Friday, November 8, 2013


“Hi, I’m Liz Pieri.” I stood up from the cramped booth bench and extended my hand over the cash box, raffle tickets, pizza discount cards, and three glasses of red wine on the table. 

I was unsure which one of those glasses was mine for most of the night.

“Oh, hi, nice to meet you.  How are you?”  He extended his hand and a warm smile in return. 

I had seen this “dad form school” driving in the neighborhood in a box shaped car a few times and one of his sons was in one of my son's class last year. His other son was in middle school now. That was the beginning, middle and end of what I knew about him. But he had chosen to don a Cosby-inspired sweater to ward off the fall chill that evening. A seemingly simple move but in my mind, a bold move that won my respect right then and there. 

“I’m good.” I smiled back at him as I stepped into the narrow aisle between the tables. “Crazy with all of this.”  

I looked around the loud, hot, completely chaotic pizza parlor full of families from our school. Kids who were all but coming out of their skin with excitement, certain that it would be their raffle ticket drawn from the bucket for the grand prize. Parents who were already on the verge of breaking the “just one glass” promises they had made to themselves as they pulled into the parking lot just moments before.

“Oh, you’re not crazy,” he assured me. “I know you. You’re always together.” 

What a gracious response. Just like “The Cos”. Even if he is lying.

“Now, we’re crazy,” he continued. “Our house is crazy.”

“Oh, you guys are great.” I told him and I meant it. As far as I could tell, between the box car and the sweater, they were aces.

“We spent last night in the hospital with my son.”

What? Oh shit. He's not kidding. What if it’s serious? I don't want to ask. Would he casually mention something serious about his kid’s health to a stranger at a school pizza party? Ugh. I don't want to go down this road. You have to do it. You have to ask. You are the Fun Run Fundraiser Co-Chair for the PFA and this is the Pre-Run, Carb-Up Pizza Party. In this moment, this isn’t just a “dad from school”. This is a member of your flock: a member of your flock who is in need.


“Is everything ok?” I finally asked.
“It was the scariest thing,” he started.

Oh, shit. Here we go. 

“My son woke up in the middle of the night and said his stomach hurt.  He didn’t throw up. He didn’t have a fever. My wife and I weren’t sure what to do …”

Must be appendicitis.

The Cos continued, “He went back to bed for a couple hours, then came back into our room and said the pain was worse. We have never seen him in this kind of pain so we took him to the hospital and thank God we did…”

Because his appendix was about to burst? Or maybe it was some kind of stone? Do kids even get Kidney Stones?

“It was the craziest thing. It was his TESTICLE! Do you know what TESTICULAR TORSION is?”

How in the hell did I go from “nice to meet you” to inside some poor, pubescent kid’s boxers this fast?

Wide eyed, I shook my head no.

“His TESTICLE had twisted on the inside and cut off the blood supply to his TESTICLE. The doctor said he could have lost his TESTICLE if we hadn’t taken him to the hospital when we did.” 

“Oh my gosh. So is he still in the hospital?” At this point, I was more alarmed than he was.

“No, he’s home now but he can’t go to school for a week.” His tone was very matter-of-fact.

“That’s good.  I guess.”  

I imagined the indignity of his son’s eventual return to middle school. The kid next to him in homeroom would turn to him on his first day back:

“Hey, man. Where were you? You go on vacation or something?”  

            “Nah, it was my nuts, man. They turned on me. Literally.”

I had no idea where to go from there but I knew one thing for sure: I served as mother to not one but two sets of balls. It was my duty to protect them. I would get to the bottom of this TESTICULAR TORSION business. 

“Soooo, was your son particularly active the day his testicle twisted? Did some movement cause it to twist?” They seemed like fair questions.

“No. That’s the thing. Just sleeping. It happened in his sleep.”

“So, he didn’t turn a certain way?”

“It has nothing to do with physical activity like that. It’s actually quite common.”

“So no warning, no symptoms?”

“Nope. Like I said, happened in his sleep.”


We stood there in awkward silence for a few moments. I thought about the people I knew that had one ball. Pretty much Lance Armstrong and one of my friend’s husbands. 

“So, can I get one of those pizza cards?”  The Cos was the first to break the silence.

“Oh, yeah. Sure," I smiled, returning to character. "They're 20 dollars and 10 dollars goes straight to the school. And there's a Free Pizza in there that you can use tonight!”  

I grabbed a discount pizza card from the pile in my booth.  We made our exchange.

“Thanks for coming!" I gave him a small pat on the shoulder. "Hope your son’s… well, I hope everything is ok with your son.”

“Thank you!  Have a good night”

"The Cos" or "The Dude"?

Who wore it best?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Parent-Teacher Conference

“Before we get started, I have to tell you what Nick shared with the class today.” 

My Nick’s third grade teacher had a wry smile on her face as my husband and I took our seats at her classroom meeting table yesterday. 

I turned to my husband, wide eyed, smiling a nervous smile. 


