10 Things You Should Never Say to a Pregnant Woman

The following is a list of things that have actually been said to me at one point or another during my three pregnancies, including this one:

1. “Wow, you’re huge!”

2. “Twins?”
“No.”
“No?  Triplets?”
Dumbass.

3. “Are you sure you’re not having twins?”
Yep, I’m pretty sure the 17 sonograms I’ve had don’t lie.

4. “You must be due any day.  Are you going to have the baby right now?  Do I need to call an ambulance?”
No, I’m only 6 months pregnant, but thanks for your rudely misplaced concern.

5. “Do you feel ugly?  That’s how I knew I was having a girl.”

6. “Wow, you’ve really dropped.”
Really?? I’ve got like 2 months to go, genius. How the hell do you know that I’ve dropped? Until it feels like there is a freaking bowling ball between my legs, lady, I haven’t dropped.  There is literally no difference in the verticality of my belly since the last time we saw eachother.

7. “I think it’s a girl.”  “No, I think it’s a boy.”
You know what, I really don’t care what sex you think the baby is.  The cute little wager you just made with yourself isn’t going to change the outcome at this point, so just wait to find out like everyone else.

8. “How are you feeling?”
See, you really don’t want to know the truth when you ask this question.  You want the sunshine and roses response, not the truth.  How the hell do you think I’m feeling?  I have been growing a person inside me for 37 weeks now.  I’m goddamned over it, that’s how I’m feeling.  Everything hurts, everything I eat gives me indigestion, I can’t bend over, can’t sleep, can’t walk for more than a few steps at a time before I have to sit down, can’t sit down for more than a few minutes before I have to pee, can’t lay on my back, stomach or right side.   And every single day for the last three months, I have wanted to be done being pregnant FOREVER.  There, is that honest enough for ya?

9. “How far along are you?”
“7 months?”
“Really?”
“Really.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“Wow, I really would have thought you were due any day.”
Thanks for that.  

10. “Have you gained a lot of weight?”
Why, does it look like I’ve gained a lot of weight?  Yes, I have.  I now weigh more than my husband, but that’s neither here nor there.

Church at Christmas: Not For Sissies

Our family doesn’t go to church much.  Don’t get me wrong.  I believe that there are many benefits to regularly attending church.  I myself went nearly every Sunday when I was growing up.  But when you have a five year old and a two year old, church is not exactly “fun”.  In fact, it is Imagedownright exhausting.

We had not gone to church since moving to the Bay Area for this exact reason, and on Christmas Eve we decided that it was high time we give church another try.  We got dressed up (because, somehow, in my mind, if my children look really polished and cute, perhaps the parishioners will be less angry with them when they start screaming like crazy people during the recitation of the “Our Father”).

Dressed up as we were, that did not keep us from feeling like “those people” while in attendance.  We were “those people” who quite clearly don’t come to church often, and whose children, therefore, don’t understand what church, and even Christmas for that matter, is all about.

It all started as we entered the church from the parking lot.  The parking lot was teeming with people, all headed straight for the church, and while we got there a few minutes early, we started feeling like we weren’t going to get a seat.  There was a side door that would allow us to enter the church much sooner than walking all the way around the building, to the main entrance, but we weren’t sure.  Could we enter the side door?  Was that ok to do?  Was it against church etiquette?   We saw some regulars headed that direction so we thought, “What the hell”, I mean, “What the heck, let’s follow them”.  What we didn’t realize was that the side door was going to let us into the very front of the church, so now all eyes (about 200 sets of them) were on us as we frantically looked for a vacant seat.  It felt like every person in there was thinking, “Don’t they know they’re supposed to enter at the rear of the church like everyone else??”  I suddenly thought of the sign that hangs at my in-laws house: “Hippies use side door”.  That was us.

We finally find a seat.  We are settling in.  The kids are pretty wound up, but generally behaving themselves.  Then, just as the church started to quiet down in preparation for the beginning of the ceremony, my daughter yells out very loudly, “WHERE IS SANTA??? I DON’T SEE SANTA!!!”  Oh good God.  Really??  I turn to my daughter and whisper, “Ella, don’t you remember that book we’ve been reading about Christmas? It’s about celebrating Jesus’s birthday, right?  Well, that is what church is about today.  It’s all about Jesus’s birthday.”

“Ohhhh”, she whispers back.  Then she yells, “IS MARY HERE??!!”

“Well, no, Ella, Mary isn’t actually here.  But her statue is right over there.  You see her over there, with baby Jesus?”

“Oh yeah” she whispers.  Then yelling again, “DADDY, DO YOU SEE MARY WITH BABY JESUS OVER THERE?? OH, AND THAT’S JOSEPH WITH HER!”   Well, at least our kids know that much about religion.  Maybe we’re not doing so bad.

She finally quiets down.  And then I smell it.

She has definitely farted.

Ok, well I’m not completely sure if it’s her, but I feel fairly certain.  She asks to be held, and then I start feeling mad vibrations on my lap. Yep, it’s definitely her.  And oh my God, it smells like something has died.  Seconds later, Jackson sits next to me.  And farts.  Audibly.  I mean, really?  What did these children have to eat today?

