My Fake Lashes…a journey into extensions

 My youngest son has these cartoon character eyelashes that any girl would kill for.

He got them from his dad.

While I, like most girls, have to curl, color and volumize in order for mine to even be seen.

This is before curling, coloring and volumizing

I had heard of eyelash extensions but it sounded painful and was something I thought I’d never do. After all, even if you can withstand the discomfort, who wants to looks like Tammy Faye Baker?

She probably wants to look like Tammy Faye Baker

But then I saw my beautiful friend Lindsay.

She looks nothing like Tammy Faye Baker

And she had eyelash extensions and looked amazing. Amazing. Not at all fake or overdone. She is a very natural looking girl, and beautiful to boot (single if you can believe it!), so a fake looking eyelash appendage would have looked bizarre on her. But while we hung out, I kept glancing over to admire her now extravagant lashes and finally decided to investigate into getting them for myself.

Now. Being on a budget – or at least not being able to justify a huge eyelash expense to my husband – I started looking for deals on GroupOn and Living Social. Might as well get a good deal if I can. This is how I go about it: If I find a service I want, I go onto Yelp and see what past customers think of the company’s performance. I know oftentimes it is usually the disgruntled that take the time to share their nasty experiences, so if there are some of those, I want to hear about them before I commit to anything.
Living Social had a deal ~ $125 for a full Volume Set and included an aftercare product. The regular price was $250 with no free product. Sounded good, so I went onto Yelp to make sure the business was legitimate.

The reviews for the stylist were great. At this point, I started to get excited. I bought the deal and plotted for the perfect time to maximize the impact of my new look….say, a girl’s night out or a weekend with my honey.

Then I took my son to baseball practice and ran into my friend, Heather who also has eyelash extensions.


We started girl gabbing about this suddenly essential component I must immediately incorporate into my life. You know, the usual. How long did she have them? (Over a year) Did she love them? (yes, obviously, she’s had them for a year) How often did she have to maintain them? (every 2-3 weeks) and finally, the biggest consideration: How much did she pay? Her answer brought me into instantaneous retail agony. You know the kind. When you find the good deal you thought you got was actually not so great. And in this case, had I waited for just one more week, I could have gotten Heather’s better deal.

So, in a panic, I emailed Living Social (because you know, they have that Good Deal Guarantee) and told them I needed a refund because I found a better deal.

Next I called the business number provided on the Living Social deal (yes, I’m still at baseball practice) and spoke frankly with the owner. I told her, look, I love Living Social and thought I was getting a great deal since I have no experience with eyelash anything except mascara and curlers and just found out my friend is getting a better deal than the one I bought from a coupon place! 
I have to say, her voice alone calmed me down. She was very mellow and laughed and didn’t seem at all put off that someone she had never met, one of 100 people who had taken advantage of a deal that cut so dramatically into her profit, was now calling to take even that away
She explained two things that attempted to help me understand the price difference. One, the stylist’s product cost had an impact on the customer’s final cost. Different lashes cost different amounts. So obviously, I would be getting some great lashes is what she inferred. Knowing nothing about lashes or what they were made from, I just inwardly agreed. It made sense. Also, she painted a picture of back-alley lash clinics that imported waste and unsavory elements and who wanted that stuff near their eyes? OK, I was sold. I booked with Karina and couldn’t wait for my appointment. After all, the price difference was only about $20 and after interrogating Heather a little further, I found out the overall cost was really only a few bucks less, so I was back on my retail savings cloud.

Before our appointment, the stylist, Karina was great. Very professional. She emailed me a confirmation and address of where my appointment would be. Her studio is in North Hollywood and she has another in Studio City at a Med Spa but very conveniently, she was covering for a friend who has a lash studio in Canoga Park. That was a much better fit for an Agoura Hills mom.

On the morning of my appointment she texted me, confused, asking me if I was still coming because she had gotten a cancellation from Living Social for my voucher.

Oh my gosh! I had completely spaced on retracting my cancellation!

I told her how sorry I was, feeling like the biggest pain of a customer that ever lived, and told her I’d take care of it or pay her the fee that I had originally given to LS. She, again, was very relaxed and laughed, said no problem. I already liked her.

