Monday, December 25, 2006

Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum.

In consideration of our sanity and that of our neighbors', we decided against getting Kiyomi a drum set and instead got her one of these, a digital drum machine:
She was pretty excited, and couldn't wait to get started. After the four hours it took to open the box and then search the house for six C batteries, she finally got down to business and started banging away. After her first solo she dramatically thrust her sticks in the air above her head, got up and took a deep bow. Then in an added bit of realism she pretended to be drunk, staggering around the room with her eyes half closed and bumping into furniture, JUST LIKE A REAL MUSICIAN.

We're so proud.


HAPPY HOLIDAYS! I'm wishing all of you good things for the coming year - joy, health, happiness and the company of those you love.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I Went To A Concert Where I Gave Birth
To Someone On Stage.

Sounds messy, I know. Let me explain.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Kira and Kiyomi starting guitar lessons. They just finished their first eight week session, although on the last day Kiyomi decided to quit and walked in and announced to her teacher, "I am not a guitar player. I am a DRUMMER!" It remains to be seen whether or not Santa will be stuffing this down the chimney. I'm sure the money would be better spent on a math tutor, but who ever won American Idol by reciting their times tables?

Kira, however, took to it immediately. By the end of her second lesson she knew how to tune her guitar, had memorized her chords and could play a couple of songs all the way through. Rigel was amazed that he was actually learning a few chords from her, although I think it was a blow to his ego when she called him her roadie in front of her friends.

She had her first gig on Friday night, accompanying her teacher (and a seven-year-old singer) on Green Day's Boulevard Of Broken Dreams. I've seen the Stones from the tenth row, partied backstage with The Talking Heads and been offered a joint from Stanley Clarke, but I have to say none of my musical experiences so far compares to seeing someone you gave birth to playing her mini-Fender on a community center's stage.

(In true Stage Mother form, I have to add that most of the guitar you are hearing is Kira's, since she was hooked up to an amp, and her teacher wasn't. Okay, that's all. I'll be over here trying to get her to wear makeup and this sequined halter dress I made her.)

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

This Is Where I Talk About My Refrigerator And Then Provide Links To Distract You.

It's been a plodding week over here. First Kira got sick, then I thought I was getting sick, then Rigel got sick, then I thought I was getting sick again then we woke up Friday morning to a huge puddle of water underneath our refrigerator. Never say I don't know how to have fun.

The repairman showed up to look at our refrigerator and told us it would cost $450 to fix. Seeing as we had just spent $400 on it a little over a year ago to fix a similar problem, we started discussing whether or not it was worth it to fix a twelve-year old appliance. This seemed to cause our repairman great distress, all this tossing around of big words like "money" and "fix" and "old" because he started sighing loudly, rolling his eyes and checking his cell phone. Finally he said, "While YOU TWO are TRYING to decide I'm going to go outside and smoke." Charming fellow!

Apparently he called his office to complain about us indecisive yuppie scum, because immediately the phone rang and when I answered it his supervisor launched into a whole sales pitch, trying to convince me that buying a new refrigerator would be a mistake, and we should fix our old one and he knew that if I went to the store I would (and I quote here) "buy a refrigerator with a TV in it, and in a few years that TV that you thought was so great would end up speaking French to you." I told him that his talents were obviously being wasted in appliance repair, that where he really belonged was as an ambassador to NATO.

But what really sealed the deal for me was this exchange that followed:

Me: Thank you, but we've really made up our mind not to fix it. We'll be buying a new –

Ambassador To Nato: Excuse me! Let me explain! I don't think you understand - your refrigerator is perfectly fine. The new ones are not made as well. You should let us fix your old one.

Me: Yes, I do understand but we've decided to –

Ambassador To Nato: Let me explain! Or, maybe you don't understand. Maybe I need to talk to your husband.

WWMD? (What Would Mom-101 Do?) Liz, I could have used a good feminist zinger to put this chauvinistic, appliance-fixing, French-TV-hating jerk in his place.

The upside of the whole ordeal is that I now have this beauty humming away in my kitchen.

Unfortunately, I had to cancel plans to have coffee with one of my favorite bloggers.


Some more links to distract you from the fact that this entire post consisted almost entirely of my conversation with an expert on refrigerator repair:

If you haven't already read this, go read it now. KC of Where's My Cape writes beautifully about growing up with racism and ethnic stereotypes.

Check out MetroDad's mailbag, where he gives advice on a variety of topics, including hiring a nanny: "During the interview, have your wife dial her cell phone and check her ring tone. If it plays "My Humps" or the theme song to "Scarface," don't hire her. There's a good chance your potential hiree is a wanna-be gangsta or an undercover skank."

I'm not even remotely crafty but I'm inexplicably intrigued by this project over at Wisdom Has Two Parts. It must have been the cheapskate in me picking up on the part where she mentions getting something for a quarter.


The best part of my week? I went to a great concert on Friday night.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Don't Even Think About Getting Me That Knitted Toaster Cover.

The holiday season is here and all the excitement that comes with it: The parties! The shopping! The buffets! It's all over so quickly, but there's one thing I can count on to be with me even after the season has ended, something that will remind me of the holidays long after the tree has been unceremoniously thrown to the curb and the last piece of gingerbread has been inhaled.

I'm talking of course, about all those bad Christmas gifts.

It's not that I'm ungrateful - I'm definitely from the 'It's The Thought That Counts' camp when it comes to gifts. It's just that I can't help but feel bad for the tree that had to die in order to make those wooden boxes adorned with cat portraits that I got one year, or the underage Thai children that worked at a knitting machine for hours to turn out that beaded, sequined, mauve vest a friend gave me.

So I thought as a service to anyone in the midst of their shopping this year I would put together a gift guide, something to help you figure out what not to buy this holiday season in the hopes that your gift won't end up in the back of someone else's closet only to be re-gifted to you for your birthday in two years. Happy shopping!

1. Try to avoid giving those huge gift baskets of cheese and salami to anyone on a diet, or twenty-pound bags of Starbucks coffee to someone trying to cut their caffeine intake. However, if you've already purchased these items, I'll be happy to take them off your hands.

2. By the same token, never give a vial of live Ebola virus to a hypochondriac.

3. Don't give gifts 'for the baby' to a pregnant woman. This will only breed resentment towards the unborn child because what the mother-to-be really wants are some nice bath products or a gift card to an all-night donut shop. There'll be plenty of time for resentment once the baby is born.

4. Additionally, absolutely never gifts 'for the baby' if you're not certain the woman is pregnant. If it turns out she has just put on a little weight you can just kiss that friendship goodbye.

5. Stay away from pet-themed gifts unless you know that the recipient is a dog fanatic or subscribes to Cat Fancy magazine. I have a friend who gave me cat gifts for Christmas and birthdays for three years straight. Earrings with cats, cat necklaces, cat stationery, even a fly swatter with a felt cat on it. The sheer awfulness boggled the mind. While we had a cat we loved, I never considered myself a 'cat person,' one of those people who wears huge sweatshirts with sparkly, appliquéd cats on the front and who always signs their name with a little paw print next to it.

