Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The 12 Days of Christmas!

During the Christmas holiday, our family decided not to subject ourselves to the costly and freaking-time-consuming experience that is going to the US, and instead we opted to stay closer to home: Thailand.

We were there for 10 days, and while I could sit here and recap every single thing that we experienced, I don't feel like getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome today, and I'm pretty sure you don't want to go through what would surely be the literary equivalent of looking at someone's vacation slides!

So, in order to consolidate information, I am going to briefly touch on our trip while using a popular holiday song:

On the twelve days of Christmas, the universe gave to us:

1 stomach virus that we ALL shared at one point or another during the holiday. Combine that with a hotel in which the water pressure was almost non-existant, as well as the maid service and fresh towels, and it could turn into The Stuff That Nightmare Vacations Are Made Of. Fortunately, we soldiered through.

2 ferry rides to and from Phi Phi Island. All I am going to say about that is that ferry rides sound better in theory than they are in reality. Especially with kids. Sick kids.

3 nights of eating at Gastone's, an awesome Italian restaurant that we found one block away from our hotel in Phuket. They had good food (gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce! Caprese salad!) and VERY generous pourings of wine, so needless to say that after a week of eating the same food on Phi Phi Island (and drinking the same bad chardonnay), Gastone's was like paradise.

4 sick people who took turns being miserable and bed-ridden. That is really all I am going to say about that. You're welcome.

5 hours door-to-door to any hotel in Phuket (including airport time and the taxi ride from the airport). You just cannot get better than that.

6 families reuniting. We traveled to Thailand to meet up with 5 other families, a big gang of us who all met when we lived in Doha. Some still live in Doha, some live in Vietnam, others in Jakarta and some live in Singapore. But for 11 days, it was as if we were all still back in the desert together again. Except, of course, that instead of a desert, we had a beach! A nice one, too. So, really, it was the BEST reunion possible.

I'm not going to lie, though- all of us with our two kids per family? It was like a circus parade everywhere we went. But we were back together again, so how could it possibly bother us? Bother everyone around us? Maybe. But bother us? Not in the least.

Another truth being revealed here is that we did not go ONE SINGLE meal in a restaurant without at least one panicked person saying, "Wait- where is my kid???". Those kids were fast and wily, and they ganged up on us.

7 days of vomit. Yep, between the four of us, there were only FOUR days when no one threw up at least once. Not to be boring or redundant by throwing up in...oh, say a TOILET, the list of places where our kids threw up included the middle of the bed, the breakfast table in the hotel restaurant, and in the taxi on the way to the airport.

8 episodes of "Elementary". I had to do SOMETHING while I was holed up in the hotel room with sick kids, so I caught up on this show. I had been saving the episodes for such an occasion, and I watched all eight of the episodes that I'd accumulated. 

I am a HUGE fan of the BBC series "Sherlock", so I was a bit nervous about the new American version of Sherlock Holmes. All I can say it that it did not disappoint. It almost made sitting in the room while everyone else was out kayaking or romping on the beach worth it.


9 tantrums daily. So, I think that by now we all know how well Skye reacts to ANYTHING when she is at home in her usual routines, right? Well, take her OUT of those routines and throw in a new, strange place, along with a dodgy stomach and then just imagine the possibilities!

That is pretty much all I can say about that without withdrawing into some kind of toddler-induced PTSD and crawling into the corner to chew on my hair.

10 kids surrounding. All the time! See my previous explanation of the 6 families, and remember that we had AT LEAST 10 kids around us at all times.

The kids had a ball, and the parents actually got some time to relax and hang out, because there is no better babysitter than other kids. Well, with parental supervision, of course. We like to keep some semblance of responsibility.

11 pizzas eaten. You know how our kids aren't the most adventurous eaters on the planet? Well, throw in some vegetarianism and the fact that being on an island meant that every menu pretty much consisted of seafood or chicken, and the result is that they ate pretty much nothing but pizza and french fries the whole time.

Skye would try some vegetable pad thai once in a while, but as far as Kaia was concerned, if it wasn't covered in cheese or ketchup, she wasn't eating it. No, she was not.

12 My Little Ponies. That was the extent of Skye's Christmas list, so our room literally looked like a My Little Pony factory exploded and our kids looted the aftermath. 

Well, that pretty much covers our trip to Thailand. So tell me, what did YOU do during your holidays?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Fickleness of Youth.

So, since we have moved to Singapore, Skye is not able to attend the school where we work, as she is not yet old enough. She is attending a private (that is code for "expensive") preschool which many other staff kids attend, as well.

A few weeks ago, I was summoned to the school for parent/teacher conferences. Of course, they were only offering times that were during the day, when I was to be working. Of course, Jabiz was out of town during that week, leaving me as the only parent who could possibly attend the conference.

