Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tick, Tock...

When there’s a hurricane coming to town, there is generally a fair amount of warning.

You always see that drenched and disheveled guy on CNN who has inexplicably agreed to stand in khaki pants and a North Face jacket, reporting from the Florida coast while the trees blow completely sideways and local cats fly by in the background.

As the hurricane draws nearer to the doomed seaside town and all the reasonable folk have evacuated as instructed, it’s time for the next step in media coverage. This is when they talk to the guy who refuses to leave his Star Wars action figure collection behind, and has instead chosen to ride out the storm with three bags of Doritos, some frozen waffles and Guitar Hero III.

The inevitable third step in media coverage is to cut back to this same guy three days later. He is now on the roof wearing only pants. He has spelled out “Helf” in toilet paper and is waving frantically to the FEMA helicopter to please slow down and throw him a rope.

I, like many of you, think this guy is a fool. He has been warned that a hurricane is coming, but he did not respond the way a reasonable person would.

Yet when it comes to earthquakes, I have chosen the same path as the shirtless action figure collector. I have been told a hundred times that the big one is coming, yet I have ignored the warnings and failed to make a plan. At least until today.

Today Los Angeles experienced a magnitude 5.4 earthquake. I was on the 11th floor of an office building that is built on rollers, so it was a long and scary, but safe ride. When it was over, I tried to call the Esposo to make sure he and Peapod were ok, but the circuits were 100% jammed. It took half an hour and several dozen attempts just to get through. Today’s quake turned out to be uneventful, but for me it was a huge wakeup call: the big one is coming and I have left my Esposo and 22-month-old daughter unprepared.

We have minimal supplies. We have no stored water. We have no agreed upon place to meet. Imagine trying to find each other if all the phones were out, Internet was out, roads were blocked and chaos reigned. What would we do?

About three months ago I received a packet of information from California’s First Lady, Maria Shriver, asking me to spread the word to other Moms about emergency preparedness. I’m finally getting off my duff and doing so tonight.

So please, set aside some time this week to go to this website and make a plan:

www.californiavolunteers.com

Click on the link that says “Get Ready! Create your family disaster plan today.” It should take you about 30 minutes and is actually a very well made tool. Once you enter all the information into the online form, it automatically generates the following:

o A Printout of your family’s customized disaster plan
o Multiple wallet-sized emergency cards for every member of your family
o An auto-generated letter to your children’s caregiver
o An auto-generated letter to your emergency contacts
o A personalized children’s book for kids that teaches emergency preparedness in a non-threatening way

You and I know there’s nothing as important as keeping your family in one piece, and this becomes paramount during a disaster. What you might not know is that since 1950, 255 states of emergency have been proclaimed in California. And since 1989, there have been 27 declared major disasters.

Twenty-seven.

This tool really makes it simple to get your family organized. And it affords you no excuse for leaving your children stranded on the roof, trying to spell out messages in toilet paper.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Big 4-0

When I was a sophomore in college, my roommate and I stole a 4-foot-tall cardboard standee in the shape of an animated dust ball. It was an ad in the student union bookstore for some brand of vacuum cleaner, but we thought it would look much better in our dorm room, and it did.

I remember the night we stole that thing like it was last night. After my roommate and I worked the standee into our elegant dorm d├ęcor, I slipped out to catch up on a little assigned reading. There was a window seat opposite the dorm library where I liked to camp out, and as I got settled in, I had one of those reflective moments. You know, the ones where you freeze-frame your life for a second and make a concerted effort to take in everything and store it in your memory because some wise part of you knew that you’d want that little piece of your life to look back on someday. As I breathed it in -- the heavy, varnished mahogany walls, the whispers and muffled laughter from the library, the mixed scent of leftover pizza and old library books, -- I felt a little pang of fear go through me; fear that my life was zooming by and I had no control over how fast it was going. Fear that I was already a sophomore in college – college! – and that soon I would graduate and leave the football games, the 400 seat lecture halls, the line at the bookstore, my roommate, and our 4-foot-animated dust ball behind forever. I was afraid of getting old. Which I defined by being 22.

On July 7th, 2008, I turned 40.

I never thought it would happen. Not like I thought I’d die before I got here, but I just never considered that I’d actually be 40. Years. Old.

The Esposo threw me the most lavish, fabulous, thoughtful, generous and totally fun 5-day, multi-event birthday weekend anyone this side of Paris Hilton could ever hope for. So the transition was actually a blast. But it was sad too. After the festivities died down and my visiting friends and family flew back home, I was left to drive to work and contemplate just how far away I have traveled from that evening in the dorm.

But as I glanced in the rear view mirror to change lanes, I caught a glimpse of Peapod’s car seat, which was littered with cracker crumbs and a deflated yellow balloon. And I felt much, much better.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Zoom Zoom

What happened to my baby?

You know the one I’m talking about. She used to be dinky with a giant head and was known to topple over onto her face into a stack of pillows, if not propped up just so.

Now she knows the difference between her Crocs and all her other shoes, stuffs fist-fulls of cherry tomatoes into her mouth, and walks around barking out commands like “Mama, sit!” and “Milk, glass!”

I was paying attention the whole time, I swear. But sometimes it feels like it all happened while I glanced away, just for a second.

