Monday, July 17, 2006

Life has a way of forcing you to stop and recognize things - even when you didn't know they needed to be recognized.

Today is our 7th wedding anniversary. Seven years ago I married a man willfully and without ANY reservations. No small feat for me. This is a second marriage for me and follows an engagement to a third person in between. Chris was, and still is, the embodiment of everything I was looking for in a man: intelligent, supermodel looks (ok, maybe not internationally, but he was in print ads for the local farm supply store at the time), ambitious, caring, sensitive, laid back, open minded, non-judgemental and physically active.

Over the years we’ve had a high amount of stress and change. Our first year was filled with pregnancy and adjusting to a small town. The second year brought a colicky baby and a new house that needed extensive remodeling. The next three years brought two new jobs, another baby, more do-it-yourself hell and Chris finished his undergraduate degree after starting it 22 years prior. Year six we moved across the country and waited 18 months for our house in Wisconsin to sell. Oh – and two more new jobs. Year seven the house sold and both kids were out of diapers.

Through all this “stuff”, one thing has been clear. Chris and I did not have enough time to fully establish “us” as a couple before we became “we” as a family. The kids have always been our number one priority and that has caused a lot of strain on our marriage. I’m not saying that kids have undermined us – I just mean that because they are so needy, and completely change the focus of your life, that the strengthening of our relationship has often taken a back seat to all the other events/priorities that have occurred.

Coming to Salt Lake has helped tremendously. Things have slowed down a bit. The kids are getting easier and we try to have a date at least once a month. Still we know that things could be better between us and that what we probably need to focus more concerted energy on our marriage to make it better.

Since my dad is visiting, we were thinking of taking advantage of the free babysitting and going out to dinner tonight. However, things happen sometimes that free you up for more “together” time than you planned.

Yesterday morning, Chris and his brother drove up to Park City to go mountain biking. Chris has entered a series of races and was going to check out a route that he would be riding in a 100 mile relay race this upcoming Saturday. After riding well for over two hours, he encountered a patch of rocky gravel. He slowed down and tried to safely maneuver through it as there was a drop off on one side of the trail. For one reason, or another, he was unable to avoid falling. Since his feet were clipped securely to his pedals, and he couldn’t get his left foot clipped out fast enough, he put his left arm out to stop the fall. He fell down the drop off a bit with his bike on top of himself. He did get himself unclipped, but as picked himself up he knew right away that something bad had happened to his left wrist. Things didn’t look like they were in the right places. His brother, a weekend ski patrol during the winter with lots of first aid knowledge, immediately dropped to the ground and grabbed some sticks for a splint wrapping Chris’ wrist with a bike tube. They walked down to a chair lift and the operator radioed for help. Two EMTs drove up the mountain in a Suburban and gave him a better splint. I was already on my way to Park City as he was getting this help. He had called and from the tone in his voice I knew it was pretty serious. Or maybe it was because he was telling me that it hurt like a mother f*@#er and that he needed to get the emergency room right away.

After giving the EMTs some information for their reports, and loading Chris’ bike into the already fully loaded trunk of my Passat, we drove straight to the hospital. This took about 25 minutes and then we had to wait about 40 minutes to be seen. Watching Chris in so much pain was one of the hardest things I have ever done. He was given a couple pain killers and then taken to X-ray. The positions that the technician had to put his wrist in were so painful for him that we both started crying. He told me that it was the most pain he had ever felt.

Around 3:45 pm, five and half hours after the accident, the orthopedic doctor numbed his arm and moved the broken off end of his radius bone back into place. This was the culminating procedure in an afternoon of prodding and poking (he had to have an IV put into the back of both hands – THREE attempts to insert had failed.) To numb his arm, the doctor cuffed his arm at the bicep and administered 20 mg of Lidacaine. Thirty mg. of this is lethal – it stops your heart. The ortho, a nice Norwegian boy from Minnesota, assured us that he knew what he was doing. I tried to give him my complete trust since we share the same home and heritage, but it was hard. As Chris was given the Lidacaine, we exchanged a stare. One of those stares that needs no words, but the two people know exactly what is being said. He was telling me that he was scared, that he loved me and that everthing was going to be fine. I was telling him that I loved him too and that I was also scared.

Around 5 pm we finally arrived home. My father had tried to keep the kids occupied and fed for the entire day – no small task. My brother-in-law, and his wife, went over to our house to assist for a few hours as our house guest didn't really know what to do with kids for an entire day.

After I dropped off Chris, I ran to Walgreen’s for his prescription. I ran over to the grocery store for chicken to grill while I was waiting for his pills and then ran home to make dinner. I was pretty weak from all the stress, and my lack of food most of the day. As my sister-in-law continued to pitch in, I expressed my guilt over leaving the kids all day. I felt badly that they hadn’t had the entertaining family day we had originally planned. I also was upset that I had been away in general.

She then sarcastically said something that stopped me in my tracks, “Yeah, you were just busy being an attentive wife all day – you should feel guilty.” I just found that so thought provoking. I know I wouldn’t have felt any guilt about spending the day with Harry or Ella if they had been in an accident.

As I think about my anniversary, I hope that this reminds me of how important nurturing a marriage is to keep it going and making it better. I need to spend as much time working on that as much as I do worrying about which teacher I want to request for Harry or if Ella has worked on learning her phonics enough.
Not one of my better shots, but it gets the point across. Chris was still in his bike unitard when they took off his jersey to put on his cast. Have you seen those things? They're not pretty. We "borrowed" this gown. Check out his legs. That is not hair (he shaves his legs for biking) - it's dirt. He was covered head to toe through the entire ordeal.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mommie Dearest

No coat hangers were used in the child rearing of my two children today, but I sure thought about it. Chalk today up as bad. That's as creative as my vocabulary can get. My throat is sore. Literally. From yelling.

