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Author: toni

~ 07/27/10


Ever heard the saying “looking at life through rose-colored glasses”? Then you know it refers to someone who looks at life with a rosy optimism. I wish I was guilty of that. I’ve always envied people who manage to be endlessly upbeat and full of optimism and hope. You know them, they’re the ones who make lemonade when handed lemons. When I get handed lemons I suck on them and make a sour face.  Anyway, Melanie in “Gone With The Wind” was one of those lemonade-making characters. No matter that the Civil War stripped her of everything, no matter that she was starving, no matter that Scarlet was so mean to her and secretly on the prowl to steal her husband Ashley – although heaven knows why she wanted that man pansy when she had Clark Gable  – that Melanie, she could find the good in everything and everyone. I hated envied her.

But that’s not the point of this post. The point is that I’m guilty at looking at life THRU something all right.  But it isn’t rose-colored glasses.

I’m guilty of looking at life through a Canon digital camera viewfinder. And as I only recently came to realize, there’s nothing rosy about it.

I was at the Hollywood Bowl a couple of weekends back. It was the first trip for my daughter Julia (who is eight) and we took her to the Bugs Bunny show where the L.A. Philharmonic plays along to the cartoons projected on big screens. And as I was videotaping the fireworks finale at one point I turned the camera toward my daughter, you know, to capture her expression. I could see her there, in profile, her wide eyes lit by the flashing fireworks in the sky, her face filled with awe and the joy of the moment. I paused for a moment, sort of taken aback by the utter rapture  she seemed to be experiencing. I mean, what we were doing was cool, but was it truly that amazing? 

At first I attributed it to the fact that she was only 8 and at 8 one is experiencing so many things for the first time. And as we all know, the first time is the most exciting. After all, it had been that way when we took her to Disneyland for the first time. So thrilled was she by the sights, the sounds, the magic of it all that it even rubbed off on jaded old me who had been to Disneyland too many times to count – for whom the magic had completely worn off.

But when I put down the camera that night at the Bowl and I looked at what she was looking at, I mean REALLY looked at it, through my very own eyes, not the viewfinder of my camera – I realized, her feeling of awe had nothing to do with being 8. I looked up at the fireworks in the sky, big and beautiful and sparkly, shattering light over the dome of the Bowl. At the crescent moon that hung in the distance on that crystal clear summer night. At the 18,000 upturned faces all experiencing this moment together. And you know what? To my amazement, it truly WAS amazing!

And I realized, I hadn’t been seeing it. I mean, I was  seeing it on the tiny video display but I wasn’t seeing  it seeing it.

And in that instant, it also occured to me that this has been the case for the last 8 1/2 years of my life! Why 8 1/2 years exactly? Because that’s how long my daughter’s been in the picture – figuratively and literally.

Since she was born and I got my first high quality digital camera, I have chronicled every move, burp, smile, gurgle, and later dance recital, talent show, piano recital, etc.  It’s the reason  Randy the perfekt husband gave me the nickname MAMMARAZI. And while I have recorded all these moments in her life for posterity, I never really experienced them first hand because I was separated from these events  as they were happening – by the camera!  So busy was I  making sure the images were centered, that no one was walking across the frame, that the focus was right, that there was enough head room – that I never truly got to enjoy them. Because I was never, not once,  in the actual moment – watching my little girl sing joyfully at the top of her lungs, tap dance to the perfect rhythm of a song, or even smile shyly as she was handed an award for being an exceptional student.

And suddenly I was very sad. Suddenly, the loss of the last 8 1/2 years hit me like a ton of bricks.

And I realized we have become photo obsessed, we parents these days.  That’s right. It’s not just me. There isn’t a single birthday party or school event I go to that doesn’t feature dozens of parents jockeying for position to get the perfect picture or video of their kid.  It’s such chaos and madness you’d think Brangelina was on the red carpet announcing another adoption! One MAMMAKAZE joked about the fact that whenever her one year old heard the word SMILE, he immediately struck a pose, even if there wasn’t a camera around! This is how conditioned our kids have become to having a camera in their faces.

