them her ‘tinies’. Parenting forums use the ubiquitous “DH” for “darling husband”, which I find more than a little cheesy. My friend Jen opted for MOTH: the Man of the House – sheer genius!  My friend Cara calls her beloved “HBH”, Hot Black Husband, a most awesome combination of privacy and flattery.

I am choosing the more private route. While I am willing to bare my own soul on this blog, my husband would rather have root canal than talk about his feelings. His trust has been long-won, and I work hard to walk the line between being honest about my life while not sharing about his. My children are in the same boat.  So while they do make appearances, I don’t post pictures of their faces or their names on this blog. But what, then, to call them? And in particular, what to call my husband?

Ann Voskamp loves her Farmer. And Ree Drummond has MarlboroMan (and honestly – who can not vicariously love a man like that?) But my husband is not a Man of the Earth, who spends his days doing manly things in manly ways, sweating manly sweat and wiping his brow on his rugged plaid shirtsleeves. He is an engineer, and an excellent one at that. But I can’t call him The Engineer. It’s altogether too Dilbert-like, and I ain’t anyone’s pointy haired woman.

And so, I call him “my husband”. Accurate, but not exactly catchy or endearing.

So I’m wondering: Do you have any suggestions? How would YOU refer to your family?

 

The Sad Tale of the Jetlagged Tooth Fairy

20140802-150228-54148634.jpg

My firstborn’s first tooth started to get wiggly a few months back. Even though she is one of the older kids in her class, she was one of the last to achieve Wiggly Tooth Status – and so her excitement at having a tooth starting to loosen its grip can hardly be described. She is, however, not one for risk or discomfort, and after her first bite of an apple with the said wiggly tooth, she declared that it felt too weird and that she would foreswear apples until the tooth made its graceful exit in its own sweet time.

The tooth chose a rainy summer’s day in the Netherlands to break free. After a thrilling day at a kids’ wonderland, losing her first tooth at dinner was the most magical way to end a perfectly magical day. I was exhausted and had no more mommy-energy left: so I chickened out of dealing with the liberated tooth and, after singing and dancing the required celebratory dances with her, also told her that we would keep her tooth for the American tooth fairy, since she doesn’t work in Europe (who knows what the Europeans do with felled teeth? After all, they have enigmatic characters like Zwart Piet at Christmas time!?) She bought it, and went to sleep with a sweet, gap-toothed smile on her face.

The next week saw us in Belgium, when a second tooth decided to wiggle free. We danced and celebrated, and put the tooth away carefully to take home for the American Tooth Fairy.

The next week we were in France for a day, and I helpfully volunteered to knock one of her teeth out myself so that she could lose one in every country. This would make her someone quite unique, I explained: to be the kid who lost her first four teeth in four different countries. She glared at me reproachfully. Clearly, I was not Respecting The Process.

Fastforward to this past week, when my three little ones and I hopped on a plane in Europe shortly after breakfast, and traveled for 22 hours continuously, chasing the sunset. We arrived just after sunset on the same day. It was literally the longest day ever. I collapsed, exhausted, into my husband’s arms at the airport, and handed over the motley crue of screaming, exhausted children. We fell into bed, and slept like the dead…

…until 4am, when that evil travel companion Jetlag crowed louder than the most obnoxious rooster and woke all my exhausted children one by bleary-eyed one.

We ploughed through the day. I fell asleep on the couch by 6pm, and my hubby put the kids to bed. Some time around 2am, Jetlag crowed again, and thus began another night of Musical Beds. The baby in with us. The baby back in his bed. The preschooler in with us. Me in the guest room. The oldest in the guest room. The preschooler back in his own bed. The oldest back to her bed. Me back to bed. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Somewhere around 3:30am, I took my son – who was whining on repeat IcantsleepisitdayyetcanIwatchashow? – down to the kitchen and set a glass of warm milk before him. “My mom gave me this when I was a kid,” I coaxed. “It always helped me sleep.” In hindsight, I should have laced it with Benadryl.

Twenty minutes later, my eldest stirred while I was tucking the boy back into bed. “Go to sleep,” I whispered. “It’s a long time til morning still.”

As I closed their door behind me, I met my husband’s groggy face on the landing. He mumbled at me, and it took two or three repeats before I decoded his whisper: “The tooth fairy. The tooth fairy. We need to do something about the tooth fairy. She put her teeth in the fairy tooth pot, and we haven’t done anything about it yet.”

Let me confess that I thought very ugly thoughts in that moment. “But she’s awake!” I protested, pushing my way past him towards the bed. “I can’t do anything about it now. We can deal with it before she wakes up.”

