Category Archives: Multitasking

The Mom Olympics

Pumping up for the Mom Olympics

I’ve never really been into spectator sports, unless of course it involves watching my 5-year old son in Toluca Baseball and praying that he stops playing in the dirt. I love going to see the Dodgers, but if they suddenly closed the concessions stands and I couldn’t wolf down a Dodger Dog, I probably wouldn’t fork out the 50 bucks. And although I love his enthusiasm, I just don’t see my husband’s attraction of yelling at our tv on Sundays at a bunch of helmet heads who obviously can’t hear him all the way in Florida. Are these big guys really going to move faster with my husband is calling them a tool?

This week he’s is trying to lure the whole family into watching the Summer Olympics. Tom is gushing about his respect and amazement over the physical feats of these athletes who have been training for their sport even before they grunted their way through the birth canal. I’m enjoying bits and pieces, while my daughter Mary is learning the lingo about gymnastics (They didn’t stick it!) and coaching me on the athletes’ names, countries and probable endorsement deals.

All this hype has persuaded the YouTube MomPulse channel to ask the question: “What would be in the Mom Olympics?” So in honor of the 2012 Summer Olympics, I have proposed:

12 Categories for the Mom Olympics:

#1 Fastest sun block application

#1 Fastest sun block application

You earn extra points if your kid is crying, but lose points if he’s crying because you squirted sunblock in his eyes.

______________________________________________________________

#2 Shotput toys from the living room back into the bedroom

#2 Shotput toys from the living room back into the bedroom

You lose points if you happen to hit a kid or dog walking by.

______________________________________________________________

#3 Synchronized teeth brushing

#3 Synchronized teeth brushing

SpongeBob toothpaste is allowed.

______________________________________________________________

#4 Fastest sprint to save your child from entering the street

#4 Fastest sprint to save your child from entering the street

Most moms would beat any Olympiad’s Gold Medal record in this competition.

______________________________________________________________

#5 Hosting the largest slumber party without committing homicide or suicide

#5 Hosting the largest slumber party without committing homicide or suicide

Extra points if your guests are particularly high maintenance.

______________________________________________________________

#6 Judged by distance, time and amount, how many groceries can you carry from the minivan to the house?

#6 Judged by distance, time and amount, how many groceries can you carry from the minivan to the house?

Extra points for using your own reusable bags. Not because it’s a more difficult skill; Mom Olympics should be environmentally friendly.

______________________________________________________________

#7 Hurdling over dogs to answer the phone

#7 Hurdling over dogs to answer the phone

Don’t you hate when you waste all that energy just to get a telemarketer?

______________________________________________________________

#8 Most patience while teaching your teenager to drive

#8 Most patience while teaching your teenager to drive

See #5 above. The homicide or suicide rule applies to this event as well.

_______________________________________________________________

#9 Standing high jump while trying to dust the top book shelf

#9 Standing high jump while trying to dust the top book shelf

For the Dad Olympics, they use a footstool. Or rather, they tell their wife to use a footstool.

_______________________________________________________________

#10 Driving the most stressful car pool without flipping anyone off or using the wrong 4-letter words

#10 Driving the most stressful car pool without flipping anyone off or using the wrong 4-letter words

Extra points if you have to listen to the same Glee song over and over.

_______________________________________________________________

#11 Creating the cheapest edible meal for a family of 5

#11 Creating the cheapest edible meal for a family of 5

I wanted to post a picture of an off-brand macaroni and cheese made with nonfat dry milk and Butterbuds, but then I’d have to eat it, which would violate the second part of Rule #5. It would be inedible and might create inadvertent suicide.

______________________________________________________________

#12 Triple jump homework help

#12 Triple jump homework help

This is harder as your kids get older and start taking calculus. Unless you majored in math, which is unlikely for most moms. What a shame.

_______________________________________________________________

It’s too bad I didn’t have time to book a flight to London this year, but I hope to see you all in 4 years in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Mom Olympics.

“Adeus!”

That’s “Cheerio!” in Portuguese.

To view my Mom Olympics vlog click the link below:

MomPulse Vlog: What Would Be in the Mom Olympics?

6 Comments

Filed under Family, Humor, Husband, Kids, Multitasking, Parenting, Top 10 List

Very VERY Busy Stagnation

During the summer when I’m on hiatus from work and the kids are off school, the world is my oyster and the possibilities are endless. I wake up in the morning excited about my choices for the day. Should I clean out my closet? The kids’ rooms? The garage? The pantry? Weed the side yard? Trim the trees? Plant grass seed in the bare spots? Read a book? Update my address book? Hike? Go to Pilates? Take the kids to the beach? To the park? Write a blog or shoot a vlog? Sort through emails? Juggle the bills?

Where do I start?

I start them all.

I started gutting the kids’ room, but now the living room is filled with donation bags and their room looks like the Wicked Witch of the West flew through it.

