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.

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!!!

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


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.


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.

Our First Date: An Ode to Ruth’s Tea Room

Ruths Tea Room

Our first date was in November 1998, almost 15 years ago. I don’t feel any different than I did that day. I am still painfully and terribly in love. I know him better now, but I still feel like the 19-year-old starry-eyed Virginia girl in love with the 18-year-old  Italian/Iranian ringlet-ed boy.

We fell in love in a nursing home when we were about 14 years old. Who can say that? Just a handful of people in the whole world? Our private school was located inside a wing of a working nursing home. We had pull-cords in the bathrooms and, if you were lucky, your locker was a kitchen cabinet. If you weren’t, it was a bathroom counter. We spent a little time in the cedar-closet darkroom, too. Ahem.

Our first date wasn’t until we had gone to college, 440 miles apart. When he came home for his first school break, we went on a date. I like our first date story better than anyone else’s. We went to Ruth’s Tea Room.

Ruth’s Tea Room (or tear room, as he says) was just a tiny little place inside an old woman’s house in Winchester, VA. I guess only locals knew about it. There wasn’t even any sign out front by the time we came around. Remember, there was no internet to speak of in 1998 – at least not for me. And not one that would spread the word about such an establishment. She served cakes and tea and homemade lemonade with sugar around the rim of the glass. She probably served meals, too, but we were always too poor to buy much. I remember the dim lighting. I remember the jukebox – with a lot of Duke Ellington and Tina Turner and… hmm, maybe not any white singers at all! I remember, above all else, the velvet red wallpaper. I remember his black eyes staring at me.

I had been to Ruth’s Tea Room with my best friend, Sarah, many times. We were just poor punk/goth/hippie kids who dressed from the thrift store. (Don’t let the private schooling fool you- I was sent there by a well-meaning relative.) The proprietor, whom I wrongly assumed was Ruth, was old and kind and Southern and genteel. She seemed to welcome us teens. Who, in their right minds, provides a place for teens to go, late at night, and somehow convinces them to use manners and be quiet? Miss Vivian did. I just learned her name today, through an internet search.

My man had never been there until the night of our first date. We were seated by Miss Vivian, in the tiny room with only 5 tables. There was another couple in there too. They were much older than my parents. The man looked at me and said, “That’s the courtin’ table you’re sittin’ at! When you gonna marry her, boy?!” I don’t have a good memory, but that moment is locked into my brain forever. The man went on to say that he and his wife sat there for their first date and that they had been married for a long time now. He also said something along the lines of “She’s got that just-made-love-glow about her” … about me… which, by the way, was only an “IN-love glow”, I swear.  We married in 2002, only 4 years later, after we had both graduated college. We adopted our first son in 2010 and gave birth to two more sons in 2012. We just celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary and have now been together for 15 years. He is my everything.

Ruth’s Tea Room was the most romantic place on earth. It was in an old lady’s somewhat musty house, in the worst possible part of Winchester, with a boy I had met in a nursing home. It was the last first date of my life.


 Me & Him, circa 1998



I have recently  learned that Ruth’s Tea Room, located at 128 E. Cecil Street, in Winchester VA, was demolished in 2008.  The entire block was razed. It is heartbreaking. I knew that it was a place nearing the end of its life in 1998, but it’s hard to accept that, even 15 years later, it’s really gone. A piece of history is gone. The Tea Room could have been in operation since 1915 (a 1990 article said it had been in operation for 75 years at that point). Also, the house itself was a piece of history, as it was first owned by the first freed slave in Winchester.

Information about the place was suprisingly hard to find during an internet search. I did (somehow not surprisingly)  find an entire webpage dedicated to the songs on the juke box at Ruth’s Tea Room: http://ruthstearoom.tumblr.com/.

I found the photo of the front of the house on a website called “Vanished Winchester”, whose  name itself is heartbreaking. https://picasaweb.google.com/102987560620552891770/VanishedWinchester#5343528834821207522

I found a facebook page called, “In Loving Memory of Ruth’s Tea Room”. I was moved to read the names of the members, which included names I haven’t seen since my middle-school yearbook. That page has 233 members! It is also where I found a picture of Miss Vivian, who I had thought was Ruth all these years. She is actually Ruth’s daughter. Seeing her face brought back some memories for me.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the facebook page:

  • “High school would not have been the same without this place and Vivian.”
  • “There hasn’t been and there will never be a place as wonderful as Ruth’s Tea Room. You always made all us regulars feel so welcome, like we were part of your family. I will forever hold onto wonderful memories of you, Zeus, the red velvet wallpaper, smells of herbal tea mixed with clove cigarettes and the warm home-like atmosphere that was so welcoming to all. I truly miss this incredible place.”
  • “Three generations of my family loved Ruth.”
  • “Orange spice and cigarettes in a room that was lit entirely by old Christmas lights and candles.”
  • “As a high school teacher now, I realize the service that she provided to us was phenomenal….nobody wants teenagers as their main patrons…people hate teenagers….but she didn’t judge us and our gothic ways, she lovingly served us, allowed us to be ourselves and occasionally told us not to curse.”
  • “Sex, drugs, and Ruth’s Tea Room. That’s really all I remember from high school.”

The only history I could find was an old newspaper article written in 1990 by Joe Bageant, whose name I recognized  immediately. He authored a book I own called “Deer Hunting with Jesus”, which is about povery and politics, as framed by Winchester, VA, which is Bageant’s hometown. I was surprised to see that he wrote about Ruth’s Tea Room, too!

He wrote, in his article about the Tea Room, “If he had a first name, I never knew it. Everyone just called him Mr. Boyd, and that’s probably the way he wanted it. Whatever the case, Mr. Boyd looked like the old picture on the Uncle Ben’s Rice box. A gentleman of color, he operated Ruth’s Tea Room in my hometown when I was a kid. The place was named after Mr. Boyd’s late wife, and it has been a fixture of that old Southern town for 75 years…. It is… all housed in the Boyds’ small two-story home inherited from the first free slave in our town, Virginius Boyd. Anyway, when I was growing up near the tea room in the late 1950s, Mr. Boyd and his daughter, Vivian, ran the place with soothing dignity. “