But Mommy Guilt is a cruel insomniac, and a few minutes later I was awake and at her bedside. “Would you also like some warm milk?” I asked, stroking her head with one hand while my other surreptitiously scooted the tooth box into the fold of my pajamas. Amazingly, she agreed. Downstairs, I warmed her milk while I found somewhere to stash the teeth and groped around my purse, trying to weed out American money amidst the European notes.

“Here you go, sweetheart,” I whispered – helping her sit up to drink her milk and sliding the tooth jar and the cash stash into place. She drank her milk and curled up dreamily on her pillow. I allowed myself a victorious mommy fist-pump as I left the room.

Not so fast, Gloating Mama.

Moments later, she was shouting. “My teeth are gone! My teeth are gone! Where are they?” We ran into her room to find her distraught. The tooth jar was empty, and there was no money to be found. I smirked in the darkness: “well, honey – sometimes the tooth fairy doesn’t leave the money in the jar. Sometimes its under the bed or the pillow. Why don’t you try looking there?” Seconds later, she was beaming as she retrieved her greenbacks and counted out her good fortune. Kisses were kissed, goodnights re-said, and heads re-settled on pillows.

Not so fast, Relieved Mama.

A few minutes later, a heartbroken wail arose from the room. I dragged myself into their room, and found my daughter keening at her bedside. The wailing had roused my husband and the littlest, who had trotted through and was trying to soothe his sad sister with gentle pats on the had, which she found neither soothing nor gentle. “I want my teeth back!” she cried. “I wasn’t ready for them to go: I was excited to have them for just a few more days! I want them back! Can you get them back? I just wasn’t ready.”

She turned to her Daddy and asked if he could get them back: “I don’t know where they’ve gone,” she wailed, “because fairies aren’t real anyway and there isn’t any magic – so I don’t understand where they’ve gone and I just want them back!”

I breathed in deep. What should we say? We have chosen to tell our children the stories of Santa and the Easter Bunny rather than sell them as fact – and somehow the Tooth Fairy myth had launched her presence into our lives without much forethought. And yet: it was 3am and we were jetlagged and this was our first experience with kids losing teeth – but all three of them were awake and listening for an answer. So what to do? Kill the Tooth Fairy on her maiden voyage? At 3am?

I searched for my husband’s eyes for a cue on how to answer, but his face was buried in her hair, whispering Daddy words of comfort. I sighed and whispered my answer over his shoulder: “you’re right. Fairies aren’t real, but we really do love stories about them. We love the story of the tooth fairy, but Mommy has your teeth.”

The wailing stopped. She blinked at me. “Really?”

“Yes, really.”

She climbed into my lap, whispering thankyou and youcankeepthemoney and thankyou again and again. We laid her down, settled the boys, and said our goodnights.

Goodnight room

Goodnight moon

Goodnight cow jumping over the moon

Goodnight light and the red balloon

Goodnight bears, goodnight chairs

Goodnight kittens, and goodnight mittens

Goodnight clocks and goodnight socks

Goodnight stars

Goodnight air

Goodnight noises everywhere

Good night children.

And goodbye Tooth Fairy.

 

When a Wounded Unicorn Goes Shopping

Unicorn shopping

Unfair. That’s what it is.

The skin malady of the teen years is acne: those years of blackheads and pock-marked pustules which scream one’s hormonal changes to the the world. And the skin malady of the aged years is wrinkles: the years of crows feet and feathering and (if you’ve lived well), laugh lines.

But here I am, on the business end of my 30s, looking in the mirror and horrified to see BOTH my fair share of wrinkles AS WELL AS a colossus of a pimple on my forehead. And I just wanted to say: it’s not fair. I expected to trade my youthful slender and stay-up-all-night energy (with its acne) for the older, softer body-after-kids (with its wrinkles). To be lumped with both the valleys of wrinkles AND the mountains of peaks of pimples feels a bit like paying double taxes.

Thanks to my grandmothers’ particularly fair genetic skin type, I also have a good sprinkling of moles and nearly forty (40!!) soft, pink scar lines where doctors have decided that some of those moles were wholly unholy and cut a holey in me to excise the risk. So there’s that. The moles and the scars and the laugh lines (yay!) and the wrinkles. But the pimple is just unfair. And it’s the type I haven’t had for a while: the type that’s so inflamed it hurts when I raise my eyebrows in surprise. This morning I will brave the grocery store, taking care when I round the aisle corners not to bash into anyone with my cart or my inflamed unicorn horn. Shoppers, beware.

Of course, this is not the first time I’ve grappled with feelings of betrayal as I’m getting older. My hair is greying too, and so my daily jaunt to the mirror also raises the question “to dye or not to dye?” These were not the 50 shades of grey I had hoped for.