I started sorting through CDs, but I’m halfway done, so there’s still a pile on the living room floor. “Blues?” “Alternative?” “Heavy Metal?” I’m mainstream rock so I have to ask Tom about his categories.

I started cleaning out my closet, so now I have a pile of too-big-or-too-small clothes and hangers on my bed.

I started putting in a landscape border for plants, but the border is still stretched across the driveway.

I started going to Pilates, but I didn’t stay for the optional final stretching because I had too much to do at home.

I started weeding through emails, but I’ve only made a dent.

I started writing about a dozen different blogs but didn’t post any in the past two weeks.

I’ve started three dozen things, but I haven’t finished anything.

I am so completely overwhelmed, my completion rate has become stagnant. If I have a choice in time management, I end up running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Someone should cut off my head.

My husband tells me to breathe. I’m trying to meditate, but my mind keeps wandering back to my to-do list.

Yesterday I was determined to finish the half-done things and today I finally reached a turning point.

I’ve finished my first blog post in two weeks (this one).

The kids’ room is clean, the donation bags are banished to the patio, and the CDs have been sorted and alphabetized. The grass seed is planted. I’ve deleted a ton of emails and only have 2975 to go. I’ve put about a thousand miles on my new minivan transporting the kids from one summer activity to another, so my mom points are back in the black.

I’m on a roll. The rest of my tasks are coming along.

I’m done hyperventilating.

Just in time to get ready to go back to work.

4 Comments

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

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.

9 Comments

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

My year as a Neighborhood Council Valley Village Board Member

Neighborhood Council Valley Village is made up of 15 dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly for their community. Please take a look at Communications Chair Steven Stokes’ open letter to Valley Village and president Tony Braswell’s list of accomplishments for 2011 by clicking here. It definitely takes a village.

It’s been nearly a year since I was elected to the board of Neighborhood Council Valley Village (NCVV), and I can’t believe what a rewarding experience it has been. Board president Tony Braswell recently listed NCVV’s accomplishments for 2011, and the total is quite impressive.

A year ago, I didn’t know much about local politics, and I wasn’t even sure exactly what neighborhood councils were. I’ve since found that neighborhood councils started forming nearly ten years ago when the San Fernando Valley threatened to secede from Los Angeles. Instead, neighborhood councils were formed across the city of LA to form a bridge between the mayor’s office and their local communities. These volunteers give and receive input about matters like the budget, as well as programs and issues that are important to their community.

For me personally, there were some very satisfying moments:

I'm the 4th from the right

I donned a hard hat and shovel and posed with Councilmember Paul Krekorian for the Valley Village Park improvement groundbreaking ceremony.

I worked hard to try to get shade structures installed over the playground at Valley Village Park, and although there were a few neighbors across the street from the park who were pretty angry (they felt that the park was already too crowded), during Christmas week when the temperature hit the high 80’s my son Jake was able to play without getting heat stroke.

I fought the good fight trying to drum up a letter writing campaign to convince the state Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC) not to split Valley Village in two. We were unsuccessful, but not for lack of trying.

I was able to chat with Councilmember Paul Krekorian and State Assemblyman Mike Feuer numerous times. Although I had barely heard their names before I joined the board, by the time I met and shook hands with them, I was pretty star-struck.

I'm on the left, waving like Miss America

After marching with my neighbors in the Valley Village 4th of July parade for a decade, this year I was able to wave from a convertible with my fellow board members.

I had a great time volunteering at events like the Pet Adoption Fair, Paul Krekorian’s Inaugural Celebration, National Night Out, Neighborhood Watch, adding information to the NCVV website, promoting events on Patch, attending conventions and seminars like the 2011 LA Congress of Neighborhoods, ethics training, and the Neighborhood Council Green Practices & Projects Workshop, enjoying the Police Activity League Supporter (PALS) Luncheon and Awards and chatting with Officer of the Year Bill Lantz, and working with some very knowledgeable and devoted members on the projects and communications committees.

At the East Valley Police Activity League Supporter (PALS) Luncheon and Awards with Officer of the Year Bill Lantz and felllow NCVV board members Ginny Hatfield and Suzanne Lewis

By getting involved in NCVV, I was able to provide firsthand information regarding the notorious fence with the commissioned graffiti, the continued closing of the two tunnels under the 170 Freeway, additional park improvements, Neighborhood Watch, specific crimes in our neighborhood, and the events at National Night Out.

I admit the meetings can be a little dull and they don’t attract a lot of people. But there was a particular purpose I wanted to serve. I figured that like me, there are hundreds of other parents of young children who live in Valley Village. During our board meetings they are busy working late or making dinner or helping the kids with their homework or giving them a bath… They probably want to know what’s going on in their community, but they’re busy with their daily lives. I figured that since I interact with a lot of them, I could tell them firsthand what’s going on.