It was our first parent-teacher conference of the year and it was Monday.  The Monday after Cousin Gina’s big wedding in Manhattan Beach.  The wedding that brought four generations of Pieris from across the country together to celebrate with food and drink and dance… and a little more drink and dance.  

And some delicious baklava. 

What did Nick tell them?

My mind reeled.

I bet it was about that New York fan in the sports bar Sunday.  He kept screaming various forms of the word *FUCK* at the TV.  Truly cringe-worthy but Vince and Nick were thrilled. Nick must have told his class about that.  But we couldn’t NOT let the boys go sit and watch football with their family. It was an opportunity to spend more time with Great Grandma and their Great Uncle Tim before they went back to Indiana. 

I looked over at Nick’s teacher and she smiled at us as she gathered papers from her desk.

Maybe it wasn’t a bad thing that Nick shared.  Maybe he told his class about the wedding ceremony.  Maybe he told them about standing down on the beach with the rest of the guests, looking up at all the bikers on the bike path who had stopped to watch the wedding procession?  Maybe Nick told the class how they all clapped and cheered when his beautiful Cousin Gina first appeared at the top of the steps with her father, Nick’s Great Uncle Chris?  Maybe Nick told them how Gina was perfectly clad in a flowing, strapless, off-white gown; sparkling belt tied at the waist; jeweled, statement necklace; and small tulle veil in her hair, simply set to compliment her low set chignon?

Nick’s teacher raised her eyebrows as she walked over to join us at the meeting table. 

“I don’t know, Liz.  Sounds like you guys had a pretty wild weekend.  He said his cousin got married?”

Ok, he definitely didn’t mention the chignon.

“Yes, Jeff’s cousin,” I quickly distanced myself by marriage and braced myself while I searched for neutral ground.  “It was a big wedding.  Lots of family came in so we stayed down in Manhattan Beach where it was held.”

His teacher smiled.

“Yeah, Nick said something about his cousin trading her earrings for four bottles of wine?”

Oh, Jesus.

“Oh, thaaaat.”

Oh, shit.

“Yes, well that was a funny story.”  I sort of trailed off. 

Nick didn’t even witness this “last call” exchange between his Cousin Angela and one of the bartenders at the reception.  I didn't even witness it, though I wish I had.  What the hell is he doing sharing it with his entire class?  We only heard tale of it when we visited with Angela at the beach house where she was recovering the next day.  Nick was wrestling with his brother on the couch while she was talking!  What the hell was he doing LISTENING?

Nick’s teacher continued to look at me with a bright smile and wide, curious eyes.   Jeff was seated between us so I shifted my gaze from her to Jeff, hoping he would give me something.  Anything.  He smiled and shrugged his shoulders. 


I had no choice but to continue. 

“So, yes, the sister of the bride: the maid of honor who is also Nick’s cousin Angela wore these beautiful earrings that one of the bartenders who doubled as a stylist or something really liked and kept complimenting Angela on.  And I guess at the end of the night, after the reception, there was an after party scheduled…”

I kept looking at Jeff as I spoke, smiling, trying to make a story about drinking to complete and utter excess sound as G-rated as possible for my son’s third grade teacher.

“…so yes, I guess Angela figured she had something the bartender valued, and the bartender had something Angela valued…”

There was a life-lesson in there somewhere and I'd be damned if I didn't try to extract it.

When the agony finally ended and I finished, Nick’s teacher was somehow still smiling.  

“Nick really thought it was funny,” was her comment.
“So what did the other kids think?”  I couldn’t help but imagine a classroom of eight-year olds staring blankly at my son as they tried to digest his strange tale. 

“Oh, they thought it was funny.  They wanted to know what the earrings looked like.”

I then began to imagine each of Nick’s classmates re-telling the story to their parents that night at the dinner table.  Then, all at once, all I wanted in life was to die, right there, in Nick’s classroom. 

But dying would have to wait.  Instead, Nick’s teacher began to take us through his progress report. 


Cousin Angela and the infamous earrings.

Great Uncle Tim.  Also a Great Dancer.
Great Uncle Dave and Great Aunt Debbie in the background.

Cousins Gina and Nick!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Because It Just Does

You know what saying I have outgrown?
“Everything happens for a reason.”

Really?  Then, what’s the reason? 

Seriously, I need to know. 

Because to me, reason implies logic and logic implies dots somehow connecting and right now, I am seeing a bunch of black dots just floating around, willy-nilly.

How about this saying, instead?

“Everything happens because it just does.”

Some days, from out of nowhere, we’re handed a bouquet of flowers.

And some days, from out of nowhere, we’re handed a bag of shit. 

We have no choice in the matter. 

And it’s okay, if when we are handed our very own, personal bag of shit, to just drop it on the floor.  To maybe kick it around the room until we are exhausted.  To even lock it in the closet for a week.  And maybe after that, to place it on our neighbor’s doorstep, light it on fire, ring the doorbell, and run like hell. 