6. When giving an item of clothing to a female friend, never buy it in her actual size, always at least two sizes smaller than she wears even if you know it will be an inconvenience for her to return it. She will think you see her as thin, which is important to all good friendships.

7. It is never a good idea to give suggestive pictures of yourself to your husband for Christmas, as this may cause some uncomfortable moments during the big family gift exchange. Plus, it can be crushing when your niece asks, "Are those pictures of Grandpa Earl?"

8. Don't give movies unless you are certain of the recipients tastes. It's fine, for instance, to give a Super Deluxe Gold Re-mastered Pantomimed Edition of The Lord Of The Rings if you know that the person is a fan of the movie. But buying someone a DVD because you've "watched it at least fifty times" is not a good reason, and you may be shocked to discover that not everyone thinks Patch Adams is a cinematic masterpiece.

9. The same rule applies to books. They are not a good gift choice unless you know the person very well, or are trying to date them in which case remember to only buy books that greatly exaggerate your intelligence and knowledge base. Art Of The French Renaissance will get you considerably more action than Garfield: Survival of the Fattest.

10. Never give anything that can't be quickly recovered from the closet and put on display whenever you come over. It's unfair to expect your friend to haul out that life-size panda wall clock you gave her whenever you decide to drop by for a visit. At least that small vase made out of walnut shells can be brought out from behind the books at the last minute. Be considerate.

11. Try not to give expensive gifts to your neighbors. They will perceive you as being rich and will constantly be over to ask for things, like a cup of sugar or some gold bullion bars.

12. It is dishonest to give someone a gift you know they won't use because you are secretly hoping they'll turn around and say, "Oh, I'll never use this. Here - you take it." Like giving a friend who never cooks an expensive enameled sauté pan. Not that I've ever done that. I'm just saying.

13, Avoid stereotypical ethnic gifts. It annoys the hell out me when someone gives me a pair of chopsticks, or a toothpick-holder shaped like a rickshaw, or a 3-disc bundle of all the Karate Kid movies. If you feel you really can't help yourself from buying these types of gifts, try not to preface them with statements such as, "I wanted to give you something from your motherland" or "Your people sure know how to kung-fu."

14. Unless you are very close to the person you are giving to, never hand them a gift and say, "I know you're going to love this. I bought ten of them for myself." It is a 100% certainty that they will hate it, and then question your taste for all eternity.
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Friday, December 01, 2006

Losing My Tradition.

A few years ago I bought this beautiful wooden advent calendar. It's not a traditional one, but works in much the same way to count down the days until Christmas, except without the Bible story and with small compartments for each day that hold gifts. In other words, it's a cheap commercialization of a lovely Christmas tradition. Just what I was looking for!

I saw The Box as a way to start a tradition with my girls. Instead of constantly asking me how many days were left until Santa's arrival, I imagined them excitedly opening the door for each day to find the small trinkets I would hide in there. They would pass it on to their children, who would pass it on to their children, and so on until years from now my great-great-great-great grandchildren would be retrieving their time-travel vouchers from The Box's tiny alcoves. As you can see, I put a lot of thought into this.

When I showed The Box to Rigel he reacted like a typical male, skeptical about us needing any more holiday traditions. I convinced him that the customary Holiday Hangover and our festive, annual Haggling Over The Moneys were probably not things we wanted to pass on to our children and he grudgingly agreed. The girls were excited about it, deciding that anything that increased their gift-receiving days from one to twenty-five was all right by them.

That first year I spent a lot of time carefully choosing small knickknacks to put in The Box. The size of the compartments posed a challenge and finding items that would fit inside the small space was sometimes difficult. But I did it, scouring Target and Claires to find small keychains, miniature bottles of nail polish and chocolate Santas that were just the right size. I was so caught up in my wonderful new holiday tradition that if you knew me then you would have wanted to throttle my holly-ringed neck. And in hindsight, I wish someone had.

By the second year, I was slightly dreading the Filling Of The Box. In my initial excitement I had failed to calculate the sheer volume of gift buying I was in for: 1 item x 2 girls for 25 days = 50 items. This was in addition to my already extensive list, so I didn't spend as much time shopping for items that year. Carefully chosen presents were replaced by dimes and quarters on some of those days, which the girls heartily approved of. There were less bracelets and more chocolate coins, less tubes of Skittles-flavored lip balm and more stickers. Still, The Box was filled and there was happiness in the household.

When the holidays rolled around last year I had serious regrets about The Box. This came after a particularly grueling cleaning session of the girls' room where I found enough small trinkets to fill five-hundred advent calendars. The idea that I would be buying more crap to fill up those small compartments for twenty-five days panicked me. I considered recycling items, but that wouldn't be in the spirit of the season, and besides I intended to wrap most of it up and re-gift it to the kids of people I didn't like.

I ended up buying a few items but my lack of enthusiasm was evident and I was no longer concerned with the element of surprise. I would scramble to find the little presents for the day, ask them to turn around while I put them in the cubbyhole. and then they would immediately turn around to open the small door to retrieve their gifts. I was beginning to wonder why I didn't just hand them each a bag on December 1st with twenty-five items inside.

On some days I wrote small notes which the girls, while politely feigning gratitude, weren't so crazy about. I don't blame them - who wants a piece of paper that says, "We're so proud of you!" when you're expecting a rhinestone ring? It got worse as the month wore on, with me forgetting days altogether or scouring my closet for leftover party favors or office supplies. By the time December 24th rolled around I had turned into a regular Scrooge, and the girls couldn't hide their disappointment at what they found behind those tiny doors that day. I gave them a lecture about being grateful and thinking of those less fortunate, so then they thanked me for the pocket lint and three paper clips.

I briefly considered not even taking The Box out this year, until Kiyomi saw it in the closet and started pointing and squealing, "The Box! The Box!" as if she had discovered Santa himself sitting there on the shelf. I brought it out, but told them I wanted to do something different this year with more meaning and less useless junk. I took it as a good sign when they looked thoughtful for a moment as they opened the small doors, but then Kira inquired, "Can a gift card fit in there?"

So, today's December first and I haven't gotten around to buying anything for The Box. I've got some Halloween candy that will last me through the next few days, but beyond that I'm not sure what to fill it with. Touching notes of encouragement? Coupons for extra desserts? Lumps of coal? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Either that, or feel free to FedEx me twenty-five small items that can fit inside a two-inch space.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Grandma Helen
February 25, 1905 - November 23, 2006

Rigel got a call during Thanksgiving dinner that his grandmother had died. My girls called her Grandma Helen, and she would be turning 102 this February.

She had only recently become ill, and even though her condition was serious we thought there was a good chance she would surprise us and pull through. Up until a few months ago she had lived on her own in a small house in Wisconsin where she cooked for herself, tended her garden and even occasionally looked in on her elderly, though younger neighbors. We were concerned about her living alone, especially when we heard stories like the one she told last summer, about locking herself out of her house. Not to worry, she said, since it all worked out after an elderly neighbor forced open a small window and then gave Grandma a boost so she could crawl through, head first.

