Friday, December 23, 2005

Since I don't want to waste any more space on Assholes.

Go check Heidi out. She's been writing about her childhood the last few posts, and it's really good stuff. I just love that girl!

Peter Fonda, where are you?

As seen at Holly's place.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I want to stop, but it keeps getting better.

Here's the latest. (I didn't figure out the email blocking thing correctly, dammit.)

From Brad to me, he didn't cc anyone.

I'm sorry but I just can't help myself. I know you'll hand this one right off to Lance but it really bears asking. I'm pretty sure I know what Lance and Chip do all day. What better things do you do with the 50% of your time that my mom has your kids, besides mess with my brother's and my relationship?

Perhaps if you were busier with your family you wouldn't have so much time to play your mentally fragile and unstable games on your and my family. Lance couldn't explain what Marisa and I should be apologizing for. Can you?

I know. Petty and probably more helpful to your selfish cause than the peace it brings me to finally say it but something has to give here. Can you answer the question of what we owe you an apology for? Lance had to get up and leave the table because he was so frustrated with his inability to put his finger on it. I believe in today's note he actually asked me to think of something to apologize to you for.

Help me out. Help the (Last name) family out Amy (my maiden name). Or do you enjoy this?

My reply.

That's beautiful, Brad.

I wish you the best, and hope you get the professional help you sorely need. When you do, I'd be happy to lay out exactly what you need to apologize for.

However --- just for example's sake--you could apologize for the insults you've been slinging my way and Lance's way in this email and the others. Oh, and let's not forget that lovely voicemail. Those are just the tip of the iceberg, and the most obvious. If you were in a rational place, you would not need me to spell this out for you.

I hope you and your wife manage to have some sort of happy holiday. I also hope your mother and father are able to enjoy theirs, knowing the pain you have willingly and knowingly caused them and your own brother.

I've added your email address to my junk list, so there is no need to reply to this.

I am trying really hard to not get upset about this, as obviously that is his intention. Lance's parents are a complete wreck, but still maintaining their "don't talk about it, and it will go away" stance.

I tried--valiantly, I tried!--not to respond at all, but finally I had to. I now wish I hadn't.

Lance isn't home, and I'm not sure when I'm going to show him this latest round. I don't want to show it to him at all because I don't want to upset him, but I know I have to.

Happy Fucking Holidays!

(Please, dear god in heaven, whoever you may be, please let this be the last time I ever have to write anything about those assholes. PLEASE.)

Uh oh.

Last night, this happened. Lance and I were there. Sigh.

But, just to be that much more of an asshole, Thing One sent me this today:

Did you catch that game last night? I listened to the last 4 minutes coming home from the office. Our guys outscored your guys by 20 in the second half for a blowout victory. The 3,000 fans in attendance stormed the court afterwards.

Tim Floyd and a new arena could be a potent combination. Basketball and football; an embarrasment of riches.

Merry Christmas!

My first response was this: "The true embarrasment here is that we have to claim you as a family member." Since I couldn't send that, I sent this instead:

There is no one by the name of Amy (Lance's last name--I kept my maiden name) at this address. If there were, she certainly wouldn't respond to such a mean-spirited e-mail. Merry Christmas!

Does anyone know how to block an email address from outlook? It keeps telling me to click the organize button but I don't seem to have one.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005

Where is the good cheer?

Although I know I said I was done with my Christmas shopping early this year, I am still running around like crazy. Why? I don't know! I can't believe how much I have to get done every day, and how often I don't get remotely close to doing that. I still have butt-loads of presents to wrap--presents which I bought in November, the Christmas Eve dinner party is coming right up, I have to pack everyone to go back East, pre-school is closed. Help me!

There is no time for blogging, and this is making me sad.

Not to mention, we are all going to Delaware the day after Christmas, where I will stay with the kids for almost a month. I am looking forward to spending some time with my family, but. . . how the hell am I going to blog? My parents have internet service, but they don't know about the blog. So I'm not sure how I'm going to keep up with everybody. Sob! Sob! Sob!

And does that mean that stupid post about my fucking asshole brother-in-law is going to be right there, up top, for an entire month??

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Round Two--Update

Lance had lunch with Thing One yesterday in an attempt to settle things. It did not go well, and Lance left before the bill came. When he got back to the office, he sent him this:


Sorry for being late. And sorry for bailing on the bill. You have become an extremely deflective and elusive person to communicate with. The conversations I've attempted to have with you and your wife recently have been the most frustrating ever. I am not sure what to do or say at this point...............

And Thing One responded with this charming missive*:

Not to worry. Hope you feel better. Happy to wait a half hour to buy you lunch again and hear about your perceptive take on my wife's and my faults. I'm trying very hard to stick to my no email policy but listening to you unload is more than I can let go quietly. If I didn't edit myself, you would really love the list of reasons that I find your accusation of us being self centered and demanding so ironic and humurous. However, I think you already know this and I also think that your knowledge of this fact is the main source of your frustration. I've told you numerous times and I will say it again. We completely support and understand your relationship with mom and dad and we absolutely endorse it without strings attached. I think it is wonderful that Amy is willing and able to share so much of your children's lives with mom. As we all used to agree, it takes much of the burdon off of Mark, Margaret, Marisa and me. Not that mom will want or receive the time of day from our children should things remain the way they are now. We have a separate issue with mom that has nothing to do with you. You guys should have no concerns regarding how we live our lives. We certainly are not spending any time worrying about how you live yours. Don't mistake that for lack of interest. It is only that we do not sit around and make judgements about you. We do not have the time, nor are we inclined to disparage and/or compete with our family. I'm sorry you all feel so certain that is not the case.

Please try to understand that we are not the least bit upset with any of you nor are we the slightest bit frustrated. We got over it a while back and we find it extremely unneccessary for you to be trying to rev things up again. It would be nice to see the family operate on a reasonably functional level without any pettiness, manipulation, power plays or lack of self confidence. I was going to fake reaching that point by diassociating myself largely from interactions with the disfunction. You seem unwilling to accept that. However, you also don't present any other reasonable solution. The current situation is embarrassing (another reason I avoid the three of you) and about as far from what Papa T would have wanted as possible. That is truly sad. I suggested to mom that all we want is her unbiased pride in her children and her unconditional love, without judgement or opinion (unless requested: doubtful). How is that an unreasonable or difficult request of one's own mother? In fact, I think eveyone could be much happier if we all held to this standard.

Please try to get over June 20 or at least find some additional fresher dirt. You've got to admit that 6 months is getting a little stale. Though I was thoroughly amazed by your ability to keep a straight, self righteous and indignant face as you suggested that my calling mom out on her "bullshit" was going to taint your childrens' virgin ears. That was truly remarkable and I enjoyed it much more than I conveyed. You're right, Marisa and I pose the threat of potentially ruinous negative influence on the kids. Maybe you should stick with mom and pursue the status quo.

I love that you found me elusive. I've been seeking that quality for some time. It's called a poker face and it is very good for negotiating. I've been accused of having mom's trait of being unable to keep my mouth shut (see paragraph 3 above) and I'm working hard to get rid of it. Thank you for the compliment.

Can't wait to see you both on Sunday. Mom says she is looking forward to the opportunity to start fresh. You don't want to miss out on that do you?

For better or worse,

Your brother :-)

Sunday there is a large family Christmas party at my mother-in-law's home. Lance's older brother and his wife have flown in from Virginia to attend. Thing One and Thing Two will be there.

I'm really looking forward to it, as you might imagine.

*The email was sent at 7:21 pm, but he cc'd his father, his older brother and wife, and Lance at their work emails. He did not cc his mother.

Update: I know, I owe everyone an update. The party was fine, and awful. There were many people there, which made it easy enough to avoid Thing One and Thing Two. I had to say hello and endure a hug from Thing One, but I tried to make my "Oh, wonderful to see you, too, Brad. As always" as sarcastic as possible. I managed to avoid Queen Bitchiness* the whole evening, thankfully, and only had to swoop in and direct my children away from her once. Lance had to say hello to both of them but that was the extent of it. We both enjoyed ourselves with the other members of the family.

And still, it sucks balls. It's not exactly fun, avoiding people. It's not exactly cheerful, wanting to punch someone in the face. It's not exactly heartening, knowing that your own flesh and blood goes out of his way to say and do hurtful things to you, for no reason. Those two will never apologize, will never treat Lance and my mother-in-law with love or respect, and there is nothing I can do about it.

*Lance thinks it does a disservice to Dr. Seuss to use his terms for my in-laws, and I tend to agree. So I may come up with some new ones. Like--Spineless and Mrs. Wench. Or something.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town

Our first trip to see Santa Claus was two years ago, when Isaac was 10 months old. Lance and I took him to the Westside Pavilion, on a weekday night, early in December. We figured this would ensure a short line. In fact, there was no line. That's right. NO LINE. We paid our $21.95 and sat Isaac on Santa's lap for about 6 shots. He was not afraid at all and smiled gamely through the whole thing.

(Please excuse the flash and blurriness: I have no scanner.)

Last year, we had both kids, but again, took them out to the Westside Pavilion one weekday evening in early December. Again, no line. Isaac would not sit still (of course) but he still smiled. And Vivian didn't cry, which was more than I expected of her. They took about 12 shots before getting one that would work, but there was no pressure, no wait. An unexpectedly pleasant experience.