So I sent LS an email and drove to her friend’s studio

next door to the Spectrum Gym in a little strip mall.
Everything in the studio was white and clean and Karina was in one of the curtain-drawn rooms doing some paperwork. 
She greeted me warmly as I plopped onto the examination table and took out my phone to see if LS had responded to my email and yes they had! I already had a brand new voucher for the lash extension sitting in my Inbox and I showed it to Karina, again apologizing for my rash move, feeling a little proud of handling my mistake so efficiently and a little relieved that LS is such a professional company.
She asked how I wanted my lashes. I told her about Lyndsay being able to look natural and glamorous at the same time and how I too wanted something natural looking but that would still give me that bit of a wow effect. Plus I didn’t want to have to wear make-up to look like I was awake. With two little boys, I just don’t always have time in the morning and hate putting on make-up if I’m going to the gym, which is almost everyday. So most days I just have way too much of that natural look. I wanted to drum it up a bit.
She showed me some pictures and I gave her a thumbs up or down on each look. Finally, she thought she knew what I wanted.
BEFORE – much much too natural
I lay down on the examination table and she put two large pieces of tape to cover my lower lashes to avoid them from accidentally sticking to the glue.
Then she used surgical glue to meticulously attach each lash to my actual lashes. It didn’t hurt at all. I could have slept if I wasn’t so excited.
There are three types of lashes that lash stylists use and I found an objective explanation of them here.
I don’t know for sure but I am guessing that Kim Kardashian uses the acryllic kind because hers are very dramatic.
There is no way I could pull this sultry swankiness off while I’m dropping my kids off at pre-school or kindergarten but I have seen other moms do it. Full make-up, hairdos and single girl outfits at 9am. I don’t know how they do it. There have been days I was lucky to brush my teeth before I walked out the door.
The whole process took longer than I expected but I was able to find some things out. Like, what makes one stylist or salon different from another is the artistry of the stylist. Just like there are tons of people with their license to cut hair, many of them very close to where I live, there is a reason I drive to Hollywood to see my hairstylist friend, Wendy Lallas. Yes there is.
While I was lying there, two things happened outside of our little curtained off room, in the salon, that got my attention. One, this woman walked in saying she was so overdue for a lash fill, her boss had just asked her what was wrong with her eyes. Ouch. Note to self: don’t go there. This was a man who had been supposedly socialized to have manners. My boys are still working on that. God knows what they’d say.
Two, someone asked someone else about another woman and the reply was an amused recounting of this other woman’s allergic reaction to the glue. It was during this moment that Karina’s hands were completely inside my face, working the fake lashes into my real ones.
“Umm?” I asked.
“Don’t worry. If it was going to happen it would have already happened. As soon as the glue got near your skin,” she said.
Okay, I was reassured but here’s a Facebook post I found that goes into these types of allergies a little more specifically. But it is Facebook so not sure about the accuracy.
OK, so two hours later, she’s finally pulling the tape off my bottom lashes, thank god because at this point I’m late picking everyone up. I had only factored in one hour, again trying to pack in too much into too litte.
Karina used synthetic mink lashes on me and although the process of applying this type of lash takes longer and is a little more arduous to attain that perfect combination of sulty and natural, I think it is so worth it.
And voila!
I am definitely awake now!
All I could think of was, wow! I hadn’t put on any make-up for the appointment and even without the this and that to add color to my face, I still looked very dramatic.
I was very happy and went home with instructions from Karina to help keep the look longer, no oil based eye make-up removers, no steaming or jacuzzis for the first 24 hours. She told me I should wash my lashes at night and morning with the soap wash that came with my LS deal. I could also use it as an eye makeup remover but if I’m not using mascara, that’s most of the battle won right there. That’s right, no need for mascara. Or eyelash curlers. Yay. And I rarely put on upper eyeliner, only for extra special nights out because really, I don’t need it. So, that cuts down my getting ready time by like a good ten minutes every day, which if you have small kids or a busy schedule, you know what a treasure of found time that is. 
Also. No eye rubbing. I forgot a few days in and felt myself lose a couple lashes in my inner left eye. Oh well, you can’t tell. 
She told me that the lashes fall out with the natural shedding of my real lashes and that’s all dependent on the individual and their diet. I’m hearing her say this and feeling so smart because I know that the Juice Plus I’m taking also cuts down on hair loss (in fact, it’s helped me – and Howard – grow hair). Ha! These things were going nowhere!
ALMOST THREE WEEKS LATER: I have an appointment in a few days for a fill but my lashes still look amazing. I’m thinking of postponing. I love my new lashes and plan on going back to keep them up. The fill price is dependent on how often you go back because, of course, they figure the longer it’s been, the more work they have to do. But fill appointments are thankfully much shorter 30-45 minutes depending on how much you want done.
These lash places are springing up everywhere. Just make sure the place you go to is licensed and has a good reputation.
Karina agreed to extend my LS deal to my friends (and if you are reading for this long, you are definitely my friend!). She doesn’t really advertise and books quickly, all through word of mouth, so get her while you can.
And yes, I’ve gotten tons and tons of compliments on my lashes. But it doesn’t get old. Last night my husband said to me, “I can’t stop staring at your face.” It’s the best beauty thing I’ve done since getting my ombre hair color. These lashes have been the easiest way to get that really feminine, youthful look. You know, without getting all that plastic surgery stuff.
So I’ve had a couple fills since I now seem to be addicted to having these lashes as much as I love to get a great new haircut.
Yet, I’m still a mom and still short on time so I can’t just run around town at my whim like single girl I used to be. It took me almost six weeks before I had my first fill. I should have done it at week four or five. Five may have worked but if I wanted to look great the whole time, four would have been perfect. By the time I went back to Karina, I still had a smattering of lashes left. She was surprised. But one lash, in particular, hadn’t shed like it should have because of all the Juice Plus I take (and now sell) and was instead growing like Jack’s magic beanstalk. It was kinda funny looking like it was trying to grow high enough to escape. 
not bad after 6 weeks

I waited as long as possible because we were going on our summer vacation and I wanted to make sure our pictures and my self-esteem wouldn’t suffer as I embraced the au-natural look during our beach trip. Lashes and a tan really do make all the difference. 

