Monday, April 27, 2009

The ultimate boys' trip

I never understood how couples could vacation separately. I thought it weird that "he" went golfing in Scotland while "she" spent a week antiquing with her sisters. And then I blinked and five years together turned into ten which turned into twenty. We still had a lot of mutual interests but we still had our own, too.

And the came the kids.There are some places you can't easily take kids. And trust me, our kids are globetrotters: they joined our life, we didn't join theirs. But still, some trips are meant to be taken with your friends. I get it now.

Dave is in Dubai this week. While I'm happy for him, I'm also a little sad. It's been 18 months since he quit his 80%-travel-sales-management job and we're used to having him around! (And I am no longer used to doing all the cooking, cleaning, chauffering, fight mediating and homework supervision.) I have no one to blame but myself: I put together this trip for him after discovering that my friend David was going there on business.

My biggest fear is that my husband will come home with a new job as my friend David is a partner in a global executive search firm and this is a partner's meeting. (Note to husband: it better be a job you are over-the-moon in love with. I like you being home.)

If you recognize the photo above then you're familiar with Dubai. As I type, Dave is asleep, having sent me ten texts telling me how hot (temperature-wise) and how cool (so much to see) Dubai is. First on his list? Ski Dubai. I don't think he's going to miss us much.

P/S to all you Single Ladies. David is a catch. He has been divorced for about three years, has no kids, lives in Austin, is a great cook and really nice, smart guy. Let me know if you want an introduction.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Take me out to the ballgame

We went to the A's game this afternoon with our next door neighbors and their three kids. Our neighbors had never been to a baseball game, having immigrated from Iran. All the mother and elder daughter knew about baseball they learned from Twilight -- I love them!

This is what the six kids, aged 4 - 11, did during the game:
  • Ate hot dogs
  • Drank soda and rainbow-hued Icees
  • Ate cotton candy in three pastel shades
  • Ate Orange Dreamsicle sundaes, Dippin Dots, Drumsticks
  • Cracked peanuts, threw the shells randomly around the bleachers and ate some
  • Played musical seats
  • Looked for Stomper, the mascot
The funniest part of the game was me trying to explain the game to them: the objective, the rules, the importance of statistics, the playing field, the strategy. And I didn't even touch on the 7th inning stretch or Dot Racing. I know this game pretty well and never realized how hard it was to explain until I tried! The only thing funnier than me trying to explain it was the pained expression on Dave's face as I did so.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

17 Again? No thanks.

I just came home from taking The Pinks plus one to see 17 Again. If you haven't yet seen it in the theater and are a Zac Efron fan, I suggest Netflix. The kids liked it and I did not.

I thought twice about taking the littlest Pinks to see a PG-13 movie but they have seen Twilight several times and are just fine. I won't be doing that again. Twilight is PG-13 for violence and we're really clear that vampires are make believe. 17 Again has a lot of sexual innuendos and things I just don't want the kids exposed to yet, things like house parties and underage drinking. The best part of the movie came in the beginning when the main character, played by Cougar-Eye-Candy Efron, dances with the cheerleaders. It was all downhill from there. Incidentally, Kim had the best description of Efron in the movie I've heard thus far: he makes the most of what G/d and his personal trainer have given him. Frankly, neither he nor Rob Pattinson do it for me.

Today was much more social than I'd anticipated. Maybe that's why I'm wiped out? Dave gets his energy from other people; he thrives from being around others and in social settings. I'm the opposite. As much as I enjoy it, it drains me. I need a fair amount of alone time to equalize. But today was filled with happy social surprises: I ran into a dance team mommy at softball and we blabbed nonstop for an hour. Then I met a client for coffee. After that was dance pictures, where I ran into more dance team mommies, people I used to spend many weekends a year with. It was great to catch up with them all and I even convinced one to come to the movies with us tonight.

This weekend continues with its frantic pace of softball pictures, the A's game and Hebrew. I think it's best that way, actually. On Tuesday Dave leaves for a week-long boys' trip, which I'm dreading even though I brokered it. More on that soon.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sleepless in the Suburbs

Earth Day ended on a stressful note and here I am at 6am the next morning, about to kick off a new client project, on four hours of sleep and a cup of Earl Grey. Not optimal.

After the movie I came into the office to catch up on some paperwork. There was buzzing outside the window and it became increasingly louder. Rolling up the shades gave me an up close and personal view of a bee hive that seemed to come from nowhere. I started to feel nauseous.

