Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Truth About Cats, Dogs, and Kids

All young animals eventually need to separate from their mothers - I try not to take it personally when my boys avoid my hugs, or give me monosyllabic grunts instead of answers to questions, and god forbid I ever touch them in public. But I can't help missing those days when they clung to my hand in public, crawled on my lap, or even followed me into the bathroom (anyone else remember those days of never peeing in private?) I realized the perfect analogy for the transition - I was talking to my girlfriend Danielle, whose son is about to come home for holiday leave from military training. She was trying not to feel too hurt that he was going to spend time with friends (and show off his uniform) before he hung out with the family, but she planned to make his favorite pot roast as an incentive, and I blurted out, "Teenage boys aren't dogs, they're cats; not willing to express any affection, but eventually coming home for food."

I've always been a dog person - I love that our beloved mutt, Lucy, follows me everywhere I go and seems to have no interest in anything but whatever her humans are doing. Cats are aloof and snooty, only condescending to acknowledge humans when food or other necessities are involved. So kids are like dogs until they hit puberty, then they become much more feline, and so I'll have to content myself with slobbery kisses from my dog, and the occasional texted 'I love you, mom' whenever the boys want me to do something for them! (However, my friends with older children assure me the boys will become affectionate puppies again once they have their own children, appreciate all our sacrifices, and need advice . . . I'm counting the days!)

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Two of my biggest challenges in life are computers and kids - I deal with them on a regular basis, I have no idea how they work, and they frequently frustrate me. I tend to stumble along and hope things will work out - "My hard drive is making a funny noise but it's not urgent", or "Yeah, I should call about tutoring/therapy/trying to find pants for them, but I'm swamped this week . . . "

However, yesterday I had no choice, my laptop was completely on the blink, and given how much time I spend working in the car while I wait for the boys at their various activities, this was like having a non-functioning right arm. So I fought through my fears (It'll take forever! They'll think I'm an idiot! I won't understand what to do and I'll cry on the phone with a total stranger!) and called the Apple Care number - a charming (and handsome-sounding) young man walked me through re-installing my system, without shaming me, and he even made an appointment for me at a local store to have the battery compartment screw fixed and the loose 'C' key re-attached. The best part? (Apart from my brandnew computer customer service agent fantasy?) It was quick, easy, it worked, and now I know what I'm doing!

So all I need is a 1-800 number for my kids. I can't help it, I'm always second-guessing myself; When is a reasonable bed-time for a 12-year-old? Where's the line between age-appropriate separation and unacceptable rudeness? How do I encourage good study habits? What do I say to an over-extended over-tired 15-year-old who moves understandably slowly in the morning? (Apparently, "Time to get up, you're going to be late" isn't correct, given the crabby reaction I got today!) I want to call some nice, understanding, handsome-sounding customer service agent who will walk me through all my conflicts, make me feel competent, and set up all the appointments I need (tutoring/therapy/trying to find pants to fit a short 12-year-old who won't wear jeans, and a lanky 15-year-old whose pants size is 30/34 except no one on the planet makes those!)

Until someone comes up with that hotline, I guess I'll muddle through like I usually do, call my girlfriends for advice and reassurance, and remind myself that our parents survived without internet, parenting books, microwaves, ziploc bags, or spanx . . . it could be worse!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Celebrities ARE just like us! (Yeah right.)

Breaking news: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes just spend several hundred dollars at FAO Schwartz, buying toys for a children's charity (and apparently they spent several thousand dollars and p.r. releases about their generosity). Okay, folks, can we declare a moratorium on gushing over celebrities' so-called generosity? Compared to their income, that shopping spree represents a tiny percentage - about the equivalent of people in my tax bracket giving $1 to the high school food drive. Plus the store was closed so they could shop in private, without the hideous inconveniences of waiting in line, dealing with other shoppers, and all the other privations that would have dampened their holiday spirit.

I don't mean to disparage celebrities who use their fame for good causes, but face it, what they do isn't that hard. For example, Anne Hathaway offered herself as a 'date' to the highest bidder, to raise money for a crisis center for LGBT youth. Her hard work involved going out for drinks with three admiring fans who spent $12,000 for the privilege - sure, I admire her for helping raise awareness, etc., etc., but it doesn't sound nearly as stressful or laborious as stuffing Thursday envelopes at school, or standing out in front of Safeway in the cold trying to collect canned food. So where is the People Magazine profile of all of us and our charitable efforts?

If we want something real newsworthy, how about a celebrity who cleans his own toilet or does her own yardwork? (On a regular basis, not just for the photo op under "Celebrities are just like us!")

Friday, December 5, 2008

Late Bloomers

Tomorrow I hit a major milestone birthday, and you won't be hearing about it on the news ('movie star turns 33'). That's mostly because I'm an obscure suburban mom who occasionally writes and performs comedy, and whose albums sell by the dozens if I'm lucky; but I prefer to think of myself as a late bloomer, someone who won't achieve noted success until later in life. (And my milestone is the big 5-0, so I'm already 'later in life'!) I've always found it odd that we expect people to achieve creative success early in life - frankly, I'd much rather read, watch, or listen to someone with the broader perspective of age than take advice from some young snip. (I remember a few years ago, the singer Jewel published an autobiography at about age 25 - I know I was an idiot at 25, and I didn't want to read about anyone else at that age!)

In most professions, one's ability is only enhanced by age, not to mention having more experiences to draw on. (The exceptions being supermodel and professional athlete.) So here are a few examples that at least make me feel better about my late-bloomer-to-be status:

Rodney Dangerfield didn't start doing comedy professionally til he was 42.
KT Oslin was 47 when she released her first album.
Zelda Rubenstein (the medium from 'Poltergeist') didn't have a major movie role til she was 49.
The Marquis De Sade wrote his first book at 51.
Poet Wallace Stevens was an insurance salesmen until he began publishing his poetry in his 50s.
Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe at 58 (and back then, 58 was OLD!)
Alfred Hitchcock made his best films (including Rear Window, Psycho, and North By North West) between 54 and 61.
The paintings Paul Cezanne made in his 60s are 15 times more valuable than those he made in his 20s and 30s.
Maya Angelou was in her 60s when her books and poetry became popular (and she appeared on Sesame Street).
Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first "Little House" books in her 60s.
Colonel Sanders began Kentucky Fried Chicken in his 60s.
Grandma Moses was in her 70s before she began painting.

Colonel Sanders and Grandma Moses are the exception - most of these artists, like Hitchcock, Cezanne and Angelou, began their creative efforts early, but their work continued to improve as they aged, like fine wine. So that's me - a mature cabernet, rather than a beaujolais nouveau-esque child prodigy. Besides, many early successes, like Mozart, also died young. In fact, when Mozart was my age, he'd been dead for 15 years. Actually, I'm not sure if that makes me feel better, but I know I'll use my father's line, when people ask if I mind turning 50 - "Not when I consider the alternative!"

