Man in a Suitcase

Over the last 7 weeks, I have had 6 work trips.  It feels like my kids are taller every time I see them.  I would have been 7 for 7 but one of the trips got moved and since I can’t be in New York and Los Angeles at the same time, I had to miss that meeting.  It has been nearly two months since I spent seven straight days at home.  I am tired of airplanes, luggage, security checks, hotel rooms, rental cars, rental car buses, and my broken wrist.  During one 72 hour stretch, I was in Boston, NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and back to Boston. I work in sales, and while I don’t always travel like this, it’s been a heavy stretch since Verizon took over our company in December.  So here’s the tale of my favorite travel day in the last two months.

A couple weeks ago I had to go to Los Angeles for a three day group training session.  My flight from Boston to LA had a layover in Chicago.  Not long enough to get some tasty deep dish pizza, but long enough that we had to de-board.  We land in Chi-town, I shuffle off with my computer bag and roller board and go find a seat at the gate.  I was getting back on the exact same plane in 45 minutes at the same gate, but in a different seat.  I’m fairly obsessive when it comes to booking air travel.  I check in 23 hours and 59 minutes before the flight takes off.  I get a seat on the aisle toward the front of the plane.  I often upgrade for priority boarding.  I never check luggage.  I want to ensure that I can always find room for my rollerboard (people getting on last on commercial flights often have no choice but to check bags when overhead room is gone) and that I’m one of the first people on and off the plane.  Yeah, I’m obsessive.

So I’m queuing up with the obsessive business people for priority boarding, I stroll up to the ticket taker, and he declares, “Sir, you’re going to have to check that bag.” Pointing to my rollerboard.

“Excuse me?” I reply. “Why would I have to do that?”

“That bag looks too big for the overhead compartments.” He tells me.

“Well, I just GOT OFF that plane at the end of the ramp.  With this bag.  It went just fine.  This is my layover.  It’s not too big.” Now I’m getting mad.

“Sir, can you put the bag in the sizer for me please?” he asks.  Now if you travel, you know the ‘sizer’ is the tiny metal square thingy by the onramp to planes that is half the size of most of the bags that people take on board.  I have a broken hand, and I’m carrying a computer bag on my shoulder, and my rollerboard.  I awkwardly attempt to turn my rollerboard one handed into the sizer, but I can’t get it to fit, and I’m now astonished that he’s making the one-handed guy do this while 200 people wait and watch.

“Sir, where is your final destination?” He asks, reaching for a luggage ticket so he can check my bag.

“You’re kidding me right?  I JUST GOT OFF THAT PLANE WITH THIS BAG.  It was not too big.”

“Your final destination sir? The FAA is watching us closely sir, and that bag looks too big to fit.  These are the regulations,” he declares while tagging my bag to be checked.

At this point I’m not very social, or patient, with this guy.  I mutter that I’m going to Los Angeles and trudge to the boarding ramp as I loudly declare just for him, “What an unbelievable asshole that guy is.” The woman directly in front of me laughs out loud and turns to me, “I fly out of Chicago all the time.  He does that to somebody on EVERY flight.  It’s a power trip thing I guess.”  Despite my vocal public obscenity, I do feel vindicated that the guy apparently WAS an asshole.

I settle into my aisle seat towards the front of the plane, as people slowly board one after another.  I’m guessing there’s a crowd flying to Los Angeles coming back from South by Southwest, because there are a lot of ‘rockers’ on this flight.  People with studded belts, long hair, men with jewelry, several people carrying instrument cases.  A rocker couple slides in next to me, and the dude is large.  I’m no small man, but he’s a good 6’4” with shoulders like Charles Barkley.  Awesome. The intentionally distressed jeans he’s wearing are so very cool, and likely more expensive than my luggage.  The triangle pattern eyeball across his artistically ripped denim shirt back is hypnotizing.  I hate them both. After 20 minutes of boarding, and people settling, his girl friend leans over to me and asks, “Hey, would you mind moving to that seat over there?” she points to a window seat two rows back.  At first I think she has to be joking.  The window seat is on the left, meaning my awkw ard braced broken hand would butt up against the plane wall all flight (It’s annoying, I’ve already had it happen), and I’ve already gone over my preference for the aisle to get on/off quickly. “I’m sorry, no, not really, I much prefer the aisle.”  I reply.  She’s a bit miffed.  She wants me to move so her and rock-a-billy can have an empty seat in their row.  Seriously?  This ain’t gonna be my day.  Over the next several hours, these two people go to the bathroom 7 times.  I’m not joking.  She goes to the bathroom 4 times, and he goes 3 times.  Each time I have to get completely up into the aisle with my clumsy hand and whatnot.  I hate them both.

