How to Not Stay Married

Step 1: Have a long and rich history of purchasing unnecessary pieces of furniture and assorted decor for your home.

Step 2: Purchase a salvaged fireplace mantel from an antique store. Make sure you do not consult in any way with your husband prior to purchasing your new antique fireplace mantel.

Pretend not to notice your husband rolling his eyes when you arrive home from shopping and giddily tell him about your new antique fireplace mantel.

Also, make sure that the home that you live in at the time has a perfectly lovely brick fireplace surround that would not even accommodate your new antique fireplace mantel thus ensuring that no one, not even you, can justify the purchase of a new, antique fireplace mantel.

Step 3: Ask your husband to return to the antique store with you the next day to help you haul your new fireplace mantel from the bowels of the warehouse-like building to your minivan.

Ignore the deep sigh that emanates from his general direction.

Step 4: Retrieve new mantel from antique store and attempt to fit it into the back of your minivan. Be unsuccessful at this. Witness your husband’s complete exasperation. Witness your positive attitude making everything worse. Jerry-rig the mantel with improvised ties in such a way that makes it impossible to close the back hatch of the minivan so the entire 30 minute drive home, the BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP of the car’s there-is-a-door-open warning system is blaring.

Assure yourself that the noise is probably why your husband is no longer talking to you.

Step 5: Arrive home with your new antique fireplace mantel and have absolutely no logical place to put it. Ask husband to carry mantel to the third floor storage room while you “figure out a plan.”

Step 6: Devise brilliant plan! Decide to create one of those fake fireplace vignettes in your dining room. Something like this:

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Request husband retrieve mantel from third-floor attic so you can get to work!

Step 7: Do not get to work.

Step 8: Look at mantel leaning precariously against dining room wall for several months, hoping it doesn’t accidentally fall on one of the kids. Eventually, put some candles on the top that also lean precariously.

Step 9: Decide to move. When husband asks if the mantel should, logically, be left behind, react with shock and horror at such a suggestion. Explain in earnest that if you’re moving, the mantel’s moving, too.

Place mantel in basement of new home, leaning precariously against a wall. Hope it doesn’t accidentally fall on one of the kids.

Step 10: Wait three years.

Step 11: Clear out the entire contents of your basement in advance of construction work. Carry load after load of items to the garage, both you and your husband working diligently to ignore the antique mantel leaning precariously against the wall until it is the only item that remains.

Wordlessly and while making no eye contact, move the antique mantel to a dark corner of the basement.

Step 12: Bravely suggest to your husband that the super talented contractor working on the basement could maybe, possibly, perhaps also look into replacing your current fireplace mantel with the new antique mantel?

Watch as your husband rolls his eyes while simultaneously sighing deeply and reluctantly agreeing.

Step 13: Wait until your husband has worked an 11 hour day after rising at 4:30 a.m. and THEN ask him to help you bring the mantel up from the corner of the basement so the contractor can take some measurements and provide an estimate.

Ignore your husband when he exclaims, “FINE. BUT IT’S NOT GOING BACK DOWN THERE.” Wave your hands in a sarcastic, dismissive manner when he threatens to chop the antique mantel into many, many pieces and throw it into the fire pit. Do not, under any circumstances, suggest this might be ill-advised since, “it’s probably covered in lead paint anyway.”

Step 14: Get a response from your contractor that indicates the mantel installation is doable but that provides no indication of a work start date.

With great enthusiasm, relay this information to your husband. Watch him have much less enthusiasm.

Step 15: Pretend, along with your husband, that the new antique mantel isn’t currently sitting in the middle of your living room, leaning precariously against a buffet, like a ticking time bomb. Like an elephant in the room that is almost the actual size of a small elephant.

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Convince yourself that the old newspaper and small kindling your husband is gathering is for an entirely unrelated project.

Making Memories

Nothing signals the arrival of that most magical time of year quite like me yelling at my kids to stop messing with the Christmas tree.

Millie and I decorated the entire tree this year while the boys were at school. We saved a few of Henry and Charlie’s favorite ornaments for them to hang when they arrived home. Which was a fun process for all of approximately four minutes before all three of them started rearranging ornaments (NOPE) and then started dropping things through the branches of the tree for fun (SUPER NOPE). Ornaments were falling, kids were fighting, my patience was quickly evaporating. So, naturally, I hollered at them to CUT! IT! OUT! with the tree (I might not have used such judicious language).

