A Racecar Marriage: True Love a Quarter Mile at a Time (Yes, I just quoted Vin Diesel. Sorry.)

The first time I was ever attracted to my future husband was when he was driving me in his ’91 Eclipse.

His hands. Shifting.

It was maybe 1997. I was probably 18 and he was 17. It wasn’t a date – just hanging out with a mutual friend. We had known each other for a few years already, and, even though we went to a very small school, we ran in different crowds. He was quiet and wore a lot of black. I was … not quiet… and wore a lot of … not black. (Pretty sure I was wearing my 1970s hot pink thrift store pants with huge butterflies all over them.[i]) He had been quietly attracted to me, and I knew it, but I had other boyfriends. And I wasn’t interested.

Until that day in his car. And I noticed his muscled hands.

We were still just friends, but my heart started to beat a little faster. And then my heart turned toward him more and more until it beat for him only.

That 1991 Mitsubishi Eclipse – a car prized by people like Mr. Okayest for being possible to majorly modify – has always been a huge part of our life.  The car is not a possession or a material object.  It is a thread running through this marriage. A loud, 626 horsepower thread. Today, twenty years later, he finally got that car up on his new lift – a lifelong hard-won pursuit. Although I need him in the house to help me with our three small sons who are bugging me to death right now, I am so happy to see him so happy under that car. He’s gutting it and rebuilding it now. I love the light in his eyes.

Even I daydream of the time when he gets it running again, and we can and speed away from those three small sons for the evening. It will still be our dating car. Sometimes my mind seems to bend when I think back to our teenage selves, and how we ended up together, and our family and our years. I think back to that first ride in the Eclipse in nineteen-ninety-whatever, and his hands, and I think maybe I was able to picture this future – with that hard-won lift and these hard-won children, and the same Eclipse.[ii] It’s always been there.

The car was there when it drove him to the small high school where we met and saw each other every day.

The car was there when he drove to his mechanic job after school, instigating a lifetime obsession.

The car was there when my heart started to beat for him.

The car was there when we drove to our first date, an extremely old-fashioned little Tea Room in a woman’s house, where a husband and wife said they were sitting at the very table where they got engaged many years before. The man said to us, “You’re sitting at the courtin’ table, boy! When you gonna marry her?” (Yes, Virginia is The South.)

The car was there when we fell in love.

The car was there when we went to college, 500 miles apart, and the car made the trip between New York and Virginia for four years.

The car was there when he drove from New York in the night to surprise me, standing underneath my junior-year dorm room window, in a black trench coat, calling my name, like John Cusack in “Say Anything.”

The car was there, getting faster and faster and tougher and tougher under his ever-increasing mechanic experience.

The car was there at the drag strip with us, “a quarter mile at a time” as Vin Diesel ever-so-eloquently says in one of the Fasts and the Furiouses. We spent many date nights at the track. Usually I wasn’t allowed in the passenger seat, as my 115 pounds added “way too much weight” and slowed him down. But sometimes, when his times didn’t matter, I was riding beside him with my helmet, and it was the best rollercoaster in the world.

The car was there that one time it was so fast that my bony knees actually flew up into my face when he shifted.

The car was there, getting louder and louder, until it caught every cop’s eye, and set off every car alarm in every parking garage, in a row, as we drove past each one. (One of my favorite pastimes.)

The car was there when it had to be towed home again and again after a night of pushing it to its limits. That car was the only reason we had AAA.

The car was there when it got too big for its own britches and was no longer street legal. When it stopped passing inspections. When it couldn’t race anymore unless it could get a roll cage installed.

The car was there when we got pulled over many times, with cops on both sides of the car, shining lights in both our faces, yelling, “IS THIS YOUR CAR?”

The car was there, parked, for those three months that he had to bicycle his way to his internship every day, when his license was revoked.

The car was there when it took him across the country for another internship. When I returned from Italy, that car drove us from Washington state to Virginia at the end of that summer. We crossed the entire United States in that car,  even once crossing the border into Mexico.

The car was there, up on a dyno, out-powering all the other home-built racecars.

The car was there at our college graduations – first mine, then his.

The car was there when we got married in the temple, parked so quietly in the parking lot waiting for us to come back out. When we folded my handmade 40-yards-of-tulle-of-a-dress into it on that extremely hot and humid Virginia summer day (with no A/C because he had long ago pulled it out for being – wait for it – too heavy). When we arrived at our reception, sweaty and elated.

The car was there when we sped away from our reception with an enormous roar, and left our families behind for good. The car took us to our new life together.

The car was there at our first rental home. That whole first year of marriage when he commuted every day to the next state to be a racecar mechanic. That time it snowed three feet and got completely buried.

