Occupy Alice

December 14th, 2012

It’s Christmas time here, and Violet is four-and-a-half. She has asked Santa for three things: (1) a princess, (2) a superhero girl, and (3) an octopus. Unbeknownst to us, she drew pictures of these things on tiny pieces of paper and shoved them back behind the TV, which hangs on the brick wall of our converted-from-a-fireplace-into-an-entertainment-center. You know, so Santa would see them there, by the chimney. Which we had never discussed. Anyway, thankfully, she pointed them out to me a few days later and explained what the drawings represented.

Will Santa oblige? Violet has been mostly nice this year, mostly by far. There has been some naughtiness, of course, but she’s four, after all, and an intense personality, and a girl (= DRAMA). Recently, there were two whole consecutive weeks when she was 100 percent uncooperative and even more moody than usual. And just as her mom was about to go irreversibly bananas, she woke up a few days ago and was her sweetest, most cheerful little self. And it turns out the lapse in good behavior was a side effect of some work going on in her young brain, because all of a sudden, she could synthesize all of these new things, and she could snap Legos together by herself, and so much more. Some neurological quadrant was coming online, and at the expense of a tolerable attitude, but we made it, and now she can think through how to get a message to Santa on her own, and she can draw a pig, and she says things like, as we pass a medical supply store we have never discussed, “That’s where they sell stuff for old people; because they’re starting to die.” I don’t know why that impressed me so much, maybe it’s just exemplary of this new level of expression of thought going on with her all of a sudden. I mean, it’s funny, and don’t repeat it, it could make people uncomfortable, but here she is, thinking about death and aging and why a store we pass on the way home from school every day would have a window display of walkers and Lil’ Rascal scooters.

Speaking of school, Violet is a superstar in her class. She’s a fidgeter, yes (“Violet, why are you in your socks?” “The teacher took my shoes away, because I was playing with them at Rug Time.”), and she has a tendency to “phone it in” when she doesn’t like the activity she’s assigned … but she pays attention and is learning all of the things she needs to in order to be ready for kindergarten next year.

For the record, here are some things Violet cannot accuse me of when she is older:

“You cut my hair too short!” You asked for it, Kid. And it suits you so, so well, and everywhere we go, people admire your haircut from the cheap-o kid salon, where the woman cutting your hair always looks like she crawled out from under a six pack of Budweiser.

“You made me take so many lessons!” No, I made you choose. Because at four years old, you ask over and over to take ice skating, and then I sign you up for ice skating, and then sometimes you are devastated that you HAVE to go to ice skating, and then by the time we leave ice skating, you are all, “I don’t want to leave! Can we come back after dinner???” And you want to take singing lessons! And gymnastics! And tennis! And world dance!” And you just earned your blue belt in karate, so I don’t know how much longer I will even be able to tell you no without your kicking my ass, literally.

“You let me quit ballet!” I have to let you quit ballet. Or maybe I won’t. Right now you have a love/hate relationship with ballet, I think because I got inspired to make a lot of the costumes for your Alice in Wonderland show, and so there’s been a project of my own I’ve been into … and as a result you are a bit jealous of Alice in Wonderland. You have threatened to get on stage the night of the show and “not move,” or, as your teacher put it, “Occupy Alice in Wonderland.” And in many a huff this session, you have insisted you want to quit, so I have told you after Alice we don’t have to sign you up for more ballet. But you do change your mind a lot, so we shall see, ALICE.

“You let me wear crazy outfits in public!” I love your crazy outfits, you crazy punk.

“You made me leave before the [insert event here] was over!” See, two hours of college gymnastics is enough for Mom and Dad; and we don’t always need to stay until the entire audience has left the theater; and that’s not an awesome drummer, it’s just some guy with a bucket and a stick and a hat for change, let’s go; and when it’s just Mom you’re with, no, we’re not reading all of the movie credits (Dad, yes, Mom, no); and I’m sorry, but after the actors bow, there is no more play!

“You let me go barefoot? In December? In public?” You’re damn right. Hey, how about you get in a time machine and go back to 2012 and try to keep shoes on four-year-old you? Mm hm. That’s what I thought.

And now I need to wake up Vibble for her daily juice cocktail (probiotic and liquid vitamins, YUM) and gluten free pancake (it will be her first and last high-maintenance meal of the day, if you call mixing two things into her juice and toasting a frozen pancake high-maintenance, which I do). She will play some game or watch PBS on my iPad and get ready for school. It’s share day, and she has to bring something that starts with the letter “K.” No, she does not want to bring Kristan. Oh, and Nana is coming into town this morning, hooray!

Funny, but Not Funny

March 19th, 2012


Let me set the scene: It’s 8:20 a.m. School starts at 8:30, a short, five-minute drive away, so we’re in good shape. We arrive at the door to the garage, and I go to grab my car keys from the normally overburdened key rack … but the rack is EMPTY.

Me: “This looks like your work. Did you take all the keys off of here to play with or something?”
Violet: “Everyone likes keys.”


Yesterday, we were spectating along the course of the L.A. Marathon for a while, and apparently, during a moment when I was occupied tending to some random need of Violet’s at preschooler-level, CONAN O’BRIEN walked by us. Steve, in his subtle way, alerted me to this—or so I am told—but I did not respond. Hm … hm … HM … maybe because THIS IS NO TIME TO BE SUBTLE!!!???!!! Not only did Steve SEE Conan, he heard him make a joke! Out loud! About the music the DJs were playing! And I missed this! Altogether missed it! My once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear Conan IN PERSON making a spontaneous joke, and I missed it, because Steve, my supposed “soul mate,” LOVE OF MY LIFE, is a subtle man.

This might be a deal breaker. I am THIS CLOSE to Googling “Divorce Lawyers Who Specialize in Sabotage Through Subtlety.” (In all seriousness, I’m not … ’cause in all seriousness, I need the next 50-plus years to GET HIM BACK FOR THIS!)

A Few Recent Violet-isms

December 18th, 2011

V: “Where are we going to dinner?”
Me: “Well, you’re having dinner with Dad. I’m going out with one of my friends.”
V: “I’m your friend.”


