Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Can See Clearly Now

Before I had children I'll admit that I took moms for granted. And I don't just mean my own mother, I mean I took the entire notion of motherhood for granted.

For sure, I noticed moms. I made an effort to delight over their children. I briefly marveled at "how tough it must be!" before moving on to the pressing concerns of my child-free life. I said helpful things like, "Oof, I don't know HOW you get up so early EVERY DAY!" On Mother's Day I even gave some of them cards! 

But then in 2008 I gave birth to my first child. And the scales fell from my eyes.

At a theater class in college, one of my professors told us that the goal for a Director was "to do your job so well that no one notices your work." 

As it turns out, this is much like being a mom. If you're doing the whole mother gig correctly, the fact is that you are probably not getting all that much attention (nor, for the record, are you getting things like Tony Awards or paychecks). Instead you are spending day after day and year after year lovingly stitching your children's lives together in a manner that is largely invisible to everyone but you.

At one point, as I held the newly-minted infant Snood in my arms, I looked over toward my mother -- standing in my kitchen cooking for us -- and found myself dazzled by my sudden awareness of ALL those stitches: the meals prepared, the carpools driven, the vacations planned, the school trips chaperoned, the diapers changed, the homework overseen. 

Truths I had known all my life were transformed into a source of wonder. The fact that my mother had three babies in three years (born June, then September, then the next September), which had always struck me as novel, now made me want to carve some sort of large statue in her honor and place it on the village green.

All the moms I knew proved sources of new-found admiration:

You did this at nineteen years old with no money while putting yourself through school? Wow!

You did this seven times? Amazing!

You did this while married to that bozo husband of yours? Great job!

You had two of these and kept them alive even though you are a complete and utter moron? I might have to buy you some cake.

For a time, I tried to share my insight with others. I'd obsessively point out the amazing things people's moms had done for them. I'd provide stunning counterarguments when people I knew complained about their mothers. We'd visit my mother-in-law and I'd find myself pointing out the wonders of her home constantly to my husband and his siblings:

Look at the meal she made for us all!

Look at these holiday decorations! They must have taken so much work and they make the house so homey!

Observe these adorable little stools she made for you WITH YOUR NAMES PAINTED ON THEM BY HAND WHEN YOU WERE TODDLERS EVEN THOUGH I'M SURE SHE HAD PLENTY OF BETTER THINGS TO DO LIKE SEVERAL DOZEN LOADS OF YOUR LAUNDRY!!! Perhaps we should all band together, sell everything we own, and buy this woman a yacht?

But while it is tempting to try to make up for a lifetime of ignorance toward the amazing and vast efforts of moms everywhere, I realize that the cause is in vain. It is the nature of motherhood that the bulk of the work involved will remain unacknowledged. 

At least until the next woman we know has her first baby and sees behind the curtain...

Thursday, June 23, 2011


When Snoodie was born David and I lived in an 800-square-foot three-room apartment. And the stuff -- it was overflowing. Everywhere you looked there was stuff. Office stuff. Baby stuff. Clothing stuff. We were drowning in stuff.

Allow me to demonstrate using the following photo:

That's me working at the "dining room" table (also known as the table in the only room that was not a bedroom or bathroom). In the background you can just make out what had once been my desk. I'm not working at my desk because by the time this shot was taken, my desk had been entirely devoured by office supplies, wedding gifts awaiting thank you notes, baby toys, and stray coffee mugs.

The rest of the place had not fared much better. By the time Snoodie was 6-months-old, David and I lived in constant fear of being buried alive under the mounting pile of baby swings, exersaucers, and vibrating chairs. A simple trip to the bathroom involved a JENGA-like exercise in relocating items in order to make it to the toilet without being crushed by the avalanche of ensuing debris. 

Our only hope was to move, which we finally did when Snoodie was almost a year old. We bought a lovely little two-bedroom house with a small yard. I couldn't believe our luck in finding a home that suited us so perfectly, and I couldn't imagine what we were going to do with ALL THAT SPACE.

The house had two bedrooms, a living room, a dining room and playroom. It also had a sizeable storeroom out back. As we toured the space after closing, the expanses of empty space gleamed before me and I allowed myself to dream that a clutter-free life might finally be mine. I was vigilant about which items would make the move. My Muppets lunchbox bought from a nostalgia store six years ago and never used? TO THE TRASH! David's long-neglected Millennium Falcon replica with several missing pieces? TO THE GOODWILL PILE! This dress that has not fit me since 1987? OK, that I had to keep - I'm totally getting back into that one of these days.

