Thursday, November 24, 2011

An Expat Mom Thanksgiving

**Note: Yes, I know this post is over a month late, but it's been sitting half-written in my Posts page and I just had to finally get it together and finish it!

I'm not big on Thanksgiving. Don't get me wrong- I am happy to celebrate it with other people if someone is organizing it. It's just that if I am left to it by myself, I'll usually skip it. After all, I'M not going to organize it, since we are vegetarian and therefore our meal would be woefully bereft of turkey and gravy.

Now, I may not have the best social skills in the world, but even I know that calling someone and saying, "Would you like to come  over for Thanksgiving? Oh, and could you bring the turkey?" is pretty bad form. I also don't have the nerve to call people and say, "Please come over for Thanksgiving and enjoy our lovely vegetarian lasagna!"

And while I know that it's POSSIBLE to create a turkey-like....THING out of tofu, Seriously. No.

So, if we are invited somewhere else, I will happily bring the pie and mashed potatoes, but otherwise....nah.

The past few schools in which we've worked have had a pretty large population of American teachers, so we've been in the habit of going to someone's house to celebrate. However, in our current school, we Americans are in the minority, so American Thanksgiving is not really on anyone's social calendar.

That's OK, because I know that I have plenty to be thankful for, and I am thankful for it everyday. So, on Thanksgiving, we worked, then went home and ate some pasta for dinner. It wasn't fancy, and it wasn't special, but I know enough from my 37 years alive to be thankful for it.

Life went on.

Then, the weekend after Thanksgiving, some friends invited us to brunch at a restaurant downtown. Now,  normally we don't go downtown very often, because in Jakarta, a simple jaunt downtown can result in being stuck in traffic for two to three hours. BUT, on the weekends, traffic usually isn't too bad, so once in a while, we'll venture on down.

Keep in mind that I said USUALLY. It USUALLY isn't too bad.

Obviously, on THIS particular Sunday, the word "usually" decided to pack up and take a holiday, because they'd closed some streets for some bike race and blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda...and there we found ourselves, sitting in traffic for 30 minutes....60 minutes...90 minutes....120 minutes...yep, I'm going to keep on going here...140 MINUTES!

Jabiz, in his obsession with documenting every second of our daily lives, was Tweeting the entire thing:

Here is the family BEFORE we started out on our adventure:

....AND here we all are about 90 minutes in:

Anyway, no only did we get stuck in what can only be described as the vehicular equivalent of hell, but we were also stuck on what is apparently The Road of Beggars. That is most likely not it's official name, but that is what it is known as to me, because there were nonstop, moving rows of people begging at the stopped cars.

This isn't unusual for Jakarta. At most stoplights, you will encounter a few people asking for money at cars- they'll play guitar, clap and sing, or just put their hands out. There are mothers with babies, little kids, old people, blind people, people with a physical disabilities, etc. Some are less aggressive and move on when you wag your finger at them, while others get right up, cup their hands around their eyes and stare into the car until you either give them something, or uncomfortably ignore them until the light turns green.

However, on this road, there was no stop to the begging. It was like a speed dating line- people would ask at a car, receive either money or the finger wave and the line would shift to the side and the next person would take their turn at the car.

So, for over an hour, we had people begging at our car windows nonstop. NONSTOP.

I will tell you, if you ever want to feel grateful about your life and everything that you have in it, you don't need to get together and have a big meal to do it (though, admittedly, that is the more enjoyable way to go about it), you just need to sit for an hour in traffic with a broad variety of people begging nonstop at your car window.

Because I? Don't think I will ever complain about not having something ever again. And I am sure as hell more thankful than ever for every single little thing that I am privileged to have.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Is This The Face...

Look at this face! Is this the face of a child who will not go to sleep until 9:30 pm, EVEN THOUGH it is obvious that she is super, super tired? Is it the face of a child who, in the 2.5 hour process of tiring herself out enough to finally fall asleep, tears her room apart, leaving it resembling the aftermath of an
F-4 tornado on a corn belt town? (Note: I will not compare it to an F-5 tornado, because I truly feel that Skye hasn't quite given us ALL that she is capable of yet)

I ask you, IS IT?

More importantly, is this the face of a chid who, after taking 2.5 hours to fall asleep, then wakes me up at 2:54 am and THEN stays awake until falling into a deep sleep at around 5:00 am, which coincidentally is the time when my alarm goes off to alert me to start the day?

Is it?

Not that I NEED more than 4 hours of sleep a night, but you'd be nice.

Lastly, is this the face of a child who somehow mysteriously loses the ability to walk or speak the exact moment when we arrive at school, in front of all of our colleagues and students, and spends the next 10 minutes demanding to be carried to the playground and communicating in a series of loud shrieks? LOUD shrieks.

Just to clear up any misunderstanding or confusion, the answer is this: Yes. Yes it is.

Don't be fooled.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Little Pick-Me-Up...

So, yesterday was a bit of a rough day. I've been sick all week with a sinus/cold/allergy thing that has made me miserable at times. And by "at times", I mean "all the freaking time". In addition, yesterday we had an all-day in-service at school that, given my current health status, lasted about 37 hours. Or at least it seemed that way.

You can only drink so many mugs of Emergen-C before you finally just want to crawl into bed and call it a day, you know?

Anyway, I came home to stir-crazy children who'd been cooped up in the house with the nanny all day and were more than slightly resembling wild monkeys. I tried to pull it together until their bedtime, and only the visions of pulling the covers over my head and whining shamelessly kept me from throwing them in bed fully-clothed and sans brushed teeth.

That is, until I DID get into bed and turned on the TV. I spent the next 30 minutes watching THIS, and it made me feel instantly better:

(Full disclosure compels me to admit that I (obviously) edited out part of this clip, as it involved a hitchhiker and a song about Jesus and marijuana. Not trying to alienate my religious friends here, people!)

I can't help it. I literally CANNOT stop myself from watching this clip at 15 minute intervals. Oh, and Jabiz is threatening to stab himself in the ears if I don't stop singing "Kiss From a Rose" at some point in the near future.

But I CAN'T! And that? Is the beauty of "Community".

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Joys of Parent/Teacher Conferences is THAT time of year. If you are a parent of a school-aged child, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Midway through the first semester, you will inevitably be presented with an email or piece of paper that has a date and time on it which will ultimately determine your worth as a parent for months to come...maybe even the rest of the YEAR.

Well, not really. But it feels that way.

I'm talking about parent/teacher conferences. Literally, one fifteen-minute conversation that causes palms to sweat and anticipation to build for days before. And we're talking kindergarten here, people!

I don't usually worry TOO much about parent/teacher conferences because, due to my unique position as a teaching colleague in the same school, I have a pretty good idea of what is going on in the class and how Kaia is doing. Pretty good. But you never know.

Maybe her teacher doesn't tell me everything. Those tantrums she so freely throws at home when, god forbid, we cruelly give her oatmeal with raisins or dried fruit in it? Maybe she DOES throw them at school, too, and her teacher is too embarrassed to let us know. The arguments about...well, everything that keep going and going until finally one of us just snaps, "Because I SAID so, that's why!"? Maybe they AREN'T location-specific to our house.


Anyway, last week, we got the magical time and date and tried to quiz Kaia on exactly what kind of information we were likely to receive. She, of course, was convinced that there were going to be nothing but glowing accolades spoken in her presence, as she is clearly the nicest, smartest, most polite and helpful student in her WHOLE class.

I didn't suppose that we were going to be enlightened about her low self-esteem issues. I was pretty confident about that, in fact.

We got to the classroom right on time with Kaia in tow and proceeded to listen to her teacher rave about her for the next ten minutes. She can read! She can write! She participates well in class! She's helpful and compassionate to other students!

Yes, well, you know....we've raised her well. Clearly.

The teacher concluded the conference with a comment about how impressed she was one day when Kaia and her friend decided to open a restaurant in class, and even wrote menus themselves! THEY WROTE MENUS.

Glossing over the fact that clearly our family may spend too much time eating out and not enough eating healthy, home-cooked meals, we beamed with pride. Yes, our kid was innovative, imaginative and creative. Yes, yes...we know.

As a reward for her wonderful feedback, we took the kids out to dinner that night, and that sentence....should surprise exactly no one.  See previous paragraph.

Finally, I got around to asking Kaia exactly WHAT she and her friend included on their awesome menu, and she answered, "Pizza."

"OK, pizza, that's good! What else did you include?"




"On your restaurant menu?"

"Yes, pizza and wine."


I could feel my worth as a parent slightly lowering. Slightly. I was now feeling a bit less like The Parent of the Kid Who is an Awesome Reader and Caring Classmate, and more like The Parent of the Kid Who Puts Wine on the Class Menu.

Well, there's always next year.