Me: “What the—[string of obscenities directed at a driver doing something dumb in front of me]!”
V from the backseat: “Don’t crash the car, Mom!”


And currently, she is narrating a conversation between her toes. One has a cold apparently and keeps sneezing, while another has called in his younger brother to have a discussion about going to Disneyland.

Today Violet and I went to see a production of Seussical the Musical put on by an acting troupe of teenagers and kids. Last weekend we saw The Nutcracker. Each of these events was a highlight, as Violet seems to sit pretty patiently and enrapt through any long show involving live entertainment. So sweet.

In her own ballet program’s Nutcracker, or, as her ballet teacher dubbed it, “The Nutcracker as You’ve Never Seen It Before,” Violet played a flower fairy. She and her classmates did a fabulous job dancing the Waltz of the Flower Fairies, and Violet also jumped up and joined in the scene where the mice and toy soldiers do battle. Her teacher didn’t remove her from the scene, and the older dancers whose scene it actually was just ignored their petal-headed party crasher, so Violet danced along the entire time. She made a fine mouse despite her flower costume and brought the house down with her enthusiasm. I laughed so hard I cried. I think it was the funnest moment to date in my parenting career.


June 30th, 2011

June 30, 2011

Dear Miss Boone,

Please take good care of my Little One for the next three hours. Although I have left her with care-takers before, never have I given her over to someone with such an agenda for her. I’m putting my trust in you. Please give her back to me happy and in love with learning … but not too changed.

It’s only fair you should know in advance: She is equal parts raccoon, heat-seeking missile, and bunny-mermaid-cupcake-heart. Although she is proud to be a Big Kid, she still requires a lot of Hello Kitty Band-Aids. She is a punk and a force of nature. Life is short, and she came to party, with both the élan of an Independence Day parade and the drama of Jersey Shore.

Violet knows how to make an entrance or exit; she bursts through doors. She is going through a stalker phase at present, so please make sure she doesn’t leave at the end of class with a newly selected family before I arrive to pick her up. She is also going through a spitting phase—although, if I’m going to be honest here, it might be less a phase, and more a permanent symptom of her anarchic attitude.

Please note: She currently spends about 35 percent of her waking time pretending to be a puppy dog. (I just don’t want you to be too surprised when she licks your leg.)

Sometimes, Violet rolls with things and is mellow and low-maintenance. Other times, she gets an idea into her head and is a bit … inflexible. I’m told this is my genetic fault entirely, and so I apologize and will make myself available to you as the most accommodating classroom volunteer imaginable. You have my e-mail address—whatever you need.

Violet is very extremely uber-enthusiastic. Sometimes it causes her to dive into things head-first, often when it’s not her turn. Still, please try not to moderate her enthusiasm too much, because without it, the cheering section that roots for the rebel inside each one of us would be a little softer.

Thank you for all you do.

Kristan LaVietes


June 30, 2011

Dear Violet,

Today is your first day of preschool. I know you are excited, and so am I. Before you go, let’s just review a couple of things.

No hitting, grabbing, pinching, biting, scratching, pushing, hair-pulling, or use of toys or everyday objects as weapons. Be good, OK, Root Beer?

Remember that snacks are for eating, drinks are for drinking, and markers and paint go on the paper only. Preschool is neither your chemistry lab nor your personal tattoo parlor, got it, Peanut Butter?

These teachers and other kids are your friends. Friendship is an intense thing for you. These friends don’t know yet to brace themselves when presented with a Vibble hug, so be gentle, my little Chicken Nugget.

I know you will be a dynamo as a preschooler, just like you are a dynamo in every single other way. Dad and I love you so crazy much. Have a wonderful first day!


Yes, Dear

May 31st, 2011

Violet has been calling me/us “Dear.” Not as a pet-name, but as a name. Like this: “Dear? Dear? Where are you?” Since we never call each other “Dear,” we were stumped as to where it was coming from. Then, the other day, I sat down to watch The Jetsons with her.

I don’t typically sit down to watch TV with Vibble—if I have the time to sit down with her, we can turn off the TV and do something together, is how it is for me. I try to reserve her allotted TV-time-per-day for when I need to multi-task. So I’m usually in and out of the room, in orbit with laundry baskets and stacks of junk mail. She watches Apple TV, so there are no ads, and I was under the impression I didn’t need to monitor what she was watching if it was something familiarly innocuous. Like The Jetsons.

Violet loves The Jetsons. She always has a current favorite show, and right now this one is it. (Past favorites that have been the constant request include Beep-Beep [Road Runner], Hey-Hey [Fat Albert], and Madeline.) Recently, she went through a Smurfs phase, and this was my first encounter with something that contradicted that “no need to monitor, fairly innocuous” assumption. Flashback to the 80s. The Smurfs are BIZARRE. Fine. Smurfette is the only female and originates as a black-hearted temptress. Not so fine.

The origin of Smurfette is that there are no female Smurfs until Gargamel invents an evil Smurfette to short-circuit the horny blue creatures, who oblige by turning into utter morons in her presence. Of course, it all works out, and Papa Smurf eventually turns the bad (black-haired) Smurfette into a “real” (blond-haired) Smurfette, and everyone except Gargamel lives smurfily ever after. A nod to original sin, perhaps. OK message for my daughter in her formative years? Um … “So, you see, Violet, girls can’t help how sexy they are, but it’s still EVIL.”

Do I sound like a feminist who paid too much attention in grad school, or what? Yes, I let my daughter eat things she drops on the floor in extremely unsanitary public places, but no, I will not let her walk away from The Smurfs thinking she comes equipped with wickedness standard just because she is a girl.

Perhaps you feel I am overreacting. Will Violet really internalize messages I’m only picking up with my own keen analysis skills? And that’s what I love about America in 2011, everyone: Parenting is really a fun tray full of principles we each get to pick from the buffet. I’ll take two servings of critical thinking and only a very light helping of concern for germs (I will, however, continue to appreciate the fact we live in a place where hand sanitizers, baby wipes and antibiotics are plentifully available).

