Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Damn You, December

As per its usual course, the month of December is kicking my ass.

This year it's a little more intense because my ex "gifted" me an extra twenty-three days with Ben. Not that I mind the extra time with my son. However...

Ben is totally amped out over Christmas, even more so than in years past. He is incessantly dipping into extra Advent calendar candies and into my own private stash of Hershey kisses. He's also ripping into my coveted Christmas cards the second the mail comes through the mail slot and he manages to tear at least two-thirds of the cards before I even see them.

"Who's that in the picture?" I'll ask. "I don't know; I ripped their head/heads off," Ben informs me.


As for other fun December antics, Ben's already peeked into his stocking when he thought I wasn't looking and when I offered to pay him to help wrap client gifts, he spent the better part of three hours crouched behind the couch - sniper style - aiming the Nerf gun at me. At my butt, to be more precise. And then he wondered where his payment was once I finished wrapping twenty-three presents. When I denied him payment, he shot the dog. In the butt, of course.

Tonight, he's threatening to sneak out of bed and eat all the Advent candy. And if I hear the words Nerf Stampede Gun (which is an extreme upgrade from his current Nerf gun) one more time, I swear I'm going open up all the wine in the house and drink steadily until December is over and that's a lot of wine: I'm well stocked.

Yay, Christmas. How I've missed you.

My family and friends know that I can't stand the holidays.

Christmas went south for me back in my early 20s when I had a relationship with someone whose family glorified the gifts to no end. I never recovered.

But now, since I have a kid, I can't get all Grinch-y every year.

So I drag the tree out of the rafters right after Thanksgiving and make a big fuss over the ornaments and then we make cookies and gingerbread houses and this year, a giant gingerbread man, and I make a fuss out of how creative my child is when in actuality I know he's going to be sneaking bites out of all the culinary projects and we'll all suffer from the imminent sugar highs and lows.

I send out 75 Christmas cards and then freak out because once again, I don't have enough. I take Ben to see Santa and wait in a long, ghetto mall line and pay too much for a picture. I agonize over what to buy my ex "from Ben" and open his gift to me "from Ben" (to me) before Christmas to get an idea of what to spend and then hurriedly re-wrap the gift so Ben doesn't notice. I worry about Ben getting too many presents because last year was a complete fiasco and I had a wickedly spoiled child on my hands come January.

And for what? To commemorate Christ's birth? I do that quite well on my own, during every month of the year thankyouverymuch. If anything, the consumerism and sheer excess in December detracts me from the essence of the season and that realization puts me in a very bad mood.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I stayed at my dad's and went shopping on Black Friday with my stepmom. We left the house at 4am, something I vowed I'd never do. Admittedly, the ads sucked me in.

It was a manic experience, to say the least. So manic, in fact, that I got a make-over at the Clinique counter at 5:30am (hey, a full face of make-up is always great on Black Friday!) and I bought two pairs of leggings, three shirts, a sweater and a skirt. All this for the girl who could give the Kardashians a run for their money in the clothes department. But hey, it was Black Friday; the motto for the day being: "More! More! Even More!"

I wound up taking half the shit back the following week. Because Black Friday is a big seduction for evil December. Yuck.

Well, apparently that's what my body thought too because as soon as we came home from our manic shopping trip, my body was burning with hives. And so it went into December. Shopping = itching. Wrapping = more itching. Merely flipping the switch for the tree lights each morning caused my body to immediately flush.

The Urgent Care doctor said to wash everything in the house with special detergent, change to Ivory soap, lay off the scented lotions and perfumes. To no avail. Itch, scratch, itch. Steroid pills. Steroid injections. Bendadryl around the clock. Good times.

You did this to me, Black Friday. I know you did.

So last week I saw a third doctor who is sending me to an allergist. The allergist is a friend of the doctor, who made a special call on my behalf, and of course he's not on my insurance plan

Because it's December and I'm cursed.

My theory is this: I'm allergic to Christmas and to the entire month of December. How else can the sudden onset of itching hell on Black Friday be explained?

I'm envisioning the prescription to be something along the lines of:

Patient must refrain from most holiday related activities including, but not limited to:

Stringing lights on her house (like I would ever do this anyway, I've got tacky neighbors who put enough crap up for our entire block)

Destroying her kitchen with homemade cookies (yes, that happened last weekend with Ben; don't let the 7-year-old loose with the flour)

Battling long lines at Wal Mart (I only went because I was desperate for Benadryl, but then I saw the brown leggings and the matching shirt and the sale on Weight Watchers frozen entrees).

Patient may steal Advent candy from her child's calendar on the days that the child is with his dad (great, that gives me two whole candies).

Patient may also dip into wine that is otherwise reserved for client gifts (started that on Dec 1)

Patient is excused from all holiday parties (there were none to put on the calendar anyway) and also from constructing a gingerbread house that caves in immediately upon completion (it's a yearly tradition, and an annual meltdown).

Why? Why do we do this to ourselves? Help me understand. What happened to the quiet, peaceful, somber spirit of the manger and the clear, starry night, and the wismen and the advent of new life? Now all the advent that's celebrated in our house is the daily fight over 5am Advent candy. And it's not even that good.

Come January, I'll have gained several pounds from the discarded gingerbread walls and the copious amounts of wine (but not from the Advent candies). We'll have a tree that hangs out in our living room far past its welcome. I'll still be apologizing to the friends who didn't get our Christmas cards.

All the while trying to discern our friends' identities from the headless Christmas cards. (And those of you who used Shutterfly or Tiny Prints totally wasted your money at this address. Just so you know).

The horrific gifts will go into the horrific gift box, otherwise known as The New Client Welcome Kit. Ben will shoot the dog with his new Stampede gun and I'll take "that damn gun" away for a week. He'll shoot me and I'll roll my eyes and wait for the next dart. I'll dip into his college fund for the fourteen "D" batteries required to fuel "that damn gun." We'll all suffer from my anti-carb diet.

Ah yes, this is what is known as The Christmas Hangover.

Last week, Ben began his daily plea for a dreidel and I couldn't be happier. Judaism, at least during the holidays, is looking pretty good. We'll light a candle each night, open a dollar store gift and eat matzoh ball soup. F the tree, the lights, the POS gingerbread house, the overpriced toys and the neighbors who think they're the Griswald family.

I know my mom and my sister will be on board. They both recently said, "Christmas should only come around every four years."

God bless my family. They are so smart and logical. Mazel tov. Or whatever.

If this were to happen - this Christmas every four year thing - my skin would "cool down" (as the dermatologist says), my jeans would fit all month, my son wouldn't whine and I might even enjoy the tacky lights and the annoying music. I could even be convinced to bring a dead tree in and let it shed, along with the dog, all over my living room.

In the meantime, word from the North Pole is that there isn't one Stampede en route for Ben. No, there's two which means someone should shoot me now.

Oy vey.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


When one of my clients walked into to my home wearing these last week, I knew I'd found the perfect boot. It's hard to believe that Ugg makes these and it's also hard to believe that merely seeing this style actually took me to a whole new level of Ugg obsession.

The same client who owns these fabulously stylish boots also accidentally forgot to take her very expensive and also fabulously stylish black BCBG coat after our session a couple of weeks ago. I can't say how it happened, but that lovely BCBG coat made an appearance in our Christmas card photos. It is likely the most expensive coat I'll ever be photographed in.

I can only hope that she'll forget her boots one day...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What A Pro Can Do

More to come. :)

Santa, Santa...

Dear Santa

We're not even within the 12 Days of Christmas window and you're already getting my orders all screwed up.

Let's review for a moment.

First, I said "Prius," not "printer." There's a huge difference, like to the tune of $24,929. Yes, I know that my HP was a POS (that's 'piece of shit' in case you don't know the lingo up in the Northern areas) and really, the Dell is quite nice and once I figure out how to work it, I'm sure I'll appreciate its scanning, copying and otherwise "office-y" functions. But let's get back to the Prius. Say it with me: Prius.

I also told you that I wanted Botox injections. Lots of them. What I did not want were steroid injections. In my ass, nonetheless.

So while we're on the subject of the steroids, please bring several containers of the uber-expensive detergent that I've had to use to launder every piece of fabric in this house since I am apparently allergic to cheap detergent. Then, maybe I can lay off the prednisone for awhile.

