What Not To Do At Customs

Today is our seventeenth wedding anniversary. We woke up at 3 a.m. to fly out of Ecuador. Arrived in Miami for a five hour layover. Had lunch with our boys at TGI Fridays in the airport. Will soon leave for a 4.5 hour flight back to Denver. Then, with any luck, we will arrive home around 10 p.m. and collapse. Yep. We still know how to keep the romance alive.

The best part of being married for so long is knowing the other person so well. As we were getting ready to land, Steve told me he would fill out our Customs form. Now, I know my husband well enough to know this was a bad idea, but I let him do it anyway. I don’t know why. You see, three years ago we were returning from Norway and Steve, honest and literal guy that he is, told the Customs official we’d been in contact with livestock while abroad. Why? Because we petted two sheep on the head for less than a minute. Try explaining that weirdness to a guy who just needed to make sure we weren’t bringing Mad Cow disease into the U.S. Today, Steve decided to give me a repeat of that insanity for our anniversary.

“I marked on the form that we were on a farm,” he informed me as we approached the immigration desk.

“What? Why would you do that?” I whined.

“Well, we visited that sugar cane place,” came his reply.

“That was NOT a farm.”

“Yes it was. They were growing sugar cane.”

“Farm implies livestock. There was no livestock,” I answered.

“There were chickens,” he said.

“Those were wild chickens,” I replied.

When we handed our form to the Customs official, the poor man looked annoyed. It was obvious he was already sizing Steve up to be the paperwork nightmare he is.

“You were on a farm?” he asked with great disgust.

“Well, it was sort of a farm. They were raising sugar cane,” Steve answered.

I rolled my eyes. The agent rolled his eyes too.

He could see the paperwork mounting because of this dope who was being absurdly candid about his vacation. He decided to cut to the quick.

“Did you STEP in anything?” he inquired.

At this point, I began praying Steve would not ask what kind of thing was he referring to. I stared at him, sending him telepathic “shut the hell up” messages.

“No. I don’t think so,” he wisely answered.

“You’re cleared,” he said, dying to get rid of us.

I got about five feet past the customs guy and busted up laughing. Seventeen years ago I married the guy who made me laugh the most. We’re still laughing.

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My Three Sons

My sopping wet middle child

After dinner at our favorite local spot in Steamboat, we decided to take a walk down by the Yampa River with our friends. The river is lower than usual this year due to a milder than usual winter, so when the boys decided they wanted to walk down to the bank and inspect it more closely we thought that would be fine. There wouldn’t be any kayakers or rafters going through. They ran around, threw a few rocks in, and then headed across the bridge to view the natural springs on the other side. When we came back to the river, Jessie and I told the boys to stay dry. Wading in a bit was fine but if we wanted to hit Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory on the way home they would need to be dry. With that warning out of the way, Jessie and I decided to run into the library for a couple minutes.

While in the library, we were discussing how the husbands had given us a hard time for suggesting that the boys stay dry. No matter what the situation, we always ended up being the bad guys.

“It’s summer vacation. It won’t hurt if they get wet,” Jeff said.

“I’m fine with them getting a bit wet,” Jessie replied. “I just don’t want them falling in and floating down river.”

“It’s cold,” I said, getting Jessie’s back. “And it’s a long walk back to the car in soaking wet clothes.”

“They’d be fine,” Steve said.

Men. They never think of the little details that go along with the big ones. Yes. The boys would have fun in the river splashing around. No. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if they fell in. We understood that. But, if they got soaked in the river, we would have cold, wet children. The sun was hidden behind rain clouds and the wind was picking up. We had at least a half mile walk back to where we parked the cars before dinner. And then, once we got there, we’d have wet boys, no towels, and therefore wet leather seats. It just wouldn’t be an optimal situation and, as moms, we’ve had our fair share of unpleasant situations so we work to avoid them where possible. Dads? Well, dads usually don’t think that way.

We were in the library for all of maybe 4 minutes total and as we walked back to the banks of the river, I could see Joe full on in the water. I’m not talking standing up and wet to his shins in the water. He was actually under the water up to his neck. The husbands were standing approximately four feet from the river, chatting it up like a couple old ladies. Were they kidding me? Jeff and Jessie’s boys were every bit as wet as Joe. Luke was the only one who had managed to stay dry.

