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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Monday, September 25, 2006

Earth-Shattering, Mind-Blowing, Ass-Whoopin News.

I changed my profile picture.

Because I get asked things like, "Where are the sweatpants behind Sweatpantsmom?" and "What color is your coffee cup?"

Oh, and I also get asked, "Can you do any circus moves?" But I couldn't answer that one in a photo. Yet.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Regrets: Teaching Them How To Read Nutritional Labels.

And yes, I have been known to say, "No, I'm not steaming any more broccoli. But there is an entire pepperoni pizza here and somebody better eat it."

(Continuing my homage to PostSecret, yet another installment in my series which I call "MomSecret")

from my past:
Bad Mommy.
Next Up: Stealing Shopping Carts From Homeless People.
Lying, Deceit and Self-Absorption - Some Moms Can Do It All!

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Don't Worry - After A Couple Of Drinks I'll Come Down Off My Soapbox.

My kids go to public school.

Living in Los Angeles, this is a big statement, one that has the power to alienate scores of people and touch off heated debates around the punch bowl at kids' birthday parties, one that is almost as shocking as admitting that you're a fan of Tara Reid (I'm not) or that you feed your kids Cheetos (I do, but then lie about it.) It's also the reason Rigel practically forbids me to talk to other parents at neighborhood parties, since I have been known to exclaim loudly, over the strains of the John Mayer CD playing pleasantly in the background, "Give me one good reason why your kids aren't going to our local public school." This is usually followed by the sound of breaking glass, the shrieks and litigation threats from the other parent and the sight of everyone in the room deleting our names from their phone books.

(I was reading Mom-101's excellent post today where she talks about the implications of school fundraising. And while I agree that our schools are woefully underfunded, I have to confess an unnatural zeal for these shameful plugs for cash, because in reality it's the only way our school would be able to afford some of the extras we've enjoyed during the past few years. If the pimping of sweet treats is the only way we could afford a performance by a Taiko Drum ensemble or six extra weeks of sculpture workshop for kids that would normally have no exposure to the arts, then I'm your pusher, baby. She ended her post with her conflicted feelings about sending her daughter to a public school, and it got me thinking about my own fierce allegiance to our local public elementary.)

I grew up in South Central L.A., not exactly the most glamorous of neighborhoods, and my siblings and I are products of our public school system. What I usually hear after divulging my public school background is, "Oh, things weren't so bad then. Now, we have gangs." 'Gangs' is usually said in a low whisper, as if the utterance of the word is likely to bring AK47-wielding hoodlums bursting through the doors, knocking over bottles of expensive shiraz and wreaking havoc on our little suburban soiree. And my answer? I'm usually doubled over in laughter, rudely snorting as I fight to keep my teeny plate of crudit├ęs from spilling onto the floor.

Because we had gangs then, people. The Crips. The Bloods. Another one that I vaguely remember being named the '39th Street Hoods.' And every Friday the rule was that you don't wear blue jeans because either the Crips or the Bloods or perhaps some confused soul who was actually a member of both gangs, would show up at school and cut you. And your mother. And if you had a dog, or a cat, or even a fish they would cut them too, and make their skins into slipcovers.

But we stayed in those schools, partly because we couldn't afford private school, but mostly because this was our neighborhood, and attending your local school was what everyone did back then. While they certainly had their complaints, for the most part my parents felt that we were getting a good education. They had high standards and we were expected to bring home good grades and stay out of trouble. They key factor is that they were involved in our lives, and with our schooling, and it seemed to have paid off because all five of us went on to college and successful careers. (Okay, I admit - I still don't wear jeans on Fridays.) All of us, at least to my knowledge, have avoided prison, drug addiction and prostitution, all things we've been told to expect from our children should we be so naive as to send them to public school.

And now my girls attend our local elementary. We live in a fairly affluent area, and the school sits on a street with multi-million dollar homes. But few of the families in our neighborhood send their kids to this school, because it also happens to be a part of a district where many of the people don't live in multi-million dollar homes where in fact, a large percentage of our school families are at poverty level. (Yes, Sweatpantsmom's kids go to school with poor people! One wonders what that will do for my demographic profile if I decide to run ads on my site.)