Children are hilarious in this way:  they have absolutely no filter when it comes to controlling the sounds that come out of their bodies, be it their mouths or their backsides.  After the homily, which was fraught with my children’s firestorm of farts, it was finally time to go up and receive communion.

I bring Jackson up there with me, and I tell him, “Listen, mommy is going to take the wafer from the nice man, and then he is going to give you a blessing, ok?”  I think we’re both on the same page as we process up to the front.  And Jackson looks so cute.  He even has his hands folded in front of him.  Alright! Maybe we don’t look like such neophytes after all.  But as we walk up to the alter, for ever step the man in front of us takes, Jackson takes five:  He inadvertently walks straight into the man, head to butt, about fifteen times on our journey up the aisle.  I keep trying to hold Jackson back, but he keeps doing it, over and over again.  Pull it together, man.  Everyone is watching!

We finally get to the alter, and I take the wafer from the Eucharistic minister.  I turn to Jackson to indicate that it’s his turn to get the blessing.

He freezes.

He hides behind my legs.

He is not playing ball.  Come on, man!  Let the nice man give you a freaking blessing!  Nope, he just stands there, staring at him in pure fear.  Sorry sir, we clearly don’t do this much.

Moving on.  We step over to the man giving out the wine.  In the five steps it takes for us to walk over to him, I have a quick conversation with myself:  Do I take the wine?  I’m pregnant, so maybe I shouldn’t, so that I don’t get any germs.  My immune system isn’t so great these days – probably not the best idea.  But I don’t want to be rude.  Ok, guess I’ll just take a quick sip and be done with it.

But what I wasn’t thinking about was:  “Duh you’re pregnant!  You’re not supposed to be drinking wine!  Even if you do have a glass at home here and there, not everyone in this church shares your freewheeling, have-the-occassional-drink-during-pregnancy views!”

But I have already taken a sip.  It’s too late.  And as I embark on the walk of shame back to my seat, it feels like 200 eyes are staring at me again, this time thinking, “Unfit mother!  How dare she drink wine?!  She’s pregnant, for God’s (or in their case “goodness”) sake!”

Sigh.

We return to our seats, and for the last five minutes of mass, my son proceeds to ask me every ten seconds if church is over yet.

“Mommy, is it over yet?”

“Mommy, this mass is taking a long time.  Is it over?”

“Can we go home?”

“Is it over now, Mommy?”

Not soon enough, Jack.  Not soon enough.

On the way home, Jackson asked me if we could go back to church on Christmas Day.

“No, honey,” I laughed.  “We are not going back tomorrow”.

Or ever.

Or at least until I can drink again, so I can numb myself before entering God’s house with my exceedingly embarrassing children.  Ok, well, maybe I won’t drink before church, but I’ll be sure take an extra big sip of wine during church.

Christmas Overload

Unless you’re really overzealous (or just have way too much time on your hands), you’re probably not even thinking about the fact that Christmas is coming until at least the day after Thanksgiving.  And a quick glance at the calendar will tell you that there are not a lot of weekends between that unofficial start of the Christmas season and Christmas itself. When your son’s birthday falls on one of those weekends, the time you have as a family to do Christmasy-type things seems even more limited.  Sitting on Santa’s lap, building a gingerbread house, getting your Christmas tree, decorating the house, etc. all takes time, and there’s not a lot of it this time of year.

So when I start to feel under the gun during the holidays, what do I do?  I cram every possible Christmas activity into one weekend.

On Friday I took the kids to see The Nutcracker.  I took Jackson last year, and he had a blast.  So much so, in fact, that when we returned home, he immediately found his sister’s tutu and started prancing around the house in it.  But this year?  I think this picture says it all:

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This is his “tough face”.  I suppose the on-stage onslaught of pink tights, tight buns, sequins, and lace necessitated that he appear extra manly.  Ella was mesmerized by her first trip to the ballet – at least during the first act.  Live dancers on stage!  Real dogs?! A Rockefeller sized Christmas tree!  And real (ok fake) snow!!  Whoa.  She was hooked.  That was until the second act.  By then she realized that it was way more fun to run through the aisles of the theater than to sit nicely on her mommy’s ever-shrinking, baby laden lap.

Saturday morning was filled with even more Holiday festivities.  We started off the day by attending a holiday party, thrown by the local mother’s group I belong to.  There were cookies to decorate, pictures with Santa, live musicians, a professional photographer taking family portraits.  The kids were having so much fun that they didn’t want to leave, but it’s always a lot easier to leave one fun place, when you bribe them with the merits of the next fun place.

“Let’s go get our Christmas tree guys!”

“Yay!” they both responded enthusiastically.  Thank God.  Ok, meltdown averted.  I was really starting to fear that these nice moms who I had just met, and would like to someday be friends with, would fall victim to my son’s usual leave-the-party wailings.

Thirty minutes later we arrived at Little Hills Christmas Tree Farm in Petaluma.  This was our first time cutting down a Christmas tree, rather than just buying one at an unsexy, dime-a-dozen tree lot.  We strolled in and picked up a tree cart and a saw, with high hopes and a spring in our step.  This was going to be so great!  The kids were having fun, running around wielding sticks at each other.  Fantastic.  At least they were happy and occupied.

