Happy HallowTEEN! How Disneyland Resort gave me back a cherish tradition

It’s finally happened. My kids don’t want me to dress in a costume for Halloween. That would be, to use a direct quote, “Totally embarrassing.” It used to be our thing. When they were little and I could pick out their costumes, I got the chance to show my Winnie-the-Pooh love by dressing us all as characters. When I was pregnant with my son, Ben, my belly rounded out my Pooh Bear costume perfectly. It was a magical year.

Then my kids had their own opinions on what they were for Halloween. We’ve seen Troy from “High School Musical,” Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” and our fair share of pirates and princesses. When this phase hit, I would resurrect my roller-skating waitress costume, year after year.

This year, my daughter is all about the 1950s, since she saw “Grease” a few months ago. So she and her bestie are dressing in vintage clothes from that era for Mickey’s Halloween Party, at Disneyland Resort. At 13, she’s too old to go trick-or-treating – nothing worse than a group of teenagers coming to your door and clearing out your candy stash – so this is her only big Halloween festivity.

Mickey’s Halloween Party is a special ticketed event at Disneyland Resort that runs 12 nights in October. (Go to [disneyland.com] for ticket prices and a schedule.) They close down the park and transform it into a spooktacular Halloween party. The best part: The kids get to trick-or-treat at DISNEYLAND! It’s an absolutely mind-blowing experience. Also, guests get to experience things that only happen at Mickey’s Party, such as their special Halloween fireworks show and a Costume Party Cavalcade Parade. Adding to the fun: It’s the only time that adults are allowed into the park in full costume. Hooray! But, um, not per my kids. So no dressing up for me… except for … my Minnie Mouseish costume at Mickey’s Halloween Party. Check out my photos:

IMG_3326Tick or Treat stations throughtout the park.

IMG_3330My son and I on the tram into the park

IMG_3332

My daughter’s friend posing with Duffy at Big Thunder Ranch.IMG_3337

Dapper Dans singing Halloween-themed songs at Big Thunder Ranch

Although my daughter will no longer go trick-or-treating, my son, who is 10, is still heading out to collect what always turns out to be too much candy. So this year, we are gong to participate in the Halloween Candy Buy Back Program. It allows kids to sell their candy to a local dentist to earn cash – which I suspect will simply be used to buy candy. The sweetest thing is that this year the program is teaming up with Spry and Operation Gratitude. Together they will work with participating dentists to collect children’s Halloween candy to send to the U.S. troops overseas, along with toothbrushes and other oral care items. Just go to [halloweencandybuyback.com] and enter your zip code. A list of local dentists will be provided.

I do miss the days of dressing up and hitting the neighborhood with my kids, each year holds sweet memories for us. Anyone need to borrow my roller-skating waitress costume? I’m rolling with the changes but, sadly, not rolling door to door with my kids anymore.

FYI: iPhones Don’t Know How to Swim

It was just a quick exchange. I was at a restaurant on the border of Nevada and California dropping off my kids with my parents, who live in the silver state. They were taking them and my brother’s son for a week to do whatever grandparents do with their grandkids when their parents aren’t around.

I just needed to use the restroom “real fast” before we had lunch and ditched the kids. I checked my email on my iPhone quickly as I made my way through the lobby and then shoved it in my back pocket. My daughter and sister-in-law followed me and we split ways at the stall doors–that’s when it happened. I will never, ever forget that dreadful sound.

“Kurrr-Plop.”

I turned my head and looked down to see my iPhone in the bowl, slowly sliding down deeper and deeper, it reminded me of that last scene with Jack in “Titanic” when he lets go and sinks into the abyss of the Atlantic Ocean, at least to me it was just as traumatic. At that moment instinct kicked in and I fearlessly reached in and rescued it.

My scream startled my daughter and we met at the sinks where I was already frantically pounding out the water from what now seemed like massive openings in my phone – cups of water poured all over the counter. My daughter quickly ripped off the cover and grabbed some towels. Then my sister-in-law came out of her stall and asked what had happened. When she heard the news she rightly struck an “eww” face and instructed me not to turn it on.

”I read that somewhere, don’t turn it on and put it in a bag of rice to soak up the water.”

