Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Who Drank the Screw With Me Juice?

If ever there was a day to fall off the Diet Coke wagon and plunge head first into a jacuzzi tub of acidic bubblies, today is the day. In short form:

- Get woken by Nick at 7am
- Deal with a cranky Sophie who didn't appreciate Nick waking her by lobbying his dinner tray over the side of the Pack N' Play
- Deal with a cranky Nick who can't watch Dora due to some power outage by Replay TV (note to self: call them, hunt them down, and bitch slap them with sippy cup)
- Find 3.2 million sippy cups but no lid (note to self: bitch slap replay tv people when sippy cup lid located)
- Take Nick to the toilet about 22 times (all before 10am) in an attempt to potty train
- Load Nick and Sophie into my new 150.00 side by side jogging stroller in an attempt to walk the 1.1 miles to Arco, Gelsons and the mall
- Stop every 2 minutes to pry Nick off of Sophie
- Get to Arco and find that the "cookies" have moved (cookies meaning Reeses that Albert normally gives to Nick.) Find Albert in pissy mood, cussing out the register in Hebrew. Leave with Nick in a pissy mood because he wants a sip of my "soda" but, like a bad fairy tale, cue music... it isn't soda at all... it's a bad version of canned ice tea.)
- Use the potty at Albert's after Nick tries to put the bathroom coin in every door but the bathroom door.
- Clean up entire roll of toilet paper Sophie unraveled all over the floor while Nick pees
- Get to Western Bagel to use the bathroom again. While waiting for it to become unoccupied, listen to heavy set ex-vet tell me the difference between regular swinging doors and American locked swingers (as opposed to just getting up and holding the door for me)
- Smile at a few people on the way past K-mart and get looked at like you have flesh eating bacteria on your thigh
- Have tire of 150.00 jogger stroller completely break off, causing a thud thump thump, thud thump thump for the remainder 1/4 mile journey to the mall
- Have the entire San Fernando Valley point out the fact that my tire is going thud thump thump. Try to be nice back and say "thank you" rather than "do you think I'm a complete moron and don't know this?" After mustering a "thank you" 20 times in less than 1/8 mile, put the remainder of the rubber tire over my head like a large art deco necklace and continue toward mall, causing everyone to, once again, look at me like I have a flesh eating bacteria and confirm my second response that I am, indeed, a complete moron.
- Give Nick Time Out for shoving a three year old off the half broken slide at the bacteria ridden play area
- Have both people that were supposed to meet me not show, forcing me to strike up a conversation with a woman named Puma and her 3 year old daughter, Esperanza, telling her in English that it's ironic that she has "Hope and I have none at the moment. She didn't get it.
- Lose Nick for 2 minutes when I realize he's meandered out of the play area and struck up a conversation with a Chinese vendor named Han selling overpriced monkey slip-ons at kiosk
- Finally see my friend (who happens to be James ex girlfriend) only to have her tell me she's hungry and take off again
- Go to food court to find bathroom. Bathroom closed for remodeling.
- Have sales person tell me the JC Penny bathroom is on the third floor
- Take 15 minutes to find elevator
- Get off at 3rd floor to find no bathroom and get lost on the way back from the bathroom
- Find the correct floor and discover that Nick has crapped in his pants
- Get to food court and pay$8.15 for 2 tasteless burgers, fries and ice tea
- Get lift home from James' ex-girlfriend
- Put Nick in bed and chicken in oven
- Put Sophie to sleep after hearing her scream twenty minutes
- Be woken by oven bell ten minutes later
- Calm down the raging Sophie by bathing her in sink. Take her out and find ca-ca on my skirt from where she pooped mid air

It's now 6:00 and I have to go to my monthly animation schmooze. As much as I'd like to pretend that animation geeks won't mind the smell of human feces on my pin stripe skirt (which was very cute before it got deficated on) I had better change.

PS: As I publish this, I can hear Nick's Little Engine that Could video in the background (which I scored for $5.00 at my favorite new store, the double decker Super Thrift on Reseda/Sherman Way) . It's the grand musical finale, and the little engine is singing "There ain't a mountain that you can't climb! There ain't a river you can't make it over! Nothing can stop us now!!!!!!!! Nothing can stop us NOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWW!" That fucking train never had its wheel fly off in front of K-mart with 2 toddlers poking it in the caboose.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Doing the Marketing

Today my son watched Barney in an Elmo shirt and Disney Huggies. He had a Dora bandaid on his big toe and munched on Scooby Snacks. When it was over, he asked me where his Piglet doll was. Seeing the theme here?

Women Are Crazy II

While preparing for our big Warner Brothers meeting (which we have heard nothing from - surprise, surprise) Herb had some glorious insight regarding my blog.

1. He admits it is very well written
2. He feels his wife would relate to my struggle for balance
3. He thinks men will never read this dramatic crap

Regarding number 3, I had to laugh. Herb is a big dude. He's an ex-player, ex-partier, avid reader and all around funny man. He has a lovely wife, two kids, provides a solid home for his family and, like my husband, has no idea what a woman really thinks about. He's gotten himself in hot water on more than one occasion, which I've bailed him out of. Example: He and I were knee deep in a spec script when his pregnant wife called, stating she was in ER over a minor fender bender. He asked if she was okay. She confirmed that she was and didn't need him to come by. After telling her he loved her, he hung up the phone to continue writing with me (who at the time was single and, to quote another Gretchen song, could best be described as "I may not be a 10 but the boys say I clean up good". I told him that despite what Heidi said, if he didn't get his ass to the hospital, he'd be sleeping in the Pack N' Play for the rest of his life. He called me on the way home from ER, gratefully proclaiming "You saved my marriage!"


