Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Elaine? Elaine, Is That You?

So, we took our kids to an indoor play place today to tire them out  let them explore and refine their motor skills. We drove 45 minutes, paid $10 per kid to get in and sat back to watch the kids run amok in a structured environment. Instead, this is what Skye chose to do for most of the time that we were there:

This is disturbing on many levels, the obvious being that we'd driven 45 minutes and spent $10 to do EXACTLY WHAT SHE'D BEEN DOING IN OUR LIVING ROOM ALL MORNING. The next obvious being that watching her made us see visions of expensive dance lessons in our future, because let's face it, going from the moves above to this: not such a huge leap!

Just saying....

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nightly Ritual

So, on the off chance that maybe some of you have realized that my husband and I always seem to be  teetering on the edge of insanity, allow me to show you the main reason for why that is:

Every. Damn. Night.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Because You All Seem To Think She's SOOOOOO Stinkin' Cute!

People are always telling me how cute my youngest, Skye, is. They seem to have no idea what lurks beneath the surface, or of the fact that on some days, I crawl into bed just grateful to have made it through another day with that kid!

Like today, for example...

Here is Skylie at 7:00 a.m: 9:00 a.m: 11:30 a.m:

Yep, we decided to take her out in public! Not sure why... 4:00 p.m:

And this was AFTER a nap!

...and finally, at bedtime:

These pictures don't even chronicle the whole day! Left out are the pics of: poor Jabiz suffering through Gymboree class with her, us trying to throw a little bit of food into her mouth in between screams during dinner, or the on-the-floor tantrum that she threw in the mall when I insisted that she could not climb UP the slide in order to go down it- that tantrum ended with us slinking off in shame while being stared at by several Indonesians who could clearly not believe that we would say NO to such an adorable child.

So I ask you: How cute is this???

I know, it's still pretty freaking cute. We are in such big trouble.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

To Wake Or Not To Wake? That Is The Question…

I believe that I may have, on a few occasions, expressed my frustration at my youngest’s propensity for getting up so early that she could give bakers wake-up calls. I may have. Once or twice. But, you know, I don’t like to complain…I just don’t understand why it has to be SO hard to train a toddler to wake up at EXACTLY 6:00 every weekday morning.

Well, a few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to
re-claim our bedroom once and for all, damn it foster Skye’s independence by moving her into her own room. However, her air conditioner stopped working and rather than sit around and wait for our landlord to fix it, we moved her in with Kaia.

The first few nights, we thought that we were geniuses. Skye slept better, and Kaia actually stayed in her room ALL NIGHT instead of coming down and crawling in with us (well, more often than not, anyway). It was easy at first- we’d put Skyelar down for bed, then hang out in the living room with Kaia until Skye fell asleep. It worked pretty well, until the one day when Skye wasn’t as tired at bedtime as she usually is.

On that night, she was still awake when Kaia went up to bed, and the two of them stayed up, playing with stuffed animals, taking turns yelling down to get our attention then giggling, and parroting ridiculous babble back and forth to each other. They were like a Vaudeville act. They had a blast, but didn’t fall asleep for a loooooooooooong time. Usually, Jabiz and I do quiet things while we wait for them to fall asleep, but that night, we finally just gave up and started watching Top Chef at full volume, because all those episodes aren’t just going to watch themselves!

Unfortunately, that night taught Skyelar about all the fun things that she and her sister can do if she waits up until Kaia goes to bed. Needless to say, whenever we put her to bed now, she just lies awake, waiting. And waiting. We’ve tried putting her down earlier and then prolonging Kaia’s bedtime routine, but still Skye waits. I swear, she has the patience of a predator, waiting to pounce on Kaia the second she goes through the door and force her to pay attention to her by throwing all of her binkies to the floor one by one until she does. The two of them are never asleep before 8:00 p.m., and the result is that they both sleep later in the morning.

Sounds great, right?

I thought so, too, until the other morning, when it was 6:15 and Skye was still asleep. We usually leave for school at about 7:00, after having had breakfast together and done all of the usual morning routine things. However, that morning, Skye was not there.

