Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Waiting Game

Stink didn't like the swing. No matter how much I tried to get him used to it, he was consistently confused, shocked and ready to vomit. Like asking Rosie O'Donell to kiss a guy, it simply wasn't going to happen.

I'm that way with change. Like right now. I'm trying to pretend I'm fine and healthy, but truth be told, I have a cold that's lodged further in my chest than Hugh Grant in a hooker's knockers. I should be sleeping. And yet...

Here I am.

Ever have those weeks where you just feel out of sorts? That's me.

I'm not depressed. I'm not anxious. I'm just....


For what? I'm not sure. But it's something big. An acceptance of sorts? A surprise trip to Boston? A fifty cent double coupon off Yuban hidden inside a bag of Mother's Animal Cookies? A baby kitten wrapped in a shoebox on my front step with the sign, "Call me Paxil"?

I suppose part of it is that Pip starts preschool in the fall. I can count down the days until both kids will be out of my hair for fifteen hours a week. And sure, I'm thrilled to be able to breathe in the quiet. But I'll miss those buggers. More than I care to admit. They are my soul, my laughter, my worry, my freedom, my everything. I am astounded at how much they love me, too. (I mean, what's not to love, but still...) I smile every time I hear, "Mommy! We missed you!" (When I've only come in from the garage) or their "You got me a surpriseeeeee???!" every time I go to the market without them. (Even more astounding than how much they love me is how much they love their impromptu surprises - often things I randomly pick out of my purse. McDonald's ketchup bags are "Finger paint! WOW! Let's go ruin some of Mommy's walls!")

I can type and type and Ebay and write and clean and cook and organize my way through this entire evening - waking with bags under my eyes - but the truth is, my babies are no longer babies.

Wah wah wah. Now it's my turn to cry. If this continues, late night be damned, I'm hitting the bottle.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I am Cranky

For those of you familiar with Thomas the Tank Engine, you will understand that all of us are different characters, depending on our day. Sometimes I'm Thomas: cheeky, spirited, full of optimism and damn that crack in the track, I'm going to chug chug chug my way through rain, sleet and kids pissing on my geraniums.

Some days I'm the Troublesome Trucks: A Puck-like demon ready to trip you for a laugh. Hey, Rex, you wanted Crest Regular and I bought you Aquafresh Mint to save 3cents! Ha! That's what we Troublesome Trucks do!

Some days I'm Percy: Strong, proud and fast. You need to drop your kids off despite two of them having pink eye, one having the personality of an Ashley twin and one with the look of a possessed possum on crack? I can handle it. Why? Because I'm Percy. That's why.

Some days I'm Claribel: Graceful, sheerful, and totally content in my woman's work. You need a nice ride around Ventura Blvd.? A fresh pie? Perhaps some soothing music in Mama P's SUV freight car while I point out the scenery along our San Fernando Valley Drive? "That's the McDonalds where the kids spent a half hour playing with the air dryer. How's that for a stimulation toy, and it's free!" ... "Oh, that's the number one strip joint in town. Stink still thinks it's name, 'The Wet Spot' is home to a GINORMOUS SLIP N' SLIDE!"

Today, I'm Cranky: Neither train nor truck, I'm simply one tall, mean crane. I've got a growl and nasty hook in me, so don't look at me wrong cuz I'll pick you up and do the meanest thing a Mama P Crank can think of: Drop you off at the nearest strip mall during this 101 degree heat wave and take off, leaving you alone with over sized sunglass waifs and teenage boys with plumber crack deeper than Nicole Richie's frown lines. Don't put it past me.

Man I'm cranky.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I Am Turned Off

I have turned into one of those mothers who limits my children's TV viewing to one half hour show per day. *** (clause at bottom)

I put Stink on a timer when he plays computer games. I've even been known to shriek "It's a beautiful day outside! Go play in the sprinklers! Don't get abducted while I run into the house for coffee!"

It's an odd thing in my household, but when the overall volume is turned down, our personal energy is tuned up.

