Friday, December 29, 2006

Vindication is Ours

In yo FACE, Mom!

After having to recycle approximately 9 billion books on how to organize your life/car/house/brain/other spaces that you can fill to the brim with crap, finally there's a book that says it's okay to practice, shall we say, "creative disorder."

According to Eric Abramson and David Freedman, my new best friends, restrictive organization may actually hinder creativity by eliminating random behavior and therefore the potential for random breakthroughs of greatness.

Yeah, that's it.

It is nice to have someone acknowledge for once that my random-but-not-so-random piling, er, filing system is actually fine as long as I know where every single thing is (and I do). I am, in my mind, a very organized person, even if that organization doesn't necessarily manifest itself on my desk or in my kitchen pantry. Truly random clutter gives me claustrophobia. And uncleanliness in the form of dirt and grime, well, let's just say ewwwww.

I actually spent time as an employee of The Container Store telling other people how to organize their lives. But it's the classic case of Do As I Say, Not As I Do. Sure, I came out of my stint at The Container Store with a few nice tricks to lighten the piles a little, but when it comes right down to it, neatness for its own sake wastes my time; time that can be spent wrestling with my kids, or throwing the ball for my dog, or volunteering in the community, or, uh, blogging. Given a choice of what to do with my fifteen extra minutes a day that are left over after work and shuttling kids and paying bills and watching YouTube, I know exactly where that time is going.

And in a few years, those kids can really help out around the house. Tea thinks her new Playskool Talking Vacuum is fun; I think it's the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Why I Love My Family, Reason Number 5984

What did my son and husband do on Christmas Eve? Trim the tree? Visit Santa and give him a list? Bake adorable non-denominational holiday cookies? Wrong, wrong, and wrong! Martha Stewart does not live here. But the Mythbusters can come party with us any time.

Because the familial Geek Squad spent the entire day on December 24 perfecting their very own Rube Goldberg Device. It took some patience and a lot of tinkering, but at least twice that day their amazing chain-reaction machine ran like clockwork.

In a matter of minutes, it went down like this:

The Thomas Jet Engine tied to a string moved forward, which:
launched the Hot Wheels Car down the steep, death-defying track, which:
hit the Railroad Spike, which fell onto the:
Hot Pink T-Mobile inflatable thing, which:
pushed up a Plastic Rod that:
pushed up some pipes, which:
tipped over the 8lb Medicine Ball, which:
fell on the Stomp Rocket Launcher, which:
launched the Stomp Rocket, which:
collided tragically with the George W. Bush Voodoo Doll!

It was a sight to behold. That I sadly didn't videotape because I suck. You'll just have to take my word for it.

But at least you get a double post today because I have slacked so hard lately. Happy Holidays.

Smile For The Evil Man With The Beard

I would never terrorize my kids for a momentary photo op on Santa's lap.

But I can still laugh my ass off when other people do it.

SF Gate's occasionally funny blog, The Poop, sponsored a contest for Best Photo of Kids Screaming on Santa's Lap. It's pretty funny. I need to forward it to my sister, who has a vintage photo of her son beaming proudly on Santa's lap, while my toddler niece screams her face off.

Go to to see for yourself.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday is Donut Day

It's Monday! Open Wiiiide!

It's Monday. First day of the work week, off to school again, and for Gianni, it's Donut Day.

I know what you're thinking. Every day should be Donut Day (no, wait, that's what I'm thinking.) But Donut Day has a context that has made our lives so much easier.

Like scores of other parents of willful young children, breakfast and eating meals in general has always been a struggle. We face the usual challenges:

"I don't WANT to eat that!"
"I've decided that I hate cereal."
"I'm only eating breakfast if it's Cap'n Crunch."

Pair that with the fact that Gianni has two food groups--Macaroni and Cheese--and you have the makings of a first-rate power struggle.

One day, Rick hit upon a brilliant idea. We were watching a Wallace and Gromit short and at one point, Wallace is getting breakfast ready. "Tuesday is porridge day, Gromit!" (insert bad Ringo Starr accent here.) Gianni adores all things W and G and seemed to really groove on the idea that Tuesdays in clay character land are reserved for porridge. So he and Rick made up a breakfast chart for our own home. And yes, Tuesday is porridge day. The week shapes like this:

Monday: Donuts
Tuesday: Porridge (or in our case, oatmeal)
Wednesday: Waffles
Thursday: Cinnamon Toast
Friday: Cereal and milk
Saturday: Pancakes
Sunday: Surprise!

It works. It really works. No matter what else is going on, Gianni accepts wholeheartedly that if it's Wednesday, you better be shoving that waffle in your piehole because It's the Law. Making pancakes on Saturday morning is one fine tradition. We even adapted a slightly looser schedule for lunch, since we must slavishly pack G's lunch every day (complicated by the fact that The Demon Nut is banned at his school. So Peanut Butter Sandwich Day is not happening so much).

Anyway, it's safe to say that we do lots of crack-brained parenting in our trial-and-error odyssey, but breakfast is one thing that we got just right. Sure, there are better things you can give your kid for breakfast than a yeasty Homer Simpson Special, but the chance to eliminate the morning breakfast fight is worth a baker's dozen.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Perfect Gift For Mom



If Mom is tired of the same old kitchen gadgets and printed scarves year after year, head on over to, where you can get--what else?--a picture of your favorite loved one as a brain-eating zombie! Just send a headshot and let the magic happen. Give doting grandparents pictures of your undead offspring! You can even damn the dog!

