Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Breaking Up Via Text Message

Ugh, I am really sorry.  Have been getting emails from people asking what the HELL ever happened with The German and the party.  And I'm so embarrassed that I didn't follow up on my last post in a timely fashion.  I mean, there are acceptable cliffhangers, and then there are blatant attempts to drive people away from the blog by author inactivity.  Apologies!  Please come back!

So here's what happened.  The day before the German party, I texted the husband: sorry to bother you, it appears your wife is not speaking to me, am wondering if we are we still invited?  He, in what I took to be a cowardly move, did not reply.  Then the next morning (party day!), I received the following text from The German herself:

"First of all, not smart move contacting [Husband].  He would never discuss my issues with somebody else!  Second, I just realized that we are living in too different worlds, so I think it's better to stop this texting relationship and this being involved like before.  That doesn't mean that I am not talking to you anymore... Third, the girls are still invited, sure.  But if [Screamer] is still on [restricted] diet it will be difficult for her, there will be lots of candies all over the place."

From this I took the message that the *girls* were invited, but the girls only.  So I did what any spineless combatant would do: I sent the kids to the party with Daddy, and then sat upstairs and watched the whole celebration unfold through my bedroom window.  Daddy returned to report that, while The German went out of her way to say hello to the children standing at his side, she never uttered a single word to him.  Aargh!

I was surprised when, the next day, I received this text from The German:

"Thanks for joining the party and thanks a lot for the great coloring books, the girls love them much, we already started today!"

I didn't know how to respond (an exclamation point??) so I didn't (good thing, too, as I later realized that this was her version of a thank you note).  But I hoped she was waiting by the phone for a buzz that never came. 

One week later it was time for Sushi's party in *our* backyard, to which The German's kids had been invited long ago.  I started to sweat; would SHE show up at MY party?

Nope.  She followed suit and sent *her* girls with *her* husband.  In fact, I was shocked when she made a momentary appearance at the end of the party to collect the kids; I said nothing to her (but made sure she saw me in my fabulous hostess dress; she has otherwise only known me in some version of pajamas, I think).

Awkwardly, the present that she gave to Sushi was a bookbag from the international school that her kids attend; I quickly confiscated it, lest Sushi get confused about the likely change in enrollment plans.  Then The German sent me this text the next day:

"Thanks for the party.  I kept the invoice, just in case you need to change something.  Maybe the girls can meet at the clubhouse pool some day?"

Was the ice thawing?  I didn't care.  At that point, I had gotten over feeling hurt and betrayed and had moved into feeling angry.  PopPop had given me the great suggestion to start wearing my (prescription) sunglasses to the clubhouse, which made my frequent close encounters with The German there a lot easier to endure (for the most part, I pretended not to see her, despite the fact that behind the dark lenses, I was performing an endless and comprehensive scan of the entire property for any sign of her).  Once she and I even bumped into each other while exiting adjoining bathroom stalls-- yikes!!-- good thing I was wearing my sunglasses even in there (and suffering near-blindness as a result, but sooo worth the inane fumbling around in the darkness).

Then yesterday, I almost fell off my chair when I received this final missive:

"Hi [Mommy], can't help it, I still care a lot for you... If you are still interested in nursery school for [Baby], it could be good timing to go to main school campus asap as they are filling the toddler classes.  I got a spot... Good luck for you!"

So now the question: HOW DO I REPLY, IF AT ALL?  I'm awaiting your sage advice... xo

Friday, April 10, 2009

I Should Be Sleeping Right Now BUT...!

Family update post!  Family update post!  Are you as excited as I am?  (Actually, I'm really so very tired.  Made the mistake of taking some Tylenol PM last night *before* I checked with the kids to see if they were planning to wake me up 3 times during the night.  They were.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to repeatedly pull yourself out of a Tylenol PM coma??)

So ok, here we go.  In no particular order...

SCREAMER - is potty trained!  And has been for 2 weeks now.  She put it off a bit longer than I had expected (Sushi was out of diapers at 27 months, whereas Screamer is 29 months, and it makes perfect sense to me that the children would hit all of their developmental milestones on the exact same dates) (you know, because I gave them Filofaxes at birth) (ahaha Filofaxes no one uses those anymore) but she really hit the road running.  Hardly any accidents, yay!

