Friday, September 30, 2011

School of choice

We are entering the thorny thicket of school choices. I use the word "choices" broadly, because what I really mean is "desperate hail mary attempts to get our child into a school where he won't be maimed, mentally, physically, or otherwise".

We bought our house a few months before Jack was born. We had the sunny belief that we'd be sending him to the French school when it came time for his little mind to be molded into a good little citizen. But then we met him, got to know him, realized we're pretty partial to him, and oh yeah, visited the French school. No cold Gaullist was going to reprimand my baby for mixing up his etre with his avoir. We lucked out with his preschool, because all they required of us was a reasonable amount of money. But now it's time to get him into an elementary school, hopefully that he will be in with the same (ish) kids until he graduates from High School. In Los Angeles. I KNOW. What kind of 1970's midwestern fantasyland am I living in?

Here's the problem. Our neighborhood public school is bad. Not so bad that it's on the list for schools you can opt out of in the, school of choice, program, but bad enough that we wouldn't send him there for one day. There's another school nearby, that needs bodies. I mean children. It's a BEAUTIFUL school, so pretty, they used it in an episode of MAD MEN, because it looks like a beautiful mid 20th century learning heaven, where older ladies who maybe still wore girdles under their tweed skirts, taught the youth of tomorrow, to conjugate verbs, and dream about space. The houses surrounding the school are estates. Not just mansions, estates. Long rolling green lawns leading to 8000 square foot homes in every style, with guest house, and pools, tennis courts with lights. But guess what. The school sucks. None of the kids in that school live in those estates. Everyone who lives in the neighborhood is 112 years old. There are no children. I don't know which came first the bad school, or the no kids, but now it's an ever worsening cycle. So depressing.

This is Arroyo Vista, one of the schools, in one of the 3 good school districts in all of Los Angeles. Even kids who live IN this district, have to lottery into the school. INSANE.

So, that leaves us with neighboring schools that we would have to get an inter-district permit for EVERY YEAR (read, we can be happily sailing along in the 8th grade after years and years in a school, and they can give him the boot), private schools we can't afford (if one more person tells me $19,475 a year really isn't that bad for Los Angeles...murder), magnet schools, (museum science anyone?),and charter schools. We walked out of a meeting for a charter school this morning that everyone has been saying is THE BEST, when we read that they have temporarily ended their music and art classes due to budget cuts. For elementary school. No music. No art. For little kids. That's a deal breaker for us. What are they going to teach them ALGEBRA? CHEMISTRY? What a disaster. Have we lost our minds?

No Child Left Behind should be called America Left Behind. We're such idiots. I don't want to get into some political discussion here, (so please don't write me some libertarian rant about educating our own), but seriously, dudes, in terms of brain trust, we are like the grasshopper who sang all summer.  Except that instead of singing, we just binged ourselves on suvs, subprime mortgages, dancing with the stars, and fat. I'M A COMMUNIST! You didn't know. I told you I went to Cuba in college. You were confused by all the Marc Jacobs, and stories about fancy cookies. Well, now you know.

We're not alone. Sandra Tsing Loh, wrote a whole web page about this very topic after navigating the impenetrable maze of middle class school options in the LAUSD. It's called "Sandra Tsing Loh's Scandalously Informal Guide to Los Angeles Schools". It's an easy read, and if you know STL, you can imagine her saying the words in her funny cadence, and it makes it, just that much more entertaining...and depressing.

I don't know what we're going to do. Deadlines for tours are coming and going. Lotteries, application dates, move by dates (yes I said that), are upon us. In the last 5 days we've even discussed bribing (I mean paying, PAYING) Nipper's sister, who is an amazing, and dedicated school teacher to come to Los Angeles, to teach our kids, and our friend's kids. You know, sort of like a private tutor, home school, one room school house sort of thing. At least for elementary and middle school. Why not? When you start looking at the real options, it doesn't seem so far fetched. I know, communist. It's not your fault, you thought I was some kind of Target loving dilettante who just flitted from one half finished glamor project to the next. I am, but I'm also a pinko. I put kale in my smoothies.

