Jeff Astrof has 100 days off. See how he spends them.

Day 85

with 2 comments

I’m not sure if it’s because she’s exhausted, or because I’m dressed like our gardener and smell like manure– or a combination of the three– but I was just wholly rebuffed in my attempt at a late night cuddle with my wife.  Along with an expensive handbag and a pancake breakfast, my Mother’s Day gift to her was leaving her alone to come downstairs and write my journal.    As a parent of young kids, I think pseudo-holidays like Mother’s and Father’s Day replace the erstwhile disappointment of birthdays and New Year’s Eve.  For me, the pressure on these days is always to get the kids to bed so I can spend some quality time with my wife, but today it was not to be.  I also think that this year the Mother’s Day letdown was another result of my being out of work for so long: I already spend so much time with my kids that waking up with them a half hour early to make a big breakfast for my wife only means that they will be more tired and cranky later and ultimately that my wife will have to clean Nutella off of the walls.  That said, I don’t want to diminish the importance of honoring my wife, since being a mother is definitely the thing she’s best at in the world.  Since Mother’s Day, our anniversary and her birthday are within a few weeks of each other, back when I used to send cards for all three occasions, I got to parse out her gifts in each of three departments: being a mother, being a wife and being alive.  She’s good at all of them, but great at being a mother.  And my kids know it, too.

Here’s a quick contrast with last Father’s Day and today.

LAST FATHER’S DAY — 8:11 A.M.  Jeff ENTERS from upstairs:

Jeff: let’s shut off the tv and go get some hot cocoas in town.

Caleb: I hate you.

Now, here’s this morning:  3:22 A.M.  Caleb ENTERS from his room.

Caleb: Daddy, daddy, wake up!

Jeff: What’s the matter?

Caleb: It’s Mother’s Day.  I want to do something nice for mommy!

So, there it is.  And since I didn’t really have anything planned– had I been extraordinarily busy working I would have had something great planned– the kids and I made Shawni a pancake breakfast.  It was supposed to be a waffle breakfast but I got into a fight with my daughter about how the waffle machine works– she insisted you spray it with Pam after it heats up, I insisted you spray it before it heats up, we did it my way, she cried, I burned the waffles, we made pancakes.  Now, since I’m still 25 pounds away from my goal of losing 20 pounds, I don’t eat pancakes, so this was a wholly unselfish act on my part (save for the expectation of the post Mother’s Day cuddling which was not to be).   After only a couple of more fights over things like the menu– can’t we just serve melted chocolate and whipped cream– and whether or not it should be served in bed: “You promised!”  “I did not!” “You’re a liar!” “No, YOU’RE a liar!”– breakfast went off without a hitch with Shawni doing her best to act surprised when she came downstairs to see the table set up for breakfast– even though the smell of burning waffles had been wafting through the house for at least an hour.

My favorite part of any holiday, of course, is giving gifts.  I happen to be an excellent gift-giver.  My wife, on the other hand, is a horrible gift-getter.  If you’re counting at home, her skill set ranking is Mother, Being Alive, Wife, Gift-getter.  Now, most husbands would pay a lot of money to have their wives not like expensive gifts, but for me, it’s frustrating.  Over the course of our relationship I have gotten her a top of the line sewing machine when she wanted to sew (still in the closet which I sarcastically refer to as ‘The Sewing Machine Museum”, “Photoshop”, when she was into photography– currently a permanent exhibit in the Photoshop Museum Cabinet, countless lessons, massages, and an antique Tiffany engagement ring that is not on display because it is kept in the safe so that some day our daughter can keep it in her safe.  This does not, by the way, include any of the jewelry that I’ve had to take back over the years because she didn’t want to wear it.  A famous example of this is when I decided to get her a relatively modest but very beautiful diamond heart necklace for our ten year anniversary.  This came after Mother’s Day when I got her an iPad– which I would have gotten her anyway, since I got myself an iPad.  The necklace, which I got from a friend in the jewelry business, came in a large black case.  When I handed her the case, she exclaimed, “I love it!” and clutched it to her chest.  “Wait, what?  How do you even know what it is?”  “It’s a case for my iPad.”  Okay, now you’re starting to see how I landed her: she’s a mental patient.  “No.  Open it.”  She opened the case, saw the necklace and handed it back to me and told me it was too nice and to take it back.  I had an actual fight with her to keep the necklace and another one to actually wear it and not keep it in the safe so by the time she actually put it on the joy was taken out of the gift for both of us.  We had a similar fight– which I lost– when I bought her an expensive pair of shoes for her birthday one year, shoes I know she coveted because she told her best friend about them, but made me take them back when she saw a homeless person outside of the grocery store (who was, incidentally, wearing nicer shoes than my wife was at the time).