This year I look forward to adding more information to the Neighborhood Council Valley Village website (myvalleyvillage.com) and working on and promoting events like our upcoming blood drive (April 10th at Colfax Charter Elementary School), the Virtual Garden Tour, the Pet Adoption Fair,

NCVV logo

the Valley Village Park Refurbishment Celebration, and the online business directory.

I encourage anyone who lives in the Valley Village area to participate by attending our meetings at Colfax Charter Elementary School at 7:00 pm on the 4th Wednesday of each month, or join one of NCVV’s committees, which also meet monthly. You can devote as little or as much time as you like. You too can experience the rewards of volunteering and being more involved in your community.

10 Comments

Filed under Multitasking, Parenting, Volunteering

Shingles! – More Painful Than Childbirth

My boss is kind enough to be one of my regular blog readers, so he took pity on me two weeks ago when I posted 10 Luxuries I Can Now Afford Since Once Upon a Time Got Picked Up for a Full Season and threw me another bone: four days of extra work on the TNT series Perception, starring Eric McCormick from Will & Grace, premiering summer 2012, but dubbing this week.

I could really use the cash and immediately started canceling some commitments, rearranging others and basically increasing my mega dose of caffeine. I had already written and was ready to post my next blog My Ex Husband is Getting Married Today for Friday 11-11-11. I threw on my cape, readied myself for a good night’s sleep sometime the next week, and started forging ahead. I’ve pulled this kind of task off many times before. But I was suddenly lambasted by a foe I had never before encountered.

Shingles.

I’ve had my share of pain in my life. I’ve broken my leg, cracked my coccyx, champed out stitches and suffered three experiences of childbirth ranging from all natural, to give me the epidural now!, to what the hell do you mean it’s too late for the f#%*ing epidural?

But nothing so far has prepared me for the sheer agony of shingles.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this ailment (myself included), it’s a painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox and is usually initiated by stress or a weakened immune system – which I guess is proof that I was unable to retain my Super-working-volunteer-mom status solely on a diet of Zipfizz and zero carb Monster energy drinks.

The Shingles started in my eye, and after being diagnosed with a migraine, a lacerated cornea and an ulcerated eyeball, the unbearable pain swirled through my eye and entire left side of my head, screaming for doctors to just murder me, because even though they wanted me to rate my pain level between 0 and 10, it had already zoomed past 12 on the agony Richter scale.

This cacophony of torment kept me incapacitated and hospitalized for a week and a half. I floated in and out of pain, sleep, and delusional pain meds for nearly a week, with an oozing eye covered in blisters and too swollen to see through. I resembled Sylvester Stallone in the first Rocky film when he begs his trainer to “Cut me, Mick!”

Still in a lot of pain, but definitely on the mend, it looks like I’ll be released from the hospital sometime tomorrow. I’ve got some vein bruising from my IV, so I can’t use my left hand. But my husband brought my laptop and reading glasses to the hospital today, so as I groggily hunt and peck the keyboard with one hand, I have composed:

10 Things I Learned From Having Shingles:
1. I am capable of lying in my own urine all night without realizing it. That’s how out-of-it I can be.

2. I can go 10 days without a bowel movement. My record was broken today after just five minutes experiencing my first-ever enema.

3. Hospital food isn’t that bad, particularly when you have no appetite. However, I realize that I actually like Jell-O.

4. I am eternally grateful for having good medical insurance. I don’t know yet what my out-of-pocket bills will ultimately be, but without insurance, that fear of living in an IKEA box could be a reality.

5. Without paying for Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig (both wonderful weight loss systems from what I hear) I managed to lose 8 lbs. in a week. This shingles weight loss method however is not recommended.

6. My lily-white mind-altering-chemical-free head makes me a very bad candidate for pain meds. I’ve never been into recreational drugs and haven’t had any alcohol in over 16 years (I seem to have more than made up for it with my insane caffeine intake), so Demerol, Dilaudid and Vicodin all gave me the dry heaves, and narcotics that helped the pain gave me weird and vividly real nightmares where cats and rats were chasing me, or that I was the star of my own Fellini film.

7. Commercials ultimately pay my salary, but I am oh so grateful to Dish TV for not forcing me to watch them. Because St. Joseph’s Hospital doesn’t have the luxury of Dish or TiVo, I was bombarded by not only the worst choices of daytime programming, but I was also forced to sit through the identical dozen or so lame commercials every 15 minutes. On the plus side, I was usually too incoherent to pay much attention.

8. I am officially burnt out on Law & Order SVU. I used to be a fan, but after finally getting some of my mind back, I was treated to an entire Sunday with SVU marathons on two different channels so I could switch back and forth whenever there was a commercial. I happened to catch a long stream of episodes where chest-beating outsiders came in for pissing contests with the regulars. And frankly, you can only see so many rapes in one day before you start feeling like Malcolm McDowell being sickened by ultra-violence in A Clockwork Orange. I finally turned it off for good with a bad case of the heebie jeebies and the uneasy feeling that no woman is ever completely safe.

