Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christine Maggiore 1957 - 2008

I knew Christine Maggiore. I hadn't spoken to her in a few years, and I didn't agree with her views on HIV/AIDS. But I felt her grief when she lost her daughter Eliza Jane three years ago, and I grieve her passing today.

She's been criticized and called so many things, the worst of those a murderer. I don't think of her that way. It's hard to reconcile her seemingly radical lifestyle with how I knew Christine. She was thoughtful and compassionate, and sometimes brutally honest. She found out she was HIV positive shortly before my wedding fifteen years ago, but at the time she told a mutual friend not to let me know because she didn't want the news to put a pall on my wedding plans. Then again, she also once told me that my letterhead sucked after I had used it to write her a letter of recommendation. I remember I cussed and hung up on her. I probably forgave her after she called back and cracked a joke.

Christine had a kick-ass sense of humor and was sarcastic as hell, which I loved. We worked together for awhile, and I remember one day we had to run out to the 99¢ Store to buy a bunch of crap for a photo shoot. As we were checking out we were mesmerized by the mind-numbing job of the cashier - repeatedly punching in 99¢ over and over and over again. After watching her for awhile I turned to Christine and said, "I think I finally found a job I might be good at." Without missing a beat Christine shot back, "Naw, you'd probably get fired after you looked at everything upside down and rung it all up at 66¢."

I've read a lot of things on the internet today about Christine's life, and so much of it has been cruel. I'm hoping that people can look beyond the controversy for just a moment and see a kind friend, a devoted wife and a mother who loved her children. I'm sad that we lost touch, that I had to find a picture of her on the internet because I didn't have any of my own. I'm going to remember how she made me laugh, and I'll miss that.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Nintendo: You Had Me At 'Spa'

A couple of weeks ago I was invited by Nintendo to attend an event called the Ultimate Mom Playdate. I'm sure for some of you this conjures up visions of half-naked cabana boys serving up trays of martinis and truffles and gyrating to Beyoncé while us moms whooped and hollered and grabbed at their man parts - but no.

Even better - and more sanitary - we were treated to an indulgent spa day. A day of pampering to help all us stressed, over-worked moms relax for a few hours and forget about carpools and making sandwiches and multiplying fractions. I can't speak for the other women there that day, but somehow Nintendo knew exactly what I needed to kick off my hectic holiday season. Okay, so a martini would have completed the picture, but my luxurious hand massage and manicure and oxygen facial lasted me for days afterward, which is probably longer than that cabana boy ever could.

Also, in addition to our pampering beauty treatments, we were given a one-on-one training session on the Wii Fit. I got a Wii Fit this past summer following a search that equaled the quest for the Holy Grail, but even after I got it I never really learned how to use it properly. After spending hours getting the hair just right on my Mii, I didn't have the energy to attempt a yoga pose or gyrate my hips doing the hula-hoop simulation. Mostly I've been content to watch Kira and Kiyomi use it - although I did make sure I encouraged them while they were working out by yelling things like, "Good job!" and "Ten more jumping jacks and I'll give you half of my cookie!" It's the Don't-Do-As-I-Do, Do-As-I-Say school of parenting at its worst and saddest, but it did allow me to have the couch all to myself.

The 'face' of Wii Fit, trainer Ashley Borden was there to take us through various exercises, and I have to admit it was a little depressing watching her do countless pushups and hold yoga poses for hours while I kept falling off the Wii balance board just trying to get my weight calculated. Who wants to look at someone's perfectly toned, abs-of-steel body when you keep flashing back to earlier that morning when you contemplated calling 911 to get help zipping up your pants? But Ashley was so warm and encouraging and funny, and when she told me that I could have a body like hers, I almost believed her even though I could have sworn I saw her crossing her fingers behind her back.

The event took place at Bliss Spa in The W Hotel. I wrote about The W before, how Rigel and I stayed there on our anniversary and how a few of their very cool complimentary Bliss toiletry kits may have mysteriously found their way into my suitcase. So I was a little afraid that I wouldn't be able to control myself if I saw one of the hotel maid's carts stocked with those nifty little courtesy packs, but you'll be happy to know I was content with just tucking a few bottles of Bliss water into my purse. You know, for that long drive home.

Energized from my spa day, I came home with a new determination to get in shape and fired up the Wii Fit for the first time in weeks. And even though it said I had gained a couple of pounds since my last session and it told me my Wii Fit age was 'deceased,' I managed to keep my balance through a few yoga poses and even beat Kira's score on the Ski Jump. After all, I'd like to be in shape in case those cabana boys show up at the next Nintendo event and challenge me to a hula-hoop contest.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

LA Moms Blog: 'Tis The Season For Hoping You Don't Get a Really Crappy Gift

My latest post is up on the LA Moms Blog. If you're like me your holiday shopping angst is kicking into full gear right about now, and I've listed a few of my gift-giving pet peeves. And if you think it's only the thought that counts, I've got a set of pill boxes with kittens decoupaged on them that I'm going to send right over.

Awhile ago I did a post on my personal blog about one of the worst gifts I had ever gotten. People left me comments detailing their own gift nightmares, everything ranging from a woman who received a bathroom scale from her fiancĂ© to another person who received $1.75 in change as a wedding gift. This being the holiday season, I’ve been thinking about what really makes the perfect gift, and how everyone has their own opinion about the whole process of gift giving. All I know is that during the time when we should be celebrating joy and hope, the whole idea of Christmas shopping and having to find the perfect gift usually makes me feel like punching the first person I encounter in the mall. I think you’re starting to get the picture.

Some people really put a lot of effort into finding that one special item for each recipient, and I envy you. While you spend hours trolling the aisles of funky boutiques and one-of-a-kind stores looking for that beautiful piece of antique jewelry for your aunt, I’m heading to Costco to buy twelve of those jumbo cheese selections to give to half of the people on my gift list. Of course I always include a card that says, “I saw this and immediately thought of you” and it usually works, although I did get a strange look one time from my 80-year-old lactose-intolerant uncle...Read More...

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We Spent Three Days in a Row at Disneyland But Still Don't Know if Walt is Frozen.

(That's our cat Milkshake over there in the snowglobe. For details on how to make a snowglobe with your own cat or other photogenic family member, read on.)

I went to Disneyland three days in a row. I like to say this to people, and then watch as their eyes grow wide with amazement and they shake their heads in disbelief. Then come the inevitable questions, things like, "Why?" and "Have you lost your mind?" But I'm here to tell you that not only did I survive, but it was one of the more leisurely trips there I've had.

