Thursday, August 30, 2012

Made in Uganda

When I went to take the trash out on the night before school started, I found a sweet little package sitting in one of the planters by my front door.  It was from a fellow second grade mom, wishing me a great first day and it held this bracelet inside:

So cute, huh?  Just the thought of this busy mom dropping treasures at her friends' doors the night before school starts...and I genuinely like the bracelet, too.  Attached to the bracelet was this little card:

Nothing like the thought of some Ugandan women making beads out of paper to "help them overcome poverty and recover from twenty years of civil war" to give a bitchy, hormonal, suburban mom some perspective.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mama's Boys

Being a grown-up can seriously suck your will to live sometimes.

Like today. 

Today marks three days that my husband has been out of town.  Three days that looked like this:


The boys and I deposit my best friend from high school at the airport so she could go back home to Seattle.  I went ahead and cried during our lunch that day so I could do something different on the car ride home.  Get lost.  In Burbank and eventually North Hollywood.  Because I have only been to Burbank airport 700 times and refused to pay for the navigation option in my car and refuse to use the Garmin Jeff bought me. 


We finally arrive home later than expected to have dinner (and by "dinner", I mean there was bread, a knife for spreading something, and a plate); then practice piano; then read together, during which I accepted and lost a $1 bet to Vince that the image of a snake we were looking at on page 15 of SNAKES CLOSEUP swallowing something large and scaly was swallowing not another snake but a fish.  Have you ever had a seven-year old turn back page after page in a book to make a point, his point, and in this case, settle a wager?

"See that?  See THAT?  Do you see those?  Do you see that?  Now, look at THAT.  Do those scales look ANYTHING like THOSE scales?  Do those scales look like SNAKE scales?  I don't think so, mommy.  Those are fish scales, mommy, and you owe me a dollar!"

Small time gambling and verbally dressing down your mother in the living room…is this really what learning to read is all about? 

Fortunately, Nick chose Dr. Suess' What Was I Scared Of? for his reading and I was able to convince him, with a 15-minutes-of-TV-before-bed-bribe, that it was best just to sail through the pages sitting right there on the couch.  This versus taking the time to go upstairs to my closet and climb under our favorite quilt so we could read by flashlight, turning the flashlight off at the end of each page so we could see the pants, the moon and the Suess-creature glow in the dark.  Ahhh, the at-times completely exhausting magic and wonder of phosphorescence

Brush, floss, rinse, jammies, bed for them.  Pick-up, do laundry, prepare for new client meeting and tend to existing client campaigns for Mommy.


By some miracle, I have a beautiful friend right here in my neighborhood who does things like agree to watch my boys from 9:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. on the second to last day of summer when I have to drive more than 80 miles to a new client meeting.  She also does things like call me at 8:45 a.m. that morning to say things like, "Should we come over a little earlier?  Is 9:30 enough time for you to get there because we're ready now?"  Then, when you're leaving your meeting and walking out to your car, she texts you an image of your boys and her darling daughter jumping into the pool so you know your children are not only in the BEST care possible but also having FUN!

After returning home at 2 o'clock and relieving aforementioned wonder-friend , the boys and I actually had the opportunity to lay down together and decompress.  Our chosen method of decompression was none other than a viewing of "A Charlie Brown Christmas".  Their pick.  And it's still great the 15th time around.  Even in August.  My sister gave them the Charlie Brown DVD pack including Halloween, Thanksgiving, This is America, and Christmas a few years ago.  They're all good.  Who am I kidding?  The Constitution and The Mayflower drag but the others are entertaining.

Our dog Stitch wanders over to join us by the couch around the time the Woodstock family was doing their candy-cane number and I am reminded again that his bad breath is now complimented by a foul smell in general.  It's time to book a grooming appointment.  I am up, on the phone and in front of the computer, and while I'm at it, booking some grooming appointments for Vince and Nick.  Their long, sun-kissed locks are borderline screaming Spicoli at this point, especially Nick's.   

Decompression quickly ends and appointment making turns to email checking and email checking turns to conference call scheduling and the next thing I know, it's almost 5 p.m.; the boys have become one with my iPad and I need to order a pizza.

Next, razor-riding without helmets up and down the sidewalk with neighbor kids until sun sets, brushing, flossing, rinsing, jammies.  Short, pinot noir induced talk about being independent and making new friends.  Aaaaand SCENE!  

We all go nigh-nigh.


I actually felt slightly in control for most of the day.  I woke early to send emails before the boys woke up.  Dishwasher was emptied.  Guest sheets washed and dried.  The boys and I had breakfast together.  We delivered Stitch to the groomer by 8:45.  Piano was practiced with little prodding.  All exercised personal hygiene fundamentals without prodding, including me.