I notice it at night, mostly. While I’m feeding her that one remaining bottle of milk – the one after the bath, before the bed and during the book – and cradling her in my arms as our end-of-the-day ritual. She used to tuck neatly into my arms. Now her head sits on one armrest and her feet dangle like wet spaghetti over the other. She looks so tall to me in the dim glow of the nightlight and it makes me a little sad.

But during the action-packed-baby-pool-trips-to-Target-grapes-in-a-baggie days, I forget all that and just crack up while she smears mango smoothies into her hair at breakfast. And I’m thankful for what fun it is just to have her around.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Butterfly Effect

Reporter Melissa Block’s NPR coverage today of the devastating earthquake in China was so poignantly horrific that, at least for this mom, it managed to translate the quake’s physical shock waves into crushing emotional ones, from half a world away.

The report tells of parents rushing to the Juyan Middle School after the quake, and hearing the voices of their children trapped in the rubble and unable to escape. Rescue workers had trouble accessing the remote area, and by the time the cranes had arrived many hours later to lift the massive slabs of collapsed masonry, many of their children’s voices had gone silent. Here is an excerpt:

Parents built makeshift shrines and placed the bodies of the dead on pieces of cardboard or plywood as they grieved over the small lifeless forms. Some lighted red candles or burned paper money to send children into the afterlife. Others set off firecrackers to ward off evil spirits. The grim ritual played out by dozens and dozens of families as they kept watch over their babies one last time.

I think it was that last line that started the tears flowing as I sat in traffic on the 405. One last time. It’s a phrase that resonates with me so deeply since becoming a parent that on occasions like this, I can barely speak it out loud without choking up.

As parents we don’t even dare contemplate outliving our children and so a ‘one last time’ like this one becomes unspeakable. But how many of the little bittersweet ‘one last times’ will there be for those of us blessed and lucky enough to nurture our children well into adulthood? A hundred? A thousand? A million? I suppose it depends on what you deem worthy of counting. One last jar of baby food, smeared on her giggling face? One last ride in the car seat? One last time holding your hand up the porch steps? One last “Mama” before you become “Mom?” Some of these occasions we’ll mark with photos, journal entries or, if we're lucky, crystal-clear visions seared into our memories. Others – probably most – will just slip into the past and one day we’ll wonder wistfully, “When did that stop?”

I can’t imagine the pain those parents in China are feeling tonight, and there is nothing I can type here that would help them feel any more at peace. My helpless heart aches deeply for them. But I did sneak an extra peek at Peapod tonight as she slept, and took a moment to listen to the miracle of her breath. Maybe this little entry will remind one other Mom to do the same.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bad Vanity Plates

So there I am driving on the 134, minding my own business, when I spot one of those customized license plates -- you know, the ones where people use cutesy spellings interspersed with numbers to express how much they love their dog (Gr8Dane) or the extent to which they rock at suing the pants off people (out2sooU). You may rightly assume that I do not like these plates. They compel gullible drivers like me into tailgating close enough to read them, regardless of whether we are all pushing 85 in the hail. And then after all that effort, they usually suck anyway.

So today's plate was no different except that it shed such light on the extremely delusional state of the driver that it was worth noting. And worth calling my friend V-Train to register my disgust on her voice mail. The plate said "PRDoll." First of all, I know plenty of people in PR and none of them -- to their credit -- could be accurately classified as 'dolls.' These are people who have to do things like try to get the "Access Hollywood" crew to show up at Leif Garret's book signing. Persistent and aggressive? Probably. Tired and grouchy. Likely. But akin to a doll? Doubtful.

Of course I could not just let this go. No, I had to speed up enough to get a decent look at the woman behind the wheel, whom I expected to be bubble-headed, petite and chatting on her Blackberry. Wrong. This woman was obese and drinking coffee. Maybe she borrowed the car, I don't know. But fat or thin, cute or plain, NOBODY should run around town, publicly proclaiming one's self to be a doll. I don't care if you look like Jessica Alba and have just baked a turkey lasagna for your sick friend. You should not declare yourself a doll unless you are prepared to get "bR8ted."

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Sweetest Thing

We’d been prepping Peapod all week for her first ever Easter egg hunt.

Our drills included egg finding, basket holding and candy grabbing. But these did not prepare her for the emotional roller coaster that is the Great American Toddler Easter Egg Hunt.

Resplendent in her yellow Easter dress and white (for now) leather sandals, Peapod weathered the actual Easter service with the poise of someone, oh, twice her age… The highlight occurred during communion, when she caused an outburst of church giggles 5-people deep as she urgently pointed and grunted at the minister holding the wine chalice to please bring it back so she could double-dip her holy wafer.

After mass, we headed to the toddler play area where the under-four set would compete for the plastic egg bounty. But nobody else was there. We peered into the windows of several adjacent classrooms only to find a few families milling around with their youngsters, seemingly unaware that the big event was about to start. Clever girl that she is, Peapod used the opportunity to case the joint, which she did mostly by picking up rocks.

Then suddenly out of nowhere, the masses were unleashed and the play yard was teeming with tiny people wearing seersucker suits and frilly pink dresses and grabbing every unnaturally colored plastic orb they could get their sticky hands on.

Peapod froze, the sudden rush of kids causing her to momentarily panic. Moments later, she gathered her composure and wandered slowly to an orange egg about three feet away. She put it lazily in her basket. The Esposo and I jumped up and down, flailing and yelling “Eggs! Eggs! Get the Eggs! Hurry!” She regarded us as though we’d never met, and unhurriedly sauntered off toward the next egg, which was quickly snatched away by some little poacher in a fairy dress.

