Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Decisions Decisions

We make decisions all day every day, from the moment we wake up and choose to get out of bed, or to stay and rest a few minutes more, to what to wear to bed at night. We do it so much that you think we would be so skilled at it at this point. Making decisions (good ones) is something I am teaching Twiggy right now, and so far she isn't the quickest study. The other day she started to decorate the kitchen table with her food. She drew outside the lines, so to speak, when she decided her place mat just wasn't enough room. When my husband asked her what she was doing she said, "I made a decision, daddy." Apparently not the best one.

I try to explain to her that listening to mommy, or going back to sleep in the middle of the night, or letting friends take turns when you play, are good decsions. I know this is something she will learn as she goes along everyday for the rest of her life, but for now I am losing patience with some of her choices. Yesterday, we were on an escalator and I said, "Okay, big step." This is something she has done with me so many times, and it's usually pretty cute to watch her lunge over the threshold, but yesterday she made the choice she was going to ignore me. She wanted to see what would happen, and fortunately for me nothing did -- unfortunately for her, I reacted.

As a parent, I am weighing my desicions to react all day long with her. Should I let that one go? I let that one go too many times, now I am setting the rule down strongly. She is only little, she wouldn't understand. She totally knows she isn't supposed to do that and so how should I repremand her. Can I handle this one patienly and calmly or is it time to get mean? Lately, I find that I am yelling more than I ever had before, and more than I want to. Sadly, it works and so that keeps me doing it. Sigh!! Over-thinking is an area that I am very gifted in. Not sure I love that quality about myself but I have accepted it none the less. As I mentioned in the last post, I know when I am over-thinking, but I don't always know how to chill out on an idea in my head.

What frightens me the most about desicion making, not just as a parent, but as a person, is when you make a decision without thinking about it. I guess that would be a reaction, but call it what you will, I scare myself sometimes. I got really upset with someone yesterday when they were rude to me and to my daughter. Not even worth retelling the story, or wasting anytime on this unimportant ass, but as I walked away from him, my daughter on my hip as it furiously swayed passed his ugly face, I said "things" I am not going to say because my parents read this, and I hate this kind of quality in others, and because I am not proud (well not a lot).

Monday, April 25, 2011

Watching Paint Dry

I am not the most patient person. I am the first to admit that, and the first to admit that I have gotten better. Recently though I have been waiting on a few things, and I feel myself obsessively thinking about things I can do nothing about. Oh right, that's my other big downfall. I am obsessive too. A person like me probably should have never purchased a video baby monitor, because still now at over two years old, I keep staring at it until my daughter falls asleep. Once she is asleep, I can feel my body relax more and suddenly I can focus on things better.

A Blackberry is also an interesting thing for me. The ding that alerts me that I have a text went off thirty seconds ago and I just had to check it. That cost me my thought line but it was imperative that I read that text from no one that important about nothing important either. Okay back on track. I am waiting. Waiting is a complete waste of energy I have decided. There is nothing I can do to speed the process of my husband getting a job, my daughter ending a tantrum, my parents waiting for test results, or a friend going into labor. All out of my control.

On an intellectual level, I totally get that, but emotionally I am not sure how to quiet my thoughts. So far, the closest thing I have come up with is distraction. I do have other things on my plate, really good things that I can focus on too. My daughter jumped off a diving board into the pool today, I cooked dinner for twenty this week, and I am reading a really good book right now. In general, I feel like I am in a really great place right now. I feel happier and more content than I have in a long time. I do not take that for granted, so I will try to tap back into that thought when my head begins to wonder. When it does though, I hope no one finds me blowing on wet paint in my useless attempt to make it dry just a little faster.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Checking Baggage

My favorite magazine just had an article on how people calm themselves down, when they are in a mood. Readers wrote in tricks that worked for them when they were in a crappy funk. I can relate. I am far less upset by little things, but every now and then I get into a state and I have trouble shaking it.

I have had a great time the past few weeks. My sister came in from overseas for a visit, we had two holiday meals, one here and one up in San Francisco with my brother and his wife. It was the first time in a while I was with both my siblings and it was both stressful and fun. I am not going to insult anyone in this post. At least that is not my intent, but I always come away from time with my family with mixed feelings.