Work was completed.  Afternoon haircuts were uneventful.  I take that back.  A faux-hawk request was made and approved.  Why not?  It's just product.

We made the highly anticipated trek to our elementary school in the late afternoon hours to find out WHO WE GOT.  And as sad as this sounds, I was more concerned about classmates than teachers.  And they're only seven!  It's not like any of the student body is racking up misdemeanors at this point.  Not that I know of, anyway.  We headed to five o'clock piano lessons with a skip in our step.  Even though Vince and Nick wouldn't be able to look across their classroom and see their brother for the first time tomorrow at 8:25 a.m., they felt comfortable with the kids' names I read to each of them from the list posted on the wall in the Multi-Purpose Room (MPR).  I need to re-name every one of the rooms in my home that, by the way. 

I sent the boys off to their piano instructors at the music studio somewhat hurriedly, I'll admit.  I had to run back to the car to grab one of Nick's books.  But they were off.  It gave me the opportunity to "talk teachers" with some of the other moms for 30 minutes.  The moms I had on text, anyway.  And then, much to my delight, my dear friend Germaine rang through.  She has recently started her own business AND has three kids, the two eldest of which are pubescent young women.  Kind of a busy gal, this Germaine.  She ALSO has ideas and good will as it relates to my book ever seeing the light of day (that's right, there's a book, of course there's a book). 

I stepped into the parking lot to not annoy the other waiting moms with my yammering.  Germaine and I were not four minutes into our conversation, had barely covered summer catch-up and gotten into the nitty-gritty of career goings-on, when Nick appeared alongside his instructor, both smiling and offering thumbs-up.  One broad smile and returned thumbs up from mama later and Nick was in the music studio lobby watching cartoons.

And then it happened.  Vince flew through the music studio front door and into the parking lot like a bat out of hell.  Red-faced and in tears.  The proverbial shit had hit the fan.

"Germaine, I gotta go!"

Did I really think something was really wrong?  Not really.

Did I understand by the scene alone that the time had finally come for Vince to say fare thee well to an instrument he had had a love-hate relationship with for the past two years?  Ab-so-smurfly!

But did I still want to climb out of my skin because I knew deep down that my sons' unwillingness to do things he doesn't "feel like doing" on any given day could color more important aspects of his development and life.  YES!  Of course, yes!  What kind of moron do you take me for?

He's only seven.  He's only seven.  He's only seven. 

It didn't matter how many times I repeated this in my head, I could still feel the vertical line between my eyebrows growing longer and deeper.  I was not pleased.

After a long conversation with his instructor-come-therapist, standing right there in the parking lot, we decided it was time to "take a break".  Vince overheard us use the word "quit" once and nearly had a coronary.  My exceedingly willful son has yet to understand that "quitting" is not always a dirty word.  Especially when you are frustrating the shit out of your piano instructor.     

"He reads the notes fine.  Some weeks are great.  We have really fun lessons and he plays beautifully, and others…"  Don trailed off.

The two of us had had this conversation before, just a few months ago in the spring.  I know Don didn't want to "give up" either.  Vince would always come around quickly and say he wanted to play.

"This is supposed to be fun.  This is supposed to be about enjoying music, interacting with music.  It just isn't working and it's not fair to either of you," I told Vince.  I was all calm, cool and collected as far as my words went.  "Now give Don a hug and say thank you." 

Don isn't creepy, by the way.  He's a young guy with a family.  A Steelers fan, always wears a Steelers hat.  My dad made me wear a Steelers snowsuit as a young kid so Don and I are like kindred spirits.  In my mind.

I quickly peeked into the window to find Nick sitting alongside some boy and the two were sharing a game on the boy's iPhone.  I am reminded again that my sons' own, individual natures; the way they are "wired", seems to far exceed the impact of any "nurturing" we have attempted these past seven years.

We say our good-byes and I lead the boys into the car.  Next stop: grocery store.  I try not to talk as I pull out of the parking lot, then:

"Is Vince in trouble?" from Nick.

"Yea, am I in trouble?"

"No, Vince isn't in trouble.  Vince, you're not in trouble.  You're just not doing piano anymore."

"I'm taking a break." I see Vince's small smirk in my rearview mirror. 

Is he smirking because he thinks he won or because he really doesn't enjoy it?  Was he only playing because he felt Jeff and I wanted him to?  I guess time will tell.

Small wishes for treats at the market are granted.  We even rent a movie that we don't have time to finish once dinner is over.  Marie Callendar's microwave lasagna was a real crowd pleaser.  The boys seem to go to bed easily but Nick joins me in my room while I am talking to Jeff on the phone.