Stunned and visibly shaking, I headed to our table to have lunch. My mom talked to me about bedtimes, helmets and something about a restaurant in Reno with a parrot that flies over diners dropping dollar bills to the kids, but I couldn’t think of anything but my iPhone. I had just bought it a week before; I’d had the original iPhone for over three years and decided to take the leap when it stopped taking a full charge.

Could it be saved? Why am I so upset? The parrot does what?

The 6-hour ride home was brutal: no phone, no Twitter, no email. At about Newhall, my iPhone started turning on and off on its own in a haunting 2010 poltergeist way. It was weird; screens I had never seen would pop up and then the phone would go black again. When I got home I put it in a bag of uncooked white rice as instructed by my sister-in-law and the results of the Google search: “Dropped iPhone in toilet.” The rice glowed blue and red as my possessed phone turned on and off as it nestled deep in a Ziploc bag.

That night I dreamed a tidal wave hit me in my office.

The next day I took my phone out of the rice and to the Apple Store. I played it cool with the Genius assigned to help me and as I handed it to him I said, “I dropped it in water.” He looked exactly like a younger, shorter version of Russell Crowe, which was reassuring for some reason. He took it in his certifiably-Genius hands and without looking up at me asked, ”Did you drop it in the toilet?” Busted, I fessed up, “Yeah, but I wiped it down with a handy wipe. I haven’t turned it on and it’s been living in rice since last night.” He smiled as he looked up to me, “It happens all the time.” Forcing a smile back I asked casually, “Can it be saved?”

Like I was good either way. Just wondering.

Little Russell assured me there’s always hope and took it into the back room to laugh at me with the other Geniuses, or as he put it, “run some tests on your phone.” When he came out through the white unmarked door after about five minutes he was shaking his head as he walked toward me. Like a doctor he delivered the news, “We did everything we could; we couldn’t save it.”

My heart sank. In a manic monologue I told him how long I had my first phone, the very first iPhone! I took it out of my purse and showed it to him, he seemed very impressed for an Apple employee. I finished up with how long I waited to get a new one and now, all the patience and restraint was for nothing. I really laid it on, but I meant it, I was truly and disproportionately upset, afraid I was going to burst into tears right there next to the external hard drives.

“Well,” Little Russell started, ”since you had your first iPhone for so long, and you seem a little upset, we do have phones for these sorts of situations.”  Ah, being a Genius and all, he realized he had a possible crier on his hands and Apple doesn’t do crying. Think about it, with its massive crush of people, its prices and the technical catastrophes being schlepped in and discussed daily, have you ever seen anyone crying at an Apple store? No.

Little Russell beelined it over to the bar and came back holding a small, black, unmarked CIA-type case. Not a white and grey, cheerful iPhone box, but a covert, lean and shiny box with an iPhone laying unceremoniously inside. He never once verbally said, “I’m giving you a new iPhone.” Never said the words “free” or “replacement” he just brought it over, took it out of its CIA case, had me sign a form and handed it to me.

I stood there a long time holding my new phone and waited for him to say something – he didn’t. He just looked at me. Then I said, “Would it be weird if I hugged you? I mean, would you get in trouble or anything?” He shrugged and put his tattooed arms out. Isn’t that a nice picture? I was hugging a Genius with my new iPhone in hand in the middle of the Apple Store. I was happy. Really happy. Like wedding-day happy. Like when you were in 8th grade and the bell rang on the last day of school and you ran outside and threw your notebook up on the roof and ran wildly with your friends through the schoolyard kind of happy. It’s really kind of sad how happy I was over an iPhone. Little Russell understood.

From my column at the OC Register

My Charm School Training

 

I attended charm school at the vanguard of all things classy and charming in the ’70s: Montgomery Wards. When I was 10-years-old I went every Wednesday night to the Wendy Ward Charm School classes in a tiny, windowless room you accessed by walking through the girl’s dressing room on the lower floor of the Montgomery Wards in Huntington Center.

It wasn’t that I was interested in being charming (that luckily came naturally to me. It can’t really be taught. You know, it’s a gift really) and all the perks that come with being incredibly charming. I clearly remember my motivation:  I wanted to be a model and at the end of the Montgomery Wards Charm School, if I passed and had the charm of Dinah Shore, I took part in a runway show out in middle of the Huntington Center in front of friends, family and hapless shoppers.