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Age of Aquarium

Last night, Uncle Andy & Uncle Bob came over with the boys' chanukah gift, a complete fresh-water aquarium with all the paraphernalia (filter, air pump, heater, siphon, and 2 fish, one of whom looks pregnant). The whole point was for Ben & David to take on this responsibility, so I forced myself to stay in the kitchen cooking dinner while the boys got a tutorial in how to care for the fish and the equipment - and now I have no idea how to do any of it, which was the point. I wasn't going to go through another round of "Oh, mommy, please can I have a hamster/rat/lizard/bunny?, I'll do everything, I promise."

Andy is my dearest friend from college, and when I first moved to San Francisco and reconnected with him, we became so close that we discussed the possibility of getting married; we were both pianists, we liked vintage music, we'd both given up on meeting the right guy. I mentioned the possible marriage to my mother, whose immediate reaction was, "Oh, but honey, you know there's a problem. . . . . he's not Jewish!" When I pointed out that being gay might be a larger impediment, she stammered something about 'everything is negotiable.' However, things worked out for the best, and we're both happily married to the men of our dreams (it just took me one extra try). And naturally, when we asked Andy & Bob to be the boys' godparents, they each wanted to know which one got to be the fairy godmother.

Looking at the hypnotic bubbles and undulations in our new aquarium - I think they're both a bit of a fairy godmother, giving us all so many wonderful new experiences, from watching the miracle of undersea life to the even bigger miracle of having a pet that I don't have to take care of! (And yes, I know I ended that sentence with a preposition, but watching the fish has made me too mellow to care . . . . )

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A mother's tears

Kids make mothers cry in a huge variety of situations - which I tried to remember last night as I left the dinner table in tears (a combination of sleep deprivation, hormonal wackiness, and a rude comment by my Jekyll-and-Hyde-esque 12-year-old). I've cried at sappy Hallmark commercials with cute kids saying goodbye to Gramma, at homemade mothers' day gifts, at aggravating arguments, and at unexpected sweet comments. I've cried from exhaustion, joy, and pain (3 bouts of mastitis with each kid, an excruciating milk duct infection whose treatment is - even more nursing. Ouch! And I've cried for my kids, feeling their pain when they get snubbed, or hurt, or treated unfairly by the lousy director who doesn't see their incredible potential just because they had a lousy audition . . . . (just kidding on that one).

I've been a confirmed weeper since childhood, and I firmly believe that by releasing all those stress hormones, my tears are buying me longevity and improved health - and even if that's not true, what the hell, who doesn't love the release of a good cry? It is a bit embarrassing when I can't stop, or when they start in public for odd reasons (weeping at a performance of Guys and Dolls because my kid executed a great double pirouette, even though 'Luck Be A Lady Tonight' doesn't usually elicit tears from the audience!).

My kids have gotten used to my crying, although it took a bit. A few years ago, when I was newly remarried, I came into our bedroom to find Scott (a.k.a Husband 2.0) in our bed with Ben, both reading and cuddled together so sweetly, I burst into tears. Ben was very concerned that he'd done something wrong, but I explained, "No, THIS time Mommy's crying because I'm so happy!" The message must have gotten through, because a few nights later, as I headed into our room, I could hear Ben directing Scott, "No, put your arm here, my head here, and let's make Mom cry again!"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What is funny?

Defining humor has been on my mind quite a bit these days for a variety of reasons. As a comic, I'm always looking for ways to turn my daily frustrations into good material, and as a blogger, I want to be as entertaining as possible for those three or four people who might actually read my posts. Then I've got two sons who have a very different view of humor than I do (which tends toward inappropriate and offensive episodes of Family Guy). Plus I'm starting to teach workshops to professional speakers on how to use humor - and as I've been researching the subject, trying to pin down 'what's funny' gets more and more elusive.

There are books and websites galore out there, analyzing humor's history and components (irony, slapstick, parody, incongruous juxtaposition). The more analysis I read, the more I agree with E.B.White, who said "Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. No one wants to watch and eventually the frog dies." So instead of reading dry academic experts, I decided to see what made me laugh - and that's where YouTube is great. Sure, there are thousands of really inane videos of people burping or putting strange things in blenders, but there is a huge trove of old footage, everything from classic standup comedies to old sitcoms and TV variety shows. I spent an absolutely delightful half hour watching everything from Ernie Kovacs (weird, funny show from the 50s) to Carol Burnett Show out-takes, and I don't know if I gained any insight into how to teach humor, but I laughed until I cried, and therefore (according to all that dry academic stuff) I reduced my blood pressure, released toxic stress hormones, and lowered my neuroendocrine levels. (Or at least I didn't yell at my kids for a few hours!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


With all technical innovations (telephones, internet, lycra) there are bound to be a few problems that crop up (robocalls, spam, the roll of cellulite that pops out of my Spanx). We're used to unsolicited marketing emails and chain letters cluttering up our inboxes, but lately I've been getting a new type of more disturbing spam - gloomy economic news. You've probably seen emails like . . . . "WARNING - Use Your Gift Cards Now Before Home Depot, Target and Disney File for Bankruptcy!", or "REBATES CANCELLED - What can you do?," "PLEASE FORWARD - Your Savings Bonds are Nearly Worthless!," and "TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW - Banks are going under and B of A Has no Money!" What's next, "Fwd/Fwd/Fwd/The Sky Is Falling?"

I know we're in a recession, but come on folks, isn't this the 'fear itself' about which FDR once warned? Being prudent makes sense, and no one ever NEEDS a Birkin Bag or $500 stilettos. But panicking just makes people lose sleep and spend more on antacids. And I guess it's hard for me to take these dire emails seriously - they sound less like reasonable financial advice and more like those tabloid-esque claims; "Lose 100 lbs In A Week With Secret Fruit Extract", "Poisoned Apples Found at Most Major Supermarkets!" or "Obama's Muslim Poodle Exploded in Microwave!" ( is a great 'debunking' site for these types of urban legends.)

So stop forwarding those apocalyptic warnings; let's all take a deep breath, and stick to chit chat and funny photos of cats, plus maybe an occasional money-saving recipe or cheesy pun. I want my spam folder to go back to the good old days, with Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe scandals, genital enlargement pills, and 'Make Money On EBay with No Products, No Skills and No Time!' Things are bound to improve; our governmental leaders know what they're doing . . . . or if they don't, you can always respond to a great business opportunity, because 'Mr. Sunununu Sincerely Requests Your Gracious Help Needed for Nigerian Bank Account'.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hormone Hell At My House

I've always been a fairly emotional person, the type who enjoys both a deep belly laugh and a good cry at a movie. But as I approach middle age (kicking & screaming), I've noticed that my ups & downs have been more extreme. Being put on hold by customer service can get my blood boiling, landing a gig makes me want to whoop & holler, a rude remark by one of my kids plunges me into despair that I'm a horrid mother. And at 12 and 15, the boys are in their own hormonal maelstroms, so our house is a tempest of emotional outbursts. (I asked my mother how she handled us during her own perimenopause, and she oh-so-helpfully pointed out that when she was my age, I'd been out of college for several years, my brother was writing his doctoral dissertation, and my sister was on her first divorce. Thanks, mom.)