In the meantime, I'm going to need an entire new wardrobe to accommodate for the steroid puffiness (read: weight gain).

Also, please include several bottles of high grade vodka and some nice red wine. The doctor said that alcohol consumption might help with the crankiness associated with prednisone. I think he meant "daily" consumption.

That 24 Hour Fitness membership from Costco would sure help out too, both with the mood and the ever-expanding butt.

I also think that a pair of UGGs are certainly well-deserved after the bout with endless itching, especially since my feet are the only parts of my body that haven't suffered the prednisone aftermath.

On a good note, my Blackberry has been well behaved lately and only malfunctions when I try to use the camera. You can still bring any of the Droids though.

Lastly, can you please visit the Home Retention Department at Bank of America and lavish the employees there with expensive gifts? Lots of them? Maybe then, I'll have a chance of getting someone on the phone who doesn't blow me off or cut me off or transfer me to an innocuous department like "Simple Assumptions" or my own personal favorite, "Quantifiable Assumptions." Obviously those folks need some serious cheer. Although they clearly need more of the year-round variety.

In closing, I'd like to reiterate that I've been very good this year. I haven't gossiped past 10pm each day, I haven't been unkind to my mother except for my daily impatience, I haven't let Ben play too much Nintendo but we won't mention the TV hours, I've been to church twice since the summer, and I've made a marked effort to stay in better touch with my friends through texting and Facebook-ing.

Yours truly,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Three Girls, Two Boys and One Seinfeld Moment

Three girls go into their favorite neighborhood bar on a Friday night.

Two of the girls are sisters. The sisters are both married. The third girl is not.

The girls sit at the bar and sip cocktails. Eventually, they have dinner.

The bartenders joke about "the great view at the end of the bar," referencing the two (gorgeous) sisters and, perhaps their single friend who the girls have dubbed "our cousin."

The girls are flattered by the attention.

Two guys walk in and sit kitty-corner to the girls. One is wearing a baseball cap (this is a critical piece of the story).

The single girl tells her friends that she has seen one of the guys in the bar before; in fact, she remembers him from last summer because he is tall and cute and he has a great smile. She is referring the guy without the baseball hat.

The married girls encourage the single girl to make eye contact. "Five seconds minimum!" they say.

But the single girl is somewhat shy in these types of scenarios and can't even muster up the courage to look over for one second.

Time passes and two of the girls have children to tuck in, so they settle up their tab and start to make their way toward the door (which is around the corner from the bar).

The girls notice that the guys are finishing their drinks and also paying the check.

The married girlfriends tell the single girl that the tall, cute guy has watched their single friend make her way out of the bar area. "He even turned around in his chair," they add.

The girls pause at the restroom and one goes inside while the other two brainstorm ideas for meeting the mystery guy.

It is decided that the most outgoing of the three girls will go back to the bar and ask the bartender what the story is on the tall, cute guy. The single girl does not volunteer herself for this task.

The two girls wait near the restroom for their courageous friend, and as they are waiting, the two guys emerge from the bar area together and leave the building.

The third girl then returns. "Yes, he's single," she confirms.

But the guys have already left so there's nothing to do except for button up coats, pull out umbrellas and leave.

As the girls are moving toward the exit door, the tall, cute guy runs back in.

The girls smile at him. He pauses for a moment and says, "Ummm, this is kind of awkward but the bartender told me that one of you is interested in my friend."

The girls look at each other in confusion. "The guy with the hat?" they ask.

"Yes," tall, cute guy confirms.

The girls can't contain their laughter.

Tall, cute guy doesn't understand.

The girls look at one another. Who is going to break the news?

The single girl steps up. "Wrong guy," she says.

Tall, cute guy looks around at the girls.

"Well, this is awkward," he says again.

The girls burst into more giggles, as tall, cute guy look begins to look more perplexed.

Finally, one of the girls makes an indication that the single girl is the one who is interested. Something is said about exchanging phone numbers but there isn't a pen or paper available, so single girl blushes eighteen shades of red and fumbles for a business card.

Tall, cute guy says goodnight and leaves the building, with the intent of breaking the news to his buddy that the single girl isn't in fact interested in him at all.

But that doesn't quite happen.

Two of the girls dash to the single girl's car in the pouring rain. Single girl turns on her car.

Both girls notice a guy running quickly to single girl's car. The guy is wearing a baseball hat.

The girls look at each other. What do do?

Being the ever pleasant girl that she is, single girl rolls down her window and says hello.

Baseball cap guy wastes no time. "The bartender said you are interested in me."

The girls look at each other. Married girl falls silent. It's all on the single girl.

Single girl starts with "don't take this the wrong way." She goes on to stammer about a small misunderstanding at the bar. She apologizes fifty-four times and wonders if this story will best be told in the beginning, middle or end of her forthcoming book on dating at 39.

As baseball cap guy walks away, deflated, single girl looks at her married girlfriend who apologizes profusely for not speaking up. She only has to say one word: "awkward" and the girls are regaled with laughter, again. Same story the next day when they exchange text messages with the subject of "awkward."

So what happens next? Single girl goes home with one of the married girls to have cookies and say hello to her children. She then goes home to read to her own child and slip him two cookies in bed. The other married girl picks up single girl for a yoga class in the morning. All the girls finish their weekends, respectively, and vow to go out again soon with their new "cousin." The Friday night story is re-told among their circles of friends and serves as good material for single girl's blog.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

40 to 40

I will be 40 years old in 40 days.

A few months ago, I had ambitious plans for my "countdown to 40." I thought I would attend a yoga class each day - even on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I planned on meeting a different friend every day for coffee or drinks. I even conjured up ideas of attacking my stack of books, and completing one each week.

That is so not going to happen - none of it.

Instead, I likely have 40 days to figure out where Ben and I will be living after the first of the year since Bank of America refuses to help me keep this house. There are a lot of layers to that problem, including the studio I use for clients, the dog that we love and the simple fact that this house has been home to us for all of Ben's childhood years.

I hate you, B of A. I really, sincerely do.

On a lighter note, I saw that Time magazine printed its "Most Influential 30 under 40" list and I noted - with disappointment - that I wasn't on it. Now it's safe to say that regardless of what amazing invention I come up with or how outstanding my forthcoming literary piece will be, I won't be on it next year. Or any year. Because I'll be in the "over 40" club. Where we wear Uggs and shoot up our faces with Botox and exercise like demons so that we can look like we're still in the "under 40" club.

Dear God, help me. I am not accepting this aging thing well. And I really hope I get a pair of Uggs for my birthday.

As I count off the days to 40, I've also given some considerable thought to my career path, including lots of online research on potential jobs that work with a wacky custody schedule and daily commutes to Fair Oaks for school and sports activities. It's shocking what I've come up, given that none of the professions I've researched actually take into account my degree.

Even more shocking (and depressing) is the fact that the jobs that do require a Marketing degree are gone. At one point a MBA might have been a good idea but opportunities at that level have disappeared, too. At least in Sacramento, that is.

I like what I do. It works for me. And for Ben, too. I don't want to give it up. Not just yet.

So really, there's not much to do except to sit back and let things unfold as they're supposed to.

That means, it's 40 days of being quiet, being contemplative, being thoughtful. Which is what I've been trying to do lately anyway.

I read a great article by Martha Beck, one of my favorite authors. She wrote a recent column about what to do when you have have no idea what to do. Her advice was simple, straightforward: "When nothing's working, do nothing." I am really good at doing everything and in the last couple of months, I've noticed that when I've slowed down to the point of doing nothing - or almost nothing - everything in my being seems to come down a few notches. And that's when things begin to get clear.

I've promised myself that for the next 40 days, I'm going to continue to do nothing more than I really have to - which, during the holiday season, should prove to be a huge challenge - in the hopes that I can start the new decade and the new year with some much-needed clarity.

But don't count me out completely. I'm always up for yoga, a cappuccino or wine!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

And, I Quote...

Sometimes, it's nice to sit back and observe what everyone else is saying. Which is what I've been doing a lot of lately.

