Thursday, June 29, 2006

What's your thing?

About a month ago my mother-in-law emailed me to see if it was alright if she bought Vivian a doll for her birthday. I'm not sure why she felt like she had to ask me, except that she knows I'm not much of a girly-girl and maybe she thought I'd be annoyed by a doll or something. I learned long ago not to try and understand where MIL is coming from, though: she can be a wonderful and generous person but her motivations are often beyond comprehension, if not suspect.

Anyway. She sent the email, and I responded. "Of course!" I said, "Buy her whatever you want. Just do me a favor and don't go overboard. She's only two, after all, she doesn't need every possible outfit and accessory for the doll, too." I only added the last bit because my mother-in-law is a complete Ebay addict, a collector, AND she had three sons. Vivian is her first chance to buy dolls, and I knew that she might get a little crazy. (This woman has over 400 of those Carolers, the little singing Christmas dolls. I'm not kidding.) MIL agreed, and that was that.

(Ha. Ha. Ha. Oops, excuse me.)

Before we left for vacation, MIL handed me several new outfits she had purchased for Vivian's birthday. She wanted her to be able to wear them back East, so she presented them early. Great. I thanked her profusely and went on my way. The day before we left, MIL dropped by with a doll and diaper bag she had purchased for the doll. The diaper bag was full--6 outfits for the doll, new shoes, baby lotion, baby powder, a tiny teddy bear for the doll. "Here", she said, "this is so Vivian can play dollies with her cousin. I thought they'd have fun doing that." "Oh. Okay. Well, uh, thanks. Vivian, what do you say?"

So a bit more than I had asked for, but whatever--she's the grandma, I'm not going to rain on her parade. What's a couple of outfits for a doll anyway. Cue our return from the East Coast, when we walk into our house after a long long flight only to see a twin baby stroller, with two more dolls. Attached is a balloon that says "Happy Birthday Vivi!". Oh but we're not done yet. Last weekend, Vivian received 4 more outfits for each doll, 6 new baby blankets, and two doll sleeping bags. Unwrapped, but at my MIL's house, out for Vivian to play with, was a doll pack n' play, another stroller, and several more assorted cribs/blankets/doll teddy bears.

It was like being at the Bitty Baby store. Everywhere I looked was another present or another toy. I know all of this makes my MIL extremely happy. She finally has her girl to buy for! I really don't want to take any of that joy away from her, and especially now, when Vivian doesn't have a clue what's going on. But it makes me grit my teeth. It is so against my main tenet (my only tenet?) of parenting, which is: DO NOT SPOIL YOUR KIDS WITH A BUNCH OF UNNECESSARY CRAP.

You know how everybody has a "thing"? Something that is really important to you, or really gets under your skin, or something that you are acutely aware of? For me, it is elitism and entitlement, and I'm sure the reason I have such a bug up my ass about it is that I went to a prep school, with tons of extremely rich kids, and many of them were complete assholes. I really don't want my kids to be like that, or to be around that. I have an extremely difficult time with people who just expect to be given a free ride, who think that by virtue of their birth they are entitled to everything they want.

In my opinion, buying a lot of "things" for your kids is wrong for a couple reasons. In the first place, if you buy your child everything they could ever want, how are they going to learn to appreciate anything? If they get a Mercedes for their 16th birthday, what's going to top that? Do you really want the peak of your kids' happiness to be at 16? Nevermind that giving them everything they want denies them the opportunity to work hard for something, to earn it, and to feel proud of themselves. I want my kids to be self-sufficient, and if I buy everything for them, how are they going to learn to do anything for themselves? Secondly, I think buying things just for the sake of buying them is a waste. A waste of your money and a waste of the environment. Of course it's nice sometimes to buy nice things, even if you don't need them. But I like to impress on my kids that you can be just as happy with fewer things. Things don't make you happy.