I'd love to hear some of your stories about school placement anxiety. Just to make myself feel better. Oh, and for those of you who live in Portland, and your kids walk two blocks to the AWESOME neighborhood public school where they have a spring musical, and an organic farm, you know where you can stick your story. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

As I lay Dying

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine started a book club. I like her, and knew she'd bring together a great group of people. I was curious. As soon as I brought it up, everyone who knows me just gave me "the look". "Obviously, you aren't going to do this and why are you even talking about it?" That's what the look says. It also says "Bitch please". But I ignored the look. Then my friend chose "As I Lay Dying", by Faulkner as the first book. Uhm, ok. Never mind I can't find time to read Vanity Fair in the bathroom even. I can totally do this! I WENT TO COLLEGE!

I happen to have the book already. It's been on my shelf for years. It's one of my father's favorite books. My first clue should have been that I've owned the book since before I had kids. Hello Dumb Dumb.

I don't really need to go on about this anymore. I didn't even get the book off the shelf. Didn't even physically move it from the shelf to say, my bedside table, or the diaper bag. Didn't even pretend to try.

I remember talking to this ex boyfriend of mine once, years ago. I was here in LA, single, 3 cats, guitar, lots of expensive salads, and he was in NYC. We were talking over email, and I must have asked him to talk about something, or about talking on the phone about something, or to look at something. I don't know. And he said "I won't be able to do that until October". It was mid-summer. I remember thinking he was a douchebag (he was), and what kind of asshole says, they are busy until "insert month name". I thought he was just being blustery and self important (he was).

But dudes, I will be busy, and won't be able to look at your thing, talk on the phone, or get together for an expensive salad until October, of 2025. Excuse me if I'm overusing this phrase, but this two kid thing is for realz. I wish I could take that sentence back. 

After the fender bender, air dry, day, Nipper and I agreed we need help. He doesn't have time to write, I don't have time to write. Every time we get auditions we sigh. The daily acrobatics to get to auditions, school, get everyone fed, were becoming more and more terse. No one has time to work out, much less see each other, or eat sitting down. The pink man cave? Haven't been in there in months. The kitchen counter is covered in mail (did you just hear Nipper Knapp shiver?) I haven't been to a dentist, in a really, really, really, long time. There's a thing on my arm, I think I need to have looked at. My hair color, which I've been doing myself is a ridiculous color yellow. On a good note, I now KNOW that I can function on 5 hours of sleep a night.

So we asked my mom. To move here. To Los Angeles. From Oregon. For a year. And guess what. She said yes. As a matter of fact, she was here, and had an apartment rented within 3 weeks of asking. That's family. She has a busy life, filled with projects and people of her own to look after. But here she is, looking after my little people, so I can catch a breath. 

A week after Charlie was born, we parted ways with Jack's longtime babysitter (not ready to talk about that yet). Our good friends across the street (Brett, this guilt trip's just for you!) moved away, and my whole world went kaboom. All my best laid plans up in smoke, we managed to hobble through the first few months. I thought it was a little more stressful, but not too bad. Then I went back to work. Then I died. 

So here we are. In the most unlikely scenario I could have predicted. I sort of imagine my mom getting the email where I ask her if she can move here for the year, to help, like this: My mom sits in a bookshelf lined room. She's in a heavy leather office chair facing a computer screen. It's silent, save the sound of birds in a tree near an open window. She's quietly checking facebook, reading articles friends have sent her about feline leukemia, Bella Abzug, and the Marshall plan, when a chime sounds that she has an email. She clicks over to read it. At once she is standing, the chair upended, several loose papers swan to the ground. "I GOT THE CALL!" she shouts, as her previously sleeping cat opens one eye, rolls it, and goes back to sleep. Also it's possible that the theme song from Rocky started playing quietly as she read, and was blasting by the time she announced her victory, leading into a montage of her packing, doing push-ups and sitting in a coffee shop with a bunch of other yoga grandmas patting her on the back, shaking there heads approvingly. I'm pretty sure that's how it went.

My mom is busy setting up her apartment, which is absolutely perfect, and reminds me of a cross between Melrose Place, and the Brady Bunch house. It's got a pool in an elevated center courtyard. We've already moved a closet full of kids toys over there (can you hear Nipper Knapp laughing maniacally?) Nipper and I have seen TWO movies since she got here a week ago. TWO! There isn't much I like better than sitting in a dark movie theater eating popcorn with Nipper Knapp. I've been to several auditions sans baby, and Nipper and I even carpooled to a few last week. He listened to his sports podcast on the car radio and I listened to the WTF podcast on my headphones. HEAVEN. Dear people without kids, heaven is no one talking to you. We got to our audition all relaxed and dreamy, and holding hands. I'm sure half of Los Angeles wants to punch us. 