Back to The Jetsons … It turns out George and Jane call each other “Dear” a lot. One mystery solved. It also turns out Jane and all of her friends are portrayed as lazy, vain ditzes who drive terribly, have no concept of finances and are overwhelmed by the burdens of domesticity. Jane’s mother, and any other woman older than 40, is the standard fat, nosy and materialistic. Judy, the skinny teenage daughter, is always claiming to be on a diet.

To be fair, George is portrayed as lazy as well. He is also a grandly poor performer at his job and is a bumbling idiot when it comes to relations with his family. Because isn’t that just how men are?

This brings us to Elroy, the most well-adjusted cast member, and the only one about whom I have no complaints (Astro clearly has issues, so it’s truly just Elroy I can point out as an example of balance). And that’s simply not enough. I don’t have a good plan for how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to wean her off of The Jetsons. I like Yo Gabba Gabba a lot, and there’s a YGG Live show coming to town, so maybe I can get her back into that again (it’s one of the few shows that has persisted as a backup request option for her, even after her initial crush on it smoldered). She does love that “Chrit-mus” episode, where everyone makes presents for their friends, and Muno pretends to be a holiday tree. See how nice those messages are? That’s several loads of laundry I can fold knowing my daughter isn’t handing over a lobe of her brain to patriarchal values.


September 14th, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

I’m feeling too out of touch with you guys, and I can’t seem to find a good time to call or message anyone. I’m sorry about that. It seems our window of East-coast-evening-meets-that-beginning-of-Violet’s-nap-time is out of whack, especially with Violet’s refusing to nap a lot of days now, and making calls with her awake? Yeah, that’s just not working. So please know you’re on my mind, and I am eager to know what’s new in your lives. E-mail me if you get time, and I will keep trying to call you. Things may improve as we settle back into a schedule here with our fall activities and with staying HOME.

Summer was a bit of a blur. I haven’t even printed any photos from our trips, and I usually have those in albums and frames by now. Life is challenging with this phase in Vibble’s toddler career. She stages a protest about anything and everything. These protests range from sit-ins, to scream-ins, to running away and going missing in a department store for long enough to take several years off of the end of my life. I feel like I have eight kids, and their name is Violet. She is suddenly into princesses (or, as she calls them, “pinches”) in a scary huge way. The demands for us to set up looping “pinches” bits on Youtube have reached a frightening level of violence here. Enough that I got on amazon.com yesterday and overnighted Snow White on DVD. It was THAT BAD. Here’s hoping it works. I certainly can’t watch anymore Mary Poppins (also a “pinches” around here), or you will be visiting me in a padded cell where I am rocking back and forth in the corner singing Chim-Chimeny to myself.

Violet continues to amaze us with her personality. She is incredibly secure and confident. She has the typical toddler magic-energy but is exceptionally physical and agile. She is an adventurer, a fearless explorer, a TOUGH little TOUGHIE. She’s been spending a lot of time with her friend Greta lately, and since she and Greta were born the same week, comparisons are fascinating. Greta is advanced in her speech and logic. Violet … not so much. Violet talks when Violet wants to talk. And when she doesn’t? It’s “Ef you, I’m busy climbing this bookshelf to perform some stunt whereby I dive to this chair and then to the TV to turn it back on.” Greta is sensitive, in a way that will be both her greatest asset and, I think, her biggest challenge in life. Violet, like I said, is a tough little toughie. A bubbling burn the size of a quarter on her elbow from the fireplace in the rental condo? Wah-wah for two minutes and it is never mentioned again. A fall out of a chair onto her head? Whatevs. My friend has goldfish crackers and I want some? Suck it, “Friend,” I’m taking these, and here’s a shove, too. (You can imagine the Violet-and-Greta relationship requires a lot of supervision. If you play Mario, we liken Greta to Luigi, and Violet to Wario.) If sensitivity will be Greta’s asset and challenge, this toughness will be Violet’s. Because who wants to be friends with Wario? Only someone as sweet as Greta. But, too, such a tough girl is unstoppable.

Incidentally, Greta’s initials are GBL, so, in line with our VBL=Vibble formula, we call her Gibble. Or, when they are together, the Two Ibbles. Violet’s other friends include Jude (a darling boy who keeps track of his pals like a shepherd), Emme (who has a lot of fire herself), Avery (Run, run, RUN!), Brienna (who gives Violet a run for her money in the ring), Chelan (a sweetheart), and Christopher, who hides keys and knows more sign-language than I know English. All of these kids have a lot of soul. No lie. We know some extremely special kids right now.

In addition to “pinches,” here are a few quick translations from the Vibble lexicon at present:
- “I want Beep-Beep” — This means she wants to watch Road Runner.
- “I want Hey Hey” — This means she wants to watch Fat Albert. (She loves Fat Albert.)
- “I want Momide” — This means she wants to watch Madeline.
- “I want Bib-Boo” — This means she wants to watch Cinderella.

Yeah, that’s what most of her requests are like. We have to keep a serious eye on how much screen-time she gets in each day. If she had her way, she would watch TV without eating or sleeping or playing or ever putting on pants. (Well, pants in general are unpopular.) But what she really needs is high-impact physical activity every day, or else she gets punchy. Too much brain-centric occupation stresses her out, and even art projects don’t absorb her focus for long—unless they too become physically focused (textures are awesome, and painting on paper is SO LAST SEASON, the paints really do look better on her face). She is a very tangibility-centered person; always wants to touch people (sorry, guy-in-front-of-us-on-the-bus!) and stop in the middle of the intersection to feel the texture of the road. This is either a quirk or serious OCD, but it makes for very sweet cuddle times, because she loves to caress an arm while she snuggles.

She just started gymnastics at a place that has a preschool associated with it, and the plan is, once she gets comfortable there after enough mommy-and-me gymnastics (many months down the road, mind you), we try some school. Since it’s a program with a very physical outlet attached to it, I think it might be just the right fit for our little wackadoo.

