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.

DSC02248 DSC02267

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.

Grow, baby, grow

Remember how I ran into a neighbor baby a few months ago? And she was younger than Vivian, but much advanced developmentally, so I got a little insecure about things?

Well, we ran into them again yesterday. Joanna is still ahead of Vivian developmentally (but I mean, really, who isn't? Vivian is almost 17 months old and barely walking). Thing is, I don't care anymore, and I'll tell you why.

For one thing, her nanny informed me that Joanna is in fact 16 months old, so she is not 3 months younger than Vivian, like I originally thought. Also, I know Vivian can walk, I've seen her do it. She just chooses not to. She will be running before I know it, and I want to cherish her babyness for the few weeks of it I've got left. Plus, she's got a ton of words and can understand most of what I say. I feel confident that she is developing fine, and I don't have to worry. See how calm and rational I am?

One thing the nanny said did throw me for a loop, however: "She's so big! Look-- she's the same size as Joanna."

It's true. Vivian is no longer small for her age. She is suddenly average height.

As a kid, I was always one of the smallest in class. I weighed 42 lbs in 2nd grade. I wasn't 5 feet tall until I was 16. I didn't reach my current height of 5'4" until sometime in college.

When Vivian wore her 0-3 month clothes for 6 months, secretly I found it kind of cute. Honestly, the narcissistic side of me reveled in it, especially since, as a baby, Vivian looked exactly like Lance. In her size, I had finally found some way to connect her to me. Ever since, I've been quietly gloating. "Oh, she's small for her age", I'd respond to another mother at the park, who asks how old she is. Or, apropos of nothing, while waiting with the other moms for pre-school to let out, "Yes, those are still 3-6 month pants. She's 14 months old!".

No more. I'm not sure when this happened, though I would guess sometime in the last 2 months. Vivian has caught up with her peers, leaving the little piece of me in her (that I was clinging to desperately) in the dust.

I know there are other parts of me in her, and as her personality emerges, I can see them shining through. (No, not the whining. Really. Nooo.) Now that her hair is blonder, she looks much more like me than she used to. Still, it's hard to let go of that tiny girl, the one who would face the same sort of challenges I did, by being the smallest kid in school.

Will I be as well-equipped to help her face whatever her different challenges may be?

Now, where did that calm, rational mother go?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

If you are a new reader, please forgive the following incredibly boring post. Usually I am laugh-out-loud funny, compelling, and fascinating to boot.

Dinner Tonight.

Offered*: Pears, grapes, steamed green beans, cherry tomatoes, roasted sweet potato, carrot sticks with hummus, whole grain pita chips, french fries from freezer, chicken "no nitrate added" hot dog.**

Thrown on the floor, Vivian: Grapes, green beans, 3 cherry tomatoes***, sweet potato, carrot sticks, several whole grain pita chips.
Consumed, Vivian: 3 pieces of pear, 2 cherry tomatoes, 2 bites of whole grain chips, 8 french fries, one entire hot dog, 1/4 cup ketchup.

Dropped to the floor, Isaac: green beans, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, whole grain pita chips.
Consumed, Isaac: Pears, grapes, 2 cherry tomatoes, roasted sweet potato, 1 carrot stick with hummus, 10 french fries, 1 entire hot dog, 1/2 cup ketchup.

*I do not always offer such an array of choices--it was clean out the refridgerater night.

** I do not always use these healthy hot dogs because I don't like going to more than one grocery store, and Whole Foods is the only place that carries them. But since I had them tonight, I wanted to mention it. You know, to get credit.

***there were also cherry tomatoes stuck to her bottom and on her socks.

I probably should just not offer the french fries so they are hungry enough to eat the healthier stuff. But it doesn't seem to work that way. Instead, they are both clamoring for milk 10 minutes after dinner. (Which, of course, I give them. I mean, at least that's healthy. But I don't think it is supposed to be the source of all their nutrition for the day. And for Vivian, at least, it is.)

(What did I have for dinner? Pita chips with store-bought tzatziki, 2 beers, 2 cookies.)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The one where I act like an asshole

At pre-school, Isaac paints and draws and makes projects with his friends. Eventually, these masterpieces come home with him.

Exhibit A:

Since April, when these beautiful renderings started cluttering up my (very very small, with no storage space) house, I have been, well, throwing them away. I mean, generally I wait until Isaac is asleep or otherwise engaged, and I make an effort to put them in the container outside, so he won't see his beautiful depiction of god-knows-what lying forlornly in the trash, but I do throw them away.

You see? I'm an asshole. You should have heard the gasps from the other pre-school mothers when I confessed to trashing my son's artwork the other day.

On the other hand, aren't I just being practical? Had I kept all of these wonderful expressions of my son at age two, we would no longer have room in our house for furniture. I just think it shows better mothering skills to ensure my son has a bed to sleep in, over preserving these crafty pieces of art for him to glance at one day and say, "You kept that? Why?"

Okay, here is a question for all you better mothers out there: Did your mother keep your pre-school drawings? Do you pull them out often and look at them lovingly, comforted in the thought that your mother could never dispose of such things? No? NO? Then why the hell are you saving your kids'?

Running2K posted an idea on her blog awhile back (I'm sorry, I can't find it, or I would link it): she takes digital photos of her kids' artwork and stores it on the computer that way. This seems like a good idea, and would solve my no-storage-space-problem, but then again--it requires organization and time. And effort. I still can't get around the big question: what for?

Other mothers have suggested to me that I just keep the "good ones". But I ask you: what criteria decides a good one? For example, I give you

Exhibit B:

Is this a"good one"? I mean, to me, it seems better than Exhibit A, but then again, I am no artist. Who am I to say? Isaac himself just looked at me funny when I asked him to choose.

I know that I am too practical, and not sentimental enough, generally speaking. This is my personality. So I wonder, will I regret throwing these things away? Will Isaac feel unloved because I don't have any evidence of his artistic prowess at age 2?

You see, all this time you thought my confessions of bad mothering was just self-deprecating humor. But now, the truth comes out: I am, in fact, an asshole of a mother. This combined with the conversation I had with Heidi today ("I am NEVER going to take her to any gymnastics practice at 5 in the morning! No way! It's not like she's going to be an Olympic athlete!") should leave no doubt.

However, now that I have actually taken photos of the artwork for this blog post I suppose I should just continue doing that. It's not like it was difficult to do. And Lance wants me to go to the art store and buy some sort of fancy container for them all. I guess I'm going to have to save them, somehow, after all. Sigh.