First off let me tell you that it makes all the difference that my girls are older, and don't require strollers or snacks every five seconds or diaper changes in public restrooms. They're tweens now, and have the capacity to go for hours at a time without food and have enough energy (and patience) to wait in long lines. Also? My girls have inherited their parents' night-owl tendencies and can stay up late without having tantrums or melting down in the car on the ride home. Unfortunately, Rigel and I are the ones who can't hold it together but we're working on taking turns so that at least one person isn't crying while they're driving.

Our three day Disneyland marathon started a couple of Fridays ago when we were invited to a blogging event held at Disneyland's Grand Californian. I'm always looking for an excuse to visit this beautiful hotel - in the past I've pretended that I'm a lost tourist from Japan, just for an excuse to sit in the lobby. But this time I was actually invited and enjoyed valet parking, a wonderful buffet meal, photo ops with Disney characters, cookie decorating for the kids, a special presentation by Disneyland PR for the bloggers AND 3-day park hopper tickets - and I didn't even have to use broken English and pantomime to ask where the bathroom was.

After that we were escorted to a private area to watch the fireworks. Being escorted through Disneyland is the best - I couldn't help but feel super important, and I had to stifle the urge to hand out my autograph and say things like, "I really love what Walt did with this place" just to be obnoxious. It was while watching the fireworks that I called Rigel with my brilliant idea: Why not get a hotel for Saturday night, so that we could spread our Disneyland and California Adventure experience over two days? I have to admit he wasn't immediately receptive, but he came around when I told him that spending two whole days with his kids at Disneyland and treating his wife to a night in a hotel might be a good way to bank some karma for that ski trip he was planning on taking with the guys.

Sure it was exhausting, but I'd say our plan worked out great. We were able to leisurely check into our hotel on Saturday and then make our way over to the parks without feeling like we had to fit everything in by midnight. Although I didn't get to ride my favorite ride of all, we did finally get to check out the winery in California Adventure, which I highly recommend - we had a nice glass of wine, and then had a relaxing dinner on the patio. The menu is limited but surprisingly good, and a nice break from the usual pizza and hot dogs we usually have. And once again - they have WINE.

I have to admit our desire to sit in a dark room for a few minutes led us to main Street to view Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years, but the film ended up being interesting for the kids as well. It's narrated by Steve Martin and has some great film clips showing the history of Disneyland; Walt walking through the orange grove that would become his theme park, opening day ceremonies in 1955 (hey - there's Sammy Davis, Jr.!) and a glimpse of how the park looked in its early days. Unfortunately, it didn't address the rumor that Walt is cryogenically frozen somewhere waiting to be revived - we had just told the kids about that the week before - but perhaps that's coming in the sequel.

Some may argue that billions of twinkling lights and fake snow is a poor substitute for real holiday cheer, but I say seeing my kids crazy-happy and squealing as they race towards the Matterhorn in their Santa hats is real enough for me. And while I thought that three days in a row would satiate them, Kiyomi woke up on that following Monday and said, "Any day we're not going to Disneyland is not a good day" so I'm thinking she could have gone for a few more but I'll leave that for when she's old enough to go on her own. I think she's starting her own blog now.

View an exciting, animated, musical version of my Milkshake snowglobe here. If you'd like to make your own awesome snowglobe, read this to find out how. I only used our cat because my girls have forbid me to post any pictures of them online. Well, that and the fact that he's the only one that still smiles on cue.

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Thanks to Michelle Himmelberg in Disney PR for a memorable weekend and for giving us an excuse to stay in a hotel.
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Friday, December 12, 2008

And Another Thing

There's no particular reason for the title of this post, except for the fact that it's something I seem to be saying a lot these days, and I'm finding that it's a really effective way to move from one topic to another completely unrelated topic without having to explain yourself or sounding crazy. It's especially useful when you're trying to make a point, and then would like to squeeze in another point while you've got that person's undivided attention and don't want to waste time having to initiate another conversation. For example, when Kiyomi tells me she's forgotten her homework again, I can say something like, "Please remember to check your backpack before you leave school. AND ANOTHER THING, that room of yours looks like something exploded in there." See? Homework and room cleaning - totally unrelated but delivered in one short, concise lecture. That's called effective time management, my friends, and leaves me with more time to blog.

And another thing, I have a winner for my Disney Interactive giveaway! It is Catherine of On The Banks of the Rio Grande, who as you'll see in the comments could use some luck right about now after she let her husband cut her hair. Catherine, please email me your address so I can send you your Nintnedo DS and XBox gift bonanza.

And another thing, you have to watch this amazing video that I can't stop watching over and over again. I've heard it said that video posting is the lazy man's blogging and that repeated posting of videos really shows a lack of creativity but this one is so well done I had to share it. And another thing, I'm totally lazy and lack creativity.

And another thing, it's time for another cup of coffee now.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Doghouse

If you haven't already seen this video, it is definitely worth watching. It's kind of long, but totally worth it and may be something you might want to watch with your husband or boyfriend or significant other. Hell, you can even watch it with your cat, if he is in fact prone to giving bad gifts.

Not to spoil the surprise, but the video does turn out to be a diamond ad for of all places JCPenney. Not the first store I think of when considering making a big jewelry purchase, but I do have to give kudos to their ad agency for coming up with something this good. I may head over there to take a look at their ruby cuff links after all.

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I'll be posting the name of the winner of the Disney Interactive giveaway tomorrow, December 12.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Morning in Whoville

Last Thursday I was invited to the media opening of Grinchmas, the holiday celebration taking place through December at Universal Studios Hollywood. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was there, and I'd like to point out that this signals somewhat of a trend. Within the span of 45 days I was at two functions where prominent political figures were present; before this I was at the Women's Conference back in October which Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was hosting with his wife Maria Shriver. Coincidence? I think not. And if anyone from Obama's campaign is reading this, I hope this proves that I absolutely would not be a safety risk should you decide to invite me to the Inauguration in February - I know my invitation must be delayed in some security check so I held off on putting down the final payment on my gown (Note to Wal-Mart layaway department: Stop calling me.) And if anyone tells you they saw me shoving one of the mayor's bodyguards out of the way to get close enough to take this picture they are totally lying:

Also? They may claim they heard me yelling, "Mayor - look this way! Look over here I said look over here! TONY, DON'T MAKE ME COME OVER THERE" but they would absolutely be making that up as well.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (the original, animated version) is one of my all time favorite Christmas movies, and Universal did an amazing job of recreating a Whoville-inspired setting, from the cartoon red carpet that welcomes you to the park to the scene of the opening ceremonies: A huge tree surrounded by presents and REAL SNOW. They also invited 150 elementary school kids to take part in the festivities, and you can imagine what the combination of L.A. city kids and a big blanket of fresh powder looks like. Why, I just so happen to have a video here to show you:

More than a few of those snowballs landed in my purse. Also, my heart goes out to the poor soul whose job it was to come up with something that rhymes with Villaraigosa. 'Big Beach Hermosa' may not be poetic but it's certainly better than 'I ate a Samosa' which is what I came up with.

