Monday, December 29, 2008

Resolving to be Flexible

The last New Year's resolution that I made that I've actually kept is to not make any more New Year's resolutions.

It was made several years ago, after years of failing to keep any resolutions and starting the New Year kicking myself instead of celebrating all the possibilities that the next year can have, as well as all the accomplishments made in the last year.

My life has undergone many incarnations throughout the years. I've been a child actor, a starving artist, a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, married, divorced, a title that included senior staff privileges, and an assistant. I've worked in market research, the legal field, restaurants, and on a cruise ship. If there has been one constant in my life, it has been change.

I was never a very good improv actor, but my life has taught me that the one thing I must be is quick to adapt. And above all, parenting is the most challenging improvising I've ever done.

My oldest daughter will be 12 this year. Her body has already started to change, and she goes from being an independent, thoughtful person one minute to a crying mess the next. Motherhood has always meant a mountain of patience, but the patience required to raise an adolescent is beyond measurable! I never know if a lame joke will make her smile and change moods again (which it sometimes does) or if she will turn into the eye-rolling embarrassed teen (which she sometimes does). I'm learning not to take it personally.

Before I was a mom, it was easy to flit from one thing to the next. Raising babies, however, required stability. As soon as I got the hang of that, they've gone and grown on me and now the schedule changes according to their schedule changes, which will inevitably change again.

The good news is, they're learning to enjoy downtime now. After weeks of basketball games and holiday parties, they couldn't have been happier to spend a quiet weekend at home. And occasionally, they even entertained themselves!

So no, I will not be making any promises to myself this New Year's. Except maybe, to take it all as it comes.

Originally posted on LA Moms, Dec. 29, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

(Early) Weekend Wrap-Up & (Early) Happy New Year

Phew! I've been offline at home for the past couple of days due to some technical difficulties. It's nice to be back!

We had a really nice, quiet Christmas. My dad made the tamales, rice and beans for Xmas Eve dinner and baked cookies with the girls. We enjoyed a bottle of champagne I'd been given from one of the lawyers, and opened our traditional PJs.

Riley was beside herself with excitement, but they went to bed at a fairly reasonable hour. We opened a bottle of wine I'd been given from another one of the lawyers :) and talked until enough time had passed to grab the presents, stuff the stockings, etc. Then we had some Bailey's (this time provided by my parents) and talked some more. We finally headed to bed around midnight.

Riley got up and woke her sister around 2:30 a.m. Sylvia very wisely went back to bed after peeking at the stockings and the tree. Riley stayed up for about an hour and then fell back asleep on the couch. Sylvia thankfully let me sleep until seven.

Once we were done oohing and aahing over the gifts, my dad made the popovers, and we gobbled them up. Riley popped in her new Mamma Mia dvd and we enjoyed that before my parents took the girls to my cousin's house and I loaded up all our new treasures and went home.

I watched 4 episodes of West Wing in a row - I totally miss that show - and then called Kori to hear all about her Christmas. I couldn't help but beam. Then I finished the wine while watching The Breakfast Club - which I'm sure is not nearly as good as I think it is.

The next morning was again a breeze not getting up with children and work was serenely quiet. I finally cleaned up my email inbox at work and in Gmail. I spent the rest of my payflex money stocking up on supplies from (they have an HSA store which makes it easy), and got my Reader down to nothing. Grabbed some groceries, and met the girls. We are now caught up on Lost. And I have NO unread New Yorkers!

I'm now doing some end-of-year cleaning around the house, but I desperately needed my internet up and running for those well-deserved breaks. That took a good 4 hours of my day. But it's done and I'm here!

Here are the girls modeling their new outfits:

I hope you all had a great holiday. I think I'll take a blogging break until 2009, but I'll continue to keep up with you all in the meantime. I can't believe how many of you I've now "known" for a year, and I'm so grateful to have had the pleasure to meet some of you this past year. I hope to meet more of you in the coming year, but if not, I'll continue enjoying the pleasure of your company in my Reader, your comments, and emails.

Here's hoping for a new year filled with love, laughter, and joy for all of us!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Our Santa Story

Two or three years ago, I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't take some fictional MAN taking all the credit for all the scrounging I was doing to give my girls that Christmas morning pleasure of a tree overflowing with gifts. Particularly back then, when my salary was lower, and my money concerns much greater. (It's still a concern to some degree, but not nearly as bad as it used to be.)

I think it was three Christmases ago that after the holiday, I shared the news with Sylvia. A few months went by before we told Riley.

I told them that while the story of one man going to every house in the country giving gifts was not true, but that we could all be Santa. That my parents and I play the role for them, and that Santa lives in our hearts.

I remember when my dad told me. I was DEVASTATED. And then he added salt to the wound by telling me that the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy weren't real, was more than I could take. I totally fell apart.

Sylvia was skeptical that I had been lying to her - but I didn't phrase it like that. I just told her that I was playing my part. Riley loved being let it on the secret. I just hoped that they weren't telling their friends so I stressed to them the importance of letting the moms and dads tell them.

It was months until the next Christmas. When it came around, Sylvia would wink and nudge at me when people referred to Santa. But she still wanted to see Santa and take the pictures. Riley, too. And they still do.

They still watch the holiday specials, they didn't even recognize a family friend of ours when he played Santa recently. They talk about the tooth fairy. In fact, Riley lost a tooth today and I said I hoped the tooth fairy and Santa didn't get in an accident tonight. Riley just looked at me, exasperated at my bad humor but still smiling, and said, "Mom!" in that multi-syllabic way.

I hear parents talk about using different wrapping paper for Santa gifts and I'm just glad it's not me worrying about that!

For me, besides the whole fictional man issue, there was also the issue that I am the only one that my girls can count on. They need to know that they can trust me. I used to worry about them hearing it from someone else, and how that would affect our relationship. That may sound trivial, but it wasn't to me. I just couldn't take that chance.

When I told Sylvia, I asked her if she'd been told already. She said she had heard some talk at school about it, and had meant to ask me about it, but she hadn't yet. She did seem grateful that I trusted her with the truth.

A few weeks ago, Sylvia lost a tooth. She still puts them under her pillow for reimbursement. So as I was heading to bed, I came in with a dollar. She was still up, and had pulled out another one! I handed her the dollar, told her I had no more dollar bills and would owe her another. She gave me the tooth. We went to bed. A few days later, I handed her another dollar.

For us, the truth is so much easier to handle.

This is not a judgment against anyone. It's just our story.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

Things are beginning to wind down for us, which is nice. Almost all of the holiday parties are done!

It started Monday night with our department holiday dinner, which is the lawyers' present to all of us and it was excellent. Thursday, our wing had a holiday pot-luck where a few of us hung out in a corner and were thoroughly amused by ourselves - just thinking about it makes me start grinning like a fool. That was also the day of the Boys & Girls Club party, where the girls had a blast.

Riley had her holiday program on Friday, and was cute as a button, of course. What I particularly enjoyed was that they split the program up so we were only there for her and one other class. Instead of taking 2 hours out of my day, it only took a half-hour. I truly appreciated that!

Saturday was our extended family holiday party which my parents host. My mom always puts together a contest - this year it was "where in the world are we" where she got to boast about all of her vacations and we had to guess where they were based on the photo. I actually won! I got a nice bag out of it, which I'm using as a gym bag.

Yes, I have succumbed. I joined our company's fitness center and am going tonight to my first class. I haven't worked out in a few years because I hate working out. I'm trying out the Cardio Salsa class. I can't work out if that's the only objective. I need choreography to take my mind off the actual exercise.

Sunday was supposed to be the day where Sylvia played Mommy for the Day. As soon as it involved actual doing something, it was over, of course. So Riley was supposed to take over, but she didn't want to do anything, either. I didn't mind. (I got to sleep in so what could be wrong?)We had a Lost marathon as well. One more disc and we're caught up!

And we got a call from the old Boys & Girls Club where the girls went last year, inviting us to their holiday party tomorrow. The girls are so excited to see their old friends again, and I was really touched that they asked us. And then we'll be done with the parties.

Some of my single mom friends will be horrified by this, but what I'm most looking forward to about Xmas is when the girls go with my parents to our cousins' house for Xmas dinner, and I'll have the night to myself. We'll be together Xmas Eve night, and we'll have our Xmas morning tradition together, but my cousins live a couple hours away, and I have to work the next day so I'm begging off the dinner and the girls will spend the night with my parents. I'm looking forward to being home alone.

I'm also looking forward to this week and next at work. It's generally quieter with a lot of people on vacation and it's a good chance to catch up on some old filing without constant interruptions.

I'm like an infant whose had too much stimulation lately. I need a blank wall for a bit.

Friday, December 19, 2008

New Year's Wishes for my Daughters

As we continue to scurry around in the holiday madness, I've been reminded that we are entering a new year, with many changes in our future. No one knows exactly how these changes will turn out, but most of us are hyper-aware of the uncertainty that we take into 2009.

As a mother, I wonder, how much of this is affecting my children? It is nearly impossible to shield them from talk of recession, a new incoming administration, of the major failures and downfalls of our leaders in business and politics, nor do I really want them to be completely oblivious. As usual, I am attempting to find a proper balance in their outlook and mine.