I guess the one advantage of this period of upheaval is that I'm truly looking forward to full menopause. (I want to be like Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give; when Jack Nicholson's lothario character is ripping off her clothes and pauses to ask what she uses for birth control, she answers, "Menopause", and they get back to business.) And I'm trying to find the humor in it - I decided to add a bit to my comedy show, where I rapidly go through all the various mood swings of a typical day. (When I told my husband about the idea, he said, "Can I write it?")

CONTEST RESULTS - We have our first winner (for submitting an embarrassing story) from "Losing It" who had a whopper of a mom moment in her car . . .
" My daughter was screaming her head off, like only 2 year olds can, so while stopped, I decided to find her sippy cup for her. Unfortunately, it had rolled down by the sliding door and I couldn't reach it. I very quickly ran around to the sliding door...and tried to open it. Much to my dismay, I found that door LOCKED, as was every other door to the vehicle, because I had inadvertently hit the lock button with my elbow while standing there searching for the sippy cup. I ran to a nearby house and asked a lady to call 911. She did, they sent out a sheriff's deputy who called a locksmith. I just shook my head at the deputy and said, "Don't even ask." He didn't."

Losing It wins a free CD - enter your embarrassing mom moments for the next week's giveaway!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sarah's ba-a-a-ack

The election is over, I celebrated sharing the historic moment with my kids, and shed a quiet tear because my days of fun & fame, imitating Sarah Palin, were through. Or were they? This morning, as I squeezed in a brief workout in front of the Today Show, there she was, in one of several exclusive interviews, deftly handling such hardball questions as "Did you feel bad when people said mean things about you?" Honestly, I thought Matt Lauer was a bit tougher!, but even he raved about how open and candid she was, not to mention so down to earth that she actually cooked dinner for her family.

Yes, I'm skeptical about some of the stories coming out recently from disgruntled McCain staffers (I don't really think Trig was Elvis's love child, but geez, her interview performances do make me wonder if she really thought Africa was a country, not a continent) - but what is indisputable is her absolute, pure belief in herself as infallible, and that's scary. At least in interviews, Palin hass no regrets; she believes she made no mistakes, and states that they would've won except for that darned economy, you betcha, and that blasted mainstream media which deceived voters into believing that McCain was at all like Bush (notwithstanding McCain's voting record).

Frankly, I envy her sense of self-confidence. I second-guess myself when I tell my kids to do homework or when I'm trying to decide how irate to be on the phone with the cable company, and I feel terrible when I forget someone's name or forget to pick up dog food. I can't imagine how I'd feel if there were thousands of youTube clips of me parading my ignorance and inability to form a complete sentence! So maybe I can learn from Palin's blithe conviction that she's always right, and act like I have a bit more faith in my infallibility.

My inner intellectual/liberal/leftist-socialist/feminist is appalled that she represents women on the national political scene, but at least my inner comic is thrilled that she's still out there providing me (and every other political humorist) with fresh material. (I've already learned to turn issues with my husband & kids into comedy fodder!)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Embarrassing stories contest (win free stuff!)

I still don't quite understand how the internet works, to be honest; I started this blog as a way of venting and trying to keep finding humor in my insane life. However, there are zillions of bloggers and networkers out there, and one blogging network invited me to participate in this cool holiday gift giveaway program. So you can enter my contest (see below) AND go to their site to see what other bloggers are giving away as prizes. (The site founder does cool jewelry in New York - so you can go there and pretend you're a Sex In The City type, running around Manhattan in uncomfortable-and-expensive-but-really-cute shoes, wearing trendy fun jewelry!) SO - if you want to win free stuff from other sites, check out -
And if you want to win a free CD from me, here's the contest - submit your most embarrassing mommy moment as a comment (or if the site won't let you comment, you can do it through my website, Starting Nov. 15th, I'll pick one embarrassing story per week and send you a copy of "Return of Psycho Super Mom" to give as a gift or to keep for yourself.
Here are a few of my own (and I'll continue trying to uncover the ones I've repressed) . . .
- I went to a networking meeting when my youngest son was less than a year old, so with a toddler and a baby I was pretty frazzled. I met someone I wanted to stay in touch with, so I reached into my pocket for a business card and pulled out . . . a pacifier. (Fortunately, as a humorist, I was able to say, "Well, these events ARE kind of stressful . . ."
- When my older son was a preschooler, he was incredibly friendly; we were leaving a coffeeshop, where he'd bonded with the waitress, so as I was paying, he announced he wanted to say 'bye bye', which I thought was adorable, until I turned around and realized he wasn't just saying good bye to the waitress, he was trying to hug every single customer!
- I remarried 4 years ago and both my boys were in the ceremony. I wasn't going to see my husband-to-be before we started, so I handed my younger son, Ben, a pile of Kleenex, asking him to give them to Scott to hold for me. Ben ran around for awhile first, so by the time he got to Scott, he just said, "Here', and handed him a wadded up mess of Kleenex, which Scott assumed was garbage and threw out. I didn't know this; we got to the part in the ceremony where Scott & my boys exchanged vows, and I started not just tearing up but weeping, and I whispered to Scott, "I need the kleenex!", and Scott gave me a blank stare, so there I was, in front of our nearest & dearest, with a nose so runny I was afraid I'd have to blow it on our huppa (wedding canopy), until a fast-thinking friend ran up with some extra tissues. By that time, I wasn't dabbing at my picturesque tears, I had to do a loud nose-blow . . .

Okay, I've bared my soul, now it's your turn!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The $150,000 wardrobe makeover

Some women fantasize about a hot night with Patrick Dempsey, some women's fantasies involve pool boys or german shepherds, but give me a $150,000 shopping spree any day! In case you're from another planet, that was the amount spent by the GOP on Sarah Palin's wardrobe makeover. (In case that sounds extravagant, remember, it did include accessories as well as a couple of outfits for her family members.) (Which still sounds extravagant to someone like me, whose idea of a splurge is buying something at Old Navy that wasn't on sale . . . ) People on both sides of the political spectrum can argue about 'shopping-gate' til they're blue (or red, depending on party affiliation) - everyone does it, it's a travesty, she needed clothes for different climates, it sends a bad message in a recession, they're donating all the clothes to charity, it's hypocritical to claim to be a WalMart hockey mom when you're wearing Valentino and Manolo Blahniks - but for me the real issue is envy. I would love someone to take me to any store and spend $150,000 on me (hell, I'd be happy with $150!)