This is an actual flaming, bag of shit on a doorstep. I didn't leave it.

Because eventually, we will lay claim to our bag of shit.  We will pick it up and we will carry it because we know that we never had a choice because we seldom do.  And we know that the dropping, kicking, trespassing, and felony arson charges were just the beginning of the excruciating, often life-long ritual called acceptance. 

Some days our bags will feel lighter and some days our bags will feel heavier and they will always stink; and we will likely carry this stinky weight for most of the days of the rest of our lives. 

Except on some days, when we are handed a bouquet of flowers.  

Because on some days, if we are lucky, from out of nowhere; we will be lifted.  By a bouquet of flowers or by a letter in our mailbox or by the laughter of friends, we will be lifted.

And our bag of shit will seem to disappear completely, if only for a moment. 

Because everything happens because it just does.

See you in November, dear Julie!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Photo Friday - Hooked on Phonics Worked for Me!

I may not love everything about the NBC Universal news organization but I love me a Week in Pictures. Take, for instance, my main man from Malta (below) celebrating the feast of his town's patron saint.

Come on, he's great!
I'm eat drink something...I love him.

Of course many Week in Pictures' images do not capture celebrations; some even depict horrible devastation. And while it may be the lazy man's answer to reading the world news on a regular basis, the Week in Pictures always makes me stop and think.

There is a great big universe in motion around us every moment of every day. Never mind what may or may not be happening in neighboring galaxies...makes my head spin just thinking about it.

I can only regain my equilibrium by turning my lens inward.

So, I bring you the first ever Photo Friday a.k.a. news and views from a little place I call home.

Stitch about to partake in his favorite treat: "The Gas Stick", named thus for implicit reasons. 

If they aren't identical, just how did these dental stars align on Tuesday?

A beautiful sentiment from a dear friend for all of my friends near and far.

Vince playing "baby" with his cousin:

"Who are you sending that picture to, mommy?"

"Oh, nobody that knows your friends. Don't worry."

And The Highlight:
The boys started their first journals this week -
both at home and at school.
I told them they could write and draw whatever they want in there,
except curse words, because I'm a practicing hypocrite. 

See you next Phriday...I mean Friday!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What a Day Yesterday Was

Not the original Elizabeth Stribling Bell, but a proud one, nonetheless.

And then you said, “But Daddy, I want to play with Cousin Scout.”

Never mind the fact that “Cousin Scout” was a dog.  When you are three, your four-legged cousins are often your favorites. 

My father loves to retell that story: the story of “Cousin Scout”.  It dates back to 1976.  Most of my father’s favorite stories date back even further and they all center around the same theme: Family.  He was party to some of the stories, and some were told to him by his parents and grandparents.  Other stories were shared with him by his aunts and uncles, and great aunts and uncles; and some he read about in history books.  My father’s retellings usually start off the same way:

“Boo-boo, did I ever tell you about the time…”

You can see in his eyes and hear in his voice how much he is enjoying the opportunity to reminisce aloud about whatever has just popped into his still very vital, 71 year-old mind.  And the story never ends at the end of the story.  He typically ties it up with his own little bow in the form of a message: his message, especially when he’s talking to his kids.  Maybe he thinks we didn’t know his perspective already; maybe he thinks we somehow bear reminding; or maybe he thinks we need convincing.  Whatever his reasoning is, he uses his stories, all of these very specific moments from our collective lifetime together and the lifetimes of our family members who came before us, to illustrate something for us about us.    

As the Cousin Scout story goes, my family had spent the day at Scout’s farm in Markham, Virginia, where Scout lived with his owners.  Not incidentally, Scout’s owners were also my grandmother’s first cousins: Cousins Henry and Grace who were about age 60 at the time.  Memory doesn’t serve me so well but I’m told that we did regular farm stuff that day.  We sat mystified in the car on Cousin Henry's long driveway waiting for cows to pass, we drove the tractor around the apple orchard, and we fed the craw fish down in the creek.  All of it was a real treat for a little girl growing up in suburban Chicago, especially when you throw in a Border Collie named Scout. 

When it came time for us to leave for our dinner at Cousins Alex and Mary Blake’s down the road, I wasn’t ready to go.  I knew Cousin Scout hadn’t made the guest list.

“There you were; you must have been not quite four years old, looking up at me telling me ‘Daddy, I don’t want to go with you.  I want to stay here and play with Cousin Scout’.” 

My father’s impersonation of my pre-school voice is as whiny as he can muster.

“So you just left me there?”  I ask.  As I’ve asked before at this moment in my father’s retelling of this particular story. 

“Sure.  Why the hell not?  Cousin Henry got a kick out of you wanting to hang around and play with the dog.  And you wanted to stay!”  He bellows.  My father is a bellower.

“And Boo-boo, that just goes to show you what a pain in the ass you have always been.  Always independent.  You were always going to do or at least try to do just what you wanted to do.  Just like your Great Grandmother Stribling…”  He sort of trails off but only for a moment.