So I never check baggage because that slows you down at the airport.  I’m waiting for my bag to show up, and waiting, and waiting.  It finally comes down the conveyor and I dash to the shuttle bus for the rental cars.  Worst fears are confirmed when I hit the rental car office.  The line is 15 people deep for cars.  Sigh.   Ok, I pop out my phone and notice I’m 100 emails back now that I’ve been flying all day.  We slowly inch along towards the obligatory rental counter questions.  While I’m waiting, I see there’s 3 people working the counter.  One of them is an inhuman machine.  He’s pumping people out.  Step up, License and Credit card, punches through his pc – off you go.  One of them looks like they’d rather set their hair on fire than be working at a rental car place, but is moving people along.  One of the clerks has been working with a trio of Europeans since I got online, and is still working with the same trio as the line dwindles down.  The machine next to him has processed 5 people, 6 people, 8 people… the dolt is still talking with the Europeans… explaining insurance, and options, and asking about their family history, and what they plan on doing in Los Angeles.

You know what happens.  I get to the front of the line, and the dolt is free.  “Next” he calls.  Dammit.  The other two attendants have literally processed 15 customers in the time this guy got through one.  I step up to him, “no interest in an upgrade, no insurance, I’ll fill the tank myself… here’s my license and credit card, and I want a GPS”.  I gave him everything he needed in one sentence.  He doesn’t need to ask me any questions, he has the answers, but the GPS throws him.  He punches some numbers into the computer and looks at it funny.  I’m not panicking yet.  The machine next to him has already processed the woman behind me on line and is calling for another person.  The dolt says he has to go get a GPS and disappears behind a door.  I wait.  The machine processes that second person while I’m waiting and calls for a third.  The dolt returns with a GPS and pulls it out to punch a serial number in the computer.  He looks at the screen funny again.  “this one’s not in the system, let me get another,”… he leaves behind the door, again.  The machine is finishing up customer #3 now.  The dolt returns and does the SAME THING again.  Punches in the number, looks at the screen funny, and says he needs to go find a new GPS.  He leaves AGAIN to get a third GPS unit.  I want to cry.  The machine calls for the 4th customer while I’ve been standing there.  I’m not kidding.

The dolt returns and cannot get this THIRD gps unit entered into the system.  Now he’s looking for help.  I can’t help him, I don’t work here.  He asks the machine for assistance.  The machine told him to hold a minute while he finishes the fourth customer during the time I’ve been standing with the dolt.  When he’s done, he comes over, takes the GPS, and literally punches a handful of things into the computer, “you’re all set,” he says and returns to his desk.  “What did you do?” asks the dolt.  “Sometimes you have to be careful about entering the numbers,” says the machine tactfully.  The machine looks at me apologetically.  I sigh.

Keys in hand I trudge to my rental car.  The dolt is very nice and actually apologetic, but still a dolt.  6 people behind me in line have been processed and left while I was with the dolt for what seemed like an eternity.  Yes indeed, work travel is glamorous.

Going to Battle

“How many times should I have to ask you to do something?”  This is something I’ve been saying a lot to my daughter lately.  Kiki knows that the answer to this question is once.  Although she knows, in theory, that I should only have to ask her to do something once, practicing this concept is a whole different story.

We’ve been butting heads on this matter a lot lately.  It seems like every day we go to battle.  I ask her to do something.  She seemingly ignores me.  I ask her again, pointing out that I already asked her once and that she should listen.  She ignores me again.  This time I pull out the ultimatum – if she doesn’t do what I’ve asked, she will lose some sort of privilege.  She still does not do it.  So she loses her privilege.  Then she scrambles to comply with my original request in order to win back what she lost.  I tell her that it is too late to win back her privilege and that next time she should listen when I ask her to do something.  Then Kiki storms into her playroom and sulks.

This battle certainly doesn’t happen every time I ask her to do something.  Oftentimes if she doesn’t listen the first time I ask her to do something, she will comply if I bust out my go-to line of, “how many times should I have to ask you to do something?”  But it does seem like almost every day we have to go through the whole gamut over something.  It’s exhausting.

I wish I could figure out how to avoid these battles altogether.  Hubby says I give our daughter too many chances.  This could be true. But I don’t want to go to war with my daughter over everything.  There’s a reason that they say “pick your battles”.

My daughter lives on preschooler’s time.  This means that she feels no self-imposed sense of urgency when it comes to putting on her shoes, washing up for dinner, putting on her pajamas, or anything else for that matter.  The urgency all comes from me.  So I feel like it’s not fair for me to expect her to immediately drop what she’s doing every time I say “jump”.

To compensate for the fact that I’m always asking her to stop doing what she wants to do in order to do something that I want her to do, I give her a heads-up when she’ll have to transition soon.  Then I give her a time countdown.  This helps, but it doesn’t eliminate all of our battles.