As always, this requires a little self-directed pep-talk before heading out the door. For if nothing else, becoming a Mom has taught me that my body is not just for looking at, it’s for living in. To despise it for not “looking right” is to dishonor a great gift. As such, it is worth ten seconds of my time to check my inner critic and give myself a different script. My face is fearfully and wonderfully made, and my skin is doing its job exactly: providing a flexible, waterproof, self-renewing shield between the germs out-there and my organs in-there. My wrinkly face will wrinkle in laughter today. My moley skin will provide entertainment for my toddler who likes to count the “dots”. My ageing hands will caress little faces.

And, thanks to a sense of humor and a mental picture of a unicorn, my giant pimple will make me laugh this morning as I turn around corners at the grocery aisle.

“Attention all shoppers! Attention all shoppers! There’s a wounded unicorn in aisle 4….”

Jesus and the Goldfish

Here are the things my children know for sure about Sunday School:

1. When in doubt, the answer is Jesus, and
2. There will be goldfish.

Now Rule #1 is for sure a good bedrock principle for life (although less so in High School Science class). But it’s Rule #2 that has me scratching my head today: why is it that snacks are an unquestioned necessity in every children’s church program?

20140105-205856.jpg

Our church service, being very western and organized, runs for exactly one hour. In the main sanctuary, the minutes of singing, greeting, announcements (always with the announcements… But I get it, they are central to our community life), the sermon… All carefully timed to fit into sixty minutes. The children’s programs have a schedule too: minutes of free play, clean up, circle time, bible story, craft and SNACK.

Now don’t get me wrong: my kids LOVE the snack! But I’m still wondering: Why? Why the snack? We can all last for 60 minutes without needing to eat. Children’s church is not a public school program where we know that for some kids, the calories they get on the campus are sometimes the only calories they get in a day. Rather, I would venture that for almost all the kids in our church, the goldfish consumed during Sunday school programs are competing for space with the lunch their parents will attempt to feed them within two hours of leaving church.

So why the snack?

I can think of three reasons:
1. The kids like eating.
2. It is something to do, and easily takes up 10 minutes of a program. When I occasionally sub teaching classes, I am always grateful for the 10 minute hiatus for munching…. But I could easily fill those minutes with play or singing too, if that were the norm. We’re just USED to making snack one of the non-negotiables of our kids program.
3. We are modeling and nurturing the idea of table fellowship: eating and talking together is something believers have done for centuries, and even young ‘uns get to participate in that aspect of Christian community.

Now that I think about it, #3 is a fairly persuasive argument in favor of keeping those horrible little goldfish crackers as a central part of our kids program. It can be a vehicle for conversation and community around a table, and it is also training for the horrible little crackers most of us will gratefully receive for communion for the remainder of our adult lives.

Community-building and communion-training could be great arguments in favor of keeping snack time. But if we’re serving snacks just because it’s always been done, because it’s expected, because it fills the time… Then I vote we ditch the goldfish, and cast our nets a little wider for inspiration.

A Salute to the Flag House

There is a house on 8th street which is very special to me. It was the very first house I was invited to dinner in when we moved to this little college town ten years ago. It was the house where I got involved with College Life, the ministry I served with until my children were born. It was the house where I made many precious friends.

The pastor who lived there moved away and sold that house over 7 years ago. But the house is still very special to me, even though I haven’t ever met the owner, and I haven’t set foot in their home in as long.

I first loved the house because of the warm community I met indoors there. But now, I love the house because of the community the owner has created outdoors. They have put in an exquisite garden, and in honor of our cycling community they mounted bicycle sculptures as decorations on their fence, and painted them beautiful colors. In the spring, there are flowers blooming from the baskets on those pastel pedalled-pedestals. They are beautiful: a celebration of the fun of living in a biking town.

But mostly, I love the community the owners have created by choosing to fly a different flag from their flag pole every day. They must have over a hundred, and every time I drive past, I see a vibrant, visual salute to somewhere far away: someone else’s country, someone else’s homeland, and as an immigrant living in this city I call home – it makes me feel at home like nothing else does. We’re in the USA, but the world out there is honored, named, recognized, celebrated. Last week, I choked up when I drove by and realized they were flying the South African flag at half mast in honor of Nelson Mandela. My home country’s flag in a suburban American garden brought a release of tears I had been holding onto for days.

The vast variety of flags also make me realize how weak my Geography is, since I recognize only a small fraction of those flapping flags. I guess I must not have been the only one, because some time after the owners began hoisting flags, they added a small white board posted at the base of the flag pole, letting passers by know which country’s pride is being celebrated that day. Maybe one too many curious people knocked on their door and they needed to make a plan…

And so I’m learning about the world. Thanks to the flag house, I would have an answer if I find myself in a grueling round of “Who wants to be a millionaire” and were faced with the question: “Which of these is not a real country?”

a. French Guiana
b. British Indonesia
c. French Polynesia
d. British Virgin Isles

britishVI flagI would have had to avail myself of the 50/50 lifeline, eliminating the French options, but then – thanks to the Flag House displaying this flag last week – would have known that the British Virgin Isles WERE in fact a real country, making the answer b: British Indonesia. (Random aside: the wiki article on British Indonesia is very entertaining.)