So wish us luck. My mom and I haven't lived with, or near each other in 20 years. But before my hair falls out and we have raccoons living in the attic, I will have a year of free babysitting, free from worry (about those things), free from missing my husband, and she will have a year of smelling baby necks, and learning ALL about each and every detail of the Lego Hero Factory robots. Win-win. Right?

Monday, September 26, 2011

But they're so slimming!

God, grant me the serenity to accept the maternity stretch pants I cannot change out of,
Courage to change into a pair with a button when I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

I'm not gonna lie, I need to do some sit-ups. And stop eating gorilla munch every night. 

The other night my friend Danielle's husband outed her maxi dress for what it really is: sweatpants without a crotch. BASTARD. Why do you have to ruin the illusion?! It's a dress! So what that's it's basically a long tshirt that hides everything. It's a dress!

Which brings me to The Man Repeller. Have you guys seen this site? It's dedicated to all the cute stuff that girls love that men hate: boots with skirts, dresses over jeans, giant sweaters with weird fringe, etc... I sent it to a very fashionable friend of mine, and she called me laughing "It's like ALL of my clothes! It's amazing I have a husband and a baby!"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water.

please note the shoes...

A few weeks ago, I had one of those days that makes you question everything. I know I've been super dramatic lately (LATELY), but since I went back to work, everything feels like crazytown. Someone always needs something, and no one seems to be getting what they need. I miss Jack, I miss Nipper Knapp, I can't stand how many bottles Charlie has already had in his little life (I know, I know, but it's how I feel). The nursing, pumping, driving, mascara, slating, smiling, driving, pumping, nursing, sleeping, oh eating, nursing, schedule is starting to tear me apart. How is it that I'm "doing it all", and still feel guilty. On this particular day we had auditions all over, and Jack was out of school, so he was along for the ride. Poor circus baby. 

We had a callback in the afternoon in Santa Monica that we couldn't take the kids too. So we had arranged to have Sadie's AMAZING babysitter, who has been helping us out a bit here and there pick up the kids in between auditions at the pizza place where we'd be having lunch. I was a little nervous. Jack doesn't really know the sitter very well, and I was worried he was going to be upset. He wasn't. I told him she had good music in her car, and he said "but daddy and I listen to DUDES music". I asked what that might be and he said "Star Wars, and Batman".  "And Tangled?" I asked. "YES, and Tangled". I burned him a cd for her car. But then I was worried about having both boys in the car with someone else, driving around LA, on the 110 freeway, eek! You know mom stuff.

I was worrying about mom stuff, talking on the phone with Sadie (on the bluetooth to the car, geez). I was stopped in traffic about halfway between Pico and Venice, on La Brea, when I saw a car speeding up behind me. Crash. Shit. I think I might have said "I'm having an accident". I don't know. It was a blur. The tail end of my car was smushed, the trunk pushed into itself, so the door won't close. The girl didn't have any id. No wallet. No purse. Nothing. Oh, and it wasn't her car. She said "can I just give you my phone number?" She was young. Sigh. No, you can't just give me your phone number. The whole time I'm standing out there talking to this twit, the headache that I'd been staving off starts to build. I'm squinting into the mid day heat, taking iphone pics of the car, the girl, her car, the plates. I'm going to be late for my callback now. I'm paying someone $18 an hour to drive my kids home so I can talk to this girl. That's the economic facts of the situation. This girl cost me at least $7 in babysitter time. I take the registration info from the owner of the car.

In the middle of it, the babysitter texts. They're home. Jack gave her directions the whole way. I'm thinking over and over how glad I am that the kids weren't in the car, their little bodies safe at home.

I meet Nipper Knapp at our callback. I hug him hard, and for a long time. I know we need to go in, but I'm stunned, and I just want to stand there on the street and hug some more. I also want to lay down a little bit. We go into the casting office. We make small talk with the casting agent and her husband. We do our scene for the director, which happens to be our house has just been robbed, no problem, I'm right there.

We had planned to try to get in early and go to the Rose Bowl to use the gym, and swim, while we had a sitter. But now, the bumper of the car is hanging off, and I'm frazzled, and it's 3:30 and we're out in Santa Monica, and it'll be an hour home anyway. "Let's just go home." "No", Nipper says, you should go swim a little, decompress, I'll go home and relieve the babysitter. I love him.