My mom signed me up after seeing an ad in the local paper. The classes taught standard charm-school fare; walking with a book on your head, sitting in a skirt, eating with a knife, using a feminine voice when speaking on the phone, sneezing in a tissue and accepting party invitations. The classes were taught by a tightly-buned taskmaster who was passionate about ironing clothes the right way, and if I remember correctly, never using the filler word of “um” or answering a question with “uh-huh.” Oh, yes, I recall she didn’t like that at all.

Here’s an excerpt:

We had a book called “Crossroads to Charm.” It had a simple cover with the title across the top and then a small photo of a girl with a kind of Breck Girl whimsy approaching crossroads, in her neatly ironed blue dress, with confidence. One chapter of the book is titled “The Fairest of Them All.”

“Looking your very best at all times is not only something you want to do for yourself it is something you do as a courtesy to others. Especially when you consider you look at yourself only two or three times a day – the rest of the world looks on you for hours on end!”

I remember that chapter placing an enormous amount of pressure on 10-year-old me. I have to look my very best? At all times? For the sake of all mankind who has to look at me for hours on end. For goodness sake young lady, do it for mankind if not just for yourself!

Note to the young: This was before the advent of “selfies.” The idea today that a young girl would only look at herself once or twice a day is preposterous. Not only has Instagram, Vine and texting made that an obsolete idea, but I know I personally spent $25 on leopard print framed mirrors for my daughter’s locker.

I would imagine the class now – if it were still being taught ­– would, I hope, discourage girls from making the dreaded “duck face” in every photo and teach them to always answer a long thoughtful texts from their mom with more than a “k.” Heaven knows young girls need a lesson in how to sit in a skirt. Recently, I went around a fancy event telling girls in skirts to either cross their legs at their ankles or knees. That was clearly my Wendy Ward training jumping into action. I don’t know what came over me. I barely paid attention to the lessons in my classes.

I wasn’t enrolled in Wendy Ward Charm School for the “charm” of it, I was motivated purely by the end-of-class fashion show that followed the 6-week course. This was long before the supermodel furor of the ’80s.  My drive was purely the idea of having everyone looking at me … on a hastily assembled stage…in new clothes … from Montgomery Wards. The very idea that I could be up on stage as unsuspecting shoppers came out of Miller’s Outpost or The Fly Trap was thrilling to me.

Once I completed the course it was time to prepare for the fashion show. They let the graduates run loose inside the store after closing hours. It was very literally, up to that age, the most thrilling experience of my life. I could choose ANYTHING from MONTGOMERY WARDS to model in two different strolls down the runway.  The class wandered the aisles of shoes and handbags looking through racks of clothes and running in and out of the dressing rooms tying to put together just the right outfit.

For reasons only known to 10-year-old me, I wore a nightgown in my first trip and then a bikini in my encore. This was the first of many (may I stress, many) poor wardrobe choices that I have made since then, including power bangs, acid wash jeans, anything with shoulder pads and overalls.

As I took to the runway, I remember people laughing because I waved and smiled as I made my way down and back, breaking the important runway rule of never interacting with the audience … in the middle of a mall … at a fashion show … for Montgomery Wards.  I believed people were actually there to see me and that this was just my first step into the world of modeling. It would have been rude not to acknowledge them.

A brief performance of “The Hustle” was also part of the fashion show. We all wore the same green and yellow jumper and danced to the song played from an eight-track player with a microphone propped up next to it. I’m pretty sure we nailed it. Everyone clapped. Even the people waiting in line for an Orange Julius.

I still remember much of what I learned in charm school. For instance, I know how to properly answer the telephone and how to iron a pleated skirt. Much of the class was old fashioned by today’s standard and I’m equally horrified and perplexed by some of the attitudes about young girls that I learned all those years ago. The “Crossroads to Charm” book at times seems surprisingly timeless with encouraging direction like this: “Being feminine you first must be proud of being a girl and then proud of yourself,” but then sails off into reckless waters of feminine stereotypes by adding, “That is the thing that makes a boy notice you first.” Oh, so close!