Our flailing and her sauntering continued for some time until she arrived at a little green egg at precisely the same moment as a young boy – maybe a year older – in a little khaki jacket. The boy picked up the egg, but upon making eye contact with Peapod became wracked with indecision. He looked at the egg, looked at his basket, looked at Peapod and then repeated the whole pattern once more.

With a mixture of pride and resignation, he plopped the egg in Peapod’s basket and scampered off. And off all the Easter treats we collected that day, that one was The Sweetest Thing.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

Choosing a site key for a new bank account I just opened turned out to be quite taxing.

In case you’re not familiar with it, a site key is a picture of something – anything – that must appear on the screen before you type in your final numeric code to gain access to your account online. It’s just another layer of security, but choosing from the hundreds of pictures they offer begs multiple questions that I was not prepared to answer in the short time span before my online session automatically timed out.

Questions like, “If I choose a cat, will people think I’m lonely and pathetic?” or “If I choose that Italian villa, will people assume I’m some self-important, jet-setting wind bag?”

And who are these “people” anyway? It’s not like I’m logging into my bank account amidst throngs of observers just waiting to cast judgment my taste in site key images. But I still can’t shake the notion that somehow by selecting this stupid little picture I am solidifying The Image by Which I Wish to be Represented For All Time.

So I chose the box of Froot Loops.

The Froot Loops were in one of those white Chinese food boxes, but they were unmistakably Froot Loops. And somehow they are also unmistakably, frootfully me. The only trouble is now that I've posted it on my blog, I should probably go choose another image. But which one...?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Big Question

There must be some weird mist released into the air when your child turns 17 months old. Something that seeps from the pores of the toddler and into the brains of friends, family, casual acquaintances and fellow bus passengers that prompts them all to ask
“The Big Question.”

“So, are you guys going to try for another one?”

Before I go any further, let me just answer it right now because this powerful pheromone, or whatever it is, has probably seeped right through your DSL and is prompting you to ask it now. And the answer is….

Dum ta da duuummmm…

Maybe.

Since the medical community has so delicately categorized me as “AMA,” which is short and rude for “Advanced Maternal Age,” our window of opportunity may be closed for all I know. But that’s ok. We’ve already got one baby that works fine and matches our color scheme, so we don’t feel obligated to collect the whole set. In short, if we can hatch another one, great, if not, that’s ok too.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a closer look at what’s going on here. When you ask someone if they’re planning on trying for another baby, aren’t you asking the most personal of personal questions? I mean, why don’t you just ask the woman ahead of you in line at Safeway if she plans to continue having well-timed sex with her husband? Or ask your next-door neighbor if she feels confident that she’s got enough cash to diaper, feed, educate and eventually put braces on a whole extra baby human?

It’s even worse if you’re dealing with someone who's AMA, like me, since you could potentially substitute in something along the lines of “Hey, so have you starting getting hot flashes yet or do you still actually think you can slip one past the goalie?”

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m always taken aback with the frequency and boldness with which this question comes up. And I chafe a little each time. It’s weird, too, because I was one of those pregnant women who did not mind people – even complete strangers – putting their hands on my expanding belly. Nor did I mind other women asking me intimate details about every physical aspect of my pregnancy.

I suppose I shouldn’t let it bother me. At least they’re not eying me up and asking it a different way. Like, “Umm, you’re not planning on having another one… are you?!”

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Waaa Waaa Waaa.

Amid all the sacrifices we make as parents – the worry! the lack of sleep! the expense! the barf! - there are quite a few little perks that more than compensate us for our troubles. Not the least of which is laughing at our own kid.

Sure, we all think it’s sweet to laugh when little Jack wears underpants on his head or little Jill dashes through the house stark naked. But occasionally it’s just more fun to outright make fun of them.

For example, when The Esposo and I are particularly giddy, say, at hour 4.3 of a 6.5-hour drive, we like to mock Peapod for being a baby.

I know. We’re jerks. But just stay with me for a second and you’ll see that no harm is done to the actual baby.

The key is to select a time when the adults need a little levity, but when the child is happy-go-lucky and won’t burst into tears. Like when she’s way too young to understand you, or when she’s sleeping. Or in college. Then, when you’ve identified that moment of opportunity, you can mock away, saying things in that annoying drawn-out baby-talk like “OOOooooohh, Whattaya gonna do? Cry like a little baaaabyyy? Waa waaa waaa!” Or, “Awwww! Look at the little baby! I’m such a baby! I drool and I poop in my own pants!”

I’m serious. This may not translate at all in print, but I’m telling you, you must try it. It really is very rewarding to make fun of a baby for being a baby. And if the right moment is selected, the child has no idea what you are saying and does not care one iota. She either looks at you like you’ve got ten heads, or keeps right on sleeping while you and your partner-in-crime dissolve into a fit of giggles.

I recognize that our window of opportunity for such mockery has probably drawn to a close. But it was fun while it lasted, even though I’m sure it will eventually all come back to bite me square in the hiney. I suppose when that time comes, I’ll just cry like a baby.
Waa waa waa.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Handoff

I think Peapod is trying to kill me.

In the past week, she has kicked me in the face twice (once with shoes on), bitten my leg twice, and stabbed me in the neck with a chopstick. The kicking, I get. I can even sort of reconcile the biting. But the chopstick stab seems particularly malevolent for someone who hasn’t quite logged 17 months on the planet.

