Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Judging a Bookshelf

Do you remember when you used to be able to go over to someone's place and look through their music collection? Remember when you could comment on their DVDs or the get a glimpse into their souls by looking at a bookshelf? I loved what I could learn about someone by looking at the books they owned. It never felt intrusive to run a finger across book spines the way it would to browse another person's iTunes library.

I'm staying at an airbnb for the first time. The concept of handing one's keys over to a stranger is an odd one to me. I'm not sure I could do it. I'd want to remove every personal artifact on the premises.

It is kind of fun to try to paint a picture of the person who lives here from what is left. Picking up clues like a crime scene investigator. From what I can tell the guy who owns this place is a recovering alcoholic who attends Burning Man. I'd say he stopped drinking some time in the last five years. I think it was a major life change after a particularly bad breakup. I think he's somewhat traditional but considers himself adventurous. This is what I gleam from bookshelves around the murphy bed I am sleeping in.

It really is way more fun to stay in an apartment then it is to be in a hotel. You get to soak up the life of another city from the perspective of a local. And what a great neighborhood this is. I can get Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican, Italian, French or classic American within steps from my front door.

I haven't spent much time in San Francisco before but I think I'm falling in love with it. Of course, the irony is I could never actually afford to live in this neighborhood. But one can pretend can't they?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Back in the Saddle

First day of pre-production. It feels good to be back. Sometimes you don't realize how much you really miss something until you go back to it.

Interesting things that happened today: learned that our 1st AD is also a drag queen on the side and our line producer makes an excellent vegan chili which she made the crew for lunch today. These are the types of things you encounter outside of Los Angeles and I love it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Other End of the Line

I just watched Jonas Cuaron's short film ANINGAAQ. It's the other side of the call Sandra Bullock has in GRAVITY. I will admit that I wasn't a huge fan of either films, but I do think they are both quite beautiful. The short got me thinking of those times in life when you are feeling really distressed and somehow find yourself connecting or almost connecting with a stranger. While I think 99% of those times usually don't involve one person stuck on a damaged space station somewhere in orbit, it can still feel like that when you are all alone.

I remember one time being super depressed about life. I was home alone in my apartment and feeling pretty shitty and hopeless, when the phone range. I picked it up and it was a total stranger. Someone who was feeling totally hopeless and shitty too. He just wanted to connect with someone. He needed to reach out. Maybe if I hadn't been feeling the way I was I could have been a shoulder. But I just couldn't. I felt pretty awful when I told him that. He understood, or at least said he did, and we hung up. Then I crawled into the fetal position and bawled my eyes out.

I play this moment over in my mind sometimes. I don't know what that person on the other end of the line was going through and I don't know how it played out. I hope that I didn't make it worse, but I also feel like I wasn't going to make it better. I did understand how he felt. Sometimes you can't reach out to the people closest to you. Sometimes there is no one to reach out to. Sometimes you just need to hear it's going to be okay, but there isn't anyone to tell you that.

Anyway, this short made me think of that moment. What's yours?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hold on Tight

Em likes to dance on the coffee table. She's a free spirit hard to contain. She's got moves. But her latest move isn't to the music as much as when she's done with the dance. She slides to the edge of the table and reaches out her tiny hands and takes my finger. She doesn't need the help to get down, but she wants it and I love it. The first time your kid reaches up and wants to hold your hand is amazing. The second that tiny hand wraps around your index finger you suddenly get a glimpse into the future. This is the first time they want your help navigating the world and then there will be a point in time when that isn't the case anymore. A time when they will want to dance on the coffee tables of the universe without your help. You won't even be there and they won't call to tell you about it and maybe years later when the statue of limitations has ended you will hear the epic stories. But for now, they want to hold your hand - so you gladly lend it and enjoy it while it lasts.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Airing My Dirty Laundry in Public....is Awesome

It's 8am on a Sunday and I am at the laundry mat and I couldn't be happier. There is one washing machine in our building for 29 units. There are 30 units, but the people below us paid to have plumbing rerouted to install a unit in their apartment, which I never really understood until now. The laundry machine has been out of order for over a month now. I held off for a few weeks in the hopes that they would actually fix it, but when the mountain started to tumble over I figure I had to come up with a new solution.

I've gone to extreme lengths in the past when the machine was out. I once took seven loads and a  five month old over to my mother-in-laws the day she was moving. I did laundry and supervised a baby while she crawled amongst moving boxes as they were loaded onto a moving truck. But this time I just went to the laundry mat across the street.

I'd never been to a public laundry mat before. I'd managed to avoid it for the first 35 years of my life and I was at first feeling pretty bad that I needed to break that streak. It felt like something for the college years. I shouldn't have associated it with a giant step back in upward mobility but initially I did. That is until I actually got there.

This place is great. It's airy, bright, there's plenty of seating and free wifi - and it's quiet. Oh so quiet. Here I am on a Sunday morning, getting to write this and read blogs and watch Downton Abbey on my laptop if I want to  - all by myself. Glorious peace.

I even have a confession to make - as I was dragging three laundry baskets down to the car this morning, I noticed the "out of order" sign was down. Sure I could have turned around - gone back upstair and done the loads one by one while enjoying a Sunday morning with my family. But I headed to the car instead. I've been up since 5:30 with my daughter (alone while my husband slept in) and I wanted a little me time. Is that so horrible? I don't think so.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Remember 15?

I just read a coming of age script about a teenage girl in the 70s. I piled a bunch of pillows on my office rug and sprawled out with my laptop, a cup of coffee and a giant chocolate chip cookie, as if it was my bedroom. It seemed like the appropriate thing to do. It brought me back to be being fifteen.

Do you remember 15? Feeling everything so intensely. I remember dating inappropriate boys and hiding them from my parents. Annoying little sisters. Writing zines. Feeling really alone and also under a microscope all at the same time. I can picture my bedroom - the collage / shrine to Kurt Cobain.

