17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Saying No To The Abuelos

Our family is finishing up our “West Coast Holiday Tour.” With my husband Ed’s family living in LA and mine in Portland, we try to divide our vacation time as evenly as possible.

On Christmas Day, we traded balmy LA for a little Portland rain, but not before a silent showdown with Ed’s parents, aka The Abuelos.

The Abuelos immigrated from Mexico to East LA in the early 1970’s. Ed’s father works as a garbage man in the vast suburbs of LA and Ed’s mom spends most of her day cooking as well as nagging Ed on the telephone. They have achieved the American Dream, which in their minds includes owning a modest home and oversized American automobiles, and keeping their grandsons outfitted in overpriced designer clothing, typically at least two sizes too large for their little bodies.

My relationship with the Abuelos has been difficult at times. Cultural differences abound with my husband always caught in the middle. To keep peace, I have tried extra hard lately to please them.

Christmas Eve had been a day of complete overindulgence and excess. It began soon after the roosters in East LA started cock-a-doodling, when a truck pulled into the Abuelos driveway and a group of men proceeded to blow up a giant balloon castle. Our boys just turned 3 and 1 years old. They seemed pretty young to have their own castle, but I tried to be excited. These kids also received constant presents throughout that day as well. I was gracious, and saved my worries about how much money the Abuelos had spent on my kids, what spoiled brats they might become, and how we were going to haul the gifts back to New York, for later.

And the boys really did have a wonderful day. They jumped on that stupid castle for most of the day, stopping only for food and juice breaks.

Christmas morning, everyone seemed a little hung over from the previous day’s holiday food and castle hopping. The Abuelos insisted, however, that I put the boys in their new Ralph Lauren suits for the plane trip. They also acted offended when we suggested that we ship the Christmas toys out to New York at a later date. They insisted we take food with us for our trip. Because, after all, how will we survive a three hour plane ride without tamales and chorizo (smelly Mexican sausage)? After some discussion, Ed and I decided to honor our Christmas peace agreement. We silently packed up the food and toys in shopping bags and were off to the airport with our seriously overdressed toddlers.

I knew it would all end badly.

On our crowded Southwest flight, we quickly regretted our silence. Ed and I were exhausted and grouchy from trying to carry two toddlers and multiple bags of toys and food through security and onto the plane. One-year old Asher threw up twice on his new RL suit before we had even reached Oakland. We couldn’t contain the smell of our Mexican food storage and any plane turbulence would send off a hundred cheap plastic toys singing ‘Old McDonald’ and every other annoying nursery rhyme known to man. Passengers began to comment on the smell drifting down from the overhead compartment. Poor 3-year old Noe was walking off the plane behind me, when I looked back to discover that his too-large RL suit pants were around his ankles. The poor child had a full audience of Southwest passengers laughing as he tried frantically to keep up with his exhausted grumpy parents sans drawers.

I am already preparing my “No Suits, No Toys, No Food” speech (in espanol) for next year’s visit. And if I lose my nerve, next time I’ll at least have the good sense to chuck the food and toys into the nearest airport garbage can and bring a change of clothes for my kids!


  • Oh Jen. Ohhhhhh Jen. I'm so sorry, that does not sound like fun. First, give yourself a lot of credit for all of the deep breathing and playing nice you must have done, because I'm sure it took a LOT. Second, I think some chucking things in the trash would definitely be called for on the next trip! Grandparents can be so tough - I myself am still in recovery from living with my parents for 4 months. And I don't think I'll ever get back my child who didn't know what apple juice or popsicles were... But that doesn't compare to your story AT ALL. I'm very impressed you didn't strangle someone. Just be thankful they live in LA and stick to the east coast!
    posted by Blogger marian at 1/04/2006 04:48:00 PM  

  • Jen, your "Mama Soliz" always makes for a good story. I hope I get to meet them someday! BTW, your boys always look adorable in their little designer duds.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 1/04/2006 05:03:00 PM  

  • Jenny Benni...that story was so amazing. Someday, you will laugh. I can just see the whole picture on the plane and everything. And what is with children and planes and barfing? Must be all the pressure on their bellies. That blow-up castle....that is classic.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 1/04/2006 05:35:00 PM  

  • Amen to that sister!!
    My mother in law is a giver. As in she HAS to give you something everytime she crosses your path in the house. She also gets very hurt if you don't accept it. So I finally worked out an agreement with hubby that for every one thing I turn down, we will accept one. The bonus of moving into a smaller place is that it left me with a great excuse to turn things down at Christmas.
    I'm also heartless enought to thank people for their gift and then give it straight to Goodwill. Kind of indulges the wicked witch in me I think.
    posted by Blogger Mo Mommy at 1/04/2006 06:25:00 PM  

  • Brilliant story. Right down to my favorite food ever!!! Please don't throw away the tamales and chorizo! In laws, can't live with em, can't live without em.
    posted by Blogger Zinone at 1/04/2006 08:19:00 PM  

  • Very entertaining story, although I'm sorry you had to experience it! Sounds like they meant well, but I get frustrated with people who don't understand that travel, kids and extra stuff to carry don't mix.

    They only do it out of love, but I guess I'm lucky that my parents-in-law are dead. OK, that sounds awful, but we get along great!
    posted by Blogger Squiddy at 1/04/2006 10:10:00 PM  

  • Holy crapola, Jen! I can so much relate with your story--everything except the castle. My in-laws (who I really do get along great with) give give give give. I come from a family of 9 kids raised by a very frugal Mom. So, marrying into this attitude with money (which, fortunately my husband does not subscribe to) was a shock. Plus they were at a time where they were doing well financially. The spoiling began with US before any kids came. I think I cried that first Christmas because I was so overwhelmed. My husband's mom gives to show love. It's a great intention. I just about went crazy though. I was so uncomfortable. This Christmas has been the first (in 6 years) where I was actually ok with the amount of gifts given. And yes, living in NY has REALLY helped because she knows I don't have room for anything. She did joke once how I'm getting tons of stuff when we move because she hasn't been able to give much these past couple years. Noooo!!

    I felt liberated this December because I gave away 2 big decorative stockings she gave us last year in January. I had been totally overwhelmed (again) with the Christmas gifts which completely dwarfed what we all gave each other. Just after I'd had enough of it all, she sends a "winter" package (of these decorations) which sent me over the top. It may sound weird to people to be so upset over a little gift, but I had had it. It was the straw that broke the camel's back. Daniel and my Mom said I should just put them away for now (instead of the trash) and not "discuss" it with her while I was so upset. I accidentally fell upon them again this year, still in their packages, and decided to give them to my neighbors. Isn't that great! A small step toward liberation.

    Well, Jen, it's nice to know I'm not alone in the world of spoilage. Maybe I'll have to stay in NY forever so the gift giving can never increase.
    posted by Blogger Katie at 1/05/2006 11:43:00 AM  

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