9. No, the clock hasn’t stopped. It just feels that way because pain time moves so much slower than real time.

10. No one is indispensable – even me. I enjoy being a very VERY busy mom, and have a certain amount of narcissist pride that I can pull off anything if I set my mind to it. After my shingles experience, I know I can’t always do that. I missed my kids’ nighttime prayers and school activities, yet another one of my son Jake’s basketball practices, my daughter Mary Belle’s 11th birthday, and whatever teen angst my daughter Emily was going through this week. I dropped volunteer commitments that I take very seriously and social engagements with friends who may never be reunited again. I bailed on my husband, just as he was turning in the comps for his Ph.D., which was incredibly bad timing. My ego might tell me that I’m the best dang dialogue editor in the whole freakin’ universe, but when it came time for me to abruptly bail on not one but two shows, my boss found a couple of equally talented freakin’ great dialogue editors to step in at a moment’s notice to make sure they didn’t miss their dub date.

Yes, I can disappear for a week and a half (and I may still be out of commission for a few weeks) but the world keeps spinning on its axis. Others pitch in and save the day.

It will take me a long time to thank them all.

But I’m going to try.

27 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Career, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Friends, Humor, Husband, Multitasking, Parenting, Surgery, Teenagers, Volunteering

Automated Restrooms – Is Technology Going Down the Toilet?

What do my son’s elementary school and our local Costco have in common? They both recently installed automated restrooms.

Gone are the days of catching the plague by handling toilet flushers, sink faucets and paper towel dispensers. Now you can stroll into the public restroom and never touch a thing besides your tender behind.

Automated faucet at school

It feels a lot like zooming into an episode of The Jetsons. You do your business, stand up, and the toilet flushes your remnants to oblivion. Just hold your hands under the faucet, and water magically streams over your soiled fingers. Some bathrooms are even equipped with dispensers that automatically release luxurious foamy soap. Then you just wave your freshly washed hands in front of the powerful dryer and voilà – you’re a vision of sanitary loveliness.

At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

I’m all for automation making my life easier. I never want to go back to driving a stick shift or telling time by sundial, and if my husband had to trim our lawn with a push mower, the grass would be so tall you wouldn’t see our house.

Unfortunately, automation is not an exact science, so sometimes its usefulness backfires.

Automated Costco faucet trough

Take the afore-mentioned automated restroom. Technology has not yet perfected the automatic toilet seat cover, so I have upload that myself. It’s probably a good thing, because it could automatically dispense hole-less sheets of paper, leaving me sitting in a pool of my own excrement. I can see immediate recalls of that product.

So I have to apply my own layer of protection, which is pretty silly since that protection lies in a sheet of tissue paper less than a millimeter thick. One drop of any previous customer’s bodily fluids on the toilet seat will instantaneously be absorbed into the paper and transferred to my own buttocks. Not much protection there.

Next I take a one-minute break from my very very busy life to sit down and have a peaceful poop. This is the time in the day that I’ll tie my shoes. Rather than waste five seconds by stopping pedestrian traffic stooping over to fasten my laces, I’ll sometimes wait an hour until the time I know I’ll be sitting down to use the toilet. This is multitasking at the most insane level. And I pride myself on it. Sick, right?

Automated school hand dryer

However, the brain of my automated toilet senses that by leaning over to tie my shoe, I’m done going number 1 and number 2 and it will automatically flush. My butt is still glued to the sticky seat, and suddenly I’m getting an unwanted bidet of toilet water (not the fragrant kind) intermixed with my urine and feces spraying up my butt and back. And like the flame facing a firefighter’s powerful hose, I am drenched.

After using an entire roll of toilet paper to clean myself, I step to the automated faucets and hold my hands in front of the sensor. Usually one of two things happens. Either the faucet runs. And runs. And runs. And I feel guilty for contributing to the water shortage in Southern California. Or nothing happens. I hold my hands still. I wave my hands wildly. I curse the damn faucet and move on to the next one hoping that it, like its evil twin, does not think I’m invisible. I get enough of that from my kids.

Personally, I love the automatic foamy soap dispenser, but they’re hard to find. Public restrooms have come a long way from the days of doling out gritty Ajax-like soap that makes you feel like you’re massaging sandpaper into you palms. Most of the time you still have to pump your own soap – a task that seems to be too time-consuming for most kids.

Finally I move on to the last step – the automated hand dryer. There are frequently signs posted on these devises, proudly stating that they’ve been installed for your benefit (the restroom consumer, the one who gives away your product for free) so that you will not be contributing to the world’s overflowing landfills. Instead, the dryers are run on electricity, which in turn is generated by dirty coal, so you choose your poison.