Between you and me, I wouldn't have felt too, TOO sad about missing the conference, because really? It's for a 3-year-old. Not that I don't support Skye's education, but I was pretty sure that I knew what the teacher was going to tell me- she's a nice kid, she's on track developmentally, and she acts a lot better at school than at home. You know, the usual in our household.

BUT, I didn't want to be THAT parent (you know, the ones that the teachers talk about while making tsking noises and pitying the poor child for being put second to work. Maybe that's not EXACTLY how it goes, but it does in my head.) so I chose a time during my lunch period and hurried off as soon as the bell rang, eating a sandwich in the car on the way.

I was right, I knew exactly what the teachers were going to say, and they said it all.

Well, almost. There was something that I definitely WASN'T expecting.

I believe that I've mentioned a time or two (hundred) what a Mummy's Girl Skye is. Her favorite phrase to scream is, "No! I want Mummy to do it!" whenever Jabiz tries to do...oh, anything for her.

Only MUMMY can carry her, only MUMMY can lay with her while she goes to sleep, she will only sleep next to MUMMY when she crawls into our bed...and the list goes on and on. And on. And on even still.

So, you will imagine my surprise when, during our conference, her teacher turned to me and said, "Skye talks about her father all the time, I assume that she is closer to him?"

WHAT? I swear to God.

"Really?" I asked, "No, she's actually quite close to me."

Her teacher look confused. "Oh? That's funny, she never talks about you, she just talks about her father all of the time."


I sat there for the rest of the conference with a smile plastered on my face, but all the time ruminating on what a fickle little traitor my beautiful daughter was turning out to be.

I admit that I began plotting my revenge. Really, Skye? You want Mummy to brush your teeth? GO ASK DADDY. You want Mummy to help you get dressed? GO ASK DADDY. Snuggling before bedtime? I GUESS DADDY WILL DO IT.

Yes, the Super Mature part of the conference had begun. Clearly.

Obviously, when I walked in the door, determined not to fall for her ingenious deceit any longer, I immediately caved when she came running into the room, screaming, "Mummmmmmmmmy!!!" and jumped straight into my arms.

It's just another reminder that I need to stay on my toes when it comes to this parenting thing, because these kids will throw you for a loop when you least expect it.

At least life is never dull around here!

 What are some things YOUR kids have done to keep you on your toes?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Who Are You And What Have You Done With My Child?

Sometimes the smallest creatures make the loudest noises, you know? Bullfrogs and cicadas are two examples that come to mind, just off the top of my head. I'm sure if I spent two minutes on Google, I could come up with a list of at least ten to twelve more.

And I'm also pretty certain that Skye would be on that list.

Because she may be small, but the girl is LOUD.  And what is super awesome is that as she gets older, her little lungs just keep on developing and she gets louder and louder. And louder.

You see, there is a very good reason why I am sitting here, slumped over my laptop with a glass of wine in hand, my brain a bit hazy from the nonstop screaming that has been going on in our house since about...oh, 6:00a.m. and grateful for the miracle that is the fact that I managed to survive another day with that kid without locking myself in the closet and counting to one hundred.

I'm also cursing the genius who came up with the phrase Terrible Twos, because it is, in fact, a lie. Not that it's not true, because it is. But it is inaccurate in that it gives parents false hope that the terribleness of it all will somehow END- as if by magic- when your child turns three.

Anyone who has ever had a three-year-old in the history of the world will at this point start nodding their heads and chuckling, "Oh, yeah, I fell for that, too. FOR ABOUT A WEEK."

Because it doesn't get better, it gets worse. They should start referring to it not as the Terrible Twos, but as The Terrible Time Between The Ages Of Two And Four When Your Child Will Act As If They'd Been Left In The Woods To Raise Themselves Since Birth.

But I guess they can't call it that, or fewer people might sign on to this whole parenting thing. Better to have them believe that there will be one bad year, but the rest will be sunshine and butterflies.

However, parents who are on their second child know better. We've been through it before. Fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice, shame on ME.

I know what to expect. I'm no stranger to this. Yet, somehow- SOMEHOW- it is still a surprise to me when I have to look down at my daughter on the floor, screaming, and say "Use your words, Skye, USE YOUR WORDS!" over and over about 10,000 times.

On a side note, before I had kids, there was no phrase that got on my nerves when I heard people say it to their kids more than "Use your words!", and now I find myself repeating it more times in a single day than I care to admit.

Well, except maybe for, "Thank you for being a good listener!", which I am also the queen of. I totally rock that saying. ROCK. IT.


In three weeks, Skye will be turning three years old. Three! Now, a lot of people get nostalgic when their kids turn three, and start ruminating on where the time went and how they grow up so fast and all that.

