This is Friday

Friday mornings we're up by 7:30am at the latest. I'm downstairs in my fuzzy yellow bathrobe, attending to priority number one: coffee. I talk the kids into cereal or oatmeal because it's faster and less messy, even though they'd prefer pancakes or waffles if I could let them choose. Three minutes later I look over and they're deep in conversation together so I listen in. He talks of his excitement over his friend coming over to play later in the afternoon, a playdate arranged by the mommies since the two boys seem inseparable at school lately. She ponders what color tights she'll wear from the rainbow of colors Grandma got her at Target the other day. Friday mornings mean her brother and I get to watch her gracefully twirl and shake and jump while my heart bursts with pride and joy. I melt at seeing how much she loves to dance.

By the time 4:30pm rolls around, we're anticipating Daddy's arrival home. He's the pizza master, and since I've been thawing the dough since noon, it's ready to go and so are our appetites. The kids and their father eat the meat, so they cover their side with turkey pepperoni. Mine usual is mushrooms and yellow pepper slices, whatever veggies are left in the fridge by week's end. While it cooks we talk about our days. I show off Instagrams from the morning's dance class and any from the afternoon that I've taken. We're thankful it's Friday. We have the whole weekend ahead of us, together.

I convince the kids to pick up the toys and puzzles scattered around the family room while the pizza cools, fresh out of the oven. We make it a game with a timer to see who can beat the clock. He hands me a glass of red wine, cheers, and we sit down to our family dinner. Everyone oohs and ahhhs over Daddy's pizza skills and I vow to never cook again, again. Why cook when your husband is perfectly capable?

The movie starts at 7 and by then we're all ready for some serious cuddling time. We line up: big person, little person, big person, little person, and stretch the big red furry blanket out over all of us. Phones are left on the kitchen counter, ipads and laptops and turned off. I don't know a time I am more complete than when I have my children in my arms, my husband squeezing my hand from the other end of the couch, and I stop and appreciate all that I have.

This is Friday night with a three and a five-year old.

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Sure, there are squabbles and timeouts and messes to be cleaned up after every meal and snack. I'm highlighting here, for posterity.

The last few weeks this has been our new tradition. Lucky for us, our kids have only just begun to be exposed to the incredible world of Disney. Our past few Fridays have included The Lorax, Tangled, Brave, Frozen, all but one on loan from our best friends. Not sure what it will be tonight, but one thing is for sure: I love how we do Fridays.

#TGIF and Happy Weekend, everyone!

My love anchor

10thAnniversary

I woke up before anyone else in the house did on my wedding day. It was six o’clock and my nerves had driven me to the bathroom. Back in bed, I pretended to go back to sleep, but my mind kept running through the events of the day ahead of me. I wanted our kiss to be perfect.

We got married at twenty-four. Some may say that’s young, but I knew I wanted to be with him forever after we had only been dating for three months. I’ve always said I’d be ready to take the next step, build my life, when I knew we were right for each other. My anchor. He’s always been my anchor. This is what I’ve learned after fifteen years together, ten of those as husband and wife.

I didn’t know back then how many obstacles we’d be faced with in the years ahead. Neither of us saw mental illness in my future. How could anyone predict that? And even if we could, it’s not like it would have changed our minds about wanting to be together.

It's not easy being married to me. I have tumultuous moods, get frustrated easily, am the most stubborn person I know, and I'm sure sometimes... he just wants to shush me because I'm exhausting. But he doesn't. Because he knows that's just who I am. And he loves me for me. I like to think I'm all the excitement he'll ever need.

He is my support, encouraging me with his love. He is my balance, guiding me back to the middle when I sway off course. He is my steady, gently pulling me up when I fall back. I am more in love with him today than I was the day I married him.

Happy Anniversary, Honey. You’re my anchor through life’s storms. And I love being tied to you.

xoxoxoxoxo

 

Five Minute Friday {11}: Listen

When I listen to my heart, it tells me to keep being brave. To stay open and to keep giving and sharing my story, especially when I feel like giving up. This week I've listened to the waves methodically sweeping in, crashing into the sand in gentle whispers while laying on the beach reading. I've listened to tropical birds coo and sing, their vibrant chirps awakening me from naps taken under the shade of palm trees.

But my favorite sound, by far, has been the joyful laughter of us, four friends reunited.

Our voices reminiscing over meals shared together. We listened to each other declare short term goals, we remembered all that we have experienced in our many years of friendship and marriage, and we discussed how hard it is to raise a family.

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I'm so grateful for this week.