I was completely thrown off, and I was confused. Shouldn’t I be happy that she was finally sleeping late? Then I realized it: I missed her. As a working mom, morning time is very important to me. Take that away, and you are taking away one hour of the few hours I get to see her every weekday. What? That’s just not right! Unacceptable.

I sat at the table and fidgeted for a few minutes, then looked to my husband for support.

“Should we go up and wake her?”

“Are you crazy? Let her sleep as long as she needs to.”

Did he NOT understand? Yes, I was crazy! Of course I was crazy! I was missing out on my morning quality Skye Time! The time when I watch her not eat anything and fling her cup to the floor, the time when I watch her run meowing after the cat, the time when she is grumpy and screams if I’m not holding her, and the time when I have to battle between getting myself ready and stopping her from taking everything out of my make-up bag and throwing it in the tub.

How could I NOT have that?

But I kept quiet and slowly made my way to the top of the stairs, where I stopped and stood, biting my nails and balancing from foot to foot while having the following conversation with myself:

“I’ll just go in and see if she’s REALLY asleep.”

“You’ll just wake her up when you open the door.”

“But maybe she’s ready to get up and doesn’t know it yet.”

“Or maybe she needs more sleep and will be thrown off for the rest of the day if you wake her too early.”

“That’s the nanny’s problem, not mine. At least I’d still get to see her.”

“You are a Bad Mommy.”

“Am I? Or am I The Most Awesome Mommy In The World?”

“You’re an idiot.”

“Yes, yes I am.”

I stood there for another few seconds, trying to decide what to do when suddenly, I heard the sound that I’d been waiting for all morning: the sound of a binkie hitting the floor and rustling. I flew into the room and snatched her before she could even stand up. My husband came out of our bedroom and saw me as I was carrying her triumphantly down the stairs.

“Did you wake her up? You woke her up, didn’t you?” He asked this with a BIT more accusation and judgement than I felt I deserved under the circumstances.

“NO, of course not! She woke up on her own.”

And I wasn’t lying! Though I’m still not sure that my powerful thought waves didn’t somehow will her into opening her eyes. And yes, I know, I am totally pathetic.

Please, please tell me that this has happened to you, too!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Are We Raising A Klepto?

Skye has an interesting pastime that has won her the nickname Community Monkey. However, many people have no idea what that means and think that we are some kind of weird, simian-obsessed family. Let me enlighten you.

Skye has a habit of going into any drawer, cabinet, basket, etc., grabbing anything she can get her little hands on, and running away with it, only to put it god-knows-where until someone either finds it and says, "What is my deodorant doing in the laundry hamper?" or until someone needs the item and then proceeds to screech, "Where are my glasses? They were in my nightstand and now they are gone! You check the toybox, and I'll check the utensils drawer!" or "Where the @#*& is my phone? Someone call it! CALL IT!"

One night, we were watching one of our favorite shows, Community, when the episode hit a little too close to home. The character of Annie was missing her pen, and reacted in the following way:

The rest of the episode was spent trying to figure out who had taken the pen, until the end, when the culprit was revealed:

Needless to say, we both sat up, looked at each other and yelled, "It's Skyelar!" She probably won't really appreciate this story when she's older (what with being compared to a monkey and all that), but we are convinced that somewhere in the depths of our house, there is a secret nest made of all of the missing things that Skye has taken over the past few months.

Hence, the nickname.

It has become so commonplace to call her Community Monkey that even our 4-year-old has gotten into the habit. At any time in our house, you can hear someone saying, "Hey, Community Monkey is in your bathroom drawer again!", or "Mom, Community Monkey has your brand new, moderately-expensive hair pomade... again!" (OK, these EXACT words may not be used, but you see my point).

If you were to walk into our bathroom, there is a 95% chance that this is what you will see:
Followed by:


And then it is very likely that these items will disappear into the vast, unknown depths of Skye's secret stash.

We are hoping that this is just a phase that she will grow out of, and not some bizarre preparation for a future career, because while Community Monkey may be a cute nickname for an 18-month-old, it is not nearly as cute when made permanent as a prison tattoo!