Besides, who wants to eat in a restaurant that DOESN'T have wine on the menu, right?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Happy Birthday, Skye! (Or: The Unwelcome Arrival of the Terrible Twos)

These cupcakes were the highlight of Skye's year!
Well, you guys, it is official: we no longer have any babies in our house. We now officially are the proud exhausted parents of a "kid" and a toddler! Oh, yes, Skye's birthday arrived with a mixture of pride, excitement and a deep, pitted feeling of dread. Because we know. Yes, we know. This is our second child, we are no longer the naive, innocent parents that we once were, back when we honestly believed that life got easier as the kids got older.

You can laugh now. I'm laughing. And weeping.  At the same time.

We now know what other parents knew, those parents who looked at us with amusement and pity as we declared that Kaia was two! She was learning to talk! She was learning to do things by herself! Wasn't that great?

Wasn't it?

Those parents knew what we didn't- that life with a toddler gets a whole lot worse before it starts getting better. A. WHOLE. LOT.

Don't get me wrong- every time Skye says a new word, or is able to put together a sentence, my heart melts. Seriously, it melts. And I beam with pride when she carries her little stool over to the water cooler and gets herself a cup of water. My kid is amazing.

But she's also a toddler. Which means that along with the new words, sentences and cup-weilding abilities come other new tricks.

Like saying "no", for instance. And Skye likes to say "no". She likes it A LOT. She likes it so much that she practices saying it every chance she gets.

"Skyelar, please eat at least one bite of your food."


"Skyelar, let's brush your teeth."


"Skyelar, please don't completely humiliate Mummy and Daddy in the restaurant."


And so on, and so on. You get the picture. She also enjoys combining this word with her newfound love for crossing her arms and scowling.

She has also introduced the word "why" into her everyday vocabulary.

"No, Skye, you can't play with my phone."


"Skye, don't pull the cat's tail."


Remember the arm-crossing and the scowling? Yeah, so do we.

It's awesome. I've become one of THOSE parents who bandy around phrases like, "Because I said so!" even though I swore- SWORE- I never would.

Also, what we didn't know back in the Time of Kaia was that when children turn two, they instantly develop a temporary case of Schizophrenia. Their personality completely splits in two...or three....or four.

I don't like to use words like "good" and "evil", so I'll just refer to Skye's different personalities as "agreeable", "disagreeable", "unreasonable" and "just completely batsh*t crazy".  This latter personality usually makes its appearance when she is tired, hungry, or out to brunch.

It is never dull in our house. Skye will share her orange with me, then scream when I eat it. She will ask for milk in the pink cup, then scream when we give it to her. She'll ask for a song, then scream when we play it. She'll ask to go on the swings, then scream when we try to push her. You're beginning to pick up on the pattern emerging here, right?

However, we will take this year of Terrible Twos and enjoy it while we can, because we are also wise to what comes next: the Thankless Threes, which builds on the Terrible Twos by adding the ability to reason and argue, along with a profound sense of entitlement into the mix, just to shake things up. You know, for fun.

So, Happy Birthday, Skyelar! You make our life wonderful and interesting everyday!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Time Flies When You're...Super Busy and Stressed!

Good lord, things have been CRAZY busy in our house this month...well, more like crazy AND busy! OK, more crazy than...well, you know.

I am right now AT THIS MOMENT waiting for Jabiz to return from his week-long class trip, which took him to the jungle on an amazing orangutan-watching trek. Great for him, right? YEP! But on this end? Not so much. Not so much that even  two glasses of wine and a WB marathon of Gilmore Girls can diminish the exhaustion from this week

Anyway, what have I been up to since the last time we spoke? Well, I have been spent two weeks on my own with the kids, and spent a week in Shanghai with the family and my parents for a training workshop. They had a great time, while Jabiz and I spent 3 days talking about unit planning and criterion-based assessments.

 During all of this bonding and travel time, I have learned many important life lessons, which I will happily pass along to you now. You're welcome!

Lesson #1: You actually CAN alienate an entire plane full of people before the last passengers have boarded.

This lesson was learned on our flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong, when Skye misunderstood my refusal to let her play with my phone ( as per FAA regulations) as complete mental and emotional trauma, and spent the 15 minutes between finding our seats and waiting for takeoff screaming on the floor. Everyone within 20 rows of us was exchanging nervous looks, clearly thinking, "Oh, god, THAT'S the kid who is going to ruin our flight!"

Luckily, she wore herself out in time for takeoff, and fell asleep soon after. So take THAT, everyone within 20 rows of us. That's right.

Lesson #2: Kids really, truly DO save their worst behavior for their parents.

It's like the extra added bonus of parenthood.  I learned this lesson after spending three days worrying that my parents would have a difficult time handling the frequent and inevitable tantrums that I was sure Skye would throw at least a dozen times a day while my parents were taking care of the kids during our workshops.

And everyday- EVERY. DAMN. DAY- I would go to their hotel room to pick up the kids and be told how wonderfully they behaved. No tantrums, they would tell me. None at all.


This would be followed, of course, by a series of shrill screams once Skye realized that the parents were back, and thus the tantrums could now begin! And begin they did.

Oh yes, they did. Sigh.

Lesson #3: When you have kids, a new restaurant in the mall is the greatest thing ever. No, no, maybe you don't understand- EVER!

A new Italian restaurant finally opened up in the mall near our house, and I swear to you, it has changed our lives! And yes, you did hear me correctly- a restaurant IN A MALL.

If you had told me when I was in my 20s and living in New York City, eating fabulous 2-hour meals in trendy restaurants every weekend with friends, that someday I would see a new restaurant in a mall and start drooling, I would have simply ignored you and your crazy, crazy statement. Because everyone knows that you don't respond to or provoke the insane.

But, whatever. There's a new restaurant, it's in a mall, and it serves ITALIAN food! That is a bit of a novelty here in my part of Jakarta. Yes, they have the typical takeaway pizza chains, like Dominoes and Pizza Hut, but no good Italian restaurants.

Italian restaurants mean pizza. They mean pasta. These are things THAT MY KIDS WILL ACTUALLY EAT, ya'll! It also serves fancy salads, and things like pumpkin risotto with gorgonzola sauce. Which means that we can go out for a meal and everyone is happy with the food- everyone!

I should also mention here that it also serves wine. Cheap wine. This may not be such a big deal to many of you, but when you live in a muslim country, a restaurant that has good food AND cheap wine is made of gold, or should at least be treated thusly.

This restaurant has been open for about a month, and already the wait staff recognizes us when we walk in. About 3 times a week. Minimum.

Lesson #4- Chinese people love themselves some little blond Western kids.

If you had been in our vicinity as we walked around Shanghai, you might have mistakenly thought that Brangelina was in town. Nope, that was just us, surrounded by groups of Chinese people waving camera and phones around, trying to get pictures of our kids. It's happened to us before in Asia, having strangers come up and take pictures of our kids, but not in such large crowds as in Shanghai.

There is something flattering yet slightly creepy about seeing entire families pose one by one with your kids. Some even tried to pick up Skye, until she unleashed her Inner Demon that she usually saves just for us and wailed at the top of her lungs.

They were quite the hit, though Skye has more of a penchant for it than Kaia does. She would walk by, waving at people and calling out greetings, while Kaia would stay by my side, clutching onto my leg. The crowds would usually disperse after five minutes or so, at times to be replaced by others.

I should move them to China and have them become Supermodels, because right now that's the only way in hell we are going to pay for college.

Lesson #5: As soon as my husband comes back from one trip, there is a very, very good chance he will turn around and leave again, just as I've gotten used to being in a two-parent household again.

This past week, Jabiz had to go out of town AGAIN, this time with the grade 9 students on the Week Without Walls trip that the entire middle and high school went on. I stayed home with the grade 6 students, who hung around school for a few days.

Which was awesome, because it meant that I got to be at school all day with the students, then go home at 4:00 to feed my kids and put them to bed, and then rush back to the school for the evening activities until 10:00.

This? Was not so easy. This was much harder than when Jabiz usually goes out of town, and we have a  normal routine. This was like Single Momdom Plus.

And yes, I  know that many single moms work more than one jobs and have those days on a regular basis. And yes, I have respect for them tenfold. Hundredfold. Infinityfold.

Lesson #6: One phone call can make you feel like the worst mother in the world.

So, going back to these class trips, Jabiz was in the jungle with his students and therefore unable to call or Skype us all week.

You can imagine how well that went over with the kids. Because if there is one thing that we can always count on with them, it is that whichever parent is not around is the ONLY parent that they want. At least they are consistent with that.

Anyway, by Wednesday, Kaia was getting whiny and clingy and why wasn't daddy calling?? Why wasn't he Skyping us like he usually did? I tried my best to explain, but Kaia is only five, so her understanding of technology and satellites and signals are a bit lacking.