I'm not articulating this very well. But here's another way of saying it: $300 worth of crap from the American Girl store does not equal love. At two, Vivian would have been just as thrilled with one doll and one outfit. At six, maybe she'll want more. But if she gets five bajillion things today, what in the hell are we going to have to get for her at six? Furthermore, isn't there some value in learning delayed gratification? Like, if when she's six she really really wants the double stroller for the twins, she can ask Santa for it, or save her allowance? And then if she gets it, think how thrilled she'll be! Oh wait, we've denied her that joy, because she already has the thing. Which she got for doing approximately nothing, when she was two years old. When she had never even heard of Bitty Baby.

Anyway, I'm probably making too much of this. I know that the whole spending-too-much-on-the kids-thing is my own personal cross to bear and I'm over-sensitive to it. Still, those Bitty babies are making me itch, and not in a good way. (Is there a good way to itch?)

Is there something in particular about parenting that gets to you? Something that react to more strongly than you maybe should? Or am I the only freak out here?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Random bullets to fill time until I get the vacation post done*

  • Strange weather in L.A. lately. Last night it was humid. Humid, in L.A.! It was still 75 degrees at 8pm (usually the temperature drops to the 60s by then). You will think I'm lying, but I actually like humid weather. I'm praying it keeps up through the 4th.
  • I have switched to non-fat milk in my lattes and--horror of horrors!--lite beer. I still fear that will not be enough to get me back into my pants. I may have to start (gulp) exercising. Someone kill me now.
  • I had a long post done entitled "Pasadena, otherwise known as Bum Fuck Egypt" about a cocktail party we went to last weekend, about how it takes forever to get there, and the weather is crappy and the smog is horrific, and how the people are so snotty and the country club set is in full effect there--but then I decided I probably shouldn't trash the entire town based on one experience. Just because everyone I've ever met from Pasadena has been a judgmental snob to the nth degree doesn't mean there aren't some perfectly nice people who live there. Also, truth be told, although the people at the party were indeed country-clubby in their cliqueishness, and though there was a fair bit of snotty behavior going around, some of them were very friendly, and I shouldn't complain. The host, a friend of Lance's from high school, has never been anything but kind to me, and his wife seems nice enough. I am glad I don't live there, though. And very glad that whole social hierarchy thing means nothing to me, or my husband.
  • Got the BBQ issue of Bon Appetit the other day. I really dislike hamburgers (I was a vegetarian for 10 years, and eating a burger is just way too "meaty" for me). However, I love summer so much, and barbecuing is such the symbol of summer to me, that the cover actually made me salivate. I know some people can't stand the heat, but to me, summer is all the good things at once: fresh, yummy produce. Barbecues with friends. Beer in the lingering afternoon sun. Staying light until after 8 o'clock. No school! Laying out in the sun with a good book and some girlfriends. Shorts and flip-flops. I wish it was summer every day of my life.

* It may be awhile.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My own personal Abbott & Costello*

Scene: in the car, we drive past a dad with his young daughter.

Isaac: That looks like my friend Nadia.

Vivian: Nania!

Isaac: Nania?

Vivian: Nania!

Isaac: Nadia?

Vivian: Nadia.

Isaac: Do you like Nadia?

Vivian: Yes!

Isaac: Why do you like Nadia?

Vivian: Cuz I like Nania, and . . .

Isaac: Nania?

Vivian: Nania!

Isaac: Nadia? or Nania?

Vivian: Nania! Nadia! Nadia! Nania!

Isaac: Do you like Nonnie**?

Vivian:Nonnie! Nania! Naaaaannnnieeeeaaa!

*Not quite ready for prime time

**They call my mother-in-law Nonnie.

Also, this was funnier in person. I swear!

Sadness, on three fronts

1. I never have time to blog anymore!

2. Carolina lost the Baseball College World Series last night. Even though I find nothing more boring than baseball, it was still fun to have my alma mater in the race, especially since we are definitely NOT a baseball powerhouse.