Take today, for example. Despite watching one friend's child in the morning, then watching another's this evening (I'm no martyr... it's called "Babysitting Trade for 400") there was nary a time out, nary a screaming fest and nary a, "He touched my booger!" melt down.

We even managed to eat some homemade granola bars that I made at my childhood friend's house yesterday while Stink was at school and Pip subconciously wondered why my friend's child had every Bratz doll in the universe and her collection includes, but is not limited to, the "It's Not Cheesey Platform Shoes It's Vintage Shops at A Co-Op" Barbie.

How I went from writing TV to policing it I'll never know. And while one day my kids will buy me a tee shirt (From a strip mall, God forbid) reading "Older Than Dirt", today was a run through the sprinklers, play some Disney music, eat crisp apples and dip our fingers in peanut butter kind of Valley Day. I might not get residuals for it, but hopefully the memories will pay off.

*** PMS Clause: Should I be suffering hormonly, be ill, or just plain want to fall into a coma due to query rejection, behavior issues or plain laziness worthy of bon bons and vats of Diet Coke, I reserve the right to stick my children on DVDs for hours on end, until they pass out, or I get my next article. Could be years. Hey, they'll just have to be film majors in college.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Greatest Show On Earth

3 free tickets to the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus this past Saturday turned into $20 to park, $20 in gas and $24 for snow cones.

TWO snow cones.

As in $12 each.

Yes, it's true. Mama P fought the bling-bling of the greatest show on earth and she lost. I might as well have gone in the center ring, the animal tamer directing me with a baton: "You will leave your natural habitat of the thrift store jungle, roll on your back, and cough up cash. Your children, like the audience, will applaud you and love you!

For exactly one minute.

Then move the hell over, because it's time for the great 'Let's spill the snow cone ice act of 2007 and scream our way through the Vietnamese tumbling lotus dancers.' "

Rule #1 of Thrifting: Trust your instinct and don't buy when it doesn't feel right.

Rule #2: Leave before you lose complete control - as in the second half of an event. At least if you miss the "Elephants That Yodel and Fart in time to the Star Spangled Banner" you can exit the Staples Center in peace, despite children screaming that they wish you had bought them cotton candy instead.

Because $10 for sugar on a stick is so much cheaper.

Me: "You will eat what is left of your sugar laden ice rip-off and like it. You will not even brush your teeth. You will get cavities with holes the size of the OJ's excuses and rue the day you begged me for 24 bucks worth of animal abuse ice-cream."

What a circus.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cabin Fever

My childhood friend, Topanga T, opened up her rustic cabin home for my daughter's third birthday party. With Rex out of town, we kept it very small and intimate - just my mom, sister, sister's friend/boyfriend (I get confused on that one), Topanga T, Drivethru B and Stink. If anyone knows anything about Topanga Canyon, it's very much the other side of Los Angeles. We're talking "painted blue trees people walking around in hemp lots of Shakespeare plays craft festivals artsy fartsy waaaaaay alternative universe" opposite end of Los Angeles. T replaced all her year round Xmas lights with pink (leaving a few blue for Stink.) There were candles, enchiladas, sangria, homemade cake and coffee. The music? "Cinderella" on DVD - but of course. Pipsqueak scored quite cool gifts, from gloves to Barbies to the real show stopper: her own pearl necklace (made by T).

All in all? A magical evening. I shall have one for you all one day. All those wheel chair bound (and you know who you are) it's nothing a rope pulley can't fix. We'll just swing you over the fence and situate you in the tiki hut. Problem solved.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

In My Daughter's Eyes

"In my daughter's eyes I can see the future
A reflection of who I am and what will be
Though she'll grow and someday leave
Maybe raise a family
When I'm gone I hope you see how happy
she made me
For I'll be there
In my daughter's eyes"

Happy birthday, Pipsqueak. You might think I'm raising you, but the truth is, you're raising me. Thank you for inspiring me daily to love, honor, be silly and kick some serious booty. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love you, you crazy kid.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Anyone Know of a Heroic Animal Story?

