The Year of Yes, We Loved You So

Let me just dust off the tumbleweeds here for a minute and prepare my monitor for the shock of some actual words being typed on my blog. It has been a while.

So, I’m up against my annual oh-hey-look-it’s-November-and-suddenly-I’m-way-behind-on-holiday-prep realization. My 412 mental browser windows opened simultaneously, like they can only for the person who is in charge of making all of the Christmas magic happen. And as I started thinking about the hell that is holiday cards, my photos reminded me that I never sat down here to write about and memorialize this past year.

Because, once in a blue moon, the universe throws you an unusual gift that deserves some attention.

My husband recently went back to work after being out for a full year. We ended up calling it The Year of Yes — not by design, but as a name that sort of evolved over the course of our time together.

I am married to one of the most low-key, even-keeled souls in the world. Which is good, because I am the opposite, and there can’t be two of me in a union without the inevitable occurrence of spontaneous mental combustion. We knew after he turned down a job transfer to Denver that he’d be laid off when the acquisition of his company was complete. This didn’t bother him. In his mind, he had been working for close to 30 years and the temporary time off was a welcome change.

He basically wanted three things out of this situation: family time, some travel and some golf.

I also wanted three things out of this situation: some long overdue home organization projects completed, an extra set of hands with the kids, and maybe a trip to remember.

So we had some basic overlap, which was a good starting point.

I’ve mentioned before that we are not really “must have things” people. Yeah, sure, I like new stuff sometimes but we would always choose travel and experiences first. This is why you should never ask me for style tips or what car to buy, other than a minivan that requires a FEMA-level cleaning. I can plan a vacation for you, but I have no clue what bag I should be carrying or what shoes to wear when I get there.

And so began the “hey, why not, let’s take a few trips” mentality. Because, as I reminded a 50 year-old man with three young kids, he’s never going to have this kind of time off again (#collegesavings #retirementmoney).

And so, there were lots of long weekend getaways. Local-ish ski trips. A visit to my dad in Arizona, where we brought the biggest drought relief to the desert in years. It wasn’t unusual to find me in the elementary school office on a Thursday around lunch time, with the administrative assistant addressing me by name and correctly assuming that I was there to sign my kids out yet again. Yep. Second and fourth grade is not going to send us off of a learning cliff. See you Monday, the car is packed.

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When spring break planning came along, we wanted to do something different since we didn’t have to plan around any work schedules and, hey, what’s a few more missed days of elementary school at that point in the year? (Yes, they managed to stay within state laws and complete their grades.) We entrusted our kids’ new-ish traveling chops, packed an entire rollerboard full of gluten-fee food for the Celiac Crew, and put ourselves on an 11-hour flight.

 

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They slept not one minute between the three of them, but we landed in Hawaii and all was forgiven — mainly because you can’t be annoyed about anything when you’re thousands of miles away from New Jersey, holding a giant coconut filled with booze while a board shorts-wearing Mickey Mouse walks by. To break up the sensation of being trapped forever in an airborne capsule with kids, we stopped in California on the way back for a few days, and finished up what was the trip of a lifetime.  We made this last point very clear, very frequently, as in: “Kids, there won’t be another trip like this. Enjoy it — hit the buffet hard and often, as well as every water slide in sight. Mom and Dad will leave no cocktail behind.”

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When the school year was drawing to a close, so came the realization that the Year of Yes would end in a few short months. Without the constraints of educational requirements and common core math problems, summer beckoned and we put a few more road trips under our belts. And in a swan song move for which I take full responsibility, we even managed to ditch the kids for a week and fulfill one of my bucket list items of seeing my favorite four people (U2) in Dublin.**

**Please note that I am not a stalker by the standard legal definition. This trip probably warranted its own post but I’m not willing to show my crazy quite that much.

