Finding the funny in parenthood before somebody loses an eye...

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Three Weeks and Counting...

Three weeks.

This is how long my children have off from school for their holiday break.  If your kids don't go to public school here in Los Angeles, I'll bet your jaw just dropped to the ground.

As a child, I don't remember being home for anything for three weeks - unless it was to recover from the chicken pox...or mono.  What the h-ll am I supposed to do with my kids for three weeks?  It's just not fair.  To the children, I mean...

As the holiday season rolls around every year, all the moms and dads at our school look at each other with masked smiles as they help out with classroom holiday parties and paint scenery for the school concert.  "Oh yes...we're very excited about the holidays."

"We're going to my sister's in San Diego for Christmas." one friend tells me, trying to sound optimistic - the furrow in her brow betrays her.  That should keep her kids busy for, like, two days.

Lots of facilitites around town offer what they call "Winter Camp" - an activity filled alternative to the hours of television and Nintendo DS that would no doubt otherwise occupy their time.  But my kids don't want any piece of that.  "We're on vacation" they remind me.

Sure I'm a "Stay at Home" mom, but that doesn't mean I want my children to "stay at home" with me.  I have a life!  And I can't live it with three children hanging around the house fighting with each other and bugging me every five minutes to say "We're bored. Let's do something fun."

I throw out a few ideas.  "I have an idea...let's go to the gym!  They have a babysitting room and I'm sure they'll let you watch movies or something."  The horrified look on their faces suggests this idea is not going to fly.  "NOOOOOO!!!!!" they shout in their first unified statement of the vacation.

"How about we make popcorn?"


"Let's ride bikes."


I try to get clever.  "Why don't you clean your rooms?"

"NOOOOOOOOOOOwaaahh!"  The "waaahh" tacked on to emphasize that this line of thinking is unacceptable.

I'm at a loss.

In the past week they've been to Arrowhead, had playdates, sleepovers, made beaded necklaces, played cards and even went on an impromptu trip to Disneyland (a desperate move on my part to show how "exciting" I can be).  And I still have two more weeks yawning out before me.  I'm running out of ideas...and patience.

So with no new toys left to open, friends out of town, and a bad case of cabin fever already setting in, the song "Let it Snow" keeps playing through my mind and I've made up my own lyrics:

"Oh the fighting inside is frightful...
 and my daughter's feeling spiteful,
 friends are gone and the schools are closed....
 Make them go,
 Make them go,
 Make them gooooo!"

Friday, December 25, 2009

Holiday Card Etiquette

Does sending out and receiving Holiday cards ever carry a certain amount of angst for you?  (Do you send a card to this person who f*cked you over?  Do you send one to that person who perhaps feels you f*cked them over?)

Listen to my NPR Podcast with Rob Sachs of "What Would Rob Do?"  Where we explore the question, "Can you say "Happy Holidays" after you've already said "F*ck You"?  This was a  really funny show (...and even funnier for the people who know the parties involved.) 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Ingredients for the Perfect Vacation

(Note:  We're home now!  Obviously, this was written last night while I was still away.)

I'm wearing my flannel nightgown and I smell like bacon.

Oh, and it snowed last night.  We live in Southern California...snow is a pretty big deal.

The boyfriend, kids and I have been up in Lake Arrowhead with friends at their cabin for the past few days.  No internet, no Tivo, and no holiday crowds.  We've been cooking delicious eggs and bacon breakfasts on the oldest stove I've ever seen, we've laid at least fifteen different sledding tracks in the powder outside (one unintentionally ending in a rocky culvert...don't worry, Ben will be fine...) and when we're all too exhausted to drag that sled up the hill even one more time, we go inside for hot chocolate and marshmallows. The kids play Monopoly for hours while the grown-ups drink eggnog with brandy by the fire and cheat at Scrabble. (Alright...I cheat at Scrabble).

It's heaven.

Flannel, snow, friends and bacon. The ingredients for the perfect vacation.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Holiday Concert

I yelled at my daughter today.

