Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Parenting Tips, From the Kids

Welcome to 2011!  I sure hope it's a better year for all of us. As my friend Sherry commented, "Please Don't Suck 2011!".  HAH!!

I'm beginning the new year with an article penned by our favorite, funny and....insightful??? columnist, Chris Erskine.  This one is his combination Christmas/New Years one.  Pretty funny, as usual.

Chris Erskine,

Thanks for the parenting tips, kids

It was an especially good week to be 8 years old. First, the little guy got a barrage of presents. Like waves of Union forces over the rural fences of Georgia and Arkansas, the gifts kept coming. Just when you thought, "That's it, right?" there would be another three or four under the tree.

Baseball bats and sweatshirts and electronics that only an MIT professor could understand. The little guy got this one game, I swear, that was so impossible to assemble that I finally gave up. I am not the quitting sort, but I do value the next 12 to 15 years of my life.

So I put a bounty on putting this gift together. At Christmas dinner, I say, "20 bucks to the little Einstein who can get the stinkin' basketball arcade together," and three hands shoot up.

"Good," I say with relief, "because I was willing to offer a hundred."

The lovely and patient older daughter immediately pulls her hand down, saying, "I'm waiting till he offers the hundred."

"Me too," says her little sister.

"Me too," says her brother.

Fortunately, there was a spat a short time later, in which all the kids and all the adults at the table — there were six — got in a big fight about who should be giving advice to whom in our family, a valid enough subject matter but probably not one suited to a candlelit Christmas dinner, a $60 goose waiting for his moment.

Anyway, sometimes it's not what you say but how you say it. With it being Christmas dinner, we are all on our best behavior, and several of the children are even wearing shirts. But it gets a little catty. I don't blame the kids, necessarily, for there is something about the air in the house over the holidays — a storm front of scented candles, sweaty candy canes, dog hair, brandy and stinky feet — that begins to wear on you. It's probably what set off Jack Nicholson in "The Shining."

So, we're enjoying a nice debate over parenting at Christmas dinner. My ideal Christmas? Probably a farm in Vermont — snow-covered barns, skaters on the millpond. Second only to that would be sitting in a ranch house in the suburbs and listening to my children discuss parenting.

Finally, the college girl stomps away in a huff, going off to assemble the basketball game and collect the bounty, which never went higher than $20. I sense one of those win-win-win-win-win situations.

I move on to the kitchen, where I help my wife with the dishes for 90 minutes. The holidays have been filled with opportunities to spend 90-minute sessions drying dishes and putting them away in the wrong cabinet, only to be told which cabinet they should really go in, meaning I'm putting everything away twice.

On Christmas Eve, we had "a few people" over — I counted 100 — and that involved several stacks of dishes as well. The marble counters were so sticky with Champagne, Cointreau and grenadine that, rather than sponge them down, Posh decided to have them all replaced.

Now, it's hard to find someone to do that kind of work on an emergency basis, late on Christmas Eve. But if you're willing to pay, anything is possible.

As I always say: How do you put a price on money?

Did cash ever hold you when you were sick, or wrap its clammy hands around your neck to wish you Merry Christmas?

With that in mind, we try to rid ourselves of cash at every opportunity.

So, yeah, we went a little crazy this holiday season.

Two favorite moments stand out. The first is when the college girl and her older brother stay up late Christmas Eve. As the lovely and patient older daughter sleeps, they graciously change her Facebook profile.

For instance, under favorite activities, they write: "The most fun thing for me is when my little sister braids the hair on my back."

We have raised a generation of young people who move their lips when they comb their hair. But they can accomplish almost anything with a laptop: sabotage, embezzlement, slander.

Another special moment is sitting around the tree first thing Christmas morning. One kid has on a cocktail dress, another is wearing several layers of Victoria's Secret underwear. Kids today, huh? Mine are like the precious velvet angels they sell at year-round Christmas shops.

Anyway, the older boy is complaining about being kept awake by the soft snoring sounds the dog makes, which leads to a discussion of the soft snoring sounds their grandma makes when she's completely awake.

"Like she's idling," one of them explains.

At which point, everybody laughs.

