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Good Manners and Kissing Necks

I like to think of myself as someone who has fairly good manners.

I chew with my mouth closed; I will pour other people wine first before finishing the bottle, I always say please and thank you and if I walk into a building and someone is behind me I will hold the door for them. But like with most things, good manners are not always straightforward.

For example, what are the rules when it comes to holding the door?  

  • How far away does the person behind you have to be for you to hold the door for them?
  • Is that distance variable depending on the weather? Surely, it should shrink when it’s too cold or too hot?
  • What are the expectations on the person for whom you are holding the door? Presumably they should pick up their pace right?
  • If they don’t and they are taking too long is it OK if you let go of the door and go in? But, by then that person is even closer so only an a$$** would let go of the door!?
  • Speaking of the person for whom the door is held, what if they want to take a slow stroll on their way to the building? Or their shoes are uncomfortable and can’t walk any faster? It doesn’t matter because there is the expectation that they have to pick up the pace otherwise they are being rude.

Another thing I struggle with is greeting people.  I’m Greek. So where I come from we kiss people on both cheeks for hello and good-bye. But now I live in America. Here people hug. Which is fine. If I see an American I am happy to hug them. The struggle is (…too much?) when I see other Europeans who now live in America. I expect them to kiss… so I go in for a kiss but some appear to be so acclimated that they go for a hug. Everything happens so fast that as they are going for the hug, I am going for a kiss and in the end they hug me while I end up kissing their neck…

I have kissed many necks that way, by accident, because I’m Greek, because I find it hard to let go of my Greek ways. So to all those people whose necks I have kissed I want to say: I didn’t mean anything by it… I was just being polite.

So I wonder, will kissing each-other’s neck become the new way to greet people in the future? If it does, I am here to tell you that it’s one of those things that started by accident, possibly because of clumsiness.

Just like I imagine pop-corn was discovered.

My daily parenting relay race

I never thought I would be using a sports metaphor to describe my life, but alas here I am (never thought I would be using the word alas either but anyway).

I have recently come to the realization that parenting is not all that dissimilar to a relay race (if you discount the perfectly toned bodies of actual relay runners, of-course).

The warm up begins when the baby is born and may last up to a year or even more:

At home:

“Can you hold the baby while I go to the bathroom/take a shower/ take a nap/ eat?”

At a restaurant:

“Baby is crying, want to hold her while I swallow my food without chewing and then we swap?”

On the plane:

“Want to hold the baby during take-off, I’ll hold her while you eat, then you hold her while I eat and I take her back for landing?”

(For those who can’t see symbolism the baby is the baton- you have to get it otherwise the whole relay race metaphor will make absolutely no sense.)

So after the warm-up period of passing the baby to each-other and others (hesitantly in the beginning and desperately eager later on) comes the race.

For me it works a bit like this:

Ready, set,

• Get up at 5am to exercise

• Stop by 6.15am, start preparing kindergartner’s lunch while getting breakfast ready for the kids and have some coffee and breakfast myself.

• Take a quick shower (so quick apparently that I don’t have time to shave my armpits, something that I discovered to my horror during a Barre class surrounded by a lululemon commercial…. Can I still play the feminist card? Surely it’s better than the overwhelmed mom card right?)

But I digress (which is why I could never win an actual relay race…?)

• Get kids up, take them downstairs for breakfast and pass them over to my husband

• Get back upstairs to get dressed, blow-dry hair and do make-up

• Have husband hand over kindergartner back to me to get her dressed and ready for school

• Hand husband clothes for preschooler while I walk kindergartner to the bus stop.

• Say goodbye to kindergartner while the bus-driver is now responsible for handing her over to her school teacher who, in turn, at the end of the day will hand her over to the aftercare teachers before they hand her back to us.

• Go back home where my husband and I decide who will take preschooler to school and who will be doing the afternoon pick-up.

• Take preschooler to daycare and pass him over to his teachers.

• Breathe a sigh of relief because the baton is now in someone else’s hands though you still need to keep moving in preparation for getting it back in eight to ten hours. (even the best and most devoted parents have to admit that there are mornings when they laugh as they speed away thinking “he’s your problem now suckers!”)

