My one and only love

There's been a lot of wedding talk in my chunk of Twitterland today, all on account of the divine Miss Miriel and her upcoming nuptials. It's been fun looking at everyone's wedding pictures and oohing over dresses and bugging Miriel about livetweeting her wedding. 

And my tenth anniversary isn't for another couple of weeks so I'm not quite due for a shmoopy post, but I heard Sting singing 'Someone To Watch Over Me' in the car on the way home (KPLU evening jazz!) and how are you not supposed to feel shmoopy over that?

I don't love any of my wedding pictures and when I think back to who I was at age almost-24 ten years ago I'm not super impressed. So much of my personality flaws were on huge display. I had absolutely no idea how to plan a wedding, no good friends who were married, and parents who still lived in Italy. I knew what I wanted and I knew what wouldn't work for me. Like buying a fancy dress and getting my hair done. I thought dress shopping would be the most humiliating thing in the world, so I enlisted my aunt to MAKE my dress - very plain, empire-waisted, nothing showy. Makeup? I put mine on in the car when I drove myself and my maid of honor to the church for pictures and got there before anyone else. I had a friend do my hair, but of course I redid it. It wasn't that I thought I didn't deserve to be pretty on my wedding day, I just didn't think I could pull it off. Me? Beautiful? In the dark part of my heart I thought I would try to look beautiful and it would fail and everyone would roll their eyes at me for making the attempt. Better to just look like myself. 


I was months away from a full fledged nervous breakdown, determined as I was to get this wedding thing over with and start on the real goal: Phillip and me being missionaries in China. (HA HA HA.) 

My future best friends wanted to be involved so badly and tried to do so much for me, but I was embarrassed that I didn't already have the standard flock of bridesmaids to take care of everything so I blew them off. 

At no point in the process did I EVER want to appear needy, lonely, like I didn't know what I was doing. The more unsure I was about something the more sureness I faked. 

I liked my wedding! I did. It was exactly me at that point in time. It was low key, heavy appetizers, lots of wine, no garters or bouquet toss, on the water in my favorite city. The one element that I would absolutely a million times over do again was the jazz trio and the girl singer. So there wasn't any crazy dancing at my wedding, but we had the music that started things off. 

The first summer I knew him, Phillip spent eight weeks in China. And during that entire 8 weeks, even though we were barely friends, much less dating, I listened to a CD he'd made for me before he left. It sounds like he liked me, right? But Phillip was 1) super into whatever was the newest technological thing, which at that time was burning CDs and 2) super into music, all kinds, especially music no one knew much about, like romantic jazz standards. He made a lot of CDs. I spent that entire summer listening to Sting sing 'My One And Only Love' on repeat, daydreaming, wondering if there was any other guy in the entire world who even KNEW that song. (Besides Sting.)

I was an insecure, nervous, fearful, prideful girl, but somehow I managed to fall in love with the right guy. Even more amazing, he wanted to marry me

So I didn't get it all wrong. We started dating knowing that we'd probably get married - not because we were super churchy even then (although we were) but because we both completely abhorred the idea of ever going through a breakup. If we were doing this we were doing this. He was as serious as me, and in just the same way, in which we couldn't imagine doing it differently. AND he liked Gershwin.

We danced to 'My One And Only Love' at our wedding and I will never hear that song - or Sting singing any jazz standard - without swooning. It's just... everything. Some people have amazing photography or exquisite dresses. I have this song. 

At the time I felt too young, and when I look back I think: thank goodness. I couldn't continue to be so insecure, nervous, fearful, and prideful because now it affected him. I'm a better person because of him. I am more. I think the two of us, we are so much better together. 

I think about who I was when I got married and the truth is that I didn't know I could be anyone different. I know I would have grown up somehow anyway, but because I married Phillip? My heart expanded in ways that didn't exist before him. 

Kindergarten homework

IS STUPID. Seriously! Who knows what that picture is! WE HAVE NO IDEA. Today we were trying to figure out the begnning and ending sound of a word, three letters, middle letter E, with a picture of... a paint brush? In a puddle of paint?  Ten minutes later Phillip shouted, "RED! It's a black and white copy! RED! RED!"

Then there was a picture of a diamond. Blank E BLANK. Gem, right? It's gem. What kindergartner knows the word gem? GEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS IS NOT ON ANYMORE.

Jack said, "I think it's JEWEL," and then Phillip says, "no, I think it's GEM. JEWEL has too many letters."

So then Jack asks, "How do you spell JEWEL?" 

Phillip says, "J - E - W - L." 

And I say, from the kitchen where I am bent over a sink full of dirty dishes, wiping the sweat from my brow, realizing that not only must I cook the meals and do the dishes I must also be responsible for ALL THE SPELLING: "OH. MY. GAWD. PHILLIP CHEUNG. J-E-W-E-L."

"Oh right," Phillip says. 

"How come you don't know how to spell JEWEL," Jack asks. "You must not be a grown up." 


Oh, as I'm typing this, Jack, who is still doing his homework, comes over to me shouting, "THIS DOESN'T MAKE SEEEEEEENSE!!!"

I look over it and say, "I don't understand. Everything's right. You did a good job."

