When toddlers attack

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Where's Mary Poppins when you need her?

On TV or in the movies, nannies are usually British. They often amaze, delight and instruct your children with magical powers.

No one knows where they come from, but somehow, references are never required and, even though you suspect these women may spend their days off riding their broomsticks to a sabbat in the Black Forest, their charges never end up boiling in a cauldron over an open fire.

Or maybe she has a heart of gold and a smoking hot body that makes you overlook the fact that little rivulets of blood stream from your ears every time she opens her mouth. With her quirky ethnic warmth, she saves your poor, dysfunctional WASPy family from itself.  And then she marries you.

We both have to work, so we need a nanny.  There's no indication of how much it costs to hire a magical one, but in Manhattan, along with caring for your children, nannies teach them Mandarin, manage art collections, and groom your horses.  Oh, and they also make $180,000 a year.

The nanny we spoke with on Sunday doesn't have magical powers.  She didn't arrive on a breeze grasping an umbrella, or on a broomstick -- she arrived in a giant SUV, driven by a friend since she doesn't drive herself. 
And she doesn't speak Mandarin.  She speaks Spanish, only Spanish, which would be sort of redundant in a household that already speaks the language of Cervantes much of the time.  So that's the language we spoke as we sat around our coffee table for 45 minutes, as my mother craned her neck and cocked her head as if that would help her to understand (actually, she understands far too much Spanish for us to have any sensitive conversations within her earshot).

"You just came from church," asks my husband, who's always ten times more blunt in his own language than he is in English.  I cringe.  "I'm sorry, I have to ask... but do you have any problem with the fact that we're two dads?"

"Oh no," she says.  "To each his own.  At our church, everyone is welcome."  I'm still thinking about my sister's former nanny, who left religious tracts lying around the house for her kids to find and called my sister's ex-husband a "fornicator" in front of them because he was shacking up with his girlfriend.  But for now I'll give this nanny the benefit of the doubt.

No, la señora is my mother, not Adrián's.  Yes, I know she looks more like she'd be his mother.

She'll care for the kids as we direct, as long as we don't mind suggestions.  Good.  We need suggestions.

She loves that we both speak Spanish.  And that my mother doesn't, because it will make it easier to pretend like she doesn't understand when la abuela tries to meddle. 

She'll work for what we can afford to pay her -- good.  It's a far, FAR cry from 180 grand. 

Do we expect her to clean?  Not much. 

Can she make her lunch with the food in the house?  At first we don't undertand the question, but it turns out her previous employer made her bring her lunch.  Yikes.  No, you're welcome to whatever is in the fridge.

Do we like Mexican food?  Because she likes to cook.  Now we're talking.

Her friend asks us when she can start.  We say we still aren't quite sure -- and we still need to speak to her references. 

One down -- how many do we have to speak to before we feel comfortable giving her the key, leaving our kids, and leaving for the day?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Grandma gets her groove on

Our surro was released from the hospital a few days ago.  After getting pounded for a few days by a strong winter storm, the weather is warm and beautiful.  We've approved a set of plans for construction on the house.  And miracle of miracles, my mother is showing signs of interest in being a grandmother.

It started slowly a few months ago, when she was still in the hospital with pneumonia.  "Shocking," was the pronouncement regarding our pregnancy from her older sister, my aunt, whom I now refer to as "the Dowager Countess," after Maggie Smith's incredible character on "Downton Abbey."  Minus the Edwardian costumes.  And the sense of humor.   My mother, of course, couldn't wait to tell me, which touched off a feud between me and my aunt.  Why shocking?  Hell if I know, but take your pick:  we're old, we're gay, we like Gilbert and Sullivan.
Whatever the reason, I noticed that my mother was, for the first time, acting like she was looking forward to being a grandmother.  She told my aunt that this was her life now, and basically that my aunt could help welcome these children into the family or get out of the way.  Last week, she came home with two enormous boxes from Costco: car seats, you know, for our now non-existant minivan.  I have no idea how she maneuvered them by herself into her own car. 

