Cancer still sucks

As if you all didn’t love my dad enough already (despite his silence on the blog these days) he sent me this picture the other day:

 

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My dad is the man standing next to the guy in the black shirt. Everyone in this picture usually has more hair. The men all shaved their heads in solidarity with Patty, the woman in the middle. She is a chemo warrior. I know breast cancer has touched a lot of my readers, Internet, so I wanted to give Patty a shout out as she fights her battle. Please spare a happy, encouraging thought for her as you go about your day.

Go Patty! Kick cancer’s ass!

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There’s a map for that

Last weekend Jesse went to a friends house for the weekend to watch the World Cup Finazzzzz… Sorry, I fell asleep typing that. I’ll try again. World Cup Final. There.

Jesse is the fun parent, and usually the one that gets to play and adventure with the kids. When he’s gone, I step in and try to be more fun and whimsical. Haha, no I don’t. But I do try to think up fun things to do with them to pass the time. For starters we built an epic fort. They were trying to build a lame fort. Kids these day have no understanding of architecture or engineering. I dropped some fort building knowledge on them HARD. Here’s a pic of it half finished:

 

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I eventually raised Karis’s bed up on risers and added a second wing. By the time we were finished that sucker even had not one, but TWO libraries.

I was bored with the fort long before they were, so I tricked them in to playing something else. They usually don’t want to go on long walks with me. Lazy generation Z slags… So I asked them to draw me a map of how to get to The Coffee Bean from our house. At risk of revealing to the masses at large where we live, I will share their maps with you.

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This is Karis’s map. I love the detail – it’s actually pretty accurate. She even put bees on the path where she and Brecken got stung.

 

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Brecken’s map is very straightforward. Here’s our house, here’s the park, here’s the hot chocolate. What more info do you need? When he saw Karis’s map he started to feel like his map wasn’t as good. I explained that Karis’s map would be appropriate for someone who needed directions that had never been to the destination before, and his map would be good for a pirate that needed a personal reminder, but didn’t want so many details that a stranger could find the treasure. He loved that idea and spent the rest of the day referencing his PIRATE map.

Armed with our maps, we threw the baby in the stroller, grabbed the dog, and navigated our way to The Coffee Bean.

 

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Believe it or not, we made it! I think next time I will teach them how to navigate a Thomas Guide map. It’s becoming a lost art in this age of digital navigation. Maybe I’ll give them coordinates and hide a treat or something. Isn’t that what geocaching is about? No? I think geocaching is digital. Whatever. I’ll do it old school style.

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♫ Stay-cation all I ever wanted ♪ ♫

Jesse has been hell bent on our family having an official vacation this summer, but we really don’t have the time or funds to do anything too extravagant. That’s why he decided to book us a room in a fancy LA hotel. STAYCATION!!

I was in the middle of enjoying a nasty summer cold, but I pasted a smile to my face and packed the car. Poor Tesla had to go to the boarding place for the night because our regular Tesla sitter was unavailable. I hate leaving her there. She appears to have PTSD attacks and takes a good day to recover after coming home. They could put her in a run made out of peanut butter and steak and she still wouldn’t enjoy herself. I don’t know what horror she suffered in her life before we adopted her, but whatever it was, being at the vet or groomer or boarding facility always gives her the shakes.

The hotel we booked was a formerly trendy hot spot in Beverly Hills. I say “formerly” because I understand it used to be the place to chill, but now it’s filled with geriatric couples groping each other in the cabanas after hours. Our rag-tag family of five was sorely out of place. We are decidedly a “Holiday Inn” looking family, what with our strollers and Hello Kitty suitcases and cracker encrusted minivan.

We were greeted by a delightful man named Alessandro. He smiled with his eyes and made a point of talking to the kids rather than at them. The pretty blond manager, whose name I have forgotten, but she was from a Nordic country where they grow friendly people, offered the kids a basket of stuffed animals. Karis picked a green monkey, and Brecken dug through the entire pile of bright colored stuffies until he found an identical monkey in blue.

The Avalon has a very interesting look to it. It can’t decide if it wants to be middle-eastern, retro, mod, or old Hollywood, so it says, “Fuck it.” and is all of those things. I regretted not bringing my camera because there were several little furniture settings I would have liked to shoot the kids in. I could have had fun with this one:

 

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I loved this chair in our room: (I put my hat on it to show scale. It was very big.)