My office phone rang and my client wanted to talk. That's when I saw the first bee inside the house. It was quickly followed by more than I could count. I hung up on my client and Dave and I did a full on attack on our new house-mates. Actually, I fled and opted to pick up the kids at school while he did the dirty work, which included sealing the spot where they entered the house, helping the ones inside the house return outside, and calling Orkin to finish the job.

An hour later I was back on the phone with my client and Dave and Orkin had done their jobs.

Having an office full of bees is an image that will stay with me a long time. My dreams last night were all bee-related and surely that contributed to the sluggish pace of my fingers pressing upon the keyboard right now.

Fortunately, after the meeting wraps, I'm taking Paige to the new Burke Williams Spa as a thank you for keeping Thing 1 for a weekend in March. Bring on the pampering!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

I spent this morning seeing Disney's Earth movie with Eldest Daughter's class.

Chaperoning on a 5th grade field trip is very different than chaperoning on a 1st grade field trip. The 5th grader just wants the parent to be quiet and drive. In a nutshell, be invisible. The 1st graders hold your hand and have you participate right along side them. It's a good thing I still have some 1st graders.

The movie was visually spectacular. It reused the BBC's Planet Earth content, which was five years in the making and took 70 photographers to 62 countries.

The message is simple: respect the fragile ecosystems of this vast world we merely share in.

The film, which James Earl Jones narrates with a decent amount of humor, document dozens of wild animal species including exotic birds, monkeys, whales, and cats. The poignant tale of a struggling polar bear family plays exceptionally well on the big screen, right from the opening shots of the incredibly adorable cubs slip-sliding along a steep arctic slope. I was quite impressed by a great white shark leaping high above the water to snag a seal and the aerial footage of a massive caribou migration with hungry wolves in hot pursuit.

It was another magical cinema experience.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Run Deb Run!

Deb is running her first Boston Marathon today. While I am on the phone talking about Channel Enablement and Safety & Security Solutions, Deb is running 8 minute miles through the streets of Boston. Technology is a cool thing -- I can follow Deb's run online and see her checkpoint times.

It's been inspirational to see Deb morph from an academic to a suburban mother-of-two to a nationally ranked triathlete. She's doing her first international tri this year -- in Japan. (In typical Brainy Deb style she is taking Japanese classes in preparation.) I was standing at the finish line when she ran her first marathon, the Nike Women's. And I cried real tears for her when she qualified for Boston this year.

You go girl!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Wicked good time

We're just back from seeing Wicked in the city with Neeracha, Sean and their daughters. It was well staged with catchy music and stellar performances. Neeracha bought tickets for all of us more than six months ago and silly me forgot that she handed off ours when we had lunch a few weeks back. Fortunately her credit card and a nice ask at the box office brought forth duplicates.

It turned out to be a Broadway Cares / Equity Fights Aids performance so after the show we made a donation and the kids got their pictures taken with the two leads, Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West. Wicked is the previously untold story of the Witches of Oz and now I want to read the book, as well Gregory Maguire's book based on the Cinderella story, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister.

There aren't very many Broadway shows that wow me anymore. I compare everything to my favorite three: Les Mis, Phantom and Miss Saigon. Fortunately this was very entertaining and in line with The Lion King.

After the matinee we had a dinner of American comfort food at the Presidio Social Club and talked about our upcoming vacation together to Spain. Neeracha and I have been to many restaurants together over the course of our 15-year friendship. This is one of the few times I have actually picked the restaurant. Strangely, we're both foodies, she just happens to pick 'em most of the time.

Eldest Daughter is still talking about Wicked today and I can hear the music on in her room -- a good sign.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lucky me, lucky you!

While I adore a lot of paper products, I adore Erin Condren's in particular. You've probably seen them and just not known they were her designs. They are bright. They are happy. They are good quality. They just make you smile.

And everything on Erin's site right now is discounted 35% if you use this code: luckybreaks6. (Credit: AmyS.)

Enjoy!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A boner in the back is not foreplay.

That's what I heard on Oprah Monday. (Full disclosure: I watched it that night, on DVR.)

The show was called "The Secret Life of Moms" and featured Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile, whose most recent book is I'd Trade My Husband for a Housekeeper.

Motherhood, they say, was more overwhelming than they expected. "It was like a bomb hit us," Amy says. "I didn't feel I had permission to talk about how hard motherhood really was."

Trisha and Amy set out to see if other mothers shared their struggles. After interviewing hundreds of women, they published I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids, based on their findings.