The dryers are also governed by sensors, and you have to perform yet another mime act of waving your hands in front of it to make it work. It too has the misfortune of either playing dead or running long enough to blow dry a sopping Australian shepherd. The other problem: the loud noise scares the bejesus out of small children (coincidentally, always the noisiest ones). However, with the sounds of inadvertently flushing toilets, endlessly running sinks, thunderous blow dryers and screaming toddlers, the cacophony scares away those people gabbing on their cell phones as if they’re in their own private powder room.

As far as I know, restroom automation has not extended itself to automatic doors, although I would love to see that invention – particularly in busy restrooms like the mall or McDonald’s. I really hate touching a restroom doorknob and wondering if it’s wet because the previous supplier washed her hands, or because she  didn’t wash her hands.

I hope I live to see the day when public restroom automation includes wiping my butt. Unfortunately, this invention would probably suffer the same flaws as the faucet and the hand dryer – wiping too much or not at all. On the other hand, some people might like the “wipe too much” bug and return to their favorite restroom over and over, whether or not they have the urge to go.

That’s maybe something you’d like to add to the suggestion box at your local Costco.

9 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Humor, Multitasking, Parenting, Public Schools

Lucky to be Working Again?

Taking a break

First of all, let me tell you how grateful I am to have a job. Every morning I wake up to NPR, and by the time I get out the door there’s always a story about the unemployed.

From May through September, that would be me, as I mentioned in last week’s blog The Show Biz Hiatus Dance.

I’ve now been back to work for three weeks and have received two glorious paychecks. I’m not scrambling to grab another balance transfer on a 0% interest credit card to pay for the DWP bill, yet knowing that the temperature has to reach triple digits in my house before I turn on the air conditioner.

Because I am a very VERY busy mom, my calendar is always chock full of commitments, most of which I try to fulfill, and because I work from home, my schedule is flexible enough that I can usually pull it off.

Here was my extracurricular schedule this week:

Saturday:

8:30 am – 5:30 pm Models of Pride conference with Emily

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm Going away dinner for my neighbor

8:00 pm – 12:00 pm Colfax Charter Elementary Parents Social

Sunday:

8:00 am – 1:00 pm AIDS Walk LA

Monday:

9:00 am – 10:00 am Meeting

6:00 pm – 8:30 pm Colfax Annual Giving Telethon

Tuesday:

7:30 pm – 8:30 pm Meeting

Wednesday:

4:30 pm – 5:15 pm First basketball practice for Jake

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm Valley Village Homeowners Association Meeting

Thursday:

10:20 am –? Great California Shakeout

7:00 – 8:30 pm Take Mary Belle to Turning Pages volunteer group

Friday:

9:00 – 10:00 Celebrate my friend Lisa’s birthday

This doesn’t include car pools, daily community reading in my son’s kindergarten class, family dinner, chores, helping my kids with homework, or obvious things like taking a shower or sleep.

This was a tough week. I’m a dialogue editor working from home on the new ABC show Once Upon a Time, and frankly, the production sound sucks. There are probably a lot of variables of which I am unaware, but there should never be a reason why I should be cleaning 5000 microphone zaps out of a show. A job that typically takes me 50 to 60 hours this week took close to 80.

Where did I get those 80 hours? I made it to Jake’s first basketball practice, but otherwise everything after Monday was a wash, including the car pool, reading, dinner, chores, and even eventually the shower. And sleep. On Wednesday and Thursday I crawled out of bed, parked my butt in my Herman Miller Aeron desk chair and stayed there until the wee hours, leaving only to make a smoothie or use the bathroom.

Thursday morning, I got a call from the dub stage saying my tracks sounded like crap (ok, they didn’t use the word “crap,” but it was the same implication).

What? No one has ever accused my tracks of sounding like crap. My boss told me that they were trying to move along with the mix, but that I would need to recut the problem areas, which apparently were across the entire show.

While I was on the phone with my boss, I got another call with the caller ID from my daughter’s high school. Emily wasn’t feeling well and wanted me to pick her up. The school is 20 miles away, and I realized at that moment that there was no earthly way for me to finish my show by Friday.

I started to cry. Not just cry, but bawl my head off, heaving and jerking around like some daytime soap star. It was the hardest and longest crying fit I’ve had probably since puberty. My 15-year old was still on the other end of the line.

“Breathe, mom. Breathe. It’s ok. I’ll just lie down in the nurse’s office and wait til school gets out.”

I barely heard her as I cried some more and dripped tears and runny snot all over my bed. I wanted to take a nap. I wanted to die.

I sobbed a little longer, and then started working again.

My husband Tom came home from work, made dinner, and read to Jake. Mary Belle helped Jake with his crafty project (don’t get me started – those crafty projects will soon be getting an angry blog of their own). Emily took the school bus home and said she felt better by the end of the day.

I kept working.

I started to make better time.