We tend to go in the opposite direction and silently think to ourselves, "Finally! Things will start to get easier soon! No more diapers! Full, coherent sentences that actually communicate needs and wants! And REAL VACATIONS!"  You all, we are really looking forward to going on better vacations. Or ANY vacations, really, since most of the time we just stay home because traveling with a two-year-old just isn't worth it.

Of course, we realize that in a few years we'll feel differently and every birthday will have the faint tune of "Sunrise, Sunset" wafting in the background, but for now, we relish the toddler birthdays.

Mostly because, let me tell you, two-year-old Skye ain't easy, and we can fully see that three-year-old Skye will be even worse. This is made obvious by the fact that the number of her daily tantrums have tripled- TRIPLED- and she seems to have periods of time when she loses all ability to communicate in anything but screams and shrieks.

However, anyone who reads this blog knows that for Skye, this is nothing new, really.

What IS new is her habit of throwing herself on the ground and doing a re-enactment of several scenes from "The Exorcist" at the very mention of the word "No". It's not even "No", really- the "N" sound will barely escape our palate when she goes down for the count before we can even get to that all-important "O" part.

She does not like that word...no, she certainly does not.

What is also new is her total and absolute refusal to do ANYTHING when she is in a mood, as well as her habit of throwing toys and saying, "I don't WANT this!" and giving off threats such as, "I'm NOT going on the school bus!", even though it is seven o'clock at night.

I'm not sure why, but in her precious little toddler mind, the threat of not going on the school bus is just THE absolute worst that she can lay on us.

She is fun, that one.

I will give you an example from this morning. I'd gotten up at my usual time of five a.m. (yep, you read that right- FIVE A.M.) to make the kids' lunches and breakfast before getting into the shower to get myself ready for work.

Now, in order for our mornings to go smoothly, the kids need to get up by 6:15 at the LATEST, eat their breakfast somewhat quickly and be in the shower by 6:50 so that we can get out the door by 7:15 with enough time to feel relaxed enough to actually start our day peacefully.

So it should come as a surprise to nobody that at 6:35, I was still sitting next to a sobbing Skye, who was on the floor wailing because I told her that she couldn't use the iPad as soon as she opened her eyes this morning. I'd had the audacity to tell her that she had to- GASP!- play with her toys in the hour before her preschool bus came.

 Play! With her toys!

What kind of parents are we, anyway?

There were several back and forths that involved me firmly letting her know that this behavior wasn't acceptable and she would not get her way by displaying it, and she responding by screaming and throwing every toy that was within grabbing distance. Time-outs completely failed me and were utterly futile .

This went on. And on. And ON.

Finally, at about 7:05, I threw any notion of a shower or breakfast out the window and just tried my best to get her into her clothes and brush her teeth. You can imagine how well that went.


At exactly 7:12, she was sweetly sitting at the table, eating her eggs and telling me all about the things she was going to paint today in preschool.


There is really no truer sign of a parent of a toddler than when they walk into work at 7:30 a.m. and already have a look about them as if they'd done battle with the devil that morning, and lost. Not just lost, but lost SPECTACULARLY.

So I am looking forward to saying "Adios!" to the Terrible Twos and "Bring it on!" to the Thundering Threes, because as bad as I know they will be, they are followed by the Fabulous Fours, which I know from personal experience is when your kids resembling reasonable human beings, albeit with the newfound ability to argue every point that you make.

But at least the arguing takes the form of words and phrases, which I will take over screaming and shrieks any day.

What do YOU do about the Terrible Twos and Thundering Threes??

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I'm Baaaaa-aaaaaaack!

OK, well, I will be the first to admit that it has been too long. Way, way, way, way, WAY too long since I have decided to bore/annoy/delight/entertain anyone with my musings. But- BUT- there is a very good explanation for it- we moved countries!

 I don't know if you've ever moved countries before with a cat and two kids, but it is pretty much the equivalent of a black hole and vortex meeting, entwining, and then sucking every last second of free time and ounce of energy that might possibly exist in your newly chaotic world.

Now, that may not sound too pleasant to you, but believe me, it wasn't really so bad. How can that be? How can that possibly be? Because we moved to Singapore!


I don't know what your current knowledge of Singapore is (because, let's face it, before we moved to Southeast Asia, MY knowledge of Singapore was that there was a drink named after it and that they caned people. Yes, I know.  I KNOW.)

Anyway, I believe that I have made my feeling about Singapore known in the past, but now we live here, so life is closer to ideal than it has been in a while. I WILL miss you, Jakarta, sort of.

But let's get back to the art of moving, shall we?