Here are just a handful of comments - those that I'm allowed to write, that is - to catch you up on our what's happening in our lives:

Oh yeah, and it's 4am. Anybody else anxious about anything???

Last month we had a get together at my dad's house. I can't divulge everything from that day but I could write an essay about the politics that flew back and forth during dinner (Meg vs Jerry), (my dad vs. NPR), etc. But the best comment was from my mother when I jokingly tucked my hair into a Raquel Welch-style wig:

"Wow, that hairstyle really brings out your nose!" My nose? Perfect. That's exactly the part of my face that I want people to notice as I march on up to 40. At least she didn't mention my wrinkles.

Because my dad did. "That wig takes 10 years off your face. Have you thought about Botox? It's supposed to help with migraines."

Ouch. Isn't 40 supposed to be the new 30?

Well, maybe so. Because just last month at the O.A.R. concert, I met a fun guy who danced and sang with me for most of the concert. Then the lights came on. And he was young. Like, dangerously young. *After* I gave him my card, (he was cute and a huge fan, after all), I asked his age. "I'm (insert absurdly young age here)." I was horrified. And flattered.

Back to the concert for a sec. I saw O.A.R. twice on this tour and I'd give almost anything to see them a third time. During both sets, they sang about God during the refrain of the chorus of the best concert song of all time -"Crazy Game of Poker:"

"May God be with me. May He watch over me." Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Which enforces my belief that if music is indeed spiritual, God should be mentioned once in a while. In a reverent way. In a compelling way. Thank you for nailing it, O.A.R. I'll marry any of you. Tomorrow.

We had a parent-teacher-child conference last month. The teacher pulled up a chair for Ben. Academically, Ben is doing great, however there were a couple of behavioral issues that she wanted to discuss. She engaged Ben in the discussion and had him sign the progress report. She then looked him square in the eye and said, "I'm only doing this because I love you, Ben." Straight and to the point. It's our second year with her and I'm eternally grateful for the compassion that shines through her no-nonsense ways. We are damn lucky. A teacher who brings the hammer down and shows some heart all at the same time? We'll take her through high school.

On a lighter note, my dog might win the prize for most lethargic Lab of all time. A client said it best: "My fish has more energy than Molly." Her fish probably sheds a whole lot less too.

While at a client's home on Halloween night, her hyper and heavy black Lab - Hank - jumped into my lap. "You have a calming effect on him," she said. I refrained from saying, "I'm truly not a dog person and I only keep Molly for Ben and Hank must sense that I am really mellow from that bottle of wine that we just consumed."

"Oh, were you waiting for this (insert exercise equipment name here)?" My ever constant experience at the gym, waiting on the 88-year-olds to finish their leg presses, their hammer curls and their hamstring extensions, while they read their magazines, their novels and their newspapers. I need that 24 Hour Club membership. Soon.

"That's depressing." My comment to no one after finally yanking out every last false eyelash and seeing the final result. So much for va-va-voom eyes.

"That's really depressing." Same comment, much more emphatic, earlier in the day at my doctor's office, during the weigh in. Wasn't I just wearing Victoria Sercret bikinis a couple of months ago?

"Welcome to 40,
" the nurse replied.

"eharmony died." My update to my mother as to the status of my online dating. The service may as well have died; I haven't had a good match in weeks.

And even more shocking: "I don't really care."

With apologies to all our little friends and the moms, Ben's favorite line from his Halloween book is, "My mom's gonna whup your butt." Yep, that's "whup" and not "whip." He can't stop saying it.

But in all fairness, any child who frequents the McDonalds on Watt Avenue is bound to say something equivalent or even worse so I'm taking myself off the hook here. Besides, it's the cutest book. Really.

Now the You Tube video that we accidentally stumbled on, while looking for dancing skeletons, I take full responsibility for. Achmed the Skeleton Terrorist is definitely not appropriate for the first grade crowd. I promise that Ben didn't watch much.

As we waited last Saturday for the soccer game status (it was raining), Ben tells me, "I don't like soccer. I don't like baseball either. Don't tell Daddy. When can I do golf?" Greeeaaatttttt. Then, a 45 minute drive across town so that we could trek through the mud. Ben ran half-heartedly towards the ball with his stellar team that's been moved up in their division. He repeatedly kicked the ball the wrong way and only showed any excitement when the half-time snacks came out. With apologies to my friends who love team sport participation at this age, I'm so over it.

Since I didn't have Ben for Halloween this year, I took him to an art gallery for Dio De Los Muertes. We went after school - to a gallery downtown - then had yogurt and stopped at the play structure at McKinley Park. When we returned home, I started to put away the decorations from Halloween. Bad idea. "DON'T TAKE THE SKELETONS AWAY! I LOVE THE SKELETONS! I WANT THEM TO STAY OUT ALL YEAR LONG!"

The skeleton obsession has continued with refusal to wear anything to bed or to play that does not have a bone on it. We are talking t-shirts, pajamas, hats, gloves, you name it. While clad in the skeleton gear, one of Ben's favorite expressions has become, "My bones are clattering!" He does a little shimmy and shake and it's really, really funny.

At our play group this week, Ben interacted more with an electronic dancing skeleton than any of the children. The skeleton had bright red eyes, grinding hips and sang one Ricky Martin song. "Do you think anyone would notice if we snuck him into our car?" Ben asked.

God help me. And I thought that the Dio De Los Muertes exhibit was a good idea. Is it just me or is seven a really weird age?

I've saved some of the best for last.

My own personal favorite quote from the ex: "I fell into the greatest, sweetest deal. I couldn't pass it up. I'm taking Ben to one, no wait, I mean two Giants championship games. He only has to miss three days of school. It's such an amazing deal, I just can't pass it up."

Followed by Ben's summary of the experience, upon returning home: "Don't tell Daddy but I think that baseball is boring. When can we go to Fairy Tale town again?"

The ex struck again, a few days later: "I just bought a new SUV. No, I didn't sell the new Mini Cooper. Or the dead Corvette. But I got the greatest deal on the SUV..."

I just came off a 9 day stint with Ben because the ex was away. Ben's behavior tends to get a bit, shall we say, challenging, during these times. I don't think I've ever heard as many loud sighs or watched the eyes roll back in exasperation as I did in the last week. But the best - or worst - was Ben's response to my third request to "get your shoes on and get in the car before we're late for school." He looked me square in the eye (how often does that happen with a 7-year-old boy?) and said:

I can't tell you what happened next because CPS is probably lurking nearby. Rest assured, Ben's punishment was swift and severe and he will not be "blah blah blah-ing" me, or anyone else, for that matter anytime soon. He was also late for school because recovery from said punishment was not quick. Or easy. For either of us.

But I do think that at seven, it's still sweet that he calls me "Mommy."

And I'm also becoming concerned with the frequency of the "Don't tell Daddy but..." statements. I guess that means Ben trusts me. But I need him to trust his dad too.

Finally, I am pulling a little rank around here as the tides seem to be turning, with regards to Ben's affection. "I love you more than I love Molly," he announced last week. After two years of practically giving his heart to that damn dog, Ben has seen the light when in fact, I am the one who buys the Cheetos, organizes the play dates, gives in to the Lego purchases and allows for "just one more" book before bed. He quickly clarified by saying, "But I only love her a little bit more and I only love her more on some days."

And there you have it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Free Range At Fairy Tale Town

I'm not supposed to be blogging. But I did something really cool with Ben yesterday and I wanted to share the experience.

Last year, a controversial book called "Free Range Kids" came out and boy, did it stir up a media frenzy. Basically, the gist of the book is that we are hovering way too much over our children, and denying them the independence and autonomy that they need to grow into self-reliant adults. I believe the term "wimpy" was used, in regards to how kids today are turning out.


But what really got the media's attention was this:

The author put her 9-year-old child on the NYC subway. Alone.

But she did it carefully and strategically and with a good, solid plan. A lot of parents called her out as being negligent. "The Worst Mom of All Time" was her identity among some camps. She appeared on all the major news networks. Time Magazine picked up the story as its cover feature. I should know, my own dad bought me a copy and told my mother to make sure that I read it.

I did read it, and I agree very much with the author's position. In fact, if we had a reliable public transportation system, I'd probably empower Ben - in a few years - to ride downtown. Alone. But we don't, and that's a whole other issue.

