Thursday, July 14, 2011

Play That Funky Music, Peanut

Okay, I've got a name from the past for you:

Rob Van Winkle.

Do you remember that guy? Sounds familiar, right? Was he from your high school? Your first place of employment?


That's "Vanilla Ice" to most of us out here. And recently, I've become intimately acquainted with him. Oh, come on now: NOT "intimately" intimately. Let's just say that I've heard "Ice Ice Baby" more times in the past couple of months, than I've cared to hear it in a lifetime. You see, my nine-year-old daughter is totally obsessed with him.

She spent the better part of the year crushing on Ghengis Khan - I've got a T-Shirt, a serving tray, and a whole bunch of Mongloian gear to prove it - but she's over him now. She's kicked that poor historical tyrant to the curb. At this point, it's all about Rob - Er, Vanilla. As a matter of fact, I can hear her singing into a microphone in her room, right now:

All right now stop! Collaborate and listen!
Ice is back with a brand new invention.
Something. Grabs a hold of me tightly
Fly like a harpoon daily and nightly.
Will it ever stop?
I don't know!
Turn off the lights - and I'll glow!
To the extreme I rock the mic like a vandal:
Light up a stage and wax a chump like a candle...

I just wrote that from memory: Are you terrified, yet? It's just that I've heard the stinkin' song a million times since around March - and I could probably win a karaoke contest with it at this point... Just to add insult to injury, the current "Mr. Popper's Penguins" movie used the damned song for the credits. We went with some friends to see it last week, and Peanut had such an adoring look on her face (not to mention the energetic lip-sync that she was performing) that I could feel a blush steal up my neck. Good thing it was dark in that theater.

Here's how every day begins:

Peanut comes down the stairs, hair adorably tousled from sleep. She plants herself on the couch and somehow manages to liberate the remote from wherever it has been seated. Away goes the Channel 7 Morning News and up next is...

"Play That Funky Music White Boy"!

Leaving me to ponder: Why on earth was the DVR invented?

Only, so it's not the original version. It's the one with circa 1994-ish Vanilla Ice gyrating around the stage and rapping about...well, something. He is dressed in a super-'90's white outfit. His hair is so tall and stiff - think Aquanet, people! - that he could probably support my townhome community with it:
Peanut thinks it is a work of art.

Did you know that he likes Key lime Pie? Well, he does.

He is on some kind of house building show now. And he's covered in tattoos -- but he's still turning out the tunes. And Peanut would probably follow him to the ends of the earth.

Good Lord: What are the teen years going to be like???

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Thanks A Lot Mr. Ben-Stinkin'-Nye

One of the first makeup kits that I ever bought was from Ben Nye. He’s the guy who did the makeup for the folks in Gone With the Wind, among other Silver Screen masterpieces.

He died in 1986, but his company lives on. The pots of color, brushes, and sponges were required purchase for a show that I was cast in – and it was expensive stuff, for a kid who had to use her allowance to buy it. How I loved that kit! I would sit in my bedroom and turn my face into anything you can imagine: inanimate objects, mysterious strangers, famous people – I can’t tell you how many times I applied a mole to my cheek and used a breathy voice to sing “Happy. Birth. Day. Mr. Presi. Dent” into the full-length mirror attached to my bedroom door. Once I made my face into a human doily, with the middle of it at the tip of my nose. Wait! Forget I told you that part, because it’s sort of embarrassing… TMI, and all that…

By the time I started taking Theater Arts classes at the University, I had amassed quite a collection. However, I still possessed that original kit - until someone stole it out of the locker room while I was taking a shower after a college step aerobics class. Who would want another person's used theater makeup??? Maybe she was after the plastic pink Caboodle container – you know all us girls rocked those in the ‘90’s.

What a nasty surprise for Ms. Stickyfingers, when she found pots of cake makeup and greasy clown white, instead of Clinique or Estée Lauder! Hopefully she at least knew how to put it to good use – and I don’t mean tossing my extensive palette in the dumpster next to her sorority house…

Wow do I feel better after reliving that heartbreaking memory of loss.

Okay, on with the story.

For years I was the Go-To Girl for wrinkles. Yes, wrinkles. Let me tell you: I was awesome at turning young faces into old faces. Even as a teenager, I knew how to transform a third grader into a fifty-three year old, a teenager into a grandparent. If you were hoofing it up as Aunt Polly, or taking a spin as Arvide Abernathy in Guys and Dolls - playing anyone older than yourself, really - you probably would’ve wanted to give me a ringy-ding-ding so that I could sit you down and line you up.