3. I can no longer fit into the pants I bought when I was 2 months post-partum. (And not because they are too big.)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Conversation, a few minutes ago.

Me: Hi Linda, it's Amy.
Mother-in-law: Oh hi there.
Me: What's going on?
MIL: Just the usual.
Me: Do you and Trent have plans tonight?
MIL: We'll be here. Do you need a babysitter?
Me: Actually, yes. Darren just invited us to his housewarming party--the post office sent our invitation back to him for some reason, so we didn't know about it until today.
MIL: That's fine, just bring them over on your way to Pasadena.
Me: Great, thank you so much! Don't wait up for us--we'll just sneak in quietly and get them later.
MIL: Why don't they spend the night?
Me: Are you sure? That would be great!
MIL: In fact, why don't we keep them until Sunday, since you were planning to come over then anyway?
Me: Really? Until Sunday?
MIL: We haven't seen them in so long, we'd love it!
Me:Wow. Okay. THANKS!

Lance and I now have the entire weekend free of children! Yeehaw! What a nice unexpected weekend bonus!

(The only issue is that once again we'll be leaving Isaac, this time for two days. I'm sure this will NOT help the separation anxiety. What does it say about me that when considering these two things: Isaac's fear and my freedom, freedom wins?

Mother of the year nominations, anyone?

UPDATE: Turns out the last minute party is tonight (Saturday), so we didn't get to fob off the kids after all. Not until tonight anyway. Better for Isaac, not as good for me.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Separation Anxiety: what not to do

For reasons I cannot fathom, neither of my children has ever really suffered from separation anxiety. They've always been happy to go to whoever wants to hold them, happy to be left with a babysitter, or my in-laws, or whoever. There's been the occasional tear, if Lance and I leave too close to naptime, but always the crying has ceased before we even make it to the car. Even when I left Isaac at pre-school for the first time, there was only a millisecond of concern before he was off exploring all the new toys.

I feel fortunate that my kids are like this, but I doubt it has anything to do with my parenting skills. I'm not sure what it says about my parenting skills that my kids are just as happy with anyone else as they are with me.

As I've mentioned, right before we left for the East Coast, we took a trip up to Carmel, to see some old friends. The kids have been there before, but I don't think either one of them remembered. Strange surroundings, strange people, but they both did fine. Immediately afterward, we went to Delaware where again the kids were dumped into a strange home, surrounded by strange people. The time change plus the long napless flight exhausted them, but still they seemed okay. Right after we got to Delaware, my brother-in-law, my dad, and my niece and nephew took the first car down to North Carolina. We sent Isaac and Vivian with them, since I had some training to do at my dad's company and my sister had tickets to see Brooke Shields give a speech* that night. At first, they were thrilled with the idea--riding in a car! With their cousins! And there was a dvd in the car! But once they were all strapped in and reality set in that I would not be joining them, Isaac started to lose it. "But Mommy! I'll miss you", he whined. "I'll be there before you know it", I reassured him. "I need ya, Mom! I miss ya! Don't leave me!"

I gave him a few more kisses through the window, and sent them off, assuming that once they got going he would forget all about missing me. According to my dad, he did fall asleep shortly thereafter, and all seemed well. About 1.5 hours later, he woke up, and immediately started crying. "I want my mommy!" Nothing my dad, brother-in-law, or anyone else did made a difference. He cried/whined for two straight hours. He finally got over it, and managed to have an okay time for the next 24 hours (again, in new surroundings) until I arrived, but the damage was done.

Ever since then (June 7th, 2006), whenever I leave for any amount of time, no matter who I am leaving him with, he has a complete fit. Screaming, crying, refusing to leg go of my legs. "I need ya, Mom! I miss ya! Don't leave me!!" When we left him with my parents so Lance and I could go out to dinner, he cried for 10 minutes. When we left him with a babysitter so all the adults could go out to dinner, he cried for 30 minutes. When we finally got back to L.A. and I took him to school, he screamed for 20 minutes (something he's never done there before). We left him last night with my in-laws, whom he has stayed with hundreds of times, and he cried bloody murder for five minutes. This morning, at school, even after insisting to me that he wouldn't cry, that he was excited to go to school, he screamed. (Though they did call me a few minutes after I left to say he'd stopped right away.)