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But as we walked further and further into the Christmas tree farm, we realized something:  Christmas tree farms around here don’t seem to have the usual trees that you see at the boring lots.  The tree lot trees are all symmetrical, full, green, and smell divine.  The tree farm trees?  Well, let’s just say they are definitely lacking in the “wow” factor.  They are patchy, sparse, very asymmetrical, mostly short, and do not sport the typical needles you see on your traditional Christmas trees.  Kind of like the gangly awkward teenagers of the tree world.

This led to much indecision on the part of my husband and I regarding which tree to choose.  “Oh I like this one over here. It’s really full”, I’d say hopefully. (And by full, I just meant not covered in massive bald spots like the majority of the others).

“Oh but what about this one over here”, my husband would say.  “It’s taller.  Not as full, but taller, and if I trim this branch here and this branch here, maybe we can make it look a little more symmetrical.  But…hmmm…I like the one you chose too.  You’re right that one is fuller.”

“Yeah babe”, I would say, “but this one you chose is maybe better.  I don’t know, what do you think?”

This went on for a good twenty minutes, and by then the kids were off chasing a deer through the farm, shaking their sticks at him, and just being generally wild.  Actually, I’m not really sure what they were doing.  Because while the trees here were short, my children were shorter, and they kind of disappeared every time they would walk ten feet away from us.

Finally we chose a tree.  Ok, so it wasn’t a Douglas Fir, but it was still nice, and the whole point was to experience cutting down our own tree.  Well, my husband was the one who got to experience that, at least.  And experience it, he did.  The poor man probably spent about thirty minutes sawing away at what must have been the thickest trunk in the entire tree farm.  Back and forth, pushing and pulling, all with a saw that looked like it was better suited for a tree branch rather than a tree trunk.  As you can see here, he started on his knees, and by the end he was fully laying down on the ground beneath the tree, desperately trying to make even the slightest dent in the tree’s seemingly impenetrable bark.

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Clearly I am being very patient with the amount of time this is all taking.

ImageJackson tried to get in on the action too, fashioning his stick into a saw, whacking every tree stump he could find within a one-foot radius of my husband.

ImageFinally we yelled a triumphant “Timber!!” as the tree slumped over on its side.  We carted it out to the car, and my husband tied it to the roof, while Jack and Ella ran me ragged around the rest of the tree farm.  By now they were completely over-tired, and if you’ve spent enough time around children, you know that this has the opposite effect you would expect.  Rather than being sluggish and agreeable, they started behaving as if sugar and caffeine had been intravenously pumped through their little crazy bodies:

“Mommy, I want to go see Santa’s sleigh!”

“Mommy, let’s go see the farm animals.  Come on!!”

“Mommy, let’s go in the gift shop!!”  (Big mistake by the way.  Never take two children under the age of five by yourself into a room full of fragile Christmas ornaments.  It doesn’t end well for anyone.)

On the way out, I noticed that there were pre-cut trees at this farm as well.  Trees that they bring down from Oregon that actually look like traditional Christmas trees.  And the kicker?  They were $10 less than what we spent to hack that bald one down ourselves.  I think I know what we’ll be doing next year.

Finally it was time to head home, but wait!  Our Christmas extravaganza was not yet finished!  We still had to get eggnog and firewood on the way home, so that we could build our cliché fire and drink our cliché beverages while listening to our cliché Christmas music and decorating our Christmas tree.  And oh my God, how stressful!  Every time I turned around, Jackson was manhandling another fragile ornament, seconds away from dropping and shattering it into a million little pieces.  I was pleading with him: “Please….just let me unwrap, and you can hang them with daddy, ok??”  But it was like talking to a tree stump.  Absolutely no use.

I kept trying to tell myself that this was supposed to be fun.  We were creating a holiday tradition for our family.  We were bonding.  Blah, blah, blah.  But really all I wanted to do was send both the kids to bed so that my husband and I could decorate the damn tree by ourselves, without fearing the loss of our most prized ornamental possessions.

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In the end, the tree actually looked pretty great, unwieldy as it was.  And my kids were so worn out by the end of the day that they were actually asking to go to bed.  Must have been that bourbon we slipped in their eggnog.

If I Could Put Time in a Bottle…

_MG_8461 Jackson Time in a Bottle 1Oh how I wish I could keep you this small forever.  You are such an amazing little creature, and there are moments when I just want to bottle your adorableness, and put it on a shelf, so that some years from now when you are old, and I am older still, I can pull it down from that shelf and show you how you once were.  So that I can never forget the fleeting time that was your youth.

But there are also times when I want to bottle your pain-in-the-ass-ness and throw it out to sea, never to hear from it again.

Mute it.

Delete it from memory.

Forget it completely.

However, I do think we kind of do that naturally.   It’s a defense mechanism.  A means of survival. Kind of like forgetting the pain of childbirth or the memory of a lost loved one.

I once asked my mother-in-law if her son (my husband) was as much of a pain in the ass as my son is.  Surely my son did not inherit those “make you want to jump off a bridge” qualities from me!!  It must have come from his father.

“Well I think that sounds vaguely familiar, but really I can’t remember a thing”.