Anyway, I was inclined to use my mad age progression skills to transform my own mug when I was around sixteen. I was playing the role of a middle-aged woman in a community theater production. Scrunching my face into fine, shrarpei-like condition, I found all my future creases – applying dark pencil, then highlights – first on a smooth forehead, then under eyes where crows had yet to tread. Perfect. I looked perfect.

Uh, yeeeaaaaaahhh. So, I found a photo of myself in that makeup recently and you know what? It looks just like me! Not me then, but:


And I was good back then, dammit! Too good. I wish that all those hours of instruction could have taught me how to conceal the lines that I had so gleefully attached to my own face, before nature had attached them for me!

Sometimes being good at something isn’t, well, all that great.

I do make a delectable meatloaf, though, and I don’t know how that can possibly come back to bite me…

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Elephant Never Forgets

Just before Christmas, Peanut's Nonnie and Auntie took her to Disneyland. She enjoyed the first day very much, but on the morning of the second day she vomited right down the middle of Main Street, U.S.A. They hadn't even made it to the statue of Walt and Mickey, and they had to turn around and go back to the hotel. The next couple of days were spent trying to find a gift shop that sold applesauce and figuring out if either of them had extra pajamas for my sickly eight- year-old to borrow. I almost jumped on an airplane to rescue her, but realized that she was with the next-best-thing-to-Mom and relaxed. Well, a little bit. Okay, I called around every 45 minutes or so. Don't judge.

Peanut was actually pretty all right about the whole experience, except for one thing: She didn't get to ride on Dumbo.

Tossing her cookies at the Happiest Place on Earth didn't bother her so much. Nonnie having to spend hours watching cartoons at HoJo's - not a horrible thing. No Dumbo = Catastrophic Event Probably Leading to Needing Therapy in the Future.

For weeks after she returned, she would lay in bed until way past bedtime, worrying that she had somehow offended the flying elephant by not waiting in line for an hour to visit him. "We'll go again someday, right Mom?" She would ask. I would climb the stairs to retire for the evening, and she'd still be up. "Maybe I should ride him first the next time we go to Disneyland."

So, here's the really, really weird part: I had the exact same experience when I was eight, like Peanut. No kidding. I didn't get to ride Dumbo and it blew. my. mind.

My mother was dating my stepfather and in an attempt to woo her, he flew my mom, my five-year-old brother and me to Orange County for a short overnighter - in his airplane. What young, single mother wouldn't be impressed by that, I ask you? Long story marginally short: I didn't get to ride Dumbo and I spend the rest of the evening (no, really it was more like the rest of my life) sobbing in distress. Worried that I might never, ever get the chance to see him again. Of course, I felt compelled to share this story with my mournful child.

My daughter and I are emotional hoarders. I don't mean that we hoard because we are emotional (although, truth be told, that may also be an issue), I mean that we hoard actual emotions: memories, events, words - as tangible as the shoe boxes full of limitless, useless, eclectic items in your Aunt Bertha's closets, that she will really need someday. The memory- mind- movies loop in our brains and weigh us down with as much anxiety as all the Splenda packets, broken shoelaces, and threadbare beach towels that you could collect in a lifetime.

When my husband and I decided to take Peanut and Bean to visit Mickey Mouse and his crew in February, it was the first ride on our list. However, we made it through the first day and neglected to visit the flying elephant.

The boys went back to the hotel when it got dark, and Peanut and I were at the neighboring themepark, California Adventure. We were trying to watch the new water-light show, but we had horrible seats. I heard a voice in my ear, trying to sound nonchalant, "Heya, Mom? Are you bored?" I answered honestly, that I was done with seeing the backside of water. "How about we, uh, go to the Dumbo ride?" Sounds like a good idea, right? It would have been, except that Disney was closing in ELEVEN MINUTES.

Me: I don't think we can get to Dumbo before the park closes.
Peanut: Yes, yes we can. We'll run fast.
Me: I haven't been able to run fast in years.
Peanut: Come on, Mom, think of the exercise.
Me: I don't want any exercise, I'm on vacation. I just want one of those giant corndogs and a Mickey-shaped ice cream sandwich.
Peanut: We have to do this, Mom, both of us! We need to catch up on Dumbo or we'll regret it forever!