The car was there, probably smirking at me from the driveway, as I called my car insurance company to have my new husband added to my policy, and Allstate told me they would DROP ME if I added him and that car.

The car was there for our second year of marriage – an apartment, which did not suit us at all. With oil changes in the parking lot and much cursing.

The car was there when someone keyed it in that apartment parking lot and broke my husband’s heart.

The car was there, being towed on a flatbed behind the moving truck on our way to our first home that we owned. When we picked up a huge rescue dog to bring to our new home with us.

The car was there, taking us on drives through the countryside, with our new dog hanging her head out of the window, lapping at the mountain air.

The car was there, right behind me, the first time I drove a stick shift alone. He followed me part of the way to my job as a kindergarten teacher, so no one would park too close behind me at stoplights. Because I was still rolling backwards so much. The memory of his familiar racecar in my rearview mirror, when I was so nervous, still makes me smile. That’s true freaking love.

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I never know what I’m gonna find when I call him in for dinner.

The car was there every time my husband got the idea to tear it apart and make it bigger, better, faster – just to see if he could.

The car was there that time he made an entire second car for me from the leftover parts. And I drove it for a couple years, but the clutch was so stiff I often felt like crying when a stoplight turned red.

The car was there that time he raced it so hard he snapped an axle on the drag strip.

The car was there when I realized I couldn’t drive it anymore. That I would probably never drive it again. It became too much for me.

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Melted metal. One of these things is not like the other.

The car was there that time he pushed it so hard on the interstate in the middle of the night that he sent a piece of the engine straight through the firewall[iii]. When he made a huge hole in the engine block and left a hemorrhage of fluids for a mile. And his wife screamed at him for putting his life in danger over and over again.

The car was also there every time I screamed with joy at the fun we had going fast.

The car was there, parked in the garage underneath our bedroom, when we found out we were pregnant after years of trying.

The car was there, parked in the garage underneath our bedroom, when I began to miscarry the baby. When we came home from the hospital with only the knowledge that she was a girl.

And finally, one day when he was tearing the car apart for a semi-basic rebuild, our son came into our lives. We were parents. And the non-working car would sit quietly for the next seven years.

The car was there in our minds when we bought a bigger, nearly-foreclosed house with a detached garage – the reason we had purchased this house in the first place. The car had figured into our home-buying decision!

The car was there when we moved with a bigger moving truck this time, towing the racecar behind us on yet another flatbed.

The car was there when we made a huge permanent gash in our road from getting it off the flatbed.

The car was there when we pushed it down the hill and into the detached garage. When friends helped him get every wheel on a dolly so it could be moved around the garage.

The car got covered. Grew mold and dust as our family grew bigger. Twins. Three children under three. All hands on deck. House repairs that never stopped. Three children in diapers. Oh, the intensity. The car was never forgotten, though. We daydreamed about the glory days and the track and the romance and the speed, while we were covered in spit up and poop and were decidedly stationary.

And, then, one day the children were a little more independent. The house was stabilized – although it will never be finished. We had saved and saved and saved. My husband looked around and said it was time.

FB_IMG_1495119821851The car was there, sitting quietly, as he poured a concrete floor in around it in the garage. As he expanded the garage around it. As he installed a lift beside it. As he insulated the garage. As he learned how to wire the garage.

The car was there that day he and my brother rolled it off its little dollies, and pushed it onto the lift. When my husband smiled.

It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t run. What matters is that it’s possible it may run again someday. What matters is that my husband is happy.  What matters is that the kids don’t run our lives. What matters are the memories and the emotions and the shared experiences we both remember. We grew up together. And now we feel so very old because, yes, “the car makes us feel young again”. We can barely say that with a straight face, but it’s true anyway. That’s how we know we’re old. (Also, we know we’re old because the car is eligible for antique license plates now since it’s more than 25 years old. If it could qualify for plates.)

Today, the children run around us in the freshly painted garage, weaving around and under our racecar on our lift. They peek inside. They ask questions. They know it used to be faster than any car they see on the road. They do know that a Formula One racecar is faster, though. Because that’s faster than everything, they say. They know their Daddy built this car with his own hands. They know that he will build it again. They don’t care too much – but they will when they hear it roar to life for the first time. Will they ride in the backseat? We don’t even know.[iv] Probably not. It’s not street legal, after all.

Seven years since it has started up. Fifteen years since we left for our honeymoon in it. Twenty years since I first set eyes on his hands as he shifted. Twenty years.

****

[i] When Mr. Okayest read this sentence about my butterfly pants, he said, “I remember those pants!” I’m all like, “Yeah, because they probably blinded you.”

