Valentine’s Day’s New Meaning

“Since we’re throwing a party on Valentine’s Day weekend, we don’t need to actually do anything for Valentine’s Days, do we?”

I stared at Jason and blinked. Was he kidding?? I blinked some more and then snarkily retorted, “Just read my blog post from last year!” He seemed taken back.

“What did it say?”

“Just read it….” I huffily ended the conversation, annoyed that he didn’t remember how hard I had worked to make last year’s Valentine’s Day special. After my knee jerk reaction of anger had cooled down a bit, I stopped to consider what Jason was asking me.

I considered where we were a year ago versus now. Last year, we were struggling so hard to make ANY time for each other between Jason’s switch shift job, my busy work schedule, and the schedules of three kids, one of them being a wonderful, yet demanding baby. Everything was a high priority except “us”.

Flashing forward to this Valentine’s Day, our lives had changed. Every day, we have been working to keep our relationship alive with texts saying “I love you” and small romantic gestures. Date nights have become a weekly event with dinners after the kids go down to sleep or sneaking out early for a movie. We’ve grown to understand that the firm foundation of our relationship was important for the happiness of the entire family.

20120214-210828.jpgSuddenly, pressuring my husband to come up with something for Valentine’s Day just didn’t seem as important. After all, it’s not just a holiday for us, but for the entire family.

When Jason sheepishly returned to me with his Valentine’s Day plans, throwing out dinner restaurants, movie ideas, back rubs or anything that would make me feel special, I smiled, grateful for the effort. “Why don’t we have a special dinner with the kids at home?”

Jason jumped with the idea, planning a lovely dinner of fondue for all of us. In between the rush of Mom’s work schedule and running to the gym, Dad’s writing projects and the boys sports schedule, we hadn’t had a nice family dinner in weeks. Finally, we got a chance to slow 20120214-210843.jpgdown and remind each other of all the reasons we love and care about each other. Ethan got to dance in his chair as he proudly cooked his fondue, Anthony talked endlessly about how awesome steak was (and did you know steak is made from beef?) while Keira exclaimed proudly to her family “big girl fork!” and “Look! Flowers for Mama!”

A noisy, bustling, family dinner over fancy food with the four people in the world I love most. What more could I ask for as a Valentine’s Day present?

The Greatest Job in the World!

Well it’s official, I turned in my resignation today. I will be leaving the hotel and customer service industries to start a new and exciting profession. I start my new job on May 7th 2011. I’ll be working for four of the greatest bosses in the world, my family.

Kirsten and I have been trying to create the opportunity for me to become a Stay At Home Dad (SAHD) for awhile now. If you read “In Defense of Dads” you’ll know that for a time I was a Work From Home Dad and we both saw the positive effects it had on our boys both in their education and overall attitude. I grew up with a stay at home mom and a father who ran his own company which made both of my parents very accessible to me. I credit this as one of the biggest influences on my life and want to give my children the same.

For me being a stay at home dad is not a 5 year plan until Keria attends Kindergarten but rather a career choice. This is what I want to do. I want to explore the world with my children. I want to be the chaperon on the field trips. I want them to always have someone to come to with questions and concerns. I want to see the smile on Kirsten’s face when she comes home to dinner on the table, a clean house and can she can relax.

This is a new job for me and I will need some adjustment time, but I’m excited and can’t seem to stop smiling every time I think about it.

Grown Up Decisions

I was driving home from work, anxious to get home and see my family. As I hurried along, a huge semi pulled onto the freeway. I grunted and put on my blinker to get into the next lane to pass. At that exact time, the wind pushed against my car just slightly. But it was enough to make me pause and think.

What if that wind blew and pushed me into the semi? How would Jason get along if I was gone? How could the boys go on with one more person walking out of their lives? I began to have a panic attack realizing that I had nothing in place for my children if I died. No will. No life insurance. No one set up to be the care taker in the event that Jason and I were both gone. I slowed down and got back into the right hand lane. It just wasn’t worth it.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve had a mini panic attack while considering leaving my children behind. In the first week that we brought Keira home from the hospital, I woke up in a cold sweat. My sudden gasp woke Jason as I begin to cry and shake, thinking about how dependent this little girl was on me for survival. “Jason – what would you do if I was gone!? How would Keira EAT!”

“Honey, we’d find a way to manage. I’d put her on formula.”

