Thursday, January 31, 2013

To the Snow!

Sometime in December my four-year-old became enchanted with an episode of "Caillou" in which the lovable bald titular character spent an afternoon frolicking in the snow.

My boy, born and raised in LA, is largely unfamiliar with all things wintry. He loved watching Caillou skating, throwing snowballs, and most of all making snow angels. The next day he spent hours in a pair of socks "skating" around the living room and throwing play dough at his brother's head yelling,

"Watch out for the snowball!!"

A week later, as we sat watching our boy in the back yard making angels in the dirt below the swing set, I turned to my spouse and announced with absolute certainty,

"We need to take that boy to find some snow."

And so it was that last Saturday we found ourselves traversing Interstate 15 North heading for the snowy wonderland of Wrightwood, California.

I booked a motel room so we could maximize snowy fun time, and we hit up friends and neighbors to outfit ourselves for our cold weather jaunt. By the time we actually packed up the minivan the kids were pretty much out of their minds with excitement

All week the kids had been leaping from their beds each morning shouting,

"Is today the day we are going to the snow?"

And finally -- Finally! -- that day had arrived. We drove a little over an hour to the turnoff for the Angeles Crest Highway -- anxious for our snowy adventure to begin. But as we rounded bend after bend on our way to Wrightwood there was not a snowflake to be seen. 

I crossed my fingers that as we continued to head upwards we would eventually happen upon a magically-appearing winter wonderland.

This was not the case. 

As we puled into downtown Wrightwood I was forced to accept the reality that the entire place was decidedly SNOW FREE. Apparently a week of rain had decimated the snows of December and left behind in its wake piles and piles of mud. 

The first wail from the backseat snapped me to attention,


I instructed my husband to keep driving up the mountain. I was determined not to stop the car until we encountered some flakes of a wintry nature.

And so we pressed upwards, passing sign after foreboding sign:
OK, I made up the last one but you get the basic idea.

About two miles further up the hill we located a patch of snow roughly the size of a football field crammed with about three hundred other families in their own desperate search for winter fun. We hustled the kids into some snow gear and rushed to fight for a spot.

The kids sprang from the van to frolic in what was, let's be honest, a field of slush littered with sticks and patches of earth, but we made do as best we could. We managed to throw snowballs at one another, we bought a twenty dollar sleigh and took a few runs down the muddy little hill, and we even managed to beat some other families off a large enough patch of snow to make a 12-inch tall snowman.

About twenty minutes into the frivolity the youngest members of our party began to get cold and we headed back for the van. We grabbed some hot chocolate, headed for shelter, and spent the next 14 hours trying to manage 2 adults and 3 children four and under in a tiny motel room full of tchotchkes. 

...which wasn't all that fun.

The next morning as we headed down the hill David and I were exhausted. We'd put in over three hours of drive time, spent several hundred dollars in food and motel fees, and experienced some serious internal wear and tear on our already well-seasoned minivan. In every meaningful sense, our "snow vacation" had been kind of a bust.

But then we started listening to the boys as they talked in the backseat:

"My favorite part was making snow angels!"

"Mommy hit me with a snowball!"

"I want to have hot chocolate everyday!"

and it occurred to us that for them, the trip had been a wild success. 

Their lack of familiarity with snow had worked to our advantage. They didn't know that we hadn't found "the right kind of snow." They couldn't have been happier if we'd brought them to Antarctica. And we had the pictures to prove it.

As I write this my kids are out in the backyard pretending to be cold and "sledding" down the slide repeatedly.

It may be a slight stretch but I'm moving the entire weekend into the "PARENTING WIN" column.

We take 'em where we can find 'em.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Twos. I'm Terrible at Them.

It has been almost 16-months since my firstborn was a two-year-old.

During that stretch I had somehow managed to obliterate from my memory exactly how absurd living day-to-day with a two-year-old really is. But, with my second son now hitting the two-and-a-half year mark, I can safely say, like Celine Dion before me, It's All Coming Back, It's All Coming Back to Me Now!