I love my family, and I am also always perplexed at how my idea of who they are can be so different from reality. It's kind of like when I hear Michael Jackson sing when he was in the Jackson 5. His voice was incredibly sweet, strong, and beautiful. If you watch videos, he seemed confident, and looked like he was having such a great time. It's hard to believe that there is nothing of that image or sound that remains now. In my head, I have a great relationship with my siblings. We have fun together, we share common interests, and all look forward to our far and few between visits. The reality is though that we are all very different. We do have great moments, and do experience close times, but it feels more often than that that we irritate each other. I feel more tension coming off of a family visit than I want to. I know this isn't news to anyone and I know the roles we play in our family aren't always the same as who we are when we are not with them, but can't we all just get along?

This last visit was actually better than most, there is just a feeling that we become too tightly around around each other. Stupid things like, putting dishes away correctly or slamming car doors too loudly get too much weight. I am and forever will be grateful to my husband for teaching me to chill out more. That life is too short to waste energy on getting upset about little things. I do still have moments of course, and then I am just short of going nuts like the guy in that Michael Douglas movie.

I am sure I had some misplaced emotional reaction yesterday when just after my brother dropped us off at the airport, I realized I left my brand new camera in his car. I had one of those "end of the rope" moments. Then we couldn't get through security without checking our bag. I was told it was okay as carry-on when I bought it, but clearly I was a sucker. On the way, we went through okay and then they took it at the gate but this time we weren't going through without losing 25 buckaroos and upon this realization my ability to hold it together was being compromised. I needed a second alone, so with a happy face, I told my husband to go ahead and take our daughter through, and that I would deal with it. Here is where this gets embarassing. I was so pissed at the system that I told the innocent airline attendant that I only had $20 cash and no cards. I told her my stupid sob story and pouted about how they let us through the first time. I was getting angry at her and she didn't care. Why should she? It was not her problem. It was mine. I took my five minute simmer down now walk and went back. If you looked closely my eyes were maybe a little teary but to the average person I held it together okay. I am ashamed of my frustrated confrontation with this woman who couldn't care less, but I otherwise didn't feel the earth move.

Everyone has sides to them that are not as pretty as they paint themselves to be. I have a hard time accepting that in friends, family, and in myself. Recently I wrote of an artist that moved me so much. Well she showed her colors recently in a butchered busniess deal with my husband, and she turned out to be more of a dirty gray than the bright shiny silver I had in my head. People can be many things. You can be brilliant and bitchy all at the same time. I just forget that very few people are only what that carry. Usually we all have a bit more baggage than that.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Tonight Passover begins, and Sunday is Easter. This week is full of friends and family. We will have twenty friends here tonight for seder dinner, tomorrow we head up to San Francisco for a family seder and this weekend down to San Diego for Easter Sunday. I am cooking like crazy and my feet hurt, so I am taking a break to take it all in.

I like that these two holidays have come in the same week this year. They have so many common ties to one another. Renewal, for starters. Spring cleaning (hasn't happened here yet), but it's a lovely idea. Rituals of doing what our friends and families have done for years before us. Thats pretty wild I think.

There is a song that is sung for Passover called Dayenu. It comes at the end of the seder and it is sung in celebration of the freedom the Jews have from fleeing slavery. They have so much to be grateful for but then they keep looking around and they have more and more. Dayenu means and if that wasn't enough there is this.... I want to take a second to do my own Dayenu. Every so often it's nice to stop and look around at all the amazing things we do have.

I love what I do every day, and if that wasn't enough
I live in a beautiful place, and if that wasn't enough
I met an great man who I love so much, and if that wasn't enough
We have a wonderful, amazing, healthy daughter, and if that wasn't enough
We have our parents and they are healthy, and if that wasn't enough
We have supportive families, and if that wasn't enough
We have loving caring friends.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You Can Do It!

I'm not big on saying "good job" all the time. I feel like it comes out of people's mouths a lot and loses its meaning. Plus, I think as parents, it is so easy to get excited when a child does something new or does something right and praise them in the same way you would if they just ran through the finish line of a marathon. Don't get me wrong, I praise my child when it is appropriate, but I don't say, "Yahoo, yay, you did it, you ate your lunch!" I think if I did she would either wonder why that it is such a big deal today, or think I just went batty.

I remember reading an article in the Times about how when parents over-praise, it has the reverse affect on the kids. If they hear "good job" as they are trying something, then they feel that it isn't nesesarry for them to continue. They got the praise they needed and they are done now. I think encouragement is a more positive way to go than praise for me, but I am questioning how I can do that most effectivly.

Pinball loves the water, but despite very gentle and fun swim classes the past two summers, she can't swim. I wanted to put her in a more intensive swim program in which the kids go under and actually swim at the end of the class this year. Specifically, the Water Whisperer is one that I heard amazing things about. I knew she could do it, but she was scared. Her little friend is an amazingly brave little swimmer. She jumps in and goes under. She is a good influence on Twiggy but there is only so much she will try with me. So I signed her up and we are on day three. So far, I am impressed and conflicted.

