Survival of the Fittest

Naked and Afraid IslandI’m no Bear Grylls. And I’m pretty sure my PSR (Primitive Survival Rating) would hover only slightly above 1. I’m not an Eagle Scout like Ironman and when my dad took us fishing when I was little, I hooked my mom in the boat more often than the fish. Sorry, mom. So based on that, I assumed I wouldn’t be a very good character addition to the Naked and Afraid series. You know, the ridiculous show where two complete strangers are paired up on a remote island for 21 days with no clothes, no food, no water and just one personal item…all for no prize. No prize. No money, no world-famous survival tile, just the knowledge that they can do it. But then I realized I’m addicted to watching these vulnerable, overexposed survivalists because, well, I’ve been one. A little over two short years ago, Ironman and I were dropped off at an amazingly beautiful island. The utopian kind, made of pristine white sand beaches, swaying palm trees and water so clear you could see every variation in the landscape below. In that moment, in a way, we were strangers too. We had just become new parents. I had never known him as Dad, only as Ironman. Everything was new. At first, all we could do was take in the beauty of this new place. Words were amorous and full of gratitude for the perfection that surrounded us, just like the two naked strangers meeting for the first time to start their three week challenge. And then without invitation, it hit us. Survival mode. At about Day 2, the sleep deprivation set in. The storm hit in full force with no sleep, little food and dehydration (since someone else needed all of my water). Small things like a shower seemed like an elusive dream. There were tears, little victories, then more tears. Ironman and I were in constant calorie burning mode with no time to refuel. Days began to blur together. Time became Vegas-like, passing without any sunlight exposure. The island, still beautiful, threw new challenges at us daily and self doubt crept in like dark clouds. Were we going to make it to the “extraction point”? Extraction point. Was there one? Our mental state shaky, we began slowly sinking in the comparison quicksand. Who had changed more diapers, washed more bottles, had more nighttime duty or collected more coconuts? Wait. What? It was then that we had to remember we were a team. We were in this together. And if we were going to make it, it was going to take both of us. So as I snuggled in my fluffy comforter, and sipped on my ice water, I watched those poor, exhausted tv strangers claw their way up to their extraction point. I felt a sense of pride well up inside as I thought to myself, “We made it to our extraction point too. It took about two months, but we made it. We were even crazy enough to star on the show twice. But, come on guys, at least we got an amazing prize.”

Ironman, I Still Do

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Today, Ironman and I have been married for four years. Being married for four years is not a long time. Unless you’re a celebrity, in which case it’s an eternity. Plus three. When I was young, my grandpa debunked the big myth that marriage is 50/50. He said that might be true some days. But others, it may be 60/40, 70/30 or even 90/10. Some days you will give more and others you will need more. As you know, being married to Ironman is a breeze. (*if you are new to this blog, or to reality, read that sentence correctly with blatant sarcasm). But Ironman gets a bad wrap on this blog, so I wanted to share some of the things about him you may not know that make me still want to say I Do.

His generosity. While staying in a hotel on one of his business trips, he overheard two women cleaning rooms. One woman was worried about how to afford shoes for her son. It hit home for him as he and his mother struggled when he was little. As he walked by them, he handed her money and let her know he understood her position and wanted to help her give her son new shoes. His generosity to a total stranger makes me proud to be his wife.

He’s a romantic. My views on romance have changed slightly since I was a teenager, when I was certain that like in the movies, roses and chocolates spelled the big R word. I’ve learned romance comes in many forms. Though he does still give me Costco flowers, and the occasional Crunch bar, some of the most romantic things he’s done have been the little things he’s said. Little J cannot yet say “I love you” so he says “La Loo”. When Ironman leaves the house, he smiles and says “La loo”. In such a simple way, it makes my heart melt every time. He tells me I’m beautiful, post two babies, when I do not yet resemble myself pre-kid era. When I tell him I’ve been up since 5:45 am because I was too worried about one of the kids to sleep, he asks “Why didn’t you wake me?”. And perhaps the most romantic thing he has said, many would consider pretty unconventional. Being older parents, we went through a lot of testing when I was pregnant with both Littles. One day during this time, he said to me “You know, if they did find something with the baby, I know we are a strong enough couple to handle anything.” He has a quadriplegic cousin, so knowing the gravity of of such a statement beats out 50 years of flowers. But keep ‘em comin’ anyway, Ironman.

His determination. Ironman lost over 100 pounds when he started doing triathlons. Post workout, he wasn’t happy unless something hurt. I admire his commitment and think he’s just a little bit nuts. When I ask him if he’d ever leave me for a triathlete, he says “I can’t. My bike is at your house.”

He’s well rounded. Ironman can ride 1,000 miles on a Harley, shoot a 45, and skin a pig. What can I say, he’s from Texas. But he also loves a good musical and can one-up the Project Runway judges to come up with a better fashion critique when I make him invite him to watch with me. One thing he can’t do? Cut hair. Just ask Little J, who looked like he should star in Dumb and Dumber 3. Someday, he’ll get you back for that, Ironman.