It turned out that there was a technical glitch on the stage, and my tracks were actually not crap. Oops. I started to reclaim a small portion of my fractured self image.

I worked again until after midnight, then drove to Disney at 7:00 am with four more minutes of material to cut. I brought my laptop, MBox and drive and finished cutting on the stage, managing to stay just one step ahead of what they needed.

I left the Disney lot just after 1:00.

And now I’m on to the next episode.

I’m going to start early erasing some of my calendar for next week. And I’m thinking of turning on the air conditioner tonight, just to remind myself how lucky I am to have a job.

4 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Career, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Multitasking, Parenting, Volunteering

The Show Biz Hiatus Dance

Sorry folks.

I’m a little busy with my day job this week, meaning the one that pays the bills (or at least some of them). I’ve got a dozen ideas rolling around in my head, but I just don’t have time yet to jot them down via keyboard and upload them into cyberspace. So in the meantime…

For those of you new to Very VERY busy mom, I started this blog on North Hollywood/Toluca Lake’s Patch.com, the hyper-local newsite owned by AOL.  This was my very first post and appeared on May 4, 2011. I thought I might reprint it here, since I’m now currently on the opposite end of The Show Biz Hiatus Dance.

The Hiatus Dance as a tv sound editor

Man is the only earthly being that senses the concept of time, and as long as he’s been aware of it, he’s been slicing that time into “before” and “after” sections. Nine months of an anticipated due date is followed by decades of annual birthdays (which progressively become fodder for mock and ridicule). Our Gregorian calendar divides our years into B.C. and A.D., which more recently can be dissected into “Before Children” and “After Divorce.” And for many of us who are seasonally employed in the entertainment industry, our world is split into two distinct segments: “working” and “on hiatus.”Last week I was working.

This week I am on hiatus.

Work = money and no time. Hiatus = time and no money. And as Kipling said, “Never the twain shall meet.”

For over a quarter of a century, I have been a television sound editor, working primarily from September through May. I get a few breaks around Christmas and in the spring, but most weeks it’s 50 – 60 hours working on a strict deadline. And then faster than you can say “Nielsen ratings,” I’m unemployed.

Brisco County, Jr.

My busiest week on record is a total of 112 clocked hours, so when I say I was working every waking minute, it’s not much on an exaggeration. You know you’re working too much when you want to dial “9” before making a phone call, or instinctively grab a toilet seat cover when using the little girls’ room. My hardest month was May of 1994, when I was in the midst of May sweeps for my show The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., while simultaneously cutting the pilots for ER and Third Watch.

ER

After working 16-hour days for a couple of weeks, I went to work on Friday at 6:00 am and worked straight through until 1:15 Saturday afternoon. Then I went to a wedding.

Third Watch

I was younger then. Today that would kill me. And believe me, I would be praying for death.

Today’s 50-60 hour week should feel like part-time work. But now that I have three kids and a very busy life outside of work, it’s become a hard task to gracefully master. I’m lucky to have a husband who doesn’t work in the industry. He has a normal 40-hour week (albeit an early one – 6:00 am – 2:00 pm) and picks up a lot of slack. If we have home-cooked meals, he’s the one who prepares them. He’s often the parent who picks up the kids from school, takes them to appointments and helps them with their homework. It’s really hard to feel like a martyr when your husband is the one cleaning up the midnight flu vomit. But even he can’t do it all when my workload is heavy.

When I’m on a show, we eat a lot of Costco ready-made meals. I have to just accept the sticky floors and the thick layer of dog hair that accumulates in every corner of the house. Lack of exercise has made my hips even more Jell-O-like, and I blame sleep deprivation for making me forget the names of my children. My responses to Evites are posted in this order: “YES!”…. then “Maybe”… and finally a day or two before the event, a very apologetic “No.” I have a half-dozen saved phone messages from my 10-year old daughter pleading “Please come home Mommy! PLEASE!” and I have to create auto replies for my emails saying that it’s not that I’m out of the office, it’s just that I’m too busy to look at them.

Joan Cusack running in "Broadcast News"

When describing my work schedule to the 9-to-5ers, I compare it to two different movies, which is appropriate since I work in entertainment. The first is from the 1987 film Broadcast News where Joan Cusack has less than 60 seconds to leap over and under file cabinets, drinking fountains and small children to deliver videotape before the station is forced to cut to black. This hilarious scene shows the urgency and panic of working under an impossible deadline, and it’s similar to the nightmares that wake me up when I really need to be getting my beauty sleep.

The Slave Galley in "Ben Hur"

The other film is the rowing of the galley slaves scene in the classic film Ben Hur. I think of this scene whenever one of my at-home mom friends suggests that I make it a point of taking time to relax. This would be akin to a shackled Charlton Heston, rowing at top ramming speed, turning to the guy with the whip and asking “Can’t I just pause a moment and take a little ‘me’ time?”