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So, there was travel. Lots of travel. And would you believe me if I said that wasn’t even the thing I was most grateful for all year? It’s true. Because, more importantly, there was also a household where two parents were home at all times, and this was really the amazing part. Nobody had to be schlepped unwillingly to a sibling’s activity (I’m looking at you, child #3 — you of the spirited refusal in voice and body). I outsourced all math homework to my engineering-brained spouse. Dinner and laundry and cleaning were shared tasks. I was not driven to the point of insanity by 6pm every night. Divide and conquer — what a glorious way to live.

The kids loved having their father at home, having him drive carpools or take them to school. They weren’t waiting around every night to see if he’d make it home from work before they went to bed. It was wonderful for them.

And I had a daytime date. It turns out that, when it comes to everyday conversation, I really prefer my husband over almost anyone else in the world. That should probably go without saying, but a lot of people would roll their eyes at me and say, “I would lose it if my husband was home every day. Aren’t you dyyyying for him to just go back to work already?”

Honestly, I wasn’t.

I liked hanging out with him in intervals that weren’t driven by schedules or kids’ commitments. Full sentences, even paragraphs, were spoken on an uninterrupted basis. Yes, of course there were times I needed him to get out of my space or stop messing with the well-oiled domestic machine I’ve cultivated over the years, but that wasn’t very often. We’d go out for coffee or lunch sometimes, maybe run an errand, and spent a lot of time together following the insane political news coverage of the last year. I can’t remember if it was him or me who threw the first shoe at the TV during a Sean Spicer press briefing, but it was good to have someone here who shared my outrage. (Yeah, yeah, I’m trying not to be too political here — stay with me — I’m moving along.)

Were there downsides to this whole arrangement? Sure. My weekly grocery bill saw about a 30% increase by having the biggest food consumer home 24/7. And with that came a slow but steady uptick in junk food around my house. Did you know that my husband singlehandedly keeps Entenmann’s in business? It’s true. I have the pantry to prove it. And if you were wondering what post-college adult enjoys buying Ring Dings or Drake’s Cakes, he’s 5’10” and lives right here. Don’t get me started on the abject injustice of his caloric intake with zero weight gain consequences; it is a long-standing pain point for me. To have him here, flaunting his glazed donut for breakfast while I had my usual spartan meal on my way to Pure Barre, was really a drag.

Also, you know those to-do list items you’ve had for your house that neverrrr get done? The ones that have been written down for a decade of rainy days? Let me tell you something super-depressing: We have them on our list and, after a full year of my husband being home, they did not get done. Nope. So, I have basically made my peace with the fact that they must be deleted because there is simply no chance in hell they will ever happen now. Goodbye, visions of a cleaned out attic and purged basement. Apparently, it’s just not fucking feasible in this lifetime.

Now and then, I’d have mini panic attacks over the course of the year about not-so-minor things like income and employment. My husband was calm and cool, working on it, knowing he’d land something. He was giving himself a year and, true to form for the way he is lucky about everything in life (ahem), along came a job just as the year off was coming to an end. You can’t make this shit up.

(Also, I do not share the good luck unicorn thing he has going — so, yes, I’ll join you for a moment of vomiting in solidarity.)

And just like that, the Year of Yes was over.

And. It. Flew. By.

The week before he went back to work, I was having anxiety over the transition back to reality. Who was going to deal with all of these kids, all of the time? Was the math homework, now a year more advanced, just going to get itself done? It all had to revert to the old way. But, back to real life we went.

It was like ripping off a Band Aid. I looked around the first day he was gone and realized I’d have to launch my shoe at Sarah Sanders’ press briefing all by myself. I had a long chat with the now four year-old about not throwing down while attending ballet/Girl Scouts/gymnastics/fencing/football for his siblings. I watched my kids cry as their dad left early in the morning and said he’d be back in about 12 hours. I took myself out for coffee and made peace with the to-do items that will never, ever see the light of day.

And we all bounced back just fine. Because, why the hell not? We were lucky to have what we did, and it was amazing while it lasted. And, frankly, it was time for the Entenmann’s stash to go.

Maybe I’ll just tackle the basement and attic on my own this year.

 

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