Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Penny For Your Thoughts? What About A Nickel To Make Your Bed?

I don't remember getting a regular allowance when I was growing up, and I don't recall having many chores. I'm the youngest of five, and it's my theory that by the time I was born my parents just got tired of trying to make their children into productive members of society. My three brothers were subjected to a rigorous routine of lawn mowing and trash detail and under my mom's guidance my sister sewed, cleaned and learned how to cook up the perfect meat loaf. When it was my turn I think my parents saw me one day, pathetically trying to wash a dish with the feather duster and thought, "Why bother? No way this one's ever living on her own. We'll just leave her some stocks and a couple pieces of jewelry."

We've been struggling with the whole chores/allowance issue with our girls for awhile now. It all started after our last trip to Disneyland when Rigel, still beside himself over having to spend three hundred dollars at the Mad Hatter shop for two mouse-ear hats and a Goofy keychain, started telling them that they should start dipping into their piggy banks to pay for some of their 'luxury' items. There was a long lecture in the car about money and responsibility and he even managed to work in the speech about how, in some countries, kids their age would have to weave twenty rugs just to afford one of those overpriced balloons that were bobbing around in the backseat. He figured their somber silence was a sign that they were taking his words to heart, but I didn't want to tell him that they'd actually been asleep since we left the parking lot.

When we got home we came up with an allowance plan, deciding that a flat rate would be doled out to them weekly with fifty-cent bonuses for any extra duties. We figured out which chores would be everyday chores, which ones would be weekly and which additional duties could garner them those valuable extra quarters. Rigel and I were very excited, this prospect of bringing financial enlightenment to our offspring! I even mapped out an elaborate color-coded chart with graphs, tables and lists and when I was done it looked like something that the Pentagon could use to assist them in invading a small country.

Our grand plan lasted two weeks.

The first few days went like clockwork. They'd come home, consult their chore list and get to work. Lunchboxes were emptied! Clothes were hung! Beds were made! By the end of the week and the presentation of their first installment of their allowance, Rigel and I were convinced it was only a matter of time before they were charting their earnings on spreadsheets, investing in mutual funds and donating generous amounts to bogus charities for hefty kickbacks.

But soon our new routine gave way to busy work schedules, increased homework loads and, um, blogging. Chores were forgotten, my chart fell behind the bookcase and when it came time for allowance Rigel and I, realizing we didn't have enough dollar bills between us, would give the girls an IOU. After a few weeks of this we abandoned the whole thing altogether. Except for the occasional request for them to empty the dishwasher, or my pre-menstrual tirades where I tear through through the house like a madwoman demanding that they pick up their things or risk losing them to the Goodwill bin, they remain virtually chore-free.

There is a crazy, insane school of thought that says chores shouldn't be tied to their weekly allowance, anyways. The theory is that the chores should be a separate entity, done purely for the aim of contributing to the household's well being. This may be true, but then what do they get their allowance for? Watching TV? Making farting noises with their underarms? I'd be hard pressed to hand over their wad of cash every week with the words, "Good job with the video games. Lay around on the couch a little longer next week and you could really start pulling in the big bucks."

We're still determined to get them on track with the chores, institute a weekly allowance and make them pay for non-essential items with their own money. I think it's important to teach kids fiscal responsibility and give them guidance in making wise financial choices. I didn't have it, and look how I turned out. What kind of idiot spends four dollars for a cup of coffee but then turns around and uses a coupon to save forty-cents on a roll of plastic wrap?

I'd be interested to hear how other parents deal with this issue. Did you have chores as a child? Do your children have chores? Do you give them an allowance or plan to in the future? Are you good at enforcing chores or are you weak and spineless like us and fork over bucketloads of cash because you can't resist those big pleading eyes asking for a McFlurry or a new bottle of nail polish? Well?

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Yes, That's What I Keep Trying To Tell Your Father.

It's become enormously entertaining to watch television with our girls these days, especially shows that depict any kind of romantic interaction. They'll be contently engrossed in a show, their eyes glazed over and their lips wrapped around a juice box when the appearance of a romantic interlude will send them into a frenzy. They start by hissing when the hand holding begins and then grow more agitated as the on-screen couple start gazing into each other's eyes. By the time the kissing starts the girls are practically convulsing and by the sounds of their gagging you would think I was forcing them to smell my armpits.

