Couple Time

Ninth Anniversary by Leslie

Nine years ago I married the most caring, charming man I had ever met. Today, he still charms me and takes good care of our family every single day. I am one lucky lady. We've had two children together and many adventures. It's always been fun (except for those nasty fights about the dishes.)

Last year I wrote about our engagement and wedding story and shared a bunch of the pro shots from the small ceremony during the day. In the comments my friend Rachel reminded me of these awesome pictures that she took of us in the evening when we were hanging out in the city. That's her husband Rosecrans in the picture of me hailing a cab.

Do you think we could be any happier? I don't think so.

Are we still jumping on the bed though? Not exactly. Mostly, if there is a bed nearby, we are sleeping in it. With our kids.

Marriage is complex. It is a challenge for two people to grow and change and stay on the same page with each other. It is easy to let minor details add up into a massive lump of discontent. But it CAN last forever. It CAN be blissful and lovely and supportive, if each person listens to each other and tries their best to give each other what they really need.

I'm no marriage expert but I have learned that for MY marriage to work, there are a few things that really help us stay happy with each other.

Generosity: How much you give to your spouse naturally changes over time, especially when the kids are soaking up so much of everything. It's important to be generous with each other, which to me means, giving more than you think that person needs. Whatever it is. Patience during a fight. Pats on the bum when you are walking by. Fixing something that is wrong. A nice long hug.

Clear Expectations: In any relationship, you must clearly communicate what you expect from the other person. Defining what our roles are in marriage and parenting is so important. Unmet expectations can be disasterous and the only way to know is to tell your partner what you want and need. As situations change, so do expectations, so make sure you continue checking in with each other. It's also really important to have realistic expectations and to understand what each person is able to bring to the relationship at any given time.

Quiet Time Together: This one mostly applies to people with kids, but it's also important if you have demanding jobs and always have the tv or computer in front of you. We just started doing this, but each night after the kids go to bed, rather than running to the tv or computer like we used to do, we spend 30 minutes just talking to each other. All devices are off and quiet. We sit on the couch, go outside, cuddle in bed. Wherever, but the ONLY expectation is that we are with each other. We don't even have to talk, although we always do. After the time is up, we go off to do our own things, but sometimes we don't, if you know what I mean. (Wink wink.)

Understanding & Compassion: This one can be really hard, especially if we are angry, hurt or fed up, but it is ESSENTIAL. If I take that thing that bugs me, that thing that hurts and I try to understand why it happens and I try to feel compassion for where my husband might be coming from, I am far more likely to be generous and willing to work it out. Often, if we get to the root of an issue, and we address it or understand the fear that might be driving a behavior, it makes it much easier to find a solution. Understanding and compassion encourages each of to be involved and help each other out.

Today I am grateful for all the wonderful things in my life, but especially for my husband and my marriage. Next year will be our tenth anniversary and I hope we can do something really special, just the two of us.

Married for Eight Years! by Leslie

My engagement and marriage were nothing typical. Chris and I decided to get engaged in April of 2003 and met with the ring designer, Christopher Roule, together. I think we designed the engagement and wedding rings at the same time. We met in his apartment in the Village and he showed us different diamonds and we picked a unique “miner’s cut” diamond to be set in a bold ring. We picked tiny blood red rubies to be wrapped around our wedding rings, set off-center on my white gold ring and on the side of Chris’s platinum ring. We loved designing our rings together, it was meaningful and so fun.

So I knew it was coming, but not really when. I tried not to think about it, because I wanted to be surprised, but I did have some clues. Hint one was that we had tickets to see the American Ballet Theater's Romeo and Juliet performed at the Metropolitan Opera House. Hint two was that Chris wore a jacket even though it was hot (to hide the ring). We had dinner at the Grand Tier which is located right in the Met,  and got our favorite crab cakes and steaks. Nothing happened, so I thought maybe I was wrong and tried so hard not to expect a proposal. We watched the first acts of the ballet and at intermission we returned to our table for dessert.