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This sculpture was all over the place. We had one in our room, there was one in each hallway, and one in every lounging area. Apple Josh casually gestured to one as we passed and said, “We need one of these.” to Danielle. I burst out laughing. “Don’t you kind of want to punch the dude in the face? The guy that thought these things were necessary?” I asked. Apple Josh immediately dove into a slightly Germanic, effeminate accent and proceeded to recreate that magical moment when the hotel interior was being designed.

 

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Jesse went to a meeting and I got the kids ready to go down to the pool. I have an old house gown (?)(I have no idea what to call it. It’s a house dress like old grandmas wear with their hair in rollers as they smoke Belair menthol cigarettes and make grilled-cheese sandwiches.) I bought it when I was a thousand months pregnant with Karis and I did maternity modeling. They always asked me to wear something that wouldn’t leave any marks on my skin. This particular house dress was found at Kmart in Manhattan. It is blue with flowers. It has a lace neck area and snaps all the way down the front. Hell, I should probably just take a picture for you, Internet.

 

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Ok. Now you have a visual of The House Dress. The House Dress has served me well during each of my pregnancies, and doesn’t usually see the light of day if I am not with child. Except I have recently started using it as a swimsuit cover-up. I am not proud of this. There is nothing even remotely attractive about The House Dress. I don’t think even Angelina Jolie could make The House Dress look good. Yet, here I am, still wearing it IN PUBLIC, and now, apparently at formerly trendy Beverly Hills hotels. In all honesty, I did pause a moment before donning The House Dress. I was fully aware of how awful it is. But in the end, I wore that sucker down to the pool. Jesse is probably glad he had to go to that meeting.

We played at the pool awhile, Aunt Danielle came by, and I took Seren up to the room for a nap. Jesse came back from his meeting and proceeded to swim in the pool with Dani and the kids right up until it closed despite the arrival of a fancy-schmancy dinner party that had reserved all of the cabana areas. Brecken was doing cannonballs right next to uptight hipsters in expensive cocktail wear. I thoroughly enjoyed the awkward juxtaposition of my frolicking young family next to the cocktailers.

We all eventually gave the cocktailers some peace and went in search of dinner. We decided to go to Toi all the way in Hollywood because we like driving in LA traffic for no good reason. We actually did enjoy seeing our old haunts and pointing out certain places to the kids. We happened by Brian Reise Acting Studio on Fountain and couldn’t help laughing at the cookie-cutter young actors feverishly studying their lines and dramatically emoting to their scene partners. You might think I’m exaggerating when I say they all looked the same, but I swear to you, I’m not. There is a young actor uniform, and according to this test group it is a tight-fitting V-neck t-shirt, perfectly distressed jeans, gelled hair, and a serious scowl that shows the world how much you are listening to your scene partner. I WISH I had snapped a pic so you could see just how alike they all were.

The next morning we walked to grab bagels where we had a celebrity sighting! (Zoe Saldana and husband) and got reprimanded by an angry bagel lady about how one does not simply receive a toasted bagel; one must ASK, and PAY for a toasting.

The kids really enjoyed themselves and became oddly obsessed with their new monkey toys – to the point where I found this in Brecken’s bed last night:

 

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Yes, that is his monkey sleeping in a makeshift Kleenex box bed with a wristwatch eye mask. I don’t question it. Why wouldn’t his monkey be sleeping in a Kleenex box with a wristwatch eye mask?

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It’s only natural

Stanley: “How are we supposed to market this hot pink sugar powder to moms?”

Jim: “Put ‘natural’ on it. It’s lemon-ade flavored. Lemons are natural.”

Stanley: “Yeah, but it still seems pretty gross. There’s got to be something we can do to convince people this is good for them, so they don’t feel guilty about polluting their bodies and all that hippy, tree-hugging crap.”

Jim: “Ok. Put ‘natural’ on it TWICE.”

Stanley: “My God, Jim, you’re a genius!”

Jim: “That’s why I make the big bucks, Stanley. Stick with me and you’ll go places.”

 

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Chex Party Mix; naturally flavored with other natural flavors which naturally makes this part of a natural snack to be eaten whilst enjoying nature.

POP QUIZ: What do Ebola Virus, organic vegetables, boogers, skin cancer and Chex Party Mix all have in common? They’re all natural! Bon Appétit

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Cousins and Jedi and forts, oh my!