“Did I ever tell you about the time a traffic officer tried to write her a citation in the middle of Webster Groves?” 

So I’d like to dedicate this one to my father the story teller.  Also a pain in the ass.  But a loving pain in the ass.  

And to the Greens for continuously opening their doors to our family over the years.

And to Cousin Scout.  For obvious reasons.

Cousin Alex passed away just this past May.  What a tale to tell:

And I love this song: AlanJackson

And at this point, I'm surprised I don't have my monogram in "neck tat" form.

Perhaps something subtle, like this.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

P.S. Any free soap?

“I’ve just been so busy...”

“It’s crazy with summer and the kids’ schedules…”

“I know…have a few ideas jotted down….”

“Well, now we’re getting ready for vacation so maybe in a few weeks...”

“I actually am just now ramping up with a couple new clients, but I started one…”

For several weeks now, I have been half-heartedly answering questions from my readership of about five or so family and friends asking:

“What’s going on with the blog?” 

“Where’s the free soap?”

I would come up with some five cent excuse and quickly change the subject to summer camps or my fledgling tennis career or whatever popped into my mind first.  But the fact of the matter is I’ve been uninspired. 

As I own that fact out loud, I think of one of my mother’s favorite lines while we were growing up.  When my brother, sister or I would march into the kitchen to complain about the lackluster entertainment my mother was providing, she would momentarily turn to us, lower her cigarette and say:

“Only boring people get bored.”

Now I can’t help but associate the two. 

If only boring people get bored, then it must be only uninspiring people that get uninspired.

Am I both boring AND uninspiring?


And then my Jeff had an idea:

“So what are we doing for your birthday, baby?”  He asked casually, on my birthday-eve.

“I don’t know.  What do you have planned?”  I snarked back as I flipped through a magazine on the couch. 

How could he possibly not have a ticker tape parade scheduled to run down Main Street at high noon in my honor? 

*Readers note: boring and uninspiring people tend to be a little bitchy.  At least this one does.

“Well, we could go out to dinner?  Maybe sushi?”

“I don’t know if I want sushi.”  I sighed.

*The bored and uninspired can be quite annoying, too.

Jeff pressed on.  “Someone at the gym was telling me that there have been some pretty fun groups playing at the Ventura County Fair.  I think they said Styx, Kool N The Gang, bands like that.”

“No way!  This week?”  I could hardly contain myself.  

I have long loved a Grand Illusion and have been known to Get Down On It when duty called.  And let’s face it, when it’s Ladies Night, the feeling is always right. 

I dropped my magazine on the couch and grabbed my phone from the coffee table.

In less than five seconds, I was staring at my destiny in the screen.  It looked like this:

And less than 24 hours later, I was sitting among throngs of the Ventura County elite, staring across a plastic dining table at this:

He ultimately consumed about 45 cents worth of this $12 turkey leg. 

Funnel cake, corn dogs, deep fried twinkies, chili-cheese fries and, in Nick’s case, a turkey leg bigger than his head… a ferris wheel ride, fun house, and a five-story slide… a few attempts at breaking some bottles with some baseballs...and several turns on the Cliff Hanger (when Jeff realized this particular ride operator was ignoring his primary responsibility of collecting tickets from patrons who were NOT wearing the yellow, “Pay One Price” carnival wristband, it quickly became Vince and Nick’s favorite ride)...all of this and more filled two hours of County Fair magic that passed in an instant!  

We were 20 minutes 'til show time before we knew it!

After navigating through concert goers, some young and some very old, some able bodied and some less so (did I mention it was “Seniors and Persons With Disabilities Day”?), we tucked ourselves away in the upper, left-hand corner of the grand stands.  The grand stands that were positioned adjacent to instead of opposite the concert stage.

“We’re not even going to be able to see them.”  Jeff started. 

He was not happy with my initial decision to take a seat in the stands versus joining the concert goers who, like us, opted not to wait in line for two hours, thereby eliminating any hope of securing a white folding chair. They now stood on the dirt.

“We’ll see them fine.  We can see the front of the stage.”  This was kind of true.  We could see the very front sliver of the stage from the side.  “And look,” I gestured toward the enormous digital screen that had been erected next to the stage.  “A clear shot of the jumbo-tron.” 

*Readers note: As an underemployed parent, it’s important for me to set the bar low for my kids but always do so in the most positive way. And, as lowbrow as it may have been, it was Vince and Nick’s first concert experience.  I needed them to be fired up about it.  

“The sound isn’t going to be any good.”  Jeff continued.

“Honey, I am sure the sound will be fine.”

The four of us looked down on the crowd that had filled the rows and rows of white folding chairs and most of any open space that was left over.  Save a few seats in our little corner, the grand stands were packed.  All of us eagerly anticipating the thrice decorated (’82, ’83, and ’84) American Music Awards Favorite Band, Duo or Group - Pop/Rock!

“Look at that guy in the motorized wheelchair!”  I commanded, full of enthusiasm.