Last night, we headed out to our favorite Santa again. I was sure Vivian would refuse to get near him, but she surprised us all by walking right up to him and smiling. Isaac was obsessed with the flash this year, and kept looking at it, rather than the camera, but other than that, no problems. No line, no crying, no being pressured into buying 500 photos.


I love our Santa. I also love that he is the same guy every year, on the same ugly purple sofa.

The funny thing about all of this is that he is not a particularly likeable Santa. (Perhaps this explains the no line.) He is actually kind of cranky, not that comfortable around kids (I know), and quite bossy. Not really jolly in any sense. The photos are not especially good, either--off center, full of red eye, etc. I guess I'm just not too concerned about the photo in this case--it's only a record of the experience. A perfect Santa photo would be nice to have, but these sub-par ones seem more real to me.

In any event, he's our Santa and we're keeping him.

Filed under: Apparently he DOES listen to me

Scene: In the car, on the way to pre-school. Some radio show is playing, but I am not paying attention.

From the back seat, Isaac says: "That's STUPID. I can say STUPID. STUPID!"

Realizing that the radio show announcers are cracking jokes that are not appropriate for kids, I quickly change the channel, then turn around in my seat.

"That's not a nice word, sweetie. We don't say that, okay?"

Isaac: "I don't say, stupid?"

Me: "Right."

Isaac: "Fucking stupid! I can say, fucking stupid!"

Me: "Isaac! No! We do not say those words!"

Isaac: "But Mommies and Daddies say those words. Just not kids?"

Me: "Um. No. Nobody says those words, okay? Not even Mommies and Daddies."

Isaac: "I don't say fucking stupid. Only Mommies say fucking stupid. But not kids. That's not a nice word. Fucking stupid!"

Me: "Isaac!"

Vivi: "Fu-een soodi!"

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Matching set

When I was a wee child, my parents did not have a lot of money. My dad graduated from law school when I was two and my sister was four. For several years after that, he was getting his footing, and it wasn't until my adolescence that we began to live comfortably, and then well. As a result, my mother made many of the clothes that Ann and I wore.

About twice a year, a box of clothes would come in the mail from my great-aunt and great-uncle, who lived in Nashville, Tennessee. They had two daughters, who were about 10 years older than we were. They lived very well in Grand Ole Opry land, and dressed their daughters to the nines in matching dresses befitting the times. Unfortunately, by the time Ann and I fit into these clothes, the "times" would be 10 years past.

How we dreaded seeing that box come in the mail! Oh, the ugly matching dressed it would hold. My mother forced us to wear them all, not wanting to let any free gift go to waste, much less expensive dresses that she could never afford to buy us. No matter that the style in Nashville is much different than the style in Delaware. No matter than peter pan collars have been out of style for 8 years. Ann and I would beg and plead to get out of wearing these dresses, or at least not have to wear them at the same time, but to no avail. I'll have to find some old photos so you can see just the how bad they were.

Consequently, children in matching clothes make my skin crawl. I have a feeling that even without the traumatic childhood memory, children in matching clothes would make my skin crawl, but this is my excuse. Once, at a holiday party, I saw a whole family matching: the same plaid in the mom's skirt, dad's pants, little boy's short overalls, and little girl's dress*. YUCK.

This year, my mother-in-law purchased a cute red plaid outfit for Vivian to wear at the holidays, with a matching plaid button down shirt for Isaac. Fortunately, I felt comfortable enough to thank her profusely, but mention that I just didn't like the kids to match, so I'd probably just have them wear each outfit to different events. I reassured her that I would be happy to put them in their matching outfits and take a photo for her, and she rolled her eyes, but otherwise accepted this deal, no doubt chalking it up to yet another character flaw of mine.

So. You may imagine my surprise when I realize that my son likes to match his sister. Every night at bedtime he runs excitedly into the room, saying, "Let me pick out the p.j.'s, Mom, let me! Here, here, Vivian should wear these ones. I think she likes these, Mom!" He'll pull out a pair of hers, one of the one-piece ones that snap up the front, and then race to his drawer, searching for his. He only has two pairs that snap up the front, and both of them are too small, but he insists that if Vivian is wearing a one-piece, then so must he. The other night, he got more specific, insisting that Vivian wear the pajamas with the trucks on them (a hand-me-down, they used to be his), since his also had trucks.

So far, this need to match has only manifested itself in night-wear (thank god), but I wonder if it's only a matter of time before he is asking his grandmother for matching clothes for his birthday. Oh, she will be so vindicated!

* Okay, here I have to admit: that family is related to me. My mother's first cousin and her family.

Friday, December 09, 2005

To set the record straight

I feel like I've been bitching about my mother-in-law an awful lot lately, and I really shouldn't. She is actually a wonderful woman, in many ways. She is incredibly generous, and baby-sits whenever we need to. She loves my children as much as I do. She puts up with the fact that I refuse to take her last name, although this causes her much embarrassment in her circle of friends. She is patient with me when I get angry at Thing One and Thing Two, and lets me rant and rave, without defending them too staunchly. Yes, she can be annoying and she often says things in a less than tactful way. She has very different ideals than I do. But I am confident that she loves us, and would never intentionally hurt us in any way. And I feel lucky to have that, in a mother-in-law.

Then there's Isaac. He, too, can be annoying. And yes, he is going through a very defiant, obnoxious phase that I am having difficulty dealing with. But despite all that, he really is a wonderful, happy little boy.

Yesterday, both children woke up early complaining of ear-aches, so we spent much of the morning at the doctor's office. We waited in the sick waiting room for about 35 minutes, among the other ill children, who mostly sat quietly next to their parents. Isaac does not sit still, even when he is sick, so he ran around the room, from toy to sick kid to toy, exclaiming at the top of his voice, "Look at this toy, Mom! I'm sharing this one! Look, there's a baby! I see that little girl, Mom! Here, Vivi, come play with this toy! No, I want that toy, Viv! Here, you take this one." For 35 minutes he ran rampant in the room, so excited to be there, with new toys to play with and new children to meet. At one point, another little girl, about 3 or 4 years old, snapped at him, "No! I want this toy! It's mine!" but he just smiled and said, "Look at this kitchen, little girl! Do you want to help me?" She ignored him for a bit, but he was insistent: "Do you want to help me with this? Do you? See the kitchen? Here, help me." And eventually, she did. All the other parents in the room were smiling by the time we were called into see the doctor--it was impossible not too, he was just so happy.

I love that he is so easily excited by what life has to offer him. I love that he is so friendly and that he is not put off when other kids don't take to him immediately. Yes, he is rambunctious, and yes he has his challenges, but he's also quite charming.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

What is it again, that cometh before the fall?

Just before Thanksgiving, my local grocery store handed me a free frozen 15 lb turkey. When I brought it home, Lance said, "Not again! Couldn't you just tell them no? Why don't we donate it?"

This response is a reaction to last year's free turkey, which I brined and roasted, using the Wolfgang Puck recipe off Food Network. It was a complete disaster. I cooked all day long, slaving over the gravy, the potatoes, the turkey--all of it. The turkey was undercooked, and way over-salted. The gravy--for all the work I did--was only marginal. We ended up throwing most of the meal away. Fortunately, I did not cook this for anyone else--I just made Lance and I a Thanksgiving dinner of our own, a week or so after the big day, because I had the free turkey and I wanted to practice.

This year, I waited until Sunday night after Thanksgiving. Instead of Wolfgang Puck's recipe, I used Alton Brown's. I bought a new thermometer. I worked for an hour or so, nothing too taxing, then served up the turkey, gravy, roasted potatoes, store-bought salad, and cranberry sauce. It rocked. Ask Heidi, she was there.

Did you get that? I roasted a turkey, and it turned out. I am completely thrilled and impressed with myself, and I don't care if I am 35 years old and I should have been able to do this years ago.

Also? My Christmas shopping is done. Every gift is purchased, half of them have been sent on their merry way across the country, several of them are even wrapped and hidden in my garage already. Yes, I still have MANY left to wrap, but I don't have any more to buy! What else am I going to do at naptime except wrap Christmas gifts?

Tonight I finished the Christmas cards, too. I just have to drop them off at the post office tomorrow and I can cross that project off the list. Because my mother-in-law is so proud of her grandchildren that she insists I send Christmas cards to every person she has ever met, including the nun who taught Lance second grade, I send out over one hundred cards each year. I think maybe 25 of those are friends of mine, and many of those "friends" are people I only stay in touch with via the annual card. I love getting cards, though, so I keep them on the list.

Do you know what this means? I can enjoy the rest of the month! We can go see Santa in the mall at our leisure, on a weekday afternoon when Lance has some free time, and miss the crowds. We can pick an evening and go see the festival of lights at Griffith Park. One day next week or the week after I can make cookies with the kids, before I have to start gearing up for the Christmas Eve party. I can watch the TiVo'd episodes of Santa Claus is Comin' to Town and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer with the kids and not have to rush them off to bed so I can get my wrapping done. Lance and I can take a walk with the kids in the evening, and take in all the neighbors' pretty lights. Hooray!

