Friday, September 30, 2005

Adendum to Honesty Blog Below

I would like to add that not only am I grateful that Herb is honest about my writing, but that James is honest about our relationship. Sure, I don't always want to know when I look just like a teenager... because of my zits. Or if my bed head resembles a nice landing spot for a troupe of Canadian geese. But when he is complimentary, I never have to question it.

And he often is.


Except for this past anniversary when I looked fabulous in my strapless dress and he asked why I was so done up. I was livid. And he's sick of me constantly bringing up. And I know his feelings on this subject because of...


Like Oprah, I can't live without it.

Honesty is So Under Rated

If you're one of those people that say you want honesty from your partner, but you really want them to blow sunshine up your butt - your butt that "of course doesn't look fat - it's perfect" - you wouldn't deal well with James. Once, when we were in the middle stages of dating, we got into an argument, and he started to fume. I asked what he was thinking about, and he responded, "I'm so angry... it makes me question if I still love you." To which my quick response was, "Oh shut up, you soooooo still love me!" At which he chuckled and said "You're right. You call me on my stupidity. It's why I love you. Hey, pass the ketchup."

My writing partner of seven years is no less direct. Take the email from him below regarding Act One of our pilot. I had revised four of his scenes, as well as added two of my own. I thought it was some of my better work. And mind you, I busted my chops in between James being gone for two weeks, sick kids, and fires threatening to burn down my neighborhood. He starts positive, but like the way I discipline Dominic ("I love you, baby boy, but you CANNOT stick your hand in the dish disposal. BAD BAD BAD") he is more than clear with his disappointment. He writes:

"Way to go!

But I would hold on before moving on with the next two scenes. I'm sorry, but your changes to my scenes have made this script seem completely about sex. I know that's our story line, but the sex jokes are relentless and monotonous and repetitive after a while.

Establishing character in the cold opening was good, but establishing characters not on screen makes it sound like pipe. I don't want Jimmy's wife being a slut in college. In fact, if he did hook up with his wife it's because she wasn't as easy as the other girls.

Crazy Eddie should be about sex sells and not about sex. His goal is to make money and he uses sex to do that. I did like the part about scoring but Jimmy's response, "I'm monogamous sounds written."

The houses don't share a cellar, they have two cellars facing each other.

I liked the belch stuff but you seem to be writing the George character as a guy who delivers a lot of good gags. Which is fine, if he's a funny person, but I thought he was more of a stiff nerd. A straight man in comedy parlance. Just want our characters to be consistant with their character.
I think we should schedule a time to meet and work on this together in a room with a computer. When's a good day for you?"

Was I disappointed he didn't think my stuff was the next "Everybody Loves Raymond?" Sure. But do I agree with him. Sure again. The only way we're going to have a hit show some day is to hit issues dead on, fix them, and keep going.

Comedy writing is so much like marriage. You need constant communication, never ending rewrites, and no matter how hard you try, there are days when you just can't hear the same boring story from your partner.

I just wish my life had an applause track for every time I did the laundry. Or an award once a year. "And the Emmy for being the most fertile myrtle on the block goes to... Andrea P!"

Yeah, that'd be fun.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Scary Stuff

Ode to a Bad Day

When James is gone for the second week
And Nick has pooped on both his cheeks
When darling Sophie won't stop howling
And haggard Mommy can't stop scowling
When Nicky's nostrils can't stop bleeding
And Pipsqueak's toothers can't stop teething
When pilot season is coming fast
And you're not done with your first act
It's time to handle all things spooky
By having fun and acting kooky

* No, this does not count as my one poem / month toward my career as a Shel Silverstein female poet

Reinforcement Denied

I am nothing but resourceful, but today I hit the wall. With Nick's illness, and the house a disaster of cheerios and stick -- laundry up to my eyeballs, I thought I was going to go Andrea Yates on someone's butt. (Okay, not that bad - just super frustrated.) God bless my amazing mom who showed up at 12:00 and gave me 2 hours of peace. In that short amount of time I was able to down a #1 Inn and Out Burger combo (sadly, with a Diet Coke, but only one... I am only cheating with 1/day... I'm in control...and now the definition of addict in denial). I then mailed off 12 Ebay packages, did food shopping at the Whole Foods (grocery store's version of Disneyland) and got my eyebrows waxed. I'm telling you, if I can get this much crap packed into 2 hours, I'd be running the country with a nanny - just kick Geena Davis right out of her oval office role. Got home, the kids were pooped, and both went down for 3 hour naps. With some well needed quiet time, my house was starting to look decent again. I was even able to sleep myself with the delicious excitment of my sister coming by to help with the kids tonite.

Then she canceled due to fires causing horrific gridlock.

Then Nick had a nosebleed .

Then Sophie started screaming.

The answer to all this?


Sophie is a regular little carnivore, managing to keep quiet for ten minutes (call the Guiness Book of World Records) as she ingested pre-mommy chewed up non-hygenic steak. With the coveted calm, I tended to Nick's gusher, managing to hold his nose down in one hand as I downed some morsels with the other (thinking it ironic that I'm reinforcing my iron and while he lost his. Also thinking that this is really not that insightful and clearly I need a vacation. On Pluto. Someplace warm and distant. Is Pluto hot? As any of my friends can tell you, I am geographically and astronomically speaking a complete moron). Nick is now ready to sit at the table and eat some himself, giving me another 15 minutes of calm.

Sorry you vegetarians, but I can guarantee, from the bottom of my soul, that cow didn't die in vain.

PS: After a few accidents as of late, Nick just told me his tummy hurt and he needed to sit on the toilet, which he pronounces tooooy-lit (a toy-lit is also what happens when you cross a barbie doll with a joint). My big boy pooped like a trooper!