"I just can't sleep, mommy."

"I understand.  Here, talk to Daddy."  I hand him the receiver and he hops up on our bed.

I walk Nick back to his room and tuck him in again.  Another kiss goodnight.  Another big hug.

Now I'm done.  Right now, I'm done.  But I'm not done.  Tomorrow is a big day.  My boys start second grade.  And I separated them for the first time.  Which classroom door will I linger by longer?  10 or 11?  I don't want them to see me cry.  I know I'll cry.  I always do.  They're my babies.  

And Jeff isn't here.  I have no Jeff to just pull me off the campus and say, "Jesus Christ, Lizzie.  They're seven.  They're second graders.  This is what's supposed to happen.  This is what they're supposed to do.  It's not the end of the world.  And you get to be there to stand right outside their classrooms when they get out at 2:30.  My mom couldn’t do that.  My mom was at work.  They're lucky and you're lucky.  Shit, I'm more worried that they're going to be a couple of mama's boys."

"You mean like they never leave home and hang out with me until I die?  Do you think we could actually facilitate that happening?  Like who they'll be is really all nurture and has nothing to do with nature?  Do you really think that?"

These are the conversations I am now having with myself, in my head, as Tuesday quickly turns to Wednesday.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Two More Days

"It's water-proof so it's ant-proof!"

"Why aren't you excited for school?"

"Because of what the teachers do.  I wish I already knowed everything."

Friday, August 24, 2012


Look at how proud she is!

I love clothes.  And I love jewelry.  Not in a Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend sort of way, though I do find all the sparkling very pleasing to the eye.  My love for jewelry is far more complex. 

On the surface, you can wear an interesting necklace over and over and over again, pairing it with different dresses, blouses, sweaters and tops.  The same can be said for earrings and bracelets.  I mean how many times has a big, bold pair of earrings made a plain, white t-shirt or tank-top sing a song?  I don't know the exact answer to that question but I know it's a lot.  The same can not be said of a "statement" dress or blouse.  I tire of those pieces far more easily and need to let them rest longer between wears.  And let's face it, re-wear-ability is important to under-employed girls like me.

Jewelry also takes up less space in my home so I can keep pieces forever, which I do.  I have a capital "E" charm that my aunt gave me when I was like 10 yet I have none of my monogrammed sweaters from that era.  No, I couldn't wear them today.  People would think I had lost my mind.  But I would love to be able to touch them and look at them again.

Most importantly, a truly great piece of jewelry can tell more stories than any other piece in your repertoire.  I wear my grandmother's engagement ring and wedding band, along with two other small bands, one a gift from my husband that has my sons' birth stone and one a gift from me, all on my wedding ring finger.  When I look down at my left hand, the moment each piece came into my life flashes in my mind.  And I don't take for granted the fact that my grandfather and grandmother married and started their long and successful life together during the depression.  Times can get tough but they always get better.
The end result of all my hoarding is a collection of pieces that range in value from a buck or two like the yellow Brazilian Bahia Band that my magical friend Julie gave me, her newly ordained minister (I can do funerals, too!) at her wedding, to other pieces valued at quite a bit more.  And it is all scattered in drawers, baskets, those pocketed hanging jewelry holders, two jewelry trees, various shelves, and of course, the top of my dresser.  I forget about pieces and pieces are lost, at least temporarily, all the time.  I mean sure it's initially exciting when you happen upon an old, missing brooch in the back of a drawer under a scarf; it's almost like getting it all over again.  Then you think about the outfit it would have perfectly completed for that holiday party back in 2007 and you end up feeling a little pissed off.

It all needs to be contained and because I love looking at the pieces so much, some of it really needs to be displayed.  Some of these pieces really are art.  I owe it to them and their creators.  Plus, I could be enjoying them more every day, even if they aren't adorning my wrist, neck or ears.  Especially now.  

I just had a birthday and received three beautiful, interesting necklaces, two sparkly pairs of earrings and a bracelet of wooden beads.  I also received a very special piece from my mother: her aunt, my great aunt's, silver charm bracelet.  I had long admired it on my mom's arm, apparently out loud, on more than one occasion.

"Mom, I really like that bracelet."

"So you've mentioned."

"Mom, was that Aunt Cece's or Aunt M's?"

"Aunt M's."

"Mom, why does your mom's bracelet have all the crosses and Virgin Mary charms and her sister's doesn't have anything religious on it at all?"  I managed to score my grandmother's gold charm bracelet years ago.  I think I borrowed it and kept it. 

"I don't know.  Uncle Ed gave her the charms."