[ii] I’m lying. It’s not technically the same Eclipse, but for the sake of writing continuity, I fibbed. He got his first 1991 Eclipse when he was 16. He replaced it four years later with a turbo version. Same color, same year, same car. It’s the same car to me. Yeah yeah yeah. Just go with it.

[iii] Firewall? I originally wrote “dashboard” and he corrected it to “firewall,” but I have no idea what that means.

[iv] Mr. Okayest just said “definitely not.” Apparently he took out (and threw away) the backseat seatbelts years ago BECAUSE THEY WERE – wait for it – TOO HEAVY.

A Valentine’s Chart: He Says, She Hears

Scene: Wife asks husband about an upcoming party/event/concert/thing that she desperately wants to attend, because, after all, she stays home with small children all day. Husband, being a manly lumberjack type who works hard and is introverted, usually prefers to stay home. Like a teenager asking for her parents’ car, Wife thinks hard about the timing and phrasing (casual) of her request.*

“Soooo, reggae tickets are half price at that club. Wanna go for Valentine’s Day? Reggae is totally better than flowers and chocolate. I don’t even like chocolate. You can’t go wrong with reggae.”

Wife holds breath. Wife waits for husband’s response.

 

He says… I hear… Chance of Going to that Thing
“Sure.” The best answer I can expect. There’s no exclamation point though. 99%
“I guess so.” He is agreeing because he loves me and wants to make me happy, but he’d rather be felling a tree. 85% (Although when he read this, he said, “85% seems kind of high.”)
“Uhhh… yeah… whatever.” He is distracted with a chainsaw or potty training kids or can’t actually hear me because he’s under a car, and my chances will decrease after those distractions cease and he remembers what I asked. 50%
“Maybe.” My chances are slim and I might as well hang my head in defeat. However, I can always hold on to the hope that he is tricking me and will buy the tickets as a surprise gift later. 9% (See “High Fidelity” the movie)
“I don’t knoooooooooow.” My chances are slim, but he’s in a good mood and a favor or two might help here. 8%
“Hell no!” Hell no. 1%
Nothing. Just a hard stare. Crickets. 0%

 

* Sorry if this makes my husband sound like my dad. No hate mail, please.

I’m a Passenger in Life (Because I Failed a Motorcycle Class and Cried)

“Learning to ride a motorcycle was MY dream and now you stole my dream and stomped on it!” I sobbed to my flabbergasted husband.

We were young and childless. Early 20s maybe. I had just failed our motorcycle class. Badly.

I'm wearing my dad's motorcycle jacket from the 70s.

I’m wearing my dad’s motorcycle jacket from the 70s.

My dad had a motorcycle when I was kid, and it had always been my greatest hope to learn to ride one as well. I was too terrified to accept rides because I thought it would tip over going around corners – but I didn’t know how to tell him that. The words wouldn’t come out. Maybe because I never conquered that childhood fear, it morphed into some kind of daredevil I-told-you-so thing to get back at myself.

Motorcycles seemed like the logical next step for Mr. Okayest and me. We love vehicles. My husband had a 600+ horsepower racecar that he had built and I was a garage widow. He built me a car from leftover racecar parts that had a clutch so tough, I sometimes cried when a light turned red. He brought cars back to life and sold them for profit (once for ten times what he paid). He had a vested interest in anything with wheels, including four-wheeling, but had assumed I would never want him to have a motorcycle. Apparently, that’s what wives are supposed to say. (Of course, it helped that my less-than-100-pound college roommate/ best friend had a motorcycle and wanted to go for drives with us.)

When he told his friends at work that I was pressing him to take a motorcycle course with me, they were jealous. They told him how lucky he was. “My wife won’t let me have a motorcycle,” they said. (I don’t think the words “won’t let me” should appear in a marriage, but that’s a post for another day.) So we signed up for the class at the local community college.

I was so excited. It started out pretty fun. Getting on a motorcycle in the FRONT was so empowering. I learned how to make it go and stop. I learned how to turn the whole bike with my head – the bike goes where your eyes go. I learned how if I wanted to wear a 3/4 helmet, I should be prepared to live with 3/4 of a face. Anyway, we were having these awesome date nights together at the motorcycle course. So romantic – for me anyway. I was living my dream and getting to be with my hubby. Win-win.

Until the road test.

See, I have to pee when I get nervous, okay? Let’s just blame it on that, okay?

All fifteen of my classmates were lined up for the road test. We just had to use small motorcycles – almost scooters, really – to make some maneuvers around cones and road lines without putting our feet down. We had done it before in practice, but now we were standing in line for a test to determine if we got our motorcycle certification. I felt a bit nervous, but I was standing by my man who always makes me braver.