I'm looking for a story about an animal that has saved a life somehow. I'm also interested in ones that have done something remarkable. Anybody have a lead for me? I'd be forever grateful and of course give you a cut of my article when it sells.

Stories that I'm interested in:

* Animals with premonitions (sensing seizures, catastrophes, etc.)
* Animals that save people from burning buildings, drowning, explosions, natural disasters, etc.
* Animals that save humans from being attacked (especially if the human has never met the animal)

Stories you can keep for yourself:

* The day your dog farted out your birthday candle
* The hampster swallowing Pop Rocks fiasco of 1979
* The cat that barfed a hairball onto Aunt Lucille's vintage hanky

Think, people!

Email me at AndreaPaventi@Yahoo.com.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What Were We Thinking?

The answer is true to the following statements:

1. When Rex picked me up for our first official date, I wore a pleated skirt, a coat from 1960, vintage cat eye glasses and sported bright red hair (that I maintained to the tune of 100.00/month - ahhhhh, the days of wine and vanity).

2. Rex had his hair parted to the side, a unibrow, tight 501 jeans, a long sleeve shirt buttoned to his wrists and proceeded to wear bright green pants with a red turtleneck to a Xmas eve dinner later on that year. That would be his last time doing that.

3. I went from show to show, always paying rent, but somehow not having a lot left over at the end of the month. I lived in a magical apartment overlooking a nursery school. I used to drink coffee on the porch and throw Hawaiian parties in the driveway where lots of people got "layed".

4. Rex lived at his parent’s house until he was 24 so that he could afford the down payment to his first condo. (One that I bitched about for two years due to the location. I still feel bad about that as it provided us the down payment for a home I love even more than my second floor apartment.)

5. My idea of a day off is sleeping in, eating too much, over scheduling and under accomplishing.

6. Rex's idea of a day off is getting up early, drinking a healthy glass of milk with some fruit, mulching a tree and prepping a 72 page document for some hoity toity CFO doo hicky type person.

If someone asked us if we knew of all these differences before we got married, we could only answer "I do."

This leads me to today's stranger post. It involves a woman we saw at Old Town San Diego last night. We were all seated at a table with family and old friends in an authentic Mexican restaurant. Mariachi music was in perfect harmony with the summer evening and fish bowl margaritas. While Stink was too busy with his new coloring book, Pipsqueak clapped her hands while a white haired lady danced and danced to the horns. I thought she was part of the act, but turns out she was a patron just drunk off her rocker. (One could say "drunk off her rocking chair".)

While Rex chatted up my friend's husband, I stopped the old lady in front of a water fountain and complimented her skills. She looked at me and said, "I'm too old to care what anyone else thinks."

I wonder what she was like at 29 - the year I met Rex. Was she always this free spirited, or was it something that she learned? In any case, it reminded me to find some of my old photos (like the one above, taken in 1999) and get inspired to funk-di-fy myself a bit more. I might not have the cat glasses anymore, but there's a lot of meow left in this ol' tiger. Hell, I need something to embarrass my kids with.

What about you? Got any tricks from yester year that it's time to display again?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Keep Your Voices Down!

Two awards in one week? Ah, shucks, folks. This one hails from Liv at http://madnessmadnessisay.blogspot.com/. She's finding her groove doing yoga, raising two kids and trying not to karate chop hemp wearing foodies during opening stretches. She is great at making me laugh and cry - often in the same post. Thanks, Liv.

Some of you might know that I'm taking an online writing class through Freelancesuccess.com. I highly recommend it if you're interested in magazine writing, but it's not for the faint at heart. For $149, I might have learned to punch up my queries, but I also learned that my voice is really not so necessary in approaching magazines. The less "me" and the more "them", combined with solid references and interviews, is what nails the job. Coming from someone who made a living schmoozing first, then proving my writing second, this is a new phenomenon for me. And kind of an "ouch" moment. But it's some of the best advice I've gotten in a while. It really is about gearing the proposal and editor emails toward the audience, not selling me.

