Category Archives: Kids

I Used to Bake a Lot of Cookies… And Then I Had Kids

Back in 1993 when I was a 31-year old newlywed, I used to cook all the time. I received many extravagant wedding gifts and I loved to use all the kitchen appliances: bread maker; pasta maker; juicer; waffler; Cuisinart with all the gadgets. I prepared an amazing bruschetta with fresh roma tomatoes, basil and garlic, and the more often I made it, the more immune I became to garlic. I made my last big batch when Emily was just a few months old and it reeked of so much garlic it would have scared away the cast of Twilight, and I was forced to pump & dump because Emily refused to breastfeed my stinky milk for a day.

These days, I’m not much of a cook. I try to spice up a box of Hamburger Helper by replacing pork chunks for ground beef or adding a pack of frozen peas, but that’s the extent of my culinary creativity.

We don’t have the budget to eat out or buy take out. If we did, my family would be regular customers at every eatery within a 3-mile radius. Because I’m usually overbooked, I tend to stock up on Costco or Trader-Joe’s ready-made meals. Unfortunately, the rest of the family is sick of them and are now boycotting anything that comes in a 2-quart plastic container.

But before I had kids, I was one heck of a baker, which seems backwards since you’d think I’d be baking more with my kids. Back then I owned a home with a spacious gourmet kitchen and a double oven, and I had the luxury of actually getting the baking dishes washed while my treats were cooking instead of spending that time pouring apple juice, pulling out the bin of Barbies and grabbing Neosporin and a Bandaid. Now I have a trampoline that is bigger than my whole kitchen, my oven temperature has a mind of its own, and my collection of baking utensils has dwindled down to one cracked mixing bowl and a four-quart measuring cup.

Back in the 1980’s and early ‘90’s I used to be a quiet co-dependant and created lavish cheesecakes and birthday cakes and spent the holidays frantically baking up a storm for all my co-workers as an effort to make them like me. It turns out they liked me without me having to kiss their stomachs, and they showed me their gratitude by taking up a collection and buying me a Kitchen Aide mixer. I paid them back by getting pregnant shortly thereafter and rarely baking again.

One Christmas I baked four different kinds of bar cookies, rice krispie squares, peanut butter fudge, 10 dozen cupcakes, 6 batches of brownies, and 100 dozen cookies. It took me from Friday through Sunday night with very little sleep in between, and I packed up the variety in large baskets for each department at work. I have a picture somewhere and I wish I could find it. My arms are outstretched in front of row after row of cardboard boxes piled high with baked goods. It’s the only proof I have that I’m not exaggerating, because personally, I wouldn’t believe me either.

I’m not quiet or co-dependent any more, but the main reason I don’t bake like Mrs. Fields is because I’m just too busy. I always donate something to the school bake sales, but in most cases they’re the slice & bake cookies, or brownies or cupcakes that just need eggs, oil and water added. My kids love the latter because they get to lick the cracked bowl and wooden spoon. Unfortunately I tend to find time to bake hours after they’ve gone to bed, so the licking of utensils is a rare treat.

Tom is definitely the chef of the family. He’ll make a big pot of jambalaya or chili, and I will continue to eat the leftovers for lunch day after day and never get sick of them. I make a complete fool of myself at potlucks because I am not too proud to take home all the leftovers. I figure it’s saving me over $100 in food and about 5 hours of cooking/cleaning time for the week. I have no idea what kind of reputation I have when I’m out of earshot. Are people making oinking sounds? Do they think I’m the porker at the all-you-can-eat buffet? It really doesn’t matter because as I said, I’m not too proud.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been creating vlogs (video blogs) for YouTube’s MomPulse Network for their Question of the Week. Since this week asks What is your favorite recipe? I decided that it was a great excuse to make the time to bake something with my kids, and also buy a much-needed measuring cup. Together we prepared the dessert that used to tempt even the most hardcore Weight Watchers member: Monster Cookies.

If you have three minutes, please follow this link to watch me and my kids make this delectable treat. I dare you not to drool.

And if you’re reading this, I invite you to come over for an extravagant dinner party in which I serve freshly made pasta, homemade baked bread, and a few side dishes that take me hours to prepare. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until all the kids have left for college.

 

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Filed under Family, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Husband, Kids, Parenting

Vacationing Around the World Via Green Screen

Our family enjoying Splashtopia while we vacation at Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage.

I’m not much of a world traveler. My last passport expired in 1988 and I haven’t even been on a plane since before 9/11. But last Saturday at the Colfax World Fair, photographer Craig Damon gave me and my kids the opportunity to travel throughout the world without paying for airport parking or experiencing a minute of jetlag.

