Saturday, May 28, 2005

Curly top

I got a perm today! I love having curly hair. I don't exactly love paying $150 to get it but if that's the price of younger-looking, easy to care for hair, then that's what I'm willing to pay right now.

There's a classic "the grass is always greener" thing going on here. I have friends with curly hair that would love to have my stick straight hair and all I want is their curls. Why is that? Why aren't we ever satisfied with how we naturally look?

It's not like there's something inherently great about having curly hair. I just happen to like it. I'm sick of blow-drying my hair every morning and despite the fact that we have air conditioning, I hate using a blow dryer in the summer. I can't for the life of me figure out what curly-haired people find so compelling about straight hair. Of course, they like the kind of straight hair you see on the Pantene commercials, all shiny and full with just the right amount of curve and in just the right way. My hair is s.t.i.c.k. straight with curves in the wrong way and in the wrong places. When I keep it shorter, it has some bounce to it and looks ok but once it grows a little it's flat and boring and old. Oh, and getting gray. Not the good kind of gray, either. Not the silver kind that looks dazzling on fashionable women of a certain age. The mousey wiry gray of an evil queen turned witch. Not good. I've been highlighting my hair for a couple years now - something I swore I would never, ever do (why? because I'm a "natural"girl, of course). But now that I'm creeping closer and closer to that certain age myself, I'm realizing the benefits of highlighting.

So, for now at least, I have curly hair. Not only do I look a few years younger, I feel younger. And that's worth the price!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The clothes make the girl?

A-Girl has always liked what she calls "belly shirts" - shirts that are a little too short and rise above her belly when she raises her hands above her head. Her dad and I haven't been big fans of belly shirts but that's what she likes and they aren't so short or small that I would say that they're inappropriate for her age. We pick our battles and this isn't one we generally choose to fight.

Today she tells me that she doesn't want to shop at Marshall's anymore. She says that every time she goes there she ends up with belly shirts (not really true but . . . ) and her friends have said that she wears too many belly shirts. Her friends have also suggested other places to shop like Target and Limited, Too. Remember - these are 7 and 8 year old girls.

One relevant piece of information is that there is one girl she calls her best friend (let's call her Friend A). This girls considers A-Girl one of her best friends but has other friends as well. A-Girl has been struggling with jealousy in this relationship. It is apparently Friend A who says that she doesn't like A-Girl's belly shirts. So the concern is that A-Girl wants to change what she's wearing and where she shops in order to please said friend. Big D rightly said, "Look, if she doesn't want to be your friend because you wear belly shirts, then she's not a very good friend." Amen to that. He also said, "You shouldn't change yourself for anyone, except your parents." She rolled her eyes.

It's not that I have anything against shopping at Target. In fact I love Target and if I'm there without proper supervision, I spend way too much money. Limited, Too I have mixed feelings about but at least it's within our budget. But what happens if she wants to be friends with someone who tells her to shop at Prada? Two words - no three - no f-ing way! I know, that's sort of beside the point but what if?

I'm just not prepared for these conversations. I can't remember caring about clothes quite this much until I was about 11 or 12. Or maybe even 13 - that's when I really, really, really wanted a cashmere sweater and I got one for my birthday and the housekeeper shrunk it in the wash and that's when I started doing my own laundry but that's a story for another time. She is not supposed to grow up so fast. So, after my husband imparted his very practical advice, all the wisdom I could muster is "Act your age, not your shoe size." (She wears size 13 shoes - get it . . .?).

This is not a good day. I woke up late. The kids were late to school (again). I couldn't figure out what to wear. I dropped my iPod and it won't work. I missed two buses and couldn't find a cab. I had to walk to work and it started raining. I was late for a meeting. I was late sending an email out and people were getting anxious about it. And this was all before 9:00 a.m. I was crabby. I was mean to my dear hubby. We had a fight. I cried off all of my mascara. We made up and that's the only good part of my day so far. And it's only 12:30 p.m.

The kids have been late to school so often that A-Girl asked me yesterday if it would go on her "permanent record." How does she even know the term "permanent record?" And what in the world is a 7-year-old doing worrying about her permanent record? And, most importantly, why am I not making sure that they aren't late to school so that she doesn't need to be worrying about her permanent record? Just another great moment in parenting . . .