"Mom, have you ever noticed that Aunt M's bracelet has the charm that you spin and it says 'I Love You' and your mom's bracelet has the same type of spinning charm but when you spin it, it says 'Go To Hell'?"

"Is that what it says?  I'm getting old.  I can't see those tiny letters."

I didn't realize what I was doing all this time until she gave the bracelet to me for my birthday, along with a butter dish I had actually asked her to will to me.  The whole thing freaked me out a little.
"Jesus Christ, Mom.  Are you dying?"

"You're not even 70 and you walk and do Pilates every day.  You think the end is somehow near?  Why are you clearing this stuff out?"

"I know how much you like them and it's better than writing you another check." The Bell's, my family, are big on birthday checks.
And then the tears came.  I'm not sure who started it, maybe it was my mom, maybe it was me.
"Oh, here we go; there goes The Catholic."  This is the favored pet name my father bestowed upon my mother 43 years ago when they married.  He's Episcopalian.  "God damned maudlin Irish."  My dad once again shook his head and chuckled to himself over his wife's sentimentality.

I walked over and hugged The Catholic.  I know she lives for moments like this.  And that's one of the many reasons I love her so.  Even more than I love the out of control heaps of jewelry that I sift through on my way out the door each day.


Any suggestions on how to best keep and display the family jewels?  And which would you choose?  Love or Hell?  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Soooo Freakin' Ready!

On the easiest days, being the mother of young, extremely active, twin boys is an endurance test.  At least it is for me.  If I attempt to stay indoors with them to get some work done for more than a couple hours, I am up and down the stairs, over and over, bouncing from my desk to their playroom to the kitchen, helping place furniture and quilts for forts, fetching snacks and settling fights before they get too physical.  (As a policy, I don't mind if a couple fists fly.  My boys are the same size.  I just don't want to have to go to urgent care.  Who has time for that?)  The bottom line is, my boys like to do and they like to go.  That's just the way it is.

So most of our summer days together have been spent either on vacation or out and about.  We are happily a mere 20 minute drive from the Pacific Ocean so we've spent many days jumping in the waves.  To be clear, by "we", I mean "they".  When it's a beach day, with certain exceptions, you can typically find me firmly planted here:

Except when I'm preparing snacks, packing, driving, unloading, setting up, sun-screening, wiping sand from eyes, retrieving boogie boards, squeezing the boys into their wet suits, serving snacks, helping dig holes "just a little bit deeper", removing sand from snacks, peeling the boys out of their wet suits, re-sun-screening, re-packing, driving some more, and finally unloading again, once we've returned home safely from our lazy summer day.
But I'm not complaining.  I swear I'm not.  Endurance test aside, it's been an amazing summer.  Now the first day of school is fast approaching and the very thought of it has been breaking my heart.  These boys of mine just keep getting bigger and bigger.  How do I press pause?  Just for a little while.


"Hello, Sherry…"

"I have an idea to celebrate the last week of summer before second grade starts!"  I could hear my friend Sherry's beaming smile through the phone line.  For the record, Sherry is one of the kindest, sweetest, most generous souls I have encountered.  Like, I-want-to-stab-myself levels of sweetness at times.  And that shit is real.  I didn't think it was at first but I've spent enough time with her to know that what you see is what you get with Sherry, and what you get is a lot.

"Of course you do.  What's your idea, Sherry?"  I asked.

This is Sherry who also birthed the idea of taking our kids out of school for a day trip to San Diego's Seaworld (300+ miles round trip) to celebrate the last month of Kindergarten.

"Hurricane Harbor!!!"  She says it just like that.  You can literally see the exclamation points, and there are about a baker's dozen after almost everything she says.
"What is that?"  I asked.

"A water-slide park!!!  Won't that be AWESOME?!?  Won't the boys love it?!?"

"Of course they'll love it.  They're maniacal seven years olds." 

Sherry has a seven-year old and a five-year old.  The five year-old is equally maniacal but smaller and therefore cuter and easier to forgive when he's whining and antagonizing the older kids on car trips that last longer than five minutes.  

"So let's do it!!!!!!!!"

I said yes.  And to be honest, I didn't even hesitate a little because my children love Sherry.  All children do.  Most adults do, too.  And I love her, too.  Except when I am PMSing really bad.  When I am PMSing really bad, I still love her but that love is buried way deep down inside.  On the surface, I just nod my head and try to smile.  If I can't do that, I walk away in case I am tempted to say something not so sweet… about stabbing myself...or her.  The bottom line is if you look up "Fun Mom" in the dictionary, you will see a picture of Sherry.  After almost two years of being around her now, I'd like to think some of that fun factor has rubbed off on me.