Jake and I walked over 5,000 miles along the Great Wall of China, but on the way back he said he was too tired, so I had to carry him.

Here Jake and I are at the Taj Mahal. I stopped him just in time before he drew a picture of SpongeBob in Sharpie on the mausoleum.

Mary and I traveled to Egypt to see the pyramids. She was very disappointed that there was no casino with an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Now we’re swimming with the fishes in the beautiful Caribbean. Pretty cool that our clothes never got wet.

Mary and I were amazed at the height of the Eiffel Tower. We tasted about 50 different kids of cheese and then the next day we were completely constipated.

Jake was really excited about visiting Mount Rushmore because he learned about it on an episode of Phineas and Ferb. Jake figured that they were the ones who took away the presidents’ bodies.

Being the teenager that she is, Emily didn’t really want to travel the world with her uncool mom, so I convinced her to join me on a trip to Titus – Saturn’s largest moon. Unfortunately Emily forgot to pack the lower half of her body. Either that or Phineas and Ferb stole it too, and are hiding it somewhere near Mount Rushmore.

You would think that with all this traveling I would have thought to bring a change of clothes.

Next year at the Colfax World Fair I’m hoping that Craig takes me on a trip to Tahiti. Maybe for that vacation I’ll take my husband and leave the kids at the fair.

 

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Filed under Family, Humor, Kids, Vacation

My Husband Loves Me More Than Your Husband Loves You

I love my husband and I know he loves me.

I’ve met a lot of women who like to have their husband’s love proved to them on a regular basis in the form of flowers, gifts, and jewelry. However, these are not my preferred forms of affection.

Although I appreciate flowers, I know within days the petals will drop, the pollen will cause my daughter Emily to be sneezing up a storm, and in a week, I will be the one hauling the dead bouquet to the green bin and having to wash a vase filled with skunk water.

In lieu of gifts, I would much prefer a gift certificate for “Free lawn mowing without the prompting of subtle hints” and “Complimentary kitchen cleaning – including wiping down the stove.”

And although I love admiring the glittery jewels other women wear, I just couldn’t appreciate showing off a chunk of bling when we’re still up to our eyeballs in credit card debt.

My husband Tom shows me he loves me in subtle ways. He’ll fill up the Keurig coffee maker with water when the light is flashing, even though he is already done with his own caffeine fix. If he’s making a root beer float for himself, he’ll offer to make one for me. And if I order a meal that turns out to be to the left of “just ok,” he’ll offer half of his meal, even if he’s starving and his dish is delectable.

We moved in together in May of 2005 and weren’t married until October, and there was still a lot I didn’t know about him. I volunteered Tom to man the grill for the annual Hartsook Street Block Party, which took place on the hottest day of the year. The temperature soared to 110 degrees and the humidity was so thick neighbors were sweating more liquid than they were ingesting. Tom lamented that the grill actually felt cooler than the air. He perched himself in front of that charcoal-induced sauna for four hours. Later he told me to never NEVER volunteer him for anything ever again without his permission.

Why does this scenario make him a more loving husband than the rest of the men out there? Because he wasn’t a dick the entire time he was grilling, he told me the “no volunteering” request without raising his voice, and he didn’t hold a grudge about it for weeks. How about it, Ladies? Would your hubbies have that reaction?

But the Grand Finale of Best Humbandrycame last night, just after 4:00 am. The previous day, our dogs found a bin in our pantry filled with Special K bars and ingested about a dozen of them.

Devil Dogs

Tom came home to crumbs, wrappers, and two very guilty-looking dogs. Then he cleaned up the mess before I could take a picture for my blog (more Best Husband kudos!).

In the middle of the night I awoke to a fearsome stench. I got up and started to walk toward the switch to turn on the light when I felt squish squish squish – the unexpected feeling of stepping on gooey wetness.

I turned on the light and started screaming.

“Tom! Tom!” He had gone out to the couch about an hour earlier because he couldn’t sleep. Tom ran in like he was ready to fend off a home intruder and we both stared down at the bedroom carpet.

It was completely covered in runny diarrhea. It looked like someone had unloaded a paintball gun filled with caramel-colored pellets. The mess was sprayed all over the doors, the walls, and the mirrored closet doors. I was actually standing in the middle of the Feces Forest and had no idea how to get out of it.

I just stood there – stunned, paralyzed, terrified. I had no idea where to even start cleaning up such a sewage spill.

I was still a motionless statue by the time Tom arrived with the pooper scooper and started cleaning up the watery excrement. He looked like he was playing a game of miniature golf, but instead of a ball, he was easing the club over stinky slime.