I wonder what Em will be like when she's 15. Will she hate me? I guess that's partially inevitable right? Don't all daughters hate their moms at some point? Will she tell me what's going on in her life or will I have the urge to snoop? What will she look like? What will she be in to?

I think my mom and I are so different even now, but at fifteen I couldn't see any resemblance. Will I see it in her?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Are You the Best?

There was a poll on BabyCenter today that asked the question: "Do you consider yourself the best parent you know?" Sixty-eight percent said no.

For me parenting is a little like being bipolar. There is the side of me that secretly judges other parents and feels morally superior and the other side of me that is crippled by self-doubt. But judging by these poll results, I think that's probably a pretty common problem.

A friend of mine is a SAHM. Her daughter was fully potty-trained by 2 1/2, knows sign language and is super verbal. My friend made all her daughter's food from scratch, buys only educational toys, is religious about daily story time and used to cut out pictures of babies from magazines and make collages to show her daughter. I don't fully understand the point of the last one, but I'm sure it helps assist something developmentally desirable.

I know I will never be that mom. I look up at her on the pedestal I've put her on and think she's the perfect mom in so many ways. Some people might say - overbearing helicopter mom - but her daughter is one of the most well-adjusted polite, funny, smart kids I know. As much as part of me wishes I could be that, a larger part of me is exhausted even thinking about it. She gave me her baby cookbook when she was done with it. I've flipped through it a few times and looked at the pretty pictures.

I have another friend who is overwhelming burdened by her working mom guilt. The kind that makes it hard to see the forest from the trees.  She leaves the house before her kids wake up and she's home after they go to sleep. Her mommy-daughter quality time takes place in the wee hours of the morning while breastfeeding. In many ways it's a single parent household with her husband taking on the burden of most parenting duties. But she's also a really good mom. Her kids are smart, polite and adorable. She taught her son two languages even though she was the only parent in the house who spoke one of them.

We all have to learn to make it work for our own circumstances. For me, I feel lucky that I get one day home alone with my daughter every week. But I also feel guilty when sometimes I just want her to nap so I can watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians. I think I'm a good mom. But I don't think I'm the best. There are some things I would change, but there are also things I just know I will never do so I don't bother stressing about them (too much).

Mainly, I want what we all want - to not hand down too many neuroses and inflict psychological damage that results in years of future therapy.

Friday, October 18, 2013

In Honor of My High School Boyfriend

As a teenager I hung out with some pyromaniacs. Maybe that's why "Dead Man's Lake" appeals to me. Firework obsessed teenagers in Metallica t-shirts are something I know a little bit about. I personally never lit off more than a roman candle and (one time) an M-80, but I was around enough to realize the fact that we still have all our fingers has more to do with luck than smarts.

In honor of stupid teenagers everywhere here is a horror film that could easily also work as a public service announcement.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Downtown Ain't What It Used to Be

Many people look at having kids as the death of world exploration. While I do know a couple that hiked through Nepal with their 3 year old, for most people these types of trips become great slideshow memories of a by-gone era after baby is born. I don't see any trips to Morocco in my near future, but we still try to visit something new when we can, even when that something is very close to home.

Last weekend, we made a day of downtown. For me Downtown Los Angeles has always seemed a bit like a barren wasteland. Former architectural glories turned into bodegas and tchotchke shops. This is still an accurate description of some areas, but I was surprised to see how much has changed. It's actually becoming an interesting place to be.

One of those places is The Last Bookstore. The name sounds post-apocalyptic and given the state of the bookstore industry, it's probably not far off from the truth. Walking through the doors is a little like I would imagine walking into Diagon Alley feels. It's a total secret hideaway that makes you feel pretty special for finding it. Rooms and rooms of books for $1, true crime section located in an old bank vault and people who actually seem to care about books.

Being the avid reader that she is, Em loved it just as much as my husband and I did.

But it may have been her second favorite stop that day - top honors going to the fountain at Grand Park. This is another thing that amazes me about Los Angeles. Maybe it's because there are so many parks to choose from, but it always seems to me like the best ones are the least busy. Grand Park is kind of amazing. For one, it has its own Starbucks. But better yet, there is a great fountain where barefoot toddlers and their parents can pretend to walk on water. 

Em is a very analytical child, so it took a little while for her to warm up to the concept. But it wasn't that long before she tried to hug the small geysers shooting up around her. Although next time I really need to remember to pack a change of clothes. 


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Now That's a Father That Loves His Kid

With Fall in the air (finally) and Halloween just around the corner, it seems only fitting to share a short film that fits the spooky spirit of the season while also showcasing the intense feelings of parenthood. It's an emotional film about a father trying to protect his child. It's odd to say I was really touched by this zombie film, but I was.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fall is in the air...

Fall has always been my favorite season. There are so many changes to look forward to - cool, crispness of the air, changing leaves, seasonal drinks at Starbucks. One of my favorite Fall traditions is apple picking. Growing up my family always made an annual pilgrimage upstate to pick apples and pumpkins. I've tried to go every time I am back East during the Fall and it's something I really missed living in Los Angeles. Until now. I've done the local pumpkin picking thing here, but it's not the same. Driving 45 minutes to pick up a pumpkin that clearly didn't grow there while wearing a tank top just doesn't capture the same spirit from my childhood trips. That's why I was really excited to realize this year that there are great orchards just a little over an hour away.

So on Saturday we packed up the car and ironically headed towards the desert (and eventually up into the mountains) to pick some apples. Oak Glen has all the best parts I remember from apple picking with my family - and then ten times more. The orchards are so close together you can walk from one place to another without having to drive. Hay rides, petting zoos, general stores, apple donuts, press your own cider, throw a tomahawk, pick a pumpkin, pick some berries - it's amazing!

I wasn't sure how Em would like it, but turns out she was totally into the idea. It probably didn't hurt that sorting is one of her favorite activities right now. What's better than sitting in an orchard with bags and bags of apples that you can move from one bag to the next. It was toddler paradise. And definitely a new family tradition.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What is Home?