The scale of this spree does raise the idea of diminishing returns. It's like wine - I can taste the difference between a bottle of two buck chuck and a $10 bottle, but once you start going from $10 to $100 a bottle, I can't really tell much difference. Likewise, my similarly uneducated fashion palate can tell the difference between a $10 Jaclyn-Smith-For-KMart dress and a $100 dress from Nordstrom, but I don't see a lot of difference between the Nordstrom outfit and the designer one, except that the designer outfits are often weirder-looking. Moms like me are expert bargain hunters out of necessity; the GOP could have hired me or my friends to do the wardrobe makeover for considerably less money and still have Palin looking camera ready. (I just spent $150 at Target and got myself a nice looking sweater set, a purse, 4 pairs of pants for my younger son, 2 dress shirts for my older son, a sweatshirt for my husband, and some groceries!)

I have plenty of other reasons to be incensed about Palin beyond the superficial clothing issue, but at least her shopping spree has given me a great new fantasy. Now, when my husband and I are trying to squeeze in a quickie before the kids get up in the morning and I have 2 minutes to get myself in the mood or lose the opportunity, I'll just think about a GOP strategist taking me to Neiman Marcus, and I'm set!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Life Balance (yeah right!)

I'm on temporary furlough from suburban mom hell - just spent an hour scrubbing the pot I used to assemble tonight's tuna noodle casserole and trying to get the kitchen a bit less disgusting, juggling phone calls, and trying to keep two boys from killing each other ("Mom, he's making noise and I can't concentrate on my world history report!" "But I have to practice my drum solo!" "Moron!" "Butthead!" "I'm telling!") As I was removing the skin on my hands with the Brillo pad, I was reminded of a singer friend of mine (with no kids) who travels frequently, and who often bemoans the lack of balance in her work-centered life. God, I'd love to have that problem!

Actually, being a mom does give you automatic balance of a sort: No matter how much work I have to do, kids require regular meals, clean laundry, refereeing, groceries, reassurance, love (without public physical affection past the age of 9), permission slips signed, checks written (way too frequently), and on and on . . . Frankly, there are times I'd love to get too absorbed by my work, but hell, there are times I'd love to be a 5'11" supermodel dating George Clooney. But I also appreciate the variety of demands on my time, and in a perverse way I enjoy my insane, multitasking life. I feel a twinge of pity for my child-free friends - what do they find to do all day?

I recently talked to an empty-nester I know, who mentioned being bored - it's the first time I'd heard that word used by anyone over the age of 15, and it was like reading a National Geographic article about the traditions of a strange aboriginal culture. Any mom who would describe herself as bored should be sentenced to some serious punishment - like spending an hour at my house scrubbing tuna casserole dishes and refereeing between my kids!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Now everyone's broke - yippee!

In the midst of all this financial crisis doom & gloom, I feel strangely cheerful and a bit like the title character Annie, who advises the residents of Hooverville to look on the bright side - “So you don’t have any money? You don’t have to pay any income tax!” It’s actually fun to realize how much better off I am than those suffering hedge fund managers and investment bankers who have lost millions and had to cancel orders for private planes.
I was broke BEFORE the economic crisis, so it didn’t really affect me, and I don’t have any investments to lose value; frankly, the only change I’ve noticed lately is that gas is under $4 a gallon again, which makes me less nauseous every time I have to fill up my minivan (which I couldn’t afford to replace with a Prius even before the market fell).
Then there are the suddenly budget-conscious parents dealing with teens whining, “What do you mean, we can’t afford to buy eight new outfits at Abercrombie?” We’ve never been able to shop anywhere but Target or Old Navy, so my sons aren’t experiencing any sense of loss and are considerably happier than their more well-off classmates. (Plus my boys think wearing designer label logos is ridiculous - why should they pay to be human billboards?)
Marriages are collapsing as couples deal with financial stress for the first time. Fortunately, my husband & I were broke when we got married, so we already knew how to cope with budget worries and spending limits. (I’m a songwriter, he’s a singer studying to be a rehab counselor, so as you can see we married each other for our money. . . . )
Homeowners are panicking as their mortgages balloon, and housing prices fall below the ridiculously inflated prices to only somewhat inflated prices. For those of us who are renters, it just means our landlords can’t afford to sell the house, so we have a little more peace of mind.
Of course, I’m sure the crisis will affect me someday, perhaps in higher food costs or reduced freelance opportunities. But the biggest negative result I’ve noticed is that suddenly there are all these hedge fund managers in designer clothes wandering around Target . . .

Let gay couples have a chance for lousy marriages too!

California is often called the ‘granola state’ (the land of flakes and nuts), but we’re also ahead of the game on many social issues, from motion pictures to medicinal marijuana use to allowing right turns on red lights. That’s why I’m so dismayed that we have a proposition on the ballot to eliminate gay marriage - honestly, aren’t we a bit more progressive than Massachusetts? Or Canada?
I frankly don’t understand how allowing Andy & Bob to stay married hurts my heterosexual marriage or makes it less sacred. Frankly, the issue of gay marriage is responsible for my being married in the first place - I was a single mom with a commitment-phobic boyfriend, who loved giving me the ‘what difference does a piece of paper make’ speech. I pointed out how much our many gay friends had spent to get a fraction of the legal protections we could get for a single trip to City Hall, and he willingly took on marriage (and two stepsons!)
As for the sanctity of the marital relationship, male/female couples have done more than enough to destroy it (in the Spears family alone!) My remaining faith in traditional marriage was obliterated once Madonna & Guy Ritchie announced their divorce - I really thought they’d last (at least it was longer than her marriage to Sean Penn, but that's not saying much). Our divorce rate is quite high, and one look at the tabloids is enough to wonder if gay couples can do a bit better . . .
If marriage really is just about procreation, I guess that means that couples not planning on having kids (or too old to procreate) shouldn’t be allowed to marry either - which would’ve cut me out. (I was 45 when I remarried, and as much as I admire older moms, there’s no WAY I was going back to diapers until I need them myself!)
And with the current fiscal crisis, gay marriage would provide the economic stimulus we need - what a boon for wedding venues, florists, musicians, religious facilities, caterers, gift registries, and, down the road, divorce lawyers! California’s economy is already in the dumps - invalidating gay marriage would hurt tourism (as long as the rest of the country lags behind us).
Finally, do we really want California to follow the rest of the country? Come on, people, we’re better than that. No offense to the other 49 states, but face it, we've led the way on every issue from drive-through banking to right turn on red. We have to defend our reputation as the real mavericks!

Friday, October 10, 2008

New To YouTube

It's not hard for me to feel behind-the-times, what with two sons (12 and 15), a computer I don't understand, and technological innovations coming at us at record speeds. But nothing has confused me more than internet-based social networking, sites like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. On top of not really understanding how to use them, I find myself wondering how people have time to do anything else, they seem to be spending so much of their lives creating, maintaining, and updating their pages and commenting on everyone else's. So their updates tend to be self-referential - you can look on a Facebook page and learn "I'm currently updating my Facebook page". I'd rather sleep . . . .