I hope that I, too, can someday forget all the stuff, the minutia of my day to day with you that sometimes make me want to scream.   I want to forget that for a week straight, at the age of four, you decided to wake up 5 times in a 2 hour period, and then top it off by waking up in the morning an hour earlier than usual, thus making you a literal monster by 4 in the afternoon.  I want to forget it but right now I can’t.  It’s too fresh.  It just happened yesterday.

I want to forget that you don’t listen to half of what I say, and when I ask you to repeat what I have said, you say “I forget”.  How can you forget?  I just told you 3 seconds ago.  I used simple words and everything!

I want to forget that it takes over an hour for me to get you to go to sleep at night, because you have to tell me one more thing, one more thing that is completely unrelated to the going-to-bed process, or anything else we have just been discussing for that matter.  Or because you have to get out of bed one more time to use the bathroom, or to get a drink of water, when you then proceed to not pee or drink a drop.  Or because you have to ask me fifteen times when it will be morning, what time will it be morning, or that you have to inform me for the three hundredth night in a row that you don’t know how to go to sleep.

I don’t want to hear it.  I don’t want to remember it.  I just want to erase it from memory.

Or do I?

Do I really want to forget?  If it were not for these moments that make me want to jam your Crayola’s into my eyes, would I appreciate the moments that you make me so happy?

Like when you hug and kiss your little sister out of the blue, just because.  Or when you tell me you love me, and ask if I’m ok when you see me crying.  (Usually the crying all started because of something you did to upset me, but it’s still sweet). Or when you light up when you see me enter the room.

These are all moments, snapshots in time, and I wish I had a literal photograph for each one of them, but I don’t.   And I truly don’t think I would have the same appreciation for their poignancy, were it not for the things you do that make me crazy.  It would be a true statement to say that 80% of the time I want to pull my hair out.  But the other 20% of the time is so wonderful, that I guess I’ll keep you around.

And maybe someday I will even have more children.  Give me another year and I will probably have forgotten how much I hated being pregnant.  Maybe.

My little character

My little character

I’ll be Embarrassing for Christmas

Six months ago, we moved from New York to San Francisco.  The flight out there was about as bad as flying with two children could possibly be.  Our daughter screamed and cried for about 95% of the 6 hour flight, and left us feeling like we never wanted to fly again.

So when we ultimately made the decision to fly back east for the holidays, we were not exactly thrilled at the possibility of reliving our previous flying experience.  I jokingly said to my husband, “Well it certainly can’t be any worse than our flight out here.  The only thing that could make it worse would be if Ella got sick on the flight”.

God must have a very sick sense of humor because that’s exactly what happened.

And what ensued was two weeks filled with enough embarrassing moments to last me a lifetime.

 

It all started on our drive to the airport, nearly two weeks ago.  Ella vomited three times on the drive to SFO, leaving me completely panic-stricken.  I had a literal nervous breakdown in the longterm parking lot: How can we possibly take her on a plane?  She is clearly sick.  But our bags are packed!  We are here at the airport.  What do we do???

By the time we got to our gate, she seemed completely fine.  She was totally happy and running around playing.  This was a good sign.  Maybe she got it out of her system.  We got on the plane and she still seemed fine.  She fell asleep in my arms upon takeoff and was sound asleep when, 15 minutes into her nap, the captain started talking.  And talking.  And talking.  Oh my God, will he please just shut up already??!!  Ella startles awake, now screaming and crying, understandably so, as she has been abruptly awoken by our captain’s need to give us a full play-by-play of how he’s going to fly the plane, what the weather is like in Newark, etc.  I don’t give crap about the jet stream or the fact that it’s unseasonably mild in New Jersey, just fly the freaking plane and stop talking, so my daughter can go back to sleep!

Five minutes after the pilot’s aviation dissertation started, he finally stopped, but by then the damage was done.  Ella was now wide awake, and very unhappy.  And I found out pretty quickly why she was unhappy:

She had to throw up.

Again.

All over me.

Oh my God, I am in Hell.  Is this really happening right now?  My husband took Ella to the bathroom to clean her up, while I did my best to blot chunks of banana and bagel off my blouse.

After our clean-up session, Ella fell back asleep, and she actually took a great little nap – about an hour – I was psyched.  I ordered a bloody mary, started watching a “grown-up” movie, and was actually relaxing.  Suddenly Ella woke with a start, flailing her arms, and knocked what was left of my bloody mary onto the floor and down my leg, into my boot.  Great, so now I smell like vomit and alcohol.  I started having college flashbacks.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did.

My husband went to stand up with Ella, and she promptly threw up all over him and the seat he was sitting in.   Someone just shoot me now.  I am mortified.

Our only saving grace was that we were in the last row of the plane, so at least we didn’t have to shamefully walk by all the passengers with our vomit-covered toddler, apologizing to each one for the horrible smell.  We were a stone’s throw from the bathrooms anyway, so the passengers around us were used to bad smells by now.

One fortunate side effect of her being sick was that at least she was mellow.  No screaming baby this time around.  Just vomit.  Somehow, strangely,  dealing with the vomit seemed easier.

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She may look cute, but don’t be fooled. She was a vomiting machine!