Moving countries involves what I call The Mother of All To-Do Lists that starts about 5-6 months before you actually move. Now,  I LOVE me a good To-Do List or five,  but this one just about kicked my ass. Here are a FEW items that were on my Mother of All To-Do Lists:

1.) Contact several shipping companies. Have them come over to our house and look at everything that we MIGHT have wanted to take with us, then tell us that it would take a million boxes to fit it all and send us an insane estimate that was more than the cost of my first new car.

2.) Realize that at least half of our stuff won't fit into the size of condo that we will likely live in in Singapore, so decide which stuff stays and which goes. Involve children in this. Put things into "Give away" boxes, only to have crying children go back an hour later to retrieve them, because apparently they just CANNOT live without the talking frog that has sat, ignored, in a basket for the past two years.

3.) Sell, deliver and coordinate pick-ups of the half of the stuff that you did manage to give away.

4.) Contact pet relocators about 10-year-old cat who has moved countries with us three times so far. Receive estimate that cat will cost more than four rooms full of furniture to move, AND will be required to stay in quarantine in Singapore for a month.

5.) Secretly curse cat for being such a tolerant pet and putting up with the near-constant abuse of children and toddlers in the house over the years.

Such abuse includes- but is not limited to- being picked up and carried around, being laid upon, being kissed in the face far too long and far too many times, being woken at all times of sleep because some tiny human has decided that it was Snuggle Time, and having dry food mixed in the water dish because some unsteady child has decided that feeding the cat is HER job.

6.) Secretly curse the 2-year-old for loving the damn cat so much. Sigh and add astronomical price of shipping cat 90 minutes away to the already-way-too-huge Moving Budget.

7.) Take said cat to several vet appointments for shots and blood tests. Then have cat shippers tell you that the information which they provided you was, in fact, completely WRONG and that your cat will have to remain in Jakarta for 6 MONTHS before she is able to relocate to Singapore.

8.) Scramble to find friend who is willing to host and care for cat for an astoundingly inconvenient amount of time. Find one and be forever in their debt.

9.) Deal with the bureaucracy involved in leaving Jakarta. This is equivalent to banging your head against the wall for days at a time, until you wish you would just pass out already and be done with the misery.

10.) Have to fire nanny during the last week of school and therefore deal with 2-year-old at home during the two full days that the shippers spent packing and moving out all contents of the house.

 I don't know if you have ever sat on the floor in the corner of an empty room while simultaneously attempting to entertain a 2-year-old and answer questions from packers who don't speak English about what goes and what stays, but it just might push you over the edge.

Like I said, these are just a small sample of what was involved in packing up and leaving Jakarta. And then my head exploded.

No, not really. Well, maybe. Or at least it sure as hell felt like it.

However, survive it we did, and THEN began the next chapter of the summer: Settling in.

Settling in can be fun, but it can also involve 10,000 trips to Ikea and a constant re-evaluation of the budget because those 200 things that you didn't really know that you needed? Well, you need them. And you need them NOW.

It also involved living out of duffle bags for a few weeks, which might not seem like a big deal to normal people, but to people with small kids, it is like camping in the middle of Alaska with a pair of socks and a can of soup. In winter.

All that careful planning and packing that I'd done? Well, let's just say that if I HAD the energy to laugh, I would. The good news was that, since we were moving to Singapore, we could go out and buy whatever the kids were lacking, but that takes us back to the previous paragraph regarding the budget.

In addition, settling in was a time of exploring our new environment and appreciating its newness. Water from the tap! Sleeping all night without being woken by mosquitoes even ONCE! City buses! Public Libraries (AKA Free Books!)! Traffic rules...that are followed! Children's Theater! Wine in every grocery store -that one was pretty much just for me, but still!

It's all here, and we all just drank it in. However, we did miss many things about Jakarta: our school, our friends, our colleagues, so it wasn't ALL sunshine and roses. There were a few sighs, and some "When are we going home?" questions to deal with, but eventually we moved into our new condo and everyone adjusted.

So, there you go. The past 6 months in a nutshell. I didn't even go into the starting a new job and new schools, the action-packed visit from my parents, the week that I spent in Single Momdom while Jabiz went on a work trip to Ireland (I KNOW!), OR the fact that I was laptop-less during the summer and relied solely on my iPad, which is great, but on which I cannot type more than a few sentences without people suspecting that a drunk monkey somehow got hold of it and knocked out an incoherent paragraph.

BUT, things are sorted now, life is calming down in some ways, though also frantically picking up in others, and we are getting into a good rhythm.

I already have dozens of blog posts in my head, but needed to get this one out before any of the others can manifest themselves. Life in Singapore is a wild ride!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Weekly Reflection

Well, everyone, the end of the week has come, and what a loooooooong week it has been. I'd like to share some bits of wisdom that I have gained this week, in hopes that they will help you, too, grow both as a person and as a parent.

You're welcome.