Last but certainly not least, Vivian keeps impressing us with her verbal abilities. I think she's pretty average with talking, but then Phantom told me she might be advanced, so I'm sticking with that. She does have a ton of words, and more every day, it seems. She has two sentences: "ah deed eet! (I did it!) and "ah seee ooo" (I see you). She's been full-on walking (as in, no crawling, not at all) for about a month now, and she's getting more coordinated every day. Best of all? She understands most everything I say, so if I tell her not to touch the tree ornaments, she looks at me for a minute to make sure I mean it, and then she doesn't touch the ornaments. So NOT the way Isaac reacts when I tell him not to do something, and he doesn't even have a language barrier to use as an excuse.

Although Isaac is doing good things, too. Well, no, not really. Actually Isaac is in a really difficult phase right now, which involves a lot more yelling on my part than it probably should. But this is a post about pride, after all, so . . .He knows how to spell his name. He knows how to spell Vivian's name. He throws and catches the football really well. He remembers things that astound me. Like the Dr. from our surgery in June. Or the birthday party he went to a year ago.

And? My birthday is tomorrow.


why the hell the new XM radio that DIRECTV offers plays the same incredibly lame Amy Grant or Mariah Carey "My Grown Up Christmas Wish" song repeatedly, ad nauseum on their Holly channel. No other song seems to enjoy the same rotation.

The price I pay for enjoying the other Christmas songs, which some might call sappy & uninspired? Perhaps.

0 for 2

Lance's grandparents belonged the Los Angeles Country Club for many many years, and although his grandfather died a few years ago, his grandmother ("Nana") remains a member. Every year, the LACC puts on a Christmas show for the children of their members. Apparently, my mother-in-law (Linda) used to take my husband and his brothers to the show every year, though Lance claims to have no real memory of this. For the past few years, my mother-in-law has wanted to re-create these memories with her grandchildren.

Aside: my mother-in-law is an interesting and at times infuriating person, but her heart is generally in the right place. One thing about her: she takes it personally whenever Lance and I raise our kids in a way that is not exactly the same as how she did it. She saved all the toys from when her sons were growing up, and these are what my children play with at her house. She even buys old toys on e-Bay, claiming that toys "these days" are useless. She has given me clothes that Lance wore as a child for Isaac. She is not Catholic, but since her boys went to Catholic school, she is appalled that we are not considering it, and makes comments about this whenever she gets a chance. The party at the LACC is just another facet of this personality "quirk" of hers: she wants my children to have the exact same childhood as her children did, and her children went to this party, so my children must.

The party at the LACC is complete and utter hell. Imagine a room filled with 200 spoiled blonde kids ages 0 to 14 running around willy nilly in their expensive clothes. Then add the 400 parents and grandparents, all dressed to the nines, trying to be social while the kids run amok. The temperature in the room is 90 degrees. The line to sit on Santa's lap is hours long, and takes even longer than the ones in the mall since here, the parents take the photo. Which, in this environment, means that each parent takes about 50 shots, making sure to get just the right one. No consideration, at all, for the people in line behind them. Random children run through the shot because their parents don't bother trying to rein them in, or teach them manners. In the midst of the madhouse are two "elves", who make balloon shaped animals for kids. Balloons which pop loudly. Kids demand 3 and 4 balloons each, and it doesn't matter who else is waiting in line for one. Other little charmers take their candy cane shaped balloons and bang the face of the elf repeatedly, even after their father says weakly, "Okay, Madison, that's enough."

Trying to corral two toddlers in this mess was challenging, as you might imagine. The show starts at 4, but my mother-in-law insisted that we get there early, around 3:15, to be sure we got a good seat. That means I have to start getting the kids ready at 2:15 or so--right in the middle of naptime. Isaac didn't nap at all. Vivian had just fallen into a deep sleep when I had to wake her. We got lost (of course!) on the way there, and Isaac almost fell asleep in the car. Once there, my usually boisterous son was completely undone by the chaos. He didn't want to sit with me, he didn't want to wait for Santa, he thought he wanted a balloon, but it took too long. My mother-in-law tried to take him outside for a few minutes, but they had roped off the fountain and encouraged everyone to stay inside. He was seconds away from tears the whole afternoon. Nana was there, too. She is a wonderful woman, but she has Alzheimer's and is very unsteady on her feet, so really Linda and I were babysitting her as well. Vivian, to my surprise, didn't seem overwhelmed at all, and even laughed and giggled with some other children, instead of hiding her face in my legs. But this did not work in my favor, since she was constantly trying to explore other areas of the room, and I had to run after her, catch her when her new Mary Janes tripped her up, and keep her from stepping on any other children, or cutting in the Santa line. All
this, while still keeping an eye out for Isaac.

At some point, they started setting up for the "show" (a juggler and some marionettes). All the kids took a seat on the floor in front of the stage. At that moment I was chasing Vivian, and Linda was sitting with Nana and Isaac. Suddenly I looked up to see Isaac in the middle of the "stage", inspecting the microphone stand. Linda was nowhere to be seen. I tried to call him back, but he couldn't hear me over the din of a thousand children. I had to step over twenty kids, holding Vivian on my hip, until I finally made my way to him and explained that he needed to be on the sides of the stage, with the other children. The juggler rolled his eyes at me and snorted "Jesus!" under his breath as I apologized and whisked Isaac away.

The show was fine, the kids were interested for about 10 minutes and then I had to distract them both for the next 30 minutes while it dragged on and on. Afterwards, a stampede of children and adults swarmed past us, headed for the dining room. Linda insisted we head back there too: they hand out cookies!, she said. We always used to get cookies! Fortunately a nice gentlemen informed her that there would be no cookies until after dinner this year, and so we were allowed to leave. Which was REALLY fun, since now it was 5 pm in Los Angeles. The 5.6 mile distance from the club to my home? A one hour drive.

The thing that kills me the most about our whole debacle? The exact same thing happened last year. Pure hell, every minute of it. So I knew what I was getting into, but had to grin and bear it anyway, just to placate Linda. I deserve so many medals for daughter-in-law of the year! Just like last year, as we made our way out to the cars, Linda apologized for all the confusion, and said, "Next year it will be more fun, the kids will be older. We can probably stay for dinner then."

Yeah. Just what would make the afternoon that much more enjoyable: to stay and eat dinner in a crowded dining room where Vivian would spill the water and Isaac would not want to sit still. Where the food would be ridiculously expensive and un-appetizing. Where the kids menu would not offer anything that was not made with dairy or peanuts. Where it would still be 90 degrees and I would be required to smile and make small talk with any number of well-dressed, wealthy moms who look much more put together than I could ever imagine and are prettier and younger than I am too.

Ah, Christmas.

Last year:
Amy, Vivi & Isaac at LACC This year:DSC02426

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Monday mornings, Lance doesn't need to get into work until late. This week, Isaac was up at his normal 6 am, but I'd managed to keep him quiet in front of Sesame Street, and Vivian was still snoring away at 6:45. Lance and I lounged around in bed, waking up slowly. At one point I asked him what he'd like for dinner and then we decided we'd trim the tree that night. Eventually we decided to start a new tradition: we'd break out the fondue pot we received for Christmas last year and make "trimming the tree night" "fondue night" as well in the P.O.W. household.

Because I am a sucker for Christmas, I immediately began imagining what this new tradition would mean to our family. The children would be enthralled by the beauty of the tree, quietly sitting in wonder as Lance and I carefully placed ornaments on just the right spot, pausing occasionally to toast each other with champagne. I'd buy hot cider for the kids, so they could join in the toasting. Then we'd eat fondue by the light of the tree, the kids loving the whole dipping phenomenon, while Lance and I stared adoringly into each other's eyes. Once we'd read a nice Christmas story and put the wee ones to bed, Lance and I would enjoy the rest of the champagne and perhaps christen the tree in another way.

So, with this plan in mind, I set off for the grocery store yesterday morning. My children are allergic to dairy, which makes most (cheese) fondue out of the question, and I wasn't thrilled with the thought of a fondue pot filled with hot oil should we try a meat fondue. I bought champagne, the fruit and pound cake and chocolate for the dessert fondue and then racked my brain for a main course that the whole family could enjoy. What did I come up with? Well--red sauce, of course. It's one of the few things Vivian will eat, after all. I purchased marinara sauce, rigatoni, a bagette, broccoli, new potatoes, mini mozzarella balls (for Lance and I) and basil.

Once home, there were the groceries to put away, the laundry to do, lunch to fix, administer and clean up. Once I finally got the kids down for naps, I set about getting ready for our Christmas tree trimming tradition. I cut up the fruit. I made garlic bread. I cooked pasta. I wrapped basil around the mozzarella balls. I blanched the broccoli and roasted the potatoes. By the time I finished the laundry the kids were up.

Now I began pumping up the evening for the kids, explaining how Daddy was going to come home and we would put pretty lights on the tree and have chocolate and oh, what fun it would be!

(You can see where this is going, I know that.)

So. Lance came home. It took almost an hour to get the lights on the tree, and neither child could have cared less. They both wanted to play with Daddy, now! And why can't I play with the lights? Why can't I unplug them? What is this ladder, can I climb on it? For an hour I ran interference with them while Lance cursed at the tree, but finally! We got it lit! And it looked lovely, really.