He goes, "But WHY do I have to do six plus one so many TIMES when I already KNOW IT?"


It'll be ten years in June

Well HALLO, Internet! It's nice to see you! Tonight, apropos of absolutely nothing, I have decided to tell you about my first date. 

OH WAIT! I HAVE NEVER BEEN ON A FIRST DATE! WITH ANYONE! So actually I have decided to tell you all about how bitter I am that I have never been on a first date. Ever. Possibly I need to write a song about it, in the spirit of an indignant red lipsticked Taylor Swift. 

I know you are wondering how one eventually ends up married if one has never been on a first date. I WILL TELL YOU. 

But first: the history of the nonexistent date. (ANY DATE! FOR SHAME!) 

Shockingly I somehow acquired a boyfriend when I was fourteen. I knew he was my first real boyfriend because we didn't break up after three days. He was sixteen, which I now think is TERRIBLE, and he had a CAR, which is even WORSE. I'm positive I have committed the entire relationship to a journal somewhere, but I have yet to open those boxes labeled MAGGIE'S HIGH SCHOOL STUFF that my parents evicted from their garage years ago, so I'm a bit fuzzy on the details. Fourteen-year-old me is horrified by this, by the way, but fourteen-year-old me thought she would marry THAT guy so who cares what she thinks.

Anyway, did not go on any first dates with that guy. I don't even remember how we started hanging out all the time. I was basically not allowed to do anything or go anywhere or have any fun, especially with him, so it's possible this entire "relationship" took place in the school hallways. Except for that one time I DID ride in his car and got CAUGHT ha ha ha - I 1) still feel guilty about this and 2) am still irritated with the friend of my parents who told on me. NEARLY TWENTY YEARS LATER. 


So. No first date there. 

And thennnnn, there is no date to tell you about, on account of there being no boys wanting to TAKE me on dates. WOUNDED SIGH.

Oh, there were boys I I liked in high school, but they did not like me. When I think about them now my only feeling is relief. Spare me the teenage boys! I overheard a few of them at the mall today and thought to myself, "Why did you ever think THAT specimen of human being was AT ALL attractive?" 

There were the two or three guys who liked me, but who I thought were weird/annoying/dumb/unattractive/etc. and therefore ignored (nicely). I'm guessing those are the guys who now entertain Victoria's Secret models on their private islands. There was the guy who told me, at our graduation party, that he had really liked me at one point but was totally intimidated by me. At the time I was confused and offended, but now I just think I must have been THAT smart and beautiful. I mean, OBVS, right?!

Oh, and the guy I mooned over my entire senior year, who was dating someone else. TRAGEDY! He lived in my town and secretly liked me back and once we met up in our tiny town square (remember I lived in podunk Northern Italy) to drink beer and eat pizza at the one pizzeria. Well, he ordered beer. I thought beer was gross and also I was determined to be a Very Good Girl after that whole riding-in-cars-with-boys fiasco a few years before. 


Then I went to COLLEGE which was, like, a million frillion percent better than high school, but there was still nobody who wanted to take me on a date. Woe. Sometimes when I look at pictures of myself in college I think, "Well, no WONDER." Even so, I wasn't particularly interested in anyone. There were heaps of Possibilities, you know, but none of them struck me as Worthwhile. 

Until, of course, I met Phillip Cheung. SECOND WOUNDED SIGH. I liked him from almost the first second, but it was two years of getting to know each other, hanging out in big groups, killing time in each other's dorm rooms, being Just Friends, wondering if he would EVER EVER like me back. And you guys, I know there are SEVERAL journals worth of Phillip Angst, but we're just going to keep those boxed up until I die and then my grandchildren can find them and make fun of me. 

By the time Phillip finally admitted to himself that I was the most perfect girl in the entire world and the only one for him, there was no need for a first date. When we went out it was just doing the things we'd always done before, only this time he paid. 

Phillip's take on this, since he just asked me what I was writing about and I told him the truth, is: "Well, I was so great there wasn't really any need for a first date."

Also, in case you haven't figured this out, Phillip and I aren't really the, ah, frivolous sorts. As in, I AM HIS FIRST REAL GIRLFRIEND. Someone had an even worse dating track record than me! I didn't know it at the time, but we're definitely both the sort of person who doesn't want to even bother unless it's Serious. That might be why it took him so long - deciding to date me was tantamount to assuming we'd get married. 

And yeah, we got married and had three perfect children and he has a Career and I'm a SAHM and everything worked out just fine, but man, sometimes I'm watching a TV date and I'm BITTER! I wanted a TV-style date! I wanted someone to ask ME out and be Pleasantly Surprised and Flattered! I wanted an awkward kiss goodnight on a New York City stoop! WAH!

Instead I Pined for two years until I wore him down. And he didn't even PROPOSE, people, we were having a big FIGHT about when to get married and instead of a proposal we were both like, "FINE! LET'S DO IT NOW! HAPPY?!"

(Obvs that is another blog post. That I'm sure I've written two or three times. Sigh.)


Anyway. This post is brought to you by the fact that it's Sunday night, Phillip is going out for beers with some friends, which he can do because he's not nursing an ulcer about going to work on Monday, and I am quite content to stay home with a bowl of popcorn and my TiFaux, and we are very terribly happy. 