I was watching one of these shows the other day with them, something on the Disney channel that had the usual plot - boy meets girl, girl hates boy, boy redeems himself by revealing he is a misunderstood alien - and started bracing myself for the hysterics that would greet the final romantic scene. Kira had her pillow ready, prepared to cover her eyes and Kiyomi started in with an animated play by play:

"Oh, God! They're getting closer"

"No! Stop! They're starting to kiss!"


Curious, I asked her if "smiling make out" was worse than plain old, run-of-the-mill make out.

"Oh God, OF COURSE IT IS. If they're going to make out they shouldn't look like they're enjoying it."

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Married With Children.

They said "I Do."
My brother got married on Saturday and I have to say it was one of the most beautiful weddings I've been to. Aside from the breathtaking location - an inn sitting on a cliff overlooking the ocean - it was the sentiments expressed by their children that made this one so memorable. This is the second marriage for both of them, and each have adult children by their previous spouses - my brother has a son who is 26 and his wife has a daughter and son, ages 18 and 21. During the reception each of their children got up to talk and said such heartfelt words about how happy they were that their parents had found each other and how they were grateful to be welcomed into their new families. This was my cue to start crying, as I do at most weddings, and unfortunately I have the three-inch black mascara stains on the sleeves of all my dresses to prove it.

She said, "Can't touch this."
Kiyomi performed her flower girl duties excellently. At the last minute my two five year old nieces, who were also flowergirls, cancelled and Kiyomi had to walk down the aisle by herself, and she wasted no time in telling the wedding coordinator that she was "flying solo." She was a little too excited about this, sort of like Diana Ross when she was ditching the Supremes and when she started to do a manic MC Hammer dance right before the ceremony I had to tell her to knock it off. But she walked down the aisle and stood in her place during the wedding, only cracking once when the words "and you may kiss the bride" were spoken and she started wincing and shielding her eyes, sort of like she does when she sees me coming out of the shower.

They said, "Ewww."
When it came time for the traditional bouquet toss, I have to say I was deeply disappointed in the lack of desperation in today's single women. Why, in my day, we trained for the bouquet toss as if it were the Iron Man triathlon. The wedding ceremony was a mere formality and the reception was only an opportunity to carbo-load for the main event - rubbery chicken and a slab of cake were all I needed to take down my opponents. We'd rush the floor for the best position, and when that bouquet came sailing towards us we acted like a bunch of women just emerging from a diet clinic who had spied a single french fry appearing in the sky. Shoving, slapping, elbowing - I think I may have stabbed a bridesmaid or two, but it's all a blur, my brain overcome with visions of future matrimonial bliss.

On Saturday it took a fair amount of coaxing to get anyone out on the floor, and when the actual toss occurred everyone watched the bouquet sail over their heads, recoiling as if a giant turd were hurling towards them. It eventually hit the floor, only to be picked up by...Kira, my ten-year-old. Which means, if the tradition holds true, she'll be the next one to get married! I can't wait for the throngs of hillbillies, assorted perverts and Roman Polanski to show up on my doorstep.

They said, "Can't we just be friends?"
The guys did a little better with the garter toss. It wasn't as hard to get them out there, but when they finally shuffled onto the floor they stood as far back as possible, talking and scratching themselves. One of them appeared to be text-messaging the entire time on his Blackberry. When my brother flung the garter into the crowd, they all just kind of glanced up, seemingly unsure as whether to grab it or not, as if they were saying, "Should I grab it? Is my girlfriend watching? Does this really mean I have to get married? Do I love her? Hey, that waitress is kind of hot."

To be fair, I should say here that at our wedding Rigel chose to skip the garter toss altogether. He said he saw no point in watching a bunch of grown men falling all over themselves, chasing after a piece of women's lingerie. I had to agree, since I figured it was unnecessary to repeat what had happened at his bachelor party the previous weekend.

They sang Frank Sinatra.
When my girls first heard that my brother would be getting married they got very excited and wanted to perform together at the reception. Unfortunately they couldn't agree on a song choice, and when they finally decided on one I had to veto it - I explained to them that Green Day's Boulevard of Broken Dreams wasn't appropriate for what was intended to be the happiest day in the lives of the bride and groom.

My brother's son played guitar and both he and his new step-brother sang a touching rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight" to the new couple. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. I love weddings.
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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Damn You Weekend Warriors.