Do your kids have any annoying habits that have garnered them awesome nicknames?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Can I Get A Collective "Awwwwwww....."?

This is the picture that my darling daughter drew for me while waiting for my morning staff meeting to end so I could take her to class.

Excuse me, I must now resume the activity of walking around the building, showing it to every single person I see. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wait- Who Said You Could Make Your Own Decisions? I Did? Well, I'm An Idiot...

Saturday morning found Kaia and I having our usual debate about whether or not she would come to the grocery store with me. I swear, by the way she reacts whenever I ask, “Are you going to come to the grocery store with me?” you would think that “Grocery Store” was the euphemism that we use whenever we are secretly taking her for shots or something.

You may be wondering why I am so desperate to take a 4-year-old out to the grocery store, especially a 4-year-old who has been known to publically embarrass us on one or two occasions. There are several answers to that, the first being that the drive to the store takes over 30 minutes (Jakarta is a huge city, and yes, I drive to the other side of town to shop at the grocery store that is geared towards expats. Whatever. I like my fancy olive oil and my gourmet cheese, deal with it.) and is rendered painfully boring due to my cursed inability to read in vehicles without feeling the urge to vomit within minutes.

The second reason is that Jabiz gets up with the kids on Saturday mornings, and I swear that even farmers don’t wake up as early as our kids. Seriously, there are few things worse than dragging yourself out of bed before the sun has even thought about coming up on a WEEKEND. I have to yank my kids out of bed kicking and screaming (literally) during the week, but on the two days when they can actually sleep as late as they want to, they decide that complete darkness is the new morning sunlight. Anyway, when Kaia comes to the grocery store with me, Jabiz is able to go back to bed for a bit while Skye takes her nap. If Kaia doesn’t come with me…well, let’s just say that there is no napping to be had, no matter how many times you explain that Daddy is reeeeeeeeeeeeally tired and just needs half an hour of quiet time to get some sleep, for the love of god. No matter how many times you BEG for her to just go in the playroom and color for a little while. No mater how many times you threaten to take away her afternoon treat if she doesn’t. None of this matters, because you will still (STILL!) be woken up by requests for juice, or to find the scissors, or to go upstairs and help her get something out of her closet….I'm serious, the list of requests is endless. End. Less.

Lastly, I feel a strong, compulsive need to expose my kids to the mundane, everyday things that they would be exposed to if we lived in the US, even though we live overseas. I don’t want them to grow up never having been to the grocery store, or not realizing that mommies and daddies cook, or not knowing how to make a bed. I admit that this thinking is probably brought on by the Midwest girl that still lives inside me, but I run my own errands, and gosh darn it, my kids will, too!

Anyway, I want her to come shopping with me, yadda yadda yadda, and as a result, I have resorted to bribing her to come. I am not proud of that fact, but a few innocent weeks of my request for companionship followed by, “We can stop at the bookstore after!” and “Hey- afterward, we can go and get some hot chocolate!” have come back to bite me, because my precious daughter is very, very smart and has therefore figured out that saying yes to me straight away is counterproductive, as it does not result in her coming home with a belly full of chocolate or a bag with a new book in it.

Last Saturday was no different, as our apr├Ęs-grocery expedition ended (yet again) at the bookstore. Now, I love going to the bookstore. I REALLY, REALLY love going to the bookstore. I love taking my kids to the bookstore and watching them look at books and choose which ones they find appealing. I am one of those people who believes that buying your kids as many books as your bank account comfortably allows is not spoiling them (and living overseas, we don’t have neighborhood public libraries. If we did, I might feel differently about purchasing so many books for the kids. However, we don’t, so off to the bookstore we go!), but enriching them. Up until recently, Kaia has been pretty good about choosing books that I think are both beautiful and educational. She has also been pretty good about being influenced by MY opinion of what is beautiful and educational!

However, the past few times we’ve gone to the bookstore have ended with conversations such as the following:

Me: OK, Kaia, you can pick one book that you want to get. Aaaaaaaaaany book you want! (Steering her towards the chapter books and artistically illustrated section)

Kaia: I want this Disney princess book.