I, on the other hand, remember it well

Sometimes I like to read what everyone else is reading, even if it's months past when everyone else is talking about it. I put a digital copy of What Alice Forgot on hold at the library and the other night when there was absolutely nothing to watch on TV I thought, fine, I'll start reading a book

It wasn't the best book I've ever read and it certainly wasn't the worst, so when I was all done I was confused (again!) by how STRESSED OUT and IRRITATED I was. How AFFECTED I was. "What's your DEAL, Self?" I asked myself. "CHILLAX."

But I thought about it most of the day and I realized: oh. That's why. So you see, due to a head injury, Alice has forgotten the last 10 years of her life. (WAIT! SPOILER! DO NOT KEEP READING IF YOU WANT TO READ THE BOOK! I HAVE WARNED YOU!) Ten years ago she was young, pregnant, blissfully happily married, excited for the future. But the Alice of the Ten Years Into The Future, the REAL Alice, she's a half-psychotic supermom with three kids and a fancy house and a husband who works all the time... and travels... and takes a lot of phone calls... and she sort of emotionally divests herself from him... and then they SEPARATE. ACK.

Hey did you like how I said "emotionally divests"? And I've never even taken a psych class. 

Anyway, this gnaws at me. Clearly I am still processing The Year Of Too Much Business Travel. I am beyond thrilled that Phillip is at a new place doing new stuff, he feels like there's potential, and the environment, the expectations, the "culture" seems so different. He hasn't been there long enough to know and it's not like he'll never get on a plane for work again, but it's a huge [and good, I think] change. But I don't think I have fully switched over from Single Parenting Every Other Week to Daddy Is Home At Five Every Day. 

I feel terrible, because it's not like Phillip was DEPLOYED. It's not like his job WAS in Atlanta and he only came home on the weekends. (I know people who have arrangements like this and do it for years.) He got so much better at communicating vague travel plans and I never felt jerked around by his work. And even though he was consistently traveling once a month for a year, the excessive travel, the several weeks per month only started happening in September. That was only three months. When we knew there was an end point. Halfway through we knew it wasn't just the end of crazy travel but an entirely new JOB waiting at the end. When he made sure to be around on the weekends and made it possible for ME to go on a FUN trip by myself for five days. 

It seems like such a short term thing - why does it feel like a big deal still? Why does it feel like something to process at all? 

I think it's the way I coped with it all. In the beginning, when he first started these 4 and 5-day-long business trips, I would silently freak out about them for weeks ahead of time. (If I KNEW about it weeks ahead of time, I suppose!) The anticipation was always harder than the actual event. I think I got used to it, sort of, then we went and had EJ and I got terrified all over again. EJ was only about two months old the first time he left me at home with three. She was a horrible sleeper, the whole thing WAS horrible, I had to plan to spend almost the whole week with my parents when he went away again the next month. (That was better.) 

By September and October of this year, I didn't even bat an eye. It's not like I was HAPPY about it or anything, but I felt resigned. It wasn't Phillip's fault, after all. He didn't seem to be as affected by work travel as I was, but this was still his job, the way I got to stay home with my kids, the way we paid the mortgage. And I was capable. I could do all the school stuff by myself. I could do all the meals and bedtime. I could do a wet bed and a bloody nose and an awake-for-no-reason baby all in one night. I made embarrassingly easy dinners, I put the kids to bed as early as possible, we made plans with friends and family, and I savored that alone time at the end of the day when I was finally done and there was no one else around to take care of except myself. Single parenting wasn't so bad. I could handle it just fine. 

What's weird now, I think, is that even though I don't HAVE to single parent anymore, it's still sort of my first plan of attack. How do I take care of this thing? How do I manage all of these people? I forget to factor Phillip into all of that. 

So when he comes back and decides that he's going to try a new discipline approach with Jack, or suggests I do something differently with Emma, or points out something I forgot or ignored I'm RATHER TOUCHY. I'm like this anyway (don't you try to tell me I'm wrong!) but I feel even more sensitive. Like, "HEY, WE WERE JUST FINE WITHOUT YOU." 

And that's... horrible. Horrible! I don't want that! 

I didn't really know how else to deal with the business travel, and now I see it affecting things afterward. I need to get out of this mindset where I am only and forever in charge, where parenting WITH someone is better for everyone. And I don't have to tell myself it's not important just so I can manage to do it alone. 

Phillip feels differently... I'm not exactly sure how it all lines up, but from what he says, it seems that he feels he was fully present when he was home and it wasn't like he was gone ALL the time and he was still a part of things. And he WAS... but I think when he was here, especially the last few months, I was just preparing for him to leave again. I never got comfortable. I made sure to spend plenty of time alone, without kids AND my husband. I didn't want to be angry and resentful all the time, and it seemed like the only way to do that was to act/feel/think like I was just fine doing this on my own, I didn't need him anyway. 

So I wasn't angry and resentful. Honestly. I was many things, but I was not angry or blaming him. Whatever I did, it worked. It's just that now that it's over, it's proving hard to go back. 