Wendy Ward laid out specifically the three types of girls you could choose to be: Thoroughly Modern Millie, Elfish Pixie or a Romantic Princess. I clearly remember falling into the Thoroughly Modern Millie camp. We were the girls in the back of the class with calluses on our hands from the monkey bars talking about the latest Mary Tyler Moore episode.

I have to admit that my memories are fond ones of that time in my life: so innocent and sweet. Whatever messages I received as a little girl in the ‘70s have made me the mom, friend, sister and professional I am today. So I’m thankful for it. Looking through my “Crossroads of Charm” book for this column I found this line profound and full of lasting wisdom that Wendy Ward taught me:

“Being beautiful means many things. It’s not just something you do with your appearance, it’s the total you!”

From my column in the OC Register

Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

I noticed these “fellas” years ago at a friend’s party. These compadres truly adored their smart phones. They shined them. They held them up to the light. They showed them off to each other and wore them on their hip like a trusted six- shooter.

At the party all the men greeted each other with hugs and slaps on the back, then they all sat down at a big round table on the patio next to a freshly remodeled pool The flagstone fireplace lit up their faces and in unison the men slid their phones out of their pockets and laid them on the table directly in front of them.

One guy pointed another man’s phone and asked, “May I?” Getting the nod from him to examine his phone, he picked it up and tossed it lightly from hand to hand. He then quickly slipped it into his holster short’s pocket, quickly taking it in and out a few times. “Smooth,” he complimented, pursing his lips. “iPhone?… nice,” he nodded his approval. Next came the questions: “How’s the reception? Easy to use the keypad? How is it with a bluetooth?”

Here, at the very mention of the word “bluetooth,” all the men perked up even more. “Yes, it works great, but I still pre-ordered – fill in whatever the latest release was back then – just in case I like the camera better.” All the men “Ahh’d” their approval at the very idea of having two smart phones at once and then simply choosing the one they prefer. The one with the better camera, or the best keyboard, or the easiest screen to see in the scorching sun while riding your horse out on the open range, ur, um, I mean waiting for your Margarita out on the patio of Javier’s.

I got the impression that these men, if left in the wilds of Orange County without their trusted cell phones (with Wi-Fi) by their sides, would be rendered helpless, unable to mosey their way through traffic without their GPS app or decide which watering hole to go to without being able to check Yelp’s recommendations.

They would surely perish in the harsh wilderness of disconnection. Cell phone cowboys needed their guns phones to survive in their frontier.

But do these men know how to use a Thomas guide? Probably not. My dad still has his in the back of his car. It’s like his own version of Custard’s Last Stand. He’s doesn’t have a smart phone and promises he never will.

You might think that having access to all the conveniences and pampering that technology provides has changed what it means to be a man? Are these men who are constantly checking their bracket apps picking the right filter for their Instagram photo of their lunch and updating their status on Facebook really still manly men? But it doesn’t. You know why I can say that will stanch confidence, because I’m raising a young man.

My son is a classic nerd. A geek. A technology junkie! He has pictures of the creators of Minecraft taped on his bedroom door. His best friend, a fellow geek, and him dressed as Steve Jobs for their historical character book report, complete with black turtleneck, jeans and white tennis shoes. He got the “coolest costume” nod of approval from all the boys.  And though Marcus Persson and Jens Bergensten (the creators of Minecraft) and Steve Jobs might not have the swagger of Steve McQueen, the cool factor of  or the grit of John Wayne, they are idols to these young boys. They’re pioneers, rebels, hard-workers and smart on top of it all.

When I told my son I was going to write this column I asked him (as I always do when I write about my kids) if it was okay to for me to call him a nerd and geek. “Oh, yeah!” he replied instantly. “I’m a geek! That’s cool.”

We’re going to be okay. These young men know who they are and I believe so do their dads, uncles and teachers. They’re not Googling “How to be manly” (though that is a thing I found online and I would pay money – cold hard cash – to know someone who has looked that up), they have just replaced their spurs, lassos and sweaty bandanas with conveyance.

Back to the cellphone cowboys at the party. After these men had finished admiring each other’s phones, they all sat back deeply in their chairs and looked up at the stars, clear and bright in the San Juan Capistrano sky. The night was quiet and still. Only the crackling of the fire and a random ringtone every so often broke the silence.