 

A week went by, and we were having a really nice time visiting with family and friends.  Christmas Eve came, and we went to my aunt’s house, a long-time holiday tradition.  We had a great time, until it came time to leave.  I thought I would use the bathroom before we headed out the door.  I entered the bathroom, pulled down my pants, and my brand new iPhone fell onto the floor.  No big deal, I’ll just pick it up when I’m done.  As I sit on the toilet, I notice that it feels kind of wet.

Yuck, did someone pee on the seat??  Gross.  Oh wait, shit.  The toilet is still running from the person who used the toilet before me.  And that water is decidedly not on the seat.  It is coming up through the seat!  Holy shit, the toilet is overflowing!!

I quickly stood up, pants still around my ankles, and fumbled for the valve to turn the water off.  But the water was getting higher and higher and higher, and the damn valve wouldn’t budge! Suddenly it started pouring onto the floor like a torrent, and I still couldn’t get the valve to budge.

Finally I managed to close the valve, and the water shut off, but not before the contents of the toilet left my aunt’s bathroom looking like Lake Superior.  It was in that moment that I realized the worst of it:  My brand new iPhone was sitting in the middle of that lake.  Every four letter word that I can’t say in front of my children came screaming out of me.

And my pants were still around my ankles.

Ahhhhh!!!  I ran to the closest towel I could find and wrapped my baby in it, trying desperately to keep the pee water from ruining my phone forever.  And it’s not even my pee, because I never got the chance to use the facilities.

Finally I pull up my pants and open the door, cradling my towel-wrapped phone, with a look of sheer panic on my face.  My mom is standing on the other side, waiting to use the bathroom herself.  She sees my face and immediately knows something is wrong.

“Are you ok?” she asks.

“NO!!!” I yell, looking down at the lake I am standing in.

“Oh my God”, she says, and then she calls loudly to the other room, “Uh we’ve got a situation here!”

Everyone from the party rushes to the bathroom to see the scene that I have just emerged from:  Water all over the bathroom floor, and me, standing there like an idiot.  Like I did it.  Talk about being in the wrong place, at the wrong time!

“It wasn’t me,” I tried to explain.  “I didn’t even get to pee!!!!”

I was convinced no one believed me, so I kept saying it.  Over and over again.  I was so embarrassed.  What a disaster.

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This picture was taken moments before “the incident”.

 

A couple of days later, we decided to visit some friends of ours who lived in the area.  We hadn’t seen them in a while, and it was so great to catch up with them, have the kids play, etc.  But it wouldn’t be us if something horribly embarrassing didn’t happen.  At the risk of turning this singular blog article into a full length book, I will summarize.  Here are the following things that happened while we visited with our dear friends (by the way, this all happened at their brand new house, that they had just moved in to):

  • I spilled a full glass of water onto their rug
  • Jackson peed in his pants, and all over their son’s bed
  • Jackson spilled a glass of water all over their son’s bed, at the same time as the pee incident
  • Ella opened the spout on a jug of spring water, so that it flooded onto their kitchen floor
  • Jackson spilled (another!!!) glass of water all over their new table during dinner
  • Ella broke a glass candle stick holder
  • Jackson peed in his pants (again!!) later in the night (He has been potty trained for two years!)
  • Jackson drew on a decorative piece of theirs, that was definitely not designed to be drawn upon

Thank God they are good friends of ours, or I am pretty sure we would never be invited to their house again.

Here is Captain Destruction himself

Here is Captain Destruction himself

 

After 14 days of visiting the east coast, and countless embarrassing incidents along the way, we were finally heading home.  We were praying that no one vomited or screamed, as we made our way to the airport.  And luckily, no one did.  It was a surprisingly uneventful flight.  However, in our family of four, there was one person who had not done anything embarrassing up to this point: My husband.  So now, it was his turn.

After we passed through airport security, we were putting our shoes back on and getting our bags in order, when suddenly Tobey turned to me and asked, “Where is the green duffle bag?”

“Uh, I don’t know, what do you mean ‘where is it’??” I asked, in a panic.  “Didn’t you have it with you when we went through security?”

“Uhhhh….”

“Where is it???”  I asked, even more panicked.

“I think I left it at the check-in desk”, he said, finally.

Oh shit.

All I could think of was the countless airport announcements you hear: “Make sure your belongings stay in your sight at all times.  Unattended baggage with be searched, and possibly destroyed.”

Destroyed.

Our bag with all of our children’s belongings, teddy bear and all, is going to be destroyed.  That’s all I can think of, as Tobey rushes back to the check-in desk.

Five minutes later, he is back, duffle bag in hand.

“What happened?” I asked eagerly.

When Tobey had gotten to the check-in desk, he noticed the line was quite a bit longer.  The line was backed up because they had roped off our duffle bag, and it was surrounded by police and airport security.  It was quite a commotion.  I was convinced they were going to haul my husband off to airport jail for attempting to bomb Newark International with a teddy bear and a pair of Spongebob underpants.  But luckily they just asked him a few questions about the contents of the bag, checked his ID, and sent him on his way with the bag in question.

“That could have been so much worse”, I said, with relief.

And it really could have been.  But luckily we were on our way back home.  And not a moment too soon.  I was truly afraid if we stayed any longer we were going to end up incarcerated or dead.

