Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Our Love Story (Part 3)

 Catch up on Part 1 and Part 2.

Reminder of where we are in the story: Tom and I are super tight friends, and hang out all the time, but despite appearances we honestly don't have feelings for each other.

I was just reminded that that February, I had started a 54-day Rosary Novena.  I don't remember the exact wording of my intention, but it was basically asking that I would find the man I would marry.  It ended mid-April.  Some may argue that it was coincidental, but I do believe this had something to do with the events which follow [also of note: the only other time I used this novena was later in our relationship, with the intention that Tom would come to know for sure whether we should marry or not.  And that all worked out shortly after as well].

Spending Time Together

For Easter, I attended the Latin vigil Mass for the first time (I was going there regularly on Sundays, but always went to Easter Mass at my home parish).  Tom sat next to me, and shared his missal with me, whispering to me about each of the special rituals which was about to happen.  I really liked the missal he was using - one which was broken into four small volumes, making it easier to carry around and hold.  A few days later, he gave them to me.  Sometime after that, he gave me the book The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey, & Song.  He said he had seen it on Amazon, and thought of me.  I was surprised that he just bought me a gift for no reason, but I did appreciate it (it's a great book, by the way).

Tom and I were hanging out a couple times each week.  One of the big topics of conversation for us was relationships.  Neither of us had any thought that this could possibly be a prelude to a relationship between us.  I think we were both very much feeling "ready" for a relationship at that point, so it was on our minds.  We are both "thinkers" who tend to get hung up on a certain topic for a while, and we both happened to be interested in this one at the same time.  It was great to have someone to share our ponderings with.  It never seemed inappropriate to be discussing this stuff with a guy.  Actually, it was really nice to get the candid perspective of the opposite sex on those matters.  When we weren't together in person to talk about these things, we would call, text, or e-mail our latest thoughts and questions.  Some of the things we discussed were: do soul-mates exist?  What are the differences/pros/cons between casual dating, "official" dating, and courtships?  What are the roles of a man and a woman in a dating relationship?  What is love (in all its forms, as explained by C.S. Lewis in his The Four Loves)?

I know it really really must sound as if we both had secret crushes on each other, and were bringing up these topics because we wanted to date each other, but it wasn't like that.  One day I sent a text telling Tom I had just seen his "dream girl", and he needed to get to the library right away (she was a librarian, a red-head, cute, and wore dorky glasses.  Totally his type) (he couldn't make it because he was in class, and when he stopped by later, she was gone).  Also, Tom had confided his possible interest in a girl who was a mutual friend of ours, and I was completely in support of it.  Any time I hung out with her, as I often did, I made sure to put in many good words about Tom, gushing about what a wonderful guy he was [haha - so funny in retrospect].  Let's just call her "Liz".

Often when greeting each other, or when parting, Tom and I had taken to giving each other a hug.  We had remarked many times that we "had the best hugs" and "fit together so well."  [I know, I know!  But SERIOUSLY.  Dating each other absolutely never dawned on us at this point!]

There was a party one weekend at the house where he used to live with our guy friends.  Tom told me early on that he wanted to talk to me later about some recent thoughts on the "Liz situation."  The night wore on, and I hadn't seen Tom for a long time.  I looked all over, but he didn't seem to be around.  I tried calling his phone several times, and he didn't answer.  Finally, one of his roommates informed me that he had been sitting up on the roof alone for a long time with another girl.  I got really irritated, and decided to just go home.  I told myself that I was mad at him for "Liz's" sake.  As I was walking - I lived just a couple blocks away - I got a text from him, asking me to "save him."  Apparently, the girl was pretty interested in him, and he was having trouble breaking free of the conversation without being rude.  I told him something to the effect of "you got yourself into this mess, now get yourself out of it."  Afterwards, we had a long talk about it.  I remember that both of us felt it necessary that he explain himself and apologize to me.  I couldn't understand at the time, though, what had made me so upset over it.