From my column in the Orange County Register

Costal Casual at Terrenea Resort

It’s a challenge. Create a resort that feels luxurious but at the same time warm and cheerful. Terranea Resort, tucked in the coast of Palace Verdes in Los Angeles, strikes the right balance. From the breezy open-air lobby to the comfy, immaculate rooms this getaway has everything needed for a quick romantic respite for weary parents.
If you have been eyeing your calendar looking for a good time to drop the kids at your parents’ and get away with your beloved, I just might have the perfect destination for you. If you’re longing for a peaceful place to lounge by an “adults only” pool all day (with full food and cocktail* services), then catch a magnificent sunset while dining on delicious California-inspired fare at a award-winning restaurant (Marcel) and then retire to your room for a nice long soak in a deep tub while sipping a nice Champagne nightcap* – then yes, for sure, this is your spot.
The coast where Terranea sits is reminiscent of Santa Barbara, but without the drive and then of course the price tag of some of the more popular resorts up north. Because it’s only an hour or so away from Orange County, you won’t be riddled with guilt for leaving your precious little ones for a few nights away.
Hit the beautiful spa for a hot stone massage or facial. Ladies, don’t forget to bring you suit to the spa to enjoy lounge chairs with ocean views and hot tubs all available to you in the female-only relaxation area.
If getting a good workout is part of your parents-only getaway dream (God love ya!) then you will simply jump for joy when you see the gym that has … wait for it … an ocean view! While some resort hide their workout rooms in the basement or down a dreary hallway (giving you a legitimately good reason abandon your workout plans and head to the more conveniently located lobby lounge for a cocktail*), Terranea provides you added inspiration by providing a five-star view from your elliptical. If walking is more your thing, you can take a gorgeous hike through the trails that wind around the resort or schedule a guided tide pool tour.
But back to the rest of us who would just rather spend a day – a full day! – giving other people your breakfast, lunch and dinner orders, Terranea provides five eating establishments) from casual coffee house to elegant two-fork dining. Not to mention someone else is making YOUR bed and cleaning your room,
One night hit the more casual and raucous eatery that sits beside the resort called Nelson’s.  Settle in on the patio and watch as the sun sets into the Pacific and the sparkly patio lights turn on over you. Enjoy the best lobster roll this side of Boston and a chilled margarita* while chatting with your spouse. You remember – talking to each other, right? I’m sure you remember. Come on!

*Cocktails only mentioned four times in this article which actually shows very good restraint for an article addressing the need for a parent’s getaway

Put Down the Purrell and Go See the Movie ‘Babies’

Babies are tough. Babies have a wicked sense of humor. Babies can spend the first year of their life licking dirt, spending time unsupervised, and cuddling with cows and still enter into the toddler stage healthy and happy

These are all things a new mom can learn from watching the brilliant 2010 documentary “Babies.”

Whenever I meet at young women who is pregnant or has a baby that is her first child I urge her to rent it. It follows the first year of life of four babies living in Africa, Mongolia, Tokyo and San Francisco. It’s not only the dramatic differences in the way the babies are being raised that makes this four-year-old movie fascinating ­ the African baby has his ‘hair cut’ with a machete, the Mongolian baby taken home from the hospital on the back of a motorcycle ­ it is also the underlying truth that babies are babies, no matter where they hang their … well, I would say diaper, but only two of the four babies in the movie ever wears one.

I suspect I look at young moms much like my mom looked at me and my girlfriends as we veraciously read baby books, dedicated hours to baby proofing our houses and insisted no one come within a mile of our babies if they have a cold, had a cold or watch a TV commercial about cold medicine (not really on the later, but pretty darn close).

I recall my mom’s advice to me on pacifiers. After reading a few books that warned parents on the impending disaster that would happen if you let your child become dependent on a “binkie,” I told my mom I wasn’t going to give my newborn daughter one. After the first night at home with my baby my mom came over for the day. Seeing we were both exhausted from a sleepless night she stood in the hallway, baby in her arms holding a pacifier in the quiet, sleeping baby’s mouth. “You’ll thank me for this someday,” she said with a smile.

“Thank you, mom!”