So yesterday, another mom friend and I took our kids to Fairy Tale Town, which is a lovely and delightful park here in Sacramento. It is entirely gated and geared toward small children. In fact, adults who try to enter the park without a child are denied entry. I should know - Ben rode with the other mom and I met them inside the park. But not before I could prove that I indeed had a child who was waiting on the other side of the gate.

My friend, who has also followed the Free Range parenting concept, suggested that we let the boys (who are the same age) "do their own thing." With a couple of rules: don't go out the turn styles and check in with us periodically.

I had no idea how this was going to go because Ben has been dealing with some pretty significant issues around separation and just last week, had a minor panic attack when he discovered that I had left the house (I was pulling the trash cans to the curb). Nevertheless, I have encouraged Ben for a long time to explore the world on his own, even during those moments when he so clearly needed me to be in clear and constant site.

Contrary to what my dad might believe, I am not a helicopter parent. Nor do I want to be. Ben gets enough hover time from the adults in his life. More than enough.

Fairy Tale Town isn't Disneyland but it's not your average park, either. Most of the time, the boys were in places where we couldn't see them. Doing God knows what. But having a great time, nonetheless.

The "experiment" went beautifully. The two times that I checked in, they were obviously loving their new-found independence. At one point the other boy told me, "Ben got a little nervous a couple of times but I calmed him down."

I loved that.

Because, beyond the freedom that they experienced during our time at the park, the boys were also able to communicate with each other about their own perceptions of the experience.

Not once did Ben cry.

This victory from the child who, just days ago, freaked out in the Trader Joe's aisle, while getting his own sample, because, "I need to see you all the time, Mommy!"

I know a lot of moms - and I do mean a lot - who would not be on board with the "cut the kids loose" idea. Not even at our innocent little slice of paradise called Fairy Tale Town.

But it worked for me and it worked for my child. And I'll do it again, hopefully soon.

Of course, it goes without saying that this is just one more sign that my young child is getting older and gaining more confidence and will eventually not need me at all when he goes off to play.
I'm fine with that. I'm more than fine with that; I'm happy about that.

But this is also one more sign that Ben is on his way to being a self-assured boy who can navigate his own way through a very scary world. And I'm very, very happy about that.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Great Big Blog Break-Up. And The Little Birthday List.

I so love to be dramatic.

No, I am not breaking up with my blog but I am stepping away from it for awhile to focus on "other projects." The blog and I are going by way of Ross and Rachel: "We were on a break!"

To be clear, "other projects" does not including dating (here or in Florida), changing my hair color (although I'm tempted), getting a tattoo (not tempted at all) or promoting the release of my long awaited book: "How To Not Screw Up a 7-Year-Old While Having Some Semblance of a Swanky, Yet Sleep Deprived Life."

Actually, the reality is that I DO have too many projects to focus on and not enough time. Starting with continuing education, which hasn't been so continuous lately. And the broken garage door. And the leaking roof. And keeping my house despite multiple failed attempts to convince B of A that I'm an ideal candidate for a loan modification. And creating a web site (because everyone says I need one). And spending some time in my son's classroom. And keeping up with all those Facebook posts, pictures and messages.

But before I sign off for awhile, there are a few things that you should know:

First, Ben turned 7 last week.

I cried. A lot. I say this all the time: his childhood is going too fast. It was a quiet birthday; we had nacho cheese sauce, eaten on the couch, in front of a Mario DVD. We both were coming down with colds. After I put him to bed, I noticed a giant arrangement of skeleton cupcakes on the front porch. My friends do the kindest things. Ben was elated to wake up to such a grand display of "skull treats." The proper birthday celebration was on Sunday with all his friends. Eventually, I'll re-visit my space here to post some pictures of his party.

Second, I saw O.A.R. again and I think I might be officially obsessed.

My friend, Cab and I went on Saturday night. The show was at the beautiful Fox Theater in Oakland, which as the lead singer of the band said, "is hands-down the best and most proper venue for a concert." Got that direct from Twitter - via the band's web site - on Sunday morning. Yes, I am obsessed. And no, I do not and will not Twitter.

Nevertheless, the Fox Theater rocks and O.A.R. rocked it again. I am physically sore from dancing so much and am already in full panic mode over news on the fan sites that the band is taking some much needed time off (years!) to have babies and other nonsense. That being said, I think I need to go to their last hometown show on Dec 17th in Maryland. It's perfect timing for my birthday, don't you think? And I've never been to Maryland...

Speaking of birthday list is growing by the minute.

Do you have a pen? Never mind, you can just print this post.

I've decided that a Prius would be a great- and very appropriate - gift, given that I drive nearly across the county several times on select days for school and for soccer. It's not that I mind the rising cost of gas so much; it's more about the major hassle of always having to fuel up. It's also about my identity: in my 30s, an all wheel drive vehicle seemed like such a good idea. But how many times have we actually used the all-wheel feature? That would be zero. I am not a camping, skiing, snow-sledding mama and I don't think that's going to change any time soon. Urban mom needs a Prius.

On a more realistic note, I've got UGG lust. I have one secondhand pair from last year and I need more. More styles. More colors. More UGGs. Size 9. Love. The. UGGs.

I want to have my best friends and my clients and my students over. Sometime in the winter. I'm a little scared by the prospect of the daunting task of feeding dozens of people but I have lots of wine so maybe we'll all just drink a lot and have Papa Murphys. Would that be tacky? It's good wine, at least.

Ben needs a new dresser for his room and of course that wasn't on his birthday list. So I'll put it on mine. If there is any chance of him learning the F word from me, it will be over the dresser. The drawers stick so badly that he can't remove any of the contents without major tears. Having me retrieve all the clothes isn't doing much for his independence either. I don't want to put a new bed on this list, so when you see him, reinforce the idea that the car bed is REALLY COOL and that he should keep it until he is at least 18. Or when he goes off (and I mean off as in 'gets his ass out of Sacramento') to college.

Athleta. Athleta has been so very thoughtful to keep me on their mailing lists and to send me lovely catalogs with items that I covet and deeply desire. It's horrific to admit but I find myself often perusing their catalog and web site, fixating on an item and repeating the following mantra, "I would be a much better person if I owned this (insert dress, pants, top, pair of boots). Anything Athleta. Anytime. Size Medium. The prices are appalling; the styles are not.

The barrista at the Starbucks near Ben's school knows me. By name. He also makes fun of me when my Starbucks card is declined because, despite re-loading the damn thing all the time - it seems to always have a zero balance. And it's not like I'm a fancy coffee drinker, but my little iced coffee habit is getting kinda pricey. Starbucks calls it a ritual, I call it an expensive addiction. I need an infinite Starbucks card. Or more sleep.

I am thisclose to buying the 24 Hour Club membership from Costco. I love the gym that employs me but I do not love sharing equipment and space with the members there. I do not love to fight over the one leg extension machine or the lone pair of 25 lb free weights with the 85-year-old crowd because they are a super slow and chatty bunch. I do like the new 24 Hour Club location near my house. I like that it takes up practically an entire city block. I like that there is certainly not a soul in that club who knows me. I also like that it is next door to Luna Lounge, my favorite (and only) neighborhood haunt.

On the subject of Luna, I need to be there more often. Let's go, girls. Fun, swanky, interesting people, good food. Why aren't we there once a week?

I need the Droid. Soon. The Blackberry now refuses to take pictures and won't upload anything to Facebook. Tragic, I know. I'm up for an upgrade on January 1oth. Not that I'm counting the days, or anything, but if the guy in Verizon tells me to update my phone software one more time, I'm going to clock him with the Berry.

Lastly, I want to celebrate my 40th with my family in Palm Springs, and I do not want to have to take out my ex for "forgetting" that this was my week after a year of reminders. I want to have a drink at the Marriott with my Dad, the same place I ordered my first "official" drink on my 21st birthday. I want to go shopping with my stepmom and buy some new lipsticks. I want my helpful family to watch Ben while I go to yoga classes. I want to go out to dinner on my actual birthday. I want anyone who feels inclined, to jump on a plane and join us. I want the weather to be good.

