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Sadness and selfishness

My family lives mostly on the West Coast, and I live in the East.  Although my Grandpa has been sick for a few years, he has taken a turn for a worse.  I don’t want to go into details other than to say that he’s reached a point where family members are flying out to visit him this week.

When my dad told me about his travel plans, my first thought was about my schedule.  Then my stomach sank.  I was so incredibly selfish and guilty over asking myself “when would be the most convenient,” other than dropping everything and saying “Yes, I’ll be there.” Is this terrible of me? I don’t know.  But it feels terrible.

I am flying out to visit.  I leave Friday evening and return on a redeye Sunday night to Monday morning.  Mr. Beez and Baby Beez aren’t coming with me.  I would love for Grandpa to get to hear Baby Beez giggle and kiss her chubby cheeks, but flying with her right now is a complete nightmare.  I can’t handle the stress of a 48 hour cross-country turnaround trip, on top of five plus hours of nonstop screaming, flailing toddler.  I just can’t do it.  And for that I feel selfish, too.

I moved from Lancaster, CA to Pittsburgh, PA when I was 17 years old to attend college.  I was a kid.  I was eager to be independent.  I wanted to be somewhere new and exciting and different.  A few times I considered returning back to Southern California, but as easy as it is to live in Pittsburgh, it’s difficult to live in Los Angeles.  I have limited professional contacts in Los Angeles, but many in Pittsburgh.  There’s no way my husband and I could afford to buy a house in Los Angeles, but housing is affordable in Pittsburgh.  My husband’s family lives in Pittsburgh.  We decided to stay here.  And for that decision, I feel selfish, too.  I haven’t been able to drive my Grandpa to his doctor appointments, or make dinner for them, or even just give my Grandma a hug when she’s feeling stressed.  I understand now why people move back to their hometowns after college.  I didn’t.  And for that, I feel like I’ve abandoned my grandparents.

I do my best to send letters from time to time, and send pictures, and call.  My Grandpa’s hearing has been gone for so long that I can’t talk to him on the phone, I can only talk to my Grandma and ask her to relay messages for me.  I’ve visited them a handful of times over the last few years, and have gotten to talk to him personally then, but those times have been few and far between.  I’m trying to make the best I can out of the situation.  I’ll be taking several videos of Baby Beez over the next few days, and hopefully Grandpa will be able to see them on my computer.

3

“The War on Only Children”

Mary Elizabeth Williams published a thought provoking piece last week on Salon.com entitled “The War on Only Children.”  Her title overstates the point of the piece–it’s not genuinely about aggression toward only children.  It’s about people making assumptions about other people and saying obnoxious things to them…which could also be called “the entire internet.”

Williams laments how only she is frequently confronted by well-intentioned but ignorant people who make exaggerated assumptions about her personality because she is an only child.  People are quick to assume she’s self-centered, ill socialized, and doesn’t work well with others.  She goes on to explain that she, like most other only children, is–gasp—normal.

Not being an only child, I was never confronted by this particular stripe of assumptions.  I’m the only girl and the oldest of 4, and have had people assume that I am over-achieving, bossy, and self-centered…which I am. So no surprise there.  This could explain why I’ve never been much bothered by people making assumptions about my personality based on my birth order.

Mr. Beez is an only child.  He’s not extremely outgoing, but that’s likely more attributable to him being a computer geek than to not having siblings.  He’s certainly patient and good at sharing.  Every time the poor guy gets himself a soda, I steal it from him, and he never complains.  He’s much better at sharing than I am, and I’m the one with all the brothers.

Mr. Beez and I are somewhat vocal about our intention for Baby Beez to remain an only child.  I acknowledge that the entire universe doesn’t care about the size of our family, but I’ve noticed that as soon as you have one kid, everyone keeps asking you when you’re having the next.  They get pretty confused when you say “we aren’t.”

I’ve heard so much about how only children are maladjusted, or how they’re not well socialized.  It’s reassuring to hear someone like Williams speak out and say “Um, No. We’re fine.”  And Baby Beez for sure is well socialized and adaptable.  Kids are people, not puppies.  You don’t have to have a bunch of them so they can “keep each other company.”  Baby Beez is, and will be, continue to be surrounded with love and friends, and she’ll be a-ok.

