post break break

We are back!  All the moms I see lately are saying something along the lines of “why did I take the kids on that long/complicated/ far trip?  I should have stayed at home.  It would have been easier for me.”  I well understand that feeling, but that this year I didn’t end up in an hour line at LegoLand made it all better.

Though there were minuses.  More about that later.  First we were in Palm Springs.  Mark worked the Palm Desert Food and Wine festival, we hung out at the pool.

With one night turn around the three amigos were off again.  Viv and Rex and I flew to Porltand, Orlegan ( as Rex calls it)  It’s near Oliver’s college so  the main objective was to see him.  I’ve tried my best to keep Rex off of planes, so this was a big treat for him.  Clocking in at 2 hours flight time seemed just right for him.  More than that and even cartoons wouldn’t keep him down.

I rented our car from “Super Cheapo”  things are a bit off, but half the price.  We got in late so the kids went right to bed in the hotel room while I stayed up like a general before battle studying the maps and guides of Portland.  “Okay, that side of the river is NE and SE, ours is SW.”  I crossed reference with the cheat sheet of good eats I had received from Judiaann Woo ( who I met at a Food Network audition back East) she works to help promote culinary tourism in Oregon.  An easy sell based on my experience. One of my fave of her picks was Salt and Straw ice cream.  OMG  I had strawberry, honey, balsamic ice cream. We were there doing the week, so no prob getting in, but on the weekend the line is a block long.  No, I didn’t go to Voodoo donuts.  They were near our hotel, but saw some   of our fellow guests in the hotel elevator.  Didn’t do it for me.I saved my fat calories for the ice cream.

Juiced up and ready to go

We jumped on the light rail in the AM, big treat for LA kids.  Boy do I love not wrestling with car seats.  “I AM COUNTING TO THREE AND THEN YOU BETTER BE IN YOUR SEAT 1-2…”  blah, blah.  During our days there it took us to the Zoo, to the Children’s museum, to the Forestry Museum.    One day we met my friend Lenore.  I have written about her before and her son Hunter.  Longtime readers might remember that Hunter died from cancer when he was only 3 years old.  He was a beautiful child who was always brave and calm during all his months in the hospital.  His parents loved him fiercly and I don’t know how they have, but they have carried on.  They have two little boys and it was great to see them and to talk about Hunter.  Lenore has a cupcake catering company, Lighting Cupcakes inspired by him and it also benefits kids with cancer.

Now, I really liked Portland and the main reason I did was good food and drink.  Even at the Children’s museum it was not bad.  In LA the same lousy concessionaire seems to run every public space.  El Crapo. Not here.  Here I even got an espresso.  Also, you go to a sandwich place and they have mixology cocktails! At night after tramping around doing things the kids would love I would say ” okay, mommy needs a good drink and meal” The kids obliged.  Even Rex was  pretty good.  Sure, I brought my phone, crayons, threats to call dad and have him take away toys if Rex didn’t behave, but mostly it worked.  Life is cheaper in Portland, no sales tax on anything!  No wonder everyone has been moving here.

We loved seeing Oliver.  Seeing his room, meeting his roommate, seeing his cool college, counting the piercings on all of his friends.  His little brother and sister have missed him.  I didn’t want to crowd him though, so we did lots of stuff on our own as well. ( I tried not to scream, “do you ever clean this room?” But, it did come out once.)  Powell’s bookstore is a great independent bookstore.  I could have stayed there for days.  I got a good book there for Mark, but decided it was mine.  Later I was bereft when I finished it.  This was after Mark had arrived and made his own trip to Powells.  “you can read one of my books.” He said handing me a book about all the deaths caused by Stalin and Hitler.

“Oh, I need a day.  I can’t jump from obsessing on the civil war to obsessing about WW2, let alone the pogroms.”

Based on Aisha Dornfast’s suggestion I took the kids to OMSI. The Parent Hack er was on a book tour so we missed that Porlander.  I kept calling this science center “omsi” like one word till Lenore told me I sounded like a dork, It’s “o-m-s-i”.  I guess a dork in Portlandia.  But, then they all wear big clumpy shoes, so ultimately, I fit right in.  For little kids skip OMSI and head to the children’s museum.  It’s IMPOSSIBLE to keep track of little ones in that vast space.  I lost Rex.  Could NOT find him.  Panicking I went to the front area where the ticket sales where and there was Rex calmly sitting behind the desk.  A worker had seen him alone and escorted him up there.  God forbid that had been an unkind person who took his hand.