Tom and I and a few other friends had begun watching episodes of The Tudors a couple nights a week (which was on dvd at this point).  Tom is a history buff, so he was always filling me in on the backstory and the details of the British peerage system.  In early May, I went with my family for a weekend at our Cottage.  I remember telling my dad all about the interesting things Tom had taught me about that period, and even reading some of his texts aloud.  This then got me to gushing about what a wonderful guy Tom was, and how much I thought my dad would love talking with him.

But I still had no idea that I had feelings for him!

The next weekend, I was going to go back to the Cottage with some college friends.  Tom was one of them, and I had already told him so much about this magical place that I couldn't wait to introduce him to.  A couple days before we left, he contacted me with some bad news: his mom had basically invited herself over for the night on Friday, and since it was Mother's Day weekend, he couldn't say no.  The rest of us were all going to drive up Thursday, and Tom didn't own a car, so he wouldn't be able to make it.  I was totally crushed.

But we ended up making a new plan!  I would catch a ride in one of the other cars, and leave my car in Pittsburgh for Tom.  Then he could drive up Saturday morning and still get a little time there.  It worked out, and he came on Saturday, also bringing our friend Kevin.

Saturday evening with everyone
Four of our friends left Sunday morning, leaving me, Tom, Kevin and Mike behind.  We had decided to milk the trip for all it was worth because Tom and Kevin had only been up there since the previous morning.  But Sunday ended up being a pretty lousy day - gray and rainy.

a pic from Tom's camera
 After a short walk around, we settled on the front porch for the rest of the afternoon.
Yes, I am eating ice cream out of a huge bucket.  Something wrong with that?
 I Discover My Feelings

For years, I had heard testimonies about how the best relationships/marriages are ones that develop from a pre-existing friendship.  I fully believed this to be true, and always hoped it would happen to me.  But the funny thing is, through the years it was always some other guy friend I was pining after.  And when that wouldn't work out, I'd conclude "oh well.  I guess I'm not going to end up dating someone who was a friend first."  Tom was right under my nose the whole time.  But I never considered him that way.

Anyways, back to that Sunday at the Cottage.  This is where the story gets embarrassing because it involves two (uncharacteristic!) episodes of me being really drunk...

We broke out a pack of cards to play some games, and Tom pulled out a bottle of whiskey he had brought.  He insisted that we keep it wrapped inside the paper bag to be "authentic" and pass it around in a circle.  When it came to a person, Tom ensured that they took a swig before they passed it along.  Needless to say, within a short time, we were all drunk (except Mike, who I suspect might have been faking his swigs for awhile).  We moved indoors to continue our game, since the rain was coming onto the porch by this point.  We were all playing very sloppily and laughing at stupid things. 

All of a sudden, it hit me.  I was just bowled over by the realization that *Tom and I should be together*.  All the great things I'd been telling "Liz" about him were true, and now I wanted him for me.  We had so many shared interests.  We loved being in each other's company, and talking, and confiding in each other.  We shared those great hugs, we knew each other's faults already.  It just made so much sense.  I must've been just gazing at him in wonderment, because he remarked, "wow, Christine - you make much better eye contact when you're drunk."  Haha!

As they say: "in vino veritas".  Whiskey, in this case.  But it had the same effect.

Our friend Mike had to drive my car home, since he was the only one capable of it at that point.  Kevin sat up front, with Tom and I in the back (I'm sure I contrived that somehow).  The whole ride, I was dying to be close to Tom.  I wanted to touch him so badly.  Finally, when we made a stop, I just blurted out, "Tom, I just really want to hug you right now!" and we did, and it was great.  He probably just chalked it up to me being intoxicated.

The next day, I called my friend Elise and told her everything.  I think she was pretty surprised.  I was just so confused about what to do now.  I knew Tom didn't feel the same way.  We had been friends for so many years, and he had never felt that way about me.  How could I expect him to start now?  What were the chances of us both feeling that way at the same time?