On Wednesday night, Kaia and I were in bed reading when my phone rang. It was my Assistant Principal, letting me know that she really needed me to email her something important straight away. Since I was the only teacher who stayed home from the class trip due to having children, I was the point person for handling any needs that came up. I told her that I would have it to her in 10 minutes.

Obviously, as soon as I hung up, chaos ensued.

Kaia thought that the phone call was Jabiz, so when I hung up and she realized that it wasn't, there was a meltdown of nuclear proportions. She was lying in bed screaming and crying, "Daddy! I want my daddy!" while I frantically tried to find the document to send to my AP. "Kaia, "I called out, "I'll come in and talk to you about this in a few minutes, but I just really, really have to get this done first!"

I don't think anyone will be surprised to hear at this point that our super-slow internet was even slower than usual that night, and NOTHING would send. From ANY of my four email accounts. Nothing.

I cursed. I cursed some more. I had four different windows open with four different email accounts, pushing Send over and over with nothing but the frustration of watching the spinning wheel of death as a result.

The screaming continued. The crying continued. The promising to come in as soon as I could get the damn document to send for god's sake continued.

I finally turned off the modem and spent five agonizing minutes waiting for the yellow light to turn green, which it finally did. After a few more minutes, I got the document to send and was so busy throwing myself back onto the couch with a sigh of relief that I didn't notice that there was silence in the air.

I went into the bedroom to talk to Kaia and calm her down and found her asleep. My daughter had cried herself to sleep. You could still see the tear marks on her face, and every few second she would catch her breath in her sleep. I honestly do not remember the last time that I felt so badly.

One phone call, ONE, can make you feel like the world's most awful parent. And welcome to motherhood!

Lesson #7- Moms just cannot rock the light pink ballet flats.

I love shoes, especially ballet flat. I have long since given up on wearing heels or anything that I cannot stand in for long periods of time. I know that there are plenty of Yummy Mummies out there who still manage to wear things like skirts and high heels and makeup, but I am just not one of them. And I am OK with that.

But I do love ballet flats. I bought a new pair of light pink ones, delighting in how cute they look with green cargo pants AND dress pants. They are shiny and delicate-looking...or at least they WERE. Until I wore them around my children.

My beautiful pink ballet flats are now sullied with little black footprints where my kids have stepped on them or stood on them. It took about two days. Fortunately, I wasn't surprised.

I just can't have nice things.

Lesson #8: Husbands have no idea.

I think that Jabiz has a vague notion of what it is like to stay home alone with the kids for a week, but you really can't know unless you are here. It's unfathomable, really.

So, obviously, what happens whenever he goes out of town is that the kids get progressively clingy, whiny and generally out of sorts as the week goes on. And I mean MUCH more than usual.

And obviously, I inform Jabiz of this every chance I get when he calls or Skypes. Every chance. I am not even embarrassed about that fact. I swear, he'll be telling me how tired he is from nonstop presenting and running a cohort for 10 hours a day, and I'm like, "Yeah, well, at least you aren't here taking care of our kids by YOURSELF!"

I've mentioned before what an awesome wife I am, right? I'm pretty sure that I have.

And OBVIOUSLY, as soon as he comes back, the kids are so, so happy to see him that they magically bounce back into their cheery-ish, normal selves, and he's all, "What do you mean, it's hard to be home alone with them? They're not that bad!"

Do I even need to say anything more?

OK, well, there are still MORE life lessons that I've learned this month (wow, I hadn't realized what an educational month this has been!), but I will continue them in Part 2, in order to spare you all another 30 minutes of reading. You're welcome.

                              Tell me some life lessons that YOU have learned lately!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Yep...Here We Are Again!

Once again, my husband has gone off to present at a conference, this time in Shanghai. He will be gone for almost a week, otherwise known as a month in The Land of Outnumbered Parents.

I got a head start on being Extra, Extra Organized, which is the mode that I must go into whenever Jabiz leaves town. So, on Sunday, I ironed and hung up in my closet complete outfits for the week, coupled with matching accessories.

I was clearly not thinking ahead, though, as I planned to wear white pants today. Why wouldn't I wear white pants? I wear white pants almost everyday! Well, it turns out the reason NOT to wear white pants this week is that I have to take the kids to class alone, so when Skye wants to be picked up and carried, I'm the only one to do it.

Needless to say, within a matter of exactly 47 seconds, the ironed, put-together and matching outfit that had looked so fresh and crisp on me a mere 30 minutes earlier was now sporting two toddler-sized shoe prints on each thigh, as well as about three dozen wrinkles in my linen top from carrying all of the school and lunch bags in addition to Skye.

Fresh and crisp? Not so much anymore. More like wilting and raggedy. Fortunately, only about 400 people were going to be seeing me all day, so....there's that.

Hold on for a second while I go and switch all the pants on the remaining hangers with black pairs...OK.

Not that anyone noticed in the slightest what I was wearing, since they were too distracted by Skye's phenomenal tantrum that was thrown on the playground when I committed the unthinkable sin of *gasp* trying to PUSH HER ON THE SWING! Apparently, the swing was too low to the ground, which resulted in her having to *gasp again* HOLD HER FEET UP while swinging.

This was absolutely unacceptable to Skye. And she was going to let everyone know that. Every. Last. Person.

There really is nothing that gives you more of a sense of dignity and pride than carrying your screaming child to the Time Out corner while you are AT YOUR JOB. This is seriously one of the downsides of teaching in the same school that your children attend. It's usually an ideal situation. When they are good, anyway. When they do cute things, like sing in assemblies and run around in their tutus for their after-school ballet classes. THEN everyone tells you how adorable your children are.

When they are in the throes of a wretched, sense-deadening tantrum? There are only quiet stares and soft, sympathetic noises.

Anyway, the tantrum ended. Eventually. And we could begin our day.

Kaia had her first soccer practice today, and I promised her that I would cut short my afterschool meeting in order to have time to watch the second half of practice. Needless to say, I ended my meeting at exactly 3:30, grabbed my camera and sprinted over the the elementary gym.

Just in time  to see her wipe out when she tripped over the ball while running too quickly and began sobbing uncontrollably. I saw the coach making sure that nothing was broken or sprained, and was inclined to give her a few minutes to see if she would shake it off and keep going with the practice.

However, this apparently was NOT the course of action that the other mothers would have taken, because the looks that they gave me sent me slinking in shame into the gym. Where I wiped off the tears and fell straight into the trap of 5-year-old manipulation when Kaia shakily asked me if she could get ice cream on the way home.

Obviously, I said yes. Because I'm NOT a monster. Do you hear that, Other Mothers? NOT A MONSTER!

Skyelar decided to continue her screaming tantrum of death the second the door shut behind the nanny on her way out. I'm still unclear of exactly what the hell happened, but from what I can decipher, Skye did not want milk in the pink cup. Or she did. I have no effing idea, all I know is that everything I did was met with a response in the form of a high-pitched shriek  and a full-body shake. Which was sometimes accompanied by the throwing of her entire body onto the ground.

Which was, of course, the perfect time for a Skype call with Jabiz, during which he gave us a virtual tour of the 2-room suite in which he was put up. Yes, TWO ROOM SUITE. Fortunately, the internet cut out during the tour of the Awesome, Awesome Bathroom Complete With Walk-in Closet, or I may have gone into his closet and started cutting one leg shorter than the other on all of his pants.

Mercifully, the aforementioned events of the day culminated with a quick and easy bedtime, and by 7:30 I was staring at the ceiling and trying to forget that I have ears.

OK, so Day One is down, only five more to go...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sweet, Sweet Singapore...

So we just had a week-long holiday to celebrate Eid al Fitr, and we decided to go and visit friends in Singapore. Singapore, I should add, is a glorious 90-minute flight from Jakarta, which is good because we quickly discovered that the secret formula for making a 90-minute flight seem like a 90-hour-flight is as follows:

2 hour delay + 2 overtired and hungry kids - 1 decent meal of any sort

I really don't think I need to go into detail about the flight, but just to REALLY paint a vivid picture, I'll just ask if you've ever held  a feral cat who's just consumed a Venti-sized triple espresso on your lap for 90 minutes? A cat who can scream loudly? Like, LOUDLY? Because then you would know.

Anyway, we made it to Singapore and spent a fantastic four days visiting with good friends. And just in case you have been thinking about a trip there with your family, here is my list of some entertaining things to do in Singapore with kids:

1.) Bask in your 5-year-old's complete and utter amazement at being able to brush her teeth before bed using WATER FROM THE TAP! Poor Kaia stood in the bathroom for over five minutes, waiting for me to bring her a cup of purified water in which to dip and rinse her toothbrush. When I explained that no, no- you can drink the water from the sink here, her response was? "Wow!"