Kiyomi caught wind of the fact that I had gone to this event without her (she didn't seem to care that it would have meant pulling her out of school and missing her last orchestra rehearsal before the holiday concert) so that means I'll be making a trip back to Whoville soon. I tried to explain to her that the mayor wouldn't be there this next time and in fact I couldn't guarantee that any political figures would be there that day, but all she seemed to care about was seeing the snow. Kids are funny that way.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I Went to the Disney Interactive Party and All You'll Get is this Awesome Gift Bag

I took my girls and some of their friends to a party thrown by Disney Interactive a couple of weeks ago, and besides having an amazing time and eating way too much expensive cheese, I came home with a gift bag filled with cool games. Better yet, the nice people at Disney gave me an extra one to give away to one of my readers. So, if you'd like a chance to win a bag filled with expensive games and other goodies, leave a comment below. I'll be picking a winner* on December 10th using random.org, which I've never used but is supposed to be a totally fair way of picking a number. Unlike me, who would just give it to the person who had the nicest hair.

Here's what's in the bag:

Disney's Sing-It for XBox 360 (with microphone)

Pure for XBox 360

Spectrobes for Nintendo DS

And in addition to all those games, a few things to fill your stocking: a cool Think Fast clock, High School Musical 3 MP3 earphones and a set of six Ultimate Band buttons.

Read my review post to get a description of Disney's new games, and see how I found my inner gamer without embarrassing my kids.

*Your 'number' is where your comment falls in the order of posts. First comment is 1, etc...

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Totally Unsolicited Review of a Book That I Paid Full Price For

carrie-fisher-wishful-drinking-carrie-fisher-legs-carrie-fisher-bio-carrie-fisher-amputationOn Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, we were all pretty much useless. Wiping up mashed potatoes and cleaning thirty-people's-worth of dishes can really take it out of you, and I had vowed to declare it Stay In Your Pajamas All Day day, to which Rigel replied, "Well, just Saturday to you." Why, if I wasn't so exhausted I would have slapped him with that pie pan I had I just finished licking clean.

But he finally convinced me to get dressed by luring me out with the promise of a cappuccino, so an hour later we found ourselves at Barnes and Noble, sipping coffees and keeping an eye on the pervy-looking guy hanging around the teen section where our girls were. You know the one - bad skin, wearing a plaid shirt and trying to look interested in that book he's holding in his calloused hands. Mister, I don't know who you think you're fooling but there is no way in hell you're reading Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

(I swore up and down that I wouldn't buy any new books, since the stack of unread ones next to my bed is five feet tall. Hey look - there's this great new book called Shogun I've been meaning to read!)

But then I came across Carrie Fisher's new memoir, Wishful Drinking, and after perusing the first few pages I decided I had to buy it. She talks about her life as a child of Hollywood royalty, and this little bit is my favorite: It's about how her dad Eddie Fisher cheated on her mom, Debbie Reynolds with Elizabeth Taylor (who was married to Mike Todd at the time):

"...Mike Todd took off in a private plane in a rainstorm, and the following morning Elizabeth was a widow. Well, naturally my father flew to Elizabeth's side, gradually making his way slowly to her front. He first dried her eyes with his handkerchief, then he consoled her with flowers, and he ultimately consoled her with his penis."
You can see why I absolutely had to have this book, and I highly recommend that you get a copy for yourself. Or, I can lend you mine when I'm done - I need to make room for this other new book I've heard is great - Moby Dick.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

As Thanksgiving Traditions Go, This One's a Gamble

I was thumbing through a magazine recently and came across an article on Thanksgiving traditions. There was a woman who was talking about something she does every year with her family that involves a little tree that sits on their table - they call it the Thankful Tree or some name like that. Starting on November 1st they all take turns attaching pieces of paper to the tree that have things they're thankful for written on them, things like, "I'm thankful for my wonderful kids" or "I'm thankful for stretch denim." Then on Thanksgiving day they read them out loud to each other and they get all emotional and everyone cries, even the men and the people with no feelings.

That got me thinking about something that I started a few months ago with my own extended family that I've decided to make into my Thanksgiving tradition. Something that has brought us together like nothing else, a simple activity that has brought new meaning to our family gatherings and has brought joy to everyone from my 87-year-old mother to my own 10-year-old daughter.

Yes, I'm talking about Bingo.

And really, what could make you more grateful than winning a fistful of dollar bills away from family members in a pseudo-gambling game that rewards you for getting five dots in a row?

Okay, so maybe it isn't as 'special' as getting a little note that tells you how much you're loved, but how many times do you have to hear that in one year? And tell me - are those sweet little notes going to pay the gas bill, or put a nice hunk of Stilton in your refrigerator? I didn't think so. And trust me - you'll see there's plenty to be thankful for when you yell out 'Bingo' and someone walks over and puts a big soft pile of money in your lap.

My little tradition started a few months ago before a family get-together. We had been trying to plan a family trip to Las Vegas but couldn't accommodate all our different schedules, so I thought the Bingo idea would satisfy everyone's gambling jones for the time being. We'd pour ourselves a drink, put our dollar bills in the pot, and feel the rush of uncertainty as we waited to see if we would win. It would be just like Vegas, except without the smoke and the ever present fear of accidentally walking into a Celine Dion show.

But this wouldn't be your kid's Bingo game -I wanted the feel of a real Bingo parlor. I journeyed into a strange part of town to a store called Bingo World and bought a deluxe Bingo cage, and ink daubers to use instead of those cheap plastic markers that could fall off your card. I wanted everyone to feel like they were actually playing in a church rec room, or spending a few hours with old ladies wearing fanny packs and crammed into an empty storefront next to a gun shop. When the person next to you asked to borrow a quarter I wanted his breath to smell just like cigarettes and day-old Slim Jims.

And what a fun time we had! There's nothing like seeing your elderly mother coming at you with a fistful of bills and hissing, "Here's five dollars. Now give me a good card this time" or seeing your schoolteacher sister jump up and do a little T-Pain grind when she realizes she just won the pot for the second time in a row. Kiyomi was the official Bingo caller and when I saw how she yelled out in a strong, clear voice, "B-29!" and "What part of N-70 didn't you understand?" I felt so proud and knew I had done my job as a parent.

