Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mr. Handyman

Paul is a handyman. I think in a former life he was involved in building the Great Pyramids. I am consistently amazed by the type of home improvement and fix-it projects that he undertakes, and successfully completes with only the aid of him mind, and several hundred trips to Menard's.

The other day, the garbage disposal was making an awful sound. At least that is what Zach said. I could care less what it sounds like as long as the food is going down the sink pipe. I mean, what is a garbage disposal supposed to sound like? Bach?

I ignored the sound... because I know what will happen if something is wrong with the garbage disposal...

It will become Paul's obsession until it is fixed.

Unfortunately, the next time I used the garbage disposal - Paul heard it.

Uh oh...

Paul will now be officially undertaking a fix-it project. I understand that many women find this appealing, and maybe even slightly sexually exciting...

I find myself caught between vague to moderate annoyance.

Believe me - I do understand how wonderful it is to have a partner who is so able to tackle these types of projects. Others spend thousands of dollars having people come over to fix sinks, drains, hang up curtains, put in wood floors, build mudrooms, repair drywall, miter and cut wood trim, remove drywall, paint the outside of the house, fix the computer, shingle the roof, grow elaborate ferns, identify any flower in North America, do laundry... etc. etc. etc.

Why does it annoy me - just a teeny weeny bit? Because it takes FOREVER. It takes SEVERAL trips to the hardware store. And because the longer it takes him, the more he gets annoyed with the project AND the more annoyed he gets with all of us.

I have learned to hunker down for a couple of days and just resign myself to the fact that Paul will now be fixing something we need to have fixed and it will take a while. He will be in a grumpy mood -- but he will not be as grumpy as he would be if he had to pay someone to fix it.

Which is kinda weird now that I think about it... because I can't really think of anything we have ever had someone else fix... except maybe the car's transmission. Paul couldn't fix that. Otherwise, here is a list of things he has done:

Installed the electric heat in our tiled bathroom
Tiled the bathroom
Took down drywall
Put up drywall
Textured the drywall
put up wood trim
put in hard wood maple floors
put in laminate floors
put in carpet
took out carpet
took down walls, cupboards,
installed lighting, fans, etc
put in a new whirly bird on the roof
painted the entire outside of the house (before we had it sided)
Built a mudroom for me
Built all my walk in closet shelving, drawers and accessories
He does a fantastic job of hanging pictures

And he doesn't just DO these projects. He does them RIGHT. There are no short-cuts with Paul when it comes to home repair. He does these repairs like a skilled surgeon... only he isn't able to sew things up in a few hours... it is more like a three-day total organ transplant.

What's a girl gonna do?

I just avoid eye contact with him... and when it finally gets done, I lavish him with praise and tell him how lucky I am to have such an accomplished handy-man for a husband. And then I hold my breath...

for the next thing to fall apart.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Whispers of love and dog

(This is a late posting of something I wrote on Valentine's Day - Dissertating was REALLY cramping my blogging style.)

Early into my marriage, Valentine's Day was a big deal for me.

I bought into the whole notion that the bigger the pomp, the more evidence of the depth of my husband's love for me.

Ehh... not now.

Fortunately 20 years of reality has made Hallmark-created holidays like V-Day much less relevant for me. Because showing your partner you love them - should not be cornered into one day a year.

I don't need or want Paul to take me out to dinner for Valentine's Day, or to get me flowers that will die, or buy me a over-priced card I will eventually throw away. I would rather feel loved in small simple ways 345 days a year... and take V-Day off.

By the way - this takes a lot of work. It's easier to do a bang up job on V-Day, anniversaries, birthdays and other holidays than to offer a small, but steady stream of love and respect all year long.

ALSO - and this is a very important also - you need to know your partner's love language. Because what makes me feel loved, may not make Paul feel loved. Uhm. Let me restate that. What makes me feel loved does not (not may not) does not make Paul feel loved... and vis versa.

I bought a book once called the Five Love Languages... interesting read. It really can be adapted to any relationship - parents, friends, whatever. Paul is the gift of doing... meaning when I DO chores around the house - he feels loved. I am all about words of praise. I like him to tell me he loves me, tell me he loves me, and tell me he loves me.

Oh, and tells me I am beautiful, wonderful, amazing, and fantastic. A couple times a day is all I need - one when I head out the door, the other when I come back home. That's all I need - then I'm good.

For example, when Paul mows the lawn, that is his way of telling me he loves me. So... I try really hard to think that. I stand looking out the back window as he is mowing the lawn and I tell myself over and over... WOW. Every step he takes, and every blade of grass that is getting its top whacked off... is just another flood o' love.

And I am sure when I run up and hug him when he gets home from work and I give him a bunch of kisses and tell him I love him... he is imagining me cleaning the kitchen, or putting in a new toilet, or tiling the bathroom floor and WOW. Does HE feel the love or WHAT!?