Yesterday was the big day.  Our friend Leah came, too.  Leah is really more Sherry's friend (that's pretty much the case with all my "friends" at my sons' school).  Leah is great.  Very chill.  Another terrific mom.  She also has a soon-to-be second grader and a soon-to-be Kindergartener.  More boys!

We caravanned the 40 miles to the park from my house.  Traffic was light as were the crowds.  This signaled that school was already in session for lots of kids in Southern California.  We lubed up with sun block, crammed all of our stuff into a "family" size locker and were off to our first slide in our bikinis, baseball hats, sunglasses and flip-flops.  Collectively, we represented the very essence of what it means to be WT

Somewhere along the way, the group fragmented and Leah and I found ourselves in line together, talking small.  She started.

"I don't know.  I am so grateful to have had the time with them but I'm getting a little tired of being the entertainment coordinator every day.  I'm ready to get back to some structure, to have them in school so I can get back to work and just my stuff, ya know?"  To be honest, Leah kind of bugs me not only because she is five years younger than me, has a rockin' body, and long, wavy, blonde hair.  It's pretty much the same color as mine but mine is the opposite of long and wavy.  But because in that moment, she proved that she's not just beautiful, friendly and a great mom, she's normal and genuine, too.  Ugh.

"Yeah.  I guess I don't know if I'm ready yet."

I was feeling kind of melancholy about summer ending that day.  Jeff and I woke the boys up together and surprised them with the news that I would be taking them to a water park with their favorite friends.  They were so excited.  Their cute little bed heads and sleepy eyes were now capped off with the biggest, brightest smiles.  Then they raced down to eat breakfast and back up to brush their teeth and put their swim trunks on so they could practice their piano before we left.  They were bringing their A game that day.  How could I not be thinking wistfully about all of our summer days together?

The final ride of the day was a "big kid" ride.  The Tornado.  It is filed under Thrill Rides on the Hurricane Harbor website.  Sherry took the two little ones while Leah and I took the four seven-year olds.  The line didn't seem long when we stepped into it but between the 103 degree heat and every boy but one breaking down into tears because his eyes hurt (Hmm...A day of swimming in a cocktail of urine, chlorine, sunscreen and perspiration…Wonder why?), it felt a little bit like eternity.  And of course, my sons threw a few blows at one another for good measure.  Somehow, during all of that, I didn't fully grasp what the Tornado had in store for us until we arrived at the front of the line.

"Ok, how big is your group?" The ride attendant asked.

"Well, we're six," Leah responded.

"Are you going to go three and three?"

Then Leah, to the boys: "Does anyone want to ride with me and Wyatt?"  

Wyatt is Leah's son.  Yes, she even picked a bad ass name for her son.  All I can think of is Wyatt Earp when I'm around this kid.

"No." The rest of the boys said in unison.  After all the tears, I wasn't up for the speech about splitting up two and two so everyone could have a friend.  Leah wasn't up for it either.

"It's just the two of us," Leah told the ride attendant.

"Any couples or people riding alone?" The ride attendant yelled.  "Groups of two or people riding alone?"  She was canvassing the line for a body or two to add to Leah's raft.

The hand of a somewhat overweight, young man in a black t-shirt shot up from the back of the line.  "I'm alone!"

Now I feel bad.  I thought to myself but only for an instant because a giant, square, yellow raft with four holes was thrust toward Leah.  Now the young man and Leah were off, carrying their raft together with Wyatt following behind.  Strangers one second and in the next second: a team.  The water park really brings people together.

I was watching them walk away when,

"Ma'am, your raft!"

I hate "ma'am".

"Oh!"  I literally turned into my giant, yellow raft.  My "team", a.k.a. three underweight, seven-year olds who barely made the 48" requirement to go on the ride, stood by and watched as I grabbed the two blue, top handles and attempted to elevate the raft even a centimeter from the ground, which I did, for a full two seconds.

What am I going to do?  I can't lift this thing.

"Vince, help mommy."

Vince tried to grab two of the blue handles on the side and lift.  Of course, to no avail.

"I can't mommy."

This raft will not beat me.  I am not NOT riding this stupid ride because I can't lift this stupid raft.

And so I began to "roll" the square raft, side onto side, across the ground in front of the line.  I stopped.

Where am I supposed to bring this thing?

Suddenly Sherry was in front of me.

"What are you doing here?"  I asked.

"We came to take pictures."

Of course you did. 