I'm telling you - you can't buy these kinds of memories. I see this tradition as living on in our family for generations, long after that other family's Thankful Tree has been stuffed in a box and carted off to Goodwill. My kids will look back fondly on these gatherings, and wistfully say, "Remember the fourth game during Thanksgiving '08? I'll never forget the look on mom's face when she finally won and how her hands trembled as she counted out her thirty-eight dollars. Man, those were good times."

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Decorating Tip, Courtesy of Office Depot

I don't know about you, but for me trying to re-decorate a room is an agonizing process. First there's trying to decide what color to paint it, and then what type of art to hang on the walls. And should all the walls be painted one color? How about some sort of nauseating checkerboard pattern? Or maybe I'll get all Martha Stewart and make everything the colors of springtime flowers that I've gathered at my house in Maine and then paint the ceiling a pleasing rose, the same color of the blush on my neighbor's granddaughter's cheeks.

Problem is I don't live in Maine, and my neighbor's granddaughter's cheeks are always smeared with a combination of YooHoo and grape jelly. So five months later the walls are still dirty white, and there's a poster of kittens stapled to the wall and a couple of Doonesbury cartoons taped to the light switch. I've picked up some paint swatches but those have gotten smooshed between a stack of Oprah magazines and a month-old sandwich. When people come to visit, I tell them we're "in the process of redecorating" but that only lasts for so long and pretty soon they're rolling their eyes and saying things like, "Oh right - redecorating" while using those obnoxious air quotes that make you want to punch them.

Then I came across this and was instantly inspired. This guy decorated his entire basement room with $10 worth of Sharpies. Who knew that the answer to my decorating dilemma could be found in the office supply store? I'm ditching Home Depot for Office Depot, where I can pick up my box of markers and shop for post-its and printer cartridges while I'm at it.

Like all good things, I'm sure the whole decorating-with-office-supplies thing will soon become the latest fad and be horribly commercialized. It won't be long before Martha comes out with her own line of room decorating markers complete with matching tableware and pillow shams, and expect to see an entire episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition where they surprise a family of 29 with a new home built entirely of push pins and manila envelopes.

You can see an amazing, 360° view of the room here.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday: Paz Vega, The Jonas Brothers and a Huge Fire

Friday was one of those exhausting, surreal, running-on-adrenaline-and-espresso kind of days. The kind where you vaguely recollect what you did, but then aren't sure exactly how you got there, what transpired or exactly what the outcome was. It's like looking at pictures of a college party and then going, "Oh, I was wondering how I ended up at that coffee shop, wearing my bathrobe and covered in Sharpie scribbles." Well, Friday wasn't that bad, but was such a whirlwind I'm still taking it all in. I did wake up this morning with a wristband on, though, and the smell of smoke in my hair. Come to think of it, it was exactly like a college party.

The day started off with a lunch interview with Paz Vega. She was great - I got there late, though, which I hate since it throws me off and takes me a few minutes to get my bearings. She got to see me arrive breathless and sweaty and then fumbling for tape recorders in my purse while Ralphs receipts and mints tumbled out. Also, it looks really, really professional when you pull our your iPhone and there's a hunk of granola bar stuck to the bottom.

Went to the private Jonas Brothers Concert at the Roxy that I mentioned before. When I say we were close to the stage, I'm talking about leaning up against it - Kiyomi had her Shirley Temple parked there before the security guy removed it. And then - omigod Kevin and Joe leaned over and touched their hands. Kiyomi swears she'll never wash that hand again, which is already getting a little scary after the pizza, chicken wings and Ring Pop she had today. (Note: If you see her you might want to do more of a fist-bump rather than a full-on handshake.)

I once again witnessed Kira working the security guys down front like she did at the last concert we took her to, which is alarming. There were two of them, talking and laughing with her, and I was getting ready to move in if I heard them say the words, "I'm with the band." Kiyomi scored a guitar pick from some guy, as well. Rigel and I have decided that from now on the only concerts they'll be allowed to attend are those where the security guys are really old gay men.

Evacuated Rigel's dad from the Sylmar fire. If you've been watching the news, you know that we have more than a few fires going on here in Southern California. Rigel picked up his dad at around 2am, and said he saw palm trees on fire a block away from his house. We're sad for everyone who lost their homes - there is so much devastation. We're more than a few miles away from the fire, but our eyes are stinging and the air smells like smoke. There was an earthquake in Filmore, too, and now they're warning of blackouts. I'm preparing for locusts next, or crop circles on our front lawn.

Today, Saturday, was blissfully uneventful. It's 10:15 pm and we're starting to talk about what to have for dinner, Kiyomi is still in her pajamas and I just had a double cappuccino at 8:30. Like I said, a totally normal day.

(Remember, you can watch the Jonas Brother's concert here on line at 3pm est. You might see us.)

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This Blogging Thing Ain't So Bad After All

jonas-brothers-concert-roxy-tickets-american-eagle-77kidsA couple of weeks ago I was talking to one of the other moms at Kiyomi's school, and she asked me what I did for a living. I find this question so daunting these days; after being an art director for 20+ years, it's been hard for me to actually describe myself as a writer, and then once I do there's the whole thing with blogging. Most of you know how hard it is to describe it to people: "Well, I write about...stuff, and then, um, people read it and hopefully comment, and then uh, yeah, sometimes - get this - I actually get paid for it." I could already see what she was thinking: Well now, that sounds like a sound career! Maybe someday you'll get promoted to Head Nacho Maker or get a real job like that guy on TV that sells the Shamwow.

Then come the puzzled looks, and the prodding questions, "Now tell me - why would anyone want to read about your life again?" and "So, just so I get this clear - you spend hours writing on this blog-thing of yours, but don't always get paid?" and then the career advice, "Have you considered a night course at the junior college in office management?"

But then once in awhile something like this comes along and I realize how cool this whole blogging thing really is: Friday night, the girls and I have been invited to a private, VIP Jonas Brothers concert at the Roxy on the Sunset Strip. 77 screaming kids to launch 77kids, a new clothing line from American Eagle, and we'll be among the lucky few.

I'm thinking I'll snap a few pictures at the show and send one along to that inquiring mom with this note: Money made blogging today: $0. Picture of your daughters standing mere feet away from the world's biggest teen band: Priceless.

On Sunday, November 16, you can watch the concert online here, and register to win some cool free stuff, too.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

And you thought your local news was bad

newspaper-ignores-obama-victory-terrell-tribune-obama-acceptance-speech-michelle-obamaOne of my favorite pastimes is making fun of our local newscasts. This being L.A., most of them are not known for their hard hitting news. For example, there might be a national crisis of some sort going on, but they'll probably skip over that story if Angelina Jolie takes her twelve kids shopping for socks, or if an episode of "The Hills" is being filmed at The Ivy and a reporter happens to get a quote from Heidi Montag about the economy.