When the movie “Babies” first premiered the French filmmakers ­ Thomas Balmes, Director and Alain Chabat, Producer, said in an interview that they found during the making of their movie that as long as there is love given to the babies, they were happy and healthy. That is the valuable lesson in this movie. It is fascinating to watch these families survive their first year.

I believe that so many times new moms, at least here in O.C. get so preoccupied with every little detail of their little one’s life that they can stress themselves out way beyond what is necessary. So, I tell them, put down the Purell, go watch this movie and then spend some time just cuddling your bundle of joy (while you still can), really, they are going to be fine.

 

 

Good Morning Gertrude

Every morning I see her. She is as consistent as Al Rooker’s silly jokes and my son’s breakfast choice (always oatmeal). When I moved into my neighborhood in Orange two and a half years ago she was the first person I met. Her name is Gertrude* and she is in her nineties. Her constant partner is named Tulia pie – a white and brown Shih Tzuz dog.

Gertrude introduced herself one afternoon as I swept out my garage. “Hello!’ she called out to me from the sidewalk. I honestly didn’t want to chat. I was busy. A single mom who just moved her two kids; two dogs and rabbit into a new house had a lot to do. Motivated solely by guilt, I put down my broom and walked over to meet her.

At a rapid pace – impressive for a woman of her age — she told me her life story. She is one of the “originals owners.” That’s one of three categories of people in our neighborhood: original owners, Chapman students or young families. She moved here with her husband who died many years ago. She talked about him with a broad smile and big animated motions. Then she told me she lived with her daughter and son-in-law. Her daughter has to use a cane to walk, but she was a wonderful daughter and got around pretty well despite her handicap.

Her son-in-law was in hospice care, suffering from cancer but he too was a wonderful man and the nurses and staff where he was were just wonderful and took good care of him.

As she spoke to me that morning one prevailing sentiment was repeated over and over – wonderful.

Life is wonderful according the Gertrude.

It’s obviously not perfect. She knows that, having experienced loss and disappointment, but it is still wonderful. Every story she told, no matter the outcome, she always ended with a positive note.

Thinking she might be getting tired standing out in the hot sun, Tulia Pie pulling on her leach, I start giving all the “time to end this chat” ques. But she didn’t bite and asked about me.

“I just moved here with my two kids,” I told her. “I’m divorced.” Oh she thought this was the perfect neighborhood for a divorcee – safe and friendly, with two former Sheriffs on the street. “I work at the OC Register,” I continued. That is usually met with mixed reactions, but Gertrude thought that was … you guessed it, “Just wonderful!”

We said our goodbyes and I watched her walk away, she continued her chatting but now it was directed at Tulia Pie.

I’ve seen her most mornings since then. She has her routine. She is always dressed well, in pastel blue elastic –wasted pants, crisp cotton shirt with little flowers and white nurse type shoes. If she needs it she wears a light white sweater across her tiny shoulders like a shawl, clinging to her by one button. She walks confidently but with grace and caution. She told me she used to walk miles every day, but when she fell a few years ago, her family will now only let her walk our culde-sac. So that’s what she does and it’s “wonderful” (naturally).

My Facebook feed is filled with pictures of sunsets or oceans with inspirational sayings splashed across them. Friends comment with things like “So true” or “Good to remember” to even the most basic platitudes. Life Coaching has become a $1 billion dollar a year industry. One can download apps that send you an affirmation daily, or that tracks your workout, or listen to podcasts of a favorite self-help book. But I’m beginning to suspect that sweet Gertrude has the key to what we are all striving for, a happy life. It’s simple really; get out and exercise every day, have a positive attitude and a grateful heart, connect with your neighbors and community and, of course, own a dog.

I often find myself humming the song made popular when she was a young girl called “Look for the Silver Lining,” when I see her.

 

“Look for the silver lining.

When e’er a cloud appears in the blue.

Remember somewhere the sun is shining,

And so the right thing to do,

Is make it shine for you.”

 

She’s a constant reminder to me to check my attitude. As I’m hurrying my kids along in the morning, she passes my kitchen window and it makes me think of how quickly this time in my life will pass. As I pile the kids into the car, a mess of lunch boxes, unbrushed hair (we’ll bush it in the car) and backpacks I stop and say “Good morning, Gertrude” and it instantly grounds me. I remember. Isn’t life wonderful?