I mean, my stepdad was a professional photographer and he never took as many pictures of the four of us kids the whole time we were growing up as I have taken of my one, single, only child in the past 8 years!  

I don’t know if it’s the ease and cheapness of taking pictures now – the fact that we can immediately see what we’ve taken and delete what’s bad without having to wait a week and pay a fortune for images that feature closed eyes, a partial thumb over the lens or some wise-acre sticking two fingers up behind someone’s head.

Whatever it is, we’ve created a whole generation of parents that will have a lifetime of memories of taking pictures of their kids , but not of the moments themselves. Very sad.

So I have VOWED that next time Julia gets an award or does a performance or blows out a birthday candle I will sit back, relax and take it in, burning it forever on that brilliant little hard drive known as the cerebral cortex.  Well, I mean, as long as Randy is taking the pictures with the Canon. Oh. And my brother John is doing video on that amazing Nikon he has with the super long lens. That thing captures images like nobody’s business!

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Author: toni

~ 05/27/10


Just wanted to put a face on the reason I have not been posting regularly this last week. Here’s JULIA dressed for her Talent Show performance. She and her friend ALY are doing the song “SISTERS” by Irving Berlin.

Now who can say NO to that face? Not this MAMMAKAZE.  I love her so much and am so proud of her. And while I may often sometimes complain and moan, really, this is what it’s all about. Not the shows. The kid.

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Author: toni

~ 11/10/09


Okay. So here’s the deal. The other night Julia won a trophy for dance choreography and a certificate for photography at a contest at her school. This is the same contest where she won a first place trophy last year in Visual Arts for her photo collage. Randy the perfekt husband and I couldn’t be prouder…

Except… up until this last award she has been adamant that she is going to be a doctor when she grows up. She has stuck to this idea since she was 2 years old. And her father and I thought (perhaps foolishly) that it would stick until adulthood. After all, this is the kid who, the day after Halloween, picks what she is going to be NEXT year and NEVER strays from it. She is so firm in fact, that I buy the necessary costume items for the following year at 75% off the day after Halloween.  And I’ve never regretted it.  

So given this strict adherence to her word imagine my shock when, after the awards assembly the other night, she quietly said between spits while brushing her teeth, “I’m not sure I want to be a doctor when I grow up.”

WHAAAAT?!?!?    Despite the soft voice in which she said it, the earth shook beneath my feet. Mommy’s world was rocked … in a BAD WAY.

Instead, she says, she wants to go…brace yourself… INTO THE ARTS!

Not the arts! Not that vague, impractical, you’re-more-likely-to-get-hit-by-lightening-or-sucked-into-a-black-hole-created-by-the-particle-accelerator-than-succeed-in  “the arts”!

It’s every parent’s nightmare. Imagining their child struggling and destitute, living in a wretched garret and coughing up a lung from consumption. Okay, that’s my IMAGE of it. And yes, it’s overly dramatic. Well, where do you think she GETS it from?

I know it’s all partly my fault. I come from a long line of musicians and artists on my mom’s side. All those Italians were painters and composers. My mother was an opera singer before her career became derailed by marriage and children.  I, in fact, was a theater major before I switched to the more “practical” field of writing. LMAO – as they say in those TWEETS.

And it didn’t help that I enrolled her in dance when she was 2 1/2. At the tender age of 7.5 she’s been dancing for 5 years now. And then I put her in piano which she’s been doing for two years. I have helped her the last couple of years when she wanted to do the talent show – which she got into both times with her singing. Oh yes, and last year Santa brought her an easel, oil paints, pastels, acrylics, paint brushes, etc.

The result? Now she wants to go into the arts. Oy vey!

So here’s the question. Ain’t no way. Okay that’s not the question. That’s a statement of fact. The question is:

Is it okay for a parent to discourage their child from something that they want if the parent knows it not to be practical and likely to bring the child a lot of frustration and heartache and lack of health insurance and matching 401k contributions?