Me: Disney Princess? Really? Wouldn’t you rather have this one? It’s about a girl named Pinkalicious, who is teased for liking pink, but she stands up for herself, anyway, and doesn’t care what the other kids say. Doesn’t THAT sound like a good book?

Kaia: No, I want the Disney Princess book.

Me: But you love pink, too! And this one teaches you a really, really good lesson about being your own person and not caring what other kids say.

Kaia: That’s nice, but I want the Disney princess book.

Me: OK…this one is about some kids who travel all over the world and learn about new things. Doesn’t that sound interesting?

Kaia: No, the Disney princess book sounds interesting.

Me: Well, what if you could get the Pinkalicious book AND the book about the traveling kids?

Kaia: Can I get the Disney princess book, too?

Me: Well, no.

Kaia: Then I just want the Disney princess book.

This is when I realize that encouraging my kids to figure out what they like and pick out their own stuff kind of sucks. Not that there is anything (much) wrong with her Disney princess obsession, though I admit that I am not thrilled about it. I’d just like to limit it to costumes and dolls and leave it out of our literature selection.

But I had a choice to make- I could stand there and keep trying to convince her that what she wanted was wrong and do god-only-knows-what damage to her fragile self-esteem, or I could give in and buy the damn princess book. After all, I’d told her that she could get any book that she picked out, NOT any book that she picked out, pending my approval.

So what did I do? I’m not going to lie to you all- I bought the princess book AND Pinkalicious. I couldn’t help it. I will try and let my kids develop their own preferences, but I will also continue to subtly try and exude a little, tiny bit of influence over them. I’m their mother, after all- that’s what I’m here for!

What are some things that YOUR kids like that drive you crazy?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why Yes, These ARE My Children....

You may commence with the cooing and telling me how adorable they are now.

If only they were this angelic all the time...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why Is This Fun Again? (Or: What The Hell Were We Thinking Taking These Kids Out In Public?)

My husband and I love eating in restaurants. They don’t have to be fancy or have gourmet food (although that doesn’t hurt!), we just like the whole restaurant experience: sitting at a nicely set table, ordering food that we don’t have to cook, looking over the wine list, enjoying the ambiance, and then leaving when it’s over without having to do any dishes or cleanup. LOVE. IT.

Before we had kids, we used to go out to eat all of the time- at least twice a week. When we lived in New York, the bulk of our (meager) spending money went to eating in restaurants. When we moved to Malaysia, where eating out was a bit cheaper, that increased. We even had a tradition on Wednesday nights with some friends of going out and trying a new restaurant every week. Dinners and lunches were spent leisurely talking, enjoying the food, and we always, ALWAYS ordered dessert.

Then we had kids. And most of our friends had kids.

Nowadays, eating in restaurants is a whole different experience, and I mean different in the way that driving a new BMW and driving an old beater car are different. One is loud, takes a lot of attention and can often times be embarrassing. I’ll let you guess which one.

We just went out to lunch yesterday at a sushi place in the mall, and met some friends in the restaurant. We decided to all sit together and had kids ranging from ages 1.5-5 at the table. I won’t dwell too much on the gory details, but in the course of one hour we had:

• One toddler who could not sit still or more than two minutes and instead walked around all over the restaurant, causing near-collisions with several waiters carrying full trays.
• Two parents who took turns getting up and taking said toddler out into the mall to walk back and forth until the food came.
• One 4-year-old who refused to even TRY her vegetarian sushi roll and thus ate less than a model during Fashion Week.
• One toddler who ate like a model the week AFTER Fashion Week (or so I imagine!), but once finished screamed until she was released from the high chair. Loudly.
• Too many balloon fights between 4-year-old and her friend to count (why the *@#^ do restaurants give out balloons??? It never ends well).
• Two parents who were once again so desperate to get the check that the thought of dessert never even entered their minds.

**Note: I'm sorry to say that the toddler, 4-year-old and parents in the above recount all belong to our family. Sigh.**

And that was a usual lunch, I’m afraid to say.

