Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pancakes & Parties & Knitting Like Crazy

Well, it's been an eventful week. I thought I'd share a few key moments with you. First, I spoiled myself by whipping up some tasty pancakes on Saturday morning. My favorite, fluffy recipe (not useful when the boys are around, as they prefer thin, crepe-like pancakes) that are absolutely delicious served warm or cold with raspberry jam and sour cream. I'm actually drooling just thinking about it now!

Because I love y'all, I'll share the recipe:

Make It Happen Mama's Favorite Fluffy Pancakes

1 1/2 cups flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoon melted butter
1 egg
1 1/4 cups milk

1. Spray a frying pan and heat it over low-medium heat
2. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, then mix in the wet ingredients until it is smooth.
3. Spoon about 1/4 cup for each pancake
4. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side
5. Serve with raspberry jam and sour cream - yum!

Saturday night was fantastically exhausting. My dear friend Anne and I have known each other since about 1990 through Highland dancing. Anne is now married with two beautiful children and is ridiculously crafty and creative. She is also a Scentsy representative and has her own custom refinished furniture & home decor store. You may have heard me mention the monthly knitting nights Anne sponsors during the school year - she decided last year she wanted to learn to knit and figured it would be more fun with friends! In keeping with her many talent, this past Saturday, Anne threw a ladies' night crafty/knitting night in celebration of her birthday the day before. I have always loved the fact that Anne is 3 months older than me; it's nice to have a friend who can charge ahead into the next year and report back on what to expect! The party was fantastically fun, and though I chose to sit and happily knit this time, next time I will definitely need to try some of the fantastic crafts my girl had prepared. My favorite was the transferring photos onto wood blocks - so cool!

I left the birthday party a wee bit early to head over to my friend Angie's CD Release Party at Sellwood Public House in SE Portland. When's the last time you had two social events on one evening? It's been at least a couple years for me. Mind-blowing for this mama, seriously. So my husband had asked me to call him back as I left the birthday party. Imagine my surprise when he announced he was in Portland, waiting at my tiny apartment, and could I swing by and pick him up on the way to the CD Release Party - wow!! What a fantastic surprise! Of course we managed to get lost (Sellwood Public House seems to be our personal Bermuda Triangle, seriously) but managed to catch the last 4 songs of Stoneface Honey's set and spend some quality time with some good friends at the party. Angie's music is so fantastic - I wish I were half the talented songwriter she is, seriously. 

Monday I attempted to get a photo of little Monkey Boy catching up on Men's Health on his way to a Highland dance lesson. Sadly, Monkey is much faster at avoiding his mama-razzi than he used to be, hence the closed eyes and semi-closed magazine! Oh well, it was cute seeing him in the rearview mirror, anyway. Monday was also momentous because this particular Highland dance lesson was Monkey's first time taking a lesson from a MAN teacher. The excitement was palpable! Monkey came away with some great tips on having strong boy jumps, manly arms, and trying his first tidbit of the Seann Triubhas - brushes. In super-slow motion and without changing feet, of course, but you gotta start somewhere!

Finally, I've been in crazy knitting mode for the past few weeks, thanks to the arrival of my newest nephew (my sister doesn't like her kids' names on the internet, but I will give you the hint that this one is named after a   body of water - an improper noun), the revival of monthly knitting nights, and the aforementioned crafty/knitting birthday party. Anywho, one of Monkey's teddies helped me out by modeling one of my new little creations for the nephew-who-will-not-be-named. Full pattern link to come later, along with more photos, but let me just say for now that I added about an inch of width and length to this little striped number - new nephew was a whopper at 9 pounds, 10 ounces! Not quite as big as Monkey was (10 pounds, 9 ounces) but I had a cesarean. My sister did a home delivery with this baby, #4, and no medication. Ouch!

I sense this hat will stretch out a little more when placed upon new nephew's head... 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It's Not All Bad. Really.

Since it tends to pop up in conversations, I’m assuming most of you already know my husband and I have been living 200 miles apart for the past 17 months. If this is news to you and you are like most people I know, there are probably at least a few questions running through your head, the first of which is likely to be something about the health of my marriage. Good news: Despite what the church mothers at my mother-in-law's church think (secret divorce), we’re happily married. Celebrating 7 years next month, actually. But my job is in Portland and his job is in Tacoma. So now, assuming all of this information has not completely blown your mind and you’re still paying attention, how about this tidbit that makes most folks’ mouths drop open: this is not our first time living apart, it’s our third. In fact, in the 10 years we’ve been together, Mr. MIHM and I have spent a total of 2 years and 9 months living in separate states. Yes, I said states. The first time was 12 months with him in Washington and me in Virginia (approximately 2,700 miles distance) – I tackled my first year of grad school while he finished up his undergraduate degree; the second time was 4 months with him & Monkey in Washington and me in Texas (approximately 2,200 miles distance) – I completed my clinical internship at a children’s hospital in Dallas while he & Monday set up shop in Tacoma, where I was supposed to join them post-internship…until my husband visited me and fell in love with DFW, as I had; and now there is the (relatively) short distance of 144 miles that we take turns traversing almost every weekend. As one of my friends joked, at least we’re headed in the right direction, with the miles apart getting smaller each time. 