But nothing could compare to this story I just saw, where the Terrell Tribune, a newspaper in Kaufman County, Texas ignored Barack Obama's victory in the U.S. presidential election and instead ran a story about a local race for county commissioner. The story wasn't just pushed back to the second page, or even the third page - it wasn't covered at all. This means that if you lived in Kaufman County and picked up the paper on Wednesday morning, you may not have known that we had a new president at all. You might have glanced at the front page, tossed it aside and skipped right to the coupons and WordJumble just like you did every other morning.

Bill Jordan, the publisher of the newspaper, had this to say:

"We run a newspaper, not a memory book service. We covered the local commissioner's race. We thought that was more important."

Hey, Bill Jordan - I have a headline for tomorrow's paper! Public Finds Out That Newspaper Is Published By Biggest Douchebag Ever.

To be fair, that County Commisioner race looked like a darn exciting one, with Democrat J.C. Jackson beating Kenneth Schoen with 3,097 votes to his opponents 2,864. Schoen ran on a platform of road improvements. After his news-making victory Jackson said of his voters, "I think they were looking for a change and I think that’s the way they voted. They made it clear they’re looking for something different.”

Hey - some other guy made a speech on Tuesday night that kind of said the same thing.

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tags: | terrell tribune | |

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Friday, November 07, 2008

I Was Wrong About The Election

barack-obama-victory-speech-election-night-michelle-obama-malia-obama-sasha-obama-obama-acceptance-speech-michelle-obama-videoTuesday was surreal. My 87-year-old mother went to the polls for the first time in 25 years to cast her vote for Barack Obama. Kira was talking to her friends online about electoral votes, and not about gym class or their MySpace profiles. My afternoon cappuccino slipped my mind completely. We had lawn signs. Then, to top it all off, the cat actually buried his own poop, which I thought for sure was an ominous sign that something bad was about to happen.

I was hoping I was wrong.

It's hard to put into words what that night felt like. We had a few friends over to watch the returns, but none of us knew what to expect. I told them I'd be making martinis and ordering food, and we could all hang out and celebrate or end the evening consoling each other. Either way there'd be alcohol involved, and some sort of dip from Costco.

I was still paranoid from what happened in the last two elections, so I was fully expecting to be devastated this time as well. I pictured us all at the end of the evening, staring with disbelief at the TV screen as McCain gave his victory speech and the number '271' flashed in big letters behind him. And there would be Sarah Palin, pumping her fist in the air as she danced around the stage in her $700 Manolos and that coat of hers that looks like it shrunk, singing "I'm Every Woman" at the top of her lungs. Then I pictured all of us attacking the TV at that point, cursing and smashing the screen with our martini glasses. After that I suppose we'd have to get a new TV, maybe that new plasma I'd been wanting, so really a McCain win wouldn't be ALL bad.

But I'm so glad I was wrong.

It was an amazing evening, and I'm grateful that I was with friends to see the events unfold. It felt good, and right, to experience the moment with a like-minded group of people, all of us wishing and hoping for the same outcome. And it was that much more special to see our kids, ages five to fifteen, sitting in front of the television holding Kiyomi's homemade Obama signs, completely silent and riveted by what was going on. And when that moment came, when CNN first called it, I think everyone in the room was holding back tears. I know I was. It was followed by such a huge feeling of relief, of validation, that for once it was how it should be. That things had finally gone our way.

The kids all ran outside and charged down the street yelling, "Obama!" while the rest of us adults, still in shock, remained glued to the TV screen. I think we were all waiting for it to collapse, to be a big mistake because of a hanging chad or a few boxes of ballots that hadn't been counted because they were in the back of some volunteer's car who was stuck in the Burger King drive-thru.

But I'm so glad we were wrong.

I feel proud of our country, and hopeful. But mostly, I feel gratitude for Barack Obama and what he's done to inspire and bring together a nation that seemed so hopelessly broken. I didn't think I would ever see a day when a person of color would become president, when so many people in our country would look beyond race and stand behind the man who they felt, plain and simple, was the best man for the job. I didn't think it would ever happen.

I'm so, so glad I was wrong.

For anyone who wants to see Obama's victory speech again, here it is in its entirety.

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tags: | obama victory speech |

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Monday, November 03, 2008

What my interview with Paris Hilton has to do with tomorrow's election

A few weeks ago I interviewed Paris Hilton for Genlux magazine. The issue is now out on the newsstands, and it seems a quote from my article is making its way around the blogosphere - even Perez Hilton used it. I'm thinking of sending him a bill for $10,000 or at least making him send me one of his Gossip Gangster hoodies.

The quote comes at the very end of the article, and was in response to me asking whether or not it was true that Paris had booked a seat on Richard Branson's Virgin Enterprise Rocket, which is set to blast into space in 2009. Her answer was:

"With the whole light-years thing, what if I come back ten-thousand years later and everyone I know is dead? I'll be like, "Great. Now I have to start all over."
To her credit, the response was given with a wink, but the quote is being used as just another example of her ditziness. But I'm sure Paris doesn't care - as she's said before, she's laughing all the way to the bank. After all, this is a woman who makes six-figures just by getting occasionally photographed without her panties on, something most of us do for free.

While the idea of a rocket ship ride into space didn't seem appealing at first, I have to say after considering Paris' words I might be willing to cough up a few grand to take that ride. If the election doesn't go the way I'd like tomorrow, packing up the family, blasting off into the cosmos and returning ten-thousand years later may be the only thing left to do.

You can read the article here. I'm pretty excited, as I'm thinking it's probably the only time my words will ever be on the same page as a dress that costs $16,000.

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tags: | genlux magazine |

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Friday, October 24, 2008

So Many Women, So Little Time

women-s-conference-maria-shriver-arnold-schwarzeneggerI have to admit that when I first heard about The Women's Conference taking place in Long Beach I was a little skeptical. I didn't know anything about the event, and for some odd reason was picturing something like a large quilting bee - a huge room filled with women crafting and speaking in hushed tones. Every once in a while one of them would take the stage to make an announcement like, "I've just finished my 67th square!" and everyone would put down their needles and politely clap. At the end, the men folk would show up and begrudgingly serve the women punch and sandwiches, because, well - it was the women's day after all.

So when CVS/pharmacy offered me a ticket to this year's sold-out event, I hesitated a little. But after checking out the website and seeing the roster of speakers, I quickly accepted. Maria Shriver, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Madeleine Albright, Christiane Amanpour, Warren Buffet and Bono - these were just a few of the names on the roster. I was starting to realize I was probably way off about the whole quilting bee thing. But I was secretly hoping the men folk would still be serving me a sandwich at the end.