In addition to the quality of meals that we enjoy, the caliber of restaurants has also changed. I remember a few years before we had kids, we were visiting some friends and their kids and decided to go out to dinner. We ended up going to a chain restaurant that is known more for its casual dining atmosphere than for its food. On the way home, we swore that when we had kids, we would take them to CLASSY restaurants, not to places like that. Because, you know, OUR kids would totally appreciate good food and would know how to act in nice places.

I’ll give you a few minutes here to finish laughing.

Suffice it to say, we have eaten at this chain restaurant more times that I care to admit, all over the world! When we go out to dinner now, we look for “family-friendly” places (translation: places that might have other kids worse behaved than ours), rather than delicious cuisine. When friends tell us about great new restaurants that they’ve discovered, our first question is always a trepidatious, “Can we take the kids there?” Once in a while, we find a place that has both, and when we do, we become that restaurant’s most loyal customers! When we lived in Malaysia, we had a restaurant near our house that had healthy food, as well as a play area for kids with TABLES INSIDE IT! I swear, we ate there as often as we could until we moved, and I still long for it (we moved away four years ago).

However, we don’t give up! We keep going to restaurants with our kids, because: 1.) Sometimes you’ve just got to get out of the house, 2.) Sometimes even the horror of taking small children to restaurants is worth it to have someone else cook the food, and 3.) We keep clinging to the hope that if we keep taking our kids out to eat, someday- SOMEDAY- they will finally be used to it and learn to act properly-ish (we’ll be happy with the “ish”).


Come on and make me feel better by sharing some of your worst family restaurant stories with me!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Working Moms or Working Overtime Moms?

I am considered a Working Mom, because I have a job outside of the house to which I go everyday. This year I am technically part-time, but the way my schedule works, I am at work full-time, anyway. Though, to be honest, all moms are Working Moms, aren’t they? I was a Stay-At-Home Mom for two months this year, and I can tell you that I worked harder than I do most days at work!

I like to pride myself on the fact that I am a Working Mom, but still manage to spend a lot of time with my kids and do things like cook and (kind of) clean without getting TOO stressed. Yes, sometimes I bring work home with me and spend some time at night working. Sometimes I am VERY tired and get grumpy when I have to make lunches and snacks for the next day, or if the kids are tired and there is not enough time to make as healthy of a dinner as I’d like after getting home, but overall, it’s not too bad of a gig.

However, I just finished reading the book I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson, and realized that the term Working Mom does not necessarily describe every mother who works outside the home accurately. There are varying degrees of Working Moms.

I am a teacher, which is a very convenient job for someone who has children. It’s even more convenient if your husband is also a teacher, as mine is. In addition to this convenience, I live overseas, which allows for an even MORE convenient lifestyle. I have a nanny/housekeeper, so my youngest stays home all day while I am at work, so I don’t have the stress of dropping her off at daycare, or scrambling to find a solution when she is sick and cannot go to daycare. The nanny/housekeeper doesn’t have tons of time to clean the whole house while taking care of the baby, but she helps enough that my part in the cleaning is minimal.

I also have a schedule that allows me to be home by 4:30 most days, sometimes earlier. Often I opt to bring work home and do it at night after the kids have gone to bed in order to be home so early, but the point is that I have the option. My husband and I work at the same school, my older daughter goes to the same school, and next year my younger daughter will attend, as well. We live about 7 minutes away, so there is no 30-60 minute commute to work and back.

I get to take my daughter to school, pick her up and get to know her teacher, even though I am a Working Mom. I get to eat dinner with my kids and put them to bed every night, and I spend my entire weekend with them. Yes, sometimes I miss class meetings or parties that happen during the day, but for the most part, I am very involved.