I ran into a neighbor recently and she was excited to tell me about a new tile store she had found that morning on the way home from her kids' soccer games. She went into detail about their amazing selection and what she had bought there to start on her home project that afternoon. I listened in amazement, not because of her hand-carved Tunisian quartz backsplash she was describing but because she had managed to attend two soccer games, shop for tile and plan for a home project in the time it took me to roll out of bed, pour a cup of coffee and scratch my butt.

We've all heard of the over-scheduled child, but I think an equal menace to society is the over-scheduled mother. Obviously put here on earth for just one purpose: to make all the rest of us feel like lazy sloths. I can't go to a birthday party these days without hearing this conversation:

I have to leave right after cake. We have another birthday party to go to.

Just one? We have three parties after this. And a bar mitzvah.

Ha. That's nothing. We're going straight from here to a Christening. Then we have two birthday parties and a barbecue. After that I'm checking myself into Cedars for some lipo, but it'll be outpatient. I have to be in Venice by nine for an aura cleansing.

And so on, until by the end of these exchanges the competition has reached a fevered pitch and they all sound like a bunch of frat boys at Hooters competing to see who got laid the most times. I don't even join in those conversations, wanting to avoid their icy stares when I tell them that after cake? I'm taking the kids home, making myself a cappuccino and taking a nap until dinner.

I like to sleep in on the weekends. If Rigel does the same then the girls are usually up before us and get themselves a bowl of cereal. Then they play with matches or talk to strangers on the internet - whatever kids do when they're left unsupervised - until we get up and make breakfast. After that we spend an unhealthy amount of time laying around, reading the paper and drinking enough coffee to give an elephant an ulcer. I've tried doing a weekend "To Do" list as I've seen some of my Type A friends do but by Sunday night when I haven't crossed off a single thing it sends me into a panic. Maybe I should do a more realistic list with activities that I know for sure will get accomplished, things like, 'Breathe air' and 'Shrug shoulders.' I think that may just give me the triumphant feeling of accomplishment that I need to start my week off right.

Don't get me wrong - I'm all for productivity. In fact, I've been known to get a few things done, especially when faced with the imminent arrival of guests. But the stakes seem to have risen in the Look How Busy I Am wars, and it's making it hard on someone like me. How can I sleep peacefully until noon on a Saturday when I know that the rest of you have been up since dawn, atttending sporting events and renovating your homes? How do you expect me to stay in my pajamas all day after I've seen you, all perky and glowing as you're returning from your brunch date and your five-mile run?

My plea to you: knock it off. Try getting really crazy and sleeping until ten. Skip a birthday party and lay on your couch. Resist the urge to re-sod your front lawn, do nine loads of laundry, pre-cook eight days worth of meals or fly to Belize for a bikini wax. Instead, stay home and do absolutely nothing . Or if you run into me, at least have pity and say that you did.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

(Flower) Girl Power.

My brother is getting married in exactly eight days, and seeing as Kiyomi is the flower girl I figured it was about time I thought about getting her a dress. My future sister-in-law is a fairly calm person, but I could sense a little concern in her voice when she asked me a few weeks ago at her shower if I had thought about getting Kiyomi a dress yet. If it had even entered my mind. If I had remembered there was a wedding taking place in exactly twenty-seven days. It's as if she heard about my reputation for waiting until the very last minute to do things and was starting to panic. I told her not to worry, that I'd give myself at least a couple of days to find something and if I didn't I had seen a great episode of MTV's House Of Style where they used two pillowcases and a necktie to make a nifty dress.

I picked the girks up from school yesterday and we headed to the mall but I wasn't looking forward to it - shopping with them is not an easy task these days.. I really miss how it was before, when we could breeze into Gap Kids and I'd grab a pair of appliquéd overalls or a sweet little dress off the rack that would meet with rapturous approval. Not anymore.

Something sinister happens between the ages of oh, say EIGHT AND TEN where they suddenly develop a violent adverse reaction to anything picked out by their mother. If I even so much as point to a dress that I think is cute or a pair of pants they might want to try on, their faces contort and they immediately run in the opposite direction, as if I had just pulled a headless torso from between the hangers. Somewhere along the way it went from being a fun, bonding afternoon outing to an incredibly tortuous activity, one that makes me think they should consider installing a full bar in every children's clothing section. Somehow I don't think I'd take it so hard when they reject the shirt I pick out if I had a nice martini in my hand.