I was a little worried that all the salt water of the ocean and the chlorine of the pool would shorten the life of my lashes. I was afraid they might make me look like a plucked chicken by the end of the week. But I shouldn’t have worried. Turns out these lashes are great for the active girl as well as the more mellow gal.

no make-up

There is no way I could have pulled the Toucan picture off without having that extra color around my eyes.

Hooked, I tell you.
I have to say, I’m looking forward to my next “fix”.


Sid the Science Kid….teaching us how we process

             It may not have been Shakespeare or even Shultz but the colorful, giant characters from the Sid the Science Kid television show stirred some scientific knowledge into the burgeoning brains of children as they performed various skits centering around our 5 senses at the Valley Performing Arts Center on Saturday the 8th of March.
            In the skits, Sid and his friends, May, Gerald and Gabriela, performed experiments and answered questions posed by Teacher Susie that helped them discover the mysteries of their own bodies and how they process the information they gather from living in our world.
Sid and his buddies with Teacher Susie

            The stage was brightly colored, the costumes were captivating and larger than life and the auditorium, filled with hundreds of children, was unusually quiet for most of the performance while the kids sat mesmerized watching Sid and his friends make their scientific explorations. 
            I brought my 5 year old, who has seen the show but isn’t allowed to watch much television, so he enjoyed the performance but not on a visceral, ‘oh these are my friends’ kind of level. 

           However, we did run into some friends, the Attars, after the show and they do watch the show regularly and had a much more enthusiastic response. Three year old Gavin really like the music and dancing while 6 year-old Jordan thought the character, Gerald was really funny and wished the audience could have actually made some of the concoctions created by Sid and his friends during the 5 senses exhibit the adults held after the show. 
           The ‘after show’ exhibit was a lot of fun too. Kids didn’t get to make them but they got to try tasting various concoctions designed to let them experience sensations like sweet, sour and salty. They also got to smell a variety of scents and touch various textures.
            My only complaint was the sound quality seemed distorted during the song portion of the performances. While the talking was clear, the singing seemed blown out and was hard to decipher.
            Overall, it was an entertaining afternoon wrapped in a healthy dose of education. Mother Marni Attar said, “It was fun for the whole family and we hope they put on another show with a different concept soon.”

Lostmnesia…..a process with some victories

I don’t want anyone to think that just because I’ve had a short story and a feature magazine article published this month that I think I’m a rock star or some kind of super hero. But what really does deserves a pat on the back is that I overcame the limitations I placed on myself long enough to finally make something happen with that writing.

First off, Lostmnesia was rejected by twenty four literary magazines. Twenty-four. Twenty four times, I had to read why someone thought my story was good but needed just a little of this or a lot of that or just wasn’t right for them at this time.  That’s a little like: it’s not you, it’s me, so let’s just be friends.

And then there are all the literary magazines that just plain ignored me. I didn’t even get the closure that at least comes with a rejection.

If it wasn’t for my supportive friends in my writing group – Writing Safety Tree – and my amazing husband, my writing wouldn’t have happened.

Some of us couldn’t come because of mommy duties but from top
left to right we have Laurel Janssen Byrne, Julie Gardner,
Charlene Ross, me, Kim Tracy Prince and Lexi Rohner

Writers (or me) are very sensitive people. So everything can hurt. But you have to be sensitive to pick up on the little things and then process them well enough to articulate what happened to complete strangers. Or friends. Or family.

It all starts with sorting through the feelings in your own head though. And that can be a sticky uncomfortable mess. You don’t know what’s in there or where it’s been or who’s touched it. Ick. I think maybe that’s why many people stay away from it.

But then there are the masochists brave ones who insist on not only touching it but sorting through it and putting it together in an orderly fashion so that the next person might better be able to sort through their own sticky mess. I think that’s what writers try to do. Or, I guess, what I try to do. Organize then inspire.

But then there are the mean voices. You may or may not have them in your head but the ones in mine do two things when I finally decide I’m going in. First they say, hey, look at all the stuff you have to do, like dishes and ordering prints for that summer album, before you can sit down and waste your time with your trivial writing pursuits. Then they say, you have nothing to say anyway and even if you did, you don’t know how to say it in the right way.


I didn’t used to have the strength to show up and write anyway. Well, maybe only in my journal but then I’d worry that someone would find it and I’d be exposed. But if the planets did align and I did actually find myself in front of my computer (avoiding Facebook) and actually getting some thoughts down – finding that kernel of truth inside that chaotic spin – the result inside my body after was almost orgasmic. Yes, it’s that kind of high. Overcoming fear, deciphering the noise and putting together a tangible sentence leaves me walking on a euphoric cloud.