And I put up with the comments from other parents. And the pity - oh the pity, when I tell people where my kids go to school and they are almost guaranteed to answer, "Ohhhhh. Really? And how is that?" as if I had just confided that I was suffering from scabies or revealed a gargantuan wart on my neck.

So why do I send my kids there? Because when we moved into this neighborhood almost four years ago, I was determined not to be part of the majority of people who had turned their backs on the school. I hoped and prayed it would be a good one, and if it wasn't I vowed to stick it out and do whatever I could to make it, at the very least, a safe and decent place for my kids to go.

To my relief, it was a decent school. Not the best, but one with rising test scores and one that showed signs of steady improvement. It won me over completely. I like the principal and I like the teachers. I like the fact that it takes us exactly nine minutes to walk to school. And I like the fact that my kids have friends who are Latino, Caucasian, African-American, Armenian, Russian, Bulgarian, Polish, Chinese, Pilipino and Japanese. In the three-and-a-half years we've been there, the test scores have risen steadily, the school has won academic achievement awards two years running and our principal was just named one of the top ten principals in the city. Not bad for a local public school, one that many of my neighbors are afraid to send their kids to.

And while a majority of the neighborhood children still attend schools out of the area, I'm enjoying that our little school is one of the best-kept secrets in the district. While the others may have brand new iMacs in every classroom and an organic juice bar in the cafeteria, we're relieved that we made enough off of our candy sale to pay for a drama teacher for eight weeks and cake and balloons for the 5th grade graduation party that we have on the school front lawn. Most importantly, at the end of the day my girls are happy, and I'm grateful for that.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Crimes & Misdemeanors.

It's not something I'm particularly proud of, although in my hopes to encourage others to come forward I choose not to conceal it completely. There are some who consider it illegal, others wisely choose to turn a blind eye. Either way, if I were standing in front of all of you in a room today, I would pleadingly ask, "Who among you is not guilty of the same crime?"

I am talking of course, about stealing hotel toiletries.

At issue here is not the occasional bottle of 2-oz. shampoo you tuck away in your purse on a business trip, or the compact sewing kit you brought home for Grandma when you forgot to buy her that Lollapalooza t-shirt she asked for. I'm talking about the kind of ugly behavior when, upon entering a hotel room you push the bellhop aside and make a beeline for the bathroom counter to see what kind of bounty awaits, while your daughters and husband are drawn to the window to take in the view. Their oohing and ahhing over the majesty that is the San Francisco bay is drowned out by the cries coming from the bathroom, "Come look! They've got Aveda in here, and their soap is shaped like a starfish!"

And by the end of your stay, that same counter will lay bare, its entire contents packed neatly beside your skirts and tennis shoes.

The hotels in Japan take the toiletry concept to a whole new level. Along with the usual bottles of shampoo and bars of scented soap you'll find a collection of amenities that makes someone like me feel like they've won the lottery. Standard in every room are four toothbrushes (each with a miniature tube of toothpaste), folding hairbrushes, packs of Q-tips, cotton balls and makeup applicators, and shaving kits. One hotel supplied a facial-care line complete with foaming wash, toner and moisturizer and a kit for men that contained a can of shaving cream and small bottles of aftershave and hair gel. Another supplied ponytail holders along with bobby pins and a makeup mirror.

And none of it excaped my greedy hands. By the end of our trip my suitcase resembled a Rite-Aid kiosk. When Rigel sarcastically mentioned that all I was missing was the bathroom sink, I spent a few seconds mentally calculating its size in comparison to my carry-on bag before I realized he was joking.

I've come to find that my pilfering habit is genetic. In Kyoto, while waiting in a hotel lobby for my sister my niece told me, rolling her eyes upward in the direction of the room, "My mom's up there stuffing the last of the bathroom loot into her bag." I, too, rolled my eyes in disgust but in reality I was wondering if I had time to make a last pass at my room to do some further pillaging. Perhaps I could slip in as the maids were re-stocking and get my hands on just one more bottle of lavender body lotion or shoe buffing pad. When my sister finally came down we had the following conversation:

Me: Did you get everything?