I performed a standing long jump into the hallway, dashed into the bathroom, and scrubbed the bottoms of my feet so hard you would have thought I was a plague victim in Contagion. Then I prepared a bucket with Mr. Clean, poured the hottest water I could stand with industrial-strength rubber gloves, and raced back to the bedroom.

“I’m done,” Tom said. ” Go sleep in the kids’ room.”

Well, his idea of “done” and my idea of “done” are two completely different things. Granted, the piles had been smeared down from two inches to two millimeters, but instead of random piles of poop, there now was a smooth ground cover of crap.

And tomorrow morning it would be a dried, crusty ground cover of crap.

I kneeled down in the hallway safe zone, rung out a soapy sponge, and started to scrub.

“Go to bed,” Tom gently ordered.

I was really beat. This was going to be the first time in over a week that I would be getting more than 6 hours of sleep, and now that plan had gone out the now-open window. The stench was truly unbearable and I was afraid I might even vomit, which would have been a nuisance since the pooper scooper was now outside.

“I’ll take care of it in the morning,” Tom said. I knew this really meant I’ll think about taking care of it in the morning, but if I wait until afternoon, I know you’ll do it anyway. But I was so tired, and the smell was so overwhelming offensive, I staggered to the kids’ room and crawled into the bottom bunk. Fortunately for me, Jake has been sleeping I the top bunk with Mary since he’s afraid of zombies (which apparently only make an appearance at his 9:00 pm bedtime).

I awoke this morning, dreading the job in front of me.

Mary woke up in the bunk above me and asked why I was in her room. She hopped out of bed the instant I told her what happened.

“Can I see?”

We headed through the hall and I plugged my nose as I opened the door, ready to be hit in the face by the noxious odor.

Instead, our carpet shampooer sat in the middle of the room and the carpet was clean.

What the…?

Tom was already holding a cup of coffee.

“I cleaned it last night.” He gulped his coffee. “I couldn’t sleep.”

Later in the day he hosed off the dozen or so piles of diarrhea scattered throughout the yard that were ejected after the dogs had been banished outside.

“I also cleaned and shaved Spike’s butt,” Tom said casually.

Apparently the constant streaming of liquid excrement had created a hefty cement-like compound, and leaves, dead flowers and weeds were caked onto our Australian Shepherd’s anus.

So for all you women who treasure the glittery bling, the dozen roses and the fancy gifts, I’d like to ask you a single question:

Would your husband let you sleep while he shampooed a shit-filled carpet and scrubbed the poopy ass of your long-haired dog?

This is why my husband loves me more than your husband loves you.

How about you? How does your spouse or significant other show you that he/she loves you?

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Family, Humor, Husband, Kids

A Visit From the Ghost of Mother’s Day Past

Today was Mother’s Day. I woke up at 10:15 am and my first thought was, “God, I slept in late.” Then came a second sudden thought: “I’m going back to sleep!”

I rolled over and threw the pillow over my face, then heard a loud throat-clearing sound in front of me. A plump elderly woman resembling Mrs. Santa Claus was floating in front of my bed.

“Happy Mother’s Day!” the woman said. I realized that it was Grandma Flynn, my paternal grandmother, looking remarkably spry despite being dead for nearly 40 years. I jolted awake in an instant.

“Grandma! What are you doing here?”

“Why I’m the ghost of Mother’s Day Past,” she told me. “You looked like you were about to sleep away Mother’s Day, so I decided to take you on a little trip.”

In an instant, we were both hovering over my childhood home, circa 1969.  The kitchen looked like a tornado struck, with pots, pans, dishes, food and stickiness everywhere. A 7-year old me was carrying a tray of food into my mom’s bedroom, along with my siblings Tammie (6), Michael (5), and Teri (4).

“Happy Mother’s Day!” we shouted in semi-unison.

My 27-year old mom shot up and glanced at her alarm clock: 6:00 am. She stared at our breakfast: cold burnt toast, charcoal-colored bacon, runny eggs, and unstirred orange juice made from concentrate. A clump of frozen pulp spilled on the bedspread as the younger me set the tray down.

“Breakfast in bed?” my mother gushed. She took a big bite of the black toast and smiled a truly genuine smile.

“This is the best Mother’s Day ever!” she declared as she pulled us in for an enormous group hug.

My floating Present Day self turned to Grandma Flynn. “Wow. She actually ate it. Yuck.”

“Your mom was a good woman,” my grandmother said.

“She still is,” I replied.

Then Grandma Flynn brought me back to Present Day and I saw that it was still 10:15 am. No time had gone by.

“Why are you showing me this, Grandma?” I asked.

“Because it’s Mother’s Day and you just want to sleep in rather than let your children fix you breakfast in bed.”

“But I hate crumbs in my bed,” I said. “And even though the kids tell me they’re going to clean up the mess, I know I’m the one who’s going to end up mopping the kitchen. I just want to sleep in and go out to breakfast.”