Sherry and the two little ones were walking up a handful of steps to a short bridge.  The bridge not only served as my gateway to hell but also as a lookout for lazy voyeurs who were too smart to strap a two-ton raft to their back and go anywhere.  They were all staring into the "eye of the storm", watching ride goers get sloshed around and finally out of the enormous funnel measuring 60 foot in diameter for which The Tornado was named.  I managed to continue to roll the raft, side onto side, without too much trouble, up the steps and across the bridge.  I mean sure I rolled it into a few people, including a little girl, but as far as I'm concerned, they ALL had it coming.

At the other end of the bridge, lay the beginning of the end. 

"Just keep going, boys!"  I yelled to all of them.  I knew if I paused to absorb the full measure of the seemingly unending set of concrete stairs that zig-zagged up through the blue summer sky above me, I would run.  I would run far and I would run fast; abandoning both raft and children.

Climbing the first flight of stairs was awkward.  The raft kept tipping from one side to the next.  

We finally made it to the first landing and started up the next.

Stair after stair after stair after stair…I was sweating and completely out of breath as the boys ran up and down the stairs beside me.

"Get out of the way, guys.  I don't want this thing to fall on you."

I can not believe I am doing this right now.  I can not freakin' believe I am doing this right now.  They didn't need to go to a water park.  They’ve had the summer of their lives. A week at the lake with friends.  The beach house for a week with their Nana.  Shit, they did five days in Phoenix with their grandpa back in June.  Now that I'm thinking about it, they went to a freakin' water park with him.  I don't think my parents EVER brought me to a water park and they've been to two in one summer.  Have I lost my mind?

I came to this sudden realization when I was pushing and panting and panting and pushing and making zero progress on the fifth flight of stairs.

Is this thing getting heavier?  Is that possible?  My arms are so weak.  I bet Leah pulled this thing up, no problem.  She does that pole-dancing work out class.  Plus she had that kid in the black t-shirt to help.  I bet he was strong.

"Guys, one of you get behind and push, I'm going to pull from above."

Miller, Sherry's son, got behind the raft as I positioned myself above, pulling on the raft.  It was going nowhere.  I looked above the raft and saw it was stuck behind a big metal bar; probably some kind of safety reinforcement.  I silently cursed the building inspector who surely demanded this strange addition to the overdone stair case as I looked down and my eyes met poor Miller's.

"Mith Lith?"  Read: Miss Liz?  Miller has like two teeth in his mouth right now and neither are anywhere near the front.

"Yes, Miller." I huffed, trying not to sound annoyed.  This whole thing certainly wasn't his idea.

"Ith thith gonna fall on me?" 

He had a point.

"It's not going to fall on you.  You did great; now move.  I'll take it from here."

I made my way back down to the tail end of the raft and somehow shimmied it out from under the gratuitous support bar without squashing any kids.  By this time, another group was right on our heels with their raft.  It was three teenage girls.

"Ma'am, should we just go by?"

"NO!"  Shit-heads.

The boys looked scared at this point but I didn't care.  We pressed on.  I allowed myself to look up from the next platform.  Only one flight left and we would be at the top.

"Come on, guys.  Almost there."

When we got to the top, I mad -dogged the attendant.  He was just standing there, doing nothing.  NOTHING.  Just standing there in the shade of his ride, waiting for his next group of victims. 

"This better be fun."  I half-dropped-half-shoved the raft toward him.  My arms fell limp at my sides. 

He looked up and smiled at me as he pulled our raft into position at the top of the ride.

"Huh-huh.  What?  Was it a long line?  Huh-huh."

"No, it was long climb.  This dingy weighs more than all of us combined."  Beavis.   

"Huh-huh.  It's fun."

I slowly climbed aboard the raft, shoving my ass into the fourth hole.  The boys' little bottoms were already nestled into theirs.  I looked across the raft at Miller.  With Sherry as his mother, he certainly wasn't accustomed to this level of negative energy but he seemed ok.

"Are you ready?"  The mouth-breathing attendant couldn't get rid of us fast enough.


"I don't want to be backwards!  I don't want to be backwards!"

"It will turn, Vince.  Hang on!"


After a seven story drop (that's right, I carried, ok, technically I pushed that thing SEVEN FUCKING STORIES), our raft entered the giant funnel and,





We were spit out into a small pool.

We all hopped off the raft.

I should just leave this thing here.  What do I care?  The attendant down here isn't doing anything either.  He can pull it in.

Then I saw Leah standing with Wyatt and her raft, waiting for us.  Her plus-one had apparently taken off for Taboo Tower.

Fine, I'll roll it back to the line out front.

I grabbed the raft and attempted to pull it when:


The toe separators (or whatever the hell you call them) on both of my rubber Havaianas simultaneously popped out.  I was now attempting to drag both the raft and my freakin' flip-flops which were now hanging onto my ankles for dear life, through the shallow pool.