I also get around 3-3 1/2 months of the year off to spend with my kids (please do not ever mention to me that teachers get TOO MUCH time off, though, because after spending months on end dealing with students day after day, we deserve that time! Plus, we’re not getting paid to do nothing, we average our pay over the year and take home less every month in order to pay ourselves over the summer. OK, there is my rant. Moving on.), so whenever a time comes when I feel like maybe my youngest is too attached to the nanny, or that I am getting to be too tired to parent properly, there is usually a break of time around the corner when I get to spend some free, relaxed, 24/7 quality time with my girls. Also, having the same school holidays means that I don’t have to figure out what to do with my kids when they are on break, we can travel as a family, and my husband is home to do his half of the parenting. Bonus!

I know that I am lucky. I realize it everyday.

I often forget that not every Working Mom has the same setup that I do. Most Working Moms have to pay half (or more) of their paychecks for daycare, have long commutes, and are lucky if they get home for bedtime. For a lot of Working Moms, summer break and other holiday times are a time of stress and worry, or expensive day camps/programs.

I consider these moms to be Working Overtime Moms, as they deserve extra respect for doing what they do. I know many people who believe that women who complain should just quit their jobs and “do without luxuries” in order to stay home with their kids. These people don’t realize that food, electricity and basic clothing are not luxuries and cannot be gone without. For some families, having both parents not work is simply not an option as it is for others. Plus in this economy, having two working parents is a safety net against having one parent lose their job, or not having savings in the bank in case of emergencies.

As a Working Mom, I am in awe of these Working Overtime Moms, whether they do it because they love their jobs, or because they have to work for their families to survive. I also understand why so many women choose to be Stay-At-Home Moms, if they have the financial ability to do so.

At the end of the day, though, we’re all just plain Moms, aren’t we? And we all need a little help now and then.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Things They Carry

Summer is coming, and when you live overseas, summer usually means travel. Some people travel back to their home countries, some people make whirlwind travel itineraries and try to visit as many places as they can, and others stay in the region but visit one or two nearby places. This summer, we are in the latter category. It’s been a while since we’ve been back to the US, and while I do love a summer spent in northern California, it’s not in our plans this year.

First of all, our youngest daughter, Skye, is still under the age of 2. This means that she is still too young to watch movies, play video games or sit still. So that basically means that she is still too young to make traveling long distances with her NOT horrible for all parties involved. Secondly, we are going to the US next Christmas to live out Kaia’s big dream of finally seeing snow, so the idea of two long-distance flights within 6 months of each other is enough to make me want to curl up in bed and chew my hair. Anyway….

That leaves us with a summer in SE Asia, and we are renting a vacation house in Thailand for a month.

And with a summer vacation house in Thailand come…grandparents! My parents, who 10 years ago had never left the US besides a few day trips to Canada, are now the kinds of people who say things like, “Your dad is really excited to go to Phuket again!” That is what grandparenting overseas kids will do to you. My parents are very good sports about coming to see us when we can’t go to see them (and, thank god, they are also very good about understanding WHY we can’t go and see them). The thing they are the BEST sports about, though, is acting as my very own pack mules and dragging all of the things that I
want/need/cannot live without whenever they come. Seriously, they arrive with 4-5 huge bags, and it turns out that the bottom half of one bag holds all of their personal belongings for the week.

So, with the email announcing that my parents have booked their tickets to Thailand this summer, I immediately began making my list. The List. Also known as The List That My Mother Dreads Receiving, because she knows that she will be the one trying to cram it all in to her suitcases, while still leaving a smidgen of room for important things like her clothing, toiletries and medication. And shut up about my slight compulsive need to constantly make lists. I know I need help, but I don’t care!

There are two categories of things that I add to my list: Things I want/need but cannot get in Indonesia, and things I want/need and CAN get in Indonesia but at three times the price.

The first category includes things like medicine for the family, swim diapers, fruit leather, Crayola products, Fancy Nancy books, clothes from Old Navy, Shout wipes and my favorite moisturizer. The second category covers things like board games, pine nuts, spices, LeapFrog crap, various kinds of hair accoutrements for Kaia, Cheerios, Parents magazines, etc…

However, even though I am looking at the list and feeling a slight (and I mean EVER so slight) twinge of embarrassment, I am still open to things I might add to it! So I need to ask you this question:

What are some things that you just do not like to be without?