Here's a rundown of my Women's Conference experience. The part where I'm laying on the restroom floor was really the only low point:

The Good: I decided to go to the pre-event festivities the night before the conference, something called Night at the Village. Tickets were only $25. So what if it cost me $50 in gas to get there and back?

The Bad: Right before leaving on Tuesday night, our cat took a big crap on the bed. I figured he was pissed that I was going to a Women's Conference, as opposed to spending the evening scratching his chin and watching him fart on the couch.

The Bad: When I got to the Convention Center, there were a million people in line waiting to get in. Curse all you women and your conferences!

The Good: I cooled my heels in the bar at the Hyatt next door, where I sipped a pomegranate mojito and noshed on tempura calamari until the line dwindled down. I was starting to think this Women's Conference was a really, really good idea.

The Good: The 'village' was a huge indoor marketplace filled with sponsor booths and shopping stalls and tons of free samples. I loaded up my free tote bag with soaps, brownies, buttons and more tote bags. I tried not to be too piggish, but when a guard offered to forklift my bag to my car I knew it was time to stop.

The Good: Donna, Liz and Jill, my fellow bloggers at the L.A. Moms Blog were there, too. Jill used her connections to score us a front-row table for the opening presentation, which featured a short speech by Maria Shriver. She was wearing nice shoes.

The Not Bad, But Not Good Either: Rachael Ray, being interviewed by Valerie Bertinelli. I think I've heard it all before on Oprah. Or on those Jenny Craig commercials. I kept wishing Rachael would stop talking and whip up a 30-minute meal.

The Good: The poem read by 18-year old Roshawnda Bettencourt, winner of the California Poetry Out Loud competition. She blew me away.

The Good: My friend Tracey was there, and we discovered the margarita booth...

The Surreal: ...and went straight from there to watch some L.A. Moms Bloggers get their free flu shots at the CVS booth. Probably the only time I'll ever witness a medical procedure while sipping an alcoholic beverage.

The Very, Very Bad, Possibly The Worst: I got locked in a bathroom stall. After futilely jiggling the lock, banging on the door and praying to the restroom Gods, I knew there was only one way out. I put my bags down, and crawled out underneath the door. In a dress. And then practically had to crawl back in, because I couldn't reach one of my bags. I'm waiting for the whole thing to show up on YouTube.

The Awesome: The next morning, at the actual conference, I got to hear Christiane Amanpour speak. What an inspiration. Made me want to get off my ass, step away from the computer and travel the world. Sort of.

The Sad: I left early, to attend the memorial for our school principal. I missed the second half of the conference, which meant I didn't get to see Bonnie Raitt perform, or Bono give what I heard was an incredibly moving speech.

The Good: I no longer think the Women's Conference is a scene out of a bad Amish movie. I'm definitely going next year, and no amount of cat poop will stop me. But I'm definitely not wearing a dress.

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tags: | maria shriver | |

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Our School Will Never Be The Same

in-memory-of-errol-haftWe got a call from our elementary school earlier today that our beloved principal, Mr. H. had passed away over the weekend. We're all reeling. The girls are taking it hard - Kiyomi especially, since she's still attending the school and had just asked me yesterday when I thought he'd be coming back. When I told her the news, she started to cry, and said that school will never be the same without him. I have to agree.

It wasn't supposed to turn out this way. He went in for surgery, and from what I've heard there were complications. But we had word as recently as last week that he was doing better and was even expected back at school soon - I'm sure he wanted to be there to greet parents at back-to-school night on Tuesday.

That's the type of principal he was - hands on, and completely accessible to kids and parents alike. He knew every kid by name, and they knew him as the kind and gentle person he was. He was strict, but never harsh. He made the kids laugh. They made him laugh. I had so much admiration and respect for him as an educator and as a person. Over the years he became more of a friend to Rigel and I than just our children's principal, and I always felt extremely fortunate to have someone like him at the helm of their school.

He was one of the people that ignited my passion for the public school system, and we often had talks about how to bring more families from the neighborhood into our campus. I've struggled recently with the administration at Kira's middle school, I was looking forward to talking to him about what I experienced and my weariness with the system. I'm sad I'll never have the chance to have that talk with him.

I liked him from the moment I met him, which was six years ago when Kira was entering 2nd grade and Kiyomi was entering kindergarten. He had a dry, sarcastic sense of humor which I immediately related to. I remember one of our first conversations was about how I was stressing over some lost test results from Kira's previous school and he calmly told me, "I don't think her missing 1st grade math scores will hurt her chances of getting into Harvard." I told him I hoped he was right, but that I'd hold him responsible if she ended up cleaning the fryer at Del Taco.

Four years ago, when Kira was in the third grade, she had a problem with a 'friend' who was bullying her. It was making her miserable, and without telling her I went to Mr. H. to ask his opinion on what to do. We talked for around forty-five minutes, and I told him I wanted to find a way to solve the problem without Kira feeling like she was a 'snitch' and risk some sort of retaliation from the girl. Mr. H assured me he would handle it, and I knew he would. That same day she came home from school, happier than I'd seen her in a long time, and told me about a visit Mr. H had made to their classroom. She told me how amazing it was that he happened to bring up the topic of bullying, the very thing that had been on her mind all morning! She told me he talked about how you should treat other people, and about considering other people's feelings, and what it means to be a friend. Kira knew the talk had an impact on her 'friend,' and she felt so much better after that day. And so did I.

Our school was a wonderful place because of Mr. H. He took the school from just another struggling campus in the district to one that was recognized for its academic achievement. He was loved and respected by the kids, the parents and the teachers. He touched my children's lives and I truly feel they are better people because of his dedication. He leaves behind a wife and two young children, who my heart breaks for.

Goodbye Mr. H. You will be deeply missed. Our school will never be the same without you.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

When Your Favorite Ride Is The Parking Tram

A couple of weeks ago we went to Disneyland, and as we were boarding the parking tram I made a remark, in all seriousness, that it was my favorite ride in the park. Another mom, who was carrying an infant and sitting with two toddlers turned to me and said, "Me too." As you can imagine, this exchange caused Rigel and the girls to groan in embarrassment - what kind of old grandma conversation was that, talking about how taking transport from the parking lot to the gate was some kind of thrill ride? Maybe me and that other mom should just get out our walkers and shuffle on over to the first-aid station for a nap? They didn't care to hear my explanation, about how nice it was just to sit on a cool bench while the tram putted along at two miles an hour, the wind at my face, and then came to a nice gentle stop in Downtown Disney right in front of...La Brea Bakery. Theme park ride designers take note: You'd have moms everywhere in the palm of your hand if you ended every ride with a nice warm cappuccino and a brioche.