In the middle of the amazing dessert, Chris got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I wish I had a video of that moment because I forget exactly what he said. I think he said something about me making his life better and the moon and the stars, or something like that. All I know for sure is that I said yes. There were people watching, the wait staff mostly, and they all clapped and cheered. I was so giddy it was hard to finish eating, much less return to the ballet, but we did and I beamed in the dark while watching one of the most romantic stories in history.

We started thinking about a wedding and all the logistical details made me anxious and seemed to take the fun out of it. I didn’t need or want a show, I just wanted to marry this man, so we planned to elope. We booked a room at an exclusive hotel, The Post Ranch Inn, in Big Sur California for October. We contacted photographers and an officiate, but then I lost my job.

My job was the only reason I was allowed to be in the country. I was in the US on my fourth one year temporary visa from Canada and if I didn’t have a job I wasn’t supposed to stay here. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered, but I was insistent on doing things the right way. I didn’t want to stay illegally in the country for three months until we were supposed to marry, so we cancelled most of our plans for eloping and decided to get married at home. 

We wanted to go to the court house, like my parents did, but they were renovating the beautiful old building and the temporary court house was kind of a depressing place to get married in. We decided to use the deck at Chris's parent's house and we had the mayor of our town come there to act as the officiate. We got everything ready in just a couple of weeks. I got my dress off the rack at BCBG and my veil and hair comb at a wedding shop.

It was so simple and perfect, except for the fact that my parents and sister weren’t there. They couldn’t fly from Canada with such short notice but I talked to them on the phone before and after and I pinned an old clip of my Mom’s into my bouquet. They were there in my heart.

It was short ceremony, with the traditional vows and Chris's family watching along with two of our friends. Again, I beamed through the whole thing. Chris sweated through it, but that’s because it was August and he was damn hot in that suit. He looked good though and I dried his brow with my handkerchief. I still have it, the handkerchief, but it’s washed now. 

After the ceremony we had champagne, strawberry shortcake and a light lunch and then Chris and I headed into the city to spend a couple of nights at the Mercer Hotel in Soho. We had dinner that night with everyone plus a few more friends at a lovely restaurant called One If By Land, Two If By Sea. It was fun to walk around Soho as a bride. People stare, in a good way, and everyone wishes you well and has big smiles for you. Later that night, our friends came back to our room and we jumped on the bed and cleaned out the mini-bar.

Our reservations at the Post Ranch in Big Sur were kept and became our official honeymoon a few months later. It was a magical time being there and I hope one day to go back. I still remember the smell of the deck wood heating up in the sun at the end of the day and the way the stars looked like a blanket across the sky at night. The clouds at dawn, hanging above the ocean and below us, were otherworldly. When I need to go to a happy place in my mind, that's where I go.

It's eight years later and we are still going strong. Though it’s true that we are not going to be together today to celebrate. We had planned to return to the Mercer Hotel for a grand night out without the kids, but it will have to wait until I return from Canada. That’s the thing about a good marriage. For as much as we are bonded and sewn together, sometimes we know even more when we need to be apart. We let each other stay as individuals while still coming together to raise a family and nurture a marriage.

Happy Anniversary to Chris, the love of my life. I look forward to many more years together with you.

A Colorful and Sparkly Lunch Date by Leslie

Chris and I rarely go out. So when we do, it's just wonderful. We don't have any rules about not talking about the kids. We like talking about them, and it's nice to have uninterrupted time to chat about what they are doing and how they are growing. But eventually, we move onto things that are more about us, our dreams, our creative plans and the things that we want for our future. 

We talked about planning a weekend trip, just for us, to Berlin or Big Sur or Banff (all B's!). We talked about Chris's book (Pre-order on Amazon or watch a short video on YouTube) and my photography and writing here on this site. We inspire each other. I think we have always done that well, encouraging each other to move past our comfort zones with our creative projects and try new things. I'm so grateful to have that in my life every day, a sounding board and someone to bounce ideas off of.

The food at Nina was delicious, the decor was colorful and sparkly, and the drinks were so yummy. We got full and a little drunk and we felt good not having children climbing on us or pulling at us to play. This recharge time is so important for us, for ALL parents. We really don't do it enough, but we should try to do it more.