I began praying about it very intently.  Something like, "God, if Tom ever did or ever could have feelings for me, please let them develop now."  I think I believed that the chance would slip away if it didn't happen then.

[Looking back, I don't think I made very prudent or appropriate decisions during this next part, but I trusted Tom fully.  I'm telling you the story as it is.]

The next Saturday, Tom called me and asked if I wanted to come over to watch the Preakness (horse race) and drink whiskey with him.  Absolutely!  I don't remember what time of day it was, but I ended up staying there very late.  We just kept talking and talking about all sorts of things.  My memories of this are all fairly fuzzy - err, could've been the whiskey again... - so I don't remember exactly how it happened, but eventually we had finished the whole bottle.  I think it was very late.  I was definitely drunk again.  Usually, Tom would walk me home if it was nighttime, but he was drunk as well, and needed to be at work at 6am (!).  He suggested that I just crash at his place.  He'd let me sleep in his bed, and he'd take the couch.  I was concerned about the scandal this would cause my roommates.  I think he actually had me call one of them to explain (?).  Anyways, that's what ended up happening.  He lent me some pajamas, and he tucked me into bed.  As he was doing so, I thought he kissed me.  I wasn't certain, as everything was all awhirl at this point.  I thought he had kissed me...but no, I decided, it must have just been wishful thinking.  I fell asleep.

The next morning, I had my first-ever hangover.  I felt terrible, and could barely move from the bed (except for occasional dashes to the bathroom).  I texted Tom at work to tell him about it, and he felt really guilty.  When he arrived back at his apartment, I was still there, sleeping.  He had brought breakfast stuff, and he cooked me up a tasty brunch before walking me home.

Tom Discovers His Feelings

Two days later, I was hanging out at my mom's house, and was signed into G-chat.  Tom and I were having a conversation about various light topics.  Then this happened...

Tom: so, the other thing I was thinking about asking...
me: yes?
Tom: well, anyway Christine, I should come out with you honestly
me: o...k..

[completely terrified about what he's about to say] 

Tom: I have though about "You and I" a lot lately
I have come to the conclusion (and I might be wrong) that you and I are destined for a very good friendship, but nothing more... this is a weird thing to mention, but I feel like I need to say it
ALTHOUGH, it's not like I've ruled it out...
sorry that it's so weird, but it's been something i've been thinking about

[at this point, my heart is hammering, I'm almost hyperventilating, and shaking with nerves.  OH NO!  Worst possible conclusion!!  He thought about it, and he decided "No"!!]

me: ok...I've been thinking about that too of late
Tom: well, that's good to know
any thoughts?
in particular?
me: well...
we've been friends for many years now, and much closer ones more lately. During that time, there were various points where I questioned myself on whether I had any feelings for you, and I always decided no. There were always other things making anything between us seem impossible. I'm not sure what did it, but recently, suddenly, one day...things sorta clicked, and I was like, "wow - Tom and I have all these things in common, and we think alike in a lot of ways, and why did I never consider him before?" And I have been keeping those things in mind and trying to figure it all out. No conclusion had been arrived at yet
but perhaps you just provided it

[definitely avoiding actually coming out and admitting that I have feelings for him]

Tom: Well, whatever it means, I could have said exactly the same things you just said.
I dunno, Christine...
me: I don't know either
Tom: Can I call you?
me: yeah
We talked on the phone.  I still did my best to present the case that we would be a good match, without actually admitting that I had feelings for him.  He ended up saying, "I'll tell you what.  So we're planning to go to the Clayton [a historical house] on Thursday.  Is it alright if we make that a date?"  So we did.  We had already been planning (at my urging) to get dressed up, then take a tour of the house, and possibly grab lunch somewhere afterwards.  Everything was set up for us.


...was totally awkward.  We were both so strained and forced and not ourselves.  We had no clue how to talk to each other anymore!  There was many embarrassed smiles and awkward pauses.  The day was still pleasant, but at the end of the date I felt like this had been a test and maybe we hadn't done very well on it.