Sorry if I’m all over the map with this post. I’m jacked-up on migraine medicine and trying to type out as much as I can before the Pinches wakes up and starts making demands. What else do I need to fill you in on …

We had a really nice week in lovely Tahoe with Steve’s mother and Auggie. I took my leave for a few days to go to Burning Man, which was an escape into a world of fun and creativity for me. It was way too hard to be off the grid, though, without my little munchkin, so I cut it half a day short. Somehow it gets harder and harder to be apart from her, as it seems to get easier and easier for HER to be apart from ME. I am only more attached, as she is more and more independent. Who invented this ratio? How bad is it going to get? (Mom, I know you’ll have an answer for that—one that makes the Internet cry!) But Burning Man was wonderful, and I look forward to going back, perhaps for a longer stay sometime. And for those of you who know Burning Man, no, I didn’t do anything wildly out of character for me. It was fun enough to have a mug of wine and wear a cowgirl hat and prom dress while climbing a statue or riding my bike toward the lasers.

I haven’t been doing much writing, but I do feel creative. It turns out parenting is a pretty creative endeavor, and I am lucky to have made some VERY creative mom-friends here. Together with my friends from grad school, friends through Steve, and others, I feel surrounded by creative people these days, and it’s inspiring. You should see what I made out of Play-Do the other day!

Speaking of Stevel, he is doing really well on a lot of fronts. A bit overworked, but I’m so proud of his progress on his iPhone apps and with the software he works on at Sony, which is about to be used at a number of effects houses. This is a huge deal, and he, with his team, has bent over backwards and turned his brain inside-out to make it a reality. He’s truly a marvel of a man! And all of this while being the sweetest, most patient, most adoring dad—it’s clear Violet feels very safe with him, very loved … and completely in charge. “Dad, come on …” she says as she drags him to the fridge for a half-hour session of I-can’t-decide-what-I-want-from-this-fridge or insists he play “My-oh” (Mario) to entertain her (as long as he doesn’t start to die [bleep bleep bleep], in which case she—”Oh no! Oh no!”—gets a little freaked out).

I can’t think of anything else to report just now. It was a wonderful summer, and I loved connecting with friends and family and enjoyed the many adventures. And now I’m looking forward to a few months of ho-hum routine. Ahhh.

Oh, and P.S. If you haven’t seen “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” I finally got around to watching it, and it’s my new favorite movie. Hot box.

P.S.S. Some photos of all of this

Morning Pretties

July 6th, 2010

My morning routine for myself used to be what I always considered, ‘Low Maintenance.’ A little makeup, clothes selection, some hair attention.

Now that old routine seems prima donna in comparison to what I get to do. Here’s what it looks like:


Sometimes I try to do some yoga. HA! Violet thinks this is HILARIOUS! Time to use every muscle in her body to knock Mom over! Wheee!


OK, get myself dressed. Can I even enter the closet? Most days this involves traversing a blockade of laundry baskets. If so, it’s bottoms, a top, and hope they match.


Around this time I have to turn on some Madeline, because the Little Boss does not like for me to spend too much time in the closet, heaven forbid. Demands! If I have time to be in the closet, then apparently I have time on my hands—why am I not holding her!


‘Makeup’ these days has been pared down to one thing: Chap Stick. Chap Stick is the entirety of my beauty regimen. (Naturally, I don’t balk at buying expensive LUXURY Chap Stick, because it’s got to work hard to draw attention away from my blemishes and dark circles.) Of course, today, my Chap Stick was unavailable. As I was sighfully debating whether to dig in the laundry baskets to try and find it, Vibble showed up at the closet door. She brushed her hair back from her face to show off to me her handiwork: Her face was completely buttered in Chap Stick. “Lovely! Mom’s turn to use MOM’s Chap Stick!” (At least she has stopped using it to completely fill in her navel—she’s just maturing every day, and we are so proud.)


So the Chap Stick has been recovered. Without offending any sensibilities out there, let me just say this: Step 5 is where one hopes one does not need any feminine hygiene products. Because in Vibble’s room there is a dolly napping on a mattress of panty liners … and tampons, forget it. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to wrap tampons in colorful plastic wrappers—you know, like CANDY! or HAPPY MEAL TOYS!—I curse you. They are a holy grail of toddlers.


Breakfast: Diet Pepsi and whatever has the most sugar/choco power.


Shoes: Flip flops. No matter how cold it is out, they are fast and, most importantly, in the living room. Once I’ve come downstairs, there is no going back. There’s just no time. We’ve got to be somewhere, and Vibble is purposely dribbling milk on her clean shirt and refusing to wear pants.


Pack the day’s needs. This step is so important, it requires I stop. Breathe. Focus. The last thing I want today is to be on some playground and smell poo on my kid and realize I don’t have a diaper. Hand sanitizer, yes. Crayons, of course. A diaper? Um.


Step 9 is where I turn off Madeline. You have probably heard this step, wherever you live. It is deafening.


Step 10 is where we head out of the garage, and I realize I forgot to put on deodorant, brush my teeth, and so much as look at my hair in a mirror. Good thing it’s not me people are looking at when we’re out in public, but this cute little pantsless kid with the milk on her shirt, right?

A Day in the Life

June 16th, 2010

Today has been a rare day without TV. Not that Violet watches a TON of TV, but ideally, for us, she would watch none. It’s just that, sometimes I need to use the stove or something, and I need her distracted and to stay put. And then sometimes, she is just blue, and nothing seems to work, and then I say, “Do you want to watch Madeline?” and she grins and gets all happy. Madeline is a very effective mood-lifter here.

Anyway, no TV today, but let me tell you why sometimes if I need to do something besides watch her every move I have little choice but to put her in front of the TV for a bit. So just now I was trying to get some laundry done. First she played in her room. Then I had to take a break from laundry to clean up the broken light bulb in her room. Then she played downstairs. Then I had to take a break from laundry to vacuum flour off of Violet’s arms and legs and the entire—yes, the ENTIRE—first level floor. It smelled like a bakery in here for the second time this week (earlier in the week, she got into the spices and decided our living room needed a dash of cinnamon—in every square inch).