Just this past week I have found myself on the receiving end of tantrums on the following subjects:

  • I lost the car you warned me I'd lose if I brought it to the store.
  • This hot chocolate - it's hot!
  • Make the baby stop looking at me!
  • I don't see any helicopters. I want to see one RIGHT NOW!!!
  • There is something in my nose! It's boogers!
One thing that is awfully familiar this time around is the sensation of being ground down into a fine powder by my two-year-old's seemingly unending stream of irrationality. As a result, I find myself at times rendered frozen by a fear of setting my toddler off by doing something upsetting like, for example, failing to produce appropriately-pleasing aircraft in the skies with my mind. Such anxiety can result in an overwhelming temptation to do pretty much anything in my power to avoid these recurring tempests.

When I had only one child, I was fairly good about resisting this impulse. I was consistent in my blank-facing of bad behavior, I used timeouts judiciously, and I had a zero-tolerance policy for hitting or biting.

And that worked pretty well.

But that two-year-old is now four, and I'm dealing with him and the aforementioned new two-year-old along with an 11-month-old baby. This set of circumstances is making me extremely vulnerable to succumbing to my two-year-old's shriekingly expressed will.

When I am trying, for example, to soothe the teething baby while making dinner as I simultaneously attempt to supervise my four-year-old as he tries out his new two-wheeler in the driveway, I often find that I lack the will to confront my two-year-old when I spy him walking by holding a butter knife that he has made off with from the silverware drawer.

This is NOT because I think it is advisable to have an armed toddler in the home. It is, rather, because I am weighing the hell storm that will reign down upon me in the midst of all else I am trying to accomplish should I attempt to pry it from his tiny paws.

So sometimes instead I give in to the small voice in my head that whispers soothingly,

"That knife your toddler has isn't even that sharp! Why make a big fuss?"


Look, I don't recommend a policy of appeasement when it comes to handling the terrible twos, I'm merely admitting that I sometimes find myself guilty of pursuing one. And I can only hope that perhaps this admission will help you take heart that if you sometimes find yourself following the "path of peace" instead of the "path of sound parenting choices," you are not alone. 

Just last night my husband and I were struggling to get all three kids to bed. The baby was overtired and crabby, and our sons were coming down hard off an afternoon birthday party sugar rush. When I overheard my husband gently attempting to stop our two-year-old from banging a large hole in the wall of his bedroom with a hammer he'd stolen from the toolbox, my only reaction was to shout loudly,

"Please don't antagonize him! I can't deal with the consequences right now!"

Folks, when you have three kids sometimes the path of least resistance can be too tempting to ignore.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Brrrrrr. It's Cold Out Here.

It's cold in LA.

And listen, I'm not looking for sympathy from you folks who live in places where it's like 8 degrees. All I'm trying to convey is that for Southern California it is COLD.

But you don't have to take it from me! You can take it from Cathy Hoxie! Of the National Weather Service in Oxnard!

Hoxie said temperatures in Los Angeles could drop to the upper 30s, with the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys dipping farther to the mid-30s.

But even those predictions "seem a little warm," Hoxie said, adding that she "wouldn't be surprised" if the forecast was adjusted to lower temperatures.
"Saturday morning is probably going to be pretty darn cold," Hoxie said.

Let me tell you something Cathy Hoxie! You were really onto something there! It was, in fact, PRETTY DARN COLD on Saturday and then again on Sunday! 

As I sense, dear readers, that I have yet to gain your full sympathies, please allow me to explain a few things about cold weather in Los Angeles.

When one moves to LA, especially when one moves from the East Coast in January, one goes through a joyful ritual of purging everything in one's wardrobe that is remotely warm. There is a gleeful discarding of puffy coats, a giddy bringing of snow boots to Goodwill, and a merry gifting of mittens and scarves to the friends and relations you are leaving behind for warmer climates.

Then, free of all these warmth-giving items, you buy a house. You notice that the windows of said home don't exactly close. That, there are in fact, small gaps between the window panes and the walls. But you think to yourself, "No big deal! The cracks are pretty small! And who cares anyway. It's SO NICE HERE!" 

You go on to have three children. You are gifted lots of adorable clothes for them and manage to procure some hand-me-downs. At no point do you worry about buying things like hats or mittens or scarves or coats because you have been led to believe that the place you have chosen to live is, you know, WARM.

