Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lovely Day

My little bro married my beautiful new sister-in-law on Friday. My brother is a tall man in his thirties, but in my mind, he’s also a shrimpy underoo-wearing kid, relentlessly explaining what “Inquedible Huk” has done and would do in various situations.

There are several years between us, so we never really fought with each other growing up, unlike the blood bath that was life with our middle brother. I looked after my little bro – showed him the ropes. He let me style his hair with curlers and hair spray before our dance parties, and when I turned up the sweet jams – Blondie, the Commodores, Stevie Wonder – he jogged in circles to the music, laughing.

That kid was always laughing, and his smile was pure sunshine, but he was also naughty. When he was really little, he told me he was going to make a movie about a giant monster crab that attacks a woman on a beach. The crab tries to grab the lady but ends up with her bikini top in its pinchers. Then he demonstrated how the woman would run away from the crab. He was watching European TV during a family vacation when he got the idea, but don’t worry, I made sure my parents were informed IMMEDIATELY of his very wrong movie pitch.

It’s probably not easy being the youngest kid, the one everyone else in the family can dish the dirt on, boss around, out maneuver. For this reason, my little bro surprised his older siblings when he grew into a man with his own skill set that was beyond us. For example, he lacks the fear of public speaking. Put him in a packed college auditorium, and if he has a question, he raises his hand. He’s even done stand-up comedy. He’s even bombed doing stand-up, and still, not a bit skittish.

However, the best thing about my brother is his instinct for doing the right thing. Many years ago, my parents learned that a neighbor, an advanced alcoholic, had been living in his own filth for days. When no one wanted to face the disgusting situation waiting inside the home, my brother went in and collected the man out of bed, carrying him to the car that would take him to help. That is who that little Incredible Hulk-head became.

On Friday, when the girls and I met family at the county courthouse, I pictured the civil ceremony in a room with DMV ambiance. Not at all. The ceremony was held in a simple yet festive light-filled room and officiated by a kind man with smiling eyes wearing a purple robe and flip flops. It was a heartfelt ceremony. And believe me, I don't just go around being touched by people getting married these days. It was good.


Love to you both.




Friday, July 22, 2011

Street Karma at the Laundromat

Daisy says she's been feeling guilty since her Hawaii trip. Guilty she had a good time with her dad. Guilty her parents aren't together. Guilty she fights so much with her little sister. On our walk to the store the other day, she asked me how she could make herself feel better, all things considered.

I did my best to soothe her conflicted loyalty then let her in on the well-known secret that to feel better, all you need to do is be kind. Treat others the way you want to be treated. After a few more cliches on a similar theme, I reiterated YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR PARENTS. Happier days are coming.

Clearly, I was wasting Daisy's time with my dumb-ass advice, "Be kind? I ask you how to feel better about my situation, and you tell me to be nice to OTHER PEOPLE? MOM, YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND ANYTHING ABOUT ME!"

On our way back from the store, a man asked for some change as he passed us on the sidewalk. Juggling groceries and whiny kids, I shot back - not right now. The next block, we caught up to the same man rummaging through the trashcan in front of Burger King. Who am I to say when? I fished a dollar out of my purse and instructed Daisy to deliver it. She hesitated before marching over.

The man, startled, exclaimed, "God bless you, young lady!" Daisy returned to my side with a wide guilt-free grin. Um, who understands A LOT about you?

Now that I think of it, we really should have handed over a few more bucks, because we might be rich in street karma.

Heading to the laundromat last night, I was done with the girls wrestling and screeching like feral cats.  As I pulled into one of the last available spots in the small lot, a woman yelled through my window, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? ARE YOU HERE FOR LAUNDRY?"

What the hell? I ignored her then went to open the trunk, hoisting several bags of dirty clothes over my arms while shouting at my kids to stop clawing at each other long enough to get out of the car. The lady's tone shifted, "Do you need help?" She was upstaged by a man with a big voice who pulled up on his bike, "That's exactly what I was going to say - can I help you? I might look rough, but I'm nice. I'm a Leo. I was raised by women . . . "

The lady emerged from her car, "I just want to help the laundromat. People have been parking here, and they aren't customers. I don't care if I get beat up. We have to protect our laundry! I can't walk for blocks!"

Oh hello, my unusual friends.

The helper of the laundromat found me later, "I'm sorry for yelling at you. I left two dryers with time in them. I don't know where you are in your process, but when you're ready, use those machines."

Good street karma, what can't it do?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 14, 2001

Ten years ago last week, my ex and I were married in Tahoe. It was a few days of lazy sunshine by the sparkly lake and marathon nights in oxygen-spiked casino bars with our favorite people. It didn’t suck. I like to think about that weekend as a celebration, a last hurrah, a warning even for the baby to come two years later, the destroyer of all things casino. Not that casinos mattered once the baby love hit – or even before that really.

The inspiration for the casino wedding was planning overload. I was a teacher; my whole life was planning. I talked my ex into doing one of those wedding packages. We were fortunate that our families footed the bill. And my ex’s family threw in a large rehearsal dinner that extended the party to two days.

We were married in front of a lake view during our one-hour time slot. The minister we had never met butchered my name during the ceremony. Later, at the indoor reception, the food was just OK, and the waitstaff somehow “lost” all the good wine that had been provided by my ex's family.

Yet none of that mattered. We were so touched by who showed up and how. I want my kids to know what a bright moment that weekend was for us, even now. I think it’s reasonable to steer away from certain aspects of that time to focus on a few random memories.

There was getting primped for the wedding in the high-roller suite with the killer lake view. My bridesmaids descended upon me without warning – there was no maid-of-honor because they all were – switching up my boring French manicure, makeup, and no-style hair for something much better. They each wore a Thai wrap skirt in a unique pattern and color, woven in shiny thread, and a gauzy off-white tank. It sounds so hippie, but they looked good.

