Saturday, November 27, 2010

He's a Strange, Strange Man (And I Love Him)

Are you one of those fearless shoppers who venture out at 3:00 in the morning on Black Friday for all the doorbuster deals? Well, we're not that brave. In fact, until this year we had never even considered going out on Black Friday--especially Bill, since he doesn't enjoy crowds. But there's a first time for everything.

Several months ago, our big screen projection TV (only about five years old, I must mention) abruptly shut itself off and wouldn't come back on again. Bill researched the symptoms on the Internet and figured he could fix it with a $35 part. The only catch was the danger of electrocution from opening the set. We weighed the options and decided it wasn't worth the risk. It was the worst possible timing as we had just committed to our new budget, but I figured Bill would consider this a true emergency, and that we'd break into the sacred Emergency Fund.

Even after ten years, he can still surprise me. He made no mention of buying a new set, just moved his ancient 13-inch TV/VCR combo into the TV room. It looked so ridiculous sitting on Allyson's play table in front of our broken 47-inch set.

Bump-Bumpity-Bump... Down to the Garage

After a few days Bill commandeered Ethan's 30-something-inch set, a hand-me-down from my sister Amy. "Hey!" Ethan protested, but then he watched the 13-inch set without any complaints.

All was good until a few weeks ago, when the picture on the replacement TV started blacking out periodically. A firm stomp on the TV room floor brought it back each time, but it was rather jarring to hear all that stomping going on upstairs. The intervals gradually got closer and closer together, and soon we had to start rapping the TV smartly on the side or top. Still, Bill didn't say a word about buying a new TV.

I started thinking about how compliant he had been with the budget--my idea, by the way--and how he'd never once gone over, though he does occasionally mix some of the envelopes together, which drives me nuts. Then I started thinking about all the sales going on after Thanksgiving, and how it would be smarter to buy a TV now if we're going to buy one soon anyway.

So one night last week I surprised Bill by casually suggesting that we buy a TV on Black Friday. He immediately launched into hours of research into the different brands, prices, and technologies. This went on for over a week, and then he made his final decision on Thanksgiving evening: a Vizio LCD flat screen. The cheapest price was at Walmart, of course, and he grimaced at the thought of braving the crowds in the chain where people have literally been trampled to death on a Black Friday in the not-too-distant past (not in OUR store, thankfully).

"The sales last all weekend," I said. "You don't necessarily have to go out on Friday."

"We'll see," he said.

He did go out around noon yesterday, hours after the serious shoppers hit the stores. An hour later, I heard the garage door opening as he backed his truck up the driveway. "I think we have a new TV, Allyson!" I said, an unexpected grin stretching across my face.

Bill was smiling too when he walked in from the garage. "What did you get?" I asked eagerly.

"A TV stand," he said.

"You went out on Black Friday to get a TV STAND??"

"Well, it was a good price. And I need to get the TV room organized and move out the old shelves before I can bring in a new TV," he explained.

This made perfect sense, but still.... How could he go without a big-screen TV for this many months and then come back with just a TV stand? I shook my head in wonder. "You are a very unusual man," I said. He just smiled.

He worked on the new setup for hours, clearing out old CDs and DVDs and rearranging the ones he meant to keep, stringing wires, and hanging the speakers that used to sit on the shelves. It reminded me of an expectant mother in the nesting phase, lovingly making a place for her new arrival.

When everything was in place we all sat on the couch admiring his handiwork. "It looks great!" I said. "And doesn't our little TV look snazzy on that big new stand?"

Bill's Black Friday Find

He gave me a sidelong glance. "You do realize I'm probably going to sneak out and head to Walmart around midnight?"

"I wouldn't be surprised, Bill."

He didn't make a midnight Walmart run after all (due to his poor, aching back after all that work). But he was up this morning just as the weak morning light began filtering through the heavy curtains. I squinted up at him and strained to see the clock over Allyson, who had crept into our bed in the wee hours of the morning. "What time is it?" I mouthed, gesturing at the clock that was still out of view.

"Seven forty-five," he replied without making a sound. He held his arms out in front of him and pantomimed turning a giant steering wheel. "I'm going to the store."

A knowing smile pulled at my lips. He was like a kid on Christmas morning! I traced a large rectangle with my hands. "You're getting the TV?" I mouthed. He grinned sheepishly and waved on his way out the bedroom door.

Three hours later, after visiting two Walmart stores, he returned with the Vizio. I have to admit it looked pretty darn good on our Black Friday TV stand. Can you guess what we watched first? Allyson's "Noggin" preschool channel, of course! Wow, Dora and Swiper look awesome in high definition.

