Mo-om They Gave Me Amazing Gifts and We Gave them Food Poisoning


With a birthday in early November Jane starts getting excited about her birthday just before Halloween. She’s a happy child, perhaps the happiest I know and she’s always been convinced that Halloween was a party thrown by the world for her pleasure. She starts smiling around October 25th and doesn’t really stop ever. She just smiles a lot more around this time of year.

The birthday party this year was supposed to be a quick weekend trip to Palm Springs with three friends. Last year I took Jane and the three friends to a hotel in town and it was quite possibly the easiest birthday ever and the girls had a fabulous time. Easy, fun, obviously I was hoping for a repeat. It quickly became apparent that they’re all too busy to schedule a full weekend so Jane opted for a last minute in-town sleepover at our house.

This is actually sort of easy too. I offered to make dinner, order in or walk to any of the restaurants that are nearby. Jane opted for a walk so we took one to a restaurant that served family style. She thought that would be fun, and it was.

My daughter has atrocious table manners. I don’t say that because she doesn’t know better. We had dinner at Chinois Friday night and she was a perfect lady but something about getting her at a table with a dozen teenage friends turns my sweet Jane into a wildebeest with a spoon. She plays with her tea, gargles her water and ignores her silverware in favor of picking penne off the plate and gesticulating wildly with her hands (and her penne) while enjoying the company of her friends. I blame summer camp. We civilized her and then camp undid it all. I like to think this can’t possibly be my fault. At the same moment I feel smug and secure knowing that no boys will want to date the penne waving girl, or so I hope.

After dinner we headed back to the house for some candy corn cake. Ross’ was different, probably more elegant but mine was nice too.

The girls then went to jump on the trampoline and swim in the pool. If you use your imagination you can see where this is heading.

At 12.30 everyone was in sleeping bags and the girls were actually sleeping on the trampoline (don’t ask). At 1am I yelled out my bedroom window for them to be quiet or come in and sleep in the playroom.

At 1.30 Jane was waking me up. Her friend Jane was vomiting in the bathroom. She mostly hit the toilet. I grabbed gloves, a spray bottle and paper towels (which I’d purchased for the first time in ages because I much prefer rags) and started cleaning the bathroom. I felt Jane’s head for a fever and we concluded that she was just sick from too much activity. I tucked her in to sleep on the sofa and went back upstairs.

Just as I fell into a deep sleep my Jane was tapping me awake again. Her friend Jane had vomited all over the sofa, coffee table and living room floor. Mercifully these are all wood or leather surfaces and although cleanup wasn’t fun it wasn’t as hideous as it could have been. We had her call home and I cleaned while we waited for her dad to fetch her.

I crawled back into bed at about 2am and feel deeply and soundly asleep. A few minutes after 3am Jane woke me up again only this time I jumped. She tapped me and I screamed a little and jumped out of bed because I was so deeply asleep and so painfully tired that my body just reacted that way. I woke up Mr. G which is something I never want to do on a Saturday night, the guy has to be in the office at the crack of dawn on Sunday…

Jennifer was standing in my kitchen looking weepy. She’d vomited in the sink. We called her mom and felt her head. I scrubbed down  the kitchen counter as much as I could but my eyes would hardly open and it’s hard to see things on the speckled granite. Without being too graphic I can tell you that neither child ate cake but both had eaten salad.

Jennifer lives about 20 minutes away so Jane and I sat up with her while we waited for her mother to come get her. It was awful for everyone. I slunk upstairs and couldn’t even get back to sleep so I turned on my iphone and checked facebook for my New York friends and this was at the top of my feed.

The reality is that things are pretty good. Yes, two kids got sick but neither of them are sickly. Yes, I had to clean up vomit in three locations but how lucky am I that I’m not in a flood zone like New Jersey. Yes, I’ll be tired the next day. I’m the luckiest woman in the world because I can take a nap.

All is well here and all is not well in every town in America right now. Not even close to well. All is pretty fucked up, so I made the decision to be incredibly grateful. Which was smart of me because I’d need gratitude.

Sometime around 4am Jane was back in my room trying to wake me up. She was telling me that Jennifer had puked in the bathtub (or so I heard) and I begged Jane to just pull the bathroom door shut and let me sleep. When I woke up at 7 I was told that it wasn’t Jennifer who was ill, but rather Anna and her mother had come for her at 4.30am and Jill had gone home sick too but not vomiting. I felt horrible that there was a 13 year old girl puking her guts up with no one to comfort her but you can’t turn back time. What’s done is done.