"Did you have fun?"  Leah was all smiles as I finally rolled the raft up on its side and got to the business of fixing my flip-flops.

"You know what I said earlier?"  I gasped for air.  "About not being ready for the boys to go back to school?"  I gasped again.  "Forget it!"  Smaller gasp this time.  "I am soooo freakin' ready!" 

My two are serving as bookends to the over-indulged water park crew. 

Friday, August 17, 2012


So I made the colossal mistake of watching Terms of Endearment again last night.  I was flipping through the channels after finishing the only new 48 Hours: Hard Evidence that I had left on my DVR and I saw the title pop up on TCM or something.  My brain told me, "No.  You'll cry and you'll cry!"  But my heart said, "Yes, yes, yes!"  It was already 30 minutes in when I pressed the orange "select" button on the DirectTV remote, but it's a two hour plus film so it felt like it was just getting started.  Then again, it may have felt that way because I've seen the movie 70 times. 

I hadn't watched Terms of Endearment since I became a mother myself so surprise, surprise, the tears started flowing earlier than ever before.  And I did something new while watching it.  I killed off every one of my girlfriends with kids one by one in my mind as Emma's (Debra Winger's character) condition worsened.  Sorry, ladies.  If it's any consolation, I took myself out, too.  How about that scene when she says her good-byes to her sons? 

I have never lost anyone close to me at the hands of that horrific disease (the cancer) but three of my dear friends lost their own mothers to it in various forms.  My heart broke over and over for them when the film credits started to roll.  By that time, it was after 11 p.m. and poor Jeff was trying to sleep.  My crying headache was so bad that I didn't know whether to take a Motrin, drink a big glass of water or eat something.  After lying there a few more minutes, I concluded I would go with options A and B followed by a new option.  Option D: write a letter to my oldest, dearest friend Dianne.  She lost her mom to a rare form of cancer when we were 32. 

Dianne entered my life when I was 13 and while I moved about five states away from her when I was 16, Dianne never left me.  We wrote letter after crazed, pubescent girl letter to one another in an attempt to close the distance.  And it worked.  We're still together today while we physically remain five states apart.  I closed last night's letter to her by telling her how much I missed her, per usual.  I also told her that I watched that damn movie again and I cursed poor Debra Winger by name.  I know Dianne will laugh when she reads it.  If your best friends can't laugh through your tears, then they aren't really your best friends.  In fact, they don't even know you at all.  Not like my Dianne.

Because video killed the radio star, I wanted to share a video clip of that heart wrenching moment from the film I mentioned above - that famous, last good-bye between a completely devoted mother and her young sons.  Misery loves company, after all.  Fortunately, I was drawn to click on the third item under my YouTube search first: Shirley Maclaine's "Oscar win" speech for her role as Emma's mother in the film.  If you have six minutes and 40 seconds, I strongly recommend taking Ms. Maclaine's speech for a ride here: Shirley Maclaine Raises The Roof.  If you don't have six minutes and 40 seconds, I've directly quoted 20 empowering seconds from her speech below.

I don't believe there is any such thing as accident.  I think that we all manifest what we want and what we need.  I don't think there is any difference really between what you feel you have to do in your heart and success.  They are inseparable. - Shirley Maclaine

I would be remiss in not posting the name of the author of the book, Terms of Endearment though I realize Larry McMurtry certainly doesn't need the plug after his storied career.  I stumbled upon an article about the auction he is hosting at his used and rare book store Booked Up in Archer, Texas:McMurtryAuctions300,000Books. The auction closes tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


A handful of my very most favorite people in the whole wide world took me out to celebrate my 40th birthday Saturday night.  The evening began in a civilized enough manner, in what I would characterize as true "forty" fashion.  We all gathered, including our children, at the home of our dear and incredibly gracious friends whose home is centrally located for all members of the Southern California based crew in the city of Pasadena. 

We started the evening with a perfectly mixed margarita and a highly anticipated slide-show viewing.  We had all returned from a shared, family summer vacation on Lake Chelan in Washington's Columbia Valley a few weeks prior.  The slide-show served as a welcome reminder of what an amazing trip it had been for grown-ups and kids alike.  Eight friends who have known one another for 20 years; six children who, because of their parents, have had their lives intertwined since birth; and one dog named Speedy, who likes to retrieve sticks from the lake.  A lot.  Smiles were broad and a few tears were wiped away as frame after frame of laughing, water-skiing, dancing, hoola-hooping, inner-tubing, and just relaxing on the dock faded on and off the screen to the sounds of Eddie Veder and The Black Keys, among others.