Update: today I had to carry a screaming Vivian out of preschool ("No go, Mommy! Stay! I want to stay!") while the sweet pre-school teacher held a flailing Isaac ("Don't leave me! Mommy! No!"). Fun times.

I'm really hoping this new phase/ personality quirk is short-lived, as it's agony to leave him when he's that upset. I'm not used to it, and it makes me feel incredibly insecure about my mothering abilities. (Should I leave him? Should I ignore the behavior? Should I explain again how I'm coming back? How could I have done this to him? Is he ruined forever? etc etc)

Vivian, on the other hand, has been totally non-plussed by all the comings and goings. Apparently, for her, I'm still as interchangeable as ever.

*I'd give her a B-.

First things first: traveling with toddlers.

Because my family lives on the other side of the country, my kids are more seasoned travelers than your average 2 and 3 year olds. They have both survived at least 2 or 3 cross-country flights in each year of their lives. I have flown alone with each of them before--Isaac at 10 months, Vivian at 3 months--but I have never flown alone with both of them together. Until this trip.

I have learned a few things about flying with kids in all our travels: schedule the flight around nap/bedtime; bring a few extra diapers in case the flight is delayed; carseats are a pain in the ass to lug onto the plane, but once you get them on, they are a godsend; and it's never as bad as you anticipate, even if it's really bad. The easiest kids to take on a plane are infants or pre-mobile babies. Once they are mobile, things become progressively more difficult until they are old enough to really understand consequences, around 2.5. At least, that's been my experience. Easily the worst part about flying with children is the logistics of it all: getting all the gear and the babies through all the lines and onto the plane without a meltdown (from the babies, you, or airport personnel).

All that is a really long introduction to the story of our flight a few Mondays ago. In retrospect, I should never have planned a trip to Carmel, which involved a six hour drive up on Friday and a six hour drive back down on Sunday, immediately followed by a six hour flight Monday. Yeah, I think that was a bit much for me, not to mention for the kids.

Our flight left at 1:30pm, naptime. Perfect. The difficulty lay in maneuvering both kids, the diaper bag, and two un-wieldy carseats through the security lines. Fortunately, Lance was able to get a pass to help us to the gate. We ate a quick lunch while waiting (airport food, yum) and got in line (Southwest, which allows families with kids to pre-board), then Lance had to go back to work.

With some difficulty, I managed to get both kids on the plane, in their carseats, and after a 10 minute delay, we were off. The first hour or two of the flight went well enough--no screaming, no fighting, but also no napping. Isaac required 3 separate trips to the bathroom; have you ever tried to fit three people in one of those tiny airport rooms? Even if two of them are well under four feet, it's quite a challenge. Around hour two, the captain turned on the seatbelt sign, as we were experiencing some very minor turbulence. Unfortunately, that sign stayed on for 4 more hours, the remainder of the flight.

For reasons unknown, neither Isaac nor Vivian slept at all during the flight. By the end of hour three, they were both tired of sitting in their seats. By hour four, Vivian was crying "Unbuckle me! Mommy! Get down!" at decibels loud enough to be heard in the cockpit. Isaac joined in, too, hollering to pee, grabbing whatever toy Vivian had in her hand, repeatedly kicking the seat in front of him and generally behaving like a jackass. That continued until we landed in Philadelphia around 9pm east coast time.

Here's what I find odd: I didn't really care. Wait, that's not what I mean. I definitely cared that both kids were so upset. I cared that I had to try and calm down both of them for 3 straight hours. But I didn't care what any of the other passengers thought. I didn't care if Vivian's crying was annoying them. I didn't care if they were tired of Isaac asking for more milk. I had enough to deal with, trying to handle the crises that was both of my children, and that's all that mattered. Further more, the way I figure it, if it was annoying any of the other passengers, imagine what it was doing to me, their mother. Cry me a river, people.