2.) Confound your children by actually WALKING as a means of transportation, rather than driving 30 minutes just to get anywhere. We took the kids to a few parks, just to walk around, and Kaia kept looking around and asking, "But where are we GOING? Why are we walking?", followed by the inevitable, "I'm tired of walking!" about 10 minutes into our stroll.

Please understand that this is not the result of bad or negligent parenting, but rather of having spent the past 4 years living in places that are as opposite of pedestrian-friendly as you can possibly get. Sometimes we get the kids out to walk around our compound, but we are usually chased back inside by the swarms of Possibly-Dengue-Carrying mosquitoes that love to envelope us as soon as we walk out the front door.

3.) Walk past a candy store that has a front display of Marshmallow Peeps. Marshmallow Peeps! Buy one, get TWO free! Decide not to buy any. Seriously? Seriously. Get home and spend first few nights back wishing that you had Marshmallow Peeps. Just one Peep. Sigh.

4.) Validate your decision to not have any more children, because if your friends' baby, who is quite possibly the cutest baby in the world, does not make your ovaries tingle, then nothing will. Bring on the vasectomy!

5.) Be grateful that your husband has finally seemed to accept- nay, EMBRACE- your food-hoarding tendencies by allowing you to go to the grocery store to stock up on things that cannot be found at home without even ONE conversation that involves him saying, "But WHY do we need ten boxes of chocolate pudding to last us the rest of the semester?" or "Why can't we eat it until it's gone, enjoy it, and then be happy that we had it and move on?"

You know what kind of talk that is? That is just crazy talk, that's what that is.

6.) Watch your daughter tremble with the anticipation of giving a street performer some money, because he is actually out there attempting to make a living with an obvious, hard-earned talent instead of forcing a chained monkey to ride a rocking horse while wearing a doll's mask.

And if that is not the freakiest thing that I have ever written, then I just don't know what is.

Anyway, it was a fabulous four days, and I look forward to returning again soon! Oh, and in three weeks, we are taking the kids on an 8-hour flight to Shanghai for a training workshop, so be ready to deal with THAT post...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Things that I Am Sure Of...

Things have been CRAZY busy with the start of the new school year! Seriously, it's like I blink and the next thing I know, 3 days have passed and I have no idea where the time went.  Then I blink again, and it's a week later.

Sometimes life just gets in the way, you know?

Anyway, as 5-year-olds are wont to do, Kaia has been asking a lot of bizarro questions lately, and I hear the words, "I don't know" or "I'm not sure" coming out of my mouth more often than not. It started me wondering exactly what the hell it is that I DO know.

So, after several hours of deep thinking (OK, well, maybe 30 minutes of surface-level thinking), I have come up with some things of which I am absolutely, positive sure:

1.) I will never wear skinny jeans- EVER. I don't care if I lose 30 pounds and go back in time 15 years. That goes double for jeggings.

2.) On that note, I will never, EVER understand why one earth a an 18-24 month-old would need to wear skinny jeans, either. But there must be some need, because I have seen them a disturbing number of times on the toddler rack in clothing stores. And I'm looking at you, Gap.

3.) I will most likely never fly in first class on an international flight, no matter how badly I really, really, REALLY want to. This is because whenever I travel, I am accompanied by feral children, coupled with the fact that I am usually wearing flip flops and dirty t-shirts.

Feral children and dirty t-shirts are frowned upon in first-class, I would guess. At least I've never seen any in the first-class lounge as I press my nose against the window and peer in longingly.

4.) I will never enjoy getting my hair washed in a salon for 30+ minutes. Seriously, what is up with that? WHY does my hair require shampooing 5 times, with scalp massages in between, followed by about 3 different conditioners (AGAIN, with scalp massages in between)?

I know some people really like this part of the hair salon experience, they feel like it's an indulgence, but I just want to get my hair done and get the hell out. Whenever I am certain that the shampoo cannot possibly last any longer and then I hear that familiar sounds of the pump bottle YET AGAIN, I seriously have to stop myself from screaming.

Maybe this is more of an Asian thing, but it drives me mad. I always time it, and my longest shampoo once lasted 35 minutes- 35 MINUTES! If I sat down and thought about the things that I could get done in 35 minutes, I'd probably start crying. So let's not go there.

5.) Losing weight will never be important enough to me to give up regular milk in my latte. I give up a lot of things for the sake of losing weight, but to me, a latte with skim milk just doesn't taste the same. And for $4, those lattes better be tasting the best that they possibly can.

6.) Waking up before the sun to exercise is NEVER as fulfilling as sleeping in. Period.

7.) If there is a certain food that I still, at 37 years of age, gag whenever it passes my mouth, the chances are pretty damn good that I am NEVER going to like that food. No matter how many people tell me, "Oh, you just haven't tried it THIS way..." or "I'm going to make it THAT way and you'll love it!"

No, no I won't. Just trust me on that.

8.) My pre-baby bikinis are more than likely going to sit, unworn in the darkest depths of my closet for about 2-3 more years, until I finally give in and realize that no amount of ab exercises is ever going to bring them out of hibernation and get rid of them once and for all.

For the next 2-3 years, however, I will fight that realization and convince myself that the 3 minutes of ab exercises that I do per day will totally, totally rock those bikinis....someday.

How about you? What are some things that you are absolutely sure of?

Monday, August 1, 2011

My Dream Bathroom...

 I am obsessed with a lot of things: grocery stores, washing dishes, cookbooks (if only I was even half as obsessed with cooking, that would balance out nicely), parenting magazines,the internet...LOTS of things! But one thing I have never been obsessed with are bathrooms. I've never really cared too much about bathrooms, except for their cleanliness. When I fantasize about renovating houses, I think about the kitchen (Grill top! Industrial size fridge! LOTS of storage!) and the closets (a linen closet! I really, really want a linen closet!), but never really the bathroom. As long as it's clean and big enough to hold everything I need, that has always been acceptable.

Until now.

I hate the bathroom in our house. HATE IT. Actually, I loathe it entirely.  And I try not to hate it, I do. I try to be grateful and tell myself that we are lucky to have a nice house, even if it is filled with mosquitoes. I tell myself that we are lucky to have indoor plumbing with hot water, even if the hot water lasts long enough to EITHER wash my hair or shave my legs, but never long enough for both.

My husband and I met in the Peace Corps, and spent two years living in a hut with an outdoor, uncovered latrine and shower area, so trust that I know enough to be grateful for an indoor bathroom, but still- STILL- I cannot stop hating it.

Why? Well, where to start...

My biggest issue is the fact that our bathroom doesn't have a window, not even a tiny one up near the ceiling or in the corner- nothing. NO WINDOW. Which means no natural light at all. Even with the brightest bulb in the socket, our bathroom always looks dark, which for some reason makes me feel like it always looks dirty. It's not dirty. Our maid cleans it daily. But it SEEMS dirty because of the darkness.

It's also depressing to wake up at 5:30 in the morning, only to go into a dark bathroom to shower and do my toilette. Seriously, every morning when I stumble into the bathroom and turn the light on, I think, "Oh, yeah...I forgot about THIS!"

The other issue is the shower. There is about two inches between the edge of the tub and the wall, which basically turns into a channel for water to run down before it flows onto the floor and floods the whole bathroom every time someone takes a shower. EVERY TIME. The bath mat and everything.

The only way to  lessen the amount of water that ends up on the floor is to make sure that the shower is turned towards the shower curtain while showering. Which means what when you are showering, you must be huddled against the shower curtain in order to get wet. It also means that every time you shower, you must first make sure that the shower head is facing towards the curtain. Sometimes we forget, and it's not completely turned to the curtain, which leads to whoever is getting in the shower to realize it a few seconds too late and scream, "Who turned the shower head? WHO?!" as the steady stream of water starts to soak the bath mat.

The final issue is that our shower head is at the normal Asian Shower Height, which is about at my shoulders. And we can't raise it any higher, because the water heater is there. My husband and I deal with this in different ways- he washes his hair on his knees, while I do a backward bend that keeps my thigh muscles in check whenever I wash my hair.

Anyway, it's just sad.

So, what was the point of all this ranting? Oh, yes...because of the utter inferiority of our bathroom, I have started fantasizing about my dream bathroom. When I was little, all I wanted was a BIG bathtub! Like, a tub you could SWIM IN! But now, my priorities lie in other areas.

Like a place to sit down. I don't know about you, but the older I get, the more products I seem to need for my hair. Hair dye, color glaze, deep conditioner BECAUSE of the hair dye and color glaze, etc...let's just not get into all that. I've decided that I'm just too lazy to devote 5 hours on a weekend every 4-6 weeks to get my hair colored, so I am trying to take matters into my own hands and just do it myself at home.