Happy holidays, Grammy. Obviously, you're never very far from our thoughts.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Post of 2010

I know I promised to do more blogs about my Mexican Christmas Vacation but with the holidays and all, I just haven't had the time. However, I still have plans to post a few soon.  I think I have all of the photos now.

Any how, since it's the last day of 2010, I thought I would go into the old archives and post a few of my favorite ones..  

As you know, I have three dogs and apparently when I leave for any length of time and my computer is left running, they take over.  Here they are... Bonnie, Buzz and Baxter:



It's Bonnie, the nice dog. These guys I live with are %&*$#*@ morons!! And as for mom, I put up with her. Last night she left out almost a full bag of Peanut M&M’s and of course girls, you know how much we love chocolate!! But I think I ate WAY too much!! I barfed on the carpet (I never do it on the tile floor) and when Dad came out at 6:30 am he was slapping his forehead for some reason. I guess he was proud of me!

Anyhow, my friends, I’m OK!! I didn’t have time to digest before I puked! Dad thought it was baked beans! But he found out fast that it wasn’t!! I have to hide the empty bag better next time. Keep them guessing!!

Now, that new ball!!

It’s my new best friend!! My brothers are on their own. I have two of these balls and DON’T like to share! I’m the princess so they are MINE!! Dad took me on a walk today and of course, the ball went with me. Even when I’m napping, it stays close.

Now if only Dad would &*%$#+@ open the new bag of Pig Ears. It better happen soon or next time I’ll vomit on his pillow!!! Won’t be the first time!

Those guys who mow MY yard are coming today so I need to rest up. Ankle biting is hard work!

Well Dad’s friends, until next time, have a good weekend! Arf! Arf!




This is Buzz, the handsome dog…See?

Baxter and I don’t give a bark what she eats. She never shares anyway but I had to laugh when I saw her losing it on the rug! Poor Dad!! It was 6:00 am and he almost added to it! Besides, I’ve seen her eat her own poo!! Ewwww!! How could she? She thinks she’s so tough, chasing cats, rabbits and squirrels but show her a cricket and she hides! What’s with that?

Anyhow, ‘The Ball’!! Dad brought home one for each of us (I still don’t understand how he can leave and yet always find his way back here!), and Bonnie took all three of them and wouldn’t share. I finally got one of them but poor Baxter never got a whiff of one. Maybe he’s the smart one because she slobbers on them.

But all in all, we are good friends and do our best to protect the house. Teamwork!!!

Well, most of us do…

Well, Dad wants to use the Innertube or whatever it’s called and my nose has made a mess of his keyboard. I wish I could type without having to use my nose. I think I’ll take a nap.

Bye for now! Woof!! Woof!!



It’s Baxter. The shy one with the short legs. The one that Buzz picks on!! But he’s my best friend… Bonnie is a pain in the a**l gland!

They tease me alot ‘cause I like to sleep so much. When dad gets up I crawl under those warm blankets and sleep until I’m good and ready to make my appearance. Of course, I never miss breakfast before I do that. But I always find time to blog!!!

Now, as for that ‘ball’ thing, I don’t know why they ever bother buying me one ‘cause Bonnie always ends up with all three of them. Even if she’s outside, if I pick one up she seems to know. She runs in, bowls me over and takes it away! And when dad gives us pig ears he puts me on his lap to keep her away. Females!!!! And to make matters worse, dad clipped my claws…. my last line of defense, but he got tired of me drawing blood from his arms. I love my humans except when they dress me up, like this!

At least Bonnie gets something pretty.. Disgusting!!!!

Remember Burt, my tortoise friend??

I haven’t seen in a long time. I think he’s sleeping, like I love to do, but dad says they only do that in the winter. I hope he’s not under the house again.

Uh oh!! Bonnie is giving me a mean look so I gotta go! As dad would say…

Yall take care!!



It's Bob again,

I wish each and every one of you a Happy New Year.  2011 has GOT to be better!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

L.A. brought Christmas to America

Ahhhh!  I see that you doubt me, but listen up!  Call it a Christmas gift from Tinsel Town.

Look, I was born in the 4th century, and for as long as I have known it, Christmas has been too long, too bloated, too everything. Even our selflessness is tested. My friend Linda tells of how she once got a new car for Christmas.

