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!