To Each Their Own

Jeremy and I were talking not too long ago about our desire for a lazy weekend, but then complaining about how even the most potentially lazy weekends become consumed with doing things. All that spare time seems to get filled up so quickly by errands, chores, and lately, birthday parties and holiday visits. We both wished for just a couple of hours to do something creative (me) or hit the casino for some poker (Jeremy), but also filed those wishes away as not likely to happen.

My life has taken on a certain pattern. On weekends when I have the boys, I try to plan fun activities for us to do together, and it’s usually a whirlwind of day trips, eating out, and general adventuring. Then the weekends I don’t have the boys become a mad scramble to take care of all the things I neglected the previous weekend and an attempt to carve out some time to myself to pursue the things that fill my life when I’m not creating foreign customs documentation.

This weekend was shaping up to be equally nuts. The boys have an all day taekwando event today, and since the rain has decided to give us a reprieve, I have several months worth of yard maintenance I need to tackle, and windows that desperately need a cleaning. Super fun. Not. But then John was invited to a sleepover last night, which coincided with a painting I was dying to try at Saratoga Paint and Sip. The wheels started turning.

I can’t tell you the last time I did anything one on one with either of the boys, so I texted Sam and asked him if he’d like to go on a “mom date” with me. He readily agreed. After that was settled, I sent Jeremy a text and said “You are going to have the house to yourself Friday night. I strongly suggest you go play some poker.”

This is one area that I am absolutely adamant about in our marriage. It is healthy to have time to ourselves to do the things we love. I am not one of those wives who discourages Jeremy from doing the things he enjoys. And he is not one of those husbands who discourages me from doing what I enjoy. In fact, we push each other to cut the self-sacrificing bullshit and do things for ourselves whenever those rare moments present themselves. This is why I married him.

He acted like I’d just presented him with a bow-wrapped Porshe in the driveway. A night to himself to do whatever the heck he wanted? Sign him up!

So we were all happy.

I told Sam that he could pick the restaurant for dinner, and to my surprise, he chose The Whistling Kettle in Ballston Spa. Ever since Jeremy and I honeymooned in Paris and introduced the boys to the crepes we fell in love with there, the boys have become serious crepe connoisseurs. When we took them to Montreal, they ate their weights in crepes, and are determined to partake in crepes everywhere. The Whistling Kettle makes amazing crepes and has always been one of my favorite restaurants in the area, so I was absolutely fine with that suggestion.

After dinner, we drove up to Saratoga Springs, another one of my favorite places in the area. And then we painted.

The finished products

Every time we go we see lots of women, usually a very small contingent of men, and never any moms with kids. I don’t get it. For me, it’s the perfect bonding activity with the boys. They put their video games and phones away, we talk, we compare, we ask for advice, we bond in the shared experience of doing something together. As a parent, when was the last time your kids saw you trying and failing and doing something completely new and working through figuring it out? We are constantly on the sidelines watching and cheering on our children, but how often are the roles reversed? And how often do our children get the opportunity to work side by side with us, as peers?

Sam’s Paso Fino

At work, in the break room, an Everything-I-Ever-Needed-To-Learn-I-Learned-In-Kindergarten poster hangs on the wall. But for me, there are some major life lessons to be learned at Paint and Sip.

  1. Everybody is looking at the same image, everybody receives the same instructions, has the same paint, and the same paintbrushes, and every single person is going to interpret that image differently. It’s amazing at the end of a class to walk around and see all the little micro decisions people made that completely changed their painting from the one used as an example. It’s a lot like life, plus it’s a metaphor for the ages.
  2. It’s ok to go rogue. Just because everybody is doing the same painting, that doesn’t mean you can’t do something entirely different. Anything goes at Paint and Sip. It’s your painting, so do what will make you happy to hang it on your wall.
  3. Everything is more fun when we support each other. There’s something truly magical about the camaraderie, the encouragement, and the whole lack of judgement at Paint and Sip. We’re painting a horse and you think yours looks like a duck? Awesome! Paint or duck! Or, we’ll fix it!
  4. Everything can be fixed. There is no such thing as a painting emergency.
  5. The finished product is not the point. The process is the point. The learning is the point. The figuring it out as you go is the point. And it’s also the fun part.
My Paso Fino

The Best Step Dad Ever

This is my new favorite picture of Jeremy.