“What happened here?” I asked.

Joe yelled up from the river. “Mom…we decided to get in.”

“So I see,” I replied. I tossed a sideways glare at hubby.

“Seriously? We were in there for less than five minutes. All we asked was that they stay mostly dry.”

“They’re fine,” he said.

“They’re going to get cold,” I said.

“It’s not a big deal,” he replied.

I rolled my eyes.

Now, to keep consistent with what I had said, I had to tell the boys we would not be going to the candy store. Luke was heartbroken because he had actually chosen to listen to us. (Have I mentioned that Luke is my favorite?) We dragged them out of the water and started walking back to the car. The boys tried to persuade us that they were dry enough to go into the candy store, but Jessie and I stayed resolute. Our husbands tried to convince us that since the boys were no longer dripping that it would be fine. It would have been fine, but that was not the point. We did not go into Fuzziwig’s. We walked back to our car and drove home and the boys got no dessert.

Sometimes I swear I don’t have two kids. I have three kids. The oldest one is the hardest to manage. He doesn’t listen. Ever.

 

A Modern Housewife’s Life On The Edge

My completely amazing, homemade banana bread…or what’s left of it. (The things in the background are not my secret ingredients. They are snacks for later.)

This is my second post in two days about my husband. He is not all that happy about it, but he’s made some suggestions about ways I can fix things between us. Most of them revolve around me “owing” him. (He might have left some letters off that word when he told me that, but this is a rated PG blog so we’re going with it.) Anyway, to repay him for what I am about to disclose, I decided that what I owed him was the best, homemade banana bread in the world. So, that is my olive branch to him. I’ve already eaten half of it (because it is the best banana bread in the world), but I figure that’s about right because he only gave me half my inspiration today. The other half of the inspiration came from Aron Ralston but he’s not here so I ate his half of the bread. You snooze, you lose, Aron.

This morning I decided I needed some exercise. I decide that every morning, but today I actually committed to getting off my lazy butt and getting some exercise rather than simply deciding it would be a good idea to get some exercise if I got around to it. Subtle difference. Anyway, I pulled out our books on local hikes and began rifling though pages looking for a 3-4 mile jaunt that either we had not yet done or that we hadn’t done in a long time. I narrowed it down to three possibilities and then, being the kind and thoughtful mom I am, I allowed my boys to have some input into which one they thought we should do. Of course, they both picked different options. Luke wanted to go to Boulder and Joe chose Morrison, so I made the unilateral and unalterable decision to go to Evergreen.

As is my custom, I made sure to inform hubby of our plans because he is, after all, Safety Dad. He doesn’t like it when we go on hikes without letting him know where we will be. I suppose this is just good practice. I mean, look what happened to Aron Ralston when he went off to do some canyoneering in Utah without letting anyone know where he would be. I don’t think any of us need to lose an arm over a little hike. I texted Steve.

Me: I’m going to make the boys do Alderfer/Three Sisters with me.

Steve: Cool. Take the bear spray. It’s in my nightstand. Your rain jackets are in the yellow cube in my office.

Me: Bwahahahahahahahahaha!

Now, what Steve didn’t know at this point was that what I was laughing about was the fact that he actually thought I would take bear spray and rain jackets on a 3 mile hike with the boys in a heavily traveled hiking spot in Evergreen on a day with hardly a cloud in the sky. He clearly does not know me at all. While I am in many ways in my life quite organized and good about planning, the kids and I more often than not fly by the seat of our pants all summer long. We get a wild hair and go with it. We do not plan. We do not organize. We do not pack well. We simply go.

Steve: Are you laughing about the bear spray in my nightstand?

Me: I’m laughing about all of it. You are on crack. I even forgot the sunscreen. We’re still going. We live on the edge when you’re not around.

Steve: Love you.

I love that he thought it was necessary at this point to tell us that he loved us…as if we would not return from our journey alive. I’m sure it would be in all the news stories. He would tearfully report that he had told me to bring along the bear spray and if I would have listened to him perhaps he we wouldn’t have been ingested by that black bear. And, as I was having that thought, another thought hovered in the recesses of my mind, waiting for its chance to get some attention.