I currently use two different products on my hair that require being left in for 3-5 minutes, 3 times a week. When I color my hair, that requires being left in for bout 25-30 minutes. This didn't sound like much when I initially read the instructions on the bottles, but the first time I tried them out, I quickly realized what this means.

It means that, since I hate to waste water, I have to turn off the shower and stand there, COLD AND SHIVERING, for 3-5 minutes. TWICE. I could space this out and alternate days on which I use the products, but have I mentioned that I am kind of lazy? I don't like to wash my hair everyday, and a hair stylist told me once that I shouldn't, anyway.

I could also wrap a towel around myself while I'm waiting, but then all of the towels would be damp when I ACTUALLY finished the shower, and I really like a dry towel to envelop myself in.

Have I also mentioned that I'm kind of high maintenance?

What this translates to is a fantasy bathroom that has a CHAIR on which I can rest while waiting for my hair products to work their magic, preferably with a little table next to it on which to place a glass of wine and my laptop so that I can watch an episode of... anything, really. I'd also throw one of those mini wine fridges right on in there, but you know... I don't want to be greedy.

So, yeah, there it is- forget the giant bathtub, now I want a sitting area! Seriously, I would never leave that bathroom, and my hair would look GORGEOUS.
In fact, forget the bathtub altogether, as I've found that they are not all they are cracked up to be. They take up space, they use a ton of water, and they cause more messes than necessary whenever the kids get in them.

Give me a nice, stand-up shower and leave the extra room for my sitting area.

Another feature that I feel is very, very important is the double sink. Yes, I want TWO sinks- one for me and one for my husband, so that I don't feel like a nagging shrew every time I get grossed out by the globs of toothpaste and shaving cream that so often linger in the sink after he finishes HIS toilette. The he could be content to ignore his own messiness, and I could be the carefree, easygoing wife that I PRETEND to be in my head.

I mean, is that too much to ask? I think not.

My third and final Dream Bathroom Item is lighting that is bright enough for me to tweeze my eyebrows by, yet soft enough so that my skin always looks dewy and flawless. I suppose some might consider this to be Magic Lighting, but I am an optimist and believe that anything is attainable if you look long and hard enough.

So, there it is, the bathroom that I fantasize about every time I brush my teeth under the one dim bulb in our bathroom, or when I am huddled against the shower curtain in a backward bend, washing my hair.

Tell me what you would have in YOUR Dream Bathroom!

Seriously? Seriously.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Riding in Planes With Kids

We have just arrived home from our Thailand vacation, and let me tell you, the past 24 hours were not the ideal ending to our tropical holiday.

It all began on Thursday morning, the day when we were scheduled to check out of our villa. Now, in any normal person's world, that would also have been the day that we flew home, but...not so much in MY world.

You see, once I'd gone through all of the trouble of researching, finding and booking the rental house, I just kind of sat back and didn't feel any pressing need to actually, you know, think about HOW we were going to get there and back.

Long story short, by the time I got around to realizing that one must actually book plane tickets AHEAD of time, all of the flights out of Phuket on our friendly neighborhood budget airline were booked on Thursday.

No problem, I thought, I'll just email the rental house company and get us in for one more night. Obviously, the next day I got a response email informing me that new people were coming the afternoon that we were leaving, so one more night wasn't possible.

No problem, I thought, we'll just stay in a hotel for one night and leave on Friday. When we got to Phuket, we had a look around at some hotels and got some ideas where we wanted to stay. I went on a last-minute hotel deals-type website and was able to find a room at one of the hotels that we'd seen on the beach for a very decent price. Booked!

There, that solved that problem. RIGHT?

Well, it might have, if I'd bothered to think about our flight times for oh, say, two minutes and realize that 7:00 p.m was not really the most awesome time to make a 3-hour flight with two small kids. Which clearly I did not.

Spending one night in a hotel only reinforced my low opinion of staying in hotels with our kids. We had to wait 3 hours to check in and were informed that we could NOT, in fact, get a late check-out the next day (which would have really, really helped us out. A lot). What the hell were we going to do between our noon check-out time and 4:00 p.m, which was when we would need to leave for the airport.  OK, we thought, so we'll just leave our bags and go hang out by the pool.

The pool which, by the way, was so crowded that finding two free chairs together was a major accomplishment, so much so that I didn't even feel like an a@#hole when we left our towels on them all afternoon, even when we were sitting in the restaurant having lunch.

We spent the night alternating between turning off the lights and waiting quietly for the kids to fall asleep, and turning the lights back on 30 minutes later with an exasperated sigh and "Oh, for god's sake, let's just read and they'll go to sleep when they're tired enough!" while the kids rolled around, giggling and fake snoring.

Do I even need to tell you that when we woke up on Friday morning, the view from our window was of the gray, windy, RAINY sky? I didn't think so. Because of course there was no way that WASN'T going to happen.

Anyway, we passed the time (with the help of a $30 round-trip cab ride to the mall) and were ready to get on that plane and get the hell home.

If only the plane had been ready.

I know that to most people, an hour delay isn't that bad...hell, most people would probably say, "ONLY one hour? Not bad!" but those people are probably not traveling with kids. Because, you see, in Kid Time, one hour is really about six hours.

The true beauty of our situation was in the fact that our gate was situated RIGHT IN FRONT of the airport spa, so from our seats, we had full view of all of the childless travelers enjoying their delays by reclining in chairs and getting massages or foot rubs by aromatic candlelight.

That was awesome. Or so it seemed for THOSE people. At least I could enjoy the scent of the candles as the aromatherapy goodness wafted out of the door. 

The good news, I figured was that the kids would be so tired by the time that we got on the plane that they would just go to sleep for the whole flight.

Remember that sentence later on so that you can laugh and laugh at me and my delightful naiveté...

The OTHER good news was that we spotted another family hanging around our gate who had 3 kids under the age of four...THREE! We were counting on them to be our Deflect Family- you know, the ones whose kids deflect attention away from ours by behaving equally bad or (in the best case scenarios) WORSE. We figured the odds were in our favor; no family has three kids who all behave well all the time, right? I'm sure there may be some out there, but if there are, I've never seen them.

Finally,  after a few hours of feeding our kids nothing but french fries from the various fast-food establishments located around the gate, it was time to board. (Side note: you know how in the US, there is a push to include all kinds of healthy food options around airports, making it possible to buy salads, fruit and fresh juice for your kids? Well, those don't so much exist overseas)

We got to our seats, and the jackass in front of me immediately reclined his seat as far back as it would go, despite the fact that I was sitting with an almost-two-year-old on my lap. I really, really disliked that man, to the point that I only half-assed attempted to get Skye to stop kicking his seat. I actually encouraged it a couple of times. I may have even kicked it myself once or twice...or five times.

As we were preparing for takeoff, I got Skye settled, began singing her some night-night songs and got her to ALMOST fall asleep. That, apparently, was the perfect time for Kaia and Jabiz to get out the travel Shoots and Ladders game and start playing.


Needless to say, Skye bolted upright and took an immediate interest in their game. That interest was immensely bigger than any interest that she had in sleeping. I realized right then and there that the chances I had of getting any sort of rest on that flight were slim to none. Mostly none. But at least I realized it early on. Because bitter realization trumps bitter disappointment every time.

So, skip two hours ahead, and Kaia finally fell asleep about 40 minutes before we were scheduled to land, and Skye finally fell asleep....never.

However, the two bright spots about our flight were that Skye was at least tired enough to just kind of sit there on my lap, shredding the inflight magazine, and that our Deflect Family did not disappoint- their kids alternated 10-15 minute screaming fits every half hour or so, which allowed me to unclench my shoulder muscles and stop worrying about what my kids were doing.

This went on until the magical time that occurs about 30 minutes before we end any flight. That time is known as The Time When I Just Don't Care Anymore. I love that time, because I know that even if my kids start screaming and won't stop, or start jumping up and down on my lap, it won't last more than 30 minutes and I stop caring. Seriously, I JUST DON'T CARE.

This time has been shortened down over the years, starting with the year we traveled to the US with Kaia when she was six months old. We arrived in Hong Kong on our way back to Malaysia, and the flight home was only three hours. I declared at the Hong Kong airport that after the 15-hour flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong, I No Longer Cared What Happened. Seriously. I honestly thought to myself, "It's three hours, what's the worst that can happen?"

Apparently, the worst that can happen is that your six-month-old will proceed to scream inconsolably for no reason during the ENTIRE three hours. I quickly realized that I DO, in fact, care what happens for three hours. Three hours is a HELL of a long time. So, you know, I've had to pare that time down a bit.

