Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Travel: Let the Joy Begin

Oh the holidays, the moments dreams are made of...the packing, the planning, the family, the flights…it is all enough to make you want to jump off a bridge (while singing a Christmas carol of course). It was about two years ago that we decided to no longer travel back East for the holidays and instead stay put and start making traditions of our own. I love saying that “making traditions of our own” because it sounds so grown-up and admirable. Unfortunately the truth is not quite as beautiful. The truth is that although we would love to be with our families over the holidays, we simply can’t handle the flight.

Holiday travel reminds me of this great picture my husband and I have on our picture wall. It is of the two of us in Whistler Canada, in beautiful ski outfits, smiling with our arms around one another. What the picture doesn’t show is that moments before that photo was taken, we had cussed each other out and basically decided that there was no way we could spend the rest of our lives together…it just wouldn’t work. Fortunately, when we got down to the bottom of the mountain, we found a nice, cozy cafĂ©. After four hot chocolates spiked with Baileys and Rum, and a promise to never ski together again, we walked out a married couple.

That experience to me exemplifies the holidays when you travel cross-country with small children. It seems like a good idea at first, there is hope that it could all go well, but in the end, you may only get one good picture …and the price for that photo is very, very high.

It starts with the packing, the deciding who is in charge of the plane snacks, how many DVD’s we will bring, if we should take the early or late flight, if my husband will again somehow sit in a row away from us because “there are only three seats to a row, what do you want me to do?”, to what my family expects, to what I expect, to who will cook, what we will eat, why we should or shouldn’t drink, to where the kids will sleep, to how much we are going to spend on presents and so on and so on. There are so many decisions and so many different ways of spending the holidays. And the fact that this little adventure has to begin with a 6-hour plane ride 30,000 feet in the air with two screaming kids, makes getting into that Holiday spirit near impossible.

Let me start by saying there is no one that hates my children on a plane more than I do. Just looking at them in the waiting area of the gate makes me start to sweat. I don’t want to sit next to them anymore than you do but unfortunately, I don’t have a choice. My kids are the ones that spill juice off the flimsy tray and watch as it leaks down and soaks your carry on bag that is placed snuggly under their seat. My son is the child who will not stop kicking you seat, no matter how dark and desperate my threats get. And yes, my daughter is the child who on a 6-hour flight has a bad reaction to Benadryl (I swear she had a cough) and screams like she is being tortured the ENTIRE time.

And the flight attendants are no help. I now believe they are some of the angriest and laziest people in the world. If you choose to disturb them while they are in their jump seats in the back, reading People and US Magazine, you will pay deeply. If you want water, they say they just served it…if you want to use the bathroom, they say the seat belt light is on…and if you want milk for your kid, they say sorry but we need it for coffee.

And if your child is crying, instead of asking “What can I do to help?” they now say, “Excuse me Miss, what is wrong with your child? You really need to make him stop.” What you really want to say to her is “Listen bitch, you are a glorified waitress in the sky. If I knew what was wrong with my psychotic child I would do something about it. I am barely hanging on here and the more I look at the exit window, the more tempting it gets. We have 3 hours to go and I am pretty sure I am not going to make it. I am about to have a panic attack and may just die if my kid doesn’t stop screaming. I am sweating to death and my kid is now naked because he has peed and popped through all three outfits I brought. We have watched every damn DVD I brought and the battery is about to die. My left leg is numb because I can’t move it for fear of waking my 6 month old who by the grace of God is sleeping through the older ones psychotic tantrum. My husband has no idea what is going on because he is wearing his noise canceling Bose headphones. So now would you please go get me some DAMN peanuts”!

But because you are so afraid of them, you smile and say something like “I am so sorry, it must be his ears.”

And through all of this, your husband has not moved. He is sitting still, like a statue, reading up on his latest investments or what he thinks will happen in China in 2012. Every now and then he will look across the row, where he sits with two other adults who are quietly working on their computers and say something like “Are you okay, you don’t look good?” or “I would trade with you but my legs can’t fit in the middle seat.”

At that point, I take a deep breath and try not to stab him repeatedly with my plastic straw. I resist the urge to start a fight because the things you say to each other during a flight are as mean as the things you say to each other in middle of the night when you have a newborn. Airline fights and Middle of The Night fights are brutal, things are said that cannot be forgiven and cheap shots are taken with no remorse. So instead, I close my eyes and begin to practice what I am going to say next year when my family and friends ask if I am coming home for the holidays. “Oh we would love to, but we have decided to stay home this year and make traditions of our own.”

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Let Them Keep Score...

My son is 5 years old and playing in his first year of soccer. Because he is playing in the under 6 division, they are not allowed to keep score therefore allowing everyone to be a “winner”. I know many people believe this sounds just great, but to be honest, it’s a nightmare. The truth is that I don’t understand why we can’t keep score and frankly the kids don’t either.

The conversations about the games between my son and I keep becoming more awkward. He’s a really smart kid and the whole idea of everyone winning is something he is just not buying. After we lost our 6th game in a row, (not that anyone was keeping score except that EVERYONE was keeping score), my son says to me “Mom we are SO bad, we haven’t even scored one goal!” Unfortunately, because the coach is watching me, all I can do is smile and say, “Oh honey, scoring goals isn’t important. The most important thing is that you are having fun.”

At this point, my son looks at me like I am crazy and responds with “Then why do we have teams if no one cares who scores, what is the point of the game?” My thought exactly. So after looking around to make sure no one is watching me, I kneel down next to him, far away from the ears of parents who want their kids to believe they are wonderful at everything no matter how untalented they may be and say “You’re right. You and your whole team aren’t very good. You score in the wrong goal, you spend half your time lying on the field pretending you are a robot, and really don’t understand the game at all” (which is evident by the fact that he continues to pick the ball up with his hands and run with it.) Normally, after this secretive conversation, my son will say something very insightful like “Yeah mom, we stink…do you have any more fruit snacks?” Amazingly he isn’t crushed by the fact that they lost or by the truth about his or his soccer teams abilities. Somehow he is able to absorb this harsh reality and move on. MIRACLE!

