Saturday, May 25, 2013

That's All, Folks!!

After 3 years, 3 months, and an odd number of days, I'm all done with blogging.

It was great fun while it lasted. I learned a lot. But now I know I'm done, and I'm ready to unplug.

Thank you so much for sharing pieces of your lives with me. I won't forget about you.

Peace and best wishes!!


Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Trek" Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

I'm a die-hard Trekker, and I grew up watching the original Star Trek series in syndication. I've seen all of the movies, and every episode of every Star Trek TV series, with the exception of Deep Space Nine and Voyager (which are on my to-watch-someday lists, and they are on Netflix, thankfully). My favorite TV versions so far have been the original series and Enterprise, probably because of Spock and T'Pol. I love Vulcans as first officers/sub-commanders. So, of course, I'm loving the new movies, and I'm dying for another TV series in a few years.

I finally saw the most recent movie: Star Trek: Into Darkness. Not bad, not bad at all, but also probably not my favorite Star Trek movie ever -- for me it's still a tie between Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek: The Movie (2009) -- the one that finally brought my DH over to my side as a fan.

Anyway, Into Darkness was a tad too action-packed, with too much stuff blowing up all the time, and not nearly enough focus on the relationships between the characters. But it was still not bad, and a fun time at the cineplex was had by all with me that night.

I love all of the new old characters, except for one little quibble: I wish Chris Pine as Captain Kirk were slightly better looking - that's not to say he's unattractive, but honestly, he's no young William Shatner, and he's certainly no Chris Hemsworth playing his father, Captain George Kirk. Yum and yum.

Without going the spoiler route here, may I just say how thrilled I was that a key element of the plot was not leaked beforehand! I loved that it came as a total surprise, and circled back to the original series and earlier movies so elegantly. Well done, J.J. Abrams. I see why you're box office gold these days.

Are you a Trekker? Would you see either of the most recent movies anyway?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Our Italy Trip (A Long Time Coming)

One of my dreams came true this month. It was arguably the best thing ever for the long-term health of my marriage, too.

We took a 9-day road trip through central and northern Italy -- just me and my husband, without the kids. We felt like empty-nester retiree types, only we're in our late 30s and we have two preschoolers.

Seriously, DH and I had not had that much alone time to have even a full conversation and/or as much sex as we could handle since around 2005. It was fantastic. And it's been hard to return to the stresses (even the happy stresses) of real life.

The kids stayed at my parents' house, and all of them reported that it was the best time they ever had together. My dad thinks the kids have never been more fun, especially our 5.5 y.o. son, who has apparently inherited his grandfather's great sense of humor. When we called to check in one night, my dad had trained him to say to us: "We've been locked in the closest the whole time and Papa only lets us out to eat." He delivered his lines perfectly and we all had a good laugh.

My parents are, quite honestly, the perfect grandparents. They took the kids to the zoo or the park everyday, took them to see two plays, a nature center, a kids' craft event, and a baseball game. The kids can't stop talking about how much fun they had. (Can you say: lovingly spoiled?)

About how the trip came together - one day DH came home and told me he had just spoken with my parents and they had agreed to watch the kids so we could take a long trip to Italy together, which by the way he already booked because he found a great deal on Travel Zoo (and it was apparently also on Groupon). And he had already checked my work calendar and cleared out my schedule for me. Wow.

We've always wanted to go to Italy, and even though we've each traveled all over the world, remarkably, neither of us had ever been to Italy. Plus my husband speaks fluent Italian thanks to his family heritage, so this fact is all the more shocking. We fully intended to go as a belated honeymoon the spring after we were married, but then the Pope died, and travel to Italy suddenly became prohibitively expensive for us. Dream deferred.

Now, dream realized. It was awesome: Roma, Toscana, Venezia - yes, Venezia is a tourist trap, but I say, "Please, go ahead and trap me!!" We focused our visit on Roman ruins and wineries - and threw in a few museums for good measure. We had the best service ever in restaurants, thanks to DH's Italian. Lost count of how many times he told his family's American immigration story. I've never gotten so many things on the house before.

Our friends loaned us their GPS that already had Italy programmed into it. They said it would save our marriage. It did. Having the actual GPS coordinates ahead of time for one of the more remote hotels we needed to find was probably the smartest move we made. It was so remote, in fact, that the hotel put up a video on YouTube of someone driving to it to help guests find the place. Which cracks me up. We also got a kick out of the British-sounding voice of the GPS (a Garmin) garbling the names of Italian streets.

Prior to this travel, I had not done trip research in ages. The Lonely Planet guides used to be my go-to book references, and they've served me well for years. In March, I finally heard of PBS travel guru Rick Steves, and I gave his travel guides a look, too. For Italy, I think I like the Rick Steves' Guides a bit better, although clearly he enjoys museums a lot more than we do, so we by no means took all of his advice.