Then a week comes along and it is 35 degrees in the morning with a daily high in the mid-50s and you find yourself, to say the least, unprepared.

Your lovely Southern California home is transformed into a frozen chamber of horrors. The heater, designed to fight off temperatures no higher than the mid-60's, cannot possibly keep up. Your breath is showing at the dinner table and the children are yelling, 

"Mommy, please make this cold go away!"

repeatedly as you attempt to drag them from their beds each morning.

You find yourself shivering in your usual school drop-off getup of t-shirt, jeans and flip-flops as you huddle with your fellow blue-lipped Mommies desperately trying to will the pre-school teacher to open the door with your mind.

My children, born and raised in LA, are completely unfamiliar with concept of winter-wear. They refuse to keep mittens or hats on for more than 30 seconds at a time and are then flummoxed when their hands and feet begin to ache from the cold. 

None of this is helped by our aforementioned lack of appropriate wintertime gear. 

Yes, this is a photo of my child wearing a terrycloth robe in lieu of a winter coat.

And I suppose I could do the responsible thing. I could winterize our windows. I could invest in space heaters to keep the kids warm at home. I could certainly make a Target run and stock up on fuzzy mittens, down coats, and all the accessories of the season.

But I think instead we'll just hunker down and try to wait out this long, dark winter of Southern California....

....because it's supposed to be 80 by Friday.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Christmas Crash

Christmas is so often called "The most wonderful time of the year".

Less advertised is the period that immediately follows, known in many circles as "The least wonderful, darkest, coldest, and most hated time of the year in which no one brings you presents and did we mention it's cold?".

This period begins on January 2nd and ends, depending upon the climate in which you live, sometime between the beginning of Daylight Savings Time and Easter.

The official beginning of the Christmas season is, of course, the trimming of the tree. 

has a similar kick-off event -- the taking down of the holiday decorations.

The putting up of the Christmas tree and ensuing decor is super-fun. It involves merry carols piping through the iPod, yummy cookie-based snacking, and general smileyness.

The LWDCandMHToftheYIWNOBYP(DWMIC?) de-decorating is not quite as much fun. Instead it is categorized by music-free drudgery, sober countings of the number of cherished family heirloom ornaments your children have destroyed throughout the season, and the occasional melancholy crunching of a carrot stick, as you've by this point promised yourself that your New Year's Resolution will be to eat fewer than 63 cookies a day.

Last year the putting away of the Christmas decorations was largely ignored by my kids. This year, however, my four-year-old became wildly concerned when he saw the advent calendar headed back into its box.

FOUR-YEAR-OLD: What are you doing?
ME: Putting the Christmas things away.
ME: Because Christmas is over.
FOUR-YEAR-OLD: No!!! Christmas isn't over! Santa is coming back!!!!
(insert lengthy tantrum of the subject of Santa's imminent return)

We finally managed to get all the Christmas stuff into the storage area, talked the four-year-old down with lots of talk about his sister's upcoming birthday cake and settled down to some "Mom's lost any desire to cook" boxes of pizza.

I woke up the next morning resolute in the knowledge that the LWDCandMHToftheYIWNOBYP(DWMIC?) had begun.

We've got three months to go. Dark nights, pestilence-filled indoor playgrounds, and approximately 72,385 crock pot dinners. That's what we've got on our collective calendars, people.

And it is for this gloomy time that I will now share with you a thought that a friend of mine in college once gave me -- something I still consider to be one of the single greatest pieces of advice I have ever received:


I cannot overstate how well this advice has served me over the years.

Because by late February you've been trapped inside, holiday and hope-free, for at least several weeks. You've lost the will to go on, and this leaves you vulnerable to extremely poor decision making. It is at times like these when you may find yourself having thoughts like

We should start a bed and breakfast in Aruba!

You know, if I had another baby I'd get to lay down for a few hours while giving birth.

I think I'll track down my old high school boyfriend on Facebook.

This Homeland marathon has convinced me that I need to join the CIA.

Any and all such thoughts you have throughout the month of February must be ignored with extreme prejudice. TRUST ME.

It's just the LWDCandMHToftheYIWNOBYP(DWMIC?) talking...