Ironman is a lot of things. Most of them drive me crazy. But we make a good team. Sometimes being married to him is 50/50, sometimes 60/40, and sometimes 90/10. Four years ago today, we looked out at the Santa Fe horizon as we danced our first dance as Mr. and Mrs. Ironman. We had no idea the amazing things in store for us. Ironman, I just want you to know I still say I Do. La loo.

Obsessed.xls

Cholesterol SpreadsheetIronman is obsessed with numbers. Let me elaborate so you may get the full gravity of the situation. It won’t be surprising that from all of the tech gadgets he excercises with, he loads a slew of performance data onto his computer. How many miles ridden, distances swam and times for each mile run all compete for hard drive space. This is somewhat excusable since he has Triathletes Disease. (If you or someone you love suffers from this illness, find out more about it here.) But once a year, Ironman goes to the doctor like a good Ironman should. He obtains his bloodwork results and puts them in a -wait for it- spreadsheet. He also notates the “normal” range (though I think we’ve already stepped out of normal range here) for the specific finding and then color codes cells that exceed the range and need attention. I can already feel that some men reading this are not alarmed. Hi dad. So. This was all par for the course until I recently came home from the doctor with a copy of my bloodwork results. When I arrived, hemoglobin packet in hand, his eyes lit up. I reluctantly handed them over because for the first time in my life, I was close to needing a highlighted cholesterol cell. Ironman dutifully entered my tainted stats while I recounted my appointment and my dissapointment. I cringed at this blip on my historically spotless health record.  I went about my normal day, you know, checking every nutritional label that stuck to jars, bags and boxes for its cholesterol content. I scoured google to confirm “normal range” and all of the horrible diseases and outcomes possible if I hovered above it. I planned an exercise regimen that extended past crawling around on the floor with the Littles. But just as I had forgotten about it, Ironman rounded the corner at dinner and said (you may want to sit down for this) “I’m kinda glad you need to work on your cholesterol. This means there is finally a slight chance I may outlive you.” Ironman, I sure hope you back up all of your data. You never know when your computer might crash.

Best By Date

Ironman thinks I’m ridiculous. For lots of reasons, really, but a chart topper might be my obsession with expiration dates.

Sell By Date
He considers them “best by” and I consider them more “I’ll drop dead by if I eat this” dates. I’m not sure what the secret formula is, actually. Maybe it’s just two kids sitting with a calendar and a blindfold. They could tell me anything and I’d throw it out before I let it touch these lips. Ironman’s solution is to inform me that restaurants feed me all sorts of old food I don’t know about. This just detours me from eating out, which I secretly believe is Ironman’s ploy to get me to stop putting such a large dent in the pocket book from dining out. It seems like everything has a best by date now. Even me. When people ask me how far apart the Littles are, I tell them 18 months. Then I find myself defending my Irish twins by divulging that Ironman and I are 40, so we didn’t have the luxury of “proper spacing”. So, I guess you could say 40 was our best by date. I understand that in this instance, the laws of nature guided us away from deciding to be new parents at 90, but I’d like to get away from all of this limitation. The limitation of dates, ages and numbers. When I started this blog on my 40th birthday, Ironman gave me a new laptop and wrapped it in paper with names of women who only became successful writers after the age of 40. His gift was much more than a laptop, though I think we can all agree a MacBook Air is God’s work. It was a reminder that I don’t want to be too old to start something new, too out of shape to try a triathlon (don’t tell Ironman that), too long out of the workforce to be a CEO someday after the Littles go to school. More importantly, I don’t want the Littles to adopt limitation, and I know one way to avoid that is for me to live without it. I’m going on a limitation cleanse. Just don’t make me eat that expired yogurt in the fridge. I’m too young to die.

The Littles Will Never Be Hipsters

Hipster Tot
I have news. We live in a hipster neighborhood, but the Littles will never be hipsters. To be a hipster tot, you must be cool. And you need to have cool parents, which I think we can all agree, the Littles do not have. Hipster tots wouldn’t be caught dead in disposable diapers because they aren’t “organic”, and let’s face it, they promote mainstream kiddie characters. I know, so passé. The Littles sadly don’t eat homemade vegan baby food or drink green sippy cup smoothies. And they don’t snack on kale, though Ironman swears we have some in the backyard (shh, don’t tell him, they are just weeds). The Littles clothing? Osh Kosh, which I totally did not pick up from the vintage rack at Hipsters R Us. So you’ll see every third kid wearing their digs if you visit the playground, which you wouldn’t if you were a hipster tot, because you’d be at the local coffee shop with your cool mom and skinny jean dad drooling on the latest indie cd. Sigh. I feel just terrible that the Littles will never experience confusion when someone calls their name and they are really just referring to nature or a piece of fruit. And I hope the fact that we won’t be taking them to school in a Prius won’t damage their psyche too much. You see, we aren’t effortlessly cool or edgy parents. Ironman doesn’t own a single speed or an underground band t-shirt. I wear glasses with real lenses and I have no idea what’s up and coming. I’m not even sure I know what’s right now. That leaves the Littles out of the Hipster circle. Their cool factor hangs in a delicate balance. But think of all of the money they’ll save growing up, not buying bow ties, scarves, slouchy beanies and flannel. And think of all of the time they’ll save, not sipping soy laden coffee, complaining about how hard their life is in an air-conditioned coffee house. Really, Ironman and I are doing the Littles a favor. Worrying about being cool, but not too cool, is a burden we don’t want them to have to carry. So, we’ll continue to wear regular jeans and season appropriate garb. We’ll continue listening to music even after the band becomes popular. Gasp. And we’ll continue to openly enjoy things. Someday when the Littles ask why we couldn’t be more like so-and-so’s hipster parents, we’ll just tell them the truth, “We don’t like to conform.”