This post was NOT sponsored by Cupcake Prosecco but it SHOULD have been

I had a fabulous Thanksgiving, Internet. It was delicious, delightful, and rawther drinky. A long time ago I was into this book called Things You Need To Be Told by the Etiquette Grrls - oh dear, I seem to have fallen into an Amazon reviewer wormhole. People think this book is pretentious! People think gin and tonics are boring! People are not fans of Random Capitalization! (QUELLE HORREUR!) Well, here's my contribution to the reviews: LIGHTEN UP! 

So ANYWAY, I was super into this hilariously pretentious etiquette book and one of the things the authors recommend as a good time is A Very Boozy Thanksgiving, wherein you invite all your orphaned friends for a giant (and very boozy) dinner. I have always wanted to do this, but it's sort of unseemly to do in front of your grandmother, right?

BUT! This Thanksgiving? I opened the wine before dinner at my in-laws'. As the only real wine drinker at the gathering you feel a little silly opening the wine at, say, 2pm, but C'MON IT'S THANKSGIVING. You guys, I have the best in-laws. I stood on a chair to get the bottle down from the fancy rack and they're all, "Yes! Open it!" And it's THANKSGIVING, but they don't want you to help, they don't even really seem to care if you keep an eye on your own children, you're just supposed to sit down and relax and maybe read the Black Friday ads. The most I've ever done at my in-laws' is set the table, and that's not for lack of TRYING to help, lest you think I am a lazypants. No, I'm offering to help cook, to wash dishes, to wipe up, wipe down, clear, what have you, and they just act like I'm really super duper hilarious. Wash dishes? HO HO! Go sit down and put your feet up! FIL will do the dishes! He LIKES doing the dishes!

Yeah. Good times. I also like holidays at my in-laws' because Phillip has a pair of college age cousins I find charming and hysterical and one of my very favorite Thanksgiving Quotes was when the college senior said, "So Phillip, you're like, what? 28?" HAAAAAAA!!! HA! HA! HA!

(That means they think I'm 27!)

Oh wait! I forgot to tell you about Thanksgiving EVE aka Phillip's Last Day of Work! It was splendid. My sisters and one of my BILs came over after the kids went to bed and we put away two trays of nachos, half a pan of easy toffee bars, some red wine, and a bottle of Cupcake Prosecco. YOU GUYS. I have never been a big fan of white and/or sparkling wine. I mean, if there's nothing else, I'll drink it. But it's not my favorite, and when there are toasts I usually take a few sips of champagne and move on to the good stuff. HOWEVER. Cupcake Prosecco was quite possibly the most delicious thing I tasted all week and OH MY perhaps I should fork over a few extra dollars when I go to buy something champagne-like! I wanted to get something nice to celebrate and it was lovely. 

So! Thanksgiving? Good. The next day was a huge terrible boring-as-heck rainstorm and I took the kids to see Brave, which was also terrible and boring-as-heck. I did not mind at all when Molly got scared and demanded to leave in the middle. Then, as we do, we last-minute-invited friends for dinner and GUESS WHAT. THEY BROUGHT CUPCAKE PROSECCO. BEST FRIENDS EVER. 

Side note: not many of my super good real life friends are the drinky sorts, so the fact that @lizritz absolutely never blinks an eye when I refill her wine glass makes her, like, triply precious. 

Saturday? Saturday was wine with my two sisters at the Sound of Music singalong movie, which all of you should experience at least once in your lives. It was a riot. Also, I STILL DO NOT HAVE A DRIVER'S LICENSE! GROWN UP FAIL! I never ever tried to buy alcohol before age 21 (I SWEAR), but in the last week I purchased alcohol three times without an ID - once at the grocery store, where I gave a nervous giggle and they passed me through anyway (I AM THIRTY-THREE AND LOOK IT), once at the Sound of Music where I got my sister to buy my glass of wine, and once AFTER the singalong, when we went to happy hour and I only ordered a drink because the waitress didn't card anyone ELSE. Except then she carded EVERYONE. (I got my drink anyway. And left a large tip. GAH.) (My inner rule follower: DYYYYYYING.) (The waitress says I could totally use my sister's ID by the way. Which is funny, since I'm FOUR YEARS OLDER.)

Sunday? What was Sunday? There was probably more wine. 

It was just a very CELEBRATORY handful of days, Internet. VERY fun. VERY cheery. VERY "Look At Me Deleting All My Work Email Off My Phone Forever And Ever!" I know this post is obnoxiously WINE WINE PROSECCO MORE WINE! but really, I just felt like we were celebrating every day. The entire goal for the weekend was: Have as excellent a time as possible. GOAL ACCOMPLISHED.

Phillip started his new job on Monday, but since he's doing an online training the first week, an online training that starts on East Coast time, he's doing it from home. Not even going to the office. Weird! But that just meant today he was done at 3:30, like REALLY done, no phone calls, no emergency texts, no conference calls at weird times. And we've just been hanging out all day and tomorrow is more of the same. It's crazy. I know he'll have to go to the office NEXT week, but today I made Cherry Cabernet Brownies with a red wine ganache JUST BECAUSE IT SEEMED LIKE THE RIGHT THING TO DO. 

T-Three Hours

Three more hours until Phillip is home. 