So, why can’t I gather, to the forefront of my consciousness, all these fantastic memories of feeling just that and know that all I have to do is show up and sit down? Because the mean voices are louder than any others I can muster on my own. And it wasn’t until I met my husband, who tries to drown out those mean voices with praise, that I started to suspect their lies. And it wasn’t until I joined my writing group  that I no longer felt destined to share a lifelong prison cell, inside my head, with those mean voices.   I found out those voices live within every writer in our group. So, together, we lock hands and refuse to let them scare us anymore.

And, that’s the real victory. It’s not that I’ve had two things published this month. No, the victory is despite the roadblocks my own head has put up to deter myself from doing the only thing in my life (besides motherhood) that I’ve desired with my full heart, I’ve managed to break through with the help of my friends and the love of my husband.

So I guess that’s the point. We are stronger together than we are alone.

It’s still a challenge sometimes (um, especially now that there are kids in the picture who consider me their on call servant 24/7) but it’s less so today than yesterday.

So, if you love something, go find someone that also loves that something and do it together. It’s the miracle of communal creation. No one achieves anything alone.

And if you want to read my new short story, you can find it here. And if you want to leave a comment on their website to tell them what you thought of the story, you will have my eternal gratitude (well, only if you actually liked it, ha ha).

LA Parent photoshoot – the UNCUT version!

I was honored this month to be published by LA Parent Magazine.

It’s the story towards the top of the page about Dating Your Husband. The article is based on a post I wrote for this blog called Secret Dates and if you haven’t run out and raided your local Vons, Pavilions, Gelsons or library for a print copy of the February issue… could read it here (and leave a comment if you want to make me look good, I mean, help others with some great ideas of your own, ha ha). But it’s so much more fun to see it in print. For me anyway.

I had thought there was a possibility that we would even be on the cover because they sent out this very talented photographer, Jodye Alcon, who took countless pictures of the families that were able to come to the park for the shoot. This is the photo they used in the magazine:

I think we look a little like a soap opera

So this isn’t going to be about romance or relationships – well maybe a little. This is going to be  the UNCUT, behind the scenes version about the lovely group of people whose experiences helped shape my first magazine feature article. 
First off, it was a lot of kids.
And they weren’t all exactly listening.
And they had some feelings.
But Mommy-extrodinaire, Jen Press had a bright idea…..
It was actually a bright blue idea…..
yes, their mouth are blue
Which got their attention…..but may have not been the best strategy right before picture time…..
However we got it done as you saw from the first picture.
And, I was obviously very excited and in the wee hours of the morning before we were to meet at the park for this photoshoot, I had some great ideas for some fun pictures.
First, I wanted all the guys to wear aprons.
Don’t they look handsome?

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at the eventual mutiny.

I also thought it’d be cute for the girls to have roses, you know, to symbolize romance. We like flowers right?
Maybe just not in our mouths, yuck.

I really wanted to impress the editors with my creativity. So we went for the Charlie’s Angels look.

I think we look very intimidating….or confused….why are we trying to look scary with roses again?

And then we started taking pictures of the families individualy, which was really fun so go with me here….

Terri Harrah used to be my roommate in Santa Monica when we went to CSUN. I majored in Journalism and she in Drama.
she really is quite dramatic

Terri is a down to earth, true blue friend. She cares about the planet, treating other people with kindness and dignity and homeschools her two boys Truman and Ethan.

Ethan, 6 and Truman 9

And she is happily married to her (working) musician husband, James Harrah. They prioritize their relationship because they know it all starts with them.

Maybe Jen Press is such a quick witted parent because nature has forced her to be so. She is a work-outside-the-home mom to three boys. She’s also a lot of fun. I don’t get to see her as often as I like. (One of her most memorable sayings is “Only floss the teeth you want to keep.” Yes, she’s a dental hygenist.)
Zach, 6 is between Trevor and Dylan, 4 – who are TWINS

God bless her. Did I mention that her husband Jeff is helping to open restaurants all over the country, called Firehouse Subs so he travels A LOT. Good thing she is patient and takes the time to plan outings that keep their fires kindled (oh and yes, they like to camp a lot too).

I don’t know how they make it look so easy

Laurel Janssen Byrne is a writer too. She is writing her own life story with strokes of compassion as she is the gal to go to if you need a little TLC fix, and some steely nerve. I keep forgetting she’s not from NYC because she and her husband Matt are so edgy. No, not cranky just so off the cuff honest with each other and the world. It’s refreshing.

Yin and Yang – such a perfect fit

And they make cute kid.

good thing she is cute cuzz this couple is ONE AND DONE

And of course, there was my family.

Kyle wasn’t here because he went surfing this day

And my guys were unusually patient and smiled on cue.

brotherly love (rare moment)
Kaleb, 5 – loves rainbow loom, dodge ball and bey blades
Knox, 3 – loves his doggie blanky, all sports and homemade biscuits

So thank you to the awesome families that were brave enough to share their stories and hopefully inspire couples to reboot their love lives….bring the sizzle back to their fizzle….make love not war. OK, I’ll stop. But here again are the lovely families who make my life so much better by being in it. Thank you again…..

Two other families couldn’t make it to the park this day (it was after all New Year’s Eve day) so I just want to acknowledge and thank them too for sharing their stories…..

