August 30, 2004
10 Ingredients for a Fabulous Birthday

“When I have a birthday I take the day off. But when my wife has a birthday, she takes a year or two off.” -unknown

My birthday was too great this year not to talk about (you don’t mind, do you?) and I managed to get an entire weekend celebration out of it:

Birthday Eve, Saturday, August 28th

1. Dinner at Washington Square Bar & Grill in the North Beach area of San Francisco. First, at the bar, I enjoyed the best Cosmo I’ve had (even if they’re “out” now, I still like ‘em). Then we had a lovely meal of: the bruschetta du jour; potato and leek soup; old-fashioned chopped salad for me (with salami, provolone, garbonzos and red onions) and Caesar salad for K.; Pappardelle with rosemary-lamb Bolognese for me and Grilled Angus N.Y. Steak with plum tomato and red onion salad, truffled potato gratin and zinfandel shallot sauce for him; then crème brulee to share. Also, there was live jazz music while we ate.

2. Walk a few blocks to see a 10p.m. showing of Beach Blanket Babylon, supposedly the longest-running hit musical revue in theatre history, now in its 30th year of sold-out performances. It was so fun—and also hard to describe. On the show’s website they call it “a zany musical spoof of pop culture with extravagant costumes and outrageously huge hats.” The plot, as described in a review is that “Poor Snow White from San Francisco is traveling the world to find her true love, but instead comes upon [various characters] all eager to give her ridiculously unhelpful advice about love, tequila and SF's lack of ‘available young dudes’." Since the show is constantly changing to reflect current pop culture, at our show Snow White came across Barbra Streisand, Gov. Schwarzenegger, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, Paris Hilton, Jennifer Lopez, Bill Gates, In Sync/Justin Timberlake, the Bush twins, Britney Spears, Prince, and too many more to remember. Outrageous and hilarious.

3. An overnight stay at the Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf, a AAA Four Diamond Award Winner. The best part? They feature the new “Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed” in every room. The Sweet Sleeper™ has a custom designed plush top mattress set, a cozy fleece blanket, a plump duvet and five cushy pillows. Yeah, we sunk our tired selves right into that cozy comfort.

4. Overnight babysitting, provided by Grandma (my mom). This is a key element to the plan, of course. While we were gone, she even cut roses from our overflowing bushes and placed them in vases around the house (something I never think to do).

My birthday, Sunday, August 29th.

5. Wake up at our leisure and walk six blocks, past the park full of people doing Tai Chi, to have brunch at Mama’s on Washington Square. Mama’s is a local favorite and “best breakfast” award winner, and the meal was worth a one hour wait in line.

6. Drive home to see two excited little daughters who pounce on me with hugs, kisses and homemade birthday cards.

7. Skip lunch (too full from breakfast) but have delicious birthday cake—a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake from Cold Stone Creamery.

8. Enjoy our favorite family meal for dinner—chicken fricassee—that K. prepared over a hot stove all afternoon. (There’s enough left for another night too!).

9. Open birthday cards from friends and family, some containing ca$h or check$.

10. Ponder what to purchase with the above noted bounty…

Thanks for the wonderful birthday, honey! Maybe getting older isn’t so bad.

August 28, 2004
Have it Your Way, If You Can Stand the Packaging

What’s with the brainless, trying-to-be-witty message on Burger King cups now? On my diet coke, it says:

This cup makes a statement about you. It says, “Hey, look at me. I’m an ambitious yet responsible person.” You could have gone larger, but you didn’t. You could have gone smaller, but again, you deferred. No, you know exactly what you want in life, nothing more, nothing less. It’s good when you have things your way.”

I take issue with these comments.

1.) Good God, I hope that the cup does not say, “Hey, look at me.” Specifically, please don’t look at me. It’s embarrassing to be holding proof of purchase from something from BK. Look away.

2.) The cup is not representing that I’m an ambitious yet responsible person. I actually am an ambitious yet responsible person, but the cup ain't sayin it. In fact, having the cup announces that I’m a lazy ass parent who couldn’t be bothered to prepare a healthy, nutritious meal for my family. It says that I’m irresponsible.