1

Rough night

I left work a little early yesterday, and was very excited that the weather was dry and fairly warm (high 40s). I planned to pick up Baby Beez from daycare, bundle her up in a hat and blanket, and take her for a nice long walk in the stroller on the Jail Trail.

She was whiny when I picked her up from daycare, but this was to be expected because she had just awoken from her nap.  By the time I got her home, it was clear she wasn’t feeling right.  She was a little warm and extra whiny.  All she wanted was to cuddle with me, suck her thumb, and moan.  We skipped the walk and stayed home.  She curled up with me for the rest of the afternoon and evening, occasionally sipping her juice.

an old picture of a snoozing Baby Beez

As the evening progressed, so did her fever.  She usually goes to bed around 7:30, but I let her snuggle with me and sleep as I watched a movie.  I finally put her in her bed around 10.  Throughout the night, she woke up every 1.5 to 2 hours.  Her fever was in the 101 range, and she had occasional “shudders” which woke her up and made her cry.  I did give her tylenol every 4 hours, but it seemed to wear off after about 2.  When she’d wake up, I’d snuggle with her and rub her back and try to get her to calm down.  I felt so bad, because I was doing everything I could for her, but she still didn’t feel well.  Finally around 4am, the fever wore off, and we did get a good stretch of sleep from 5 to 8:30. She’s not 100% now, but she’s doing considerably better. She’s interested in eating and in her toys, and I have a feeling once she wakes up from her afternoon nap, she’ll be full of energy and happy again.

When Baby Beez was a newborn, this waking up every 2 hours thing was a daily occurrence.  We’ve been extremely lucky in that she’s been sleeping through the night since she was about 4 months old.  It’s been almost a year since she’s woken up at night with any regularity. I am not used to this waking up at night thing, and consequently am feeling extra-rough today.

One Christmas when I was a kid, my 3 brothers and stepmom got the stomach flu.  My dad and I were lucky to avoid that plague.  My dad stayed up all night doing 16 loads of laundry, then as dawn broke, he put the turkey in the oven.  I think he and I were the only ones physically capable of even eating dinner that year.  That was a Christmas to remember. My dad likes to retell the story of that Christmas, but he never does so with bitterness.  He always retells it like a joke, and laughs heartily.

I’m constantly surprised by how love can convince you to do something that really, really sucks.  There are few people I would give up a night of sleep for, just to rub their back and try to soothe them.  I am even more surprised by Mr. Beez, who constantly tolerates all kinds of absurd things for me, just because he loves me. I’ve dragged him through countless movies, events, and concerts he’s in no way interested in, and he tolerates it without complaint because he loves me (or because he’s a sucker).

Here’s to hoping you have a healthy New Year’s, surrounded by the ones you love!

1

New Year’s fun!

It’s almost New Year’s Eve! Time for celebration!

Over the last several years, Mr. Beez and I have had a tradition of going out to fancy dinner with our friends Sandy and Ben.  We’ve been to several different restaurants, but last year we had so much fun at Ibiza that we’ve decided to go there again!  We have an old-people early dinner reservation, but that works best for all involved, since we have young children (they at home with babysitters–this is a grown up dinner, yum Sangria!)  In years past, Mr. Beez and I have followed up the dinner by going to a NYE party or other such fun.  This year we’re going to be extra glamorous and return home, put on sweatpants, drink champagne, and probably watch a movie. 

For as long as I can remember, my family’s New Year’s Day tradition has been to eat cinnamon rolls (usually Cinnabon), drink hot chocolate, and watch the Rose Parade on TV. 

One year we actually trekked it down to watch the Rose Parade in person, and decided that it’s not worth the hassle. It’s better on TV, plus you don’t have to get up at 4am to take a bus to Pasadena with 60 retirees.

Each year we carry on the tradition.  Since Cinnabon doesn’t exist anywhere in Pittsburgh (why?), I often pick up cinnamon rolls from Dozen.  They are truly the best in the city, although I do have a certain fondness for My Goodies Vegan Bakery’s Cinnamon Buns .  I am also known to bake a mean cinnamon roll, but I admit it’s not a recipe of my own design.  For my “secret” recipe, check out “Father’s Cinnamon Rolls” on About.com’s article “In Search for the Ultimate Cinnamon Roll Recipe”

I would someday like to attend the First Night Pittsburgh NYE celebration.  For this former-California-Girl, the prospect of voluntarily being outside at night in the winter is not an appealing one for me.  Maybe some year when the weather forecast says “warm and dry” I will check it out.