I’m not trying to shelter my child from the difficulties of life. They’re part of life and we must all face them. I just want her to have, well, fewer difficulties – which a job that is always in demand can bring. Especially since her father and I aren’t likely to leave her independently wealthy. As parents isn’t it our obligation to put our kids on the right path? In this case… the path to medical school.

I have known some parents to REFUSE to pay for their child’s college if they didn’t like the kid’s course of study. But that threat is years off. And I have a problem NOW!

But what should I do? Should I allow Julia to continue thinking she’s going to be the next Hannah Montana or whatever she’s thinking and then spring my refusal reluctance about her career choice on her when she’s applying to colleges? Or is it best to start gently discouraging encouraging her otherwise…right now?!

Of course, the other choice is to let her be who she is, let her make her own mistakes and choose her own life path and be the supportive parent no matter what she chooses……….NAH.


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Author: toni

~ 11/04/09


One day, I picked up my daughter JULIA (7) and her friend JAKE from school. As I made sure the two of them were buckled in properly, Julia suddenly BURST INTO TEARS!  

ME:       What’s wrong, honey? Did you hurt yourself?
JULIA:   No.
ME:       Did something happen at school today to upset you?
ME:      Then why are you crying?
JULIA: (sobbing fiercely) I don’t know. I don’t want to cry, but my body’s making me! 

I smiled. She was only seven, but I suddenly understood. The female hormones were already rearing their irrationally psychotic heads. I HATE when that happens.

ME: Oh, honey. It’s okay. It happens to us girls a lot. Especially when we get older. Just let it out. And when you’re done, you’ll feel better.

She nodded and accepted this without further questioning. Perhaps her little female intuition told her she didn’t want to know more about the irrationality that was in store for her. At least not yet.

I turned to her friend Jake who, like most men when confronted with such an outburst, cowered in the corner of the back seat, puzzled and more than a little shell-shocked at this scene of unprovoked emotion. I looked at him empathetically.

ME:  Scary, huh, Jake?  Well, buckle up, buddy. It only gets worse.

And it does. Anyone who has a girl or IS a girl knows we women are at the mercy of our emotions. Heck, even Hillary Clinton knows this (remember she broke down while campaigning in New Hampshire which may have lost her the presidency).  And it comes out of nowhere with no explanation!

I mean, just the other day, it happened to me! I took Julia to school. Granted I was feeling a little rundown which had kept me from sleeping well. And when I did sleep, there were nightmarish dreams of tripods and Russian kidnappers.

So I pulled up to the curb in the drop-off lane and Julia hopped out. As I started to pull away, she turned and looked at me. I don’t know what it was. That crooked smile she gave me. The little discreet wave of her hand. The way her too-long bangs brushed against her eyelashes. But as she turned and headed toward the gate into school, I BURST INTO TEARS.


And as I wiped away the tears, it came to me. What Julia and I and all humans of the female persuasion feel from time to time….


Somehow, the words fit. Julia immediately latched on to them and uses the term now to explain her crying jags. 

Heck, we even wrote a song about it, which we sing whenever a wave of this unexplained emotion bowls us over like a tsunami. And here’s how it goes (oh and, imagine it sung by some Valkyrie in a Wagnerian Opera).


Inexplicable Discomfiture!

That is what I suffer from!

It is not a pretty picture!

Inexplicable, Inexplicable, Inexplicaaaaaable Discomfiture!


So there you have it. You may not know what causes it or why it happens… but at least now you have a term for it.  “What’s wrong?” “Inexplicable discomfiture.” ‘Nuf said.

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Author: toni

~ 09/22/09


Julia, who is 7, desperately wants pierced ears. The reasons? Most of her friends have them AND she likes sparkly things.

I could use the old argument “if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” But really, what kid buys that? And frankly, I have no argument against liking sparkly things. I mean, what girl doesn’t?

Truthfully, it’s hard for me to tell her no. After all, my Mom’s Italian and in Italy piercing an infant girl’s ears is the equivalent of circumcising boys. Very ritualistic and done immediately after birth. So, I had my ears pierced even before I knew how to put my fingers in my mouth, let alone use them to put in earrings.