And so, this blog is coming off my signature line. Apparently editors who are being pitched the best organics for baby butt cream don't want to see a website referring to wacky mental health moms.

But as for you readers, you're stuck with my view point for a long time. When I have more moments to myself, I'll turn my voice into a book or a musical or whatever.

How about you all? Have you ever been told something that really sucked to hear, but then in thinking about it, realized that the person was right? That there's a time and place for your voice, but time to shut up and go with the program?

Oh... today's stranger comes to you via the cashier at K-Mart. I met her yesterday while buying gifts from the bottle fairy (another post). Joanna is on her third baby - two boys and a girl. She doesn't have to work, but she's doing it for sanity and for fun money. All her kids are 3 years apart. All gave up the bottle at 18 months. She thinks Stink is super tall for his age. The cashier next to her (didn't catch her name... can you believe it?) gave up working until both her girls were in kindergarten. She's been doing it ever since. All three of us decided that being a working mom can be a great example for young girls.

Now only if I can get past my personal voice and get into magazine mode, I can be a working mama, too.

If it doesn't happen, there's always cashiering at K-mart. But I look terrible in aprons. And while those cashiers liked me a lot for our two minute conversation, they'd be wanting to fire me the minute I held up the line making jokes about the lubricant on sale. "Oooh, gotta love those peanut butter and K-Y jelly sandwiches!" (I didn't say they were good jokes, I just said I'd tell them. Shut up.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stairing Me Down

This week Stinker has earned his namesake ten-fold. As far as Princess Pipsqueak, let's just say that Dora had better find a map with an all expense paid spa for Mommy or Mommy's going to sell Boots the Monkey to the circus. (Or at least to a casting director so he can live out his last days as the famous chimp starring in Clint Eastwood's next production of "Every Which Way but The Nursing Home").

With this in mind, I bring you today's "stranger post". While at Costco, explaining to the kids "that bacteria we lick from grocery carts differ from the bacteria in Kirkland yogurt", an old man approached my cart with a smile.

I asked how he was.

He told me the kids were adorable.

I told him that they could be his for a song and a dance. (More expensive than the peanuts, but cheaper than the patio furniture.)

He must have thought I asked him about "dancing" because he launched into a story about the war and cutting a mean two-step. He then chuckled at the kids' poking contest and mumbled something about "been there, done that, never again in hell" and ambled off.

I couldn't help but notice that one eye was sealed shut. He had a limp. Yet he was still friendly, courteous and retained more vigor than me - a person half his age. I made a committment to myself that if this geezer could manage a warehouse at 91, I could manage two kids.

One loooong car ride home (replete with screaming fits over who gets to touch the receipt, an impending fist fight over a month old Skittle, and a rowdy argument about Scooby vs. Cinderella's belching capabilities) I decided that the stairs could do a much better job than I could.

Clearly my kids agreed with me.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Saved From the Hell

Today's "Perfect Stranger Post" comes to you via the childrens play area at my local mall. I saw a silver haired guy that looked super familiar coming out of Chick's Sporting goods. He didn't look like he ever kicked a soccer ball or a football in his life. Perhaps he wielded a mean squash racket or was known as the Evil Emperor of Wiffle Ball. Hard to tell. But his shoes were clean, his Dockers were spotless and he was calling out for his son - one of those "only in L.A." names that would easily double for a vineyard or a small dog.

Who could it be? Lucky for me, I have such tact when I'm in such quandaries.

Me: (Gesticulating wildly toward him) "You.... you....I know you!!!!"

Him: (No smile. He solved the mystery): "Hi, Mama P. It's Betterthanyou."