The New York Times did a wonderful photo series called My Hometown made up of photographs taken by teenagers of their communities. There are a lot of really great photos and it's worth taking a look at all of them. It's interesting to browse them as a whole because it shows how while our life experiences can be so different, there is also something so universal about the human experience. Even though it's not the most beautiful of the shots, this one really got me for some reason. I think it's because it shows how much as parents we want to shelter our kids from pain - even if it's just the disappointment of losing a game. There is so much said on that father's face.

Monday, September 16, 2013

3 Things Worth Watching

Sometimes the best short films aren't traditional shorts at all.

(1) Flying Lotus "Until the Quiet Comes" played at the Sundance Film Festival this year. While it has the feel of an experimental short film, it was originally created as companion piece for an album release. The score is a compilation of music from the album it accompanies. It's an absolutely gorgeous film that effectively makes you want to go out and buy the album but also makes you think and feel.


(2) I find myself getting choked up when I watch commercials, more than I would care to admit. When I was pregnant, I think I cried like a baby every time I saw that ad where the dad loses photos of his newborn son but then realizes they're all saved in the cloud.

Then sometimes there are ads that almost work better as short films than they do at selling products. The fact that this is an ad for a Thai telecommunications company is almost an after thought to me. Try not to get choked up when you watch it. It doesn't matter that conceptually I've seen this story a million times before, it's still done so well that I cried when I watched it on my phone while sitting in my car in a Home Depot parking lot. 

(3) While this last one isn't really a short film either and ironically is actually longer than the other two, it tells an interesting story with very little. It starts off slow, but it's worth sitting through. Both a creepy and beautiful little experiment that melds the facial structures of different family members to shows the process of aging. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

In My Skin

I've never been a woman whose been totally comfortable in her own body. I think there was a brief moment, freshman year of college, when I worked out like crazy to get back at an ex-boyfriend and felt pretty good about things. And then for a fleeting second when I graduated college, I remember not feeling too bad about myself. But for most of my life I've been a "t-shirt over the swimsuit" kind of girl. 

Plus, I'm a worrier. I worry about everything. Things that have happened, will happen and hypotheticals that will probably never happen. Before I was pregnant I worried about pregnancy. Truthfully, I didn't have a lot of faith in my body. I had no proof or reason to believe that the process women have been a part of since the beginning of humankind was going to be problematic for me, but I still had my doubts about my ability to pull it off. I worried about being able to get pregnant, about being pregnant and about childbirth. 

Ironically, it was pregnancy that changed things for me. The ship had sailed. I was on a journey and I decided to just accept it and stop trying to steer the ship. I stopped worrying about how I looked and about whether my body would do what it was supposed to do. Instead I enjoyed each new sensation. I was never more aware of my body but I was also never more comfortable in my own skin.

And then the worst thing in the world happened. I got really sick. One minute everything was fine and the next...something was really, really wrong. I had trusted my body to handle things. But it couldn't handle this. And I lost the baby. 

My body felt empty. My soul felt empty. 

Six months later I was pregnant again. I wondered if I'd be able to be so relaxed this time. Going through something like that changes you forever. But it also makes you realize that some things are REALLY out of your control. And in situations like that, stress really doesn't help. So I took a deep breath and set sail again. And this time I marveled at how amazing my body could be. 

Nine months later I had my amazing baby girl. And stretch marks. And a loose pouch of belly that I didn't have before. My feet are a little bigger and my hips feel a little wider than they did before I got pregnant. I haven't lost the baby weight even as I've watched my friends bounce back from their pregnancies. 

Yeah, I would love to lose the weight. But I don't regret the body changes. Instead I embrace them as badges of honor for the battles my body has been through and for all it's handled to bring an amazing person into the world. Even though there are a lot of things I would change, I've never felt more comfortable in my body, even when I was in bikini shape - for that one brief second. 

There is is this great project called The 4th Trimester Body Project. It's a photo documentary
dedicated to embracing the beauty inherent in the change brought to our bodies by motherhood, childbirth and breastfeeding. What a great idea. I'm not feeling quite brave enough to bare all for a book, but I applaud the women who do. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Out with the Old

I've always loved September. More than January it feels like the beginning of a new year. I think of freshly sharpened pencils and new clothes. Maybe because I'm an nerd who liked school and always did my summer reading. I've got no new pencils (or new clothes for that matter) but I did spend two hours on a conference call with an Oscar nominated actress and the director of an all-time top grossing film while in my underwear trying on shoes. It's called multi-tasking.

Closet cleaning is one of those new year / new season things to do. And this whole diet / eating well thing has been going quite well, so I thought I would sort some clothes and see if there were more than the two pairs of jeans I've been wearing to death that might actually fit me. Five pounds isn't life-changing, but truthfully - five pounds is probably the most I've lost at any point in time when I've tried to lose weight in the last few years - and I just lost it in a week!

I'm feeling pretty good about that - so I treated myself by spending six hours (about five hours more than I thought I would) cleaning out my closet. As a mom, you don't really get to spend six hours at home ever doing something like that so it felt a little like an island vacation. And if it meant I needed to take a conference call at the same time - so be it. Thankfully, it wasn't Skype.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Let's Be Honest - Brownies Are Not a Food Group

Earlier today a friend of mine was telling me how much he wish he could play guitar. He's always passionately wanted to play. He sometimes dreams about pulling out a guitar when he's with his girlfriend and playing her a song. He wants it so badly and has for years and yet, he admits he doesn't want it badly enough to actually learn how to play. He can't read music and the strings of the guitar hurt his fingers. It was such an honest confession and it really hit me - that's the way I feel about a lot of things.

One of those things is healthy eating. I really want to eat healthy. I'd love to know how to cook. I fantasize sometimes of the amazing meals I would cook for friends and family. I want it so bad - but not enough to actually put in the effort. As much as I would love to BE healthy, I don't seem to want it enough to actually drop that brownie and pick up the broccoli.