Me: Why is the bear spray in your nightstand drawer?

Steve: In case a bear breaks in, of course. 

I assumed he was joking about this, but wanted to make sure so I tested the waters.

Me: Ha.

No reply from him.

Me: The kids want to talk to you about the bear spray in the nightstand.

At this point, I think he realized that he was in trouble.

Steve: You do NOT get to blog about me tonight.

Me: Too late.

Steve: Then, you’re going to owe me.

And now we’re back to the banana bread. The sad part is that this entire story is all true. Every last word. I actually checked. The bear spray, swear to God above, is in his nightstand drawer as I type this.

The boys and I had a great hike. No one lost a limb or got attacked by a bear or even needed a rain jacket. I did get a tiny sunburn on my shoulders, which I deserve for forgetting the sunscreen. Still, I think that somewhere between Aron Ralston’s missing arm and my husband’s bear spray in the nightstand is a happy medium where most of us live. We try to be good, we do our best, and we cross our fingers. Sometimes we get a little sunburned, but it all evens out in the end.

 

Everything Including The Kitchen Sink…Just Not The Stove

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As I was writing my blog yesterday, I forgot one important component of the planning, packing, and loading aspect of camping. I am not the only adult in our house participating in these activities the day we leave. This morning as we were preparing to head out, I quickly remembered how having a second set of hands is both a blessing and a curse.

As the clock ticked ever closer to our prospective departure time, it seemed we (and by “we” I mean Steve) kept finding more stuff we needed to bring with us. Now, don’t get me wrong. I adore my husband. He is probably the most honest and genuine person I have ever known. But, he is cautious and protective. He loves gear and gadgets meant to make life easier and more enjoyable, but when it comes time to leave he can’t necessarily recall what he has or where it is. Consequently we have approximately 5,000 bottles of sunscreen and insect repellant…all of which I’m sure are in either the car or the camper right now.

In the chaos of trying to get out of the house, with two people trying to collect necessities, we’ve in the past forgotten important items. I’m currently wondering if this will be the case today because as we’re in the car and driving now, we just had this conversation.

“Do we have enough propane canisters?” Hubby inquires.

“I believe we have about six canisters in various stages of emptiness. That should be plenty,” I reply. Then a thought occurs to me. “Did you pack the camp stove?”

His vacant stare is my answer.

“Isn’t it in the camper?” he asks, his tone dripping with desperation.

“I don’t know. Since we didn’t open it, I am not sure. It wasn’t in the garage?”

“I didn’t look for it,” came the answer.

In trying to keep with my “what’s the worst that can happen” mindset, I made the conscious decision not to fret about it. We may or may not have the camp stove, which we will need to heat the foods I prepared in advance because of the fire ban and the fact that the propane canister on our camper has been empty for years. (Do not get me started on that topic.) Either way, I am sure that our weekend will be fine. We will merely be eating a lot of cold sandwiches rather than hot food. We’re not going to starve. It’s just a small hiccup in what will otherwise be a great weekend. At least, that’s what I am telling myself as I recall the large bottle of sweet tea vodka I do remember packing before we left.

The Night Red Cups Stopped Reminding Me Of Beer Pong

Red cups will never be the same for me.

(Author’s Note: The following is a true and cautionary tale. Names have not been changed to protect the innocent. Sorry, Hon.)

My husband is in all ways decent man. He has nary a character flaw to whine about, unless you count his nearly constant worry about his family. I’m blessed to have such a wonderfully good-natured spouse. I truly am. Let’s face it. He’d have to be to remain married to me for nearly 17 years. Still, there have been times that I have to wonder what in the holy hell is in his head.

I met my friend Lisa at Starbucks for coffee at 7 p.m. I didn’t get home until 10:10 because we’d lost track of the time. I pulled into the garage, exited my SUV, and walked up to the door. I turned the knob and realized hubby had locked the door.