“We are OUT of here” I snarled.  Angry at crowds and taking my eye of my son. ” Let’s get something to eat”  That fixes it.  Found some place behind a warehouse, it was tasty, natch, this is Portland.

I’ve been wanting a camera and where better to buy one than in the state with no sales tax.  I love my camera!! You can tell me if my photos improve.

A minus of the trip would have been that Vivien had a sore tummy and wanted to stay in the hotel room for a full day.  Except Mark was arrived so I popped on the cartoons for Viv, sent the men folk out and me and Abe and Jeff Davis snuggled in my bed.  I love a good read.  

We left the Rose city and had a nice lunch in Eugene.  After that the trip took a very bad turn. Lots of turns.

Rex kept barfing.  The winding roads were not his friends.  I climbed in the back of the car and held a plastic bag.  It was dark, it was raining.

“Pull over” I declared.  We rolled into a modest hotel in Crescent City.  As soon as we got him to bed Rex slept deeply. I was traveling with a six pack and some snacks and after that ride my tummy wasn’t so hot so a fistful of nuts a brew was all I needed.  Till I woke up at 3:30am STARVING.  There was nothing.  Kind of hell night.

Next day, Rex was all better.

Until, we got back in the car.  Mark held the bucket this time.  That’s it, we put Rex in the front seat.  The air bag thing was turned off and he rode happily along the winding roads in the front seat.  Doing it old school worked.

It was a hard drive, but worth it when we got there… ( to be continued)


Return to Stand up

This was very fun to do.  Cafe Mom Studios included me in a great line up of female comics who also happen to be moms.  I hadn’t done stand up in a long time.  It went very well. You will see my closing bit was pulled from something I developed here.

Enjoy and share.

how to talk with your teenager

Another exciting episode of my — I think– funny web series I did with Cafemom studios. This one is features my dear stepson Oliver.  He is not an actor by nature, but he was a good sport– and I paid him– to take part in this spoof of my pathetic attempts to be the B parent I can be.

NOTE:  the dub of him saying “mom” at the Dodger game was added in a later edit.  Not his voice, nor would he ever say that to me. He has a mom.  I’m always Daphne.  Or “stepmommy dearest”, maybe.  I think they needed to do that since I shot that part myself and the sound and picture were not optimum.

The Graduate (‘s stepmom)

Happy!  So Proud of Oliver ( my Nick Jonas).  I’m so glad that I got such a nice stepson.  It could have all gone so wrong.  Here we are ( with his grandma, Mark’s mom beaming in the background) right after the commencement.  While my pride and love for Oliver does not waver, but enthusiasm during the service flagged a tad.  Here I tell Rex what he missed.




Prom Night


The day after prom and I’m at brunch with Oliver and his friend who he took to the prom. A girl who is a friend, but not a “girlfriend”.  I can’t get a word an edgewise as they tell me every little detail of the night.  The music, the hook ups, the intrigue, what illegal things were consumed. They tell me about their feelings, their dreams of the future.  I feel so in sync with their life!

Yeah, right and then I woke up in a shower like Bobby Ewing.

That’s right, that didn’t happen.

But, I did get to be part of prom weekend and I cancelled a trip in order to do so.  I am so glad I did.

The little kids and I were going to go glamping this weekend. It had been planned with other families for a while. The place is not cheap.  You are in a cabin by a fire pit, but there is a pool and they deliver food to you if you like, so hence the glam in camping.  Two weeks before Oliver told me he was going to his prom in the understated, no big deal attitude that his very him.

I returned that Perry Como vibe with my Ozzy Osborne, “what, you are?  When?  Can I take pictures?  Do you need help?  Can I get your flowers?  Do you need me to put on a chauffeur outfit and drive you around? What can I do?? Where is Sharon?”

“um, can you give me the money to by my ticket for Ida ( friend he took)?” Yes, I said signing the check with a flourish.

“I hope it’s the not the weekend I will be gone.”  He told me the date. It was the weekend I was gone.  Crap. Cut to  two a weeks of stewing about this ala The Clash.  Should I stay or should I go?  Teenagers do not place a premium on family time.  I know at his age I thought my family was revolting, and I liked them.  But, if you are a step mom who makes videos of family I’m sure I’m as desirable as a wet dog in your bed. Also, remember we are not the primary home for Oliver, his mother’s home is.  I’m what I call the “B” Team.  But, since his mom was out of town it meant he would be with us.  So desperate stepmom eager to be part of her stepson’s life really needed to make hay.