SCREAMER Part II - spent 2 days in the hospital this week for dehydration.  Picked up a stomach bug and absolutely couldn't shake it.  Puked for so many days that her little frame seemed to be shrinking before our eyes, and when she lay down on the floor, I couldn't help but think of E.T. in that part of the movie where they found him all white and shriveled in the woods (see? I am still scarred by that movie to this day) (and to think that Daddy *dared* suggest we name one of our daughters Elliot)  ("Ellllliiiiooooot").  The whole hospital experience was pretty miserable, even aside from the obvious misery of having a kid in a hospital bed trying to pull out her IV;  I learned the hard way that 

(a) there are very few actual American people in the "American Hospital" (uncomfortable moment: Mommy says to familiar-looking woman behind check-in desk, "Have to say I thought there'd be more Americans here."  Woman who is clearly from New York or Connecticut responds, "Nope, not too many."  Mommy smiles affectionately and says, "So it's just us, huh?"  Woman raises eyebrows and replies, "Um, I'm from Palestine."); 

(b) it is possible to receive completely contradictory medical advice from the doctors in the ER and the doctors who admit you to the hospital, which is not great for bolstering confidence in the medical care about to be administered; and 

(c) I have the potential to transform into a raging lunatic when unable to track down a doctor-- ANY DOCTOR!!-- over the course of a 4-hour period (suffice to say that, at one point, I was standing at the nurses' station, Screamer limply on one arm and the IV stand in the other, loudly demanding that SOMEONE get the PRESIDENT of this HOSPITAL on the phone for me right NOW!!!).  Thankfully, apart from the occasional mood swing (which I may indefinitely continue to attribute to imbalanced salt and sugar levels, just to give her the benefit of the doubt), as of today the Screamer is fully recovered.  PHEW.

SUSHI - is very proud because she has just begun writing her name in both capital and lower case letters, having been previously *ruined* by a mother who first taught her how to write her name in ALL CAPS (this is her teacher speaking here, not me).  Also, she is beginning to read-- really READ!-- simple words, which pleases me to no end.  I am going to hammer her like crazy over these next 8 days before her birthday, just so that I can say with authority that "my daughter was reading at 3 years old!", an accolade that surely serves no purpose on this planet whatsoever other than making me feel like my stay-at-homing-ness has yielded some tangible reward.

BABY - *finally* started crawling a couple of weeks ago, after giving me fair reason to suspect that she might be happy just sitting on the floor for her entire life (then again, maybe her slight delay suggests intelligence instead of lethargy: after all, why waste energy crawling when you have Alice to carry you around 14 hours of the day?).  Is also sleeping through the night.  And thinks that a person jumping rope is cause for spastic fits of laughter.  In case you were wondering what her comedy weakness is.

DADDY - is in Paris!  On business.  Because we can't all be globetrotters like he is.  But if the kids are good, he is likely to "surprise" them with the "presents" of whatever schlock he can hurriedly gather from his first class airplane seat as he deplanes (last time, Sushi was ceremoniously presented with a United Airlines eye mask and tube socks).  (Can't blame him for not spending actual money on presents, though, as Sushi is still talking about that ridiculous faux-satin eye mask long after I threw it out on principle.)

POPPOP - continues to put men half his age to shame with his muscled physique.  Wears his iPod as habitually as a teenager.  Lives in sunglasses reminiscent of Top Gun.  I actually can't remember the last time I saw him wearing a shirt that did *not* have cut-off sleeves. But more power to him; the last time I exercised was September 18, 2007.  For reals.

Z-MAN - celebrated his birthday this week.  The kids and I made him a cake.  He told us that this is the first time in his life-- !!!-- that anyone has formally acknowledged his birthday.  So we all felt pretty good about the mini party we threw him in the kitchen... the guy could not have been smiling any more broadly than when the girls presented him with the big chocolate pile of frosting that boldly bore his name across the top.

And then there are a couple items of current events...

THE BAD NEWS - My friendship with our next-door neighbor, The German, has gone up in flames.  IN FLAMES!!  Here are the highlights of the story.  