The morning was spent scouring the house. The bathroom was unspeakable, but again there’s nothing in there but tile and porcelain so it came clean with relative ease. I washed the windows over the kitchen sink and bleached everything in sight. A cup of pens and pencils was discarded and the girls who weren’t sick just looked at me with pity in their eyes and two even offered to help. These are good girls.

When the last guest headed home I called the restaurant to let them know that we had illnesses after eating their food and the manager explained to me that it was an impossible timeline and there’s no way that their food was responsible. I remain unconvinced and the NIH supports me.

After the phone call Jane showed me the gifts her friends gave her. In addition to being quite generous they were personal and showed that these girls know each other well and took time to think of what she’d like. Before dropping for a marathon nap Jane looked at me and said, “I love my friends so much. They gave me all these great gifts and we gave them food poisoning.”



Full Birthday Mode


I’m cleaning (so dumb to clean for teenagers) and baking a cake. You see Jane and I were looking at Facebook together and saw that Ross Sveback had made a beautiful candy corn cake and Jane asked me to make it for her and then proceeded to dance around the house declaring that she has the best birthday ever and it’s at the perfect time of year and she loves her life.

It would have been bad timing for me to say no.

I’d planned to make the cake this morning and frost it this afternoon. We all know what happens when you plan..

I got the kids to school, ran through the market and put the eggs, butter and cream cheese out to warm to room temperature. I dashed into the office to empty my inbox and ended up glancing at an email that said something about there being lice at school. I willed myself to not panic and started chipping away at the work in front of me.

And then the phone rang and it was the school with some bad news. So I started shrieking because I’m really good at shrieking. I’m pretty sure on the other end of the phone Sue was rolling her eyes (I would have been) and when I stopped shrieking she explained to me that the donuts I’d brought for Jane’s birthday at school today were covered in ants.

I can totally handle a donut run.

So I had to find another donut shop and get to the school, and then back home for a series of phone calls and finally back to the cake which I now do not have time to bake so it will wait for the evening while the batter rests.

And most of all I don’t even have time to put this banner on my sidebar but I’m so excited that I’m popping it up right here in a post while I get my shit together.

Now I’ve got a 13 year old to spoil. It’s my last day ever to spoil a 13 year old daughter.

Teaching Jane the Value of a Dollar (or 75)


Jane is invited to a birthday party at Sephora. Well, we think she’s invited, I don’t have the evite, but the host child assures her I need to RSVP. The girls will be getting makeovers and whatnot. It’s a very nice but fairly typical birthday party so I was going to buy my fairly typical birthday gift which puts us close to $40 with card and gift wrap.

Since I’m off to Chicago tomorrow morning I need to buy the gift today and Jane has instructed me to purchase about $75 worth of cosmetics for the 13 year old birthday girl. I started to say no, but since we were on the way to school I didn’t want her going to class upset. I figure she’ll just have to be upset at home.

I want to explain to her that every birthday party is pricey. We spent a fortune on her 13th but the gifts were in line with what I’m prepared to spend. I thought about telling her to spend her own money, but I don’t want her feeling like she has to overspend.

We’ve done a miserable job showing restraint for our own kids. Birthdays and Hanukkah always seem to creep up to a thousand. After 13 years of excessive gifts for my own kids how do I turn around and tell Jane that it’s just not like that?

I guess I just do. I’m not shelling out $75 for a birthday party and I’m not prepared to let my daughter use her money.

What would you do… besides turn back time?

I Did Secret Shopping Today


It’s my mom’s birthday today and there was a blogger event that involved shopping. The folks hosting asked us to bring a non blogging friend and I asked my mom to join me.

She said, “I hate shopping and I hate that mall.”

“Perfect,” I replied, “I’ll pick you up at 9.45. They’re serving booze, it won’t suck.”

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Brunch and mimosas did the trick. Mom and I showed up for a lovely brunch and then we were sent around the Grove to play with this new app.

Here’s the thing about it. I love technology. I love shopping and I love brunch, it was a no brainer inviting me. I was bound to love it.

My mom loves technology, she does not love a pre-beta application (she wants it finished and shiny) and hates both shopping and brunches (but she does enjoy a mimosa). Mom LOVED the app in every way. Next week I’ll share all the details with you, but trust me when I tell you that it’s good for everyone, and the founding team is so kicky sweet that you’ll want it to take over the world.

Of course I left the Grove after three hours of shopping and headed straight to the Cheese Store in Beverly Hills, ate a huge slab of something smelly, soft and nutty along with a half a loaf of bread and now I’m near comatose on the sofa. I’ve got to pull my slovenly self up in a minute so I can grab those kids from school and start with the fun part of the day.