I think... if this wasn't the end of all the travel insanity? I'd be out of my mind. Single parenting feels like the norm. Totally taking care of the house and making all the domesticky decisions on my own is the norm. Making decisions about the kids without consulting Phillip? The norm. Collapsing on the couch after I've put the kids to bed and dragging myself to bed ten minutes later? Very much the norm. I am actually worried about what it will be like to live together again. I hope that doesn't sound TOO dramatic, I mean, it's not like we're a military family and he's been deployed for 12 months. But I 1) most definitely did not sign up for this and 2) hate that it feels NORMAL! What will it be like to have that fifth person around again?! This is not the way I want things to be. I can't believe what the last three months have been like. If he wasn't quitting I'd be SO ANGRY.

Honestly, even if he wasn't starting a completely new job, the end would probably be near. A super huge project is going live, everything happens in Atlanta, and things keep getting pushed back, but still, next year if he were still working there, it most likely wouldn't be travel at this level. At least he has a job. At least I get to do what I want to do. I didn't have to go to New Orleans for five days. Get over yourself, Self.

But that's what we've been telling ourselves for a while now, that this is just a little aberration and things will even out an go back to normal. Except: this IS the new normal. I was talking to Liz last night and she said something like "you just went straight from grad school to business trips" and I was all YEAH I DID! I don't want to throw myself a huge pity party here or anything, but I usually err on the side of Not Acknowledging When Things Have Been Crazy And/Or Hard and it's GOOD for me to say: Dude. This has been mildly unpleasant.

That said... Maybe it was the five days away with internet friends, maybe it was knowing that the end is near, maybe it was God giving me a little badly needed grace, maybe I just tried to be a grown up for once, but I've been surprised at how easy the last two weeks have been. Even the last two days, with Jack at home instead of in kindergarten - I'm really having FUN with these kids. Sure, they're still bickering and making giant messes and wanting three meals a day, but I've, like, PLAYED with them. We've made a serious amount of cookies.* We've read stories and made crafts and you guys I HATE doing crafts. We've laughed a LOT. We've had FUN. 

And wow, I love my husband. I mean, that's sort of required. But in the same way I've sort of been kept from freaking out on him, I feel like he's been kept from stressing out on me and needing more than I feel like I can give. I came home from NOLA talking about all the people I was going to visit - on my own, for days at a time, with money in our savings account - and he was all, "Yeah, you really should do that." He's the one who told me I should go volunteer for a week at this crazy missions conference in St. Louis. I just feel so lucky.

I did not start this post thinking, "I will write about what I'm thankful for!" But it appears that I did. I'm thankful for my 100%-supportive-of-my-extracurriculars husband. My silly kids. My sweet baby. Our filthy house and Jack's school and two sets of grandparents who never say no to watching our kids. 

His last day is tomorrow. There's a bottle of champagne in the fridge for when he gets home. I may decide he needs to take me shopping for diamonds in the evening, as thanks for my wifely sacrifices. Or maybe we'll just watch four straight episodes of Homeland, go to bed early, and enjoy having to do absolutely nothing for Thanksgiving at his parents' house. 

I am REALLY thankful I have this place to write it all out, and continually yet happily mystified that people read it. 


*Peppermint Wreaths
Chocolate Crinkles
Easy Toffee Bars
Cranberry Bliss Bars
English Jam Bars
Red & Green Thumbprints
Salted Caramel Thumbprints
Sugar Cookies (not yet decorated)

Almost there

At some point on Saturday night, in New Orleans, very very far away from home, I realized my driver's license was missing. I dumped out my purse, went through all of my pockets, combed through the suitcase - nothing. I decided I'd probably lost it in the SeaTac airport, because I'm the sort of person who stuffs her boarding pass and ID in her back pocket while going through all the airport indignities, instead of in a purse or wallet or whathaveyou and, well, this is exactly the sort of thing my FIL likes to warn me about. 

I called my airline - they were unhelpful. I called Phillip - he didn't answer. I decided that I would just drink a little bit more that night, the better to accomplish my only plan, which was Hope For The Best. I mean, I couldn't possibly be the first tourist in New Orleans to return to the airport without photo identification. Not that I had any idea what would happen and for all I know MAGGIE CHEUNG is on the No Fly List, but I just didn't see the point of the New Orleans airport security detaining an overtired 30-something mommyblogger for not following FIL's advice and wearing a vest with ninety-seven zippered pockets so nothing falls out.

I got to the airport right on time for someone who has not lost her license. All attempts to get there early were thwarted by Saints traffic. (Also ripped up streets, one ways, u-turns, and imbecilic drivers.) (Not MY driver. She was lovely.) I tried not to panic about this either. (My preferred method of Not Panicking is stuffing my phone in my pocket, closing my eyes, and chanting Hail Marys.) 

At the airport I walked straight up to the ticket agent, put on my best Yes, I'm Well Aware I Am A Huge Idiot face, and said, "I have my boarding pass on my phone, but I lost my driver's license and I don't have any other photo ID." (Side note: HOW COOL is having your boarding pass on your phone?! SO COOL.) She didn't even give me a second glance, though. Just typed typed typed and handed me a printed boarding pass and sent me off to security. 