Every now and then, one of my boys will show me what he thinks is a hysterical YouTube video (which usually involves inappropriate humor or some random guy dancing like an idiot). I don't usually get the jokes, but I am bewildered, and somewhat weirdly impressed, by the effort that goes into these works of - not creativity, but at least self-expression. I never thought I'd join the throng, but a combination of events, what my woo-woo friends call synchronicity, got me on board. 1) With my hair up and my glasses on, people keep telling me I look like a certain formerly-anonymous-yet-suddenly-universally-famous-Alaskan-governor. 2) Watching said governor's performance in the VP debate had me fuming, and itching to do something. 3) My 12-year-old came home from helping a neighbor clean out a garage,having been rewarded with the head from an old life-sized moose costume. When weird events like these coincide, there is no alternative but to write, film and post a youTube song parody about Sarah Palin. So I did.

Now I've used YouTube before, in an attempt at self-promotion, posting demo videos and clips from my live shows. And it's been helpful, in that I can email potential clients a link to the clips, rather than having to send DVD demos at eight bucks a pop plus postage. But those videos couldn't compete with 'weird guy dancing' or 'frat boys throwing up', so I was getting used to, oh, 15-30 hits for each. However, the Palin video must have hit a nerve, because as of this moment (6:30 p.m., PST, Friday) I'm up to 1,117 hits, and it just keeps spreading. Total strangers are emailing me saying they liked it, and suggesting places to post it.

This may all blow over soon, or it might lead to being discovered somehow and becoming an overnight success after 28 years, who knows. But in the meantime, it's fun to play with (I learned you can post text on videos, in cartoon-like balloons!), and now I'm giving those crazy dancing frat boys a run for their money. If nothing else, I finally found something to do with the stupid moosehead - and I'm much less angry about Palin now that I'm reaping some rewards and having so much fun!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Benefits of Aging

I'm heading rapidly toward the big 5-0, and while everyone says 'age is just a state of mind', there are unpleasant physical ramifications, too!, from creaky knees to a sagging jaw line. I've discovered that when I smile, it lifts my cheeks enough to prevent me from looking like a jowly Marlon Brando (which explains why I look so weirdly cheerful all the time!) - but I've also decided it's time to try to find the positive aspects of aging.

1) You're more comfortable in your skin - granted, because said skin is considerably looser, but oh well, looser is more comfortable!
2) You start tuning out those judgmental voices in your head, what therapists call 'negative self-talk' or 'inner critic', or what my friend Danielle calls 'Radio K-FUC', or what I call my most recent phone call from my mother.
3) You care less about what other people think. (One day at school pick-up, I was wearing my typical loud bright colors, talking to a group of 4 women all of whom were in dark, dull tops, khaki pants and flipflops. One of them sniped, "Gee, Lauren, I need sunglasses to look at you today", and without thinking I quipped, "Well, I guess I didn't get the wardrobe memo." And it felt good!)
4) You realize that growing older beats the alternative.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Yee Haw - County Fairs in the suburbs?

Last month, I achieved a career milestone; I got invited to perform at the San Mateo County Fair. It was pretty exciting, even though I wasn't on the headliner stage, which was reserved for the really big name acts - like Billy Ray Cyrus and The Village People. But it was thrilling to see myself listed in the ads (the small print section, "Plaza Stage Acts, featuring The Lucho Libre Masked Mud Wrestlers, Harold the Hip Hypnotist, and Others"; yep, that was me, "Others"!)
Then I got my confirmation letter, directing me to report to the stage immediately adjacent to the pig races. Hmmm . . . . I didn't realize anyone here in the 'burbs raced pigs. (Frankly, the closest any of us come to agriculture is going to Half Moon Bay to pick out halloween pumpkins, so the whole idea of a suburban county fair seemed sort of crazy to begin with.) But pig races are even popular here - When I got to the fair, I saw that my stage and the racetrack shared a set of bleachers, which were packed for the race before my set. (It looked like a close one between "Natalie Porkman" and "Kevin Bacon", but the surprise winner by a nose - by a snout? - was "Lindsay Loham".) Whatever, the crowd was all fired up, but then right before I went on, they announced that Lindsay Loham's mother was over in the livestock tent giving birth, so naturally the bleachers emptied.

I can't compete with a baby pig - I ended up doing my set for my family, a couple of truly saintly friends, the hypnotist's dad (who got the times wrong but didn't want to hurt my feelings), and a mom with a large brood of kids. I figured, well, she's a fan and a mom and obviously needs the entertainment, but apparently, no, she just needed a place for them all to sit down while she nursed her youngest. Very openly. In fact, my two teenage sons couldn't tell you a thing about my set . . . or in their words, that's not the set they were watching. But in fact they want to go back to the county fair every year, they found it so educational!, and meanwhile, if I ever get a swelled head, just direct me to the bleachers by the pig races . . . .

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Secret is 'out'

I hate to admit it, but every now and then I have a serious case of schadenfreude (taking pleasure in others' misfortunes), but only in the sense of delighting when someone or something overblown gets taken down a peg. (Like seeing that ostensibly perfect mom, the immaculately coiffed one whose whole-grain fed kids behave so perfectly, losing it and screaming at her kids in McDonalds'.) So imagine my delight when I read that the various co-creators of The Secret are at each others' throats in court!

I don't claim that positive thinking has no value, but I was always struck by the hypocrisy of Rhonda Byrne, The Secret's author, who claimed that she wasn't interested in profit, she just wanted to get the effectiveness of positive thinking out to the world. If it was really so effective, couldn't she just have visualized us all getting it, and saved everyone the $19.95 (or $29.95 for the DVD)? However, apparently she has now formed a production company, which is suing the web developer for infringing on their proprietary rights, and meanwhile the DVD producer with whom she developed the original concept is suing her for not making good on their original agreement to split the profits. It's all a bunch of complicated legal tussling over profit-sharing, copyright ownership, and employment versus independent contracting - basically fighting over the enormous income stream that has been generated by a philosophy that stresses gratitude, integrity, and generosity.

I was always a bit skeptical of anyone insisting that I just had to visualize a BMW in my driveway to manifest it - I was more interested in manifesting a clean family room and a tank of gas for less than $60. But now my skepticism has been vindicated by such delicious evidence of the underlying hypocrisy. Although who knows - maybe the lawsuits prove The Secret after all, and a bunch of lawyers visualized - then manifested - the most lucrative lawsuit they could imagine!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Family Movie Night