Speaking of planes, I do not want to jump out of one for my birthday. I also don't want to be tattooed. Nor do I want to pull a single mom celebrity act and pluck a child from a third-world country and attempt to raise it with Ben. I certainly don't want to arrive to a friend's house and have 50 people jump out of dark corners in what is known as the worst birthday celebration ever: the ambush, surprise party. And on the subject of surprises, I don't want to see any "surprise" people from my past. Florida, are you reading? If you do want to indulge me with a lavish getaway, know that Rancho La Puerta is my top pick and any city in Florida is not. In fact, anything east of Texas is pretty much off my radar right now expect for Maryland. Bethesda. December 17th. Alisa? Please?

I'll certainly update here periodically with photos and any earth-shattering news but for now I'm going off-line to enjoy my last days of the 30s decade.

As for the birthday list, that about does it.

Oh, and if someone could please send an oxygen mask to my father; I'm sure he's needing it right now after realizing what a self-indulgent 39-year-old he has raised.

And he'll most definitely need it when the full impact of having a 40-year-old offspring hits.

Monday, September 27, 2010

40th Birthday List:: Item #2

I know I wrote in my previous post about my wishes for long, lustrous eyelashes but I'm really thinking that I'm on the slippery slope of superficiality if I go on and on about a permanent solution to my not-so-permanent, "come hither" lashes that are slightly augmented becoming very high maintenance.

Yeah. So. Now the secret's out. I do wake up looking like this, thankyouverymuch.

The great thing about the lashes is that they withstand a lot of daily abuse, including showers, swimming, work-outs, and tears.

Which there have been a lot of this summer thanks to Florida.

But, great music can also make me cry and I'll need good lashes when I go to see O.A.R. for the second time this year!!!

I blogged earlier this summer about wanting to see O.A.R. before I turned 40 and that wish came true earlier this month.

Ten minutes into the show, I turned to my (friend?) concert partner and said, "I'm gonna have to see these guys again!" Without the "concert partner."

Fortunately, O.A.R. is playing on October 10th at a super cool venue in Oakland and my good friend, Cab said he'd come with me. I found great tickets on ebay, convinced him to drive us and once again, the house is filled with O.A.R. all-the-time (thank God for Napster!).

Most people don't know who O.A.R. is, which is understandable since they've had just one Billboard hit. But this is a band that can pack a venue like Madison Square Garden and rock a three hour show. This is a band that keeps everyone on their feet - dancing and singing - with the energy of U2 or Bon Jovi but with a far more unique sound. This is a band that is so lyrically talented that every song hits home, on so many levels. This is one special band and I am (almost) doing back-flips over the chance to see them not once, but twice, before my 40th birthday.

Can you tell I'm excited?

I can't think of better music to commemorate the last decade of my life; music that celebrates life, honors heartbreak, inspires hope.

I'm going to love this experience so much more the second time around. Even if I AM the oldest O.A.R. fan!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

40th Birthday List: Item #1

I'm going to be 40 in December.


My parents are going to have a 40-year-old daughter. Just seeing that in print is probably making my dad shudder.

Anyway, it's time to start thinking about what I want.

And just for the record, I don't want world peace, a solution to global warming or legalized marijuana (although a few "loaded" brownies might be nice to pass around at family gatherings). Just for the record, I'm also not looking to be the next 40-something female who has a crazy, biological clock and insane inclinations to have another child. I'm out - as in O-U-T - on that one.

Nope, someone else can use their birthday wish powers to make those things happen; I'm all about the material items that I know will make my life better.

So, hence, "the list."

First up is quarterly Botox injections.

Or Dysport injections. I don't really care what kind of poison goes into my forehead; I just want something beyond Oil of Olay to relax those deepening lines between eyes.

Just in case you're wondering, Botox (or Dysport) has to be injected regularly to maximize the benefit of the investment. But it is also an "approved" method of easing headaches and with some creative finesse of the Health Savings Account, injections could easily be categorized as necessary medical expenditures. Since I do have those nasty headaches.


I'm all about full disclosure, so if you're completely disgusted by my 40th Birthday List and you're thinking, "what a materialistic, indulged brat," you may not want to be open the next post as it contains information about my specific wish for long and lustrous eyelashes.

Consider yourself warned.

And get the syringes ready!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

August And Everything After

In the words of one of my favorite musicians, Adam Durwitz, here is our own version of "August and Everything After."

I came home from Florida and turned around almost immediately for a vacation with Ben. Talk about switching gears.

Ben and I embarked on a nine day road trip to LegoLand/San Diego. Nine days is a long time to spend on the road with a 6-year-old. But Ben had a great time; LegoLand was so age appropriate and he was enchanted!

Ben spent nearly an hour gazing at the Daytona Race Track, constructed completely out of Legos, of course!

I talked him into one ride: the slow moving boats.

I bribed him - at the end of a very long day - to pose with the Lego family and the Lego car:

He decided that Bionicles might be the next big obsession.

No trip to LegoLand would be complete without a round - or three - of miniature golf. What I loved about the course was the Lego structures that were placed at each hole.

The highlight of Legoland was definitely the water park. Ben spent a full three hours in the water structure on our second day.

After four days of Legoland (two of which my sister took on), we went to science museum at Balboa Park. Ben knew my dad would appreciate "San Diego's Water, from Source to Tap" exhibit and he posed accordingly. I'm sure Grandpa will fill him in on the details once he's a bit older.

There was an entire room of blocks in the museum. We built - and destroyed - several structures.

Finally, a beach day! Our condo was a mere block from the beach but we were too busy with LegoLand and San Diego to get there before Day 6 of the vacation. Big mistake. It was our best day, by far.

Then it was home for a few days and back to So Cal for the wedding a dear friend's daughter. I took my best friend, Kathie. The wedding weekend started in Old Pasadana at a champagne bar...

...and continued on to other bars!

Then to Malibu the next day where there was not a dry eye on the lawn, as the father of the bride walked a stunning Lindsey down the aisle. The mere fact that he could walk her down the aisle was an act of God, as he has been very, very sick for a long time. But the day of his daughter's wedding, he was well. He, along with his wife (my friend) were almost as radiant as the bride. Many, many tears of happiness were shed that day. They should have given Klee-nex as favors. Seriously.

Can you imagine a better backdrop for a wedding? It was spectacular! Perfect weather, heartfelt sentiments, re-connections with old friends and a strong sense of spiritual love. Except that the caterer noticed that I went for "thirds" on the food. She was flattered, I was mortified.

And now, we move on to the "everything after" phase.

What's next for us?

A day at my sister's to celebrate my dad's birthday, a fast trip to St. Augustine to see my beloved OAR, a long weekend in San Francisco, creative "costuming" to accommodate Ben's wish for me to be Tinkerbell for Halloween (can I get a collective "yikes!" on that one?), Halloween itself and mountains of disgusting candy that I will throw away gradually each night, Thanksgiving weekend which is wide open and kid-free at the moment but who knows how long that will actually be the case, Christmas and the long-awaited celebration of my 40th in Palm Springs with some of my favorite people: Ben (of course), my dad, Teresa, Alisa, Alec and Alec's mother.

In this house, "Everything after" = never a dull moment.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

His Tears And Mine

A bad morning is one where your child acts out, lashes out and has to placed into the backseat of another adult's car (the adult in charge of the morning carpool) while in full meltdown mode.

Then I drive away and shed my own tears and carry the horribly yucky feeling of our not-so-happy goodbye all day long.

It all started with Ben's lack of sleep. After nearly seven years of battling his difficult sleep habits, I'm almost resigned to the fact that he takes after me in the insomnia department.

Two weeks into first grade - with a longer school day - and soccer, - with a super long commute to Orangevale, I know he's damn tired. Add the fact that no one would describe Ben as "easygoing;" in fact, I think that the transitions from here to there and everywhere else are really hard on him.

So he takes it out on the one who he knows is the softest. The one who represents the cushy place to land. The one who he can be most vulnerable with.

That would be me.


Me, again.

I called up my ex in desperation today. "His behavior is really out there," I said. "He's pushing the limits on respect. He won't sleep. I think I need to see a parenting specialist; maybe take a class. I don't know what else to do."

"Spank him," my ex said.

"Do you know how many times he would get spanked in a day if that was my first line of defense?" I asked.