When Allyson had moved on to other things, and Bill was contentedly adjusting all the settings while watching a football game, I said, "Are you happy, husband?"

He nodded and gave me a quick peck on the lips. "Happy early Christmas," I said. And it did feel like Christmas.

That's Better!

One More Bill Story
Last night Bill and I spent a half hour finishing the latest chapter in the marriage study that we're doing with our home group from church. We snuggled on the couch and answered questions about how well he makes me feel loved and how well I make him feel respected. For him, it probably ranked right up there with getting his teeth cleaned, but it made me feel very loved (ka-ching!) to know that he would do the study with me.

The last question asked us to evaluate the current state of our marriage. I answered first. "It's good," I said, and we both laughed at the unaccustomed brevity of my answer.

" 'sgood," he echoed, mimicking Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty.

"But what do you think about our marriage?" I pressed.

"It's better than I could have imagined," he said with a cocky grin and a tongue-in-cheek tone.

I pursed my lips and lowered my brows in mock disapproval.

He went on in a very serious tone. "I love you. I've always loved you. I always will love you."

My heart begin to pitter-patter. "Oh, Bill..." Then I saw that he was chuckling.

"Braveheart," he said, and I stared at him blankly. "It's a line from Mel Gibson in Braveheart."

"Say it again," I demanded. "I don't care where it came from."

"It would be better in a thick Scottish brogue," he protested.

"Just say it."

He looked in my eyes. "I love you. I've always loved you. I always will love you."

I kissed him, wincing when his bristly chin scratched my lips.

"I'm writing this down in the study book," I said.

"Of course you are."

"And I'm going to read it out loud at the home group meeting."

He rolled his eyes. I'll let you know how that goes.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Just Don't Cuddle With Dora

As you may recall from previous posts, I tend to hit my afternoon slump around 3:00 most days. This past Tuesday was no exception. I struggled to keep my eyes open as I drove home from my parents' house, but luckily Allyson was there to help. After I confessed that I was sleepy, she screamed "Ai-yah! Ai-yah! Ai-yah!" over and over. It was quite effective.

Back at the house, I immediately collapsed into a heap on my favorite green chair and ottoman. Allyson snuggled with me for about 30 seconds and then hurried upstairs to seek out some mischief while my eyes were closed. Just as I was sinking into blissful oblivion, I heard Allyson's Dora the Explorer toy singing a familiar tune: "See everyone can dance, dance. Yeah, everyone can dance, dance!" I smiled drowsily, relieved that she had found a tame way to entertain herself.

I'm not sure how much time passed, but it felt like only a moment later when Allyson's plaintive cries penetrated my dreams. "Help me, Mama. I can't get Dora out of my hair!"

I rubbed my eyes and laboriously brought her into focus. Her 18-inch Dora doll dangled from her hair, about six inches from her scalp. I rubbed my eyes again and pulled her onto the chair with me for a closer look. An inch-wide strand was wrapped around one of the plastic wheels on the bottom of the doll.

I rolled the wheel first one way, then the other. Dora ascended and descended the strand. I was able to roll out two or three inches of hair, but then the wheel wouldn't budge.

"Oh, Allyson," I said, breaking into snickers. "How did you... manage to... get Dora stuck in your hair??" Tears rolled down my cheeks. "I'm sorry, honey. I know it's not funny, but..."

Ethan, paused from his daily drum pad practice. He didn't even try to restrain his laughter. "Yes, it is funny!"

"Get it out!" Allyson pleaded.

"I don't know if I can, sweetie. I hope we won't have to cut it; it would be pretty short." I futilely continued to roll the wheel back and forth. I glanced at the clock and realized Bill should be on the way home from work by now. "I know, let's call Daddy. He'll know what to do."

Ethan brought me the phone, and I managed to get the story out without laughing, a challenge with Bill  laughing so hard on the other end of the line.

"Maybe you can take Dora apart when you get here."

"No, don't hurt Dora!" Allyson interjected.

Bill said he'd be home in about 15 more minutes. "That's a long time," Allyson whined.

"I really need to start on dinner," I said, and Allyson's mouth drooped. "Why don't you and Dora lie on the couch and wait for Daddy?"

A few minutes later, the front door opened and in came Bill, singing cheerfully, "Doo-d-d-d-d-Dora! Doo-d-d-d-d-Dora!"

"Daddeeee!" Allyson wailed, smiling in spite of herself.

Bill settled onto the couch next to her. "Now let's see what you've done to your hair."

I hovered over him. "Can you take it apart?"

"No. It's all one piece." He rolled Dora up and down the strand, just as I had done.

I watched with a sinking feeling. "Maybe we'll have to cut her hair." I wondered if this was my punishment for vanity over her gorgeous golden tresses.