Then, like some kind of rookie, I wrapped all of the presents super early. I was really proud that I was winning my Christmas to-do list but my eagerness was rewarded with the kids digging into the pile of precariously stacked presents under the tree, searching for names and shaking boxes (“DEFINITELY LEGOS!”). Some of the wrapping paper on the oddly-shaped presents started to rip and, listen up, I certainly didn’t spend three afternoons locked in my bedroom watching The Good Wife reruns just to have my kids destroy all of my hard wrapping work. So, naturally, I hollered at them to STOP! TOUCHING! THE PRESENTS! (I might not have used such judicious language).

I’m so happy my kids will have such charming memories of a warm and loving holiday season to reflect back upon when they are grown.

There is glitter wrapping paper mixed in there and let it be known that glitter wrapping paper is always, always a bad idea.

There is glitter wrapping paper mixed in there and let it be known that glitter wrapping paper is always, always a bad idea.

I spent a lot of time this year carefully selecting presents for the kids that I thought they’d really enjoy (as opposed to just grabbing random things from the clearance endcaps at Target). Some were requested (LEGO! always, until the end of time), some will be a surprise (Snap Circuits!), some are throwbacks (Rubix Cube! Twister!) but there’s an awful lot of thoughtfulness and love and time and effort and money underneath that tree. I mean, I learned how to replace the ribbon in an antique typewriter for Charlie this year. They better appreciate it, is my point here, because I took my gift game up several notches. If any of my children look even REMOTELY disappointed with their presents on Christmas morning, I swear I will do a Real Housewives table flip, walk out the front door and find another family to celebrate with.

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I don’t want to brag or anything but Bob casually mentioned he was going to take the kids to the Walmart in West Virginia on Saturday so they could pick out a few things to wrap and place under the tree for me. You can probably guess my delight. Obviously, Bob and the kids are taking just as great care in selecting my presents as I took in selecting theirs. I can’t wait to unwrap my new spatula!

ALSO, Bob turns 57 years old today! Happy birthday, husband! Hope you treat yourself to a little something extra special from the cafeteria at work because I’m pretty tuckered out after all of the tree policing, present wrapping and kid hollering.

Having two December birthdays in our family, one five days before Christmas and one five days after Christmas, I can definitively state that pre-Christmas birthdays are rough. Everyone is in stressed out, frantic, pre-holiday mode. By the time Henry’s birthday rolls around on December 30, the holiday work is all over and we’re in more of a celebratory mood. Bob explains every year that he was never supposed to be a December baby and was actually born five weeks early. He also claims that he was dropped on his head as an infant by his sister and, coupled with his premature birth, offers it all up as an excuse whenever I question some of his purchasing decisions (the BB gun, the bow and arrows, the slingshot, shopping at a West Virginia Walmart on Christmas Eve). Anyway, every year I try to make Bob feel special on his special day. I’m not sure if I always succeed but I’m pretty sure he should just be grateful that he didn’t have to plan for, budget for, shop for or gift wrap any of the presents underneath the tree.

In other news, our basement renovation is scheduled to begin the first week of January. That means, we need to have everything currently located in our basement located somewhere else entirely within the next two weeks. We’ve been planning this project for a solid year so you’d think that we would be on top of the basement clean and clear but you would be wrong. Procrastination is my superpower which means we’ll be spending Christmas Day hauling things up and out of the basement and placing it all… somewhere else. I just assume we will chuck things in every available corner of the house, which means I’ll have to step over a camp stove and seven empty suitcases just to crawl into my bed at night. The boys are really going to enjoy the loveseat and ottoman we’re adding to their room!

To summarize, EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING ALL AT ONCE.

Also, you cannot watch this without smiling and dancing a little in your chair. You can try to resist but it’s futile. CHRISTMAS, LET’S DO THIS.

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho

About a year ago, Bob and I were having dinner with another couple and the topic of work came up. When I mentioned looking for employment, mentioned being ready to go back to work now that the kids were getting older, my friend’s husband asked what my ideal job would be. I remember pausing to really think about his question and then I replied, “Events, I would love to do something with the execution of special events.”