I have it easier than most. Working in post-production (and for this season working completely from home) I have a certain amount of autonomy and flexibility as long as I get my show done.

Chained to work

Those who work in production are not so lucky. They get up at 6:00 am and travel to whatever location they’re shooting that day, and they are literally slaves until after the last scene of the day when the director yells “Cut.” They might finish up at midnight and do it all over again the next day. Granted, the crew has meals brought to them, but so do prisoners in San Quentin, but at least the convicts get a full night’s sleep.

And then there’s hiatus.

I actually get an adrenaline rush just thinking about hiatus.

Ahhh... hiatus!!!

My to-do list is miles long, and ranges from big projects like cleaning out my garage and painting the house to simple little things like picking my kids up from school on foot, or taking a moment to brush my matted dogs. I’m looking forward to reading a book. Yesterday I went to the YMCA and took my first Pilates class in four months. Unfortunately, today I’m walking like I just road a horse from Bakersfield. I also spent two hours at Target strolling down every single aisle – and I did it with my four-year old. As anyone with a preschooler will immediately attest, this should have been the equivalent of an afternoon in hell. Instead, I had a great time, although a variety of squirt guns and squishy balls magically appeared in my basket.

You used to know who was on hiatus, because you’d all see each other in the unemployment line the following Monday, but now (mercifully) you can file online. Marie et Cie and Aroma Café bustle with new summer regulars who finally have time to socialize or start that screenplay they’ve been talking about forever. The 12-step rooms are packed with those who finally have time to work on their addictions, or who are under the misconceived notion that they’ll get their big break by pitching to a celebrity during an AA meeting.

The workaholics have a big problem. If they don’t have a family or a hobby, the transition from 180 mph to a dead stop is just too extreme. They’ll end up like the stereotypical housewives – eating bon bons and watching Oprah, or in the case of the men, eating ships & salsa and watching ESPN.

Many friends of mine in the industry have a tough time making the work/hiatus transition, especially when they have kids. The ones with a full-time nanny have the easiest time, because they get a long vacation and don’t have to clean up a mess that’s been piling up for nine months. But those with a spouse who stays home with the kids tend to perform a confusing dance of Who’s Job is it Anyway? for the first month or so of hiatus. The hardworking parent finally gets some quality time with his little angels, but completely disrupts the routines established by the long-suffering spouse. The breadwinner thinks he deserves a little downtime but the homemaker resents having him parked on the sofa all day watching Law and Order reruns.

The at-home parent feels like a chump who has to play bad cop with the kids because the good cop/parent is suddenly home, taking back some authority and lets the kids stay up late, have extra dessert, or skip chores. This leaves the other parent dealing with cranky kids the next morning, hyper sugar highs or cleaning tornado-ravaged bedrooms. With this feast or famine style of cohabitation, I’m often amazed that entertainment industry marriages survive at all.

The West Wing

And then there’s the money… or rather lack of it. For those working on a successful show, hiatus is a vacation like one any other deserving American might take, only longer. In the late ‘90’s/early 2000’s I was the dialogue editor on the full seven-season run of “The West Wing,” and I always had an intense summer itinerary with my kids which included touring amusement parks, exploring every park within a ten-mile radius and taking weekly beach excursions.

brothers & sisters

However my current show, Brothers & Sisters, seems to be in a limbo state. It has not been picked up for the fall season, but its set has not been struck either, so I am anxiously waiting for the fall lineup to see if I get to go to the beach or start scrambling for another job. Maybe I’ll be on the next long-running hit show… or I might land a stinker that gets cancelled before Halloween. If the latter is the case, hiatus = beau coup time and a home foreclosure.

So much for the glamorous life of show biz.

Once Upon a Time

Here’s my happy ending –

This season I’m cutting dialogue on the show “Once Upon A Time” which premieres Sunday, October 23 at 8:00 pm on ABC. We did not lose the house, but our credit card debt now rivals those of many small nations. I am still trying to clean out the garage.

6 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Career, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Husband, Multitasking, Parenting

Rainy Days and Too Much to Carry Always Get Me Down

Mary Belle's broken umbrella

This morning I awoke to the sound of the sprinklers hitting the window way too early in the morning, only to realize that it was actually raining. I swear it was over 90 degrees only a couple of days ago. And because it rains so seldom in Los Angeles, it throws everyone into a tizzy – including myself. Yes, I heard the weather prediction, but I didn’t believe it.

So at 6:45 am I realized that my 5-year old is now three sizes too big for last spring’s rain boots, that he doesn’t own a waterproof hoodie, and that my windshield wipers merely smear, not wipe. I also discovered that every umbrella we own is broken. There were a variety of reactions from my kids about this piece of news. My rebel oldest daughter refused to take a broken umbrella, and I’m sure she was aiming to stand under a rain gutter just so she could wear her soaking wet clothes as a badge of honor. My 10-year old didn’t seem to care that the umbrellas were broken – she just wanted the prettiest one. And my son refused to take the girlie umbrella, even though that was the only one his size.