I had the eye of the tiger and I was gaining dominion over the stuff!

But then I remembered our rented storage space, filled to the rafters with a whole bunch of stuff I had forgotten about. Stuff we were saving for "when we got into a house". It came along with us and as we unloaded the moving van I found myself amazed at how quickly our new home was filling up.

The closets in each room were standard 1942-construction (three feet wide) and before we were even finished unpacking the one in our bedroom was already overflowing. Between my husband's work clothes and golf shirts and my assortment of maternity clothes, pre-pregnancy clothes, and post-pregnancy clothes we needed more room. 

And so we moved extra clothing into the closet in the second bedroom, which was already packed tight with diaper boxes, clothes the Snood was just growing out of or just growing into, and various boxes of children's toys and stuffed animals.

The kitchen, though three-times larger than our old one, was next to full. I went from not being able to imagine how to fill the space to trying to figure out where to stuff my gardening shears (for the record: in the small drawer next to the microwave along with the stray rubber bands, Sharpies, and unused recipe cards). 

Not long after we'd gotten settled in, our second baby arrived and the infant apparati came back into the rotation. Joining the toddler toys in the playroom, they managed to fill the room wall-to-wall. 

Even my final line of defense, the storage area, is starting to strain at the seams. The giant Christmas tree (that we bought "since we had the space to store it") is now wedged up against the two bicycles that used to live in our apartment's sizable garage. Boxes of holiday decorations tower next to my neglected sewing machine and bolts of unused fabric. The end table from the old apartment is barely visible under my two boogie boards. Our suitcases (we now have four) teeter precariously near the doorway.

Even the yard is full. The plastic slide that we started with has been joined by a full-sized swing set. Then there's the playhouse we inherited from our neighbors when they moved away. There's the charcoal grill we started with and the gas grill we've replaced it with.

I fought a good fight, but these days, I no longer even attempt to conquer the stuff. For I accept that the stuff cannot be vanquished.

I can only hope to contain it....

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Old Lady Grumpus

When I was single, I lived in the center of Hollywood, and I used to venture out regularly to its busy streets in search of food, cocktails, and of course, hunky menfolk.

But then one night, almost five years ago exactly, I ventured beyond the Hollywood environs to Venice and met a uniquely hunky man named David. We ended up getting married and having two boys, now aged two and one. I traded in the excitement of late nights on the town for the comfort of early evenings at home on the couch: wearing sweatpants, snacking copiously, and attempting to make it through a 9pm viewing of 'The Voice' without passing out.

Then last Friday night my old life called.

I was invited by some friends for a night out. We'd hit Graumann's Chinese Theater for the opening night of X Men: First Class, then have dinner and drinks at a trendy hotspot. As I considered their offer, I heard some small and long-dormant part of my soul desperately cry out, 

"You must get out of these sweatpants before they begin to bond permanently with your flesh!" 

I told my pals to count me in and spent the entire week looking forward to "Mommy's Night Out!"

Allow me to present a schedule of the evening's events:

5:45pm - David arrives home to take over the goon squad. I attempt some last minute repairs to the makeup application I had applied while making the kids dinner and then depart my home.

5:58pm - I am almost hit by a woman who is talking on her cell phone while putting on makeup and eating dinner as she drives. I begin to remember what it is like Friday nights on the L.A. roadways. I use my frown power to express my displeasure with her choices and continue on my way.

6:00pm - I've left myself 35 minutes to make the 5 mile drive from my house to the theater. Amateur mistake. The wall of traffic that confronts me on La Cienega means I'll be lucky to make it in an hour and a half.

6:30pm - Now due to meet the group, I am still inching my way forward on Highland. Deciding that I will make better time on foot, I pull off to find a lot.

6:40pm - Lot found!

6:45pm - After driving around in search of a lot attendant, I finally locate a slack-shouldered hipster talking on his cell phone. He's wearing his parking attendant hat at a jaunty angle that says, "I am only doing this job until my awesomely ironic band KITTEN ISLAND gets a record deal." He seems deeply perturbed that I have chosen to interrupt his phone conversation in order to park my car. After paying him FIFTEEN DOLLARS he waves in several general directions at once while saying, "Yeah, park over there."