Worst. Gift. Ever.

"Who the *!&$#%&)&# left their car parked in front of our *!&$#%&)&# house on Christmas Day?" the hungover Brit sneered to her husband when she spotted the car at the curb.


That afternoon, at a neighbors' open house, the gift car caused total chaos when all the other couples in attendance turned on each other for the relatively lame gifts they'd received.

"We'd better go," Linda quietly told her husband.

I love that story, for it shows how human we all are — emotional pretzels and, occasionally, a bunch of twits.

And here we are, you and me, licking our wounds and laughing at ourselves once again on Dec. 25, in the town that gave America Christmas.

"Los Angeles gave us Christmas?" you scoff.

Let me explain.

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch.

Your heart's an empty hole.

Your brain is full of spiders,

You've got garlic in your soul.

Mr. Grinch ...

Over the past century, no part of the country has defined the American Christmas the way Southern California has, the place that gave the world the Grinch, roasted chestnuts and Bedford Falls.

It gave Rudolph his own show, made a phenom of old Frosty, gave Charlie Brown a reminder of what Christmas is all about in a screed that holds up, like Twain, as if it were written yesterday.

"I never get what I really want," Lucy says. "I always get a lot of stupid toys or a bicycle or clothes or something like that."

"What is it you want?" asks Charlie Brown.

"Real estate."

Yep, through TV, song and movies — actually, a gumbo of all three — Hollywood created the modern American Christmas. It kept us on course, shined a klieg light on our wobbly values, warmed us with its words.

Frank Capra penned "It's a Wonderful Life" here one day in a little cabana near Palm Springs. Mel Torme and Bob Wells famously wrote "The Christmas Song" in about 40 minutes on a blistering day in Beverly Hills.

"White Christmas," based on the famous song that was set here, was filmed at Fox and Paramount. By the way, when Irving Berlin finished writing the song, he reportedly told his secretary: "I just wrote the best song I've ever written — heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written."


It was at NBC Burbank — Studio A, in fact — that Andy Williams taped those memorable holiday shows that looked as if they'd been shot through a bottle of cognac.

Scenes from the foggy "Miracle on 34th Street" were shot in Studio 3 on the Fox lot on Pico Boulevard.

"Meet Me in St. Louis," in which Judy Garland purrs/sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," was filmed at an old rail depot on 2nd Street downtown, of all places.

Of course, L.A.'s contribution to the holidays goes beyond videotape and celluloid. It was from here that Paul Ecke, an ambitious farmer-entrepreneur, introduced the poinsettia to America. And, of course, an African studies professor conjured up Kwanza here too.

But it is the songs, movies and TV shows that L.A. delivered to the world that crafted the American Christmas of the 20th and 21st centuries — a body of work that rivals Dickens. A body of work that defines the American soul.

If only our politicians had a similar feel for the nation's needs.

"Mr. Potter … this rabble you're talking about … they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?" (Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life")

Where are you reading this? In a tract house in Reseda? In a mountain cabin in Big Bear? On a blanket by the beach?

Much like the town itself, Christmas here is no one thing. In fact, it is L.A.'s great glory — and occasionally its worst shortcoming — that it can't be defined in a single sentence. It's as different as tract homes and mountain hideaways, pine needles and palm fronds, empanadas and warm pumpkin pie.

In L.A., every time a car alarm goes off, an angel gets his wings.

This is no Bethlehem, that's for sure. But through sheer happenstance — and enormous talent — Los Angeles made itself into our nation's Christmas workshop.

Bada-bing, bada-burl.

Now, knowing New Yorkers, they also may stake a claim to having established our Christmas vernacular. After all, Clement Moore's story, the one best known as "Night Before Christmas," and Thomas Nast's cartoons also helped turn Santa into the world force he is today.

And in fairness, the American Christmas has been a group gift. The Brits gave us the tradition of gift-giving; the Germans, holiday trees; the Dutch came up with that corpulent elf.

But it is Hollywood and environs that took 2,000 years of Christmas and captured its poetry, kept the holidays a shining thing.