Top 5 Things That Make You a Real Dad

Dad Letters Ironman, since today is Father’s Day and I’m always harassing you on my blog, I’ve decided to go easy on you in this post. Yeah, right. I’ve decided to list the top 5 things that make you a real dad.

5. The Bathroom. I’m pretty sure I speak for all women in asking what is it you dads do in the bathroom for all of that time? Gone are the days of newspapers and print magazines, but  now there’s Facebook, Internet surfing, maybe Zillow…and then what? I’m smart enough to realize this room is your sanctuary. Safe from the yapping, the fussing and oh yeah, then there are the kids.

4. Consumer reviews. Kids need a stroller. Or five. Five strollers. I once thought a stroller was a stroller. But we have walking strollers, running strollers and errand strollers. And dads love to purchase modes of transport. Our fab five is a direct result of an internet dad shopper who might buy a kidney on Amazon if the consumer reviews warranted it. Only of course, if the black market wouldn’t price match it.

3. Grass obsession. Not that kind of grass. Real grass. Grass that is mostly green, but has mystery brown patches, which will actually keep Ironman up at night. If I added up all of the time spent simply staring at the emerald rectangle, it might equal bathroom time. I said might.

2. Getting there. We’ll get there. It may take twice as long and be twice as loud, but we will get there. We will stop at all rest stops and everyone will need to stop again moments after departure. Deal with it.

1. Going for broke. Iroman could be rich. I’m not talking Wolf of Wall Street wealthy, but he could have a far bigger house, a fancy pants car and more bikes if it weren’t for us. I saw a Baby on Board sign in the back window of a mini van the other day. Show me that sign in a BMW and I’ll be impressed. Along with the added expense of the Littles, Ironman took on the role of sole provider to give us the greatest gift. Time. Thank you for always putting our family first, Ironman. It’s what makes you a real dad.

Bumblebees Don’t Talk

Ironman’s job has some perks. And I don’t mean free company pens or jump drives (though we have plenty of both, smothered in corporate logos). I mean perks. And for the first time, I got a sky box seat to experience what he does all of the time. I had the honor of being his plus one at a work event this week. This particular red-carpet like event (there was a real red carpet at the entrance), was a private party at Universal Studios. And when I say private, I mean they closed down the entire park for us.

Universal Ball

Well, not just Ironman and I, don’t be ridiculous. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty awesome receiving dirty looks from all of the day patrons, exiting the park early. As we walked by, their eyes narrowed on our company badges, dangling in the evening breeze, alerting them to our VIP entry. Ironman’s techie colleagues roamed the empty New York streets along side us, stopping by multiple food stations, drink stands and movie sound stages. Then we carefully selected our first dessert from an array of Food Network worthy cheesecakes, cannolis and cookies.

Universal Party Dessert Bar

After tucking away plentiful amounts of sugar, we decided to see what rides were at our disposal. We decided against the roller coaster as, well, did I mention the copious amounts of food consumed? Ironman’s eyes lit up like a school boy when we rounded the corner to a little ride you may have heard of, about aliens who change into everyday machinery. The almighty Transformers. Outside of the ride, one of these metal engine revers was greeting fans. An ominous voice boomed over the onlookers as he struck his fiercest pose. Next up, a bright yellow bot donned the stage, clinking his metal shoes about, when I leaned over to Ironman’s ear and whispered “why isn’t he talking like the others did?”

Bumblebee

Ironman looked at me and instantaneously transformed into his teenage self as he spoke (complete with rolling of the eyes) and responded “Bumblebee doesn’t talk, baby”. This was said by a 40-year-old man. At his corporate event. He laughed about it only seconds later, after he realized the serious tone he used in his Transformers for Dummies response. I will always remember this event. I got schooled on the speaking practices (or non-speaking in this case) of a chunk of imaginary metal. But I had a great time. I will never experience a theme park in this celebrity status way again. And I can assure you, if I ever encounter a yellow man-car, I will never question why he doesn’t talk.