This week, I have learned:

1.) When your child is in Time Out in your bedroom and has stopped screaming like a freaking banshee on a sugar high for more than 20 seconds, it is NOT- I repeat, NOT- because they are busy reflecting on their actions and behavior, thus ready to come out of the room and start acting like a contributing member of the family for the first time all week.

It IS because they are too busy slathering him/herself from head to toe with your brand-new, olive-scented lotion- which is ALSO, incidentally, all over your newly-washed duvet cover.

You're welcome.

2.) Do not ever (no, seriously, EVER) attempt to make any new recipes or broaden your childrens' palates in any way. They will not eat it, and you will then be stuck eating pesto risotto everyday for lunch for the entire next week.

Pesto risotto for dinner? Yum. Pesto risotto for lunch EVERY DAMN DAY? Less yum.

You're welcome.

3.) Whatever mood the child who wakes up first is in, the child who wakes up second will be in the exact opposite mood.

I know this. I know this empirically from our mornings this week, when for the first 3 days, Skye screamed nonstop from the second she woke up until the second we dropped her off in her classroom. I am not exaggerating, I am SO not exaggerating. In fact, I wish that I WAS exaggerating, so I could think to myself as I write this, "Well, it wasn't really THAT bad, but it will make a more interesting blog post!"


Skye literally screamed the entire time she walked down the stairs in the morning. She literally would shove her breakfast bowl away from her after barely glancing at the contents, screaming "Don't want to!" She would then literally refuse to let us take off her pajamas, bending her arms and grabbing onto the bottom of her PJ top every time we tried. That would be followed by her literally screaming when we changed her diaper. Or put on her uniform. Or brushed her teeth. Or put her into the car. Or took her OUT of the car.

I can sense that you might be getting my drift by now.

Anyway, Kaia observed this behavior, and we could watch the wheels turn in her mind as she clearly thought, "That is ridiculous. I am not going to lower myself to such antics."

She was lovely. She ate her breakfast with a smile on her face. She said nice things to everyone. She got dressed and ready for school without complaining or taking her own sweet time. When we got to school, she grabbed her bags and ran cheerfully off to class.

We thought to ourselves how lucky we are to have at least ONE pleasant child in the house.

Until this morning. Skye woke up early, and while the sounds of her stirring would normally cause me to wince and brace myself for the screaming that was surely to come shortly, this morning was different.

She was quiet. She came out of the room with a smile on her face. She ate her toast quickly, then asked for more. I was just thinking that we were going to have an actual- dare I say it?- PLEASANT morning when Kaia came walking out.

Remember lovely, smiling Kaia? Well, neither did she, apparently. She took one look at her french toast and started to crumble because it wasn't a bagel. She pulled out all the theatrical stops, sobbing into her arms on the table, wailing loudly, and sniffling pathetically.

Meanwhile, Skye just looked at her with a disgusted expression that clearly said, "What's going on with THAT ONE today?"

Upon further reflection, Jabiz and I concluded that we could count the number of times when our kids were both in good moods at the SAME TIME on one hand from recent memory.


I guess ONE is better than NONE, right? I always try to look on the bright side...

I'll say it one last time: You're welcome.

Have you learned any valuable lessons this week that you'd like to pass along?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Highlights From America

Whenever I think of winter, it will look like this.
As I've mentioned, Jabiz and I took our two kids on a 30-hour plane ride to visit family in the U.S. during the Winter Break holiday.

And as much as I'd love to regale you with a minute-by-minute recap of our trip, I just don't have the energy after dealing with my kids all day, so I am going to give you the highlights instead. And the lowlights. Let's just say I'll give you ALLLLLLLL the necessary lights, OK?

Because truthfully? They ran the spectrum.

So, here they are:

1.) Perspective. I got a lot of it, and it was good.

When we arrived in Hong Kong at 6:00 a.m. for our 5-hour layover,  I was feeling sorry for myself. I'm not going to lie, I was throwing myself one HELL of a pity party in my mind. We'd left Jakarta at midnight, so the kids were all out of sorts, and we had a loooooooong couple of hours (or five!) ahead of us. I'd not slept at all on the plane and was looking around frantically for the nearest Starbucks.

I found it, we found the kids play area, and Jabiz and I settled in for the wait. Then we noticed a woman by herself with two kids in the same play area. Her son looked about 8 or 9, and her little girl was less then 2. The woman was lying down on the floor of the play area, napping.

I know, right? That's what I thought. Until a bit later when she woke up.

Given the fact that we were the only ones in the play area, we started chatting, and it turned out that this  woman had been trying to fly from Australia to Italy with her two kids. By herself. Apparently, it's a trip that she makes all the time because she has family in Italy.

She told me that her son gets bad motion sickness, and I totally related, seeing as how just going too high on the swings can send me running for the nearest bathroom. Don't even get me started on airplane turbulence.