And then I had to pee. I timidly asked the instructor if I could use the bathroom, and she wasn’t happy. I had to run allllll the way across the parking lot and through the college. By the time I got back, my heart was racing… and everyone was done. Even my husband. Everyone stared at me, out of breath and flustered. All eyes were on me as I climbed on my scooter/motorcycle. Suddenly, I knew I would fail.

I put my foot down. I’m sure I did a lot of other things wrong too. But everyone was staring at me. They were all relaxing with a cigarette in the grass and watching the puny blonde girl learn that she is going to fail something for the first time in her life.

We went back to the classroom and the professors tallied up our points. Then they called out our names, one by one, to hand us our certificate or send us packing. Mr. Okayest got his state certification, with a perfect score on his road test. He was a natural. When they called my name, they said, “Fail”, and the whole class heard.

I had never failed anything in my entire life. Straight-A student, perfect attendance, cum laude, double major, blah blah blah… and now I was put in my place. Fail!

Mr. Okayest had such a sympathetic look on his face that I couldn’t look at him again until we got to the car. As soon as my butt hit that VW seat, I burst into tears. Like a toddler. Wailing. Snotting. Making no sense at all.

Like the early-20s, semi-immature, newly-married, never-failed-anything person that I was, of course I took it out on my husband.

“This was MY dream and you stole it!”… even though I had asked him to take the course with me.

“This was MY dream and you crushed it!”… even though it was in no way his fault that I had failed.

“This was MY dream and now I will never be good at anything ever again!”… even though that makes no sense at all.

The starter bike that we had purchased for pennies was so small for Mr. Okayest that it looked like his knees were in his armpits, like those men with the funny hats who ride those tiny motorcycles in the town parade. The plan had been for him to learn on it, then pass it along to me, whose frame it fit, and then save up for a bigger bike for him.

Nevermind.

He started taking me around on the back of that bike. It wasn’t big enough to support us both, so we wobbled a lot. But I hugged his strong back and closed my eyes and leaned when his body leaned. I liked it.

And then I loved it.

I didn’t have to pay attention to anything at all. I daydreamed while snuggling my husband close. I held on tight to my beloved. I even learned that I could close my eyes around corners to avoid my childhood fear of falling over. Heck, I wasn’t driving! I let my worries seep out the back of my helmet, like how Harry Potter can steal memories out of someone’s head in a long silver stream. I smelled the creeks and the earth when the road dipped low in a hollow. I saw the great expanse of sky when we crested a mountain top. I learned not to sneeze in my helmet. I let go.

I learned that I was a passenger in life. I am not always the driver. It feels good. I wear it well.

^ Now that last sentence there would be a great ending to this post, but there’s more.

Failing this motorcycle class was before my body failed to get pregnant. It was before my body failed to carry babies to term. It was before I failed to deliver babies without kicking the bucket. It was before I learned the lesson of, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” I fail at lots of things now. I think I failed this morning not to yell at my children. I fail and I fail every single day at so many things, but I’m okay with it. I have learned so much.

We eventually sold the tiny bike and planned to get another properly-sized one someday, when we could afford it. It was hard to let that tiny bike go because it was supposed to be mine. As we were selling it to some other newly-certified motorcycle driver, I saw that that was the final nail in the coffin of me being a driver. I would be destined to be a passenger forever. It was okay, though – I just had a few pangs as it drove away.

When we finally got pregnant with twins, my husband must have had some sort of mini-crisis, because he decided that would be the best time to get a new, bigger, stronger, tougher motorcycle. One that fit his body. One that woke up the neighbors. And one that I couldn’t ride with twins protruding from my belly.

“NOW?!” I yelped. “Are you serious? Of all times you could have chosen to buy this thing, NOW?!!!” I can’t ride it, I’m nesting, we’re saving up for the “triplet” diaper onslaught, and did I mention I’m nesting? And all these hormones make me feel like you are riding out to certain death? And I get to be jealous on top of all that, too? I get to be jealous of you riding to certain death?

YOU STOLE MY DREAM AND STOMPED IT. AGAIN.

Mr. Okayest is nothing if not rational. And we all know how much he loves his spreadsheets. He convinced me that it was the right thing to do because it would save on gas, and it would be a free date night anytime we had a sitter… and – wait for it – allow him to ride the HOV lanes home from work so that he would get home sooner. “Won’t you need me home an hour earlier to help with baby twins?” he said.

And he scores!

He brought that motorcycle home and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I was drooling. Oh, and, yeah, it’ll get him home sooner or something.

I couldn’t ride it. Even if I could have fit my twin belly between us on that bike, I would never take twins on a motorcycle. They weren’t wearing helmets, you know? I had to watch him drive away as I stayed home on bedrest. And then stayed home with recovery from almost dying (not on a motorcycle, though). And then stayed home caring for newborn twins.