Steve often locks the door from the house to the garage. It’s a pet peeve of mine. We have a home security system that we set religiously and a fearful dog with sharpish and pointed teeth and the will to use them. Beyond that, we have relatively little in our house that’s nice enough to be worth stealing. I know he’s just being cautious and protecting his family, but when he knows I’ll be home soon why on earth does he feel compelled to lock the door? Does he think someone’s going to come and abduct him? Sometimes I think it’s some sort of subconscious, passive-aggressive tactic to aggravate me since he’s normally so mild-mannered and accepting of my copious flaws. I have to wonder.

Anyway, I dig through my purse looking for my keys only to remember that I’ve left them on the kitchen counter because everyone was home for the evening and I wasn’t going to be out late. Crap. So, I knock on the door several times and wait for him to do what he usually does…approach to unlock it, uttering an apology I can hear through the door. I wait. I wait. No one is coming. He must be upstairs with the boys. So, I escalate my knocking by kicking the door very hard several times. I leave marks with my shoes. Certainly he will hear that, right? Nope. Are you kidding me? I open the garage door again figuring that he must be upstairs in the boys’ room, which is why he can’t hear me. I ring the doorbell on the front porch. Repeatedly. About a million times until I’m going to short the stupid thing out and start a fire. That will get their attention. Still, no one comes.

It’s at this point that I begin to realize that they’re probably asleep. It’s not unusual for Steve to go hang out in the boys’ room while they’re falling asleep. I figure the only chance I have of them hearing me is if I go around to the back of the house and call up to their open window. So, I do that. Not a peep. No lights turn on. No reply at all. I can’t yell for long because I’m trying not to let the neighbors know that my crazy husband has locked me out. From 10:10 to 11:10, fueled by annoyance, I knock, ring the doorbell, kick the doors, honk the car horn, try to open windows I can reach, yell up to the open window, and even throw rocks at it trying to get someone’s attention. Apparently, I’m invisible. A light bulb clicks in my brain. The fan must be on. When our whole house fan is on you couldn’t hear a 747 land in the bedroom. I’m screwed.

Finally, I go back to my car, close the garage door in resignation, and decide I might as well try to fall asleep in my car. What I discover is that a luxury SUV is not particularly luxurious when employed as a sleeping compartment. Around 1:30 a.m. I am still awake, sitting in my car, livid. I’ve had to pee three times, courtesy of a decaf grande skinny vanilla latte and a bottle of water I wished I had not ingested. That unladylike scenario involved a red Solo cup and a skill I learned very well while pregnant. Nothing like peeing in your own garage to make you feel like the family dog. Wait. The family dog was asleep inside the house while I was locked in the garage. Curious.

I considered going to a hotel, but knew that when hubby finally awoke he would probably notify the National Guard that I was missing. Besides, I had faith that sooner or later he would wake up and notice I was gone, right? He did not. Joe did. Joe woke up, walked into our bedroom to have me tuck him back into bed, noticed I was missing, and told his dad. Around 3:30 a.m. I heard the lock on the door to the garage unlock and saw the door open. Steve noticed my car was there and started to close the door again, presumably comforted because clearly I was home. I opened the car door and yelled to get his attention.

He looked like Bigfoot in headlights. He was in serious trouble. He appeared to be contemplating slamming and locking the door again to avoid the ugly situation. He apologized profusely, but I did not care. I was exhausted. I was angry. I was temporarily not speaking to him. I’d had to pee in a red cup. Beer pong was forever ruined for me.

My Little Genius

All attitude, but at least it's the right one.

I more often write about my son Joe than about my son Luke. The reason for that is straightforward: Joe is complicated. I struggle more in dealing with him, so I have more to work out about my relationship with him through my writing. My youngest, on the other hand, is simple. He’s affable, confident, hardworking, creative, and affectionate. He loves money, he solves problems, he is a natural-born debater and politician. He has his quirks (seriously, Luke…a different utensil for each food item on your plate?), but he is fun and generally easy to be around.

One of my duties as a mother of boys is to prepare my sons to be the best boyfriends and husbands they can be. To that end, I’m teaching them how to clean bathrooms, how to pick up after themselves, how to hold doors for people and use polite manners, and I’m teaching them that girls are just as capable as they are. Ever since Luke was four he has told us how much he wants to be a husband and a father someday. When I glance into my crystal ball and imagine Luke as an adult, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he will make an excellent life partner for some lucky woman. How do I know this? He’s given us many insights. Tonight, for example, my darling 8 year old boy said this to his brother:

“That’s how you get the girl, Joe…you just do what she wants.”