Like my husband, he doesn't understand the gray area of a woman's mind. If he's hungry, he eats. If he' s tired, he sleeps. If he's feeling frisky, he... is told by his wife that she's too tired from her "To Do" list on my previous post and that he's on his own.

Hence the title of our next pilot "Women Are Crazy". It's going to be about a working dad trying to deal with the antics of his female business partner and wife. It's a real stretch for us, but we're going to try to do it.

Here's the goal:

Outline by end of August
First draft by end of September
Write one hour/night
When you feel like procrastinating? Blog.

Wish us luck.

(* Pictured: The ever gregarious Herb, making sure no drink is untouched, no person is un-schmoozed, and no woman is un-danced with.)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Time Travel

...and one more thing regarding the post below. This constant battle for time? My husband doesn't seem to have it. Here's his To Do List:

- Go to work
- Come home and eat dinner that Andrea makes
- Watch some sort of sci-fi series, motoring special or biography on famous men (who had wives at home with to-do lists like mine)
- Somewhere in between these goals, do little fix it projects around the house and have fun driving car

Now I'm not saying James isn't a great husband. He's kind and loving. He emails each day from work. He thinks I'm sexy... and funny... and tells me so on a daily basis. He is an amazing father. He has invented "The head rub", "The toe hanging" "The grow juice" and "The head bonk". He puts little Pipsqueak to bed each night and teaches Dominic how to dress, undress and take a squirty bath (a shower). Just tonite, I heard Dominic inform him "Papa, you have a penis... that makes you a boy like me. Mommy has a hoo-hoo, that makes her a girl".

My point: Despite all his amazing qualities, because he makes the money, somehow he seems to have a little more time at the end of the day to "run to Home Depot" or "Pick up new tires." Part of this is my fault... I am a flexible person that understands the need for space, so I give it to him. But also, I need to start demanding my own space. And time.

After a small blowout the night of our anniversary involving my son's bloody nose and James' need to wash his car while Nick's dried up blood was still on my face, I braced myself for the inevitable sparks that would fly when I put my time contract in front of him. I dug in my heels as I prepared for the "James Logic" vs. "Andrea's Emotion" battle. Fearful of plates being thrown (though that would save me time on dishes) I was not looking forward to the fight.

I started tentatively, then kept reminding myself that I work as hard as him for less respect, and I deserve more. If I don't ask for it, who will! Last time I checked there was no union for Non Working Moms/Writers. Before I knew it, Norma Ray had inhabited my body. In my raging defense, I might have stood on my coffee table (though it's still in one piece, so that is doubtful) ... "For every computer gaming night out you have, I want a girls night! For every 5 hours you spend on Saturday doing yard work, I want five hours on Sunday to do my housecleaning! For every last minute errand to Fry's, Lowes, and anything involving a tire shop within a half mile radius, I want that time to do my errands, too! Like going to Starbucks! And... stuff! And I don't ever want you to take me literally when I say I don't need an anniversary gift! You're being groomed to be this huge project manager? Delegate the gift buying to Cecelia and get Project Wife completed on schedule!"

I shut my eyes and waited for my almighty corporate computer geek to blow. His response? "Sounds completely reasonable. You deserve it."

Then he flipped Star Trek back on.

(* Picture: My pragmatic husband teaching Nick how to roll pizza. I don't know what makes me more misty eyed. The father/son bonding, or the memories of Diet Coke)

The New Series for HBO - 36

I am one of those people who rationally know that there's only 24 hours in a day, but I irrationally try and fit in 36 hours worth. Like handmade bread dough, a little pinch of time here, a little pinch there, and what I end up with is a recipe that sometimes works and sometimes burns up in the oven. On days that I get it all done (like today: babysat my niece, took the kids to Kaiser, picked up the drycleaning, did 6 loads of laundry, took out the garbage, straightened the TV room, wrangled dinner on the table) I'm elated - like a manic house frau. On days that I'm less than productive, I'm irritated at the stains on the wall, I'm cursing the overflowing trash can, I'm internally cussing the whole way to the grocery store, praying to God there's no lines and that one of the two mini-shopping carts is available so Nick has something to push during our visit. On these less than inspring days, I promise myself and my husband that one day I will perfect the handmade recipe for balance. I'll practice and perfect it and it will just work out. But truth be told, what I really want is box mix (preferably from the 99 Cents Store) that would look something like this:

Open box
Put in container
Add one cup of water
Mix well and set in pan
Put pan in oven at 425 degrees
Sit on your butt for three hours and watch Oprah and CMT
While you chill, your house will be cleaned
Your photos will be hung
Your walls will be painted
Your kids will be bathed, dressed, diapered and stimulated
Your food will be bought and cooked
Your clothes will be cleaned, sorted and put away
Your husband's undershirts and socks will not be dyed pink
Your Ebay items will be bought, photos taken, put online, sold, and mailed
Your writing with Herb will be inspired, enlightened and sold
You will lose weight while snoozing
Take pan out of oven and wahlaa - what you have for yourself is one delicious piping hot loaf of Fantasy Quickbread!

Of course this magical concoction is ridculous, but no more so than my real To-Do List:

Laundry on Mondays
Kids rooms on Tuesdays
Den and Floors on Wednesdays (alternate dusting furniture with wiping down venetian blinds every other week)
Kitchen on Thursday (alternate cleaning out fridge and cleaning windows every other week)
Bathroom on Fridays
Food shop on Saturday
Miscellaneous organizational projects on Sunday
In between all that, write, play with kids, go to church, keep up with family and friends, exerise your mind and body, spend time with James and... here's the funny part... attempt to relax.

Now I'm not saying "Poor me... I have so much to do..." It's more of a constant battle on what's most important in life. Have a clean organized house to write in? But who watches the kids while I clean and write? Or have a messy house where I only play with the kids all day? But then I don't want people over out of embarrassment. Only buy fast food so I don't have to cook? But who has the money for that?