Life with boys is not what I expected when I decided to become a mom - sure, I knew I couldn't choose my kids' gender, but I was convinced I could raise my kids in a neutral way AND fulfill my maternal fantasies. So I couldn't frenchbraid their hair, but I could read them the Little House books - wrong, they preferred Captain Underpants. I bought them dolls and stuffed animals - they used the toys as guns. I'm gradually learning it's hard-wired, no matter how hard I try.
And it's not like ours is a macho, athletic household. My kids don't know anything about sports - we won box seats to a Giants' game, and they were more interested in the cotton-candy vendor than the action. (Other than Ben noticing a typical Barry Bonds move, not really hustling to run for a potential single, and very loudly he piped up, "That guy there isn't very good!") Ben takes drum lessons, David does theater and takes dance class, but they still have a boys' sense of humor, no matter how hard I try to be a civilizing influence. For example, David has invented a game where he tacks on an inappropriate phrase to the end of the title of songs from musicals. (His current favorite is adding " . . . in my pants" to classic musicals like Damn Yankees, so you get "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets . . . in my pants", and so on.) (Okay, I shouldn't laugh, but I've got to give him credit for an originality!)
Our recent family movie night was a great illustration of life in a boy-dominated household. We couldn’t agree which t.v. movie to watch, because I wanted Steel Magnolias (southern women bonding in the beauty parlor with great sarcastic oneliners!), but the boys preferred Alien Resurrection (the REALLY violent one in the series, where a cloned Sigourney Weaver gives birth to the ultimate monster child, and saves the world with Winona Ryder as an android). We ended up compromising by flipping back & forth between the two, which produced a hybrid I called "Magnolia Resurrection" -
"Ripley? You’re alive? I guess this means I’ll have to kill you."
"If you can’t say anything nice about anyone, come sit next to me!"
"Keep away from me, you disgusting slimy alien ."
"Ewww, that woman needs some serious lycra on those thighs . . . . "
"What are we gonna do? The aliens are escaping!"
"That boy is so confused he don’t know whether to scratch his watch or wind his butt!"

I decided to put the movie hybrid idea into my comedy show, but when I told the boys they immediately corrected me and said, "No, mom, what would be really funny is a movie called 'Alien Erection'. . . .". (I'll leave the ensuring gestures and sound effects to your imagination.) Meanwhile, I'm going to go re-read Little Women and see if the neighbor's daughter will let me do her hair . . . .

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hair today, gone tomorrow?

The other day I was lying with my legs hiked up, chatting with the charming woman who was ripping out my excess pubic hair by the roots, and Jen was telling me a few of her stories as a facialist/waxer (she's thinking of writing a book titled Pimples And Pubes). Apparently I am in the minority, since most of her clients opt for full Brazilians (everything off but a small landing strip), and I was a bit taken aback by how far we've come in our willingness to discuss (and deal with) unwanted body hair.

I'm a nice Jewish girl, so I know from body hair - I had to start shaving my legs at 11, and soon after that the hair on my upper lip started looking undeniably mustache-like. Back then, it wasn't anything I admitted to anyone - I begged my mom to buy me some Jolene Creme Bleach, which I'd seen advertised in a magazine, and ever since then it's been an endless cycle of plucking, shaving, waxing, bleaching, regrowth and repeat. Which I figured would go on forever.

Which would be fine, except why is it that when you DO want hair to grow back, it won't? LIke on that eyebrow I overplucked in high school? Or that one thin patch along my part? Sometimes I want to ask my body hair, How do you KNOW, and why are you torturing me by disappearing where I want you and reappearing in the most embarrassing places? (As I age, I spend more time in front of a magnifying mirror frantically tweezing those weird witch-like strands coming out of my chin.)

At least I've got company in my body-hair-obsession. The boys are both in full-on puberty, which produces numerous discussions of the various physical changes. Recently Ben insisted that he had real pubic hair, and David, who is 14, claimed that Ben, at 11, was too young. Ben pulled down his pants to prove his point, so David pulled down HIS pants to prove he had more. Fortunately, Scott stepped in, saying, "Boys, why are you having such a ridiculous argument?" Then Scott dropped his own pants and announced, "THIS is real pubic hair!"

After an evening like that, I think I'll go back to Jen and have some more hair waxed off - it's more relaxing!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Scary Movies

Seemingly overnight, I've gone from having to hold my boys on my lap during the scary parts of Wizard of Oz, to hiding my eyes when we watch movies they love. I've always been easily frightened by movies - I like to think it's because of my artistic temperament and vivid imagination, but maybe I'm just a wimp. (Actually, as a kid, I used to be so terrified by the witch in Wizard of Oz that I pretended I was rooting for her, so I wouldn't fall apart when she looked like she was triumphing; of course, I only had to resort to this strategy during the once-a-year broadcast, which we watched on our old black & white TV. We didn't get a color television until I was too old to stay home for the movie, so the first time I saw it in color, it was during a finals-week movie night in college, and when Dorothy opened the door to the technicolor of Munchkinland, I was at first convinced I'd picked up a contact high.) (Trying to explain this story to kids who don't remember life before DVDs and on-demand movies is just about impossible - even with leaving out the 'contact high' angle!)

My boys have always loved movies with explosions and technical wizardry -evil characters don't frighten them at all, and they sneer at the limited special effects in movies from my era ("Geez, mom, that exploding planet in Star Wars Episode Four is so lame!"). The new Star Wars movies were a bit too graphic for my taste (although I was even more frightened by the terrible acting!), but I kept up with the boys until the Lord of the Rings trilogy came out - David got the full directors' cut set as a gift, and he was really upset that I wouldn't watch it with him. So we struck a deal - I would sit through the 2nd one (with the really gory battle scenes) and he had to watch the 'chick flick' of my choice ("Clueless", which he ended up thoroughly enjoying).

Well, last night, we came full circle - without consulting me, Husband 2.0 rented "I Am Legend" for a guys' movie night. I came home, watched about 2 minutes and fled - explosions or global panics are one thing, but I was out of there at the first sighting of a flesh-eating zombie. The boys teased me for leaving, but at bedtime, all of a sudden they were both suddenly freaked out by the realistic premise and afraid they'd have nightmares. I made up some scientific-sounding nonsense about variations in human DNA and cancer strains and the impossibility of a mutating virus spreading that quickly, and they both settled down - it felt vaguely reminiscent of checking for monsters under the bed and reassuring them that the witch wouldn't come to get them in their sleep.

And I'm picking the next night-time movie!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mom 3.0

Yesterday I met with someone I’ve hired to help me with web marketing. Obviously she knows more about this stuff than I do, that’s why I hired her, but I’m still amazed at all the terms and phrases she tossed off effortlessly that had me scratching my head. Apparently, we’ll start with SEO (Search Engine Optimization), then develop a template for an e-zine that will interface with my database as a way to strategically enhance my network; and eventually we’ll look at web-based affiliate marketing and potential links with e-commerce-indexed social networking sites, as well as the pros and cons of DKI (Dynamic Keyword Insertion) in PPC (pay-per-click). And we haven't even started exploring algorithmic search results, link farms (places that sell pork products?), and keyword stuffing (made from bread crumbs and sausage from the link farm, I imagine)
If you’re absolutely lost here, I’m so relieved! I don’t mind feeling like a technical luddite around teenage texting, because I understand the concept and I can do it, I just don’t feel like developing that much dexterity in my thumbs. But reading about the internet is already confusing enough. I like to view the web the same way I view flying in planes; my dad, a former Air Force Navigator, drew me diagrams of air currents and vectors, but in my gut I simply don’t believe a large metal object weighng several thousand tons, full of people and bad food, can leave the ground, so I just pretend I understand how it flies. I have no idea how the internet works, I just pretend I do so I can enjoy emailing, blogging, and googling (as well as all these new verbs!)
Now, apparently, we’re moving to Web 3.0. I think I get that Web 1.0 was just stuff on the internet, and Web 2.0 is more interactive, where you can respond to things, so how much more interactive is 3.0? I remember when I bought my first Mac computer, back when it had no hard drive and 512 K of memory – ah, the good old days! – and the big advantage of Macs was that they were ‘user friendly’. So if Web 3.0 is a dramatic improvement on user friendliness, what, is it going to ask us out? Make dinner? Get my kids to stop fighting?
Come to think of it, I can think of a bunch of great stuff Web 3.0 ought to do – but in the meantime, I have to study my terminology and learn the difference between DKI and DKNY. When my marketing guru mentioned Pay Per Clicks, I thought she was talking about paper clips – I guess I have a long way to go!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

How do moms call in sick?