She is taking it with her two friends, and on day one she was the first one in the water, but the minute the teacher took her in she looked to me, pouted, and said, "I'm all done, Mommy." I responded that it was okay to be scared and to keep trying because you are doing really well. Two out of the three of them were hysterical at this point so the staff instructed us to step outside the gate to let them establish a relationship and so that we didn't distract. From there she freaked, then calmed, then swam, then cried, "I want mommy", and continued those in a loop until the end of the lesson. She was then handed the lollipop she was bribed with. My friend, whose son was with her and howled like a ailing dinosaur, was granted two lollipops for his bravery. He was really not happy in the water.

It has gotten better but today, day three, the dino was whining a bit but really swimming, and Twig cried on and off but is also really swimming. The other child is really a fish so all she does is happily swim. Yesterday, all three of us moms cried along with our kids from behind the gate. Our tears were tears of joy when we saw them get passed their fears and succeed to swim. We were like non-ticket paying ballgame fans shouting, "You did it!" through the fence. It's a pretty intense experience for all of us. We want them to succeed so badly, but we also don't want them to cry along the way. My friend said to me yesterday that everything they do can't all be fun. I agree, and it is a big life lesson to wrap your head around that one, especially at two and a half.

I watched today as my daughter so tentativly took instruction. At times, she even told the teacher she didn't want to do it, to which they told her to be brave and try. When she accomplished something she was rewarded with hugs and praise from the teachers in a way that seemed totally earned in that moment. The lollipop is an added bonus that will gladly be granted to her at the end of each class. I'm not saying "good job" to her though when she successfully knocks off her sucker.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Talking Back

Potty training came extremely easy to my daughter. She turned two, took an interest in the potty and never looked back. She had one accident on an airplane when we weren't allowed up and she couldn't hold it. That was over six months ago -- today she had her second one. We went to a swim class this morning and she was not happy about it at all. She got in the pool and soon after said "Mommy, I'm all done" She was scared for most of it, but was brave about trying it all, even through tears.

I held her tightly after the class, but I could tell she was still a bit stunned. She got dressed and before we left I asked her if she needed to use the toilet and she declined. She wanted to go home. Upon pulling up at our house she said she had to go and let out a shreek. She had to go more than she thought and she was really surprised that she couldn't hold it. Her clothes were wet and she was uncomfortable and upset.

As we got out of the car she was crying and wanted to go in and get dry. The worker from across the street was outside. He always talks to us, and mostly she likes him but I think he is freaky. This is the same guy who waved to me through my bedroom window when I realized he could see me from the hillside across the street. He creeps me out a little but Twig is on a first name basis with him. Today when he saw her he mimicked her crying and said "Waa, oh did you go pee pee? Why are you crying?"

For me this was wrong on so many levels. For starters, it's one thing to be friendly but this guy has some boundary issues and cleary needs help minding his own. Secondly, don't give my daughter a flower one day and make fun her the next. She wasn't sure what to do when he asked so I snapped back and answered for her. "She is crying because she is uncomfortable." He tried to back paddle and tell her it's okay and that he makes a pee pee too sometimes, but I was ignoring him and walking away into my house (with curtains on the windows now).

Twig just wanted to get changed and then brought his name up as if he didn't say anything strange to her. To me though, this man brought out my inner-Queens. You can say dumb, insensitive things to your own kids (although I prefer people didn't, since it's just going to make for not nice adults) but you can't say it to mine. Not without getting me really pissed off. If you know me, you know I am pretty friendly so it is rare for me to talk to anyone without being nice. But -- if you insult me, or worse, my loved ones, I am going to talk back. Unless, I think you are packing one. I may get angry, but I'm not dumb.

So as for Mr. Man across the street. I will forgive him quickly and be friendly again tomorrow, but for today I think both of us have said enough.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Flower Power

Yesterday was a beautiful afternoon, and despite traffic, I decided to drive out to meet my friend at the Descanso Gardens. I told Twig we were going to see a lot of flowers and we were both excited. We had not seen these friends in a while and my daughter was looking forward to running around with her. We were also going to meet their friends as well.

When we got there, we were greeted by the tulips. We took some photos, explored a bit and then called to find the others. My friend said they were looking for the California Gardens and to head that way. We made our way over and saw cactus, big cool bugs, and fun trails where my girl pretended to be on a hiking adventure. We found our friends, said hello and then they took out a map and tried to get oriented. I didn't realize they were so into plants, so I asked what they were looking for.