I know, I know...what else is new.

Every morning, she sleeps in till the absolutely latest possible moment then she moves like molasses - oozing down the ladder of her bunk bed, across the floor to her closet, and through the hall to the bathroom where she stays forever despite the fact that she's only 6. (My God, what could a 6 year old be doing in there for 20 minutes!)

Well today is "Winter Concert"at school and I wanted all of the kids to be dressed and ready with plenty of time to spare so they could focus on the excitement of the concert and their "lines" rather than the proximity of shoes and the need for pants.  I'm a performer.  I know the value of being in a great mood before going on stage.  It really makes a difference.'s only an elementary school concert...but my only personal memory of a holiday concert is from kindergarten when I barfed under the school's Christmas Tree right before the show and was scooped up and taken home before the curtains even opened.  I would like my kids' experience to be a bit more positive than that.

So this morning as Livi was 'oozing,' I started 'seething' and I ripped her "a new one."  "LIVI!  COME ON!  IF YOU CAN'T HURRY UP, YOU WON'T BE IN THE CONCERT!  YOU'RE RUINING IT FOR EVERYONE!  IT'S NOT FAIR!  COME ON, HURRY UP!!"  I saw the light disappear from her face.  She got on her shoes and made it out the door.  I felt like crap.

On the way to school she sat quietly between her brother and sister and didn't make a peep.  I think I saw her talking to herself - a sure sign of the dementia I was obviously causing.  I could see on her face I had taken away whatever enthusiasm she might have had for the day.  I was the worst mommy for sure.

We were late for school so I had to use the drop off lane rather than park and walk them inside.
"I love you!"  I said to her as she picked her backpack off the front seat.

"I love you too." She parroted.

"I'm not mad anymore, honey.  I just want us to work well as a family.  I need you to move faster in the morning.  Okay?"

She nodded silently.

As my kids emptied the car, Livi kissed me with equally empty eyes.  All happiness vacated.

I rolled down the front window because I wanted to say more, but the woman at the gate was shooing me to keep moving and I had make room for the next car in line.

I watched her walk inside, dejected.

My stomach ached.  She was so sad.  I was so sad.  I just wanted her to get ready for school at least as efficiently as her brother and sister (which isn't even that efficiently). We had done everything we could to avoid this fight.  Her outfit was planned ahead of time.  I even toasted chocolate chip waffles as motivation to get out of bed.  What more could a mom do?!

But the more I thought about her and how I had ruined Holiday Concert day for her, the worse I felt.

I circled the block and parked.

I went into the school walked straight to her class.  They were on the carpet discussing long vowels.

"Mr. Skye?  Can I borrow Livi for a minute?"  He nodded and she turned, smiled SO HUGE and came over to the door.

I got down on my knees to look her in the eye and I said "I'm sorry I yelled, Livi. I shouldn't have.  I was wrong."

She forgave me and we hugged - tight.

We agreed to work on a plan for getting up earlier and as I smoothed the hair away from her eyes and and rounded cheeks I saw them flood again with light.  

Yeah, I think they'll have a great concert today and I think they'll  have a lot of fun.

Unless someone barfs under the Christmas Tree.  But that one's out of my hands.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I was on NPR again today!

I was on "Tell Me More with Michel Martin" again today where we had a "roundtable" discussion about "The Princess and the Frog."   It was really interesting.  I wish we could have gone on longer.

In short, I liked the movie.   It wasn't Disney's best, but it was good.  One or two songs worth singing in the car and Anika Noni Rose's voice is crazy fabulous! 

Click Here to hear the podcast. 

MILF Monday: Caught with my pants down

My man caught me with my pants down tonight.

And, I wasn't even trying to lure him with sex.

It had been a busy day and I had spent it with the kids and cooking for a family Hanukkah meal.  I made a roast pork loin stuffed with winter fruit dressing, Orange-honey carrots, salad, home-made potato latkes, chocolate chip cookes, and a roasted chicken on the side.