Only eight and the kid is a genius.

Food Fight

Hubby and I have a fundamental disagreement about food. I don’t get excited about it and he does. To me, food is sustenance. If it happens to taste good, all the better. Generally speaking, however, I don’t care enough about it to work particularly hard for it. I’m just as happy with a bowl of cereal or cold pizza as I am with Chateaubriand. Steve, however, comes from a family where food is an event. His mother is an accomplished cook who loves to read cookbooks, find new recipes, and experiment. She truly enjoys preparing elaborate meals. I’d rather ride my bike and get Thai takeout.

Now, before you go feeling bad for Steve, you should know that I am a capable cook. I know my way around the kitchen. I’ve been cooking meals since I was about thirteen. Not only can I follow a recipe, but I’m also completely adept at improvising and throwing together something tasty out of a pile of random ingredients in the fridge. I can cook but, not unlike the title character in Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener, I would prefer not to. It’s just such a lot of work for something I simply do not care about.

In a not-so-covert attempt to encourage finer dining in our house, we’ve mysteriously been receiving Cuisine at Home magazine for at least six years now. (I suspect my husband mentioned he liked it and his parents got us a perpetually renewing subscription.) Hubby drools while he drags new issues around the house with him and puts dog ears on pages he’s interested in. I usually pretend I don’t see it and then when he’s not looking I add the latest issue to the big pile of back issues.

The most recent issue, however, had a recipe that intrigued me. It was for crab and goat cheese ravioli with lemon cream sauce. In terms of flavors and ingredients, all my favorites were there wrapped in little raviolis, which I adore. The idea of pairing the pasta with snow peas intrigued me too. So, I stared at the recipe for a week, trying to decide if I should actually attempt to make such a thing. Eventually, curiosity got the best of me. I made it for dinner tonight. It took a while to prepare (as you might imagine raviolis would), but the cook time was quick. When I finally got it plated, it looked almost like the magazine photo. Yay, me. Then I took my first bite. Holy hell. Now I know why the magazine is called Cuisine at Home. It was fabulous. I paired it with a fruity yet dry Torrontés from Argentina, and Steve and I enjoyed a blissful, restaurant-quality meal in our own house. It was borderline miraculous.

When dinner was over, I surveyed the damage to the kitchen with a smile. Years ago to encourage me to cook more, hubby made me a deal…if I cook, he will do the dishes. So, the colossal mess in the kitchen, achieved by a ton of prep time and three pans on the stove simultaneously to perfectly time the ravioli, snow peas, and lemon cream sauce, was not my problem. I grabbed my glass of wine and headed upstairs and out of view of the destruction to hide out. I’d upheld my end of the bargain. I had cooked. My job was finished.

I asked Steve later if the meal was honestly worth the clean up. He emphatically replied, “Yes.” Clearly he is setting me up for more cooking time. Maybe I will throw him a bone once in a while. Perhaps once every month I can acquiesce and prepare a time-consuming but elegant meal for him. Perhaps he’ll eventually tire of the novelty of it. I’ll just have to make sure that the next meal I cook requires more dishes…a lot more dishes.

 

Edelweiss

The whole family in Alaska

Hubby and I agree on most things. What we don’t agree on is how to spend our disposable income. Hubby likes to buy gear and gadgets. I prefer to save money and then spend it on travel. It’s a source of friction. When hubby wants to buy a gadget, I bristle. When I want to book costly travel, he hems and haws.

We are an Apple household. We own: an iMac with a 27″ screen, a MacBook Pro, four iPhones (two iPhone 3s and the 2 iPhone 4s, which subsequently replaced them), two iPads, two Apple TV units, a Nano, an iPod, and a Shuffle. We had an iTouch, which I made hubby sell when he wanted the first iPad. I’m not telling you this to brag because honestly (although I enjoy my technology) I’m a little embarrassed. I am sure we’re helping to put several Apple employees’ children through Stanford. When I think about the places we could have gone or the things we could have seen using the money we spent on electronics, I cringe.

