Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Wife Olympics

Vitals: We are home.  We only got one child out. One of us will have to go back for the other child in a few weeks. We must forgive the Ukrainian government for this.

Endless Prattle:   So, our flight was on Thursday, November 18th.  We spent most of the morning packing, but there were two noteworthy events that occurred before we left.

One involves the kids journals.  We made them keep a record of their trip for school and they have been more or less faithful about writing in them every  morning.  Reilly and Sharon will be turning theirs into their public school teachers and Matt and Paul keep a journal for homeschool.  I should note here that Paul never really wrote about Ukraine or the adoption.  His journal entries were all about the imaginary world in which he lives, the creature he was creating or fighting and how the war is progressing.  It’s a little hard to correct for spelling and grammar, since I never really understood his entries —except for ONE….

A few days earlier, I walked into the kitchen in our apartment and idly thought, “I want brownies.”  Then I took a step and remembered we don’t have an oven.  After another step, I realized that even if we had an oven, we don’t have cocoa.  A third step brought me to the table and as I sat down, it just sort of hit me that there was NO WAY I was going to get brownies for a good long time.  Sadly, this thought was so traumatic that I teared up, my nose got red and I couldn’t talk.  Just my luck, all the kids, including Bill, were sitting at the table.  Bill was all over me, asking me what was wrong, sure that at least the dog had died (possibly hoping the dog had died), putting his arm around me, hovering.  The kids were locked on me wondering what could be wrong and waiting for me to tell some dreadful news….  I finally got a good enough breath to stammer out, “re- re- remember …brownies?!” and then got up to find a tissue.

I can’t remember what happened after that, but I have to say in my own defense, that is the ONLY time I lost my composure in front of the children.  I ate organ-meat and dill pizza for crying out loud, and I smiled while doing it!!  Nor did I ever lose my temper with my kids, even though we were in a small, one bedroom, one toilet apartment for TWO MONTHS.  Nevertheless, EVERY KID wrote about this event in their journal.  Mind you, they were not gracious enough to say, “Mom teared up over brownies.”  Oh no.  Instead, they wrote entries like, “Mom Lost It!” and, “My mother is cracking up!”  ….charming.

There’s no fighting this by the way. Their father has been short tempered the entire time, practically blinded by his contempt for all-things-inefficient, and gracing us with an endless stream of proof that “these-people-are-lunatics.” But the children never wrote one word about HIM.  Mom is the only one who cracked. 

The other noteworthy event happened in the bathroom.  I walked in on Bill as he was getting ready for a shower.  I sat down on the toilet in all my glory and said quietly, “I hate it here.”  Bill, who was taking off his socks said, “I was just thinking the same thing.”  Then after a second he said, “Actually, I wasn’t thinking that.  I was thinking, ‘you’re beautiful,’ but I hate it here too.”  Wasn’t that sweet?  How many women are graced with lovely compliments while on the crapper?  I decided to relay that, since I am about to berate Bill for several paragraphs and I don’t want to have to convince to my mother that we are not going to get a divorce…yet.    

Bill doesn’t travel well. I don’t know if it’s come out in any of these entries, but the man is a, “TYPE A,” “why-isn’t-the-system-perfect?” “help-or-get-out-of-my-way,” work-a-holic.  I adore him.  But even my deep love cannot get around this one teeny-tiny-little personality quirk.  It must be endured.

One of the ways this trait manifests itself in our marriage is that every time the family goes through an airport, Bill goes into Traveling-A-Drive and puts me through his own version of Wife Olympics.  Events include:

The Luggage Carry:  Bill takes the largest/heaviest bag out of the taxi then races off to the front door.  I gather the children, zipper coats, count hats and mittens, assign the lesser bags to be carried, stop the fighting, wipe the spittle off my cheek and eventually, pick up the youngest child to race after him before he disappears into the airport.  Extra points awarded for a backward glance to find the forgotten mitten and keeping all the children with in ten feet of the mom.  This event happens in reverse at the end of the trip, with me at Baggage Retrieval and Bill racing off toward the car rental. 

The Concourse Slolem:   A race from Concourse A to Concourse D at top speed, kids in tow, dodging unworthy-travelers-who-are-slower-than-us.  Top competitors (that’s us) will take the stroller up the escalator because the elevator is too slow.  Points are deducted for lost children, passenger bumping, dropped luggage, or losing sight of the husband –thank God mine is relatively tall.