Morgan and Todd Addab (not their real name, ha ha) couldn’t come because Todd had to work. Todd and Howard used to be fraternity brothers (insert the Animal House soundtrack here because I’m sure it applies) and their friendship has travelled the circuitous route that our lives sometimes take and has brought them together again at a time when our families are child compatible. And how many of our friendships end up being based mainly on this criteria? But in this regard we got lucky and I just love his wife Morgan who is one of the most gracious and kind people I’ve met.

Jon Jr., 20, Morgan and Todd, Justin, 5

Nicole and Danny Baraz are the hip element of this article. Oh the days when we were hip…..

Danny and Nicole, Mason (now 9) and Odessa (now 6, but gosh arent’ they the cutest!)

Thanks for reading and I hope you find the article useful or helpful in some way. Even if your relationship is solid and you couldn’t squeeze more romance into it, at least there are some great date ideas! Now, go and spread that love! And Happy Valentine’s day!

Fathering a Memory

This is the stuff that favorite childhood memories are made of. These are the moments that cast bonds between fathers and sons that transend the body and tie the spirit.

On this father-son day, it was the water that brought God into the moment. 

We joined our friends Brian and Ryan at Will Rodgers State Beach for the daddies to pass on a great love to their sons. Other great beaches to get cozy in the water or learn how to surf are Zuma tower 14, Mondos and Old Man’s near San Diego.

On this day, I followed behind with my camera and an extra set of eyes. So glad I did.
 Howard with 5 yo Kaleb: here it comes!

 go Kaleb go!
not a big fan of water in the eyes
we did it!
With my dad, it was cowboy movies and action flicks. We watched Clint Eastwood bury the bad guys and medieval warriors storm castles. Not very active or enriching beyond the actual time we spent together. My brother, Danny couldn’t recall our dad passing on any skills to him either. “He even hired someone to teach me how to drive a stick shift,” he groused. Though he did report they watched the rise and fall of Mike Tyson on the tube together. I’m sensing a theme here. But in my father’s defense, he immigrated us to this country and worked many hours each day to get us ahead. He was mostly just tired all the time.

All that hard work paid off. My father allowed my brother and me to spend days with our kids like last Sunday when the man I married got to share something that captured his heart with his sons.
And we got to hang out on the beach, just enjoying the day.
And we watched our kids gather the pieces of moments that will forever be the building blocks to their self worth and relationship with their own kids.

 Ryan and William (he’s a little older)
 Brian and Jacob (he just looks a little older)
 watch out below!
Howard and Knox (the baby)
I’m going to be forever grateful for the sacrifices my father made for me to live the amazing life I get to live today.  It is the gratitude that will forever bind me to my father, instead of the memories of these types of moments. And it is with great compassion that I see the other hard-working fathers who have to sacrifice the time they could be spending with their families to make sure their kids can get ahead. 

These are the real undercover superheros.

A Crazy Idea

They said it couldn’t be done. A girlfriend said the thought alone gave her an anxiety attack. But I did do it. And it wasn’t so bad.
I took my son to Hurricane Harbor and Magic Mountain….on the same day. And we went without my husband. 
It could have been much worse. The morning we planned to go, my other son, 5 year old Kaleb opted out. He said he didn’t want to go, that he’d rather go to sports camp or hang out at his friend’s, our neighbors, house. He’s not really into waterplay, didn’t know we’d also be going to Magic Mountain and is definitely a handful. Maybe two. So I didn’t argue and let him go play while 3 year old Knox and I sped off to meet our friends at Hurricane Harbor. We didn’t hurry because we have season passes.
The water park is divided into sections. The little kids section is called Castaway Cove and there is more than enough to do there to last a whole day if your kids are under 54″. A multi-level structure with spouting water coming from all directions, attached water slides, water cannons and even a tire swing, sits in the middle of the shallow water “cove.” 

 It is flanked by a few other water slides that can be ranked from “flat – scoot your tushy down by pushing your hands to move” 

 to “yes you’re actually moving and can get a decent ride but nothing too scary.” 

Knox had fun getting his hair wet with his friend, Haley. 

 He also loved the River Cruise although I felt like we needed a bath in disinfectant after we left that lazy latrine river. It didn’t smell or anything but there were just so many people, it creeped me out. He also loved the Forgotten Sea Wave Pool with its programmed waves but you have to either hold on to your kid or put him in a raft or life preserver (which you can rent or are provided) because the waves can get rambunctious.
There are plenty of lounge chairs provided by the park but even though there are so many, they get taken fast. So, either get there early or use the lockers for your stuff. Chances are you’ll only be using the chair as a place holder or meeting spot for your group.
For older kids there is another section called Splash Island that is a little more thrilling and has height requirements between 36″ to 40″ – although when I went on another day with my husband, we took 36″ Knox down all the slides his heart desired. He likes water and being splashed and it appeared the ride attendants didn’t mind as long as we were watching.
There is a 100 gallon water bucket overhead there….that slowly fills up…..