He was right. He got home sooner.

When the twins were a few months old, and my birth wounds were healed up just enough to allow me to not retch, my in-laws babysat one day so we could go for a quick ride. Our first ride together in years. I nuzzled into his neck. I closed my eyes around corners so I didn’t have to feel afraid. I let my body lean with his. I smelled the earth and felt the rumble of the engine and hugged him tight. I was more nervous than before, knowing that I had three small children under three years old waiting for me to come home without bodily injury, but I was so happy. My worries seeped out the back of my helmet in a silver stream.

I’m a passenger. I ride and I ride.

Bye, kids!

Bye, kids!

***

Oh, the passenger

How, how he rides

Oh, the passenger

He rides and he rides

He looks through his window

What does he see?

He sees the sign and hollow sky

He sees the stars come out tonight

He sees the city’s ripped backsides

He sees the winding ocean drive

And everything was made for you and me

All of it was made for you and me

‘Cause it just belongs to you and me

So let’s take a ride and see what’s mine

Singing la la la.. lala la la

“Passenger” by Iggy Pop

Marriage Shorthand

If you have many small, noisy, demanding, and interrupting children like we do, you know that you have to talk really quickly. We have no time to finish sentences. Also, if you’ve been together as long as we have*, you know that you talk in a certain kind of abbreviated conversational style that we call Marriage Shorthand. Sound familiar?

Him: So how was your day?
Me: Great! Costco is now selling GENERIC APPLESAUCE SQUEEZIES!!!! AHHHHH! [Happy dance]

Me: I just pulled that awesome dinner out of my A-S-S.
Him: I’m surprised it tasted so good.

Him: Nice diaper on the stereo.
Me: At least it’s not a poop diaper.
Him: [skeptical look]
Me: Really.

Him [to the children]: Stop asking questions to which you already know the answer!
Me: Nice use of proper grammar, even while yelling at the kids!

Me: Are you scrolling through my Facebook?
Him: I’m just marveling at how different your newsfeed is than mine. It’s so positive! Look, you’ve got a rainbow, and babies, and oh, look, a garden!

Him: Hey hon?
Me: Yeah?
Him: Pretty sure R has pink eye.
Me: Okay.

Me: Do you wanna share what’s left of my cinnamon bun?
Him: Sure.
Me: It’s in my purse.
Him: Okay.
Me: And, so, also, will you go get it?

Me: Honey, I promise you I will make sure I have toenail polish on ten toes or zero toes before vacation. Not nine toes.
Him: I really don’t care.
Me: It’s 99 cent three-week-old toenail polish, OK?!
Him: (laughing) It looks it.

Me: What can I do to help?
Him: just observe in amazement.

Me: Sorry. I just burped and you put your face in it.
Him: I didn’t notice. Either that or your burps smell like sunshine.

Him: So my friend texted me about this old car he’s selling
Me: [casually but quickly puts Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle” on and sings along in his face]

Me: [picking at cuticles]
Him: You are tearing holes in your SOUL.

Him: I would really appreciate if you could keep your shoes on your shoe shelf in the closet.
Me: I have a shoe shelf?

Me: I am gonna need new Birkenstocks. These are cracked.
Him: Don’t you have an extra pair?
Me: No.
Him: You could wear mine. Your feet are big enough.

Him: (laughing and singing) “I was tired of my lady…”
Me: NO! I KNEW you would play this stupid pina colada song if I came downstairs!
Him: “…we’d been together too long…”
Me: NO! Turn it off!!
Him: “…Like a worn-out recording…”
Me: NO! Stop!!!
Him: “..IF YOU LIKE PINA COLADAS!!!!”

Me: Can I think my way out of these hives?
Him: Yes. And have you tried cortisone?
Me: Yes. But it expired in 1999.
Him. Well there’s your problem.

Me: Can you not shut the shower curtain so hard? It’s really loud.
Him: No comment.
Me: You shut it like you’re mad at it.
Him: Well, it’s just that you really have to jerk it.
Me: No comment.

Me: So do you remember last week when you commented on that diaper I left on the stereo? I don’t want to be a nag or anything, but I see a diaper on the stereo.
HIm: Nah, that’s just an empty bag. I almost changed somebody, but then I got distracted, so I guess I just left that empty plastic bag on the stereo. Doesn’t count.
Me: Hmm.

Me: Feel my calf! It’s stronger! Everything is changing since I started the gym.
Him: (rubs my feet) Everything but your big feet.

Him: you want some potato with that butter?
Me: [Silence except for the sounds of eating butter.]

Me: Why didn’t you get lunch meat at the grocery store?
Him: It wasn’t on the list. Look, I’m not the list maker. I only win the bread and retrieve it.