DSC02371 DSC02380

Now was the time for ornaments, so I handed each child a small unbreakable one. Isaac wanted the one Vivian had. Vivian didn't want to give it up. Before I could intervene, the ornament (some sort of Elmo with a cowboy hat) had, in fact, broken in half, which caused both children to cry and Lance to yell sharply. Time for a beverage break! I brought out the warm cider for the kids and wine for Lance and I. (We had an open bottle in the fridge, so it seemed silly to open the champagne.) The cider was too hot. Vivian didn't like it. Isaac wanted to drink his out of a regular cup, not a sippy cup. Before we had a chance to sip our wine, much less toast each other, Vivian was into the ornament box, stepping on the gold balls.

"Well", I said. Let's just skip trimming the tree and go straight to fondue. (Here is where you say, I told you so! Because surely when I mentioned fondue up there you thought: her kids are too little for fondue, that's going to be a disaster.) But I was determined. We were starting a new tradition, see.

So. The fondue pot is hot, the fondue sticks are sharp and difficult for an almost 3 year old to handle. Of course Vivian is much too small to even attempt it--I just made her a plate of pasta with red sauce (you know, her favorite meal) but, because her brother got to dip his pasta into the pot, she of course insisted loudly and constantly that she should get to do that, too! Lance and I did not have time to eat more than a few toothpicks worth of dipped mozzarella/basil balls, so busy were we trying to placate Vivian and ensure Isaac didn't burn down the whole house.
Once the red sauce had covered all surfaces, we decided to retire to the "kids table" for the chocolate fondue. This worked slightly better, as I just put the melted chocolate in a bowl and dipped the kids' fruit for them. They were quite pleased with their chocolate-y strawberries, and had Lance and I not been so frazzled at that point, we might have enjoyed the moment as well.

It is actually quite a shame that we did not enjoy that moment, since immediately following the consumption of chocolate, both children morphed into raging lunatics. They spent the next twenty minutes running through the house, screaming "GREASY GREASY GREASY" at each other and cackling wildly. I have no idea why, but they both thought it was hilarious. We finally got them calmed down enough to stay in the playroom, threatening them with immediate bedtime if either one came out.

Then Lance and I set about decorating the tree. Here we actually did have a few minutes to sip our wine--although it never occurred to either one of us to toast each other. We got the ornaments up without incident and even managed a quick kiss, and then it was time to wrastle the monkeys into bed. Which took FOREVER.

Finally, finally, the kids were asleep, the tree was trimmed, the fondue was congealing nicely in the pot. The playroom, the kitchen, the dining table were all disaster areas. The floor was littered with ornament boxes and remnants from last year's tinsel. I had red sauce on my shirt and chocolate in my hair. Lance and I bickered as we cleaned it all up.

But, before we retired to bed (no christening of the tree, not yet), we managed to commiserate a minute. We held each other as we looked at the pretty lights in the tree, we giggled a little at the occasional muffled "GREASY" still emanating from Isaac's bedroom, we sighed and declared the night a success.

Friday, December 02, 2005

"I don't talk about myself much, and it's hard to get to know me."*

There's been some discussion** lately about blogs and privacy. I know that some people use their blog as a form of entertainment. Some people use it as a record of their life. Some people use it to work through feelings, or to find a community of like-minded friends.

Obviously, I don't worry too much about privacy. (Also obviously, I don't worry too much about being entertaining.) I find it a little strange that I am so open here about my personal life, since in the "real world" I am quite reserved, and rarely speak much about my own problems. I rarely feel confident enough socially to talk about myself, and so I spend much of that time listening or asking questions. Yet I don't have any qualms about what I write here, even though it is a totally public forum. I've been trying to figure out why that is, but I haven't come up with much.

The only easy answer I came up with is that my family doesn't know about this blog. I certainly wouldn't be spilling any secrets about my marriage, or my irritation with the kids, or other things, if my mom was a daily reader. Lance has the URL, but he doesn't read it (he says he respects it as something that is my space and he doesn't want to interfere).

There's also the fact that this is a little tiny blog, and I don't imagine many people--other than you, my loyal and patient readers--would bother taking the time to read it. It feels safe in that way--there doesn't seem to be any danger, in my mind, that someone I know would unknowingly stumble upon it. Since it is such a small place, I have never gotten a nasty comment, or cruel e-mail, and that adds to my feeling of safety.

Also, with the exception of Thing One and Thing Two, and the occasional swipe at one of my family members, I don't really write about other people. I mostly write about me, and the kids.

There are people I know in "real life" who read this blog, and maybe some of them don't really want to read about my sex life. But at the same time, these are dear friends of mine, and I am not embarrassed to have them know what's going on in my life, in my head, in my bed. If acquaintances were reading this blog, that might be different. In fact, there is the very real possibility that some acquaintances are reading this blog (Lance handed out the URL to some friends), but I am choosing to ignore that fact, and hoping that if I meet said acquaintances in person, they will know better than to ask if Lance and I finally shagged.

I use this blog in a completely selfish manner. I use it to work out feelings I am having about my marriage, about my kids, about the world. I use it to exercise my brain. I use it as a social network. It is the one place I have that is completely my own, where I do not have to consider anyone else's needs, or wants, or desires before my own. Maybe that's why I'm so open. This is about me, and for me, and it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks about it.

I don't mean to say that I don't care what you guys think. The friends I have met through blogging are extremely important to me. I guess I just feel safe enough with all of you--I know that whether or not you agree with me, you will be supportive--or at the very least, just not comment on a post that annoys you. So thank you. Thank you for allowing me this space to talk about myself and put myself out there without fear.

*This quote shamelessly lifted from Grey's Anatomy.
** I do not know how to link to a specific post when people only have archives up by month, rather than listing previous posts by title. So this link doesn't go to the right post. You have to scroll down a few posts to find it.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Love and Basketball

Tuesday night, this happened. I know that this is a "rebuilding" year, I know that we lost everybody, including 95% of our scorers, that I should be grateful we are NATIONAL CHAMPIONS, that I should feel lucky that we only got edged out by Illinois, rather than being swept off the court--but I don't. I feel depressed, and it doesn't help at all that these assholes won last night, after almost blowing it to a team I've come to appreciate ever since Bobby Knight left the building.

So I'm depressed because of that, and because I'm not pregnant*, and because Lance and I are in the midst of a lull, or a rut, or a something, and it's not a pleasant place to be. We can't seem to communicate without snapping at each other, without getting defensive or losing our sense of humor. So we don't communicate at all. We feed and bathe the kids, we eat our dinner in silence, we retire to our respective televisions, we go to bed.

But now I'm making it sound worse than it is, because we are not angry with each other, not all the time. We're just not connecting, on any level (if you know what I mean). In the midst everything, we still laugh at the funny things Isaac says, smile when Vivian learns a new word, roll our eyes at the latest infraction from Thing One. We still say I love you and kiss each other before bed, before leaving for the day.

Then Lance makes a comment that I take personally, and I react defensively, and he gets frustrated, and I get mad. We haven't been able to enjoy each other in I don't remember how long. Yes, we enjoy the kids together. Yes, I still look across the room at him and feel blessed and lucky to have him in my life. Yes, I know that I love him, and I know that he loves me. We just feel oceans away from each other, and attempts to bridge the gap end in a fight.

Why? Has it become a habit for me, to be annoyed with him? Am I so tired of being a giver all day long with Isaac and Vivian that I have nothing left when he comes home from work? There is a part of me that feels a slight, but constant, resentment of him. I'm sure this stems from my own insecurity about being a stay-at-home-mom. The minute I feel un-appreciated, or taken for granted, my armor goes up, and the claws come out. Then, when he is not around, I remember all the reasons I love him, I realize how fortunate I am to be able to stay at home, I recognize that I should appreciate him more. But when he comes home, the resentment just pops up again. Why do I insist on holding onto this anger?

We are working on this, but it's difficult, slow going. We have designated Wednesday nights as "date night". Not that we go out, but that we make an effort to turn off the television and talk about things that are bothering us. We made a rule that we would consummate the conversation, so to speak, every Wednesday, no matter what, in an effort to feel more connected. Last night, the conversation quickly turned to argument, and no consummation occurred. (Is this wrong? To divulge such personal information on the inter-webs, for all the world to see and judge? Shouldn't I feel more obliged to keep this to myself?) We didn't go to bed angry, but we didn't resolve anything either.

Tonight we are going, as a family, to pick out the Christmas tree. This is a chore that usually brings me much joy, and I'm hoping it does the trick tonight. Family times are still fun times, and maybe the good cheer will last once we get the tree inside.

But Lance's team sucks this year, too--so it's not just me.

*I should note here that if I was pregnant, that would also be cause for depression. No, I have yet to get my period, but I did get a negative pregnancy test. And Lance's joke about me possibly "drying up"? Not helpful.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Christmas Blogging

I've had several posts rolling around in my head for the past few days, but I haven't been able to get them from my brain to the computer, for a number of reasons. One is that I seem to be blocked--I can't access those posts, and when I try to, they end up as fodder for the trash can and not much else. I don't know why this happens, except that it gets worse the longer I avoid posting. I've been struggling a bit lately: this blog is supposed to be about my kids, so I can remember them as babies, and yet I don't post much about them except to complain. I love them intensely, so why is everything I write about them so negative?