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Who am I, really?

At 40, I'm finally stopping to think about who and I am and what I want. It doesn't mean I'm reconsidering my marriage, kids or job. I love all of those things and, at least with respect to the marriage and the kids, I wouldn't change them for the world. As for the job, it's great and all but the fact that I'm sitting here writing online instead of doing the work I get paid for says something, I guess. I'm just looking at the way I spend my time, how I treat myself, thinking about what I could be doing differently and, hopefully, making some changes.

I don't want to be afraid to take chances anymore. I've stayed within my comfort zone too long and it got smaller and smaller. Sometimes, I feel like I can barely move. I know, sounds a bit dramatic doesn't it? It's probably just PMS talking, but still, it's how I feel even if it is a tad irrational.

I want to plant growing things on my balcony but I'm afraid that the plants will die. I want to take a dance class but I'm afraid people will laugh behind my back. I want to write but I'm afraid no one will think my writing is worth reading. I want to be a normal person but instead I'm a big, whiny baby. Ugh. I need to go for a walk.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Dance like no one's watching

I was a dancer, when I was young. I was good, too. During my junior and senior years of high school I took dance lessons just about 7 days a week and I spent a hugh chunk of my weekends at the studio taking multiple classes. I studied ballet, jazz and modern dance. Dancing made me feel wonderful. For me, it was pure expression and I loved it. The summer after high school, I quit taking dance lessons. I quit because I was going to college in the fall and I wasn't going to study dance, I guess. Go figure how I made decisions as a 17 year-old.

Looking at colleges, it came down to a choice between studying dance at Bennington (a school that I didn't even visit or end up applying to) and studying goodness-knows-what at the University of Michigan. I visited Michigan - 35 people from my graduating class went to Michigan even though I grew up in Illinois. I had a great time when I visited and they had a really good football team. There's that decision-making skill at work again! It was a matter of comfort. I've never been much good at pushing beyond my comfort zone.

Why did I quit dancing? I'll never know for sure but I think that once I decided I wasn't good enough to be a professional dancer, I thought I had to stop dancing. It's not that I picked up another hobby or spent my time in a different endeavor. I. just. stopped. I've never found anything else that makes me feel as good as dancing felt. And that's just sad. Maybe this is part of the reason why I haven't been able to stick to an exercise program. Most exercise is just plain boring to me and my body wants to dance, not spend 20 minutes on the treadmill.

So, I've decided to take dance classes again. Yes, as an out of shape, slightly over-weight 40 year old, I am going to start dancing. I called the studio I'm thinking about going to and asked whether a 40 year-old woman would be totally out of place there and the young, perky sounding woman who answered the phone assured me that they get students of all ages. I'm going to take her word for it and try to start classes next week. (Although I just realized that the time for the class conflicts with the time slot for Meredith's piano class so I'm going to have to see what I can work out - there's always an excuse, isn't there?)

Monday, May 16, 2005

The black hole of attention

Ever since M-Girl was born, we've called her older sister "the black hole of attention." Even when she doesn't encourage it (which she often does), A-Girl just seems to become the center of attention no matter where we are or what's going on. I'm sure that's part of what has helped her acting success but within a family, it can be tough to handle.

M-Girl is positively adorable in her own right but when people see the two of them, comments to her are often an after-thought. It doesn't help that she puts herself in the background and speaks almost in a whisper. When you have her one-on-one or when she's in a familiar place with familiar people, she comes out of her shell a bit. When I brought her to my office once, two people at separate times said "Oh, look. You're a little A-Girl, aren't you." I tried to be nice but I said "You're not a little A-Girl. Tell her that you're a big M-Girl."

Big D and I make a huge effort to take her places without her sister so that she can shine on her own. We've also fought hard against the perception of M-Girl as "shy." Those labels so easily become self-fulfilling prophecies - if she hears adults telling her that she's shy all the time, she's sure to start believing it and acting that way. Every time someone says "Oh, she's shy," we say "You're not shy, M-Girl. Be polite and say hello." And she usually does - in fact, she's downright proud of herself when she speaks up. But it's so hard for her when A-Girl's around and frankly, I don't blame her.