In a normal day, it's so hard to just stop paying attention to all the things that need to be done, and to just gaze at each other and plan the future. We really enjoyed it.

Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II & EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
Exposures: Colored Lamps - 1/60 sec at f/2.8, ISO 1600, Chris - 1/50 sec at f/3.5, ISO 100, Leslie - 1/60 sec at f/2.8, ISO 200, Pasta - 1/50 sec at f/3.5, ISO 100, Glass Globes - 1/80 sec at f/3.5, ISO 2500, Roses - 1/60 sec at f/2.8, ISO 1600, Chandelier - 1/60 sec at f/2.8, ISO 800, Drink - 1/80 sec at f/2.8, ISO 160, Nina Sign - 1/400 sec at f/7.1, ISO 100
Lighting: natural light

Our Overnight in Boston to See Amanda Palmer in Cabaret by Leslie

I've never been away from the kids overnight. That's four and a half years of snuggling with my little guys almost all night, every night. Milo slept over at his Gram's house for two nights a few months ago, but I still had Quinn. At four, Milo is completely okay with being away from us at night, but Quinn is two and still needs me in the middle of the night. No one, not even Daddy, will do. Despite this, when Chris and I heard that Amanda Palmer was going to be in a production of Cabaret in Boston in September, we thought it would be the perfect way to celebrate my 35th birthday and our first overnight trip away from the kids.

Cabaret

My Mom, wanting to come for a visit for my birthday, offered to come from Canada to watch them here at our house. She arrived on Wednesday and Friday morning Chris and I set off for a fabulous night of all things that do not go with kids. The setting off part was a bit harder than I thought it would be. Not for them but for me. It wasn't that I was worried about them, or thinking that something would go wrong. It was kind of like I was leaving an arm behind. It was just weird. Also, packing for one person instead of three? What a novelty.

So off we go to Boston. I brought two books on tape, two books of questions and the newspaper because I wondered what on earth would Chris and I talk about for four hours in the car, much less 36 hours alone? Well, we didn't need any props. When we weren't chatting about something or other, we would just sit and enjoy the silence, or the music, or just stare out the window without having to do anything. It was lovely.

We got to The Charles Hotel, valet parked, checked in and went up to the room to settle in. Again, it was strange to be without the kids, but it was starting to come back to me, how to be alone with Chris, how to enjoy new places without having to identify exits and bathrooms. How to stay in a hotel. How to relax. Chris had ordered an insanely expensive "Get in the Mood" package, which consisted of a little plate of chocolate covered strawberries and a bottle of champagne. Rather than "get me in the mood" it just made me sleepy, so instead of the obvious activity when you are alone in a hotel room with your mate, I read a book to Chris and he had a cat nap. It was a tiny bit romantic but I was pretty far from "in the mood". Like most guys, Chris is always in the mood, but for me, since having kids, getting in the mood is something that I have to work at. 

Strawberries & Champagne

Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for our dinner reservations at 7:30. It's so fun (funny?) to dress up after spending all my time in jeans and t-shirts. I thought it would be good to dress the part for Cabaret, so I had ordered a flapper inspired dress, a modern fascinator hat and herringbone booties from the online vintage retailer ModCloth. I also packed my old fishnets, that I had worn shamelessly when dating Chris almost 10 years ago. They still fit.

Cabaret Outfit

 I don't know what I was thinking ordering four and a half inch heels to walk around Boston in, besides that they looked good with the dress. Whether or not I could walk in them hadn't occurred to me. But it should have, I wear flats almost all the time now and my legs are not used to walking around in heels.

Unfortunately all we got was this shadowy iPhone photo of us all dressed up, but let me tell you, we looked fantastic! And we felt fantastic. At least until I started walking. 