So guess what? Although all of my friends and families are co-habitating with their spouses (as far as I know), apparently, Mr. MIHM and I are not alone.  Apparently, there is a name for couples who are together but live apart, whether due to jobs or by choice: Living Apart Together, or LAT for short. So how does one use that knowledge in conversation? As a noun, like, “My husband and I are LAT-ers”? Or is it more verbish, as in, “My husband and I LAT due to our careers”? I’m not really sure, but it seems worth doing some casual research. Another term I’ve found for people in our situation is being in a Commuter Marriage, and more than 3.5 million couples in the US do it. My husband and I join the ranks with traveling salesmen, migrant workers, the incarcerated(!), and soldiers on deployment. 

Anyhow, I bring all this up not to impress you with my research skills or wow you with statistics (although, I’m hoping you love statistics as much as I do), but to share some of the benefits Mr. MIHM and I have found in living apart while still being together. Yes, believe it or not, despite the many obvious (and sometimes overwhelming) negatives, there are some positives to be found!

      1. When we are together, we are more likely to focus on being together

Because our time is limited, I try not to make other plans on our family weekends. When you hardly get to see your family, even running errands (finding new sneakers for Monkey, going to the dry cleaner, grocery shopping) can make for a fun afternoon. And, as my husband just relayed via text message (it's a Tuesday, after all), "Freshness. Feeling like you're dating again, at times." Indeed, we have been on many more actual dates during the past 17 months than probably the entire 5 years we lived in Texas. Makes me feel like we're going to have to try harder when we're co-habitating again!

      2. Less wife/mommy (or husband/daddy) guilt on the weekdays

When I need to work late unexpectedly or have work events in the evenings, it doesn’t affect my family in the same way it did in Texas. When one of my childhood friends hosts her monthly weekday knitting nights, I can RSVP without wondering what my boys have going on that evening. When I feel like knitting a baby hat and watching Ugly Betty DVDs until I’m ready to go to bed, I do. Yes, it’s lonely. But it’s also led to me attempting to have a social life and to indulge in things I may not have time for when we’re all living together. 

      3. More appreciation for helping out around the house

I got to spend a week with my boys in October. One day, while my husband was at work, I washed, dried & folded five loads of laundry. He was thrilled! In September, my husband spent a long weekend with me in Portland. While I was at an all-day Saturday work event, he scrubbed my bathroom & kitchen until they were sparkling. While these tasks all fall within our usual division of labors when we’re living together, it really makes you appreciate the other person when you no longer take that task being done for granted. As I brush my teeth over my currently less-than-luminous bathroom sink this evening, I will think fondly of my dear, sweet husband and his exemplary sanitation skills – and I can only hope he will feel similarly the next time he runs out of clean undies!

      4. Less dancing around the issues

Family weekends are somewhat of a microcosm of our regular family life when we all lived in the same home. We still share the joys, the sorrow, the happiness, the anger – but in shorter face-to-face chunks. For me, a people pleaser and avoider of confrontations by nature, this means that I have had to step up my communication game. It’s a lot harder to go to bed angry with your spouse when you know he has to go home the next morning. So we say what we both need to say, I cry, sometimes we yell – but is generally gets worked out within a few hours. Or at least we can agree to disagree for the moment and to try and work it out more in-depth via Skype or telephone over the next week. 

      5. Week-long foreplay

I know, I’m pretty G-rated on this blog but, hey, we’ve been together 10 years and we have a 7-year-old. Clearly, we’ve been having sex. And, although living apart limits the frequency of our rendezvous, it has also led to an increase in sexting, suggestive emails, X-rated phone calls – in other words, an increase in long-distance foreplay. The drawback? I have to be careful not to let anyone rifle through the photos on my Blackberry. The benefit? Use your imagination, dear reader, and imagine me with a big smile on my face when I say that!

So what about you? Have you ever lived apart from your spouse and/or have you ever wanted to? Do you have friends or family members who LAT due to jobs or by choice? What do you think about this living situation? Since it’s a weekday, I’ll have plenty of time to read your reply after work tomorrow ;-)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I'm Making the Time

So I may not have this "slow down" lifestyle down pat. After a blissful 10 days up in Tacoma with my family, I arrived home late last Monday night, hurled my bags on the couch, and fell into bed. The next four days were a blur of work and errands, then a big day yesterday with Monkey Boy competing at a Highland dance competition in the morning and more errands and family time with both Daddy & Monkey in the afternoon. My boys headed back North around 9 pm last night, as Monkey is singing at his Granny's church in honor of Veteran's Day this morning. I won't say I'm not sad to see them go (as always), but having today to unpack from my last trip, do laundry, do dishes, mealplan for the week, etc. is necessary, if not the most exciting way to spend a Sunday. So I'm making this my "slow down" day - a little laundry here, a little dishwashing there, all interspersed with some email checking, book reading, paper shredding, receipt scanning, all done to the background of a self-declared Sex & the City Marathon playing on my computer. Am I the only person who still adores that show? I like it more the older I get, actually.

One of my "slow down" goals is to spend more time here, reflecting on what's going on in our little world and trying to keep myself sane and balanced. So I apologize in advance if some of my posts (like this one) are really more rambling thoughts than useful information, projects, etc. What can I say? I'm learning how to put myself first - the ultimate challenge for a working wife & mom.