Another problem is that I'm really busy lately, gearing up for Christmas. We're throwing a party for some friends of ours (Jen and Del) who got engaged a few months ago. I always have the Christmas Eve party for Lance's side of the family, which this year will include 12 adults and 6 kids under 4, so I've got that to plan. I've got gifts to purchase, wrap, and ship. We got most of the decorations up this past weekend, but we still need to handle the tree. This year we are heading back East to see my family the day after Christmas, where I'll stay with the kids until the end of January. Lance has never been to New York City, so I am trying to plan an overnight trip there while we're home (it's just a few hours away by train). So the times I take for blogging--naptime, when Isaac's in pre-school, the minutes I can steal away when the two monsters are playing together--I've been using that time to get other things done.

I have been dropping by your blogs briefly, trying to stay in the loop, and yesterday I read this. Once again, Mommygoth has inspired me. I know I just wrote a post about Thanksgiving and how I prefer that holiday to Christmas, and that is true, but it is also true that I really really enjoy Christmas. For me, though, enjoying Christmas is more about the anticipation than the actual holiday. It's such fun to have a whole month's worth of activity, all building up to the big day. There's just that feeling of excitement and, yes, good cheer, in the air that I find really intoxicating. So in the spirit of that, here is my Christmas list.

The best things about Christmas:
1. The music. I love all kinds, and I bring it out as soon as Thanksgiving is over. Some favorites: Dwight Yoakum's "Santa Can't Stay"; Marcy Playground, "Keegan's Christmas"; Harry Connick Jr., "What are you doing New Year's Eve?". I love hearing new and unusual Christmas songs, too--if any of you have some odd favorites, I'd love to know them.

2. The lights, tacky and tasteful alike. I love driving around at night in December, taking in the beautiful, subtle white lights of the stately homes, which is just as much fun as shielding your eyes from the glare of a thousand bulbs on the neighbors lawn, complete with plastic Mr. and Mrs. Claus, the Baby Jesus, and a thousand lit up reindeer.

3. Wrapping presents. Well, okay, this chore does get old quickly, but when you first sit down with the paper, the Christmas music on, dinner cooking in the kitchen, surrounded by Christmas decorations, the kids sound asleep--that's a very comforting, pleasant feeling.

4. Sitting on Santa's lap. My birthday is in December, so as a child, many of my birthday parties involved taking a few friends to the mall to sit on Santa's lap. Now that we can take our own kids, the circle of life is practically complete. It is indescribable to participate in the same traditions with my own children as I did myself.

5. The treats. Red and green M&Ms. Candy-canes. Hot chocolate, hot mulled cider. Christmas cookies. Dark chocolate. Yule logs. Eggnog. Gingerbread lattes from Peet's, not Starbucks. Gingerbread houses. Champagne.

6. Making Christmas cookies. I will confess something here: I don't like making Christmas cookies. I like to cook, but rolling out the dough and cutting out all those Santas and bells is incredibly tedious. However, Christmas cookies are part of the holiday and not something I feel I can skimp out on. So, instead of using my grandmother's sugar cookie recipe, which takes talent and patience, I found my own Christmas cookie recipe on the internet, which uses a cake mix and takes about 10 minutes to bake, with one batch making enough cookies for the whole season. No rolling, no cutting, but you do get to sprinkle on the red and green jimmies, and that's the whole point of making cookies, no? This year Isaac will be able to help me, and I can't wait.

7. Santa Claus. Oh, the memories I have as a child, searching the sky for Santa and his sleigh. Listening on the radio, as we drove to my great-aunt's house every Christmas Eve, to the announcer claim that Santa was spotted over Kansas, or approaching Ohio. Can anything beat that excitement? Or when we finally got home and into our pajamas, rushing Mom and Dad through the reading of 'Twas the Night before Christmas, so that we can get into bed--quick!--before Santa catches us awake and leaves us coal, instead of toys in our stockings. This is the first year that Isaac has been old enough to understand, and already I am having such fun with him.

8. Christmas morning. My own children have been too young to really appreciate this, but I can't wait until they do. My father, who was pretty absent for most of my childhood, would get really excited on Christmas, and have a great time teasing us: insisting we wear blindfolds so that we couldn't see whether Santa had brought us gifts or not until after breakfast, asking for cup after cup of coffee while we squirmed in our seats, pretending with mom that it was no special day at all, and why were we so excited? Then he'd peak into the living room and say something like "Well, it does look a little different in there, maybe we should go check it out." And squealing with delight, we'd trip over ourselves in an effort to get to the gifts.

That's just a few of the things I love about Christmas. There's more, but I need to get to the mall to find a few last gifts. Happy Holidays, everybody.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The morning after

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love Christmas, too--but Thanksgiving holds a special place in my heart.

The first time I spent Thanksgiving away from my immediate family, I was about to be 24 years old*. I had been living in San Francisco, had fallen in love with Paul, and--in an effort to cut my ties to him, had quit my job, given up my apartment, and flown to Singapore, where my favorite uncle and his family were living. Unfortunately, those ties to Paul were stronger than I was, and he ended up flying over to travel through Thailand with me. We spent a month traveling, then returned to Singapore just before Thanksgiving. My uncle, who worked for DuPont at the time, had business in Hong Kong or somewhere, so my aunt and two young cousins (ages 12 and 10) had arranged to go to the local American club for dinner. Paul and I tagged along.

That Thanksgiving is not necessarily a favorite of mine: it felt strange to be eating Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant, in a country that did not recognize the day as a holiday, in a climate that felt very much like the middle of summer. I knew that Paul and I were finished, and each day spent with him was just rubbing a sore spot raw. My aunt and cousins were similarly out-of-sorts: after all, their own father wasn't even around. But I do remember feeling somehow grown-up; I survived a major holiday without any immediate family, and it wasn't that bad!

For many years after that, I went home only sporadically for Thanksgiving, saving my vacation days to come home during the Christmas holiday. Back in San Francisco, I befriended Jen, and spent several Thanksgivings with her family--all of us crowded into her sister's tiny apartment, the assorted cast of characters changing from year to year, depending on who was dating who. Those Thanksgivings were full of love and fun, and I remember them with the same kind of nostalgia that I do my own childhood holidays.

Once we got married and moved to L.A., Lance and I started rotating holidays--spending Thanksgiving with one family and Christmas with the other, then switching it the following year. By then my sister had married and had kids, and I no longer felt such a need to prove my independence, which made going home something to look forward to again. My parents bought a vacation home in North Carolina, and we started spending Thanksgivings on the Outer Banks, instead of Delaware. Instead of all the aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins, it was just my growing immediate family, with the occasional grandmother or cousin thrown in.

In Los Angeles, Lance's mother usually made dinner. Sometimes the cousins would join in, and usually the grandparents were there. Once, Thing One and Thing Two made an appearance. Sometimes Heidi joined us for the festivities.

Last year was the first Thanksgiving after my grandfather's death, so instead of spending the holiday with their own immediate families, my mother's whole clan stayed in Delaware, and we had Thanksgiving at an uncle's home. Everyone was there--my grandmother, all 6 of her children and their spouses, 12 grandchildren and their spouses, 8 great-grandkids. It was the first time since the funeral that we had all been together. Very reminiscent of the Thanksgivings we had as small children, with the kids playing in the basement and the adults chatting and drinking upstairs. Also bittersweet, because my grandfather wasn't able to enjoy it with us.

This year, Thanksgiving was held at my mother-in-law's again. Fortunately, Thing One and Thing Two couldn't make it. Instead, we invited our neighbors, who have two boys, aged 3 and 2. Our friends Del and Jen came, too. And Lance's two living grandmothers. It was a wonderful group, made all the more exciting and fun because the kids were absolutely wild. Isaac could not contain his excitement at having his two best buddies over to his grandmother's house, and spent much of the evening running from room to room, grabbing toys from here and there, shrieking and laughing with the sheer delight of it all. Vivian even got into the swing of things, getting so excited about a Turkey shaped sugar cookie that she almost fell out of her chair.

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It was wonderful, and unlike any Thanksgiving before it. In fact, since I started living on my own, most Thanksgivings have differed dramatically. The location, the people, the mood of the holiday changes each year. To me, that's what Thanksgiving has over Christmas--you never quite know what to expect. Yes, there is always turkey, and mashed potatoes, but everything else is subject to change. It might be small, with just Lance's parents and our little family. It could be large, with all the extended cousins and grandparents. It may be mostly friends, with just a few relatives. Or maybe everyone at the table is related to you by blood or marriage. Maybe you spend the morning walking on the beach in a t-shirt. Or you bundle up in wool sweaters to brave the wet cold air. One year, my mother even put oysters in the stuffing. If you are very lucky, everyone in the room loves each other--so whether it is the first holiday without a loved one or the first one with a new baby, everyone leaves feeling full--of food, of hope, of contentment.

I feel very lucky.

*Rah, if you are reading this: what did we do the year before that? Did we do Thanksgiving together in Mill Valley? Or were we fighting already by then? For some reason, I can't remember Thanksgiving 1992.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Two Questions

1. Why the hell was Isaac up 15 times between mindnight and 5:30 am, just wanting to play last night? ??

2. Can someone please explain to me why I HAVE NOT GOTTEN MY PERIOD YET? It is day 4 of the placebos in my birth control pack.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Let's move the previous post way, way down.