The past week was delightfully social for us – especially Karis. My cousin came for a visit, and her middle child is the same age as Karis. The two of them hit it off as if they’d known each other their whole lives. I guess technically they have, but they don’t see each other very often. I thoroughly enjoy catching up with my cousin (cousin-in-law?). She’s a laid back mama with a similar parenting style to my own. Anyway, the girls were inseparable. It was so sweet watching them pal around. Karis would be so happy to have a twin sister – for a little while at least.

 

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Also this last week Brecken attended Jedi camp. He got to spend three bliss-filled hours a day learning to use the force. He was the smallest kid at camp, but he threw himself into every activity with the energy and determination of a true jedi knight. (They are knights, right? Jedi knights? No? Just jedis? Or are they like deer – jedi?) The first day at camp they had to make jedi uniforms out of pillowcases. Brecken decorated his with Darth Vader and Yoda engaged in a fierce battle. *LOVE*

 

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Friday was Merrill Movie Night, so we legally adopted Charlotte so she could join us!

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We let Brecken invite a friend over too, but we didn’t adopt him, because having to live with two six-year-old boys would put me into an early grave. Brecken giggled like an unhinged super-villain the entire time, because nothing is more hilarious and fun than hanging out with someone who fully appreciates your special brand of fart humor.

 

 photo playdate_zpse62f064d.jpgThis idyllic scene only lasted a few minutes before Brecken’s friend, who had already

seen the movie 5 times, got bored and the boys started pestering the girls.

 

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Forts were built before the night was over, but I’ll write more on that later…

This week is looking to be equally fun-filled. I’ll be sure to keep you in the know.

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LA Fitness; spin instructors in the classroom, and spin doctors behind the counter

My cousin and her kids are in So Cal for the summer and they did the obligatory trip to Disneyland. She asked if she could stay over at our place that night because she had to drop a friend off at the airport the following day. I agreed, and we made plans to turn it into a longer visit. Communication got jumbled, and her phone died – long story short, they ended up arriving at 1:30 in the morning. The dog barked, the baby cried, and my cousin shuffled through the doorway with a defeated look on her face and said, “I’m the biggest ass-hole you’ve ever met, right? I win the ass-hole award?” Had this been any other week, then yes, dear cousin, you would have won the ass-hole award. But competition is fierce in these parts! My ass-hole neighbors continue to toilet on my lawn despite my best efforts to annoy them, and I continue to run into people like this:

 

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 I originally had a real picture of “Chet” sitting upon his throne at LA Fitness,

refusing to be helpful, but Jesse put the kibosh on that too.

This is Chet. (Actually his name is something equivalent to Chet. Jesse made me change it because he’s paranoid I’ll get sued. He’s probably right – Chet is totally the type of schmuck to sue someone’s blog.) Chet is kind of a dick. Even the way he spells his name is dangerously close to being considered douche-y.

I have been putting off writing this story because I get so pissed off and grumpy when I think about it. I think I finally have enough distance from the incident now to share it with you, Internet. I will preface the story by saying I take responsibility for my part in the situation. Here we go!

Jesse and I had memberships at LA Fitness. I signed us up when it was brand new and bearably empty. It wasn’t long before the classes became overcrowded with sweaty, greasy people, and the pool became a soupy miasma of elderly folks fighting for swim lanes. The funk smell that hits you as you walk in is the perfect embodiment of everything I hate about gyms. People are gross. They leave sweat and fluids all over the machinery. They practice poor hygiene. They use equipment incorrectly. They try to be social despite your giving every unspoken cue that you want to be left alone. I hate the gym.

But I went. Almost every day. I went, and I tolerated the damp press of humanity as I tried to build muscle and all that jazz. In my last weeks of pregnancy I had to put my membership on hold. I knew it would be a long time before I would be back, because there’s no way I’m leaving my baby to the mercy of the overcrowded, understaffed kids’ room, so I asked the front desk clerk if it cost anything to freeze my account. I was very specific. I didn’t want to be paying to hold the account because of how long I wouldn’t be using it. The clerk assured me it wouldn’t cost me anything to freeze my account. I froze it. We all lived happily ever after, the end.

Except that wasn’t the end.