Me: Why does our house sound like a spaceship?
Him: Because I changed the filter.
Me: Oh.

Him: How are you?
Me: Ugh.
Me: How are you?
Him: Meh.

*(We met when we were about 14, started dating at 18ish, and got married at 22. We are now in our mid-thirties, so that’s … a pretty long time.)

Dear Husband, While You Were Away, These Things Happened

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You may have received a few weird texts from me while you were away. Allow me to explain.

Dear Husband,

While you were on your business trip, eating at restaurants and having full conversations with adults, reading in your quiet hotel room, and wearing nice suits into secure facilities, many things transpired. I don’t know where to begin. You’ve seen quite a few strange texts from me in the last few days.

I am a woman alone with three male toddlers. Boymom.

Someone pooped on the deck. A child. A person. Twice.

I spent as much time as allowed by law at the gym. The children were at the gym daycare for exactly 120 minutes a day. Not one minute less. Yes, I did my strength training class. (I even imagined that my instructor was Parker Posey in “Dazed and Confused”, and she was about to bust out the ketchup and scream “Fry, like bacon you little freshman piggies, fry, fry!”) Also, in full disclosure, I spent a lot of time just idly peddling on the recumbent bike while I listened to U2 and googled the cost of a hip pair of fluorescent gym shoes.

I threw a party in the basement after the kids went to bed one night. A party for moms. We ate that nacho cheese that gives me a stomachache and a headache and watched “Footloose” and didn’t wear bras.

The dog ate a diaper. I didn’t clean up all those little beads that exploded out of it. I was hoping the rain would wash it away but it seemed to make the problem worse. I feel guilty and want to apologize to the earth, but not to you.

I didn’t make the kids clean up their toys. I thought they didn’t notice that I had silently changed the rules, but one of them told his grandmother that “We aren’t cleaning up our toys because Daddy is gone.” Oh, snap!

I fed them fish sticks – or “dick dicks”, according to Twin A. I would never feed them dick dicks if you were here.

I handled a lot of my bidness myself for once. I managed to fix the baby gate when I broke it, finally! I got the trash AND the recycles out on time. I even updated the PlayStation system (with your help via the phone during my mom party when our movie wouldn’t play).

I did not kill the children.

I spilled yogurt all over the deck and the children when I tripped over them. I didn’t clean it up. Thankfully, the rain and the dog were actually helpful in this regard.

The kids were dirty because I haven’t bathed them – because you’re not here to do it for me. I added a couple squirts of Burt’s Bees soap to their baby pool that was full of rain water. Yes, yes I did. They slipped and slided and made a lot of suds. That totally counts as a bath. What?! I’m short-staffed.

I tried to get a tan on the back deck during naptime, and I even managed to take a selfie for you while doing so. I was a bit weirded out when one son kept staring at me through his blinds. Also, the baby monitor informed me that I had to go upstairs approximately 47 times to separate twins and generally restore order. While covered in greasy oil and wearing a bikini. The twins were a bit weirded out as well.

Pinterest fail. It's a sprinkler. Sort of.

Pinterest fail. It’s a sprinkler. Sort of.

I tried to be a Pinterest Mom and failed. I tried to poke holes in a pool noodle and attach it to the hose to make a sprinkler for a dollar. But the water just seeped out instead of shooting out and the kids were totally bored. I even hung it on a tree to make it work better but they weren’t impressed. (When you have an engineer for a dad, mom’s inventions are super lame, I guess…)

I had an anxiety attack. But not about the Pinterest fail.

I binged watched some stuff on Netflix. And by “some”, I mean, a lot. I don’t plan to tell you what I watched because I’m embarrassed. (Oh, dang, I just remembered that Netflix has a history, unlike flipping channels on cable, so I’m sure you will know anyway. And you won’t care.)

I felt terribly uncomfortable at night now that our attack dog is going deaf.

And, to top off the week (drumroll please), one of your sons fell off the lower deck, naked, while peeing.*

I think we need a man around.

Sincerely,

Your wife

***

*He fell 8 feet, but was miraculously fine. I am happy to report that I am indeed calm in an emergency. As he was falling, I was actually running through my list of who to call to watch the twins in case I had to rush him to the hospital. Since the doctor told me I would have to wake said fallen rubbery naked child every two hours all night long to check for signs of concussion, this situation was still grave and worrisome. However, I do believe that it will become a funny story in our family lexicon sooner or later.

Also, I long ago decided that there is a special angel who watches over playing children. Also, I decided that children are made of rubber.