Thankfully, we weren't given much time to muse over it.  That evening, Tom was having a cookout at his place, which he had asked me to co-host (a ploy, I think, to avoid having to do any of the organizational tasks involved).  We were able to interact once again in a comfortable way, in the company of friends.

Happy because Tom and I had finally been given "our chance"
At the end of the night, there was an unspoken understanding that I would hang around later than everyone else so we could talk.  When the other guests were finally gone, we sat down, and said, "soooo....how about that date?  Pretty awkward, huh?"  And it was wonderful.  We both just laughed and laughed at how stupid we had been, and how we didn't know how to act around each other.  We made a promise that we would just "be normal" with each other from then on.  And we were.

Anyways, the rest, as they say, is history.  We got married and had two beautiful babies.  We're not a perfect couple, but we have a solid friendship as our foundation, and that keeps the relationship strong.

I still sometimes marvel over how long it took for us each to see each other in this way.  But I'm pretty sure that at any time previous to this, we weren't right for each other...weren't ready for each other.  God was forming us each in different ways over those years, and we had finally reached a point where we were a good match for one another.  And thankfully, it worked out.

[EDIT:  That kiss that I thought I had just imagined was actually real.  Tom had kissed me goodnight.  But we don't consider it our first kiss, since I wasn't kissing him back :-P )

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Our Love Story (Part 2)

See Part 1

So when we left off, Tom had gone back to the other side of the state to live with his parents for awhile, and I was missing him like heck.  I finally got to see Tom again when I traveled out that way for my friend's wedding.  He spent the day showing some of us around Philadelphia.

And then mid-summer, he returned to Pittsburgh, and we got to hang out again!

Yes, that's his real hair
Yes, that enormous afro is his REAL HAIR!!

I bugged him enough about his hairdo that he offered to let me cut it off, when he was "ready".  Towards the end of the summer, he was finally getting sick of his head being so hot all the time, and invited me over to do the deed.  We spent the evening on his front porch, chatting while I whittled away at the huge mass with scissors and electric clippers (side note: I still cut Tom's hair for him today).

At my surprise birthday party - notice way less hair under his hat
My friends threw me a surprise party at their new place.  In the kitchen, I noticed a beautiful handmade clock with images of the Virgin Mary decoupaged around it.  I picked it up, gasping, and said "Wow, whose is this?"  Over my shoulder, Tom answer, "oh.  It's yours.  I made it for your birthday.  I know how much you love Madonna and Child images."

Still on my wall at home :-)

Senior Year

Tom and I continued spending tons of time together in our large social group.

He came to visit me at my first-ever apartment

At a St. Therese party.  I told him he looked great, and made him let me get a picture
 He brought his sister to the annual NC Barn Dance that year, so I got to meet her [not the gal shown in the picture below]
Dressed up, as always.  

 And at my apartment-warming party, he showed up with his dad - so I got to meet him too.  I went to see Tom play with his band a couple times (not because I liked the music much - ha, but because they always begged friends to help them meet their audience quota for the bars).

The guys' house had moved to bigger place, and their parties had become legendary by now.  They attracted larger crowds, and were always a great time.

From the "Pirates and Ninjas on a Plane" party at Halloween [remember when all those things were so trendy and cool?]

A bunch of the guys decided to pile on whichever one of them I had the misfortune of sitting next to.  I kinda got squashed under the pile.  I'm on the far left.  Tom is wearing the plaid bathrobe (?!).

Channeling Frank Sinatra at the fancy cocktail party, planned and hosted by Tom, myself, and my friend Elise.

Yet another party.  On the Facebook comments after this photo was posted, I remember Tom writing, "We look like my parents."  That stuck with me for some reason.

During the winter, Tom found himself in a difficult personal situation.  I was one of the few people - and the only female - who he confided in about things.  He began coming to me often for help or advice.  I was concerned, but firm with him about what he needed to do.  During this period, I began telling him regularly that I loved him (but just as a friend!).