I told Vivien the trip was on the chopping block.  She pouted and crossed her arms.  Which actually pissed me off.  She knows I’m annoyed if I start a sentence with “look…” In this case, “Look, in a few short months Oliver is going off to college.  He will move away.  To a different STATE.  We will rarely see him.  He will have friends and experiences that we know nothing about ( not that I’m so in the loop now).  I want to be with him as much as I can and I think it would be really fun to see him get dressed up and go to his prom.”

Vivien, “Oliver is moving away?”  She hadn’t connected college with leave taking. “I don’t want Oliver to go.” Tears.  Oh, me and my big mouth.

Oliver kept saying, “It’s no big deal, we are going as a goof.”  Visions of my own prom night danced in my head.  When my then boyfriend Tony picked me up my parents and sister changed into nicer clothes for the occasion.  My dad even broke out his own tuxedo.  He was very proud that he owned it.  “Do you own yours?” He asked Tony.  Tony thought it was a strange thing to ask, but hey, throw the guy a bone, he is showing his feathers, county workers don’t get a lot of opportunities to wear a tux.

Tony’s parents were out of town.  At 17 I thought that was odd.  Their last born is going to prom and they go on a trip? And that was before I was old enough to know how fleeting time is, how I would look back at the pictures of that night for years to come.  How I would regret  letting that lady at the mall talk me into that shade of lipstick.

No, I was staying.  Would Oliver care that I was present?  Probably not much, but I would care.  As a stepmom I’m a guest star, not an unconditional love player, so these moments are important.

The day of the prom I made sure he had a good lunch and continually harassed his father, who was at work, that he be home on time to take pictures.  Once Oliver started getting dressed I gave him a cold drink. “Hydrate”, not that I as encouraging drinking, but if it happened I wanted to help future headaches.

He chose a white tux on his own. Rex was zoning on TV and Viv was taking a nap so I could focus on him without distraction.  Rare.  He wasn’t sue about how to deal with cufflinks, he needed dress socks, various formal dressing aspects which I eagerly assisted. (” he needs me, he needs me!!”) I wrote another check for his part of the limo. We waited for others to arrive.  He was spending the night at a friend’s place closer to the prom.  I told him I would come get him in the am.  “Whenever you want!”

We decided he shouldn’t put his coat on yet as he felt hot.

Then Ida, her mom and two family friends of both kids showed up.  Fortunately for me the other ladies were also eager to take pictures.  Ida, is a lovely girl and shares Oliver’s laid back attitude.

“look like you are putting the boutineer on him” One of the ladies directed.

Ida and Oliver seemed confused by our mandating the steps they should be taking. “why am I pretending to do this?” Ida asked.

Me; “because we are middle aged ladies living vicariously through you.”  She handed the wrapped flower bundle to me.  I pinned it on Oliver. Poor teenagers were getting the “let’s get away from crazy people” look.

First picture of Oliver on coolmom.

But, Mark still wasn’t back.

“um, we should go.” Oliver started.  I called Mark again.  “Where are you? You are going to miss it”

A few minutes later he came running in.  I took a couple of pictures and then Oliver finally put his foot down.  “We have to go.”

What I can’t take a clay impression of how you look right now at this moment? Ok, fickle teen have your way.

Mark drove them to the house where they were meeting friends and limo.

Vivien asked “Why isn’t Oliver driving?”

Me “He is going to go in a limo with his friends.”

Viv “Why?  He can drive.”

Me ” Well, the assumption is that alcohol might be consumed.”

Viv nodded.  Not bringing up the underage issue.  Should I have b.s’d that answer?

The next day Mark took Viv on a special daddy daughter hike.

I took Rex to ride the rails. We have a new light rail in LA and the first weekend was free.

As Rex and I rode the East bound train Oliver texted, “we are ready to be picked up.” Rex and I got off and then boarded the Eastbound train back to our car.  “Getting in the car.” I texted back.

By the time I picked the prom goers up Rex had fallen asleep.  “Anyone hungry?  I’ll take you guys to brunch.”  Rex rallied for pancakes and we had a nice time.

“So, how was it?”

“fun” they nodded.

“Was there a band?”

“no, DJ.”

That was it. Then I was on to extract new information.   Summer plans, college.  I can ask questions to monosyllabic answers all day.

I was so happy.


