Archive for January, 2012

Daily Dose Of Love

Posted on January 30, 2012. Filed under: Couples, Family, Home, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Dear Lora,

What are some fun, easy things my husband and I can do for each other to keep that romance alive when we don’t have time on some days to spend time together?  And how do we carve out time for each other while juggling 2 toddlers?

Romantically Challenged

Dear No-mance,

Don’t we all remember the dating days, also know as the days of wine and roses?  Awww, yes, those were fun times!  My husband, Scooter, and I refer to those as the P.R. (public relation) days – when I’d take time to put lipstick on and he’d wear his fancy Cole Haan loafers instead of flip-flops on date night.  Now he’s lucky if I have chap-stick on and I, if  Scoot wears what he considers to be his “good” thong sandals on Saturday night.

Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship has been there.  The crazy part, most of us can’t even tell you when the PR phase ends, it just melts away like a cube of ice on a hot summer sidewalk.  Then one day, we realize we’ve taken the term “slip into something more comfortable” a little too literally and have traded the red lacy thing for a blue fleece hoodie.

While there is a lot of comfort found in this phase, reflected both in your relationship and wardrobe, it’s important to make sure that you two are still connecting, even if it is in sweats.

Although it’s often said variety is the spice of life, I think a guaranteed date night with your spouse might be the ingredient you need for a spicy marriage.  I know it’s not very exciting to schedule romance, but when you have kids (of any age) at home, it’s a necessity.

For example, Tuesday night, after the kids are in bed, make a pact to power off your iPhone, Kindle and computer and have time together, without outside “noise”, as I call it.  In our house, that means popping open a bottle of wine, cuddling up on the couch and watching a TiVo’d episode of Mike & Molly.  For the record, it’s amazing how great anything on TV can be when you get to watch it without one kid doing a cart-wheel in front of the coffee-table, while another uses the fireplace poker as golf club.

It’s far from sexy, but I’ll tell you, it’s those moments Scooter says he misses most when he’s on the road.  It’s not necessarily the “bown chicka bown bown” moments, but rather the everyday things he misses.

Just for one night, don’t worry about the dishes or opening the mail, trust me, they’ll both be there in the morning.  Focus on just “being” with your better half.  No matter what you’re doing, you’re connecting and sharing a moment.  I often think there is too much pressure to do something “fabulous”, especially when you’re juggling all that you are – husband, kids and work.  I happened to think it’s pretty fabulous just to do nothing sometimes, as long as you’re together.

Raising 3 kids and a dog doesn’t leave a lot of time for Harlequin Romance novel moments.  I think as women we worry about recreating those nearly impossible fantasies — keep in mind, men don’t read those books!  They read Sports Illustrated and Newsweek…at last check, Fabio hasn’t graced the cover of either.

It goes without saying that if time, money and schedules weren’t an issue, you’d be getting dolled up and going to candlelight dinners a couple of times a week, but the reality is, that only happens when you’re a contestant on a reality show.  In my opinion, that’s why 99 percent of those relationships don’t last.  Real life isn’t filled with private jets and pomegranate martini’s, it’s about microwave popcorn and a bottle of Merlot from Trader Joe’s.

As for the electronic devices I just requested you unplug, use those to stay connected when you’re not together.  Put those high-tech puppies to use and start rekindling some old puppy love.  Text each other during the day, send a little email or call just to say a quick “hi”, no heavy conversation, just a little “hey, hope you’re having a great day”.  I love it when Scoot sends me an email that says “just thinking about you”.  It’s simple, takes only a second, and definitely makes me smile.  When he travels for work, I sometimes put a post-it in his Dopp kit that says “miss you already”.   Both things are free and easy to do.

Then there are the daily tasks you can take turn into sweet nothings.  For example, Scooter usually sets up the coffeemaker before we got to bed, so the coffee is ready when we get up.  Once in a while I surprise him and have it ready to go before he can get to it.  It’s surprising how cool he thinks that is.  And when he removes all the decorative pillows from the bed (including my side) at night, I dig it!