Luckily, Skye was so tired by the time we got off the plane that she voluntarily climbed into her previously-unused-during-the-entire-trip-because-she-refuses-to-sit-in-it stroller and we had a relatively quick and calm airport experience. I knew there was a reason why we brought that thing, besides using it to hold my carry-on bag and purse while I tote Skye.

So, the main lesson that I learned from this is that night flights kind of suck, and should be avoided whenever possible with small children. Had I realized this, I would have tried to get a morning or early afternoon flight out the day after and spent another night in the hotel. I am glad to be home, though.

OK, so what lesson have YOU learned from traveling with kids?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

You Say To-may-to, I Say To-mah-to...

My husband and I are both teachers, which means that we both have summers off. Having 6 weeks of uninterrupted bonding time with each other and our kids is the trade-off that we make for not being paid a ton of money and having to deal with the student-parent-administration Trio of Joy for the rest of the year. And I'm not going to lie, it's a good trade-off. 

For this summer, we have rented a small house in Phuket, Thailand. It's a pretty nice house- it has its own small pool, wireless internet (well, some of the time), and a full kitchen. However, it's still just that- a house, NOT a hotel. OK, so it has a maid who comes once a week to change the linens and towels and do a general clean-up, but that is where the similarity to a hotel ends.

So far today, I have made the beds, cooked two meals, washed the dishes, done the laundry, ironed and gone grocery shopping. I will repeat some, if not all, of these chores for most of the days during which we are here. I'll also clean the floors, disinfect the kitchen counters and wipe spots off of the bathroom mirror.

Now, I know that many people out there consider this to not be an ideal vacation set-up. MANY people have the mentality that they go on vacation so that they DON'T have to cook, clean or pick up after their kids.

Well, I am not one of those people.

I USED to be one of those people. I used to love to go on vacation and head to the nicest hotel that we could afford. I loved eating in restaurants, leaving the room when the maid came to clean and then coming back to new sheets on a freshly made bed, followed by an order to room service. I loved not caring about the suitcase full of dirty clothes that I would end up going home with...and, well, you get the idea.

Obviously, that was BEFORE we had kids.

Now that we have them, my idea of a vacation has slightly altered. Just slightly. So, while many of you may not consider our holiday set-up to be the stuff that good vacations are made of, allow me to explain why, for us, it is the PERFECT holiday.

For me, any worthwhile vacation does NOT include any of the following things:

1.) Eating in restaurants with my children. Especially when those children consist of The One Who Won't Sit and The One Who Won't Eat. Oh, sure, we've had the occasional night out and dined in some low-key place with the kids, but those nights are far and few between, AND they weren't very relaxing. In fact, the only reason why we went out was because we felt like we should get out of the house once in a while for a meal.  That's what normal families on holiday together do, isn't it? Well, if it is, I can't for the life of me figure out why.

I much prefer cooking some pasta or a homemade pizza while the kids are swimming, coloring, or watching a video. No need to entertain them until the food comes, hoping that you don't bother the people around you and spoil THEIR holiday. No need to scour the menu for something that the kids will eat, only to end up ordering greasy cheese pizza and french fries. Again. Granted, that is also  the result of the fact that we are a vegetarian family, so our options at restaurants are usually already limited to begin with. When the food is ready, they come in and eat it. When they're done, no sitting and waiting for the check to be paid.

PLUS, it's just cheaper. There is no arguing about that. Restaurant bills add up, even when you are eating in places that have the words "Beach Bar" in the name.

Ahhhhhhhh.....for a parent, this is bliss!

2.) Sharing one room with the kids. I don't know how many of you have ever tried putting small kids to bed while in a hotel room, but unless you, too, want to turn out the lights and go to sleep at 7:00, it is NOT easy. They are just not going to go to sleep with the television or the lights on. Sometimes my husband and I will put the kids in bed, and then go and read in the bathroom until they pass out.

Now, that is something that we are willing to do for a few nights if we're on a weekend away, but for a MONTH? No. Freaking. Way.

There is something so very, very liberating about putting the kids in bed, shutting the door, and actually continuing with our night. What can we do?


Watch a movie! Read a book! Write a blog post! Have a late night snack! Skype with friends!

This? Is awesome.

 3.)  Trying to wash clothes in a hotel sink or bathtub whenever Skyelar spills something, falls in something, or rubs something onto her clothes. Which is EVERYDAY. Sometimes more than once.  One time when we went to Bali, I spent more time in the bathroom trying to scrub various stains out of her clothing than I did by the pool. Or so it felt that way, at least. EVERY available hanging space in our bathroom was taken up with damp clothing, and our towels were relegated to a sad pile on top of the toilet.

Now, I do realize that hotels usually come with laundry services, but after the $90 bill that we got slapped with the last time that we used a hotel's laundry service, this is no longer even in my realm of consideration.

I'll also add that I do not consider walking half a mile in SE Asian heat while carrying a big bag of clothes to the nearest laundry place part of an acceptable vacation, either.

I've done all of the above, and I will sure as HELL take throwing a few loads of laundry into the machine and spending an hour a week ironing over them. Did I say sure as hell? AS HELL.

4.) Sharing a pool with a hundred other families. The pool at this house may be small, and it may not have a shallow end, but the fact that the lounge chairs surrounding it are ALL OURS, as well as the knowledge that 25 other kids haven't spent the past hour peeing in it makes up for that.

We can go out whenever we want to and find a place to sit- no rushing out early to put down towels and claim seats together, no worrying that if we go in to take a nap, there won't be any spaces left when we come out (and along with this comes not having to feel like complete a@#holes by leaving towels thrown over empty chairs for hours at a time in order not to lose them).

There are also no awkward moments when some strange kid comes over and tries to usurp one of our kids' pool toys, which I swear always happens whenever we go on vacation. And I don't mean SHARE them, I mean TAKE them. Which then puts me in the position of being forced to judge their parents because don't they see what's going on? Why aren't they DOING something about it, for god's sake?

See those chairs? We can sit in them WHENEVER WE WANT TO!
There are many more reasons (including the opportunity to go and check out grocery stores in unknown places. I am a COMPLETE grocery store freak, if you did not know that already. Just having an excuse to go to a new grocery store makes any vacation totally, totally fabulous. Unless the grocery store sucks, which they sometimes do), but these are my Big Four.

So, allow me to excuse myself now as I cheerfully get ready to sweep the tile floor AGAIN and start brainstorming tomorrow's breakfast least I won't be in line at the buffet trying to explain to Kaia why they don't serve pancakes everyday, or why she CAN'T have chocolate cereal at home even though they have it at the hotel.

Bliss, I tell you! What's YOUR idea of a great vacation?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

It's not me, it's you. It's definitely you.

Toddlers can be finicky little people. They can also turn on you on a dime. One day, only YOU can satisfy their yearns for affection, and the next day- you're OUT OF THE CIRCLE! Seriously, OUT! They are like that girl in middle/high school who would be your best friend one day, then pretend she didn't know your name the next. Though, toddlers are way cuter than THAT girl.

When Kaia was about Skye's age, she turned on ME and became the #1 Daddy's Girl in the whole entire world. Seriously, I could not go near that kid without her screaming her head off and running in Jabiz's direction. Ironically, we also went to Phuket, Thailand for a vacation around that time, and I distinctly remember one particularly embarrassing evening when Jabiz dared leave the room for 30 minutes to go to the hotel lobby and check his email.

Kaia did not take that well. No, no she did not. Not at all.

The screaming basically started the second the door shut and continued in high-pitched howls that seemed to have no end. I did what any parent would do- first, I tried to comfort her. Then I started begging her to just lower the decibels a BIT so that I would have the nerve to dare to look the people in the next room in the face the next morning at breakfast. Then, I just decided to ignore her until she wore herself out.

Sounds like a good plan, right?

I went to the bathroom, and as soon as I closed the door, the screaming stopped. I breathed a sigh of relief and figured that she had finally, FINALLY given up.

Clearly, I did not know with whom I was dealing.

As I came out of the bathroom, I suddenly realized that the reason why the screaming had stopped was because she had ESCAPED. The hotel room door (which, inexplicably, did not automatically lock when closed and which was also ridiculously lightweight and easy to open) was ajar, and Kaia was GONE. Freaking out, I ran down the corridor, until I heard the screaming start again. Except, you know, THIS time it was just all out in the open, in front of all of the people walking to dinner.

"Daddy! Daddy! DAAAAAAAADDY!" There she was, sitting on the hallway floor, tears streaming down her face and looking at me as if I was coming to take her for her first root canal.

"No! No! NO!!!" That was all that I - or anyone- could hear as I approached her, and I swear that if we'd been in the US, someone would have called Child Protective Services. But we weren't in the US, we were in a foreign country, and is there CPS in foreign countries? I have no idea, and neither, apparently, did anyone else.