Me: "WOW! I HAVEN'T SEEN YOU IN 10 YEARS AT LEAST!" (I am having a capital letter big mouth 'WOW' fest. If I were a rollercoaster, I'd be called "The Exclamation." He is too cool for a rollercoaster. He is too cool for the amusement park even. He is at home, watching the Mama P carnival ride from his leather sectional and flat screen tv. "Flat" like his voice. "Screen" like his calls. As in, if I phoned him tomorrow, he wouldn't take it.

Him: "Last time I saw you was on production for Saved by the Bell."

Me: "WOW!"

Him: "Are you working these days?"

This is our opportunity to crow about how far we've come from the days of bagel runs and fielding lunch orders from fat writers.

Me: "Yes. I'm a writer." (I'm not sure he believed me with my Emmy award winning dialouge of 'WOW'. So I attempted to play it extra cool. "I wrote for a few big shows, like, a looooooooooong time ago. And now I'm writing for magazines. Sometimes. When I'm not running around after toddlers. I love being a mom. And being married. Well, most of the time. Sometimes it sucks more than a day on a teenage sitcom set. Remember when the extra from the basketball scene did a very dirty manuever with the potato from craft service?" (There, that showed him.) "What about you?"

Him: "Fifteen years in the biz." (Of course. It might help if he told me what exactly he did, but since he remained silent, I took it as Hollywood talk for "I'm much more advanced than you, so don't call me, I'll call you.... in about ten million years."

Lucky for him he was indeed saved by the bell when his wife ambled to his side. We made awkward introductions as they stammered about the movie they were en route to see.

Me: "Wait!" I fumbled in my purse for my photo of my little productions. "Four years in the biz." I offered up a lovely scratched up wallet from last year's Picture Place fiasco. A sippy cup had spilled on an insurance check, which then bled onto my photo, so lucky me had outdated kid shots with smeared blue ink around the edge.

Him: "Ah, cute. Well, good seeing you."

Me: "Wow!"

I was glad he was gone. We didn't get along ten years ago and there was no love fest today. I would never think of him again.

Which is precisely why, when I got home, I Googled him immediately. He's a visual effects producer now. I considered emailing him to see if he could graphically enhance my ripped up wallet photo, but of course I am too busy writing blog entries for free to waste my time on being catty.

Moral of this Stranger Story: Sometimes it's best to let strangers stay strangers.


PS: I won the award above from Gretchen (http://gretchen-quantumleap.blogspot.com/) I am honored and thank you! Rock on!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tired of Me

"I'm querying..."

"I'm cooking..."

"I'm carpooling..."

"I'm cleaning..."

"I'm ebaying..."

"I hate my children..."

"I want ten more children..."

"I hope my husband gets smushed by a comet on his way to a Voyager convention..."

"I love my husband so much I wish he could be beamed into my arms right this second. Or in thirty minutes after he gets me a Diet Coke."

"I'm so anxious."

"I'm so relaxed!"

"I need to exercise."

"I'm fine with my cellulite. Jiggles made jello millions. What's to hate?"



I'm so tired of myself I can't even think Boy George straight. And so, for the next month, I will be posting about strangers. Or in Mama P translation, "People I meet and talk to every day."

As many of you know, it's quite shocking the amount of info I can get out of someone I not only wasn't introduced to, but a person who had no desire to talk to me in the first place.

Their reversations aside, I can get more personal history out of a first generation Asian drycleaner within a 2 minute time period (kids gnawing on metal hangers not withstanding) than many of their offspring can get during an entire Chinese New Year celebration.

Call me nosy. Call me friendly. That's the way I roll. (Or in the case of the drycleaner, that's the way I "egg-roll.") Oh, shut up, people. That was funny.

Today I pitched a national magazine this very concept - a blog with the slant of "learn to build confidence with Mama P's speaking skills!" Oh, but now I'm talking about me again. And I'm so over me. Judy Garland Over the Rainbow OVER IT. And so, I give you...

The dad at preschool today.

Nice looking guy. Pretty confident for someone in a room where about 50% of us were probably menstruating and denying our husbands sex (either because of menstruation or "just because.")

Never saw him in my life. He was chatting with another woman about traveling, babies, and how quickly kids grow out of stuff.