Marriage Survival Tips for Parents of Multiples

Basement date night for Mr. & Mrs. Okayest

Basement date night for Mr. & Mrs. Okayest

The divorce rate of parents of multiples is higher than the divorce rate of parents of regular kids. It is easy to imagine why! Parents of multiples are in emergency mode or exhaustion mode all the time. I don’t think my husband and I finished a sentence for a whole year after the birth of the twins. When we had one child, even though he came to us through adoption with only three days’ notice, we still felt like us, only with a baby attached. When our twins came along two years later, we felt like we were getting continuously hammered in the head while getting smacked in the face while drowning. It’s hard to put your marriage first during that.

us 2Anyone who knows us knows that we put each other first. We have known each other since we were maybe 14 years old, and we were together for 12 years (married for eight) before our first son was born. As much as we wanted children, we still aren’t used to the mayhem. Our “normal” mode is still just the two of us, since we were alone together for so long. I used to feel guilty about that, but I don’t anymore. The kids are temporary: they will grow up and move away. Mr. Okayest and I are married for eternity. (Like, for real. We were sealed in an LDS temple, which means we don’t “death do us part”.)

I am no marriage expert, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve that ensure my sanity – or at least my marriage sanity. I can’t tell you what is right for your marriage, but I can tell you what has helped us. Here are a few of my own survival tips that might help other parents of multiples- or all parents!

  • Never keep score. We agreed early on that we would never say, “Your turn” or “I did it last time” or anything like that. Sometimes it’s easier to remember that with multiples than with singletons, because all hands are on deck with multiples! Each of us always had a baby. It’s deadly poison to tally up how many poops you have changed or how much trash you have taken out. We each just do our best, all the time, until we can’t do our best – and then we say we need a break. Scorekeeping is a marriage enemy.
  • No sarcasm AT the other spouse. Dr. Phil says this is one of his top predictors of divorce! Of course, we have plenty of snark when we are making fun of something (someone?) else, together. Heehee. We just don’t eye roll or use sarcasm when we are disagreeing, arguing, or even being super sleep-deprived. (The first six months after twins saw a super sharp increase in snippiness, though. Sorry, honey.)
  • Eat after the kids go to bed on the weekends. Sometimes it’s cold cereal and sometimes it’s carryout. Either way, we know it’s our time for each other. At least I can eat one meal a week where my husband doesn’t have to see all my partially-chewed food as I yell to toddlers to eat with their mouths closed. We are all about family dinners, but five or six times per week is good enough.
  • Reserve nap time for each other on the weekends. We do as many of the chores and errands as can during the kids’ waking hours, and then we are off-duty, together, while the kids nap. The whole house shuts down. Consider yourself Italian/Spanish and worthy of a siesta.
  • Keep the bedroom a kid-less sanctuary. This suggestion is not for everyone. It works for us, though. We don’t allow children in our bed, and I don’t even have pictures of the kids in our bedroom. It is just for us. Simple.
  • Organize a “Date Night Co-op” (free babysitting swaps) with other parents. I do the super simple version: I give my friends from 8 PM- midnight. I won’t put your kids to bed, but I will leave my husband at home with our kids, come to your house after your little ones are tucked in, and I will channel-surf on your couch and make sure the house doesn’t burn down. I don’t care if you go to a movie or make out in a parking lot. Just come home happy and give me a turn the next week or the next month. Simple, free, easy. (I’ve also seen more complicated versions, where an entire neighborhood or entire church will work together to earn points or hours with each other. Large groups of older kids can have movie nights at one person’s house while the other sets of parents go out.)
  • Remember that your spouse is doing his/her best and needs breaks. We hear a lot about wives trying to convince their “clueless” husbands that what they do is hard. But you know what? Husbands work hard too. They don’t get enough credit. I don’t envy my husband’s tasks of vehicle maintenance, home repair, and taxes. I can’t do his jobs, but he can sure do mine. Sometimes he needs breaks. He likes to relax in ways that I don’t, and vice versa. He never judges me for how I might need to decompress. (Watching the Kardashians? Eating a whole bag of Doritos?) He never sighs when I ask if I can leave him to do bedtime while I go to a movie with a friend. I’m not sure I can say the same, but I’m working on it. He’s a good example to me.

These sanity tips have kept us best friends while having three kids in diapers. What tips do you have for stressed-out and sleep-deprived parents?

***

This article was originally written for Beyond Infertility, a website about parenting after infertility. I am a regular contributor to their website. You can find the original here.

Grad School Is Over (I Can’t Think of a Better Title Because Grad School Made Me So Tired.)

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We did it. Grad school. It’s over. I have no idea what Mr. Okayest’s degree is in, and I’m not sure I even care. I’m proud of him, but more importantly, I’m proud of us.