I picked up her tiny little flailing body and carried her, still screaming, back to the room, feeling my face turn a deep shade of red. I then proceeded to sit with the screaming, though by now I had just given up and turned on the television, volume LOUD, hoping that people would simply assume that maybe I was just obnoxiously watching a really, really violent program. We sat like that the entire time until Jabiz came back. About 5 hours later. No, not really. But it felt like it.

I finally got my redemption on the 8-hour flight back to Doha, when Kaia would ONLY allow Jabiz to accompany her up and down the plane aisles as I sat and watched the first entire movie that I'd seen on a flight since she was born. It was right then that I decided that this new phase? Didn't suck as much as it had first appeared to. But I knew that someday, it would all come back to bite me.

Karma, thy name is Skyelar.

Skyelar, as it turns out, is NOT a Daddy's Girl, she is a Mummy's Girl. Like, really, really, REALLY a Mummy's Girl.  If you went online and looked up "Mummy's Girl", you would be faced with a picture of Skye putting up her hand and screaming, "No!" whenever Jabiz tries to carry her anywhere.

Some of you may think that secretly, I like having Skye all to myself. After all, she is adorable, loving, and for the most part, usually somewhat delightful to be around.

You people would be wrong.

Allow me, please, to outline the things that being the mother of a Mummy's Girl entails:

* Having to eat with a small child wriggling around on your lap because god forbid she spend 5 minutes away from you. This is particularly thrilling when you have a glass of beer in front of you that she assumes is hers to share and really doesn't appreciate being denied.

* Enjoying the pleasure of spending hours wading around in the shallow part of the ocean during trips to the beach while Jabiz and Kaia are out swimming past the breakers or boogie boarding.

* Waking up in the morning with sore arm and upper back muscles because the Little One has decided that walking 2 feet away from you is just too, TOO much distance to have. Except when we are in the grocery store, that is- then she cannot seem to run away from me fast enough.

* Did I mention the lap sitting? I think I touched on it when in reference to restaurant eating, but I must elaborate here and extend it to include 3-hour plane rides, as well as ALL car rides. And NO, we did not bring a car seat with us, because we did not plan on renting a car, so just deal with it and don't judge me or email me about it.

* Having to carry a GINORMOUS diaper bag PLUS a 24-pound toddler everywhere you go, because the second that Daddy tries to carry her, she gets her Pitiful Look on her face, throws out her arms, and screams, "Mommy! MOOOOOOMMY!!". We've learned to resist that, but then The Flailing starts, and it's really hard to ignore The Flailing.

These are just a few examples. However, I've been told by friends who've been down this road before to enjoy it while it lasts, because in time, Mummy's Girls have a tendency to turn into Leave Me The Hell Alone Girls, and then I apparently will look back on this time fondly, even WISHING that we could return to it.

I have a hard time believing it now, but my friends are all pretty smart and seem to know what they are talking about in all other areas, so I will take their word for it.

And have I mentioned that my arms have never been so toned?

Did your kids ever go through this phase?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Really Fabulous Way to NOT Start Your Vacation...

The signs are all over the freaking house: Watch out! Tiles are VERY slippery when wet!

I read them. I even believed them. What I did not do, apparently, was heed them. Now, this was not done on purpose, but let me tell you that the way to spend Day Three of your tropical Thailand vacation is NOT in agonizing pain, followed by nausea and dizziness, and then in MORE agonizing pain. Just take my word on that. I know that of which I speak.

The morning began innocently enough- I was grumping around the house whining that there is NO COFFEE and I NEED MY COFFEE, damn it! As one does on vacation. Well, at least most people I know.  Anyway, my husband offered to go out and get me a latte because he loves me and cares only about my happiness was sick of listening to me complain. Kaia jumped at the chance to go with him, and Skye was to stay with me.

I should also mention here Skye's awesome new habit of being a complete and total Mummy's Girl. What does that mean, you ask? It means that if anyone but me is near her, touching her, holding her, or attending to any of her needs, she shrieks at the top of her inexhaustible lungs. Did I say that this new habit is awesome? Oh, wait, sorry- I mean that it kind of sucks. Don't get me wrong, I love her more than anything, but when I'm going to bed with arms so sore that I can barely lift them because her only acceptable form of transportation is being carried by ME, I'd like a brief respite, for god's sake.

On the plus side, though, I no longer have to pay any attention to my arms when working out. Now I can focus solely on my abs that will sadly never recover from the joys of childbirth.


With Jabiz and Kaia out of the house, I decided that RIGHT THEN was the perfect time to take a shower. Not when they came back, but right then. I have no idea, but it all made sense at the time.

So, I did what a responsible parent would do, and locked the patio doors leading to the pool, lest my pint-size Wunderkind suddenly possess the ability to pry open heavy patio doors and wander out into the pool area unattended. Hey, it could happen. Couldn't it? Let's just say it could, if only to make me feel like slightly less of an idiot.

Long story short, I set Skye up with an Elmo video on our bed where I could see her, hopped in the shower and decided that deep conditioning my hair was another fantastic idea. To be fair, if you had seen my hair, you would have totally agreed with me. Underestimating the speed with which a latte can be made in Thai Time, I found that Jabiz and Kaia came back sooner than expected. I found this as I was standing in the shower with deep conditioner still in my hair.

What to do? Well, I did what any sane person would  do and quickly rinsed my hair and then grabbed a towel  before going out to unlock the door sprinted out of the shower, with conditioner still in my hair, water dripping everywhere and NO TOWEL. Because apparently Jabiz and Kaia would have died if they had to wait on the patio for two minutes. Or so I thought.

Running to unlock the door, what I did NOT count on was the sight of the pool guy servicing the pool right in front of the house. I turned in an immediate attempt to flee in the other direction and go back to the bathroom to grab a towel, and that is when I slipped on the wet tile.

And fell. Hard. Right on my elbow and my wrist. It was more RIGHT on my elbow, and I'm still not 100% sure how my wrist came into it, but it did, because it hurt like an effing mofo.

I probably shouldn't mention that the patio doors are tinted so that people outside cannot see in, but I will, only because I had no idea about that feature until I was lying on the floor, screaming in pain, and Jabiz was pressing his face up against the door, calling, "Mairin? Are you in there?"

I swear to god.

After I was able to pick myself up and unlock the damn door, I stumbled back into the bedroom, howling at the top of my lungs and clutching my injured arm. Then I simultaneously felt both dizzy and nauseous, and five minutes later found me lying on the bathroom floor, moaning in pain and having several thoughts at the same time:

Do I need to go to the hospital? Will I need X-rays? Crap.

What if I have to wear a cast and can't go in the water for the rest of the summer? Crap.

It's my right arm, what if I can't write or type? Crap.

How much did I just scar the kids with my display of dramatics? Crap.

And so on, and so on. Finally, I was able to get back into the shower to rinse the conditioner OUT of my hair, and I figured that since I could move my elbow and wrist, and nothing was swelling out of control, I'd give it a few hours before heading to the hospital. Anyone who has ever spent ANY time at all waiting around a hospital with two little kids will not only understand my decision, but applaud it.

Tonight I am happy to report that my wrist does not hurt at all anymore, and my elbow is still sore, but I can move it. I was even able to carry Skye around in the pool all afternoon, though I was NOT able to throw her up in the air 1,000 times in a row, which is something that she really, really enjoys.

So, what lesson did I really learn from all this? I have no idea, because truth be told, I'd probably do the same thing over again, but I DID spend the entire afternoon screaming, "No running! No running! Seriously, DO NOT RUN ON THAT FLOOR!" so I guess I must have learned something.

I'm really hoping that the rest of this "vacation" is less eventful...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Back in January when I made my New Year's Resolution to post at least once a week, I probably should have had the foresight to include a caveat that one month would be excluded from that resolution. The month known as The Last Month of the School Year. As any teacher will tell you, this last month of the school year is usually so busy that we teachers barely have time to remember to feed and perform basic hygiene on our children, let alone do extracurricular activities such as blogging, reading or washing our hair (hey- I said that I perform basic hygiene ON MY CHILDREN). Seriously. I did not even have time to have my roots done, and I'm not going to go into it, but let me just tell you that the last time I had my roots done was during Chinese New Year. At first, I was horrified at myself for walking around with 2-inch gray roots, but once they got past 3 inches, I just gave up and stopped caring.Then I started wearing headbands, hoping to hide the fact that I'd stopped caring. Because while I really didn't care about my roots, I cared about appearing not to care about them...that's just sad.

So there it is, my explanation for my absence. I should also mention that in the past few weeks I also had to get myself and two small children ready and packed for our month-long holiday in Thailand, from where I am now writing this. If any of you have ever traveled long-term to a foreign country with kids under 5, you will appreciate how stressful this planning and packing can actually be! I had lists, and more lists, and some of my lists even had SUB-LISTS.