This morning she broke my heart when she said "Mom, tonight can I have some alone time with you and Dad? Yesterday at breakfast you spent the whole time talking about A-Girl and you didn't talk about me." And she was absolutely right. We had breakfast with an old high school friend of my husband's who he hasn't seen for 20 years. Since A-Girl's career is a big part of our lives right now, it was natural for us to talk about it. And we did. A lot. Too much. And we didn't really talk much about M-Girl (except to say that she got her very own guitar on Saturday - more on that another time). She's very perceptive and sensitive. When Big D and I talked about it, he pointed out that it's pretty amazing that not only did she notice what was going on but she was able to articulate her feelings about it. I don't know very many four year olds who can do that.

So we owe her an apology and a promise to try to keep things a bit more balanced in the future. She's a very special person, it isn't hard for us to find things to say about her. It's just that while those things are very interesting to people who know and love her, they probably aren't all that interesting to people who don't know us well.

So here are some great things about M-Girl: She has an incredible eye for patterns and she's really good at math - she just gets it. She's been writing her letters and numbers like a pro for pretty much the whole school year and she's already writing whole words (phonetically spelled). She's starting to read in a way that's different from other kids (in my limited experience) - she concentrates more on whole words rather than sounding out parts of words. Phonics don't resonate with her as well as they do with other kids, although she's getting used to it more lately. She shares her things better than any child (and some adults) I've ever met. She will routinely give other people the last bite of her dessert. On an almost daily basis she says things like "Mommy, I love you bigger than the whole world." Yesterday she said to Big D "Daddy I love you so much I want to squeeze you bigger than the whole world." I can't get enough of her saying "You're the bestest Mommy in the whole world." The other day I asked her if I could borrow a necklace of hers (it matched my sweater!) and she said "Of course you can, Mommy. You don't need to ask permission to borrow my things." So sweet, I get cavities just being around her. And she's athletic, tougher than nails when it comes to tolerating pain and a spitfire when she wants to be (which is not always the most pleasant trait but as she matures and learns to tame it, it will probably serve her well.)

We'll try to help M-Girl find her own ways to shine and make more of an effort to counter act the gravitational pull that is her sister.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Art as a required activity

Last night I dreamed that I was still in college and I was enrolled in an art class but never went to the class. I was too busy and kept putting it off. My friends in the class were showing me all the projects that they were doing. I told them that I was going to talk to the teacher about making up the classes I missed and if the teacher wouldn't let me, I was going to drop the class. My friend said "You can't drop the class. It's required."

So what does it mean? I think I'm beginning to realize that for me creativity is a required activity. I've lost myself in a kind of busyness that doesn't allow for the creative endeavors that make my life truly satisfying. When I was younger - before I was married and had kids - I was always doing something creative. I was taking dance lessons, playing piano, singing, knitting, drawing, playing with clay, trying (usually unsuccessfully) to grow plants. I was also more spiritual, I read more and spent more time just thinking and contemplating life. Living in a high rise, working in an office building, I feel so out of touch with nature and with myself.

Writing this blog has helped but the fact that nobody reads it makes it less than fulfulling. I hadn't realized until now that as much as I like to write, what I really want to do is publish. I guess that shouldn't be surprising - I suppose that's what most writers want to do. I haven't yet tried to write anything for publication, though. I'm a little scared - what if I submit something and it gets rejected? I feel stuck for ideas on what to write about which probably stems from the fear of failure - I'm worried that it won't be good enough.

I've told my kids that if they're afraid to do something, they should do it anyway and they won't be afraid anymore. It got them to try the monkey bars - maybe it will work for me!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Micky D's (yes, again)

Ok - this is the last time I'll talk about the McDonald's commercial (at least until we actually see it on TV!). A-Girl had a great time filming yesterday and, according to her very proud stage dad, she was her usual professional self. I worked in the business before and I know that for the most part, people in the business are full of crap. That said, when a VIP like the director or agency producer goes out of his or her way to tell you that your child is a great pleasure to work with, that means something. It also says something when production assistants, wardrobe people and craft services tell you the same thing. She's a nice kid and treats everyone with respect. I'm bubbling over with pride. (Can ya tell?)