She loved to fish and would do so regularly until she gave up her fishing license a few years ago. At 97-years-old she felt it was time to exercise a little caution and stop going out alone on her small fishing boat - leave that to those young 80-year-old whippersnappers she often passed out on the river. Giving up her beloved fishing was hard, though, especially since she had given up her hunting license a few years prior to that. I think you're starting to get the picture, that Grandma Helen was not just some little old lady in a bonnet sitting in a rocking chair and sipping tea.

The last time we saw her was in February. As she had done almost every year, she got on a plane and flew on her own to California to visit with her son (Rigel's dad) and the rest of us, including Rigel's sister, Aldebaran. Usually each visit was preceded by a call sometime in November, that she had decided not to come out, that she hoped we understood how after a woman hits ninety it's entirely possible that she might not want to leave her home in the bitter cold and travel for an hour just to board a plane for a four-hour flight. After waiting a few weeks to see if we would get the hint that perhaps the younger and more able-bodied among us might consider hauling our lazy asses out to visit her, she would give up and book a flight to L.A. Rigel always imagined that during his phone calls to Grandma she would cover the receiver and turn to her friends and say, "Yeah, it's that yuppie grandson of mine. Looks like Mr. Hollywood still hasn't figured out how to buy a plane ticket."

We were constantly amazed at Grandma's memory. She could rattle off recipes down to the teaspoon, recount historical events with amazing accuracy and was an encyclopedia on plants and vegetables. She would tell stories of her first train ride out to California, 50+ years ago, to visit Rigel's dad. She remembered what the weather was like, how she got from the train station to his apartment, and remarkably, his apartment number. This always amazed me, as I would be hard pressed to remember what the weather was like last week and often forget what my current address is.

Grandma Helen had a wicked sense of humor, and one of our favorite stories is about the time we were opening presents on Christmas a few years ago. Rigel's sister had given me a set of small, oval-shaped pot holders, the kind that fit snugly over the handle of a sauce pan. "What the hell are those?" Grandma asked. When I told her what they were, she replied, "Good gracious! I thought they were peter-heaters!" I don't know many people who can say that their husband's grandmother introduced them to the concept of a penile-warming device.

We always wondered what the key was to Grandma's vibrant life. Was it the crossword puzzles that she loved and did daily? Was it the whisky highball she had every single afternoon? When Rigel's sister asked her what she felt was the real secret to her longevity Grandma replied, without missing a beat, "I never learned how to drive."

We're going to miss you, Grandma Helen.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Big Love.

I was feeling pretty good on Friday and fully recovered from our two-day Disneyland adventure - I managed to scrape that last piece of gum off my shoes and I'd finally stopped answering every question with, "Yo Ho! A pirate's life for me!" So I decided to splurge and take the day for myself. I gassed up the van, hit the ATM and headed for the land of free food and cheap booze, the place where time flies and money flies faster.

Vegas? Ha!

I'm talkin' bout Costco, baby.

I've never been a big warehouse shopper, but since Rigel's company pays for our membership I thought it was about time I started taking advantage of it. When the kids were small I had a hard time picturing us as a Costco family. It wasn't often I thought to myself, "I sure could use a wheel of cheese the size of a manhole cover" or "Let me go pick up a twenty-gallon drum of milk." That was for the Osmonds, or those women you see on TV that gave birth to twelve babies at one time. I was fine buying my eggs, vegetables and underwear at the grocery store just like I've always done.

But as the kids grow up and their appetites grow with them, I'm beginning to see the logic in buying in bulk. I used to laugh at the gargantuan boxes of Goldfish at other people's houses until suddenly I realized that a regular sized bag could be inhaled by my girls and their friends during the first two minutes of a playdate. And so what if I needed to bust a hole in my cabinet to store it, this fifteen-liter bottle of apple juice is going to save me money, damnit!

Everything is big at Costco. The carts are the size of Hondas and require some brawn to maneuver them down the wide aisles. I feel dwarfed in that place, like a little girl pushing her toy stroller around. Normally I would feel embarrassed having to ask a stranger to lift a tin of cookies onto my cart, but not when it weighs more than my 10-year old. I've learned to avoid the bigger, heftier shoppers who maneuver their carts around like tanks and will roll over you to get to that last keg of Diet Coke. Which by the way, is the perfect beverage to enjoy with the five-pound slice of pizza you can buy on your way out.

I've been noticing that shopping at Costco carries a certain cachet now among my peers. Before, in our younger, single days we would attempt to impress by whispering "Fred Segal!" or "Spago!" when asked about our latest outfit or party offering. Now, ask about someone's new ski parka or their fabulous hors d'oeuvres platter and they're likely to say "Costco!" as evidence of their expertise at scoping out a good deal or their ability to lift heavy things. Frugal is in, and the race is no longer to see who has the best toys, but who's toy was cheapest and came in a 2-pak.

One of the big attractions at Costco are the free food samples. Years ago I remember a friend proudly telling me that she had a complete meal there one day while shopping for a computer - starting off with some asparagus bites and ending two hours later with a cup of their fresh-roasted coffee. I told her this was gross and disgusting, but knew then in my heart that I had found the shopping experience I had only dreamed possible. Shop for cds and cleaning supplies and then walk a few feet for a free slice of quiche? I love America.

You can always tell alot by a person by the free samples they take - the super-thin mom who ignores the chicken nugget but waits patiently for her tiny cup of smoothie, and the overweight guy with the huge arms who swoops up five pizza bites at a time. (And there I was, shoving five teenagers aside to get one of those little wieners wrapped in a crescent roll.) It's certainly not the place for the connoisseur or food snob, which I tried to point out to a woman who was holding up the line by asking repeatedly whether a cheese she was sampling was imported or not. I told her she might not get the answer she was looking for from someone wearing overalls and a hair net. And then I politely asked her to step aside since she was standing between me and my appetizer course.

I'm thinking that the whole era of the warehouse superstore has got to end sometime, and the trend will reverse. The micro-amount will replace the stockpiles of big food. Instead of showing off my five-pound bag of French Roast, I'll be bragging about how I stood in line for an hour just to buy a single coffee bean. Until that time, though, I'll continue to make my monthly trek to Costco to fulfill my hoarding instincts and to stuff myself on those free samples. And call me crazy, but I'll sleep better tonight knowing that, barring a nasty stomach virus or a bad pot of chili, I just bought enough toilet paper to last us the next three years.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Happiest Place On Earth.
The Happiest Place On Earth.

For our two girls, a day at Disneyland could only be matched in excitement by the sight of Santa Claus eating ice cream in our living room. I'm not as thrilled by the place, and Rigel even less - crowds, long lines and the close proximity of pasty men wearing tube socks with sandals never fails to put him in a bad mood. In fact, there's only one thing that could possibly make him crankier than a day at Disneyland.

TWO days at Disneyland.


Kira has a friend, D., a boy she has known since the second grade. He's a great kid, and we've become friends with the parents as they are nice normal people who don't have personality disorders and make me want to kill them. This is always a good thing.

D. is an only child and his parents naturally dote on him, and one of the things they love to do is have a special birthday celebration for him every year. Last year they invited nine children and their families to an all-expenses paid day at Universal Studios. Rigel and I marveled at their stealth organizational skills and admired their bravery, since planning an outing with just our two girls requires several hours of motivational tapes and a pitcher of martinis. And that's just for a trip to Target.