What was Peapod doing with a chopstick in the first place, you ask? Well, we were at a Japanese restaurant and she snagged it off the table as we headed off to the bathroom for a diaper change. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but when I swung the bathroom door open to discover yet another dirty bathroom without a changing table, I should have known I was in for a trouble. Fortunately there was a small, wobbly wooden table that looked promising, so I made due and got to work.

Once I had The Pod situated and stripped, she started her new thing where she kicks her legs furiously and laughs this alarmingly sinister “heh heh heh” type of laugh. Not funny. Ok, a little funny. But this new act makes it really tough to get the job done without costly restraining devices. Or getting kicked in the face, which is precisely what happened. Actually, to be more specific, it was in the nose.

Now, if you’ve ever been hit in the nose, you know it’s a weird phenomenon. First, even before any actual pain sets in, you’re totally surprised. It’s as if your physical being needs a second to register that someone would have both the gall and precision to hit it precisely in the nose. Next, the pain and anger set in simultaneously. If the culprit is some thug who also happens to be making off with your wallet, anger is appropriate and even helpful. But when it’s by your own sweet-faced toddler, the result becomes a confusing emotional soup. You’re mad; you’re worried; you’re worried that you’re mad.

That all went down in the nasty bathroom stall and so I was still a bit discombobulated as I carried Peapod back to our table. Which is when – whammo! -- she followed up with the chopstick-to-the-neck stab. At that point, my eyes bulged out of my head and I completely disengaged emotionally. The Esposo was peacefully munching on some appetizers when Mom-Zombie with the scratched neck and her toddler arrived at the table. He looked up and immediately, without words, we completed the Silent Toddler Handoff. The one where one parent is just done and the other one picks up where they left off, no questions asked.

A few sips of hot green tea later, we were once again a happy, peaceful family. Single moms, I take my hat off to you. Thank god for The Handoff.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Check. It. Out.

Another plug for CleanGuys... It's our first tour-related PR news article! It's in the Bismarck Tribune and you can check it out here. I know. Two plugs in less than two weeks. But we're getting off the ground and it's just so cool!

I promise, once we settle into the tour, I won't be such a spaz about sharing every little development on this blog. So humor me for the moment and enjoy the article. Besides, it's well written and even includes a reference to Bob Saget. I mean really, what more could you ask for?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Rant: The Car Bra

It’s 2008, right? Is it not 2008? Well then how is it that, while we were driving up to San Francisco for a little weekend getaway, we were tailgated by a Saturn with a car bra? You know what I’m talking about. They’re those uber-lame pleather sheaths that people with bad judgment strap onto the front of their cars, hoping to protect their precious car noses from god knows what.

What these people are trying to achieve with their car bras, I cannot fathom. Are they looking to lift and separate? To keep their car noses looking new? And what’s so special about the nose? What about the rest of the car? Oh yeah, it turns out there’s something that protects the entire vehicle quite nicely; it's called a paint job. And unless said paint job boasts an image of a sunset, it can protect the whole car without announcing to passers-by that the driver is insufferably cheesy.

What I really can’t figure out is why I got so mad at Captain Car Bra in the first place. It’s not like this guy confronted us in the Quizno’s parking lot and forced me to put a car bra on my car. Maybe I’m just mad because I’m forced to look at the stupid thing when he really doesn’t even see it from where he's sitting. Or maybe I’m mad because not only is this bonehead allowed to blow $85 on a stupid car bra for his Saturn (I Googled it), he’s allowed to waltz freely about the planet and vote, pro-create, or even drive a moving vehicle on the open road – all activities that beg for some modicum of judgment.

I guess I’ll just have to keep suffering in silence until the glorious day comes when we can all stand together and burn our remaining car bras.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Big Laughs Minus the Earmuffs

This is the part where I shamelessly plug my new business venture.

My cousin and business parter, Dave Coulier, and I have officially launched The CleanGuys of Comedy Tour, 2008! I say "officially" because not only do we have an actual calendar that's starting to fill up with tour dates, but today I got us our very own corporate FedEx account. So do not mess with us, sister. We can ship stuff whenever we feel like it.

Our growing little empire is all about producing clean, family-friendly comedy content. Our goal is to provide families some relief from the constant barrage of raunchy media aimed at kids. We swear we're not thumping bibles or even saying that risque content has no place on the planet. Let's be real. After Peapod is in bed, I'm all for stuff blowing up and naked people. We're just filling what appears to be a gaping unmet need in the marketplace: hilarious live entertainment that can crack up the whole family while allowing parents to relax, instead of cringing when the guy onstage makes yet another joke about how funny it is that men love boobs. Even cooler is that you get to see Dave and his CleanGuys comedian friends Ryan Hamilton, Heath Hyche and Kivi Rogers together on one ticket. And they're all top-rate comedians in their own right.

If Dave's name seems familiar, you may remember him from his gig as the character “Joey” on the ABC TV series Full House, which now plays ad nauseum on the ABC Family Network and Nick at Nite. Anyway Dave and I are busy booking and promoting the CleanGuys tour, which may be coming to your town soon...

We already headlined the Detroit Comedy Festival in January to a sold out audience and rave reviews (yay us!). Our next gig is on March 1st in Bismarck, North Dakota. I know. It's far. So if your upcoming travel plans don't include a zip out to Bismarck, we're also playing down in Hermosa Beach, CA April 1-5 and again at the Kavli Theatre in Thousand Oaks, CA on April 6th (Check out our MySpace page for the latest on tour dates).