So - this creates a bit of a problem for us. See... I don't do chores... and Paul, well... he doesn't talk.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am happy to start many chores! I love starting projects... I start many and I do it often. And Paul talks about stuff - we talk a lot about the kids, and work, and parents.

So - I have had to learn to complete projects and he learned TALK about his feelings for me.

I try to make a conscious effort to tell Paul I love him the way Paul wants me to tell him I love him. I took my car in to get the oil changed. THAT spoke to him. He was terribly romantic after that. So he responded by lots of hugging and kissing and such. Hey! Whatev. If I just need to take the car in for a lube - I can do that for some words of praise.

And now he makes a conscious effort to tell me he loves me the way I like to hear it. I get spontaneous text messages asking me how I am doing and he is thinking of me... I'll get an email, a phone call at work or my chat pops up. And he tells me nice things when we are together.

One of my most favorite things that Paul and I do together...

Hold on there kids... this is totally G-rated... lying in bed together and watching The Dog Whisperer on National Geographic.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Why I make my husband crazy

There are many reasons I make my husband crazy... organized, methodical, thoughtful, cautious husband...

Today was a perfect example.

As I mentioned in my last post, two sons and Paul are off to Boy Scout winter camp this evening. About a month ago, I received some forms that needed to be filled out in order for Evan and Zayd to attend. One of them was a health form.

I didn't look at them.

Why would I do that?

I mean, winter camp was a month away.

Then winter camp was a week away.

Then winter camp was a day away.

Then winter camp was here.

I finally looked at the health form.

"Wow!" I thought to myself. "A three page health form. Serious stuff." When I went to Girl Scout camp, we just all hopped into cars with our sleeping bags, jams and a few clothes, and went to camp. No insurance forms for the drivers, no health forms, nothing.

I started filling out Zayd's form first.

Then I got to the section that said: Certified and licensed health-care providers recognized by the BSA to perform this exam include physicians (MD, Do), nurse practitioners, and physician's assistants.

Wait a minute. Where does it say moms? Moms should be on here.


I called their pediatricians office and explained the situation.

Me: Is there any way I could get these health forms signed?

Receptionist: Of course. Just fax them over and we'll get them back to you in 72 hours.


Me: Oh... uhm... I need them back today. Their camp is tonight. At 5:30 pm. I am so sorry - I didn't realize these were such elaborate health forms. Is there any way to get a signature on them this afternoon?

Receptionist: Well... it isn't too busy right now. I'll see what I can do.

Me: Thank you! Thank you! SO MUCH!

Receptionist: It's okay. It happens. We'll call you.

Whew. I'm home free...

About an hour later I get a call from the pediatrician's office. It's his nurse.

Nurse: Mrs. Amundson?

Me: Yes.

Nurse: We have a problem.

Me: Oh.


Nurse: We'll be able to sign off on Evan's health form, but not Zayd's. Zayd hasn't had a physical since 2005.

Me: Wow. Really?

Wow really? 

Me: Hmmm... that's kinda bad isn't it. (I say this as a statement, not a question) which she responds...

Nurse: Yes. It's not good. We like to see them once a year.

Me: Right. Of course.

Nurse: This health form requires that the physical occur in the last year. So we can't sign this.

omg - Zayd is going to kill me. Paul is going to kill me.

Me: Uhm... okay. So - is there any way to get him in today?


Nurse: Today?

Apparently the nurse is like my husband. A physical is not a spontaneous event. It should be pre-meditated... kinda like murder.

Me: Sure! Today!

Nurse: Well. I suppose we can see if we can get you in. Dr. B isn't available today. But we could get you in with Dr. T.

Me: Dr. T would be great!

Nurse: I'll put you on hold. Just a moment.

A few moments later - the receptionist is back on the phone.

Receptionist: So we are going to try to get Zayd in today?

Me: Yes. Please.

Receptionist: Well we have 1:15 open.


Me: Ohhhh... I can't do that. I have a presentation to give at 2 pm. That's the only time I am busy today. I can't cancel the presentation.

Receptionist: Hmmm... well....

Me: Is there any way you can see us earlier?

Receptionist: Okay. I see we have some time at 11:30. But that's in a half-hour.

Me: Perfect! Thank you!

I rush to my car. I work at the university on the north end of town... Zayd's school is on the south end of town. It'll take me about 15 minutes to get to his school.. and 10 minutes to get to the clinic.

I call the school as I am driving to let them know I am coming to get him.

Me: Uhm... he doesn't know what this is about. Just tell him he has an appointment.

I get to the school office at 11:10 -- oooo... I shaved 5 minutes off my time. I wasn't speeding. I don't think I was speeding.

Me: Hi Zayd! We are going to get a physical.

His eyes widen... then narrow.

Zayd: Why?