I was also dealing with my own much less serious issues.  A hopeless case of unrequited...well, enormous crush on a guy.  And he'd given me the old "I need to discern the priesthood" line.  You Catholic girls know what I'm talking about.  Anyways, Tom wrote me this sweet note, which I still have:

"Don't sweat ____ too much: he's got God as his top priority, which is obviously a good thing.  Besides, the Church has one billion members, half of whom are male!  Also, I, at least, will *always* be there for you!  Always Yours, Thomas ____"

By this point, we kept one another pretty up-to-date on our love lives (or lack thereof).  Both of us were often suggesting mutual friends that the other should consider dating.

He ended up going back to live with his parents for awhile again.  It was all pretty sudden, and I wasn't given any warning.  He became impossible to get ahold of (he had always been terrible about returning phone calls or texts, but contact from him virtually stopped for awhile).  A couple of our friends knew some more details, but they had all decided on total secrecy, and no one would tell me anything.  I felt concern, sadness, and irritation.  And I really missed him.

It wasn't until a couple months later that I finally managed to get ahold of him.  He sent me a sweet e-mail once, saying: "I miss spending time with you. You are a great influence on me, and a great friend. And you're very beautiful and deserving of a good man. If any dude ever gives you trouble, just let me know and I'll break his neck!...Thanks for being my friend."

I left him voice messages and texts very often.  Once in a blue moon, he'd get back to me.  A couple times we spoke over the phone.  He was still in a rough place, and wasn't himself.  He never had a whole lot to say.  But I'd always fill him in on the latest stuff going on with me and our friends back in Pittsburgh.  And I'd tell him very candidly what I thought he needed to do.

Finally, near the end of the summer, he came back!

Out for margaritas

My Grad Program Year
[I still think of most events of my life in terms of what year of school I was in.  This would have been 2007-2008.]

In September, Tom was the bestman for his friend's wedding.  I knew the couple, but not that well.  Tom asked me to be his date.  Well, I guess I should say his "plus one" because he assured me that it was just as friends.  We had a nice time there, and tore up the dance floor.

But as the night wore on - and we had both had a few drinks - I started feeling a little awkward.  I knew we were just friends, but why was I the one girl in the world he had chosen to ask to this wedding?  As the party wrapped up, one of Tom's band-mates asked if we wanted to go hang out somewhere else with him and his date.  Something about this just screamed "double date!!" to me, and I was convinced that if I said yes, I would send Tom the wrong message.  So I declined.

Tom and I and one of my roommates started a little "breakfast and a movie" club, since with Tom's schedule, mornings were one of the only times he could hang out most days.  He would walk up to our house - he was living just down the street in an apartment - bearing bacon and eggs.  We'd cook it up, and then watch a movie together.

It was nice having him back in my life, and spending time with him again.
Cooking a big feast (we're the two on the right)

Our for drinks with friends (I hate his facial hair here...ugh)

Out for drinks a week later.  You would think, from this picture, that we were dating....but no.
Tom and I  threw another fancy party at his new apartment.  This time for the Ides of March.  I know it's hard to tell here by our awkwardness, but we were dancing.

By this point in time, Tom and I were almost a "unit" in some ways.  I don't know how to describe it.  Something akin to "partners in crime."  We were always on the same team.  There were some lame-o guys spreading rumors about people for awhile, and Tom and I always took one another's side.  We stuck up for each other.

A friend had a "Hollywood" party, and I made sure that Tom and I posed together for a bunch of glamor shots.  Here are a couple.

I know it's hard to believe, but at this point in time, we were still JUST FRIENDS.
"Two whole posts written...almost five years of knowing each other, and they're not even dating yet?  They don't even have romantic feelings for each other??!"  Nope.  But in the next part, I'll finally explain how that all happened, and wrap this thing up!  See part 3

Friday, July 19, 2013

Our Love Story (Part 1)

Ok, ok, ok...I'm jumping on Grace's bandwagon!