I can't seem to eliminate one item. Like a Domino train, take one tile away, and the rest comes crashing down.

Does anyone out there know the answer? Short of getting a cook, a maid and a nanny? Which really brings us back to the Fantasy Quickbread scenario. Except in this case, the cook can bake it, the maid can clean it, and the nanny can serve it to the kids.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

It Takes a Village...Westlake Village

I don't know how I'd survive without my family. Yes, I'm the kind of person that, should some unforseen meteor hit my kin, I'd attach myself to a friendly looking Thai family at the grocery store and force myself over for holidays. But I am so grateful my immediate family is around (Though probably not as grateful as the Thai family). There's my mom, who spoils my kids rotten. There's James mom and dad, who spoil the kids rotten. Then there's James' dad's mom who spoils the kids rotten. Add into the equation my two sisters and brother, James' sister, countless cousins and extended family friends, and what you got, my friend, is a village! In the case of James' family, this is actually Westlake Village, only a few miles from my mom's in Woodland Hills and my brood in Chatsworth. Some people might find it a bad thing to have inlaws and family so close. I say bring it on. We're all different, and that's what makes the dynamic so fantastic. Some of us drink martinis each day at four. Some of us teach second graders and amuse ourselvs by wearing ugly shirts and buying 100 pound dogs. Some of us still live at home and make money by obsessively listening to the radio and winning prize packages. Others of us live in three quarter of a million dollar homes but work at a country club for minimum wage for the free golf. Others of us live in a mobile home and, at 83, belong to a jazzer swim group self-titled "The Mermaids". One of us just spent time in a Mental Health Unit to resassess our life. One of us lives with a man thirteen years younger than herself and dreams of retiring at a beach house in wine country. All of you know who you are. And all of you are so wonderful for taking such an interest in every nosebleed, school day, doctor's visit and successful toilet traning day my kids encounter. I am grateful that you're the "spending time type of family", not the "spending money sort". When the kids are older, they'll know how to spit in the pool, throw out the trash and remember the thrill of walking a wooden vintage turtle named Poochie up and down a trailer park. They'll remember what it's like to build castles with one dollar legos bought from a garage sale, swim in a five dollar blow up elephant pools in nothing but their birthday suits, get wrapped up in warm towels and set to dry on a lounge chair, then pee on the freshly grown grass. Life doesn't get much better that.

Happy Anniversary

After a long week of shots for the kids, turning in preschool paperwork, genetic testing results on me (longer story later), 3 nosebleeds for Nick, pink eye for Sophia and lots of interrupted sleep, James and I finally had a night to ourselves to celebrate our five year anniversary. Thank you to Cecelia who watched the perfectly behaved Sophie, as well as Mom who watched the always charming Baby Jaguar.

The evening felt forced at first. It was one of those deals where you wonder if all the headache of getting the kids to their respective places is worth the energy, only to pick them up 12 hours later. I was terrified Sophie would scream a lung, causing Bob to reconsider procreation with Cecelia. I was worried about Nick having a fourth nose bleed attack and passing out on my mom's ottoman. And most of all, I was worried I wouldn't stay awake. I have been off Diet Coke for one week, and my new bed time is 11 at night. For someone who normally can't shut up, my mouth now runs dry around 9PM. James didn't say much on the way to Beverly Hills (which is hardly new for him) but I could tell from his "no radio" and "no talking" posture in the car that this was one of those "We've got to go out, we never go out, but I really don't want to go out" trips.

I was determined not to argue. I was determined to enjoy my strapless dress, compliments of Christine. I was determined to bask in my fabulous hair that wasn't being pulled on. I had sixty dollars in my pocket and it was going to be spent frivilously on a valet, a nice tip, and bag of toffee peanuts from the AMPM.

We dined.

We drank non-caffenated beverages.

We half heartedly talked about nothing over mediocre garlic cuisine.

And then something happened. Right before the bill came. We finally unwinded. The hustle and bustle of getting there was over. Food was in our bellies. We didn't have to do the dishes. Dare I say, it almost felt romantic? With the kids sleeping at other people's for the first time in over a year, the night was ours. Would we sit at the bar? Would we tour Melrose? Would we go home and drink a new bottle of vino?

With all this delicious possibility, we opted for the very enchanting activity of walking around James' work. His company specializes in high-end speaker equipment, so to get to his office, you have to stroll through a stadium sized warehouse of machinery. Nothing says "Happy Anniversary, Baby" like the view of a 10 by 10 subwoofer grill. Walking hand in hand past the great sleeping machines, I had to admire how well James was doing - to keep all the I.T. running for this huge business. I didn't even go to the well of "why am I not as successful in my career?" I thought of my life rolling down those conveyor belts that spread out before me: sometimes it worked in perfect unison, sometimes it had breakdowns. But most of all, it was there... full of hope. And possibility. With all the wires of obligation and responsibility getting tangled in my own personal subwoofer of Andrea, I marveled at how anything gets done at all, but it does. After such a stressful week, I was absolutely overwhelmed at the good fortune of my life.

Then I went home and slept like the dead.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Caution, Kids Driving

I think the Valley can best be summed up in one visit to my local carwash. No ordinary hose and vacuum joint, "Cruisers Car Wash" also boasts a diner, a chicken rotisserie, a play area for the kids (including miniature castle and token rides) and massage chairs.

I hate that everything has to be so big. So plastic. So lit up and advertised. Even their cashier station boasts everything from air fresheners to porcelin bird houses to "Sorry About Your Divorce" cards.

Question: What happened to the good old days of moms and dads not working so hard that they're not too tired to wash the car with the kids on Saturday? What happened to walking so much that you don't really need a car? What happened to spending so much time outside in fresh air that you don't need 99 cent air fresheners?

