Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Meet Rex

Not long after we had to put Buddha down, there was talk about getting another dog. I was very reluctant for many reasons. First, Buddha's loss was hard for me. Even though towards the end of his days we weren't the best of pals, he was our first dog from the very first day that Bill and I moved into our apartment together. I think about him and still get choked up (and still teary now as I write about him).

Then there was the fact that having a dog is a big responsibility. We now have two kids and I knew that I was going to be the one to take care of the new dog most of the time - house training, stopping them from chewing on Carter's toys, all in between diaper changes and preschool.

Bill had been in a funk and we thought that getting a dog would be something to help get him out. Not only that, but Logan CONSTANTLY talked about getting a dog. Last week as he sat on the couch watching cartoons, he turned to me and said, "Mom, I really love the dog we don't have yet." Yeah, that was a big motivator.

Bill had been looking through pet ads and animal rescue listings daily. We had talked about it for weeks, maybe even months - about what type of dog, the age of the dog and so forth. One day he came across an ad on Craigslist for some 8 week old Dorgis (Dachshund-Corgi mixes) that a college vet student had as an accident litter from her roommates intact dog. They were cute, they were small and just the kind of dog we were looking for.

We took the boys with us after Bill got home from work to see if they liked them and see how friendly the litter was. Logan fell in love instantly, Carter, not so much. We let Logan pick the one he wanted; a small and precious little girl pup who was sweeter than any dog we've had. He wanted to name her "Rex", as in "T-Rex", even though she was a girl. Sure, whatever.

We brought her home and she took an instant liking to me (probably because I'm a mom and I knew exactly what she needed. It was just that mom instinct). She was a bit clingy and needy, wanting to be held and cuddled, but you couldn't blame her since she was just a baby with a new family on her first day. As the weekend progressed, she was quick to house-train and soon felt right at home. And Carter finally warmed up to her and accepted her as part of the family.

She follows us around the house, cuddles with Bill on the couch at night and runs around with Logan in the back yard, bouncing in the snow like a little bunny. She sleeps on my feet when I work on the laptop and is just way too cute for words. Here, see for yourself...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Getaway Guilt

For the first time in four years, since we've been parents, Bill and I left the kids at home with a sitter and we spent the night in Denver. We had been talking about doing this for a while, but the problem always came down to finding a sitter. Well, my friend and training client talked about doing trades for overnight babysitting a few months ago. I was game. As long as I could bring my laptop so I could work when her kids were asleep, it would be a piece of cake.

Once the date was set, we got a hook up for our hotel room and I started looking for fancy-pants restaurants to go to. Everything was set and the night we were leaving I started dinner and bedtime routines just before my friend came over.

And Carter started to get a fever.

I had so much guilt and didn't know what to do. We had these plans in place, had been looking forward to this night for so long, my friend was on her way and now Carter was crashing. He only had a low-grade fever, but still. A freakin' fever.

My friend arrived and I told her what was up. Having more experience in child care than most people (it's her business) she said that it was cool and told me not to worry. We made a deal - if he started puking, then I'd owe her a weekend (what an awesome friend she is!)

It took me the whole drive to Denver to shake that guilt from not only leaving the kids for a night for the first time, but leaving my toddler sick. I knew they were in great hands, but ugh...mom guilt is insane. Once we got to the hotel though, everything was fine and we were ready to have fun.

After discovering that I left my toothbrush at home and waiting a ridiculous amount of time for room service to bring one up for me, we left the hotel too late to eat diner at any of the amazing restaurants that I wanted to try. We walked around the corner from the hotel and found a recommended spot - that was a sports grill. As a food writer, I opened the menu and my heart broke. Burgers, fries and the Nuggets game on flat screen TV's when I was looking forward to white table cloths and duck confit.

At first I was so upset I was getting angry. I felt a bit cheated. But, I got a martini, thought "what the hell, we're out and no matter what, we'll have fun." Bill suggested a menu item, I got it and we did in fact, have fun.

After dinner we took a carriage ride around the 16th street mall and Larimer Square. It was fun and we chatted up the driver while shivering in the cold. We went bar hopping all over, and went to a few clubs. We had an amazing, fun, wild time. Our night ended up being our own version of The Hangover, but rather than missing teeth, random babies and a tiger in the bathroom; I had my wallet and phone stolen and a mysterious gigantic bruise on my knee. I guess shots of Patron will do that.

We picked up the pieces, canceling our credit/debit cards, bank accounts and putting a security shutdown on my phone. We drove home laughing about what had transpired. It was only a $30-something loss from the thief filling up their gas tank at a gas station. No harm done, really. And I got to upgrade my phone to a Blackberry (something I really needed now that writing is taking off).

We got home and the kids were fine. Logan, who I was never really worried about because he can pretty much take care of himself, did very well. Carter was even fine, despite not feeling well (and never threw up). We hung out and cuddled with the boys, watched TV and laughed about our night out. It was a great one night getaway...even if I don't recall the last half.