It's been over 20 years since I held any kind of normal job with sick leave, and while I relish the flexibility and freedom of being a self-employed freelancer, there are definite disadvantages, many of which crop up when I'm sick. In particular - If I don't work, I don't get paid! Plus many of the things I do can't be cancelled or subbed out (a rehearsal with 25 people needing me to teach them music, or an early-morning choral program where I'd have to notify the kids' parents 2 days in advance). As I was sipping hot tea, blowing my nose and feeling sorry for myself, it occurred to me that all moms have the same problem - at least those of us without full-time nannies who will also take care of us!

Moms can't call in sick and have a temp worker drive the carpool, find the missing ballet shoes, or figure out something new to do with chicken for dinner. I hope that many of us have supportive spouses who will pitch in, occasionally helpful older kids, or a good pizzeria on speed-dial, but there are always times when only mom will do. In our house, that tends to be right before bedtime, when I'm already half-asleep, but David HAS to talk to me about something critical or Ben can't find something he was supposed to bring to school 3 days ago.

My girlfriend and I fantasize about having a backup clone of ourselves, a version of "Anne B. Davis as Alice" from The Brady Bunch, a briskly efficient, wry, uniformed gofer who will clean house, lovingly reprimand the kids, and compete with us as to who makes the best strawberry jam. And that dream is never more tantalizing than when I really wish someone else could declutter my family room, make Ben clean out the stray papers in his backpack and go pick up David after rehearsal tonight, naturally on a night my husband has to work late. Oh well - the best I can do is to 'call in sick' to myself and give myself permission to order takeout. while I watch "Real Housewives of Manhattan" and feel smugly superior by comparison!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My 15 minutes of fame

Last week I was a guest on "The View From The Bay", a local afternoon talk show which includes cooking tips, interviews with a movie star plugging his latest release, and hints on how to defuzz your old sweaters. I was on as a 'mom comic' promoting an upcoming one-woman show, and it was a wonderful taste of celebrity on a minor, mixed level. On the one hand, it was a real thrill to be asked; lots of my friends saw it (especially the ones I asked to watch!), and people who didn't even know me saw it and came to the performance - wow, TV exposure works! And it was really fun to be in 'the green room', where the producers offered me an array of snacks and water bottles, and to chat with talk show hosts who really are as personable as they appear on camera. On the other hand, the hair and makeup people were only there for the woman who was the 'After' in the makeover segment, so there I crouched trying to make myself look 10 lbs. thinner, while a crowd of experts ignored me. Plus it turned out the hosts & crew had a location shoot immediately afterwards - since I was the last guest, that meant that 10 seconds after I was done, the studio was completely empty until a production assistant remembered he'd forgotten to show me out.

But the weirdest part was realizing what that kind of exposure must be like for people who are out there every day, given the range of people we all deal with. I mean, huge celebrities probably have a coterie of attendants who follow them around, but there have got to be some B-listers who buy their own groceries and drive themselves to the mall. So there are salespeople, accountants, and aestheticians out there, seeing someone on TV and thinking, Hey, I just did his taxes! I just talked her into a brazilian bikini wax! I kept thinking, if my hairdresser sees this, she's going to yell at me, I know I didn't do it the way she does!

My 15 minutes may be over, or just starting - but it's fun to have kids in one of my classes say, Hey, I saw you on TV! You're famous!, or to email my mom a link to the website with clips, saying, Okay, NOW do you understand why I didn't go to law school?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Maternal Schizophrenia

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the combination of feelings I get for my kids. They drive me nuts AND I love them intensely. Over the past couple of weeks they both had bouts of flu, and nothing tugs at your maternal heartstrings like a wan, feverish 11-year-old looking up at you with big puppy eyes saying, “Mommy, I’m sorry I puked on the rug!” Or a 14-year-old with a horrible racking cough, worrying that he’s being babyish by asking you to sit with him and rub his back til the cough subsides. And nothing is more frustrating than having two siblings who are too sick to go to school, but healthy enough to be bored, to be cranky, and to pick fights with each other.

When I was a single mom and dating Scott (otherwise known as Husband 2.0), after a long spell of no overnight visitation, the kids finally started spending Wednesday nights with their dad. On the first weeknight, I was out of town on a gig and flew back just in time to plunge in and pick the kids up. I called 2.0 from the airport while I was waiting to board my flight, and ended up sobbing, saying, “My first weeknight off from kids, and I didn’t get a break, and I’m going right back into kidland!” The following Wednesday night, I had no gig, so I dropped the kids off and went over to Scott’s apartment, where I had a huge bout of maternal angst, worrying about how the kids were doing, how weird it was to be without them. Scott gave me a puzzled look – “Last week you were sobbing because you weren’t getting a break from your kids. This week you’re sobbing because you GET a break – which is it?” And as any mom can tell you – it’s both! They drive you crazy AND you love them intensely and I guess that’s what keeps us dealing with their fights, rubbing their backs, and cleaning up their puke.

On a less disgusting note – one night I came upstairs to find Ben, my 11-year-old, cuddled up with Scott in our bed, reading. The sight was so touching, I burst into tears, and then had to explain that I was crying because I was happy, a concept which made no sense to Ben. However, it apparently made an impression, because the next night, as I approached the bedroom, I heard Ben saying, “Quick, get over here, let’s make mom cry again!” (Like the scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen tries to recreate the escaped lobster hilarity with an unimpressed date – it just doesn’t work a second time!)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Red Hot Mama

It happened again today – I was in a room with several women “of a certain age” (too young for Medicare, too old to text proficiently) and one of them said, “Is it hot in here or is it just me?” Everyone started commiserating about her hot flashes, and I started wondering if we’re not overstating it a bit. I mean, I wake up in the middle of the night once in awhile feeling a bit clammy, but from what I’ve read, only a small percentage of women have debilitating symptoms – and yet to hear them talk, every single one of us over 35 is spending every moment of every day and night sweating uncontrollably. Apparently perimenopause (which didn’t even exist 20 years ago) lasts 15 years . . . ?