3.) This part just bugs me: You could have gone larger, but you didn’t. You could have gone smaller, but again, you deferred. Yes, I could have chosen a different size but I didn’t defer. I didn’t postpone or delay; I didn’t submit to someone else’s wishes. Can we please get someone who passed high school English to write copy for the beverage holders?

4.) It isn’t accurate to say that I know exactly what I want in life (I kind of do, but not exactly) or that I would accept nothing more, nothing less. I’d likely take more and I may even accept a little less of what's on my want list. So BK, don’t make blanket statements that you can’t back up.

5.) Well, finally, something that makes sense: It’s good when you have things your way. That pretty much goes without saying, yes? But since your marketing theme is “Have it your way” I’ll give you that one, BK.

I wasn’t going to write about this—I’m not keen on admitting to eating fast food for dinner on a Friday night. But something had to be said. The cup was just sitting there, begging to be mocked, you know?

August 26, 2004
Snacking 101

So far, kindergarten is a big success. J. loves it, which means I can relax. Well, sort of.

First, three year old S. is lost without her big sister around. Sadly, I don’t play “Care Bears” satisfactorily (or at all), so I’m not an ideal playmate. I’m also finding that with school, there are some new responsibilities for the parents.

One new thing is the weekly Show and Tell. J.’s first turn will be today. She easily picked out an item and put it in her backpack to take to school, so there wasn’t much work for me there. She also told me what she plans to say to the class. “This is Nelly. She’s a toy elephant that my Grandma D. got me. I like her because she’s cute and soft.”

Of greater concern to me is my new task of providing snacks for the entire class. At the kindergarten orientation, the teacher sent some paperwork home that said:

Snack Time

Each day one student will be classroom host for the day and provide snack for his classmates. Please note the date for the month that your child has been assigned and send in enough snack for 20 children on that day. Also please pre-cut any items and be sure to send in napkins and cups (if needed)...We would like to encourage healthy snacks…Thank you for your help!

Having no prior experience with such things, I’m curious to find out what the other mothers bring on their assigned days. So everyday when I pick J. up from school, I quiz her about snack time.

Me: What did you have today?

Her: Those cookie things that you make s’mores with.

Me: Um…graham crackers?

Her: Yeah. And grapes.

Me: Green ones or reddish-purple ones?

Her: Red ones.

Me: In bunches or pulled off already?

Her: Bunches.

Me: And juice, right?

Her: Yeah, apple juice.

Another conversation, yesterday:

Her: We had carrots…

Me: Cut up like sticks?

Her: Yes. We also had something in a wrapper, I don’t know what it is. It was like a candy-ish snack.

Me: [clueless] What color was it?

Her: It wasn’t really a color.

Me: Hmm. Was it fruity, like what they call fruit leather?

Her: No. [thinking some more]. It had those chips in it, like chocolate chip cookies.

Me: Oh! Granola bars?

Her: Yes! Granola bars. That’s what they were called.

I can use these ideas for S.’s preschool class as well, because I’ll be in charge of their class snack once a month too. When it’s our turn the girls want me to bring in the many bags of Sponge Bob Squarepants fruit chews that we bought at Costco, as part of the snack. Why? Because they don’t like them—although they believe the other kids truly will. (They loved the Shrek version of the fruit chews, however the Sponge Bob ones just don’t cut it.)

Ok, enough for today. Class dismissed. Go off and have snacks.

August 24, 2004
The Very First Day of School (a.k.a. Mommy Freaks Out)

All the theoretical talk about how fun it will be when J. goes to school seems like a bad joke. The building that we’ve driven past and pointed at for the last five years is stealing my kid from my loving arms. The school bell has rung. Oh, the drama.

How did this happen so fast? My little baby—well, she is five now—is officially a kindergartener. She’s excited and it’s a happy time and all, but…

Now it begins. She’s in the system! She’ll go to school everyday.

That means that other people (read: not me) have access to her— to shape and program her, to give her ideas about the world and herself. As she progresses through school other kids will increasingly affect her too. How do I keep her from getting hurt? From a broken heart?