Mr. Okayest is the one who gets the degree, but he says it belongs to both of us. For every credit hour he spent in class, I spent one here with three babies. For every exam, paper, and project, I handled the children on my own. Weekends were never restful. We both earned this degree.

We can’t believe it’s over. We’re still in shock, waiting for the next assignment to drown us again. Four years of hell is OVER!

We were childless for the first eight years of our marriage. We also did not go to grad school during the first eight years of our marriage. When our first son came along in 2010, my husband decided that would be a great time to start grad school. Seriously, honey? You couldn’t have done that a little earlier?

Two years later, when I ended up in a high-risk twin pregnancy and bedrest, I said, “Surely, honey, you will take some time off school now?” Nope. He kept it up. He managed to take care of me, my son, the house, the cooking, the cleaning, and his homework. I thought he was crazy, but he got an “A” that semester.

When the twins were born in 2012, and I almost died, and spent a month learning how to, you know, live again, and we never slept, I said, “Surely, honey, you can take some time off school now?” Nope. He kept trucking. That was the hardest course of all, too, and it happened to fall during the hardest months of our lives. He got an “A” that semester, too, by some miracle. (And by “some miracle”, I am referring to our moms and aunts and grandmas and cousins and church sisters who helped care for me and my family!)

During the early days of the twins’ life, I simply could not care for them on my own. Newborns and a very needy two-year-old cannot wait for anything. Every need is immediate, and my battered body could not keep up with their needs.

I remember distinctly the first time my husband went back to class after my recovery. It was maybe the third week after the birth. My health was shaky, at best. I had not been apart from him for even one minute during the past month. He helped me go to the bathroom. He showered me. I hadn’t been able to walk or stand without his assistance for some time. I had not been away from him at all. My body and my heart depended on him.

He asked my aunt to come over just while he went to class. He hadn’t even gone back to work yet, but he headed to class at 5PM that day. My aunt and I were sitting on the couch, and he was tying his shoes, but he was watching my face. Tears were rolling down my cheeks. I was terrified. I trusted my aunt to care for me and my three babies under three years old, but I was terrified to be away from my husband. He kissed me goodbye and he went to school. My aunt asked what was wrong. I couldn’t put it into words, but I think she understood.

Eventually, I got stronger. I hired a mother’s helper, an 11-year-old from church with lots of siblings, to help me after school. I remember us each feeding a baby a bottle on the couch.

Eventually, my oldest son got, well, older. He was able to (kind of) put on his own jammies. He was able to (kind of) wait his turn. However, he was simply not the same when Daddy was having a late class night. He usually didn’t see his father from Monday night until Wednesday night. That’s an eternity when you’re two or three years old! He wasn’t the same when his father had to do homework in the basement with the door shut. He wanted to be near his dad at all times. His tantrums were worse on school days and homework days.

Eventually the babies, too, became more independent. Daddy kept going to school, and they outgrew those bottles. They grew into toddlers who could just be put into their cribs while awake. Each one could wait a little bit when his brother needed me.

On the days that I was alone from 5AM to 9PM, my sweet in-laws would come every week. For years, they have been relieving me. I have used their visits to get my shower, or collapse in a heap of a nap, or to take my oldest son on a date, or to do the weekly shopping. I have used their visits to sneak in six months of swim lessons for my son while the babies napped at home with the grandparents. I have used their visits to schedule a multitude of doctor appointments for both me and my son. They gave me time off from the twins during the day, so that I could survive until 9PM when my husband came home. And, sometimes, when I was sick or my husband was out of town, they would even stay through bedtime. They say that it isn’t a selfless act; they say that they just love the time with the grandchildren! I still say it’s a selfless act, because this circus isn’t easy.

There were some really bad times. There were many times that I cried with exhaustion after all the kids were in bed. There were times that I didn’t want to wake up on his school days, because I knew what the next 16 hours would hold. There were times that one or two or all three were sick and I cared for them alone. There was vomit, diarrhea, countless nose wipings… There was even one time that I was vomiting while making them their dinner and while putting them to bed. (The kids were, of course, recovered from their stomach bug by the time they had given it to me.)

Grad school gave me a new respect for single parents. I have no idea how they do it. I almost felt incapable of handling my own life.

At dinner last week, while I fed the children while their Daddy was in his last class, I excitedly said to the children, “Guess what?! Daddy isn’t going to go to school any more! He will always be home for dinner and bedtime now!” All three just stared at me blankly while chewing their meatballs. This four-year-old and those two two-year-olds will probably have no memory of all the hard work and tears that was grad school. Their whole lives were this way, but they won’t remember a thing. (Oh, and the next night, he had to work late and missed dinner.)

It’s really over. I can’t believe it. Now we can get on to other things, like house repair. Oh my goodness, I’m still never going to see my husband, am I?