I see my entrance and I take it.

I mention thrifting.

He mentions resale websites.

I mention my Ebay site.

He mentions my favorite words on the planet "Kids grow so fast, why pay retail?"

I leave my fancy-schmancy preschool feeling better about the fact that I'm not the only one who gets a kick out of 85cent Polo shirts on sale at the Salvation Army.

Today's lesson about talking to strangers? Validations for being cheap.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post. Before long you, too, will be able to saddle up to serial killers and find out their secret casserole recipes.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Jumping Into Monday

It's another week ahead of us, huh? What do you all have going on?

For me this means summer school for Stink, park and rec classes for both rug rats tomorrow night, 4th of July festivities on Wednesday, laundry, laundry and more laundry. Did I mention laundry? I also aim on getting some more queries out the door. I'm so close to a few things, but don't want to jinx anything by talking about it.

Am I doing orgasmic back flips over the dog and pony show of responsibilities ahead? I think not. But for tonight, I'll savor the memories of some well spent family time.

Rex took Friday off, and though he spent a good part of the day working on the lawn (the second love of his life next to cars... and computers and... um... moi), he also spent a lot of time with the kids and me. We went to a local park where water shot out of the ground in sporadic bursts, causing much shrieking from the kids (and Rex who almost lost his blackberry in the flood of agua that drenched his six three frame.) We dried off and went out for Mexican food at a local hole in the wall and enjoyed a margarita while the kids doodled on paper place mats and Pip periodically bled all over her vintage Holly Hobby dress. (Gotta love nose bleed season. At least there was lots of salsa, so it kind of blended into her patch work corduroy.) We survived a spontaneous adventure to Chuck E. Cheese last night with Topanga T and Drive Thru B (Chuck E. Cheese's new slogan? We're birth control for single folk!)

Today we did a pot luck swim party with Rex's alumni from his In and Out Burger days. Burgers, watermelon, no drowning toddlers? A good day indeed. (Though why I spent 400.00 on swim classes to have my kids float around in blow up rafts shaped like lady bugs on botox is beyond me.)

As the 4th of July approaches, I can't help but feel grateful for my country. For Rex's job that provides such a nice life for us. For my ability to use my talents to provide such a nice life for us as well. To be able to dream about the future. To know that I have medical insurance to help me through rough times when the future doesn't look so happy.

To be truthful, it's not like I'm always this optimistic - about my life or our Morman postcard weekend snapshot: Our little family of four holding hands and singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Fart" (Stink is quite the composer) as the kids plow Rex into the ground with kisses and head bonks. There are plenty of times when Rex travels, or he's doing computer work and can't be interrupted. Like any couple, we fall into the trap of running our lives like a corporation: "You take the kids for X hours while I shop and clean floors that the kids will pee on two minutes later, then I'll take them while you geek out over Star Trek DVDs and plant trees that resemble swamp things. Oh, and don't forget to be stupid enough to think that later, when I'm feeling super sexy from the Batman chicken noodle soup that splashed onto my only decent cocktail dress that you're going to get laid..."

Any married couple knows that when that starts, the last thing you want to do is think of the other person's needs.

But lately we are doing a lot less of defensive "I need I need I need" and doing a lot more "what's best for us as a unit."

If I doubted this method would work before, I know it to be true when, as of an hour ago, he offered to vacuum my car while I cleaned off the work bench. Earlier today he bought doughnuts "just because" and took Stink with him on an impromptu Home Depot run.

I am more than elated at this change of scenery in the Mama P household. It did not come without a lot of soul searching and speaking up on both our parts, but it's been so worth it.

In conclusion, I stand by my slogan that Chuck E. Cheese is birth control for single folk. But when your executive husband gets down on his hands and knees to play skee ball with your toddler for the tenth time in a row? That's pretty damn sexy in my book. I'm thinking that someone's going to get a nice little prize later (and it's not even going to cost him a token. What a deal.)