Anyway, her son had felt sick because of the turbulence on the their flight to Hong Kong, and so he threw up on the plane right before the flight to Italy took off. Not all over the place, just in a barf bag, but still, he threw up. In Asia. I don't know how much you know about Asia, but they take getting sick VERY seriously, my friends.

Well, obviously, that didn't go over well with the airplane crew, who threw the whole family off the plane, even though the son was checked by a medic who said that he had no fever or other signs of illness.

Sounds bad, right? Well, it gets worse. Turns out the airport security wouldn't let the woman and her kids leave the airport until they'd gotten checked out and cleared by a doctor, which they had to find on their own. Keep in mind that they WEREN'T ALLOWED TO LEAVE THE AIRPORT, so this poor woman had to somehow find a doctor in a strange country on her own and over the phone. A doctor who would then come to the airport and check them out.

And it still gets worse. The woman wasn't allowed to leave the terminal and go to the airport hotel with her kids, and so they had to spend the night sleeping in the terminal. She said that she was too freaked out to sleep since she wanted to be able to keep an eye on her kids all night, especially her little girl who was young and therefore likely to go wandering off if unsupervised.

You can now question the logic of making a family who was suspected of illness remain in the terminal around ALL of the other passengers versus being sequestered in their own hotel room, but I'm afraid that I'll have no response.

Hence the napping on the floor of the play area. Now it all made sense. The woman was completely exhausted. When we left her to go meet our flight, she was getting ready to have a meeting with airport officials to see if she would be able to leave the airport before Monday. Keep in mind that this was all happening on SATURDAY.

As I walked to the plane with my two healthy kids and husband, all I could think was: Perspective. I was OOZING it.

2.) New York, New York.

Because a 30-hour flight wasn't quite disruptive enough to our family, we'd also decided that a trip to New York at Christmas was too awesome NOT to do. So, the DAY AFTER we landed in Chicago and drove the two hours to Milwaukee, we then got BACK on a plane and headed for New York.

Don't even say it.

But it was awesome, it was SO awesome! Awesome enough to be worth all of the jet-lag and crankiness that it caused the kids. Because when they weren't jet-lagged and cranky, they had a great time.

If there is a touristy thing that can be done in New York with kids that we DIDN'T do, then I don't know what it is. OK, well, skating in Rockefeller Center. We didn't do that. But we did everything else: Santaland at Macy's, FAO Schwartz, Toys R Us in Times Square, The Natural History Museum, a carriage ride in Central Park, we did it ALL. And we WALKED to all of it.

And we loved it!

3.) Driving

I DROVE, you all! Drove! By myself! And it was easy! Because there are rules and laws and people actually follow them! Not only that, but I KNOW what the rules and laws are! There are lanes! And people stay IN them! And there are blinkers, and turn signals and people USE them!

Enough said.

4.) Wine. Lots of it. Lots of it and CHEAP.

I don't know if you all are fully aware of this, but you can buy wine just about anywhere in the US. This is something that you might take for granted, but for me, being able to go to the grocery store and get a decent bottle of white wine for $5.99 pretty much anytime I liked was akin to being blind and suddenly discovering that I could see again.

OK, maybe that's a bit too dramatic. And insensitive to blind people. But you get the idea. Going from having to order a case of wine at a time (at $20 a bottle) because I don't know when the next time it will be available to popping into the store and grabbing a $6 bottle just WHENEVER allows for a certain degree of drama, I think.

5.) Grocery stores

I am going to be honest and tell you that the first time we went to an American grocery store, Jabiz actually got so overwhelmed that he had to leave. LEAVE. As in leave the store.

OK, now granted, it was December 23rd and the store was PACKED, the lines were LONG and we were in a bit of a hurry because I was convinced that we were going to miss The Nutcracker. Not exactly the best time to go out for a weekly shop. Throw in the fact that we'd gone in cold and not even bothered to make a list, and anybody would have had a near-breakdown. I'll admit that I was a bit shaken up, as well. How could I have come in so UNPREPARED?

 Jabiz stared at all of the aisles of EVERYTHING and just couldn't handle it, poor guy. Too many choices. Too many aisles. Too many different flavors.  Just too many. He refused to go back to the grocery store for the remainder of our trip.

However, I got the hang of it on my next visit. And I loved it. Everything about it. Every. Single. Thing.

6.) Independent Movie Theaters

I admit it, I LOVE independent films. I love independent movie theaters. I cannot describe to you the happiness that I felt when Jabiz and I got to go out on a Date Night and saw "Young Adult", or the sheer joy with which I watched all of the previews for other independent films...which I would not be able to see because they opened after we left.


7.) Holiday candy on SALE after the holidays!