(1)  Screamer is released from the hospital.  

(2) Two hours later, the kids and I are playing quietly in our open-air garage. 

(3) The German's children come tearing in, wielding chocolate bars and shoving them into my kids' hands. [NOTE: This happens with significant frequency.  And it is not unheard of that they would just stroll into my house and begin rifling through my cabinets for snacks. THIS MAKES ME CRAZY.  MOMMY DOES NOT LIKE UNINVITED VISITORS.]

(4) I pry the chocolate bar away from Restricted-Diet-Screamer, and then cheerfully go on to entertain The German's kids for the next 20 minutes by allowing them to draw all over my body with face paint. 

(5) After the impromptu playdate ends (due to Sushi throwing an unholy fit over something or other and my having to drag her screaming up to her room), I send The German a text message to this effect, "Hi there, hey, could you or [your housemaid] just give me a heads-up before the kids come over?  Sometimes it's not a good time and I feel bad sending them away."  [NOTE: This is really the gist of what I wrote.  I even rewrote it a few times to make sure it did not come off as overly inflammatory.]

(6) I then receive the following text message from The German (AND I QUOTE): "Don't worry they will not be coming over again ever.  Sorry if you can't control your kids.  I am not making calls to playdates on my street."

(7)  My stomach lurches.

(8) I frantically send her a series of messages attempting to backtrack, making vague apologies, and generally trying to avoid incurring the wrath of this enormous person who is uncomfortably well-connected among the Important Moms To Know in Dubai and who lives a REALLY uncomfortable stone's throw from where I lay my head at night (and who ADMITS that she watches us through our windows!!!).  She promptly replies (AGAIN, I QUOTE),  "You stay in your place and there will be no need for fighting.  You are way too hysterical.  Do I need to change my phone number?  I was always a friend and always defending you.  But not any more, you crossed a line too much.  Focus on your kids, that is all you are interested in."  [NOTE: Is that supposed to be an insult?]

(9) Panicking (while at the same time FUMING), I make a last-ditch attempt to salvage the relationship by texting the suggestion that we stop writing for now, we're both getting carried away, let's try to work this out for the sake of our kids, who enjoy playing together.  She then launches the final missle: "Backyard is big and kids are busy- they were happy before you moved here and they will be happy without your kids.  Same to me."

(9) HOLY SH*T!!!

And if that wasn't bad enough, her kids' joint birthday party bonanza is TOMORROW in her BACK YARD.  A few hours ago I sent a text to Mr. German, who we *thought* was a pretty level-headed and reasonable guy, asking if we are still invited.  As of press time, there has been no reply.... 

[Postscript to The-German-Hates-Me Story: You know how I'd kinda resigned myself to sending Sushi and Screamer to the international school, even though I kinda really got a better vibe from the American school?  Well maybe this is the sign I'd been waiting for; maybe we will end up sending Sushi to the American school just so I don't have to deal with seeing The German every day at dropoff and pickup; and maybe that will turn out to be the Best.  Decision.  Ever.  and I will look back on this unpleasant incident and thank my lucky stars.  Maybe.]  [Or, maybe I will become a social pariah and wear dark shades and duck into my car whenever I absolutely have to leave the house.  You know, like I did this morning.]

And now... THE GOOD NEWS! - It seems that we have FOUND A SECOND HOUSEMAID!!  (Cue the stream of disgruntled expletives from all of my overworked and underappreciated stay-at-home-mom friends back in the USA.)  We specifically chose her to interview because her classified ad declared her a good cook-- hence, I will refer to her as Julia (Child) unless a more nickname-worthy event takes place-- and she has been with us for a week now.  I'm THRILLED to report that so far, Julia has been truly fantastic: she has been working overtime to earn the affection of Sushi and Screamer (not an easy thing to do); she hardly batted an eye at the unusual series of challenges presented by Spring Break + Screamer Illness; and she has just been generally lovely to be around (we even caught her and Alice sharing a giggle in the kitchen one evening, and our hearts were collectively warmed!).  So this is the best best best news, because it opens up the possibility that I will be able to actually explore Dubai for a few hours a day without the kids in tow, perhaps even do some volunteer work somewhere, and not let this whole whirlwind experience pass me by in a haze of repetitive park visits and frozen dinners and bedtime rituals, all of which I will have plenty of time to do when we get back to the States.  Hooray!