Where, again, there was no line. Just a youngish TSA dude checking IDs and boarding passes. I put on my Face again, apologetically explained my lack of identification, and again, No Big Thing. I think if I'd been in Seattle they would have dragged me down to a windowless interrogation room, but in New Orleans he just said, "Eh, you got anything else with your name on it?" So I started pulling out credit cards and insurance cards and my Target debit card and some TSA lady off to the side shouts, "Girl, don't you got a Costco card?!" 

I looked at the TSA dude. "That COUNTS?"

He said, "Amazingly enough, yes it does."

He called his superior over who went through my little stack of cards, examined my Costco picture, inquired as to why I cut my hair, and waved me through security. I didn't even get a pat down. I got to spend my last hour in New Orleans chatting leisurely with the dry and pithy @megglesP who has many a mortuary science tale with which to totally gross you out. (THANKS MEGAN!)

All of that just to tell you: I made my flight and got to see Phillip at the Atlanta airport. He took an early flight so we could have an hour or so to hang out. It was... bizarre. He met me at my gate, asked me what I wanted for lunch, knew exactly where he was going, which, I suppose, only makes sense as the Atlanta airport IS his home away from home. I spilled all my Blathering details over a less-than-delicious TGIFriday's salad, he walked me to my gate, and I flew home to kids and bedtimes and diapers and double checking the doors are locked before I go to bed.

He comes home late tomorrow night. We have Jack's parent teacher conference early Friday morning and then he'll go to work. We have Saturday together - a friend just texted to see if we want to have dinner this weekend and usually I'm all YES, PEOPLE INVITED US TO DO SOMETHING, WE ARE ALL OVER THAT, YAY PEOPLE LIKE US, but Saturday is the only day we have. He leaves again on Sunday, comes home on Tuesday. Wednesday, praise God in heaven, is his last day of work. There might be a lot of celebratory drinking that night. And please, please do not ask me why he is traveling two out of his last three days of work. We've been over this multiple times and I still don't understand it. 

But then? 

Things are going to be different. 

I'm not sure how. And probably not right away. It's the holidays, things are crazy, and I'm going on ANOTHER TRIP after Christmas, a LONG ONE. I still haven't let myself think about that one. Childcare juggling, more hotel rooms, not sleeping, strange city, overwhelming event, utter lack of beignets EEK.

But after that? January-ish? Things are going to be different. I MEAN IT.


Some really super excellent news

AS YOU ARE WELL AWARE, I have a hard time feeling like what I do is Valuable. Insert the regular qualifiers, defensive statements, blah blah blah. You know I like being a stay at home mom, I just have a hard time feeling like it MATTERS. 

But! I have been rethinking this.

See, Phillip has done some pretty impressive stuff since his forgetting-what-day-his-final-is-on college era. He worked for himself. He survived layoffs. He went after raises and promotions. He got his masters degree. He found himself in charge of a Fancy Shmantzy Project requiring heaps of business travel. And this whole time I've felt like because he works so hard, because he's so aggressive, because he keeps pushing himself, I get to stay home with our three perfect children and spend my days going to parks and Target and libraries and checking my email and planning blog conferences in far away cities and hanging out with my friends whenever I feel like it. BELIEVE ME, I am WELL AWARE what a drag it is being a SAHM some days, but that's honestly how I look at it 95% of the time. Like I'm getting away with something. Like if Phillip found out what I really do all day, he'd want to trade. (WE CAN'T HAVE THAT HAPPEN!!!)

It's this weird thing where I simultaneously LOVE and JEALOUSLY GUARD my position in our family, but it butts up against my desire to Look Like I'm Doing Something Impressive (aka: THREENESS, GAH.) Do I want to do anything else? NOPE! Do I hate it when people ask me what I Do? YEP!

Some of this has to do, I'm sure, with the fact that I wanted kids sooner than Phillip did. Although, let's be honest, if it weren't for me, Phillip might STILL be deciding whether it's a good time to have a baby. (Note to anxious men: THERE IS NEVER A GOOD TIME. GET OVER IT.) So yeah, there are ways that I feel like I insisted on this life and forced him to provide it. eek!

Then this year happened. Including December of 2011, Phillip has traveled every single month this year except for June. He made up for June with two trips in September, two in October, and another two planned for November. 

But after that? PHILLIP STARTS A NEW JOB. 

I've known for weeks now, but I couldn't tell you. I KNOW! I don't want to say too much about the process, but it's been a lot of work, a lot of waiting around, a lot of wondering, a lot of frustration, and a lot of conversations about what he's worth. The week after Thanksgiving he starts work at an entirely new company with a more relaxed vibe and minimal, if any, business travel. There is seriously only one negative thing I can think of about Phillip's new job and it's that he'll have a longer commute. But hey, that beats a monthly week-long trip to the East Coast, right? 

As we've figured all this out and hashed out every possible scenario, it's dawned on me that... well, because I do what I do, Phillip has been able to do what he does. 