By the time I was done cooking I had been on my feet for 3-4 hours and I really needed to pee.  But the food was done, my daughter had to go to  some activity, we had to celebrate Channukah before she left and so I decided to sideline the peeing in order to just get dinner on the table.  I'd go when we were all done.

 So I called everyone to dinner.

As I sat down, I secretly unbuttoned the top button of my Rock and Republic jeans under my blousey shirt so that the waistband, which I refused to accept was already a bit snug, wouldn't press in on my bladder while I was eating.

Then I forgot about it.

As I stood up from dinner to clear the plates, my boyfriend saw my pants unbuckled and broke down into a major fit of laughter.  "Really??" was all he said.

I was mortified!

I quickly buttoned the top of my jeans and attempted to convince both him (and myself) that I wasn't actually the kind of woman who unbuttoned her pants at the dinner...usually.

"You don't understand. I had to pee.  I was holding it in."

"Honey, most people don't have to unbutton their pants to make room for that."


From now on, I'll pee before dinner.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Present Doctor

My children are obsessed with presents.  What kids aren't...but mine appear to have a serious fixation.

Every time they walk by the pile of presents next to the fireplace they stop and crouch down to measure the size of the pile, then they organize it so that the "most promising gift" is on top and immediately accessible for opening.  But then, the next time they go to the bathroom, go to their rooms, or come through the kitchen for a snack they pass the pile again and reorganize the whole thing from scratch, invariably concluding that a different present is the most worthy and deserves to be put on top. 

My oldest seems to be more obsessed with the contents of each gift than the organizing of the gifts and has dubbed herself "The Present Doctor."  She examines each and every one of her gifts thoroughly and "diagnoses" the contents.  

Like a fine physician, she gives each gift a thorough physical.  She touches, gropes, smooths, pokes and shakes each gift before holding it aloft against the lighting to see if the contents reveal themselves in the x-ray view.  It's impressive, really. 

She proudly shares her conclusions with everyone in the room.  "This feels like a book." Then "This one is soft and lumpy.  It's clothes."  And the more impressive "This box is American Girl Doll stuff.  I can tell by the box, it's an outfit."

After she has analyzed each of her own presents, she sets to the task of figuring out each of her sibling gifts.  They do not like this.

"STOP it!  I don't want you to know what I got!"

"Don't touch my presents."

"You're going to break it!"

But she can't help herself.  Like Dr. House she loves a good puzzle.  Each gift presenting her with intriguing and seemingly unconnected clues as to the contents therein.

So she lifts an interestingly shaped, long, rectangular box - her brother's "chosen" gift on top of the pile - and while poking and prodding it, she accidentally rips a big ol' hole right down the middle of the package revealing the contents.

"Look what you did!  I TOLD you to stop!" he screamed.

"I can fix it, I can fix it." she said.

We take the disfigured present to my room (for gift surgery) and tried to patch it up.  We use a lot of tape along the rip and the sides trying to fix the hole and make it look like new.   But despite our best efforts, the gift is scarred.

I think she might have a malpractice suit on her hands.

Monday, December 7, 2009

"MILF Monday" - Skinny Genes

I have skinny jeans and I'm not happy.

I've never had skinny jeans before.  Of course I've put on weight since my college days - probably around 20 pounds (I was 5'8" and 125 when I graduated.  Hate me?  That's okay.  I hate me too now).  But I never noticed a dramatic change.  It just sort of snuck up on me - this morning. 

Sure over the past 10 years I've given birth twice - once to twins - and I noticed that I am rounder, softer...a bit more "zaftig".  And it's not like 143 pounds is even so bad.  I actually feel pretty good about myself naked.  My butt is still kind of yummy, when I suck in from the side I can achieve a lovely silhouette, and my boobs have magically maintained a firmness and defiance of gravity despite the shifting landscape upon which they are perched.  It's just that there's more "stuffing"as my daughter referred to it recently, and I never really noticed.