We recently went out to dinner when something amazing happened. Sam left half his sweet and sour chicken on his plate. No sooner had the words “I’m full” come out of his mouth than Jeremy reached over, grabbed a piece of chicken, and popped it in his mouth.

This would have been perfectly normal in a lot of families.

But we’re a step family.

It happened so quickly, and so naturally, that maybe no one else even noticed. But I definitely did. For our family it’s kind of a big deal, because Jeremy is the step dad and (even though it seems like he’s always been around) in actually he hasn’t even been in our lives 2 years yet.

But the fact that things are this comfortable between us all is HUGE.

I was raised by a single mother, and I can tell you right now that if any of her boyfriends had ever eaten my leftovers, that would’ve felt supremely weird. And since she didn’t remarry until I was 30, I never had to get used to the idea of having a stepdad around. But I imagine it’s hard.

So whenever I see Jeremy with my boys, I want to pinch myself, because they make that whole bonding-with-stepdad thing look effortless. Tonight we went out to buy a new keyboard for John’s computer, and on the way home, I was serenaded by all three of them singing show tunes from Avenue Q and SpongeBob and The Book of Mormon on the way home. In my wildest dreams, that was never how my fantasy remarriage looked like, but every day I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven.

The funny thing is, I’m not sure Jeremy and I would have figured any of “us” out had it not been for the boys.

We’d gone on one date, and if I’m honest, I was ambivalent about the whole thing. Jeremy seemed nice enough, but we’re both shy, socially awkward introverts, and first dates are not exactly where we shine. I’m pretty sure I spent the whole date just trying to maintain eye contact and look engaged even though I was disassociating through most of it (as I’m want to do when get-to-know-you small talk gets too tedious). I assumed, like so many first dates before him, I’d never hear from him again.

But he kept texting me. So I kept texting him. And I asked him if he planned to go to the family picnic the Facebook singles group we belonged to was planning for 4th of July. He said he’d go if I was going, so we met up there. Only this time, I had the boys with me.

Again, if I’m honest, I was still super blah about the whole thing. In my mind this was NOT a date. But the boys really seemed to like him. When he heard them complaining that the party was boring and that they’d rather see a movie, he invited us to all go see a movie together, which impressed the boys immensely. On the way home in the car, they went on and on and on and on and on and on and on about the awesomeness that was Jeremy. Sam said I needed to marry him and make this guy their stepfather, preferably as soon as possible. I did not get it. But I trust dogs and children. And Archie, my dog, had already laid claim to Jeremy.

I talked about that here.

From the moment Archie met Jeremy, he made it quite clear that Jeremy was the greatest human alive. He said to me, in no uncertain doggie terms, “Thanks for springing me from the shelter. Thanks for feeding me, and walking me, and giving up 2/3 of your bed to me for the last two years. But now that Jeremy is here, I’m going to pretend I don’t know you, and try to wedge myself between the two of you at every opportunity because Jeremy is MY human, not yours.”

With the boys jumping on board the We Love Jeremy fan club, I stuck it out, and here we are. (It didn’t take me long to figure out what everyone else saw in him so readily. It just took me longer.)

But again, if the boys hadn’t brought up marriage and continued insisting that they wanted a Jeremy stepfather and not a Jeremy mom’s boyfriend we would probably still be living together and probably less likely to make it official. But here we are, five months in, and I’ve truly never been happier. A big part of what makes me so happy is seeing the relationship that Jeremy had created with the boys, and how happy they are around him.

He’s not trying to be their dad. He’s not trying to be their friend. He’s more their bonus parent–an additional adult who has got their back in life. An adult who expands their world, and shows them one more example of how to be a good man and good father. We’re all really lucky to have him.