It's our last day here in paradise. By this evening we will have returned to the reality of normal life. And I'm quite sure that we've all been refreshed and energized by this vacation. I'm excited to arrive home and listen to the sounds of my family settling back into our routines, our summer together.

Time to return to living my story. One glorious day at a time.

Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday {10}: Fall

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LuxICMaldives via Compfight cc

I’ve already started packing. My suitcase sits open in the middle of our bedroom and all week I’ve been tossing things in as I get ready to finish stuffing in sundresses and books, bikinis and sandals until I’ll zip it shut tomorrow evening. I’ll be wearing the perfume of coconut-banana scented suntan lotion all week, my hair will curl in it’s natural, frizzy waves as I’ll forego blow drying for air drying.

 

We’ll worry about the kids, but know that they’ll be in heaven at home with their grandparents - all four of them taking shifts so they don’t get too exhausted by the fun of it all.

Whenever we’re able to do this - to run away from the same old day-to-day for a just-me-and-you vacation, I fall back into what life was like before kids, before marriage, before the responsibilities of work and a mortgage. I feel like we’re dating again, flirting and being silly with each other. Holding hands as we walk to breakfast or dinner. Or on the beach, lounging in our sunchairs, when I look over at you and give your hand a little squeeze while we gaze out at the ocean.

Not that I need a tropical vacation to appreciate all the wonderful things about you, honey. Time on an island with you just reminds me of our honeymoon. Only now, I no longer have those anxious butterflies in my stomach, nervousness about how our future will play out. Because time has passed - almost 10 years since that week in St. Lucia after our wedding - and we’ve fallen into each other and I’m not nervous for the future anymore.

I’m only giddy with excitement, ready to fall more in love with you in the coming years than I’ve ever been before.

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Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker's

Five Minute Friday

Rainy Wedding Days

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Last night, before turning out the light in the guest room of my brother's house, I pulled a slim white album off the corner bookshelf at the foot of the bed. I knew what the album contained before opening it. Some of the photos were familiar, but I marveled at how I found there were several which I seemed to be looking at as if for the first time.

They looked so young to me. I tried to imagine the emotions they must have been feeling on that day. Fear, excitement, joy, and a little anticipation for a new sort of freedom thrown in for good measure.

My dad, he stood so straight and proud. Decked out in his dress uniform. Short military haircut, boyish grin. His eyes sparkled with an obvious happiness.

My mom, a vision in her long-sleeved, poofy-shoulder white gown. With lace detail and tulle veil. Her eyes gazing nervously into her future.

At that moment, when they became husband and wife, I wonder if they stopped to think during all the buzz and exhilaration of the day. Did their future flash before their eyes?

Did they envision two kids and the single-family house with a white picket fence? Did they ever think, in their wildest dreams, that they’d eventually have a son-in-law and daughter-in-law who so perfectly fit their own daughter and son? Or that many years down the road they’d be the proud grandparents of four beautiful grandchildren ranging in ages from eight weeks to almost 5 - two boys and two girls?

I guess our family has a thing for keeping things in balance.

If my parents felt on their wedding day anything like I felt on mine, they experienced a roller coaster of emotions, tied together with a string of nerves. I just wanted everything to be perfect and so naturally, it rained. Not just a little sprinkle. No, actually, it was quite the opposite. The sky threatened to open up from the second we woke up that Saturday. But of course, it held off until that critical moment for every bride. Just as my dad and I were getting out of the limo to enter the church filled with our friends and family, rain fell from the sky in buckets.

The rain must have brought with it the good luck that everyone says a rainy day wedding brings. It also rained on my parent’s wedding day, forty-two years ago this October. For me, married for almost 10 years, I most certainly feel extremely lucky in love.

And I have a new-found appreciation for a rainy day.

"Love comforteth like sunshine after rain." - William Shakespeare

{It's been raining all day today, my last day here in Florida. It was a perfect day to write, with the melody of raindrops falling fast and furious as I type out and post what I wrote this morning. Tonight it's back home to Virginia, to my little family who I've missed so much these past 4 days.}

My husband, our chef

Saturday morning we were all anticipating my husband's arrival home, as he had been away all week on a business trip in Austin, Texas. It had been a long, draining five days of doing ALL THE THINGS by myself and I was tired. The kids couldn't wait to see their Daddy, especially our son who was anxiously wondering whether his father was going to be bringing him home the Lego City Police Station, a toy carrot he had dangled to ensure good behavior for Mommy. {It really came from his Grandma, but she wanted us to say it was from Daddy and we didn't object.} It worked like a charm. Or maybe that was because I continuously reminded him of the reward he would receive for said good behavior. Hey, I never said I was above bribes.