PSS: In two years, all of you will be dramatically cut off from my cyber space page when Nick comes home in tears because not only can he read, but every kid in kindergarten knows about his documented bowel movements.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Upstairs Downstairs

What have I learned recently?

1) I am very independent and can handle James being gone for TEN FRIGGIN DAYS in a row. (His one night stop-over this weekend does not count. I am only giving him credit for it because he surprised me with a mocha Frappucino).

What have I also learned?

2) All independence and solidarity is shot to shit when your toddler has the croup, combined with toilet training.

Telling your kid "There there now" after he vomits does not couple well with "I know you have your insides on your Elmo shirt, but don't forget to use the potty!"

I thought today was better. I willed it to be so.

It sucked.

The positive thinking: I will bring the kids to Ruby's for a kids eat free night where I will stuff stuff them silly with greasy chicken fingers while I eat a healthy cobb salad.

The reality of the situation: Nick was so cranky he wouldn't sit still or eat. Sophie would only stop screaming if I straw fed her iced tea (not helping her sleeping situation).

The positive thinking: I will take the kids to the play yard to run off their energy so they can crash on the way home in the car.

The reality of the situation: We only made it half way there before Nick peed all over an unsuspecting photo booth. I threw Sophie at my mother to grab Nick, in the process setting my diaper bag in a puddle of urine (officially changing the name from "Petunia Picklebottom" to "Pee-uuuuu-nia Pee Pee Bottom".)

The positive thinking: Nick will learn from this experience that his almighty pink and purple Dora panties won't save him from using the toilet. Maybe he'll think next time before he takes a whiz in a booth designed for teens to make out and hide from their parents. Luckily, I have a pair of 3T jeans and a Huggie with me. I will clean him up and set him loose to play once again.

The reality of the situation: Not five minutes into the play area he shoved Sophie twice and dry heaved, freaking out the perfect Valley moms and all Pottery barn robot children named Madison, Cole or anything else resembling a shoe-line or street.

The positive thinking: Both kids will crash in the car, and at least I ate well.

The reality of the situation: Both rugrats wailed the whole way down Owensmouth. I then downed Nick's left over fries and chicken nuggets quicker than John Travolta cries on Oprah.

I finally got both babies home, silently bemoaning the screams from Sophie that lay ahead of me after I, horror of horrors, lay her in the crib. But to my surprise, despite me talking on the phone to James while I rocked her upstairs, she fell asleep the moment I set her down. Side note: She shares a room with Dominic... Side note 2: Her crib shares a room with Nick. For the past year, she has taken all siestas in the Pack 'N Play which is elegantly located in our dining room. Nothing says warm and cozy dining nook like a howling infant. Side note three/defense/useless info but important to me so just read it and move on: We had her in the dining room because she's such a light sleeper, and since she goes down before Nick, there was no point in waking her up an hour later when Nick went to sleep. However, being the solo parent this week, and fearful of how I'd grab two kids and a coffee pot if a 7.6 quake hit, I resigned myself to my baby sleeping near me on the second story.

The irony of this? Nick was so exhausted from his mall excursion and a big bout of Tylenol (which I man handled into him when he was strapped into the car seat), he crashed on the couch watching "Thomas the Train". Whistles blaring, smoke stack humming... he was blissfully gone.

I couldn't believe it! I was finally able to relax! I could watch tv without a little girl screaming or reading fourteen books about bugs, dump trucks and anything by Eric Carle. I smiled as I flipped on "According to Jim", curiously noting that the only person in the universe with a head bigger than Dora is Jim Bellushi. I settled in for a premiere night of Geena Davis's new show and "Boston Legal".

A half hour later, I heard this little voice next to me: "Mommy, I can't sleep. Turn that off."

Now Sophie is asleep upstairs, Nick is once again sleeping downstairs, which leaves a very confused mommy. Where do I sleep? Maybe the coffee pot and I will make our way into the SUV.

Hitting the Walmart II

Such fun events ensue whenever we go to Walmart, and they always revolve around the toilet. Take yesterday, for example. Nick did not poop up his diaper on any quarter guzzling cartoon animal or pee through his generic Huggies in the curtain rod aisle because..... he was succesfully toilet training! Yes, the little man was undergarment free. That was, until we hit the underware aisle. Then like an oasis in the desert, we were presented with enough underware to clothe an African village. Would it be Spongebob? Spiderman? Scooby Doo? Tonka Trucks? Superman? "I want Dora underpants, Mommy." Me: "Oh. " (Pause, then adding) "I like Dora on tv. She's super cute, even though her head is a bit on the large side. Bigger than her mom's, even, which is odd. And her abuela sounds like she had one to many smokes in her day, but I digress... (picking up a random pair of blue and red pants) What about these fire engines? Look at all the hoses, full to the brim with pee pee... which is going to go in..." Nick: "The TOILET!!!!!" Me: "Great! So let's get those!" I began tossing it in the cart. A big toddler hand blocked my move. Nick: "I want Dora underware, Moooooomy." Me: "The pink ones? With the big flowers?" Nick: "No, not the pink ones." Me (to myself): "Thank God." Nick: "...The puuuurple ones with the butterflies."

Every mother has a moment where they must decide if they are going to block their child's creative choice and force them to adhere to gender expectations, or allow their son to be the only 2 year old in preschool wearing dancing baby girls and rainbows.

The downside: I gave into my liberal thinking and bought the friggin Dora's. For Godsake, he's two. He doesn't know male from female. If he becomes a six foot six transvestite, he can blame me. If he becomes a womanizer, he can blame the fact that I allowed him to wear girls all over his hoo-ha from the time he was two. If I said no and busted his spirit, he could blame me for that time in Walmart that I wouldn't buy him pastel panties. Either way, it's my fault.