Freshman Year
Neither Tom nor I remember the actual first time we met.  But it was definitely close to the beginning of our freshman year at Pitt (University of Pittsburgh), 2003.  We both got involved with the Newman Center - the Catholic group - on campus, and quickly became part of the same wide circle of friends.  I do remember my early impressions of Tom (which still hold true today): that he was a goofy, fun-loving, laidback guy, and extremely friendly.  The kind of person who can have a conversation with anyone.  I, in the meantime, was a shy, dorky, never been-on-a-date-before gal.  Within the members of the Newman Club, various little friend groups formed.  I spent most of my time with a a select few people, and only really interacted with Tom at larger group settings.

some of my close friends.  I'm second from the right.
My earliest specific memory of him was a time early in the schoolyear when I was just hanging around the Newman Center, and Tom invited me to go with him and a few other NC people I really didn't know to see some movie that night.  I remember actually being a little annoyed that he asked, because I knew he was "faking it" and "just inviting me to be nice."

Tom on the right.  Totally not dating material, I thought.
Most of the year, I had a huge crush on a different guy, and Tom was still in a (long-distance) relationship with his high school girlfriend.  So he was not at all on my "radar" in a dating sense.  I began going to a different Mass on Sundays, where Tom was one of the altar servers.  Afterwards, he'd often join my group to get brunch.  By the end of the year, we were friends, but not very close.

I don't have many pictures from this time, because I didn't yet have one of the all-the-rage fancy new "digital cameras", and you know...you actually cared about conserving your film back then.

The ONLY picture of us both together from freshman year, after the March for Life (I'm in blue coat, and he's behind me (pretending to be?) on the phone)

Sophomore Year 
I think sometime during this year, Tom may have broken up with his high-school girlfriend (who I met once, by the way, and she was very sweet).  I'm not even certain, because it didn't register with me.  I still had hopeless crushes on a handful of other guys.  Tom still had no interest in me in that way.  In fact, if memory serves, this was the year he decided to take a one-year "dating fast" (before FOCUS made it cool) after ending his relationship.

Not much to report about this year.  I started to gain a better appreciation for Tom's goofiness.  He used to like to dress up and call attention to himself.
yes, that's his real hair
he showed up to a fancy dinner event in a bowler hat, and I had to get some pictures
We ran into each other all the time at Newman Center events, and I began to invite him to hang out with friends when we were doing anything "outside" of the NC.
10 people up a tree - Tom's idea

Tom standing behind me, in the blue shirt

I love this one, because he was messing up the shot and my best friend Elise is yelling at him
Friends burying me in the snow
 I ended up finally going on a few dates near the end of the schoolyear.  But definitely not with Tom.

Junior Year
I have this theory that it takes me two years of knowing someone/being in a certain social group before I can truly open up and stop feeling shy.  This was the year I finally hit my stride, and turned into somewhat of a social butterfly (at least amongst the Newman Center members).

Just look at me holding the attention of four men!

This was a big year in many ways, but it definitely brought Tom and I closer as well.

I remember the first time I saw him that year, after four months of summer break.  I was working the NC booth at the activities fair, and he sauntered over wearing a blue-striped dress shirt.  I thought he looked quite handsome.  I asked him why he was all dressed up, and he said just because.  I advised him that he dress that way more often.

I had my first real boyfriend near the beginning of the year.  It didn't last long.  Tom was the first to find out when we broke up (because he asked me right after it happened, "how's <guy's name>?") and tried to cheer me up.

Tom lived in a house with a bunch of other guys (most of whom also hung out around the NC and who all eventually became friends).  He began inviting me to some of their little spontaneous late-night parties.  They would start around 10:00.  They'd serve a few jugs of the cheapest red wine (Inglenook Burgundy), make an enormous pot of spaghetti, and make one little jar of sauce.  Everytime.  No one ever got enough sauce.  But they'd play jazz music, and we'd talk and have a great time.