“Where, mommy?”  Vince asked.

I pointed down over the tops of all the heads seated below us in the stands to the area immediately in front of the stands where a man in a black cowboy hat was zipping through the crowd on his red, Little Rascal scooter.  He fishtailed a few times and did a 360° as he positioned himself for the show.

“There!"  I pointed again.  "Down on the dirt.”  It was hard to be more specific.

“In the black cowboy hat?”  Vince spotted him first.


“I see him!  That wheelchair seems fast!”  Nick chimed in.

“I know!  He sure seems excited for the show!”

“He does!”  Vince smiled.

We continued to monitor the crowd as more people gathered, standing around the sea of folding chairs.

“Nick and I are going down there.”  Jeff finally said.  “Is that ok?”  Jeff might love live music more than me.  I respected that he had to make the very most of this experience.

“Go ahead.  We’re fine.”  I told him.

Vince snuggled in closer to me in the stands as the breeze started to blow a little stronger and a little colder.

When the band started to take the stage, the crowd responded accordingly.  Vince and I joined in the clapping, hooting and hollering.  Well, he mostly just rolled his eyes at me as I clapped, hooted and hollered.

Then security opened the area immediately between the stage and the first row of folding chairs.  The crowd rushed forward, including Jeff with Nick atop his shoulders and our cowboy atop his Little Rascal scooter.

I took a deep breath.  My eight year old son was officially in “the pit”. 

“Look at Daddy and Nick!”  I told Vince.

He looked down and smiled.

Daryl Hall and John Oates took the stage and kicked off their set list with Out of Touch.  The audience loved it.  Mr. Hall then announced he was a Family Man.  I could see Jeff bouncing Nick around on his shoulders as he danced.

I decided Jeff was onto something.  “Vince, should we go down there by Daddy and Nick?  It won’t be as cold down there.”


“Alright, we’ll go down after this song.”

We made our way to about three people back from Jeff and Nick to Say It Isn’t So but as night fell and the hits continued, we danced our way up to their side. Throughout the concert, Jeff and I traded off holding one, then the other son on one, then the other hip.  It’s amazing how energizing great music can be. 

We all sang and danced together through the first encore which featured two of my personal favorites: Rich Girl and You Make My Dreams.  

The perfect ending to a perfect night.   

As we drove home, I thought about how much fun the night was.  I guess in hindsight, I knew it would be.  I mean what kind of tool can’t have fun at a Hall & Oates concert? 

What I didn’t see coming was the much needed perspective, dare I say inspiration, the night would bring.  While there will always be new challenges as the boys grow-up and assert their independence, there will also be new opportunities for us to experience more of ourselves and more of life together as a family.  

I’d like to dedicate this post to an old, dear friend who is never boring.  Welcome home from eastern Europe, DC!  Here's your soap!

Different hat, same spirit.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mommy, Daddy Cursed at Us

As I stood in the doorway of my twin, almost eight year-old sons’ shared shit hole (read: bedroom), I felt overwhelmed.

Clothes, stuffed-animals, toys, a deflated queen-size air mattress, pillows, all of their bedding save the fitted sheets, books, shells, rocks, a tennis racket, a couple baseball trophies…and who knows what else… literally covered every square inch of carpet on the floor.

There could be a kid trapped under there somewhere…or worse…

“STITCH!  Stitchy.  Stitch!”  I yelled, panicked.

I quickly heard the king rise from his bed on the floor of our room and begin to trot down the hall toward the sound of my voice.


“It’s ok, Stitchy.  You can go back to resting.”  I gave him a pat on his head as we now stood together staring at the insurmountable mess that filled the boys’ room.

Stitch turned toward me and our eyes held for a moment.  I knew what his look meant.  I could see the disgust in his eyes.  I knew exactly what he would say, if he could say it:

“I can’t believe we are forced to live with these two degenerates.”

“I know, Stitchy, but its summer,” I told him as we sat down on the floor together and I commenced scratching the top of his head.

“That’s no excuse," I imagined him continuing.  "And by the way, how about you move that scratching to behind my left ear?”

“When they get home from camp this afternoon, I’ll make them clean up before I let them do anything else.”

He looked up at me again and raised one eyebrow as if to say: “I’ll believe it when I see it, lady.”

What has it been?  Not even two weeks since school got out?  And they’ve been in camp a lot of that time.  What the hell happened?  How did the wheels fall off so quickly?

Jeff had put Vince and Nick on a strict morning routine for the 10 days from late April to early May that I was away in Germany.  He couldn’t wait to tell me about all the new “house rules” he had instituted.  We had barely pulled out of the airport and onto Sepulveda Boulevard toward the 405 Freeway when he started:  

“I just sat them down, and I told them, honey.”  He was so smug.

“Really?  Told them what?”

“I told them: you know that lady who picks up your dirty clothes from the floor of your room?  Well, she’s gone now.  And you know that lady who brings your clothes downstairs to the laundry room?  She’s also gone."