6:50pm - With no help from Bag of Kittens I locate a parking spot, wedge my car in, and start to make my way toward the theater.

6:51pm - I briefly pause to shake my first angrily at the lot attendant and intone with derision, "Fifteen dollars! FOR THIS?" As I walk away I hear him muttering to the person on the other end of the line, "I don't know, some crazy lady."

6:55pm -  The four-inch heels I have chosen for this outing begin to seem like a huge mistake. I'm too out of practice on them and I almost fall over several times as I teeter through the crowds on my way to the theater. 

7:00pm - I arrive just in time and take my seat. 

7:01pm - HOLY MOSES WHEN DID THEY MAKE THE MOVIES SO LOUD? I turn to people around me and say things like, "Is this hurting your head too?" and "God, I can feel the sound IN MY TEETH!" until I am shushed by the twentysomethings in the row behind me.

8:00pm - I'm beginning to feel ill from the extra large popcorn and Peanut M&M pairing that I have chosen, but having shelled out nearly twenty dollars I'm determined to eat every last bite! That'll show 'em!

9:20pm - The movie ends and we stand in the lobby talking over the best parts and getting in a few celebrity sightings. I say things like, "Who? Joe Jonas? What is a Joe Jonas? I've never heard of him!" as my friends back away from me slowly.

9:30pm - My head still ringing from the Dolby surround sound, my stomach is turmoil from my poor food choices and growing exhausted as my normal 10pm bedtime approaches, I realize that I'm not going to make it to dinner. I say my goodbyes and limp back toward my car.

9:45pm - I drive home and contemplate the evening. I accept that the Hollywood high life is, at least for now, lost to me. The hustle and bustle that I used to find so appealing seem nothing but exhausting after a day with two Tazmanian mini-devils. What I'm looking for at the end of the day isn't so much high-heels and the driving excitement of an action film as it is fuzzy slippers and the soothing quiet of a warm bath.

10:15pm - I arrive home to find David already in bed. I grab what's left of a pint of ice cream and head toward the bedroom to polish it off before drifting off to sleep.

10:30pm - But on my way I stop by the couch and give it a heartfelt caress. I lean in close and whisper lovingly, "I missed you, friend. It will be a long while before I leave you again..."

Thursday, June 9, 2011


OK, so I have just accidentally deleted this week's blog entry.  

I was about ten minutes away from publishing when in an attempt to highlight one small section for removal I managed to erase the ENTIRE THING. Before I could address my error the auto save feature overwrote the original file with the now a blank post.

Did I already say "WAH!"?

Which is why I ask you to enjoy this beloved post from our archives, while I go rock quietly in the corner... 

...or at least as quietly as I can rock with a teething baby at home whose favorite past time involves gnawing on my face ceaselessly while screaming directly into my temporal lobe.

Wish me luck!


There is a creature who lurks on the Western edges of Los Angeles.

This beast is so terrifying! So unrelenting! So singular of purpose! That he can only be called........SNOODZILLA!

Like his Japanese lizard-beast counterpart before him, Snoodzilla has but one mission in life, and that is the complete and merciless destruction of all he surveys. Due to the fact that this particular fiend has chosen to live in our home, my husband David and I (like panicked citizens of Toyko) can do little more than point helplessly at the rampage as we cower in his wake.

From the moment he first opens his eyes in the morning, a Snoodish campaign of terror commences. We awaken with each dawn's early light to the dulcet tones of the creature furiously shaking the bars of his crib, demanding his freedom. David and I stagger from bed and make our first futile attempts to appease him.

We lift him from his crib and find the poop is abundant. To get a better sense of what follows next, I urge you to now stop reading this blog, find a large and preferably rabid alligator, and then attempt to change its diaper.


It's not easy, is it? The best we can hope for is to achieve a complete wardrobe change without Snoodzilla

  1. leaping head-first from the changing table, and/or
  2. seizing the baby powder and using it as chemical warfare, and/or
  3. flinging his poop towards us like a rage-fueled monkey.