Soon two cabs pulled up in front of the house.  This was the "grown-ups" cue that our dinner reservation was officially upon us.  The kids could barely be bothered to tear themselves from their various activities to say good-bye as we parents made our final pleas that they listen to their baby-sitter, eat their dinner and go to sleep by 10-ish.

I could feel the hands of time begin to turn back as soon as our cabs pulled away from the curb.  One of the best gifts the company of old friends provides. 

"Where is the restaurant?"

"Now, what's the deal with the band?"

"Lizzie, I can't believe you are finally 40 like the rest of us!  Thank God!"

"How many margaritas did you drink before we left?"

"I think I'm buzzed already."

Dinner was a blur of reminiscing and sharing updates about our summers - the best possible conversation punctuated by laughter and sips of prosecco and cabernet.  There was a meal in there somewhere and of course the requisite song, candle and birthday wish.  In fact there were two candles and wishes because we all agreed that the overly-decorated, chocolate bundt cake that made the trip with friends who drove from Orange County came into being inside an over-sized Easy Bake Oven.  Maybe not in 1963 when the baking toy with the incandescent bulb was first introduced to the world but very possibly in 1972 when this birthday girl was.  All's well that ends well because the forsaken cake was replaced by a bread pudding that was beyond delicious.  Thank you Green Street Tavern.

Our second cab ride of the evening delivered us to an alley.  Quite abruptly.

"Here, here, here!  Stop! Here!"

Our driver had turned up the radio in an effort to drown out the sounds of my rendition of Diana Ross and The Supreme's Love Child.  Rude.  In hindsight, probably completely necessary but still rude.  More on that song choice on that particular evening at a later date.

There was something magical happening inside the dank, hot bar with no cover called Toe's Tavern this night.  I'm actually not sure if the bar is even called Toe's Tavern because the sign above the alley entrance said T. Boyle's Tavern  but in college, I knew it as Toe's.  In any event, the very special thing was an 80's revival band called…wait for it…Past Action Heroes.

Lead Vocals: Magnum PI (looked more like Freddie Mercury - wigs and fake moustaches in Tom Selleck's rich and lustrous chestnut brown are apparently harder to find than black)

Lead Guitar: Ponch Poncherella

Bass Guitar: James "Sonny" Crockett

Drums: Hulk Hogan

We walked down eight steps and crossed an inexplicably vacant dance floor to reach the bar that only had beer.  I never drink beer.  We just don't like each other.  Alas, it was a special occasion so we made a failed attempt at a reconciliation for just that one evening.

My husband successfully engaged one of the bartenders and was ready to place our order when Magnum jumped on the bar top in front of him impeccably dressed in white hot pants, white high-tops (with wings, literally), a black Past Action Heroes t-shirt (of course) and a black trucker hat that said "Sexy Bitch" in red letters (what else?).

"Ladies and gentlemen, Jerry O'Connell is ready to place his order," Magnum shouted into his mic.  I'm not married to Jerry O'Connell.  My husband Jeff turned and offered the crowd a wave.   

Next, Magnum turned and tilted his head to the sky, raised his voice-changer come megaphone in front of his mic and uttered the first verse of one of the best one-hit wonders ever written:

I heard you on the wireless back in fifty two
Lying awake intent at tuning into you
If I was young it didn't stop you coming through

Oh-a oh

The crowd exploded to Video Killed the Radio Star.  The dance floor was packed in an instant.  And rightfully so.

From Kim Wilde's Kids in America and Nightlife Baby from the Cars to Michael Jackson's Billie Jean and Don't You Forget About Me from Simple Minds, right on through to Modern English's I'll Stop the World and Melt With You, it was the perfect evening of music, dancing and sweating like pigs.  I couldn't have dreamt up a better birthday celebration right down to my strained right calf muscle from repeatedly jumping and fist-pumping to Billy Idol's Rebel Yell.

Of course my seven year old twins Vince and Nick were the only kids still awake when our final cab of the evening delivered us safely to our friends' home.

"Mommy, we can't sleep." They told me when we walked in the door.

"That's ok.  It's mommy's birthday.  We'll all go to sleep now,"  I whispered to them as I grabbed their hands and we stepped together over sleeping kids on air mattresses, then headed down the hall to Jeff and my assigned bedroom. 

"Do you know what time it is?"  I asked them.

"No.  What time is it?"

"It's one o'clock in the morning."

Their sleepy eyes turned into saucers and their mouths dropped.  "It's morning?  We stayed up the latest ever!"

"How does that feel?"

"So fun!" They giggled.

"I couldn't agree more!"  

Me, Sonny, & Magnum