My main wish for this coming year is to keep my oldest daughter's world as stable as possible. Apparently, any trauma surrounding her twelfth year of life can have life-lasting consequences. While both of my daughters are well aware that I can't control everything (sometimes moreso than I'm willing to admit to myself, even), this mama lion will be at her most fierce against any and all outside forces that threaten to upset her life.

I will do my best to keep in tune with their development. It's astonishing to see the changes in maturity level, even from one minute to the next! It has made me wonder if the real generation gap comes from well-meaning parents simply trying to understand their child's emotional state (with the term "state" being used very, very loosely). I will keep the music volume down in the car so that we can continue to have the heart-to-hearts that seem to take place there. (Probably has to do with more time being spent in that car than at a dinner table together!)

I will put more effort into spending one-on-one time with each of my daughters. It's not that they don't get one-on-one time with me, but it's usually spontaneous. Sylvia (my oldest) and I seem to do most of our connecting when I'm carting her from one activity or another. Riley (my 8-year-old) gets her mommy time snuggling in my bed with me. I think I need to actually schedule activities with one of them at a time when possible.

I will do my best to continue to communicate to them that even though the world can make no sense, and sometimes life isn't fair, it is still better for them to attempt to always do the right thing. We may not be able to make a war go away, or completely stop all injustice, but we can lead our own lives as justly as possible. And that sometimes we do screw up, but so long as we can learn from it, and correct our mistakes as possible, then we can sleep contentedly. That sometimes the past is better left behind us, and the present is all that we can control.

We will continue to watch the morning news as a family, and certain movies and TV shows as a family to discuss human nature and all the dangers and love that can be found within humanity. We will continue to laugh at ourselves, and tell each other we're sorry. We will lose our temper with each other, but our love for each other will never be questioned. We will never go to bed without hugs and kisses. We will never pass up an opportunity to tell each other we love each other. We will share our ups and downs with each other. We will spend time with family and friends. We will continue to get up every day and go to school/work, and do our homework/housework.

The year on the calendar may change, but we will appreciate all that remains the same, too.

Originally posted on LA Moms, Dec. 18, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Not the Time or the Place

I'm so very disappointed. And hurt. And angry. Obama has chosen Rick Warren, one of the most vocal and staunch supporters of Prop 8, to give the invocation at his inauguration.

I heard him on NPR this morning, saying that this is a time to come together.

President-elect, I'm not ready. This issue still continues to gall me. And I'm beginning to doubt you when you say you support gay and lesbian rights, all the while giving a most glorious job to the person who worked hard to defeat those rights.

It's one thing to put Warren on a committee of religious leaders to work through these issues. It's quite another to have him as one of the stars of this event.

I was so looking forward to January 20, and celebrating your inauguration. Now it's completely tainted. I feel like I've been slapped in the face. Or punched in the gut.

I fear it's probably too late for anything to change. Because if Obama pulls the invite now, then he upsets a whole other set of folks.

I disagree that this brings us together. This pulls us entirely apart. I don't understand the reasoning behind picking a very controversial figure for this event. If you want us to come together, then the people on that stage with you should be those that also believe in bringing people together, not pulling us apart.

I'm so upset.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Now I'm ticked

This article about how a stay-at-home mom was denied from being able to purchase a cell phone and was told that her husband should buy it for her was disturbing enough, but what really gets me is the comments from those defending the phone company!

This comment in particular burned me:

Of course mums work very hard, but that doesn't make them exempt from showing income against their name, which is what the real issue is.
This goes to a point which someone was making to me about how some (politicians, in particular) like to talk a good game about supporting families and family values, but our actions don't speak to it. And why we really need to start thinking more about the human beings at stake rather than setting arbritrary rules and laws that don't make any sense in a lot of situations.

Those that support the phone company seem to be arguing that, hey, how are they to know she can pay her bill? Anyone ever hear of deposits? Before assuming she can't pay her bill, how about giving her the chance? This would also be in the best interest of the company, who is in the business of selling phones.

I also have a real problem with anyone telling any woman how she should run her life.
She's not on welfare, she's not asking for special treatment, she's simply trying to buy a product. So long as she pays her bills (and since when have companies ever cared who pays the bills so long as they get paid), it really is none of our business what her family has chosen as their lifestyle.

I was beginning to question my original belief that governments should just get out of the marriage license business altogether, because we're having a major defecit problem right now and more marriages would frankly help (gay or straight).

But this has put me firmly back into the category of "stay the hell out of our lives." Stop assuming you know what I can and can't afford based on a few labels.

Next thing you know, apartment buildings will stop renting to single mothers because how are they going to be able to afford it without a man around?

Not to mention (well, okay, I guess I'm mentioning it) is this comes after a time when everyone was throwing loans around, regardless of income. So now I guess the pendulum is swinging far off in the other correct their mistakes, and we pay for it. Or can't buy it. BALANCE, people!!

Random (or Wordy Wed.)

Why is it that the more I write, the less I write well? I don't even mean in terms of how good the content is or isn't. I mean, I'm making stupid mistakes, like typing "too" when I mean "two" and not checking for errors before I hit "submit." Next thing you know, I'll start typing "anyways."

I thought I was done Xmas shopping. Then Kori very innocently asked me about stockings. How do I forget those things every friggin' year?!? One more trip to the store after I get paid this week.

I had contraband cheese the other night that makes me believe the very best things are illegal.

I spoke to a very nice woman at the water and power company today. She said I should get a closing bill within the next two weeks, and if I don't, then to please call back. Apparently, they're delaying sending out closing bills. Yeah, just a little!

I didn't get up until 7:40 a.m. today. Riley was up, but Sylvia was asleep. See, what happened was that Riley woke up at like FIVE and then I completely ignored my alarm or turned it off or something. Riley started playing Sylvia's educational game designed for 5th graders and just got completely sucked into that so it didn't occur to her to wake us up. (Yet she didn't finish her 3rd grade homework last night. Go figure.) Sylvia may have been 3-4 minutes late for school at 8. Yes, we rock!

I love, love love Prefers Her Fantasy Life's idea of charging the docs for our time. RadDude and I were talking just the other day about a billing problem he's having with his health insurance, and how ridiculous it is the time we waste on such things. And we're the lucky ones! We're the ones with health insurance and flex spending accounts! I try to remember that, but sometimes it's awfully hard.

Okay, so I'm writing more posts lately, but I'm fully aware that they're mostly drivel - and a waste of your time. I'm trying to get myself back in the groove.

I'm also not passionately upset or happy about anything right now. I'm sure the day will come. I'm thinking Jan. 20 at the very latest. 34 days left of W. As I recently said somewhere (I think it was in a comment to Margaret and Helen), I'm beginning to believe we'll actually make it!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An Unnecessary Waste of my Time

Today's mail included an envelope that had been forwarded from my previous address from our water and power company. I eyed it skeptically as I continued to make dinner. I knew this couldn't be good.

Opening it didn't make it better. Bright pink (as in overdue) for the months of September through now, basically. I moved on July 31.

I tried to deal with it immediately. They claim to have 24-hour customer service available. I managed to talk to a person, who confirmed that I did indeed request to have the service turned off as of August 1. And said the request was still pending. But he couldn't do anything for me. I get to call back tomorrow to have it taken care of.

I'm so looking forward to it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Farewell, Boston Legal

I will miss this show a lot. Over the years, they covered nearly every topic of interest to me, and some that became interesting to me after seeing it on Boston Legal.

I was never a big William Shatner fan prior to this show, but I did love his ability to make fun of himself. He took it to a higher level as Denny Crane, the famous turned infamous right-wing defender of all things I'm against, but forgivable given his mad-cow disease. And his friendship with James Spader.

Now James Spader, I have been a fan of since his '80's movies. (My personal fave is White Palace, but that's me.) On Monday nights (or whatever night they were on depending on the season), I got to hear him pontificate grandly, defending my position most of the time, but in ways that had never even occurred to me until he said them (through the glorious words of the glorious David E. Kelley - my all-time favorite television writer). His womanizing was forgivable, given his admiration for intelligent women in particular.

This is the only show I know of that has openly mocked our sitting Supreme Court. Now that might offend some, but personally, I found it hysterical. And having Justice Alito marry two male characters? (I won't spoil it just in case anyone hasn't seen the season finale yet.) I mean, come on! Who does that?

Once The Sopranos left us, Boston Legal became the best show on television. Funny, poignant, controversial, thought-provoking, very often politically incorrect, and SMART.

And Kori, it is available and totally worth renting on Netflix!

Boston Legal, I will miss you, and all of your reincarnations throughout your years. Thanks for the memories.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

One of these days/weeks, I'll post more than just a weekend wrap-up and one post a week. Last week was not one of those times. This week? Don't know yet.

Things were busy. Monday night was our employee party, Tuesday night the PTA meeting, Thursday was the cookie exchange party, Saturday Sylvia had a basketball tournament (her team lost - HUGE - but her team was mostly 5th graders playing mostly 8th graders. It was over before it began), and Sunday we were up very early for the Say No to Drugs Race. But at least on Saturday, I got to sleep in. I was looking forward to that all week, since last weekend had us getting up to an alarm every day. There is no weekend without a day off from an alarm, I believe.