So come on out and see us! We cannot promise there will be no armpit farts, but we can promise that everything you hear onstage will be equivalent to a “G” or a “PG” movie rating. And that you'll spit out your Skittles laughing.

Check out our first TV spot!


video

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Gotta Do Watcha Do Best

The other day I got frustrated with the Esposo for not noticing we were running dangerously low on garbage bags. This caused me to have a weird little argument, with myself, in my own tiny brain.

PETTY SELF: How could he not notice we have no garbage bags?

SELF-ACTUALIZED SELF: Could be he’s busy earning cabbage so we can all continue to eat and live.

PETTY SELF: But it’s garbage bags. We need them. For garbage. How hard can it be to notice they’re almost gone?

SELF-ACTUALIZED SELF: You know, you really shouldn’t let this bother you so much.

PETTY SELF: I just wish he’d take the initiative to say “Hey look! We’re running low on garbage bags! I think I’ll put them on the list!”

SELF-ACTUALIZED SELF: Sure. Then you’d wish you hadn’t married some guy who talks like a freaky, stepfordish man-bot.

PETTY SELF: You are totally bugging me right now.

SELF-ACTUALIZED SELF: Hey don’t be hatin’. Besides, you’re good at stuff like that.

And then it hit me: I AM good at stuff like that. It’s like I’ve been programmed to constantly scan our little homestead to see what resources we have and what we need to replenish. I just sort of do it without thinking about it. Meanwhile, the Esposo has been known to put an empty carton of orange juice back in the fridge while he chats absentmindedly on the phone.

I also have a sixth sense that pulls me toward the bill file at just the right times throughout the month to ensure all our bills are paid on time, every time. Again, it just sort of happens. These things are like big huge beacons on my radar, so I can’t fathom how they don’t even register as a tiny blip on his.

But then I recall one of the lessons that they pounded into us at the b-school program where we met: stick to your core competence. And I remember the wisteria. The Esposo has climbed up on a ladder and tamed that tangled mass at least a dozen times since we’ve lived here. I never even give it a glance, until I see how much better it looks after he climbs triumphantly down the ladder, all cut up and sweating.

And then there are the constant little construction projects that we always need done around here. Last month he hung up a door in our basement. Not like a door that was already set up where you just needed to line up the hinges and drop in the pins. Any bozo can do that. I mean he actually installed a door where previously there was no such door. From scratch. It would never occur to me that anyone off the street could just do that. But he did it.

And all the while, I was fluttering about safely upstairs, tending to Peapod. And noticing that we needed more dishwasher soap.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tea for Tots

Not 36 hours before we were to attend our very first mommy and me-type class at The Pasadena Waldorf School, Peapod morphed into a fountain of snot. This was not how I'd wanted to present my daughter to her new friends after we'd gotten so lucky to barely squeeze into the class in the first place. But there she was, all kleenexes and glassy eyes, ready for her droopy debut.

I, myself, was excited but sort of nervous. After all, we'd joined the class late, and who knew what to expect behind the doors of this fabled place? I'd read a bunch online about the Waldorf philosophy and heard rumors throughout the Mommy Mill about how hard it was to get into this magical school. It all seemed so sophisticated and civilized for a couple of shmoes like us. But here we were, about to get a glimpse from the inside at last...

Days before, on the phone, I had been instructed to bring a piece of fruit for the fruit bowl. What could this mean? A piece of fruit for every kid? For my kid? Should it be cut up? Organic? What about allergies? Would I be frowned upon if I put it in a petroleum-based plastic bag? After much hovering over fruit bins at Von's, I decided on a two-pronged approach. I brought cut up mangos in a baggie and three whole pears, figuring this would cover my bases. I even made sure the little yellow 'organic' stickers were still on the pears so that the teacher would know that I was trying my best.

About twenty minutes prior to game time, Peapod fell asleep in the car. She woke up moments after pulling into the school parking lot, but by then, she'd maxed out her diaper and soaked through to her pants. So now instead of arriving early and having the chance to acclimate at a leisurely pace, I was hurriedly changing Peapod's diaper on the front seat of the car, her head balanced precariously on the drive shaft. Again, not the way I'd hoped to start our very first day at this fancy school.

Despite the drowsiness, the rogue diaper change and the snot, she rallied and we bounded up the hill together for our first Waldorf adventure.

Immediately, the campus made a good impression on me. It somehow simultaneously projected the air of a summer camp, a farmer's market, and a really expensive piece of real estate. The toddler area was particularly charming and as everyone gathered and class began, I was amazed to notice Peapod settling nicely into the rhythm of it all. Our instructor was soft-spoken and kind. And when she dumped my chopped mangos into the class fruit bowl, she enthusiastically chirped "Mmm! mangos!" which made me grin stupidly with relief.

After an hour or so of kid-lead play, it was snack time. I was a little nervous, as Peapod is not the best eater in the league, favoring instead the scrambled egg toss. But she got with the program like a champ, washing her hands in the little water bins and sitting in the tot-sized chairs with her new friends. What followed was nothing short of remarkable. Our Pied Piper-esque instructor had successfully gotten 8 toddlers to sit in chairs, at a table, and eat fruit from ceramic bowls. Almost as if to show off, she even had them drink water from real glasses. No sippy cups, no plastic ware, no bottles, no bibs and no whining. Had I not seen it myself, I'd have called BS on the whole story, but there it was in front of my very own eyes. A little toddler tea party and Peapod was right there in the swing of things!