I know, I can’t. That kills me.

At school she’ll make friends, learn lots of new things, and have plenty of fun as well. She’s ready for this next step and I’m excited for her. Still, I feel a loss. The time between birth and school really does fly by, even though when you’re going through it, it seems like it will never end.

So here’s my plan: I’m going to watch out for her as much as I can. I’ll help her, advocate for her, love her (even assist her with those #&!%@ school projects that I thought I’d finally escaped, having done my time). Each day that I drop her off it will get easier. I’ll enjoy watching her blossom into the delightful school girl that I know she will be.

She’s going to be fine. And so am I. Right?

August 20, 2004
Two Swimmers

(click to enlarge)

The girls finished their swimming lessons yesterday. They received certificates from their instructor with the following comments:

For S. (age 3): “Excellent job! Lots of improvement!”

For J. (age 5): “Great job! You were a pleasure to have in class!”

August 18, 2004
Pre-birthday Mental Preparation

It's sad to grow old, but nice to ripen.
-Brigitte Bardot

I don’t like to let birthdays sneak up on me without some reflection before the actual date. How do I feel about the new number? What’s going on in my life at this point and is it the way I want it to be? I have 11 days to figure this out but through writing this post, I think I’m ready.

This year, it’s a little disconcerting because I’m now stepping over the mid-point of my thirties; it’s always weird when you’re truly, undeniably headed for that next decade (whichever one it is). But I like where I am in my life right now. I’m the most content that I’ve ever been and there’s also a real sense of possibility, like there may be even better times ahead.

Recently, I read one of Veronique Vienne’s books, The Art of Growing Up. She describes becoming an adult as growing wiser one small realization at a time. I feel like I’ve accumulated a good amount of realizations by this point, that I’ve figured out quite a few important things about life. I’m certainly the wisest I’ve ever been! Vienne also asks, “Could it be that each new stage and each new situation in life is an opportunity to shed youthful insecurities, reevaluate old habits, and get rid of obsolete constraints? If so, then growing up is, at any age, an amazing process of self-renewal.”

At my current age, there are goals I haven’t reached (or even attempted) yet and I can live with that. Vienne reminds me that “late is in fact never too late.” She reports on some famous late achievements: Julia Child wrote her first bestseller at 49; Harry Truman was first elected to the Senate at 50; Paul Cezanne didn’t have a major exhibit until he was 65; and Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa at 75. Funny how I’m always most interested in accounts of authors who publish their first book later in life. I’ve always thought that you need to be a certain age before you have anything important to say (this also gives me excuse for waiting so long to clarify and pursue my own writing goals).

As for my actual birthday, my husband is working on some plans. It seems that he has something more exciting than usual up his sleeve and it involves an overnight stay in the city (San Francisco), so it will be a fun time. I’ll report later on the details.

For now, I’ll share some birthday related quotes that I found. They’re funny, serious and full of truth:

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. -- Mark Twain

Women deserve to have more than twelve years between the ages of twenty eight and forty. -- James Thurber

A birthday is just the first day of another 365-day journey around the sun. Enjoy the trip! --Unknown

You were born an original. Don't die a copy. --John Mason

Inside every older person is a younger person - wondering what the hell happened. --Cora Harvey Armstrong

To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.--Bernard Baruch

Everything I know I learned after I was thirty.--Georges Clemenceau

When you turn thirty, a whole new thing happens: you see yourself acting like you parents. -- Blair Sabol [ed.note: No!!]

You're not getting older, you're getting better.--Unknown

They say that age is all in your mind. The trick is keeping it from creeping down into your body. --Unknown

Time may be a great healer, but it's a lousy beautician. --Author Unknown

The older the fiddler, the sweeter the tune.-- English Proverb

I love everything that's old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines. -- Oliver Goldsmith

I still have a full deck; I just shuffle slower now. --Author Unknown

Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that'll get you home earlier. --Dan Bennett

Grow old along with me!The best is yet to be... -- Robert Browning

All my life, I always wanted to be somebody. Now I see that I should have been more specific. -- Jane Wagner

P.S. I also came across the poem below. [Note: You can google your birth year (“19xx calendar”) to find out what day of the week you were born.] I’m Thursday, “merry and glad”. Sorry to the Wednesday people.