I had always been thin.  Naturally thin.  I spent my life eating exactly what I wanted, when I wanted, and it burned right off.  When my 10 year old was a toddler, I could eat the macaroni and cheese off her plate and still look fabulous.  It wasn't till I hit 40 that I noticed the hint of Spaghettios on my butt.  But I chalked it up to just not having a lot of time to exercise.  I could get rid of it whenever I wanted to.  Or so I thought.

"I'm so lucky, I have a fast metabolism." I would say to friends who dared to eyeball the cup of chocolate pudding occasionally found in my hands.

And I believed this twist of fiction.

My jeans always went out of style, or I had long since lost track of them, before I ever outgrew them.   And if I did have a pair of jeans long enough to notice they were getting 'snug', I always had a great reason why they were no longer hugging my hips, but rather strangling the bajeezuses out of them; they were in the drier too long, I'm bloated,'s Thursday.

Maybe if designers had kept the waistline of jeans up around my midsection, I would have had some sort of "control" group - some reality smacking way to gage the growth.  A "constant" against which I could judge the ever increasing, pudding and childbirth induced wave of flesh.  Maybe then this wouldn't have happened.  But no.  My fat responded positively to this fabulous new trend and like a tube of toothpaste being squeezed flat from the bottom, the "paste" came up and out the open flip top cap.  Hey, if they closed, they fit.

But this morning, I went to put on my favorite jeans which had disappeared for about a year and had  resurfaced after a good closet cleaning.  They didn't close.  And, it wasn't pretty.

I couldn't use any of my old excuses and I had to face the music.  And put down the pudding.

So now I have "skinny jeans."  And maybe - just maybe - one day they'll fit again.  If I diet and exercise and don't pick at my kids' chicken nuggets.

Or maybe, even better, I'll just wait for them to go out of style.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Home Movies

My teenage niece caught my sister smoking.

My sister doesn't smoke.  Never did.  At least not as far as my niece knows.

It wasn't like she caught her out behind their garage, or found a pack of cigarettes in her bag.  No, the 14 year old caught her mother "red-handed" with the smoking gun...uh, her hand.

She saw her do it on a home movie.

A couple of times a year - on the big holidays - we take out old videos and pop them in for the kids.  Despite my family's best efforts to avoid me and my camera, I've managed to take a lot of video of them over the years for which they are now all very grateful.

This particular video was of my sister's wedding about 16 years ago.  I schlepped my video camera - 20 lbs of the latest in compact home video technology - all the way to the Berkshires.

I carried the monster around on my shoulder for the whole weekend and followed her, my brother-in-law-to-be, and their friends around asking them stupid things like "Do you have anything to say?", "Are you excited?" and "Would you like to say a few words to the bride and groom?" 

At every turn I was thwarted with hands over faces and chastised for being an annoying little sister: "Stop it, Sarah!"  "You're bugging everyone!"  "No one wants you to videotape them!" she'd say from between the fingers covering her face.  But I persisted.  I thought "Some day, she'll want to see this.  Someday, she'll be glad I taped her wedding weekend.  Someday...she'll be grateful."

So I videotaped her and all her friends, at breakfast, at dinner, hanging out, and I got a lot of footage.  Footage we never watched...until now.

As we assembled in my TV room for family videos I said proudly"Guess what?  I just put your wedding video on DVD!  Wanna watch?"

"Really????!  Put it in!  Put it in!"  See?  I told you she'd be grateful someday.

So we're watching footage of all of us 16 years ago - partying, celebrating...and what do you know...I apparently had the camera right up behind my sister's head and said "Hey!" so she'd turn around unguarded.  Sure enough, she did and she was smoking a cigarette.

My neice shrieked!  "MOMMY!  YOU SMOKED!"

My sister froze.

I peed.

Maybe she's not so grateful after all.

Diversity in the Toy Aisle on NPR

I got to use the word 'Shtetl' on national radio.  Now how many people can say that.

 Click to go to NPR "Tell Me More" Show - "Diversity in the Toy Aisle"

You may need to click on the "Add to playlist" button or the "Download" button to hear the broadcast.  It will download like a normal MP3 song - only free.

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