It reminds me of being a teenager when most of my friends had started their periods – they took pride in complaining about their hideous cramps, and I, as a late bloomer, felt totally left out of the club. I actually resorted to borrowing nickels once a month because, “You know”! (Okay, even if I weren’t discussing menopausal symptoms, I just dated myself – how long has it been since tampons cost a nickel?) Once I finally started, I realized that sure, cramps happened occasionally, but not nearly as often or as universally as the other girls claimed, in their zeal to fit in.

Or maybe it’s more like the first time I got high, my sophomore year of college (yeah, I was a late bloomer here too). I was so intent on figuring out exactly what I was feeling, I took notes and kept wondering (and writing), “Is this it? I don’t know if I just feel weird or if I’m really high, nahh, I don’t think anything is really happening, although gee, for some strange reason I’m really hungry and my mouth feels like it’s full of cotton.” Likewise, I keep wondering, Is this an actual hot flash?, when actually, it's just hot!

Maybe all of us are going through the same doubts – is this really it? – and figure, what the heck, it’s fun to commiserate and to be part of the gang. Besides, it’s even more fun to complain about hot flashes and to hear someone say, But you’re way too young for menopause. Meanwhile I can look forward to the real thing (and the end of cramps!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Boys and snails and puppy dog tails

I went to a meeting the other night, where the hostess had put out a lovely display of appetizers, assorted drinks, and plates which all actually matched. When one of the attendees complimented her on her lovely home, her response was to apologize that she hadn’t had time to clean the bathroom, because of some work deadlines and a new puppy. So naturally I had to go use the bathroom to see for myself – it was neater than a bathroom has ever dreamed of being in my house! (The tiny pawprint on the bathmat even looked artistic.) Several of the childless women at the meeting compared notes on their pets and agreed it was great practice for when they eventually had kids.

I kept myself from laughing out loud, but only with difficulty. I mean, you can train a dog to do all sorts of things for an occasional biscuit or pat on the head, but I have yet to come up with a bribe (or punishment) that will ensure my boys flush the toilet, much less put the seat down. Sure, puppies need training and company and supervision when they’re young, but they’re housebroken at 2 or 3 months – honey, it takes a BIT longer with a human. If your dog needs a bath, you give him one (or take him to the groomers), you don’t have to convince him that after a day including PE., ultimate frisbee, and walking home from the bus, he smells terrible. and needs to shower, and by the way, please remember to wash under his arm. Dogs don’t need help with homework, they don’t need rides to rehearsals or lessons or practice (or require 5 cross-referenced carpools), and they never say, “Eww, dog food again? I hate this brand!” (However, in fairness to my boys, they’ve never chewed up any of my shoes or burrowed in the kitchen garbage.)

So while I chuckle at dog owners who really think they're prepared for motherhood, I'm glad I have both boys and a dog, and there is nothing sweeter than cuddling with a sleepy boy on one side and an affectionate mutt terrier on the other side, even if none of my appetizer plates match and my downstairs bathroom is a science project.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

"Today I am a man"

Those are the cliche words from barmitzvah speeches - which David didn't actually say - and of course it seems ridiculous to regard a 13-year-old boy as a man, but at what point does he make that transition? With girls it's easy to point to the day she starts her period, but boys don't have any milestone that specific. Is it his first shave? his first nocturnal emission? his first paycheck? For us, the turning point may be the fact that over the past 2 months, David has become taller than I am, seemingly overnight. For a couple of weeks we were the same height, and suddenly, I'm wearing 2 inch heels and looking up at him. I realize that many mothers go through this when their sons are 12 or even younger, but it still feels like a major transition. And naturally I've got 2 boys on opposite ends of the spectrum - David is a 'late bloomer', and Ben had underarm hair (and the accompanying body odor) when he was 9.

This is yet another instance where my mom can claim Mother Nature is having her revenge on me (just like when David was a preschooler and turned out to be as picky an eater as I'd been). She dealt with 2 daughters at dramatically different developmental stages - I'm the oldest and didn't need a bra til I was 17, whereas my sister, 3 years younger, was a C cup in 7th grade. I worried for years that I'd never have a period and I'd be barren forever; two months after I finally started (at 15), my sister had her first period and promptly announced she wanted a hysterectomy.

Dad had read an article encouraging fathers to treat the onset of menses as a special occasion, so he announced he'd take us each out for a fancy brunch after we'd 'become a woman'. (Of course, this was when I was 9 - it was a LONG wait!, but worth it.) Nancy, on the other hand, decided it was disgusting (she had decided she couldn't leave the house, because everyone would "know"), so she informed Dad that brunch would have to wait until menopause (which is, naturally, sneaking up on her faster than it is on me, according to our recent comparison of hot flashes.)

I love the idea of celebrating my boys' development, but I still haven't figured out a logical occasion. David's hebrew teacher encouraged us to commemorate the bar mitzvah the way his mother had: "Son, in the eyes of Jewish law, you are now an adult. Here's how to do your laundry" - but that's not quite it. I guess I'll wait til they get driver's licenses and can drive me to brunch?, but in the meantime, I'll enjoy the fact that David actually does his laundry - occasionally - and I'll keep shopping for higher heels!

Friday, January 4, 2008

OMG: We srvivd b4 txtng, FYI!

Has texting gone a bit haywire? Teens don’t talk on the phone, they don’t even email, they just send cryptic abbreviations that have english teachers worrying about the future of accurate spelling. I feel like the old curmudgeon, complaining that kids today don’t know how to parse a sentence or churn their own butter, and reminiscing about the good old days of fountain pens that leaked and cars without power steering.

I’m all for keeping up with technology – I love email for transacting business or keeping up with friends whose schedules don’t jive with mine, and an iPod is much more convenient than those old bulky walk-mans (not to mention 8-track tapes). However, this texting craze seems to have gotten out of hand – it’s one thing to send a quick text to someone in a meeting, so you don’t interrupt anything (Pls PU kds @ 3, thnx), but I had to institute a no-texting rule in my carpools, because apparently teenagers can’t wait 15 minutes to reply to an urgent message about who said what to whom about you know what, RUOK?, and the incessant clicking sound from 3 competing phones was driving me crazy.

I’m actually lucky – I have boys, who aren’t nearly as committed to texting as most girls. And my younger son is the only 11-year-old on the planet who doesn’t have a cell phone (am I also a neanderthal in that area? I think he can wait til he’s 13, since it's the big incentive for him to go through his bar mitzvah, and besides, this way he has something else to complain about, on top of our house having no 2nd t.v., no wii, game cube, etc., and the only mother in the world who makes her kid read occasionally).

I can decipher the lingo, BTW, I jst dnt thnk its gr8 2 tlk w/o vowels or punctuation. So I'll allow some texting, but minimal, and let the kids have even more to complain about. Oh well, I thought my parents were behind the times because their idea of a wild night out was their contract bridge club and I introduced them to recycling. I can’t wait to see what my future grandchildren think of my boys!