During the impromptu makeover, my mother and aunt brought my grandmother by for a visit. My grandmother sat across from me quietly, clutching her plastic casino cup. I invited her to set her cup down. She claimed she didn’t feel comfortable because someone might take her nickels. I asked her if she had anything to share – wise words for her anxious granddaughter about to take the plunge. She didn’t. We teased her, and she laughed with that coy downward look of hers.

Another highlight was the surprise sawing-of-the-log tradition “continued” by my ex's parents. I believe they had gotten the idea from a wedding they had attended in Germany. We were brought to a log on the grass, guests watching from the decks above us. Our first task as a married couple was to saw that puppy in half, working together of course. It wasn’t until I was privy to the series of bent-over bride pics that I fully got the joke. Um, ha ha. Still, I’m a fan.

And don't forget the toasts. There were good moments, such as my father’s speech when he said marriage was about falling in love many times with the same person. Our exalted planner had the entire wedding party stand behind the microphone. The problem was the toasts went on and on, becoming more and more difficult to follow as our more medicated guests found their way to the front.

As I stood facing the crowd, I couldn’t stop thinking about the squishy lump that had fallen to my stomach inside my dress. I kept my hands just below it, so it wouldn’t suddenly plop out at my feet in front of the increasingly confused audience attempting to follow the words of our friends.

This was before kids, in skinnier times. Earlier that day, my mother had dropped off two squishy half-boobs to insert into the bust of my wedding dress. I was only slightly insulted, and then I was standing in front of an audience, preventing a fake boob from escaping my dress for over an hour. I bee lined to the bathroom after the toasts to ditch my little gifts.

But you probably wouldn’t notice me acting strangely if you saw the wedding video, because the cameraman lost interest in the bride and groom early on to follow his muse Amy around. In the course of the video, you can see her insulting my home, betraying my trust, hitting on my mother, and making my grandmothers dance to the extent that they woke up the next day embarrassed about their carrying on. Best wedding video ever.

But what gets me is fast forward 10 years. Other than Amy keeping herself firmly in the spotlight, everything has changed. I wish I could pause the next 10 years just long enough to get my bearings and formulate a plan, because wow, life is fast.


Sunday, July 10, 2011


The kids fly to Hawaii with their dad and his family in the morning and won’t be back until next Sunday. This will be the longest time apart yet, and for weeks now, I have dealt with my anxiety by responding to any communication from my ex with an emphatic safety lecture. What could be more important than proper sunblock application and water safety guidelines?

I stopped by the house last night to have a little reorganized family time and say goodbye to the kids. It didn’t go so well. The intentions were good, but we haven't made it out of the adjustment phase. A do-over was clearly in order. Tonight, we met at a restaurant. Much better. And bonus, I remembered to bring them spray sunblock, which makes it so much easier to cover the scalp and behind the ears.

I am going to miss those girls so much. But not yet. Because tomorrow will be an exotic day off work without kids. What in the world am I going to do? I’m so thrilled by the lack of responsibility that I’ll probably have the most boring day ever by anyone else’s standards, which I’ll conclude with a long and meandering post about every empty minute. I know, the anticipation.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Independence Day

I spent the Fourth with three women and five girls. When did kids start outnumbering adults anyway? And as one short-lived guest wondered, "What happened to all the men from last year?" Um, I dunno.

But the most pressing issue was: what were we going to do with those kids?

There we go.


Miserably hot sliding.


Exercise Class.

Miserably hot gymnastics.

Endless bubbles.

Get them pumped.

Watch them crumble.

Before the weekend was over, I ventured where few women dare and learned an amazing tip I call: How to shop at Sephora with four kids. Introduce the children to the samples then stay at least two aisles away for the rest of the visit. No one will know the kids are with you. Don't forget to alert the sales staff to the children who probably need a quick lesson on safe make-up sampling, adding a disapproving comment like "What kind of parent lets their kids roam around Sephora unattended?" Trust me, you will find what you're looking for, and the kids will get the best makeover of their little lives.

When you think of it, those kids are lucky to have two of the coolest mothers out there. They had to be joking when they said we really embarrassed them. I mean, have you seen Bindy lately? I'm just saying.

Friday, July 1, 2011

In Search of Unicorns

I really have nothing much to say, other than I feel a compulsive need to update the blog. Don't get me wrong, I could give you an earful. But no one wants to hear it, and it's way too long of a story that could be summed up with: I'm crabby and tired. I thought about visiting a retirement home today to find a disgusted bunch of seniors sitting in front of the news, talking about the terrible state of things and how everything is going downhill. The timeless predictability of a conversation like that might have actually cheered me up.

It's not like me to feel pessimistic. Maybe my bad attitude began when I read this to wake up in my accidentally coffee-free apartment this morning. I almost feel guilty about making anyone else read it. The stuff about Japan brought cold fear to my heart and inspired a frantic search for current radiation levels in California. Before I was a parent, I probably would have shrugged it off with soothing denial masked by a fatalistic attitude but being responsible for little people sounds the alarm for adrenaline-powered protective mode.

The good news is tomorrow I'm taking the kids down to Bindy's for a few days - it's all I need for an attitude adjustment. What usually happens is Bindy's older daughter and best friend become the activity directors for the younger kids. Bindy oversees discipline, scheduling and meals. And I will lay around in the pagoda with the view of the marina, reading mags and enjoying refreshments with our friends. The weekend will end with my customary apology for not doing anything, except this year I will bring laundry, so I'll have to say sorry about that too.

Anyway, I'm sure by the end of the weekend, I'll be back to writing about unicorns and rainbows.