For Halloween they had a big party, the infamous "Vino Halloweeno."  Everyone was asked to dress as a mafia member.  Tom was going around, getting people to pose for fun photos.  He got a lot of great shots of guys in fedoras holding fake guns.  I was essentially the only female there (or at least the only one who dressed as requested), so he had me pose for all the femme fatale-type ones.
I think Tom actually has this one hung up in his office now

 When he turned 21 in November, he invited all his over-21 friends out to a jazz club.  When I showed up in a blue-purple velvet dress, he looked me up and down (perhaps already somewhat tipsy) and said, "You, young lady, are dressed to kill tonight."  Tom had always been something of a flirt.  But until that year, he'd never bothered to flirt with me.  I liked the attention.  But when I occasionally paused to ask myself if I "liked him, liked him" the answer was always no.

In December, Tom and I did our first ever Tom-and-Christine-only activity.  We took the bus and spent the day shopping at thrift stores and used book stores (ha!  sounds just like us).  While we were out, I felt compelled to spill the beans about my growing crush on one of his roommates.  He was a little surprised, but happy about the opportunity to possibly lend a hand.  Tom didn't go about this in the way I wanted, and I almost killed him over it at the time, but...long story short, me and the other guy did end up dating for awhile.

Just enjoying the company of a good friend.
Shortly after the start of the second semester, Tom withdrew from classes due to some personal things going on.  He went to live with his parents and make some money for a while.  I missed him a lot, and often said so to my good friend and roommate.  She teased me about it, suggesting that I secretly had a crush on Tom.  I always answered honestly that I didn't, but just really cared about him as a friend.


This is turning into a saga!  I'll try to be back soon with the rest.  Part 2 Part 3

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Lesson in Dealing With Husbands

My husband biked home from work this evening at the usual time.  He panted into the house, especially exhausted and sweaty after the long chug up the hill.  As he walked in, he started complaining about how busy he was at work all day, barely having a chance to take a break, and only eating "one spoonful of peanut butter" and "a pack of ramen" - the only food left in his stash at his desk.  I'm sure I didn't help matters by immediately asking him for a favor (to crack my back for me) once he put his stuff down.  And though he obliged, he was being a little brusque and, as I perceived it, rather short with me.  I was going to say to him, "I know you had a tough day at work, but can you please not take it out on me?".

Me: [while Tom was walking the other direction] "I know you had a tough day at work..."
Tom: [stopping] "Huh? What did you say?"
Me: "I know you had a tough day at work..."
Tom: [genuinely] "Wait.  You're actually showing sympathy?  Wow...that's such a nice change."

And, of course, that totally shut me up.  He truly thought that was the end of my sentence.  And it really made him feel good.  And you know what?  Just showing sympathy and then stopping - not adding a "but..." at the end of the sentence: it works so much better!  He was so happy that I understood him and cared about him instead of nagging him as usual, that his mood instantly became so much lighter.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Kids Talking

My little Stella isn't quite 11 months old, but she's definitely started to talk.  I'm not sure if she's actually starting a lot earlier than Sly did (which, I hear, is common for girls), or if my ear is just better trained to discern "baby talk" now. 

There are a few words now which I am certain she is saying, since repetition and circumstance 
have made it clear: 

kitty ("k! eeee!")
water (wa-ga) - said when she wants a drink of it, or when she sees something like a fountain
night-night (nigh-nigh) - said in an amazingly sweet voice, with a flourishing hand wave, at bedtime

There are a few others that I suspect might be words, but I'm waiting to hear them a couple more times in the appropriate context until I'm sure.


Meanwhile, her big brother, almost 3 years old, is saying all sorts of rascally things.

Every few days, Sly pretends to be a different creature.  If anyone calls him Sly, or "big brother" or "little man" or any of the various things he gets referred to as, he becomes irritated and corrects them: "I'm a snake!" or "I'm an allosaurus!", etc.