The upside: Guess who slept all night long, without making one measley drip, in his girly panties?

My big boy, that's who!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Welcome to the Crib, West Valllllley

There's an email going around about a professor who had a big glass soup bowl. He filled the soup bowl to the top with candy, concert tickets and money. He asked the class if the bowl was full. They agreed it was. Then he added small pebbles from his many beach vacations to the bowl, asking them again if the bowl was full. They agreed it was. Then he added some sand and looked at them. Without having to ask the question, they all tentatively said yes, the bowl was full. Then he added eight ounces of water.

The point of this exercize? If you fill your life up with crap, there's less room for the most important things you need in life - the water representing those items. Yes, you would survive on a tiny few ounces of water, like in this jar, but you'd be dehydrated and exhausted before you got very far.

I wonder what the professor would say about this crib - filled to the brim by Dominic as a surprise to his already exhausted mother (and at one point sleeping sibling) at 7am? I suppose Dominic left a little room in between the toys, books, dolls, clothes and diapers for my complete irritation to fill the cracks.

While I desperately try to live my life according to the professor's model today my life started out with the crib full of crap and went down from there: I had a kitchen full of dishes and flies, Sophie did a nose dive, Nick went to the doctor last minute for a horrific cough and fever, then both wouldn't go to sleep for me. Sure, I had some wonderful moments, as I'm determined to be the kind of person that makes the most out of bad situations. But it took an extra Large Diet coke to fill in the cracks in the crib.

I'm a bad, bad mommy.

Who is very very buzzed.

Guess who cleaned the dishes and did the laundry and swept the poop off the floor in under ten minutes and is now ready to take on her writing again? Caffeine MEEEEEEEEEEE!

Is there a hot line for moms abandoned by their spouses for the second week in a row with croupy toddlers who then fall off the Diet Coke wagon?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Nod to My Agent

I love that my agent has a baby close to Sophie's age. Susan gets what it's like to balance kissing butt with wiping butt. I love that she wanted to sign me at one point and but I declined, instead going with another agent (who spent a year telling us about his wife, his sick mother and his many illnesses - so many so that his sneezing, combined with the fact that he looked like the agent form of Doogie Houser, caused me to nick name him the Dr. Bubble Boy). I love her even more that when I called her mid-staffing season in a panic, eloquently blubbering into her machine, "I know you might tell me to fuck off, but will you reconsider signing me!!?" she did so without hesitation. I love that she hasn't made a fortune off of me in the past two years, but she's not dumping me either. I love that she's a Beverly Hills woman but accepted a pair of XL Valley K-mart maternity pants from me, even telling me she used them (Liar!) I love that she called me last week to say she's circulating one of my pilots to networks. She believes in Herb and me, and with the rejections in this business, that's HUGE. But the thing I love, and laughed about the most, is when she called me last week mid dish wipe, Sophie on my hip, Nick screaming for more "Thomas the Train". Usually a call from my agent results in a meeting or a positive nod about work. But during this particular call, she informed me that, no, she did not have any work for me. She does, however, love my blog.

Getting a Life

I had such a nice weekend with James. He came home early on Friday night with a suit case in one hand and a Starbuck's Mocha Frappucino for me in the other hand. For James, this is a rare "I'm thinking of you treat" on normal occasions. After a five day business trip, this constitutes nothing other than a miracle. I glanced over at the one crucifix I own, expecting to see Jesus himself give me a wink, but nothing angelic, Godlike or supernatural was at play. My husband was just happy to be home.

James is such an interesting creature, because he claims to be the most content when we spend time together at home. But often this togetherness constitutes him quiety watching tv, or slowly puttering with a car engine, while I ferociously write, demonically clean or race after the kids. We're hardly the super couple who can't walk, drink or use the toilet without consent from the other. And yet, after this period apart, it became oddly apparent that our individual lives have increasingly blended into no other than a whole, fulfilling life. Like a clock, the second hand runs circles around the minute hand (guess which hand is James and which is me?) but without both devices, time wouldn't be kept.

I always joked with James that if he ever left me for a hot chickie, I'd find someone else. My theory: there will always be some man fatter or older than me who will think I'm a hot number. And while I still adhere to this philosophy, I have to admit that I can see why people get so messed up when their parnter of many years divorces them, cheats on them, or dies. It takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears (and hopefully some laughs) to build a life together. And this life does not magically appear in the form of "I do." It's "I know James likes his Green Tea Frappucino without whipped cream." It's him knowing my beverage of choice is a large ice tea from McDonalds with extra ice, half Lemonade Light. A life is a glance from him that tells me whether he wants to eat, wants to be quiet, wants to talk or wants to do all three. A life is some times less a glance and shouting at the top of our lungs on the driveway "Stop acting like an selfish asssssssssssss.... you asssssssssssssss!" A life is a me promising to chat with him after the kids go to bed, only to fall asleep on the couch (which he is more than aware I will do, which is why he brings the blanket in from the office).

It's a strange realization and balance that partnerships of any kind must keep - this holding on to our own identities but being grateful, and working towards, whatever union makes us happy.

Did I think 10 years ago I'd end up with a computer guy? Hell no. But did I hope to have a house and kids, a writing career and a group of friends that enrich me? Yes. Did I think, during all my times of despair over career, relationships and family I'd end up in this place of relative perspective? Double hell no.