Also, parents, is it just me or have the after sports snacks gotten wildly out of control?

Ladders, Work, Birthdays and Tanzanian Guests


I hardly had a chance to blog last week, I hardly had a moment to brush my teeth. I don’t have a lifestyle where I do a whole lot of hurrying around, this is part by design and part ineptitude. I am not the sort of woman who enjoys juggling too many things.

Case in point, Jane’s birthday.

I had a 10am meeting in a part of town where there is horrendous traffic. When you live outside of Los Angeles you can’t comprehend what we mean by horrendous. It can take 20 minutes to drive a mile or two or the streets could be wide open and you’d drive five minutes. It’s impossible to know so I leave early and bring a book.

I drop the kids off to school and exactly one hour to come home, take a shower and pack the car with $300 of returns to the Container Store. I don’t know why I even go to the Container Store, I wander the aisles until some sort of hormone kicks in (serotonin, dopamine?) and all of a sudden I think I’m someone else so I’m flinging shelf organizers, drawer separators and gift wrap into my cart. None of these items stand the remotest chance of being used, ever.

After dropping the kids off I race around the house making beds, cleaning counters and generally tidying up. I hop in the shower, blow dry and dab on a bit of makeup. I open up the car and start loading up the haul from the Container Store into the trunk and back seat. Realizing that I’ve loaded the car with a gazillion things without breaking a sweat or mussing my hair makes me feel like a conqueror so I smugly walk into the house grab my handbag, slam the front door and sit down in the car.

I adjust the mirrors, put my foot on the brake and press the start button. Nothing happens. I press a little more firmly on the brake and look at the dashboard where it says “Key Not Detected”. I panic, unpanic, panic again and start digging through my purse for my keys. Sometimes you have to touch the fob to the start button, there’s no rhyme or reason to it. After digging and then finally dumping the purse out on the passenger seat I realize that the keys are absolutely NOT in my purse.

I dash to the front door, as if my sprint will make it more likely to be unlocked. No such luck, the door is firmly locked. I walk around the house hoping that the kids left a back door open. No. A window? No. I remove all the screens from the house all the while watching the time on my iPhone. I don’t want to be late for this appointment. It’s a job I actually want. I try lifting the windows out as if I were washing them, apparently this maneuver works only from inside the house.

There is a ladder in the shed. I get the ladder and hope that the sliding glass door on the balcony has been left open. After extending the ladder and propping it up against the railing I have a clear moment and recognize that the most likely scenario includes me wearing diapers for a second time in my life. I call and cancel my appointment and try to decide what to do next.

After trying to unscrew the dog door I sit down and face fact. I live in a suburban fortress. I’d have called the neighbor for a spare key except we’d just put in new hardware and no one has a key yet.

I pull out my iPhone and call a locksmith. They will be there in thirty minutes and cannot guarantee there will be no damage to the door. The new hardware was not inexpensive, this is not an option. Having reached total frustration at 10.30 in the morning I call my husband and ask him to have someone bring me a key.

MR. G: I can’t just have someone go and bring you a key.

ME: Why? Don’t you have an intern, or a PA, or a messenger? I don’t give a shit who pays for it, just get me a key.

MR. G: [ignoring me a little] Did you try the back door?

ME: Would I be calling you if I hadn’t tried the back door?

MR. G: Did you check the windows?

ME: You’re such an asshole. Do you think that you’re the first call I’d make? Obviously I’m calling you last because there is no other way into the house. And now, you are singlehandedly ruining Jane’s birthday. She won’t have a cake and it’s all because you hate us.

He might have said something else. Something about relevance and insanity but I was done listening. I confirmed that he was jumping in his car Right This Second and bringing me a key and I did what any reasonable woman would do on a hot and sunny Southern California day.

I stripped down to my underwear, shielded my face from the sun and laid poolside with just the cat, dog and Howard Stern to keep me company. Twenty minutes later Mr. G was honking in the driveway and I was getting dressed to grab my key and go.

Between 11.15 and 3 I managed to return stuff to the Container Store, grab a quick salad to go, have a cut and blow dry all while eating the salad with chopsticks and not one little bit of hair. I popped into Tiffany & Co. and bought Jane a necklace and then drove across town to get the kids from school.

Before homework was complete Stacey, Sanjay, Mama Lucy, Leah and Gideon arrived and our three day celebration began.

It’s fair to say that I’m not the type of woman who can gracefully pile too much on her plate.