I've done the spanking. It doesn't work. Ben meets me emotionally and physically: if I yell, he yells back. Louder. If I spank, he attempts to hit back.

My best leverage is his DS time. Which he covets. It's his currency.

So, today was a major loss of DS time and a big sit-down to review courtesy, manners, respect and listening.

Is it wrong to hope and pray that your child will someday become easier? That you won't have to yank him out of the backseat by his arm because he's ignored your request to "get out of the car!" five times? Is it okay to wish for more peace, more resilience, less resistance, less rudeness?

I guess it's not so wrong to pray for those things in the space of a day because when I picked Ben up, we had a sweet afternoon of coloring, trekking out to soccer, returning home to (edible) grilled chicken, a bath without complaints, a later bedtime (the rational being that maybe he'll actually sleep later in the morning!), and Ben's request "to spend our last minutes on the couch together, cuddling and talking about our day."

I'll take an easier back half. I'll take easier whenever I can get it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

OAR - Check That.

I'm crossing a huge to-do off my "Holy Crap, Going-On-40-Bucket-List."

No, I am not jumping out of an airplane or getting a tattoo (my dad just let out a huge sigh of relief; did you hear it?).

I am, however, going to chase down my favorite band of all time because they are touring RIGHT NOW in the Southern states and I have the amazing help of my fantastic and beloved sister to help with child care for the two days that I'll be away.

OAR came to me when I was creating a yoga playlist a couple of years ago. And when I say that they "came" to me, I mean that they descended on me with their incredible music and lyrics and I thought at that moment, "I must see these guys live before I die."

Or before I turn 40.

If I ever get married again, I want the guy to serenade me with the words from "Hey Girl." Or at least play the song for me in a special way. Every time I feel unsettled, I listen to "I Feel Home" - the live version, of course - and I want to share that song with all my friends who ever feel less-than-grounded. And how many times has the gut-wrenching, "Shattered" seemed like the mantra for my life? Too many to count.

Yes, OAR has been played and re-played over heartache and hope, and is even my constant "go to" music source for easing pre-date jitters.

The logistics of the OAR event came together easily. Chris, from Florida, offered to pull together the details. A flight into Tampa on Thursday, a five hour drive to St. Augustine, the show, back to Tampa, home. Four clients happened to be out of town on the two days that I'll miss. Ben will be with his dad for two days and my sister is stepping in until I get home on Sunday. In fact, my sister's words to me as I second-guessed the decision to go were: "If you don't leave him (Ben) with me, I'll cry. I'm that excited."

I hope he's sleeping by then.

Two weeks from tomorrow, deja-vu, back to Florida.

This time, it's OAR that I'm psyched about.

And St. Augustine too; the oldest city in the US: I'm told it's a delightful mix of colonial and European flare with Southern charm.

I especially like that my heart's not so much on the line this time; it's more about going after a special experience that I know I'll never forget.

In the meantime, it's OAR, All The Time at our house for the next two weeks. And I'm canceling all my social engagements to concentrate on getting plenty of rest and being in a great space to see my all-time favorite band. Besides, I need to learn all 37 tracks of their newest album...word-for-word.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Reality Knocks...Are You There, Janeen?

This week has been a hurricane of back-to-school madness, soccer practices that we never seemed to make, re-convening the carpool and refereeing from the front seat, negotiating and nearly snapping over two ungodly early wake-ups (a la Ben, of course), ending with two meltdowns at the pool, a heel split open (Ben's, of course), a missed opening day of soccer due to the heel, an ear-full from the ex and one major puke from the dog.

On Saturday night, I pulled out the Legos, fired up my best calming Napster playlist, grilled some chicken and lit a candle. Ben and I assembled Legos, we played three rounds of a game, I served up dinner and everything seemed to come into balance, at last.

And then I caught Ben slipping the dog chunks of his chicken ("Because it's not nuggets and it tastes like slime!")

And then the dog began to hack.

And then I said, "Quick, get her outside before she throws up again!"

And then the dog started to puke.

And Ben said, "No, keep her in! I want to watch! I don't want to miss this!"

And then, after the dog reconciled her stomach issues and the world settled down again and Ben ate the rest of his "slime" chicken, he somehow convinced me to have a sleepover.

The sleepover that consists of him.

And me.

And endless games of 'rock, paper, scissors' and a claw that got interjected into the framework of the game and wound up Ben to no end.

Was I really in Malibu at this time last week? Staring at a moonlit ocean, surrounded by beautiful people, with a strong cocktail in my hand?

Last Saturday night, it was a super comfy Marriott bed and black-out shades.

Tonight: ear plugs and Ambien.

And please God, no more dog puke.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Pact

Summer of 2010, thank you for kicking my ass. Now go away and let me properly compose myself before I go and turn 40.

It's time to re-group, take stock, do some laundry, walk the dog, color my hair, pay the Visa bill, read a book and set some good pre-40 resolutions.

Enter The Pact.

I'm always so inspired by my friend, Michelle, who is a sage in my eyes and quite possibly the most God-like creature on this earth, that I've decided to borrow some of her ideas. You all have heard me rave about Michelle; here she is in "real" (or virtual?) life:

I am going to spend less time blogging for awhile and more time actually writing about things that really matter to the rest of the world. Or at least the things that I think should matter, like good nutrition and health.

My beloved and wise friend, Michelle, has dropped the word, "busy," as in: "I'm sooooo busy and that's why I have seen/talked/emailed in ages." I'm doing the same. So, from here on out, consider me not busy. In fact, I might be so not busy that I could be bored. Which just might be a good thing.

I'm also abandoning my own personal favorite daily mantra: "I'm SO tired" just to see if maybe I don't say it out loud, if perhaps I might just feel a bit more rested.

Also, Michelle has a good point in that the word "like" is totally misused. Like, I totally agree.
Right. What am I? 14? Unless I like something, I'm not using that word. "Totally" is just going to have to go away, too. Like right now. Can I still say that? Totally. Last time; that's it. Gone also is "stoked." I was re-introduced to that word earlier this summer and I'm done with it. What happened to just plain "excited?"

Along with not saying things, Michelle has taken a vow not to talk about other people. As in not to GOSSIP about them. As someone who enjoys spreading a good story, I've noticed that recently, being the victim of inappropriate gossip (isn't all gossip inappropriate?) is no bueno. It hurts, it's shallow, there's no reason for it. So it might be a little quiet around my house and quieter still on the phone line. I'm again following Michelle's lead on this one.

Along with my great pact, I promise to post pictures from Lego Land and the wedding (not mine, did you skip a few blog posts???). I vow to write one more entry about my lovely and amazing sister (because she is so worthy and she needs to hear what I'm going to tell her).

Lastly, I need to write up my birthday list in a post (as in what I think I need to properly turn 40, aside from good eye cream and a smaller butt) so that the Universe can properly deliver all my requests on time (I'm calling on the Universe in this instance because there's no way that God will grant even half the list!).

And last, last, last...I absolutely will try my hardest to not talk about Florida anymore or any of its after effects. There, I said it. That's my own closure on the topic.

Please don't challenge me to give up coffee, or vodka, sleeping pills or false eyelashes. I really don't want to give up carbs again either because I'm rather enjoying my brown rice and my oatmeal.

Fair enough?

Good. Pact on!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Where To Go From Here? Malibu, Of Course.

Ben and I arrived home yesterday with a trunk full of sand and the shortest of tempers. I blazed through my afternoon - unpacking, starting laundry, sorting mail and calling clients. I finally took a few moments to get into bed with him and talk about our trip. He was too tired to talk. So was I.

This morning found me with back-to-back clients and a general feeling of being completely overwhelmed.

I'm compressing my clients into four work days so that I can leave again this weekend. More on that later.

Mostly, I'm feeling overwhelmed because I'm emotionally tired.

I haven't quite sifted through my thoughts on Chris yet and am trying to muster up the courage to write the final chapter on Florida. Which basically goes something like this: "You're there, I'm here. It doesn't seem like we want the same things. Call me if you wind up on the West Coast."

That should be easy enough to compose, right?

Then, there are my regrets over this recent vacation with Ben. Did I ever have a relaxing moment with him? Was I so dialed up that I sabotaged my own happiness on the trip? Could he sense that?