I guess when ex-boyfriends, ex-boss's and ex-friends told me to "Get a Life" I actually listened.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Flying Solo

I'm on my fifth night without my husband (who is on business throughout the country). I've managed to feed my kids, keep them clean and even entertain them without forgetting to sleep, shower and remember to wear my bra before power walking to Arco. Except for my hair-do, which looks like Hurricane Rita made a quick pitstop in Chatsworth before going back to neeener nah-nah the south, things are status quo. This is quite shocking, as I thought by this leg of my solo gig I'd be standing on the front porch, searching the sky for signs of James' incoming plane. But desperation has given way to sentimentality, and all I can think of is how much I miss him.

Which is odd, because many times, he can be such a pain in the ass.

If he tells me one more time how to drive on the correct side of the road or go to bed earliar than 2am, I am going to Lorena Bobbit him faster than J-Lo cashes her Sears' checks for her multi-billion dollar "Latina" line of polyester, fire hazard 'how to dress like a cheap slut but have Latina pride' clothes. But for all his nudginess, he does manage to keep me grounded. He listens to my stories about potty training, script outlining, and my spats with our neighbor, Maria, who I refer to as "Maria Andretti" for her insistence on driving fifty miles/hour down the cul de sac, inducing many a close calls with trash cans, unsuspecting Washington Mutual lunch strollers, one ferral cat and a family of rabid squirrels. I'm sad over some of the milestones he's missed, like our little girl walking for the first time. Or for some of the smaller moments, like Dominic holding Sophie's hand in the SUV, their little fingers entwined from car seat to car seat over the portable mini-fridge. He didn't view Pipsqueak fearlessly scurry through the Ronald McDonald habit trail, Dominic behind her saying "I'll take care of my sister" before leaving her stranded in a dirty plastic bubble to slide down a tube with a cute four-year old named Madison. James is a good daddy who I just know would have loved all these details. He might even get misty eyed as I recap the magic in all its techicolor glory.

To reference one of James' many sci-fi shows, I am picturing myself getting sucked into this emotional vortex of gush & mush. I imagine all six foot one of me getting so wrapped up in how much I miss my partner that only one stained Clark's walking shoe is left poking out of its giant mass. True to the sci-fi formula, some big hero floating through space in his over-priced 2.99/gallon gas guzzler will see my size 10 inch clod hopper (accentuated by a Boots the Monkey bandaid and a splash of Gerber apricots) and come to my rescue. This big hero of mine, none other than Get a Grip You Dumb Bitch Man himself, will pull me from the suckage, slap me silly and remind me of the truth behind James missing these "milestones". For all the gallaxy to hear, he'll shout "#1 -James would be working anyway, so whether he's in New York or Northridge, Sophie is walking to you, not Papa. #2 - James would never go to a McDonald's play area on a Wednesday night. That's prime SGI time and a chance for him to be alone for an hour. How lame are you?"

If at this time my body, like a defiant baby in a birth canal, refuses to leave the womb of sentimentality, he'll hit me with #3 - "Every time James comes home from a business trip, rather than wrap your arms around him and reminisce about the week, the flu bug kicks the love bug's ass. Ex: James home from Germany? You're puking in the toilet. Utah? Strained back. The east coast? Breath that would kill a cat."

Now I'm completely out of the hole. He checks me over once. Except for a few Giggilastic Huggie's coupons that got lost in space, I'm relatively unscathed and ready to face the real world once again.

I still think James would have dug the McDonald's habitrail.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Squawking and Walking

Little Pipsqueak is officially on the move. Today Sophie took 4 steps towards me before collapsing into her crawl once again. The idea of our little fireball mobile is a scary thought. This is a girl who literally takes the stairs one at a time (holding our hands, of course.) No one foot up on a step, followed by another. Just one huge step after the next with the energy of a pitbull charging. Sophie is going to run the world someday. Well, after she masters walking.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Time Out

I was reading bedtime stories to Nick and, in the spirit of goofy fun, made a spitting gesture at him - just this fish lip hoot noise, not real saliva flying. Instead of laughing, he looked at me and said "No, Mommy, you don't spit at me." Taken back, I apologized. Then he said. "I still love you, Mommy." I thanked him. Then he said "Time out!"

So there I was, 9:30 PM, sitting on the floor of his bedroom, thinking about my actions.

It's sad that my 2 year old now has better manners than me.

Jesus Christ!

James was watching the history channel a few months back. This particular show covered the background of the Catholic church. Needless to say, with our beautiful history of popes being exhumed and re-hung in protest, countless wars started over land and more than a few disagreements over grown men not allowed to have sex (with children, women or men), this documentary didn't sway his viewpoint that "going to church with me will be good for the kids!"

Even less encouraging for him was Nick's reaction to a picture of Jesus he saw on his journey between eating Cheerios off the kitchen floor and grabbing his favorite Thomas the Train car. James had paused the documentary for a minor pee break, and left a still frame of Jesus hanging on the cross. Not a happy smily Christ (if there is such thing as a happy portrayal of a man bleeding from all orefices on a crude wooden post). No, this savior was clearly an unhappy camper, each bead of sweat painted in perfect Baroque detail, each drop of blood about as red as the little train Nick held in his puffy little mitts. Nick, transfixed, dropped Thomas, looked at us perplexed and asked "Who's that man?" And I, as calmly as possible, said "Oh, that's Jesus." Long pause. Nick (very concerned): "Jesus needs a bottle". Me: "No, Jesus is okay." Nick: "No, Jesus is not okay. Jesus needs to come down!" Me: (turning from hip uber mom to Bible belter in less than 2 seconds): "Jesus did come down, sweetie. He's in our hearts." Nick: "Oh. I go bye bye." And he left.

I looked at James and told him that despite what just happened, Jesus is important in our lives. James chided "Oh, yes, the Jesus from the tv that just terrified our two year old? Or the Jesus that hangs on the cross at your church.. that will probably terrify him also?"