Grandma Flynn shook her head sadly and started to float away.

“Wait, Grandma!” I called after her. “Why are you leaving?”

“You are about to be visited by the Ghost of Mother’s Day Future,” she answered. And then she disappeared.

A moment later, an animated Jane Jetson appeared in my bedroom and transported me in her futuristic hovercraft. We flew to a nursing home. And there I was, lying in a bed wearing really ugly pajamas. And if I thought I looked flabby and wrinkly at 49, it was nothing compared to what I’ll look like at 85.

A nurse walked into the room with a tray of cold oatmeal. “Happy Mother’s Day,” she greeted me. The nurse started to feed me as oatmeal dribbled down my chin.

“No! No!” I cried. “Please don’t let this be my future, Jane Jetson! Let me go back to present day Mother’s Day! I can change. Let me eat the burnt toast!”

A second later, a grown Emily and Mary walked through the door of the nursing home.

“Mom! You’re not dressed yet?” Mary asked, shoving me out of bed.

Emily pulled a sweatshirt over my head. “Our reservation is in half an hour!”

A moment later we were at a huge brunch buffet, joined by a grown-up Jake and a bunch of my grandkids. Jane Jetson rolled her eyes and heaved a heavy sigh.

“Oh. You’re one of those.”

“One of what?” The Present Day Me asked.

“BTR’s.”

I stared at Jane cluelessly.

“Burnt Toast Reformers,” she clarified. “One of those moms who convinces her kids that she’d rather sleep in and go out to breakfast than wake up at the crack of dawn and eat burnt toast.”

Jane Jetson guided me back to the hovercraft and flew me back to Present Day.

Then, like Grandma Flynn, she too disappeared.

I glanced at the clock. It was still 10:15 am.

So I rolled over and went back to sleep until 10:45 am.

And then I pulled on a sweatshirt and ate breakfast with my kids.

At Marie Callender’s. Where there is no burnt toast, and no mess to clean up.

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Filed under Family, Holidays, Humor, Kids, Parenting, Parody

Volunteerism – It’s Not Just a Job; It’s a Job Without a Paycheck.

At about 3:45 pm on Tuesday, I dropped by the dubbing stage on the Disney lot, where Erik the recordist downloaded my conformed dialogue tracks. By 4:00 pm I was waving goodbye to my supervisor, my boss, the mixers and the producer of “Once Upon a Time.” I probably won’t see any of them again until season 2 begins next September.

I love my job as the dialogue editor on the show, but with only 22 episodes a year, it leaves a very long hiatus.

So on Wednesday morning I woke up and started my new job. I love this job too – probably even more than I love working on a hit show. And my new job pays nothing.

When I say “nothing,” I don’t mean that it’s something close to nothing like minimum wage at McDonald’s. My new job pays nothing because for the next month I’ll be working as a volunteer.

Since 2001 I have been a parent at Colfax Charter Elementary School in Valley Village. Back then, most families in the neighborhood sent their kids to private schools. They didn’t really know much about our little public school. So in 1998 when my daughter turned 2, I started volunteering at Colfax in an effort to infiltrate the school and see first hand what it was like.

They placed me in a 1st grade class with a teacher named Paige Gage, and I fell in love. Besides having a name that rhymed (something every 1st grade teacher should have) she was engaging, fun, and she genuinely seemed to enjoy being there everyday with the kids. It turns out she was a parent there years ago and became a teacher later. Her children are now grown and she’s still at Colfax and teaching 2nd grade now. And I’m still in love with her.

There are countless parents and members of the community who consistently devote a truckload of time to help this little gem of a school. Throughout the work season I participate in little ways as a room parent and in PTA, but when I’m on hiatus, I have the opportunity to really dive in. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to work with other volunteers to make our wonderful school even better and be able to interact with the kids. Here are some of the really fun things I can look forward to doing for the next 6 weeks of the school year:

Kindergarten violins

On Mondays and Wednesdays at 12:30 I get to help my son Jake and his classmates place their feet correctly on the Arthur Murray-like foot positions on the floor and keep the boys from having sword fights with the bows. The kindergarten recital is May 24. For that day I’ll probably work as a kid wrangler and try to keep them from messing up their white button-down shirts. Good thing the recital is first thing in the morning or after recess I’d be racing home and washing a large load of white button-down shirts.

Helping in the classroom

Today I helped the kids paint sunflowers. I let a girl named Emma make a second one after I totally screwed hers up by suggesting she fix a part of it. She was doing way better without my help.