"Or maybe..." said Bill, as Allyson let out a little shriek like Lola does when you step on her tail, "I'll just reef it out."

Allyson rubbed her temple ruefully. "That hurt, Daddy!"

"Yes, but it's all over now. And we didn't have to break Dora."

That evening Allyson asked if she could watch a little Noggin before bedtime. "Didn't you watch TV this afternoon?" I asked suspiciously. "No, wait a minute. I guess you were lying on the couch with Dora while I was making dinner."

Bill turned the channel for her, and she sighed with contentment as she sprawled out on the couch, covering herself with a fleece blanket. "Just don't do any more cuddling with Dora," Bill warned.

Allyson giggled. "Oh, Daddy! I won't."

One More Allyson Story
Today Allyson told Bill to sit very still while she drew his picture. He obediently held his pose, and his silly smile, for five minutes while she sketched away. She handed the finished portrait over with a flourish.

"It's a great picture!" I said. And it was. She had captured a fair likeness of Bill's black spiky hair and his cute little ears. There was only one problem.

"Why are my teeth green?" Bill asked.

"Because I couldn't find the yellow crayon," Allyson explained.

"But aren't my teeth actually white?"

"Well, sort of."

Must be time to schedule another cleaning!

Monday, November 15, 2010

You Will Get a Sentimental Feelin'

For about three weeks now, Allyson has been impatiently awaiting her big moment: practicing for the upcoming children's Christmas choir (or Christmas "require" as she calls it). I can only imagine how ecstatic she'll be about the actual concert.

Yesterday she came home from Sunday school with a lyric sheet and a practice CD. She practiced her two songs about six times as soon as we got home from church, and four more times this evening after she got home from the babysitter. (No, I'm not exaggerating.) She's still struggling with the words and the very rapid tempo, but she's holding her own with the dance steps. I suspect that she's thrown in a few tap dancing steps that might not be part of the choreography, but it all works.

See for yourself...

I tried to put in a caption but couldn't make it work.... Toward the end of the video, Allyson makes an aside. She's saying, "I'm 'tending I'm puttin' up holly."

Did you giggle at the "ooh-ooh-ooh" part at the end? Bill and I have to avoid eye contact then to keep from laughing.

Is she not the cutest little performer?

Note: If you're reading this via email or Facebook, you'll need to click the link to the original post to play the video. The link appears at the very bottom of the window.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Fairy Tale Wedding

Oh, I've missed you. I've been terribly busy lately and also was in Portland all this week for work (more on that later, probably). I haven't posted in awhile, and my mind is overflowing with stories. Since I'm already so far behind anyway, I think I'll go way back and share another chapter in my love story with Bill.

On March 8, 2003, Bill and I set off for the airport with five-year-old Ethan and both of my parents.

See Ethan's Eye Patch?

We flew to Vancouver that morning, and the next day our two families took a ferry to lovely Vancouver Island.

Ethan and His (Soon to Be) Nana
We toured Victoria and shared a delicious dinner that evening. I remember it as a very jovial meal, a great time for our families to get acquainted. The best part was ordering one of everything on the dessert menu and passing it all around the table.

After a soak in the hot tub, and a flawless manicure from my future sister-in-law Sheryl, I retired to the room that Ethan and I shared with my parents. They fell asleep immediately, but I lay awake for a very, very long time, assuring myself I was really ready for this.

On my wedding day, I was so nervous I could barely eat. All I remember doing is getting my hair and makeup done, alongside my mother. We headed over to the gorgeous seaside hotel, Sooke Harbor House, with plenty of time to spare before the twilight ceremony.

 The package we'd ordered came with a bouquet, a cake, and a gourmet dinner for two in the hotel restaurant, which was rated the third best restaurant in British Columbia at the time. Everything was perfect, and I didn't have to agonize over any of the choices!

Nephew Kurtis With Bouquet
The Cake Tasted Even Better Than it Looked

Since the hotel was surrounded by rain forest and it was early spring, we weren't sure until the last minute whether we'd be able to get married by the ocean. When the time came, the sky was dramatically overcast, and there was a bite to the air. My ethereal gown no longer seemed like such a good idea.

I tried to convince Bill to get married inside, in front of the fireplace, but he insisted that a wedding by the ocean would be much more romantic. Although I shivered through the very brief ceremony and all the pictures, now I know he was right. The pictures--a gift from Bill's sister Lisa, who was shooting her very first wedding!--were so beautiful.

The only guests besides my family were Bill's parents, his brother and sister and their families, and his grandmother. They all gathered around us, sitting on benches in the garden. We could hear the gentle sound of the surf down below.