Imagine that! What a novel idea, right? You'd think so, but grocery stores overseas seem to be of the mind that it is better to NEVER mark down the prices on holiday candy in hopes of getting the full price for one or two items rather than sell it for less...the result is that you go to the grocery store in April and still find the Christmas chocolates on the shelf with the same ridiculously marked-up price tag that you MIGHT overlook and give into in December, but not in April.

I'll tell you, when I saw snowflaked-shaped peppermint patties on sale for $.30 each, I grabbed them! And ate them. I ate them all.

And along the same thread, peppermint/chocolate coffee bought from the clearance bin because it had a holiday theme? This is what I'm talking about.

8.) Jet Lag

I made the cardinal mistake of parents who fly overseas with their children: I got cocky. I was SO prepared, I'd planned everything SO well, I'd timed everything PERFECTLY so that when we arrived, our kids would be awake for 7 hours, then sleep all night and be fine.

Yep, that was what I'd thought, all right.

And it worked...for one night. It's true, the kids DID go to sleep our first night in the US, and they stayed asleep all night. I woke up, patting myself on the back for keeping my kids in their normal routine, thus eliminating any chance that their little bodies would be out of whack and result in sleepless nights.

I didn't think that maybe- JUST MAYBE- the reason why they'd slept all night was because they were just completely worn out from the flight, and not because I was the awesomest, most well-planned mom in the world.

I did think that a few nights later, though, when I was up from 11:00 p.m until 3:00 a.m. with Skye, watching some of the worst television ever produced. I was introduced to the world of Reality Television. And it was not pretty. Within four hours, I learned that I was supremely happy not to be raising sextuplets with some jackass husband, that I would never, EVER expose my children to the world of children's beauty pageants, and that some dance teachers are just scary-ass bitches.

All because of Jet Lag. Though, to be honest? I already knew most of those things.

9.) Target

I don't think I really need to say anything more about this one. I mean, you've BEEN to Target, right?

10.) Doorbells and mailboxes and hot water, oh my!

There are things that are missing when you live overseas, things in the daily life of most Americans that they take for granted. I am aware of them, but I don't really pay much attention to the fact that we are missing them until we go back to the US and my five-year-old stares in amazement at a mailbox and asks, "What is THAT?"

I swear to God. When she asked me that, I was deeply confused and answered, "What is what, honey?"


"The mailbox?"

"What's a mailbox?"

And then it hit me: we have not lived anywhere that had a mailbox or neighborhood mail delivery service while overseas. Her whole little life, we've had our mail either delivered to the school, slipped under our door, or sent to a post office box.

Another night, we were waiting for pizza delivery and when the doorbell rang, our kids looked at us with bewilderment and screamed, "What is that noise?!"

Again, no doorbells in any of our homes overseas. Well, our house here in Jakarta KIND OF has a doorbell, but it's more of a quiet clicking sound that you can only hear if you are standing within two feet of it. Clearly, it is very effective, especially when it is followed by loud pounding on the door.

Don't even get me started on hot water. One night, Kaia almost scalded herself when she turned on the tap in the bathroom and HOT water came out. The poor girl did not realize that bathroom sinks could HAVE hot water!

Except for Doha, where for the 4 months of the year when no tap in the house ran anything BUT scalding hot water (due to the fact that for some reason, the water tanks outside the houses are all left uncovered in the Middle Eastern summer sun all day long), the only part of any of our homes that have actually had hot water have been the showers. Because they have the hot water heaters. Obviously.

Yes, up until now, our kids have known no world where sinks have more than one knob.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? If you are thinking that our kids had better prepare themselves for the day when they move to the US for university and realize that they are now the freaky Third Culture Kids who don't understand why the toilets don't all have bidet hoses attached, or know what that noisy machine that washes dishes is called, then yep- we're on the same wavelength!

Oh, well. Maybe they can live in the same dorm as the foreign exchange students.

11.) Children's Theater!

Within two days, we took Kaia to see The Nutcracker and "Junie B. Jones: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells", and it was amazing!

Arts! Theater! All that good stuff! In fact, there was an actual CHILDREN'S THEATER! I'd forgotten that such things existed.

Yes, we live overseas and so our kids experience a lot of culture in the sense of travel and seeing new places, but so far in our lives, there hasn't been much in the way of arts, music and theater for kids. That is truly one of the things that I appreciate whenever I go back to the US.

Our kids may be learning three different languages in school and meeting friends from all over the world, but they aren't going to the ballet on the weekends. They aren't listening to music concerts in the park. They aren't watching other kids bring their favorite books to life through drama. I'm not saying that these things don't exist ANYWHERE overseas, just not in the countries in which we've lived.

It's a trade-off that we make, but I must say that whenever we go back to the US from now on, I am going to make DAMN SURE that by the time we leave, our kids are so full of theater, drama and music that they'll be burping it up all the way on the plane ride home.