James was right, I had to admit. In a way, teaching a child about Christ on the cross is like telling a toddler "Hey, Santa is cool! He brings us presents! But first, let's look at this photo of him being stomped on by reindeers... There, there... don't let the blood on the snow or the brains on his beard scare you. Just think of how much effort this dying fat man went through to bring you joy, before he died for you. Well, enjoy your new teddy bear!"

I want to give Dominic the bright side of the Catholic church, and there is a lot: the community, the ritual, the idea that we come together as a family once a week to thank God for all our blessings. But like any religion, there's definite downsides to organized religion: the hypocrisy, the confinement, and the question of family being "why does Mommy and Sophie and Nicky go but Papa stays home?"

Call me a girl who likes the chalice half full, but I'm hoping I can instill in Nick a positive view of God. It's not like I didn't do the homework. My family is half Jewish, so if anyone knows their way to and from a temple, or a deli, it's me. I've visited Mosques. I've church shopped. There is no perfect house of worship. All we can do, like any human being, is the best we can. I want Nick to have an anchor in this world, and I'm putting my bet on the Catholic church for now. I'll be there for him when he has questions. If he's sixteen and tells me he wants to have sex, I'll teach him what the church says (abstinence) and then make James buy him condoms (For Godsake, I don't want to be a grandma at 50!) Does the fact that I'm taking a liberal approach to Catholicism make me one of those hypocrites at mass? Maybe. But the alternative is like doing Christmas without the tradition of Santa. And what fun is a Xmas tree without gifts? Come to think of it, maybe believing in Jesus is just the grown up version of believing in Santa... except instead of being told at eight or nine that Santa isn't real, we get to go our whole lives believing the Jesus dream. Some people will say this dream is called faith, and they believe it without question. Good for them. I have my doubts sometimes. But at the same time, I couldn't face this insane world thinking there isn't some higher power out there, so for now, I'm hanging my hat on Jesus.

Who is hanging on a cross.

Who, according to my son as of yesterday, needs a bandaid for his boo boos.

This Jesus thing is a work in progress. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Country Club

I love country music and make no bones about it. I smirk along with their ridiculous ballads about love lost, "That's my girl, my whole world, but it ain't my truck". I smile at their simplicity, "She said she's going out with her girlfriends, for margaritas at the Holiday Inn.. Lord have mercy, my only thought is tequila makes her clothes fall off." I melt at the cheesy love songs, "She's so New York, and then L.A., and every town along the way, and she's every place that I've never been... she's making love on rainy nights, she's a stroke of Christmas lights, and she's everything I want to do again." Give me Faith. Give me Tim. Play me some Dolly and Cash. Turn up Brookes and Dunn. The idea of complicated loved distilled down to a pair of tight faded blue jeans and an old pick-up? I'm in.

But keep the ridiculous videos away from me.

What is up with every country artist on the planet shooting videos on the beach? We get the irony that you men are singing about your cowboy life (though the only horse you've probably ever seen is on your oxford)... You're tough mountain dudes with big penises but you're surrounded in ocean. Ooooh... ironic. Let the seagulls dump on your hat and move on. But please tell me what is up with you women artists in full length dresses singing in the middle of the sea with the waves rolling over your braless tops? I get that sex sells. But every single video? Is even country being reduced to bobble headed babes and botox rippled men crooning about getting laid with sand up their crack?

I suppose I'm cynical because I just can't relate. A trip to the beach with two kids is a three hour adventure - and that's just getting there. I can't picture myself arching my back in the surf without worrying about sunburns, exploding diapers and sand in the peanut butter and jelly. Even before I had children, I never could buy into the fantasy of the love stricken siren yodeling her mating call. Blame my cellulite. Blame my fat ass. But me wriggling on sand is about as appealing as reading one more headline about Jude Law's uncircumsized foreskin.

I'm so sick of plastic people with their plastic boobs and puffed up cars and puffed up lips and totally hard bodies and totally hard hearts. Isn't there an inbetween line where we don't have to emulate Roseanne but we don't have to feel bad for not looking like an anorexic country singer - who is supposed to be singing about real people? Now this is not coming from jealousy - I truly am content with what I look like. I don't worry about my husband cheating on me. The fact is, he can't multi-task. But I wonder how I'm going to raise a girl to be strong when everywhere she turns is image after image of waifs crying over oversized men. I know I'm not the first person to raise this concern, but I'm the only one raising my daughter, so until I find a solution, you'll hear this from me again.

Now if you'll excuse me, CMT's Top 20 Countdown is on.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Baby Blues

Nick is in his second week of preschool, and so far, he's doing okay. He has his moments in the car of "No, I want to stay home with Mommy", but in general, he likes it just fine. It's only day four, and what began with him in pressed collared shirts and crisp jeans has transitioned into sweat pants and tee shirts (that I put him in the night before to save time). We're in the car by 8:15, always on time, I have juice waiting for him when he gets out, and life is moving along as predictably as Brittany Spears divorce in two years.

I know preschool is supposed to foster independence in our kids, but I'm surprised to find that it's me who needs to foster some. It's only 3 hours, two days a week, but when I drop him off, I literally think "Huh.... Now what?" It's ridiculous. There's so much I can do. I can thrift. I can exercise. I can write. I can take Sophie to the park. I can ebay or visit with a girlfriend. And yes, I've done most of those things. But in my chest is this heaviness... My baby is not with me. He's going to start telling me things that I don't understand from friends I have not met. And yes, this is normal. And I am so happy for him. But this is also the little man I rocked to sleep every night in my arms and loved (and still do) so much my heart bursts open. And I know it's cheesy, and I know everyone feels their baby is the most special child in the universe, but mine really is the best (pass it on). And when old people come up to me in super markets and say "Enjoy this time, it goes so fast" I have the unlucky fortune of believing them. So I try and treasure every moment. And yeah, there's days (just look at my blog) where I just want to be alone. In a deli. With a vat of Diet Coke and my solitude. But 99.9% of the time, I am keenly aware that these munchkins are the best thing that's ever happened to me and if I could freeze all the hugs and kisses and dorky mommy moments for when I'm old and grey, I would.