In an uncharacteristic achievement of a stated goal, last week, I re-entered the workforce. Working in events.

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Image courtesy of the amazing Etsy shop: TheHeirloomTomatos

I left full-time employment in 2009, shortly after Charlie was born. Two babies meant we’d entered the Extreme Zone in monthly childcare expenses and at some point, Bob and I decided it would be best for me to hop off the hamster wheel that happened to be our daily schedule with two children and two full-time jobs.

I’ve never been particularly career-driven. For example, there was no real end-goal in mind when I started college besides simply finishing it and even that didn’t seem necessarily like a mandate. I wasn’t like some of my friends who knew they wanted to be pharmacists or attorneys or engineers. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I graduated besides “get a job.” Therefore, I selected the most general liberal arts degree I could declare and muddled my way through. Once I graduated, I basically (to borrow a new favorite term I recently heard) Forrest Gump’ed my way into a couple of great jobs, eventually landing at the U.S. Department of State working in a field that had absolutely nothing to do with my degree.

All this to illustrate that leaving full-time employment was not a difficult decision to make. Not even in the slightest. I wasn’t abandoning a dream or a passion or anything. However, staying at home to solely care for kids was never a particular end-goal of mine, either. Bob and I agreed it simply made the most sense for our family at the time. So, when I left the State Department, I quickly found part-time work in both marketing and freelance writing. Two things that I could do mostly from the comfort of my home. It was a hectic pace but a good kind of hectic. A productive hectic. And, I really enjoyed the events side of my marketing job, planning the logistics of and working on-site at an industry conference a team I worked with had developed. It was really good for me to stay employed. To keep one small grasp on something that was unrelated to child rearing. I was able to be a totally professional adult doing professional adult-y things while still caring for my young children. I was making it all work!

Then, Millie arrived.

Three kids happened to be the tipping point for our family in a lot of ways. Suddenly, we had SO MANY kids and one of the things I had to give up with the addition of a third child was my employment. We were living in Richmond at the time, Bob was working in Washington during the week and I just couldn’t keep the pace required for a part-time job with full-time kids. It turns out, I could not, in fact, Have It All. So, I somewhat reluctantly let go of my outside work. It was just another thing that had to be done. It was something that was now removed from my very busy plate and I was resigned to its necessity, if not slightly dismayed at everything that I had had to sacrifice.

The years ticked by and my kids got older and more independent. Eventually, everybody could get themselves a snack on their own (for the most part), play unsupervised outside (for the most part) and use the potty all by themselves (for the most part). Then, last fall, they were all magically in school at the same time (for the most part). It was momentous. I enjoyed the silence for about fifteen minutes before thinking, I want to go back to work. It’s time. There’s once again room for me to be employed. So, I began sending out my resume in the hopes of finding a part-time position that would mesh well with my skill set and my availability. Bonus points if it was something I actually wanted to do.

After almost a year of looking for the right fit, I have finally found something that checks all of the boxes. I’ve been hired to assist with special events at a local winery. I help make sure weddings and corporate events run smoothly and seamlessly. If I could have hand-picked a job for me right now, it would probably have been this one. I’m ecstatic to be employed again. And, employed doing this line of work.

As a stay-at-home mom, the entire process of finding a new job, while not necessarily stressful, was just super intimidating. At first, I wasn’t sure how to explain the four year absence of employment on my resume and briefly considered adding a line that just read: “2012-2016 – KEPT FAMILY OF FIVE ALIVE THE WHOLE TIME.” (I ultimately decided to hi-light my freelance writing career in that space instead.) It had also been quite awhile since I’d interviewed in-person for a job (since 2002 actually, when I interviewed with BOB), a long time since I had answered questions about my strengths and weaknesses, a long time since I had considered wearing pants that actually buttoned. It was hard to shift from the part of my brain dedicated to kid minutiae to the part of my brain that needs to be all professional and stuff. At times during the search, it just felt so hard to break back in. But, break back in I did!

As I sat talking with Bob the other evening about my first week at work, I tried to explain to him how nice it was to have a thing again. To have a little space, a little corner in my life that is reserved for something I want to do, something I’d like to pursue. As moms who stay at home full time with little ones, it can be really hard to carve out some space that is just for us, to do something or follow something that interests us. I’m so thankful to have found the space to take on this new venture.