Turn the little things into surprise moments when you can and you’ll start connecting on a lot of levels.  Scooter and I are FAR  from perfect when it comes to this stuff…reading the above, you’d think we have it all figured out!  Trust me, we don’t, the important part is that we keep trying.

Cheesy?  A little, but I love cheese and don’t trust anyone who doesn’t!

 

 

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Hungry Husband Help

Posted on January 23, 2012. Filed under: Couples, Family, Home, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Dear Lora,

I am a terrible cook and a busy working mom.  Every night I limp by in the kitchen serving my family tragic meals of chicken fingers or mac and cheese.  My husband grimaces when he sees the meal and constantly rides me about becoming a better cook.  That would be great it I had the time and energy, to take on one more thing, but I don’t.  Help!

Hectic & Hungry

Dear H & H,

I’ll bet you squirm every time you hear the old “The way to a man’s heart is through is stomach”, don’t you?  The pressure that one line has put on all of us is huge.  Although that can be countered with “Diamonds are a girls best friend”, the reality is, men expect us to cook everyday, while we never expect diamonds, right?

Case in point: my husband, Scooter, expects me to cook every night of the week, except 2 – Friday, when he plays hockey and isn’t home for dinner and Saturday, which is date night, where I’m allowed to super size my #4 meal.  Romantic, I know.  Honestly, I’m happy eating anywhere someone else is doing the dishes, or wiping done the trays, as the case may be.

The other 5 nights of the week, I have to come up with the menu, of course no one in my family ever offers up any suggestions, but are all quick to complain the minute the food hits the table.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

No matter whom you’re married to, I’ve come to believe our husbands expect us to do it all – cook, cleaning, caretaker and co-bread winner.  The reality is, it’s just not possible!

I don’t care who you are, or how well you think you’re doing it, if your plate is that full, something needs salt.  Unless, of course, you don’t sleep, but then you’d be a vampire and we all know, thanks to those Twilight movies, even they have to hunt in the middle of the night for food – yuck!

Bottom line:  It’s impossible to be Martha Stewart, that’s why there’s only one.  Who else could plant her own peas, paint the pantry and plan a 5-course meal all in one day?  The reality is, she has an entire team of creative folks helping her keep up the façade.  And, here are a couple of key ingredients to her recipe for doing it all:  1.) She doesn’t have a husband or 2.) Small kids at home!  Unfortunately, the picture of perfection she’s created has caused quite a conundrum for the rest of us common chicks.

So how do you let him know it’s nearly impossible to be Rachel Ray (who, by the way doesn’t have children) every night after work?  Before you hit your boiling point, I suggest cooking up a plan.

I’m going to guess your husband isn’t a culinary wizard in the kitchen either, so I recommend choosing one night a week, where you, your hubby and possibly kids, all learn to cook together.  It could end up being a fun family night and helpful for all of you.  Thursday would be good, as most men are starting to mentally settle down work-wise around Thursday night – don’t select Monday, as that would likely be a recipe for disaster!

Despite my aforementioned comments, I suggest picking up a book like “Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook” – yes, Martha Stewart!  It’s a highly rated beginner cookbook, which she probably didn’t write by herself anyway.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Before you suggest this appetizing adventure, I’d figure out a way to approach it in guy terms, try using the word “team”, instead of you and I, tell him you have whipped up a tasty “game plan”.  Let him know you’re willing to learn how to cook, but would really love it if it was something you could whip up together.

I would also suggest making the night before a take-out night, where you pick up dinner, instead of trying to cook.  Nothing fancy, maybe just pizza and salad.  Next thing you know, 2 of your 5 weeknights are covered, leaving only 3 that you need to stress about.  Hey, it’s a start.

If it sounds boring to do the same thing every Wednesday or Thursday, keep this is mind, schedules create sanity.  Especially in men and children, when they know what to expect, things just run smoother.  Although men would like us to believe they like to be surprised – they’re probably taking about being surprised in another room in the house, not the kitchen.