So what did they do this year? See if you can guess!

a) Hired an out-of-work actor posing as a magician to come to their house and do card tricks in return for tequila shots.

b) Chose 'The Homeless Epidemic' as their child's party theme and made them donate all their allowance to charity, after which they celebrated by splitting a sandwich eight ways and then sleeping outside. (Oh wait - that was me.)

c) Invited fifteen kids to Disneyland, paid admission for all the children and one adult per family, treated them to lunch, dinner and snacks all day and then put everyone up in a hotel that night so they didn't have to make the long drive home.
Oh, yeah.

The generosity and graciousness of these people is overwhelming, and I couldn't emphasize enough to our kids how fortunate we were to benefit from their kindness. When Kiyomi squealed "I love rich people!" on the ride over I had to give her a talk about the difference between rich and generous, and explain why someone who is rich may not necessarily be generous. And when she said she wanted a Disneyland gala for her next birthday, I tried to convince her that, as fun as a day at The Magic Kingdom could be, an afternoon spent at home with a few friends eating cold pizza and playing Twister and culminating in the singing of "Happy Birthday" around a tasteless cake could be just as thrilling.

The plan was to meet at the hotel at 9:00 and check in before heading off en masse (30 people!) to Disneyland. Rigel and I have a hard time getting anywhere before noon, so we agreed to meet everyone at the park sometime before lunch. This was mostly Rigel's idea, since after doing the math he figured out that even by getting there late we would be spending a whole ten hours in a place he considers only marginally more appealing than the fiery bowels of Hell. (Fiery bowels of Hell is a term I came up with, but if you could see his face during the two hour wait for Dumbo on our last visit you would see just how appropriate it is.)

We still had to buy Rigel's admission ticket, so imagine our surprise when we arrived at the front gates and saw the huge, blinking "Disneyland is SOLD OUT" sign sitting in front of us. He did his best to act disappointed, but I told him doing that little dance, kicking up his heels and shouting, "THERE IS A GOD!" was really starting to annoy me. It was decided that he would go to the hotel, purchase a 2-day pass (which we found out would definitely get him in) and meet up with us later. So much for his alternate plan of checking in to our room, raiding the mini bar and then napping until we returned after the fireworks that evening.

(Okay, I hate to kick a dead horse - no pun intended - but guess who asked me for a ride to Disneyland? I refused on the grounds that I'm not licensed to transport reptiles, but she managed to slither out there on her own. Thank God for the 967,000 other people who provided a buffer.)

We had a great time, in spite of the fact that it was unbelievably crowded. Just trying to walk a few feet was a challenge, and as I made my way through New Orleans Square, smashed between some stranger's sweaty back and the throng of frat boys pushing behind me, I was certain that by the time I reached Frontierland I'd be pregnant, with the sad possibility that the father was some teenager wearing a pair of mouse ears.

Of course, with the crowds comes the long lines and the fact that in ten hours we were only able to make it onto five rides. Enough for me, but certainly not enough for Kira and Kiyomi who used their best puppy dog looks to convince Rigel that his two-day pass could be milked for all its value by going back for a second day. We still had to purchase three tickets for the rest of us, but through some crazy fatigue-induced logic we were able to rationalize that since we had gotten the first day for free, it was as if we were only spending one day there. At the end of our second day I felt like I had aged more than a few years. I came up with the following equation:

1 Disneyland day = 20 human years.

I find it easy to get cynical about Disneyland and the whole Disney empire, but I have to admit that seeing that initial look of joy on your kids' faces when you first walk through those front gates is worth having to stand in line for two hours for a ride that lasts sixty seconds, or having to pay seven dollars for a cup of burnt coffee and a soggy churro. And the best part, or the worst part, depending on how you look at it, was reliving that exact joyous moment again less than twenty-four hours later.

But the sight of this - this nearly pushed Rigel over the edge.

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Thank you, thank you to Pattie at Stolen Moments for nominating me for a ROFL Award for this post. When you wish upon a starrrr....

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rigel's Most Excellent Lesson On How To Tame
A Control Freak.

Me: Can you help me put these juice boxes away?

Rigel: Sure.

Me: Oh, not in that cupboard. In that one.

Me: Oh, don't take those out of the box. Stack the other ones on top.

Me: Oh, don't put all the Berry ones in the back. I mix them up. I have a system.

Rigel: How about I just pee all over them?

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Monday, November 06, 2006

I Wish You Were Around When I Got A Perm.

I love you, crazy blog people. Thank you for your uplifting words, your advice and nuggets of wisdom. Thank you for reassuring me that helping M. is the right thing to do. Thank you for sharing with me stories of being 'that girl' who benefited from a neighbor's welcoming arms. Thank you for encouraging me to continue to nurture Kira's friendship with M. Thank you for cautioning me to keep my guard up when dealing with M.'s mother. Most importantly, thank you for preventing me from driving over to that freaky broad's house and smearing her front steps with dog poop and then yelling "Fire!"

All of your thoughtful, supportive responses got me thinking about what a great community we have here in the blogosphere. If I had had such a wealth of information available to me ten years ago when I had my first child would I have even needed to drop fifteen dollars on What To Expect When You're Expecting? Or Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems? Or Green Poop Does Not Mean They're Dying? (That last one I made up but is DEFINITELY A BOOK THAT NEEDS TO BE WRITTEN.)

As a high schooler, would I have even thought of wearing rainbow suspenders and pants tucked into high top sneakers if I had been able to consult with all of you first?

Well, blog people, now you've done it. A precedent has been set. The die has been cast. Now that I know I can come to you with life's most vexing problems and get such sensible, intelligent advice, here are some things I may need your help on this week:

Bangs or no bangs?

Paper or plastic?

The Duvet: Convenient bed topping or the world's biggest pillowcase?

Handful of carrots or pound of bacon?

Paris or Nicole?

Twenty minutes on the treadmill or Number 2 combo with extra cheese?

Cable bill or Number 2 combo with extra cheese?

College fund or Plasma screen?

Seize The Day or stay in bed?

Candy Corn: Candy, corn or addictive crack substitute?

Pay quarterly taxes or stick it to the man?

The man: Boxers or briefs?

Eat slowly to become aware when you're full or cram your piehole like there's no tomorrow?

Eat slowly or get to the extra piece of steak before your husband?

Recognize defiance as independent thinking and reward accordingly or recognize modern parenting as a bunch of hooey and withhold allowance?

Discuss feelings or slam cupboards and bang pots in the kitchen?

Get a handle on PMS with diet and rest or lash out and sob uncontrollably?

White or red?

Cabernet or chianti?
I'm counting on you, internet.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Somebody Tell Me I'm Doing The Right Thing.

I've written here before about this woman. To recap, she has:

Accused me (falsely) of standing up at a dinner party and announcing her divorce. (I know, try not to laugh after that one. Especially since everyone knows that I only stand up at dinner parties to loosen my pants.)

Fed that accusation to her daughter, who in turn relayed it to Kira, who was understandably upset at the thought that her mother was a secret-spilling liar.