Riley did much better in PE this week, passing the "standard time" allotted for her run on Monday. We were elated for her! The Curriculum Director was out most of the week due to a family emergency (everything is fine now) but he will check in next week and let me know his thoughts. Wednesday didn't go quite as well (Riley has PE twice a week), but I'm trying to keep our obsession level down a bit. She did have a lot of fun this a.m. at the Say No to Drugs Race. She just has to remember she likes to run. Loves it, even.

Sylvia did awesome at the 5k today. I was most surprised to see Sylvia and her granddad finish before my mom! Last year, she left them behind. Sylvia's improvement in a year is quite impressive, especially considering she only has run these on an annual basis so far. We're thinking of finding another 5k for her to do in the summertime.

I'm not sure if we'll go back to the Say No to Drugs race next year. It's doubled (at least) from the attendance last year. We always feel compelled to go since they keep putting one or both of the girls on their brochure. I have a feeling we'll be hoodwinked into it again if we see those smiling faces on next year's brochure! The girls' Boys & Girls Club is also a sponsor, so that's another compelling reason to continue to support it. (Not to mention, of course, it's a good cause.)

The girls and I are back to watching Lost, now that Season 4 is out on DVD. I also wasted 2 hours of my life watching Bottle Rocket. I guess that says enough about what I thought of it.

It probably didn't help, however, that I was struggling to finish my knitting project at the same time - my first sweater. I had stopped knitting during the move and have only recently gotten back to picking it up one or two nights a week. Outside of one lesson, I've basically been teaching myself, so when I get stuck, I'm really really stuck. I don't know if this sweater will ever be able to be worn in public, but I'm pushing through it anyway. I figure I'd rather make as many mistakes on this one item before I start the next project - maybe the next one will be wearable!

I love this email I received this week (before the bail-out failed - for the moment):

I think it's better, frankly, to let these companies file bankruptcy. As I've said before, the little guys will still be the ones hurt the most, but I don't see anything outside of bankruptcy teaching a lesson to the guys at the top. I also think it's pointless to worry about which car companies are American or not. All cars import and export parts from everywhere so to say a car is "American" or not doesn't really mean anything anymore.

Oh, and I confess, I've been doing a bit more writing than you see here. This post from the LA Moms blog also got picked up for syndication, but I actually prefer this post.

This coming week is full of more holiday gatherings and possibly another basketball game for Sylvia so I'm not sure if more weighty posts are in the immediate future or not. I appreciate everyone who stops by even (make that especially) when I have little to say!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Day Without a Gay

Time has passed, and for the most part, I've moved on, but I still get very sad when I think of the passage of Prop 8, and you will not stop hearing about it from me from time to time until gay couples have the same right to marry as straight couples enjoy.

Today is Day Without a Gay day.

What would my life be without knowing the out individuals that I know? I can't even imagine.

Growing up in theatre, I knew as many gay people as straight at an early age. It meant about as much to me as the color of someone's skin, or if someone had red hair or brown. It was simply another characteristic.

The theatre community is like that: everyone is accepted just the way you are. If you were willing to put yourself out there, you were a part of the group.

Kind of like blogging, come to think of it. While I may be single mom heavy on my blog-roll, I have folks from every walk of life in my Reader...even a few non-parents! I don't care what you are when it comes to male/female, married/single, what religion you practice, what country you're from. I believe I can learn and I know I do learn from every single one of you. But I digress...

It just never occurred to me to place a judgment on someone based on their sexuality. When I was nine years old, I remember getting into it with my uncle for making derogatory comments and I think I may have even called him homophobic at the time. He was very amused by it all, but I was very upset. These were my friends. These were people that had taught me nearly everything I knew about theatre, that had welcomed me with open arms. They were as much my family to me as he was.

I also grew up in a home where our "bible," if you will, was the Constitution of the United States. My father fought in Vietnam, my grandfathers fought in World War II. In fact, every male cousin and uncle has served this country for the very reason of paying homage to what this great country allows us. We've never been rich, and some of my family has been very, very poor, but we grew up with the idea that if you worked hard, this country allowed freedom and equal opportunity to all.

So the very idea that, in the 21st century, there are some people that do not enjoy equal rights is offensive to me. And when I can put so many names and faces with who those people are, my heart cries for them.

These are people that have taught me, advised me, supported me, given birthday presents and Christmas presents to my daughters, tutored Sylvia in math, been shoulders for us to cry on, given me cash when I needed it, bought me a cup of coffee, given me a new perspective when I needed it, taken me out to dinner, made me dinner, made me homemade honey lavender ice cream (YUM!), forgiven me, intellectually challenged me, emotionally challenged me, gone to great efforts to understand me, loved me, and basically have enriched my life in ways that cannot truly be measured.

The least I can do is stand with them and fight for their right to live their lives equally.

If you are "straight for equality," you might want to check out Atticus Circle. The button on the left will lead you to a place where you can donate to help win the battle for equality.

I'll end this by stealing a quote from Jon Stewart when talking to O'Reilly about what the true tradition of America is: "the tradition of America is a progression of individual freedoms." He went on to say the next step in the tradition of America is gay marriage. I can only hope he's right.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Power of Negative Thinking

Amidst all the holiday cheer, we all know that this is also a time where many people suffer depression as well. There are also many who may not categorize themselves as "depressed," but put themselves in the "bah humbug" category about the holidays. Maybe because they don't have a lot of money (particularly this year), maybe because their children won't be home for Christmas, maybe it's a harrowing holiday-related past event or maybe it's a sense of isolation that feels like a bubble setting one apart from all the warmth around you. When someone tries to express this feeling, it's usually met with some variation "try to concentrate on all the positive in your life." Now, if you're the person expressing these feelings, you may experience some guilt for not appreciating what you have. Doesn't really inspire happiness. Sound like I'm speaking from experience? Absolutely!

Last holiday season was really difficult for me. I was very frustrated, as I reflected on the past few years, and felt like I wasn't nearly where I wanted to be at this point in my life. There was also some stuff going on that's not important now, but didn't help at the time. Every holiday event was, to me, ripe with opportunities for tears and frustration. Even my kids' excitement was like a knife in my heart, mainly because I felt guilty for not feeling the same way and feeling like I was failing them by not embracing the spirit.

I got through it, which I realize is more than some people do, but not without its scars. As I entered the new year, I began to look at things a new way. I began to dread get-togethers and parties as much as possible. I was definitely looking at the glass not just half-empty, but completely empty. I made the decision beforehand that it was going to be miserable, and just to embrace it.

And you know what? Crazy as it sounds, it helped.

Instead of feeling guilty that I didn't appreciate things, I began to actually appreciate every time I didn't feel depressed, every smile, every cause for laughter, every moment of kindness that someone gave me. I genuinely appreciated it, not just felt like I should.

Oh, there were still (and most likely always will be) things said or not said that can hurt. But certainly, it can hurt a lot less if you're expecting it. I still live under the assumption that there's not a lot of people I can let in too close, but I do know that there are some people that will always be there for me, and when I stop and think about it, there are more than I thought I'd have, and I deeply value each and every one of them.

My dad always told me, "hope for the best, but expect the worst." For years, I concentrated on that hoping for the best part. But expecting the worst is really the key.

I've passed this on to a few friends that are anxious about certain events in their lives, and try to talk themselves out of it with "it'll be fine." When I advise them to think that it won't be fine, that it'll be horrible, they nearly always come back and say, "that wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it'd be!" And I smile, because I know what they mean.

I also warn against thinking things can only get better. They usually get worse first. It's better, I believe, to be pleasantly surprised than horrified. So long as you keep going, everything passes.

I look back now at last holiday season and wish I had thought of this sooner. I'm trying not to think too much about the events coming up, lest I experience optimism about them. I'm just putting them on the calendar, and so long as I show up, I'm doing my part. If they're horrible? Yeah, whatever. If they're okay? Then that'll be better than I expected.

Negative thinking, in my opinion, has gotten a bad rap.

Originally posted on LA Moms, Dec. 9, 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

Update on the Parent Teacher Conference: I spoke to the PE teacher on Thursday. It was frustrating, to say the very least. His response to what we can do to help her? "I don't know." I've decided this guy must be the only person in the world who doesn't like Riley, so I'm going over his head. The curriculum director already knows (and likes!) Riley and me from her speech therapy and the PTA meetings. I asked him to please observe the PE class on Monday and tell me his thoughts.

I told Riley that success is the sweetest revenge - that she should do her best for her, and to make sure the PE teacher has no reason to come down on her ever again. I confessed to her that I didn't really like him, and she burst out with relief, "I don't like him, either!" I don't think things will change overnight, but I hope that she eventually sees that it's easier to just do it.

Friday night, Nancy and I went to see a play. The audience was more entertaining than what was happening on stage. We left at intermission. I won't name it here because that's just crass, but let's just say it involved a few name actors who were directed very very poorly, and even the costumes were bad. It was definitely our worst theatre date, but we still managed to have fun with the journey.

I can't embed this video, but I laughed out loud at this dream sequence from The Starter Wife, where Messing explains the difficult life of a busy, working mom. Take the minute and 11 seconds to check it out.

