Category Archives: Marriage

Families By The Numbers: How Does Yours Measure Up?

Do you know how many families are just like yours? We’ve all got aunts who can easily be referred to as the Cat Lady, or uncles and/or cousins who try too embarrassingly hard to be cool.

But how many U.S. households look like yours? Didn’t know if you peeped the graphic in The New York Times recently that gave us a glimpse inside our homes. The link of it is here.

After futzing around, I found that 8.1 million homes are similar to my own, meaning a husband, wife and two kids. Most of us have incomes between $75,000 and $150,000 and compared to other groups, a higher proportion of Asians live in these households.

Of course the graphic doesn’t factor in that my husband’s a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy from Norway and I’m a brown girl from Kansas. I’d love to see the interracial numbers though.

According to the U.S. Census, the number of interracial marriages has risen 20 percent since 2000 to about 4.5 million. And that number continues to grow.

The stereotypical nuclear family is constantly changing, what will it look like in the future?

With New York’s historic approval of gay marriage, I’m sure it won’t be long before other states follow suit. The New York Times’ family-o-meter now shows there’s 18,654 households with two men and two kids. Ten years down the road, what will that number be?

I love that our society is constantly evolving. It wasn’t so long ago that marriages like my own were illegal and people proclaimed that the Bible was against interracial relations. (The U.S. Supreme Court declared such unions legal in 1967.)

So I ask again, how many households look just like yours? None. We’re all unique and come with our own formulations. What we do have in common is beyond the numbers. It’s the good stuff, things like hope, love and happiness. And thank God for that.

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Enough Of Her Wedding, Let Me Tell You About Mine…

All week we’ve been inundated with details of today’s nuptials between Prince William and Kate Middleton. Well I married a prince of my own on Aug. 10, 2002. Click here for our story.

If you’re thirsty for even more wedded bliss, here’s our website.

We Came, We Saw, We Shuffled

The temperature was in the lower 70s, clouds dotted the sky, a slight breeze skimmed off the lake and we were surrounded by more than 32,000 people. What a perfect day for a first race.

It was Chicago’s Shamrock Shuffle, the largest 8K road race in the world and I was finally getting the opportunity to run a race with my husband. Though neither of us are avid runners, I’ve always wanted to do a race with him. He’s cheered for me at my races, but I wanted him on the frontline, not the sideline.

We decided to run the race as part of the Imerman Angels, an organization that provides one-on-one support for those with cancer. I was running on behalf of my two cousins, Jimmy and Chubby who died of cancer. (With the support of family and friends Hubby and I raised $525! Thanks again to all who donated.)

There’s something magical about races, a sense of community, excitement and strength that everyone should get to experience at least once. And today was my husband’s day.

A few minutes before the race was to start, we were jittery with anticipation, marveling at the crazy ways people paired running gear and shamrocks. Hubby was worried I’d leave him behind. I reminded him how he had trained way more than me and that he would be fine.

Then the crowd lumbered forward. We were off.

A few steps before my favorite view of the race. My "money shot" was covered up by my thumb. 😦

We paced ourselves fairly slow, as I always fear I’ll run out of gas at the end of the race. My smile grew as we neared one of my favorite views. It’s just as we’re about to duck under Michigan Avenue, you can see Nordstrom above you and the bobbling mass of runners sloping below.

Around the first mile I felt a stitch in my side. Whoa, what’s going on? Not too long ago I ran 3 miles and felt like I could have done it backward, now I’ve got a stitch at Mile1? This isn’t good.

Meanwhile Hubby’s chugging along like the little engine that could, giving me encouraging grins every few steps. We hit up the drink station and I thought Mile 2 would be better, but at the end of that one, someone had swapped my legs for concrete pillars.

Now Hubby’s shooting me some concerned looks, he can tell I’m hurtin. I’m wondering what’s going on with my body. I’m hot, I’m sluggish and it seems my runner’s high is late on arrival.

“If you want to go ahead, that’s fine. I don’t want to drag you down,” I told him.

He shook his head. “No, we finish this together.”

The temperature climbed and I could tell I was hot, too hot. I saw an onlooker with a water bottle and wondered if I could ask him for a swig. I started to think about all the people I was running this for. I heard my cousin Chubby tell me: “Now girl you finish this race, you ain’t that big.” And I imagined Jimmy smiling at me in a fur coat. (One of my favorite memories of him is when a bunch of us went to try on fur coats for fun, he tried to talk Hubby into getting one for me. Hubby wisely refused.)

I thought of my Twitterfriend who was diagnosed with cancer two weeks after having her first child, of my friend Glenn who’s an amazing man and lost his mom to cancer. She had to be spectacular to raise such a great person. I thought of Andre and his stark honesty about his courageous battle, a little girl named Anna who has since passed. All of them fighters, all of them great. If they can fight such a rotten beast like cancer, surely, surely my ass can make it across the finish line.

