Hawaiian Adventure Day 1: Kids on a Plane!

When we first started planning our family trip to Kauai, my biggest worry was getting there. A 5 1/2 hour flight with a four-year old and a five-month old is not what I would call a good time. But the promise of fruity, alcohol-filled drinks and a week of no appointments was too enticing. We would brave the plane. And if it went horribly, which was almost guaranteed, I would never see any of those plane people again. I crossed my fingers that nothing YouTube-worthy would occur and the trip was booked.

David is a pretty adventurous kid and was excited to go on a plane ride. Benjamin is a self-consumed baby whose only desire in life is to have me hold him every moment of his life. Score for them both! We left for the airport at 4:30 in the morning but since neither of my kids sleep, they were wide awake and raring to go when the cab showed up. Who knew sleep deprivation had an upside?

Our first flight was a quick 24 minutes to Los Angeles, a nice warmup before the extended jaunt over the Pacific Ocean. As we sat on the runway waiting for take-off David looked at me and said, “no more airplane. Let’s go home now.” Oh shit. Thankfully, the plane started moving and as the G forces glued him to his seat, David started grinning.

Once in the air, I started to relax. Benni was sleeping away on my lap and David seemed to be adjusting to life at 3000 ft. And then David said, “momma the plane is going to crash into the ocean!” He slammed his hands together and then said “Ahhhh!” as he fluttered his finger-people towards their watery demise. “Ah, haha!” I said, flattening his hands into his lap, “no honey, don’t be silly.” I glanced around at the other passengers, hoping none were planning a vigilante attack on my son. It seems David has inherited my ability to say the most inappropriate thing in any given situation. He repeated the crash, ahh! gestures a few more times before I distracted him with a blueberry muffin.

Once in LAX, we refueled with croissant sandwiches since Burger King was the only option. David, who hasn’t eaten gluten in six months, was extra energized by his breakfast and proceeded to have a one-sided ninja fight with himself complete with summersaults and dramatic facial expressions. As I watched him dart back and forth running from imaginary enemies, I was thankful for the two hour layover.

By the time our next flight was boarding, David’s gluten-high had worn off and I had cajoled Benni back to sleep with some bouncing and repeated refrains of Hide Your Love Away. This was as good as it was going to get. As we squished into our undersized seats, my husband and I shared a glance of commiseration. For better or worse we were in this thing together and that made the next six hours seem not so scary.

And then the unbelievable happened; for the entire flight both of my children behaved like absolute saints. Not a cry, complaint, or inappropriate exclamation was heard. I do owe Steve Jobs and any other technological geniuses responsible for the iPad a huge thanks on this one. Seriously, how did people travel with kids before Angry Birds? As we landed in Kauai I looked out the window at the lush landscape and thought, this was totally worth it.

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The Lies Moms Tell

I am being held captive, trapped by a tyrant.  He demands that I do as he wishes.  If I don’t, if I try to assert my independence, act as a free person, he explodes with rage.  He screams, kicks, and wails.  I try to outlast him but his will is stronger than mine.  Sometimes I try to sneak away while he is sleeping.  I hold my breath as I slip my arm out from underneath him.  I inch my body away from his, placing a pillow in between us as a decoy.  I ease myself up and away, never taking my eye off of his sleeping body.  I stand frozen, shocked by my sudden freedom, and am elated.  I dance silently out of the room.  I am free!  In my jubilation I throw open the fridge door with too much gusto, anxious to find sustenance, and I hear the high pitched scream of outrage from the next room.  I hang my head in defeat. He has discovered my escape.  For a moment I consider ignoring his cries, but inevitably I give in and return to my place on the couch.Image

This is the scenario I go through every day since Benjamin was born five months ago. Benjamin only sleeps if I am his mattress and I have to nurse him so often during the night I’ve stopped bothering to put my boobs away (much to my almost five-year-old’s horror).  But when people ask, I lie.  I say he sleeps great, that he is an easy baby.  Sometimes I lie because it’s easier.  And sometimes I lie because to admit the truth would be to admit my own shortcomings.  I can’t get my kid to sleep in a crib. I suck as a mom.             

  A quick google search of infants and sleep done out of desperation seemed to confirm this fear.   Each forum was filled with posts from moms complaining that their babies slept like they were under sedation, and reading this made me feel even worse. I wanted to find one of these moms with a baby that sleeps ten hours at night and takes two three-hour-long naps during the day and explain to her that what she had is what I call a high-end problem.  Complaining about a baby that sleeps too much is like complaining that your Mercedes is too fast or your four carat diamond ring is too shiny. 

After my initial jealousy and sleep-deprived rage, I began to feel like a failure, like Benni’s inability to separate from me was something I created.  Could I really have ruined him by attending to his needs too quickly as some websites suggested?  Were everyone else’s babies really sitting contentedly in bouncy chairs, sleeping away the day in cribs while mine transforms into a screaming ball of fury the moment his butt hits the baby swing seat?  And then I had another thought: maybe these moms were lying too.  Could they be putting on the happy face of motherhood to fend off the judgments of others?