Assuming we have survived the above (I am not exaggerating when I say that I have TWICE left the changing table actually bloodied) Snoodzilla is now dressed and down on the ground. His small, yet hungry eyes, scan the room, searching for his first target of the day, usually the bookshelf. I pull David in front of me, attempting to use him as a human shield as "Goodnight Moon", "Googlie Farm", and "Touch and Feel Baby Animals" go whizzing by our heads.

Including a short break for his morning bottle, the bookshelf takes about six minutes to completely decimate. When he's sure that he's emptied it completely he sits briefly on the pile of fifty or so books, satisfied with the destruction he has wrought.

We've been awake for about fifteen minutes.

Not long after, David beats a hasty retreat to the office, leaving me alone with the Beast.

Snoodzilla's victory over the bookshelf seems only to have whetted his appetite for destruction. I dash out of his way as he makes a bee-line for the diaper basket. He crawls inside for maximum damage potential and soon neatly stacked diapers are being hurled in all directions. En route to the living room, where there are two more bookshelves to empty, he makes a pit stop to upend the laundry bin and spread our dirty drawers throughout the house. Then it's the playroom, where there are toy bins to be attacked without mercy.

Now, you may ask, "Why don't you just stop him?"

Well, let me ask you this? Why didn't those folks over in Toyko "just stop" Godzilla? I'll tell you why - because he is REALLY, REALLY SCARY - especially when you make him mad!!

So, instead I choose to stay out of the way until the spree of devastation has run its natural course. Knowing that, after thirteen hours or so, Snoodzilla will inevitably tire and collapse, I let him do his thing. After I've gotten him back into his crib for the night, I lie amidst the debris, exhausted.

David arrives home from work and I must assure him that NEVER FEAR - our home has not been ransacked by a gang of meth-fueled burglars, NOR have I accidentally detonated an unexploded WWII-era ordinance I found in the closet, it's just that...


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fit Family

Sometime last year David and I were in Texas visiting his relatives when his cousin and his cousin's wife stopped over for a visit with their two children, aged 6 and 9.

They pulled up to my in-laws' house in their RV, four dusty mountain bikes mounted on the front rack.

As we sat over lunch, they told us about the weekend they had just spent up in the hills. They'd explored mountain trails by bike. They'd gone swimming in the cool mountain run-off. They'd hiked around for hours in the abundant Texas scenery.

As they drove off after our meal, my husband and I stared after their departing tail lights (barely visible on either side of the kayak mounted to their RV's bumper) and decided we wanted to be JUST LIKE THEM!

We vowed to become - - - FIT FAMILY!!!!

We would throw off the chains of lethargy and commit to a new and active lifestyle!  No more early mornings spent bleary-eyed over viewings of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse - FIT FAMILY would eagerly jump from our beds for jaunty runs behind high-performance jogging strollers! No more weekends spent desperately trying to catch up on some reading as the children crawled about the playroom eating discarded graham crackers - FIT FAMILY would instead cram said offspring into bicycle seats for zesty rides about the countryside!

David's athletic cousins had lit a fire under our doughy behinds and we had the Eye of the Tiger. We were ready to transform our family -- movie-montage style -- into our best and sportiest selves!!

By the time we'd returned to Los Angeles, our enthusiasm for all things FIT FAMILY had already begun to wane. 

Our best laid plans seemed hopelessly buried beneath the weight of constant meal preparation, self-replicating laundry piles, and the simple reality that every moment of our free time is reserved for emergency napping.

We faced the truth that David's cousins both have a background in semi-professional athletics, while my husband and I, both have a background in excessive TV viewership.  We accepted that at our stage of life it may not be super-realistic to plan for all-family marathons, competitive mountain biking relays or open-water swim races. We realized that we were going to have to start small. 

And fortunately, "There's an App for That."

David and I both completed the C25k program, which means that we can now run for 30 minutes at a time without needing to be admitted to a local ER. 

We also decided on the more realistic goal of attempting to complete two fitness-themed activities per month. 

This could be heading to the big hill behind our house and climbing to the top together, renting bicycles and towing the kids behind us along the beach, or heading to the finish line to root on Mom or Dad at the end of a race.

So if you find yourself climbing a foothill in Los Angeles or biking leisurely along one of our local pathways, keep your eyes peeled. You might just spy MODERATELY IN-SHAPE FAMILY out on one of our group outings!

Please feel free to offer us snacks.