Today’s rain reminded me of an incident about ten years ago. Mary Belle was just a baby in an infant carrier, and Emily was about 4-1/2 years old. She had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes the year before, and we carried a bag of syringes, insulin, glucose tabs, Glucagon, glucose meter, lancets, and strips everywhere we went. Fortunately Emily performs pack mule duty with her diabetes kit these days, but back then, it was a large bag, and I’m the one who carried it.

Anyway, we were headed to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s for one of Emily’s friends, and it was raining cats and dogs. Emily fell asleep on the way to the party, and when we arrived, I couldn’t wake her up (don’t worry – it wasn’t a diabetic coma… she was just taking a very hard nap).

It was a busy day at Chuck E. Cheese’s, so I parked at the far end of the parking lot. I picked up Emily and figured I could lay her down in the booth inside until she woke up. I scooped up Mary Belle in the infant carrier. Then the diabetes kit. The diaper bag. My purse. The birthday gift. And a bag of toys that were left at our house from the last playgroup that included the guests that were coming to Chuck E. Cheese’s. Then, balancing all these items with my arms, legs, elbows and knees, I struggled to open the umbrella and move everyone out of the car. I did a little twist with my hips and slammed the car door with my butt.

Unfortunately, I was physically incapable of straightening. I could feel the bags slipping. The umbrella caught a gust of wind and I lost it. I was suddenly caught in the downpour and the girls and I were completely drenched. Emily woke up. Mary Belle started wailing. The birthday present fell in a puddle along with the bags.

Just then, a friend of mine and her daughter approached. They were also going to the party. She asked, “Can I help you?”

I said, “No, I’m fine.”

And then I started to cry.

It was the first time as a mom that I realized that I really, truly needed help, that there was no physical way for me to do this on my own. My friend scooped up the bags, her daughter picked up the gift, and Emily was finally awake enough to walk on her own.

I blubbered all the way across the parking lot to Chuck E. Cheese’s. And I suddenly accepted the fact that it’s not so bad asking for help when you need it. I doubt my friend was keeping score, as in, “I helped Cathy in the rain so now she owes me big time,” which was one of my great fears about asking for help. She was just being kind. And by trying to do it all on my own, I was being stubborn. And foolish. And stupid.

I’m still not very good at asking for help, but I’m getting better.

I had originally thought of playing around with the song Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down and titling this week’s blog Rainy Days and sleeping-children-and babies-in-infant-carriers-and-diabetes-kits-and diaper-bags-and-purses-and-birthday-presents-and-a-bag-of-lost-and-found-toys-and-a-broken-umbrella Always Get Me Down, but it would have been just too dang long.

In conclusion:

I believe if God was just a little bit smarter and kinder, he/she would instantly grow an additional arm for every mother of young children whenever it rains. That, and give her the humility to ask for help.

1 Comment

Filed under Anxiety, Friends, Humor, Multitasking, Parenting

♪♫ The 12 Days of LAUSD ♪♫

3 kids + 3 LAUSD Schools

The term “hit the ground running” must have been coined by the parents of school-aged children during the weeks following Labor Day. The days of kids staying up til 10 or 11, eating pop tarts and chips and watching endless hours of the Disney Channel have come to a screeching halt.

No more hitting the snooze button three times before crawling out of bed. I pop up like a Jack-in-the-Box on the first ring, suddenly a Marine Drill Sergeant yelling, “Move! Move! Move!” as I coax my kids out the door using more stick than carrot.

That’s just the morning. My nights are now filled with parent meetings: orientation, back to school, PTA, Governance, committee meetings, and restaurant fundraisers as hundreds of my fellow parents huddle up like a pro football team, strategizing budget cuts, plotting ways to help our overworked teachers, and basically taking our already limited time from our little angels with the goal of improving public education.

Classes for most of the 2011-2012 Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) have been back in session for three weeks now, and with my kids’ ages of 5, 10 and 15, I am now a parent in three different LAUSD schools: Colfax Charter Elementary School in Valley Village; Millikan Middle School & Performing Arts Magnet in Sherman Oaks; and Cleveland High School Humanities Magnet in Reseda.

So in honor of the other LAUSD parents, here’s a little ditty you can sing to the tune of The 12 Days of Christmas. I’ve created an accompanying video with subtitles so you can sing along…

The 12 Days of LAUSD

By the 12th day of school at LAUSD

(we got)

12 discarded lunches

11 trips to Staples

10 forms to fill out

9 parent meetings

8 rescinded teachers

7 vaccinations

6 weekly emails

5 unanswered rings

4 requests for cash

3 dozen robo calls

2 buses broken down

and a lock down from a chemical spill

4 Comments

Filed under Humor, Multitasking, Parenting, Public Schools, Volunteering