My only take-aways from our road trip are: Six-year-olds are, by and large, too young for long road trips. Six-year-olds like long stints on sandy beaches and they only need a bucket and one or two shovels to be completely happy. Southern California sucks. Who can relax with all that damn traffic?

And my take-away on Chris is that it's probably not going to work out. At least not in any way that I would like.

To add another layer to the complications of my already delicate emotional state, my mom signed me up for eharmony. Actually, she didn't sign me up but she did pay for it, in hopes that I can actually revive my dating life and meet some quality guys. Who live here.

So now I have all this eharmony distraction. If you know anything about eharmony, you're aware of the "Guided Communication" process which is a really lengthy way of getting to the stage of "Open Communication," where actual email messages can be traded. The whole thing makes me tired.

I finished my work day today in a bit of a daze. I ran through Target. I ran through Trader Joe's. I returned a Redbox movie. I thought about going to the bank and decided that it was too much output.

I let myself miss Ben for a bit. The laundry sat, unfolded. I allowed myself to feel a little displaced.

Then, I let go of all of that nonsense and thought about what's happening on Friday.

My best friend and I are getting on an airplane, bound for LA. That's already a good sign, right? No driving!

We're picking up a car and headed to South Pasadena to a super, super, super cool reception dinner for my super, super, super long-time friend's daughter's (did you catch all that?) pre-wedding dinner. Our hotel is in stumbling distance of the super, super, super cool champagne bar.

The next day, we are checking into the Renaissance in Agoura where we will catch a shuttle to the wedding site, which is in Malibu. And when I say "in Malibu," I mean directly on the PCH at a private residence, with tons of ocean and, I'm told, the best food possible.

The shuttle will take us back, so again, I'm super, super, super thrilled about no LA driving! But the highlights will be seeing my old friend's daughter get married (finally, after 10 long years!) and facilitating (in part) my best friend's escape from her children, who have never been apart from their mother (not one single night, except when she was giving birth to each of the others!).

Oh, and I'm super, super, super excited about seeing my old friend! I haven't seen her in over two years.

By the time I get home, it will be time to kick into 1st grade mode, drive to soccer practices, re-organize my work schedule to allow for back and forth driving to school and stock up on ham, cheese, white bread and juice boxes. Oh, and I have to turn 40 eventually, too.

But for now, there's Malibu!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Road Trips: Overrated.

We're on the home stretch and we're about to kill each other.

The day started with very little sleep (thanks to Ben being a complete maniac last night for no good reason).

I packed up the bedroom, the kitchen, the freshly folded laundry, the towels, the beach toys, the electronics, the legos, the books. I packed it all down the stairs, across the courtyard and into the car. Ben watched me from the stairs and yelled frantically, "MOMMY! WHERE ARE YOU? I CAN'T SEE YOU!" This went on for about eighteen rounds of up the stairs, gather a load, go down the stairs, hear Ben's shriek, tell him to shut up - for the love of God - most of North County is still sleeping! I didn't exactly use those words.

Then I packed the vodka bottle in the back corner of the ice chest. What was I thinking?

We finally loaded up and landed in Laguna where I drove through to see if the best restaurant in the world from the worst date of all time still existed (it does). We made a brief stop at the 24 Hour Fitness in Laguna Niguel where I logged the shortest workout in history. The sea of tanned, augmented bodies was a bit much, even for me!

On to Laguna. Guess everyone else in LA planned on coming to Laguna today too because there were cars and people everywhere. We finally found parking and the meter took credit cards! How cool is that? I gave Ben 90 minutes.

Although I should have given him 60 minutes because then we would have missed the tidal wave that took out my entire set up of magazines, towels, misc beach toys, camera, purse (and contents), and cell phone. As I was thinking of wrapping up Ben's sand transport mission, I heard a shriek next to me and looked up from behind the camera - where I was snapping candids of Ben - to notice that I was utterly enveloped by water. And so were all my belongings. Right now, I have a purse full of sand, a sticky Blackberry that has keys that are not working so well, and two soaked beach towels.

On the long drive to Bakersfield where we encountered traffic in every single city you can mention along the I-5 corridor, Ben went on a mission to find MORE sand and announced several sources that I really didn't need to know about. Back to the traffic: what should have taken maybe four hours, took six.

I was so hashed when the sign "Welcome to Bakersfield" popped into my vision.

My visions of a leisurely swim and a nice dinner out were gone. It was already 6pm and Ben was begging for McDonald's. So he had his nuggets, I had ice cream and we found our hotel.

I don't think I should be this tired at the end of the vacation. This is not a good sign.

After an hour of swimming, we needed more sustenance. Thank God the good people at the Sheraton sell Zone bars at the front desk.

I just found out that the car has to be returned by 1pm so we are going to be beating feet tomorrow with minimal bathroom stops.

I say we wait a few years before trying the long road trip again. I'm thinking that an airplane, a quiet place free of amusement parks and a much, much slower pace is the way to go!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

God Said "You"...

...and then he pointed right to me.

That's how I feel about parenting Ben right now.

This has been brewing for awhile. I'm out of my element with Ben. He confuses me, he frustrates me, he makes my head ache.

I'm all for honesty. This is just how it is right now.

Actually, it's been this way since he turned one. I remember the early months of parenthood being remarkably - and surprisingly - easy. Even though my ex wasn't around much, I embraced the process of being Ben's primary caretaker and I became really, really good at it.

And then the years slid by and my confidence began to falter.

I told my sister today: "I don't know what I'm doing half the time. There's no one to bounce things off of; no one to tell me that I should have done this, could have done that."

And of course these issues become terribly underscored when you are on vacation. Alone. 400 miles from home. With a long agenda of things to do and short nights of sleep.

I was never under the illusion that Ben was (is) an easy child. At three, his pediatrician had him tested for autism. The psychologists concurred: no autism, but a highly sensitive and remarkably bright child.

During Ben's preschool years, it was rare that I could leave the school. For two years, we practiced effective separation tactics. I sat in the parking lot. His teacher gave me the thumbs-up through the window to leave. But not in my car. Oh no. I could only go for a walk. With my cell phone in hand. In case he melted. Which he did. Often.

My girlfriends dropped their preschoolers off for school and then met each other for coffee. That was so out of my element. Ben has always kept me on the shortest of leashes.

Then on to two years of Kindergarten. Issues with anxiety. More sensitivity. Suggestions from the teachers to keep things as routine as possible; to promote predictability at home. We did the two year plan for Kindergarten. It was the only possible choice.

Now I am dealing with the fact that Ben can tell time and will not leave the house (or the vacation rental) without his beloved watch. He can tell time to the minute, which is great, and he can also tell you when you are a minute late from coming out of the restroom, which is not great. He can time the trip - mile by mile - and he's a ticking bomb when traffic on I-5 in San Diego comes to a screeching halt and any idea of being anywhere at any time is out the window.

Tonight, when we finally arrived back at our rental condo, he yelled to me no less than forty times: "Mommmy! Where are you?"

We are not staying in a mansion. It's a small one bedroom condo. I could only be in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the bedroom or on the porch. But still, the panic: "MOMMY!"

Then when he does find me, it's usually with the force of physical exertion. A body slam, a punch to the arm, a death grip on my ankle to get me to fall.

I don't know why Ben pushes me as hard as he does. In the past, he knew that he could. But I've made it pretty clear in the last few months, that those days are long gone. We've introduced "consequences" and he has a firm grasp on the "bad choices" program (especially when the DS is involved).

While we were at the museum today, he again pushed. I got down on my knees, grabbed his face and said, "I just spent $40 for you to come here! Get ride of that attitude or the vacation is over." I meant it. He was being that difficult.

There were a million other six-year-olds running around the museum, captivated with the science exhibits, and mine was having his own personal soap opera - with pouting, sniveling and a complete sense of entitlement. My blood pressure was high. My patience was at an all time low. I swatted him - hard - in the back of the head as the uber-liberal San Diego moms looked on in surprise (disgust?).

My sister suggested that I go to the cafe and have a cup of coffee.