By the end of the class, it had become clear to me that I had as much to learn there as Peapod did. Starting with not worrying about whether the organic stickers are still visible on one's pears.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Belly Flop

According to The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy, any weight you carry one full year after your baby was born can no longer legitimately be excused as "baby weight" and must thereafter be classified as "fat." Since Peapod turns 16 months tomorrow, this applies to me.

Technically I am not carrying any "baby weight" since I weigh the same as I did when I got knocked up in the first place. However, before I can pat myself on the back and eat a box of Ding Dongs, I have to acknowledge that, though my weight is the same, I'm living in somebody else's body. Somebody with a very weird and unsightly bulge around the middle. Sure, it's common to have a bulge, but mine is up high around my mid-section, rather than down below my belly button, where it wouldn't be ideal, but at least it wouldn't be mutant.

I recently pointed out my "new" mid-section bulge to my mom to gauge her reaction. You know the picture is bleak when your very own mother hesitates, then says "yeah... that is kind of weird..." while backing ever so slightly toward the dressing room door.

After this incident, I decided to check in with my mid-section bulge, just to get the 411. The conversation went something like this:

SELF: Hey sooo, whattya still doing here?

MSB: I live here.

SELF: But we agreed on a 12 month lease.

MSB: I signed no such thing.

SELF: Umm... when do you think you'll be, you know, heading out?

MSB: As I mentioned, I live here. Can you pass the fries?

SELF: Sur... No! I'll do situps, you know. I can do, like, fifty situps.

MSB: Not in a row.

SELF: I have an elliptical trainer in the basement.

MSB: Yeah, I've seen it. It's really nice.

SELF: If you need a place to stay, our dog is looking pretty slim these days.

MSB: Do not mock me.

SELF: (Passing the fries) Well, I hear baby-doll tops are in again this spring.

And so the uphill battle continues...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Princess Thing


I know it's inevitable. Like death. Like crows' feet.

And yet I struggle to accept that someday, my unaffected, babbling, tupperware tossing, bubble chasing bundle of purity will beg for Ariel. Or Jasmine or Cinderella or some other poofy dress wearing tart. I haven't figured out yet what I'm going to do about it and time is running out. Peapod is almost 16 months old, so I figure I have about another 12 months or so to work out a plan.

Flat out refusal on my part to buy her any of this princess rubbish will most certainly backfire into full-blown devotion and non-stop begging on her part. But giving in completely, putting up the frilly wallpaper and letting her wear a pink taffeta doily dress to preschool every day seems like cop out.

When did The Princess Thing start? There was none of this when I grew up. In fact, quite the opposite was true -- girls who were constantly playing with dolls were subject to ridicule. And anyone fool enough to show up at the playground in a princess dress would have been quickly laughed off the swingset. But the point was moot anyway because there were no princess dresses -- or scepters or tiaras or fairy wings or glittery shoes -- for sale back then, unless it was Halloween. So that begs the question: where did this hideous phenomenon come from?

We all know the answer is Disney.

Sure, Disney characters are charming and lovely -- their sweet images still dance around in my sepia childhood memories. But it's still their fault. The princess phenomenon is nothing more than an incredible marketing plan, executed on an extremely powerful consumer insight. As a fellow marketer, I must take my hat off to them for their outrageous success. As a Mom, I'd like to punch their whole marketing department right in the face.

But before I commit battery, maybe I should have a look at myself, first. Why do I chafe at The Princess Thing? There's nothing wrong with wanting to look pretty, or with being feminine. And there's nothing wrong at all with playing make-believe. I guess my problem is the attitude that seems to go along with it. The prissy "I deserve this because I am a princess" notion, or the "Princesses don't play baseball/soccer/tennis/in the mud!" attitude is what I loath most. After all, if you approach the world with that attitude, you miss out on all the fun. And, by the way, nobody likes you either, because you're a complete bore and a total pain in the neck.

Yes, I know princess adoration is hardwired into lots and lots of girls. And as a former tomboy, I'm certain that gene has got my number. I just hope that when the time comes, I'll accept The Princess Thing for what it is, just a phase, and be confident that her freshman dorm room won't be decorated in Cinderella posters.

In the mean time, I'll keep rolling her soccer balls, hoisting her up to touch the leaves on the trees, and playing plenty of music for her to dance to. Then when the inevitable comes, maybe she'll know that she's just as beautiful with that bucket on her head as she is in the tiara.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I Might be a Stalker

Here in Pasadena, we have lots of little neighborhood parks where moms, nannies, dads and kids gather to play and socialize. My favorite one is bright and open, has swings and playscapes, a baseball field, a soccer pitch, picnic areas, bathrooms and relatively few wandering nut bars. But the best thing about it is the people -- they're a peaceful, kidcentric, eccentric bunch and every day they light the place up with friendly chatter that I've heard so far in English, Spanish, German, Vietnamese (I think) and French.

Recently, as I was pushing the baby jogger up to the swings, a pony-tailed mom called out "Hey, is that Peapod?" Of course she used my baby's actual name, as I suspect she would not have initiated conversation with a fellow mom who was not Gwyneth Paltrow and yet had chosen to name her progeny 'Peapod.' I blinked at her while my mind raced -- did we once work together? Were we classmates? Were we locker partners in junior high?