Answer: This Auto-topia washes my car for $5.99, making it so sterile I could give birth in the trunk. The car ride costs only a quarter, not the traditional fifty cents, and it rocks and rolls my kids for 3 minutes at a pop (that's 3 minutes of unterrupted reading for me - might as well call it eternity) Nick and Sophie will play for hours in the plastic castle, stopping only to rub their faces (to insure a bout of pink eye) and run outside to see the train zoom by on the tracks just outside the waiting area/benches/advertisement board.

I am one happy sailor at Cruisers.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

After a long love affair with Diet Coke, I made the decision as of Thursday to give it up. Somewhere between not being able to sleep, incredible heart burn and crapping my gutts out, I realized that it had to end. Yes, Diet Coke is sexy - the idea that I'm young and invincible, wind machine blowing my hair as I jet set from event to event with my size six body, gripping an icy beverage in the palm of my hands. The truth is, I am not young and invincible. I am 35. I am a size 14 (on a good day) and I spent more time in the past month on the toilet than at any rock star show, art opening or movie premiere. I am not flat stomached with a diet bubbly brushing my abs. I am more akin to my daughter's build-a-ring set (The kind where you put the multi-colored circles on the yellow plastic phallic symbol): Sitting down, my stomach goes from small innertube, to medium innertube to big innertube. Sure, my jiggly wigglies iron out nice when I stand and stretch in my best pair of Gap Long Bootcuts - the beneift of being six one. But put me in a bikini, and what you have is a butter body ("She's got a pretty face, butter body!")

I could give a rat's hoo hoo about a few jiggles. After having two kids in less than two years, I sill look pretty decent. I don't really care about being some tight assed, over baked teeny bop. I proudly wear my pants at my waist, don't own a single g-string, and own more hats for my Casper white face than Amelda Marcos owns shoes. Still, I don't want to be one of those plus-sized Dove Girls that's getting the media all fired up. "We're fat, we have mustaches, we have freckles and cellulite, but we're clean!" While I'm not a Dove Girl, maybe I'm an Ivory Girl: I'm white. I'm tall. And I've just fallen off my tower of Diet Soda. And I'm hurt.


Someone help me...

The bottom line is that I just can't handle the acid anymore. It was affecting my marriage. Who wants to be romantic with a woman who can't get off the pot? It was affecting my mood, because I'd go from mildly needing just one 12 ouncer to jonesing for that jacuzzi size AMPM truckers' mug. And it was affecting my budet: $1.71 for a McDonald's bubbly. Times that by 7, that's $10.00 a week, $40.00/month, $500.00/year. That's my entertainment center. Or my ticket to Texas to visit Liz. It had to end.

I gave it up on Friday morning.

Friday afternoon, I arrived promptly at my mom's door with my two kids in tow and proceeded to sleep like the dead.

Saturday, my husband gave me a quick kiss of support, then smelled my vile breath and made me promise to give up coffee, too. One look in those concerned, green eyes, and I promised to stop cold turkey.

I also figured what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him. I was buzzing around town perfectly content.

Until I pulled into the garage Saturday eve and he caught me red-handed. Maybe I wanted to get caught. I don't know. What I do know is that it wasn't a pretty scene. James: "You're an addict!" Me: "So I had one cup of coffee. Big deal!" James: "It is a big deal! You can't function without it. You're like a crack whore!" Me: "Gimme a break. You drink beer here and there. I'm not calling you an alcoholic!" James: "I don't drink beer ten times a day. And I don't spend four hours a day on the crapper only to end up with a burning butthole!" (No joke. He went there. That's when I saw the third neighbor's garage go up for a better view. You gotta love our street.)

Sunday I agreed to stop on the coffee.

I was a bitch to live with.

Monday I went back to three cups/day, half decaf, half regular.

I'm still a bitch to live with.

I think everyone has a hole in their soul that need to fill. Call it fear, call it loneliness, call it anxiety. Some fill it with work. Others with drugs. Others with alchohol. Still others,with Diet Coke and coffee.

I want to live a healthy life. But there's something so depressing about going through life like one of those rubbery bodied yoga instructors that swear by ginseng and their 20 cups of water/day. I don't want to be the idiot at the party who orders the Hansen soda. It wasn't a good band, and it's not a good drink.

Maybe if I give up the soda but keep the coffee in check, I'll be half way liveable again for myself and my husband. At least now I'm not farting ten times/minute. Talk about a wind machine.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

No News is Bad News

Would it be so terrible for our agent to call us and say "Nickelodeon wants to hire you" or "Warner Brothers is going to give you a script" or "Carsey Werner is interested in a pilot deal." It's not like I don't go to a zillion meetings a year. And I know that you must hear a million "no's" before a yes. And I know how lucky I am to have even been produced in the past... to go to these big production houses... to talk to these people about my wack job ideas. But you know what? Today I don't have much perspective. I'm on my fourth day alone without my husband, and rather than wondering how I'm going to get to the park by 10:30, only to be home by 12, to get to a parent/child sign up class by 1, to be home by 4 to get dinner on the table, I'd rather get a call saying I'm going to get paid for something else I'm good at. It's not like I'm asking for a million dollar movie. I'm asking for a tiny litte freelance script. Just to get me out of the house for a month or so and buy me a new entertainment center.

Dear God, send me one little break this month, and I'll never ask for another script this year. Oh, and next year, I'll give up lying.