My girls have a hard time believing it, but there was a time when I actually liked roller coasters. The anticipation as you headed up the track, the brief pause as you caught a glimpse of the drop ahead of you, and then a few seconds of sheer terror as you plunged downward, screaming and feeling like your stomach was exiting your body through your throat. You'd stumble as you got off the ride, hold your stomach as it churned the corn dog, Coke and licorice around like a big toxic milkshake, take a quick lunge for the bushes, wipe the vomit from your face and then get right back in line! It was great fun.

But now? I have a hard time going on anything that looks like it might make me the least bit uncomfortable. Even that first, tiny drop on the Pirates of the Caribbean makes me gasp a little, and Kiyomi couldn't stop talking about how much I was screaming when her and Kira talked me into going on the Matterhorn with them. She didn't buy my story that I was over-reacting for her entertainment, and then pointed out the fingernail marks I had made in her arm as I gripped it around that last turn.

There's a ride at California Adventure called Soarin' Over California that is my absolute favorite, but it isn't exactly a white-knuckler and I know Rigel and the girls usually only ride it to appease me so they can get on with seeing the rest of the park. In fact this last time around they seemed to be a little embarrassed at my enthusiasm (I think Kira's exact words were, "Omigod. Calm down" and I think I saw them trying to walk away from me when I jumped up at the end, clapped my hands and yelled, "More, more!"

As we were leaving the park, Kiyomi came up with the idea of making a ride that would be absolutely perfect for me, one where I could not only sit in comfort but also indulge in my favorite beverage. It would be called Soarin' Over Starbucks, and instead of a virtual ride over the majestic mountains of California and through the breathtaking landscape of Yosemite, it would fly over Starbucks locations all over the world, finally ending the ride in a stop at a real coffee counter where a barista would brew a hot cappuccino for me. Is my kid brilliant or what?

(I just read an article in the L.A. times yesterday that details the renovations they'll be making to California Adventure and I don't see Soarin' Over California anywhere on the map. Note to Disney Imagineers: If you take out this ride, I will personally come over there and punch out your lights. After I'm done riding the parking tram a few times, that is.)

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tags: | disneyland | |

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Tax Dollars Hard at Work

Kira came home from school today, totally upset because two of her favorite classes had been changed. I don't know how I can stress what a big deal this is, seeing as it is SIX WHOLE WEEKS into the school year, and the two classes that were changed happened to be ones that she really enjoyed. What are the odds of your kid actually liking one of her middle school classes, let alone two? I suspected the teachers were handing out free iPods, or letting them text message their friends and eat Oreos in class. But I went to Back-to-School night a couple of weeks ago and met the teachers and saw why Kira liked them: they were engaging and inventive and had a real rapport with the kids. Kind of like me and Rigel, only younger and way smarter and with better hair.

But then the school administration had a great idea: let's pull her out of an environment where she's happy, and doing well and actually enjoying school, and totally stress her out by throwing her into a couple of other classes where she has to start over from scratch. What's next on their to-do list? Leave mean notes in her locker and then pants her after gym class?

Wait! I've got it: It's actually supposed to be called No Child Left Behind Where They're Thriving.

I decided to call Kira's grade-level counselor to find out what the deal was, but he basically threw up his hands and passed the buck on to the head counselor. And this is where it gets ugly, since apparently this head counselor, we'll call her Ms. Head, doesn't like parents calling her to inquire about their children. What kind of crazy parent interrupts the head counselor's afternoon with legitimate questions regarding school policy? Obviously Ms. Head feels that parents should be seen and not heard, and by 'seen' I mean only showing up when they need someone to help at the book fair, or sell pizza at Open House, or serve soda at the faculty luncheon.

Who are you freakish people with your concerns about your kid's happiness? Can't you see being head counselor requires lots of strenuous finger-pointing and nonsensical double-talk and insulting of tax-paying parents?

I could tell she was immediately on the defensive when I started asking about the class changes, and gave me some lame answer that Kira was chosen because she “seemed to be someone who the change would be least disruptive to.” When I asked her how that was determined she answered, and I quote with her own words:

“What?! So you think we’re picking on your child, is that it?”

After digesting this bit of hostility and wondering how I could slap her over the phone, I answered that in fact, she had said herself that Kira had been singled out. Then she launched inte a rambling explanation on school district protocol, and hours of time spent analyzing schedules and careful selecting of unfortunate students. I'm not sure, but she also might have thrown in something about the time-space continuum, where Jimmy Hoffa was buried and unicorns, but this I'm absolutely certain of: She didn't ask one single fucking time what she could do to help my child.

The conversation went no where, and I could imagine her on the other end of the line, rolling her eyes and waving her bony hand in the air to pretend she was swatting me away. I suspect she had more important things to do, like catch up on her Sudoku puzzles or blow off some other parents so that she could make it to her waxing appointment on time.

I tried again, this time calling a different counselor who was a little more sympathetic but lost me when she said that one of the reasons Kira got her classes changed? Was just because "she was unlucky." I was too busy putting my fist through the wall at this point to answer that the true meaning of 'unlucky' was getting two counselors on the phone within the span of ten minutes who didn't give a flying crap about my daughter.

I spend a lot of time supporting my public school system. I've volunteered hundreds of hours serving pizza to neurotic tweens, selling snacks to impatient grade schoolers and spent countless hours riding on stifling hot, bumpy as hell school busses while chaperoning field trips. I've cut out hundreds of construction paper circles, baked untold numbers of cupcakes for class parties and mopped floors in preparation for school staff luncheons. I've cornered strangers in my neighborhood to shore up support for our local neighborhood school, and talked too loudly at parties about the importance of standing behind our local administrators. But at times like this? It makes me understand why people knock the system, and decry public education. And move to France.

I've fired off a letter to the school principal and I'm going to leave it in his mailbox in the morning. If that doesn't work, I'm going to take it to the local superintendent. I'm not sure what I'll do after I've gone all the way up to Oval Office and even ol' Dubya refuses to change Kira's schedule back to the way it was. But I'll handle the situation calmy and maturely, and explain to my daughter that her mom did the best she could to right the injustice in a fair and rational manner.

And then I'm going to give that head counselor a wedgie during passing period.

