Friday, April 29, 2011

When friends drift apart (for the best)

We've lived in Podunkville now for almost 3 years, which is so hard for me to wrap my brain around! Shortly after we moved here, I remember meeting this woman at a party, and she told me that whomever I was friends with at that time, I probably would not be very close friends with a few years from now. My friends would completely change. And she was 100% right.

There is something about moving to a place like Podunkville, especially when you are coming from a bigger city, that makes you seem like fresh blood to the locals. (It also makes you a target for invitations to in-home parties where people try to sell you makeup, jewelry, and candles - ugh! See me in hell!) Anyway, there were 2 couples we socialized with pretty regularly during the first 9 months we lived here. Then one of the couples got divorced, and their social scene obviously changed as they returned to singledom and the bar scene. But the other couple, well, I just think they're a bit off, but they're cool people. Just not our BFF's.

The woman, J, is someone who makes a very good first impression when you meet her. Very gregarious, funny. Then you spend a little more time together and start to wonder why someone with such an awesome personality like hers doesn't have any close friends around here, despite having lived here for basically her entire life. I finally figured it out: she is the classic example of that old adage "the friend to everyone is a friend to no one." She doesn't like to get too close to any one particular person. She is more comfortable keeping people at arm's length. The handful of times I had real, intimate conversations with her where I felt I was seeing the real her, were followed by months of unreturned phone calls, cancelled plans, "my kids are sick again," etc.... until she needed a favor, then she would suddenly show up in my in-box again.

So I had basically written her off as a flake. And I finally made some real friends who have stood the test of time. For awhile I had mostly forgotten about J. Then DH ran into her at work the other day and she gave him this whole song and dance about "Hey! Miss you! We used to see you all the time, what happened?" DH said "Yeah, I don't know, we've been busy I guess," while secretly thinking something like, "I'm pretty sure hush is still waiting for you to call her back from February, when you asked to stay overnight at our place before your trip to Mexico that you sneakily disinvited us from ("oops, my FIL could only get us a 1 bedroom condo, sorry!") so you could then surprise us at 9pm with a request to leave your car at our place and have us drive you to the airport at 5am on a Sat am so that you could save $ by not parking at the airport. And then when you get back a week later, you finally inform us your daughter contracted lice before your trip, and we should probably wash and sterilize everything in the room she stayed in..."

I fully realize I may at times seem extremely bitchy on this blog, but believe it or not, in real life I make it a point never ever to be openly rude or mean to people. I blog in part to vent the things my upbringing will not allow me to say. So I always return J's calls and messages, even though half the time I don't expect her to return them, and I keep my expectations extremely low.

It is weird though.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Remember when "birther" used to mean something else?

In 2007, when I was pregnant with DS, I remember coming across the word "birther" for the first time. The basic meaning at the time was "a well-to-do, urban parent" and it was used in the counterculture to rail against people who lived, conspicuously, with children in a gentrifying urban American setting, and did obnoxious things like takeover an entire city sidewalk with a ginormous $700 Danish stroller, while yelling at everyone else to get out of their way. (While I've been guilty of many things, that's one offense nobody has ever accused me of. Kid never liked the stroller. And I'm too cheap to spend more than $50 on one.)

The old meaning of "birther" has now been completely overshadowed and lost (which in theory isn't such a bad thing, now I hear they call them "breeders,") and "birther" means something entirely different today. See here for a synopsis of right-wing birtherism directed at President Obama. There are also some birther conspiracy theories of a different stripe directed at former VP candidate/former Alaka governor Sarah Palin, surrounding the circumstances of her 5th child's birth, outlined and debunked here.

And I ask you: what is wrong with people?


My take on it? Life is too much like junior high. Back in junior high, there were a lot of silly rumors that went around about other kids, about certain members of boy bands getting their stomachs pumped, about certain celebrities and their penchant for gerbils, etc. Somehow these stories started taking on lives of their own. I didn't get it then, and I don't get it now.

Anyone got any good explanations?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Creepy Bunnies and Sleep

This made me almost pee my pants. I've always thought giant bunnies (and of course, clowns) were scary. (Thank you, Andrew Sullivan and your fantastic blog.)

And, I give you, the ONLY children's sleep book you & yours actually ever really need. (Thank you, Stephany Aulenback, and your supercool blog.)

Yeah, you're welcome. ;)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Toddler Tantrums

One of the downsides to having kids less than 2 years apart is that just when you think you have outgrown the tantrums with your older kid, suddenly the younger one starts throwing them, too - and with a whole lot more pizazz!