Tried to get me to provide free babysitting for her while she toned her abs at her daily 3-hour workout.

Told me that I had "gained some weight!" when I ran into her one day, obviously unaware that I was wearing a fat suit for my role in an upcoming Lifetime movie.
So why am I wasting valuable blog space even talking about her? Because her daughter, M. is one of Kira's best friends. I love this girl. She's polite, smart, funny and a good friend to my daughter. And I can tell she's been scarred by her parents' divorce and now is trying not to get lost in her mom's new life with her fiancé. A fiancé who I've seen dropping M. off at school and can barely wait for her to get out of the car before he slams the door and burns rubber out of the parking lot.

So I tolerate the mom, even though I want to pummel her with my measly fists everytime I see her. (And not just because she wears stilettos and a miniskirt to pick her kid up at school.) Whenever I see her on the schoolyard we give each other a friendly nod, but M. always comes up and hugs me tightly around the waist and asks when she can come over. I say, "Anytime!" instead of "You, anytime. But tell your mom to keep her bony ass off my property." I'm nice that way.

The girls each invited a friend over for Halloween last night, and Kira invited M. because she knew that her mom wouldn't be taking her trick-or-treating. I approached M's mom on the playground and asked her to drop her daughter off at our house at 5. I would order pizza, let the kids play, and then Rigel would take all the girls trick-or-treating for a couple of hours. Seemed like a fun night, although the thought that I had just set myself up for seeing this woman at both drop-off and pick-up made me want to slap myself.

When someone knocked at the door at 4:20 I was surprised to see M. standing there. She then informed me that her mom wanted me "to come outside and talk to her, because she couldn't find a parking space." Yes, even though our 3-car driveway only had my minivan in it, and there were probably two cars parked on our entire block, I could see where in a steroid-induced haze she could mistakenly think that there was nowhere to park. Either that or her driving skills suck as bad as her social skills and there was no way she could maneuver her car into a space that was the length of half a city block. Okay, drop your kid off 40 minutes early and don't have the decency to come to the door. Lady, stop trying so hard to impress me!

I walked outside and could see her waving me over from her car, but I refused to walk even inches further than I had to. I stood in my driveway, yelled that I would see her at 8, turned and walked back inside. She waited there for a few minutes, probably thinking that I was just going to get something from the house but would surely follow her orders to come to her car. I'm hoping she saw me at the kitchen window, waving cheerfully at her with my middle finger.

I suspect that M. has food issues brought on by her body-obsessed lunatic of a mom. She's very thin, but when she's at our house she's constantly asking for snacks. Yesterday, she seemed genuinely shocked that she could actually help herself to everything I had put out on the table: bowls of pretzels, carrots and apples along with the pizza. Whenever I offered her anything she asked, "You mean I can put some on my own plate?" and when the rest of the girls were reaching for their second piece of pizza she came into the kitchen to ask me if she was allowed another slice. When I told her yes, she said, "Omigosh, thank you!" I envisioned her mom standing over her at the dinner table, waving a pair of size zero jeans and saying, "Eat that second slice of pizza, missy, and you'll never fit into these."

And when she picked her up last night? She wouldn't come in the house to help M. gather her things, and she barely muttered a 'thank you.'

I don't discourage Kira's friendship with M, and I don't let her know what I think about M's mother. I feel like I want to help this girl, to provide an environment for her where there isn't a parent figure who spends more time worrying about her makeup and carb count than her daughter's well being. But tell me this, have I been watching too much Oprah, getting all "It takes a village..." when I should be distancing myself from this woman, even if it means distancing ourselves from her daughter?

Somebody please tell me I'm doing the right thing. Cause right now? I feel like I'm being stepped on. And used. And I'm torn between trying to help this little girl and grabbing her mom by her hair extensions and tying her to the roof of her SUV. And while both of these options will make me feel good, I have the feeling that only one is the right thing.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Sweatpantsmom Reveals The Secrets Of Blogging!

A friend of mine called me recently to say that she was thinking of starting a blog and wanted some advice. I told her the blogosphere was already too crowded, and if she had any 'thoughts' or 'feelings' she should either keep them to herself or just write them down in a spiral-bound notebook like everyone else. She persisted, though, and I agreed to answer a few questions mainly because I'm a supportive friend but also because she agreed to cough up a couple of bucks for a cappuccino and a scone. Here is our Q & A:

Can anyone start a blog?

Yes. In fact, that's the comment I hear most often after people have read my blog. "Oh, I see anyone can start a blog."

How much time do I need to devote to my blog?
Most of your waking hours that you aren't working, sleeping or going to the bathroom should be spent on your blog. Nobody likes a lazy blogger. In fact, before starting you should explain to friends and family members that you will no longer be available for lunches, parties or funerals. It's also a good idea to teach your children to cook and clean and to do their homework on their own because you won't want to be bothered with any of that.

How do I get people to read my blog?

I don't know.

Can I earn money by running ads on my blog?
Some people make lots of money with blog advertising. If you look on some popular sites you'll see ads by big name advertisers like Mattel and Paramount Pictures. It depends on how successful your site is - the more readers you have, the bigger advertisers you can attract. I myself am waiting for approval from some advertisers as we speak! (I'm talking to you, Hals Donuts and Nails by Fatima!)

Are blog rankings important?
Absolutely. I suspect it has something to do with being more talented and more creative, but I know for a fact that those with higher rankings are definitely better looking. My Technorati rank is something like 18,000. That puts me right on par with say, Dan Rather or Bea Arthur. In fact, that's what I'm thinking of for my new tagline: The Bea Arthur Of Blogs!

What about comments - are they important?
If you're talking about your sense of self-worth, yes. If I see that I have zero comments, I'm likely to grab a box of candy bars and crawl into bed for the rest of the day. The higher that number gets, the less I yell at my kids and the more optimistic I am for my future. Once the number of comments gets into the double digits my mood gets even sunnier and my husband knows he'll be getting lucky that night. And just as I said that I realized where all those "Anonymous" comments are coming from.

I've heard that bloggers are a narcissistic bunch. Is this true?
Absolutely untrue. But did you want to talk about other bloggers and their problems, or - Hello! Why don't you ask them out for coffee?

Should I tell anyone about my blog?
If you're planning on trashing your friends, relatives or your mailman, then no. There are those that find it offensive to be called a turd or a back-stabbing ho in a public forum. Some people are just sensitive that way.

But I find it can be an effective tool in certain social situations, like if you're trying to stop that pesky neighbor from stopping by "just to chat" or to get rid of someone at a party. Because nothing stops a conversation dead in its tracks like the words, "Let me tell you about my blog."

I'm interested in blogging and its relevance in the bigger picture. How can bloggers use their collective voices to influence political issues? In what ways can bloggers use their platform to affect social change? What are some ways that blogging influences public opinion?
No. Are you going to eat the rest of that scone?
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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Nice To Meet You, Please Don't Kill Me.

Yesterday someone knocked on the door and when I opened it there was a package on the steps. It was a small box, with my name clearly typed on the label but no identifiable return address. I then did what any normal, rational human being would do - I decided that it was a letter bomb, and set about deciding how I could open it without losing a limb or even worse, scorching my eyebrows.