• Leave work to pick up baton/kids and go home where you give them dinner, do homework and play with them before baths, bedtime story and sleep. The baton passing here has to be a perfectly choreographed sprint because both runners/parents are acutely aware of the fact that the more efficiently we work together, the closer we are to the finish line.

Because that bottle of wine isn’t going to drink itself.

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The road trip

car1

People laughed when we told them we were driving from Chicago to South Carolina for our summer vacation.

“Your kids can stay in the car for that many hours?” they said.

“We’ll be fine,” we said, “we are going to take our time to get there, have a couple of overnight stops. It will be an adventure.”

And an adventure it was. (There’s a lot of yelling and throwing in adventures right?)

Besides, as Constantinos Kavafis, one of the greatest poets of my people, said: it’s not Ithaca but the journey to Ithaca that matters. (Especially if Ithaca is a beach in South Carolina- if you ask me!)

We had it all figured out:

– We planned to drive about 6 to 7 hours the first two days leaving us only 2 to 3 hours on the last day.

– Our route was pre-mapped with enough stops for bathroom and play breaks and we were staying at hotels with a pool so the kids could have some fun after spending most of the day strapped in their car seats.

– We had enough snacks for 3 hour stretches within reach of both children and emergency snacks (lollipops and candy) in the front.

– We went on an itunes shopping spree the night before, buying them all the shows they love, ensuring hours of entertainment.

– We got each of them Bluetooth headphones so they could watch their shows without annoying each-other and most importantly us.

So on Saturday morning, and only one hour behind schedule ,we got into our car and headed south. The music was good, the kids were watching their iPads; we were excited and optimistic about the future.

One hour later….

– The boy tried and dismissed all of the snacks.

– Took his headphones off and threw them on the floor at least seven times.

– Was tired of watching his iPad.

– And we were stuck in traffic on the Interstate just outside of Chicago.

I started to think that maybe this was a mistake, a 16 hour long mistake, each way….

the road trip
But then something wonderful happened. The boy fell asleep… for two hours. And like many children before him he was re-set after the nap.

The trip got better. He had his moments of “frustration” and my daughter did ask “how many more minutes until we get there?” more than just a couple of times.

Sure, there were times when we wished that, like a taxi, our car had a divider so that we could open a little window, quickly throw some snacks at the kids and close it to get back to some adult conversation. But we enjoyed the time together anyway. The route was beautiful for the most part and Satellite radio kept us entertained.

It was also an educational experience for all of us:

– We saw the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee and drove through an Indian Reservation.

– On our way back we spent some time in Savannah and explored the beautiful southern city, admired the Spanish moss trees that line every street and visited a beautiful historic cemetery with haunting statues.

– We learned that bugs have not evolved enough to stay off the high-way and my windshield at times looked like the site of a massacre.

– My daughter finally learned the right words to the song “Milkshake,” by Kelis, and no longer says “my milkshake is bad but it’s better than yours.”

– We discovered the song “Lonely women make good lovers” on one of the many (you guessed it) country stations that SiriusXM has to offer.

– We ate fried pickles, which taste just like regular pickles only they are really bad for you.

– Turns out my husband can say things like “don’t make me stop this car” and keep a straight face.

So would we do it again? Ask again in six to eight months.

21 ways small children are like old people

  1. Just like small children think you can’t see them when they close their eyes, old people think you can’t hear them when they fart

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2. If you mess up their routine, be prepared to suffer the consequences.

3. They like soft foods

4. They like to eat small frequent meals

5. They are always chewing on something even when there’s no food around.

6. They lack impulse control

7. They are often the source of suspicious/unpleasant smells

8. It takes them forever to get ready to go anywhere

9. They talk AT you, not TO you

10. They don’t have all their teeth

11. Their food is either too much, too little, too hot or too cold

12. They accuse other small children/old people of taking their stuff

13. They don’t listen/ can’t hear

14. They are loud

15. They put food they don’t want on your plate (even if it’s half-chewed)

16. They like to bring random items with them wherever they go (because one never knows when one will need a single glove)

17. They are self-entitled

18. When they are done with a telephone conversation they hang-up, no time for good-byes

19. They can get very grumpy, very quickly

20. They fall asleep as soon as they get into the car

21. They go to bed early and wake up before dawn

Turning 40 – what social media taught me about midlife crisis

I recently turned 40 along with many of my friends. This disturbing trend started a couple of years ago and, thanks to social media, I have been witnessing the various ways people deal with their midlife crises.