Sadly, doesn't guarantee Christmas delivery at this time. Shucks.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Driving Me Crazy

Our car's warranty must have expired, like, yesterday. Over the past month, from the brakes to the catalytic converter, our trusty Passat wagon has been crapping out on us piece by piece. I've had a good run with our car, but when the built-in garage-door opener falls out onto my lap while I'm driving, I start to wonder if we're coming to the end of our relationship.

I'm developing a wandering eye, surreptitiously checking out other, newer cars as I go through my days. And not so surreptitiously too, for example going to the SF Auto Show and drooling over the 2007 models like a St. Bernard. Rick had to pull me away from the BMW booth before I started humping the wheels of the 5-series wagon.

Hey baby...come here often?

And so we are starting to face the inevitable--at some time in the near future, we will be getting a new car. This process is much harder for us than for average humans. First, because we are a one-car family. We live smack in the middle of San Francisco, and live by the one parking space = one car rule. It saves us from circling the block 10 million times every night and getting our windows broken by crackheads.

Also, although Rick and I agree on one or two things, nothing brings out our differences in upbringing and material values like shopping for a multi-thousand-dollar purchase. The car selection process is proving to be even more of a landmine than the Great TV Fight of 2005 (still too painful to talk about--all I'll say is, plasma roolz and CRT droolz).

We are in total agreement (sort of) that our next car will be a hybrid. But that's where it ends. To Rick, cars are the ultimate value statement. A car is not for luxuriating in or showing off. Your car should say, "Do not seek comfort in my seats! Use not my climate controlled A/C! I am saving the planet!" In other words, Rick's dream car is an electric shitbox that resembles a sooped-up golf cart. If it doesn't get at least 50 miles to the gallon, toss it back.

How many clowns do you think we can fit in this?

The thing is, Rick rides his bike all the time. When the shit comes down, and 2 kids need to be picked up or groceries need to be gotten, I'm the one behind the wheel. Maybe I'm getting old and soft, or maybe I just get hot when I smell that new leather interior, but for once I would like to splurge a little and get something quasi-fancy. I'm not talking about navigation systems and DVD for the kiddies, I just want to feel comfortable in my car. And safe on our winter drives to Lake Tahoe. I want a car that is good for the planet, but also pretty nice to me. I want this:

The Lexus 400h. I KNOW it's an SUV. But it's a hybrid. And a 4-wheel drive. And it's smokin'.

Unfortunately, Rick thinks that I am smokin'--something--for even thinking about it. He would compromise on a Prius or a Civic hybrid, but I'm convinced that we would crush either of those cars under the sheer weight of all of our crap. And in light of recent tragic events, I don't really care if I'm protecting our natural resources if I'm seeing them as I sail through the guardrail of I-80 in a snowstorm. I want 4WD and heated seats and this baby has it all.

The other day he sent me the link for the Phoenix SUV:

But it has a great personality!

It's all-electric. It has a 240-mile range. It's $40,000 and it's available next year.

And it's fug. I'm not supposed to care, but I do. I am a failure as an environmentalist. But at least I look good.

Can this marriage be saved?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Last One to the Beach is a Turkey!

Thanksgiving Day, 2006

Thanksgiving used to be one of my favorite holidays. When I was a kid, it meant 35 of us gathering at my grandmother's house for a huge turkey and all of the comfort-food trimmings. We would eat at the kids' table while the Ladies laughed and gossiped around the table and the male of the species watched the Lions on TV. We kids always watched the Macy's parade in the morning, including the year when someone pantsed Santa as he got off his sleigh. Good times.

When I moved to California, Thanksgiving became a celebration of friendship and food, where all of us who had family far, far away would band together and cook the best food we could and drink it with as much of the best wine as possible. It helped alleviate the pangs I got when I thought of my family in Indiana and how I missed my Grandma's dressing and mashed potatoes.

Once we all got coupled and started popping out kids, something happened. Suddenly we all needed space and our kids needed somewhere decent to go to school, because we're selfish like that. Pretty much all of our friends left for greener pastures, free babysitting from family members, and better-funded public schools.

We miss them.

And Thanksgiving has become stressful. I love a party, but not a sad little turkey party for our family alone. My family no longer goes to Grandma's (Grandma being 95 and totally over the whole cooking for the world thing). But they don't come here, either. Add to that this year a particularly shitty fall and my sister heading down to my mom's in Florida (cue the world's tiniest violin playing, "My Family Hates Me") and I was not feeling the group turkey hug.

So this year, we dropped out. No cooking. No tradition. We went to the beach.

Moondoggie in Training

We packed up the kids and headed to San Diego, where we headed to Sea World, the Zoo, and on Turkey Day, to the beach for some first-class boogie-boarding. We rented G a wetsuit and he braved the waves for the first time, tentatively but with joy. Tea dug in the sand and tried unsuccessfully to drown herself. Our T-day feast was a turkey buffet at a beachside restaurant called World Famous. We're not sure what it's World Famous for, but Gianni will always have the chocolate fountain. We determined that Gianni's ideal dessert would probably be a chocolate fountain dipped in another chocolate fountain.

This fixes everything. Just ask Gianni.

Anyway, it was a blast. And maybe even a new tradition. Feel free to join us next year.