Alright, since Daddy is away I have no one to proofread this for me.  Thus, I apologize in advance for any typos or disjointed sentences; am gonna post it anyway.  And if there are any parts that don't make sense, just blame the Tylenol PM.  xo.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

She's a Mommy, Too.

Uuuuugh, something kinda sad just happened.  

All day long, Alice has been walking around with this pouty face on.  And of course, because I am a neurotic narcissist, I assume that it's because of something I did.  (This is not entirely unfounded: she got really pissed at me last week for requesting that she come back to the house after she mistakenly thought I'd given her an extra day off, and she sent me a text that literally said the following: "Mam, if you think that I made mistake b'coz of this you can cut my job.  I have nothing to do if [Daddy] get upset to me.  Maybe I'm not the right one that you need inside the house.  I do everything my best already.  Thanks."  I almost fell over upon receiving it; who knew that mild-mannered Alice had it in her?)  So anyway, she's moping around and I'm feeling worse and worse about it and I keep asking her what's wrong and she keeps saying nothing.  And I have to tell you, it began to feel like true family dysfunction.  When we first moved here I had no idea-- no idea!!-- that having "domestic help" live with us would be SO. MUCH. WORK.  I mean, emotionally, it's suuuuuuper draining.  And maybe it's just me-- I admit that I'm pretty thin-skinned when it comes to interpersonal dynamics-- but seriously, in these 4+ months since our arrival, I've already expended an inordinate amount of energy (a) worrying about whether the "staff" is happy here; (b) contemplating whether I am a cool enough "madam;" and (c) mediating the staff's relationship with one another.  In fact, it often feels like I have 5 kids instead of 3 that I'm responsible for tucking into bed at night, and I mean that in the least condescending, most maternal-instinct-y way possible.

So anyway, I keep asking and Alice keeps blowing me off and then finally the day is over and, just as I'm about to check if she needs me to drive her to the supermarket for some food, she goes into her bedroom (depressingly located right off the laundry room, though it should be noted that I did once offer her a larger room upstairs near ours) and she pretty much closes the door in my face.  So I knock and she opens it a crack and I hear her crying and I stand out there and ask, about 6 times, if she will please open the door.  She eventually does, and I beg her to tell me what's wrong, saying that whether she likes it or not she's my closest friend here and it breaks my heart to see her this way.  After much sniffling and stalling she finally starts talking...... though about what, I unfortunately cannot say.  See, when Alice gets emotional, her English gets even more broken... so when, at one point, she said to me through a blur or tears, "Do you understand?", I had to shake my head regretfully and say, "No."  Awkward.  

But I did ultimately get the gist of it (I *think*), which is that she suspects that her husband back in the Philippines is screwing around on her, and that he is also frivolously spending the money that she sends home every month for their two sons.  I didn't know WHAT the hell to say to that ("Men are jerks!" ? or "I'm sure you're wrong!" ? or "Here's a loan!" ?) so I just went with, "If you need to go back to the Philippines for a few days and deal with stuff, just tell me and I will arrange it" (even though I was screaming at her with my eyes, "PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME HERE WITH THESE CHILDREN, I DON'T KNOW HOW TO TAKE CARE OF THEM").  But what really got me was the end of the conversation: she wiped her cheeks and quietly said, "Sometimes I see you with your family and you are so happy and I think, 'I am so jealous of that.'"  And suddenly I was keenly aware of how incredibly blessed I am to be able to kiss my children goodnight and watch them taking their very first steps and help them prepare for their first days of school... whereas poor Alice is missing out on ALL of that with her two children.  For YEARS and YEARS at a time.  Instead, she has to watch *my* kids take their first steps and get ready for school and get kissed goodnight by *their* mommy.  Which pains me to imagine, and makes me realize that the world can be a very cold place, for an awful lot of people.

As PopPop says at times like these, "Obviously housemaids and drivers are people just like us-- the difference is, we were born lucky."  

Ok, so what are you waiting for, lucky person?  Go and kiss your kids.  xo.