Beautification

This Saturday, May 12th we’re all bringing our gardening gloves, rakes and creaking backs to the campus to sweep, clean and plant. It’s scheduled right between Jake’s baseball game and my niece’s baby shower in Yucaipa, so I can just spare an hour. That’s how long it should take to clean up 10 square yards of an area covered in juice box straw wrappers. Damn Juicy Juice.

PTA/PACE Elections

May 17th I get to see who’s going to be Co-VP of Communications with me. The term will be up for my current partner Joanne, which is really scary since she’s the one who takes the great photos and sends out the Constant Contact email messages to the whole school. I’m crossing my fingers that the new Co-VP is artistic and tech-savvy. Otherwise I’ll need to learn how to take photos where people actually have their eyes open.

Restaurant Fundraisers

Lisa and Abbe are a couple of energetic go-getters, and I work with them on Restaurant Fundraisers where Colfax gets 20% back. I have the task of counting out the exact number of flyers for each classroom and placing them in the teachers’ boxes so they’ll go home in the students’ backpacks. We have fundraisers at Menchie’s on May 18th and a combo Cold Stone Creamery / Green Apple China Bistro on June 5th. The teachers scoop the ice cream at Cold Stone, and there’s always a line out the door of students who ask, “Mrs. Tepper…  can I have another sample?”

Teacher Appreciation Lunch

I’ve signed up to bring lasagna. I used to make an amazing lasagna before I had kids.  Now every year I sign up to bring a lasagna to the Teacher Appreciation Lunch with the intention of making a homemade one, and every year I realize that an amazing lasagna takes about half a day to prepare. I’m thinking of just cooking a Stouffer’s in one of my Corningware trays so it looks like I actually spent more time on it than merely turning an oven dial.

Vaudeville

Every year, that same teacher I volunteered for back in 1998 puts on a Vaudeville Show. Starting in January, Paige Gage has rehearsals every Wednesday afternoon not only for her 2nd grade class, but she also offers it to every 2nd grader in the school and any older student who wants to help with the show. I’m the gal who gets to press “play” on the iPod. The kids sing songs like Jimmy Durante’s Inka Dinka Doo, perform magic tricks, and tell really corny jokes. I’ll hear the words “knock knock… who’s there?” more than any sane person should hear in a lifetime.

School Site Council

There’s a governance meeting once a month where we get to discuss the school charter, curriculum, budgets, and other topics that would make a kindergartner’s eyes glaze over. This is the time I get to act like a grownup and try to act like I really understand all that “I second it” and “I’d like to make a motion” stuff. Because it’s elementary school, I’d love to call it “Me too” and “Whatcha think if…?”

Career Day

I have the opportunity to make three 20-30 minute presentations on what a sound editor does for a living. After I explain that I work from home and wear headphones all day, the kids who will decide to pursue this career when they grow up will either be sound aficionados or anti-social shut-ins.

Tribute Songs

During the very last PTA/PACE meeting of the year we have a presentation to say goodbye to all the 5th grade parents who have gone above and beyond in volunteering for the school. I have the dream-of-a-lifetime job of writing a bunch of parodies and having some of the 5th graders perform it that night. My goal is to make the parents simultaneously roar with laughter and weep like babies. (Have some fun and check out last year’s karaoke version at Colfax 5th Grade Tribute 2011 on Youtube).

Colfax World Fair Marketing

This is the Big Kahuna of my volunteer activities, which is fitting since one of the things I get to hype is the Big Kahuna – a huge water slide at the Colfax World Fair on June 2nd. Last year about 7,000 guests attended this event which made $140,000 in a single day. My job is to get the news out about the fair by any means possible and to make enough money to keep all of Colfax’s extracurricular (and curricular) programs alive. I have a great team of volunteers working with me this year who will be spreading the word with Facebook, Twitter, Patch, emails, banners, posters, car magnets, flyers, postcards, lawn signs, newspapers, magazines, radio, online or just good old fashioned word of mouth. By June 2nd, if you haven’t heard of the Colfax World Fair, it means you’ve been in a coma under a rock on a desert island.

Finally…

Tuesday, June 19th is the last day of the 2011-2012 year for this little LAUSD school. So at 1:30 pm I’ll be clocking out.

By then I’ll need a nap.

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Filed under Family, Humor, Kids, Multitasking, Music, Parenting, Public Education, Public Schools, Volunteering

10 Exciting Things I Can Now Do After Being Featured on “Freshly Pressed”

Imagine opening up your email and instead of just the standard Groupons, spammers, and loads of subjects starting with “Re:” (even though you were sick of reading the original email the first time around), you – Joe Shmoe – see page after page of:

[Joe Shmoe] everybody likes you…

[Joe Shmoe] everybody wants to follow you…

[Joe Shmoe] everybody is commenting about you you YOU…

This exact thing happened to me last Friday. Well, the exact same thing except that instead of “Joe Shmoe” it was for my blog very VERY busy mom. And of course it didn’t actually say “everybody.” I just said that to provide myself a little ego boost.