And then dumps down

Knox loved it. Kaleb, (on the previous trip) not so much.
Eventually Knox complained about being cold (the water is cool which is great on a normal triple digit temp day, but on this day it was only in the low 80s) so we decided to walk across the park to Magic Mountain.
We had bought a season pass last year for both parks because there is this little known section in Magic Mountain called Bugs Bunny World 
that has a couple small roller coasters and a bunch of slow moving, animated rides. There’s also a multi-story  “clubhouse” called Looney Tunes Lodge where kids can run around, climb, slide and blast each other with foam balls. And there are usually no lines for any of it. After experiencing the hours long wait times at Disneyland, this was a very appealing selling point for us.
Last year they also featured a live show with all the Looney Tunes characters in which both my boys loved to participate. It makes for great home videos. 

It wasn’t playing this time but I hope it comes back.
On this day, Haley and Knox got to ride the roller coaster,

Cruise on a practice date in their jeep,

And cuddle in Bugs Bunny’s house on his oversized pink sofa chair.

Knox even got to test his strength in the Strong Man hammer game. 

He didn’t actually ring the bell but after paying the modest $5 game fee, everyone is a winner. So, he walked away with a Batman cape for his effort.
It was a great day. Knox was a great listener. And we can’t wait to go back.

You can read the LA Parent version of this post HERE

Babysitters 101

OK, you’re convinced ~ after my last compelling post ~ that you need to amp up your love life. Yes….with your husband! It’ll be good for you, your hubby and most of all your kids, who will see their parents in love and will then, in turn, choose someone to marry who embodies that ideal and who they will expect to looooove their entire lives. One of the whole points of a happy life, right?

(Or. If you’re single, then you need someone to give you an occassional break so you can have an adult conversation, a girl’s night out and maybe even meet the actual Mr. Right instead of that guy that was pretending to be him.)

But. Who will watch the kids while you paint the town in crimson hearts accompanied by harps and violins? (Or shake that groove thang in your sequin capris?) If your family lives far away, or is just not available, you may have to find a babysitter. But, is it really worth the effort?

I have one friend who told me, a few years ago, when I shared with her that I had gone on a date with my husband at a time when my kids were still pretty little that she and her husband hadn’t gone out in years. She said their dates consisted of sitting on the couch and maybe watching a movie on TV. I found out recently that they’ve since divorced. He cheated with ~ then married ~ her best friend, who went out all the time, ha ha.

OK, that’s an extreme example. But it does happen.  Maybe we don’t divorce immediately but those of us who don’t put energy into our relationship can languish in a murky sea of boredom and dissatisfaction. Who wants that? And it’s scary to think that every 13 seconds a couple does divorce.

If getting a sitter is the solution to a harmonious household or a merry, mellow mommy, then what are we waiting for?

Here’s the how-to list….

Ways to find a babysitter:

  • Ask around
  • Check babysitting websites: Sittercity or Care are good bets and you can even run background checks
  • Jen’s List is also a great resource

The first thing you can obviously do, is ask around. Which of your friends has someone whom they love? That can be a little tricky though. Because, if you start using them on a regular basis it could cause a conflict with your friend’s babysitting needs. This actually happened to me. I was so excited about my sitters that I started sharing their information with everyone that might need one including all my MOMs Club friends ~ which meant she could never babysit when I needed her. So ideally it would be best to find your own sitter. And only share her info with very close friends who will sign in blood not to use her on the nights you need her. One gal I did find from a friend (who wasn’t using her much), Emily, is this amazing 16 year old who works 3 part-time jobs ~ between school ~ with great enthusiasm. When I asked her how much she would charge to watch my kids, she said it didn’t really matter because she loved hanging out with kids so much. Really? Wow.

I’ve also had great luck in two places online: Sittercity and Care. I prefer Sittercity but I’m not sure why. I’ve just had better luck there, I guess. When I first tried Sittercity I found a wonderful sitter, Tabitha. I was 6 months pregnant and already had an 18 month old boy who wanted to do anything except sit and listen. Mommy’s swollen feet just weren’t up for the chase so Tabitha was able to help me 2x a week. (Mommy was not feeling up to dating daddy too much at that point). Tabitha moved on to a more regular position as a nanny but now I have three other great gals in rotation (because when you need someone, you need someone). One of my sitters, Desiree is a volunteer fighfighter EMT who is in nursing school. Total tomboy, loves to play with my rambuncious boys. Another, Lindsey was president of her high school and is now studying PR at Boston University. She sits for us in the summers when she’s back home (like now!). And the third, Allison (the one my friends stole) works at the CA Cartwheel Center and is studying to be an Occupational Therapist. 

These girls are more qualified to watch my kids than I am!