Until now.

Like many things in my life now, the major psychic turning point has been my daughter. Before she was born I, like many moms-to-be, thought I would make her food from scratch. I have a few baby cookbooks that I would actually read like novels before going to sleep. I was really excited when I friend gave me her all-in-one baby food cooker. I went out and bought fresh fruit and cut those suckers down, steamed and pureed and placed it in front of Em...and found that she wanted nothing to do with it. Maybe it was the consistency or the newness of it all, but whatever it was it took all of two tries before my husband and I gave up.

As much as people will say it isn't, making baby food is time consuming. Sure, it doesn't take hours, but it still takes sometime and we decided we'd rather spend that time doing something else. So up until Em's first birthday she mostly lived on a diet of milk and Earth's Best jarred food. It's been kind of great. To be honest, she's had a more varied and interesting diet than I have. And have you ever tasted that stuff? It's pretty yummy. I'd totally have their Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal for breakfast any day.

But lately jars just aren't cutting it. My little girl is becoming an independent woman, a lot more interested in feeding herself and she doesn't want it to be soup.

And it's hit - I need to learn how to feed my kid. It's amazing what you discover as a parent. That the simplest things are sometimes the most overwhelming. Sleeping, pooping, eating. Things as an adult you completely take for granted become all consuming. What can she eat? Am I feeding her enough? But even more importantly what should she eat?

We've decided to feed her a little bit of what we eat for dinner every night. This has really shone a spotlight on our own eating habits. Yes, I need to learn how to feed my kid. But I also really need to learn how to feed myself.

It's been a year since I gave birth and I haven't dropped a pound since that initial loss of the postpartum baby bump. I've watched other moms who had their babies around the same time bounce right back into their skinny jeans and I still add an oversized cardigan to every outfit I leave the house in.

I've wanted to lose the weight, but apparently not enough to actually do what needs to be done to make that happen. And more than just the weight, I don't feel healthy. My husband has kindly decided to also put on an extra 20 pounds over the last year in solidarity, so now we can both attempt to lose them together.

So...adventures in healthy eating start tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Friday, August 23, 2013


Lately I feel like a reality show contestant at their dark moment.  There are things I've done a million times that just don't seem easy anymore, like I'm rusty at living life. I'm one of those self-assured contestants so certain that they knew what they were getting into, but now is having a meltdown. I'm just sitting here waiting for the return from commercial break to see how everything works itself out.

The other day I spoke to happy-go-lucky girl who saw the world as filled with endless possibility. She's only been in LA for two months, but she loves it so much she's thinking of not going back to school to finish her final year and just staying in LA instead.

I don't want to be cynical about stuff like that. It's really easy to be cynical. It's easy to say - you like it cause it's new and you're young and just wait till things get hard. But I don't want to do that. Instead, I want to be like a vampire and suck that enthusiasm right out of her. I need it so badly right now.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Happened to Farmer Joe?

In my house we talk about the disappearance of Farmer Joe as if an actual family member has mysteriously disappeared. Farmer Joe is a Little Person - of the Fisher Price clan. We're not exactly sure what did Farmer Joe in. There's still a chance he's just in hiding (and who would blame him). He could be under a bed or behind a bookshelf. Who's to say really. But given what I know has gone down with a few of his friends, I'm not optimistic about his return.

When toys disappear, especially toys with faces, I can't help but think of Toy Story. How awful would it be to a child's toy! Sure there are adventures and hugs, but not every toy gets to be Woody. Toddlers love to send their toys on walkabouts. Often, those toys don't come back.

Em has been shaking down the toy community for a while now. First there were the dinosaur magnets. Originally collected from cereal boxes, they've been living a fairly peaceful existence on the fridge for the last six years. But now it seems two of those dinosaurs have become extinct. This morning I rescued another from near extinction after he went for a flight off our second floor balcony.

Emily has discovered the garbage can and I have discovered that it's become my job to check that can every 20 minutes to see if anyone has been dumped like a dead body in a land fill.  I've discovered plastic farm hay, animals and rings, but I fear Farmer Joe was dumped before I was aware any of this was happening. I fear his will become a cold case, never to be solved.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bumps Don't Just Disappear

For the most part I could really care less about the Royals. In those moments over the last few years when the world seems to be making a huge brouhaha over whatever Kate, William, Harry or even Pippa has done I'll pop in to see what all the fuss is about and then tune it out. But I don't live under a rock, and when I saw the Royal couple make their first post-birth appearance, I noticed exactly what this article pointed out. Kate still had a bump and she wasn't afraid to show it.

I must admit I was genuinely surprised to see it. I am well aware that bodies don't bounce back like a rubber band right after you give birth. I've had a baby after all. But celebrities try to defy nature by always looking amazing in their first post-pregnancy photos. To see a high profile mom not afraid to show the world she's human (at least in this one limited respect) was refreshing.

I remember right after Em was born being visited by one of my husband's friends. He's a guy that's pretty rough around the edges and also likes to say whatever he is thinking and generally in the most offensive way possible. He was just driving by and we brought the baby out to meet him. He took one look at my belly and said "You're still fat." I don't think I've worn the dress I was wearing that day since as his comment has stayed with me.

So good for Kate. There aren't a lot of similarities between her life and the rest of us, but here's one of them.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hump Day

I really hate terms like "hump day" but when Wednesday rolls around I feel it in my bones. There isn't anything better on TV on Wednesdays but there really should be 'cause watching TV is pretty much the only thing I want to do. From 8:05 to 8:30 I think I literally watched as the minutes ticked by on the clock in the hallway. The reason for that being Em goes to bed at 8:30pm and my husband would also be heading out the door. I was looking forward to quiet.

I miss quiet. It feels a lot more precious when you have kids. Those rare special moments when you are truly alone. And I don't want to do anything productive. There are a million more life affirming things I could be doing but I won't be doing any of them. It's hump day. And all I want to do is lay on my couch and read blogs. All I want to hear is the helicopter that is apparently circling an apartment building nearby. And I will hold my breath slightly in the hopes that I don't hear a cry coming from the bedroom or a key in the lock signaling that my mother-in-law is home. And I will enjoy every silent second of it.