I love that house. It epitomizes so much of what I hope for in our home: a place welcoming, respectful, international, creative and fun. It is a landmark in our community. It is a beacon in our city.

This is my salute to the Flag House. Thank you for all you bring to our community.

A mixed bag

“Just a minute. I know I have it somewhere in here,” I muttered, and plunged my hand into my handbag.little_miss_messy1

The cashier smiled. Blinked.

Bag Braille Round 1 ensued: my fingers reading the contents of my carry-all, feeling for the familiar soft leather of my purse, the harder leather of my sunglasses case, the jingle of my keys. Finally, a slip of paper! David Copperfield like, I whipped that rabbit out of the proverbial hat. But alas: an expired yogurt coupon.

“Just a second. Sorry.”

More smiling. More blinking.

Bag Braille Round 2: feeling cloth, feeling plastic, feeling something wet. Another dry crinkle: voila!

Nope. That would be the parking garage ticket from my visit to see my friend in hospital two weeks ago.

Uh-Oh. This was going to require the Shameful Unpack. Out came the presentable top layer – purse, glasses, keys, cellphone.

Then the clutch diaper bag. Then lip balm. Then the lip balm lid.

Then the keep-my-kids-busy-in-the-restaurant crayons. The crayons smell like strawberries. They are King Tut-meets-Madame-Tussads: eerie embalmed wax figures.

A $10 bill (score!). Lollipop wrappers. One lollipop (“Mom can I have that?” -No.) A Q-tip: condition no-longer-serviceable. Ibuprofen. A blunt pencil. A pair of earrings (so THAT’s where I put those!) A tampon (“Mom what’s that? – a barbie pillow. “Can I have it?” -No.) A church bulletin. Sticks of gum (preemptive strike from the mama: No, you may not have any. Don’t even ask). A toy helicopter. A comb. The bottom layer of items is coated in a thin veneer of cheerio dust. a post-it with an address (dang it! I was supposed to write!) A handful of old raisins and cheerios, which must have valiantly escaped a confiscated snack trap. A bobby pin.

But no receipt. “Sorry,” I mutter. “I’ll have to return this another day.”

Move aside Forrest Gump. Life is like a woman’s handbag: you never know what you’re gonna get.

You know you’re a mom if…

You know you’re a mom if….

1… You know that two arms is less than half the number you actually need.

2… You have used a public restroom, zippers and all, while holding a baby.

3… You sing nursery rhymes in the car, even when you’re alone.

4… Sandra Boynton is the best poetry you’ve read in years.

5… You have had to restrain yourself from slapping someone who said they slept in til 9am.

6… Laughter and tears are everyday occurrences at the breakfast table.

7… You have answered the front door dressed up as a princess or fireman and it is not Halloween.

8… Bodily fluids, schmodily fluids.

9… You say utterly ridiculous things like “please don’t lick the dog”, and “no you may not look down my throat with that slipper.”

10… You sometimes wear flip flops indoors for fear of stepping on yet another cheerio, grape or Lego.

11… Your wallet is buried under any of the following: lollipops, restaurant crayons, hot wheels, disney band aids, wipes.

12… Also, you cannot remember how you lived without wipes.

13… You completely understand how shaken baby syndrome happens. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

14… You have a newfound awe for your body, which has nothing to do with how it looks.

15… You have discovered the genius and comic relief of mommy blogs. Honest toddler, I’m talking about you. And you, Jen Hatmaker.

16… Bench pressing toddlers totally counts as upper body exercise.

17… After yet another sleep deprived night, you throw your used Kleenex in the laundry basket and cannot find the dirty shirt you were just carrying a moment ago.

18… Your lunch too often consists of PBJ crusts and half-eaten apples.

19… Going grocery shopping alone with your husband feels like a date. Because it is.

20… You have spent 24 hours wearing the same yoga pants and hooded jacket.

21… The smell of a newborn baby’s head makes you ache with joy and wonder.

22… You have 5237 blurry photos of your kids that you can’t bear to delete, even though you know you’ll never print them. Each one is precious, even though there are 43 other blurry ones just like it.

23… Wearing blue glitter nail polish makes you an object of fascination rather than an object of ridicule, even though you’re in your thirties.

24… You have to restrain yourself from counting loudly to three when your spouse doesn’t respond immediately.

25… You’ve never felt more stretched, more humbled, more clueless, more frustrated, and yet,

… You’ve never felt more blessed.