Leslie & Chris Cabaret

We arrived at the restaurant, OM (turn your volume down before visiting the site), exactly on time and were impressed by the decor. We were shown to a half circle booth and sat down a little awkwardly. Did I already say that it was weird to be without the kids? I felt like we were on our first date or something. We ordered fancy drinks, I got the Sassy Miss, and we were given a delicious popcorn appetizer. Soon we were at ease again, chatting away. I felt a little silly in my hat, like the dog in "Go Dog Go" who keeps saying "Do you like my hat?!" Chris said it looked good on me though, so I tried to own it and feel bold. 

Go Dog Go

Our appetiser arrived, Sweet Bread and Scallion Pancakes. At least that's how I read it. I think that it was "sweetbread" though, all one word, and it turns out it is the best misnomer in cuisine. Do you know what sweetbread is? I didn't. I thought it was a pastry or something. I've just swallowed my first bite and Chris says, "Oh no..." You never want to hear THAT in a restaurant. Chris doesn't want to tell me what he thinks it is, but I beg him. Finally, he tells me that he thinks it's cow brains. I said, "COW BRAINS? Are you serious? They can't serve that, isn't that how people die?" We called the waiter over and asked what we were eating. He said he wasn't sure and that he would ask the cook. Even the waiter didn't know what it was! While he was gone, we looked it up on my iPhone. Wikipedia says sweetbread is throat or heart or stomach. It's not brains, but I'm not really too keen on eating a stomach either. After what seemed like forever, the waiter returned and said that it was veal. We didn't bother to find out what part. He took it away and we ordered the vegetarian spring rolls. There is nothing strange or disgusting about deep fried vegetables.

The rest of the meal is edible although a bit pretentious. My Tuna Tartier comes with long green beans in a tempura batter. I should have known that tartier was close enough to tartar that it meant that the tuna would be raw but it wasn't obvious to me. Once again, I was excepting something else. I've had sushi, so it's fine, but it's just not what I thought it would be. Also, the long green beans? It's just ONE long green bean and it's tied in a knot. Chris and I are really more steak people and we should have gone with something a bit less artistic. But at least we had a good laugh at dinner.

So now it's 9:30 pm and we are headed to the theater for the 10:30 pm Cabaret. Normally at this time, at home, the kids have just gone to bed and Chris and I will watch TV or work on our computers. But here we are, a little tipsy, me walking on four inch heels with a bird's nest on my head, holding onto my husband's arm so I don't fall, through a part of Boston just littered with young, sexy, child-free people. It's fun to pretend that I am more like them for the night, than like the person that I am when I'm at home.

OberonEntrance Oberon Entrance. Photo by Amanda Palmer.

The American Repertory Theater's production of Cabaret is at the Oberon. It's a cool nightclub setting and we are excited to see Amanda Palmer live for the first time. We've been casual fans of The Dresden Dolls for a while, but I really started paying attention to her when she became engaged to my favorite author Neil Gaiman. She quickly became an inspiration to me and she's constantly doing amazing things with all kinds of interesting people. I sent her a twitter earlier in the day telling her that we were coming and she retweeted me (to her half a million followers) and added "see you soon. holla!!" I'll admit, it's exciting when celebrities tweet you, much less retweet you. I had also seen on Twitter that she was looking forward to the first late night show and wanted the crowd to be loud and enthusiastic.

If you've seen Cabaret, you'll know that it's all about engaging the audience and making them feel like they are a part of the show. At the beginning, it's like you are really at the Kit Kat Klub, so we got right into it, cheering and yelling and whooping. The girl at the merchandise table said it was the first performance of the run that was filled with a younger crowd who dressed the part and were Amanda Palmer fans. Previous shows had been attended mostly by A.R.T. members.

At the KlubAt the Klub. Photo by Marcus Stern.

It was incredible. It was dark and edgy. It was devastating. The emotional journey that you go through is raw and disorienting. The highlight for me was during the New Year's Eve scene when Amanda as the Emcee is going through the crowd toasting everyone. I halfway get up to reach out and toast her and she looks at me and says, "You...I have to kiss." I just about died. She didn't kiss everyone, just me and the girl next to me. I was so thrilled. It was amazing. And you should have seen the look on Chris's face.