My 18-month-old DD can throw one hell of a rage-tastic tantrum. When she doesn't get to have something she wants right NOW, which is more often than not something totally dangerous, like say, a butcher knife she sees DH wielding, or an old battery leaking acid she noticed up on the highest shelf of the garage, she just might go crazy on our asses. She's been known to fling herself on the floor, bang her head repeatedly, pull at the carpeting, hit her parents when they try to pick her up, and even pinch our skin between her little fingers.

Now, I know from talking to my friends that their kids did the exact thing at this age, too. I think all we can do is remain calm and try to make it so she doesn't try to slam her head into anything that could hurt her. Maybe offer her a pillow? Sometimes redirecting her has worked, too: "Ooh, is that a birdie outside?!!"

I just hope she starts talking more. She doesn't talk as fluently as DS did at this age, but I think he was a bit of an abberation, and he didn't have the second language exposure she is getting. But I guess it also makes me question some of the old gendered assumptions about "talkative girls" and "physical boys." For the moment, we seem to have just the opposite on our hands.

Another thing we're grappling with all of the sudden is both kids wanting to be held at the same time, and getting royally pissed that the other kid is in mama or daddy's arms, too. It really is sad/maddening/a total no-win that makes us want to run screaming from the house.

That's not to say it's all bad. The kids are both at such CUTE ages now. Everyday they say or do something totally wacky and hilarious. Honestly, about 99% of the time we love how they interact now. They can finally go run and play together outside in the yard and orchards, and we don't feel like we have to be watching them every single second. So that's been oddly freeing.

I also can't tell you how many parents of older kids have told us lately how much they would love to be able to re-live another week with their kids when they were at ages 18-months and 3 years old. I think this is another one of those wistful, 'Grass is always greener" sentiments, but hey, we'll take the reminder to enjoy our kids for the ages they're at now.

Monday, April 18, 2011

When A Parent Retires

My dad is planning to retire at the end of the year - he'll be 66. Mom is a bit younger and plans to work several more years. I'm no expert, but my parents often ask me for financial advice. (I think they ask me because I'm their only child and they want to keep me in the loop.) They're in really good financial shape, have done everything the conventional wisdom suggests, and are good at saving and living beneath their means - so I should feel good about this. Yay for being proactive and all. But the prospect of dad's retirement - and thoughts of his mortality - make me sad. I'm uncharacteristically up at 1:30am now pondering the changes that are coming. He's loved his job, but says he wants to stay home and write. I hope that will make him happy.

He's asked for some input from me about rolling over his 401k into an IRA. I had to do some research, and I think it is a good decision. A Roth IRA would be ideal. From my research Roths are truly incredible devices that can allow a person to transfer tax free $ to their heirs - IF they play the IRS rules right. Anyway, he scared me a bit when he emailed me the name of this investment company I had never heard of - and I keep hammering him to stick with a trusted name that's well-known and fully insured. Which reminds me that he is also vulnerable. Really we all are, but it feels like folks his age facing these choices are especially so. I guess part of me thinks he is susceptible to being duped, even though to my knowledge he's never made any imprudent decisions - except one recent decision. He read something in AARP or some such publication that convinced him to apply for Medicare a few months before this certain milestone birthday... or else he might not get full benefits. WTF? So he applied and the govt sent him a bill! I think he sorted it out, and maybe that was a lesson not to believe everything you read, and to make sure you apply the general principles to the particulars of your own situation. Navigating this shit seems like a bit of a minefield. Hopefully I can be helpful and not worry and lose sleep for no good reason.

In other news, last week I was sure I had a blood clot in my right leg due to the birth control pills I started taking in January. Turns out I'm just a hypopchondriac who probably needs better neurochemicals. (I kid. But not really.) I had these weird pains in my legs that were a lot like the first day of my period was back in my pre-synthetic-hormone-poppin' days. It was the first cycle where I skipped the placebo pills and started taking the next pack of active pills so that I would not have a period for a few months. I think my odd, slightly-painful leg reaction, accompanied by one pimple and a whole lot of moodiness, was just my body getting used to the excellent idea that I'll only have 4 periods a year. Hooray for that.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Turning Your Own Kid in For Bullying?

There was a NYT article online recently about bullying, which linked to this intriguing news story out of Queensland, Australia about a father who reported his 17-year-old son and his 15-year-old daughter to the police when he caught them battering a 13-year-old boy.

I was really struck by comment #17 to the NYT article, from KS in San Diego, California, who wrote:

"This is going to sound totally off the wall, but I think that every parent should HOPE that their child does something completely stupid at a fairly young age (ie, before that act can cause much damage) just so the child can face the consequences and see that their parents are serious about what they're teaching them."