Not a bad gift, when you think about it. No exchanges. No returns.

Merry Christmas to ALL of my friends!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

L.A. Taken To Extremes

Yet again, I am postponing another Mexico vacation post.  This time due to inclimate weather. After 6 days of steady and at times, heavy rain... Well, what did you expect?

For a region often ridiculed for the sameness of its weather, Los Angeles can point to 2010 as proof that it, too, deals with the extremes of Mother Nature.

It was substantially cooler than average this spring and summer. Then in late September, Los Angeles registered its hottest day ever recorded. Now, Southern California is in the throes of a rainstorm that could result in its wettest December on record.

The sharp changes have even veteran forecasters scratching their heads and searching for answers. Many forecasters had predicted the region would have a dryer than normal winter.

"Just when you think you have Mother Nature figured out, she sticks a finger in your eye," said Bill Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

There are no easy answers for the strange weather this year, scientists say. In general, as the globe warms, weather conditions tend to be more extreme and volatile, Patzert said.

More than 8 inches of rain have already fallen in downtown Los Angeles this month, and the record of 10.77 inches for December is within reach. Mammoth Mountain has already recorded the highest December snow levels ever.

After six days of pounding rain, another major storm is expected to hit Los Angeles on Tuesday and last through Wednesday night. Then another storm is expected to settle in over the Christmas weekend.

Until now, Patzert and other forecasters had been predicting a La Niña winter, defined by cooler than normal temperatures in the Pacific and lower than average rainfall in Southern California. Jamie Meier, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard, said it's too early to assume that the region's traditionally wettest months, January, February and March, will be similarly rainy. But with this month's storms, Los Angeles' rainfall is already well above average.

Meier noted that this year has also been marked by a lack of hot, dry Santa Ana winds. That, combined with several fall storms, has resulted in a conspicuous lack of major brush fires that often occur in October and November.

"We get a bad rap when it comes to having boring weather," Meier said. "But we've had quite a varied season, from record-breaking heat to getting a heavily frontloaded rainfall year."

Monday marked the fifth day of heavy rains and snow across California. Kern County was among the hardest-hit areas, and officials declared a state of emergency. Authorities evacuated 2,000 residents from the small farming town of McFarland as floodwaters threatened homes.

"About 400 to 500 houses are in danger of flooding around there," said spokesman Sean Collins of the Kern County Fire Department. "What we have there is quite a lot of farmland with ditches and drainages and canals. Without knowing, 100% it is quite possible one of the ditches either ran over or one of the banks broke."

Downtown Los Angeles has received more than 8 inches of rain since storms moved into the area Thursday. The foothill communities, including those near the Station fire burn area, have received as much as 12 inches of rain, Patzert said.

So far, there have been no major mudsides or flooding reported in areas burned in 2009's Station fire. But residents and authorities are bracing for heavy rain expected later this week.

Numerous roads were closed at times because of flooding and slides, including Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu, the 710 Freeway in Long Beach and Coast Highway in Dana Point.

A northern cold front is expected to move into the Los Angeles Basin early Tuesday, colliding with subtropical moisture that has been sitting off the Pacific coast for several days. Periods of intense rainfall through Wednesday will bring an additional 5 inches to coastal plains and valleys and up to 10 inches in the mountains, Meier said.

Despite the heavy rain, rivers are not expected to flood. Ground saturation is climbing, but it is still far below the 15 inches or so that would trigger major mudslides, Meier said.

"We've had a relatively dry five years," she said. "The majority of debris flows we've seen in the past few years have been the result of isolated thunderstorm activity."

She cautioned that burn areas, such as La Cañada Flintridge and Tujunga, will need to keep a closer eye on flooding because the ground is unable to hold as much water as other areas. Neighborhoods have been sandbagging threatened streets and homes for days.
The cold front sweeping down from Washington state is expected to cause temperatures to fall a few degrees and bring snow levels from 9,000 feet to 6,000 feet. Forecasters say the Grapevine on Interstate 5 should not experience any flurries as a result of Monday's storm.

"It's pretty unusual to get a storm of this duration in December," Patzert said. "But it's been that kind of year."

Indeed, 2010 is destined to be remembered as the year of the "unusual."