E: Oh yeah. Can you believe the stuff they give you? I've got enough toothbrushes and shampoo to last me the next fifty years.

Me: Me too! I took it all. Everything except the shower cap.

E: Oh no. I never take the shower caps. I mean, that would be tacky.

In our hotel in Tokyo every room had a beautiful lacquer bowl filled with several varieties of green tea. As we were preparing to check out on our last day the phone rang and a whispering voice on the other end said, "Don't forget to take the tea." It was my mom, sounding like Don Corleone ordering his underlings to put the body in the trunk. I took the tea but left the lacquer bowl, knowing that taking it would have put me on a whole other criminal level, up there with habitual nose-pickers and people who open packages and eat while they're walking around the supermarket.

Although I fear passing this gene onto my children, I know at least one of them is safe. Kira would wince and avert her eyes as I shuffled entire trays of product from the bathroom counter into my bag. Both her and Rigel let their disapproval be known when, back in L.A. I modeled my terry cloth slippers from the Tokyo Hyatt. "Omigod. You took those?" (In my defense, they're not very good ones, and the bag they were shrink-wrapped in said "For You.") Kiyomi however, hasn't fared so well. Spurred on by my bathroom ransacking she took to inquiring about other items in the room. "Can I take this?" she asked, pointing to the bedside lamp, and when I caught her trying to shove the plasma TV into her Hello Kitty backpack, well, I have to say I felt so ashamed.

So there's my story. I feel better now, although I can see you all shaking your heads in disapproval. But those of you quick to judge me, just remember this: If there's ever an emergency and you find yourself in my neighborhood late at night, wandering and desperately searching for an all-night drugstore, just stop by my place. I've got a toothbrush waiting for you.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

An Inadequate Post To Express How I Feel.

I fear late-night or early morning phone calls. To me, either one is a sure sign of bad news on the other end. An 11pm phone call many years ago informed me that my dad was being rushed to the hospital, where he would die four days later. A couple of years prior to that, a 6am call to tell me that my aunt had passed away. And when a friend called close to midnight six years ago it was through tears that she told me the awful news that her teenage son had been shot and killed.

I had a bad feeling when the phone rang at 6 am on September 11, 2001. It was my mom, telling us to turn on the tv because something horrible was happening. It was an unbelievable, terrifying, sad day.

What was the moment you became aware of what was unfolding that morning?

(Oh, and a little while later, as we were watching the towers fall? Another call came in, this one from a client wondering how soon I could get those logos over to her. As I said, unbelievable and sad.)

My heart goes out to all of you who lost loved ones on that tragic day.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Not A Good Day In The Neighborhood.

Our cat Mookie died yesterday.

She had probably died a couple of days before, but we just found her body yesterday. She disappeared on Monday night and we'd spent the past couple of days calling hospitals, putting up flyers and visiting the local animal shelter. When she hadn't come home by Wednesday morning, we decided to go door-to-door, and that's when, on our very first stop, an elderly neighbor stunned us by saying that her housekeeper had found a dead cat in their yard that very morning.

I knew immediately it was Mookie they had found. And when our neighbor pointed to the trash can waiting in front of her house, the one that hadn't been picked up that morning because the Labor Day holiday had caused a shift in our trash pickup schedule, I wanted to be doing anything, anything but walking with Kira and Kiyomi towards that big, black receptacle to confirm what I already knew to be true.

Mookie found us sixteen years ago. I was working in my studio downtown when one of my employees, who had just left for the night, came back in carrying a lump of black and white fur cupped in her hands that she had found behind the tire of a truck parked on the street. She was tiny, probably only a day old, and hadn't even opened her eyes yet. I took her to the vet the next day, who told me that the chances were slim of a kitten this young surviving more than a few days without her mother. I took her home and fed her with an eyedropper and named her Mookie, after Spike Lee's character in Do The Right Thing. She thanked me for saving her life by becoming the orneriest, most temperamental, unpredictable cat in feline history.