We have done some traveling, but most of the traveling we’ve done has been on trips booked and paid for by my in-laws. Every five years they celebrate their wedding anniversary by taking the entire family somewhere. Because of these trips, I have been to England, Alaska, and Norway. My in-laws have saved my marriage by taking me to the places my hubby refuses to pay to go. I’ve been saving quarters for two years now in an effort to shore up some cash to take the boys to Hawaii. I haven’t decided whether I’ll bring Steve with me on that trip.

Yesterday we had a long discussion about snowshoes, new showshoes which Steve thinks he “needs” because he’s not happy with the ones he has now. I have a hard time wanting to approve a couple hundred dollar purchase of something he already owns. So, we were going round and round about it. His current snowshoes are already better quality than the ones I own. He offered to give me his current shoes when he buys his new ones. As if that was supposed to encourage me to endorse the purchase. We finally agreed that he would wait until the end of this snow season to see if he could find a deal for next year’s snowshoes.

This morning, Steve was looking at a National Geographic magazine on his iPad. He was browsing through photos from around the globe. First he was showing me photos of Sami reindeer herders in Norway. Then he moved on to photos of Europe.

“I want to go to Vienna,” he stated.

“That’s not on the top of my list,” I countered, “but it would be cool to go there. We could hit Prague then too.”

“I think we’d love it. I think we should go.”

“Well, you can’t get to Vienna on snowshoes, babe,” I quipped.

“I decided I’m not getting the snowshoes,” he replied.

Victory! Who knows? We maybe I’ll be singing Edelweiss sooner than I thought.

 

 

 

The Cleaning Conundrum

Steve taking care of business under the cabinet

Anyone who is married knows that no matter how long you have known your spouse and no matter how well you think you understand them they will sometimes find a way to completely baffle you. My husband Steve is a wonderful man, and I am fortunate to be married to him. He is patient, good-natured, considerate, and kind. He’s incredibly intelligent, a wonderful father, helpful around the house, and a lot of fun to be with. We have been together 18 years, and I know him reasonably well. Yet, somehow, he still manages to make me wonder sometimes.

Take today, for example. We were getting ready to entertain friends and cleaning the house. He had run the vacuum and begun unloading the dishwasher while I was cleaning the guest bathroom and dusting the furniture. I went to put the dust cloth in the laundry room to be washed and when I returned I couldn’t see him. I walked into the kitchen to find him sitting on the floor in front of the cabinets underneath the sink. He had pulled out a bunch of items and was sitting among them, surveying the scene. Holy hell. We had guests coming in an hour. He was supposed to be cleaning messes, not making them.

“Ummmm….what are you doing?”

“I pulled the trashcan out to empty the vacuum and noticed that it’s really gross under here.”

Was he kidding me? While he was correct (it was really gross under there and cleaning down there has been on my mental to-do-someday list for forever and a day), I was fairly sure we would not be serving our guests dinner under the kitchen sink.

He began using a rag to wipe down the inside bottom and sides of the cabinet.

“Do you really think this is the right time to be doing a deep clean of the INSIDE of a cabinet? I can think of about fourteen other things we should probably be focusing on instead before they get here. We need to wipe off the table and counters, put away the rest of the dishes, mop the floor….”

He cut me off. “This has been bugging me, so I thought I’d just take care of it.”

“Dude….why do you always start deep cleaning something right before we’re expecting company? We’re going for basic clean, not the-queen-is-coming-for-inspection clean. Last time it was the laundry room floor. Now you’re cleaning under the kitchen sink? Come on. Work with me here.”

He stared at me blankly. Then he put the items back under the sink, closed the door, and began wiping off the counter as requested. I was just grateful he’d decided not to argue with me.

We got everything done before our friends arrived and were able to enjoy a fun, relaxing evening in our clean house. I know that tomorrow when I go to throw something out, I’m going to smile at my own reflection in the spotless inside of that cabinet under the sink. I’ll have to thank Steve for taking care of a little detail that’s been bothering me for months too. The whole cleaning conundrum got me to thinking, though. Perhaps, I should have people over more often? Who knows what other deep cleaning chores Steve might wipe off my to-do list if I just gave him enough opportunity?