 

“A heart, full of joy and gladness,

Will always banish sadness and strife.

So always look for the silver lining,

And try to find the sunny side of life.”

 

From my column in the Orange County Register

Grace and Poise at the Nail Salon

To me, going to the nail salon is a little respite, a bastion of $25 luxury. A place I go to read People magazine (the very magazine I sneer at my friends for reading). I sit on my beige vinyl throne and flip through the pages thinking smugly, “I am so glad I don’t find this remotely interesting…” But just try to pry it from my freshly soaked hands.

Sadly, my last trip to my favorite salon was infiltrated by a woman driving a VERY large black Escalade and sporting a brown velour sweatsuit. She came in with kinetic energy courtesy of her Frappacino and was escorted to the chair next to mine for her mani/pedi.

While I tried to decide between “ElePhantastic Pink” or “Big Apple Red” another woman outside the salon caught my eye. She was attempting to open her car door get behind the wheel of her cream Camry. She was polite about it, making every attempt not to ding the Escalade that slid in barely one foot away from her driver’s side.

Finally accepting defeat, she sweetly peeked her head back into the salon. “Is that anyone’s Escalade out there? I can’t get into my car.” Ms. Fappy Velvet Mani/Pedi pitched forward, looked at the thin valley between the two cars and said <em>(brace yourselves)</em>, “You can squeeze in.”

The whole place stopped–no buffing, no scrubbing, no removing unwanted calluses–frozen with shock.

“I tried, but I can’t squeeze in,” she said nicely without a trace of sarcasm. She looked exactly like an updated version of Gladys. Kravitz from “Bewitched,” but had a softness about her Samantha’s neighbor could never muster. Apparently, this gal had a rudeness shield the size of a 1976 Buick.

Bamm! Deflected!

“Could you possibly move it?”

“I think you can make it in, I’m going to be a while,” motioning at the plastic bag covering her (I suspect webbed) hands and feet. Then she looked at me with a “get-a-load-of-her” look.

I just sunk my head deeper into the glossy pages of my People, truly afraid of someone so mean.

This is my theory. My “how the world would work if I were in charge” mandate: Cars should be handed out according to driving record, skill and human decency. If you are a good driver, who is kind and generous, you get a big beautiful black Escalade – totally cherry, with shiny rims and all.

If you are a disgraceful driver, a lousy parker and a disdainful person with perception problems rendering you unable to spot a space is too small for your car, you get an old Ford Pinto with a wire hanger for an antenna and faded stuffed animals piled in the back window.

But, the world doesn’t work that way…I’ll bet you wish Mrs. Kravitz did a Carrie Underwood “Before He Cheats” on the Escalade. I know the whole place was waiting for it. But she was bigger than that.

“Alrighty then.” she said with a smile. Then Mrs. Kravitz walked out to her car and crawled in through the passenger’s side and drove away. Her grace and poise in the face of severe rudeness was remarkable. Inspirational even. Ms. Frappy Velvet Mani/Pedi wasn’t worth ruining her beautiful sunny Saturday morning. I bet she went on to have a wonderful day. That’s just who she is. I like her for that.

 

From my column at OC Register

Taking Aim at My Target Spending

I was driving past the Irvine Spectrum with my son on the 5 and I noticed the brightly lit-up, twirling Ferris wheel. “Look Ben!” I said, motioning in the direction of what would be most kids’ point of interest. He looked out his window and said, “Yeah! Target!”

Uh-oh!

Ben was more drawn to the Target store in front of the festively lit-up, twirling Ferris wheel. It’s true, I just couldn’t get enough of that red and white store with its tidy aisles, killer kid’s shoes, and adorable little P.J.s that I would stack to the ceiling of my closet, if left to my whimsy.

Obviously, this was a sign we were spending too much time and, more importantly, money at my store of choice. “I would pay twice that somewhere else!” I schemed as I slid a new set of summer dishes in my cart. “It’s a discount store!” I would lie to myself as I threw in yet another pair running shorts.

Stop!