 I had our account on auto pay. They would bill us separately for Jesse, me and the kid’s klub. (This is the part I have to take responsibility for.) They sent me an email confirming I froze my account. The subject line said, “LA Fitness Confirmation : Freeze Membership – Email Reference=xxxxx” Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I froze my account. I didn’t read it. As the months went on and I saw bills from LA Fitness on my credit card I assumed they were for Jesse’s membership and the kid’s klub. These are my two mistakes: Not reading my email (AKA stupidly trusting the desk clerk WHOSE JOB IT IS TO KNOW THESE THINGS) and trusting that the charges I kept seeing on my credit card were the expected charges for other members of my family.

Fast forward to last month. Jesse started doing the Insanity workout. (Lord help me, don’t even get me started on THAT whole drama.) He decided to put his gym membership on hold while he tried out Insanity, so he called the gym, and they told him it would be a $10 monthly charge to freeze his account. “What?” I said. “Is that a new policy?” No. It’s always been like that.

Um, not according to Incompetent Desk Clerk from last September.

Upon investigation I found that the charges I had been thinking were for Jesse and the kids also included a “freeze charge” for me. Dammit.

This would require in-person rectification.

When I went to the gym to work out this communication problem I was very mild mannered and professional. I asked to speak with the manager. The desk clerk kept asking me why, and interrupting me to check people in. After several minutes I finally got to speak with the manager, Chet. (Lucky me.) Chet listened to my issue, giving me most of his attention and only checking in gym goers if the desk clerk was on the phone. I really felt heard. (That last sentence should be written in my special sarcasm font, but I don’t have one.) Finally Chet said, “I don’t see how I can help you.” So I asked if I could speak to his superior. He answered, “Oh, I have the authority to give you a refund, I’m just choosing not to.”

Yup. Say it with me now, “What an ass-hole!”

I can see why Chet is a manager. He is very good at making sure the giant corporation that is LA Fitness squeezes every last penny out of its members. My argument was that I should be refunded the “freeze fees” I had been charged the last ten months – totaling a hundred bucks – because I had been misinformed by the front desk clerk. His justification for refusing to reimburse me was that it took me so long to notice. He proceeded to lecture me on being more responsible. I pointed out that he was essentially punishing me for trusting the competency of LA Fitness staff members. “Are you saying your staff is untrustworthy?” I asked. He quickly back pedaled.

“Your desk clerk assured me I would not be charged any monthly dues while my account was frozen.” I said. His answer? Unfuckingbelievable! He answered, “You weren’t charged any dues. You were charged FREEZE FEES.”

That really pissed me off. By this time he had shuffled me around the front desk and out of the way of the check in area. We argued in circles for over half an hour. Finally, off his position that he would have happily refunded me my money if I had come in sooner I asked him how soon would he have deemed acceptable. He said 3 months. “Fine.” I said. “Then why not refund me 3 months worth of FREEZE FEES?”

That stumped him. Crickets chirped for a minute, then he gave in, obviously realizing I wasn’t going to decide to agree to disagree.

This whole experience was absolutely ridiculous. A hundred bucks to LA Fitness is NOTHING. I’m willing to bet they would happily give me a hundred bucks to keep me happy with their brand and write a sweet little blog post about how silly I was to not notice them gently raping my bank account for ten months. But Chet wouldn’t have any of that! Oh no, not Chet, Special Manager of LA Fitness. He would rather argue with me for 45 minutes before begrudgingly agreeing to pay out 30% of what LA Fitness had managed to steal from me. Yes, I said steal. Again, I realize by not reading my email and not investigating every charge with a fine tooth comb I was doing the equivalent of leaving my front door open with the light on and a big sign that said, “I’m not home, here are my valuables on display.” but that doesn’t make it morally acceptable for them to keep my money that was taken under false pretenses.

To LA Fitness: Please do a better job of training your staff to accurately answer specific questions about accounts, and please tell Chet that he’s an ass-hole for justifying charging people hidden fees by calling them something other than “dues”.

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The crabby patriot

As promised, here are the ruffle butt romper pics!

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I painted Karis’s nails too. Her thumbs are blue with sparkles, and her fingers have red and white stripes.

Alright, Seren needs a boob and a nap, and Jesse is bitching about how our house looks like it belongs on Hoarders. He’s subtle, that one. (He’s right, but still…) That means I’m not allowed to play on the computer anymore. I hope all of my American readers enjoy this beautiful Independence Day. I deserve a gold star for not turning this into a political rant considering what’s been going on lately.

Happy 4th!