When I found her with the flour, she knew she had been caught. Immediately, she said, “I sorry!” She said it about four times, shrugging her shoulders, and the tone she used was one you might use if, say, you accidentally stepped on someone’s toe in line at the grocery store. Like, “Oops! Clumsy me! I got into the flour!”

You Don’t Have to Be Rich—or a Parent—to Have Fabulous Interior Home Design

June 1st, 2010

It’s time I shared my secrets. As someone who lives in Southern California, I have to keep up with THE latest trends in interior design, and I do, of course. But I have some DIY tips you can take advantage of no matter what your budget, and whether or not you have kids. Read on to see what I mean …


Hand-print Feng Shui is all the rage. For this one, if you don’t have kids of your own, you may need to entice someone else’s kids to help you; adult-sized handprints are a dead giveaway that you’re into knockoffs, and you want your guests to think you spare no expense or effort to be stylish. That said, you can spare every expense and effort if you Google “Make your own finger paint.” But if, like me, you’re much too lazy, you can pick up some at any arts and crafts store. Now, the key here is to make a few handprints on some paper before embellishing the wall; that way, it looks as if a creative child has been painting, painting, painting away until that split-second adult supervision lagged, when BAM, the wall got a high-five.


Play Doh in the carpet is so hot right now, and you don’t have to have kids to make it happen. Authenticity is easy to fake in this case. Just pick up some Play Doh at your local toy store, or better yet, order it online for ease and convenience. Remove it from the containers and mix it up—yes, it’s crucial the colors mingle, preferably to the point of being a single brown wad. Next, break the wad into tiny pieces, sprinkle them on the carpet, and grind, grind, grind them in with your hands and the soles of your shoes. It’s that easy!


Furniture crumbs and a light dusting of playground sand on all surfaces: Here in L.A., no one steps foot into a house without these. Three-week-old raisins, dried pieces of string cheese, and cracker bits make your couch worthy of any celebrity bottom. Similarly, a few apple juice stains on a light carpet will elevate your social status in a moment, and sprinkling a little playground sand around is so 2010.


Fancy up: Furnish with broken fixtures. If you don’t have at least one lamp that looks like a drunken hobo monkey swung from it while waving a jug of moonshine around, you need a total home makeover, because what are you thinking? This is so easy to do! Begin with a nice, department store lamp. Next, whack the lamp-shade with a hammer. Remember: Dents in the lampshade are nice, but a huge tear makes a great focal point in any room. You can scrape a little sandpaper along any exposed surfaces, and do your best to bend anything bendable. Finally, don’t forget to snap off the switch so there’s no way to turn the lamp on or off with pliers. It’s THE thing to do to have a broken lamp with pliers next to it; everyone knows what this means (that you’re HIGH CLASS).


So you’ve got the carpet, the furniture, the lighting … Now as designers and stagers alike will tell you, no decor is complete without considering the five senses. You’ve just GOT to get that diaper-pail scent. But how, you ask? Well, first, it’s amazing how much most people associate the smell of baby powder, baby lotion, and baby wipes with dirty diapers. So pick up travel sizes of all of these items and leave them open in the living room. Now get your hands on a dirty diaper. If you don’t have a personal supply, I can sell you one cheap. You need to wad up the diaper and enclose it in a tight-lidded plastic container in the bathroom for a few days. Then when you open the container, the scent will pervade your home in no time.

I know it takes some effort to be as stylish as we are out here in L.A. I wish you all the best in your ambitions, and I hope you’ll share your own tips. As they say on HGTV, Make the world a better place—start at home.


April 27th, 2010

It’s 4 a.m. I’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately (last couple of months). The reasons are these:

1. I drink too much Diet Pepsi.
2. I drink too much Diet Pepsi.
3. I drink too much Diet Pepsi.

I know I need to kick the caffeine. Here’s how I know:

1. I have sleep issues.
2. My use of it has escalated dramatically over time.
3. When I run low on cans, I start to panic. “I need to go to the grocery store,” I find myself saying out loud over and over, to no one and everyone.
4. I bought a Can Crusher. I was convinced I needed this.
5. I used the Can Crusher so hard it fell off the wall, taking casualties with it and hurting my leg.

I’ve had much advice for how to best kick this habit—go cold turkey, hydrate, switch to green tea or some other substance. Not to defend it too much, but I’ll say this habit is at least legal and fairly inexpensive. Also, it’s delicious. I WILL kick it, but possibly not for another year or two. My problems are these:

1. Vibble is two.
2. Vibble is two.
3. Vibble is—”Oh my God, Kid, slow [yawn] DOWN!”—twooooo.

I can’t keep up with her with my own allotted human energy power. I try from time to time and barely make it through the morning without crashing.

Among the awful effects on my life and body of a steady intake of Diet Pepsi are frequent awakenings at 3 and 4 in the morning. Although this one—today—I can blame on another cause of sleeplessness, too: The sky is a weird color. It’s sort of smoothie-coral and foggily lit. When you grow up in places where the telephone poles are mounted with tornado sirens, a weird-colored sky makes your hackles stand on edge. You get to be like a cow before rain: You can sense things no matter what’s going on, like if you’re sleeping, and the sky is a big smoothie, you wake up feeling like, ‘Something’s not right.’ I wrote a poem once about living in a tornado-place. It’s not a great poem, I never revised it, but let me see if I can find it … OK, here it is:


From the year I was five, I remember these things:

The day I cut my own hair with my art-scissors
and hid under the bed until I was found out

The tree-fort into which Robert Pirrahni and Johnny Ham
did not allow girls

Hot air balloons—too many to count—
landing in the park up the street

The terrible howl of the tornado-warning alarm in our subdivision

A storm with tornadoes makes the colors all wrong. The sky goes green and then orange. It is very quiet.

During a tornado, you are supposed to move to the center of the house.

The center of our house was the coat closet. Whenever the alarm sounded, I ran to it and did not come out for a long time. Hours. I squeezed between my father’s snow-boots and a box of mittens. My mother’s dark wool coat hung around my face. If the tornado should come, I

would not have to know.