Born on Monday,
Fair in face;
Born on Tuesday,
Full of God's grace;
Born on Wednesday,
Sour and sad;
Born on Thursday,
Merry and glad;
Born on Friday,
Worthily given;
Born on Saturday,
Work hard for your living;
Born on Sunday,
You will never know want. – Anonymous

August 16, 2004
One Week to Go

Me: Ms. Principal? This is M.P. calling about my daughter J., who’s currently assigned to afternoon kindergarten…

Her: [with recognition] Mmm-hmm, hello.

Me: You may remember that we are trying to have her switched into morning kindergarten…

Her: [with clear recollection] Yes, right.

Me: [slightly surprised that I don’t have to go through my planned speech about who I am and what I need] I’m impressed. I realize that you must have a lot going on at this time. So…

Her: I got her a spot.

Me: Oh. That’s great! Thank you. ...Will I get some sort of written confirmation?

Her: No. It’ll get taken care of before the back-to-school registration, they’ll give out the class placements there. They’re not usually ready until about an hour before!

Me: It’s a busy time, I’m sure. Out of curiosity, did someone switch from the morning class to the afternoon session, or…?

Her: [chuckles a bit] Well, we usually place a bit of wiggle room in the scheduling. It’s hard to know whose situation will rise up...

Me: Oh, I see.

Her: …You know, and sometimes four-year-olds who were signed up, their parents decide that they’re not ready after all, or people move. [etc.]

Me: [So you had room for J. in the morning class all along and you were, what, just testing us? Making us sweat it out on some make-believe waiting list?] Ok, well, thank you for your help. We’ll be sure to attend the back to school fair.


Whatever. We got morning kindergarten! We got morning kindergarten! Life is good.

Also, I have purchased everything on the Kindergarten Class Supply List, that being:

backpack (9 x 12) labeled w/name
Crayola washable markers (thick, 8 pack)
1 roll of paper towels
2 - 8 oz. bottles of white multipurpose glue
1 ream white Xerox paper
Crayola Kid's First Crayons (8 large)
1 box of baby wipes
1 pkg of glue sticks
1 bottle of waterless antibacterial soap
1 box of Kleenex
1 pkg of stickers
1 box of large paperclips
1 box of dry erase markers

I picked up a few of the items at various stores over the last month, but then I just said screw it. I’m not going to wait for sales on the rest of the supplies and drive around town, wasting all of my free time on this. So I placed an online order at one of the office supplies stores and a box arrived on my doorstep the next day. Done.

In one week my baby starts school. I can’t believe it. Get ready for the freaked out post next week.

August 10, 2004
A List

It's been a long time since I've posted two days in a row. Keeping you on your toes. (What are you, a ballerina?)

There are few things that are more of a PITA than taking down all the curtains and blinds in preparation for new window installation for your entire house. Luckily, my husband is doing it.

I think my new habit of morning coffee and/or afternoon diet coke is making my skin break out. Shit.

Still waiting to find our whether J. can be switched to morning kindergarten. The principal says we’re #1 on the waiting list. Cross your fingers.

Tae-bo in the morning is a good thing. But my body is tired. Go figure.

Watching the girls at their swimming lessons makes me smile. Especially my five year old doing multiple head bobs and my three year old’s wall push-ups.

Being at the pool center, where there’s an Olympic sized pool with all of the swimming lanes set up gives me a strange feeling though. Memories of 5:30am before school practice, 2:30pm after school practice and swim meets.

The word of the day is: relax.

My birthday is in 19 days. So is Michael Jackson’s.

If you close your organizer, then you can’t see the to-do list staring back at you, taunting you.

There are benefits to allowing your children to watch TV. The girls made me seven “perky up” cards yesterday—cute drawings put into envelopes with my name, delivered with a big grin. Something they learned from Rolie Polie Olie.