"Let's go to Ikea," she says to me a few nights ago.  She's already donned the new pair of sandals she bought the previous day at Ross Dress for Less.
"Ikea?"  I ask, wearily.  I've just slogged my way home from work through 45 minutes of rush-hour traffic on the Hollywood Freeway, a trip that should take 15 minutes.
"Yes, they have cute things," she says.  "I want to look at cribs."
I've already been to Ikea and seen their cribs.  A friend, furniture shopping for the patio of the nursing facility he runs, has already dragged me there and signed me up for Ikea Family, which is supposed to get you wonderful discounts and free Swedish meatballs or something -- if you ever remember to bring the card.  But I want to encourage her burgeoning interest and assent, even though it means dragging my sore, stiff hindparts back into the car.
"Check to see if they have patio furniture," texts my friend as we enter. 

"No, this stuff doesn't look like it would stand up to people not quite in control of their bodily functions," I text back.  "I think I saw the collection you're looking for in the catalogue... it's called 'Pööpü.'"

"LOL... Ikea's Finnish?"
Well, we thought it was funny, but we're language geeks.

Meanwhile, my mother has gone off in the direction she thinks is most likely to lead to children's furnishings.  It leads instead through a jungle of silk plants, through a hundred different ways to organize your cabinets, and finally to an elevator which I know heads to where we want to be.

"Oh, isn't this DARLING!" she exclaims over the mass-produced, homey wooden toys.  "Oh look!" she says, "you had a set of stacking rings like this!" 

I'm pretty sure Tutankhamen had a set of stacking rings, and just about every child born since.

"Yours was plastic, though, not wooden."

"They don't have plastic in Sweden," I tell her.

Laugh, though your feet are breaking...
She continues this way for another 15 minutes or so, then her enthusiasm flags noticeably.  Her new sandals are attacking her feet.  Cribs, not so darling after all.  She stops.  She sits in an armchair.  She rises and hobbles to an escalator.  There's still a warren of housewares, handy storage options and DARLING home decorating ideas to navigate.  She removes the shoes.  This is a common theme for us; she limped across most of Madrid four years ago, insisting on wearing shoes that were 'cute' instead of sneakers or something sensible.  This was before she stepped off an unexpectedly-high curb in Alicante the day before our wedding, tearing a ligament in her knee.  We got her a wheelchair, but one trip across the bumpy cobblestones in the plaza in front of city hall was enough to convince her that perhaps she wasn't THAT bad, and what's a torn ACL when your dignity is at risk?

"Oh, that's much better!" she exclaims, as she proudly marches through Ikea in her bare feet.  I'm afraid someone will run a cart over her toes.  But no, we maneuver our way through the checkout line and out the door.  I tell her to wait in the loading area as I go for the car. 

She's still in her bare feet.  Don't they sell sensible shoes at Ikea?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Into every pregnancy a little rain must fall...

Over the weekend, we got an email that our surrogate had been admitted to the hospital with a urinary tract infection.  She's still there.  Dr. Shivani emailed us immediately to say this is extremely common and that there's nothing to worry about -- and Dr. Google, of course, concurs.  It seems that this is something quite common as the babies grow and squash vital organs and tubing out of the way.  She's on IV antibiotics, mainly so that this doesn't develop into a kidney infection.
Because I'm helpful that way (and because if I didn't, this would be a really short post), I'm posting here what Babycentre.co.uk has to say about UTIs:

What is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is caused when your urinary system becomes infected by bacteria. UTIs are much more common in women than in men. Half of women will have at least one UTI during their lifetime (CKS 2009).

Cystitis, an infection of the bladder, is a common UTI which you're more likely to develop while you're pregnant (NHS Choices 2009).