Nope. She knew my daughter from seeing her in various places around town with our nanny. It was the smack upside the head that I needed to remember that in fact my baby girl just might be developing a life and friends of her own. Ah yes, it's not all about me and my big fat head.

So this woman, we'll call her Lynn, and I started chatting while we pushed our girls in the swings. Lynn's daughter, we'll call her Isabell, is just about a month older than Peapod and shares several of the same traits, which make them the ideal playmates. Now I've encountered this 'ideal playmate' before, but he/she almost invariably comes with a deeply flawed mom. This mom will prattle on and on about how you have to get on the wait lists for the best preschools while your baby is still just a twinkle in your eye. Or she'll live on the West Side, thereby making her geographically undesirable. Or she'll have a third eye. But Lynn is cool. I mean, cool, cool. She's low key, non-judgmental, a great conversationalist with a nice sense of humor, and she even does cool things like write and direct plays for a local theatre group!

Obviously I dig her. So at the end of our first chance meeting, I boldly requested -- and got! -- her digits. We issued our casual "see ya laters" and I jogged proudly home on cloud nine.

I waited a week to call her. I didn't want to seem desperate. She seemed genuinely happy to hear from me and even altered Isabell's nap schedule to meet me just 20 minutes later in the park. Once again, we had a great time. In an attempt to keep her interested, I mentioned that I was feeling a little overwhelmed about the prospect of researching preschools and so had purchased an e-book on the subject that was turning out to be pretty good. I asked her if she wanted me to get her email so I could send her the PDF, but then realized that neither of us had anything to write on or with. So she said she'd use her caller ID to look up my number and call me.

That was a week ago. So now I'm wondering if I did something wrong. Did my preschool guide offer come off as too pushy? I've been to the park twice since then and have lingered longer than usual each time, hoping that she might show up. But she hasn't. Maybe she's on vacation. Or maybe I'm her first stalker and she's just savoring the experience.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Dancing Fool

As I've mentioned before, Peapod is a little meek in most kid-centric social situations. But she's got glorious bold streaks in her which include wandering across vast soccer pitches while her Mom is practicing Spanish with her Latina nanny friend, climbing atop wheeled items (strollers, shopping carts, office chairs) and bouncing until her Mom catches her right before she careens onto the pavement, and dancing. My favorite is the dancing.

Her moves include bouncing, swaying back and forth, shaking her dinky booty, stomping her feet and -- this just in -- twirling!

Today, she busted out all her moves in two separate locations. The first was at the Michael Kors store at The Grove. As an aside, I don't recall that guy being such a big whoop until he got the Project Runway gig. I hope he's giving mad props to Heidi Klum wherever he goes. Anyway, the store is pretty hip. It's got mirrored shelving, a huge screen running a continuous loop of lanky girls working the catwalk, and music. Lots of wonderfully danceable, Euro-beat, electronica pop that matches the ambiance. It inspired my Pod of Peas to bust out her moves.

She started by leaning on the wallet display and shaking her booty, which instantly got the attention of Julie, the lovely shop keep who had greeted us. Once she had earned this small audience, she pulled out all the stops, reining in no fewer than four additional women who stopped looking at metallic handbags long enough to twirl with my daughter. And these were women who could really appreciate a decent metallic handbag, you could just tell. I was bursting with pride and hoping Peapod could somehow sense how much joy she had just created, all by her little self.

Later tonight, we went out to dinner at an old Pasadena favorite: La Fiesta Grande. I had forgotten that they always have mariachis perform on weekend nights, a fact that lit up Peapod the moment the first strumming bars floated into her ears. On the down side, she ate about 3.6 grams of food. On the upside, she entertained our entire side of the restaurant, even earning applause from the patrons and musicians at one point. The extent to which she enchanted the waitstaff seemed inversely proportional to the mass of food and dishes they were hoisting on their trays.

So as days go for Peapod, I must say it was pretty great. Which I suppose is true when the world is your dance floor.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Texting is the Worst Technology Ever

Let me just get something off my chest here. I hate text messaging.

Why the texting phenomenon has caught fire like a California hillside, I will never know. Anything that forces us to punch a 0.75 square centimeter "7" key four times just to type an "S" seems like woefully backward technology if you ask me.

I am fully aware that I may not 'get' texting because I am old. But having said that, let's take a peek at what's really going on here, shall we?

Texting is time consuming and inefficient. It's tedious. If you're going to go through all that effort to learn 'texting language' like "U R GR8!" and the ultra-lame "LOL!" and then punch this drivel into a dinky keypad that was designed for dialing phone numbers, isn't it just time to send an email or, god forbid, call the person? Must we cling to some outdated and tiresome technology? Hey, why don't we just start faxing our friends, while we're at it?

The other complaint I have about texting is that, when used by unsupervised toddlers, it allows for the purchase of mysterious services via the internet. I'm serious. I let Peapod play with my phone all the time because secretly I'm hoping that she'll break it so I'll have an excuse to get an iPhone. So earlier this week, she was at it again while I was working at my desk. A few minutes later, I hear that tinny little beep that signals that I have not one, but five new text messages.

Now, my loved ones know better than to text me because they know I am a texting bufoon. So who would send me this junk? Turns out that Peapod used my phone to go online and inadvertently text her intention to purchase some new media service which is apparently $5.99! Sure, a one-time $5.99 fee is "funny-ha-ha." But the negative texting karma I'm generating with this blog post has probably earned me some hideous and ironic $5.99-per-second fee every time I read a text message that I didn't even want in the first place.