She was the cutest little thing, though. So tiny she could sleep in a shoe box and her litter box was a pie pan. (Those that know me are wracking their brains right now, trying to remember, "Did she ever bake me a pie, or maybe bring over a quiche during 1990? And, oh gawd - was that kitty litter at the bottom of that apple crisp?") Rigel and I had just moved in together, so of course he thought it was a grand plot of mine to find out if he was good father material, not believing the whole "I found her in the street!" story for even a minute. She rewarded him for his bad faith by giving him a big, deep scratch right above his eye three years later on the night before our wedding.

Mookie was an equal-opportunity offender, scratching everyone from family members to the kind passerby who only wanted to pet the nice kitty. I remember one friend of mine, a bona fide Cat Person and Friend of All Animals, telling me that she 'understood Mookie' and would be the one to escape the wrath of our psycho-cat's claws. On her way out, as I applied a large bandage to the deep, bloody flesh wound on her arm, she said to me, "That cat? Is fuckin' crazy."

I was always careful to keep her far away from the girls when they were small, but she seemed to mellow with age, and in the past few years seemed to revel in the attention they showered on her. But you always have to wonder what kind of beast you have on your hands when you overhear them saying to others, in an incredulos tone, "And the other day? She actually let me pet her!!"

We're all sad, as you can imagine. This is hitting them much harder than the passing of Little Guppy. Kira has been bursting into tears spontaneously over the past few days, and Kiyomi tries to hold out as long as possible by saying, "I am NOT GOING TO CRY" but then melts into a sobbing ball in my lap. We're going to miss her brushing up against our legs when we're sitting on the patio, and scratching on the back door when she wants to be fed or let in. It'll be sad not to see her run out to meet us when we come home, and then dart around our feet, causing at least one of us to trip over her and curse. Most of all, we'll just miss her being here, as she had been for the past sixteen years, glaring at us when she tired of us stroking her back and taking an angry swipe at us when we didn't get the message and stop already.

Kiyomi said to me last night, "Mookie is in Catnip Heaven now" and Kira drew this picture of her:

It's too bad you died

I'm glad we had you as a pet, though!

You rock, Mookie!

Hope you're doing good!

Goodbye, Mookie. We love you. You rock.

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Finger Lickin' %#@$*#!!

Unfortunately, this photo somehow got left out of my previous food post.

And a mighty fine photo it is.

Okay, I admit - where photography is concerned, I tend to become sort of bossy and very control freak-y. I like to have the camera in my possession at all times, dangling by its strap from my wrist, where I will be ready to snap a picture at a moments notice. Sure, it's got a million scratches on it, and has never been the same since I accidentally dangled it in that water fountain. But I know I'll be ready when I notice the guy from the FBI's Most Wanted list standing in line in front of me at Taco Bell, or when Tom and Katie just happen to pass by with little Suri in her climate-controlled carriage.

If Rigel is carrying it, he insists on putting it in the camera case, zipping it and then putting the whole thing in his pocket or in the deep recesses of his backpack, where it is definitely not ready to snap a picture at a moments notice. Which is why you can often hear me yelling, "Give me the camera! Quick! Give me the camera! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GIVE ME THE GODDAMNED CAMERA."

Rigel had the camera when we came upon this in Kyoto, and I insisted he take a picture of it, because omigod it's the Colonel in a kimono. I suggested he do a vertical shot, then a horizontal, and perhaps a close-up of of his face, and then maybe a shot from another angle, and how about a duotone version with muted flash? And then I asked, "Did you get it? Huh? Huh? Did you get it? Are you sure you got a good shot?"

He took one picture, and then as he zipped up the camera into its case he said, "Oh, I got it alright."

Which, in case you couldn't decipher it, is code for "Woman, if you wish to stay married to me, if you value at all this wonderful union that we have, you will, from now to eternity, stop art directing my photos."

Okay. But I still would have cropped in a little closer and adjusted the contrast.

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