He was so pleased with himself.  It never occurred to him that referring to his wife of 13 years who also happened to be the mother of his children as "that lady" (after "that lady" has just returned from a 10-day trip half-way across the globe) might not be the best call.

"And you know that lady who washes and dries and folds all of your clothes and puts them away in your drawers?  Well, she’s gone, too."

He wouldn't stop.  I glanced at the speedometer then out the window as we entered the freeway on ramp but after those long flights, I was way too tired to open the door and attempt a tuck and roll.

"So if you want your clothes clean, you better gather them all up and bring them downstairs to the laundry room yourself; or they’re not getting washed.”  He smiled triumphantly to himself.

“Congratulations.”  I rolled my eyes at him.

“I’m not kidding,” and he continued.  “I had them on a strict morning regimen, too.  I got them up at 6:30, then they showered before they came downstairs for breakfast.  Then, after breakfast, back upstairs to brush, floss and rinse.  Then clean their room AND make their beds.  AND clean up their bathroom.  Then they would come down and practice piano for fifteen minutes and could shoot baskets on the driveway with whatever time was left over BEFORE we WALKED to school.”

Stab me now.

I turned to the boys, oddly quiet in the back seat: “Did you guys really walk to school?”

“Yup!” They both beamed back at me, in unison.

Jeff smiled, “We WALKED to school EVERY DAY.” 

He then glanced up at his rear-view mirror to catch the boys’ eyes, “Wasn’t walking to school fun?”

“Yes!” They both craned their necks up to meet the reflection of Jeff’s eyes in the mirror.

“Well, congratulations.”  I rolled my eyes again.

“Hey, you don’t need to get pissy,” clearly Jeff caught my second eye roll.  “I’m just saying, it’s okay to EXPECT THEM to do certain things.  You know, to not do EVERYTHING for them.”

“Really?  Is that how it works?”  I asked.

The car was quiet for a few moments.  Then, from behind me, Nicky leaned as far forward as he could and broke the silence.

“Mommy, Daddy cursed at us while you were gone.”

“WHOA!  Wait a minute, Nick.  What are you talking about?”  Any trace of arrogance suddenly vanished from Jeff’s tone.

“It’s true, Mommy!  He did.  More than one time.”  Vincie chimed in.

“Is that so?” 

I turned to Jeff who was now shaking his head and staring out the windshield over the steering wheel.

“Traitors,” he mumbled under his breath.  Soon, he began searching his rear-view mirror for the eyes of his little foot soldiers, “Traitors.  You’re both traitors.”

I sighed a deep sigh of satisfaction.  “Well, honey.  Any other pearls of parenting wisdom you’d like to bestow upon me before we get home?” 

One of Jeff's fellow Dr. Spock devotees.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Walking With Them

“Only 5 ½ more days of second grade!”

Like most children, my seven-year olds are counting the days until school is out.  I guess I am, too.  Sort of.

“Next year is third grade,” Fun Mom tells me like it’s some kind of revelation.  “You know what that means?  That means we’ll be half-way through elementary school! Next year is the half-way mark.”  Her tone is a little melancholy.

Oh, shit.  I never thought of it that way.

“Don’t say that.  I can’t think about that right now,” was all I could say in return.  The thought was a little overwhelming.

My family moved into our little slice of suburbia when they boys were not quite three years old for several reasons, the majority of which of or pertaining to raising our sons.

“It really is a terrific neighborhood.  It’s perfect for raising kids.  I’ll take you over to the park and elementary school after we’re done looking at the house.  You can even walk your kids to school!”  Our real estate agent’s words are still fresh in my mind, five years later.

I remember I had this image of Vince, Nick, Stitch and I walking to school together every morning…then life crept in. 

When Kindergarten started, I was in the throws of a demanding, full-time client that had me traveling like crazy; then there were rainy mornings; then there was more work; or dentist appointments; or we were finishing up homework; or just running late.  I found myself in the car, in the driveway, with a scowl on my face on far more mornings than I’d like to admit. 

Then, in an instant, there were just 5 ½ more days of second grade.   

These past couple weeks, I have made a point of walking whenever we could.  20 minutes of my day.  10 minutes there and 10 minutes back.  One or both of my sons usually hold my hand part of the way.  Nothing is better than the feeling of one of those hands in mine.  Nothing.

Sometimes we talk about what’s going on at school that day.  Sometimes we talk about summer.  And sometimes:

“Mommy, can you hold my backpack so I can kick him!?!” 

That happens.

Only 5 ½ more days of second grade... and I'm hanging on to every step. 

We've been sneaking in some Lego time, too.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My ‘Stache, My ‘Stache, My Lovely Lady-‘Stache

I think the very best thing about getting older is becoming completely comfortable in your own skin. 

Popeye the Sailorman said it best: “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam”. 

I’m not a great housekeeper, I’m never going to love working out, and I curse too much.

I also will never look you in the eye and utter the words: “No thank you, one glass is enough”.