So he hauls my swim bag out of the trunk of the broken car. Up and over the backseat because the trunk door is broken. Off I go. I'm in a fog. I'm in that weird state where stress gives way to extreme sleepiness and lack of focus. I text my mom, she calls me 13 seconds later. "Are you ok?" "I'm fine". Not really though.

this doesn't haven't anything to do with this story, I just saw it, and it made me laugh. Am I the whale? Is life the whale? 

When I get to the Rose Bowl, I realize that some things fell out of my bag. I have one flip flop, and no towel. COME ON! I'm determined to have one thing progress as usual. I put on my swimsuit, tiptoe across the hot pavement, and jump in the pool. My back and neck are tight, and I can't tell if it's tension or from the accident. I swim a little, but mostly, I just float. After 20 minutes of staring at the sky, I get out.

Here's my grand plan. I'm going to shower, and then I'm going to get enough paper towels to dry my hair a little, just so it's not dripping. I'm going to put on some lotion, and air dry. It won't take long. This is my plan. We all know how well my plans have been going lately. As soon as I get in the shower I realize I'm an idiot, but it's too late. The locker room is filling with tween girls. They've just finished swim practice, and they're everywhere. There's nowhere to stand much less AIR DRY. I'm used to being there in the middle of the day with all the other jobless old ladies and hobos.

I wedge myself in between two 12 year olds. I'm naked holding my giant pink and orange LL Bean bag. You know, they're like "Uhm, gross". I would be, if it wasn't me being the weirdo. I walk over to the paper towel dispenser and it's out. Of course it is. The only other one is near the door to the pool. What are my options? Did I mention the only clothes I have to change into are my audition clothes (too tight jeans, and a halter top, electric blue clog sandals), and my workout clothes (white v-neck tee, nursing bra, grey striped cotton leggings). None of this is going to be awesome if I have to put it on wet. 

Here's what I do. Because I have apparently lost the shame particle, that should have made me wait naked in the bathroom stall until I was dry. I dry myself off with the halter top. That's right, in the middle of a throng of overachieving (swim team? c'mon) 13 year old girls, I dab myself dry with a halter top. I make every effort not to get too *ahem* personal, but god help me, I'm not gonna walk through the Rose Bowl lobby and parking lot with a wet cooter. I get mostly dry, and I wrap the halter around my hair to keep it from dripping. I'm standing there with this drenched halter turban, digging through my bag, and it's really hot in there, and I'm still a little bit damp, and I'm starting to sweat because my nervous system is shouting "FLIGHT! FLIGHT!"

Not just a little bit, I'm dying inside. I want to tell this girl next to me who has become morbidly silent amidst the other chattering girls, to "I used to be normal, just wait until you go back to work after having your second baby, extracurriculars my ass..." But I don't say anything, I just bury my shame deep behind an aloof mask and carry on. Like, this is just how I do it. Soon this is how everyone will do it. I'M DOING THIS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!!! 

The girls clear out as fast as they came in, and I'm mostly alone to finish the post swim of shame. I'm just pulling on my workout clothes, with my clogs (Maybe they'll mistake me for one of those cool/weird European women, that don't understand fashion conventions, but ends up looking "neat" anyway) (#maybeIshouldstayhome) as another rush hits the locker room. College aged lifeguards in training. Thank you god for small miracles. "I really didn't need to stand in a humid toilet stall and dry myself with tp today."

Did I mention we just asked my mom to move here for the year to help us out? Do you like how I buried the lead?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

misssoni mayhem

I'm sorry. I know. I've been gone a long time. But this two babies thing is for reals yo. I'm sort of drowning. I have big news coming. But no time to write. Soon. Next week. I promise. I have notes for 5 posts. Things are happening! Namely I'm drowning.

This morning, I finished school drop off early, which is whole other post about how you just can't argue with someone when they say they have to poop. You can't. I read on a friend's facebook page that she saw a small child bloodied in the frenzy at the Austin Target when the Missoni line opened this morning. I'm not a big Missoni fan, but those guest designers always do cute stuff, and since 15 minutes to myself is a polynesian vacation, off I went. Oh, and of course the prospect that I might see a fight. You know that's always good. Got to keep my edge... I decided I'd forgo pumping a bottle for this little adventure, maybe make one after he goes to bed tonight. Living the dream.