A great number of them have been fundraising for some race or another for example. I have contributed to a number of good causes (from cancer to autism) for friends’ 10k runs, marathons and triathlons. While I am happy to do it, a part of me wonders if I am effectively financing their midlife crises.

What happened to the good old days? Call me old-fashioned but I think the only person paying for one’s midlife crisis should be their partner. I think mine should pay for my new boobs.

In addition to trying to outrun middle-age (I currently average 40 miles per week), I have identified a few other categories thanks to facebook:

The narcissist
Facilitated by facebook this person has checked into more gyms, restaurants and events in a few months than during their entire social media presence. They may have a new look and are constantly posting pictures of themselves online because they look amazing (because of all that running) and they want the whole world to know. Caption for the pictures and on-line presence should read “fuck you 40! I still got it! (and I am looking for validation)”

The thrill seeker
This person admits to having a “death wish” and will try anything to challenge death from sky-diving and base-jumping to cliff-jumping and body-boarding and a lot of other extreme activities that I know very little about. If you ask me, excessive drinking and smoking would be a much more fun way to challenge death.

In denial
“Life begins at 40” is this person’s favourite mantra. What exactly begins at 40? mammograms and colonoscopies that’s what. I recently received a pretty brochure from my insurance company outlining all the things that could kill me now that I’m 40, all in a nice, easily digestible graph with appealing colours.

So if you ask me “deniers”, if anything begins at 40 it’s not life, it’s a countdown- just ask your doctor.

There are, I’m sure, many other ways people are dealing with entering middle age; more private ways (wink wink) , perhaps somewhat reflective or analytical and even slightly more depressing. Thankfully, those ways are not posted on facebook or twitter very often.

Regardless of the way we each choose to deal with this, however, there is one thing that most middle-age, middle-class people will agree on: at least we can afford better wine.

The mommy bubble, a bubble like any other

bubble

  • I am well versed in princess talk. I can name most, if not all princesses, and I use words like “coronation” and “magic’ almost on a daily basis

 

  • One cold winter day I had an entire conversation via text with someone quoting only lines from the movie “Frozen” (and that was a 38-year-old dad not a 7-year-old girl)

 

  • If I tell someone to let something go I am shocked when they don’t immediately break into song.

 

  • I have used the term “rogue poop” literally on more than one occasion.

 

  • I recognise most theme songs to popular cartoons and I often wonder where the fuck are Dora the Explorer’s parents? I mean that girl is running all over town with a monkey!

 

  • I know that most kids love to play family and argue over who gets to be the mommy – which is the opposite of most adults I know who wish they took a break from “playing family” and especially “playing mommy.”

 

  • I have spent considerable time “looking into” birthday venues and party favours when my own wedding took place at city hall and was followed by small lunch for nine of our closest family members.

 

  • I can’t remember the last time I went to the bathroom by myself

 

I expect most people to know what I’ve been talking about so far, but I suspect only a small percentage does- maybe 5- 10%?

I am a full-time mom of two children 5 and under. I love it and hate it but have come to accept that this will be my “bubble” for a while, a microcosm in which other moms of small children also reside. Those other moms may be very different than me but they know what I’m talking about and unlike everyone else will not be disgusted by “rogue poop’ incidents. Sharing these things with people outside the” bubble” is, of-course, embarrassing and will only be met with disgust and judgement.

This new bubble that I am in is not really that different to previous bubbles I inhabited. When I worked in science communications, for example, I assumed that everyone knew that the whole MMR controversy was just plain silliness (tragically they don’t) and that all well respected scientists had Rock-Star status for everyone- which (sadly for the scientists) they don’t.

So really, we are not all that different than the guy who watches too much porn. Just like we (the ones who live in the mommy bubble) expect everyone to start singing “do you want to build a snowman” every time it snows the porn guy expects everyone to want to have sex when he walks into a copy room.

He doesn’t know that out of all the people who walk into a copy room only about 3% are there to have sex. 92% are there to make legitimate copies and 5% just want to sit on the copier so they can make copies of their ass.

I wonder what that 5% bubble is like.