Swim class that morning was the last hurdle I had to jump over with the two kiddos before I could breathe easy knowing my better half would be home two hours later. And it wasn't even that bad since baby girl wasn't feeling well that meant I didn't have to attend her class with her, giving us both the luxury to sit on the bench and relax, watching her brother splash and float during his lesson.

Home again, I made lunch and the kids ate and then it was time for naps and quiet time. I wanted myself to curl up and take a quick snooze before my husband got home, but instead I began the process of tidying up the house {aka dusting, vacuuming, and re-arranging our masses of clutter} since we were having friends over for dinner later that evening.

A few hours later and all was well in our world. I had raced to the store and back for fresh ingredients, while the kids got to fill their father in on all their adventures during the time he was away. Lots of hugs were exchanged and plenty of snuggles for baby girl who was feeling the unpleasant effects of the massive amount of pollen in the springtime air. Our little man talked his dad into building the two vehicles that came with his Lego police station, so as to appease him until the next day when they could spend a few hours putting the entire set together. Our daughter had fun dressing and re-dressing her Melissa & Doug ballerina magnet doll. {Another new toy from their Grandma. She loves to spoil her grandkids and we let her.}

Then my husband got to work in the kitchen, preparing the meal for the evening once our guests had arrived. It was so nice to see our friends who live close, but not close enough that impromptu visits are easy and frequent. Instead, we have to plan a few months ahead and then pray that kids stay healthy so that we can keep the date. It worked out this time since allergies were the culprit behind our little girl's scratchy throat and sneezy, drippy nose. The kids easily connected around the water table and played together happily as we adults caught up over appetizers and drinks.

I love watching my man cooking dinner. He is very methodical in how he approaches the tasks of the recipe, which he usually follows to a perfect T each and every time. This time we were trying out a new dish, Lemon Garlic Scallops with Rustic Farro Risotto, from my friend's food blog, with asparagus on the grill to accompany it. I try not to impede on the way he moves about the kitchen, but of course I find myself critiquing and offering suggestions on how he should be searing or grilling or stirring, when I really should just keep my mouth shut because his food always comes out delicious.

I know how lucky I am to have an amateur chef as a husband. I've finally come to realize this after almost ten years of marriage. He generally does all the cooking in our house, because every so often when I do try my hand at putting a meal together, nine times out of ten it turns out terrible. Sometimes worse than terrible. I get mad, curse myself for the wasted time and effort, and my pride suffers. Then I swear I'm never cooking another meal for him again because whenever I do, he turns his nose up at it. {This is because it is terrible, remember, so I really can't blame him.} But over the years I have slowly accepted the fact that he's simply better at cooking than I am and I should embrace it rather than try to compete with it.

So with that, I present to you: my husband the chef.

HusbandChef_BML

And now, please excuse me while I go pin some new recipes for him to try.

I love you, honey. Thank you for feeding our family with love.

"Cooking today is a young man's game. I don't give a bollocks what anyone says." ~ Gordon Ramsay

10:35pm - Edited to add:

When Ben got home tonight, I asked him read my post, as I usually do on the days that I publish. Reading over his shoulder as he scrolled through the post, I noticed that I had forgotten something very important when writing this piece.

When I first became sick at the end of 2005, I struggled with eating a great deal in 2006. From the mix of medications I was on to the raging anxiety that had taken over my body, sitting down to enjoy a meal three times a day was a distant memory from my past. Some days I was nauseous from the moment I woke up until I crawled into bed at the end of the night. I lost about 12 pounds, which may not sound like all that much, but for someone who is only 5 feet, 2 inches tall, it's a big deal. I remember looking back at pictures from that summer and my cheeks were sunk inward on my formerly chubby face, my arms seemed like pencils they were so thin. But my loving husband did not give up on me. He tried new recipes he thought I might like, went back to some of our old favorites from college when he used to cook to impress me while we were courting, and kept me smiling with his extravagant baking to appeal to my sweet tooth {and in the hope that I'd consume some calories, even if they were all sugar}.

Anyone who has ever been clinically depressed knows what I mean when I say it was impossible to eat at times. My appetite was squashed by my diagnosis and meds, and my formerly sunny, outgoing personality had also been beaten up pretty badly. If my husband wasn't there by my side, encouraging me to keep trying, taking me on dates to our favorite Indian restaurant at least once a week, I may have lost more than the weight I did that year. I may have lost my power to fight the illness that had knocked me down.

I am forever grateful to my better half, for not only sticking with me, but for feeding me when I needed fed. He fed me with his love, his optimism, and his incredible culinary skills.