I have been debating for months now if we should stay out here on the West Coast or go back to the East Coast, but I’m pretty sure after the last two weeks, we won’t be allowed back.  So I guess for now, we will stay here, that is, until our friends and family (and the security officials at Newark International Airport) have forgiven our bad luck and stupidity.

Jackson was so excited for our plane ride home

Jackson was so excited for our plane ride home 

Pretty awesome shot of San Francisco as we were flying home

Pretty awesome shot of San Francisco as we were flying home

The Best Laid Plans

I love Christmastime.  I will admit, however, that this year it was especially hard preparing for my favorite time of year, across the country from all of our family and friends.  So to make things more festive for myself, I tried doing some fun Christmasy activities with the kids.  But like most plans you make with a 4 year old and a toddler, they don’t always go quite the way you anticipated.

Last week I took Jackson to see the Nutcracker ballet.  I danced as a child, and have seen the Nutcracker many times.  So I thought it would be fun to share this with my four year old son.  He was really into it the first half – he had never seen a stage performance before, so the lights and action kept him quite captivated in the beginning.

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Just before the show started. The seat was practically swallowing him!

He managed to make it through the second half pretty well, and overall really seemed to enjoy the performance.  On the way home, Jackson told me that his favorite colors were now pink and purple.  He then told me that when he got home he was going to put on his sister’s red tutu and do his own performance of the Nutcracker.  I said, “You know, Jackson, you could be the boy dancer in the Nutcracker”.  “Oh no, Mommy,” he promptly replied, “I want to be the ballerina”.  Oh boy, my husband was not going to be happy with me.

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And sure enough, as soon as we got home, that red tutu went right on, and didn’t come off for two whole days.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!!  Thank you Mr. Seinfeld)

The next day we went to visit Santa at, where else, but the mall! (Now that we live in Suburbia, this is our life).  I was imagining my two beautiful children sitting calmly and happily on Santa’s lap, wistfully telling him what they wanted for Christmas.  It was pretty much exactly the opposite of that.  Jackson was terrified of St. Nick, and yelled a very loud and embarrassing “NOOOOOO!!!!” every time we would try to get him to approach the jolly red man.

“Tell him what you want for Christmas, Jackson.”

“No!!!!”

“Why don’t you sit next to him and pose for a nice picture.”

“No!!!!

“Ok, well then, I guess I will have to sit with Santa by myself”.  (Aha, reverse psychology.  Surely he will sit with me now!)

“Ok.”

What??? No, that’s not what you’re supposed to say.  You’re supposed to say, ‘No mommy, I want to sit with you too!’

So there I was, sitting next to the big man himself, by myself, like a moron.  Will no one sit with Santa and I???  We need a precious holiday picture, dammit!!

Finally, I got Ella to sit on my lap, next to Santa.  But this still felt so silly.  I’m going to spend $19.95 on a picture of just my daughter and I with Santa?  This feels weird.  And at the last possible second, before the photographer took the shot, my son jumped in the picture.  “Ok, I’ll take a picture with Santa.”

Hallelujah!!

But what about my husband??  He was off camera, planning to stand with Jackson while my daughter and I took our sad, pathetic picture with Santa.  So when Jackson ran in there at the last second, Tobey didn’t know what to do.  “Come on over!” I yelled, but it was too late.  He had already been relegated to bell duty.  He had to ring the bell behind the photographer so that Ella wouldn’t leap out of my arms and onto Santa’s fake living room floor.

“Uh, what should we do?” I asked.

“It’s cool, I’ll just ring the bell”, my husband responded sadly.

Ugh.  So we ended up with this:

santa photo

As you can see, Ella is reaching for the invisible bell, Jackson is looking oh so happy about being in a picture with Santa, and I am just hoping no one leaves me sitting alone with Kris Kringle.

In the same location where they did pictures with Santa, there was a gingerbread house-making store.  That experience actually went relatively well, and in the end we had a beautiful gingerbread house:

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But on the car ride home, the mailbox fell over, the chimney fell off, and the shutter was hanging by a thread.  Par for the Christmas course.

Crafty

I am not a crafty person. Creative?  Yes. Crafty? That would be a definite no.  I don’t basket weave or crochet or spend hours doing internet research to find the perfect project to do with my kids.  I wish I could be one of those moms, but if I was, I would be getting 3 hours of sleep a night and consequently a terrible mother when not crafting, so I am just not.  But occasionally I get inspired to do “crafty”-type activities with my children.  Typically these inspirational moments arise during my children’s waking hours, so the craft is usually quite simple – created with whatever we happen to have around the house at the time.  Today was no different.

It was a really crummy day today by California’s weather standards – gloomy and grey and raining.  My husband was home sick, and I too was feeling a bit “off”, so it was a “stay inside in our pajamas all day” kind of day.  I really like these kinds of days, because I feel like this is when I can spend true quality time with the kids.  When we are rushing off to preschool or daycare or the day’s activities, it is such a whirlwind getting out the door, that I feel like I don’t have a moment to “just be” with the kids.

