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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