Tuesday, July 31, 2012


In Vegas, summer is the indoor season.  When temperatures are nearing 120 degrees, even the pool water can be warm.  To entertain ourselves, at just such a time, The Storm and I embarked on a game of Monopoly--Littlest Pet Shop version--that would last several days long. 

On day three, when work required me to call another break in play, determined to have my kitchen table back, I recruited reinforcements.  Sunshine and her Tweedle partnered up to take over my little green lizard's slither around the board.

The Storm took ten minutes to raise dog houses on Biggest Littlest Pet Shop and Round-N--Round Pet Town, the equivalent of Boardwalk and Park Place, then another two hours to drag the teenage girls through a slow and agonizing finish. 

Just glad it wasn't me.

The upside: When I'm old and frail and without a penny to pinch between my arthritic fingers, perhaps my baby girl will set me up in a nice little corner unit with a view.

Free Parking Grin!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ballerina Blues

I'm in mourning, which is why I haven't been attending my Haphazard Truths, lately.  Don't worry, nobody died--except maybe a little piece of the me.

I'm being melodramatic.  I'm firmly intact, but I am sad.

It's complicated, or maybe it just feels complicated because I'm in the middle of it right now. Anyway, it really isn't about me.  This is about Sunshine.

Maybe it's a little about me.

I'm just going to say it: Sunshine quit dancing.  June marked her last class and her last performance, a beautiful presentation of Giselle. She danced the role of one of the ghostly Wilis. It was magical!

Sunshine is the third ballerina from the left.
I knew, sitting in the audience, that this would probably be her last performance.  She'd been talking for months about giving it up.  There were a few factors spurring her decision and I'm not sure one deserves more weight than the others, but here they are:

First, during her freshman year Sunshine discovered Forensics, which is today's term for Debate Team ("Debate sounds geeky, Mom.") and her gift for public speaking.  It's her newfound passion and her commitment to it often conflicts with her rehearsal schedule. She chooses debate.

Two: Speaking comes naturally to her. She's winning awards without much effort. Ballet is harder.  Even with training ten and twelve hours a week, after ten years, she isn't earning solos. It's frustrating for her, and breaks her heart a little with every audition.

Three: She never wanted to be a professional ballerina. She just loves ballet, and performing, and the thrill that pushing herself to her limits brings. Balthazar and I were hoping she might land a dance scholarship to help us with tuition cost. That was our goal, but we assumed she would go on to pursue a professional career in something other than dance.

Four: There was a bully amongst her dancemates. A mean little girl with the ability to persuade many of the others to ostracize Sunshine (Sunshine is just her latest victim--others have fallen before her.)  This was Sunshine's first experince as the target of a bully.  She's a personable girl and savvy so, in school, she could hold her own, if ever there was an occasion to--but in a dance class of maybe ten girls, who ignored, snubbed, giggled and whispered about her, five days a week, for six months. Well, they wore her down.

"I  just want to quit," Sunshine said, finally and firmly, in May.

We've talked at length about what this will mean for her, and about her real motives for quitting.  She assures me that she's ready to be done with it. And what can I do? To be a ballerina requires as much passion as it does intense commitment, and if her passion has been compromised....

In the meantime, the quality of my own life has much improved.  Her decision has earned me twelve to 24 more free hours in my week. Now, where I used to drive and hang around the dance studio, I'm cooking, and writing, sitting out with Balthazar, walking the dog, playing family games and eating family meals.  It's really rather wonderful--except that I'm really very sad.

A part of me hopes she'll change her mind, and another part of me doesn't. So far she's seems content with her decision.  She's reveling in her lazy summer days, sleeping late in the morning then sprawling across the couch--"like a normal teenager," she tells me--so that I have to busy her with chores.

Today, I sent her to clean out her closet and drawers. "Inventory your clothes," I said, "so we can plan some back to school shopping."

"You should see how clean my closet is, Mom," she said, after an hour.  "And I have all sorts of clothes that don't fit me, to put away for The Storm."

"Great," I said, "I'll come have a look."

"Oh, but there's a big drawer of dance clothing I'm just going to leave, because I don't feel like cleaning it out right now."