Now they’ve moved on to “live” perky up cards, basically hugs and kisses given to me at random times throughout the day. Love it. (How about a doing-the-laundry-for-mommy perky up card?)

My mom’s going to be here in 20 minutes and I haven’t dried my hair yet or gotten the kids their swim suits that are hanging up high in the shower to dry, so I’d better get going.

But making lists is oddly enjoyable. No, really, I’d better go.

August 09, 2004
Beaches, Part 2

We’re back from our trip; safe, sound and in need of some catch-up sleep.

I won’t dwell on the negative parts, such as loud neighbors keeping me (and only me) up at night while they partied, my new addiction to coffee, and two carsick daughters throwing up simultaneously during the winding mountain road home. Nope, we’ll focus on the good things—because it really was an enjoyable trip.

Let’s compare the grown-up and kid lists of the fun things about our vacation. There’s actually some overlap. You may also notice that three and five year olds are fairly easy to please.

My list:

our family being together, all in the same room (this is also a minus at times)

sitting on the beach in the warm sun for hours

watching the girls smiling and laughing on the boardwalk rides

getting tan

seeing J. put her head under the water in the pool for the first time (this from a girl who screams, “There’s WATER in my eyes!” when a bit of bath water gets on her)

the pool bar

smirking at the new teenage swimwear fashion (particularly the girls’ tendency to wear a shortened denim miniskirt pulled down lower, past the hips, over a bikini. It’s not even an “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” kind of thing, which I have to give a nod to; it just looked stupid.)

hearing the waves at night

building sand castles with the girls

a new Mexican dinner entree that I love: Sopes. (They were two golden handmade corn tortillas puffed up into a soft shell, one filled with chicken and the other with guacamole, topped with salsa fresca, shredded cabbage, sour cream and cheese.)

HBO in the hotel room at night

housekeeping (wouldn’t it be cool if every time you left your house, you’d come back and all of the beds were made and you had fresh towels?)

J. “catching” fish (a boardwalk game) after many frustrating attempts, winning prizes for herself and her little sister

hot, soft pretzels

The kids’ list (as told to me):

playing in the hotel room

getting ice [from the hall ice machine]

putting the [electronic] hotel key into the door

swimming in the wading pool:

S.: It’s just the right temperature
J.: It’s medium
S.: The hot tub is much, much warmer

collecting rocks at the beach

walking in the ocean water when the waves are here

when the waves splash and I run and pretend to be scared (J.)

getting little fish toys at the restaurant [from a treasure chest of prizes] after dinner

going on the whale ride

going on the race cars

going on the helicopter

going on the merry-go-round…

[do we have a theme here? i.e. boardwalk rides]

sharing a bed with my sister

“the frog thing” [the boardwalk fishing game I mentioned above, but the girls thought the fish were frogs]

Dad staying home from work

walking and splashing and running at the beach

chewing gum

the balcony, watching the people below playing on the beach

making sand castles

The girls report that being home again is fun too. “We have a lot of our toys to play with here,” they explain. The grown-ups have their perks at home too, like our king sized bed. It’s always good to be home, isn’t it?

August 02, 2004

In preparing for our vacation this week, I was online doing research and came across some information that doesn’t seem quite right to me. The editors at Trip Advisor—home of “unbiased reviews of hotels, resorts and vacations”—have created a Top 5 list of U.S. beach vacations. Since I’m heading out the door to place #3, I suppose I needn’t be argumentative.

However, I’ve been to three* of the five places (and have no knowledge of the other two) and I’m thinking that the editors at T.A. are high. Am I wrong? Here’s the list:

1. Oahu, Hawaii*
2. Corpus Christi, Texas
3. Santa Cruz, California*
4. Wilmington, North Carolina
5. Florida Keys, Florida*

They state that they picked five places with distinctly different personalities; okay, whatever. I’m no travel expert, but I think they could have done better with this list. Those choices just don’t seem like the best representatives of American beachery (yeah, I made up that word).

By the way, what was your best vacation to date? Your ideal future vacation?