Anyway, as stated, I am now on said holiday, which will no doubt provide me with endless fodder for blog posts, so expect that they will be coming almost daily. You can take that as a promise or a threat, however you choose to see it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Blurry Lines of Working Mom-hood...

One thing that I am realizing about being a Working Mom ( Or Working-Outside-of-the-House Mom, or whatever the PC expression is these days, because I REALLY do not want to offend the moms who take care of their kids at home during the day. Those moms work damn hard!) is that you are never TRULY a 100% Working Mom during the day. You are more of an 80% Working Mom, yet still holding onto that 20% Mom-Mom role. It's one of those things that just happens, even if you try and convince yourself that you CAN go to work and forget the fact that you have kids for 8 hours. Kids are sneaky that way. They make themselves Unforgettable.

Take today, for example. I had a prep period right before lunch, which already got cut short about 10 minutes when I had to take time out to go and deliver  Skyelar to her toddler class. After hurrying back to my classroom to deal with the stack of marking that I had to do,  I was met with an email from Kaia's teacher, informing me that my dainty, darling daughter had somehow managed to cut her lip during recess time. She suggested that I come on over and take a look.

I had a pretty good idea of how it happened, as she DOES seem to have my grace and coordination. So, you know, I figured that she just fell down while walking. However, the Mom Voice in my head told me that unless I wanted to be racked with guilt for the REST OF MY LIFE, I'd better high-tail it on over to the elementary campus and make sure that she was OK.

Obviously, this voice was also accompanied by visions of my sobbing daughter, sitting in the nurse's office with a giant bag of ice to her mouth, wondering why her mother hath forsaken her. Because that's just me. Then the visions drifted into the next scene, which found me comforting my traumatized daughter in the emergency room as she received a dozen or so stitches in her mouth.

Again, you've met me, right? My motto is "Prepare for the worst".

Needless to say, I high-tailed it on over to the elementary campus. Did I mention my giant stack of marking? Consider it re-mentioned.

When I arrived at the building and ran to find my "traumatized" daughter, she was in class, cheerfully showing everyone her lip. She saw me and was elated to take me outside and show me exactly how it had happened (and just as I'd thought- it wasn't too far from my Fell-While-Walking theory. Do I know my offspring? Yes, yes I do.)

There were no tears, no ice packs, no stitches to be had. Just some odd looks from other staff members as they expressed their sympathy and I responded, "Ah, she's fine! I'm just glad that she still has all her teeth!"

This entire episode lasted for most of my ONLY prep period that day, and for some reason, that ginormous stack of marking hadn't magically corrected itself while I'd been gone. If anything, I'm convinced that it somehow GREW in my absence.


So, once again, I'll be hustling to get it done in a timely manner. And waiting in anticipation for whatever child-related distraction will interrupt TOMORROW'S prep period,  thus ensuring that I'll be going home with a stack of marking to entertain me during my weekend.

It's a good thing those kids of mine are so stinking cute...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

M is for....

My husband and I wanted to live and raise our kids overseas for a number of reasons, some of which include the fact that we can teach in schools that don’t have metal detectors or annoying standardized tests determining whether or not we are “good’ teachers, free tuition for our kids (we are, after all, poor teachers!), and awesome travel opportunities. Yep, we can get on a local budget airline and be in Singapore or Thailand in less time and (with the price of gas in the US these days) with less money than driving up to a cottage in my home state of Wisconsin.

And that? Totally rocks. My 19-month-old daughter has already lived in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, has visited Singapore and will be spending the summer in Thailand. My four-year-old has already had to have new pages put into her passport and has visited four continents so far- four! That is one continent less than the number I have visited, and the difference in our ages is WAY more than I care to admit here in public.

There are some unexpected limitations to raising your kids overseas (please don’t even get me started on the horrors of 24+ hour flights home for visits. Just…don’t. Because I may start to shake uncontrollably and end up huddled in a ball on the floor in the corner. I wish I were kidding. But I’m so not.). However, there are also some unexpected benefits that we didn’t even consider when we decided to make the move to expat living, the biggest of these being the lack of commercial advertising.

Yes, they advertise overseas- you’ve all seen those ridiculous commercials and ads featuring Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston hawking things like Heinneken and Rolex watches, for which they get paid millions of dollars (seriously? MILLIONS of dollars? That is one of the great imbalances in the world). However, one thing you just will not see very much of overseas is advertising toward children. We’ve lived in Malaysia, Qatar and now Indonesia, and we have YET to see even one commercial for any type of breakfast cereal or toy. I swear, it’s true! People in the US don’t believe me when I tell them that, because they just cannot begin to even FATHOM watching a TV show without their kids begging for something.

A few summers ago, we spent a month in the US, and I think the television was turned on for all of FIVE minutes when we’d already seen ads for SpongeBob sponges (and please explain to me why anybody in the world would spend $10 on a sponge for their kids. Because all I can think is if you are paying that kind of money for something that is usually one of the cheapest items on the grocery list, then you deserve to be targeted by Big Corporations), about 8 different kinds of cereal (NONE of it remotely healthy), and a bunch of toys that I’d never heard of, all of which were made of plastic and made really horrible noises.

It was a nightmare. One I am glad I only had to experience for a month. And it wasn’t even Christmas, which I imagine is obnoxious enough to drive relatively normal people to a level of insanity that can only end with them throwing their televisions out the window.

I’m not going to say that my daughter doesn’t ask for things. Yes, she comes to the grocery store with me and EVERY TIME asks for some chocolatey cereal with a cartoon on the box (EVERY. SINGLE. TIME), and she wants a Barbie for her birthday. No, she really really really really really REALLY wants a Barbie. Girl has simply GOT to have a Barbie. On a side note, we are currently investigating the least offensive Barbie available, so as to not start our 4-year-old down a path that her dad is convinced will inevitably lead to a starring role on “Toddlers and Tiaras”. So far, Veterinarian Barbie is taking the lead, but if anyone has any other suggestions, I am totally open to them. Librarian Barbie would be awesome…

Anyway, so no, we are not immune to childhood begging, but we have it on a much smaller scale, and it comes not from commercials, but rather from seeing her friends in class with these things. Plus, due to the fact that her classmates and friends come from many different countries, cultural differences prevent any trends from blowing too out of proportion.

Another example is the fact that my kids have been to McDonald’s exactly ONCE in their lives. That one time was when we were at the Science Center in Singapore and there weren’t any other attractive options for a quick lunch. Being vegetarians, I got the TWO things that are quasi-vegetarian on the menu (because I am not gullible enough to actually believe that those fries and pies are cooked in 100% vegetable oil. And I am pretty gullible. So that is saying something.). I took them to the table and…Kaia wouldn’t touch any of it. Skye ate some of the fries, but then again, Skye is a french fry freak and would eat fries that were coated in dirt, I am convinced of that.

Now, I am certainly not going to get on some high horse and try to come off as someone whose kids have such sophisticated palates that they will not DEIGN to eat something as low-brow as fast food, because I think I’ve shared enough of my kids’ eating habits to be called out as a big, fat liar within 20 seconds of making that statement. It’s just that we never eat fast food, and they are not aware of what they are missing because they are not bombarded with commercials and ads everywhere they go.

I’ll also clarify here that the reason WHY we don’t eat a lot of fast food is because we are vegetarians, and there just isn’t a whole lot on the menus to make it worth our while. Not because, you know, fast food just isn’t GOOD ENOUGH for M’Lord and M’Lady.  Because I do love myself an Egg McMuffin on occasion, and there are certainly times when a chicken soft taco or McNuggets do sound pretty darn good to me. Pretty, pretty darn good. But alas…

One time, Jabiz and I were walking with Kaia in the mall, and walked past the McDonalds sign. Kaia looked at it and said, “M! Look, Mama, M!” Jabiz and I shared a look of dread, wondering if this was where it all began- the demands for the Golden Arches, the indignation at the fact that she was not provided with free toys on a weekly basis, the craving for the nuggets whose meat is of VERY questionable origin…was this it?

“M is for Mommy!”

I cannot even accurately describe the relief and happiness that we felt in this moment, so I won’t bother trying. However, if you can imagine grown adults sobbing with elation while trying to hide this emotion from their child, for fear that she would wise up to exactly what was going on, that pretty much covers it.

“Yes, that’s right! M is for Mommy!”, and we continued to drill this point into her blond little head every time we visited the mall from then on.

“Look, Kaia! It’s the big M! The Mommy sign!” and she somehow never caught on. And she is pretty smart- way smarter than both of us. It’s not easy to hide things from her, but we manage it thanks to the wonderful lack of advertising overseas.

All that makes the 24+ hour flights worth it. Sort of.