“FORMULA!? You’d put our baby girl on formula after how hard I worked to breastfeed her!?!” I have to admit, I was a bit delirious at this point from lack of sleep. Jason calmed me down and we both went back to sleep, putting the conversation behind us.

The thing that was different about my latest panic attack was that it spurred me to ACT! While Jason had been trying to talk me into getting life insurance, it was always at the bottom of my to-do list. My coping method was to put my head in the sand. But finally, I was able to put my own fear of mortality aside and think about the children (and husband) I could potentially be leaving behind. I called Chris, a life insurance agent friend, and got our life insurance policy moving with his company Baron Insurance Group.

Instead of following someone else’s rule of thumb on how much to buy, I broke out our monthly budget. I modeled what would this same budget would look like if my income wasn’t there. What extra expenses would there be? What would the buffer be like? What stress would this budget put upon whoever was left to take care of the kids? I modeled and modeled until I was absolutely sure that if my kids had to ever deal with the loss of one of their parents, they wouldn’t have to worry about if Daddy (or Mommy) was going to have trouble providing food on the table.

To date, it was the most grown up decision I have ever made. And when the life insurance policy came in the mail, documenting that we indeed were all set up, I felt tension release from my chest that I never knew I was holding in. No matter what happens, my kids were going to be okay.

Next stop: Preparing the will.

The Changing Tide of Romance

I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day. I, like many of my friends, considered it the “hallmark” holiday and wondered why we needed a special day to tell your loved ones that you love them. Shouldn’t you be treating them that way the entire year?

And then I became a mother of three.

When evenings are spent trying to fold laundry and weekends are about running errands or kids to sports, romance falls by the wayside. I finally got it. Valentine’s Day is for the couples that have let life take over and gives them a chance to take a breathe and remember each other.

So, when I got up Valentine’s day morning, I decided, this year, we’re going to celebrate! I mentally planned out how I would cook a delicious meal for Jason with his favorite pasta and sun-dried tomatoes. I’d wait until the kids were in bed and then I’d still have half an hour to pull it all together before Jason came home from work at 9pm.

So, I rushed home from work, planning the entire way how I would pull together everything, including cute heart cupcakes and sprinkled ice cream. A mudslide, for my non-drinking husband (with half the booze). I smiled as I pictured us sitting in candle light and listening to an iTunes playlist of our favorite love music.

I should have known better as I walked through the door at 6:10pm. “Mommy’s home, Keira!” my sister/nanny exclaimed. “She’s still a bit sleepy since she just woke up.”

What!? Just woke up!?!? Oh no, this won’t be good…

But I was determined, and shooed the kids to get ready to go to the grocery store and pick up the fixings for dinner. Anthony, feeling in a particularly sarcastic mood, said, “No, I’m not going” and proceeded to start a pillow fit using the couch cushions with Papa. I sighed and packed Keira into the car seat. After I was completely ready, I pushed the kids out the door and headed into the windy evening.

Besides fighting my sarcastic child down every aisle to hurry along and knock off the kidding, the grocery store visit was fairly uneventful. However, arriving home at 7:20 put a damper on my mood as I considered everything I had to accomplish in the next hour and a half. I buckled Keira into her high chair and handed Anthony her baby food and spoon. He happily fed her as I ordered Ethan around to help me unload the groceries, unload the dishwasher, pick up, and prepare the cupcakes. I was Sergent Mommy and I was on a mission. In the meantime, Papa graciously fixed up the boys’ favorite meal of “beanies and weanies”.

8:10pm ticks by and I’m pacing the kitchen with a cranky Keira in my arms, waiting for the cupcakes to finish baking in order for me to get Keira in the bathtub. Finally, I pull the cupcakes out of the oven and dash up the stairs to give Keira the quickest bath of her short lifetime, leaving the kids downstairs at the breakfast counter to finish up their dinner. In the 10 minutes it took for me to bathe Keira, I walked down to find kitchen utterly destroyed by two little boys. I flew off the handle. And then took a deep breath. “I love you two but would you please help me out a bit??”

They agreed. And I walked up the stairs at 8:30pm to put Keira down for bed as she was already half an hour past her bedtime. But it wasn’t as simple as that. She fought me to get to sleep tooth and nail, crying and pushing off of me that she wanted to play instead of sleep. Finally, at 8:55pm, I set her down in the crib to cry-it-out a bit as I rushed downstairs to at least get the microwave started with our dinner. As I hurriedly prepared what I could, I checked my phone. Jason called at 9:01pm to let me know he was coming up. Oh, thank God. For the first time, I was happy that he was running late from work.