I took the package outside onto the front porch. I saw a documentary on letter bombs on TV, and knowing that my blood and severed digits had the possibility of shooting several feet, I decided that detonating the box inside the house wouldn't be smart - you're looking at a few hundred dollars just to clean the walls and hardwood floors. That's me - always thinking ahead!

I pointed the box away from my body and slowly opened it, pushing it away from me after each rip so that once I reached the fuse I would have at least a few seconds to hurl my body out of danger and minimize the carnage. If any of the neighbors saw me and the obvious peril I was in none of them stepped up to help me - no doubt they were all just waiting, camcorders in hand to record the explosion of human tissue and body fluid so they could post it on YouTube. Those sadistic bastards.

Finally, after a few agonizing minutes during which my life passed before my eyes and I had rehearsed what my last words would be to Rigel and the girls ("Sorry for the mess. By the way, we're out of milk.") the lid of the box flipped open. My heart pounded. Sweat dripped from my forehead. I glimpsed a piece of foam padding and an ominous-looking grey object.

It was my new replacement battery for my PowerBook.

When I told Rigel this story last night he laughed for second, got really quiet and then said, "Wow. You're brave. Because if I did anything that loopy, no way would I even think of telling anybody."

I take full credit for my neurotic, doomsayer tendencies. That huge, old tree in front of our house that's withstood a thousand years of earthquakes and storms? Clearly minutes away from smashing us to smithereens in our sleep. The guy at the park who I thought was about to snatch a kid and whisk him away in his stolen van? I sneered at him for a solid hour before I found out it was actually my friend's husband. The gnarly-looking crew that showed up to do some yardwork? Certain that they were all escaped convicts, I called Rigel at work to tell him that the one with the glass eye and skull tattoo was not only eyeing me but our patio furniture, too.

I wasn't always this suspicious. I used to be trusting and naiive, and while I didn't just fall off the turnip truck, I certainly had no trouble just getting right into one. During a solo trip to Seattle to visit friends I took a ferry alone to catch a shuttle that would take me to the airport. Weighted down with three bags, a backpack and walking through a rainstorm, I accepted a complete strangers offer to take me to the bus stop. And while I became uncomfortable when he professed his belief in UFOs, I didn't think anything of it when he opened the back of his truck cab and I saw:

a thick coil of rope
two shovels
several tarps
The Holy Trinity of mass murderer accessories in his truck - no problem. Crazy talk about alien beings - Hey, back-off psycho man!

While I can't begin to figure out the origins of my fears, my near-death experience at the hands of my laptop battery has got me determined to confront my suspicious nature. I've decided to make a conscious effort to be more trusting from now on. Strange letters in the mail that have no return address and smell of sulfur? Bring em on! I'll not only open them in the house, I'll carry them around in my pants for an hour first! Strangers approaching me on the street? I'll no longer assume they're out to steal my children, but hug them warmly and offer them a mint. Heavily tattooed, breast-gazing men who show up at my house to haul away greenery will be shunned no more! Now, they'll be invited in where I'll offer them coffee and the password to my online banking account.

I'm a work in progress, though, so those of you who've never met me, don't be surprised if I eye you warily at first. Try to ignore the retina scan, and please be understanding if I summon law enforcement if you attempt to approach me and my children to set up a playdate.

Most importantly, if you plan on sending me any computer accessories, make sure to mark the package clearly.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

This Little Scribe Of Mine.

Edited 10/24: Kiyomi regrets the omission of the Aries horoscope. She claims the error was because she wasn't able to finish the newsletter due to the unreasonably early bedtime imposed by her parents. Here is the missing forecast:

aries: you will be interested in animals.*
*Sweatpantsmom assumes no responsibility for any aberrant actions or risky behavior as a result of the above forecast.

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Not to be outdone by her sister's popular AnimeKat Weekly, Kiyomi has come out with a newsletter of her own, the Weekly Bunny Moon. I know I'm partial, but the title alone is so cute it makes me want to cry.

Like Kira, she types it out on her Mac and then emails it to family and friends. (If Kira is feeling territorial at all she's not letting on, although I did catch her Googling 'creative domain' and 'sister is a copycat' the other day.) If this keeps up I may have the two of them just take over my blog - not only is their writing a thousand times more imaginative than mine, but they're cuter, younger and have smaller pores. In other words, they've got 'BOOK DEAL' written all over them.

Kiyomi does her own version of a horoscope, called 'future telling.' It's good news if you're a 'caper corn' (like me) since relaxing times are ahead. However, if you're a pisces, be prudent with your good times, and you geminis out there - unfortunately you're all vampires.
future telling for the week
cancer: you will have a sudden need for cookies

caper corn:
you will be resting good

you will have nightmares

you will be shy oftanly

you well look pretty

you will not look in the mirror

you will ware ribbons

you will have a great time

you will feel curious

you will be shocked

you will do great in your work

have fun but not enough

Enjoy your first free, introductory copy of Weekly Bunny Moon. Kiyomi has informed me that future issues are available by subscription only, at a cost of 12¢ or a box of Twizzlers.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I Know It's Only Rock And Roll, But They Like It.

A couple of years ago Kira and Kiyomi became obsessed with the band Puffy AmiYumi and the cartoon that was created about them. I liked this phase, since the worshipping of two hip Japanese rocker chicks was preferable to the phase where they were fixated on Barbies, princesses and those awful Bratz dolls. My daughters, at the young ages of 6 and 8, were determined to become superstars and someday travel around on their own tour bus, just like their idols. I told them I had a similar dream, but it involved me, alone in my minivan on a four day bender to Vegas.

That Christmas they asked for electric guitars so that they could embark on their quest for musical stardom. I found a couple of cheap ones at Toys R Us, but Rigel, currently pursuing his own dreams of rock and roll immortality, decided this was his domain and no wife of his was going to go buying his offspring just any old guitar she picked up in a bargain bin. I figured this was his sneaky way of spending even more time at GuitarCenter, but I was relieved to have anything crossed off my holiday to-do list. Three days and almost four-hundred-dollars later he had purchased two mini Fender guitars, each with it's own amp and guitar stand. I thought this was a little extravagant, especially coming from a man who thought that having GPS installed in his wife's car was too much of an expense, even though it's known that she requires MapQuest to navigate down their own driveway.

Now, two years later, they've just started their guitar lessons. It's going well, and they've already mastered the first few chords of their favorite Green Day song. Kira has obviously inherited Rigel's musical genes which also probably explains why, despite the fact that she barely practices, she has managed to become first-chair violin in her school's orchestra. But what Kiyomi lacks in actual musical chops she makes up for in theatrics. She just joined the orchestra on violin this year as well, and after playing for me a scratchy version of Hot Cross Buns the other day, she stood up, blew me a kiss and then pretended to smash her violin on the floor with big overhead swings. I did the wave and then held my lighter high up in the air.