I know we all want our kids to feel good about themselves, have fun while playing sports, and learn it is not always about winning and losing but REALLY, I think we have taken it a bit far. Recently I heard that parents being interviewed at Mattel told the game makers that they wanted to take away the “chutes” part of “Chutes and Ladders”. When asked why they said it was because their kids didn’t like to slide down to the bottom and have to start over. No wonder why so many kids now move back home after college because the ‘real world’ is too tough. If you can’t handle rolling a 3, landing on the chute and taking a ride down the candy cane slide, you’re screwed! I promise, life is going to be a real shit storm for you.

This is never more evident to me than during those painful first rounds of American Idol. All I can think when I watch those poor souls sing horribly off key is that their parents and friends have let them down. Luckily for me, I never had this problem. This is why I think I have made it to adulthood as a fairly happy and balanced human. When I was a kid, I loved to sing. Yet my mother never had a problem letting me know this was not a path I should follow. And to clarify, most of her comments would come only seconds AFTER I told her my dream was to be on stage, singing and dancing like the star I was meant to be. She didn’t sugar coat it either, it was clear what she was trying to say when she looked me straight in the eyes and said “Hey Kelsey, don’t waste your time, …your tone deaf. You can’t sing at all and it is torture to listen to you. Pick a new dream, one you have a chance at achieving.”

Looking back, maybe she was wrong and should have let me enter song competitions and try to win the lead in the school musical. But chances are it would have been a waste of my time and I would have ended up being a back up dancer in Oklahoma (which just would not have worked for someone like me.) Instead I worked on swimming faster, talking more, and trying to make people laugh. I still ended up on stage but just in a different way.

So my point is this…let the kids win, let the kids lose, and let them learn that life isn’t always perfect. And if you want them to do something where they don’t keep score, teach them to bake.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Things my Husband Says (that make me consider Homicide)

1. I am so tired.

2. This is only my second scotch.

3. Have you talked to my mom lately? (hey buddy, I am barely hanging on with my own family...your mom = your responsibility)

4. I didn’t see your call or text…my phone sometimes has bad service.

5. My throat feels weird, any way you could take care of the kids in the morning? (how is that different from any other morning)

6. I could fix the sprinklers but I'd rather pay someone.

7. Don’t worry, I will just make myself dinner.

8. I’m not drunk, it has just been a long week.

9. I promise, there are only 10 minutes left in the game.

10. I WAS watching the kids, I was just letting them work it out between themselves.

11. When you were pregnant it was so hard for me.

12. This is only my 3rd beer.

13. Where are the kid’s pj’s? (do you think we wake up each morning and hide them)

14. Watching you in labor was so painful for me. (DIE)

15. I didn’t say you looked fat, I said you looked healthy.

16. I didn’t know trash day was Thursday.

17. I don't know what I want to do with my life. (neither do we buddy...but in the meantime go make some money)

18. Golfing is the same as working…it is networking.

19. I know you don’t like him but he is like a brother to me.

20. This 56” Flat Screen TV for the garage was SUCH a good deal. (Reason #1 he can never go to Costco)

21. Why does it have to be so dark when we have sex? (believe me, it is better for everyone)

22. I think the baby is hungry, maybe you should try nursing him.

23. I will be home at usual time. (that's the problem)

24. I don't know why I am so tired. (neither do we)

25. What are you talking about? The baby slept all night. (no, really he didn' did)

26. You know if you wanted me to go longer I could. (we know...please don't do us any favors)

27. Is there any way you could breastfeed in the other room, I’m trying to sleep.

28. I have to run to the bathroom, it will only take a minute. (how does this happen the moment we are walking out the door)

29. What's the big deal, you have been home with the kids all day.

30. You haven’t done that since before we were married. (and for good reason)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Facebook Upload Hell

Happy Halloween... We love Halloween at our house because it marks the beginning of the Holiday season. It also marks the beginning of what I like to call “Facebook Upload Hell” season. This is when people all over America begin the age-old tradition of uploading thousands of pictures of their families on a weekly basis. Just close your eyes and imagine seeing all of your friends and their kids in the same following photos:

Family Pumpkin Patch Picture, Strange Halloween Picture in Uncomfortable Costumes, Kids Sitting on Creepy Santa Lap Picture, Picture of Family in Jeans and White T-shirts Running on Beach, Picture of Family From Behind Wearing Jeans and White T-shirts Strolling Towards Ocean, Picture of Family in Jeans and White T-shirt Sitting Awkwardly on Beach Together with Golden Retriever, Christmas Morning Opening Presents Picture, and to close out the year...Picture of Kids Asleep in Strange Place While Drunk Parents Dance to 80’s Music at New Years Party.

What I would like to see, in order to break up the monotony, are some pictures that are a bit more realistic. How about a photo of a mother cussing out her kids at the pumpkin patch as they tackle each other to the ground while fighting over the pumpkin they both “saw first.” Or a picture of a mom forcing her 3-year old daughter into her $60 princess outfit (that she HAD to have) while she screams “I NO LIKE ANYMORE, IT IS ITCHY!” And of course, I would love for someone to upload a picture from a regular Sunday morning at the park where a dad (who is supposed to be watching his kids) is unaware that the kids are playing with a rabid squirrel because he is looking at his phone while making last minute changes to his Fantasy Football League.

Please, do us all a favor and mix it up a bit this year. Let the Holiday Seasons Begin!!!