Saturday, May 21, 2011

The big, comfy couch

When my husband and I were newlyweds, we lived across the street from a very nice family with four boys. The matriarch was a great mom, neighbor and friend, but there was one thing that bothered me about her — her couch.

It was the rattiest thing I’d ever seen. OK, not ever, but still pretty unsightly. We, on the other hand, had just purchased a beautiful white leather couch. Whenever I’d go visit, I would shake my head and mutter under my breath, “Why don’t they buy new furniture?”

Fifteen years later, as I sat on my faded, cracked, now off-white couch with children of my own, I realized she had four good reasons not to.

Looking back on it, my parents were the same way. We had an orange, brown, yellow and black plaid couch as long as I can remember. It’s a constant in all our family pictures. In fact, it wasn’t until my sister and I moved out that they got a new one.

Of course, there are other extremes, my grandmother kept plastic on hers for the longest time. I grew up living in fear of that couch and thought that eating on it was a mortal sin.

As for my family, we enjoyed our pretty white couch with built-in recliners on each end until the day the recliners would no longer go down, and pillows couldn’t hide the tears in the leather. The kids aren’t quite grown, but it was time for a new one. I just had to talk my husband into it.

I began by giving him a coupon for a recliner for Christmas. He opened it and looked a little disgusted.

“What?” I asked.

“You never bought me the recliner that you promised me last year or the year before.”

I had apparently given him a coupon for furniture for the past several years.

“You have to go sit in it,” I said.

He looked disgusted again.

So, to make things easier for me — I mean him — I scoped out some that had potential. My husband shops in the big and tall section and needed a couch that matched. My requests for extra-long recliners got some strange looks from sales people. It might have something to do with the fact that I’m 5 feet, 2 inches.

After stretching myself as far as I could go, I narrowed it down to a few choices and managed over a recent weekend to lure him into the store. He tried a few, but each lacked the key factor that he was looking for.

As we marched into our final store, he realized what it was and declared, “I want something with power!”

I snorted and asked, “How hard is it to pull a handle?”

But the salesman nodded in complete understanding. Perhaps it was a man thing, I thought.

That was before I sat in one.

Today, I’m proud and slightly ashamed to say we’re the owners of not one, but two couches with built-in power recliners. Despite my earlier prejudice, I do most of my work — thanks to my laptop — after pushing that magic button to just the right position. The downside of finding the right position, however, is inevitably someone will need something. I find myself saying, “Oh, come on! I just pushed the button.”

To which my daughter responded that an eject button might be in order.

As for our old couch, it was a bittersweet day when the truck came to take it away. My husband and I stood at the kitchen window and watched it break in half as the truck picked it up and dropped it with a bang into the back.

It may have been ratty and without power, but on that couch, I snuggled with babies, nursed sick little ones, helped my children with their elementary school homework, scolded them for stray ink marks and laughed at many an episode of “Seinfeld.”

I miss it already. Now, will someone please bring me a glass of water? I just pushed the button.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Boys will be boys

My boy has turned 10, and you’d think that by now I’d understand him a little better. But, the truth is, little boys continue to amaze me.

The older my son gets, the more I realize my husband really can’t help it. Men and boys are different animals. And, apart from the mess, it’s not that bad — particularly when it comes to planning birthday parties.

When my daughters were young, we spent hours planning unique and beautiful ways to celebrate their big day. Every item was coordinated, from the balloons to the cake to the party favors to the menu. For girl parties, all must be perfect, a trend that continues until the big wedding day. In addition, girls want to invite everyone because they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I must say, when my 13-year-old daughter watched the royal wedding and announced she didn’t want that many people at hers, I breathed a big sigh of relief. That was right before I asked her, “Can I have that in writing?”

Back to the boy. No kid should turn 10 without a big celebration, and the girl in me was determined to make this one the best one yet. After much stress (on my part) over where to have it — gymnastic center, park, rock climbing facility, laser tag, bowling alley — we decided home parties were best, especially because all the aforementioned places were booked. (Perhaps, someone had called ahead and warned them.)

We agreed that as long as I had my valium, a spend-the-night party with a small group would work (I’m teasing about the valium, unfortunately).

“What do you want your theme to be?”

He thought for about half a second and replied, “War,” his theme for the past 5 out 10 birthdays.

Armed (pun intended) with my theme, I set off to buy decorations. As I perused aisle after aisle of cute party goods in search of camo plates and napkins, I couldn’t help but think, “Thank heaven I have my girls!”

Finally, I discovered a surprisingly good selection of items — banners, dog tags (a big hit), little parachute men and even party invitations featuring a big Army tank on it. I was so excited that when I ran into a friend, I said, “Look, what I found! Isn’t this great!”

She looked down at the invitations and feigned a smile, “Uh huh.”

It was then I remembered she had two adorable little girls and no boys. No wonder she looked so horrified. I was the same way before I had my son. Guns, even toy ones, scared me so badly. I even ran a boy out of the yard once for having one that was too realistic.

I’ve come a long way. Not only did my son have a full on Nerf war for his birthday, we allowed the boys to shoot paintballs (highly supervised) into a wheelbarrow. In fact, when my husband asked, “Leigh, do you want to shoot?” I replied, “I thought you’d never ask.”

The party ended up being a huge success. I’d like to think it had something to do with the little touches that I made — the camo banners I artfully hung, the strategically-placed green and black balloons, and the cookie cake topped with little green Army men, complete with a soldier holding a shovel next to the indention I had made with my thumb. But, ultimately, I think it had more to do with my ability to stay out of the way, and, on his special day, to let boys be boys.