By some incredible miracle, I managed to get the lead out and run as fast as a third grader: past the ticket booth, past Main Street U.S.A. - Hi, Walt! Bye, Walt! - and under Sleeping Beauty's Castle.

We got the last two boarding passes for that damned ride. I am not kidding. We were the last two passengers for the evening.

It was easily 45 degrees, but we were both sweating from our unexpected workout. My heart was pounding from too many years and not enough regular jogging. But we made it. We made it and soon we were in the air.

I could see above the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. The top of the Matterhorn. I could hear the music from the carousel below. When I looked at my daughter's face, I knew that this had lifted a weight from her shoulders. Her hair blew behind her and her missing-tooth-grin was reflecting the lights around us as we circled the evening sky.

That very moment made it on my shortlist of most wonderful moments, ever.

When we exited the ride, we walked, lighthearted, toward our hotel.

"Mom?" I looked down into my mini-twin's face to see what she wanted.

"We didn't get to ride Peter Pan."

Monday, January 10, 2011

I Should Have Been a Cosby Kid

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a Huxtable:

There were certain things that I knew weren't possible. For example, I was reasonably sure that I couldn't ever become African-American. Even in this age of extreme science and plastic surgery, I was pretty sure I was stuck in my own pinkishly white skin.

But I really, really wanted one of those fabulous sweaters. I also wanted my family to engage in a musical number on our stairs. Wait - we didn't have stairs. Okay, I wanted stairs, too.

The ability to spout adorable one-liners and wrap up any possible family issues in between commercial breaks appealed to me. Whenever I was put on the spot, I just heard a dial-tone between my ears. I wasn't ever able to think of something precocious or cute to deliver in a sassy way.

I wanted giant bangs. I tried, but they never quite looked like Denise or Vanessa's.

Occasionally, I came close:
*Note the fabulous sweater and socks-with-flats.

I wished that my dad would dance with a beatific look on his face, to a song featuring wind instruments.

I have also always loved Jello Pudding.

Not that I didn't have a monster crush on Alex Keaton, or anything. I also had posters of Kirk Cameron on my wall - to this day, I remember that he kept his "...awesome bod by staying on the Pritikin Diet" (whatever the heck that is). But I wanted to be a Huxtable.

Living in that all-girls school with this bunch:

probably would have been a close second.

I still love watching television, but I'm mostly hooked on reality shows these days. I can think of a few that I'd like to be on - I would love for a couple of fashion savvy designers to hand me a bunch of money to redo my wardrobe! I'd buy whatever clothes they wanted me to for a free trip and a shopping spree! But that's different. Those are shows that you would be on - not live in.

I wanted to live in that house in Brooklyn, with the pink doors and Clair's dried flower arrangements.

And I wanted one of these:

October 16th, 1985

Hi! My favorite television show is (are) the cosby show, Family ties, silver spoons, small wonder, and I like Different strokes. I like the family programs. I like to see what they do and how they solve tough situations. I like to get involved and watch it every week (day) I like to see what they do next, like a comic. I like funny shows mostly, and scary shows. I like detective shows alot too! I like reading better, especially about Ramona Quimby, I've read "Ramona and her mother," "Ramona and her father, " "Beezus and Ramona" "Ramona the pest" and I'm reading "Ramona for ever". I'm going to start reading all of Henry Huggins books because sometimes he is in some of, most of Ramona's books.

The Quimby's should be a television show.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

idk How i Got Sooo Blest!!! (Really? Did You Actually Think I Would Type That?)

Ten years ago, I worked with a guy who really "grabbed The Bull by the horns", you might say. He was such a live-life-to-its-fullest kind of person, that I wouldn't be surprised if you called me and told me that he was in Spain last weekend and he had wrestled an actual bull by its actual horns. I would just answer, "Oh geez, that guy...".

Our cubicles were across from each other and part of a typical day would have proceeded like this:

Me: I just read the latest Stephen King novel/Sting interview/Arthur Miller play. It was awesome.
Bull Wrangler: Yeah?
Me: Yeah. I wish I could tell him how great it was.
Bull Wrangler: Well then let's figure out how to get him on the phone. I think I know a guy who works with his publisher...
Me: I really like Ernest Hemingway's work, too.
Bull Wrangler: We should call him up.
Me: He's dead.
Bull Wrangler: I know, but don't let that stop you. If you really want to talk to him, you can find. a. way...