A lot of our blowouts are related to getting out of the door to get somewhere at a certain time.  It doesn’t seem to matter if my daughter wakes up at 6:30 in the morning or at 8:30, I still struggle to get her to preschool by 9.  To deal with this particular situation, I’ve recently been trying to double my lead time for getting us out the door.  If I know it’ll take us 15 minutes to get somewhere, I try to get us out the door 30 minutes ahead of time.  I’m hoping that this new strategy will give me some cushion so that Kiki can move at her own pace a little more without me getting upset.

I soldier on.  I’m trying my best to avoid backing us both into a corner.  I’m trying to be laid-back so Kiki can have some freedom.  And I’m also trying to figure out the secret to getting Kiki to realize that when Mommy uses her “serious” voice that she should listen up.  If I figure out how to do this last thing, I’ll make sure to let you all in on the secret.

Dear You, Love Me

Recently I saw this link cycling around facebook:  http://carolynee.net/a-letter-from-a-working-mother-to-a-stay-at-home-mother-and-vice-versa/

I liked the idea.  Its intent seemed to be one of support and non-judgment.  Something about it rubbed me the wrong way, though, and it took me a couple of days to realize that it seemed that both mothers were talking to the other as if they were always at their best.  Something along the lines of “I know you made the choice you made for all the right and best reasons and while you are either working or at home you are doing it perfectly.”  So I started to think of my own version and here it is – from one mother to another.  Love to you all…

Dear You,

I am so fucking tired.  Are you so fucking tired?  Let’s just rest our eyes for a moment and then acknowledge the mom in each other.  We are both moms and being a mom is fun, and hard, and all-consuming and a primary role.  I’m certain that we both take it very seriously and that nothing in the world is more important than our kids.  I’ll make you a deal – I promise not to hold you up to a perfect standard and you do the same for me.  We’re so imperfect.  Let’s be imperfect together.  Better yet – let’s show our kids, our partners, and the world how imperfect we are so we can take a deep breath and step out from under the anvil of pressure put on us every day to be supermom.  I don’t want to be supermom.  I don’t want you to be supermom.  I just want to support each other.  I want to be kind to you when you’ve got disheveled hair, mismatched socks and a toddler hanging on your hip while you try to push the stroller through a door with one arm and a foot.  Let me open the door for you.  I want you to be kind to me when I use my “very annoyed” voice because my older daughter has said the same thing 15 times in a row while my younger one smacks me in the face.  Shoot me a “can’t young children be the most annoying ever sometimes?” look and wink.  Let’s try not to worry about who spends how much time with whose children when and where.  Let’s try not to let our children carry the burden of reflecting our perfection.  Let’s just be friends.

With love,

Me

Selfish?

There are oh so many things that drive me crazy as a mom.  The list would be miles long if I had to type it all out.  But, recently, I think I’ve found the thing that drives me the absolute most crazy…the fact that whenever I am trying to do one of the three things I need to do to get ready in the morning in the bathroom (brush my teeth, brush/blow-dry my hair and put my face cream on), one or both of my children come into the bathroom with me and completely wreck the place while they know I’m distracted.

They unroll the toilet paper, take things out of the garbage, put things into the garbage that shouldn’t go into the garbage, put tissues and/or toilet paper that is unused into the toilet, remove all the Q-tips from the container, remove all the cotton balls from the container, attempt to use any one of the thousands of products we have in there that they shouldn’t use (deodorant, face cream, mouth wash, razors, tweezers, makeup, the list goes on and on), climb up onto the counter, climb up onto the toilet, jump on the scale, bang on the mirror, open every drawer and every cabinet, and just generally make the room into a living hell for me.

My bathroom is very, very tiny and I’m claustrophobic and I feel that I should be allotted 10 minutes (or less) to myself in there to do the three simple things I need to do.  So, this is a daily battle with my kids because they won’t stay out of the bathroom when I’m in there and, when I lock them out, they spend those ten minutes on the other side of the door screaming and crying as if someone is murdering them with an ax.  Thank goodness we don’t live in an apartment building anymore because I’m sure someone would have called CPS on me by now.

So, I can either lock them out and listen to the screaming and crying while I’m trying to get ready and not let it upset me (which seems impossible), or I let them come into the bathroom and I yell at them for ten minutes about the myriad of things they’re doing that they’re not supposed to be doing.  I’ve tried putting on a video or TV show for them while I get ready but they somehow inherently know what’s going on and – at least my little one – find their way to the bathroom anyway.

It drives me absolutely bonkers every morning.  The only way I’ve ever not had this be a problem is if I manage to blow-dry/brush my hair and put my face cream on while my husband is still home and then I brush my teeth in the kitchen sink – no joke – later.  