Happy Birthday Em!

Em turned one year old this weekend. It's amazing how that year flew by. She's already a little person with a mind of her own.

Because nothing every goes smoothly, the day started off a little rocky. My husband went straight into drill sergeant mode - barking orders at everyone on how to most efficiently get out of the house and over to the park before any of our guests. Preparations involved three trips to Whole Foods, a stop at Sprinkles cupcakes and several trips to the car to load supplies.

Thankfully the spot we wanted at the Old Zoo was totally open or I think he would have seriously lost his shit. He was pretty close to it for the first hour. Especially after he accidentally dropped a bottle of glass lemonade causing us to be swarmed by wasps. Thankfully guests arrived fashionably late and everyone was relaxed and happy for the rest of the day.

I really wasn't sure how to celebrate a one year-old's birthday. After all she's never had a birthday and has no clue what it is. In the end we decided to keep it really small, mostly family in the park for a picnic. 'Cause really first birthdays are all about the first taste of cake.

We went with cupcakes. Sprinkles made a special cupcake for the royal baby, so it seemed appropriate that this should be the cupcake of choice for our little princess. Chocolate cupcake with a marshmallow center (in either pink or blue).

Em loved  every bite (actually except for the pink marshmallow) which she threw under the table to be eaten by a random pug that wandered by as the party was wrapping up.

She was super excited when everyone sang Happy Birthday to her and in typical fashion her favorite gift was a bag full of tissue paper.

With smiles like that, I would say the party was a success. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Emotional Neo

One time, in college, I burst out laughing when my boyfriend caught on fire in the kitchen. His sleeve was too close to a flame and as his arm lit up I stood back and laughed while he flailed around until my roommate came in and helped put him out.

My husband (previously flammable boyfriend) has said in a zombie apocalypse he knows I'm turning and he'll have to take care of zombie me and feed me people or something and that the whole thing makes him kind of angry. (Yes, we've had this actual conversation.) I tend to agree that I probably wouldn't be one of the ones to make it. I don't have any real physical survival skills.

What I do have are emotional survival skills. I am good in an emotional crisis. I compartmentalize. I can separate emotions from fact. I can be reasonable in unreasonable times. It's what makes me a good producer. It doesn't upset me to look at worse case scenarios. Instead I get the kind of tunnel vision Robert Downey Jr. had in Sherlock Holmes - I see the outcomes and can choose the best actions. This is something that kicks in like instinct.

I am also completely neurotic. Like a flawed Batman-like super hero. I can show up and save the day but then go back to my bat cave and not deal with the emotional baggage that got me to wearing a mask and hiding in a cave with bats to begin with. But maybe it's just true that it can be easier to deal with other people's shit than it can be to deal with our own.

Maybe I'm an emotional crisis junkie. Instead of getting worked up into a tizzy when true crisis (not manufactured hysteria) hits I am overcome with a sense of calm and slip into a zen state. Not that I seek out emotional instability (I live in Los Angeles after all, it's hard to avoid it). it's just that sometimes I feel like I can handle a crisis better than I can handle every day life.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Best Donut in LA

While I wouldn't say that I have a sweet tooth, I have very strong opinions about sweets. I fancy myself an expert on the best of the best in certain dessert categories in Los Angeles. Sprinkles is the best cupcake place in LA hands down (back off Magnolia!). Deluscious chocolate chip cookies can't be beat. But there is one type of pastry I haven't been able to nail down...until now.

I'd like to say I discovered it all on my own, but I have to thank National Donut Day "Best of" Lists. Sharing a car means whoever is home with the baby is stuck home all day, so my husband and I like to bring home treats for each other on days when we have the car. I had it on Donut Day. After seeing SK's Donut and Croissants on a couple of lists I had to try it out.

I have never seen donuts like this before. I have an aversion to jellies and sweets with soft centers. But here you'll find donuts literally stuffed with strawberries and fresh blueberries. Each one is more like a full dessert than a simple donut. I've become kind of obsessed. Plus, it's open 24 hours! Haven't been able to try the maple bacon one yet, but someday.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

One of These Things Isn't Always Like the Other

Sometimes knowing you are going through the same thing as someone else can be helpful. Being a parent struggling with sleep schedules or temper tantrums, it can be nice to hear other people have dealt with the same thing. You aren't alone and if your friend or family member survived it than maybe there is hope for you as well.

When two kids in the same extended family are close in age it is inevitable that they get compared. When they are born six days apart, it can sometimes feel like they are twins. I have cousins very close in age and I loved it growing up. It's awesome to always have a partner in crime at family functions. But not everything about it is great.

I know that two babies the same age hit developmental milestones around the same time. But constantly hearing how Em is just like another kid diminishes my experience of these moments. Sure there are millions of 11 month olds around the world who are just discovering categories exist and that they can put objects in a bucket. But when my kid does it for the first time I want to feel like it's the most amazing, special thing in the world. I'm a first time parent. I've never gotten to experience this up close before. I want to be blown away by her first step. I don't want to be reminded that it's not all that special by hearing about how someone else's kid is doing the exact same thing.

I know the comparisons are not meant that way. I know they are meant as a joyous celebration of unity. And I'm not trying to say that I don't want to hear about my nieces and nephews. Cause I do. I want to hear about all the things that make them the unique human beings that they are. Likewise, there is only one Em in the world. She's unique and special in her own way. She's her own person and I love discovering who that person is. I want my daughter to always be the protagonist in her own story and not the sidekick in someone else's life.

UPDATE: Later this night, Em took her first step! I missed it because I was at a screening of a documentary about a rock. But my husband sent me video. It was totally amazing.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Have you seen Convos with My 2 Year Old?

I'm loving this webseries "Convos with My 2 Year Old?" A new episode dropped today. My favorite is the episode one, but they are all pretty funny.