For moments like these when I need a good cry, I'm grateful for James. He usually will hug me and says out loud "It's going to be okay, Love". Then he'll add to himself "Thank GOD I had that vasectomy."

(* Pictured: Nick on his first day of preschool Sept. 6th. Our red door compliments of James' paint job a few weeks back. I give him credit - he's not a color guy. But he trusts me on these matters. Of course, we sometimes end up with orange bathrooms and day glo living rooms, but most times, my experiment is a success)

Sticker Shock

My son has a "Goal Chart" above his mini-toilet. It's bordered with joyous teddy bears and bright stripes. The horizontal boxes mark his accomplishments, the vertical his goals: I will pee pee in potty. I will poo poo in potty. Every time he performs said duty (pun intended) he gets a sticker. Of course, there are already kinks in my shiny happy motivational tool. Nick only wants to use the "Big toilet, not the tiny toilet". He also can't get the hang of pulling his pants down on his own. He also doesn't tell me when it's time to go. So, every forty five minutes, I have to drag him away from whatever he's doing, pull down his drawers, hoist him up on the big potty, and wait. And of course, I get to listen to him repeat everything I've been telling him over the past month while he does his thing. "I no have to worry. I take my time." And he does... take his time. So I wait. And wait. And then I pull him down, and pull up his pants, and lift him to the sink and wash his hands. And, he gets a sticker.

Shouldn't I be getting the sticker?

As of today, I am going to insert a new policy. Above the kitchen sink is going a shiny plastic drawing of a cappucino cup. Every time I do what I'm supposed to do, I am going to place a wooden stirrer in the box. Do the laundry: Stirrer! Do the dishes: Stirrer! Get your pilot written: Stirrer! Go the post office: Stirrer! For every ten stirrers I collect, I get a free Starbucks, delivered to me by James.

Now I realize Nick is a toddler, and I'm an adult, so of course I am going to encourage him to do his best and pee in the proper container. But in the back of my mind, I wonder if we Generation X-ers are setting our kids up for failure with all these pats on the back for what they are supposed to be doing anyway. In the real world, no one gives you a gold medal for driving on the right side of the road and not plowing down the irritating old lady who thinks her car is magically attached to a track like at Disneyland's Autotopia. And the older I get, the more I'm aware that people are quicker to bitch you out than praise you. It's going to be a balance, this parenting thing: teaching the kids that I'm so happy for all their milestones, but the general population could give a rat's ass if they remember to wear their retainer. Maybe I'll be Sticker Girl and James can be Reality Man. Our conversations could go like this: Me: "Good job, Sophie! You brushed your teeth! Here's a sticker!" James: "And if you don't, your teeth will rott out of your mouth you stinkin' rug rat, so be grateful for flouride".

And if this approach doesn't work, there's always Zoloft.

Monday, September 12, 2005

When Good Haircuts Go Bad

The goal was to trim Sophie's bangs and keep the hair long on the sides for a funky fifties soda pop waitress look. But she's such a wiggler, and I was afraid of Van Goghing her ear. So as she sit in the bathtub/sink, I'd take a snip here.

And snip there.

And then snip here again to get it even with the snip I did there.

The result? Kind of a Betty Boop-slash-20's flapper-slash bad mom cut.

I'm hoping people will focus on my first two descriptives until it grows out.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Some Days Are Better Than Others

I feel peaceful right now. And grounded. For me, this is downright remarkable. I'm a restless spirit by nature, so to quote my third country song of this blog, Trisha Yearwood describes me best: "If you see dark skies, in these green eyes, it's just that I can't find no cover.... these ghosts that haunt me, they get me when they want me... and some days are better than others." She forgot the last line "And for the other times... there's Zoloft." But today can't be attriubuted to anti-anxiety meds. I'm on a pretty low dosage (which is what everyone on anti-anxiety drugs likes to say, but it's true). Once I told my doc "increase the dosage so I'm not as wacky... maybe with less spirit I'd be more content, which would mean I'm happier at home, which could lead to floors without dog hair and food without charcoal..." and he actually looked at me, laughed and said "Why would I do that? Your personality is what makes you you. I'll give you enough so you don't have a panic attack in a McDonald's play area, but not so much that when you come to visit me once a year you don't make me laugh." Fair enough.

Lucky for me, and to quote Trisha, today was better than others. I have to wonder why. It's not like this Sunday was different than any other. I slept in while James and the kids made a ruckus downstairs. I hurried through a shower, got dressed, wrestled the kids into the car, and made it through half a mass before resorting to the outdoor play yard. Then I saw a movie with James and went to dinner without the kids.

Back up. Four hours of unterrupted blissful adult time. Ya think that had anything to do with it?

I hate to say that spending money makes someone a happy camper. As many of my readers know, I pride myself on thrift stores, coupon cutting, and being a generally cheap mom who still manages to slide by in style and keep my kids from looking like Dick or Spam. But after spending a decadent 20.00 on movie tickets (well, 10... to be honest, I had a 10 buck gift card), 12.00 on popcorn and drinks (ice tea for me... I'm on 3 weeks without a Diet Coke), 40.00 on dinner and a cappucino, and 40.00 on a babysitter, I felt downright giddy. And refreshed. And to give a plug, "The 40 Year Old Virgin" was super funny.