On Saturday, Sylvia had her first basketball game with the B&G Club. Her team KILLED the other team. I think the final score was 42-8. The other team didn't even score until the 2nd quarter. Don't tell Sylvia I said this, but it was more in spite of her than because of her. There are about 5 girls on her team that were incredible! Especially at stealing the ball. Sylvia made some good passes, but she was obviously the least seasoned player on the team.

I was fairly amused at one of the dads there, passionate about the game. He didn't stop directing his daughter from the sidelines the entire time she was on the court! I was glad I wasn't really emotionally invested. I am proud of Sylvia for getting out there and trying, but it's a good thing their season will consist of three games. The other two are next week.

My biggest news this week is that I moved in to my new office!! It is so, so nice to be in there, no longer surrounded by the many, many interruptions and distractions that I used to encounter out there in cube-land. Everyone still stopped by to check out my new digs, but that will die down the longer I'm in there, I'm sure (no, Coolio was not one of them - one of the benefits of someone knowing you hate them is they tend to leave you alone). And I can have conference calls and meetings in my own office instead of borrowing someone else's. Yay! I also have room for my files, and one of the assistants had already moved all the pics of my girls before I even moved in, so it felt like home immediately. After the game yesterday, I took the girls to see it. They are so thrilled for me.

I have decided that my favorite sentence in the English language is "I agree with you." I'm also fond of "you're right" and "thank you." No, no real point to that - just a thought I had when a lawyer said to me, "I agree with you."

I do have a post of epic proportions (or at least some weight) to post one of these days. In fact, there are a few drafts running through my head, but they're not quite focused enough and I don't have the time or energy right now to get them there. Someday soon, I hope...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cheerleading and Basketball and Band, oh my!

Once upon a time, I read the article "The Overscheduled Child" and thought, I will never let this happen to my girls. MY girls will only do one extra-curricular activity at a time. MY girls will have plenty of unstructured play time to be free.

And then, Sylvia started sixth grade. Suddenly, I have a cheerleading schedule, a basketball schedule, and a possible band schedule to manage.

It started off innocently enough. Sylvia started a new school this year. When she expressed an interest in joining the cheerleading squad, I thought it was a perfect opportunity for her to make new friends and be involved in her school.

Then she had a drumming circle as an elective in her first quarter, and I was duly impressed at the band concert. Her school has an excellent music program. I was also pleased that Sylvia, of her own volition, approached the music teachers about possibly joining.

A few weeks after that, when I picked the girls up from their after-school program, I couldn't resist yet again when Sylvia asked me to talk to the coach of the girls' basketball team. It's only a couple of games, after all, and yet again, I was impressed by her initiative.

Except now, I'm having to remember that on Mondays and Wednesdays, I pick her up at 5, Thursdays and Fridays at the after-school program at 6, and oh yeah, she needs basketball shoes, and a change of clothes for cheerleading practice, and what time is the game next Thursday?

Also, she's planning to run a 5k with her granddad in December, and she needs to train for that. And oh yeah, the holidays! When is our department holiday gathering? And then there's the family get-together. Plus we got invited to that cookie decorating party. Let's not even worry about scheduling Xmas shopping time right now. And I have another kid here somewhere...

So that's how I went from a mom who vowed to only involve her child in one activity at a time to juggling three - no four - after-school activities. Yet another mom-myth shattered by reality - of knowing your child only has one childhood.

Originally posted on LA Moms, Dec. 3, 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Parent Teacher Conference

Yesterday was my parent teacher conference with Riley's 3rd grade teacher. Her grades were, frankly, better than I expected. Academically, she's scoring well on her tests, and in the classroom, she's contributing regularly and thoughtfully. Sometimes, she doesn't focus, but both the teacher and I were mostly relieved that it's not just either of us!

She did get some "Needs Improvement" scores, based mainly on her not finishing her homework. We talked a lot about that. Thankfully, her teacher is open to Riley trying other things as homework, so long as they focus on the skills at hand. So we bounced around a few ideas on different ways of getting it accomplished so we can all stop tearing our hair out.

Riley had the day off from school, so we discussed the report card with my parents last night. It did help me to have some reinforcement, and she took it all well. In fact, we had most of the conversation before I even showed them the actual report card, and then Riley wanted to make sure they saw it.

One of the main things we stressed was that her teacher said she was this close to making the Honor Roll, but she can't have any "Needs Improvement" in order to qualify for that. She's SO close, she doesn't seem to have problems taking tests, all she needs to do is just, well, do it. I think she understands that part now.

So when it came to do the homework, she was stalling in every way possible when it came to filling out her Science workbook answers. I went online to find the publisher's site, where there were vocabulary quiz games and crosswords. Well, that did it! Once it was interactive like that, I could not tear her away from it! The same with reading. They use the tickettoread site which incorporates both fiction and non-fiction. Riley spent a good hour on that over the weekend. So she'll be doing that a few times a week instead.

It's not ideal, I realize, but it gets her going in the right direction.

The biggest problem, however, is PE. Now, Riley is a girl who runs races. She's active, active, active. She loves sports, she loves pretty much all physical activity. And right now, she's basically failing PE. This is the part of the conference where I teared up a bit. It does not compute for me.

PE is taught by someone other than her regular teacher, so I'm trying to schedule a conference with her actual PE teacher to find out what's going on. Riley isn't giving me a lot to go on, but from what I gather, he sounds more like a drill instructor than someone who cheers the kids on. Riley HATES PE. Hates it. She was thrilled that Monday was a PE day that she was missing from school. How normal does that sound for an 8-year-old?

So we shall see how things go from here. She is a smart, thoughtful, creative, outgoing, ACTIVE girl that just needs a little bit more shine her brightest.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

What a seriously long weekend! Last year, we started getting the Friday after Thanksgiving off, too, so it's been 4 days with no work. Weird. But good, of course!

After we got back from Disneyland, I watched The Woodsman. Depressing, moving, and incredibly well-acted. On Friday, we woke up really really late (for us), we had lunch and went bowling with a family friend of ours. This was the girls' first bowling trip. Riley would've done a little better had she had a 6-lb ball, I think, but she still managed to place 3rd. Sylvia placed last, but she didn't seem to mind. We were all just enjoying the company, and the chance to throw hard objects.

After one game, however, I was spent. I was desperate to get home and just relax for a while. Still, I managed to do six loads of laundry! After the girls went to bed (they were pretty spent, too), I watched The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), which was so much fun!

Saturday, I alternated from relaxing/reading/Reader catch-up and cleaning, cooking, etc. Today, I'll be doing much of the same. I have only ONE New Yorker left before I'm caught up!

Next week, on Wed., I finally get to move into my own office. YAY!!! The head of our department really went to bat for me, which I totally appreciate. He knows, however, that it's not just a matter of wanting it for the sake of having an office. My cube is right next to the kitchen, where people inevitably convene for water-cooler conversation, and sometimes, I can't even hear someone on the phone. I always have to borrow someone else's space for a conference call. Not to mention, I don't have nearly enough space for the twenty or so files I have open at any given time. (Oh, and for my veteran readers, you'll appreciate how much I'll enjoy being away from Coolio finally for once and for all.)

I also have my parent-teacher conference with Riley's teacher on Monday. We've emailed a few times about the problems I've been having getting Riley to do her homework (which I wrote about here and here), and I urged her to grade Riley appropriately for the missing assignments. It's still a frustration, but I've tried to let go a little and see how the conference goes.

I've certainly had my moments of frustration at being outnumbered in this household the last three days, but eventually, I can usually prevail. I hate that it can feel like a power struggle, but it is what it is.

We did NOT participate in Black Friday. Given my natural dislike for shopping as it is, nothing sounds more like hell to me than trying to shop when everyone else in the country is shopping. The Wal-Mart story is disturbing, to say the least. What I haven't heard (and it's possible that I haven't been paying enough attention) is the blame that should be placed on the store. How on earth did the powers-that-be decide that only one person should be standing in front of a crowd like that?

On Thanksgiving Eve, I watched the 20/20 special on Barack and Michelle Obama. Somehow, it just doesn't seem real still that they will be our next First Family. You mean, someone is going to represent the United States that I actually like? Incredible.

So I leave this rambling, all over the place post on that note. There will continue to be bad stuff, and annoying moments, but overall, things are good indeed.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Thanksgiving was Better than Yours

I feel like gloating a little, sorry. Because I got to spend Thanksgiving with Natalie. And she rocks!

We started bright and early and I was SO psyched to finally see her IRL. And Jacob, and Nat's mother. And, OMG, they're AWESOME!

Nat has a flaw, though. Her photos don't begin to show how lovely she is:

Other than that, it was just like seeing an old friend after it's been a while. Jacob was a little shy at first, but then Riley managed to bond with him. They were SO friggin' cute together:

Well, Jacob was cute all the time. Riley had her moments of driving me absolutely crazy. And stopping poor Nat's heart when she made a bee-line for photos without telling Nat where she was going. We still have a lot more work to do on impulse control.

We learned that Jacob and Riley are somewhat cut from the same cloth when they each independently picked the very same Mickey watch as a souvenir.