CALL ME PEOPLE! YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Perfect Man

Someone sent me an email a while back with the subject line: “The Perfect Man”. It went on to say that the perfect man will:
1) Mow your lawn
2) Scratch your back after a long day
3) Feed the kids without asking
4) Take you on surprise cruises
5) Listen to your problems
6) Be a star in the bedroom
7) …and not mind that you have these other six boyfriends

The point? No one person has it all. This leads me to think about James – not whether he is Mr. Everything – but the fact that he’s currently on a business trip in Utah where polygamy is sometimes practiced. I can’t help but wonder if there’s any merit to multiple spouses. The idea that you can get from one person what you’re lacking in another sounds half way reasonable. Then again, this theory doesn’t apply to women since in Utah, men can have more wives, but women have to sit around pumping out kids and pretend to like each other and wear bad clothing. Does it seem fair that these men get all the fun? And forgetting about fairness, does that seem logical? Men can’t multi-task. They can’t remember one birthday, let alone eight. And women are more complicated. Shouldn’t they be the ones to have one man to mow their lawn, scratch their back after a long day, feed the kids without asking…? You see the list.

All in all, I have to admit I’m a monogamous kind of girl. I know marriage isn’t perfect, but I like the idea that I have one person to worry about, to love, to bitch to, to bitch at, and to hang with at the end of the day. James, if you’re reading this, I accept the fact that you don’t have all six qualities above, but I congratulate you on marrying someone that does have them. You are blessed. (And a good sport.) Happy five year anniversary. (A few weeks early. Hint hint. Not that I neeeeed you to remember or anything, because that's just snivelly insecure wife talk. I'm confident enough in who I am that I don't need a pair of diamond studs, which you can get for under a hundred bucks at Target, to show that you love me.)

(* Pictured: My thick skinned husband with Sophia in May)

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Goodwill Ambassador

For all my talk about hating to shop at Walmart, the fact is, I love to thrift. And I don’t shop just for me, but for everyone in my circle of friends and family, whether they like what I buy them or not. I’ve been even known to drop off a “can’t leave behind” tee for our babysitter across the street, or a Spiderman raincoat for Nick’s best block buddy, JJ. Make no bones about it, I’m a self-titled ‘Good Will Ambassador’ and proud of it.

Part of it is that I love a good bargain. I only shop on half-off days, so either I’m incredibly smart, or monstrously cheap. Either way, I adore paying a whopping 50 cents for a brand name item that would easily cost me 30.00 at Gymboree or Childrens’ Place. Another aspect is the thrill of the hunt. It’s very primal – like hunting for buffalo: I walk in, I survey, I creep toward my prospect, I sniff, and then – blam! That sucker is miiiiine! (In fact, the same tactic landed me James.) On a psychological level, I love the idea of transformation. What’s walking and wounded coming in to the store can leave with the hope of a brand new life at the P. household. Yes, a little wash and clean, a little button here and there, and that Polo shirt is riding in style once again. I might have put my fixer-upper complex to rest when I met my self-contained, fully working husband (Truth be told, he fixed me up) but I let old demons run free the minute I hit a resale shop. No pot is too scuffed that good dish wash can’t fix, and no book shelf is too chipped that a funky coat of purple can’t restore.

As I type this, I have to wonder why it’s okay for me to shop at a thrift store, but I berate myself for shopping at Walmart and K-mart. I suppose the truth is, as ugly as this is going to sound, that it’s one thing to shop at a resale store when you’re doing it because you like it, not because you have to. Is that why thrift stores exist? Not just to serve the poor and needy, but to make Nordstrom deprived housewives feel like they’re still one leg up because they are spending money “just for fun?”

Whatever the reason, I don’t care. Even if I had a million dollars, I know I’d still thrift for all the reasons I already got into above. Besides, how else will I blackmail the teenage Nick without pictures of him after a particularly good hunt? (* Nick above in Sophia’s future X-mas dress. Fifty cents for a Baby Gap number that had been worn probably once. Now tell me that isn’t a great steal?)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Coppertone Anyone?

Sophie can now climb two sets of stairs in less than a minute. She's like Spider Baby on Speed. If you hold her hands, she takes the stairs one at a time.

She never shuts up. She's never stops moving. She never stops bossing and squawking.

I don't know who she gets this from.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Nickel and Dimes

Got a call yesterday that Herb and I are finalists for the Nickelodeon Fellowship Program.

If we win, we'll get paid 30 grand/year to write on a variety of shows. Upside for them: they get well over a hundred grand worth of work for next to nothing - forcing them to consider changing their name from the Nickelodeon Fellowship Program to the "We're Nickle & Dimen Them" program.

However, no one's more ready to work for peanuts then Herb and I, so fingers crossed! (It really would be a great feather in our cap. Even if it means I'm still buying my cap at Walmart. The difference: I'll also be buying Dora the Explorer Pull-ups: A show produced by the one and only Nickelodeon!)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Oh Brother (Warner, That Is)

Last Friday’s meeting at Warner Brothers went as well as could be expected. We schmoozed, pitched and basically tried not to look like horses’ asses. It helped that the person we met with was very easy to talk to. As it turns out, she is Valley gal like myself who lives right around the corner from me. Like, oh my god! The coincidence! She, like, even went to Chatsworth High! Bitchin! Not to be fooled by her surfer blond looks, this woman actually had some interesting things to say (which we can't say is true of all Hollywood decision makers). After an hour she asked for us to email her two of the five pitches (which we did today). This was either a good sign, or a cue for us to leave the office. Either way, I made it through the meeting without vomiting on her pumps, so it was a success.