OMG! Don't U just want 2 LOL?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bilingual Baby?

We get about 14 metric tons of junk mail a week. I suppose we’re partly culpable for this situation, as we somehow managed to get married, buy a house, remodel said house, and have a baby within one ludicrous span of 18 months. One might say we’ve spent our way into the wheelhouse of the vast majority of all marketers on earth. I hear the only two target markets we don’t fall into are the “Recent Empty Nester Baby Boomers” and the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.”

Anyway, my solution for managing all this junk is to open the mail standing over the recycle bin. Almost everything gets ripped and dumped immediately, and the rest goes in a stack on the countertop, to be, well, ripped and dumped later. Today, a mailer with a big fuzzy green cartoon monster wearing a leather motorcycle helmet and riding in a hot air balloon caught my attention. It probably would have slipped past me, were it not for the leather motorcycle helmet – who wears those anymore? Turns out the monster's name is “Muzzy” and he’s the lead character in what this particular piece of junk mail claims to be “The #1 Language Course for Children.”

Underneath the hot air balloon slinked a phrase that shook me: “Does your child speak only English?”

Gulp.

Well, actually my child speaks only Caveman, which allows her to most effectively demand juice, noodles, music boxes, the remote control, and occasionally a partially used wand of mascara. But I’m terrified that her grunts and squeaks will evolve into only English.

I’m quite aware that growing up as a native English speaker is just about the best advantage one can have in the global economy. And it’s even better that she won’t be saddled with an accent that makes her sound like a cab driver from Queens or a waitress from Biloxi. With any luck, she’ll avoid “like, the California-speaking-like-everything-is-a-question?” tick, and will gain further advantage by sounding more like Ann Curry than a quintessential ‘80’s Valley Girl.

But this won’t be enough, I know it. I’m 38 years her senior and my dim grasp of Spanish and French are already not enough in a world that has zoomed past me into a new millennium. Like it or not, everyone in serious contention for top jobs and spots in top schools is multi-lingual. Everyone. In my last corporate job, which was a coveted marketing position with the world’s largest food company, it was almost as common to hear post-meeting chatter in Spanish as it was to hear it in English. In my short stint there, I worked with compatriots from Spain, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua and Argentina, just to name a few. They found my feeble attempts to learn their language to be quite charming, but it was clear that their proficiency in Spanish admitted them into a cozy and powerful club, while I remained outside with my nose pressed against the glass.

I want more for my Pod of Peas, but will I find the answer with Muzzy? He is, after all, endorsed by the BBC – it says so right there on the brochure. Heck, I don’t even have to invite the leather-helmeted fuzzy monster into my house, since my forward-thinking dear friend already gave us a different brand of Spanish language CDs as a Christmas gift. But doesn’t it seem like wishful thinking to imagine that one can so easily buy the gift of Spanish for their child? After all, I don’t just want her to be able to count to ten and point at a dog and say “Perro.” Any slob can learn that from watching Sesame Street. I want her to speak actual Spanish. With actual other people who speak Spanish.

The question I have to ask myself, is how far am I willing to go? Suficiente distante, espero.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Culture, Baby!


If a family visits an art museum and spends roughly 40% of the time lying on the floor, does it still count as culture?

We traveled back to Michigan to be with my side of the family for the holidays, and managed to squeeze in a trip to the newly renovated and totally fabulous Detroit Institute of Arts.

The visit was filled with moments of pure magic, not the least of which was scoring a parking space literally 30 feet from the front door. It was so weirdly good that I spend the first half hour of our visit wondering if our car might somehow be auctioned off or something before we got back.

My Mom and my 10-year-old nephew, whom I'll nickname Slugger for this blog, were along with Peapod, The Esposo and I for our trip to the DIA. Now, Slugger is about as quintessential 10-year-old-boy as one can get, meaning that his primary interests are sports, video games and, um, sports. We were a little concerned that staring at old, chipped statues of 'Garuda, the Steed of Vishnu' and 16th-century ivory knife holders might wear thin quickly. But as we wandered through rooms gazing at Degas, Cezannes and Rodins, Peapod was happily entertained by the hand rails and recycling bins, while Slugger was happily entertained by Peapod.

Looking at static art on big walls is really a lot to ask of a kid and a toddler, so when Slugger requested a pitstop for some food, the adults were happy to oblige. Two muffins, a tuna wrap and a bag of Fritos later, we were on to our next adventure. We tottered off and soon discovered a spiral staircase that led to The Great Hall, which was decorated with hundreds of strands of glass circles dangling from the ceiling and creating a dazzling explosion of shimmering light.

It was the magic hour -- right before sunset when the sunlight is at it's brightest, boldest best -- and the sun's rays were streaming into the hall creating a crazy light show for those of us lucky enough to wander in at just this perfect moment. Peapod's glee was enormous and it seeped into all of us, including total strangers who laughed as she pointed to the ceiling and made mad declarations in her toddler-speak about its brilliance to anyone within earshot. At one point, all five of us were lying on our backs, soaking in the sparklies, while passers-by tried not to trample on our limbs.

I'm not sure if our visit to the DIA nudged Slugger toward art appreciation or imbibed our baby with a sense of culture, but it sure was a gang load of fun. And when it was time to go home, our car was still safely sitting right where I'd parked it.