To be continued.... Maybe? Maybe not.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Dinner time yesterday had Hollywood, The Storm, and me driving around Van Nuys, California looking for a MacDonald's, or some other fast food that would hold us until we made it back to Vegas. (We'd made a fast trip in and back out again for Hollywood to do a quick audition.)

When low and behold we came across the pinkest diner I've ever seen.

"Want to eat there?"

"Anywhere," said The Storm, "just please feed us."

Every now and then, when you're simply looking not to perish, you stumble on a rocking good time.

Such was our case, yesterday, when we chanced upon Beeps, a 1950's diner on the corner of Sherman Way and Woodley Avenue, serving traditional steakcut fries, burgers and shakes, as well as salads and avacado turkey burgers, and pretty much everything in between.

I had the avacado turkey burger and a chocolate shake that was so delicious, I pushed through several brain freezes and loud unladylike slurps to get every last drop.

Speaking of unladylike, the paraphrenalia that covered the walls kept us entertained throughout our meal.  With a point and a mouth-covered snicker, The Storm directed me to this particular postcard that a year ago she wouldn't have understood--only because its in cursive. (As the youngest, she's so much more educated than her siblings were at her age.)

A few things that I discovered, during our hour at Beeps, while the kids swiveled on their high stools:

1.  The Storm, having only every seen photos in black and white, believed that Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball were one and the same.

And she couldn't name either of them. "There's that lady again." 

 2. She's never heard of the Brady Bunch, and thought it was weird that amongst all this memorabilia was a regular family photo.

3. Hollywood is familiar with The Beatles, because Big Time Rush has introduced him, but he can't name them. 

 "Kendall, James, Carlos, and Logan," said The Storm.

"This is terrible," I said, and put down my burger down.  Once I opened the who's-who door, I couldn't get the answers out fast enough, before a glance in another direction inspired the next question.

"Who's Audrey Hepburn?"

"Who's John Wayne?"

"Who's James Dean, and why is he so special?"

"Who's Gumby?"

"Why is Elvis such a big deal?"

Anyway, the fun just kept on coming!

Surely, they won't retain half of what they learned at Beeps: We visited John Wayne's home in Madison County, Iowa, just a few years earlier, but they can't remember that--and why should they, he's just an old cowboy to them.

The lessons that stick are the ones that matter to us, personally.

"Thanks Mom," said Hollywood, from the backseat, several hours later when we were somewhere near Barstow, "for always doing my laundry for free."

"You're welcome, Buddy."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rainy Day Bloopers

The skies have, finally, let down upon us, here, in the desert, and while everyone is happy for the cooler temps, there's been a lot of complaining about the lousy road conditions.  Rain sort of has the effect that snow has everywhere else: Even though it arrives a few times every year, people tend to forget how to drive in it. It's crazy!

Anyway, there were errands and appointments on our Friday morning schedule and, since it was raining, we gave ourselves a little extra time to contend with all the accidents we thought might slow us up, which, thankfully, turned out to be none. 

Having arrived early, with twenty minutes to kill in the car, Hollywood had The Storm help him with a piece that his acting coach recently gave him to start working on.

What better way for a mother to be entertained from the front seat? I've got my own travelling show!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


A right-of-passage story in pictures. Featuring The Storm and Gramma.

The end.

(Photography by Sunshine)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Junie B.

While I'm a great fan of books, I've never had much tolerance for children's chapter books--at least not as an adult.  Sure I read them, often enough, to the kids throughout the years, but I did so, mostly, with feigned enthusiasm. 

It comes down to prose.  For me, I'd rather read a beautiful sentence then follow a weak one to a fantastic conclusion.  

So, through the years, when the kids would beg me to read this popular children's author, or that one, I'd counter with classic picture books like Peter Rabbit or The Velveteen Rabbit--both books about rabbits, true enough, but both stories in which the sentences danced from the tip of my tongue, when I read them aloud.

There were others: Charlotte's Web was always a pleasure; and anything Dr. Seuss; Pippi Longstocking--mostly for the nostalgia it inspired (that was my favorite when I was a kid); C.S. Lewis; and..., well, of course, the list goes on, and on, and on.