And the highlight of Friday’s meeting? I had an hour to burn before heading home to the babysitter. What to do? Go food shopping? Pick up cleaning? As good as those options sounded, I opted for uninterrupted relaxation, so I kicked off my shoes and walked through the Glendale Galleria (where Warner Brothers Animation is located). The weather was balmy and breezy. I sipped on a Starbuck’s coffee as I checked up on the love lives of Angelina, Brad and Jen at the local newsstand. Later I slipped on some sunglasses where I could people watch without getting caught. And the winner for Andrea's Favorite Character of the day goes to...... The 80 year-old botox number with uneven tan cream and cigarette hanging out of her mouth, poodle peeking it's matching hairdo-head out of her knock off Gucci bag. It crossed my mind that perhaps this cartoon was an artist’s sketch from the Warner Brothers building that got away, but as I got closer, I saw that she did move, cackle, and responded to the name Evelyn. I secretly hoped that she was going home to a lovely Sherman Oaks condo that she shared with her lover and husband, Biff. I pictured their wooden floors, their office resplete with black and white photos of their acting days, some yellowed pictures of their kids on an upright piano, the keys worn with showtune wear. Unfortunately, this picture gave way to a more realistic portrait of Evie as a midwest transplant who'd been living in Van Nuys for the past twenty years. She once was a waitress at DuPars and now does a little extra work here and there to pay for her Marlboros.

Time passes fast, and I certainly hope that when Evelyn's gone she's not replaced by Andrea. After all, it seems like a blink of an eye that this beautiful outdoor plaza was once the legendary “Galleria” of “Valley Girl” song fame. Just yesterday I was a teenager being dropped off in front of its outdoor escalators, promising my mom I’d meet her in a few hours in front of Spencer’s Gifts. I can see my cousin Adina and I now, each wearing striped off-the-shoulder miniskirt dresses, our less-than-tan shins covered in alternating black and white leg warmers as we cruised past Hot Dog on a Stick, wondering if the blond cutie near the elevator was Ricky Schroeder or just a “to die for” freshman.

How did thirty five years go by so fast for me? How did eighty years go by so fast for Evelyn? I suppose if time is going to move, I might as well spend it doing what I love. And with who I love. And Evelyn, if you're reading this, I hope it's from some fancy laptop in your Sherman Oaks condo where you plan on making love like an earthquake to your husband of fifty years. And when you're done, light up a Marlboro for me.

Social In-Security

As a kid I was pretty insecure. This was most evident during middle school field trips to terrifying establishments like Skateland – a huge monstrosity located just right of an underpass at a busy section of the San Fernando Valley. While many girls in my class would circle the rink in bright white rollerskates with pom poms, slow skating to Journey’s “Open Arms” while holding hands to some oversized eighth grade jock, I’d be slouching near the snack stand, wondering if my rented brown numbers made me look even taller than the nearly six feet I already was. (Damn, that’s a long sentence, but not as long as my face was during the love songs, so go with it). My point: Looking back, I was probably no more insecure than anyone else. I’ve since grown into my six foot frame, and while I may not be living the cover of an US magazine, I have all I ever dreamed of while listening to those goopy ballads. Handsome and loving husband? Check. Two kids? Check. Cute house? Check. Dog? Check. SUV? Check. Security in myself? Che… I’m still working on the “ck”.

Most of the time, I’m content with my existence. No one has it all. Sure, I’d like nicer molding in the house. I’d like new linoleum. But that’s just degrees of niceties. Where I run into trouble is comparing myself to what I perceive other people might have. (Or actually have, like nicer homes or vacations or shopping funds). For example, I only cut my hair every six months or so. Is this because I'm going along with the budget which my husband and I have worked out, or is it because I don’t demand enough from my already working 50 hour/week mate? Do I not have fancy built in shelving in my TV room because I am adhering to James’ motto that “the kids will just wreck it anyway” or is it because I don’t think I’m worthy of nicer furniture? Do I shop at Walmart because I am being realistic about the cost of kids’ clothing or is it because I don’t think I’m worthy of a Nordstrom’s run? Somewhere in the middle, like most aspects of my life, is where I stand. Somedays I’m a Gretchen Wilson Song: “Some people think I’m trashy, but I don’t give a rip… I’ll stand bare footed on my own front porch with a baby on my hip”… and some days I’m Madonna “living in a material world and I am a material girl”.

Maybe some reader can solve this mystery for me: How do we separate what we want, with what we realistically can afford? How do we live within our means but at the same time treat ourselves to the finer things in life? How do we support other people’s successes without looking to our own inner/outer life and not try to improve it? And most of all, why are we always trying to improve on a life that most people would love to lead?

Either I’m the most insecure person in the world, or I’m a truly ambitious genius who is trying to make the most of her life within limited income and time. Guess which excuse I’m hanging my hat on?

Perhaps the best form of doubt quelling can come in the form of a great friend. In fact, now that I think about it, that's one of the few opinions I have that isn't rooted in the middle. It is a black/white/definite no-bones-about-it opinion. I say find someone who you don't compete with, who doesn't judge you, who sees the good side of you more than the bad (but who'll call you on your shortcomings) and hold on to them for life. I am lucky to have several friends like this, one of them being the all knowing Cecelia. I leave you with an excerpt from an email that she wrote me on the very subject I blogged about today. THANK YOU, CECELIA!

"We are not in competition! You have things that I don't have and I have things that you don't have. It all balances out in the end, yes? Things are great for me now, but they won't always be great. There will be unexpected tragedies and twists in the road that will knock me flat on my back. Life is a series of ups and downs. You (for some reason) seem to think you are down now, but soon you will be back on top again. It's inevitable. By the way, happy just happens. You don't have to justify being happy. There are no set rules that say, "Okay, you can only be happy when X, Y, and Z occur." If you are not happy in your life, Andrea, find out what will make you happy and go get it. If you are happy in your life, then shout it proudly to the world. If you are not sure, well...that's okay, too! "

That email should stave off some insecurity for about 3 hours.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Hitting the Wal...Mart