Summer was marked by gloomy, cool conditions. It drizzled in July, and didn't heat up that much in August. Patzert said that the summer was about 2 degrees cooler than normal. But the daytime high temperatures were 3 to 4 degrees cooler than average.

Then, just as people got used to one of the coolest summers in years, came Sept. 27. On that day, downtown Los Angeles reached 113 degrees — a record high. It got so hot that the National Weather Service's thermometer at USC actually broke.

Two weeks ago, temperatures in the mid- to high 80 set records in some areas.

Those toasty dry conditions are just a memory now. And Patzert said that when it comes to rain, the worst is yet to come.

"What we've seen so far is the preliminary event. Tuesday and Wednesday is the main event," he said. "I think we're going to crush the record for December. I think there's going to be a new champ."

This is our most current weather map. Like a huge funnel.
"Quack, Quack!!"

I promise a Mexico post next with lots of photos.  Oh, to be there right now!

Take care,

Saturday, December 18, 2010

TSA In Her Stockings

OK, first off I'm taking a short hiatus from the Mexico posts.... still receiving and sorting photos.  So I thought I would tell you my plans for Christmas along with other crazy stuff.

As some of you know, I gave my wife the gift of Italy this year.  A round trip ticket (what was I thinking? round trip?), and Italian language CDs so she won't sound like I did in Mexico!  However, I got to thinking, which always gets me into trouble, and decided that since she travels so much I would also give her the perfect airport gift... a TSA Pat-Down!  Now, I learned that there are three types available.  The 'Normal' pat down which is not all that exciting, the 'Geting-To-Know-You-Better' pat down, which I assume includes dinner and a nice glass of Chardonnay, and the one that I always get...  the 'Cell Block D' pat down.  I'm still deciding.

The nice part is, the TSA actually works on an out-call basis now. All major credit cards accepted. And for a small additional fee they will misplace your luggage!  I think she'll love it!!  I can hear her pals now telling her, "Your husband is so thoughtful". And she will sneer, "Yeah, he's a saint'!  The District Attorney is currently investigating this new out-call service, but I'm hoping the Grand Jury indictments don't come down until after the holidays. Then I'm good! And she is always effective on the witness stand.  Listen, find me a woman who couldn't use a thorough pat-down right about now!

 Oh look!  TSA's Little Helpers!!

Meanwhile, the Christmas card is in its final editing stages. The executive editor of our card, Becky, went round and round with the guys at the card shop. She asked them to change the light source in the family photo "to something more celestial, like that dude Da Vinci used."

I don't remember Da Vinci ever working on our Christmas cards, but I'm not ruling it out. Might've been a few years ago.

When I pointed out that it looked as though our two male dogs were actually holding down their little sister so she couldn't bolt — gripping her with four paws as if in a prison movie — my wife became fixated on that instead. Last I heard, she was having our dogs' arms Photoshopped out. Now they will have angel wings, Pixar hair and dimples.

Just between us, there's a week till Christmas and I am one chocolate strawberry away from complete organ failure. I am one drink away from a month at the Charlie Sheen Institute.

Gotta go! I hear a UPS truck coming. It's about a mile away still, but if I put my ear to the ground....!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mexican Vacation - Part 2 Settling In

So, we finally arrived.  A long ride from the airport.  As we walk in we see this:

One-hundred foot stone statues of Mayan Gods overlooking and fountain!  WOW!!!  Very dark and the sound of the drums is a little eerie, impressive!

We move to another lobby and check in.  After the 30 minute walk to our suite, we are again impressed. As you can see from the photos from my previous post, the suite is enormous,  The girls immediately go to check out the pools while Dave peruses the brouchures looking at the golf course.  The golf course is 15 holes (?????) but Dave tells me that maybe he can break 100!  LOL.  I, as always, unpack and try to get organized...... We Need Ice!!!  A machine is right down thw hall from us.

Becky and Patty return and are all excited.  Perfect time to send the the Super WalMart to stock up.  Yes, WalMart is everywhere!!

Dave walks onto the balcony and tells me that he has a surprise for the girls...... He brought Christmas lights!! Geez!!  And he wants to put them up on the ceiling at the edge of the balcony.  Out he comes with self-adhesive hooks and the lights... and a wobbly chair!  There were three problem initially...