Check it out:

Friday, June 14, 2013

Having a Dog vs Having a Baby: The Real Difference

You know how some pet owners compare their relationship with their pets to having a child? Having a baby is nothing like that.

Don't get me wrong, I actually felt that way myself for a long time. I'm not downplaying the deep bond between pet and owner. Hell, when the person who was watching my dog called me while I was in San Francisco to tell me my dog had run away, I crumbled into a blubbering mess in the middle of the sidewalk. I was such a wreck a homeless guy came up and told me everything would be okay. I then went straight to the airport to fly home. I think it's safe to say my dog and I had a pretty strong bond.

For all the similarities between the two relationships there is one very distinct but important difference. As a parent you have a very deep longing to see your kid be happy and do well in life. Sure you want your dog to be happy. But you're probably not thinking about your golden retriever's educational plans or paving the way for your pit bull to be all he can be. You aren't in awe by each intellectual leap you see - like it's watching the moon landing. I think most animals max out their potential fairly early in your relationship. While there are definite comparisons that can be made between my daughter's love of emptying a bucket and filling it up over and over again and my dog's love of chasing a tennis ball, there will be a point when she moves past this onto more complex actions.

In fact, the rapid advancement of skills is mind boggling to me. Because another one of the super distinct differences between having a kid and having a dog is that kids make you incredibly aware of how time flies. My dog has pretty much been exactly the same for the last four years. But my kid - she's changing at a rapid fire pace.

 I can't believe my little potato head seen here:

Has turned into this giant string bean:

And the thing I want most in the world is for her to be everything she can be. And I want to be the best mom I can possibly be - for her. The best person I can be - as an example for her. I want to take my dog for longer walks too. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What Does She Do All Day?

I often find myself at work wondering what exactly it is my daughter is doing at daycare. After carrying her around with me for nine months on the inside and near constantly for three months more on the outside, it was difficult to send her off with strangers. Choosing a daycare is an arduous task, but then once you've found one you trust enough to leave this little person you've made - that's when it gets surreal.

My daughter just switched rooms at her daycare. The first room is designed for babies. Lots of swings, bouncers, rockers and cuddles. I was in no rush for her to graduate from that room. The teachers are really sweet and always seem excited to see her. I'd walk by the second room on my way in every morning and what I saw through the window reminded me a bit of Lord of the Flies.

While it's turned out not to be quite as scary as I originally thought, I'm still not quite sure what to make of this room. The head teacher is a very odd hybrid of warden and circus clown. She refers to all the kids as "friends" in a way that feels slightly cultish. Unlike the first room, where the mobility of most of the kids maxes out at slug level, this room has such a mash up of skills it's hard to think of any activity that could encompass them all. Some of them seem like towering giants compared to Em. It was these "friends" that made me nervous about sending her to that room in the first place.

Today they were learning about facial elements. Eyes, ears, mouth, nose. I was told my 11 month old daughter didn't get it yet. Really? Is it news that she doesn't know what a nose is? Knowing what a nose is is kind of advanced for her age, don't you think?

I've visited other daycares and the holding pen analogy seems to hold true in many places at this age. No one seems to know what to do with them. They're just getting their sea legs and ready to explore the world, but not old enough to spend more than 30 seconds on something. Everywhere else I go they seem to just throw them to the wolves (and by wolves I mean, lump them in with four year olds).

She comes home really happy so I don't want to make too big a deal out of it. She naps crazy well there, in a way that makes me wonder what I'm doing wrong and she seems to get along with the other kids. Still, the whole thing feels a bit like the underpants gnomes.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What's in a name

Last weekend there was an article in the NY Times about baby names. Anyone who has named a baby knows how stressful it can be. But it seems like parents today feel an increased pressure to choose names that stand out. Everyone wants to be unique. The first way to do this is through your name.

Living in Los Angeles, you can't help but come across kids with very interesting names. I know one kid whose name was chosen after his mother developed an incompetent cervix. His name is a tribute to triumph over obstacles. It's not a name you would associate with a cervix, but it's unique enough that you've got to ask the backstory (which I'm sure will change over the years as he begins to give the explanation himself).

My husband and I had names picked out years ago. But the funny thing is, as soon as I got pregnant they didn't seem right anymore. We didn't begin the name game until we knew what we were having. Then one morning my husband turned to me in bed and asked me to hear him out. He laid out a multi-point argument on why we should name our daughter the name he had chosen. He had a first and a middle name picked out and a very convincing rationale. When he was done, he left it to me to come up with a rival option, but I was convinced. No lists needed. No more discussion. Her name was chosen.

Reading articles like the one in the NY Times are interesting, because while I understand the desire to provide your child with a unique monicker all his or her own, my husband's reasoned argument was quite different.

I would say I have a pretty common name (one that apparently peaked in popularity around the time I was born). Despite this, the only other "Amandas" I ran into until my 20s were ones on TV. Amanda seemed to be the name they gave to rich, conniving bitchy characters with great fashion sense. Something I couldn't particularly relate to.

My husband has a very unique name. Even in France it's an odd spelling. So for most of his life he's had to listen to people butcher it. Every conversation with a new person starts off the same. "What your name?" "That's interesting. How do you spell that?" "What's the origin?" I'll admit, even I can't pronounce it properly. Only in LA can people come close to saying it right and only because there is the name of a local health food store pronounced the same way. As someone once put it - it's pronounced like Nowhere spelled backwards.

It was very important to him that our daughter had a "normal" name. Nothing she would ever have to worry about spelling. Something classic and easily pronounced. Something that would allow her to buy a personalized souvenir mug if she ever wanted one.