This is not my usual attitude. Generally, I'm very aware of the way other people perceive me, my children, and my parenting abilities, and I do everything in my power to ensure that we leave a good impression. But I don't know, on that flight, I just felt like it was all I could do to deal with the kids and I couldn't waste any brain function worrying about anyone else.

In the end, we made it to Philadelphia unharmed and I suppose that's something.

The flight home was easier for two reasons: one, Lance was with me, and two, the flight was scheduled for 6pm, which meant both kids slept for the majority of the flight. There was the unfortunate problem of the flight being delayed for 3 hours, however. This made for some interesting time in the Philadelphia airport. I must admit that at one point Vivian was running around with another two year old--chasing after him, and being chased, giggling hysterically (by this time it was 8pm, way past her bedtime), often running into other very important adult, annoyed passengers--and I didn't stop her. We'd been sitting there for 3 hours, every flight in the area was delayed due to thunderstorms, and I just didn't feel justified making her sit still any longer. I'm sure the kid-less people in the gate area did not appreciate her behavior, or mine, but I still feel no shame about it.

Right before we boarded the plane, a very nice couple who had been talking a bit with both Isaac and Vivian during the wait told me that both children were "adorable, and very well-behaved". I smiled sweetly and thanked them, not mentioning the chasing game which they had very obviously not witnessed.

Oh, and I should mention here too: at one point, a very kind woman, around 60, I would guess, came over and offered to watch the kids for me while I used the restroom. Lance had gone off foraging snacks or magazines, and she thought I was traveling alone with them. Isn't that nice? I just love when people are good, instead of shitty.

That's it for our plane travels, though we also survived another 6 hour car ride, this one from Delaware to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and back. Here's a recap of our schedule:

Friday June 2nd: 6 hour drive to Carmel
Sunday June 4th: 6 hour drive back to L.A.
Monday June 5th: 6 hour flight to Philadelphia
Wednesday June 7th: 6 hour drive to Duck, NC
Friday June 17th: 6 hour drive back to Delaware
Monday June 19th: 6 hour flight back to L.A.

Driving home

Yeah, I'm glad to be home.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


We had a great time, but I'm thrilled to be home. The kids are exhausted after a long flight last night, I've got piles of laundry to do, there's no food in the house, and Vivian is two. (TWO!)

More to come . . .

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Stop. Just stop.

Why does winter drag on and on, endless days of grey skies and uncomfortable sweaters, but the minute summer gets here, the weeks fly by?

I am still running around, not even close to being ready for our trip back east, much less the Carmel weekend we leave for in the morning. I'm jonesing to read all your perfect blogs but can't even find the time to open bloglines. We get home Sunday afternoon from Carmel and leave less than 24 hours later for Delaware. I probably won't get a chance to post at all while I'm home. This makes me even more anxious to get on the computer today--I can't imagine two whole weeks without you people.

We get back June 20th. Vivian will be TWO YEARS OLD by then. How is this happening? My children are not babies anymore. My children are almost done with being toddlers. I need to get off this train, and pronto. I feel like I am going to wake up tomorrow and be sending Isaac off to college.

I was thinking earlier (I know, I know, I shouldn't strain myself), and realized that I have only the smallest bit of time left when Isaac and Vivian will love me as much as I love them. In a few years, they will start seeing my flaws, being embarrassed by my clothes, feeling annoyed when I kiss them. Can you imagine? I can't tell you what a big part of my life it is to walk into Isaac's room at night, give him a kiss, and have him sleepily murmur "I love you, Mom". I don't want that to end!

Well I could write a novel about that topic but then I would be procrastinating all the laundry/cooking/packing I have to do before tomorrow morning, so I guess I'll just sign off.

See you in a few weeks!