Nat's mother was great, as well. So sweet and always happy to sit out a ride when one of the kids didn't want to go so that the rest of us could enjoy it. I sat out Splash Mountain and the Grizzly rafts with her because I didn't want to get wet. Natalie may have regretted that second turn on the rafts that drenched her, but the kids loved going with her.

Sylvia was feeling brave, and tried two rides she hadn't ventured on before. Splash Mountain was a success - the Tower of Terror was not. Poor Sylvia. She cried and cried after that ride. We followed it up by introducing Nat and her family to Soarin', one of our favorites, and Sylvia was calm after that, but still doesn't mind telling you that she won't be going back to the Tower of Terror until she's a teenager, at least.

So there wasn't a turkey, but there were friends and family. There was no stuffing, but plenty of laughs and smiles. There was no fire, but still a warmth from the companionship. All in all, the best Thanksgiving ever.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm thankful for:

* The roof over our heads.
* My girls' continued health and well-being.
* The opportunity to work with smart, kind, and very supportive people every day.
* My ability to raise these girls by myself, with a little help from my family and friends.
* My parents. Really, can't thank them enough.
* Living in SoCal. (read: never having to scrape ice off of my car.)
* Starbucks and a working coffee maker.
* A new administration ('nuff said.)
* Everyone who voted no on 8. (okay, now, enough said.)
* Getting to move into my new office soon.
* Re-connecting with old friends, and making new ones.
* DreamDinners.
* Every opportunity to laugh and smile.
* You - for reading this, for encouraging me to keep writing, for the awards, for your friendship, and for what I learn by reading your corners of the 'net. Blogging has been one of the greatest rewards of the past year and some months. I thank you for inviting me into this community.

Okay, so I get a little sappy sometimes. Indulge me - it's the holidays. May your holiday season be filled with laughter, love, kindness and your own moment (or two) of indulging in sappiness.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! (Even the ones who don't celebrate it.)

(That's our friend Lisa with us. Yes, our family photo has a friend in it. I'm blaming her for the fact that I don't absolutely hate this pic of me.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Third Grade Slump

Both of my daughters started kindergarten as enthusiastic learners. I remember both of their faces lighting up as they exclaimed "I have homework!" for the first time. Even after the newness wore off, they'd still want to show off their smarts as they moved into the first and second grades. Oh, sure, there was the morning madness of getting them up and dressed and all that fun stuff, but all in all they liked school. So when my oldest hit third grade, I was thrown completely off guard when all of a sudden, every mention of homework was met with tantrums. I really should've been better prepared this time with my youngest when she entered the third grade slump this year.

Sylvia, my oldest (now in 6th grade), would scream, throw fantastic tantrums, and in any way she could let the whole world know how much she hated homework. I'd offer assistance, but usually, she would scream at me, "NO! That's NOT the way the teacher did it!!!" Suddenly, instead of a nanny cam, I'd be wishing for a live stream video from her classroom, so I could use the same words, remind her of examples that took place in class. I'd take away privileges for not getting homework done.

The situation was made even more frustrating because sometimes, quite honestly, I found the homework stupid. One particular favorite was that each letter of each spelling word was to be written in a different color of crayon. That meant, with each letter, there was a choice to be made. Anyone who has spent time around 8-year-olds knows how long the task of decision-making can take them.

There seems to be a huge jump in expectations between 2nd graders and 3rd graders. This year, Riley has not just spelling words and math and reading every night, but vocabulary words along with Science on alternating nights. Not to mention, the math has gone from simple addition and subtraction to geometry and multiplication. After spending her whole day at school, she's less than enthusiastic about doing the very same things again every night. And while I think the opportunity to review is helpful, it does get difficult for me to explain the value in doing it besides, "because you have to."

At our Back-to-School Night back when Sylvia was in 3rd grade, some parents started talking about the homework. We all felt a sense of relief that it was not just us, not just our children, but a majority of the families were having the same struggle every night. The teacher heard us, and lightened the load a little, but the homework challenges still weren't quieted for good.

Finally, I came upon the idea (I don't remember how) of using a timer. Sylvia was to do 15 minutes of homework, then she'd get a 5 or 10-minute break. The struggles didn't stop completely, of course, but it did help a great deal.

So now my youngest, Riley, has entered third grade this year. And while the teacher has lightened the homework load as well, we're still struggling. For one thing, she broke the timer. Many times, she knows the answer but there always seems to be "something shiny" to distract her. She wants to know what her sister's doing, what I'm making for dinner, what's going in her lunchbox, who called me, she needs to sharpen her pencil (they got an automatic pencil sharpener for their birthdays to cut down on that time-sucker)...Even with the tv off, and plenty of space and tools to get the homework done, it still doesn't get done. I say, "Riley, homework" an average of 47 times a night. And if I leave the room? Well, forget it.

I've taken away privileges, I've doled out consequences, I've sat down and talked, I've done what I can to make the homework interesting - we make our practice spelling tests into a Spelling Bee. She plays various characters who come up to spell the words. Her mistakes are few, and when she doesn't know, she works hard to get it ingrained in her head the right way. It's not that she's not even motivated to learn. She just hates homework. She'll check her answers with me, and still take forever to actually write it down. Once it took her twenty minutes to finish one word problem in Math - when we'd already gone over the answer!

Her teacher and I have emailed on occasion. We'll be talking at our parent-teacher conference in a week, but for now, we've decided the only answer left is to let her grades suffer. She has in the past enjoyed showing off her good report cards, so I'm hoping that a not-so-good one will have a motivating effect on her just to do it.(And there will be a new timer in her stocking this year.)

Basically what's keeping me sane now is seeing the difference in Sylvia from 3rd grade to her current 6th grade self. Now, I don't even have to remind her to do her homework. If it's not all done by the time we get home, she gets it out immediately and finishes usually before dinner is ready. She stays on task, and has routinely gotten good grades for the past two years. She'll ask me for help if she needs it, but most of the time, she just needs confirmation that she's on the right track.

I can only hope that, three years from now, I can say the same for her sister!

Originally posted on LA Moms, Nov. 26, 2008


Okay, I confess, I ended up not reading everything in my Reader before I cleaned it out. Sorry. But I do feel like I have a fresh start, and can better keep up with everyone now. Phew!

430: the average number of unread emails I have pretty much all of the time. I clean it out a little, then they pour in, clean it out a little, and end up hovering back around 430 unread emails in my inbox.

Meanwhile, at work, every Tuesday morning, I get an email that my inbox is full. I don't keep nearly as many emails in my work inbox as I do at my home email, but working in legal, I get lots of attachments. And like clockwork, I get that ominous message that the first thing I need to do Tuesday am is clean out my inbox. But I can only do that after I fill out my legal time allocation.

Is this the most boring post I've ever written? Don't answer that. Please.

Awards: I've been given awards, but I saved some on my work computer and some on my home computer. And my memory has failed me as to who gave me what.

Except for this one, which I named appropriately, from Tara.

One of these days, I'll get serious about updating my layout and putting all these pretty awards up.

I'm sure there are rules to follow with this award, but aren't rules made to be broken? I pass this one:

To Jen of A2eatwrite - because I love her heart, that's as beautiful as any butterfly.

To Florinda of The 3 R's - my first bloggy friend to turn into a real-life friend - and letting me latch onto her at the LA Moms Blog launch party, cuz she's so warm and sweet that way. I look forward to seeing you more (and your sis) in 2009!

To Nat at From Here to There - because I get to meet her in about 36 hours!

Kori, I think you got this one from Tara, too, otherwise you'd be on this list. But if you didn't, then it goes to you, too - for being my dearest friend. I wish I could do more for you, but I'm here for whatever I can do. I love you.

Once I figure out where the heck I put the others, and I can properly credit the givers, then I'll pass them along.

I'm enormously thankful for everyone who takes the time to read my little corner of the 'net. I hope to give a proper thanksgiving post tomorrow, but if I don't get to it, I hope you all have a very happy day!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Note to the Actors

Are you freaking kidding me?!?

I am no longer a voting member of SAG - I gave that up a few years back when I finally accepted that I won't work in this town again. Bygones.

But this is not coming from a place of bitterness of being a has-been. Shut up - it's not! This is coming from a place of LOVING entertainment, of craving my escapes into TV and film.

But the realist in me says that I don't think this will have a very happy ending.

The industry still has not recovered from the Writer's Strike. You may have noticed that fewer pilots got picked up, and those that did have almost no time to prove themselves to stay on the air. Many studios have cut back on how many films they have in production throughout the year.

And, um...did you know that we're in a massive recession right now?

Millions of people are out of work, and many more millions are suffering financially even with a job. Their hours are getting cut, their houses are being foreclosed upon, their kids may have to drop out of college. Not to mention, most of us feel less secure in our job than we did a year ago. And, oh yeah, the holidays are coming.

Do you really think that the people working in an automobile factory that has a strong possibility of closing down in the next two months are going to give a second thought to your jurisdiction over online shows?

Our President-elect is telling us it's time for us to tighten our belts, that we all have to be prepared to sacrifice. Many folks will begin to wonder about your sense of duty if you're not willing to accept the same deal that all the other entertainment-related unions have gotten.