 It’s not surprising that moms lie.  Just look at the recent brouhaha started by Time magazine over attachment parenting.  Mothering is hard and it is only made harder when the rest of the world judges how it’s done.  Somehow, in this woman-negative culture, it isn’t good enough that we love and raise our children the best we know how, we are seen as failures if our children don’t conform to unrealistic standards of what is “normal” or we choose to mother in a nontraditional way.  And so we tell lies to avoid the scorn.   I know I am guilty of telling mommy lies.  It is easier at the time to just say great, everything is great and easy and perfect when people ask about the baby.  But now I am beginning to realize that these lies not only make moms feel like failures, they also create an illusion of motherhood that doesn’t resemble reality.

                So here is the truth: my baby only naps if my nipple is in his mouth and I don’t move or breathe too loudly.  I let David have potato chips and chocolate milk for breakfast because I was too tired the night before to go to the store and there was nothing else in the house to eat.  On the all too rare occasions that Benjamin does fall asleep on his own, I usually spend that time catching up on Us Weekly headlines and playing Words With Friends rather than wash dishes or fold laundry.  While playing a Jonah and the Whale video game during a play-date, David yelled out “God damn it!” when his turn ended.  I laughed and said he must have heard it on TV.  He did not hear it on TV. 

                It’s freeing to admit that things aren’t easy, that my parenting style is more survival-mom than tiger-mom.  Go ahead, try it.  Confess your mommy lies and share your less than stellar moments in parenting.  I promise not to judge.

I am a College Graduate!?!

Thursday night at 10:07pm I completed my last final of my college career.  I kept putting it off, waiting until the kids were in bed only to fall asleep at their sides, until there wasn’t any more time to avoid it.  I had first thought I was just procrastinating like I had my entire college career (nothing says quality like a paper written at 3am) but as the final seconds ticked away on the test timer, I realized I had been delaying the end of college as long as I could.  And as I hit submit for the final time, the moment felt more bitter than sweet. 

College has been a part of my life on and off for the last ten years.  If I wasn’t attending then I was working, saving money so I could go back.  When I found out I was pregnant with David five or so years ago, I realized I wanted to be someone my son could look to as an example.  I wanted him to know that he could accomplish anything, even if it was really, really hard.  So I started taking online classes at a junior college while on maternity leave.  And I kept taking classes after he was born, and while we moved from Humboldt County to San Diego.  I took classes while staying with my in-laws, while living in a tiny apartment in Coronado, and while moving into our first real home.  I took classes as I cared for a toddler, as I planned a wedding, and as I tried to get pregnant a second time.  I took classes during my first, second, and third trimester of my second pregnancy, and had Benjamin conveniently during Christmas break.  My final semester was a group effort for my husband, in-laws, and professors.  Each of them made sacrifices and accommodations so that I could write this: I am a college graduate. 

Having been a college student during two different decades of my life has given me a unique perspective.  I have been both the 22-year-old giggling in the back of class as well as the 32-year-old scowling at the giggling girl in the back.  And while my marathon-length college experience wasn’t the easiest, I do have the understanding of how important this accomplishment is, an understanding I don’t think I would have had in my twenties.  I also have a deep gratitude to all the people in my life that made this possible for me, and I want to take a moment to say thank you.

First, thank you to my parents, who always believed that I could, and who were always there to lend support (both emotional and financial) when I needed it.  Thank you for instilling in me a belief that I was worth more and that more was worth working for.  Thank you to my in-laws who gave up their free time, who drove countless miles, and who indulged my neurotic inability to allow anyone but family watch my sons.  Barb and Gene, without you two I wouldn’t have the life that I do, a life that I dreamed of and love.  To Brooke Butcher, Laura Tardio, and Marina Skendzic, you girls made college so much fun.  Thank you girls for your friendship, your humor, and for never making me feel like the old lady in class even when I didn’t know who Lady Gaga was.  You are all amazing women who will make a huge impact on this world.  I love you all and hope that I know you for the rest of my life.  To Sandra Doller, an amazing mentor, teacher, and writer.  Thank you for teaching me that writing doesn’t have to be a story that goes from point A to point B, for drilling into my head the mantra of show-don’t-tell, and for inspiring me to take my writing further than I imagined it could go.  Through your constant encouragement, I began to believe that I could actually be a writer one day.  Thank you for giving me the confidence to pursue the only career I ever dreamed for myself. 

This last part is for my husband.  I am going to get uncharacteristically mushy now, so I ask that everyone but him stop reading.  Okay, is it just me and you now? Good.  Thank you.  Thank you for being the man that I always thought was out there but never thought I’d find.  Thank you for our two amazing, beautiful children who have brought more joy into my life than I ever imagined and who expanded my understanding of love.  Thank you for working so hard every day without complaint so that I could go to school and stay home with the boys.  Thank you for never complaining about the unwashed dishes and mounds of laundry on the couch.  Thank you for seeing more in me than I knew was there.  Through your patience, kindness, and unwavering support, I have become the wife, mother, and woman I always wanted to be.  You are my foundation, the person that raises me up, steadies me, and pushes me forward.  Thank you for being my husband.  I love you.

And now that that is all said, does anyone know where I can find a job?