When you place an ad online, you can get many responses. Do yourself and them a favor and listen to your gut. You don’t have to interview them all. If she seems flaky on the website, she’s probably even worse in person. And if the picture she submitted shows her partying with her friends, you might consider passing on that one too. Do an initial phone interview before you meet in person. Make sure she can accomodate your scheduling needs. If you decide to have her come meet you, have her bring a casual resume with a list of references. You have to ask for this because most won’t think to do this and time is a-wasting! it’s a good idea to have the kids there while you talk to her so you can see how she interacts with them. It’s a great sign if she offers to help you with whatever comes up while you’re talking to her i.e. she helps distract one of the kids while you answer the phone or includes your child in a quick conversation. You want her to actually like children. The caretaker websites offer a list of suggested questions for the interview. Scan the ones that are important to you, like: what would you do if my child got hurt while you were watching them and how would you handle it if one brother tried to impale the other with his lightsaber? You know. The usual.

You can also try Jen’s List, which is btw, an amazing, free, local resource for parents who like to do stuff with their family. Jen’s List has a seperate section for nannies and babysitters referred by other Jen’s List subscribers so you have a built-in reference and they’re usually willing to talk to you and answer any questions you may have about their posting. And if they’re taking the time to post, then you know they love her.

You’ll know right away if a girl is a good fit for your family. Don’t feel guilty if she’s not. Just be polite and thank her for coming. During one of my babysitter searches, I couldn’t win between the aspiring models who showed up to the interviews in stage make-up to the dominatrix who showed up in thigh-high stiletto boots. To play with kids, really(she looked normal in her picture) But this last round, every girl was a winner. 

In my babysitting job ads, I ask for someone who will play with the boys instead of watch TV with them. I ask for someone who is willing to do small chores around the house while the boys sleep. Things like, laundry, folding clothes, dishes, straightening stuff up and restoring the play area to it’s original (or better) condition. All the girls that work for me, do all of this. Yes, they’re college girls so you have to actually ASK them to do the things you want done. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by assuming it will just be done when you get home. Say things like, “I would so love it if you could fold the laundry when the boys go down.” And, “It would really, really help me if you could do all the dishes and wipe the counters when you have time.” You have to ask and if you ask with sweet enthusiasm, you’ll feel better about it and so will they.

How much should you charge? And what should you have her do? Now this part is purelly a subjective call. Babysitters are asking outrageous amounts to play with your kids and watch TV while they sleep. For some reason, they think they are entitled to it because having them at your house is worth a lot of money. To them at least. I’ve found that the babysitters who ask for more than $12 an hour are usually too entitled to even do a good job for me. 

I pay most of my sitters $10 an hour. One gets $12. And they are happy with that. Yes, I usually give a little more at the end of the night, for instance, I round up from the hour in which we came home. Or just give her a $5 or $10 bump if it’s close to the end of the hour. But the agreement is for $10 an hour and that’s how you weed out the hard workers from the entitled ones. You don’t want an entitled girl. No one is going to make a living from babysitting for you, it’s just extra money so don’t feel like you need to support them. And going out shouldn’t run you $500 by the end of the night. It’s a tough economy.

Check her references if you like her and if she shines, put her in your smartphone. That way you have a string of girls and you can know in minutes whether they are available or not the day or night you need them.

Those are the basics, at least, for me. Did I forget something?

Secret Dates

Remember the drum circle beating inside your tummy, the feet running around your room trying to find the perfect outfit, the make-up so meticulously applied all in anticipation of that evening date with your special sweetheart? Then you married him. And all these years later, what happened? You still love him but now when you see him you’re running past each other, hair barely brushed (hoping you remembered to at least clean your teeth as you graze a fleeting kiss across his cheek), sweat pants hanging, yelling “Get off your little brother!” or screeching at your teenager not to forget her lunch.
            It’s not how you thought your love life would look before you married your Prince Charming. But between dishes and homework and carpools, what can we do? How do we go back and do we really want to?
Yes. Yes, you do want to go back and you really want to. Maybe you can’t be those swinging singles able to drop everything for a spontaneous out of town rendezvous  but you can still get excited, you can still appreciate one another and you can get those drums in your tummy beating again. But how? You may ask, between mouthfuls of a hastily put together lunch in the middle of the afternoon or right before finally clocking out at the end of the day after every person in your house has had their needs met.
I’ll tell you. Between my three active boys, two part-time jobs and a half-way put together house, my husband and I have gone past the conversations crowded with irritated undertones of “why are you doing it that way instead of the good way?” and into a space where hands linger on each other’s fingers as we walk by and kisses happen in the middle of the room, just because. 
We do something we call Secret Dates.
Yes, with each other. This is how it works: Every week one of us takes turns planning an evening and doesn’t tell the other what is in store for them until we arrive at our destination.
So simple. And yet completely transformative because it turns an otherwise blah blah occasion into an adventure full of suspense and intrigue. When’s the last time you had suspense and intrigue in your mommy life?
The last secret date we had was a lot of fun. It was his turn to plan and believe me, he’s getting better at this. First we went to a Peruvian Restaurant in Pasadena. This was improvised. He knew the area well enough to know there would be several options close to the actual venue where he was taking me. So Peruvian Choza Mama caught our eye. They welcomed us like family which I love in a restaurant. There was a live celloist/guitar player softly setting the scene in the spacious earth toned room, the drinks were local to the area and the food was dressed in savory spices.