Me: I'll explain in the car.

As we head to the doctor's office, I explain what happened. The health forms I ignored for a month, the need for a doctor's signature, the fact he hasn't had a physical in 5 years.

Zayd: You haven't taken me in for a physical in five years?

Me: You've been healthy! Why take you in if everything is fine!?

Zayd: So... what happens during a physical?

Me: Oh... they just look you over to make sure you are healthy.

Zayd: What do they look over?

Me: Everything.


Zayd: Everything?


Me: Yes. Everything.


Zayd: You mean everything. EVERYTHING?

Me: Well.. yeah. I mean... yes. Everything.

Uh oh. I hadn't considered what this meant - especially for Zayd. My tortured creative soul. 

Me: It will be fine. They just peek around in that area to make sure it's all okay. Make sure there isn't anything weird going on down there.


Zayd: Like what? Make sure I don't have two penises?

Me: (I burst out laughing). Well.. yes. I suppose that would be an issue...

Zayd starts laughing.

Okay - potential pitfall and tantrum avoided. Peek at privates has been cleared for landing.

After the exam... and three additional vaccines that I failed to have him get at the appropriate time... we were on our way home.

I've got health forms signed and ready to go... with five hours to spare.

As we walk up to the school together I say:

Me: I'd appreciate it if you would keep our little trip to the doctor's office between me and you.

Zayd: Why?

Me: Uhm... because dad wouldn't understand. He likes to plan things a bit more than I.

Zayd: (snort laughs). Well maybe next time I would like know you are taking me to a physical.

Me: Yeah. True. But see!? That wasn't SO bad. We have healthy bones... healthy muscles... and healthy testicles...

Zayd: MOM! (He bursts out laughing).

Me: We are all ready for winter camp!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A camping Paul will go...

In August, I volunteered to be den mother for my 1st grader's group of Tiger Cubs. A decision I regret twice a month, every month since then.

Boy Scout activities fall onto me, because as Paul likes to remind me, "I didn't sign up for anything."

No. He didn't. However he is a boy -- which means some Boy Scout activities should really remain among the boys.

For example - Winter Camp. Winter Camp is a wintertime camping trip to Camp Wilderness near Park Rapids, MN. Two nights, three days of testosterone filled fun. To hear other scouts talk about it, Winter Camp is better than Disney World on steroids. Needless to say, my 9-year-old and 6-year-old were totally psyched for Winter Camp.

Fortunately, the 6-year-old isn't allowed to stay overnight.

Unfortunately, the 9-year-old must be accompanied by an adult.


So... because I volunteered for Boy Scouts - Winter Camp falls under my realm. I told Paul that maybe this trip would be a great experience for Zayd to have with his father.

Paul wasn't buying it.


There are 6 adult men going... and 15 Boy Scouts.

Six adult men that I don't really know. At all. In a cabin. With 15 Boy Scouts.

So I did what any woman in my position would do, faced with the possibility of sharing a cabin with 21 males....

I used guilt.

I called him on the cell phone from our Boy Scout Pack meeting. The Pack Leader needed an answer as to whether Zayd would be attending Winter Camp. Evan, my 11-year-old, who was with me that night, also begged to attend. The Pack leader said having a sibling come along was fine.

Me: Pauuuullll?

Paul: What's up?

Me: I wanted to talk to you about Winter Camp.



I know he doesn't want to go. He had already told me he didn't want to go.

Paul: I'm not going.

Me: Okay. Wait a second. Don't you think the boys would love to go?

Paul: I'm sure they would. But I'm not going.

Me: Wouldn't you have LOVED to go to something like Winter Camp?

Paul: I did go... but my dad didn't have to go with me.

Me: But times have changed Paul. It's safer if a parent goes along.

Paul: That's fine Najla. If you want to go, then go.


Me: Okay. That's fine. I'll go.


Me: But I should tell you that there are about six dads going.


Paul: Okay.

Me: And I just want to make sure you don't have a problem with me sharing a cabin in the wilderness with six adult males.


Paul: Najla. I don't want to go.

Me: I totally understand and I'm willing to go. But I just thought you'd like to know.


Me: And you know that I don't know these men very well.


Me: And there are no other women going.


Me: And I don't really know what the accommodations will be like.

I hear a big sigh on the other end.

Paul: Do they HAVE to go to Winter Camp?

Me: Paul. No. Of course they don't HAVE to go. But we both know how much they'd enjoy it.

Paul: I really don't want to.

Me: Okay - that's fine. I'm going to sign them up and I'll just go. I'm sure it will be fine. Don't you think? I mean, there really isn't anything I should be worried about... right?


I hear another sigh.

Paul: Fine.

Me: Fine what?

Paul: Fine. I'll go.


Note: Winter Camp is this weekend. More to come.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In sickness and in health...