1. We totally messed up the adhesive tape on the hooks.

2. Could he have found any bigger lights?

3. I wasn't much help holding his belt loop while he was standing on a chair, six stories up, with my eyes closed!

So the lights go up!  Here is Dave taking down  his lights at last!

Note the look of horror!!  You should have seen MY face!!!

So the lights go up. He plugs them in while muttering something about not testing them first and  we sit back to admire our handiwork. The women will love these!, Dave says.
Then, the first hook comes out and plummets to the ground.  He says he has more, but as he leaves, the second hook also comes loose!  We peer over, praying that no one was killed. Then, of course. the last hook gives up and the huge lights come crashing onto balcony.  Dave is ticked off and I'm still concerned about the folks below but also thrilled that we are relocating them to safer place.  Don't they look festive?

The women returned with $300 worth of WalMart food and were surprised by the lights!  Who wouldn't be? in fact my wife was so impressed that she decided to bring them home to decorate our home also!  What says Merry Christmas better than this!

They haven't fallen off so far, dammit!

Next post, 'Getting To Know You!'

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mexico Vacation - Part 1 The Departure

Well..... It was a blast!! Besides the perfect weather and Great food, the four of us laughed the entire time. Good for the soul...

We left from LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) and dreaded going through the security thing!  Body probe?  X-Ray? I opted for the latter.  I was directed to a 'Special' room because of my foot.  After the usual frisking, they decided to X-Ray my wrapped foot.  I guess they suspected me of being a possible 'Shoe Bomber'!  The guy operating the machine must have been new because he had to ask a fellow employee for the password to use it. (I wrote it down! lol). After a series of nine scans from different angles, I guessed that I was good to go..... Because he told me I was good to go!

We proceeded to the boarding gate and the girls visited the 'little girls room' while Dave and lounged around and talked. I sat down next to a guy and asked where he was going!  Mexico, he said.  I then asked where in Mexico.  Puerto Vallarta.  I told him that we were going there also. So Dave asked him where he was staying and it was the same place that we were headed to!  So I began chatting to Larry and his friend Tony.  They live in Vancouver, Canada and this was their first time in Mexico. They proceeded to introduce Dave and me to their wives and their combined NINE children!  Yep!!  They had their hands full! We saw them there and they were having a Great time also!

Our flight was full but it didn't seem to matter. Everyone onboard was having fun!  This was the 'Party Rpw'!

We finally landed and it wasn't nearly as hot as expected..... Mid- 70's.
The airport in Puerto Vallarta is always a wild scene!  Not because of their security but because there are dozens of men trying to sell timeshares.  I told my friends to keep their heads down and just walk!  And if you have to respond, tell them that you already own one.

Another good tip:  Carry a cane!!  Really!!  They will sit you in a wheelchair and wheel you everywhere!!  A $5 tip is always good.

We took a prearranged bus to our hotel 30 miles and this place was HUGE!!  30 minutes from the lobby to our room.  Bad part was all marble floors, which ravaged my foot. But it ended up being OK.

The rooms were Awesome!!!  The condo was 2000 sq ft and had everything.  As for the microwave and washer/dryer??  Instructions in Spanish!  My Spanish is very limited so communicating with the maid and staff involved much pointing and gesturing wildly!! 

Speaking of our maid, this was ours.  A sweetie by the name of Minerva.
She worked fast and did a great job!  We gave her a nice tip each day.  Since my foot kept me from using the pool or beach I pretty much stayed in our room everyday and gave Minerva instructions from my wife and our friend Patty (you should have seen me trying to order bubble bath!) and watched the people on the street.  I also LIVED by my iPod!!!  I learned that people in Mexico do NOT know how to parallel park to save their lives!!!

Here was the view from my 'perch'!

See that blue area??  That was the beach!  lol!

Anyhow, I will have much more to share but I leave you with photos of our rooms.Note the three big screen TVs and the computer!  More about them later.


Next post, 'Settling In'.

PS: Minerva made this at her home for us..... Am elephant and a mouse made from towels!