What are your New Year’s plans?

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The Hanukkah Box and Family Traditions

The Hanukkah box is an open cardboard box, wrapped inside and out in Hanukkah paper, where we put our Hanukkah presents.  Our Hanukkah box has the silver paper with the Stars of David, but as you can see, we went overboard with the presents, and they don’t all fit in the box.  The Hanukkah box we had growing up had off-white paper with gold and blue decorations…I can’t remember if they were menorahs or Stars of David.  When I was little, I thought the paper on the Hanukkah box was special,  because I had never seen any other present wrapped in that paper (I later, in my infinite wisdom, figured out that the reason for that was probably because my parents used up that roll of wrapping paper long before I paid much attention to it).

As a kid, We had the same Hanukkah box from year to year.  There was something special and magical about that cardboard box.  This makes a lot of sense because a Hanukkah box is a pain in the backside to wrap.  We don’t have any storage space to keep a Hanukkah box from year to year, so I deal with the wrapping hassle and wrap a new one every year.

My mom loves the Hanukkah box, and especially loves family traditions, so I asked her to share her thoughts and memories.

BeezusKiddo: Where did the idea of the Hanukkah box come from?  

Mom of BeezusKiddo: When I was young, I remember getting one gift each night of Hanukkah.  The gifts were generally small, such as socks or chocolate gelt (coins), but there was always something each night.  We didn’t have a Hanukkah box, my mom brought out a gift each night.  When you and your brother were old enough to understand the concept of “eight days, eight gifts”, I thought it would be fun for each of you to choose the gift that you wanted to open each night.  So I created the “Hannukah Box.”  Most of the gifts were small, and  I came up with some gifts that were always in the box – a book, something related to Judaism, a calendar. Then there were the gifts from each of your “lists”.

The box also gave us a festive place to put the gifts.  It was nicer than just setting them in a corner or on the table.

BeezusKiddo: What are your favorite memories of family traditions? 
Mom of BeezusKiddo: My favorite memories of all holidays have to do with music.  For Hanukkah, making latkes and playing the dreidle game was a lot of fun; of course I really liked getting presents!  But we (my mom and sisters and I) knew a lot of different Hanukkah songs, and we always sang them after lighting the candles and before we exchanged gifts.

My most favorite memories are of Passover.  As tedious as it was, I did enjoy getting the house ready for the holiday.  We would change all the dishes (from the every day dishes to the Passover dishes), and then we would “kasher” all of the pots and pans, tableware, and utensils.  This was done by boiling water mixed with kosher salt, and then either putting the items in the boiling water or pouring the water over the items.  And I loved making the food for the seder with my mom.  We used an old fashioned manual food grinder to make charoset (like the one pictured here)  Prago Deluxe Heavy Duty Meat Grinder
The best memory is that of the seder itself.  There were all the traditional elements, always including lots of singing throughout the seder.  After my sister and I went to camp, we would do the complete grace after meals.  And we always completed the seder – right to the fourth cup of wine, and saying “Next year in Jerusalem!”

One year when I was a teenager, we invited a number of our non-Jewish friends, and after the meal, we all went into the courtyard of our apartment and danced the hora and sang songs from “Fiddler on the Roof.”  That is probably my most favorite holiday memory from my childhood.
BeezusKiddo:  What tradition are you most looking forward to sharing with Baby Beez?
Mom of BeezusKiddo: I guess one of my favorite traditions I’d like to share with Baby Beez is that of music.  There are so many holiday songs, and music is a wonderful way to express the joy of holidays.  Of course making matzoh ball soup and charoset at Passover, and making latkes for Chanukah are wonderful traditions as well.

However, my absolute favorite tradition is one that I started with you and your brother when you about 9 years old. The tradition of saying 2 good things that happened each day, and saying a “bracha” or blessing before the dinner meal each night.  Do you remember – it always had to be phrased in the “positive”, that is, not “I didn’t have anything awful happen to me”, but rather,  I had a great lunch, or I got to see my friend, or I got a great book from the library.  I felt that this tradition gave us all a chance each day to focus on the positive things in our lives, no matter how small that thing might seem.  I still do that each evening, and plan to share that tradition with Baby Beez whenever possible.
What are your favorite family traditions?