Tuesday, June 30, 2009

designer divorce

So on day 5 of nannygate, at 3:15pm, I started painting that downstairs bathroom I was hiding in. I know Nipper Knapp loves me, but I think this might have pushed him over the edge. How this man who hates all things paint related could be married to a woman, who decides to paint a bathroom in the late afternoon whilst their toddler is mid-meltdown, is beyond me. I am lucky to have him, and I hope that the 15 minutes I made him spend looking for alan wrenches (to take down the mirrors and towel hook) wasn't the hay that hurt the dromedary.

When we got pregnant our doctor gave us two bits of advice:

1. Go out and walk around with nothing in your hands, because you won't do that again for 18 years.

2. Don't remodel, redecorate, paint, plaster, or paper anything while your pregnant.

Right. I heeded the first bit, the second not so much. I was in full blown nesting mania when I was pregnant. We bought this house when I was 7 months along, and the destruction began. The upstairs bathroom had only a shower, which my mother, bless her heart, shattered the day after we closed escrow. She very kindly gifted us with the money to replace the shower with a claw foot tub. It wasn't in our budget to get rid of the wall to wall brown travertine tile, and in some sort of pregnancy induced color blindness, I had my mind set on this bright blue color for the walls because I wanted the bathroom to feel like a "spa". Yeah, nothing says tranquility like ugly tile, and mismatched paint.

Ok, so we rectified that little disaster a few months ago, and painted the whole thing chocolate brown, which makes the ugly tile go away (sort of), and it looks nice with the wall colors of the adjoining rooms.

The house was painted by the previous owner in various shades of hideousness. So poor Nipper Knapp, who, as I mentioned before, hates painting, was kind enough paint every room in the house before Jack was a few months old. Good man. The only room he didn't paint was the stairwell, that required some patching, and a ladder propped up on the stair. I refused to let him get up on the ladder, or as I referred to it "the widow maker" when Jack was an infant, so we hired someone to do it. I'm not usually a nervous nelly, but, pregnancy and new motherhood brought out my most charming attributes. Nothing more appealing than an anxious, hovering, exhausted, o.c.d. woman, with a pantone swatch book, and big dreams.

So when he spied me with a paint brush in hand, this is how it went:

"what are you doing?"

"painting the bathroom"

"which one?"

"the downstairs one. Why on earth would I paint the upstairs bathroom? We just had it done."

"who knows."

Who knows, is right. I have other things to be doing. Building a career, talking to my child, seducing my husband. But for some reason, painting the bathroom in the middle of the day seemed like a good way to make everything right with my world.

Here is the before picture, and, the before before picture. Did I mention I had Nipper swap the sink from the upstairs bathroom, and put it in the downstairs bathroom? We chucked the gigantic cupboard sink that took up 99% of the smallest WC in America.

It's tiny, and is the same orange as the kitchen, and every time I go in there, I feel like I'm in a sadly festive cave. Once I'm done, I'll post more. If the project takes more than a week, and there are no follow up posts, you'll know it's because Nipper has left me, and Jack and I are trying to scrape together some semblance of a normal life, since Daddy went out for smokes, and didn't never come home again...


SO, as some of you know, we have a pretty great nanny situation. When Jack and his friend Cleo didn't get accepted into Pacific Oaks preschool this year, we decided to share a nanny. I know what you're thinking: "the recession dress didn't last three days before you were ready to have your best friend taken out by Sally two shoes, so sharing a nanny is...fucking retarded". But this plan is different. I swear. 

We've been doing it for a few months now, and it's going really well. The kids go back and forth between our houses. They sometimes nap together. Jack has taken to calling Cleo's mom "mommy" and me Marija, but I'm sure this is just a passing faze. 

However, this week the neighbors are out of town, and Jack was set to have some nanny solo time. And mommy was ready for some solo time as well. He's been very weepy lately, and grasping at straws, I thought, hey maybe having some undivided attention is the ticket. Unfortunately the nanny has had some personal things to attend to, and so we have been without her for the last 4 days. (she doesn't work weekends). SO undivided attention is what he's gotten, from Nipper Knapp and I. And I'd like to know how, after two years or spending every moment with this child, I could be so spoiled after two months of a nanny five hours a day. It's like I we came up for air, and now I can't swim. 

I love my child. I love my husband. But if the nanny doesn't come tomorrow, Jack might learn the F word. Did I mention he talks now?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The tutu dilemma

In the last few weeks, we've had a mini drama in our house over one pink tutu. I say mini, because for the most part, I am of one opinion, and don't care what other people think. That said, I'm aware that some people persist in the notion that it's "the clothes that make the man", so to speak. 