Anyway, I know it’s a wonderful trait– either that or I actually give crappy gifts, which I know that I don’t– and I try not to take it for granted.  This year, however, I knew that my wife needed a new handbag because she still uses the diaper bag that she got when Sasha was born 10 years ago.  When she opened up the new bag she said it was beautiful and asked if I still had the receipt.  I told her I did not, so if she wanted to continue using a diaper bag she had to have another baby, so she reluctantly took the beautiful new bag which she will turn into shoes 20 years from now when she is done with it.

While my wife and kids enjoyed their sugary breakfasts, I decided to reward myself by checking in on what was going on in show business.  I went on-line to the site that gives up-to-the minute pilot news and immediately got so depressed with the prospect of not working or working, that by the time I was done catching up on all the news, I noticed that I had stress-ate about 12 pancakes and the charred remains of the blueberry waffle that was stuck to the Waffle Making Museum.  I then went into the dining room covered with chocolate and asked if it would be okay if I went to yoga– this, by the way, is the equivalent of having one of our children ask if it’s okay if they go to bed– it NEVER happens that I voluntarily opt to go to yoga if I have an excuse to get out of it.  My wife, of course, said yes– she never doesn’t which is why I buy her nice gifts that she doesn’t want– and I trundled over to yoga where I got to set up my mat next to my sister.  This is a typical exchange between us: “Wow, Liz, you look great.” “No. I’m disgusting.  You look skinny, though.” “Uch, please, I’m obese.”

After sweating out one inch of the three inches of chocolate pancakes, we decided to go to lunch.  Again, with nothing planned, food fills the void.  The options after lunch were to go bike riding, or maybe down to the beach or see a movie and we settled on having frozen yogurt.  Having found my self-discipline after the pancake debacle, I enjoyed just being able to sit down with my children who filled paint-can sized tubs with yogurt and toppings.  I then heard someone say, “Jeff Astrof?  Is that you?” and I turned and noticed a girl I went to college with and whom I hadn’t seen since our end of Senior Year Booze Cruise where I had this conversation with her: Girl: “So, it’s the end of school.” Me: “Yeah.” Girl: “So… I guess you know that I had a crush on you.”  Me: “Oh.  No. I didn’t.” Girl: “Do you want to kiss me?” Me: “Um.  I just got here.  I just want to say hi to some friends first.”  Now, of course, it’s impossible to “just get here” when you’re in the middle of a river, but for some reason I was not into the only girl who has ever had that conversation with me in my life.  So instead, I was a man, and hid from her for… apparently 23 years.  When she finally got up to leave the yogurt shop, I looked down and noticed I had stress eaten all of my daughter’s yogurt and two pounds of toppings.

After that, I decided that I couldn’t afford to have another eating-related activity, so my son and I decided to go to the nursery and buy some vegetables for our garden.  And by “garden”, I mean four stone pots in our backyard that have the fossilized remains of tomato plants from three years ago.  Prodded by my wife’s mocking me when I said I could move to Israel and become a farmer, I removed the dead tomato vines from the Tomato Museum, and filled the rest of the pot with what I thought was potting soil but what has since revealed itself to be manure.  I had my son till the soil in the pot that once grew cucumbers– I was teaching my son a trade so he could one day feed his family– and he miraculously pulled about five full-grown potatoes out of the soil.  No one knows why they were there, but I threw them out so I wouldn’t eat them.

Then, as the sun sank low, fatigue started to set in with my daughter moaning that she didn’t feel well, setting the stage for tomorrow morning’s fight, and my son crying that his seventh birthday party last October was the worst day of his life, while I, feeling that I had done all there was to do, announced I needed to grab a cup of coffee, leaving my wife to deal with the mess that is being a mother.  Now, in fairness to myself, I came right back, fighting a legitimate urge to drive to Vegas, and realized that I had just been going through the motions today and I promised to do whatever my wife needed me to do to salvage the last bit of her “Special Day”.   And what that was– after reading our daughter a story and putting her to bed– was knowing that even great moms like my wife sometimes need their space. So that’s what I’m really giving her this Mother’s Day.  That, and getting to wake up next to a chubby guy who smells like manure.  Happy Mother’s Day, baby.


Written by 100daysoff

May 8, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. I love the purse, and you don’t smell like manure. Thank you for a wonderful mothers’ day! xoxo


    May 8, 2011 at 10:26 pm

  2. your blog is…and so I enjoy. I wish I had had the opportunity to blog when my children were small…a daughter and triplet sons..and, of course, when my mind was way quicker! Flash forward: daughter is 30 and triplets turning 28 in July.

    Judy Parazoo Buoy

    May 9, 2011 at 12:26 am

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