Look, I was one of you. I know that the majority of the SAG members are not making their living from their acting duties. This actually affects you even more negatively. Your waitress/messenger job may be in dire jeopardy if Hollywood does not continue to run. And of course, with a strike, you can take no day gig on Law & Order to see you through Christmas.

My regular readers know that I'm pretty much the picture of the bleeding heart liberal. However, nothing plugs that bleeding heart quicker than an over-inflated, bureaucratic union. I want to know how much that bureaucracy continues to rake in during a strike. I want to know why there can't be a stop-measure gap implemented that will keep the biz going through, say, 2010.

This is not the same country it was when the writer's strike happened, what, a year ago? We are a country that is getting back to the basics. This is a country where sometimes you can't tell the difference between a Repub or a Democratic pundit (on stations other than Fox News, that is). This is a country where we're finally having serious conversations about what government involvement should mean when it comes to actual issues that affect all of us. This is a country where my daughters get that the number of presents under the Xmas tree isn't nearly as important as the roof over our heads.

I fear that you're counting presents rather than recognizing the roof. There are NO venture capitalists to invest in your internet production company right now. There are NO internet folks that are willing (or able) to subscribe to entertainment that they can get for free on YouTube and other free online access right now. And there's almost no one out there (with the exception of me - and Kori, probably) without a video camera willing to create their own entertainment right now.

And make no mistake about the studios. Most are owned by larger conglomerates that have other possible sources of revenue. You can't think, for one minute, that they haven't factored in shutting down scripted productions. You can't believe that they won't quickly fill their prime-time schedules with more reality shows and news programs and shelved product they already own.

I'm not saying you're wrong, but for people that are in the business of perfecting timing, your timing couldn't be more off. And in the end, I fear that you (and the viewers that love you) will suffer the most.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

I'm not even halfway through my Reader, and some of you have posted yet newer entries. STOP!! No, don't stop. I'll get to them. I hope.

I have winners to announce for my give-away. I used so these were not generated by me. Nonetheless, Kori, you won the planner. Suzie won the game. No one claimed the book for new dads (hmmm - on my single mommy blog? Whodda thunk) so the winner of that will be announced at a later date.

Yesterday was very very busy. And I don't mean catching up on my Reader. We went to see Bolt, which was thoroughly enjoyable. Riley didn't want to leave the house at first, but then she loved loved loved the movie. Later, we volunteered at the first Kids Day in Van Nuys.

The girls and I got an awesome job. We were to have kids sign a Volunteer Pledge (I had them put their hands over their hearts and repeat the words: I pledge to make my neighborhood a better place by donating my time to make a positive difference in my community.) and they'd get a very cool sticker. I loved it. I must've had 500 kids easy make that pledge. Just think if they actually did it!

The event was way more popular than anyone anticipated. Vendors ran out of food and goodie bags, it was crazy. But very very cool. (I took my camera, but totally forgot to take any pics.)

We came home exhausted but happy. The girls watched The Santa Clause and I watched Primal Fear - which I may or may not have seen before. I guess if I'm not sure, then if I had seen it before, it doesn't really count, right? That's two movies in one day. I don't think I've watched one full-length movie from beginning to end in 3 weeks.

Today, I really like the idea of not leaving the house.

Thanks to all of you who contributed to the Red Cross - and if you haven't and want to, there's a link on the left there. (There's also a link to contribute to the Repeal Prop 8 campaign. Just sayin'.) Nancy and her parents are doing okay. Nancy was thoroughly spent from a very, very long week, but will soon be off to celebrate Thanksgiving with her daughter in Alabama while her sis takes over the care-taking duties of the folks. They're moving into an assisted living care facility this weekend. We've given them some funds for some necessary shopping, but are saving half of it to help them have a great Xmas.

Does anyone else wish Thanksgiving and Xmas/Hannukah didn't fall in the same 30 days? Yet another reason to be glad that we're skipping the feast this year. And be very, very jealous, my internet friends. I get to meet Natalie this week. I cannot wait!

Also, I was very excited to learn that one of my LA Moms Blog posts got picked for syndication. It was picked up by the Sacramento Bee, in Philadelphia, in Idaho, North Carolina, and other places that I can't even remember right now. I was thrilled, to say the least.

I've also been honored to receive more blog awards. But really, this post is long enough, so those will wait for another day.

Okay, back to catching up on my Reader.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Random Thursday

Okay, so I've been completely terrible about keeping up with most of you. Mea culpa.

For some reason, I've spent more time doing things around the house than being on the computer. In the past three nights, I've done 6 loads of laundry, done some cleaning of the fridge, and other various odds and ends. If I didn't know that I'm not the virgin mary reincarnate, I'd swear I was nesting! So by the time I'm done with that, get the girls off to bed, and veg in front of The Daily Show, I've been spent and heading straight to bed myself. Before 11 pm! Unheard of.

Work has been consistently busy as well. I told RadDude yesterday that the only thing that actually works in the trickle-down theory is stress. The economy woes are freaking everybody out, and that's worked its way into our dept as well. We're all still getting along (because I work with the best people in the world), but there's been a lot to get done.

This auto industry bail-out thing is getting to me as well. It looks like it may not happen, but who knows? I feel really really bad for the millions of workers whose jobs are at stake, but at the same time, I'm really really pissed at the CEOs who didn't listen to us, who spent millions fighting the CA emission standards they refused to implement, the cars that they haven't built and yet are available in other parts of the world, the private jets that they're using to go to D.C....ugh. Very very frustrating.

No matter what, even if we let them fail, the people most affected will be the people farthest from the top, and that just sucks. There is no happy ending here. No matter what. The key is to figure out how to get through it that will have the best end result for the most people. I'm glad that's not my job!

I've gotten a couple of awards, and have more news, but mainly I just wanted to explain my lack of comments. I'm trying to get this done while waiting for Sylvia to get dressed and get the girls out to school.

I get SO tired of saying, "Sylvia, get dressed" every morning. Sixty times at least. Oh, well.

Things are basically good. We have a roof over our heads, today's payday, and I have a job. Looking around at what's happening, that's a whole lot!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Assistance Requested

Yesterday, I found out that my dear friend Nancy's parents' home was destroyed in the fire. They lived in the Oakridge Mobile Home Park, where 500 homes were lost. They left with the clothes on their back and, thankfully, their medications.

They're going to be fine. Nancy is incredibly impressed by their good spirits - but knowing Nancy, now I know where she gets it from. All of us at work are pitching in donations to help them get back on their feet.

However, they're just as worried about all their friends and neighbors that have lost everything. So I ask again, please donate $5, $10, whatever you can to help these families. Thank you.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I had a great, great time at the LA Moms Blog launch party! It was great to see Florinda again, and meet her sis Teresa. Also met some more fab moms. We were treated like queens. Complete with gifts for us rulers of the home.

Some of them, however, are not things we need or use so you get to reap the benefits!

Like the book: Crash Course for New Dads. Yeah, not something we'll use. Add a comment if you'd like to win this.

If you have a Nintendo DS player, the National Geographic Panda game might be of interest to you.

This planner that runs from Sept. 2008 to Jan. 2010 looks amazing - get this, it's got one tab for "work" and one for "life" to help you balance - but, alas, I've got my crackberry now. So for someone who loves office and organizational supplies, leave a comment and it could be yours.

I'll tell you more about our swag when I've had a chance to revel in them :)

Please specify which prize interests you, and I'll run a random drawing next Sunday to determine the winner. Be sure I have your email address so I can ship it to you!

Hope you all had a great weekend.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

I've done a little housekeeping. If you don't see your blog listed, I tried to do it in a way where it would be cleaner, and feature blogs instead of just a whole enormous list. I hope this way works. I still want to do a re-design, but I'm not there yet.

Things are going well. We didn't stay too long at the rally yesterday - it was hot and crowded (yay!) and Riley wasn't up to it. But we stayed long enough to hear the Mayor come and voice his support, along with some others.

Unfortunately, all the fires overshadowed the news here, so I'm not sure how the rallies went nationwide. I'm glad we live so deep into the city so that I don't have to worry about personally being affected by the fires, but my heart goes out to all the families that have been. Particularly those living in the trailer homes that have been devastated. Because it's happening north and south of us, we can smell the smoke all over. I know the economy sucks right now, but if you have it and you'd like to help, I'd recommend a donation to the Red Cross. From what I hear, they're doing a great job in helping the victims.

Tonight, I'm very excited to be going to the LA Moms Blog launch party. Last night, I saw Spring Awakening, and really loved it. It's not perfect, but it's very original and unique in its presentation. And the music is simply gorgeous. One of the things they do a bit differently is have some audience members on stage. I had no desire to be one of those, but there was one mother and daughter - I don't know exactly how old she was, but no more than 13, I would guess. There's one scene where the characters - shall we say - bare all. I saw the mother quickly put her hand over her daughter's eyes. This will not be a musical my daughters will be seeing while it's in town! At the same time, it's quite an interesting way to open that discussion up. I just wouldn't want to be doing it onstage.

The girls have been with my parents since early yesterday evening. Sylvia is training with my dad to run a 5k in December, and then there's a family birthday party which I won't be attending because of the launch. I played last night, and have spent most of today getting some cleaning done. Now I'm just relaxing for a bit before I get ready for the launch party.