“You’re doing great baby,” Hubby smiled at me. I just nodded. My cheeks were on fire and I was starting to get chills. I knew I was dehydrated and overheated. This was not good at all. Instead of being smart and stopping to walk and get something to drink, I plodded forward.

A black woman in the crowd yelled for us to dig deep and keep running, that we were almost there. That helped me kick it up. Hubby and I rounded the corner that was the last leg of all major Chicago races. It’s a hill. (Why do they put the end of the race atop the only hill in town?)

And we dug, dug, dug our way to the top of that hill. We turned the corner, and could see that beautiful banner that reads: FINISH.

A woman who was quite… rotund passed me and I thought: No way. I sped up, she did too. I sped up more and kept it up so that she wouldn’t even try to catch up. Hubby was right next to me. Just before we got to the finish line, we embraced the cliché, clasped our hands together and crossed.

“We did it baby,” he said.

Yes, I thought. We sure did.

A Little Norwegian Help On Taking A Vacation

My husband complained to me that it’d been too long since we’d gone on vacation. I thought he was being ridiculous since we last had a weekend getaway in November. Then I remembered ah yes, it’s the Norwegian in him.

The view of Lake Como.

Hubby was born in Norway and moved here when he was 19. In his “muthaland” as he calls it, the law requires that workers have at least 25 paid vacation days and there’s 10 public holidays.

In the U.S., employers are not required to provide any paid vacation and usually large companies allow for 15 vacation days and 10 paid holidays, according to Mercer Human Resource Consulting. The Center for Economic and Policy Research found that the U.S. was dead last when it comes to the world’s richest countries. Twenty of the richest countries require companies to provide paid vacation days. Not ours.

I don’t mean to bore you with statistics, but wanted to give some perspective on our different viewpoints. Our trip in November was the last hurrah as a family of three and my seven-month-pregnant-self rocked a bikini at a waterpark in Lake Geneva, Wis. (Me to hubby: “You can tell I’m pregnant and not fat right? <insert eye roll.>)

This past weekend we went back to Lake Geneva. We like the area because it’s close to our home, yet the culture is so different that it truly feels like a getaway.

Our cabin at Duffy's.

This time we returned to a privately owned batch of cottages steps away from Lake Como. It’s called Duffy’s and Hubby and I were excited to go back because we had a great time there with Logan two years ago, plus across the street from the cottages is Duffy’s pub, so being the lushes that we are, we were happy not to have a designated driver.

We left on Friday early afternoon and came back Monday afternoon. We didn’t do anything fancy, but we enjoyed ourselves. We grilled yummy grub, went on walks, stayed up late, played board games with Logan, and after the boys were down Hubby and I talked.

It felt so good just to talk about nothing with him. We’re so rushed with responsibilities and pressed for time that our conversations can seem task-oriented and feel more like a business meeting. “I’m working late on Wednesday and Thursday this week.” “I’m going to the store, what do you need?” “The bathroom sink is wonky again.” “It’s time for an oil change.” “Logan has soccer on Saturday…”

And it was a good vacation. We got away from our To Do lists, focused on our family and we’re all better for it. We all recognize the importance of getting away, but all of us can’t, won’t or just plain don’t do it. I’m glad I’ve got a Norwegian to help me to stop and enjoy life.

My Mother-In-Law, Myself

Here’s a multiple choice question for you. My mother-in-law is A) meddling B) critical C) not understanding D) none of the above. If you answered D, you are correct.

Logan, Me and my MIL

My mother-in-law lives in Norway, but we’re quite close. She’s very nice, yet also very strong-willed and opinionated. I’m also strong-willed and not shy on sharing my opinion, but what makes our relationship work so well is that we have a healthy dose of respect for each other.

Relationships with mother-in-laws can be tricky. It’s like a tale of two queens in one kingdom. They’re the mother, they’ve watched your partner grow up, guiding them along the way. When you come into the picture it’s like there’s a new queen in the castle, new rules and now your partner is listening to someone else’s guidance: yours. (Well, at least we hope our partners are listening to us…)

I remember the first defining moment between me and my MIL. It was shortly after Hubby and I married and she and I were hanging out in her kitchen. She turned to me in her sweet accent and eagerly asked if we were going to start having kids. I told her no, we were going to wait a bit.

She frowned and asked if I was sure, because it would be nice to start a family. I paused to ponder how to phrase my answer. One of the great things about Norwegians is their brutal honesty, so I told the truth. We wanted to have kids, but I wanted to spend time working on my career first, so babies had to wait. She frowned again and then said: “Well that makes sense. I tell (my daughter) to wait to have kids, so why shouldn’t it be the same for you?”

And just like that we moved on to something else. She never asked me about having grandchildren again. That’s how we work, we have starkly honest conversations and we can agree to disagree with no hard feelings. It all comes down to respect and over the years it’s created a very close bond.