I give Big D a lot of credit for coming up with the idea to tell her - before her very first job - that the people at the shoot are working, just like Mom and Dad work at their offices, and that when she's on set, she's working too. We explained to her that if she goofs around and doesn't do what they ask her to do, she's wasting their time and might make it so that they are late getting home to their families after work. We also told her that if she wants to keep working, she needs to be a good worker. She really took it all to heart and, man, is she good.

Big D has been wanting to see her in action for awhile but I've been a "job hog" and insisted on going to every one of her jobs myself. Since I have big, unmissable meetings this week I had to let him go and he had a good time. For the most part, being on set is pretty boring and involves a lot of waiting around. But he got a kick out of seeing her do her thing and this was an especially fun shoot with the flying around like Tarzan stuff. We totally can't wait to see the finished product.

On another note, she did a radio commercial for Bob Evans Restaurants today. Big D got to go to that one, too. I'm bummed because they were recording at my favorite studio in the Wrigley Building - they have a kick ass, new fangled coffee machine. I never can get enough, can I?

I'm still dreaming about Sound of Music and the possibilities it holds for our family. I really need to do something about my life so I'm not living so vicariously through my daughter. I gotta, gotta get my ass in gear and try to write something publishable. Maybe when sweeps month is over . . .

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The hills are alive . . .

A-Girl got a callback for Sound of Music! I'm used to commercial work where things move very quickly and callbacks are within a day or two of the initial audition. The Sound of Music audition was two weeks ago so we pretty much thought she didn't get it. It's still a long shot anyway but it's a nice vote of confidence for her. This was her first singing audition and although she said she felt confident, I think she was a bit nervous (but maybe not as nervous as I was).

Big D and I have no idea what we're going to do if she gets it. It's possible that Big D will quit his job and tour with her (of course M-Girl and I will join them for awhile). On the other hand, I'm the one that wants to write. What an opportunity it would be to write a book or a series of articles about the trip! I don't know the whole itinerary but it includes stops in Singapore and Hong Kong. We'd also be able to visit my husband's family in Taiwan.

I know it's a bit crazy of us to even think about doing this. We have a home (with a big mortgage) and good jobs. The kids are enrolled in school for next year. It may be impossible for us to take leaves of absence from our jobs to do this. I know my boss will be happy for A-Girl and would do what he could to give me the flexibility I need but giving me four months off is probably more than he can do. I might be able to do some work out there with some good technology but the time difference may be too much to overcome.

I guess we'll cross that bridge when - and a big if - we get there. In the meantime, it's nice to dream about the possibility.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Getting ready for Micky D's

A-Girl had her wardrobe fitting today for the McDonald's commercial. For the uninitiated, the wardrobe fitting happens the day before a shoot and is usually fairly chaotic with all kinds of people running around and the wardrobe person shouting "I will never get the shopping done before the stores close! Get me some straight pins, stat!" This wardrobe fitting was positively mellow and actually lots of fun (for A-Girl, that is).

She'll be in three different costumes, a maiden (which looks like a princess but apparently isn't), Jane (as in Tarzan and . . .), and a surfer girl. The maiden's dress is purple (yeah - we like purple) and quite pretty in a Halloween costume kinda way. The surfer outfit is fairly standard and she'll be wearing a life jacket (because apparently, McDonald's requires safety equipment in all of their commercials - not a bad rule). The piece-de-resistance, however, is the Jane outfit. They'll be putting her in a flying rig (under the standard leopard print one shoulder Jane costume) and she'll get to "swing" on a rope (while holding a Happy Meal box, of course).

They put her in the rig today to get it set up and make sure she was comfortable and she had a ball. As usual, everyone was really nice to her, doing way more than enough to make her feel comfortable. They told her she didn't have to do the flying if she didn't want to or if she was scared but trooper that she is, she said she'd give it a try. Within minutes she was yahooing it up, swinging like a pro.