And so we chose Emily. Her middle name is the same as multiple generations of women in my familiy. Her initials are the same as her dad's, It's a super classic name. Sure it's found on the top 100 baby name list most years (#6 the year she was born). Sure there are two girls in their 20s in my office named Emily and two of my co-workers have ex's named Emily. But the funny thing is that with everyone else trying to find an element on the periodic table that they can name their kid after, it's possible she might be the only Emily in a class full of Mercurys and Silvers.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How to Live with Your Mother-in-Law (for the Summer)

Sometimes in life you find yourself in what can only be described as the plot of sitcom. It seems fitting that with shows like "How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)" that I would be finding myself in a similar situation.

Last weekend my mother-in-law moved in. While it's not for the rest of our lives, it is for the summer and we'll have to wait and see if that feels like an eternity for all parties involved. She arrived Friday with enough booze to outfit a college frat party and the widest selection of weight loss teas I've ever seen. The dust has yet to settle, but so far there's been one awkward conversation with my landlord that almost resulted in our rent being raised, one incident of nearly burning the place down when the heater in the bathroom was left on and a questionable decision to leave twenty glass bottles of booze in the direct path of a 10-month old. Needless to say we are still adjusting.

It's not going to be easy on any of us, but I'm looking at the positives. There's a second native speaker to start exposing Em to French, maybe I can actually go to the movies every once in a while and living with a caterer in the house (that's the explanation for the booze) means a lot better food.

We've survived this once before. In the previous incarnation of this sitcom trope, I moved in with her. Four cats, three adults, one dog, one car, a demolished kitchen, a mini-fridge and a microwave all squeezed into a two bedroom condo in the valley. This is where I lived as I organized my wedding and for the first two months of marriage. Not the most romantic honeymoon, but a major step up from my previous living situation - next door to a Meth addict who was so far gone he nailed his front door shut and would only communicate through the mail slot. We were in a jam, she stepped into help. That's what families do. Or at least what they should do.

When we made this decision, I didn't think I'd be around for the summer. I thought I would be in Michigan working on a film. It seemed like the perfect arrangement - she needed a place to stay and we needed extra help with the baby. But you can't count on a film as a go till you are already shooting. The film fell apart and we will be a little more crowded than expected.

It should be an interesting adventure. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

An Affair to Record

I think it's quite common for new parents to have a love affair with their DVRs.  No longer able to go out and explore the world like you used to, you instead squirrel away at home curled up with your baby and Tivo'd episodes of trashy reality shows. Late night rendezvous with back-episodes of The Following.

My love affair started very early on. I had a tough time breastfeeding. The first couple weeks were especially brutal. The relationship and magical bonding I had imagined would happen between my daughter and I were replaced by my relationship with my pump, breasts pushed up again my desk (to hold the pumps in place) leaving my hands free to click the mouse and forward to the next episode of True Blood.

People can tell you that breastfeeding is hard, but it's one of those things you have to experience for yourself before you can truly understand. The way I handled my seesawing emotions was to try and block out the fact that my husband was getting all the bottle cuddle time with our daughter and I was left alone pumping for their next bonding experience. I spent more time with my pump than my daughter those first few weeks. Rather than cry my eyes out about it I tried bonding with vampires in Bon Temps instead to cope with the rejection.

Parenting books will tell you it helps to look at pictures of your baby to help your milk let down. That never did it for me. I needed to focus on something else. I couldn't get enough of The Newsroom. I almost looked forward to our time together  - late nights, sitting in the dark, the flicker of the screen, headphones in. I pumped and got swept up in Alan Sorkin's grandiose idealized journalism. I was sad when I got to the end of the season.

Maybe it's the age we live in, but even once my daughter and I got the whole breastfeeding thing figured out - I never liked to sit in a room alone, staring into each other's eyes. Don't get me wrong. I find those moments with her incredible. Nothing is better than knowing you can soothe your child. Having my baby cuddled up close to me. Her little hand always reaching out and for some unknown reason poking at my armpit. I love those moments. But I also liked catching up on TV that there is no way I would ever get to focus on if she was fully awake. Just me, Em and The Carrie Diaries.

Thank God for DVR. Without it I'd be stuck watching infomercials like Pretty Women - not to be confused with Pretty Woman the film - Pretty Women is a skin care line Cindy Crawford hawks at 3am. It airs every night along side Hip Hop Abs.

Then our DVR started to have a meltdown. Maybe I was asking too much of it. Maybe I was too clingy. My husband and I would look forward to those moments when the baby went to sleep and we could curl up with individual cups of Ben & Jerry's and catch up on How I Met Your Mother. But the DVR was no longer interested. Instead, it would crash. Freeze up. We tried a fresh start - a reboot of our relationship, just to find us stuck in the same place over and over again.

Finally enough was enough. We called DirecTV and ended it. Well, we had them come out and replace it for a newer, sexier model. And oh how sexy it is. Sleek, button less front panel with environmentally friendly sleep mode after four hours of non-use. (Meaning no bright colorful buttons to entice tiny hands.) Of course ending our old relationship meant giving up all we'd been through together. Including years of old recordings, such as Smallville's final series episode and old movies randomly recorded off TCM never to be watched.

Yet, I must admit there is something liberating about starting fresh. With a brand new empty hard drive we can start a new love affair. Free of baggage and full of promising recordings in our future.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

First Tastes

One of the best things about being a parent is getting to see a person do something for the very first time. Something as simple as clapping can fill your heart with such awe it's like watching someone walk on the moon. And you get to experience that amazing feeling over and over again. And then there is mealtime. Each flavor is a completely new experience and sometimes it's not one they like so much. This video captures the moment kids try new foods for the first time - in slow-mo. It's awesome to watch the though process on their little faces.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Good Morning

Every morning on my way into the office I walk by the receptionist for the company next door. Usually as I round the corner she looks up, notices it's me and looks back down at her computer. It's not that she isn't friendly. I think of it more as there was this window of time where we probably would have greeted each other and that window has closed. On those rare days when one of us does acknowledge the other with a smile or a greeting, I feel a little lighter heading into the office. It's not like a "good morning" from this woman makes or breaks my day, but I guess "good mornings" in general can cheer you up.