Once the mystery is taken out of cooking, it’s actually a lot of fun, especially if you have a small army of elves who can clean up after you; in our house they’re called the kids!

And there are other benefits to cooking up a storm — in my kitchen I use it as an indirect line of communication, sometimes even warming one of Scoot’s cold fronts.

For example, if I make fish, Scoot assumes I’m upset with him, and candidly, sometimes I am.  He can’t stand fish or mushrooms, so if either show up in a dish, he knows he’s in the doghouse.  On the other side of the menu, if I make something he loves, like chicken and dumplings, he assumes I’ve used the credit card a bit too much and am looking for leniency.   Both have a surprising success rate.

And here’s the good news, you don’t have to learn how to cook like Julia Child to make a big impression.  In fact, sometimes, it’s the presentation that makes the meal.  Here’s what I’ve learned from my mom Norma Jean, put away the paper plates for a week and use real dishes.  N.J. has always said anything you’ve spent time cooking deserves a real plate.

Stick a tablecloth (one you can toss in the washer) on the table and light a couple of candles.  It’s amazing how much better food tastes when you light a 10 cent votive!

To help you start your culinary crusade, I’ve included a super simple recipe my whole family loves.  This spaghetti tastes exactly like the one made from scratch N.J. has made my entire life.  Since I don’t have time to let sauce cook all day I’ve created my version – enjoy!

Dear Lora’s Super Simple Spaghetti

1 lb. of ground turkey or beef

2 Jars of your favorite pasta sauce (I use Paul Newman’s Sockarooni)

2 T. of sugar

¼ C. of whipped cream cheese

1 whole bay leaf

1 box of your favorite pasta, cooked according to the directions on the box (I use whole grain thin spaghetti)

Parmesan cheese for serving

In a large pot, brown meat and drain.  Return to heat and add sauce, sugar, cream cheese and bay leaf.  Stir until well blended and the cream cheese has melted.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until ready to eat.  Remove bay leaf, pour over pasta and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serve with a salad and garlic bread.

If you’re trying to avoid carbs, microwave a spaghetti squash, use a fork to remove the strands and substitute for pasta.

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Ex-tramarital Email

Posted on January 16, 2012. Filed under: Couples, Family, Relationships |

Dear Lora,

Last week I received an email from the wife of an ex-boyfriend.  He’s a man I haven’t seen or had any contact with in over 16 years.  She informed me that she in the process of divorcing him and wanted to know if she could talk to me for a few minutes.  I have never met this woman and I don’t have a clue as to how she even got my email.  It’s a complete mystery why she wants to talk to me.  I moved on from that man the day I moved out.  Should I reply to her request?

Ex-tremely Uncomfortable Email

Dear Uncomfortable Ex,

Don’t you wish that instead of hearing “you’ve got mail” when you turn on your computer that it would send warnings like: “you’ve got problems” or “you’ve got to avoid this one sister”?!?  It would certainly come in handy, especially for this email!

Let’s start with the obvious – this isn’t typical behavior on the part of your ex’s soon to be ex.  This is where we recite my mom, Norma Jean’s favorite saying: “we need to pray for her”.

This woman is clearly hurting and looking for some sort of validation with her decision to leave this man, a man you once left yourself.  I totally get that.  However, reaching out to a complete stranger to discuss one of life’s most difficult moments — unless you’re paying 100 bucks an hour to talk to them — isn’t the greatest plan.

Most of us usually look to our closest family and friends for support, even then, we know which ones we can trust with our secrets.  I my case, I call my sister Tre, who wouldn’t give information to the FBI unless she was subpoenaed and dragged in front of a judge.  But if it’s something I need on the front page of the paper, I call our family town crier – I won’t mention her name here, for obvious reasons.  You most likely know who your “go-to” and “avoid” folks are as well.

In my opinion, an average person wouldn’t want to hand out that kind of information to someone they don’t know – thus, I’d be leery of emailing back.