We flew Iberia on the way home. Not my favorite airline ever. (Nobody will ever beat the awesomeness of Cathay Pacific out of Hong Kong, the airline love of my life.) Though after we were seated, they were kind enough to give us a free upgrade to business class, I suspect because I speak Spanish - I definitely didn't request it. The Americans seated around us were like, why them but not us? Lo siento, cholos! The only real logistical surprise was when had to test the size of our carry-on roller bags twice at the Venezia airport, and I was concerned we were never going to get my bag out of that metal contraption again. But it worked.

We want to go back soon. Like every year and then retire there (unless we have grandkids we're lucky enough to see....). Our next trip will include Milan. Someday.....

So that's where I've been, and why I haven't been commenting on your blogs until recently. Do you share my affection for Italy? Where is your dream destination?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Virtues of Appearing To Be A Mediocre Mother and Housekeeper

Sometimes I come across voices in the comments sections of interesting blogs that really strike a chord with me. Like this commenter @fiftyfifty1 (who unfortunately does not have a blog of her own) from a recent thread on The Skeptical OB blog. I think Ms. @fiftyfifty1 really nails the nuances of how smart mothers who want truly equal partnerships actually behave as they negotiate both within their marriages and within the confines of unreasonable "looks" expectations of our larger society. Here are her words:

"It took my husband and me about a year of adjustment that included a fair amount of fighting after the birth of our first, but I can truly say I do not do more than my husband does and probably less. My techniques for success included being willing to let him fail in a spectacular fashion, being willing to ignore everything except that which was downright dangerous, and (most important) being willing to appear to be a rather mediocre mother. My kids looked worse than any kids around. But mismatched and stained clothes on your kids is a small price to pay for not having to dress them or do the laundry yourself." 

"Also strangers often seem to direct all questions to the mother. I frequently say "I don't know, ask their dad" and point at my husband. When other moms e-mail me to see if my kids can do a play date, I forward all the e-mails to him, and then have nothing more to do with it. And I don't act as a manager, delegating tasks to him. I figured he would be able to rise to the task if I were dead, so that meant he could rise to the task even without me being dead."...
"But there is a reason behind what appears to be on the surface just a "control freak" behavior by mothers. Mothers really do have to field judgment from those around them about their parenting and housekeeping. Men almost never do. This is, I think, at least part of why women go back and re-do [the household chore] when men do it poorly. Until everything got adjusted and worked out between my husband and me, there were times that things *really* looked bad. I remember that he left food scraps in the carpet in the sunroom and there was a horrible invasion of ants everywhere and yet he still didn't vacuum it up and one of his family members came over and saw it, but who do you think got criticized? Me! And other moms have teased me about how tangled my kids' hair was (and actually still is occasionally), but he's the one who gets them up and dressed. And when one of his elderly relatives sends a gift and he doesn't make the kids write a thank-you note, it is me they call up and ask "If it arrived". And these are just the criticisms that make it to my ears. I'm sure there are more judgments that go unsaid, and I'm sure they are directed at me, not him. Oh well, still worth not having to do it all yourself!"

Amen, sister. Amen. One question though. Did you really *need* to engage in a fair amount of fighting for a year after you first became parents? I ask this because I've been there, done that on the postpartum fighting with my DH (after we had our second child 3.5 years ago) and now in hindsight, I don't think any of our old behavior was productive, nor in any way feminist or cool. By "fighting" I mean verbal spats that felt really intense (activating fight or flight response/flooding), that were about the same issues repeatedly, and ultimately went nowhere - and we've learned that for us, that brand of going-nowhere fighting was a total waste of our time and energy. We should have seen our marriage counselor much sooner because we truly needed a neutral third party to get us to get past our own defense mechanisms (learned from dysfunctional marriages witnessed in our families-of-origin) to be able to see and say where the other person is coming from, and to finally work towards a solution. We certainly could have done it without all of the drama. Lessons learned!

These days though we do seem to be able to put into practice some better, research-based conflict resolution skills, and I'm thrilled we have a generally peaceful, happy union these days as a result. For a great resource, see "Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship Without Blowing Up or Giving In" by Laurie Puhn, J.D. - originally recommended to me by Gretchen Rubin, author of "The Happiness Project" and "Happier At Home" as one of the many fine books in her excellent bibliographies. And don't hesitate to make that first counseling appointment.

Yes, it's hard when society is all about judging the woman for all of the various appearances-- her own, the kids', the home's -- but never the man. I think it is a worthwhile project to develop your "But is this really my priority?"-meter. It takes guts though. Not everyone is comfy enough with themselves to be able to let some things FAIL sometimes. Most women I know have simply not been socialized to be able to let appearances go, and they can't operate outside of the proverbial box. Just do it.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Paging The Tooth Fairy!

Well, the last several days in American history have sucked donkey dick. I remembered all too well how shitty the period immediately following 9/11 was as I watched way too much cable "news" this week, saying things to myself like WTF? and "I really need to go for a run now" but somehow being unable to remove my ass from the sofa. But I do not wish to wallow in the suckitude here, because, I hope, life goes on. And thankfully, my kids' childhoods do not brake for national tragedies. Onward!