That's why I thought this video was so interesting. It's totally true! I would say I generally fall into the "avoid contact at all cost" category most of the time. But watching this made me think I should try a "good morning" or two.

Parenting: Tag Team Wrestling Style

Parenting sometimes feels like tag team wrestling. Even the objective can be the same - put your opponent to sleep. Last night's match was the longest and most exhaustive I've ever experienced. While I am not sure it rivaled The Undertaker vs Mankind in it's theatrics, it did in the way it challenged my mental fortitude.

Em has her fourth ear infection in a row. We're about to reach the danger zone. I'd heard of tubes before but I thought it was simple in-office procedure. Stick a straw-like tube in the ear, drain it and be on our way. But turns out it's surgery (!) and the tubes stay in for years (!). I am determined she will not have tubes.

The plan was to have her sleep upright in her car seat to help with the draining. Car seat sleeping has worked in the past. But the combo of it's hot as hell and she's got a fever didn't go too well. Not that the car seat had a lot to do with it, but we all ended up being up every hour and a half.

I consider myself very lucky that I don't have a colicky baby. I've gotten the occasional glimpse of what that might be like and it scares the hell out of me. There is nothing more heart-breaking than when your baby cries out in pain and there is nothing you can do to comfort her.

It also doesn't help when it's three in the morning and your husband is simultaneously wondering aloud what's wrong. Is it her ear? Does she have a temperature? What could it be? Is she hungry? Maybe you should feed her? Hold her? Bounce her? Walk around? Look in the fridge? Turn the air on? Is it her ear? You are on the same team so you don't want to lash out. But it's taking the last of your willpower not to scream - "Shut the f up! You aren't helping!"

But thankfully you are on the same team. This is when it's time for tag team action. Your opponent is tough. She packs a lot of punch behind her 18 1/2 pounds and you are about to go down for the count, but you manage to get to the ropes and tag your partner in. He takes over and you crawl over to the nearest soft surface and collapse.

These are the moments when you are in awe of the amazing strength single parents possess. Because when it's three of you on the couch at 2am staring at some trippy ass shit on BabyTV - like random pictures of peacocks, followed by swirly colors and someone drawing fruit in the sand it's already surreal and you feel like you're living in a David Lynch film. But if you had to do that alone...how do  you climb back out of the rabbit hole?

Friday, May 17, 2013

World War Zzzz's

No matter how many times you're told when you're pregnant to kiss a good night's sleep goodbye once the baby is born, you can never be fully prepared for what that actually means. There are some things you can intellectually understand, but you can't really, fully comprehend it until you experience it. New baby sleep depravation is one of those things.

It is so linked to my idea of being of parent that whenever anyone asks me how parenthood is going I always say the same thing "Great! If Em would only sleep through the night everything would be perfect." I've always considered myself a morning person, but 4:30am is early even for me. The only real benefit of getting up several times a night has been that I've been able to catch up on all the shows I missed. 

It doesn't help that babies love to keep you on your toes. Every time you think you've got the schedule figured out they surprise you. It can sometimes feel like your mini-human is waging psychological warfare. And then they play a card you really weren't expecting...they sleep. 

There is something almost more disconcerting about this the first time it happens. Your body and mind have reprogrammed and aren't prepared for actual uninterrupted peace. You are used to going from a seemingly deep slumber to shooting straight up out of bed at the slightest whimper. But what do you do when all you can hear is the steady breathing of a sleeping baby? If you think - well, you probably sleep - then you've never been a first time parent. What you do is stare at the monitor and get up twenty times to put your hand on your baby's back to make sure she's still alive. 

Em has slept ten hours straight for two nights in a row and all I keep wondering is what's wrong with her. Absolutely nothing - that's what. But it's such an anamoly that my body and mind don't know how to process it. What should be super exciting, is instead totally exhausting. I simply don't remember how to relax. I have no idea how not to be awake at three in the morning. I'm afraid to get used to the idea because I'm pretty sure this isn't going to last. I feel like I'm being punk'd. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Parental Fashion Choices: Office Edition

This morning, my husband and I were discussing the acceptability of wearing a velour tracksuit to the office. I hadn't noticed until we were on our way to daycare drop off that he was going to work dressed as a Russian gangster. Neither of us have had time for a haircut in ages and his is starting to have that guido pompadour look. Coupled with the brown velour Puma top he chose, I would have never guessed he worked in advertising. When I pointed this out his response was - it's not like I'm Don Draper.

I'd like to say being a parent hasn't had any effect on my wardrobe, but that would be a bold faced lie.

Being a working/breastfeeding mom means I need access to "the girls" (god, I hate that phrase) at all times. So unless I'm alright with stripping down naked a couple times of day at the office, dresses are generally out of the question. I need easy access that also provides appropriate coverage. I have the benefit of having a private office. But said office also has giant windows that look out on a construction site. An interesting and completely unsexy show for the hard hats across the street.

For the most part it hasn't been that bad, except the time, one of the partners at the company decided the best way to get my attention was to sneak up on me from the balcony that runs along the outside of the building and tap on the glass. While it does exemplify the ability to multi-task, I'd still rather my boss not see me topless strapped to a milk machine typing on my laptop. Thankfully I'd chosen to wear a cardigan that day (and every day since).

Besides boob access, there is also belly coverage to think about. Because despite good intensions, I have not lost those last few (okay, maybe more like fifteen) pregnancy pounds. I've still got nine weeks before my daughter turns a year so I'm not going to consider it a failure in will power till then. My husband packed on a few sympathy pounds as well, so this can apply to both moms and dads. Sometimes, comfort trumps all - that's when you are in danger of dressing like Run DMC in the boardroom.

Function versus comfort versus professionalism. I say "versus" because on most days it really feels like you have to choose. When you don't always even have time to brush your hair, being the cutest most stylish person at the office is generally out of the question. Still, I am happy to say that at least I'm not the one who resorted to wearing sweats to work. But then again, there is still time. After all, I've only been a parent for less than a year.