If I do, know that I am lying and either a.) plan to drink a second glass somewhere else when we part ways or b.) already took a few sips somewhere else before I got to you.

Good and bad, these and other things simply make me who I am and life is so much easier now that I just accept them.

While passing 40 has brought new comforts, it has also brought other things.  Like a growing desire but lessening ability to sleep, the pain in my lower back that just keeps coming back, and gravity.  I know gravity has always been there but it used to ignore my rear end.

And of course there is my current arch-nemesis: the rogue facial hair, a.k.a: she-whisker.   

About a week ago, I went for a long, morning walk with a newish-old friend, a Beautiful Friend, who is in escrow on a new home.  Now this friend has had quite a year. She has battled both colon and breast cancer (in her mind only/every test came back benign) and been homeless (also in her mind).  She seems to have found her happy ending though.  And lucky for me it’s about five miles from where I live AND it has a pool.  I couldn’t be happier for her (or me).

“I’m going to go drive by my house now,” she told me after we finished our walk.

“I want to come!” I told her and climbed into her car.   

We continued to gab away about contingencies being lifted, impending inspections and appraisals - the various boxes that need to be checked to close a real estate transaction; when suddenly she stopped cold:

“Is that thing attached?” She practically screamed at me.

“What?” I hurriedly flipped down the mirror in front of the passenger seat and it took me all of 1.5 seconds to see what was “attached” above my upper lip, adjacent to my left nostril. 

Then, defiantly: “Yes, as a matter of fact, it is attached.”

“It” was in reference to the long, black hair that I prayed had somehow sprouted and grown to its current length (probably could have wrapped it around my head three times) during our short, car-ride together.

I continued to look at it in the mirror, imagining all the people I had spoken to with this freakin’ lumberjack-whisker practically smacking them in the face!

The teachers.

The clients.

The baristas.

The checkers.

The boys’ music teacher.

Team parents in the little league stands. 


“How long you planning on keeping that thing?”  My friend was enjoying this a little too much.  

“Shut up!  Do you have any tweezers?” 

“Tweezers?  In my car?”  She laughed.

“Screw you!”

I went about the business of trying to pull the whisker out between my thumb and forefinger (yes, I could get a good grip on it - it was that long!)

“Got it!”  I held my whisker out triumphantly.

“Are you going to keep it for your scrap book?”  This friend of mine was far less smug when she was living in a cardboard box battling pretend cancer.

“No.”  I flicked it into the abyss of her new car’s black interior.  “You can have it.  After all, you found it!!”

Some advice I clearly need to heed :

A six-minute trip down memory lane:

It's not a look that I could necessarily pull off but it's a look, nonetheless.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Better than Butterfat

I spent my last full day in Germany essentially mainlining butterfat.
Berlin makes the best croissants. 


If you don't believe me, just ask my sister-in-law.  She said they were even better than what France is bringing to the table.  While I have never eaten a croissant in a cafĂ© in Paris, I am confident, based exclusively on the half-dozen croissants I threw down my neck on May 3, that Berlin is best.  And I am also confident, based on the assorted cookies and chocolates I enjoyed throughout my 10 day journey through the country, that it all comes down to one, key ingredient: The Butterfat.

Yes, I had a little down-time to read the ingredients on packages while sitting on the charter bus and the planes.

I have been home two weeks now.  I have been asked by family, friends and even acquaintances on the little league field:

“So how was the big Europe trip?”

“How was Germany?”

“Did you have a nice time on your trip?

Over and over again.

It was a complicated trip, including six days with a bunch of 20 year-olds, so it’s been a complicated answer.  Now that I have had the chance to squeeze my children tightly, hold my husband’s hand, sleep, recover from the jet-lag, and ultimately gain some much-needed perspective, I know the real answer:

The very best part, even better than all the butterfat, was hearing the excitement in my husband’s voice in the moment I called him to say I had caught an earlier connecting flight home in Newark.  As I clumsily hurried through the aisle of the plane with my rolling bag behind me and my cellphone pressed to my ear, I told Jeff that he and the boys should plan to arrive at the airport to pick me up a couple hours earlier.  This was his response:

“That’s so great, baby!  I can’t wait to see you.  Wait.  Hang on, honey.”

(To the boys.)  

“Guys, mommy is coming home early!!!  We’re going to go get her at the airport BEFORE dinner!”

(Then the boys, in unison.)


(Then Jeff, to me.)

“Ok, I’m back.  I love you, baby.  I really am excited to see you.  Have a safe flght!  Text me the flight number when you get to your seat.”
"I will.  I love you guys."

It was nice to know that after 13 years of marriage and two kids, we still had the capacity to literally count the hours until we saw one another again. 


noun \-fat\

: the natural fat of milk and chief constituent of butter consisting essentially of a mixture of glycerides (as butyrin, olein, and palmitin); also known as Heaven.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


I loathe having to get up from a restaurant table to go the bathroom but I can't hold it any longer!

I caved.