But, there are so any others books, generally contemporary series-fiction, that I could not stand to read, despite the pleas of my adorable, freshly-bathed, sweet-smelling, soft-cheeked babies-before-bed.  Didn't matter how fascinating the stories were, if the prose was weak, I'd put my foot down, and the book, too.

Then along came Junie B. Jones! Now, there's a girl I could get into.  Didn't matter that her grammar was often as bad as her attitude, I loved Barbara Parks's Junie B. from the get go--which, for me, incidentally, was ten years ago, when Sunshine was a kindergartener. 

It was, I know, her righteous, and oh so flawed, but desperately good, while undeniably naughty,  character that I fell for.

And then, along came The Storm!  And together we revelled for years in some good old Junie B. drama--both on the pages and off. 

We still do!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Penny Wishes

"Nope," they said, to pancakes.  "We want donuts." 

This after the midnight ice cream. 

I can't imagine what else a nine-year-old girl could want, but they assured me there was more to toss pennies and wish for. 

"No pets," I warned, and handed over my copper.

Is it just me, or does that look have pony written all over it?

Musical Beds

Last night each of the girls had a Tweedle over, upping the human count from five to seven, when the upstairs air conditioning went in our house. 

It's July. In Vegas. Not good.

Both Tweedles had just arrived,when I went up to where the kids' rooms are to check on them.  On the top step, the heat hit me like a brick wall.  "What the heck! Why's it so hot up here?" The thermostat read ninety-two degrees.

"We told you!" came three simultaneous voices from opposite directions.


"At least ten times," said Sunshine. I knew it must be true, because of the simultaneous voices thing, but I swear I hadn't heard them at all--which concerns me.  But that's for another time.

"Balthazar? You better get up here."

Turns out that the something coils froze, when we hadn't turned off the unit on the previous night, which turned out to be an unusually cool 4th of July. (Happy Belated Independence Day! by the way. I was too busy celebrating to be blogging.)

Fortunately, the solution was simple, we merely needed to turn off the system for eight hours to let the ice melt from the something coils.

But this meant reconfiguring the sleeping arrangements. Several times. All night long. Because, of course, nobody could sleep.

(This was fine for Sunshine and her Tweedle, who were planning a Gossip Girl marathon, and didn't intend to sleep anyway.)

The Storm and her Tweedle started here, downstairs, where the air conditioning was working, in the family room adjoining the kitchen:

But there was a slow leak in the air mattress, and the big girls were good enough to treat them to ice cream at midnight! Anyway, it's no wonder that there arrived monsters to scratch at the kitchen cupboards, shortly thereafter.

In the wee hours of morning, they came to find me, where Hollywood and I were sleeping here:

Having never slept under the open stars, we were both pretty excited. And it was fantastic! The air was a wonderful 70-something degrees, the stars were glorious, and the breeze was soft. When I imagined the early settlers sleeping under this same sky, I drifted off feeling peacefully connected to the bigger picture.  But this didn't last long. Shortly before the nine-year-olds arrived, my hips, aching, and the huge moon, having made it's way around to shine almost as bright as the girls' flashlights in my eyes, had me wide awake.

I resettled the girls in The Storm's room, where they felt they'd be safe from scratching monsters, covering them with a light sheet.  This was at one o'clock.

An hour and a half later, having determined it was, indeed, too hot in there (although Sunshine and her Tweedle somehow spent the night in the adjoining sauna) but ready to sleep now that the ice cream had worn off, I moved them downstairs again, where we made a makeshift bed of the couch and the loveseat. 

Hollywood woke me again at five, to tell me the sun had come up, and that he was happy for the experience of sleeping under the stars, but he was vacating the balcony for his bedroom.  I did the same.

Balthazar, well-rested from his night alone in our cool room, woke me again at six to advise that the air condition was fixed and that he was off to work. 

Only now, at ten thirty in the morning, is The Coop beginning to stir in their finally, cooled rooms.

But I've already snapped my pics of them, and this morning's skyline, so I'm ready.

"Pancakes anyone?"