My perspective: I agree with this. People don't talk about how hard motherhood really is. Absolutely it's the most rewarding experience ever but it is also challenging beyond what words can convey. Just read Anne Lamott, one of the few authors who is brutally candid about it. One mom told Amy and Trisha, "I love being a mom, I just hate doing it because it is an impossible job." I so get this. We expect to over deliver in every aspect of our lives.

When Eldest Daughter was a few weeks old Dave went back to work. One afternoon, not long after that, I had a complete meltdown. I called my own mother, who was at work, and begged her to come over so I could nap. Fortunately she did and I eventually learned to take care of the baby myself. Here's a picture of my mom helping feed the littlest pinks. She's still in her work clothes so I'm thinking she came over straight from work. I hope we fed her dinner.

I run really fast from uber mommies, those people I met in playgroups whose children only eat organic food and who did allow their children to watch TV until the American Academy of Pediatrics-recommended age of two. I am a freak: a suburban working-mother-of-three who genuinely enjoys what she does professionally and does not believe that her children are being damaged because of it. I believe it sets a good example for our three daughters. Girl power and all. The Pinks are 7 and 11 now so they're harder mentally than they are physically. Still, when they were little I would never have guessed that the thing I'd most want was 30 minutes in the bathtub all by myself.

Some of the better stories from Oprah included:
  • The mom who relieved herself into a diaper while driving instead of pulling into a rest stop and risking waking her sleeping children.
  • The mom who confesses "I really don't enjoy the early mornings or the plastic toys. I don't do arts and crafts, I don't do pipe cleaners, I don't do cotton balls or scissors."
  • The mom who now tells her amorous husband, "that's now a point of exit, not entry."
  • The mom who says that she drinks "wine, a lot of wine, every night after the kids are in bed."
I do find it surprising that women of all kinds relate to Oprah, even though her life is much different than theirs. Surely I was not the only one to notice the mega-carat diamond earrings, pictured above, that she sported on the show. Oprah has always said that she has a huge amount of respect for moms and that she doesn't have what it takes to be a mom. Maybe that, coupled with her seemingly genuine affection, is why we love her?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tradition!

When I was a child we made the annual pilgrimage to my cousins' house in Sacramento for the first night of Passover. We are Reform Jews, far less religious than our Orthodox cousins. The seder was an eight-hour ordeal, beginning around 7pm. We broke about midnight for dinner and then my family got into the car and drove home then while my cousins and their extended Orthodox clan continued on. The best part was hanging out with my cousin Sara. We had a strategic approach to stealing the Afikomen and hiding it from our four younger siblings. One time my family actually stopped at McDonald's on the way to Sacramento, knowing we'd not eat dinner until after our stomaches had growled for no fewer than three hours. Although we stopped celebrating Passover with them when we moved to Alaska, I'm sure it still goes on today in much the same way.

The best seder I ever went to was at my Aunt Evelyn's house in Chicago, while I was in college. Amongst the guests was Jeff Garlin, who was very early in his stand-up comedy career. (He now plays Jeff Greene on Curb Your Enthusiasm.) My Orthodox grandma was whipping through the seder at one end of the table in Hebrew. Jeff was at the other end making one liners. Those of us in the middle of the table were trying not to pee in our pants.

Fast forward to the present time.

Dave's Aunt Janice and Uncle Bob always host the first seder. This year The Pinks were finally old enough that I did not worry about their breaking all the small, low-placed, fragile tzotchkes. The seder did not seem so long, perhaps because our kids participated and because I was busy reflecting how much the same Passover is anywhere: the lace overlay tablecloth, the Matzoh cover created by some child a long time ago, the Israeli seder plate, the too-sweet Manischewitz, the overcooked chicken. Thing 2 set a new record for matzoh ball consumption at one sitting.

We did second seder with my folks, with the addition of Thom Singer, who was visiting us. My brother and his family were celebrating on Maui, it being spring break and all. Eldest Daughter awed us with her ability to read Hebrew. (Three years of Hebrew school has apparently paid off.) Aunt Evelyn, who was not present, made the best new contribution to our seder: a chocolate seder plate, which we ate for dessert with strawberries and Kool Whip. Kitschy Judaica is much more prevalent in Skokie than it is in Moraga.

Whereas I used to dread these holidays, now I find comfort in them, the sameness from year to year, the ritualism.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ski Team: the season in review

I was a little sad when I returned The Pinks' ski rentals Sunday afternoon. We are really and truly done skiing this year. The picture at left is of Thing 2 and her two ski team BFFs.