I sighed as I realized Keira’s crying was no longer the whimper she initially started with and had progressed into full on sobs. I stomped up the stairs to again try to rock her back to sleep. After her lullaby CD began playing for the 3rd time that evening, she finally drifted off to sleep. I snuck out of her bedroom, sure she’d wake up yet again, to find Jason waiting outside of her bedroom.

“You are so cute.” and with a smile, he kissed me and gave me a giant hug. With a deep breath, I relaxed into his arms before walking downstairs to finally sit down for our dinner. After an hour of talking purely about our kids and finishing up our meal, I sat back, exhausted in my chair. It was all worth it.

Romantic Dinner - Complete with Baby Monitor

The Day I Knew I Loved You.

The Day I Knew I Loved You.

Rain gave off a soft, salty scent of unwashed bricks in the streets of Benrath, Germany. I was walking to the train station from my exchange family’s home with some of the tight-jean wearing Germany students. It was June of 1997 and it seemed to rain nearly every afternoon as the humid weather brought the daily thunderstorms. We were headed to old town Dusseldorf to go out for the night. I had spoken with you only minutes ago on the phone and we had agreed to meet on the train into town. I smiled to the ground as I realized how fond I was growing at having you around. Your smiles and laughs were infectious and I didn’t want a cure. I only had 2 and half weeks left before I would be heading off to college would likely hardly, if ever, see you again.

As I walked up to the train station, I turned  and heard the other students calling to me as they were walking up to their right. I looked at them, confused as to where they were heading. “We take the trolley to this place, it’s easier to get to,” one of the students said. I tried to explain that I had told you to meet us at the S-bahn station near your host family’s home. Reluctantly, I let them convince me that you would know where we were going and would meet up with us there.

My heart dropped. The city whizzed by, station to station, laughing German students ready for a good night out and I couldn’t get the image of you standing on the train platform, waiting for the man that would never come. I felt a sense of loss and disappointment in myself that I had never sensed before. I had let you down and I never wanted to do it again. When we got to the pub, I walked through the door into all the smiling, laughing and drinking faces, yours was not among them. I sat with the others and waited, hoping maybe you were running late.

I found myself some time later standing outside of the loud dark room. The lamplight in the streets casting dancing shadows down my path. The rain had to turned to a soft mist and heat from the day was causing the water to evaporate from the bricks, swirling a mist into the air. The water seemed to hang between falling and raising, and my heart mimicked the movements.

I walked the extra distance to the S-bahn station so I could take it home just in case I would find you along the way. As the train slowed down to stop at your platform I watched, hoping you might still be there, but also hoping you wouldn’t have waited out in the rain for me this long. I was greeted only by the platform, trash cans and flashing of the over head florescent lighting.

When I finally got up to my room at my host family’s home, I laid my head down but couldn’t get the image of you waiting in the rain for the man that would never come. I laid there in the dark that night, unable to sleep, trying to understand everything I was feeling. It was then that I realized I loved you, I always would and never wanted to disappoint or be without you again.

Kirsten and Jason’s Story

I found this post I wrote for Kirsten and my wedding website which I thought after the website went away was lost. Today is a great day to share where our love started. So if you don’t know “The Story of Us” here it is. If you do, you might laugh even more.

The Story of Us

Written in Spring of 2004

How It All Started

It was the summer of 1996 and I was getting ready to start my senior year at Patrick Henry High School. The summer had been lively but I was now ready to get back the daily routine of school – and all this Started with Band Camp. Yes, I met my future wife at marching band. So yes, I can say “this one time at band camp….” When I first meet Kirsten, she was one of the incoming freshmen and I was one of the old timers – you know the ones that stand in the back of the line up and make faces at the new kids.

The first time we every spoke to each other was at a “Band Party”. The party was pretty usual for us, some people got thrown in the pool, some were attempting to throw others in, and I was off in my own little world hanging out by the spa. Out of all the people there Kirsten, who appeared to be a bright bubbly hyper girl, came up to me and asked if I was doing okay because she noticed that I was alone. To be honest, that was the moment I fell in love with her – true compassion with out looking for some kind of benefit. We talked for awhile while the party continued

As I consumed myself with college application processes, running two of my own companies and the working in theatre department at Patrick Henry, time flew by. Kirsten and I shared two classes together that year. We had band first thing in the morning (which, I will admit, I only remember being awake for half of) and 2nd year French. Even with my time being so occupied by many other things, we grew to be great friends in French class. She started out sitting behind me. We would pass notes back and forth via her shoe kicking me. I still don’t know how Madame Stout never noticed. By October she was sitting next to me. As she told me about her many “boy” problems, I came to love just talking to her. She made me laugh and kept my spirits up when theatre was driving me nuts.