But I kid you not. I was getting a new email practically every minute.

Apparently a post I wrote last month about obsessing over the high price of gas entitled “($ ÷ Gallon) x (Miles ÷ Gallon) = LA Gasoline Anxiety” was featured on WordPress.com’s Freshly Pressed, a Webpage that offers between 11 and 19 picks of the day chosen from their nearly half a million bloggers.

Typically I’ll get 80 to 160 hits when I post a new blog, and then it’ll dwindle down to about 20 to 50 hits until I post another new one the next week.

But after appearing on Freshly Pressed’s hit list, I had an astounding 1757 hits!

Let me repeat that: 1757 hits!

I don’t even know 1757 people. Even virtual people.

More readers visited in subsequent days. 1647 on Saturday. 1438 on Sunday. 1443 on Monday. By Tuesday it dropped down to just 442, which was still more than double my all-time record of 174 hits in one day.

I received 181 comments on that article alone, mostly from people reprimanding me for driving my pokey 5-year old son 1300 feet to school in the morning. I guess you can’t explain the humiliation of a tardy slip to people who want to save the planet from greenhouse gases.

I must have logged onto my blog a hundred times between Friday and Monday just to watch my hits graph move up. And to answer the obvious question… no, it wasn’t just me visiting my own site 1757, 1647, 1438, and 1443 times in four days. WordPress actually counts unique visitor per day. And if I am anything, I am certainly unique.

So, to celebrate my good fortune, I now present:

10 Exciting Things I Can Now Do After Being Featured on Freshly Pressed

1. I can wear a sash in the Valley Village 4th of July Parade that says “Miss Freshly Pressed.” Or maybe not, since I hate ironing.

2. I’ll have virtual conversations with well-known bloggers, and they still won’t know or care who the heck I am, but I have the opportunity to feel smug anyway.

3. I’m finally getting more regular comments from people besides my mom and my husband.

4. I get to experience what it’s like to have 5 minutes of fame without claiming to be impregnated by a pop star.

5. Because I now have more Twitter followers, I’d better start posting more newsworthy tweets than “Another Wednesday. Another Humpday.”

6. I now have readers in countries I not only have never heard of, I also can’t pronounce their names. (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya… anyone?)

7. My Klout score has risen to an impressive 46! I still don’t really know what a Klout score is, or if 46 really is impressive, but it sounds good, and most of my readers probably don’t know the difference.

8. I can brag that both Indians (Native Americans) and Indians (from Asia) read my blog, except at opposite times of the day.

9. I now know a lot of people in Europe who want to move to LA for the cheap gas.

10. I have to figure out who at Freshly Pressed I need to bribe to get featured again. This has been fun!

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Filed under Humor, Husband, Kids, Top 10 List

10 Reasons I’m Glad I Didn’t Win the $656 Million Mega Millions Jackpot

Like half of all the other desperate souls in America, I was dreaming of what I would do if I won $656 million in the Mega Millions Jackpot. I bought not one, but two lotto tickets, which is a very big deal since it meant that due to the astronomical gas prices I’d have to drive four fewer miles this week. Good timing since it’s spring break and I get a break from middle school car pool.

In my fantasy, I would pay off the house just enough to have 20% equity, then do a na-na-na-na-na-na dance to the half dozen loan officers who have turned us down for a refi this past year.

I would pay off the student loans my husband and I have accumulated to the tune of $185,000, and then have plenty left over to put our three kids through the college of their choice. What the heck… we could probably buy our own college.

We could fly first class to Florida and spend a week at Disneyworld while Emily is still young enough to enjoy it and Jake is old enough to avoid the dreaded naptime.

I could dream forever and keep going on about my fantasies, but the fact is, I didn’t win. Obviously, or my blog hit numbers would be through the roof. So since I try to be a glass half full kind of gal, I have come up with the…

10 Reasons I’m Glad I Didn’t Win the $656 Million Mega Millions Jackpot

1. Taxes. Right now I earn and pay a pittance – just enough to contribute a little something to our under-funded public schools. If I was paying millions in taxes it would all go to big ticket items like politicians’ pet projects such as funding studies on whether cockroaches prefer Cocoa Krispies or Cocoa Pebbles.

2. All the kindergartners would be knocking out their own teeth during sleepovers at our home since it would be rumored that we have a very generous Tooth Fairy.

3. My credit union building is just not big enough to deposit all those dollars

4. I really don’t want to be featured in supermarket tabloids under the headings “She’s just like us! She buys her own deodorant!” and “Lotto Winner Caught Picking Her Butt!”