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tags: | los angeles unified school district | | |

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Cleaning Out My Camera, Part II: This Cat's Got Balls

Here's something else I found while cleaning out the chip on my camera. This is our cat Milkshake. No, he's not dead, or sick and we certainly didn't pose him this way. He sleeps like this EVERYDAY. Unlike other normal cats that like to curl up into a cute little ball or lay themselves sleekly across a windowsill, Milkshake usually saunters into a room, yawns a couple of times, plops down on any comfortable surface and then lets it all hang out, brazenly exposing his kitty parts for all the world to see. I find it mildly unsettling - I certainly don't let Rigel lay around the house like this, and I don't think my cat should either. It's especially rude when you're trying to watch TV, he settles into this position next to you and then farts. (I'm talking about Milkshake, not Rigel.)

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Cleaning Out My Camera, Part I: Plushies Revolt

I decided to take a break from my strenuous life of napping and coffee drinking and clean out my camera. Rigel bought me this huge mega-chip and it holds around forty-years worth of photos, but it means that I can just keep shooting and shooting and never download them. I realized how dangerous this is, though, when I was at Disneyland and thought for a millisecond that I had lost the camera - there goes all the photos from every single Christmas of my children's lives, not to mention the Beatles farewell concert.

I came across this video that I shot when I took the girls to the AnimeExpo a couple of months ago. I wasn't sure what they were marching for, and wondered what injustices had occurred in order to bring these anime characters together in passionate protest. What exactly were they asking for? Equal rights for plushies? A cap on the price of felt? I never did figure it out, but I'm pretty sure that parasol is considered a weapon in several states.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Miley Cyrus' Sweet 16: If Only All Sunday Nights Could Be Like This

miley-cyrus-birthday-cakeIt's almost impossible these days to come up with activities to satisfy the fickle personalities of my two girls. Kira would rather spend her time IM'ing her friends, and Kiyomi would rather spend her time - well, harassing Kira about her IM'ing. But when I got tickets to Miley Cyrus' Sweet 16 party at Disneyland, a miracle occurred: they actually agreed it was a good idea. I think I may have even seen them hug ever so briefly. So that's why, on Sunday night as most tweens were busy getting ready for school the next day, my girls and I were at Disneyland riding the Pirates of the Caribbean and stuffing our faces with cupcakes piled high with purple frosting.

(Important to note: I only got three tickets, so Rigel couldn't come hang out with us and thousands of squealing girls and their frantic moms. Obviously, he was crushed.)

The party took place after the park had closed to the public, and 5000 or so guests paid $250 each for a chance to party with Cyrus and her celebrity friends. The park looked amazing - purple (apparently Miley's favorite color) Mickey balloons everywhere and huge, candle-shaped inflatables towering over walkways. Only certain areas of the park were open, and Disneyland employees did an expert job of cheerfully keeping the crowd within the roped-off areas of the park. Who can argue with a nice lady wearing a plaid vest and waving you gently on your way with a glowing wand? I'm thinking of recruiting her to supervise my playdates.

The first thing we did was line up along the 'Purple Carpet' parade route where we were able to see the celebrities arrive, riding in open cars. Tyra Banks was one of the first to pass by, followed by Steve Carell and Cindy Crawford with their kids. High-pitched screaming from thousands of tween girls accompanied most of the arrivals, and I may have even let out a squeal myself when Babyface passed within a few feet of me. But you had to feel sorry for the cars that were met with only minimal fanfare. At one point the line stalled because the end-of-route interviews were taking a little longer than usual, and a car was stopped in front of us for a few minutes while the occupants looked around nervously. After many murmurs of, "Who is it?" filled the air, one voice said a little too loudly, "Oh, they're nobody." Those 8-year-olds can be so harsh.

There were lots of Disney stars, many of whose names I knew which made me realize I'm watching way too much TV with my kids, and Kira and Kiyomi were ecstatic when they actually got to touch the hand of some guy named Jason Dolley. (Some older girls to the right us looked pretty intent on having Jason touch something other than their hands.) Here's my picture of David Archuleta - the only picture I got that wasn't of the back of someone's head. As you can see I have absolutely no future as a photographer:

When Miley finally arrived, riding with Mickey Mouse himself, the screams were truly deafening. I took a short movie to try and capture it. I haven't heard this much screaming since last Christmas when the Macy's sale started and Spanx were half price:

The main event of the evening was Miley's concert on Tom Sawyer Island overlooking the Rivers of America. Her dad Billy Ray Cyrus did a short set beforehand. This proved to be the only snag in our evening, as finding a place to stand to watch the concert proved daunting; Disneyland employees were intent on keeping the walkway completely clear, so if you hadn't arrived early and grabbed a table in one of the eateries in New Orleans square facing the concert you were required to stand within a roped off area. We finally managed to duck under the rope and squeeze into a space, but it was nearly impossible for my girls to see over the crowd. The situation was compounded by a guy, who appeared to be around 17, who actually pushed Kiyomi out of the way in order to get a better view. I'm going to write more about that incident later and what I yelled at him, and even post a picture I took of him for full humiliation effect. Am I bitter? Why yes, I think I am.

If you've ever stood in line for an hour to ride the Matterhorn, you'll appreciate this: we walked right on - no one in front of us, and no one in back of us. Not all of the rides were open, but the ones that were had a similar situation - absolutely no waiting. And the unexpected treat of the evening ended up being stranded inside the Alice in Wonderland ride; halfway through the ride broke down, and an employee had to come retrieve everyone and walk us out, which offered a rare, up-close look at all of the sets. (Kiyomi was a little freaked out, and kept thinking the same thing would happen when were on the Pirates of the Caribbean, which I admit would be a little scary. I swear there's that one pirate who always looks at me funny.)

There were lots of activities scattered throughout the park: a Hannah Montana dance party, a "Makeover Zone" and a gaming area - unfortunately there wasn't enough time to visit them all. (Also, during the festivities Disney presented a donation for $1 million to Youth Services America.) The evening ended with a big crowd on Main Street singing 'Happy Birthday' to Miley and then a huge fireworks display. By this time it was around 11:30, and my usually tireless girls were practically falling asleep on the pavement, but they insisted on staying until the very last firework had faded. Funny, they perked right up as we were leaving, though, at the sight of the mega souvenir store in Downtown Disney. Apparently spending all of my hard-earned cash on plushies and snowglobes totally energized them.

I can be pretty cynical, but it really is hard to have a bad time at the Happiest Place on Earth, especially for a special event like this. The only drawback? It set the bar high for Sweet 16 parties - I didn't have the heart to tell Kira and Kiyomi that when their big day comes, they can expect pizza and soda in the backyard and a guy who juggles and does balloon animals. Oh, and no celebrities.

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Thanks to Michele Himmelberg in Disney PR and Maria Bailey for making this night possible!

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tags: | disneyland |

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