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Don’t lose your head

It was my day to do the carpool home from gymnastics camp. I was responsible for taking my daughter and two friends home. When we met up with the other moms this conversation happened:

Me: “Just as a heads up, we were discussing Mary, Queen of Scots, beheadings, and children born out of wedlock on the ride home, so you might have a few awkward questions to field a bit later.”

Other Moms: *Blink*  *Blink, blink*

Me: “I didn’t get into too much detail. I didn’t teach them the word ‘bastard’ or anything…”

Kid 1: “Mom, Bloody Mary was REAL!”

Kid 2: “Mom, they used to cut people’s heads off!”

Other Mom: “It’s only a fifteen minute ride…”

Me: “I know. I didn’t even get a chance to go into the whole Mary vs Elizabeth drama.”

Other Moms: *Blink, blink*

Me: “So, we’ll maybe just listen to music next time.”

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Baby stuff

I’ve got a lot of baby stuff going on these days. For starters, my niece was born on the 23rd! That brings my total nibling count up to two step-nieces, two nephews, one niece-turned-sister, and one regular niece. Things you need to know about the new niece: She has long black hair; like, ridiculously long hair. That hair needs a bow and a photoshoot stat! She sucks her thumb, which we can all agree is a sign of greatness.  (As a former thumb sucker I can vouch for that.) And last but certainly not least, her name is *not* Oprah.

Sorry, I don’t have a picture of her to share with you. Just look up an old baby pic of Suri Cruise and pretend it’s my new niece.

Next up, baby rompers! I made Seren this obscenely cute romper. It has butt ruffles!! BUTT RUFFLES!!! It turned out so freakin’ adorable that I had no choice but to make another one with even more butt ruffles. It is equally adorable, and she will wear it on the fourth of July to honor its red, white and blue coloring. (You’ll just have to wait for those pics. It will be one more reason to get excited about Independence Day.)

 

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I also managed to FINALLY finish a crochet ball I started for her back in December. I finished it at the perfect time. She’s old enough now to sit and play with it. It jingles when she shakes it. She is fascinated by it, and watching her try to figure out what its deal is makes the time I spent on it so worth it.

 

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Finally, Seren had a play-date last week with her milk buddy Charlie! Look how much she has grown!! I take great pride in knowing part of those chubby cheeks came fro my milk. The girls were very excited to see someone their size. They pulled on each other’s feet and swapped toys. It was ever so charming.

 

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Alright, Internet, you are now all caught up on my baby stuff. Carry on.

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The very happy graduation

Er ma gerd, Internet, I am so behind on EVERYTHING; blog posts, housework, manuscripts, life!

Tomorrow is the last day of school for the ducklings. I will then endure four weeks of hearing “I’m bored” on a loop as I shuffle them from Jedi camp to swim lessons to gymnastics to tennis… Then school starts again, because I am blessed to live in a year-round school district! I fantasize about being one of those moms that home-schools (or un-schools) her kids, but I’m honest enough with myself to admit I could never do it. I don’t have the patience. I could do a shift or two, but all damn day? No way. I need to move to a crunchy commune where each child is raised by the collective village.

Side note: My breath stinks so much right now it’s actually distracting me from writing this post.

Soldiering on.

 

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Last week was Brecken’s kindergarten graduation. It was so freaking adorable that every woman in attendance spontaneously ovulated, regardless of age or menopausal status. They did the procession thing, and the sing a cute song where the lyrics to Dynamite are changed to be about growing up thing. But the kicker, the thing that charmed the shit out of me, was their “movie”. God bless those teachers and childcare helpers! Armed with poster paint, large rolls of paper, and probably an iPhone camera, they recreated the entire story of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar using our five year olds. It was painfully cute. Little kids were fruit and junk food and leaves… Brecken, never one to shy away from a performance, took over the role of the Hungry Caterpillar/Butterfly when the first kid got bored. Wearing a little caterpillar mask he weaved his way through the “fruit” and hid inside a chrysalis, eventually emerging as the beautiful butterfly. (Should I have put SPOILER ALERT at the beginning of this post? The Very Hungry Caterpillar has a surprise ending, after all.)

 

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Excuse the quality – this is a picture of the movie screen showing Brecken as a plum, being very unimpressed with the performance of the caterpillar. In the next shot Brecken had taken over. I wish I could show you the whole movie, Internet, but it has too many kids in it that I don’t have permission to share with the world – even though most of them are disguised as fruit or bugs.

 

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