Several weeks ago, Jack's friend Cleo came over wearing ALL of her costumes. This included one elf dress, one princess dress, several tutus, and two headbands, one bumblebee, and one flowers, and a pair of shiny slippers. Upon seeing her, Jack immediately wanted a costume of his own. Now I guess I could have gotten him a wizard cape or a dinosaur suit, but what he asked for was a tutu. He sees Zoe on Sesame Street wearing one, and Cleo wearing one, and it's one of the first words he could say. So over and over he would say "Tutu mine". What's a mom to do? I thought, I'll ask him if he wants a blue tutu. Maybe that will make it more acceptable. Nope, he wanted a pink tutu, just like Zoe. I am his mother and (sometime slave), so I made him a tutu. 

He freakin loves this thing. He asks to put it on every morning. He sometimes falls asleep in it. He shakes his booty, runs his trucks, and hammers at his work table in it. Sometimes he and his dad even have a catch while wearing it. He sometimes accessorizes it with a yellow hard hat. In my opinion he is all boy (whatever that means). But there have been several comments and asides from the peanut gallery to the effect that this innocent pink tutu might in fact alter our "boy" into something "else". Seriously? I mean. Come ON! He's two years old. He's playing. No one EVER worries that playing with a truck, or wearing pants will make a little girl somehow less of a girl. And frankly, so what if it did? Why the double standard? 

In the book Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood, William Pollack examines this contrary set of values we try to impose on boys and young men. We expect them to grow up to be sensitive and emotionally intuitive men. And yet, we shame them for expressing themselves in any way deemed feminine by society. In one section of the book he talks about the way boys and girls were introduced to separation, at kindergarten. The mothers of girls were encouraged to stay as long as was needed, until the child was "ready" to be there independently. In contrast boy's mothers were told that it was better if they just left, and that the boys would "get over it". One young boy vomited into a garbage can every morning for weeks after his mother left. I mean are you fucking kidding me? If my child is barfing because he's so emotionally distressed, I don't think he's "getting over it". This type of conditioning leads to high rates of depression, suicidal tendencies, and anger management issues, in young men. I totally understand there is a need for all children, to go through the many painful stages of growing up, and separating from their parents, but seriously, weeks of barfing isn't good for anyone. 

I have confidence that Jack will grow out of his tutu faze, and he'll hate that I took so many pictures. Or maybe he won't, and he'll love us for allowing him to be just who he was, at that moment.   

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Can I borrow a cup of sugar?

So a few months ago, Nipper's mother (affectionately known as Meema or Meems) and I were shopping at Michael Levine, for fabric to make tablecloths, and a backdrop, for the photo booth, at Nipper's cousin's wedding. We were making our way through the airplane hangar sized shop, carefully taking iphone snaps of anything we thought they'd like, when we stumbled upon some cute upholstery fabric. I said it would make really cute kitchen curtain fabric, and Meems quickly noted it would look great in our neighbor's (Brett and Alex) kitchen. We almost bought it on the spot, but then realized that making kitchen curtains for someone else without asking was, uhm, presumptuous. So I took a pic, and got a swatch to show the neighbors. 

Long story short, they loved the fabric, so I went back to buy it. They had these cute little lace pieces hanging in the windows, which were nice, but offered no shade from the late afternoon sun.


Now all I had to do, was learn to sew curtains. Uhm, yeah. Did I mention I have never sewed anything but a square baby blanket on my machine? Just four square lines. I have a habit of committing to jobs, I don't know how to do. A few years ago, I was the recruiting director for one of the top law firms in LA. It lasted about 36 hours. It turned out, there was filing involved. On day two, I never returned from lunch.  

As with all home improvement projects, I had a number of hiccups along the way. No sewing experience being the least of my problems. When I went back to buy the fabric, they only had 3.5 yards left, which I wasn't sure was enough. Then, with as little fabric as I had to work with, the tiny swatch I had cut out, had to be sewn back into place, to have the width to finish all three. 

When they were finally finished, the hardware I purchased didn't work correctly, and Alex had to purchase a whole other set. Just two trips to Michael Levine, one trip to Home Depot, one trip to Lowes, and one trip to a local hardware store. Ala peanut butter sandwich and we have curtains!

It was all totally worth it, because I learned to sew curtains (sort of), Brett and Alex are happy, and lookie lookie:

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hey Tanks LA!

I am better person than all you MF-ers. Learn it. Know it. Feel it in your bones. I'm just saying. For the last few months I have been hauling two 5 gallon buckets of  Jack's bath water down the stairs and out to the garden every night. I've been doing this partly because our sprinkler system does not extend to the beds in the front of the house, or the raised bed in the back. Partly because I want to save water, due to the drought. And mostly because I want to develop wicked biceps. 