“Jaque, where’s the bathroom?”

I knew that even though she hadn’t paid it a visit, my sister would know exactly where the bathroom was.  She always has both feet on the ground - a mega-planner, an i-dotter, and a t-crosser.    

My mom, sister and I celebrated Mother’s Day the old fashioned way: a slow walk through a crowded, 102 degree, 10,000 square foot designer showcase home; lunch at famed, chain brewery BJ’s (that’s right: pizookies-a-go-go); and an unexpected, prolonged trip to the Men’s Room. 

Well, not all of us participated in that last part.

“It’s riiiiiiight,” Jaque leaned back in her side of our semi-circle booth bench and extended her right arm and index finger to the right, “THERE!”  She pointed up a long ramp that ran straight through the center of the restaurant, past the bar.  “I scoped that out as soon as we walked in.”  She declared, quite proudly.

“I was counting on it.  Thank you.”

I was out of our booth and heading up the ramp in no time, though I did steal a moment to establish eye contact with a possible Blasian sitting at the bar.

I took a quick left at the top of the ramp, saw the familiar, blue and white bathroom sign, and walked through the door.  Didn’t break stride for a beat.  It had been a long morning and true to form, I had waited until the last possible moment to relieve the mounting pressure in my bladder.

The bathroom was empty.  I took stall 2 as my own, closed and locked the door, quickly installed an ass-gasket atop my throne, and was flushing and fastening the top button on my white jeans (it was their maiden voyage of the new season) in no time.

I paused and stared at myself in the mirror over the sink after washing my hands. 

Look at me.  Ugh.  Why didn’t I bring my purse in here with me?  I am so freakin’ shiny and pink from that jumbo sweat box of a crib.  I need my powder!

I started fluffing up my hair.

How is it possible that my entire mop of hair isn’t sticking to my head after enduring that moisture?  It has to be all of that new volumizing product Lisa (aka Manners Mom) got for me.  I should write her a thank…

The door started to open over my right shoulder and I saw an elderly man in a plaid shirt trying to push himself through with a walker.

Poor, old guy.

I gave him a broad smile.

“This is the Women’s Room, sir.”  I told him, confidently.   

I returned to the mirror and my fluffing, truly amazed that my massive amounts of fine hair seemed to be holding up through such conditions.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the old man slowly look over at the blue and white sign on the door.

When did I last get my color done?  It hasn’t been that long, has it?  It seems like it’s getting close, though.  I hate to do it too often.  I really need to attempt to curl my hair again.  I bet I could really make it big now.  It’s been so…

The bathroom door was now opening completely and the same old man was making his way in, just ahead of a new man.  A younger, quite handsome man in a navy blue polo.  

I gave the younger man a knowing smile; so nice of him to help retrieve his dad, I thought to myself.  I suppose that’s what you do when your parents get old.

“It’s ok, Dad.  Go on in.”  The younger man nodded to his father and motioned toward stall #2.  The stall I had just vacated.

The younger man looked at me and smiled, not an ounce of WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING IN HERE registering on his face.

He must be confused, too.

I smiled back, “This is the Women’s…”

I caught a glimpse of the blue and white sign on the door as it swung closed.

Those are pants?!?  That says MEN!?!

“OH!”  I practically screamed as I began my slow death by complete and utter embarrassment.  “THIS IS THE MEN’S ROOM!” 

I couldn’t get to the door handle fast enough.  I swung it open and ran back down the ramp to my sister and mother.  Apparently, my smile was an immediate tell.

“What did you do?”  Jaque started.

Of course the blow by blow of my sojourn to the “Ladies Room” was met with fits of laughter that sent them both doubling over in our booth.

“Didn’t you see a urinal?”  Jaque and her freakin’ logic, yet again.

“Actually, now that I think about it, I think there may have been some urinals but I was thinking about bidets after what mom said.”

Over lunch, my mom had been talking about recommending my brother get a bidet for potty training my niece.  Carol is full of excellent parenting tips for young children.

“That makes no sense, Lizzie.  Why would there be a bidet in the Men’s Room?”

“Well, I realize that now, Jaque. But I was in a hurry!”

“Is that him?"

"No, Jaque."

"Is that him?"

"No, that's not him, Jaque."

"Is that him?"  Jaque kept asking as different men crossed the restaurant.

“No, that’s NOT HIM.”

But of course, as the three of us got up, gathered our purses, and made our way to the exit, our eyes locked for a moment across the crowded restaurant.  Why I couldn’t just keep my head down, I don’t know.

Nevertheless, I smiled at the handsome man in the navy blue polo.  Though it was a far less confident smile.

It was a smile that said:

“That was SO NOT the WOMEN’S ROOM.”

Totally worth my pants literally sticking to my legs, the gammy pits, and my sweat mustache…possibly even worth the ill-fated trip to the Ladies Room - the Pasadena Showcase House has raised more than 18M in gifts and grants over the years for organizations including non-profits that support music programs and music education for local youth.

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