Call me a snob, but I made a commitment to myself that I would never shop at Walmart. My pledge was similar to Oprah’s diet contract, except instead of vowing to never eat white sugar again, I vowed to never shop in a fat pants warehouse with walls the color of elementary school bathrooms. I grew up shopping to live piano music at Nordstroms where my mom and I would stop for a light nosh on the third floor cafe. It wasn’t even about the money – my mom didn’t have excess funds - it was about the quality of life. My mom’s motto was to do less with panache, then do more with tackiness. I vowed to raise my kids the same way: With class. With style. With elegance. These high hopes also explain my befuddlement when, at 9:30 PM before my son’s first day of summer school, we found ourselves in a Walmart. “No big deal”, I told myself, as I tried to pry Nick off the quarter guzzling Garfield ride in the front of the store. “This is the only place open on a Sunday night. It’s one pair of shoes. Stop being so high minded.” If my logic couldn’t convince me to step off the high horse, all I had to do was turn to my children. First there was Sophia, howling at the top of her lungs for being up past her bedtime. The only thing keeping her quiet was a super sized bag of Cheetos which she would try to hand off to every shopper, proudly announcing “Gak! Gak!” before shoveling them into her mouth. And then, glancing down from her orange stained face, I could proudly look at my son, running around in nothing but a sagging diaper, trying to convince me to buy him purple and pink Barney shoes. He finally settled on a light up pair of Thomas the Tank and, refusing to take them off, started gallivanting up and down the aisles, screaming “I go to school! I wear Thomas!” While I scanned the prices of everything from dog food to baby diapers to house plants, I had to admit that this store was about as cheap as it gets. So what if instead of the aroma of Starbucks from the third floor cafĂ© there’s the aroma of French fries from a McDonalds. So what if instead of piano music there’s a Southern announcer voice shouting about “dropped prices!” So what if instead of a “Ladies’ Lounge” there’s a bathroom the size of Texas near the portrait center. The fact is, I’m not making a fortune these days. I’m a middle class mother who has to do the most she can with her household income, and if that means “shopping stores with concrete floors”, so be it. It’s time to deal with the reality of life as it is. I know who I am. I don’t need name brands to justify my existence. I’m my own brand name. It’s called Andrea P. And here’s what the tag on the back of my neck says: “XL 35 year old Mom / Writer / Tries to Be Kind / Handle With Care”. As I waited in line behind an Israeli grandma who was haggling the cashier over a ninety nine cent cactus, I made a commitment to buck up and be grateful for the life that I had, even if it meant shopping at Walmart with everyone else. I made a commitment to be real. I made commitment to be penny wise, not pound foolish. And I also made a commitment that, as soon as I hit my writing windfall, I’m making a beeline for Nordstroms.

(* Nicky at 10PM before his first day of Summer School)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The ABCs of NBC

My good friend, and recently married Shana (Mazel, dahling!) is so wonderful because we might not talk for months, but she never forgets to send me an Easter card (see, we waffling Christians get Easter cards) and random voice messages. I just picked one up from 2 hours ago where she starts right in,"It says on the news that NBC is looking for scripts. F.Y.I." Click. First of all, God bless her faith in me. Second of all, for all her Masters degree education and inbred intuition/smarts, she and everyone outside of Hollywood isn't aware of what this newscast is really saying: "NBC is looking for scripts... from people who are already gazillioners from writing crappy sitcoms and want to hitch their names to our stars for an astronomical amount of money even though their are other freelance writers out there who can do a way better job if only they were working on their pitches for Warner Brothers rather than their personal blog." Well, everything up to "Even though" is what the newscast was saying.

Now I'm going to work.

I really am.

As soon as I finish two more Twin Dragon Almond Cookies.

Bitches, Pitches and Dick

Because I am supposed to be punching up pitches for our big Warner Brothers meeting on Friday, I will have nothing insightful to add tonight. However, since I'm procrastinating work, I am subjecting you to some random events - and mostly irritations - I have witnessed this week:

1. Richard - a super fat two year old I met at an indoor playground yesterday. Flashforward to public junior high... a fat kid named Dick? He's dead in the water.
2. Twin Dragon Almond Cookies - possibly the best combination of sugar and lard in the history of time. Odd that the calories are so high, and yet the Chinese are so little. Maybe precious Dick will figure it out in between getting his ass kicked.
3. Our TIVO: It currently stores about 20 Battlestar Gallecticas, 10 Modern Marvels, 5 Automaniacs, 15 Stargate SGIs, 5 Sesame Streets, 10 Blues Clues, 1 Zillion and Five Dora the Explorers and... 1 Oprah. Oh, so you see an uneven advantage favoring the kids and the husband as opposed to the mommy? Duh........
4. Moms whining about the lack of time in their lives to be Mommy and Super Woman (me being one of them): The bottom line is that you can't have it all. Either you are a career person who has less time for the family, or you're a family person that has less time for a career. There's no in between. Pick one and stop bitching about it. (And when you do that, please send me an email as to how you did it)
5. World Cup Soccer: It's a fact that when the defeated country loses the cup, murders take place. When they win the world cup, men go home (and most likely behind the bleachers) and have lots of sex. As a consequence, the birth rate of that country goes up something like 20%. I think the next time a woman loses something that's equally vital to her being - say her career, her identity or her pre-pregnancy perky soldiers - she should just go out and kill the family dog. If she wins it back, she should demand spooning and backscratches that last 18 years. Sound fair?
6. "I Love Mexico" bumper stickers: I'm all for immigrants starting a new life in America. It's what all my grandparents and husband's grandparents did. I even speak fluent Spanish (My family is shocked that I am Andrea P.and not Andrea Maria Lady of Twin Dragon Almond Cookie Martinez.) But guess what: my ancestors bought insurance so if they crashed their cars (In those days they didn't have 'I Love the Poland Ghettos' bumper stickers) they could pay their debt and go back to their fabulous jobs of digging dishes, moving furniture and house painting.
7. "I'm taking a one hour drive after work to pick up my car bumper": Says my husband, who lost his bumper on the freeway the day before while taking a German client out to dinner on the company dime. He doesn't ask, "Do you mind?" Of course I'd have said, "No problem." After all, he's usually home by six each night. It's simply the assumption that pisses me off. I'm supposed to just "understand" since he makes the money- despite the fact that I've been up since 6 am with the kids. What if I said, "I need to sleep in until 12 tomorrow (without asking his plans) because it should be "assumed" that since I'm the emotional nurturer that's keeping our kids from turning out like Richard that I deserve a break? (See, I'm already a hypocrite about number 3. It's just so easy to bitch. And honey, I really do love you. Also I understand that taking your German colleague to Vegas this weekend is just druggery that you have to do for work on their expense account, just like you'll understand when I take a weekend trip to Monterey with Cecelia on your expense account. )
8. Well meaning Christians: Who end every conversation with a smile and "God Bless You". I'm a Christian myself (or at least trying to be - that blog could go on for days) but I don't feel the need to assume God's grace and knight people with it. What if they don't believe in God? What if they're unsure? Why is it okay for strangers to say to me "God Bless You" but I can't say back to them "Shave your lip hair." At least my response would point to an actual fact.