Passport Purgatory:  We stand in line, Bill in front, for anywhere between 20 minutes and two hours.  Bill loudly complains about the people, the process, the lack of personal space, the dad who is ignoring his children in the next line over while letting his wife take care of all the discipline, and my unreasonable preference to carry my own passport.  My job is to take care of all the discipline, gently remind Bill to keep his voice down, count the children, distribute gum and discreetly explain the source of unsavory smells.  This may seem innocuous, but it’s actually the hardest event. 

Seat Shuffle:  Bill holds the smallest child for this one.  He also carries all the tickets.  He shows them to me for exactly 2.5 nanoseconds, than races down the expandable hallway to the plane.  I gather the rest of the children, explain to the ticket agent why we don't have our tickets, walk to the plane (knowing Bill can only go in one direction this time, so we can’t lose him), and explain to the stewardess that I have NO IDEA where our seats are, but I’m with the tall, scowling man so… you know, everything’s fine.  At the seats, I maneuver around/through the other passengers (who are looking at my children like they spread the plague), determine where we are assigned then set up an invisible force field around our children so they don’t irritate Bill or the other passengers.  

This is not my best event.  I can figure out our ROWS, since Bill will unknowingly indicate somehow where I should be going, but I just can’t pinpoint whether we are in seat ABCDE or F.  I usually get this wrong, sitting in the seat of some innocent passenger, who, when I get up, betrays the terror behind his eyes by fervently whispering, “Dear God, please don’t let this seat be D-24.”

These events rotated over a 15 hour traveling schedule.  I have to admit, that by the time we got to the last flight, I was wiped out.  I had more or less held my tongue the entire trip since, there’s just no fighting the Travelling-A, and after all, this is a competition, but when we landed in Dulles I’d had enough.  At the end of the flight, as we were standing up and gathering our carry-ons, I announced to all the kids and everyone else on the plane, “KIDS, WE’RE IN THE STATES NOW.  WE’RE NOT IN A HURRY ANYMORE!  DO YOU HEAR ME?  WE ARE NOT IN A HURRY. IF YOUR FATHER RACES OFF, I WANT YOU TO FALL DOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AIRPORT AND STAGE A PROTEST.”   The other men on the plane looked at me like I was a lunatic while their wives and children tried to touch me and asked for my blessing.  A few of the Moms who were too far away threw roses.

Sadly, this announcement was not enough to penetrate the cement walls guarding my husband’s traveling persona.  He hit the door of the plane at top speed, glanced back to remind me that the next event, Concourse Slalom, was well underway and got out his GPS to plot a course toward Baggage Retrieval.  We found him there a few minutes later, pacing like a caged  lion.  We decided to rent a van so we had to extend the Reverse Luggage Carry event all the way to the bus stop for the Avis rental parking lot. 

This is where, for the second time the entire trip, I lost my composure.  When Bill ran off toward the exit (which, I must admit, was well within the Olympic Committee Guidelines), he left the rest of us far behind.  Matt had a rolling suitcase with a backpack on top that kept falling off.  Reilly and I were pushing strollers (one with Ruslan, one with luggage) and Paul ran ahead to find Bill.  Well, we got way behind with the result that Sharon was running back and forth between us along the sidewalk, much too far off for my comfort.  I finally mentioned in my kindest, gentlest voice that Bill might "WAIT FOR US!"  So of course, we had a well deserved argument.  

Matt and Paul decided it was their job to announce this to everyone we met for the rest of the night.  They told the people at the bus stop, the people already on the bus with us, the people at Avis, and they would have told the people at McDonalds, but they couldn’t get their face close enough to the drive through window.  I think this was totally unfair of them, by the way.  It’s just not right to say, “Mom and Dad had an argument,” without going into the details.  They might at least point out that it was not my fault.  He started it.

On the way home, I told the kids they don't have to write about the trip in their journals anymore.  Honestly, I don't think they could spell most of the words I was using with Bill, but you just can't be too careful.  A little while later, Bill apologized then went to the grocery store and came back with two boxes of brownies.  Thank goodness we are home.


  1. You crack me up! Welcome home, happy brownie gorging and put up some pictures!!!

  2. Oh my goodness you had me cracking up! I read the whole thing to my husband and we got a good laugh. Enjoy the brownies!