I love you with all my heart, honey.

xoxoxo

Wedded Bliss

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{image by Stacey Windsor Photography}

This August, my husband and I will have been married for 10 years. Ten years of wedded bliss. Well, if you consider the roller coaster ride of being married to someone who struggles with bipolar disorder to be blissful, then yeah, I guess you could call it that. For better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.

There obviously was no way he could have known. My illness conveniently broke through the surface after we had only been married for two years and four months. It threatened to tear us apart. But, instead of letting it knock down the little life we were building together, we used it as an opportunity to grow together. Stronger. Closer. Richer.

One day at a time.

On August 30th, 2013, those days will equal ten years. Best 10 years of my life.    By far.

My friend Stacey, a very talented photographer in the DC area, asked me recently if I'd be willing to get back into my wedding gown for some pictures so she could build her portfolio. I jumped at the opportunity, especially since this year is a big anniversary for us. We had planned on shooting down by the Cherry Blossoms in downtown DC, but the Cherry Blossom 10-miler was this past Sunday, the same day we had scheduled the pictures. We would have to find an alternative spot.

Hair and Makeup ladies arrived at my house at 4:30am on the dot, and within an hour I was transformed from sleepy mom to elegant bride, complete with airbrushed skin and side-swept cascading curls. I slipped on my dress and we headed downtown to find a spot where Stacey could snap away. We ended up taking a bunch of photos on Teddy Roosevelt Island which was such a perfect consolation location. Then we headed over towards Gravelley Point Park, but ended up stopping along the GW Parkway to shoot in a daffodil field and under some weeping willows. By that point we had met up with my husband, the kids, my sister-in-law and my in-laws. It was a frigid morning, but one I will never forgot. It was an incredible feeling to be a bride again for a morning.

My husband watching, smiling at me posing for pictures, was the icing on the anniversary cake.

One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life. That word is love.

- Sophocles

The most important words

{Words} I am the type of person that needs to hear certain words at times in my life. If I don't, I feel lonely and sad. If I do, I am able to persevere, no matter how difficult the challenge I am faced with.

{I am sorry}

{I support you}

{It's going to be okay}

{I missed you}

{Money is not important}

{We can get through this}

{I am here for you, no matter what}

{I love you}

To me, those last three words are the most important, by far. They can substitute, in a pinch, for all the others, and they make those other phrases even more warm and fuzzy when said together.

But for me, if I never heard any other words in my life but "I love you", I'd get along just fine.

I make it a point to say it to my husband and kids throughout the day because it makes everyone feel good. To know you are loved has got to be one of the best feelings in the world. I know it is for me.

Linking up with two amazing blogs:

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On friendship

"A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside."

~ Winnie the Pooh

I remember a conversation I had with my mom about friendship back when I was in high school, probably about 16 years ago or more. I was describing to her how my relationship with one of my friends had changed, and how it made me sad.

She sympathized with me and explained that as the years go by, my friendships will evolve. Some people would remain in our lives forever, and we would grow closer and closer. And others would slowly fade away, leaving only the memories behind to savor.

Looking back now, I can understand exactly what she was trying to teach me.

I have several friends - people I have known for fifteen or more years - who I don't get a chance to see more than once a year if I'm lucky given the distance between us. The best man from our wedding and his wife are two of them. He had a work conference this week and so they came to visit and stay with us this past weekend so that we could catch up and visit with each other. We hadn't yet been able to meet each other's youngest, and our two older ones had only ever met once before that.

The beautiful thing about our friendship with them is that it's easy. We can come together after not having seen each other in a few years, and it's like we haven't skipped a beat.

Those are the absolute best friendships to have, in my opinion.

We talked and laughed and reminisced. Took hundreds of pictures and stayed up late playing board games. Our daughter was smitten with our friend and would walk over to him with her head back and arms lifted high up towards his head to be picked up. She doesn't do this to anyone other than me or my husband. We hung out on the deck and had drinks and dinner. We threw all four kids in the big tub and watched them splash around in the bubbles, smiles all around. We shared little stories about them, our favorite iphone/ipad apps, and had lots of quality playtime.

In short, it was the best weekend ever.

We're both celebrating ten years of marriage next year. The guys were each other's best man. To honor this milestone, they invited us to join them on a vacation sometime in the Spring of 2013. Adults-only. The kiddos will get some quality time with the grandparents. {get excited, grandparents} Oh yeah. We're in.

We're so in.

And although we may not get the chance to get together again before then, it won't make a difference. We'll pick back up right where we left off.

Because that's what great friends do.

 

"Friends are the most important part of your life. Treasure the tears, treasure the laughter, but most importantly, treasure the memories." - Dave Brenner