5. I’d have to scrape off my “Other 99%” bumper sticker.

6. I’m afraid someone will kidnap my dogs and hold them for ransom. Then I’d have the dilemma of whether or not to pay the criminals or let the mutts just annoy them as much as they annoy me.

7. I’d probably have to start paying my kids an allowance.

8. Every third cousin in my family tree would be hightailing it to LA for a piece of the pie, and then race back again every month when their stash ran out.

9. I would have to spend all my free time rejecting new Facebook friend requests.

10. I would be invited to fancy shmancy parties that Mitt Romney is also invited to and then I’d have to keep repeating the awkward conversation that I am a Democrat and would plan to outspend his Super PAC.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Kids, Parenting, Public Schools, Top 10 List

That New Car Smell Has Left My Minivan

I have a love/hate relationship with my minivan.

It’s a Toyota Sienna XLE, and I love that I can fit six kids in the car with me – twelve if they’re small and double buckle (Just kidding. Really). I love lots of cup holders and extra pockets to store things I forget about like contact lens cases even though I got LASIK a year ago. I love the leather interior, sunroof, and captain’s chairs in the middle row so if I’m chauffeuring grownups they don’t have to feel like 5-year olds bouncing on a school bus.

And the hate part of the relationship? My minivan is a 1998, which is misleading because I actually bought it in the summer of 1997 when my daughter Emily could still ride in her infant seat. This week she starts driver’s training. According to Wikipedia, the week I purchased my Sienna, Microsoft bought “a $150 million share of financially troubled Apple Computer.”

I’m just saying – it was a really long time ago.

My car also has an antique cassette tape deck, a CD player that doesn’t recognize disks made on a laptop, no iPod plug in, no GPS, no DVD player, and I have the humiliation of dropping my kindergartner off at school and having the volunteer valet stare at my sliding door, waiting for it to magically close on its own.

The best thing about my minivan is I haven’t had a car payment in almost 10 years. It’s ok to have the kids eat in my car and I don’t get freaky hysterical if they leave crumbs because that new car smell has been gone longer than Titanic – the 1997 2D version, not next week’s 3D release. 3D glasses won’t help the fact that my son spilled a sippy cup full of milk on the carpet last summer. Now my car probably smells like it too has been at the bottom of the ocean for a century.

I got rear ended a few years ago, and the driver was overjoyed, not only because I didn’t immediately cry “whiplash,” but that when I noticed the hole in my bumper, I sympathetically patted the poor driver on the shoulder. “My daughter just got Student of the Month and I think my new bumper sticker is just the right size to hide the dent.” My insurance company must love me.

There’s one thing that irks me the most about having an old car. Little by little, my beautiful leather driver’s seat has been tearing and wearing away until it now resembles some kind of angry punk rock attire. I can wash and wax the exterior. I can vacuum the interior and hang up a mini pine tree to make the car smell like Once Upon a Time’s fairy tale forest. But that shredded driver’s seat just screams: “Donate your used vehicle!”

I started searching for seat covers. While at a red light, I would peek in at other cars and study their seats. Not too hard, mind you. People really freak out if you look at them in their cars. And if they catch you staring, you can’t justify it by saying “I wasn’t looking at you, I was just admiring your seat covers” because that sounds like a really lame excuse, and they’re liable to report you to 1-800-CUT-SMOG just because you give them the heebie jeebies.

It’s a little bit easier to snoop inside cars while they’re parked. No one’s behind the wheel to freak out, but then pedestrians think you’re trying to break into the vehicle. Either way, it looks suspicious.

Anyway, snooping inside other vehicles proved to not be very productive. Frankly, there’s not a single seat cover I liked.

Do I really want a cheetah print? It would match my daughter’s bedspread, but it’s not like I’ll be parking my minivan in her bedroom to coordinate patterns.

A two-toned Neosupreme cover that is supposed to give my minivan a “sporty” look when it would more likely resemble a costume for some disco-era Superhero?

Camouflage? My “Republicans for Voldemort” bumper sticker should be a clear indication that I’m probably not a big NRA fan.

One of those Hawaiian slipcovers that looks like it belongs on a dune buggy?

Sheepskin? That one seems itchy and sweaty, and even if it is fake sheep skin, I would still keep imagining Mary’s Little Lamb following her to school one day and ending up in the slaughter house because it was against the rules.

My kids fondling my future seat covers

The only cover I really wanted was what I already had, but without the rips. A professional upholstery job would cost too much, so I started looking online for a half-assed substitute that didn’t look like a half-assed substitute.