If left untreated, UTIs can be quite painful and may cause other problems if the infection reaches your kidneys. If a kidney infection is left untreated during pregnancy your baby could have a low birth weight or be born prematurely (Lloyd 2009, CKS 2009). Your kidneys may also become damaged. So you can see why prompt treatment is important.

You're more prone to UTIs during pregnancy due to the changes your body is experiencing. The hormone progesterone relaxes the muscles of the tubes (ureters) that connect your kidneys to your bladder. This slows down the flow of wee from your kidneys to your bladder. As your uterus (womb) enlarges, it has the same effect. As a result, bacteria have more time to grow before they're flushed out.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

From the "be careful what you wish for" desk...

What happens to minivans that go bad.
So it seems my poor minivan, tired of my derisive jokes, decided to allow itself to be seduced by a stranger while I had it parked outside a framing shop in downtown L.A. for 20 minutes.  I paced back and forth on the sidewalk past the spot where I left it, sure that if I just looked again, it would have been there all along, hidden beneath, I don't know, a leaf or a gum wrapper or something.

No.  And in spite of the fact I had parked exactly BELOW a "no parking, tow-away" sign, it hadn't been towed, either.  So now we're in the market again.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Telling the Yayo

In a normal year, we make an annual trek to Spain to visit Adrián's family, usually in summer and sometimes again around Christmas.  This year is anything but normal, and we'll be spending a good chunk of the summer in Delhi.  So Adrián took advantage of his spring break and is in Alicante now, having one last trip free of child carriers, strollers... and me.  Seems our travel budget was conveniently just enough to send him but not me.  I drowned my sorrows in cocktails and jacuzzi over the weekend at a rented Palm Springs villa celebrating my friend's 40th, where the impending birth was a frequent topic of conversation and I worked myself into a quiet panic.  I imagine it will dissolve along with the slight hangover I brought back.

Adrián had lunch a few days ago at his dad's house and had a conversation himself that was central to the reason he wanted to travel to Spain before our trip to India:  telling his dad he's going to be a grandfather again. 

Vicente is a retired truck driver who grew up in a time of scarcity.  He told me one of his earliest memories was listening to the bombing of the Rabasa airfield, responsible for the Republican air defense of Alicante and still near his home in the town of San Vicente del Raspeig, by Franco's Italian allies during the Civil War.  He grew up during the Posguerra, when Spain was exhausted by conflict, poor and isolated. 

He also eventually had five sons, three of them gay, so you could say his family was a microcosm of the wider social changes happening across the country.  In 2006, when we headed over to attend the wedding of Adrián's brother, Ángel, to his male Scottish partner, his stepmother's back went out the day before the wedding.  I met her for the first time flat on her back, in bed, crying because she wanted to go to la cosa de Ángel, "Ángel's thing."  We were sure she really didn't want to go to Ángel's thing, and neither did he, and that this rather was an excuse to stay in San Vicente.  But no, they were present at the wedding, though perhaps a bit uncomfortable and unable to communicate with the British guests who made up half the party.  At our wedding, two years later, they seemed completely comfortable, though it helped that half the Yanks present already spoke Spanish.

So this last week brought another not-so-incremental change in the form of Adrián's news from India.  Here's how he says it went:

A:  Papá, Jason and I are having twins!

V: ¿¿Qué??

A: No, seriously, twins! They're due in June.

V:  (Walking out of the kitchen, muttering) bla bla bla ...the things that happen in this family... bla bla bla

(walking back into kitchen) bla bla bla... well, you have to take care of them!  And the mother!

A:  We haven't met her.  She's in India.

Cati, Adrián's stepmother:  Wh...what do you mean you haven't met her if you've... you've... been with her??

A:  No, no, it's not like that.  We did it in a lab... in India.

V:  (walking out of the kitchen) bla bla bla ... these modern things, I just don't understand, I don't want any part, bla bla bla...

"I think that went well," Adrián told me on Friday.