What I Realized Today

April 15th, 2010

I keep thinking as this kid gets older, it’s going to get easier to understand what she needs from me. Already we’ve gone from random screaming, to more specific screaming, to tantrums aimed at clearly defined goals, to where we are now—she actually tells me what she wants a lot of the time (this may involve saying over and over, “Eggs,” or it might entail her bringing me the box of eggs from the fridge, message clear either way). So I keep imagining a future where she simply states her needs. Ah, the mysteries solved! The confusion dispelled!

But I realized that’s not reality at all. Sure, she’ll be able to place her specific order/request with me—”Nonfat Decaf-Capp with Splenda, please, Mom”—but the truth is, it only gets harder to know what a kid needs. Harder and harder. I think about my niece, Erica, who just turned 11. Some of what she needs, she tells her parents. Some of it is obvious—an 11-year-old certainly needs love, attention, and plenty of Hannah Montana T-shirts. Duh! But increasingly, Erica’s emotional needs from her family are mysterious and extremely unique. What does this 11-year-old need from her mom and dad? I’m sure they’re trying to figure that out all the time, and it’s a moving target. And it’s not going to get easier …

Someday she’ll be 34. What does a 34-year-old need from her parents? If you’re lucky, she’s had some therapy and can try and articulate it, but that doesn’t mean it will make sense all the time. How much space does she need, versus how close at hand does she need to feel her parents are, emotionally, physically? Where does she need her parents to be in terms of the dynamic with her husband and with her own kids? I can’t even answer that really. But I know there’s no box of eggs I can present to explain it.

Yep, that part of this job is only going to get harder. I think I’m up to the task. Thanks to all of my own parents for taking it on for so long.

Being More Disciplined

March 6th, 2010

I’m looking for advice. Those of you with children: How do you handle discipline, and when did you start really “doing” it? Those of you without children: I value your thoughts, too; how would you handle it, and what is your experience, and what have you observed?

Violet is asserting her very normal two-year-old need to claim some control over her little life. I respect this, I encourage this. There are tantrums, and that’s fine. When it comes to my ideas for how scenarios will go, there are some I win, some I lose, and I’m cool with that. So she refuses to get in the bathtub, often refuses to sit in her stroller or a high chair—So? So she refuses to respect our requests that she not throw food on the floor—Frustrating, but not life-threatening. So she refuses to be strapped into her car-seat or have her diaper changed—Not optional, sorry, Kid. I think these are standard scenarios in a household with a toddler, who, much like an infant or, say, a 14-year-old, is 99 percent wonderful, and, always, a human being, after all.

When it comes to discipline, Steve and I picked a few things a while back that would be “not allowed.” These included:
- messing with the TV and components in the living room (the TV in our room is fair game, when plugged in, which it is sometimes)
- hurting the cats
- climbing onto the wide shelves behind the couch

When she does these things, we “punish” them, mainly by (pretty gently) putting her on the floor. For some reason, she has always considered being put on the floor devastating. After a fairly short run of consistent responses as described, she rarely did these things. Now, when she does them (with a smirk, clearly to push the boundaries), we can usually just say, “Are you allowed to be doing that?” and she ceases.

Unfortunately, this “Are you allowed …” strategy is not translating, as I hoped it would, into other areas. Let me be specific here: This week was/is what I’ve been calling “Bruiser Week” here in Vibble-Town. Grabbing toys from kids at the park gave way to pushing kids off of mat-toys at Gym n’ Swim, which gave way, yesterday at playgroup, to shoving kids (and an adult) repeatedly and with enough force that she knocked her little friend Greta to her knees from behind.

All of this is not to mention what a tornado of destruction she was at the hostess’ house. While the nice hostess was gracious about it all and didn’t seem to care, I was concerned to see Violet so unwilling to cooperate with ANY of my requests that she, oh, stop removing framed photographs from shelves, stop breaking the leaves on plants, stop dumping beads out of bowls onto the floor, all of this repeatedly.

Once or twice is one thing, but the roughness and rudeness was over and over, despite my gentle, unemotional “reminders,” which gave way to emphatic, unemotional reminders, which gave way to my “having a talk” with her in private about it, which gave way to my referring to her as a “snot”—something I really don’t want to do within earshot of my kid (who, after all, is a GREAT KID), that’s just a personal decision, as all facets of discipline (and everything else family/parental) have to be. No offense to any other parents, it’s just something I want to try not to do myself. And this is where I need to be more disciplined.

Was I embarrassed? Eh, only a little, but not really. This playgroup is nice, and I’ve felt with these moms from the very recent beginning that no one is judging anyone, and we grant that these phases go around. If Violet is a bruiser today, it might be another kid who’s doing it next week. Also, Vibble is a free-spirited person, somewhat fearless, very exploratory. That’s who she is, so there has to be some space for that.

Mostly I was just out of tricks. My tool arsenal consists of the things described above: reminders, momentary removals from the scene, and in the extreme, the putting-on-the-floor. I think we might need more tools. I’m just not at all sure what they should be. We’re not doing spanking (again, no judgments on parents who go that route, it’s a personal decision). She’s not QUITE ready for time-out; I just can’t see how that would work right now without restraints, which, again, personal decision. Her talking/speech is still coming along, but we’re not able to “converse” about these things after the fact. Asking “Why did you do that?” gets me nowhere. And leaving playgroup or the park early would be all the same to her.

I can handle being patient with a lot of this toddler stuff—I did win the physical brawl in our living room yesterday, out of sheer stamina, over the box of Girl Scout cookies she had somehow managed to procure for herself—but I can’t have her shoving, hitting, kicking, throwing things at innocent little people—people I want her to be liked by, for her own sake. It might be normal. It’s not OK. And this week it has been increasingly aggressive, violent, reactionary.

I want to have a consistent response, after the three or so reminders—because I know toddlers actually do forget to behave. I want it to be something that deters the behavior for the immediate time-being. I am in charge here, thank goodness (“No, Vibble, you may not play in the street, scream and kick on the sidewalk all you want” [I actually said this, Thursday]). (Incidentally, I hold life-threatening behavior apart in the discipline realm; I won’t hesitate to shout loudly or very, VERY firmly and even sort of meanly when it comes to reminders she’s gotten too close to the stove, FEAR THE STOVE, LITTLE GIRL.)