I ended up finding a faux leather seat cover that could be custom made for my 1998 Toyota Sienna XLE. The package included covers for the two front seats, backs with built-in pockets, arm rests and head rests. But what I really needed was exactly that – just the but, or rather, butt. The rest of the seat parts were perfectly fine. Unfortunately, my special request couldn’t be accommodated. Apparently it would be like trying to order a Happy Meal when all you really want is the toy. Which is why every parent in America has a toy box full of plastic Scooby Doos and American landfills are full of uneaten Chicken McNuggets.

So now my butt sits on a non-torn imitation leather seat cover that is only about three shades lighter than the rest of the seat. I am content. And I am saving the passenger side seat cover for 15 years from now when my new current seat is torn to shreds from extra poundage, and Titanic is being re-released in 4D. That is, 4D Smell-O-Vision. After all, like my minivan, the ship will smell like it has been rotting at the bottom of the ocean for over a century.

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Filed under Financial Insecurity, Humor, Kids

Baseball: America’s Favorite Pastime or Just a Mound of Dirt?

There are two things my husband is passionate about.

You might think I would say that they were his wife and his children.

You’d be wrong.

Although I know he loves us, he is enthusiastically, obsessively, and maniacally passionate about westerns and baseball (and of course football, as you may have read in my previous blog Why My Husband Scares the Crap Out of Our Kids).

When I got pregnant and received confirmation from the ultrasound that we were going to have a boy, I was absolutely thrilled. I’m not usually one to make sexist assumptions about gender roles, but I couldn’t wait to see our little Jake dressed up in a cowboy costume like Woody. But more importantly, and more lasting, I couldn’t wait to see him play baseball.

I got my wish a couple of weeks ago when I signed Jake up for Toluca Baseball. He was to join a group of 11 other 4 to 6-year old boys by participating in our nation’s favorite pastime.

I envisioned Tom coaching the team, helping the boys perfect their throw, giving them tips on how to hit a ball that would sail over the shortstop’s head, and Jake’s gleaming smile as he rounded the bases and stepped on home plate.

I did not get my dream come true.

We have two boys on our team who have played in a league before. The rest are novices who had to be told the definitions of mitt and 1st base. They look forward to their snack more than a chance to bat, and they’d rather play in the dirt than play ball.

Jake’s no exception.

He throws the ball as if he’s aiming for a gopher two feet in front of him.

He swings the bat slowly and gently as if he is Miss America waving in a parade.

He doesn’t run after the ball. He waits for it to roll by him, then he strolls over to where it stops and pounces on it. We have to remind him to throw the ball back to us.

He runs like he’s the Six Million Dollar Man speeding 60 mph in slow motion. I honestly don’t know how he defies the laws of gravity as he floats effortlessly through the air.

Our baseball team is all this – times 10. I’ve signed up to be the team parent, which means that I’m the good cop who gets to cheer them on when they hit the ball and the bad cop who has to wrangle them when they’re off in La La Land. As such, I have compiled a list of common commands:

Don’t play in the dirt.

Quit climbing the fence.

The bat is not a weapon.

Quit chewing your mitt.

Take your finger out of his nose.

No, it’s not snack time yet.

I told you, don’t play in the dirt.

Hey! Get out of their field! Our team is over here!

Run! Run! Run like you’re chasing after the ice cream truck!

 “Baseball stance” does not mean sitting on your butt.

Your mitt belongs on your hand – not your foot.

Your penis is supposed to stay inside your pants.

Don’t throw dirt!

Turn around and face the pitcher. The rest of you – face the batter.

Great hit!… No! Don’t chase after the ball! Run to 1st!

You’re bored? You can come to my house and clean my toilet if you want something to do.

Is that your phone? Where did you get it? Is that your purse?

Tag him! Tag him! Touch him with the ball! No – don’t throw the ball at him!

Hey! What’s that in your hand? Drop the dirt. Drop it. Drop it now!

It’s a bat. Not a golf club.

Quit picking the grass.

Get out of that tree!

Don’t push the runner off the base. He belongs there. You don’t.

You already had a turn. Yeah? Well, life’s not fair. You should learn that now when you’re 5 (no, I didn’t really say this. I thought of saying it though).

If I see you in the dirt again I’m going to move you.

Don’t cry. When we say “Run! Run!” we’re not yelling at you.

You’re playing right field. You don’t need a helmet.

Don’t fight over the ball!

Drop the bat. Don’t carry it to 1st.

You found it on the ground? Take it out of your mouth.

All of you! Stay out of the dirt!

We’ve got two more months before the closing ceremony.  I think the Toluca Baseball commissioners are going to need to order one thing for the big occasion to make these kids happy:

More dirt.

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Filed under Anxiety, Baseball, Kids, Parenting