When she stayed with us for three weeks for Ethan’s birth, it was great to have such unconditional support. When Hubby was in Florida on business a week after the birth, my MIL and I had an efficient rhythm in running the household together. And each evening we’d empty a bottle of red wine over a girlie movie that took twice as long to watch because we’d pause it and talk about all kinds of random things.

I’ll always be  thankful for those days we spent as just us, together. Her unconditional love. Her compliments on how I handled my cantankerous 3-year-old. Even listening objectively to my gripes about my husband, her firstborn son. I’ll be eternally grateful for our relationship and I wish that kind of blessing for others. I know most folks don’t have this type of relationship with their MIL, which makes me all the more appreciative of mine.

Falling For A Hallmark-Free Valentine’s Day

I’ve never been gaga over Valentine’s Day. Not because I’m bitter and spent many alone, but because it feels like a Hallmark holiday. And many of the staple gifts aren’t appealing. I’m not a big chocolate fan. (Yes, I know, gasp, clutch your pearls, fall over in shock _ I’m used to that reaction.)

I love going out to dinner, but when you hit up a restaurant on V-Day, it blows. The wait is forever, the kitchen has a hard time keeping up with the increased demand and it’s just more crowded and noisy than a normal night. (I sound like an old grump.) If I’m going to get wined and dined, I prefer a non-holiday.

This year I had the bright idea of not buying each other anything. We’ve got enough stuff, in fact I’ve been purging our stuff over the past six months, so I’m in no rush to get more stuff. I asked Hubby to simply write me a letter.

We are busy. Everyone is. And we don’t hit pause to say how much we mean to each other. It’s just the usual “I love you, “Thanks,” “You’re the best,” etc. Not so romantic, right?

When I first brought up the letter-writing idea, Hubby wasn’t too enthused and said “As if I already don’t have enough to do.” But he liked the price point: Free. After dinner, and while Logan was orbiting the livingroom from a sugar high, Hubby and I opened our letters.

Mine to him was handwritten since he thinks that handwritten letters are a lost treasure. I poured my heart out and it was really cathartic. His letter to me was spectacular, a page and a half typed and outlined all the reasons why he thought I was so great.

He said when I first asked him to write a letter, he wasn’t too thrilled, but was glad he did it because it was nice to take a step back and really look at our relationship. Turns out we both feel lucky to have one another.

After 13 years of being together, that night we fell a little bit more in love with each other. And Hallmark had nothing to do with it.

Basking in the Christmas Afterglow

Looks like we made it through another Christmas. Another season of long shopping lines, crazy sweaters and stuffing the stockings and our tummies with holiday cheer. I’m a bit sad to see it end because I gotta say this was one of the best ever.

Yes, that’s Tiny Tim’s voice you hear in the background. (God bless us, everyone.) But allow me to be a little cheesy in my Christmas afterglow.

Making Christmas cookies.

Since my family lives in Kansas and my husband’s is in Norway, we’re usually traveling for the holidays and being pregnant, that wasn’t possible. Meaning, this was our first Christmas at home, no luggage, no airports, no rental cars, just us and our cozy home.

I admittedly hadn’t prepared much for Christmas because between work, Logan, keeping the house afloat and many visits to the doctor, there wasn’t much time. I was lucky to get a bit of breathing room to get gifts for Logan and our extended family. That meant Christmas Eve morning, I had to jet to Macy’s in the morning to pick up some sweaters for Hubby. He made the same trip that afternoon. We are indeed soul mates.

Other than that, we spent the rest of the day in our pajamas, hanging around the house playing, watching TV, relishing the last few days of being a family of three. Logan and I baked Christmas cookies and I made a roast with veggies for dinner. Afterward, my little guy helped me wrap one of Hubby’s gifts. I told him how it had to stay a secret and that dad would only find out what it was when he opened the present in the morning.

A few minutes later Logan showed off his wrapping handiwork to his dad saying “Dad, you see? This is for you, but you can’t open it until Christmas. And do you know what it’s gonna be? It’s gonna be a shirt, a sweater.”

Nice, thanks. That night, Hubby and I stayed up late wrapping presents just like real parents.

Early Christmas morning Logan was so excited to find that Santa Claus had eaten the cookies and drank the milk we left him. The explosion of gifts that were under the tree was also mind-boggling. And low and behold, Santa got him the beloved crane train he’d asked for, as well as more Thomas the Tank Engine accessories, every vehicle imaginable that you’d see at an airport (planes, ladder trucks, delivery trucks, etc.) Play-Doh, books, it was a toy extravaganza.

It took us awhile to get through all the gifts because Logan had to play with every one before he opened the next, which made it more enjoyable instead of the usual frenetic, clawing of wrapping paper to expose the present inside.

We then played with all of his new toys, Skyped with our families and I made a simple Christmas dinner of Cornish hens, garlic couscous, broccoli and corn on the cob.

It was all very easy, very stress-free and very perfect.