Then we walked over to the main event. He led me to the Pasadena Playhouse to see a play by an author I enjoy, Mitch Albom. He called it Duck Hunter Shoots Angel
First of all, of all the things he could have picked, he picked a play. As I looked at the marquee, my mind started to jump up and down, clapping in glee.  
At one point in our relationship, this type of activity was about as far from his thing as things could get. We have had many “discussions” over the years about him putting more effort into making our relationship a priority, into me having to do “everything” when it came to making plans for us and why couldn’t he just be more romantic in general? 
 So, here I am staring at this play poster feeling so loved and cared for. I looked up into his eyes and he smiled down at me with pride. “Honey, you picked a play?” I asked incredulously. And he tried to sound very matter of fact, it’s a no big deal kind of thing when he said, “Of course. I knew you liked him and I thought it’d be fun.” Yay! I hugged him and we went up the stairs and proceeded to laugh out loud in a theater small enough to see the faces of the actors and big enough to host a very talented cast. The play spoke to our basic desires for love and redemption in the same way that Albom’s books managed to snag a part of our souls while we read them.

Last week, when I planned the date, we went to the Stonehaus for dinner and then to see my childhood favorite, Grease playing locally (which was a great change for us from having to schlep over the hill). But the point of these Secret Dates – besides the thrill of the surprise – is also supposed to be sharing what one of us really loves with the other. No arguments, no compromise because done is done.
So when he went out of his way to make me happy instead of satisfying his own needs, that to me was an unequivocal show of love. And it made me a better person because now I really want to find something that will make him as happy as he made me and if the competition is now about who can make the other happier, how can that be anything but good?

This just shows that even things that start out as mischevious acts of selfishness could blossom into beauty if watered with the right amount of love. Because this did indeed start out as a selfish way to get my needs met after we first started dating. I planned our first Secret Date when I decided he needed a haircut but we had just started dating and it was too soon to suggest such a drastic step. So, instead, I concocted this idea of taking him on a Secret Date which included us getting haircuts and mani/pedis. It’s a wonder he continued to want to date me after that! But at least he knew what he was signing up for and I can definitely say after knowing each other for almost a decade, we have both become a better person as a result of our love for each other, warts and all.

So, now that you’ve heard our sappy tale, I’d love to know what you do to keep your relationship vital and exciting?

Living Life On the Sidewalk

How many of us are waiting for something to happen so our “real” life can begin? When I graduate from college then my life can start. When I get married, when I have a baby, when I get that job, when we move into that new house….I know I fall into this category. Over and over again. I’m always waiting for the next big thing to happen so my life can really start.

Yesterday I shared a moment with my children when they discovered caterpillars on the park sidewalk.

I’m not sure if they too are already fantasizing about the day their “real” lives will begin (though I do hear Kaleb say things like, “Mommy when I turn five, then can I watch Power Rangers?” ~ he just turned four!) but it was at that moment that I realized that this was my actual life and it was already happening! I’ve done most of the stuff on my list: I graduated from college. I had a fulfilling career. I met an amazing man and married him. I had two incredible children and inherited one from my husband. My life is on. There is no reason to keep delaying my full appreciation of it.

I recently heard that people don’t realize that they’re happy until the moment’s over. That made me so sad. It made me want to horde every moment so I can use every bit of it up while I still had it. Everything changes. Sometimes not fast enough, sometimes much too fast. But once it’s gone, it’s just a memory. I’m going to try and make my memories ones of moments I don’t regret not appreciating.

Kaleb Turns One

I meant to go back and edit this one day but since Kaleb has recently turned three and even has a not so brand new one year old brother, I figured I’d better gitty up! I am publishing this even thought it’s ridiculously outdated because the pictures are cute!

Kaleb is one.

365 days of inching his way to take a bigger portion of space in this world and in our hearts.

That is crazy. When they say it happens fast, they don’t lie. He’s practicing a new word: no. He’s been shaking his head no since one night when we were taking a bath, maybe 2 months ago (the baby book didn’t have a line for ‘when he first said no’ so I can’t remember exactly when) and I asked if he was ready to get out. He shook his head no and that began the first instance of him communicating with me in a comprehensive fashion.

Since then, he’s started pointing at things he wants or where he wants us to take him or wants to know what they are. He’ll sometimes make sounds that resemble a drunk’s slurred “What’s that?” I try to encourage enunciation but he ignores me. Or just laughs.

Here are a few highlights since I haven’t had a chance to post since NOVEMBER.

He’s crawling now but it took a while:

Daddy tried to help:

Now crawling’s a snap. His favorite place to crawl is on the changing table – while I’m trying to change him with a big poop still stuck to his tushy.

He started expressing himself facially before he ever started saying any words. Here is how he began to express his displeasure with us.

He’s still not really napping and my mom is a godsend, she comes once a week (sometimes we’ll kidnap her for a few days, yay!) so I can at least wash my hair and get some stuff done. No, he’s still not napping more than 1/2 an hour if that. Unless I’m in the car, of course….

For some insane reason I thought it would get easier as he got older. Well, I know what I’m doing now (at least that I won’t drop or break him) but the problem is (and by problem I mean gift)….that he is growing at light speed.