When Kira heard that she would be getting something new to wear as well, she let out a squeal as only a tween can do when presented with a prime retail activity. She whipped out her sketch pad that she carries with her everywhere and, in the ten minutes it took us to drive to the mall, drew this picture of her dress that she wanted.

I hated to burst her bubble, but I told her that as much as I liked her drawing there was the distinct possibility that we wouldn't be able to find one that matched exactly. She thought about it minute, I'm sure imagining what kind of evil God would allow her to be born into such a simple family and then said, "Well, do you think we can have it made?" Yes I told her, yes! I would have the seamstresses start working on it as soon as we got home, after they were done hand-beading my slippers and sewing the rubies onto my bathrobe.

Wanting to avoid any further misconceptions, I made it clear to Kiyomi that since we were buying a dress specifically for a wedding that I would be picking it out - I had been to a few weddings and knew a thing or two damnit. Don't even bother trying to talk me into the mini with the matching hoodie, or the camo tankdress or anything silkscreened with horses, puppies or the word phat on it. I told her that none of these were appropriate to wear to a wedding, but that she was free to do as she pleased when she grew up, moved into a trailer and married her cousin.

Surprisingly, it didn't matter because as soon as she saw the rows of frilly white dresses she got very excited, and immediately asked for "the fluffiest one" which was shocking coming from my little tomboy. We finally decided on one, and as she was standing there in front of the mirror it struck me how incredibly beautiful my little girl is, and how angelic she appeared in that white dress, a bundle of satin and tulle. I was reminded of who I was dealing with though, when she hiked the dress over her head and started kicking her legs up in a crazy little dance number. When I reminded her that she might not want to do that while walking down the aisle she replied, "Oh, I know. It's for the party afterwards." Imagine how much fun she'll be at the reception when she's old enough to drink.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Musical Divide, Part I: Mother Knows Best.

I remember when I was little there was a rule in my dad's car: My car, my music. He was a big fan of classical, opera and country and as tortuous as it was at the time, I have to say that if it weren't for him I may never have been able to tell the difference between Beethoven and Bach, or heard the exquisite voice of Maria Callas. Or appreciated the sage words of wisdom from Johnny Paycheck as he sang, "Take This Job And Shove It."

Nevertheless my friends and I were usually mortified on these car rides, praying he would come to his senses and switch stations so that we could be spared another concerto and could groove to just one Kool & The Gang song. It sounds so cliché, but I actually do remember him turning around to us young punks sitting in the back seat as the sounds of Mozart played over our station wagon's tinny speakers and saying, "Now, that's music. Not like that noise you're always listening to." We'd sit in tortured silence, rolling our eyes and promising ourselves that when we had kids we'd never be so out of touch with their musical tastes.

Fast forward to present day and this conversation that took place in my car last week:

Kira: Ooooh! Turn it up! I love this song.

Me: Is this Yellowcard?

Kira: No, this is Snow Patrol.

Me: They sound exactly like Yellowcard.

Kiyomi: They don't sound anything like Yellowcard.

Me: Yellowcard, The Fray, Snow Patrol, Five For Fighting. Who can tell? They all sound exactly the same. Exactly like Coldplay.

When the next song came on, "Family Affair" by Mary J Blige, I turned the volume up and could almost hear my dad's voice saying, "Now that's music." And my girls sat there in tortured silence, rolling their eyes and promising themselves that when they had kids they'd never be so out of touch with their musical tastes.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007


If anyone deserves the title of Sweatpantsmom, it's this woman:
(You can read the whole article here.)

I can admit when I've been upstaged. I mean, while my sweatpants merely serve as a lazy-person's leg garment, this woman uses hers to bring a new life into the world.

My favorite part is where she says, "I didn't know what happened until he was in my pant leg." This made me laugh, mainly because I wasn't sure if she was referring to having the baby, or how she got pregnant.


In other exciting news, I have a snappy new header (you may have to refresh your browser to see it) and also added another column over there to the left. This is so that I can get those money-making ads on the right high up there on the page where everyone can see them. With all the extra money they'll be generating I hope to be able to buy some nice things, like a new kitchen sponge to replace the old one that I've been carefully washing and re-using for the last eight years. Also I'd like to be able to get the lock on the front door fixed so that Rigel can stop sleeping on the porch with one eye open wielding a crowbar.

Not that I'm trying to pressure you into clicking on those ads or anything like that.

Although it sure would be nice to be able to buy Kira that pencil she's been wanting - it's so hard to do long division with a piece of coal.

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