As seen at Cub Mommy:

You Are The Stuffing

You're complicated and complex, yet all your pieces fit together.
People miss you if you're gone - but they're not sure why.

The Evil Empire Strikes Again

Following is the text from an e-mail I composed to my sister-in-law Friday night. I can't really bear to go through the whole drama again, but I think it's clear enough from my e-mail what went on.

I have not sent it, and I probably won't, since Lance doesn't want me to.

Dear Thing Two:
I wish you had respected my wishes the other night and sent me an email, rather than causing an ugly confrontation over the phone.

I wish you had not been rude, condescending and unpleasant to Lance on that phonecall.

I wish you had listened to what he was telling you, instead of talking over him.

I wish Thing One had not resorted to childish name-calling in the insulting voicemail message he left for Lance on Friday.

I wish that the two of you had been willing to sit down and have a rational, mature adult conversation with us so that we could clear the air--when we first suggested it, months ago.

I wish you would not claim that you have "always been willing" to do this, when just a month ago Thing One wrote "we are not interested in 'breaking it down live'" in an insufferable email that I wish he had not sent.

I wish when you say that you are offering an olive branch, I could find it, since we have not heard a word from you in 6 months, other than a horrifyingly immature email exchange and a few insulting and wildly fake offerings.

I wish that I would have the opportunity to discuss these points with you in person rather than over email.

I wish you didn't believe that we are "out to get you", or trying to "make something dramatic out of nothing" when all we have ever asked is that we all go out to dinner.

I wish Thing One didn't sink to the level of throwing our son's health into the mix, which has no bearing on our conversation and is none of your business--not to mention being a low, low blow.

I wish you could realize what a great and wonderful time we have with Lance's side of the family, and what you are missing out on. I am sure if you ever do realize this, it will be too late.

I wish you would open your eyes and see that no one has anything against either one of you, that none of us have done anything but try to welcome you and make you comfortable, that all any of us want is pleasant family time.

I wish Trent and Linda didn't turn the other cheek when your behavior is blatantly offensive.

I wish we didn't invite you to my daughter's first birthday party.

I wish you could hear me when I say: Linda has never "poisoned us" against you, in any way. In fact, she has been your biggest defender.

I wish that this email would not fall on deaf ears, as have all attempts at communication.

I wish that you would not twist and manipulate it to fit into your paradigm but rather take it at face value.

I wish you the best. However I have no desire to see or hear from you again until you can behave like a mature, considerate adult, and until both you and Thing One apologize to Lance, to me, and to our children.


Lance was pretty aggravated by the whole episode on Friday (and well he should have been: among other things, Thing One called him a scum-bag) but by the time I returned on Monday, he seemed to be over it. He claims to have written them off, but he still doesn't want me to send the email, on the grounds that it won't do any good, as they won't read it, won't believe it, and will twist it all around anyway. He is right about that, I know. Still, I hate that once again, Thing One and Thing Two get to behave like assholes, and the rest of us just have to "rise above" and let it happen.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

More meetings

Friday, Mieke emailed me out of the blue to see if I could meet her at the local beach playground. I've been trying to meet up with her for some time, but our schedules haven't allowed it. (I should really say her schedule, because who am I kidding that I have a schedule?) Isaac was in pre-school, and Vivian and I had the morning to ourselves, so off we went.

We had a great time, of course! Gabo is adorable, but strangely smaller than I expected. I don't know how to explain this--he looks (of course) exactly like the photos of him I see on her blog, but somehow I expected him to be bigger, or older. Maybe because many of her photos are close-ups? I don't know.

It was 85 degrees, but Gabo didn't want to take off his sweatshirt:

Mieke had a lot to say, which is just what I expected--and to be honest, kind of what I prefer. The less I have to say about myself the better! She wrote a post about our meeting last week (you know, when it happened) and commented that I was quieter than she expected. I was quiet that day--well, I'm quiet by nature--but especially that day. Not sure why, except it was really hot, there were many distractions, and I was feeling a bit fragile due to some hideous drama with Thing One and Thing Two which I cannot write about right now for fear flame will come out of my fingertips and set the computer afire.

Does that sound defensive? I don't mean to be. I know I'm quiet, and I'm fine with that. It's just that I didn't really feel like myself that day, and I'm not sure why.

Anyway, despite that, we had a really nice time. Mieke is as friendly and welcoming as can be, the weather was fabulous, I got to meet a friend of hers who she writes about frequently on her blog. Best of all: the moment when we realized the lifeguard was hitting on her!

She posted some much better photos, but here are a few of mine.



I'm sure we'll meet again, hopefully when I'm not feeling like such a stick in the mud.

Long Long Overdue

Last week, Wednesday, I had my second blogger meet-up. I grabbed the kids and headed down to Long Beach, to meet Gina and her three-year-old son, Mr. Personality. Because Gina is so completely put-together and organized, she found the spot for us to meet and sent me terrific directions over email. She doesn't even live in L.A., and she knew how to get there better than I did. (But then again, that's not saying much.)

Gina is smart, and kind, and easy-going, and we had a really great time. I am definitely looking forward to meeting up with her again. The one difficulty in meeting with another mother is that much of the time is spent running after the various children, so all kinds of interesting conversations were started, and not many of them were finished.

Isaac was still in his "you are not the boss of me" mode, so I had to do more chasing than usual, especially once he found the arcade, with all the shiny shiny games, and steering wheels, and flashing lights. Vivian was her usual easy but shy self. Neither child ate a bite of their taquitos, or the mixed vegetables I rustled up from the Chinese place at the food court. They each ate a handful of pretzels and some applesauce and that was it. (I enjoyed my fish tacos--they seem to go well with blogger meet-ups!). Fortunately Mr. Personality didn't eat much of his lunch either, so there wasn't any reason to feel inadequate. (Not that what your child eats at the malls food court should have any bearing on your inadequacy schtick, as Phantom calls it--but that's assuming you are sane logical person. And we all know I am not.)

Anyway, both boys were dressed in striped shirts and khaki shorts (didn't you know you have to arrange for matching outfits when you meet a blogger?) and I got some okay photos, which I will post in a minute. They LOVED playing in the water fountain, to the extent that both boys were sopping wet by the time we left. Still, the arcade beat the water fountain hands-down. I'm just glad they are at the age where sitting at the games "pretending" to play is just as fun if not more, than if I had anted up the requisite fifty cents per game. Vivian liked the arcade, too, but we finally had to leave when Mr. "I can do whatever I want and you can't stop me" (Isaac, of course. Mr. Personality was an angel the whole visit) decided to climb into the basketball game and up into the hoop. (Why? I don't know. I do know that all the way home I had this conversation: "Did I climb into the basket, Mom? Yes, you did, and that's why we had to leave. But why? Because you are not supposed to climb into the basket. What are you supposed to do, Mom? You are supposed to throw the basketball. But did I climb into the basket? Yes. Did I climb into it, Mom? Yes. What are you supposed to do to the basket? You are supposed to throw the ball. But did we have to go home, Mom? Yes." and so on, and so on, and so on.)

Photographic proof:
Don't they look cute in their little "uniforms"?

In the arcade. Mr. Personality is enthralled with the game's screen, which in addition to showing the race cars, also periodically showed a scantily clad, big-bosomed woman walking around with no apparent purpose.

And we can't forget Vivian:

I would love to say that was the end of our wonderful visit, but unfortunately I still had to get home from a strange place. It was after one o'clock, so I had to keep Vivian awake. And--surprise!--while I was turning my head to sing and make faces at Vivian, I missed the exit to the 105. Which would not have been that much of a problem, except I didn't realize I'd missed the exit until I finally gave up on keeping Vivian awake, about 7 miles later. When I was in Montebello. Fortunately, I did manage to find my way home without too much trouble--I spent four years working in Montebello, and while it would not have surprised me to get lost in a place that I should have known quite well, Lance would have had a hay day. Anyway, we finally made it home while Vivian slept in the car and Isaac drove me insane with his incessant questions about the basketball game. Once home, each child refused to nap despite all my bribes and pleadings, and instead wore me down by fighting with each other, whining, and breaking anything within their reach. Finally Lance came home, I snapped, and he sent me to the Ojai Valley Inn.

So--THANKS, GINA! That really worked out well for me!

Greetings from Heaven

This is where I am. It may be the most beautiful spot I have ever traveled to. The weather doesn't hurt, either: clear, sunny, temperatures in the low 80s. I am sitting at my desk in a room that is half the size of my house, looking out over a gorgeous golf course with mountains in the background. I can hear birds and lawn-mowers in the distance. It's unbelievable. Truly.

I will say it has been a little difficult for me to appreciate all this luxury--I keep thinking, "My god, what is this costing?", and "We should be putting this money into the kids' 529s." Sometimes, like when a hotel employee smiles at me obsequiesly as I sip my cucumber water beside the pool, I even feel physically sick.

I have never stayed in a hotel like this--even our honeymoon, which was gorgeous and wonderful, was not quite this top-of-the-line. It's hard not to feel like a misfit among all the tanned and be-jeweled guests, emerging from the spa in their thick white cotton robes.