I've always wondered what the minister was saying when Lisa took this shot:

Can We Think About It First?
Oh, What the Heck. Why Not?
When the ceremony was over, we walked down the "aisle" to the imagined strains of the wedding march. An extra member of the procession trailed along behind us.

Nephew Travis Tags Along

Inside, we climbed the stairs to our room for some pictures on the balcony. When the guests in the lobby caught sight of a bride and groom heading upstairs, they broke into raucous laughter and catcalls. I could feel my face turning crimson, but all that attention was pretty fun.

Catch, Sheryl!

When we came back down just five minutes later, the people in the lobby laughed even harder, and so did we. Next, we went back into the chilly evening air for lots of pictures. Here are my favorites, both candids that Lisa managed to capture between shots of all the family.

Keep Me Warm, Bill!

Sweet Nothings
Meanwhile, Ethan and his new cousin Kurtis had a blast playing together.

After 20 minutes or so, Lisa's other son Travis decided enough was enough; he wanted his mommy. So Lisa took a picture of him:

Next came the best part. We all sat down around a long table in the cozy dining room, next to the fireplace I'd been fantasizing about. Even the minister joined us for an incredible meal, artfully presented on plate after plate. My dad remarked that it was the best meal he'd ever eaten, and I had to agree.

Me and Daddy

The funny thing is, I can't remember what we ate. What I do remember is the hum of conversation all around me as I sat and watched the people I loved most in the world having a great time together.

See My Satin Cape?

At last it was time for everyone else to go away on their separate vacation, on another part of the beautiful island. Ethan was very anxious about separating from us, but Bill was able to comfort him.

Bill and I stayed three more days in this gorgeous room, which came with a jetted soaker tub and no TV.

Each morning we woke to the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks below, and this was the view we contemplated as we ate pastries so delicate they melted in our mouths. 

During the day we enjoyed massages, picnics, and long walks through scenes that belonged on a cheesy corporate inspirational poster.

The only thing that tempered the perfection was the fact that it rained every single day. I wasn't too disappointed, though, because Bill had prepared me. And didn't he look dashing in his raincoat? I thought so, anyway.

There was one more problem: we wanted to stay much longer! But we had to return to real life. We took the ferry back over to Bill's parents' house, where Ethan greeted us ecstatically. On our last day there, Bill's extended family and many family friends came to the house for lovely reception.

Everything about our wedding trip was exactly the sort of fairy tale I'd been afraid to hope for. I wouldn't change a thing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Snow White and the Scary Guy

Hard to believe another Halloween has passed. It seems like yesterday when Ethan and Allyson looked like this:
Age 4 (2001)

Age 6 Months (2006)

On Wednesday, Bill and the kids carved pumpkins.

Ethan carved his own again this year, which always reminds me of the story about Bill's sister Lisa almost cutting her finger off when she carved a pumpkin as a kid. To make matters worse this year, Ethan and Allyson actually joked about someone cutting off a finger. "Stop it! That's not funny," I scolded. But Allyson kept bringing it up again every few minutes.
Doesn't This Look Like the Shower Scene from Psycho?

No One Lost Any Digits

Ethan's Pumpkin is on Far Right

After the kids went to bed, Bill carved one more pumpkin for a contest at work. Can you believe he didn't win first place?

Last night we took Allyson trick-or-treating in her Snow White costume. Ethan missed it this year because he was at his dad's, but he was back in time to help eat Allyson's candy.

She wore white tights, sport socks, and her tennis shoes under the costume, but in her mind she was a BEAUTIFUL PRINCESS. It was probably the gold fabric crown that sealed the illusion for her. 
We walked around the neighborhood with Jacob, a second-grader from across the street. He wore the same "Scream" costume that Ethan wore two years ago:

Ethan in 2008 (age 11)
At one house, I overheard this conversation:

Woman: Oh, are you Snow White?

Allyson: Yes, and also a beautiful princess. 

Woman: Yes, you are beautiful!

Allyson (gesturing to Jacob): And he's a Scary Guy. (Cups hand around mouth and continues in a stage whisper.) I just call him Scary Guy because I don't know what his costume is really called. 

Woman: Works for me! 

Oh, and Trick or Treat!
We coached Allyson over and over on what to say: first "Trick or Treat!" and then "thank you." 

The good thing is that she almost always remembered to say thank you. But she couldn't seem to remember the Trick or Treat part. It usually went something like this: 
  1. Collect candy. Mumble a thank you.
  2. Run back down walk, candy bag dragging.
  3. Holler "Have a happy Halloween!" 
  4. Back at the sidewalk, yell, "Trick or Treat!" 

Oh well. She must have done something right given the size of her haul--in her words, it was the size of "a small elephant." 

Good thing Ethan will eat most of it.


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