James and I need to date more often. It's money well spent. So I don't have a maid. Or James doesn't have a gardener. But after four hours alone, we have peace of mind, and that's a good thing. Plus we managed to not only spend time together, we enjoyed it. Anyone who knows us is keenly aware that James and I are pretty different people. If I want a love movie, he wants sci fi. If I want burgers, he wants Indian. If I want Nordstroms, he wants Loews. But like a squeaky wheel, we have been greasing our marriage for five years now, and we're just at the point where we know how much time he needs to spend rolling in one direction, me in another, and where we like to roll together. We argue here and there, but he's the ying to my yang and I'm grateful to have him in my life. We made a committment to walk together, go out to eat together, work on the house together and watch more movies together. James even rented one just for me tonight: "Prozac Nation". Who says he isn't romantic?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Bad Spam, Bad Spam

In an effort to avoid advertisements for lower extremity male enhancers and how to get rich quick schemes, I have turned on a 'comment blocker' on my blog. This means that if you want to comment, you will have to do one extra step to verify you are a real human being. A box with letters will appear. Just type it in and wham, you're set. I think this is a one-time step, so I hope this won't discourage you from checking in with me. I really do hate Spam, and you just know that some foreign kid out there was given that name with complete love. In his country, Spam could mean 'Wisdom' or 'Good Fortune'. And he's going to start Junior High here and get his ass kicked. Maybe he'll be friends with Dick from that play group I went to. Best of luck to you, Spam.

I'm a Flamingo!

Why do I not have a writing job when other WGA members are making fortunes? As I tap tap tap I can hear James' sci-fi serial in the background screaming this banal dialogue: Man: I want to go in. Woman: No, you're not. Man: Yes I am! (Crash) Oh crap. Woman: I told you not to do that!

In truth, there's not much difference between these sci-fi stories and dealing with a two year old: Nicky: I want to go in. Mommy: No, you' re not. Nick: Yes I am! (Crash) Uh-oh. Mommy: I told you not to do that!

To be fair, Nick is very easy child. Even Sophie, for all her pipping and squeaking, is fairly content if you keep her occupied. I can usually accommodate both their needs, even if we're doing something boring at Home Depot. Me: How many cans of toxic ant spray do you see? Uno? Dos? Tres? Nick (ignoring me and grabbing glue bottles): I like thooooose. The baby likes those. Me: Oooh, please don't eat the glue cap. You could choke." Nick: I want to choke, Mommy. Me: No you don't. Choking is bad. You just don't want to do it... Like the Margarena. Nick: No markers in the rain, Mommy? You don't color when it's wet outside? (sidetrack) Noooo baby! Don't touch my toxic paint! 2 hours later we get to the register, I've usually forgotten my wallet, they learn the word for 'dip shit mommy' and we call it a day.

I think since I've done this mama gig for a few years down, my patience has risen to tsunami levels. I just do everything more slowly, and that's okay. Maybe it's the Zoloft, but I'd like to give myself credit for having the mental where withall to just know when it's time to chill out. There is a section of the brain that just shuts down logical time lines and consequences to feel good about what you're actually doing. For example, today I was cleaning the living room and, despite the fact that both kids were awake, I had a half hour of uninterrupted spitting and polishing. It was heaven. Call me the missing housewife from Wisteria Lane, but I don't mind cleaning when I can do it without miniature humans attached to my limbs. I play music, I look at photographs, I make mental notes of what I'd do if I had all the money in the world for curtains, paint and 2000 square foot house extensions with vaulted ceilings and stain glass windows. I'm quick, too, and in less time then it took for me to get knocked up I finish my room of the day. And let's not forget the game show spinning in my head: "Okay, if Andrea can get the fungi filled bottle nipple from under the couch before the timer goes off, she wins a new broom! Go!" Today was a particularly enjoyable clean for me, as evidenced in my shiny living room above bottom.

As it turns out, however, the twenty minutes I completed my task really translates into twenty five thanks to the the clean-up incurred from Sophie pictured above top.

All in all, I don't mind a little bit of backwards movement to move forward. And that's how I'm viewing this whole writing thing. Herb and I made a little bit of progress on our pilot this week. I'm almost done with the outline. And yes, it's slower than it would have been three years ago. While we're 'cleaning the living room' someone is always 'taking out the toilet paper'. But in the end, both rooms will be clean, and our script will be done, and hopefully, I'll have a fresh smelling home to read it in.

In closing, I have to ask myself why I set such high standards on myself. I'm not anal, but I do like things in order. From my home to my writing to my social events, I like the idea of everything in its place. Everything having a purpose. Nothing wasted. Underneath my six one frame and loud bravado lays a peaceful nester. Perhaps my inner animal is a bird. Except I'm nervous about flying. And I don't think it's fair that the male gets to impregnate us and then have wacky adventures while we get to sit on the egg all day. And I'm not very technical, so weaving a nest out of twigs would be a challenge. I suppose I could use a shoebox, but how would I get it up the tree? If anything, I'm a flamingo: Loud, bright, long spindly legs and always twisting its nosy neck around to make sure it doesn't miss anything. And while it doesn't get the fame of the more elegant eagle or hawk, at least it has a line of funky plastic lawn decor in its honor. And a casino in Vegas. Not bad for a bird that sleeps with one leg up and its ear perched for trouble.