Because spending money makes me nervous, I ate lunch yesterday at Taco Bell, and today picked up a tostada at the local Mexican joint. I bought several bottled waters and some wine at the liquor store and I'll probably run out and get some chips or something to eat for dinner. Breakfast is included with the room (and is not very impressive: why can't luxury hotels improve their food?) so I am okay ordering that from room service. I can sit by the pool for free (which is what I have been doing all day) and of course walking the property and enjoying the clean air and beautiful countryside doesn't cost a thing. Internet is $7/hour though--so I will no doubt just be typing up a few entries and will have to leave reading your sites until I return to the small small confines of my own house, where the sound of airplanes landing mere feet from my backyard will lull me to sleep. Huh.

Yesterday, my friend Jen came up to join me (the room has two queen beds!), and we went out to dinner at the local fancy restaurant. Jen is engaged to Lance's best friend Del, and needed a break as badly as I did. (Heidi had other plans, the bitch!) As the maitre d' led us to our table last night, I noticed that it was a large table, with room for at least four. Then I noticed the ice bucket and bottle of champagne on the table. Del had called ahead, ordered the champagne, and arranged to pay for our dinner. How's that? Awesome, that's how.

My only regret right now--and I can't really say I have any regrets, looking out at the view, feeling freshly relaxed and easy--is that Lance and I didn't plan this better, so that he could have driven up here to join me for one night, at least. Also, I was hoping that leaving Lance at home with the kids would force a little bit more respect out of him for what I do, but he paid a babysitter to watch the kids last night and went to the USC game instead.

I'm not complaining. From here, it feels like he has plenty of respect.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sometimes my husband is an ass. And sometimes he isn't.

After yesterday's long evil afternoon involving no naps (Isaac, Vivian) and several melt-downs (me), I decided that I should take the advice that all my friends, bloggers and non-bloggers alike, have been giving me: I'm going on vacation.

When Lance came home last evening, I told him I was at the breaking point, and that I would be checking into a local hotel for the weekend. Surprisingly, he didn't balk. He said, "Sounds like a great idea, babe. You need it."

This morning, before I had gotten around to finding an inexpensive hotel around town, he emailed me to say he'd booked me a room at a 4 star hotel a few miles out of town. My mother-in-law is taking the children tomorrow at noon for the night, Lance and I are going out to dinner at our favorite restaurant, and then Saturday I am driving away to sit in a beautiful hotel room where someone else will make my bed, clean my bathroom, and bring my food. I will not have to lift a finger for ANYONE. I will not have to do anything unless I want to. I can read trashy magazines or watch bad movies on pay per view. I can walk on the beach, or read an actual novel. I can take a shower that lasts longer than 3 minutes. I can blow dry my hair. I can eat chocolate for dinner--or go out to a fancy restaurant BY MYSELF and actually take longer than 10 minutes to shovel the food in my face. I can sleep in for TWO MORNINGS in a row. I don't have to get up in the night for any reason unless I want to.

I think I may even take some time to go shopping, so I have something presentable to wear for all the holiday functions. But maybe not. I don't usually like to shop. It doesn't matter, I don't have to decide now. I have all Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday to decide.

I just wish it was Friday at noon right now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mea Culpa

Nothing like being so self-absorbed that you don't notice when your friends are having a rough time. Or forget to help out another friend when you've promised to, weeks ago. Note to self: before blogging about how self-absorbed your mother-in-law is, glance in the mirror.

Anyway. My friend Heidi, whom you all know, is a wonderful lady, and also incredibly crafty. She makes all kinds of jewelry on the side which she would be happy to sell to you for Holiday gifts. I have tried, and tried again, to get a picture of my favorite necklace, which is just a simple silver disc with my children's names hand-stamped onto it. However, between my shaky hands and the low level of my camera, I cannot get a good one. This will have to do.


To see a better photo, go here.

I wear this necklace almost every day, and get comments on it all the time. It is a great gift for the moms in your life. So . . .if you'd like to order one for your sister, or best friend, or neice, or whoever, just email me, and I'll put you in touch with her. They cost $45 (right, Heidi?) for one disc, and add $10 for each additional.

Also, while I'm apologizing let me say this: I had another FABULOUS blogger meet-up yesterday, with Gina from Just Another Day. I am going to tell you all about it, and post pictures of the adorable Mr. Personality as soon as I can!

How to set fire to my bleeding eyes.-- Edit

You all may remember how I spent the last 10 days uploading 4000 photos onto Flickr, and what "fun" I had doing it. This morning I received the following email from my mother-in-law.

I just spent from 9 to 2 a.m. downloading pictures from your Flickr web sight. You have a lot that I have never seen. Would it be a good idea to go through your Flicker file and delete some of the bad ones. Some are out of focus and some are very unflattering. I notice there is a way to delete photos. It would make it much easier to view them if the bad ones were gone. There are also a lot of duplicates. I like to go through mine and edit them before I put them on Flickr. You can get rid of red eye, crop and adjust the lighting and then just put the ones that are worth keeping on there. Going through every shot to find the good ones takes a lot of work and time.

Just a suggestion.

My first instinct at a response is short. You know, first word: "Fuck"; last word: "you". What do you think?

And remember my husband, and how charming he is being lately? Yesterday I cut my hair off--about 4 inches. When he came home and saw it, he said: "What happened to your hair?" I just looked at him. And that was it. Not one more mention of my new 'do all night. Even Heidi, who is not known for her tact (bless her heart), told me it looked nice.

I need a vacation.

Edit: I should add here that my mother in law is, generally, fairly decent as far as mother-in-laws go. She loves my kids as much as I do, helps out with babysitting whenever possible and is incredibly generous in other ways as well. This kind of email from her is not that surprising though--she is incredibly self-absorbed, and she lacks a filter from her brain to her mouth. So she can't understand that all those photos on Flickr aren't actually FOR her, or ABOUT her, and she doesn't get why she should try and be a little more polite to me about it.

But this on top of the weekend fiasco on top of her son being a complete idiot for the past week is really sticking in my craw.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Is it Wednesday yet?

Today when I dropped Isaac off at pre-school, I had a fantasy that I wouldn't have to pick him up--for a long time.

Isaac is a very sweet boy, well-behaved on occasion, sweet to his sister and friends, but sometimes he DRIVES ME CRAZY. For the last 4 days he has been on my last nerve: openly defying my orders, breaking well-known rules for no apparent reason, sitting on his sister and laughing when she cries, refusing to get dressed, eat lunch, get in the car, or do anything else I ask. Lance was away this weekend, and pre-school was closed on Friday, which means it has just been the two of us and Vivian for the past 60 hours, with a small respite when Heidi came over to visit on Sunday. (Thank you, Jesus, for that small respite.)

He has also taken to waking up before 6am and wandering out to the playroom to play. Our house is small, so the playroom is mere steps from our bedroom, and--if you weren't aware--children's toys are LOUD. VERY LOUD. I cannot insist that he stay in his room, because his room is also Vivian's room, and he will wake her up. So I just lie in my bed cursing his Little People animal farm and the Old MacDonald song it plays at decibels loud enough to break glass, wondering if I will ever sleep past 5:30am again.

Some mornings, in the last week, he has actually awoken (waken? awoke?) at 4am. Yes, 4 in the morning. In his defense, this is generally because he has peed through his overnight diaper, but it does not make me any happier to have to get up, clean him up and then have him sleep with us, or change his sheets. He refuses to sleep on a towel if I try to cover the wet spot.

My mother-in-law just called to tell me what a wonderful weekend they had in Virginia, and to ask how the SC game was. The SC game was at Cal, in the Bay Area. Lance was there, so he probably knows all about it. I, however, was here, with the kids, by myself, all weekend. And WHY was I here by myself all weekend? Oh, yeah--because my mother-in-law offered to babysit for us this weekend so we booked flights to go to the Cal game but then she forgot she had offered and made her own plans to go away. So instead of a weekend away, I get a weekend alone with the kids. I am not bitter at all. Still, I do not think it is good form for her to call me, all happy and chipper, to talk about her fabulous weekend, and Lance's fabulous weekend, both of which happened at my expense.

Let's talk about my husband now, too. He returned from the weekend tired and hungover. Poor man. It is so difficult to go away for the weekend after having so much fun and then return to reality. In fact, now that it is Tuesday, he is STILL so tired, oh how will he ever recover? Isaac waking up so early has really been tough on him too. Not that he actually gets up with him, but still--you know, the noise of me getting out of bed to deal with the children really interrupts his sleep, the poor dear. Oh, and last night it was especially difficult because he stayed up watching CSI with me for two hours and then had to catch up on some work, so he was up past midnight. Nevermind that I told him repeatedly during the viewing to go ahead and get his work done now, so he could get some sleep, so he wouldn't be so pathetic the next day, and after all, the TV show will be there tomorrow, it's TiVo'd for christs sake. And while I'm bitching about him, don't let me forget to mention the stuffed shells I made for dinner which were actually quite good but which he barely ate and only gave a cursory, "Oh, yeah, of course, babe. Thanks for dinner", after prodding. But then he was just too damn tired to help clean up the kitchen. You know, because he's had such a tiring weekend AWAY FROM THE CHILDREN, where he could sleep in as late as he wanted, and didn't have to wipe anyone's ass, or nose, or pick pieces of rice off the floor and instead got to party with old friends. Old friends of mine, that is. You know, that I haven't seen in years. I lived in San Francisco way longer than he did!