I have no doubt that if I were working full time in the sort of job I imagined I'd have way back when, Phillip would still be reaching his career goals. But he'd be negotiating with me every time he had to work late or travel or take a phone call or study or meet his group to work on the project or go out to dinner with muckety mucks or ANYTHING. I mean, this whole time it's just been a given - one we are both happy with - that I can watch the kids and take care of things at home. I started paying the bills and managing the budget years ago. I do most of the cooking and nearly all of the shopping. He can make choices about last minute travel and working late and other work emergencies without ever worrying about childcare. He is free to focus on his career and all the ways he wants to grow professionally because I am taking care of everything else. 

I hope that doesn't sound like I'm resentful or jealous, or like Phillip doesn't do anything at home. I wouldn't choose to do anything else and Phillip is an awesome dad and holds up his end of housekeeping. Seriously, I'm always wondering when he's going to realize how great it is to stay home and fight me for the honor. 

I've always been AWARE of this, but I really don't think it was until we got the job offer news that I started to feel like it was TRUE. I wasn't just managing all this stuff that he didn't want to deal with in the first place. I wasn't just hanging around while he did all the hard work. I wasn't getting away with something, I wasn't burdening him with a family. Because I do what I do, he's been able to do so much. I feel so awesome about this, you guys! I GENUINELY FEEL like of COURSE what I've been doing is worthwhile, because look what its made possible! That's a huge huge thing for me. 

Although, really, who cares about that - PHILLIP HAS A NEW JOB! You might never have to read a whiny blog post about solo parenting again! Well, after Thanksgiving that is. And I guarantee nothing. But you should be pretty happy about this turn of events. Really, there should be a definite decrease in angst around these parts. 

(Thanks for making it possible for ME to get through those weeks.)

And you appear in all your splendor

What a FANTABULOUS and AMAZILICIOUS weekend! I almost feel... not tired! 

There have been several times in my marriage where I didn't feel like I was spending much time with Phillip. I remember feeling this way when we were both working full time, but it seems totally foreign to me now, since what were we doing after work except hanging out with each other? It's not like we had children or particularly demanding jobs to distract us, right? RETROACTIVE EYE ROLL.

Then we had Jack and Molly (does anyone remember when we had one baby instead of two? Not me!) and we were awfully busy and awfully worn out. Happy, but tired. Like all couples in charge of small children, maybe we didn't get a lot of time to ourselves. 

The grad school years were especially lean on quality time. Phillip was often in class or studying away from home on Saturdays, he often had to write papers and do homework on weeknights. And he started traveling for work during those years, so yeah. Remember when he was traveling for work the week we had to pack up and move out of our rental house AND I was pregnant? I DO!

And then 2012 brought a week-long trip every month, on average, and I started to think that maybe THIS was worse than all the other times. Hadn't I railed against ANY business travel EVER? And now it was occuring on a dismally regular basis? But 2012 is the year of Realizing I Cannot Do It All and one of the things I couldn't do was Get Mad. It wasn't Phillip's fault anyway. It was just the nature of things and it was best to just plan a lot of friends and family time during those weeks and Power Through. 

But now, you guys. NOW there is an exponential increase in business travel. He went twice in September, he's already finished one week of travel in October and he potentially travels next week and the week after that - three weeks in October. In fact, we sat down tonight and put all the work travel on the calendar and while everything is constantly changing, right now he is traveling every week until Thanksgiving. And that doesn't include his trip to Montana this weekend with friends (which he is doing with my complete and total blessing) or my trips - The Blathering in November and Urbana in December. 

This week he's home and it almost feels weird. Really. I had to make a meal plan for the week; I'm going to have to COOK. I will have help in the evenings. Someone else will put the kids to bed. I won't have to wake up for every single thing in the middle of the night. I won't feel nervous turning out all the lights. It's weird when your normal life starts to sound novel. 

So this weekend we took huge fantastic advantage. He came home super late Thursday night. Friday the kids didn't have school so we visited my parents, by which I mean I went shopping with my sister all day while my mom was in charge of feeding and corraling the shorties. And on Saturday we met up with Phillip's parents for dim sum and when THEY took our kids home with them, WE went home and sat in front of the television. For hours. I am not even the slightest bit ashamed. We watched a terrible movie about the financial crisis (Margin Call) and almost everything on our TiFaux. Then we dressed up, went downtown, ate fattening appetizers for dinner, and walked over to the Paramount to see Wicked WHICH WAS SO SUPER DUPER I wish I could buy you all tickets. We stayed up late, slept in, made ourselves giant breakfasts, and argued through Meet The Press. We did some laundry, cleaned out the closets, dropped everything at Goodwill, went to the grocery store - all without kids and it sounds boring I know, but when was the last time we had time to talk about how we will basically cancel each other out when it's time to vote? Or time to sit on the couch and watch trashy television? Or put on glittery shoes and go out by ourselves and stay out, way past our bedtimes? 

He's home all week until Friday night, when he'll leave for Montana. He comes home Monday evening and goes back to the airport Tuesday morning for another work trip. He'll get back Thursday night. I think that will be the longest/hardest stretch. I have a plan and we'll be fine, but part of how I stay fine is getting used to doing it all by myself. And then it's really weird to sort of allow him back into life at home. 

Isn't that horrible? But that's how I do it. I don't know. 