By December, I had found out I was accepted to NYU. I finally got my dream of living in New York City. Up to this point in my life I had never had a girlfriend, although I had many friends that were girls who used to kill my ears with their many boyfriend problems. So being as I knew that come August I was moving to NYC, I resolved myself not to grow attached to anyone. (Yeah, that worked well.)

The Beginning of a Relationship

One night I had been working late at the theatre building sets and I remember Madame Stout was having a meeting about the German exchange students. I thought it would be cool to host a student, and I knew Kirsten would be there, so I figured I would stop by and say hello. When I got there, they were talking not only about hosting, but traveling to Germany with the school that summer. At this point in my life I had never been in another country, not even Mexico. I went home that night and asked about hosting a student. My parents had no problems with that. Later I casually noted that some of the kids were also going to Germany for a month that summer and that I thought it was cool. My dad looked at me and asked if I wanted to go. I said sure, it would be cool but I didn’t know if they would let me. They shocked me by saying that if I really wanted to go they thought it would be a good experience and that I should go. My jaw hit the ground and the next day I was telling Kirsten that I was going, only to find out she would be traveling with the group as well.

Several months later I found myself at the San Diego international airport at 5:30 the day after graduation, getting ready to board a plane for Germany. This was my first time this far away from home but having the other kids there really helped. Kirsten and I even passed her journal back and forth on the plane because she was sitting behind me, just like in French class. We were to spend 2 weeks in Düsseldorf, week in Paris, and a week in Berlin

As we were in Germany, Kirsten’s and my friendship kept growing and we would meet up and hang out with each other. Then one night, when were all supposed to meet up, I messed up and told her that we would meet her on the next train. It turned out we were taking the trolley, not the train and I got all mixed up. I felt so horrible that I got her all mixed up and I couldn’t get the idea of her standing out on the platform waiting for me and me never appearing out of my head. The rest of the night, I started to realize how much having her around affected my mood. It was then I started to realize I didn’t want to spend time without having her around.

The First Kiss

Kirsten did end up forgiving me, although she still sometimes brings up that she waited there for a man that never showed up. On our one week trip to Paris, it rained nearly everyday and I was in such a sour mood cause I had a cold and was having headaches. Kirsten was hanging out in the boys’ room at the hostile. She was reading a Stephen King book on my bunk listening to music when I came in. Andreas went to go take a shower and Robert was reading some novel at the time. I climbed up on the bunk and started talking Kirsten about my head killing me. She let me lay my head in her lap while she read her book to see if I could relax a little. What came next and what I did I will never understand except that my mind knew I had to. Somewhere in my soul I knew if I didn’t kiss her right now I would never kiss her again. I reached up with both hands moved the book out of the way placed my hands on her cheeks pulling her face to mine and kissed her full red lips.

I’ve never felt anything like that moment of my life. I knew I was in love, but as all young men, I didn’t understand it. It was only one kiss. We didn’t talk about it much and we all went to bed that night and I was left to my hated rationality. I kept thinking about college and the age difference and such. The next week in Paris, Kirsten and I were fused at the hip. We spent all our extra time attempting to figure out if this thing could work. Finally on the train ride back to our host town as we were pulling into the station I asked Kirsten “So are we dating?” as she was standing in front of my seat. At the very moment, God sent me a sign – the train jolted to a stop at the station and Kirsten’s knee fell squarely between my legs, leaving me breathless and in much pain. Yes she kneed me and I knew it was love.

Today

Now nearly 7 years and several cross country moves later, we are living happily in PA. Although we have been together for so long, each morning when I wake up to her beautiful face, as she’s kicking me, pinching me, forgetting to turn off the alarm, or whispering in my ear the word “forever”, I think to myself, I love this woman. It’s been a long journey for us to reach this point, and this is only a staging point for the longer journey ahead of us. Soon Kirsten and I will be joined as Husband and Wife, and our worlds will become one as our story already has.