Sigh. Personal decisions. But I want to form a rationale here, I want to be fair and effective. I want her to have friends who don’t drop their pail-and-shovel sets and run away when she steps foot on the playground.

So, advice? Thoughts? Recommended reads? Comment here or reply by e-mail. Meanwhile, consider this:

Thesaurus results for discipline:

1. control, training, teaching, instruction, regulation, direction, order, authority, rule, strictness, a firm hand; routine, regimen, drill, drilling

2. good behavior, orderliness, control, obedience; self-control, self-discipline, self-government, self-restraint

3. field (of study), branch of knowledge, subject, area; specialty.

Recommended Read

December 27th, 2009

First of all, let me say this: Parenting involves some EXTREMELY individual and PRIVATE decisions on the part of each parent or parent-team, and with so many of these decisions, there is no right or wrong—only what’s right for your kid/family.

Some of these decisions are:
- whether and how long to breastfeed
- when and how to go about weaning
- where the kid sleeps
- how to administer discipline
- how much to encourage kids toward the next phase, vs. letting things take their course
- how much freedom to allow vs. how much structure to provide
- how much to worry about safety, germs, etc.

Before I became a parent, I was naive about a lot of this stuff, in that I thought there was indeed a “right” way to do each thing—a way that had been proven by contemporary science, and that I would learn of through doctors and other parents in-the-know.

This isn’t true. There are actually valid arguments for doing completely opposite things in just about every case, and none of them matter nearly as much as the fact that you know your kid—and your family situation—best.

If you’re interested in knowing a bit more about where we’ve gotten our ideas of the “right” and “wrong” way to do each of these things, and about what the alternatives are in each case, I’m reading a book right now that offers some fairly good discussions about them. Yes, it’s BIASED; the book advocates co-sleeping (vs. sleep training, not that these two concepts are anything close to black and white). However, I think even a parent who disagrees with co-sleeping might find it interesting, informative, and useful.

Parenting involves finding your own philosophy on a spectrum of philosophies, each of which comes with its own research, arguments, and history that show why it and it alone is the right way to go in order to avoid forever warping your child. It can be overwhelming, but the important thing to remember is that none of us knows for sure what the best way is to do any of these things for someone else. I’ve realized only recently that while it’s helpful to learn what other parents do, it’s a mistake to “advise” another parent to do something as you did it and assume the way you chose to do it was (a) the only way that works, and/or (b) the accepted best way of all for everyone.

So yes, Violet sleeps in our bed. Some people think this is a very bad, dangerous thing. A thing that will lead to, among other problems, Steve’s and my never touching again; Violet’s sleeping with us until she is 19; Violet’s suffocating in our bedding or being crushed by us; Steve’s and my not getting the sleep we need to be effective parents by day; Steve’s and my ignoring what doctors know is best for us; Violet’s never being able to calm herself when she is upset, day or night; and so on. Many of these people advocate sleep-training or something like it, and that’s cool. There are a lot of proven benefits to getting your kid on a schedule, allowing her to learn self-soothing methods, and having family members sleep in their own spaces.

There are also proven benefits to allowing your children to sleep in your bed for as long as their instincts to stay by a parent’s side tell them they need to, and there are all kinds of methods for weaning from co-sleeping if it doesn’t happen naturally and/or the parents need/want to nudge it along at some point. And while the practice of co-sleeping is often viewed with disapproval in the U.S., this disapproval is almost exclusively Western. We’re not the only country out there raising well-adjusted, happy, successful children (sometimes). There are other methods besides those we have decided in our society are most acceptable.

Again, I don’t mean to sound “down” on parents who don’t let their kids sleep in between them for a time. I’m informed on the benefits of self-soothing, have read what some pro-sleep-training people have to say, and know it’s not the wrong way to go, by any means. I only want to say that …
- co-sleeping has been right for us, in our case
- it’s a pretty individual thing, as are so many parenting decisions
- Steve and I do still touch each other, in case you’re wondering, and I don’t think I need to say anything additional about that on the Internet
- there’s a book I’ve found that I think is a good read on the subject of raising little ones, for parents having decided to go the co-sleeping route as well as those who have chosen other nighttime routines, and this book covers a lot of ground beyond sleeping

Oh, yeah, the book! OK, so here it is. :)

Ten Reasons Why Parents Get Uptight

December 1st, 2009

Before becoming a parent, I had often noted a change that occurs when people have children; overnight, they seem to become lax about some things that have always mattered, and at the same time, insane-o uptight about other things.

The laxness is easy to explain: I had (accurately) always assumed that with a kid in the picture, priorities naturally shift, and things that were of seemingly vast importance now matter little. The elbowed-over things vary from parent to parent, but a kid takes up a LOT of room in a life, and space must be made.

But the uptight, at times almost righteous and in some cases even personality-altering, cloud that comes over parents when it hasn’t been there before used to TERRIFY me. Was this something hormonal, unavoidable that kicked in? If so, HOW AWFUL. Or was there perhaps something about parenthood that was essentially dissatisfying that made people succumb to this shift? These thoughts disturbed me much of my life. I suppose they were part of what had me convinced back in the days B.V. that I didn’t want to bear a child (well, that and my aversion to all things pregnancy and birth related, which is so intense that typing those words just now made me throw up a little bit in the back of my mouth). If I didn’t make the kid, at least the hormone part could be avoided.

Now, I’ve been complimented by friends and family on being a “laid-back” mom. I consider this an accomplishment on my part, and on the parts of the other moms I know who don’t sweat the small stuff. Because I have discovered it is not easy to keep the uptight monster at bay. I’m sure the reasons for its arrival vary from parent to parent, but here are some of the things that make my eye start to twitch now that I have a kid, things that were not issues before:


Hormones. They do lots of unpredictable things. Based on my experience of the last two years, I would not be surprised to wake up some morning with a second head growing out of my left buttock. I would just be like, ‘Oh. Yeah. That’s probably hormones causing that.’