Did I mention Vivian's sick? And cannot sleep because she can't breathe through her nose but insists on sleeping with a pacifer? So that when I am not up in the night dealing with Isaac I am up trying to administer medicine to Vivian, which really requires two people--BUT SINCE MY HUSBAND HAS BEEN OUT OF TOWN AND NOW THAT HE IS HOME HE IS SO SO TIRED, POOR POOR MAN--I have to wrestle her myself, getting medicine all over the crib and her clothes and me but none in her mouth?

Wow. I didn't realize I had so much pent up frustration there. Almost good enough for a whine at Phantom's.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Isaac, as I've said before, was an incredibly easy baby. He rarely cried, slept all the time, and smiled and cooed at anyone he met. When we went out to eat at restaurants, strangers fawned over him. "What a sweetheart!", they'd say. "Is he always this good?" On his first 2 cross-country flights he cried for maybe a total of 5 minutes. "Brilliant parenting!" exclaimed our Australian twenty-something row-mate upon our arrival. Even our pediatrician routinely commented on what a sweet and happy little guy he was. "He won't be a war-monger, that much I can tell," he said at our 2 month check up in April 2003. "He brings back my faith in the world." Our pediatrician also said things like: "What a wonderful family. You two are great parents. Look how happy he is to have you two."

But you know what? I actually don't take credit for Isaac's behavior in those months. If anything, the months from 8 to, oh, now, have shown me that parenting had very little to do with it. Isaac was a good baby because Isaac was a good baby. Yes, Lance and I were pretty relaxed for new parents, but that's because Isaac was a good baby. Had he been a screamer, I'm sure I would have arrived at the pediatrician's office looking and acting much more harried. (Case in point: When Vivian was 6 weeks old, Isaac got sick and I had to take him in. I had to take them both in because I had no one to watch Vivian, and the appointment, with me trying to corral Isaac so the doctor could look in his ears but still keep Vivian from screaming, was, shall we say, a disaster. Not much encouragement from the doctor that day.)

Now that my kids are getting older, I know that I have more of an impact on their behavior. One of my jobs as a parent is to socialize these two, so they know how to navigate the world properly as adults. However, Isaac is not even three yet. Despite my best parenting intentions, he often behaves poorly in public. He may have a complete melt-down when I don't let him cross the street without holding my hand. He may scream like a banshee if I tell him we are not going to have an otter pop for lunch. He may knock over the salt shaker, drop the knives, spill the water, stare at our neighbors, and get food in his hair when we go out to eat. Vivian's behavior is often worse.

I do not believe this makes me a bad parent. My kids have bad days, I have bad days. Sometimes it works when we go out to eat, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes we don't even get in the door of the mall before we have to turn around and get back in the car because someone has thrown a fit.

A few nights ago, Lance took us all out to eat at Benihana. I love Benihana myself, even though I freely admit the food isn't great. I love the dipping sauces, and I would drink their salad dressing from a glass if they'd let me. Plus, call me immature, unsophisticated--whatever--I like watching the chef. We have only been to Benihana twice in the last 3 years: once when I was 6 months pregnant with Isaac and just beginning to be able to eat without vomiting, and once when Isaac was about 7 months old. This time would be different: 2 toddlers, lots of breakable dishes and hot surfaces.

Isaac and Vivian were complete angels.

They waited patiently for twenty minutes before we were seated. They smiled at the waitress, chef, and our dining partners. They didn't throw any utensils or spill their milk or freak out because there were no hotdogs on the menu. Vivian even ate something--a lot of rice.

Granted, just because the two monsters had lost their mojo for awhile did not mean that Lance and I enjoyed a leisurely meal. Anyone with toddlers knows that going to restaurants with kids is not exactly a relaxing proposition. We still had to keep an eagle eye out so that no one touched the grill, no one knocked over a plate, no one fell backwards from their chair. We had to distract, distract, distract when they began to get bored. Still, a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

"Your kids are so well-behaved," said the mother next to me, whose own 5 year old son was also in angel-mode. Part of it was the environment: there were lots of kids in there that night, and Isaac was mesmerized watching them. Of course the chef entertained us all. But part of it was just the night. The angels smiled on us, and everybody kept their cool.

Of course, we've had plenty other successful nights out, but we've had our share of catastrophes, too. I am quite sure the vast majority of parents can say the same thing.

I do not believe that by "practicing", you can teach your toddlers to be well-behaved in public, all the time. I think some kids are more suited to public places, and some parents are more suited to taking their kids out. Some children, like Isaac, are incredibly headstrong--which, combined with a short attention span, makes dining out difficult to say the least. Some children, like Vivian, are more mellow, less likely to get into trouble. Still others are very shy, or easily over-stimulated. Parents, on the other hand, can be patient or impatient, can deal well with chaos or require more order.

Many people today claim that parents do not discipline their kids enough. Kids run wild and ruin others' rights to a quiet evening. Of course, as a parent, you need to do what you can to "control" your kid. But I don't think the goal should be to have obedient little soldiers who do exactly what they are told, all the time, without question. Children should be allowed to be children, to a certain extent, and parents should be given a little slack. If someone's child is having a melt-down at Starbucks, this does not automatically mean the mother is incompetent or the child is out of control.

I guess what I'm saying is that the way a young child behaves in public is not always, or even usually, a reflection of the parent. Kids will be kids, and I don't feel especially proud of myself on the days that we have a good time out and about. I'm happier, yes, and more relaxed, but I don't kid myself that I had much to do with it. Similarly, when the kids turn into demon children, I don't beat myself up about it.

I just wish nobody else would.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Hideous photos of me

For Laura:

because I am drunk.

And only because

I may never finish

with this flickr bullshit.


(P.S. This is supposed to make you laugh, not feel sorry for me. )

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I'll be back.

I'm still working on the bleepin' flickr photos and since I can't do more than one thing at a time, that leaves the blog out in the cold.

However, when I'm finished, you will be able to view all the hideous pictures taken of me over the last 3 years, including ones right after giving birth and also enormously pregnant. Not to mention all the ones where I'm just ugly with no excuse. Those are the best.

I know you can't wait.

Monday, November 07, 2005

My eyes are bleeding.

At least, they feel like it. (Please, no offense to anyone whose eyes are actually bleeding. Or who knows someone with such a condition. Truly, if your eyes are bleeding, the last thing you should be doing is reading my blog. Please accept my sincerest apologies know my thoughts are with you and your red, oozing eyes.)

I have just spent the last gazillion hours uploading three thousand photos onto flickr, for the purposes of archiving. Just adding all the tags and organizing them is difficult enough, but add into that the fact that our camera was somehow set to the wrong year. This means I had to go in and individually change the date on EVERY SINGLE PHOTOGRAPH. Actually, that is not exactly true, because it wasn't EVERY photo, just 85% of them. If it was every one, I could live with the year being off by one. However, when most of the photos read 2002, but a few of them read 2003, it kind of throws things off.


I just wanted you to share in my suffering.

So, thanks.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Do you vote on initiatives in your state?


Californians do. Every voting period (which, honestly, feels like at least twice a year), all registered voters are sent a "Official Voter Information Guide", which can be as many as 200 pages long. (Actually, I suppose it could be an infinite number of pages long. This year's one is 177.)

In our handy dandy booklet we find all the initiatives we are voting for, first explained in a summary, then explaining "what your yes vote means" and "what your no vote means". Then we have quick arguments, one pro, one con. And finally, addresses to find "additional information". That's the first 5 or 10 pages, depending on how many initiatives there are. Next comes the "official title and summary" and "analysis by the legislative analyst" for each initiative, followed by an argument in favor, followed by a rebuttal to the argument in favor, followed by an argument against, which is in turn followed by a rebuttal to the argument against. I am not making this up. I told you, this year's booklet has 177 pages.


The responsible citizen will wade through all this verbage and make a decision, fill out his little practice voter card (also provided each election period), and take it with him to the polling place November 8th.

That's what I do. I ignore the gazillion political advertisements, all the crap that comes in the mail, the earnest young people who come to my door in the evening, all of that. I ignore it, and ignore who sponsors each initiative (oh yeah, you can find that in the booklet, too), and just read all the hideously boring and poorly written crap until I figure out which makes the most sense to me. Guess what? It takes a long time. At least an hour, usually more.

Didn't I elect officials to do that for me?

It's not that I necessarily mind doing it. It's kind of nice to feel like I have a voice in the process. I just know that most people are not reading through all this information. Most people--like my husband--ignore all of it and just ask someone they know--what should I vote for? Or they don't vote at all, because what a spectacular pain in the ass!

I think that sucks. It's hard enough to get people out to vote for President, much less all these ridiculous statues and initiatives. I wonder how skewed the numbers are toward the more educated, priveledged voters. We're the ones who have time to read all this stuff, after all.

That said, if you live in California, be sure to vote No on Prop 73 (Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor's Pregnancy.) It's worth it just to go to the polls for that one initiative.