I got to my local Target in Pasadena 40 minutes after they had opened. It might as well have been 4 days. EVERY SINGLE ITEM WAS GONE. The parking lot was jammed with jettas, and prius' with Wellsley College bumper stickers. I should have known. The atmosphere was giddy. Packs of stylists (I could tell by their cute vintage glasses, mismatched clothes, and lack of souls) with carts piled to the ceiling were wildly picking through children's shoe boxes in the hopes of finding a children's xl that they could smash their size 7.5s into.

As I approached the bedding section, I overhead one woman angrily exclaim to who, I'm assuming was her husband on her phone "Well have you ever heard of buy and return?!", as she threw a comforter into her already packed cart without so much as a look. Another woman nearby naively giggled "I don't even know why I'm buying this!"

I went upstairs to the children's section to see if I could find something for my niece. Jackpot. Barely anything was gone, except of course the socks. As I was picking out some cute pieces for her, a woman and her friend approached. They were picking the girls clothes off the racks holding them up to themselves with a disappointed air. Clearly they'd come to late. NO MISSONI FOR YOU! The saddest one held a knit kilt up to her completely average woman sized hips and said "what do you think?" "CUTE!" said the friend in too high a register, as she cocked her head to the side, and then "although I'm not sure it's going to pleat the way you want it too".

oh my god.

As I was walking to the checkout, a Target employee rolled a cart with boxes of shoes, into a throng of women waiting by elevator, and just shouted "SHOES" as he backed away. He had to shout it twice to be heard over their excited chatter. It was feeding time at the lion cage. They all gasped and dove in at once. I turned away, my stomach for the hunt soured.

I said to the checkout lady "these women have lost their minds!". She said that a woman who looked like she couldn't afford the shirt she was wearing bought $2700 worth of stuff without even looking at it. That she had RUN into the store and just started grabbing. "They're selling this stuff on ebay for a huge markup, then anything they don't sell, they bring back when it's worth zero." I promised her I was buying the girls clothes for an actual girl, and I wouldn't sell any of it on ebay. Then I cursed myself for not getting there earlier and making and extra buck... Just kidding. Not really.

Coming up, very soon, how I got in a minor fender bender, had an awkward moment in a locker room, and how very very soon, we are getting another family member here (no I'm not pregnant). 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I promised myself I wasn't going to blog tonight

best panty ever...

But I have 18minutes until the wash is ready to put in the dryer, so you, know, might as well offload some of the detritus. I mean, write something. 

It has come to my attention that some of you think that my attempts at making homemade underwear is a cry for help. I can assure you, this is merely a mark of my obsessive behavior, and not one of us being broke, or me being crazy. Oh, I mean, I'm CRAZY, but not "sews her own underpants crazy". Well, attempts to, but not does, and wears. Never mind. 

I shot pics for a company called Park Vogel years ago. Their clothes were the dreamiest. Vanessa, one of their designers is a "guru of textiles". They made cashmere sweaters, and fancy modal t-shirts, and for only one season, boy shorts and camisoles, made out of the most amazing cotton modal. In compensation for our photoshoots, which were for their lookbooks, I received, money, but also loads and loads of free clothes. Dream job. In the 3  or 4 seasons I shot for them, I got about 15 pairs of their underwear. I should have gotten 100 instead of the piles of cashmere that now sits in my closet unworn in this hot, hot, city. 

I have 3 pairs left, and they are in tatters. I've tried to wear other underwear, but nothing is as comfortable. They are whisper soft, the perfect shape, almost sheer they are so light, and 100% cotton. I'm welling up a little realizing that I might have to put some kind of cotton spandex blend near my lady business very very soon. Depressing. 

The camisoles that they sold with the underwear were super cute, and had a built in shelf bra, but in reality couldn't be worn if you were above a b cup, because your boobs just fell out. Not pretty. 

I thought I could cut apart one of my remaining pairs, make a pattern, and cut up the camisoles to use the amazing fabric for more panties. Uhm... you guys know I'm sleep deprived, right? 

Not as cute

I'll spare you the details, but it didn't turn out so well, and I'm abandoning ship. I couldn't cut the fabric straight enough. Can't find the right lace, and OH, I am terrible at sewing neat little seams. Someone recommended ongossamer cabana cotton boyshorts. I'll try them, but I'm not getting my hopes up.