After the Ferris wheel incident I made an earnest vow to myself to cut back. I started to read books on getting my finances in order. I learned how to budget. I listened to CD’s in my car about financial planning. After putting pen to paper I realized all of those “little things” were adding up to a huge bill at the end of the month. I am proud to say that I have stopped the splurges.

Here is my easy-to-use, almost totally painless Target budget plan–don’t go. (Suzanne – Temptation = more $ at end of month) I have found that simply not going to Target as much as I used to for incidental things–like for Icee’s or to pick up things I can get at the market–I have cut my family’s Target bill in half. (In half I say!)

When I took a good honest look at my activities with my kids I realized that too many of them had a shopping component. This was born out of necessity when my kids were younger, but became an expensive habit. Once I replaced “Let’s to to Target!” with “Let’s go swimming” or “Let’s go play tennis” the bills were slimmed down.

I can just see husbands around Orange County reaching for the scissors to cut this out and leave it for their wives on their nightstand, a little red heart drawn next to the headline. But I don’t think this entirely a female issue, but I strongly suspect I’m not the only mom who has/had this habit. So please don’t curse me under your breath as you throw this article away and settle in for a night of quiet resentment in your freshly purchased Target PJs. I get it.

Today, I did go for the first time in three weeks and I bought a new pair of P.J.’s on a whim, but with no nagging guilt. I have been sooo good. I want that for you, sister.

Family Staycation at Hyatt Huntington Beach

You’ve probably heard the famous quote about traveling attributed to St. Augustine: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page.” I then suppose that my kids and I traveling 17 miles from Orange to my hometown of Huntington Beach to stay at the Hyatt Regency would be like reading a book’s “About the author” page.
I live for years behind the Hyatt – long before it was there – so I’m well versed in area around the resort. I remember watching it go up, hoping for a spot that locals could enjoy with our families. I believe they have achieved it!
My daughter, age 13 and son, age 10, and I stayed two nights and spent three activity-filled days at the resort. The casual Spanish architecture with a piazza-like courtyard has kid-friendly restaurants, shops, a market that serves fresh sandwiches, salads and Starbuck’s coffee and, in the middle, a fire pit lit at night for s’mores time.
Our suite was a good size for our family, complete with large soaking tub and a king-size bed for us to cuddle up in and watch a movie after a day at the beach or pool.
So let’s talk about that. The kid pool area is called Slyder’s Waterpark. It has three slides and a long pool down the middle with lots of spots to set up for a day of soaking up the sun. We scored a cabana and spent an entire day at the pool playing cards, eating lunch and enjoying our time together.
The next day we spent down on the beach. It was a short walk over the bridge to collect our complimentary beach chairs, towels and umbrella. We first hit Surf City Grocers and they packed up a nice picnic lunch in a cooler for us (with wheels!).
The unique advantage of staying in town for vacation is that you can rendezvous with local friends and family while you’re “away.” We all met down at the beach, and when our friends packed up to go home, we packed up and headed back to our room – but not before hitting the Jacuzzi – and showered up before having a nice dinner at Pete’s Sunset Grill while watching the sunset.
A few things for the kids that make the Hyatt a great family spot:
* Hyatt HB does offer a kids club. So if you want to spend some time in the resort’s world-class spa, Pacific Waters, or head to the well-equipped on-site gym (choices, choices), the kids won’t mind.
* You can purchase s’more kits at Surf City Grocers and use them at one of the many fire pits around the property.
* Enjoy Cosmic Sliding; Saturday nights at Sylder’s Water Playground features a laser light show.
* Rent bikes at Toes to the Nose in the courtyard piazza and take a ride down the path next to the beach.
* Enjoy Dive in Movies at Sylder’s Water Playground, Friday night at 7 p.m.
* On Tuesday nights in the summer, Main Street hosts Surf City Nights. It’s fun to check out the Farmers Market, and be sure to take advantage of dinner specials in the local restaurants then. They offer a kids zone, too!

If you’re planning a stay-cation this summer, The Hyatt Regency should be on your short list of options. It sits on miles and miles of family-friendly beaches, and guests with kids get the feeling they are welcome there – which makes a parent’s stay all the more enjoyable.

My Instagram album

Lunch in our poolside cabana.

 

 

Ben trying out one of three waterslides