(* Black and Whites on living room wall behind me courtesy of Cynthia Nicoella, photographer extraordinaire. She also did Cecelia's wedding and has a website. She is available for hire! And she didn't ask me to advertise this... but she's so good. She made me look like one of those effortless Petunia Picklebottom toting Malibu moms who has nothing to do but blow out her hair and have her nanny push her kids in a thousand dollar stroller... Not that all you Malibu moms are really like that, but some of you put on a great illusion, so please... if there's a writer/mom out there who lives near the beach and carries chic diaper gear, let me know of your post as I'm dying to get the real scoop.

Cynthia Nicoella info: Website info to come. Give me a day or so to locate it. Or Cynthia, please post!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Starting Small

For the past week I have not felt particularly joyous or insightful. I have had no urges to 'Boot Scoot Boogie', 'Vogue' or 'Wang Chung' I have made none of Andrea's typical to-do lists (which often end in exclamations. "Search out a new coffee shop!" "Ebay three additional items and put the money toward a new entertainment center!" "Read a new book that doesn't involve witty English twenty-something obsessed with work, men and if her ankles look fat in a Manola Blanik!") I can only attribute my doldrums, and all my exclamations, to the fact that there really is no time in my day for these impractical things on my pad, squeezed between more pressing items like 'Grocery Shop', 'Apply for Nick's Birth Certificate' and 'Get new deoderant, you stink'. But my soul can best be described as a scrappy middle child, always wanting more more more, and sometimes it pushes its more responsible siblings out of the way to get the last piece of cake. The "!" is its vehicle to drive through the boring roads of life with a little zoom zoom. I figure if I'm going to spend 3.00/gallon for gas, I might as well enjoy the ride. My to-list is no different.

I could say I'm PMSing, or I'm still mad at James about our anniversary dinner, or I'm disappointed that Herb and I haven't heard from Warner Brothers or Nickelodeon. But it's not really any of those things.

I blame Katrina.

I am so angry. And upset. And horrified. And disgusted. And empathetic.

And grateful that it didn't happen to me.

I'm not a particularly political person. I can tell you every flavor of syrup they have at the House of Pancakes, but don't ask me to desribe the House of Representatives. But something about this disaster woke something in me. All I can think about is being stuck in a dark Superdome with feces on the floor, trying to hold on to Nick and Sophia and praying they don't die from heat exhaustion. People can blame New Orleans for not having better evacuation procedures. Or the Federal Government for not stepping in quickly enough. But as a mother, all I can think of is the long term effects for the victims. Yesterday I decided I was tired of feeling sorry and that I was going to take action. The big question is how.

I spoke to Cecelia about starting a program similar to Big Brother/Big Sister. I love the idea of linking sponsor familes to families in need. The goal would be to send the needy family one care package/month to give them something to look forward to. As I do more and more research into charity starting, I see this is a huge undertaking. It needs 100% committment and time. And since I don't have that, I am instead going to adopt a family on my own with an organization already in existence (or volunteer a few hours/week doing something - even if it's just typing). I will then post online to give others ideas and ways to help also.

Maybe I'll sleep better at night knowing that I'm contributing something to the world. Maybe the small things will make a difference in someone's life. Hell, maybe I'll become one of those hippy parents who will take Nick out of Catholic preschool and homeschool him with abacuses and bongo drum lessons. We could boycott McDonalds and subsist on Tofu fries and Morning Star patties. I could get an old car with bumper stickers that promote my cause and get out of the sitcom business, proudly wearing a tee shirt that says "Kill Your Television".

Wait, I can't become a hippy mom. The first thing on my to-do list is "Shave my arm pits".

I'll start small.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Preschool is Hell

Last night James and I rented HBO's 'Band of Brothers'. Perhaps viewing a movie about young men getting slaugtered on Normandy the day before my son started his first day of preschool was not a great choice in helping my seperation anxiety.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

You Loot, We Shoot

There is exists some sad irony that tonite I sat in a state-of-the-art auditorium with my husband for a preschool parent orientation night. Thousands of miles away were other parents who were also in school auditoriums, but their fate was not so lucky. In our hurry to get to our destination, James and I argued about my driving style, as well as his bad attitude toward work today. In other auditoriums, many people didn't have to bitch about driving styles, because either their car was under water, or their spouse was dead. While we listened to the fine points of an emotional/spiritual/intellectual and physical education for Dominic, many parents were just concerned with rocking their babies to sleep on sleeping bags, wondering exactly how they'd feed them, clothe them and care for them tomorrow.

On the ride home, a final oddity occured to me that James and I are spending our vacation money (2 grand/year) to send Dominic to school - to instill in him right from wrong, to be nice, to share, to not take from others. And yet, throughout Hurricane country, some people are looting and shooting. Is it because these poor souls (or bastards, depending on how you look at it) didn't have mommies and daddies to send them to private preschools? Is it poverty? Is it lack of religion? Is it desperation? A little bit of everything?

All I know is that right now I have no right to complain about anything. I woke up at my mom's house, having crashed the night there with my kids, and ate a delicious meal. I then spent the day with L., a lovely mother from my moms group who is expecting her second baby in a few months. Dominic played with Jay Jay, her son, spending hours pushing his many Thomas trains 'round and 'round a beautiful wooden train table. We were treated to a fantastic lunch. We all went home to a clean, cool house and slept. I had dinner with my family. Tonite Nick and I read about "kisses", and when we got to the part about "bon voyage kisses" he said "I no go on that big boat mommy! I stay on earth with you. I love you. I safe with you." If only he knew how lucky, and true, that is.


I personally am giving a portion of my ebay earnings this month to the following two organizations:

Red Cross:

Noah's Wish: (An animal rescue organization that Cecelia saw on CNN that is doing wonders to help displaced creatures.)

(* Pictured: Southeastern Louisiana University students and staff sought shelter in the school's coliseum as hurricane Katrina roared through the city Monday.)