This DOES have an end point. This particular project is over by Thanksgiving. After that there's business travel, but not at this frequency and intensity. And I don't think I'm writing this to complain about the travel or to elicit sympathy (although I am always happy to take sympathy!) or anything like that - I think I just actually want to write down how it's WEIRD. It is WEIRD when this integral part of your life, a key piece of day to day living, a NECESSARY INGREDIENT just... isn't there! Or has to disappear for days at a time. You start to tell yourself you DON'T need that piece. That you're fine without it! Because, well, you have to be fine without it. He doesn't want to worry about you while he's away and you don't want him to worry and you just do what you have to do and feel relieved when he comes home. But then he comes home and it's weird! GOOD weird, but... still weird. Because you (me) mentally place yourself in I Can Do This On My Own land and then you suddenly don't have to be there anymore...

I always knew I couldn't marry anyone in the military because of deployments. Dads were constantly deployed when I was in high school and living on the military base. Even then, having no idea what it's like being married and having a family, I knew I didn't want that. And now that I've been doing what I've been doing, it sounds even worse. There's the solo parenting for months on end, sometimes without any family nearby, then there's the reentry into Normal, which can't possibly feel Normal after months of solo parenting. How do those families make it? 

I'm writing this as Phillip is putting the kids to bed. A whole half hour later than I would do it if he weren't here. I have time to write when Phillip is home! But we're so tired and I think we're just going to fall back into our Too Tired To Move modes, then he'll leave again on Friday, then it all starts over. 

So it was pretty awesome Saturday night, wearing fancy shoes and makeup, sitting in a theater in the best seats Phillip could get, knowing every line of every song, glancing at my husband who would glance back and smile because he knows his wife loves fancy shoes and theaters and huge song and dance numbers and being out at night. There are hot pink roses in a vase on my dining room table. There are emergency chocolates in Phillip's coat pocket. I think we'll be okay. 

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

I miss Phillip. I think I will write a story about him. 

Or maybe I will just tell you that when our parents got together - without us, for brunch, I KNOW! - we only heard a very general account of what was said about us, but one thing was: Phillip's mom never DREAMED he would have three children. I wanted to say, "Yeah, Phillip never dreamed that either. That was all me!" But I kept my mouth shut and she went on and said, "But I knew he would be a good dad because he was so good with his CAT."

OMG. So Phillip had this cat named Mindy and do you know how much I've heard about MINDY? I mean, for someone who is not particularly fond of cats, I have been RATHER TOLERANT of all the Mindy Nostalgia. I actually haven't heard much about Mindy in the last few years - maybe because he does have the three children now? But yes, Mindy was a much loved cat, doted upon by an awkward Chinese-American boy with a saxaphone scholarship. 

Phillip has one sibling, a brother who is eight years older. So he's both The Youngest and The Only. (Whereas I am the Oldest and was only an Only for 15 months.) Anyway, his brother, apparently, was a Real Go Getter and did well in school and went right on to grad school and went right on to The Big Corporation and Phillip was... well, let's let his mother describe it again: "I just hoped he would get into COMMUNITY college!"

And it's true, when I met Phillip he wasn't the most studious of students. Not that he was a slacker or not smart enough or anything like that, he just wasn't INTO it. Not like a lot of the other Asian American students I knew, who were acing O Chem and nine hundred-level Calculus. I don't ever remember Phillip stressing about school - except for his Chinese class, where he stressed about being Chinese but not KNOWING Chinese, and how he didn't practice enough to be a REALLY good saxaphone player, but oh well! Phillip was (and still is, in many ways) the most laid back person I knew (know). 

So 34-year-old Phillip with the corporate job and the business travel and the masters degree CAN be a bit mystifying, yet happily so for those of us who depend on him for Target funds. 

What I remember about Phillip is that he was (and is) easy to be around. There were a lot of politics in the Non-Denominational College Fellowship at that time, and Phillip didn't play them. He had no agenda. He liked everyone. Everyone liked him. He was just happy to be around whoever was there. He appreciated everything. He had a knack for making other people feel special and listened to. He liked potato chips, music, people hanging out in his dorm room, gadgets, and me, even though it took him forever to realize it. Loser.

 Back when I was a Raving Feminist and he was Not Particularly Ambitious, I was anxious about the whole getting married and suddenly being chained to someone else's dreams and picture of the future. And when I not-very-kindly expressed that worry he just looked at me innocently and said, "If you wanted to go somewhere I'd just follow YOU."

What's ridiculous about that worry is that neither of us had dreams we could halfway ARTICULATE, let alone insist the other follow along. 

In Phillip I see how to listen, how to hear, how to understand both sides. He is calm, empathetic, reasonable, thoughtful, measured. I envy his ability to let things go, to be easy on himself, to not take things personally. He is incredibly, irritatingly patient. 

Then there was the time when we were living in the townhouse and I was in the shower upstairs and he was downstairs taking care of Baby Jack and he ran upstairs, ducked his head into the bathroom, and asked me if we had waffles in the freezer. And I said, "Did you look in the freezer?" And he said, ""

I didn't feel like we were kids then, but MAN we were KIDS and now he's flying to the East Coast every other week and I am fixing three un-nutritious meals a day for our three children. I had no idea. I mean, I was totally smitten, I thought of no one else, I hated it when he wasn't around, I hoped we'd get married eventually, but I really had no earthly idea.