Now we'll see how much getaway guilt I have when we go to Vegas for the weekend. And hopefully I won't find a tiger in the bathroom.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

For Everything There is a Season

While waiting for my Pad Thai at one of the Thai restaurants in town that I was reviewing, my friend and I sat there talking about marriage and the troubles we've been through. This was during the time that Bill was away for business in Europe and we were trying to get back on track after a rough couple of months. My friend had shared that she and her husband went through a period of separation and made the comment that every relationship goes through winter, or something like that.

That analogy struck a cord with me.

I am not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination, but I am an observer of patterns. I often talk about the "pendulum" pattern: when good times turn bad, it will always become good again at some point. Nothing stays the same, there's a yin and yang to every part of life, ebb and flow, even in relationships and especially marriage. A season of winter made so much sense.

The turbulent months that we had gone through, mostly from about October/November to the end of January, wasn't because of something that someone was doing or not doing, it wasn't due to a lack of honesty (frankly, those months were the most honest in almost all of our marriage), it wasn't due to crisis. In fact, we had been in crisis mode for years, trying to survive during financial hardships, lawsuits, job changes and in-law problems. While life may not always be peachy keen, it's the best it's ever been and we aren't in crisis mode any longer. It's been an adjustment. We made a good team when confronted with the problems life threw at us, but when in calm waters, we had almost nothing in common. Bill made the comment that he wished we were broke again or facing some kind of traumatic life change, because those were the moments we really supported one another. Those were the times we connected.

This right now was winter.

Our relationship was dull, dead, gray and cold. There was no passion, no excitement, nothing. I had many aspects in my life that gave me a sense of self and purpose; I had MOMS Club, personal training, writing group, my work as a food writer, nights out with my friends and taking care of the boys. My life was full of a variety of interests and activities, always packed with fun and excitement, but none of it included Bill. He had work and a dying interest in disc golf. He was lost and being so made it even harder for us to find each other in his fog. However, there was still that deep soul-binding connection that wouldn't let us give up (as much as we told each other that we didn't know what to do) and to try as hard as we could to figure out a way to last until Spring.

We had a marriage counseling session before Bill left for his long business trip. I expressed my deepest fear of that when Bill was on his own halfway around the world for so long, he would realize life was better without "us" and would want a divorce. We had talked about this together prior to the session, and he assured me then in that room, as he did during our conversations at home, that he wouldn't do that. He was in this for the long haul and would do anything to get us back to a better place.

Our counselor reassured me that Bill has tried and continues to try harder than any husband she's worked with before. She also reminded us that despite how we felt, we were in a very lucky spot - trying to improve our relationship to make it amazing rather than healing from trauma. Now that we weren't trying to figure our way out of a problem, we were in the fortunate position to think about fun things to do, together and as a family, that we could find a common interest in - vacations, activities, things we've always wanted to do but were never able to do in the past. It was suggested that Bill come up with a bucket list and find things that he would love to do individually, activities that would give him a sense of self and spark his passions in life.

It was the day before Bill left on his trip that we both felt that change for the better. We had been working on communication and rekindling that spark. The timing of his trip was terrible because we wanted so desperately to keep on this without an almost 20 day break. However, that break only made us want to work on our marriage even harder.

It was an eye-opening experience for both of us. That trip ended up being similar to a separation, showing us for a brief moment what life would be like without each other, how much the kids would be effected, and really, how much love we had for one another. Our relationship was completely different upon his return.

It was Spring.

He's been back for only a few weeks and the honeymoon phase has passed, but we are still on good ground. He's sent me flowers from work, we email loves notes to one another and both make an effort to support each other's individual passions. He's been more supportive in my food writing endeavors, attending event dinners that he'd rather not, and buying me books to hone my skills. I've been open to him taking a few hours for himself every week this summer to try out fly fishing and a few weekend camping trips with his friends. We have even thought about trying Krav Maga together as a shared interest (we've yet to sign up). We are working to find that balance of family, marriage and self for each other.

We spent a night in Denver away from the kids, the first night we've ever had to ourselves since we've been parents (this totally merits it own post). On our drive home after a wild and crazy night on the town, it was re-confirmed that Bill is my best friend in the entire world. No matter what insanity we go through, he's there with me picking up the pieces and assures me that there's "no harm done" despite my stupid antics. I understood why I try so hard in our marriage to keep this relationship. It's so easy for me to cast someone in my life to the side or abandon them altogether (whatever the reason may be), but Bill is the only person I've ever fought tooth and nail for, tried with all my might and soul. My love for him is so deep.

It's important for me to remember this season of winter we lived through, to understand that at some point we will go through summer and autumn and find ourselves cycled in the cold and darkness of winter again. Life is never perfect and it always changes. For everything there is a season.