When my ears holes closed up, I had my ears pierced AGAIN for my 7th birthday. And we were living in PANAMA at the time so it was quite an experience. The folks in Panama often wear nose rings so piercing parlors are as common there as Starbucks are here. I still remember the smoky tent and the old Panamanian woman with a nose ring the size of a bull’s, doing the deed. Despite her age, her hand was steady and it didn’t hurt a bit. I’ve had pierced ears ever since.

So why not let Julia get hers pierced? Her father, RANDY THE PERKET HUSBAND, is opposed until she’s 13.

Which is ironic since when we started dating, he had a pierced ear. And quite the wild youth, I might add. It really wasn’t until he became a father that he retired that little diamond stud.

He says it’s because she’s not old enough to take care of her ears — kind of a health/hygiene thing. But honestly, you’d be hard pressed to find a more responsible kid at her age.

So what’s the REAL reason? I don’t know. I suspect it has something to do with her “growing up” too fast. I think it’s hard for daddies to let go of their little girls. Pierced ears are just a step away from pierced bellybuttons, then tattoos and the next thing you know she’s visiting Planned Parenthood and riding off with a guy named SPIKE on his hog.

Anyway, since I get so much of a say in so much of what Julia does. I think I’ll give him this one.

Meanwhile, Julia took some of her allowance and bought clip-on earrings from CLAIRE’S. They’re the perfekt solution. Well, except for the fact that they cut off the blood supply to her ear lobes. But nothing is perfect, is it?



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Author: toni

~ 07/28/09


Okay. I know I posted this picture once before. But I needed it again to make a point about GENDER CONFUSION. No, I’m not talking about the kind that emerges in the teen years and involves black eyeliner or Birkenstocks. This gender confusion starts right after birth.

As family folklore goes, when Randy the perfekt husband was a baby he was so pretty that everyone kept thinking he was a GIRL! This was very troubling to his parents.

I know many parents who have experienced the same thing. They’re shopping in Target, newborn snuggled in his carrier. Then some well-meaning Grandma type comes up and says “Oh, what a pretty little girl!”

CRINGE! Now it’s an embarrassing situation for all. For mommy who has to correct Granny. For Granny who is mortified at her mistake. And for Daddy most of all, who DOES NOT appreciate that his son, a chip off the old block, has been mistaken for a human of the XX chromosome persuasion. Uh, not that there’s anything wrong with that. 

It’s all pretty ridiculous really… because when babies come out, they’re squished-up, wrinkled, double-fisted, squinchy-eyed little blobs. It’s hard to tell they’re human, let alone what gender category they fall into. I mean, we parents probably wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference if it weren’t written on the birth certificate… oh and for the 10,000 diapers we change that first year.

Still, as cool and unaffected as we parents want to come off about such things, we compensate. How? CLOTHING and ACCESSORIES!

Yep. You’ve seen it. Heck, you’ve probably DONE IT! You put girls in pink. With bunnies or butterflies on their onesies. Stick a bow in their hair (as pictured). And if the girl doesn’t have hair yet? Well, you’ve seen those BANDS that go around the baby’s head with a bow attached. You know some smart mommy invented that bald baby hair band after recognizing an insecurity in the market.

As for boys. We put them in blue or green. Stripes or better yet, images of soccer balls, footballs, TRUCKS! The bigger the trucks the better.  Best if it’s the kind of truck that digs dirt or demolishes something. And for safety, make sure that the little hanging toy on the handle of his carrier features a logo of daddy’s favorite college sports team. When baby reaches for it, if they’re even to that point yet, it lights up and plays marching band music. So what it startles the baby into a crying jag? At least dad won’t be startled by anyone calling his son a girl.

Oh yes, this gender distinguishing clothing is a BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY. And there’s a reason for it!

PARENT EMBARRASSMENT AT GENDER CONFUSION. Heck, I’ll bet there’s even a chapter on it in advertising school.


So my question is…


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