A few days ago, our neighbor gifted us with a small pump. I ran a hose up to the bathroom window and perfecto! No more filling and hauling sloshing buckets. But I still had to empty the water somewhere. Enter Hey!Tanks LA to save me from myself. I emailed them on Thursday, and picked up my rainbarrel in Eagle Rock on Friday. I am going to hook it up to my downspout, just in case it ever rains here in LA again, and then run the hose from the bathroom into the barrel as well. Nipper wants to plumb a line straight from the drain into the barrel, but given our past plumbing nightmares in this house, and that greywater systems are not currently code compliant in LA county (even though we're in a drought), I'm not sure about that yet. 

SO there it is, we're saving somewhere around 100 gallons of water, or more, a week. Saving some money. Saving the planet. I'm kind of the greatest person you know, right? 

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I'm so glamorous, you might as well dip me in glitter

So recent events in the economy have gotten me thinking. Just how many marc jacobs bags can you have? How many pairs of shoes does it take to make one woman feel happy and secure in the fact that she will never be a bag lady? The answer is of course, that you can never have enough shoes and handbags, because they don't make you look fat,ever, period. BUT, I've still been feeling like a little economizing is in order. Nipper Knapp and I make our living primarily as actors, and really, in advertising. The recent contract negotiations, economic downturn, and the appearance of tiny little wrinkles that promise to swallow my face whole by next year, pretty much guarantee that things are changing. And so maybe it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if we had a little safety net, a back up plan, maybe a penny or two for a rainy day...

In the spirit of saving, NY Times article be damned, we let go of our cleaning lady. To save money, but also because she hated us, and did all sorts of strange things that made us feel sad when we came home. Nothing extreme, just little gestures to let us know that she thought we were assholes. SO, cleaning lady, banished! That saved us $160 a month. Ok so that's not going to be enough to retire on, but it's a start. 

Then I started demanding we eat at home more. In order to save a little money, but also so that Jack wouldn't think that food only came from Larchmont Pizza, Sharkey's, and In-Out Burger. I mean seriously, how did this happen? We used to eat sushi, and things that involved truffle butter. Since Jack was born it's been more like "me hungry, food, face, NOW!"  SO we planted the vegetable garden, got a few great cookbooks, and started eating at home more. I didn't think it was really doing much, and it was irritating to have to go to the store almost every day at first, because we had nothing in the kitchen at all. But the other day, I looked at our summary from the bank, and we've been saving $400 a month. That's 400 fast food dollars. Gross.

So that, combined with the the cleaning lady savings, and, hey diddle diddle ,we've saved enough for like 3 new Chloe bags a year!!!! I mean college savings for Jack. Berkeley baby! Not that I've thought about it...

Which leads me to my recession dress. About a month ago, Sadie and I got together for a girls day out. Which sounds very sex in the city-ish. But in reality, was two cranky moms, eating tacos at the Not Grove, and browsing at Anthropologie because one of us had a gift card (thanks sis!). 

So we wander into Barney's Co-op, and spot this dress. It's by A.P.C. Madras, and we've both been eyeing it for months. I mention that I love it, and she says she does too, but we both assumed it was a $500 dress, and was something our husbands would hate (the $500 part aside) and so never bothered to try it on. Well internet, that dress had a $170 price tag, which was enough to get us in the dressing room together. We tried it on. We fell in love. We started saying things like "I'll wear this dress forever!!!" And so we decided to SHARE the dress. I know. Idiots. We got all excited in that dressing room. We were swept up in the saving zeitgeist. FIRE the help! Plant your own vegetables! Share that dress from Barney's with your friend! Everyone's doing it!!! No. No one is doing that. You know why? Because it's stupid, and three minutes after Sadie said "Hey, can I have the dress this month, while it's still cold, so I can wear it with boots", I died a little on the inside, and started trying to figure out how to have her taken out mob style. Well, lucky for everyone involved, Sadie wore the dress one time, and decided it didn't fit right. And so I will be wearing my recession dress every day, in order to make it pay for itself. I'll be the one vacuuming, and picking peppers in a dress from Barney's. That's the story I'll tell my grandkids. "Why, I wore the same dress every day one year! The same dress!" Wow, grammy, that sounds TERRIBLE! 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

and on the 22nd day Mom created blueberries!

I didn't realize until I tasted them out of my own garden, that it's entirely possible I've never tasted what blueberries are supposed to taste like. Or raspberries, or anything else that isn't meant to be shipped 17,000 miles to your local market. I've read that, in every book, and article, about local food, slow food etc... Heard it from the old folks round the way "Why, you've never tasted corn, until you've eaten it straight from the field!" Well my friends, I'm here to add to the chatter. Grow some fruit or herbs or vegetables for yourself or your family, and you won't believe the taste! I feel like I've been eating astronaut fruit my whole life. 

Even if you only have a windowsill to put a little pot with kitchen herbs, or a patio for pots, you can grow your own food. If you have a front yard that's covered in grass, that you hate mowing, and probably shouldn't be watering, plant a vegetable garden. It can be just as ornamental, and delicious too! 