Oh all right, he never actually said any of that - but that is an example of how just about any conversation with him would conclude. Nothing was impossible.

One time, I was driving him to the airport and we were running late. Traffic wasn't moving and the terminal seemed like a million miles around the corner, although we were just on the other side of our destination. We were soclose! He was afraid that he was going to miss his flight, so he jumped out of the car, ran across the freeway and hopped over the fence into long term parking.

I watched him run through isles of parked cars, toting his leather overnight bag and laptop case. He disappeared into the airport jungle.

But he made his flight.

I pass that airport on my way home, when I pick up my kids after work. I've been thinking about all kinds of funny things that have happened during this decade and that was one of them.

A few other things that made my list (in no particular order):

*I got married to my High School Sweetheart.

We're still married.

*I drove into "The City".

Whatever. Go ahead and judge - you probably drive into whatever big city you're near all the time. I, however, have been freaked out about making that trip since I saw "Adventures in Babysitting", in 1987.

Elizabeth Shue was brilliant in that movie...

*I had kids.

Now, I don't want to sound like one of those people. You know who I mean: The people who post on Facebook three times daily about how "Susie B. Swell thinks her kids are the apple of her beautiful cerulean blue eye" or "i am so blest, idk how i got sooooooo lucky".

But seriously: having kids has been pretty much been like winning the lottery. Peanut and Bean are some kind of Energizer Bunny comedy duo. They begin performing when they open their eyes in the morning and they don't let the curtain fall until they close their eyes at their bedtime.

My daughter's wit is so acerbic and beyond her eight-and-a half-years, that sometimes she'll deliver a joke and I won't get it until several hours later, when I'm ruminating in my car. She'll just roll her eyes and walk away. I don't think any other kid on the planet can change whatever tune is on the radio into an introspective ballad/top40 hit/80's throwback about Ghengis Khan and make the song not only informative - but catchy, too.

Who knew listening to tyranny could be so much fun ?

Oh, and my son? He has the voice of a little angel. And he gives awesome hugs. And he's a snappy dresser. And he rocks at Mario Kart.

2000 - 2010 went by pretty fast. When I think about all the things that I've experienced and all the people that I've met during this decade, it feels sort of like when someone's life passes in front of their eyes in the movies.

Tell the next ten years to roll along a little more slowly, wouldja? I'm afraid I might miss something worth remembering...

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
Ferris Bueller

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

All I Want For Christmas...Is For Someone Else to do my Christmas Shopping...

As THE Holiday draws nearer, I find myself in a panic (I find myself in this state more and more, these days) trying to figure out what to buy for everybody in my family.

For instance: What do you purchase for a mother-in-law, who is about as close to being a living saint as someone can get? To give you an idea of her worthiness of sainthood, let me tell you about the time that she won the baking contest for me. Not just "won the baking contest", but "won the baking contest for me".

I am a horrible cook. Really. I'm not fishing for compliments or trying to prompt you to say "no you're not" or "oh, you do just fine": I have no skill in the kitchen, whatsoever. Just ask poor MacG what he had for dinner last night. To make it worse, my sister-in-law is a professional chef. A really good chef, too!

I acknowledge my lack of kitchen mojo with equal parts shame and exasperation - with myself. So, when my Mother's Group was having a baking contest I panicked ( I told you!). I decided to ask my mother-in-law to teach me how to make her failsafe, delicious, (excuse the pun here) cannot fudge up recipe for fudge.

Let's just say that I can fail even the failsafe recipe, when it comes to standing anywhere in the vicinity of stove or oven. Or a spatula. I have some success with the microwave, but even that isn't always a given. The first batch was gritty and inedible. So, looking at me with pity (because I was perhaps the only person she had ever seen who screwed up the fudge recipe - or maybe it was all in my imagination. I doubt it) my MIL offered to help me with another batch.

We both looked skeptically at batch #2 and decided to let it sit overnight, as if the Fudge Fairy was planning on making an appearance and BAM! turning the lumpy, bumpy, mass of chocolate into something fabulous.

I did not hear from my baking tutor the next morning. The baking contest was scheduled for just after dinner. At around three in the afternoon, the doorbell rang and who did I find on my porch? Why, it was Saint MIL: holding a large tray of the most beautiful Peanut Butter Blossoms that you've ever seen. You know: the cookies with the Hershey's Kiss pressed artfully into the center?

I won the baking contest with those cookies. It was a contest where you put in $5 and get to take the pot if your dessert is selected as the King of Desserts - so I made around $50.