I'll have more news to update this coming week.

In the meantime, if I haven't been commenting a lot, I apologize. Things have been busier both at work and at home, and I just haven't been spending my downtime in front of the computer the way I used to. It's good in some ways, but I do feel bad about neglecting some great bloggy friends. I'll do my best to make up for that as time permits.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Weird, Spooky Thought

Julie asked about Xmas traditions. All of our traditions are wrapped up in my parents. It's SO important to my mother that we're all together on that day. When we lived in the East, we only made it to L.A. one year for Christmas. That was my favorite one in all my years living there because there was no snow :) and it was a gorgeous 80 degrees. It was awesome.

Christmases in L.A. are always spent at my parents' house. My kids are usually over there on Xmas Eve because my parents watch them during their winter break so I can save money. So my dad bakes cookies with the girls for Santa (even though my kids know the truth) and both my parents endure the Chipmunks holiday cd (hey - it's not MY fault they bought it) until I get there. Then we eat tamales while we switch the music to something I can bear, and the girls get to open 2 presents each - because they know that one of them will be pjs.

We get the kids up to bed as soon as we can, and my parents and I hit the alcohol. Wine, hot toddies, whatever. We wait until we're sure the kids are asleep, and then finish wrapping, and setting out presents. My dad eats the cookie and drinks the milk (okay, sometimes I help with the cookies). We drink and talk and eventually make our way up to bed.

The girls are up first, of course. My dad or I make the coffee, and we put on the same Xmas album we had when my sister and I were growing up. I insist upon it, actually.

The presents are opened, and then my dad makes popovers. We switched from a crown roast Xmas dinner to a popover breakfast a few years ago. My sister and her family usually comes up by the time the popovers are ready, and there is more unwrapping to be done. We hang out a bit, and then my sister and her family leave to go to her husband's family's house, and the girls and I pack up and go home to relax the rest of the afternoon and evening.

There have been many years when frankly, I'd rather skip the whole thing. I've had some rough holiday seasons in the past. I get stressed about money and obsess about it all, and it'd just be nice to just take the day off. (And you all know me well enough by now to know that ours is a purely secular - oh, let's face commercial - celebration of the day.)

But I always go through with it, and guess what? It's not for the kids. Sometimes I think my kids could do without expecting presents twice a year. Sometimes I think my kids would have a better day feeding the homeless. Sometimes I think my kids would most appreciate just spending quality time together. No, it's not for them that I continue to celebrate.

It's for my parents. It really does mean a lot to both of them to have us here, and to celebrate with us. They love spoiling the girls, and seeing them rejoice in it. They love having all of the family together, and I could never disappoint them by not being there ever again.

But what happens when they're gone? (This is where the "weird, spooky" part comes in.) What would Xmas be if my dad isn't there to make the cookies and popovers? Or my mom isn't there to stoke the fire and make pretty ribbons? And take pictures and make photo albums of it all?

They're not perfect, and we certainly have our share of problems. We disagree on a lot of things, so there's a lot we just don't talk about anymore.

But even with all of that, I still can't picture a Christmas without them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Still Not Over It

I can't get over this Prop 8 thing. Anytime I read something about those who supported or voted for it, I just get mad all over again. Just now, it was an article about certain restaurants that contributed to the discrimination campaign. No more Burger King, Acapulco's or El Pollo Loco for us. Sylvia's bummed about Burger King, but she also doesn't want to give them our money.

I haven't been writing a lot lately because, frankly, this is the root of all I have to say lately. The majority of my conversations that aren't work-related have been about this. I know in my heart that we will win this. But I want to know how, and I want to know why, and I want to ensure that no one else - no other group of Americans - will have to fight for their equal rights as Americans.

To me, this is not a gay issue. In fact, I had to write to NPR to correct them that it wasn't just "gays and lesbians" protesting in Silverlake. There were several straight people that attended. This is a civil rights issue. This is about equal rights for all Americans.

If we hadn't enjoyed that for 5 months before November 4, I most likely would've been okay. But the fact that we stripped them away astounds and appalls me. I just don't understand that type of hatred. Sure, I bitched and moaned and whined throughout most of Bush's presidency, but this is different. That more people in our state decided to take rights away, gave money to take rights away, make up lies and exploit children to take rights'd be funny, if it weren't so tragic.

I know not all of my readers agree with me. In fact, I may have already lost those who disagree with me. But here's my thought: even if you don't agree with the concept of gay marriage, it is our patriotic duty to give equal rights to all Americans. If your disagreement with gay marriage has to do with your religion, it is important to remember that going down any road of religious persecution is a big, big mistake. Margaret and Helen said it best: no matter what your beliefs are, millions of people all over the world disagree with you. Yes. Millions. No matter what. Freedom to worship in our chosen way (or freedom not to worship) should be sacred to all of us. That is why separating the church and state is so essential to the well-being of all Americans.

There is much to celebrate, though. The movement that is happening is inspiring! If I didn't email you about the nationwide protests, check it out. Connecticut is now giving marriage licenses to gay couples. Many politicians are sending letters protesting discrimination to the courts. Even the Governator has told us to keep fighting! The artistic director at a reputable theatre company resigned after word spread like wild fire that he'd contributed to the discrimination campaign.

And I don't think any of this would be happening without Obama's election. He showed us that getting actively involved can make a difference.

It's all worth it for the day that WILL happen in the future where I can see the fruits of our efforts. And all of us, every single American, can finally enjoy equal rights.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What Obama's Victory Means to My Children

Tuesday night, as in many households, our family cheered and whooped and hollered like never before as we watched the election of Barack Obama. My daughters understood the historical significance, but there's something else - a very personal reason for each of them to consider Obama's victory a sign of hope for them.

We're not African-American - that wasn't it. We're not from Chicago, we have not been foreclosed upon, and we are fortunate to have health care and our health. In fact, it took me several days to truly understand the personal victory we felt that night. Barack Obama, our next president, was raised by a single mom.

I have an answer now to every "expert" or study that says my children would be better off in a 2-parent household. Well, I've always had an answer, which is no. We're better off without him. Even my children, albeit unhappily, would tell you that. But I have proof that being raised by a single parent does not have to be a barrier to anything they want to accomplish. Because a single mother raised our next President of the United States.

True, she had help. So do I. And I'd encourage any and every single parent out there to be brave enough to ask for all the love and support and help you can get. My daughters are better off undoubtedly because of my parents and extended family members. But even with that, and along with all the sacrifices mothers make every day for our children, there are some jobs, chores, decisions that are solely mine. And there's no one to run interference in a moment where I've had it. There's no one else who will take out the trash, dole out the discipline, or simply love and obsess over them the way I do.

I have cried many times about it. I have struggled with my own culpability in it. And I know in my gut that Obama's mother did, too. I'm sure she questioned herself, and cried her eyes out sometimes, and worried how deep the scars of his childhood would get.

This victory is a personal victory because it lifts all the shackles that society has been telling us single parenthood causes our children. My children are free to write their own stories, complete with mistakes and lessons learned. Their gender, their background, their mixed ethnicity will be what they make of it.

My mother was slightly appalled when she learned I was naming our first-born Sylvia. She thought it was an old lady's name. Minutes after holding Sylvia for the first time, I stated that she had already made it her own.

All of our children will make their futures their own. If Barack Obama can do it...well, you know.

Originally posted on LA Moms, Nov. 10, 2008.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Their First Rally

Last night, the girls and I headed down to Silverlake to take part in the demonstration against Prop 8. The girls wanted to go in honor of the family and friends they know were discriminated against by the passage of 8. I wanted to go in the name of equality for all.

Now I know protests alone don't win the fight, but I wanted to be around people who felt as we did. I wanted to yell and scream and make my voice heard. Turns out it was Sylvia's voice that got heard the most!

She led us in shouting "What do we want?" while we'd respond, "Equal rights!" She'd yell, "when do we want them?" and we'd yell "Now!" They even got her a megaphone for a while. Riley joined in a few times. Riley's favorite chant, however, was "hey, hey, ho, ho, bigotry has got to go!" She danced it out.

It's so basic to them. Equal rights for all. I've taught them all their lives that this country is about justice and equality for all. They know that minorities do not mean less than. The lawsuit that's being brought about touches on this issue: that it is fundamentally wrong to allow a majority to outclass a minority. That's like saying it's okay if we passed a proposition that no person in a wheelchair could hold office. Some things just aren't okay.

I also believe that the churches that lobby as heavily as the Utah church did must be taxed. Non-profit organizations are not allowed to campaign. If you would like to file your own complaint with the IRS, email me. I can send you the form and supporting evidence.

I was a little worried that the protest might get ugly, but it did not. Early on, we came across some opposing the protest, but we were far enough away from them (protected by many, many more anti-8 protesters) that there were no issues. Although, Sylvia wanted to know why we were chanting "Shame on you." And then she asked, "is it the Others?" Our friend answered, through laughter, "yes, it's the Others."

At one point, we passed the Children's Hospital, and they were waving to us. We switched the chant to "Get well soon!"