They've even started a band with their two best friends, Sophia and Samantha, calling themselves the Sunflower Sisters. Though they don't have any songs written yet, haven't mastered any instruments or decided on a genre, Kira has already designed an entire tours worth of band outfits and decided exactly what the inside of the deluxe bus will look like. They've already had their first fight - about the logo design - so it won't be long before they're stealing each others' boyfriends, battling substance abuse and attempting to mend their broken relationships as a result of their solo albums. I'm just beaming with pride!

Recently I saw the two of them in the living room, practicing their post-concert sign-off. Kira had the microphone hooked up to their karaoke machine and Kiyomi was sitting next to her with a globe in her lap. She would spin the globe, stop it with her finger and then show Kira where it had landed. Then Kira would shout out, "Thank yewww... TOKYO!!" and "Thank yewww... WYOMING" and my favorite, "Thank yewww... [examining...long pause]...LIBYA!!"

We're accepting bookings now.

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

My New Best Friend.

I'm a huge David Sedaris fan. I've read all of his books twice, eat up his occasional pieces for The New Yorker, and when I saw him live earlier this year I even briefly considered waiting in the line of two-hundred-plus people just to get my copy of Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim signed. Instead I sat at a nearby table where I drank my nine dollar glass of wine and fantasized how I would trick him into coming to my next dinner party. I had gotten to the part where he takes out a restraining order, when I was brought to my senses by Rigel pointing out that I was smashing my plastic tumbler into tiny pieces and mumbling, "But all I wanted was to be your friend!"

Yesterday, as I was browsing the bookstore, lamenting the fact that it had been two whole years since his last new release, I came across this book, written by his sister Amy. I'd seen her occasional appearances on David Letterman and as Carrie's agent on Sex and the City, but had never read anything she'd written until now.

It's a how-to book on entertaining and contains actual recipes for things like Roast Leg Of Lamb, but the text is like something written by the local Girl Scout leader after a night of tequila slammers. You'll find recipes for Vulgar Barbecue Sauce and even useful beauty tips such as how to use cigarette ashes to remove hair color from your hairline. And how awesome is it that I can follow her recipe for white frosting with figs and then, on the facing page, find tips for keeping my private parts clean and fresh!

The first thing I saw when I flipped open the book was this recipe for hot dogs, and after reading the first few steps I knew that I had found someone else to stalk.

Mrs. Hog's Hot Dogs
  1. Wake up.
  2. Turn the stove on.
  3. Get a pan, put water in and boil it.
  4. Drop hot dogs in boiling water but be careful not to splash boiling water on yourself.
Not only do I have a book of new recipes to pour over, I also get some good advice in her Art of Hospitality section:
A Self-Realized Person Will...
  • Be unique in a way that is pleasing to everybody.
  • Accentuate the postives – medicate the negatives.
  • Have a hairstyle that is flattering to some and offensive to few.
  • Have access to money.
  • Never cry herself to sleep in front of others.
This book is around 300 pages and I'm only on page nineteen, so it should keep me busy until what's-his-name decides to publish another book of his essays. Plus, the entire last section is devoted to crafts and there's a few that I want to get started on right away. The pantyhose bath sachet and the wooden calf stretcher will be perfect for the slumber party I'm inviting Amy to!

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Buy, Buy Japan.

Recently Kira overheard a friend telling me how the last three months of the year are always so hectic, and how she's dreading the big Christmas rush and the buying frenzy that it brings. "Gawd, I hate to shop. Hate it hate it hate it." While this sentiment was even a little strong for me, by the horrified look on Kira's face you would have thought my friend has just lifted her shirt to reveal a parasitic twin. On the way to the car Kira nervously whispered, "Okay, she was just joking about the shopping, right? I mean, is she some kind of weirdo?"

When a website asked me to write an article on traveling to Japan with my girls, it didn't take me long to realize what stood out in my mind. Although their willingness to adapt to a foreign culture was exciting, what really impressed me was their ability to sniff out a retail opportunity from five miles away. To them, the ancient temples of Kyoto were merely facades for the gift shops tucked away inside, and their bizarre internal radar expertly guided us from our hotel in unfamiliar surroundings straight to a seven story shopping complex.

Sure, Rigel and I came away with many rich memories of our trip, but through our daughters' eyes we came to realize that the true worth of the journey is measured by the number of crappy keychains you bring home. (You can read about Desperately Seeking Souvenirs on KidsCanTravel.)

Just so you don't think this post was a cheap way to get you to read my article, here are some of the treasures we scored:
iPod skins: Ask Kira about the trip, and the first thing she is likely to say is, "Their iPod skins rock." Hers is the 'angel' (front and back) and mine is the much more boring dotted version next to it.

Key Covers: These are everywhere in Japan. For some reason, of all the souvenirs that I bought, this is my favorite. It's on my house key, and makes me smile everytime I open my door. It's as if it's saying, "We all went to Japan, and all I got was this lousy key cover."

Cell phone charms: They're around two years ahead of us over there in terms of cell phone technology, and around fifteen years ahead if you're talking cell phone accessories. I've never seen so many cases, straps, decals or hanging-thingies. The gray ball on the one on the right lights up and flashes whenever a call is coming in. I barely know how to even use my phone, but with all these goodies hanging from it I look like a pro.

Cookies: These are so good you'll want to roll around naked in them. They're called Yoku Moku, and here in the States you can only get them at Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue, where they'll set you back $20 a box. We got them in Japan for $11 each, which is not bad considering each cookie is individually wrapped and packed into this beautiful metal box, which you can use later to hold all those keychains and cell phone charms you don't use anymore.

We bought around eight of these to give away as gifts but have eaten almost all of them so far. We've only given away one, to Rigel's sister, and that's because I forgot to hide them before she got here.

Jiji and Dust Bunny Keychains: We're all huge Hayao Miyazaki fans. Jiji is the cat from Kiki's Delivery Service and the Dust Bunnies are from My Neighbor Totoro. If you've never seen either of these movies you are dead to me.

There's a Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo which is basically a shrine to Miyazaki and his films. We wanted to go, but the tickets are sold out months in advance and the earliest date they had was in December. So imagine the glee when we stumbled upon a gift shop that stocked nothing but merchandise from all of Miyazakis movies - which is probably the only reason the girls wanted to go to the museum in the first place.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

We'll Have Our Cake And Eat It, Too.

As you know, I'm not much for tackling any important issues on this blog. Homelessness, poverty and oversexed Republican representatives take a back seat to any narcissistic stories revolving around my latest diet, grooming habits or too-cute-for-words anecdote about my kids. But when I see something that really riles me, that just screams injustice, I am forced to take action. Because this time, it's personal.

They're trying to take away our cupcakes.

According to this recent article* in the Los Angeles Times, some school districts are banning any non-nutritional treats from classroom parties. That would include birthday cupcakes, Halloween candy or little Susie's mom's killer caramel brownies. Instead, one district administrator suggests parents bring carrots.

Oh, yummmmm! Birthday carrots!

Now, I don’t know about your kids, but if I were to show up in either of my girls’ classrooms with a bag of carrots to celebrate their special day, I'd be beaten senseless by a mob of angry kids. And Kiyomi, while relaying the offense to her therapist in twenty years, would recognize it as a pivotal moment in her decision to jack a Hostess truck.

In fact, if I show up at any party bearing a platter of carrots, feel free to pull me aside and kick my ass.