It's dark outside. Chris is quietly reading them to sleep and I'm exhausted. Suddenly I feel better. Oh yeah - THEY'RE NOT TALKING, or fighting or teasing.

I spent the day trying to get some last minute cleaning and organizing done, for the arrival of our houseguest, in between the constant poor behavior of a certain pair of young blonds. My dad arrives tomorrow late morning for two weeks. (At this point, I feel the need to remind anyone who cares that we only have one bathroom.)

In the morning I have my permanent crown put on my tooth, and then pick up my dad.  My two youngest will be in a three-hour art/music workshop.  I don't remember thinking that having painful dental work done during this time was a great idea.

The planning and cleaning have been hard, but now the really difficult stuff begins. How do I keep my dad occupied and unfrettered? He doesn't really like kids. Good thing we only have two

UPDATE - Thurs. 8:40 AM: Amazing what a little rest and a great spinning class can do to a person. I feel much better and more patient. Can't WAIT to see my dad!!!!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A picture to move that other picture down.

I've been struck with stomach crap and some stay-at-home blues. Throw in a little insomnia and I officially have little to no energy to post.

Thank you, by the way, for all the kind words. I was overwhelmed, embarassed and touched. Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 03, 2006

For you, my dear Meg

I've always had a problem with pictures of myself. Now that I'm in my forties, the wrinkles and aged skin bother me even more.

At my good friend's request, I asked Chris to take a photo of me in my cowboy hat. He was goofing around and turned it into a bit of a photo shoot with the multiple picture feature on. The flash couldn't keep up and I actually like this one the best.

This one doesn't show how badly I need an eyebrow wax, nor does it show my age. Take it or leave it. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A new kind of Utah for us

I’m pretty lucky. Harry and Ella are close enough in age, 22 months, that finding activities, TV shows or books that they both like is fairly easy. Gender issues get in the way at times as Ella wants to play “babies” day and night, while Harrison is content to create with Legos or Playmobil. They generally come to the middle and compromise with a game of “picnic”, “fire station” or by working on art projects. Even though they have extremely different personalities and demeanors, I am often blind to the differences until we are in a new setting.

Last night we joined Chris’ brother, and his wife’s family, at a popular annual professional rodeo. It was an entirely new experience for the four of us. Even though I worked at the Horse Barn at the Minnesota State Fair one summer in my early 20s, I don’t remember much about the performances in the attached arena. Beer was on my mind and I was more focused on how cool it was that the Budweiser Clydesdales were in my barn. Held up in the mountains, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I assumed (correctly) that the new cowboy hat I bought to wear to outdoor concerts this summer would probably help me fit in.

We found our way to our bleacher seats and hunkered down for the TWO AND A HALF HOUR show. The rodeo had a clown who immediately started talking about the “queens”. I TRULY thought he was referring to gay men and couldn’t believe how far out in the country we were! I learned that there is a queen, and attendants, elected for this rodeo and others for for various other regional and national levels. They wave EXACTLY like the queens on parade floats except they are racing by you on horses. Instead of a tiara, they wear fancy cowboy hats. Sequined chaps instead of gowns. All of them had one thing in common – hot roller curls billowing down their backs. It was quite a spectacle.

Harrison got really tired about an hour into it and BEGGED to go home. I pulled every distracting comment and game I could muster out of my head to keep him occupied. We had driven about 45 minutes to get to this wonder family event – dammit, we were staying to the bitter end. He mainly did not want to stay due to his fear of fireworks. Immediately following the rodeo they had a 10 minute show. Harry wanted no part of that and tried with all his might to convince us to leave. It was hard to not just wrap him in my arms and bring him to the car. However, the car was parked across a large parking lot, over dirt and grass (with piles of attack ants) and then down a short road. I wasn’t sure I could find it without Chris.

Ella had trouble staying focused as well, but loves fireworks and knew that if she patiently waited, she would get to see a wonderful display. She liked the barrel racing mid-way through the show because all the competitors were female. It was enough to hold her interest – as long as she received Swedish fish and licorice from my sister-in-law’s mother at each five-minute increment.

As the fireworks show got closer and closer, Harrison’s anxiety rose and rose. He was really coming up with great reasons why we should leave. It was heart breaking because as much as he wanted to leave, Ella wanted to stay. I promised him that I would plug his ears during the show and as we were continuing our negotiations, the lights went dark and it began. Harry’s head dove into my lap. I finally asked him what it was that scared him so much. He said he was afraid that the explosions are going to fall on top of him. No amount of discussion, explanation, cajoling could get him to watch.

Distracted by my Mother Lion responsibilities with Harrison, I didn’t notice Ella’s reaction to the very same situation. The fireworks were to my right, and as I turned to my left to talk to her, I was struck by her expression. She had put her “fireworks” hat (a denim hat with stars all over it) back on and her face was bright with joy and the light from the show. She was smiling and in awe. She didn’t shudder from the loud noise, nor turn away at all in fear. She loved all the colors and shapes. It was so endearing to watch her.

As soon as the display was over, Harrison popped up and was back to his happy self. The anxiety had disappeared and he started chattering on about the clown and the bull riding. Ella immediately wanted to be carried and whined the whole way back to the car. (Her new favorite expression is “I caaannn’tt waallkk!” It’s a multi-faceted expression that can be used in situations similar to last night, as well as when she doesn’t want to pick up a toy, or turn the television off.)

Two minutes down the road, they were both sound asleep. I was thankful they both came together on that one.