My guess is that she’s doing the old “misery loves company” search.  Looking up former flames hoping they give her some fuel for her fire.  I say head for the hills and change your email, okay you don’t have to change your email, but at least make sure her address is moved to your spam folder.

I have always been leery of people like this, because honestly, if she’s willing to air her dirty laundry to anyone who will listen, I think that’s odd, and not odd as in “that’s an odd choice of clothing”, but rather that’s ODD!  Pretty much the only time you can get away with telling a complete stranger your problems is when you’re on an airplane and know you’ll never see them again, even then, chances are high they’re going to think you’re weird.

My policy, anytime a relationship ends, it’s for a reason and you don’t need to get caught in the middle.   Since it sounds like you have a clean break from him, and I’d leave it like that.  If you reply, you’re only asking for trouble.  I honestly don’t think any good can come from it.  And, if you happen to be in a relationship, I’m sure your significant other wouldn’t be thrilled to know you were getting involved in an ex-tramarital email exchange either.

Unfortunately, I know all about this type of person.  Although we’ve been divorced long enough to see 4 presidential inaugurations (and we’re coming up on a 5th in less than a year), to this day, my ex-husband can’t help but tell anyone who will listen what an awful person I am.  Here’s the kicker, we weren’t even married that long!  It’s a small world and once in a while the dirt will make its way back to me.  I don’t care, in fact, I’m completely perplexed as to why he’d waste time on such an old subject and so are those who are on the receiving end of his nutty banter.

He even did what this gal is trying to do to you – he contacted an ex-boyfriend to have what he hoped would be an “I hate Dear Lora” bashing session.  Despite how well he thinks it went, my former beau thinks he’s odd, just as I mentioned above  – because honestly, who wastes precious life minutes on that stuff, especially with someone you hardly know?  I don’t have time to get the laundry done around here, let alone spend any time focusing anyone else’s piles of clothing, I can only imagine what it would be like to try to fold it!

I’m sure your curiosity must be driving you crazy!  Remember, you probably already have a really good idea why it didn’t work with them, because you’ve already bailed on this guy before.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize why she is doing the same.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t feel for her or send good vibes her way, but whatever you do, don’t contact her.  This is a can of worms – easy to open, but nearly impossible to close.

One more thought, if she needed your to help with some part of her divorce case you would be contacted by her attorney.  If that happens, then I would suggest returning his/her call.  Otherwise, I suggest deleting this ex-treme email.

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iHop’n To Meet Mom

Posted on January 9, 2012. Filed under: Couples, Family, Parenting, Relationships | Tags: , , , |

Dear Lora,

Over Christmas break my husband, kids and I made our yearly trip to Texas to visit his family, where I get to watch him play the role of the “good son”.  It’s usually pretty hilarious, but this time something really bugged me.  Here at home, I can’t ever get him to go to breakfast on the weekend, but there he was Mr. Morning!  He would jump right out of bed to meet mommy at iHop!  Whenever I suggest iHop around here, I get “I don’t eat that stuff!”  In Texas, he goes from sleeping, to in the car racing toward iHop in about 6 minutes!  I’m so frustrated!  Why will he do this for his mom and not me?

iHop’n Mad

Dear Hopping Mad,

As our mothers have always said, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  I’ll take it a step further and say when it’s a son meeting his mom for a stack of shortcakes, this saying takes on a whole new meaning.

If he were bouncing out of bed to meet up with an old flame, I’d say you have every right to bombard him with a list of burning questions.  But since it’s your mother-in-law, you may want to put the matches down.

I don’t mean to make light of this link, but you can’t look at it the same way you would another women who would be considered a threat to you.  Although, there are plenty of times when mothers consider themselves “competition”, I don’t think your case seems to be one of them.  Trust me, I know all about men who are enmeshed with their mothers – but that’s a column for another day.

Your iHop’n hubby is most likely doing what his business card says: Perfect Son.   That’s the title on the card your mother-in-law carries around with her, right?  Mother’s and son’s have one of the most complicated, and, in my opinion, least understood relationships going on the planet.