My husband and I have differing styles of sickness.

Paul likes to be left alone when he doesn't feel good. He hibernates in the bedroom and doesn't really want or need anyone to check on him.

Problem was (and yes - I mean WAS), he thought I liked to be sick the same way.

Uh... WHAT?

This wasn't really ever a problem because I don't tend to get super sick. But a while back... I got really really sick. I had a hell of a flu virus. I was running a high temp, the room was spinning, my body ached terribly, I could not get out of bed and I couldn't sleep. I actually sobbed I felt so bad.

And Paul was nowhere to be found.

He also apparently threatened the children because none of them showed up either.

So there I was, really needing a drink of water and an ibuprofen to help with my temp and I got nothin' - no one. For FIVE HOURS.

Finally - I couldn't take it anymore. I reached over to the phone and called Paul's cell phone.

He didn't answer. He never answers. He leaves it on vibrate and apparently it doesn't vibrate enough for him to feel it...

Why the hell carry a cell if you don't answer it? (another story for another day).

Anyways... After no response from Paul... I called my father. Sobbing.

Me: Dadddd. (I am now crying uncontrollably - partly because I feel like shit and probably partly because I've been abandoned by my family)

Dad: Chino? What is it? What's wrong?

Me: Dad! I need you to come over. I am so sick and Paul hasn't checked on me and I need help. I have a fever and I feel so bad... (sobbing continues).

Dad: What do you mean? Where is Paul? Doesn't he know you are sick?

Me: He's downstairs but he hasn't come to check on me...

At this point - I mean let's be real. I've been left alone for five hours -- I could care less if my father is mad at my husband. In fact - I am hoping he is mad at my husband.

Dad: I'll be right there.

Within a few minutes, the doorbell rings and I hear Paul answer it.

I hear talking.

I hope my dad is scolding him for leaving his precious daughter alone to die in the bedroom.

My dad comes up to the bedroom.

Dad: Chino. Paul didn't know you needed him. He thought you were sleeping.

Me: For FIVE HOURS! I am so upset dad! (sobbing more)... I need some ibuprofen and some water. I can't even get up for water!

But I did have the stamina to cry and yell.

Dad: Chino. Come on now. He didn't leave you here on purpose.

Me: Would you leave mom for five hours when she is sick?

Dad: No... but Paul has four kids downstairs to take care of.

The last thing I need is commonsense talk - it just makes me want to cry.

So that's what I do. Cry. Harder.

Dad: I'll come back in a minute.

After a few minutes, Paul comes upstairs with water and medicine. He sits on the bed next to me and rubs my back. I am still upset.

Paul: I didn't know you needed me. I'm sorry.

Me: I tried calling you on your cell.

Paul: Honey - I'm sorry. I got busy with the kids. I was trying to keep them away from you. I thought you wanted to be alone.

Me: I don't want to be alone when I am sick. I want you to check on me. (I start crying again).

Paul: Okay. I'll check on you from now on. I promise. Now don't get upset. You need to rest. I need to go downstairs though with the kids.

Me: Will you check on me again?

Paul: Yes. I'll come up again.

And he did. About once an hour.

Since that first collision over sickness... Paul has adjusted to my way of being sick... and I to his. I don't bother him when he is sick. That is the way he wants it. And as much as it seems wrong to leave him alone... I force myself to do it.... even though images of him being dead in bed swirl in my head.

He now checks on me when I am sick. He comes up, asks me if I need anything, brings me water and meds, and now... even surprises me.

This last week I have had strep throat. I'm not feeling as icky as I was the last time... I am able to get up and get what I need.

But Paul has called me from work, he comes home at noon to see how I am doing. He even surprised me yesterday by bringing home my favorite magazine and a chocolate treat to cheer me up. Today, he sent me the cutest Hallmark e-card.

I'm sure it goes against his fundamental Norwegian being to attend to me in this way... but he does it anyways. Because he loves me.

And it reassures me that he cares about me enough...

to not want to find me dead in our bed.

Marriage and Mania

Another blog. Another reason for both you and I to procrastinate.

For those of you who enjoy NajMania... I think you'll enjoy Backside as well - because let's face it, there is a marriage behind all the antics of our children. Some of the stories will be funny, some sweet, some might be serious ...  I mostly hope you'll find all of them comforting and helpful.

Because marriage, commitment, partnerships  - even friendships for that matter - are hard. Damn hard. And the media does us no good by romanticizing it all.

I have always found it soothing to hear other people's stories about their committed relationships. The blemishes included. It helps me to remember that its a rough road, but it is worth it. We are not alone in this. Thank God.

So - on the Backside you'll find stories about two middle-aged people trying to raise four well-adjusted boys, while not losing their connection to each other.

Please comment often! I want to hear from you! And please share this with others who you think will enjoy this.

Thanks for checking in!