Here are a few books that I've enjoyed reading on the subject of growing your own food. I've included a few for all levels, from gardening with your kids, to becoming an obsessive, homemade jam, and asparagus pickling, farmer.

Fanny at Chez Panisse, by Alice Waters, is a great book to give a kid who's interested in cooking, or growing food at home or school. The beginning of the book is a story about Waters' daughter Fanny and her adventures amid the staff at the famous Berkeley restaurant. The latter half of the book is recipes that are kid friendly and easy to follow.  

 You Grow Girl, by Gayla Trail, is an awesome book for people, with just a tiny bit of space, or a tiny bit of time, or no experience with plants whatsoever. It would be a great gift for a curious college student. I borrowed this book from my neighbor, and am having a hard time giving it back. 

Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, chronicles several projects where the authors have transformed people's water hogging lawns into beautifully and sustainable vegetable gardens. It includes lots of photographs, and ideas. If you live in the Los Angeles area, you can see an exhibit of an "edible garden" they installed at Descanso Gardens. If you live in the LA area, this is also a good one, because as of June 1st, (yesterday), we've gone onto a restricted watering cycle, due to drought conditions. Let that lawn go, and plant some rosemary or lavender. It's good for the bees too!

Animal Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver, is a great read. At times, she admits that she is over the top, making you feel a little less guilty about not quitting your job, moving to the country and living off the land, which she does with her family of four for one year. The book is funny, and filled with inspired recipes, and while I can't imagine canning tomatoes, I can see myself freezing some of the blueberries we planted last month, so we can have them in winter, when they are $5 for the tiniest little crate flown in from god knows where.  Or trying to recreate Zingermans, spicy dill pickles, from cucumbers we grew three feet from the kitchen door.

Ok, now I'm off to organize Jack's toy bin, so that when Nipper Knapp gets back from the park, he's all "That's hot."

Monday, June 1, 2009

luck be a ladybug

When I was 5 I participated in a cake walk. Earlier tonight when I was starting to write this post, I typed "cake walk" into google, because when I was telling this story at a 2 year old's birthday party this weekend, the phrase "cake walk" elicited blank stares. I was shocked to find this to be the wikipedia entry for "cake walk" :

Cakewalk is a traditional African American form of music and dance which originated among slaves in the Southern United States. The form was originally known as the chalk line walk. The dance takes its name from competitions held on plantations prior to Emancipation, in which prizes, sometimes cake, were given for the best dancers.

Uhm, what? That has NOTHING to do with what I was talking about. Is this the common understanding of the term? What did I just say to those neighborhood parents? JESUS CHRIST!!! I read further, and way down at the bottom, there was this little footnote:

The term "cakewalk" is often used to indicate something that is very easy or effortless. Though the dance itself could be physically demanding, it was generally considered a fun, recreational pastime. The phrase "takes the cake" also comes from this practice. Along the lines of this "easy or effortless" meaning, there is the modern Cakewalk (carnival game) which requires no dancing skill at all to win.

OK! that's what I meant, carnival game. I think it was in a church parking lot or a public park. It was just a bunch of little kids walking in a circle, while music played. When the music stopped, you landED on a number, and that number was the cake you got. It went something like that. Well, I landed on the number 20, (my brain is backed up with all kinds of useless information like this, but I can't remember anything important whatsoever) and the cake I got was a ladybug cake. And that cake was round, and red, and had black licorice spots, and was the most beautiful thing my sheltered little eyes had ever laid eyes upon. I was beside myself. I WON THE LADYBUG CAKE!!! I WON THE LADYBUG CAKE!!! Two hands lifted as in prayer, I carried my beloved ladybug cake carefully back to our table. But somehow, one of my feet tangled with the other, and down I went, slow motion, John Woo style, knees crashing to the ground, ladybug cake overturning, and smashing to bits in the grass below. Sob... It seriously still makes me sad to think about it. The cakewalk ladies offered me another cake, but it was futile, there was no consolation.

Jack's friend Cleo turned two on Saturday and I decided that she was the perfect reason to shake off all that cakewalk sorrow and bring back the ladybug cake. I baked two, a pink, and a red, in case of some sort or ladybug cake curse. If one went down, we'd have a backup. I wasn't going to let Cleo experience cake grief at such a tender age. As I walked up the hill to the party, I was repeating in my head "DON'T drop the cake, DON'T drop the cake, DO NOT DROP IT!!!!" Internet, I have shaken the curse of the cakewalk once and for all. 

I've also included some photos of an owl cake and owl cupcakes that I baked for Jack's friend Hattie's 2nd birthday back in February. Hattie's mother, my dear friend Sadie, loves owls. Well, she loves them for Hattie. We always joke, that in ten years, Hattie is going to be like "mom, what was the deal with all those freakin owls? I HATE owls!!!" Sorry little Hoot.