We were checking out at a store...
Cashier: "I like your dinosaur shirt."
Sly: "It Tyrannosaurus Rex!"
Cashier: "Oh, that's nice."
Sly [affronted]: "He not nice!  He fierce!"

I found him one morning, pressing Stella into the floor and making her cry. 
Mommy: "What are you doing?!"
Sly [as if it was perfectly obvious]: "I'm saving her for later, to eat."
(I guess he was a dinosaur again that day?)
Sly has started to tell us sometimes - thinking it's a great joke - that he doesn't love us, or doesn't like us.
Tucking him into bed last week, he told me, "I love you.  I usually don't love you."

I've started to crack down on it.  A few days ago when he told me with a smile that he didn't like me, he got time out, and then had to apologize.  We have taught Sly, when he apologizes, to both address the person by name, and to state exactly what it is he's sorry for (example: "Sorry I hit you, Stella").  So when he apologized to me, it came out, "Sorry, Mommy.  I don't like you."

Sly loves to strum Tom's guitar.  He says he's "playing his album."  Sometimes Sky makes up random lyrics to accompany the guitar, and sometimes he sings Baa Baa Blacksheep.  My heart melts a little everytime he says the line, "Baa baa blacksheep, henny wenny wool..."

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Isolation of the Modern Housewife and Mother Part II

Read Part I here.

I've been reading a book for a couple weeks now which I find utterly fascinating.  It's called Never Done: A History of American Housework, written by Susan Strasser.  The book goes through the history of women's work in the US.  The predominant trend is that jobs which were once done through much manual labor and products which were made at home from scratch have been one-by-one taken up by industry, and turned into consumer products, which must be purchased.  With the obvious benefits this has brought in some ways (hey, no one ever complained about doing less work!), it has also meant an increased isolation and loss of a sense of purpose for many women who stay home.  Women used to be personally responsible for so many of the necessities of life.  Just washing the clothes (at a time when people wore many fewer than today) took an entire day of heavy labor.  Ironing took another whole day.  Food was often grown at home, or at least prepared and cooked from scratch three times a day - over an open fire which took constant tending.  Water had to be carted in and out of the house 8-10 times per day (more if it was laundry or bath day).  Fiber was spun and woven into cloth, which was then cut and sewn into clothing that women often designed themselves.  There were no idle hands.  When women got together, it was for sewing circles or quilting bees.  And so much more.  It's really made me think twice before complaining about all the work I have to do around the house.

I've been pondering so many of the facts and trends I've been reading about, and talked Tom's ear off incessantly with my "revelations."  I am tempted to quote about half the book, but I'm going to restrain myself.  I'll leave you with just this one for now.

"...as women joined the organized labor market during the decades before the Depression, the differences between motherhood and paid labor developed into problems.  Mothering produced nothing tangible, whereas even sales workers - obviously not "productive" in the old sense - brought home paychecks.  Full-time paid workers came home to recover from their jobs and to provide themselves with the essentials of survival, welcoming the products that freed them from the arduous labor of producing those essentials.  As adulthood came to be identified with the economic independence that paid work offered and that gave people the means to buy things, mothers came to be excluded from the activities of other adults.  They met each other in groups organized around their children's activities, not around their own adult work, as the sewing circle had been.  Social life organized around spending money at movies and restaurants offered no place for small children, thereby excluding and isolating mothers even further." (pg. 239)

If you have an interest in history, non-fiction, or understanding what it means to be a housewife, I would heartily recommend the book.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Continuing the Breastfeeding Conversation

In case you've missed it, my breastfeeding post has triggered further discussion on a few other blogs (this is the first time anything I've written has done so, and it feels a little surreal.  But I knew this was a controversial topic, which is why I made Tom read the post before I hit publish - to make sure I wasn't saying anything potentially offensive!).

Anyways, check out what these other ladies had to say: Kendra at Catholic all Year and Amelia at One Catholic Mama