Spying on a Teen

Every once in a while, I like a reminder that I am not a certifible loon. Yesterday, as I was working on my computer, I kept hearing this pinging noise coming from it. I finally minimized the window I was working in to see that I was getting instant messages. But they weren’t for me – they were for my stepson. I answered one with “Are you looking for Oliver?” It was a gal friend of his who I know, so I told her he was at his mom’s.

IM/Red Abstraction No. 2
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kris Cohen

The pings kept coming. I saw in the iChat menu that he had 10 friends wanting to talk – four boys and six girls. I won’t say I wasn’t curious. Since he’s a typical 9th grade boy and shares next to nothing about his life, the idea of one of those awful psycho moms who pretends to be the kid in order to get info flashed through my head. The thought passed quickly as I “quit” iChat (yeah, it took me a while to figure that out) and emailed Oliver that folks were wanting to gab.

I told him I had thought better of playing mom-spy. “Ha ha,” he wrote. “I know moms like that. They are weird.”

That was the nicest thing he’s ever said to me! I’m not weird! At least, that’s how I am deciding to take it.

Blended Family

Hey stepparents! Some of you have mentioned that you’d like me to address our delicate family position a bit more. Well, here’s something to gnaw on.

This is how one aspect of the blended family affects our own children. It is important also to note how Vivien is improving my new haircut.


This cracked me up from, “The Poop (great name),” about the writers first car. You never forget your first right? My first car was a 1976, Datsun 710. It not only had no AC, it had no heat, and no door handles. So, after a while the cranks to roll down the window also broke off. Nonetheless I was popular among my high school friends, because at least I had a car. Even if it meant we had to pick up the broken handles off the floor and stick them on the door to roll down the windows.

I just had another first. My stepson wrote me an email from his trip. He had seen a clip of me on “The Daily Show,” I was part of a montage about “cougars.” I had been commenting on it on “Showbiz Tonight,” on “CNN Headline News.” Even though for other reasons it has been a trying day, I was immediately perked up. It felt like I was in high school and a boy who I thought didn’t know I existed, suddenly pays attention to me. Especially cool if the boy looks like a Jonas brother. I felt like Sally Field accepting her Oscar in 1985, “You like me, you really like me!

If kids only knew the power they yield.

I Missed My Stepson

Yes, the one who looks just like Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers, and Sunday he came back for 24 hours. This is the month where he is taking many groovy trips, so Sunday was our only day with him. He had been gone a week before I realized I missed him. A friend’s mom said, “You miss a 14-year-old?”  Well, yeah, he may not always be Chatty Cathy, but he is no drama and we feel like more of a family when he is here. I do love him, even if I can’t be as demonstrative with him as I would my daughter.

Nick Jonas

When he walked through the front door, I wished I had had my camera ready. Vivien gave his legs a big bear hug, her head barely rising above his knees. My husband mentioned that Oliver hadn’t seen her new play equipment, so Vivien and Oliver walked out toward the back hand-in-hand and it was a microcosm of male/ female relationships.

Vivien: “Oliver, do you like my new dress?”

Oliver: “Huh, what?”

Vivien: “Oliver, do you like my new dress?”

Oliver: “Oh, yeah.”

He is always more interactive and involved with her if I back off. Funny how me rushing in the room saying, “Please love each other!!!” doesn’t seem to foster closeness the way hiding in the kitchen does. I keep one ear or eye out to take in the charm of their teasing and cuddling. I want to join in, but I know if I do, I clamp him down. I think she is so lucky to have a big brother, so I stay back. Maybe that’s what all parents have to do, not just step parents.

[Image: Kevin Winter, Getty Images]

Children’s Chores

It threw me when I was getting to know my then-future husband and his then-10-year-old son that very little chores were required of the lad. Frankly, I was vaguely appalled, but I certainly wasn’t going to risk being an evil future stepmother by setting up a work-flow chart on the fridge.

Clean Dishes
Creative Commons License photo credit: noricum

A good guy friend of mine told me that when he turned 15, his mom cut him off from laundry services and told him to do it himself from now on. So I suggested at least this compromise to Mark. He said Oliver would figure it out when he is on his own, as an adult. Hmm, yeah, well, not my horse, not my ranch. But I made it clear I’m not cleaning up after someone old enough to do it themselves. Mark didn’t believe me when I said I was doing my laundry at five years old.

I think chores are not only considerate to others in the house, but key to creating a child who is not spoiled and has a good work ethic. This page has guidelines about children’s chores. One of them speaks of giving a child a reward. Uh, I don’t think so. Did John Boy get a reward? Or did he just help his Mama when she asked?