I should probably do a top 10 list like the professionals, but since I'm posting for free, I'm done. But not without the....

Dominic Highlight of the Day: We were saying the "Our Father" at bedtime (because that's what we waffling Christians do. And yes, "God Bless Me". As for you, "Go do something more constructive that reading this blog") and we got to the part about "On earth as it is in Heaven". Nick wanted to know what Heaven was. I told him it was where my father, his Grandpa Mel, lived. It was lovely place full of clouds, rainbows and lots of doughnuts. He threw himself on me and said "Oh, Mommy, I don't live in Heaven. I live here on earth with Baby Monkey, and Mama Bear and Papa Bear. I just want to love you. And kiss you." And so he did.

Sophia Highlight of the Day: She finally finished screaming so I could finish this blog in peace. (Oh, and when she saw me this morning, she lit up like a fire cracker and shrieked "Ma! Ma!" That makes 4 official words.)

PS: This is a nod out to the beautiful and talented Kate Dana who is on her way to being the best damn website builder in the world! (Let me know what site I can name drop for you, Kate. About 2 of my core audience in the middle of Montana at 3am would love to take a look, I'm sure!) Seriously, you are great.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Musical Numbers and Farts

I read an Anne Tyler book once about a woman who went on a trip with her family. Her husband was dismissive, her kids were were irritable, and she was stuck doing all the cooking and appeasing. She wanted a break from her "vacation" and started walking down the beach. Before she knew it, she was walking further and further. And then she had this wild hair to grab a bus ride. And before long she was talking to people she would never speak to within the framework of her hectic mom/wife life. And then she looked at her watch and hours had passed. By then, it was night time and she was exhausted, so she checked into an old hotel under a new name. And never checked out. She literally just started over. Got a job, got a boyfriend, bought some furniture. She figured her inappreciative family would never miss her, so why not?

To be truthful, I have absolutely no desire to ditch my kids or my husband. I complain, sure, but I'm satisfied with the little routine I have set out for myself. What began as creaky notes and clanging drums when I first got married has turned into a nice little musical number of doing laundry, making dinner and sometimes/sometimes not maintaining a balance between my mom role and my artistic soul. Just yesterday, I upgraded from Musical Theatre to impromptu Opera for Dominic, Sophie and their cousin, Hannah. They weren't listening to my command of "Don't open drawers" and were having a field day throwing clothes all over Dominic's room (Only adding to my theory even more that kids don't need toys when they can just destroy your housework - or better said, create housework.) So rather than start screaming (see blog below) I told them to sing the word "No-OOOO!" They did. Then I'd sing in high operetta "Do we throw away our clothes..." And they'd say No-OOOO!" And before long a song that even Andrew Lloyd Weber would love was was created (Okay, maybe Andrew Lloyd Weber after six Newcastles.)

Do we Throw Away Our Clothes?
Do we Go and Pick Our Nose?
Do we bash Sophia's Head?
Do We Jump On Fresh Made beds?
No - ooo!

When I got to the big finish of "Do we smell our butts and fart?" they almost fell over themselves in giggle fits. Dominic was quick to point out that "Mommy farted yesterday!" which was true, and that made me laugh. So there we were, Sophie a literal mountain of clean clothes with her little pea head sticking out - her four toothed smile wide in laughter - and Nick with a shit eating grin the size of Texas. And let's not forget beautiful Hannah, a year older than Nick, reminding everyone to focus on the song. Funny flatulation or not, the show must go on!

As I reviewed the day's events in my head on way over to Cecelia's (who I was housesitting for), Anne Tyler's book popped into my head. I glanced over at the many cars next to me on the road. Mercedes with Polo Driving matriarchs. Old beaters with dark skinned teens. Old beaters with light skinned teens. SUVs with burnt out moms and old vans with burnt out soccer dads. Limo drivers. Bus drivers. Taxi drivers. Happy drivers. Angry drivers. Hurried drivers and slow poked drivers.

I wondered what would happen if I hopped into any one of their cars? Where would they take me? To a house in Malibu next to Brad Pitt? To Brad Pitt's house where we'd mow his lawn? To the flower mart for first dibs on roses for a quincinera? How my life would change.

How do we ever know if our choices are the right ones? Especially when we spend so much of our days doing what we need to do rather than what we expected we'd do. I reason that it's within the musical notes of the operas we create that we find the answers. Some evenings we'll end a great number with a glorious trumpet blast. Other times, like my day, a fart. Either way, life's music is short, so I play.

Sophie and Dominic Highlite of the Day: Our Opera, but of course!

(* Picture taken about two months ago. The kids were being so good for me as I cleaned the bedroom. Then I walked into the bathroom and found out why. And no, that was not the"baby powder" that Nick thought it was.)