I felt guilty afterwards and told them that I was not the artist who created the beautiful blossoms. In all honesty, they knew me, so they should have realized that such a fantastic creation couldn't have emerged from my impossibly unskilled fingers. They were forgiving and sweet and told me to take Saint MIL out to lunch. I think I did, I can't remember.

I sure hope I did.

SEE? How do you find a Christmas gift for someone like that?

One year, I was so stumped about what to get my grandfather that I got him a rock.

Yep, a rock.

It wasn't just any rock, though. I actually had to get military clearance to remove this rock from a U.S. Army Base.

My grandfather found The Rock when he was stationed as a Major on the base, in the 1960's. He found it at a nearby rocky mountain just had to have it, so he and one of his fellow army dudes loaded it onto their jeep and dumped in in a field near the officer's quarters. He loved the darn thing, because it had a white circle on the top of it, with a little river of white spilling down the side.

He thought it looked like God, Himself, had set a big white paint can on it while painting the clouds.

Fast forward 40 years and The Rock was still where he had left it, but was now a part of the landscaping in the parking lot for the base Post Exchange.

My grandfather used to take us to visit The Rock. He would make us salute it.

I'm not joking.

I managed to get clearance from the Commanding Officer of the base (wow, did I feel rad and all Army-like writing that!) through a long string of emails and phone calls, to remove The Rock. However, it literally weighed a ton and had been sinking into the dirt for four decades.

The Commanding Officer arranged for us to have a tractor and a tractor driver, too. They met Me, MacG and Sis on sunrise, three days before Christmas - and pulled our gift out of the PX parking lot island. It dropped into the bed of MacG's truck and almost blew a hole right through it.

On Christmas Eve, my brother met us at grandfather's house and we snuck (as much as people can sneak a monolith through the bushes at midnight) it into the front yard, using brute strength and a wheel dolly. Thus completed Operation Rock Rescue.

You have never seen a reaction like his, when we led our grandfather out the front door in the morning. Tears streaming down his well worn face, he yelled "My ROCK! My ROCK!" He wrote a song about it later. He also wrote a poem.

And that, my friends, was the perfect gift for a man who already had everything...

So, uh, what am I supposed to get everyone this year?

Friday, November 5, 2010


I'm pretty sure that the people who hand out Halloween whistles in lieu of treats don't have a 6 and 8 year-old musical team living in their homes.

So far, two of them have -uhm, mysteriously- disappeared from my house.

I meant the whistles, not the children.

I keep saying, "I don't think this is a good time/place (it switches back and forth with great regularity) to blow that thing." But honestly, when is it a good time to make noise with an off-key pumpkin? Bean had one in his hand when he was getting out of the car for Sunday School, last weekend. Good time for it? Nope. Peanut picked one up at 6:45 on Tuesday morning. Another not-so-great time for the darn thing.

I found one in my purse, while I was at the gas station this morning. This one was a purple ghost with a mouthpiece up his heinie.

It accidentally fell into the trash, when I was operating the pump. That's okay: I think I have another one in my kitchen.

While I was looking for my wallet, I found a few other strange things in my bag:

A camping headlamp
Nine green Army men
An Easter egg eraser
A Lego Tonton
My Brighton earring, which matches the one that Peanut lost
A receipt for some pants that I bought in July. Of 2009. The purse was a Christmas gift from last year.
Taco Bell Mild Sauce (thank goodness I found that before it decided to explode)
A flip flop

Yes, you read that last one correctly: I had a shoe in my purse. The bag has a zip-up compartment in the middle of it - perfect for storing one tote-along shoe. Peanut brought the flip flop somewhere for some reason (I almost wrote "thong", but the idea of writing about my 8 year-old daughter's thong made me totally cringe). Just one. Hey: when I say that my little girl is an original thinker, I'm not exaggerating.

No wonder my shoulder hurts all the time.

OK: I heard that! Whether you were thinking, "Sounds like it's time to clean out your purse!" to hurt my feelings, sound humorous - or if you were offering genuine, helpful advice- I heard it.

I'll do it. Besides, I might find some really cool stuff in there that I haven't seen for a while.

Maybe I'll find MacG's plaid Banana Republic pants that poofed into thin air, when we were moving three and a half years ago(that really was a mystery - not a "mystery"), or my Great America season tickets that we never found in 1995.

Or maybe I'll just have a lighter purse.

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