The silver lining capping off this week? My 5-year-old lost his very first baby tooth today. One of his front teeth!

It had been wiggling for the last two weeks, then he noticed some blood around it this morning and asked me (the queasier parent, natch) if he should try pulling it out. To which I said, "Uh, do whatever feels ok to do, I guess?" He decided to leave it alone.

Later, DH took him out for a doughnut and a playdate with a friend his age whose parents recently filed for divorce. I soon got the text: "1st tooth out!!" along with a picture of our little dude smiling proudly.

Having recently watched the movie "Rise of the Guardians" on family movie night, DS announced that  The Tooth Fairy would of course be dropping in tonight. He wasted no time placing his tooth under his pillow, hours before bedtime.

I'm told The Tooth Fairy sometimes leaves poems like the following (printed on paper cut into the shape of a tooth if the ol' Fairy is feeling crafty or is high on some of that childhood magic):

Dear Toothless Wonder,

While you lay sleeping, I came in the night.
Under your pillow was a marvelous sight -- your very first tooth!
It has come unstuck.
You're a big kid now.

Much love, and good luck!

--The Tooth Fairy

My kids are growing up faster than I can comprehend. Now the boy really looks old - and really nothing like a 5-year-old. But it's all good.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

First Communion Gift-Giving

I have three First Communions to attend tomorrow. I used to struggle with what to get a kid for her First Communion, or her Baptism. When I went through the various Roman Catholic rites of passage as a child, I received a lot of sweet, well-intentioned gifts that I truly did not enjoy. (Yeah, yeah. Learning to graciously accept gifts you can't stand is an essential art, so - Suck it up, princess!)

Most 7-year-olds do not need, nor appreciate 5 rosaries, 7 crucifixes, and 3 angel statuettes, etc. I think the grandparents, the godparents, and the aunts and uncles will have those gift bases covered. Fine. But for the random adult who is a friend of their parents like me? I'll stick to something secular.

No, these kinds of generic religious gifts do not get better with age. They are not appreciated in the future, either. Perhaps some religious gift that is small, personal, and handmade has the best chance of being more cherished? Sorry, crafting is not my skill set.

When I attended 2 Baptisms and 1 First Communion in the Spring last year, I came across a cool, untraditional gift idea (besides the gift of cash, which part of me thinks always makes the perfect gift). It is - the gift of cute summer sandals, with a card that reads:

"As you begin your walk with the Lord, you should do it in a great pair of shoes."

A baby being baptized will soon fit into a shoe that is US baby size 5, and a 7 1/2 to 8-year-old girl generally will safely fit into a US size 2 shoe. Good idea to enclose a gift receipt in case they have extra large feet.

The folks I gave these shoe gifts to remarked long after the fact how much they enjoyed the gift, and I've seen the kids actually wearing them even when they didn't know I was going to run into them at the park.

When I start getting invited to loads of Confirmations in a few years, I'm going to give cash, and perhaps a secular book (with a gift receipt of course).

What are your go-to gifts for kids celebrating religious rites of passage?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What Can the Person Who Drives You Crazy Teach You?

My question for you: So, that person in your life who drives you crazy but you're not always sure why exactly - you have one of Those, right?

Not necessarily your spouse, child, or boss who might occasionally annoy, nor someone who is obviously toxic/suffering from some sort of readily-identifiable personality disorder. I mean the person who gets to you're.around.them.

Maybe this is just me, but there have been a tiny handful of people in my life over the years who seem to be well-liked by other people I love and respect, but who, for reasons I cannot always put an immediate finger on - annoy the ever living hell out of me. Around whom my antennae always go up. Around whom I'm always very guarded. Yet it's like nobody seems to notice it but me. Or maybe they do notice, but they're more forgiving of the person's qualities than I am. Of course, I try hard not to be a gossip IRL, so I never inquire to find out what they truly think of the person.

I was out to dinner with a group last night when one of Those people suddenly showed up. It was rough for me. I tried not to show it, but I was super annoyed - even though the person didn't really do anything actively annoying or offensive. I had to stop and think: what on earth is it about them that irks me so much? These three wonderful people who invited me here have a high opinion of said person, but I'm vomiting in my mouth at the person's every word. (So clearly, I'm going to have to do better due diligence next time before accepting a dinner invite to make sure they won't show up!)

I'm an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and I wonder if the personalities who are very opposite from mine automatically won't mesh with me - such as: very extroverted people who need to be the center of attention all the time, people who gossip in front of groups, people who loudly and carelessly reference events within earshot of people who were not invited to said events, people who are ungenerous with money despite having the means to say, repay a series of kindnesses by picking up a small dinner check, people who toot their own horns excessively and trash other people over silly things like their looks, people who host celebratory events for people they were publicly talking crap about weeks earlier, etc.

I'm channeling some imagined Zen masters with this one-- I'm wondering: What can I learn from the person who drives me crazy, even when they're not actively doing anything wrong?

Got anything for me?