While I totally appreciated her offer, I also felt like I was once again failing at whatever it takes to be Ben's caretaker. I did get the cup of coffee. I came back. My sister had him engaged in an exhibit involving a spinning wheel and disks. We saw the new IMAX film. The day was salvaged.

Then, the death march up I-5 and the battle to get him into his pajamas. He snapped his t-shirt at me - hard - and I grabbed him and hit him as hard as I could. Knee-jerk reaction, I know. But still. He physically hurt me and my instinct was to hurt him back. Which I did. He talked about it today. We both talked about it. I doubt he'll do it again. I feel horrible, yet I don't regret doing it.

The fact of the matter is that I have to parent Ben alone for now. I don't have the benefit of having input, suggestions, validation. I also know that this is what I was meant to do. At this point in my life, I'm not supposed to be a stellar wife, I'm not intended to have a killer career. God picked me for this child and I have to rise up to the challenge. And he is a wicked challenge.

But today, we went to the beach. He skipped rocks in the tide for hours. He delighted in my reaction. We collected shells. And ate frozen yogurt. He sat through an entire Pilates class, while I participated. We watched two movies. I packed up our things for the next leg of our journey. We played a Lego pirate game. He didn't snap me with his t-shirt. He willingly allowed me to brush his teeth. I drank my Grey Goose. He ate all his carrots. I didn't yell. Not once. I can't begin to articulate how peaceful it was. Today, I realized how much I appreciate days like these.

So I was given a difficult child. So I'm a single mom. So vacations might feel like a death march, on some days. So this might be my most challenging task in life. So I may likely pray the same prayer every night: "God, grant me the wisdom to do this right."

So, yes. Always with eyes wide open - looking square at the face of reality - I know this all to be true.

But it still doesn't make it any less hard.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Way Vacations Are Meant To Be

I was having some serious misgivings on Monday. About this whole solo vacation thing. I don't know how the ex totes the child to Italy and around the world. Three days in So Cal and I was feeling all my pre-botoxed lines begin to deepen considerably. And that is not good.

On Monday, I was exhausted. Grainy-eyed. Short. Irritable. Wanting to put a big piece of packing tape over Ben's ever moving mouth for just a few short moments.

Enter Aunt Alisa on Monday night.

Ahhh. Bliss.

Alisa jumped in the backseat with Ben and had him laughing hysterically on the 40 minute drive to Carslbad. She bought me a beer and she cut up his pizza.

At 5am, she took him into her bed with her. And they both snuggled up and slept until 9am! 9AM!!! Ben never sleeps past 6am. I hid in the bedroom and prayed silent prayers of gratitude (whilst surfing the internet!).

I went to the gym and left the two of them with a Lego set. When I came back, they were ready to go to LegoLand on their own which was truly a beautiful thing because I have done my time at LegoLand over the last two days and I was ready for a break from the crowds and all those damn Legos.

Off they went and I went off to the local boutique where the lovely 20-somethings outfitted me for next weekend's wedding festivities in Southern California. I grabbed a coffee, a frozen yogurt and enjoyed the quiet solitude of the warm sun and the quiet moments.

Alisa and Ben returned at dinner time with a new Lego set. We all ate dinner together, then I modeled some of my new "So Cal clothes" while they assembled the Lego set. Then, they hit the yogurt shop and I hit the local bar (yes, in my new super short romper that was waaayyyyy out of my comfort zone but so is getting a drink by myself!).

We all came home at the same time, with promises of Ben getting to sleep with Aunt Alisa in the middle of the night and something was mentioned about the two of them stealing away to the new water park. Which most certainly does not mean that I will spend more money at the local boutique. But it may mean that I'll drink many more coffees and ingest more frozen yogurt than I should!

I love my vacation.

Oh, and my mom also called and said, "Stay an extra night. I don't want you driving 10 hours home. I'll pay for it."

I'm thinkin' Harris Ranch. In the spirit of an adventurous vacation...

In the meantime, I have such respect for my sister! How did she captivate Ben so quickly? Her love for him is undeniable but his love for her is so transparent. I love it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

This Is Why We Fly

We are on Day 1 of our Southern California road trip. About two hours in, I decided that we are not going to be a road trip kinda family. Here are just a few reasons why:

Ben made it to Stockton until he decided that he had to go to the bathroom. "Now, now, now!" he yelled from the backseat. Matters escalated when he urgently cried, "I'm gonna pee my pants!" How does this happen without warning? Where does one find a safe and clean restroom in downtown Stockton? How far could I push him? Apparently, not far because then I heard this:

"My pants are wet!"

Did I mention that we were only in Stockton?

After a lengthy conversation about bodily signals and cues (which I thought we had mastered a couple of years ago), we were back on our way.

With Mario on board, of course. Ben became so animated in the game that he began kicking my seat. How annoying is that? Verrrryyyyyy. He could do that on an airplane just as easily and someone else could suffer while I pretend not to notice behind my Us Magazine. I'm just sayin'.

We made it to Coalinga and stopped in to McDonald's before lunch. Wanna silence the lunch crowd in central California on remote I-5 during the Saturday mid-day rush? Just walk in carrying your own cooler with spinach salad and grilled chicken. That outta do the trick.

What also silenced me was the line for the women's restroom. It easily wrapped around the building three times. In an effort to be efficient, I attempted to deploy the divide and conquer approach, which was more like the divide and panic approach and I will probably never hear the end of "when my Mom almost left me at some hot, dusty Mcdonald's."

Back in the car, I silenced Mario in favor of a Hot Wheels movie on the portable DVD. Not sure which was worse because Ben mastered the volume dial quite proficiently.

At some point, the battery died on the DVD player. It's old. What can I say? Not much except for, "no, we are not there yet." Ben commenced whining for a good fifteen minutes straight and I handed him a full, unopened bag of Cheetos (organic, of course) which otherwise occupied his mouth for a whole twenty minutes. At which point I realized that the bag was nearly empty. Oops. Clutching his belly, he began a new whine/mantra, "Ohhhh, my stomach hurts so bad!"

Another talk ensued about bodily cues. Functions too, because we AGAIN had to stop and deal with divide and conquer or divide and panic on the restroom front. I-5 needs more toilets. Clearly.

At the base of the grapevine, I relinquished Mario. Mario was with us for mere minutes when Ben let out a blood curdling scream and dissolved into tears. "ARE YOU HURT?" I asked. "BLEEDING?" "Nooooo," he wailed. "I lost my level." "You also just lost your Nintendo," I snapped and plucked it straight out of his hand, while careening into the next lane. "You are so done with this," and I waved the Nintendo wildly before hurling it into the opposite side of the backseat. He's damn lucky that I didn't chuck it out the window.

Oh yeah. Road trips are good times.

Things calmed down enough to have yet another long conversation about gaming and addictions and obsessive compulsive behavior.

Mid-way into the grapevine, we hit big-time traffic which pretty much put us at a stand-still next to Magic Mountain and kicked off another whine fest, entitled: "Why Aren't We Stopping There???"

Fortunately, I shut down that situation super quick by saying, "Do you see any kiddie rides or boat rides?" Ben doesn't partake in anything that moves more quickly than a kayak. A slow moving kayak on a placid lake.

We crawled into the LA basin.

At one point Ben asked me, "Why didn't we fly?" He then punctuated the issue by saying, "Daddy and I would have flown."

I replied: "C'mon, Ben. Let's think about this. Italy with Daddy or Legoland with Mommy?"

No brainer. Point taken.

Eight hours later we "I spied" the Embassy Suites, our home for the evening.

The Embassy Suites at LAX was, according to Ben, "the best hotel in the world!" He was enchanted with the lobby atrium, he swam a good, long time in the indoor pool and declared the hotel restaurant's nuggets: "amazing!"

He then proceeded to kick me all night long, causing me to wonder why in the world I got a suite when he would totally insist on being sharing my otherwise very comfy king-sized bed.

Now, we're about to get back on the road for the final sprint - or two hour haul - to Lego Land.

As I negotiated a hairpin turn out of the ridiculously engineered hotel garage structure and I told Ben for the tenth time to "please turn the voice off while Mommy gets us out of the clutches of garage structure heinous-ness, Ben piped in with one last suggestion:

"Let's park the rental car in San Diego and fly home."

He is most certainly my child.