At the start of the day, Jackson and I bought some books on the iPad about Thanksgiving – they were about what the day means, why we celebrate it, etc.  After a lengthy iPad reading session, I decided we should do a  Thanksgiving project.  If you yourself decide to do this at home, all you need is a brown paper bag, colored construction paper, a couple of crayons, scissors, and glue.  Phew!  I had all these things, thank goodness.  But a word of warning – this project took us hours!!  Great on a day when you are home all day long, but a lot to fit in if you’re aiming high on the activity to-do list that day.

We started by drawing the items we wanted in our Thanksgiving scene.  Jackson drew a turkey, corn, a table for us to eat at, stick figures (for mom, dad, Jackson and Ella), and trees.  Ella drew her own turkey (sort of) and she did some lovely blue scribbles which eventually became our clouds.

Jackson was super focused and intense in his coloring and drawing.  He is such a perfectionist (the poor child!!) and wants every curve and straight line to be “just so”.  That is part of the reason this project took us so long.  I had to talk him off the bridge every time a corn husk was too small or an arm was too long.  Ella, on the other hand, was more interested in drawing on her toes than drawing on the paper.  Again, part of the reason this project took so long.  Focus Ella, focus!!

When I finally got Ella to remove the crayon from between her toes, she decided she was ready to color.  But the joke was on me.  She was ready to color, alright, just not on paper.  I caught her coloring on the windowsill – twice! (Thank God for cleanable crayons!), and then she decided she wanted to use one of her story books as a coloring book.  “Colo Mickey, Colo Mickey!” she kept saying as she jammed the yellow colored pencil into Mickey’s poor little round face.

But eventually we got her to focus and managed to make a pretty sassy looking Thanksgiving Turkey by tracing her hand.  She also made some mean looking blue scribbles for our clouds.  But the rest of it was all Jack – he drew everything, wrote everything,  and glued everything – I just cut out the shapes.  (Although Ella desperately wanted to cut them herself.  I caught her with the big girl scissors on at least two occasions, slicing through the air in dramatic fashion, inches away from severing a limb.   I’m a great mom.)

And here you have the finished product.  He was so proud!!

After all was said and done, I attempted to inspire a clean-up party before lunch.  I sang the clean-up song and everything!  Jackson started to get on board, corralling the scrap paper that had been littered all over the playroom floor.  But Ella proved to be the craftiest of us all, because she had different plans.

As you can see, she is running away from Jack, laughing her little head off.  Haha!  I took your paper!  Now you can’t clean up!  

But Jack had the last laugh – he didn’t care.  Because if you look really closely in the background of that picture, he is jamming a glue bottle into his eye.    Such a funny glimpse into the the differences between men and women.

Ella, welcome to a lifetime of trying to outsmart a man, only to find out he is completely unaware you outsmarted him.

Burritos, Birds, and Bees

There’s nothing like having a discussion with your preschooler about how he or she was “made” while chowing down on bean and cheese burritos.

This evening we were all sitting down to a typical lovely family meal – my daughter was throwing her dinner and dumping her milk on her tray, while my son was making frowny faces at his food – when my son out of nowhere asked, “Mommy, did God make you so that you could make me?”

Whoa.

“Well, yeah, sort of, Jack”, I said. “That’s pretty much how it happened”.

And then my husband added, “And God also made me so that I could make you too.  Your mommy and I made you together.”

To which Jackson promptly asked: “What did you use?”

Oh boy.

“Uh, what?”, my husband asked, trying to buy time, the pressure mounting in his head.  What. Was. He. Going. To. Say?

“What did you use to make me?”

“Well”, my husband chose his words very carefully, “We used a lot of love.  And music.  And art. And…love.”

What???, I’m thinking.  What does THAT mean?  Oh because he’s good at music and art.  I get it.  Ok, continue Dr. Ruth.

Meanwhile, the look on my husband’s face just said: Please don’t ask any more questions. Please don’t ask anymore questions.

“Oh ok”, my son said.  “That’s why I’m good at all those things”.

When it became clear that the conversation was over and my son was satisfied with his daddy’s Disney explanation of sex, my husband let out a visible sigh of relief while I stifled tears of laughter.  Oh my God.  Dodged that bullet.

Now if only it’s that easy when we have to explain it to him at 13.

Family Visit

My parents came for a visit this past weekend, and we had such a great time.  It was the first time they had been out here since we moved nearly five months ago, and the first time they had seen the kids since then as well.  Two wonderful things came out of this special time.  One, Tobey and I got to go away for a night!!!  It was the first time we had been away just the two of us, in longer than I can remember.  It was my birthday so Tobey surprised me with a trip to Sonoma for the night.

We got to stop at wineries, have a great dinner, and even had breakfast in bed the next morning.  What a treat!!

But what was even more special was spending quality time with my parents.  When we lived back East, we saw them all the time, which was great, but it was always a few hours here, maybe a night there.  But this time they were staying with us for five nights, so we really got to spend some nice time with them.  On Sunday we went to Muir Woods for the day (or shall I say morning, since my daughter’s need for a nap precipitated us leaving a bit prematurely).  I had been there before, but it had been about five years.  My parents hadn’t been in 15 years and my husband and children had never been there, so it was cool seeing it through their eyes.  The trees really are impressive, most of them taking close to a thousand years to reach their full size.