Amanda PalmerAmanda Palmer (the Emcee). Photo by Marcus Stern.

The scenes take place all over the club, around us, next to us, above us. Because of the small space it's incredibly well integrated and heightens the feeling that we, as the audience, are a critical part of the show. The actors that make up the Cabaret troupe are riveting, with beautiful bodies and movements, but garish and frightening makeup. They are like ghosts. I couldn't take my eyes off of Lucille Duncan as Rosie. The rest of the cast is flawless, the singing is amazing, the roles are well cast. I'm not really a fan of musicals, but this one works for me. Aly Trasher as Sally Bowles is awesome, her journey through the play is so tragic and sad. And Thomas Derrah as Fraulein Schneider couldn't be more perfect. I love that they cast a man in this role and it really works.

Amanda Palmer"Don't Tell Mama" - Eric Johnson (Frenchie), Renee-Marie Brewster (Fritzie), Tamara Hickey (Texas), Aly Trasher (Sally), Jordy Lievers (Helga), Lucille Duncan (Rosie). Photo by Marcus Stern.

Amanda Palmer Tamara Hickey (Texas), Thomas Derrah (Fraulein Schneider), Matt Wood (Cliff Bradshaw). Photo by Marcus Stern.

As thrilling and sexy and daring as the beginning of the show is, the end of the show is heart breaking and chilling when the Holocaust references become more apparent. There are vulgar and shocking scenes that just leave the audience silent and breathless. It's the worst kind of downer, it's depressing. I went from loving Amanda, to hating her. Which of course means that she did a fabulous job. 

Kit Kat Klub dancersThe Kit Kat Klub Dancers. Photo by Marcus Stern.

Chris and I walked back to the hotel at 1:30 am in a daze. The show was amazing but it forces you to talk about Nazi Germany and all the terrible things that happened. To ask ourselves again, how *could* it have happened. But we loved the performance, it was arresting and perfectly executed. We talked about it until we were so tired that all we could do was sleep.

Luckily, after a good nights sleep and a little distance from the heaviness of the night before, we woke up late and were finally "in the mood". We checked out at noon and headed out to find lunch. Cafe Pamplona had amazing coffee and delicious panini sandwiches. We read the paper and enjoyed the beautiful fall weather while listening to three young friends speaking Italian to each other. I wish we could have spent all afternoon walking around Harvard Square, but after talking to my Mom and hearing that things went well, but that half the night had been spent sleeping on the couch with the kids because Quinn would cry if she went anywhere near the bedrooms, we decided to head home around 2:00 pm so that we could be home by dinner.

Cafe Pamplona Cafe Pamplona, Boston, MA.

Grandma and the BoysGrandma with Milo and Quinn.

We had a great time and it was well worth it, but Quinn is still a bit too young to be leaving him all night long. Chris and I look forward to more nights like this though! It's so important to take a step back sometimes and rekindle the love. To remember who we were before we had kids. My favorite thing about the whole trip was that because Chris wasn't taking care of the kids, he was taking care of me again. That felt good.

Date Night: Beowulf in 3D by Leslie

Chris and I went to a movie for the first time since Milo was born! Yay for us! That's over a year and a half without going to a movie theater. We dropped him off at Chris's sister place at 3:30 and went to the 4:30 showing of Beowulf in 3D. It was a 2 hour movie and we did a little shopping at our favorite Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya after, so we got back around 7:30. Milo did not cry even once while we were gone, and while Gloria said it seemed like he was checking in all the rooms shortly after we left, he didn't really miss us. Having Jake there to play with him makes a big difference and he loves chasing their cats around. "Kitty" is his newest word. I'm so glad that it went well for him and for us!

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The movie was fun, written by Neil Gaiman, and filmed using "performance capture" to allow for blending special effects with live action and for creating the 3D effect. I'm too tired to do a review, but it was thrilling, gory, sexy, enchanting, funny and engaging. The 3D was really cool and we saw 2 previews for live action films, one of which is a U2 concert. Neato. Here's info on the original Old English heroic, epic poem.