"As a small child (8 or so?) I threw a rock at another kid and hit her in the head--she needed stitches. I didn't even know her, just found a rock and decided to throw it. But I can tell you that my parents came down on me like avenging furies, and I never did anything even remotely similar again."

"My own kids once stole eggs from a neighbor's chicken and used them to egg a local (not their own) school. I'm pretty sure the fallout there was something neither of them will ever forget--nor should they. I'm just glad it happened while they were young enough that I didn't feel the need to involve police."

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

An Egg Hunt Already

This week is Spring Break for all of the schoolkids of Podunkville, so I invited some of DS's preschool classmates and their older siblings to join us at the park for an Egg Hunt this morning. It was actually a lot of fun, but I had been dreading it. The invite consisted of an email from me with the instruction to "bring 10 eggs for each child you're bringing." Turns out that was not clear enough, apparently, because I got several emails and calls asking questions like:

"What kind of eggs do I bring? Hard-boiled and dyed, right?" (A: Any colorful round thing we could hide somewhere outdoors and a little kid could find would be acceptable.)

"Do we put candy in them? Or are we trying to avoid sugar." (A: Feel free to put candy, or anything, or nothing at all in them.)

"Is there going to be any chocolate? Because my kid can't have dairy! And by the way I'm not even sure we can make it, but I definitely know we can't come if people will be bringing chocolate." (If you've been reading my blog long enough, this particular parent ought to sound a little familiar... A: I asked people not to include chocolate, and no one did. And then the anti-cow protein lady's kid got sick last night so they couldn't even make it today anyway.)

"Are you worried about salmonella poisoning if the kids eat real eggs that have been sitting out for so long?" (A: Um, not really. But if you are, maybe, don't let your kid pick up any real eggs? Just an idea.)

I showed all of the emails to DH, and he wrote a really funny set of "Egg Hunt F.A.Q.'s" that I loved, but ultimately did not send. It included snarky gems like the definitions of the words "egg" and "hunt," along with a description of the way the Easter season is currently celebrated in the U.S. including "chocolate rabbits and eggs, etc." Too bad I didn't send it, but I don't think they would have gotten the joke.

But you know, what this all really boils down to is that I am actually the problem. I really, truly feel that in this context, I totally am. So I chose to take all of those emails as constructive feedback about me and my relationship with the people of my little community. The emails in my inbox were trying to tell me that I tend to make way too many assumptions about the tendencies of the people of Podunkville to want to do something crazy like use their best judgment, or do their own parenting. People here are very, very literal. Yes, a few of them love to feel like people are catering to their "specialness" but most of them seem to like to be told exactly what to do, in the form of brightline rules about things as seemingly obvious as a children's egg hunt in the park. So I just need to accept it. That is how things are in Podunkville. I just need to get better at taking life as it comes, and accepting people for who they are - not some fairytale version of the "reasonable people" I sometimes wish they'd be.

However, I also realized there were several people who didn't email me with any odd questions and passive-aggressive, unnecessary requests. People who simply read the email, showed up, helped me hide eggs, and contributed to the fun. Those are the people I need to focus on in the future and ask on playdates (hate that term.)

Interestingly, like the local egg hunt DS was invited to last year, the real eggs one of the moms brought were the big hit of the morning - all of the older siblings were trying to get them. Luckily, the younger ones, like my DS, were more than happy to trade their real ones with a bigger kid for a "Soy Glory 3" egg containing "fun dough." That totally made DS's day.

In other news, my kids are growing up too fast. DD is 18 months old, is about to get her first salon haircut (BTW, we always go to the beauty school, where it's cheap, the students are young and hip, and they won't give you a mullet); and is finally saying a lot of words that people in the outside world can usually also understand. DD says "hold me" and raises her arms toward the nearest adult (in case "hold me" wasn't clear enough). She is finally sitting through an entire board book and also demanding them to be read to her over and over. Last night she kept saying "Brown Bear Brown Bear" as clear as a bell, leaving no doubt as to which nighttime story she wanted. Coincidentally, the books in that series were also big time favorites of DS's at the same age - something about the catchy colors and the rhythm of the words, maybe?

DS finally started learning the alphabet and has been writing his first name - in all caps - and always asks to borrow my pen anytime he sees me writing something. Behaviorally, DS is in a really good place right now. He's been using words a lot more instead of screeching, and we've been reacting a lot less. And for that we sincerely thank thee, Sharon Silver. Oddly enough, since purchasing one of those popular handheld portable devices that allow you to download books, DH has actually read 2 other parenting books and has even been giving me some tips! I'm really enjoying the parenting conversations DH and I have been having, now that he actually knows what is going on with the research. I'd better pinch myself.