I got rather nostalgic for my beloved New York City when I saw this tree.  It reminded me of that steel rubble that was left after the terror that struck the World Trade Center over 11 years ago.  I couldn’t help but feel so sad for my old friend, this glorious city that is yet again facing major physical and psychological damage after Hurricane Sandy.

The next day, I took my parents and the kids to Muir Beach.  This amazing beach is only 15 minutes from our house, and it feels like such a luxury to live so close to something so beautiful.

It is a small, intimate beach, bookmarked with cliffs on either side, and a set of rocks that made for some fun climbing for my son.

As you can see from this picture, it was freezing!  But the kids still had a blast.

Poor Jackson was feeling under the weather that day, but you never would have known it.  He would have climbed rocks all day, if we had let him and with Papa’s help he was able to climb one of the biggest rocks there.

A friend of mine once told me that living far from her parents, while hard, made everyone appreciate each other that much more.  And I really see that now.  While it is extremely difficult being so far from my family, the time we do spend together now is that much sweeter.  But the goodbyes are the hard part.  Early this morning my parents left for the airport and it was a goodbye filled with all the expected tears and hugs and somber waves and blown kisses.

After they left, I was a bit teary and my son sat on my lap.  “Mommy”, he said, “I’m sad that they left.  But…I’m also happy I get my bed back.”

You can always count on three year olds to tell you the truth.  And to make you laugh through your tears.

First Impressions

Panoramic view at Rodeo Beach

Marin County, California is such a funny place.  Not haha funny, just funny.  As a native north easterner, I find certain things about Marin, and California in general, to be so different from the New York area.

First of all, they do not know how to make pizza or bagels.  It seems so absurd to me, really.  I mean, are all the New Yorkers keeping the pizza and bagel recipes to themselves, refusing to allow the rest of the country to benefit from the yummy goodness of New York carbohydrates??  Is it really possible that not one single Italian American with an affinity for making pizza for the general public has not decided to hightail it to the West Coast and open a pizza parlor (or a “pizza store” as my 3 year old so lovingly calls it)?  And not one person who holds the secret to making fat, deliciously huge bagels has surfaced out here either??  Did you know that one of our closest bagel joints is closed on Sundays???  What???  Doesn’t everyone eat bagels out here on the weekends?  That’s what we do in New York.  Skinny bitches.

I also don’t understand drivers around here.  I thought that when driving on a road wide enough for only one car that it was a common driving nicety to wave to someone when they let you pass.  But apparently it’s not, especially if you drive a Mercedes SUV, a Land Rover, or similarly overpriced luxury gas guzzler.  It is so rude to me, and it happens to me literally every single day.   Are you so self-absorbed and unaware that you can’t thank the person who pulled over (and in some cases spent several minutes backing up) for you so that you could pass going 20 miles an hour over the speed limit?

Then there are the bouncy houses.  I don’t know if it’s because I lived in a city before or what, but the people out here are crazy over bouncy houses.  I have spotted them at every farmers market and pumpkin patch from the Golden Gate Bridge up to Petaluma.  I mean, I think bouncy houses are fun and all, but why are people so nuts over them??  I guess it’s to keep their kids happy while they shop for produce – what, kids aren’t excited about picking out rutabagas and trying on sweaters made from local sheeps wool, and listening to new age music while sampling the latest Indian dipping sauce?? Unfathomable.

And then there is just simply the cost of living.  Holy crap.  I never imagined in my wildest dreams how expensive one place could be to live, and I came from New York City for God’s sake.  San Francisco is known for being a very expensive city, but I always thought that like the New York area, the Bay area would have lower prices as you leave the city and enter the suburbs.

Not true.

Why, you ask?  Well, from what I can tell here is the reason:  The entire Bay area is gorgeous and desirable to live in, not just the city of San Francisco.  And Marin county in particular is a highly desirable place to live – the mountains, hiking, and beaches are all at your fingertips, and you’re just minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge.  Add to that the fact that the county is comprised of 80% protected land, and voila you have a textbook example of economics at work: Low supply + high demand = crazy high real estate prices!!  In New York you can leave the city, spend $600K or so, and have a decently big house.  Your taxes might be outrageous, but you can own the American dream at a realistic price.  In Marin however, that same $600K would buy you…wait…it wouldn’t buy you anything!!  Maybe you could get a 2 bedroom, one bathroom, 700 square foot fixer-upper shack, 10 miles further away from the city than you would ever dream of going.  But that’s about it.

There is, however, one major similarity between New York City and Marin County.  And that is that both geographic areas are considered to be like a “bubble”.  When you live in New York, you don’t really ever need to leave New York, and you really don’t want to.  People who live in New York tend to think New York is the only place they need or want to be for anything and everything.  Marin is very much like this as well.  People who live here in Marin can’t imagine why you would want to live anywhere else.  Everything they could want or need is here.

Except, that is, for affordable housing. And pizza and bagels.  And polite drivers.

But otherwise, it’s absolutely…perfect.

Despite these frustrations, I am reminded every time we venture out as a family why we moved here – Marin is truly one of the most beautiful places on the planet.  Here are some pics of an outing we went on yesterday, to Rodeo Beach, just 20 minutes away from our house.

Jackson and I on our hike out to Rodeo Beach

Taking a break on the beach

Cheeeeeese!!!!