It's amazing to me to watch her work. She's such a pro already. She's comfortable with adults, has no problem having a conversation with pretty much anyone and takes direction really well. Of course, I'm sort of biased being her mother and all. But, being as objective as possible, if I was in the business, I'd want to work with her. She's a nice kid, she doesn't waste people's time and she has fun no matter what's going on. She doesn't generally complain, is more patient than lots of adults and isn't afraid to take risks.

I never wanted to be a stage mother - at least not the stereotypical stage mother pushing her child to perform regardless of how the child feels. Sometimes I worry that she does this just to please me but when I see her working, I don't worry about that anymore. She has fun and it's clear that she wants to be doing this, at least for now. There may come a time when it's not fun anymore and she'll want to stop or maybe the jobs will dry up when she gets into those awkward tween years. Either way, I'll be glad that we were able to give her the opportunity to do something she so clearly loves to do.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Happy Mother's Day!

We've had a very nice day today. My wonderful husband made sure the kids stayed quiet until I woke up and as soon as I woke up the kids came in with fabulous cards they picked out. We had breakfast at our favorite neighborhood place, went to lunch at our neighbor's big family party (excellent noodle kugel, by the way) and then M-Girl and I went swimming.

M-Girl crossed a big milestone while we were swimming - she decided to take the floaties out of her bathing suit and try to swim all by herself. As she was explaining it to her dad she said "I drownded a little bit" meaning that mom let her see what it's like without floaties and let her go under for a second. We practiced swimming and floating and treading water, all with me holding her hips as little as I could without letting her sink too much. I was so proud of her. When she's ready for something, she jumps right in but heaven forbid you should try to make her do something she isn't ready for!

All in all, it's been a great day. Happy Mother's Day to me!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Micky D's

For the past few months, the holy grail of commercial work for my daughter has been doing a McDonalds commercial. When people would ask her what commercials she's done, she'd say "Well, I haven't done a McDonalds commercial yet." She's auditioned for several and has gotten called back but wasn't booked, until yesterday.

I think it has to do with the fact that McDonalds is such a large part of her life (more great moments in parenting from yours truly). There was a McDonalds one block away from our old apartment; our new apartment has at least two within three or four blocks, including the brand-spanking new tourist destination on Ohio Street. When they were toddlers, both girls used to call it Old MacDonalds, for fairly obvious reasons. Everytime we go on a road trip, we invariably stop at McDonalds to eat.

Secretly, I think she also figures that a McDonalds commercial is one that her friends are likely to see. She wants to tell her friends all about her "other" life but we've encouraged her not to talk about it. We figure that if she tells the kids at school that she does commercials, it will put more pressure on her to get jobs where now it's the no-big-deal that it should be. This business is feast or famine and the work could completely dry up at any time for no reason at all except that she grows out of the little kid roles and there are much fewer roles for "tweens." If other kids know about it and ask her about it, she could start to feel like she needs this business to keep friends. And if she feels like she needs it, she'll focus way too much on her looks and other externals. And that would be bad. Not to mention the fact that kids can be mean and I know that she'll get teased about it at one point or another (although every kid gets teased for something).

On balance, it seems to me and the hubby that the negatives of telling other kids outweigh the possible positives - especially in a place like Chicago where there aren't a lot of kids in the "business." If we lived in L.A. or New York, I'd probably feel differently. In the end, though, it has to be her decision. We can't save her from pain inflicted by other kids. If it isn't this it will be something else and, like the rest of us, she'll need to find her own way (with our help, hopefully) to deal with it.

Monday, May 02, 2005


This sucks. I'm at home with two sick kids. I don't feel well. The hubby doesn't feel well. It's freakin' May and it's freezing out. And cloudy. Oh, and I have my period. Did I mention that this sucks?

I suppose I should be glad that the babysitter arrived about 30 minutes ago so I no longer have to try to work (er, procrastinate by surfing the web reading blogs of total strangers) with Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends screeching from the TV. Now I can procrastinate in peace and quiet while she uses her young person's energy and creativity to occupy my kids.

More great moments in parenting . . . although I swore I wouldn't let the kids watch TV all day just because they're sick, they've probably watched more than three hours total. I did have them do some workbooks for a little while so it was kinda like school, only not really.