A few years back both of them lost one of their closest friends. I heard the story before and whenever my friend mentions it I find it chilling, and horrible. It was not an expected death and I think my friend feels this loss daily. Here we were with toddlers running in and out of our sight line, picking up things they shouldn't and having an obliviously fun time. I didn't know this, but the ashes of their friend were scattered in an area of the garden where she had liked to go. They were looking at it, and now so was I. The little ones skipped and jumped ahead as we turned corners, and went up and down a dip in the road until the spot was found.

Set under an billowing awning of branches was a bench. Right before my friend stepped towards it I asked her if she and her friend had been since their girls were born, and she replied that she hadn't. It was all eerily moving for me to see these two women walk up to visit this spot with two new lives climbing up beside them. The bench was made from trunks of trees and kind of reminded of the story of "The Giving Tree." In the middle was a gold plate with their friend's name. She was gone and as the way the circle of life works, here were people that didn't exist when she exited. As obviously heavy this could have been for them it wasn't. They were laughing and yelling after their mischievous girls. I didn't know this friend of theirs but if she was anything like them she was laughing with them. If she could comment on this visit I would guess she would be pissed that it took them this long to visit her, and amused at how their daughter's personalities so reflected theirs.

My daughter and I were only along for the ride yesterday, but from the outside it was a pretty cool reunion to witness.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Color Blind

I recently began reading "Nurture Shock." It's a fascinating read. It has a chapter called, "Why white people don't talk about race." It was very interesting to read that there are quite a few misconceptions when it comes to kids and race. I thought kids were color blind, and the more diverse the environment the more likely they will accepting of diversity. According to studies done, it works the opposite way.

People also, myself included, assumed that if you don't talk about racial differences, that kids might not think there was any big deal difference and go make friends with anyone. Also, not true. Apparently, the more diversity within a large group of kids, the more opportunity kids have to self-segregate. The less you talk about race the stronger a child will build up their own ideas about differences. Many parents think kids need to be older to handle a talk on this subject matter, and the older the child the more closed the mind is.

I started Kindergarten and first grade in a private school. Everyone was white, and there were uniforms and a lot of rules. I lived in a very diverse city and was aware of the different type of people that didn't go to my school. I didn't love private school so at the beginning of second grade my parents moved me to P.S. 162, a public school in Queens. I don't remember if my mother had given me a heads up on how different this experience this would be for me, I just remember walking into the classroom and seeing that nothing was the same. My teacher (my favorite to date) was Mrs. Lee. She was black, tall and had the warmest smile. The classroom was more colorful than the private school, and not because it was diverse, but because the tables faced each other and there was art work all over the walls. I fit right in because I was a child, an individual, and not a little soldier.

I stayed in public school all the way through high school. I did have many friends of different races. Of my three close friends growing up, one was Chinese, one was Indian, and one was Jewish like me. To date though, I am closest with the Jewish friend. Perhaps we do create close relationships with people we have the most in common with. I had several black girlfriends growing up but we never saw each other that much out of school. My three closest friends lived within walking distance to me, so that factors in as well.

I would be lying if I didn't remember growing up with some bias of other people. I also remember being afraid of being Jewish at one point as well. I never felt strangely about any ethnic difference I went to school with, but one summer at the all-Jewish camp I went to, a Yemenite girl was in my bunk. I had never seen someone that dark, but she wasn't like the black people I knew. I remember telling one of my friends that the girl was very different from us. No one ever planted that idea in my head, and it obviously came from a place of fear. So, perhaps had my second grade class room had people from Yemen in it, I wouldn't have had that racist moment, but who knows? I also remember a mean, eraser chewing kid, who I knew was Catholic, make a comment about Jews. He then turned to me and said, "You aren't Jewish, are you?" I remember I quickly answered that I wasn't.

Promptly after reading this chapter I decided a child is never too young to learn that there are a lot of different kinds of people. It is also never too early to explain that those different kinds of people are a lot like us. There are so many opportunities to point that out too. I don't live in New York anymore and Los Angeles (certainly Beverly Hills) is not super diverse but there are big and small differences all around. Now, my Twig points out everything from blue eyes to brown skin. For the moment I think we are doing okay in this department. Her favorite baby doll is her little black one and she walked right through the open door of a black salon recently and no one said anything except for the owner when he pointed out that she was getting her baby's haircut.