How many times have you turned on the news and seen parents standing by their blatantly guilty children?  It’s because they can’t see past the complex bond.  Admitting their kids have an issue could mean there’s something wrong with them, so the cycle keeps going ‘round and ‘round.  Who can forget watching convicted killer, Scott Peterson’s mom defend him?  Now, imagine what the mother of a man who was to chicken to toilet paper another frat house in college thinks of her son – he’s a rock star in her head!

Your husband no doubt feels the obligation to keep his “Good Son” image going, as his mother is one of the few in the world who think he’s perfect, or pretty close to it.  You should hear my mom, Norma Jean, talk about my brother, you’d think he was at The Last Supper, he has total disciple status in her book.

Back to breakfast, most men feel some sort of pressure to maintain their position in their families of origin – I’m going to use the iHop menu to help to explain:

Let’s start with the basic combo:  If your husband is like mine, who happens to be the baby of the family, he’s super secure in his place in the bloodline and he doesn’t feel much pressure from his mom.  To me, this is just about the best spot a man can have, I describe his maternal relationship as the “Simple & Fit”, it’s around 400 calories and doesn’t need any frills.  Although his feeling of obligation to her is a little less than most men, he still responds to her needs and definitely plays the role of the youngest to a tee!

On the flip side, you have hubbies who swing to the other extreme, maybe they are the oldest boy, or worse, the only boy in the family – Egads!  I would most definitely put those men in the “Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity” category, which means they not only requires a lot of real butter, but the syrup has to be poured on thick when he meets his mom for brunch!

Most men are somewhere in the middle, most likely ordering the Two x Two x Two.  Basically a step above the low frills, but with much less butter and syrup.

Despite the varying degrees of complexity for this mother/son alliance, there is a common thread — his mother is most likely his first love and oldest flame, which comes with an unspoken obligation to keep the fire burning.  For the son, this means moving the logs around the fireplace to make sure embers keep glowing or, in his case, meeting her for a meal at her favorite spot to let her know she’s still loved.

Men have been told what to do, when to do it, how to act and most definitely what to eat by their mothers their entire lives, so it’s no wonder she gets to call the shots on where and when they will have pancakes and eggs.

As wives, we are (hopefully) seen as their partner, and not a parent.  Which means your sidekick feels like he can express himself with you and say “I hate eating there” knowing you most likely wouldn’t debate him on it.  Where as he knows his mother might take offense to someone bad rapping her favorite restaurant, or anything else.  See what I’m saying?

As the husband, he has more freedom to express himself, as the son, he’s trying to make sure he’s not hurting her feelings.

I know what you’re probably thinking…why don’t our husbands give us this consideration?  It would be FABULOUS if they gave us half the forethought they do their mothers, but in the majority of cases, they just don’t.  For one, it’s a lot of work, and for the most part, men are basic creatures, they don’t like muss or fuss and will take the easiest way out when possible.  Thus, you and I are usually left with their raw and honest answer, while mom gets the sugar-coated one.

So see, it’s not about his love for you, it’s about how he manages showing love for his mother.   I suggest letting this go, it’s not worth the energy, and honestly, if you tried to explain to him the abovementioned examples, he most likely wouldn’t undesrtand what you’re trying to get at.  It’s not because they’re dumb, it’s because “it’s complicated” and men, no matter how many advanced degrees they have, they don’t do “complicated” well.  I’ll bet most don’t even realize the emotional dance they’re doing with their mom.

If all your husband has to do is meet her for an inexpensive breakfast once in while, I’d say that’s a Grand Slam — wait, wrong restaurant — at any rate, count your blessings!

Be grateful she wants to meet at an iHop – honestly, she could be iHopping over to your doorstep every Sunday morning expecting you to cook!  Can you even imagine how difficult it would be to try to whip up one of those stuffed French toast combos?

I say wish your man and mother-in-law a hardy bon appetite and go grab yourself a Starbucks and a new pair of shoes…you can afford them if he keeps meeting her there!

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