Forces of DNA. (See also: Hormones.) I am now aware of forces in nature that are much more powerful than I am, forces like The Thing—some people call it “the clock”—which arrives in the night one day in your 20s or 30s in a vintage green Cadillac with darkened windows and punches you in the face real hard, and then as you reel whispers in your ear with its hissy hiss, “Yessssss. You want to have a baaaaaaayyyyyy beeeeee yesssssssssss.” And you can fight with it, you can fight until there’s nothing left in your arsenal of reason, but be it known you can never, EVER return to the blissfully naive days when you thought The Thing was mythical, and there is nothing you can do to stop the hissing except get yourself knocked the hell up.

And just when you think The Thing is the maximum of nature’s power, along come Labor and Delivery and Mommy Brain and the Breastfeeding Hormones and the Mama-Bear growl, all things you also thought were mythical, and none of which any medical professional, save for your psychiatrist, has enough sympathy for. Basically, you find yourself unpredictable and crazy and possessed and unable to locate an exorcist. This stuff can make you uptight, but it doesn’t, not really, because you are so in love with your new baby, even as you eye The Thing with awe and fear from the corner of your life. What CAN make you somewhat uptight is this new awareness that you are small and powerless in the grand scheme of DNA and Survival, whereas before you perhaps enjoyed carefree ignorance of these things.


The inhuman amount of patience required. I sleep most nights with someone who kicks me in the head for up to four hours and then needs me to be patient and loving as I clean up after her all day and write a blog entry in two-sentence bursts between fulfilling her demands. She is very, very cute, and I love her very, very much, but some days this is still challenging. (See also: Psychiatrist)


The constant—and I am not exaggerating here—life-and-death scenario in our house. There is a small person here whom I adore more than anything and for whom I am responsible, and she endeavors up to twenty times a day to kill herself in one of a thousand ways. Noose? Check. Dive from the dining room table? Check. “Hi, here I am sucking on a bottle of plant fertilizer from under my aunt’s kitchen sink.” Check and CHECK. The sincere seriousness of the situation could make me seriously serious all the time. If she didn’t balance this out with episodes wherein she wears a trash-can on her head or licks the couch, I might honestly die of uptightness.


The judgment of other people. It turns out we live in a society where a lot of people think it is OK to judge the parenting of another person, and then either say so to that person, or clearly demonstrate their judgment in other ways. “She’s too young to be out.” “I would never put my kid on a leash—she’s not a dog.” These are a sampling of some of the things people have said to/about me. I know other parents feel the judgments too, and I’m not saying I’m innocent of judging. I’m just saying a new parent is insecure and feels inadequate sometimes (See also: Suicidal Toddler), and the growing awareness of others’ judgments can really make you feel touchy, defensive, and, well, uptight, even with enough Psychiatry and positive reinforcement from a loving support network.


The constant judgment of the Little Boss, who is mad at me right now because I won’t let her have endless servings of chewable vitamins. Throughout the day today, she will repeatedly and loudly let me know she is unhappy with my performance, sometimes in public, and I will have to fight not to get uptight about it. Right now what helps me in this fight is to say, “Your comments have been noted by the Complaint Department.” Maybe this is cruel, but if you think so, WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE ME!


The compulsion to compare. Violet is fast, faster than most of her peers. She is also strong. She also doesn’t say very many words. And she doesn’t always eat enough. The kid she plays with every afternoon is four months younger. He eats like he wants to GROW, and he speaks two languages and yesterday said Violet’s name. His head circumference is in the top 5 percentile or something. Is Violet’s head too small?? You see how this goes. Many of you KNOW how this goes, because right now, you’re thinking, “Hm, [you're inserting the name of your child here]‘s head is in the 40th percentile … is my kid smarter than Violet? Does my kid eat enough? What if my kid doesn’t eat enough???” And you know everything is FINE, and that you shouldn’t do all this comparing, but you are burdened now with the compulsion to do it, and fighting this compulsion all the time can make you uptight. Right?


You, and only you, know the severity of the outcome if certain seemingly “anal” conditions are not met. There often comes a moment when, if my child does not have food she LIKES in her mouth within 30 seconds, and then if she is not ASLEEP within 12 minutes after that, she will morph into a horrid screeching worm, and we will all suffer, but mostly her parents will suffer, because everyone will be looking at us like, How come you’re not good parents, don’t you know your kid is screaming, make her stop. But if these conditions have not been met, there will BE NO making her stop. It is a Point of No Return. So when you’re with people who don’t understand this, and you start insisting everyone accommodate the schedule of a small being who at the moment seems perfectly fine, you can encounter a certain resistance that makes you UPTIGHT. It’s a lot like being a superhero, or the head of the C.I.A., in that you have information the public does not have that justifies your behavior, but since the public doesn’t have this information, they don’t realize why you’re acting the way you are: My God, People, you are trying to save the world!


The inability for any human to keep up with the financial drain, laundry, diapers, dishes, and sour milk spills of an army of children wrapped into one. Right now as I look around, I am so confused. How many people live in this house, anyway? Because if I didn’t know better, I would guess FIFTEEN, MINIMUM. I don’t know about you, but it makes me uptight to live in filth and chaos.


The blessings. As they pile up on you, the reality of the loss that would be represented if anything happened to them is not like anything you have ever experienced. When I was 25, I worried about losing one of my parents. And yes, that would be extremely hard. If I lost my child? I just can’t imagine any recovering from that. And the thought of her losing a parent is unthinkable. It makes me incredibly appreciative of life, and tenaciously protective of it in ways I never was before.

This is all to say how sorry I am that I was unforgiving in the past of parents’ I know occasionally being uptight. And to say how thankful I am for the patience and positive parenting feedback I get from all of you. And to acknowledge that I fight the good fight against the uptight and sometimes win and sometimes lose. And winning and losing are individually defined. I hope we can all find balance in this … to relax and enjoy, while being “on top of it” enough to get these kids through to the other side of childhood with as little damage as possible.