There were some awesome signs out. "Can I vote on your marriage?" and "Straight but not narrow-minded" are two I remember. We would also see people lined up and down the streets, standing out on balconies, holding up their signs in support of equal rights. From where we were, we couldn't see the beginning or the end of the march. I have since learned that there were an estimated 12,000 attendees. No arrests were made.

There's another rally today, but I think one is enough for the girls. We've said what we have to say, and I will continue to monitor the struggle, add my name to petitions, and whatever else I can do to see this discrimination thrown out.

One of our chants last night was "Si se puede/yes we can." We learned, through the election of Obama, that people can and do make a difference. Equal rights for all will prevail.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

More Equality Issues

I was reading a scathing review of the movie The Women in The New Yorker. The reviewer's major problem with it had to do with the lack of feminism, a critique heard about Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, Ally McBeal...need I go on?

And then it hit me that last night another Judd Apatow-like movie was released. My guess is, like all the rest of them, it'll do well. Movies where men can be completely lazy, ignorant, pot-smoking losers that somehow get the girl, and no one is shouting about what's wrong with this.

I've heard men talk about these male stereotypes and how they're totally acceptable as if it's women that are the ones making the men seem like losers. I don't know the exact statistics on this, but I suppose that women are more okay with seeing movies like this because they won't have to listen to the men in their lives complain about seeing a "chick flick."

But the real difference between men and women? Anytime a woman enjoys something like Sex and the City, we're hurting the feminist cause. Anytime we try to laugh at ourselves, we're told we're not being progressive. Meanwhile, let's all go see Knocked Up. Chick lit is scoffed, women are afraid to even admit to each other what book they may curl up with at night.


I read this review on the heels of reading a profile of Spike Lee (I'm behind on my New Yorkers. But guess what? All caught up on Entertainment Weekly!). They discussed whether or not Obama is "black enough" and how ludicrous the idea is that one is only "black enough" if they're struggling in some ghetto, leaving behind their women and children while incarcerated.

So now I ask, how ludicrous is it to assume that because a few women like Cosmos and shoes means they don't give a crap about equality? Or worse, that the viewers don't? If I enjoy an episode of 90210 every now and then, that doesn't mean I miss work because of a bad hair day!

Equality also means being able to laugh at ourselves, being able to recognize that certain stereotypes may apply, but that we are full and complete people. I'm girly about spiders, but I can hook up the DVD player. I can lift heavy boxes, but don't ask me to change my own tire. The original 1939 film The Women is one of my favorites, but I hate shopping and jewelry.

The review of the remake (which I have yet to see) didn't focus on the actors or the scripts, but rather on the fact that the women are all rich and have nannies. Sounds to me like a pretty shallow review.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Much to celebrate. Unfortunately, this historic night is not all a celebration.

This historic night includes the first time I've seen the state of California actually ADD discrimination to our constitution, and I'm a bit sick about it.

I hope that something miraculous changes, and that I don't see this state that I love take such a huge step backwards, but Obama's election gives me hope that this will not stand. That progress, that hope, that treating people EQUALLY will prevail.

Yes, we can. And we WILL overcome this obstacle.

*I've amended this post as I listened to Obama's speech again. This is a setback. We'll be okay. I will allow myself this joyful time.*

Monday, November 3, 2008

Homework Free Election Night

I just heard about this and think it's a great idea. As concerned citizens - no matter which party/candidate you support - we should request our teachers make Election Day a homework free night so that we can discuss and participate in election results as a family.

Personally, I support making Election Day a national holiday, but we're not there yet. The least we could do is have Tuesday night free for family discussions on elections and democracy.

I'm emailing my daughters' teachers after posting this.

(sorry about the double post today - this was just too important to me not to pass on.)

Beware Google AdSense

I am SO furious right now. I saw on another blogger's site that the Google AdSense was showing a "Yes on Prop 8" ad - even though her posting had NOTHING to do with gay marriage, Prop 8, matrimony...nothing. So I decided to check what my Google AdSense was saying. Sure enough, it had a Yes on Prop 8 thing.

Um, hello?!? Anyone see my big button for NO on Prop 8?!?

So I've taken my Google AdSense off my site. Just a heads up.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up (and my first confession)

Wow. I mean, just wow. It's been so so crazy lately, I don't know how to wrap this up. So forgive me my therapeutic post, but I could really use it.

At last some pics from Riley's bday at Disneyland last weekend:

So that was last weekend. Then, there was the cruise that my sis and I went on, which rocked, but since I haven't asked my sis if it's okay to post pics, I won't.

The week got off to a bad start when I went to pick up Sylvia on Monday after cheer practice, and she wasn't there. We had completely forgotten that she had her cheer camp at one of the local high schools this week. She went, but she didn't bother to call me to tell me that I was to pick her up at 5 (instead of 4:15) at the high school (instead of her school). It was the beginning of many arguments to come between Sylvia and I this past week. (Given the stance I took last week, I feel like I have to come clean on some of this.)

I partially blame the people running the cheer camp, as we never got a firm schedule on this, and I realize that Sylvia's still young - but at the same time, I just have to know where she is and when. Bottom line.

Similar problems ensued throughout the week due to both the lack of communication from the cheer camp as well as Sylvia. And my patience wasn't what it should be.

Meanwhile, Riley and I have continued to battle over homework every night. I realized mid-week that part of the problem lies with my own resentment over the fact that I feel like her teacher isn't very effective. The homework still isn't very inspiring, and sometimes Riley's lack of understanding makes me question just what's going on in the classroom every day. But that's not our only issue. The other issue is Riley herself: even when she knows the answer, she gets distracted SO easily that unless I'm standing over her the whole time, barking "Riley, homework!" it doesn't get done.

But I'm also trying to make dinner, or do the dishes, or throw in a load of laundry, or have a conversation with Sylvia. Those household chores are about as much as I can get done during the week. There are still many many more to be done, and we haven't been home often enough during the weekends for me to get them done. So I'm feeling incredibly overwhelmed by what I need to get done.

A constant struggle this week was figuring out what was happening on Friday, aka Halloween, aka Sylvia's bday, aka Sylvia's performance for her cheer camp at the high school football game.

First things first. Costumes for the day. Sylvia made an amazing Queen Elizabeth:

(see what I mean about needing to get other housework done? Please ignore all the crap on the ground there. Here, I'll help with a close-up)

Riley was Scarlett O'Hara:

But as I watched her in her school parade, she looked more to me like a prostitute from a Western - I think it's the black lace gloves:

And as we got closer to the big day, the girls reversed their earlier "no trick or treating" decision. Okay, but when are we going to do it? Sylvia was told they could go around the neighborhood after she checked in, but it turned out they were escorted directly to the stands for the game.

So here's a little note about how our kids open us up to new things: this was the first high school football game I've ever attended. Come to think of it, my first football game ever.

Sylvia had an awesome time cheering. She did a great job (of course!), but it was a long night. Riley really got into it for the first half, but after the half-time show, she was done. But the 3rd quarter was when Sylvia was cheering with the high school cheerleaders. So we had to stick that out. Longest 12 minutes of Riley's life.

I feared a big scene with Sylvia, as we didn't end up getting released until almost 9 pm, and I believe it's bad form to knock on anyone's door after 9 pm. So there was a big sigh of relief on my part when Sylvia immediately said, "I want to go home."

They did get candy from their schools, the Boys & Girls Club so they weren't completely deprived. But Sylvia wanted to come home and play with her presents, most particularly the Fashion Design Studio I got her. (Both of the girls questioned their father on where their presents were from him. They didn't really get an answer.)

Saturday, the plan was to go see High School Musical 3 and go roller skating later. After, I was to take them to my parents' house to spend the night (yay!) and my dad was going to take them running so Sylvia could train for the 5k she's running in December. Well, we made it to HSM3, which we all enjoyed (I'm such a geek - I got all teared up at the end), but then the girls started to fall apart - and I totally fell apart.

Then, we found out roller-skating didn't start until 8 pm, so my parents suggested that we go Sunday instead. Well, that just about did it for Sylvia. So I called my parents and said, "can you take them now?"

I took the girls to their house around 6 pm, and I'll be meeting them at the roller skating rink this afternoon. Sylvia still wasn't happy about it, but I told her, I just didn't see how we were going to survive the next 24 hours without a break from each other.

So, I didn't try to drive them to Nevada, but I gave up for a while. I came home, and while doing 4 loads of laundry, I watched girlie tv (namely, 4 episodes of The Starter Wife) and went to bed at eleven.

Today, I'm getting some things done around the house. The crap at the bottom of Sylvia's pic is now gone. I'm all caught up on laundry. I still have to vacuum, sweep, mop, etc., but since I got up at seven (thanks, end of DST), I still have a few hours before my free time is up.

I hope this will be enough to re-focus all of us, but most particularly, me. I'm not so naive to not know that it all starts with me.

I need to stop falling apart when they fall apart. I need to suck it up and deal. I need to step up my game, and hand out some tough consequences. I need to raise the standards, and demand more responsibility. And I need to make sure I take care of myself so that I have the energy to do so.

The truth is, the real Scarlett O'Hara lately has been me. I've been leaving a lot of things to think about tomorrow. There simply are no tomorrows left. Carpe diem must be my new mantra.