12.) Family

Obviously, this should be #1, but I am saving the best for last.  Even though we'd seen my parents twice since June, Skye is only 2, and so sometimes needs a reminder that Grandma and Grandpa aren't just those people who live in the computer. This is evidenced by the fact that she often stands in front of my computer, looking confused and asking, "Where did Grandpa go? Where is Grandma's picture?"

It is also nice to have the kids spend more time with my brother and sister-in-law, as well as their son, Sam. Now, I feel confident that whenever we talk about Uncle Liam and Aunt Pam, Kaia won't look at me with an expression that says, "I know you CLAIM that these people are real, but I'm not sure that I'm buying it!"

The downside to this being that Skye became completely fixated on my brother's cat, Pumpkin. Pumpkin is...challenged in social skills, let's say. I'm saying it that way because I am trying to be kind to animals. A person who was LESS kind to animals might describe Pumpkin with words that I am not entirely comfortable printing here, but since I AM kind to animals, I am giving Pumpkin the benefit of the doubt.

Anyway, whenever I talk about Aunt Pam and Uncle Liam, Skye just looks at me and says, "No, no Pumpkin...Hssssssssssss!" and makes a noise that no 2-year-old should ever make. At least no 2-year-old who is not possessed by an evil spirit, which I'm pretty sure she isn't, though on some days I am not 100% sure.

So, there it is: one three-week trip condensed down into 12 bullet points. And I'm exhausted just from writing it. If you're still reading this, then you have a longer attention span than I do and I applaud you.

Anyone got any highlights from YOUR winter holidays?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hey, Winter...Remember Me?

This past Christmas, we decided to do something that we haven't done in five years: fly back to the US for Christmas.

I'm serious.

It all stemmed from Kaia watching numerous movies and television shows about winter, snow, etc. She has never seen snow and finally informed us that never taking her to see snow is tantamount to child abuse, so we relented.

We made the plans to go to Wisconsin in December and visit my family and do all of the wintery things that there are to do in a Midwestern winter, just to get it all out of her system, because I was pretty sure that after spending one Winter Break in a cold climate, we wouldn't be doing it again for....oh, about a million years.

In case you haven't been able to read the tone of this post, I am not a fan of winter. In fact, it could be said that winter and I are frenemies. Nope, not even frenemies, just straight-up enemies. There is a reason why I live in the tropics, people.

Knowing that Kaia gets whiny and complains about being cold in the air conditioning of the mall, I was pretty sure that her IDEA of winter was going to collide with the REALITY of winter in a way that could only end in tears. All of ours.

But, I decided that if winter was was she wanted, winter was what she'd get. So I booked the tickets and ordered the winter clothing. Snow suits were bought. Boots were bought. Thermal underwear was bought. Hats, mittens and scarves were bought. We were all set.

Except, of course, for the snow. We couldn't order that. I, using my awesome powers of deduction, figured that OF COURSE there would be snow in the Midwest in December. There would be nothing BUT snow! Snow everywhere! Snow aplenty.

On a side note, this reminded me of the time when we lived in the Middle East and bought our daughter a sandbox at a toy store. I asked the salesman if the store also sold sand to put in it, and he just looked at me in bewilderment, gestured with his arms and answered, "But...sand all around!"

I figured that even the mere mention of a concern that there wouldn't be any snow would result in the same look, the same gesture, and an answer of, "But...snow all around!"

Apparently, winter decided to repay my smack-talking by snubbing us and boycotting our visit completely. Well, not COMPLETELY- there was a light dusting on the ground when we landed in Chicago. It was enough for Kaia and my parents to build a mini-snowmanish-ish thing in the airport parking lot while waiting for us to pick up the rental car.

And on the last day of our visit, there was a bit more. Enough for Jabiz to take the kids to the park for an hour before returning in tears once the snow seeped into their mittens and boots and their hands and feet got the teeniest, tiniest bit cold.

But that was it- all we had to show for snow during a two-and-a-half week visit. While it was cold enough to put the coats, hats/mittens and thermal underwear to use (well, sort of. Skye refused to wear anything that might result in us actually looking like FIT parents who KNOW how to shield our child from the harsh elements, but Kaia wore hers. One out of two isn't bad, is it?), we didn't even take the tags off of the snow pants. The boots? Pristine condition.

As the days passed and no snow arrived, I realized that all of my visions of sledding, snow angels and snowball fights were going to be traded in for one small snowman in the airport parking lot. And that I was going to have to be GRATEFUL for that parking lot snowman memory that Kaia will carry around with her for years to come.

But that is fine, since after the park incident, Kaia declared that she is never going to winter again. It was a very special moment, when I got to be smug and proud at the same time.

 Seriously, winter? THIS? Is why we are not friends.