Don't get me wrong - here at home we try our best to give our kids a healthy, balanced diet. We even have soy bacon in our freezer, right alongside the edamame and Boca Burgers. As they're getting older, we try to guide them towards making healthy choices for themselves. (Oh, alright. Except for this.) And I supported the ban on soda vending machines in our district schools – the daily presence of those big metal boxes was unnecessary and too great a temptation, sort of like putting a bacon dispenser outside my office door.

But the responsibility of my child's health is not the job of anyone else, especially the parents of my child's classmates. I trust my kids to exhibit some measure of self-control, so if Billy's mom wants to bring in birthday cupcakes smothered in buttery pink frosting and topped with chunks of sugar crystals and gummi bears, that's fine. My girls usually scrape off half the topping anyways, and will usually forego sweets for the rest of the day, telling me they're "all sugared out." And even when they do jump on that treat like a rottweiler on a pork chop, I'm not likely to become alarmed enough to call for a district-wide cupcake ban. More likely I'll ask them why they didn't save half of that monstrosity for me.

I realize there's growing concern over childhood obesity but I think it's a mistake to blame it on a few cupcakes consumed over a nine-month period. Most teachers I've seen have the foresight to make sensible recommendations: only one treat per child, and for classroom potlucks parents are encouraged to bring vegetable and fruit platters or sandwiches. I showed up at Kira's last classroom party with a tray of sushi which, along with other parents' offerings of dolmades and pupusas was appreciated by teachers and kids alike. But I know that we were all grateful that one of the mothers had the sense to show up with a tray of homemade churros for dessert.

Some administrators are suggesting alternate treats for the kids - stickers, school supplies, special seat covers (and sue me for having a perverse mind, but all I can picture are those things you find in public restrooms, only this one has "Happy Birthday Claire!" scrawled across it in crayon.) These are all good suggestions, but the idea of all my child's classmates singing 'Happy Birthday' to her while she blows out a candle stuck into an eraser just seems so wrong to me.

The article mentions that the Texas legislature passed the "Safe Cupcake" amendment last year, which guarantees parents' rights to deliver unhealthful treats to their children's classroom. This would ensure that anyone showing up at school bearing a platter of sninckerdoodles won't be fingerprinted, put into a headlock and escorted off the premises. I hope we won't have to go so far in our school, but if a ban on sweets appears on my district's horizon I'm prepared to fight tooth-and-nail for the cause.

Because if they want my cupcake, they'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.


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Friday, September 29, 2006

She Says Potato, I Say Pootie-Tang!

I'm a little on edge here, preparing for the momentous task of having The Talk with Kira. I guess part of me feels like life is happening a little too fast, that it seems like just yesterday I was reading her nursery rhymes and now I've got to explain to her how a bowling-ball-sized baby could possibly end up in mommy's stomach.

So you can understand my concern when Kiyomi comes out of nowhere yesterday with this:

"Mom, what's a ho?"

I'm in the kitchen, and the girls are in the living room reading. She says it so matter-of-factly that I'm certain she knows what it is and this is just her devious way of saying to me, "Lady, maybe you should re-think that halter top."

Either that or she had got a hold of my Missy Elliot CD and was reading the lyrics, in which case I knew it wouldn't be long before she asked me what "I put my thang down flip it an reverse it" means. I hurried into the living room.

Me: Excuuuuse me?

Kiyomi (holding up her homework:) I'm reading a story. ABOUT A GARDEN.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

People, Step Away From The Goats.

I'm trying to meet a deadline so I have NOTHING. Except for this. Make sure you read all the way to the end about the disappearing penis.

I suppose I'll put it in my files with this in preparation for my new endeavor, "The Barnyard Blog."

And before my inbox starts filling up with all sorts of animal porn, I'M KIDDING.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Blind Leading The Blind, Part One: The Birds And The Bees.

Usually on Sunday I make a list in my head of all the things I need to get done during the following week. I find this works better than writing them down, since the less important tasks just naturally fall away into the recesses of my atrophying brain, while the most important one will stay in my consciousness, screaming its importance while it torments me and keeps me up at night. I've got a doozie for this week, and all those other lesser things on my list, like helping the homeless, learning Spanish and bathing will have to wait.

Because this week I'm going to have The Talk with Kira.

You know the one. The serious, long-winded speech that covers not only sex, but babies, menstruation, a brief anatomy lesson, body changes and appropriate and inappropriate behavior. (Oh, and if I have time - blogging, commenting, positioning of the sidebar and the social implications of a blogroll.)

And I'm dreading it. Because I absolutely suck when it comes to teaching of any kind. No matter what my knowledge is on a given subject, when it comes to imparting that knowledge to another human being I am completely useless:

Person Seeking Knowledge: Mom, how does the TV work?

Me: Oh, um, the TV station is sending a signal through the cable thingy.

PSK: And how does the sound get here?

Me: That's coming from the little people living inside the TV.

I don't remember my parents having The Talk with me. Since there were five kids, they probably figured they would just have to explain things to my oldest brother and everything would filter on down to the rest of us. Sort of like that 'telephone' game we all played in kindergarten where the first kid would whisper, "Twinkle twinkle little star" to the one next to him and by the time it had been whispered into the wax-filled ear of the twentieth kid in class it would come out as, "Tony Danza ate his car."

Being the youngest, this may explain why most information was tragically compromised by the time it reached me, and why I vaguely remember hushed conversations oddly revolving around the words peanuts and angina. It may also be the reason why, all these years later, any talk of sex will bring on suffocating chest pains and a craving for a bowl of salty Planters.

So I've been wondering about the best way to approach my little discussion with Kira. Since I'm a big fan of visual aids, I'm thinking that some life-size diagrams of the human body would be helpful, along with a slideshow accompanied by her favorite band, Green Day (...I hope you have the tiiime of your liiife...) And here's where it gets really fun - after that intro, I could get out some of those plastic models of reproductive organs from the medical supply store and use them to act out different scenarios. Oh, and I definitely need one of those laser pointers - they're useful for emphasizing things and also make awesome light shows if anyone starts to get bored.

Or, better yet, maybe I should just skip The Talk altogether and she can get her information from YouTube like every other normal kid.

Holy crap, what is wrong with me?

Why can't I be like the moms in those teary Afterschool Specials, the ones that authoritatively, but oh-so-lovingly, explain the facts of life to their fresh-faced daughters, while sipping tea and wearing homely sweater vests? Who would never dream of using words like woowoo or Mr. Peter or of using pantomime or sock puppets to give their children life lessons? Chances are when I'm done talking, Kira will pat my hand, look me straight in the eyes and say, "Mom, that was a lovely talk. Now please take off that hideous tampon costume and get dad in here."

So wish me luck. What I'm hoping is to have an open, honest conversation with her that will ensure that she's comfortable with who she is and the changes that will be happening to her body. I'm hoping that I'll be able to supply her with at least a quarter of the information she'll need to make good decisions. But most of all, I'm hoping that she doesn't go to school the next day, gather her girlfriends around and say, "So, my mom gave me The Talk. And the weirdest part? Tony Danza ate his car."

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