I don’t know how many of you watch Parenthood.  If you don’t, you should.  It’s truly a great TV show.  Last week, one of the adult children accused his (life-long) SAHM of being selfish.  She responded with, “Selfish?  Okay, let me put this into some perspective for you.  I spent over 30 years of my life taking care of four kids.  Some of whom are still living in my house and coming home for lunch.  And I spent most of my adult life compromising myself and what I want for your father.  I have always put myself second, or third, or fourth or fifth or sixth.  I’ve cooked your dinners.  I have packed you school lunches.  I have driven you to play dates and practice and done your laundry well past when I should have.  And now, when I assert one thing that I want, one thing, you and your dad and everyone else can’t take it.  So, that’s selfish?  Excuse me.”

YES.  Yes, yes, yes, and more yes.  I am using that speech someday.

One Armed Bandit

A couple weeks ago I was walking our dog in the morning when I was attacked by ninjas in the woods near our house… no wait, that didn’t happen. I was walking our dog in the woods when Vladimir Putin invaded Cambridge and I had to fend off a squad of Russian paratroopers with my bare hands… no, that’s not right. I was walking our dog in the woods when I encountered a robotic sasquatch that I had to battle hand to hand Steve Austin style… no, that’s not it. Ok. I was walking our dog when I slipped on some ice and broke my wrist.

Slipping on ice is not exactly a glamorous story. The whole incident makes me feel both clumsy and old at the same time… like I should be doing Calcium pill commercials to avoid brittle bones in my golden years… At the time I thought I had just jammed my hand but as the pain grew I knew I had done something to it… a quick trip to the local ER confirmed my suspicions and has left me in a splint from the top of my knuckles to my elbow for the last two weeks. As you might imagine, parenting with one arm has become a bit of a challenge.

When I first returned from the ER, Little Miss was quite intrigued with the bandage on my arm. She built her own version with paper and scotch tape, and signed her initials on my wrist. Little Miss Junior has been a tad more difficult. LMJ has been in a bit of a clingy phase, demanding to be carried quite a bit. She’s not talking much yet, but more words are coming, and lately ‘up’ has been a constant demand, as she looks up at you and wonders why you’re not carrying her from the kitchen to the living room. She doesn’t understand why Daddy has the new bandage on his arm, and generally she tries to unwind it and remove the bandage clamps than heed my instructions of ‘gentle honey, please don’t do that’.

She’s also recently decided that diaper changes are a terrible inconvenience, and often wages her own personal takedown defense against the would-be cleanup crew. Changing the diaper of a squirming, kicking 16 month old with one arm immobilized has been an exercise in creative restraint whilst trying not to scatter the contents of her last few meals across myself and the floor. Good times. I await my visit to the orthopedist later this week, for the verdict on how my wrist is healing. With any luck I won’t fall and break a hip on the way over the Doctor’s office.

Piggy Bank Woes

Readers, I have come across a parenting “issue” that I’m not sure how to handle, and neither is my husband.  Would you all be kind enough to weigh in?

Here’s the thing:

My four year old daughter was born in late November.  So, near the end of the year, she gets LOTS of stuff between her birthday and Christmas, and then there is a long, long stretch of time where she doesn’t get much of anything.  We are not the sort of people who buy her toys just because.  For one thing, we don’t have the money for that.  For another, she has PLENTY of toys.  She has enough toys for four kids.  Seriously.

But, she has come into the age where she wants things.  She sees them in the store, or at a friend’s house, and she wants them.  She has quite a lot of money in her piggy bank because we’ve given her all of our change over the years and put every gift of money she’s ever gotten in there.  So, for awhile now, I’ve been making her find out how much the item she wants costs, and we have literally gone into her piggy bank and taken money out and used it to buy the items.  It’s been working out just fine.  She’s learning about money, and I don’t have to spend my money on things I don’t think she needs.

Well, soon, she’s not going to have enough money in her piggy bank left to buy the things she wants (let me tell you, she has expensive taste!).  We’re not quite there yet, but we will be soon.  So, my question is, what do I do then?  I didn’t get an allowance as a child, and I don’t really believe in an allowance.  I think it is the responsibility of everyone in the house to help out.  I think that we – her parents – cloth her and feed her and keep her warm in winter and cool in the summer and so she has to pitch in.  It’s just her duty as our child and a member of this house.  And she does “help” already.  Of course everything she does needs A LOT of assistance from an adult and it always takes FOREVER for her to do her “chore,” but she does get some stuff done.  

But, I have to figure out a way to pay her (I guess?), for the things she does do, even if it is in a small way.  I was thinking maybe I could make her a sticker chart and every time she completes a “chore” successfully without (much) help, she’d get a sticker and then maybe each sticker is worth $0.25 (or some other small amount)?  So then I could deposit that money in her piggy bank and she could keep using her own money to buy the things she wants.  Does this sound reasonable?  Does anyone have any other ideas or something that has worked for you?

I’d love to hear your comments here or on Facebook 🙂

Happy March to all of you!