Saturday was the last ski race of the season -- Big Air. As the name alludes, it's jumps. Well, one jump. I was surprised how many of the kids actually landed upright. And I was amazed how many of the 8- and 9-year-olds could do very tricky things while in the air; it was a beautiful thing to watch. Thing 2 did not place but hey, it's her first year and I was just glad to see her compete; she was ambivalent about this particular event.

Here's what I learned as a newbie Squaw Valley Ski Team parent:
  • The coaches are phenomenal; they are even-keeled, committed, great with the kids, and accomplished skiers themselves.
  • The back office is a disaster, IMHO. More than 150 US Ski Team members have come from the Squaw Valley Ski Teams in spite of this.
  • The Wildflower Bakery cookie pass is a great idea but The Pinks didn't use it very often. (If you get a box of Wildflower Cookies from us this week, you'll know why.)
  • A child who arrived in Tahoe late Friday night, slept seven hours then skied six is still capable of playing outside in the snow for three hours after team.
  • Ski team requires a certain amount of force. Force to make their lunch the night before, even though you are exhausted from the drive and altitude. The next day, force comatose child to eat the hot breakfast you have lovingly prepared. Force them to brush their hair even though it will be restored to its previous state the moment they put their helmet on. Force yourself to not scream when looking for their favorite mittens, which have somehow disappeared from the place they were stored last Sunday night. Force their feet into their boots, grab their skis and force them out the door, where they suddenly remember how much they love to ski and disappear for the next six hours.
Dave stayed down in the Bay with Thing 1 and Eldest Daughter. Thing 2 and I hung with the neighbors and one of them took pity on us Saturday night and invited us to dinner. If not for that it would have been sushi at Mamasake (aka the place I have twice spotted Sean Penn). Greg served Raclette, which is worth a mention because I have not eaten it in many years. Greg actually had a Raclette set (sort of like a fondue pot) and served the melted Swiss-made cow cheese with potatoes, dried meat, pickled onions.

At the end-of-year ski team party Thing 2 won the award for most talkative aka the Chatty Spice award. It makes perfect sense to me.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Christian

During the Alaska Years, most of my friends were boys. It's the ratio, I swear. One of my good friends back then was Chris Bassett, now a Conservative Christian pastor and father of four in Washington State with a lovely wife that homeschools their children. The picture, right, is of Chris with his daughter Jadin. I, of course, remember Chris best in his letterman's jacket and parachute pants. I'm a child of the 80s, remember?

Chris just returned to active military duty, too, and leaves for Afghanistan in two weeks to serve our country as an Army Chaplain.

What is it with my friends doing this?! Apparently this is now a trend for upper-middle-class forty-something American men, at least the ones I know.

His blog is a good read. While our political / world / religious views are very different, I enjoy his perspective.

Be safe, Chris.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Tutti Frutti vs Pinkberry

It'd been far too long since Neeracha and I had lunched. We had lots to catch up on -- the general state of our kids, her parents, who have been visiting, and our upcoming trip to Spain.

I was especially glad to talk Twilight with her because she blew through the four books in four days, as did my ice-cream-sister-in-law, who still lives in the Forks fantasy world along with me.

After sushi at Blowfish, we walked to Pinkberry, the frozen yogurt phenom, which I had not yet tried. The thing is, we just got a Tutti Frutti in our 'burb and it is goooood! Really good. It is better than Yogurt Shack, which cornered the market a few years ago. Tutti Frutti has perhaps 12 flavors, including a signature tart, and lets you self-serve your own toppings. At Pinkberry your choices are tart, pomegranate and green tea. And they put the toppings on for you. I was glad to try it and also relieved to know that I won't feel the pull to return anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Perfect Moment

The late Spaulding Gray described "a perfect moment". A perfect moment is when life is inexorably sweet and generally over before you can capture it on the teeny tiny camera on your overly tricked-out cell phones.

Here are a few examples of mine:

1. A year ago I was skiing by myself on a windless, cloudless day. The view of the lake was ethereal and I was struck at how lucky I was to be right there, right then.

2. Two years ago we were stuck at Tahoe an extra day and night when a blizzard came in. I had cabin fever so I put on my ski clothes, including helmet and goggles, and walked outside. I lay on my back on a bench outside the nearby pizza joint and caught snowflakes on my tongue.

3. It's the first taste of fresh peach ice cream in the summer.

Have you experienced this?