J: I invited Michael to co-blog with me for the second time in honor of Day 1 of 40 Days of Writing. Today is our one-year lease-iversary, which means our lease is up and we can move out if we want. It also means we have been cohabitating for one whole year and we still like each other. “Love” goes without saying. “Like” is very important when you are sharing a tiny house with a giant man and his two young boys.
M: At first it was a bit like Peter Pan and the lost boys had moved into Wendy Darling’s nursery. But after a year of learning, careful negotiations and compromises, things are finally getting dialed in…I think. It might not be fair to say there have been compromises on both sides. She brought a house cat into my life. I brought three-year-old and five-year-old boys into hers. It would take the cat half its lifetime to inflict the destruction my boys unleash in the 45 minutes it takes me to fix dinner. Sure, I’ve made some good moves, like offering to pay for professional housecleaning twice a month and contributing a bit more to rent, but ultimately I find myself wringing my hands often and hoping she isn’t secretly searching Craigslist for some kind of sanctuary. Can I be charming enough to convince her this is all a good idea? Can anyone?! We just planted tomatoes last Sunday. I take commitments like that as a good omen.
J: It was actually more like Shrek than Peter Pan, but he’s not the only one that wrings his hands on occasion. I sometimes wonder if the three of them would rather have a bachelor pad. I’m a bit of a clean freak. This doesn’t always bode well for this household. I try my best not drive the three of them crazy with following them around with a towel in my hand wiping every crumb left behind their wake. The twice monthly housekeeper was a very good move on his part. It’s true there is constant picking up, wiping down, and not a day goes by without dirty laundry, but knowing there’s a lovely lady named Irma coming every other Friday for a deep clean helps me to not sweat the small stuff. I admit it’s an internal battle within myself, but I’m hoping the boys might benefit from small doses of my craziness. After all, my own grown-up boy is very tidy and has impeccable manners.
M: The other day Jodee shouted, “Finn! Stop eating your boogers!!” He just looked at her with an expression that said, “Lady, these are mine. You want some? You’ve got a perfectly good nose of your own. No one is stopping you,” and he just kept right on feasting. It should be noted that language is an issue in our house, in that the boys don’t really use it. They’ve both been diagnosed as being “on the spectrum.” On the bright side, they aren’t those kids who interrupt you with questions and horrible anecdotes every 11 seconds. On the other hand, it would be nice if Finn would eat food.
J: When I first met these two tykes, Liam would eat very little and Finn ate whatever you put down in front of him. There’s been a shift. Liam now eats more than Mike and I together and Finn starves himself, though food is certainly entering his body as evidenced by his man-sized poops. Watching him pick and eat tiny shreds of parmesan cheese off the top of a plate of delicious pasta and then push the plate away is enough to make me want to pull my hair out. You start strategizing. “Maybe if we mix in the cheese so he can’t see it,” I say, while handing him a cheese stick. Meanwhile, Liam has eaten his entire plateful and is now finishing Finn’s.
And yes, there is the autism thing, but these are two incredibly bright, adorable boys who have a whole village behind them. The situation does present it’s own set of challenges. It challenges everyone in our household in different ways and frustration does seep into our relationship on occasion, but what Mike and I have going for us is that we never hold back. We are two open books walking around that house, and ultimately we both want the same things for them. They come first. I knew that going into this.
M: There is a key to making this all work: taking a break. Actually, not only is this the key to making it work, it’s the key to happiness and fulfillment as far as I’m concerned. It’s a universal truth that you never appreciate something more than when it’s gone. This is true of children, and it’s true of free time. So the fact that I give up my freedom for half of the week AND I give up the kids for the other half the week, means that I truly cherish my time with them as much as I cherish my time without them. There is nothing sweeter than seeing their little faces after two days, except maybe that first sip of wine alone with Jodee after they leave.
J: Yes, what Mike said. This year has been a wild ride, full of wonderful highs, like Mike landing his dream job, and the lowest of lows, like Maeby almost dying. And there is the middle of the road stuff that makes up day to day living. Stuff like establishing schedules and routines for the boys, finding TV shows we both like because his favorites are science fiction fantasy and Glee, and mine are dark and twisted dramas and documentaries, finding music we BOTH like (Billy Joel works), splitting our expenses, sharing the cooking, and planting tomatoes. Yes, planting tomatoes.
P.S. Happy Birthday, Maeby.