Tuesday, July 17, 2012

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Lights! Glamour! Action! Pittsburgh's Oscar Party

Eight weeks after giving birth I suckered my husband into staying home with our two toddlers and an infant to attend the Pittsburgh Film Office’s Oscar Gala Light! Glamour! Action!

Thanks to my new shapewear collection from Yummie Tummie I fit into my girlfriend’s red gown since the buzz was that red was the this year's color. Because I am Miss Shorty and she is 5’11’’ I wore the 6” Target platforms I snagged while shopping for a birthday present for my daughter’s friend. Glittery pumps have made its way from drag queen to runway. I wanted the sparkly Miu Miu ankle booties last season, but was afraid to make the investment for a pair of shoes I would worship and never wear.

As I ran around the house with an infant latched to my bosom, throwing on every piece of glam jewelry I own I imagined my acceptance speech for the future film “Accidental Mama.” In my reoccurring fantasy I give birth backstage after the excitement of breaking my water while accepting the Oscar for best original screenplay. This was a reprieve from the nightmare of moving to the suburbs that has been disturbing my psyche lately. My limo has turned into a minivan, literally.

My husband Patrick stayed at home with the children so I arrived solo to Clubhouse Section at Heinz Field. My good friend Tara Rieland coordinated a Super Heroes themed fashion show after the party’s theme. Local salons glamorously interpreted super heroes.

Stephanie Marie’s buxom Wonder Woman was a hit and I loved it because I secretly imagined her as a Super Hero Wet Nurse. I could use one of those sometimes.

There was a lot of burgeoning talent in the crowd that came out to celebrate the success of Pittsburgh’s movie industry. One of the catalysts for the success was caught mingling, Chris Breakwell of 31st Street Studios. His Hollywood guests were in town for a press conference that took place the next day on Monday.

All parts of the industry came out to celebrate movie’s biggest night. On Set Dresser Mamie Stein came in pretty striped dress. Docherty Model Breanne White came out in her prom dress that she bought at e.b.pepper.

While I still had my lashes on thanks to Katherine Reel, I was going to find some more mommies in the house. Theresa Gaugler and Denise Mueller from modeling agency Wilhelmina made it out in their matching Jimmy Choo shoes. What struck me was the Donna Karen clad mom Theresa had five children at home. She was happy that the oldest could now babysit for her.

I found one very pregnant woman MaryAnn McBride who was 35 weeks into her fourth pregnancy. She is in her second surrogate pregnancy, God bless her. I am not a happy pregnant person, nope I am not. I think I might strangle my husband if I get pregnant again. Nice way to end my Oscar Party story with a death threat.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Phoenix Rising

For me, 2012 will be the year of the Phoenix. My son was born on Christmas Day, a perfect gift.

On Christmas Eve I experienced an extreme increase in pelvic pressure. It felt like I was walking around with my unborn son’s head sticking out between my legs. After a night of crying my eyes out in pain and frustration while we placed presents around the tree and Patrick assembled the drum kit Santa had delivered for our 18-month-old son, I called my doctor who was on call. He wanted me to come in and at least get examined.

I got to see my kids fight over the drum kit before we left for the hospital. I was 6cm, no cervix left with a bulging amniotic sac. The doctor assessed that I had been in a slow labor for days and it was time to end the pain by speeding the process up by breaking my water. I was excited and devastated. Did I really want to give my son a Christmas birthday? Did I have a choice?

Getting an epidural was the best thing I ever did and, frankly I wish I still had one. Leading up to this point, I was debating a drug-free birth since my deliveries come so fast and furious, but the last week had been so painful the relief was a blessing. The anesthesiologist was a recent mom who helped my son figure out his new Buzz Lightyear toy. So while I laid there getting an epidural and urine catheter, Lyra and Luca were chasing this rocket around the room eating Cheerios.
Normally, toddlers are not allowed in delivery rooms, but it was Christmas and my dad was an infamous surgeon at the hospital, so no one said anything about the kids running around opening all the cabinets. The kids were fascinated by the monitors hooked up to my belly that made little beats. I told the kids that the sound was the choo-choo train in the baby’s heart.

My dad and son Luca were passed out in the waiting room when the baby came. My sister had decided to take Lyra out of the room when the baby was actually delivered but the time to push came so quickly no one gave my sister any warning. I was talking through my contractions with great difficulty when the doctor took me out of the “fire hydrant” position (which resembled a dog peeing on a fire hydrant) to give the first push.

Lyra was in Patrick’s arms holding my leg open when suddenly there was a baby’s head that appeared and then his body. Lyra’s eyes got so big and she said “Mommy, you peed on Baby Laser! You pee on potty!” She also remarked that mommy had grass on her peepee and that mommy had a booboo on her peepee. My peepee was well talked about that day.

She was enrapture with the baby and wanted to hold his hand to comfort his crying. She even pulled out my epidural line, which she got to do when Luca was born as well.

When my son walked in the room and saw me breast-feeding the infant he looked at me as if I had betrayed him and exclaimed, “Boobee, mine! Boobee, mine!”

It really was a blessed day to complete our family, which is why the next day seemed to pull that elation down a few notches. The day after Christmas, I got my bags ready to leave because I had made it clear to the staff I wanted to bring my baby home and have Christmas with the family. Instead, a young female doctor came in and explained that she wasn’t letting the baby leave because my blood type made him more likely to be jaundiced, but more importantly because she heard a heart murmur that could be a defect that needed to be diagnosed by a specialist. I was floored, not my perfect baby boy. He was healthiest and heaviest baby of mine yet at 7lbs 15.5oz.

Over the course of the day we discovered he has a VSD, a small to moderate hole in the ventricular septum towards the apex of his heart. Depending on what doctor you spoke to the odds of it growing together was either 50 to 80 percent. We would have to watch it over the next few months before determining how it would be dealt with.

Before that day we had decided to call him Laszlo Caspian, a name that combines a Hungarian king’s name that means “the power and the glory” with the character Prince Caspian from The Chronicles of Narnia.

The next night in the hospital I decided that his little life had already inspired me and with God’s help he will rise above his broken heart. Therefore, we decided his name should be Lazar Phoenix, a name that combines the Old Hebrew name Lazarus which means “with God’s help” or “God’s helper” and the glorious legend of the Phoenix Rising that can be found as a constellation in the stars.

Please welcome my son Lazar Phoenix, also called Baby Laser, born with a broken heart that will heal with the help of the heavens and stars. For now it’s a waiting game while we listen to the choo-choo train in his heart hoping that its little whistle will be silenced on its own.

I wish you all a Phoenix Rising year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kooky Holiday Cards

Shocking my family members has been a past time of mine since I was born. My first Christmas as a wife and mom meant my first family holiday card.

We are a mix breed family; my husband is an atheist, but comes from an Orthodox family and I am a Catholic Jew that practices both when appropriate. Many of my more religious family members know this about me and have accepted my unconventional ideas. However, when I put my daughter on our Christmas themed card holding Christopher Hitchens’ book The Portable Atheist with the caption, “Will you just look at what my parents consider bed time stories!” I received frantic phone calls worried about my daughter’s welfare. For my Hanukkah card I featured my daughter flashing her red panties wishing everyone a little silliness for the holidays.

My cards have become so infamous I have already received cards from friends and relatives that can’t wait to see what I come up with next. I haven’t mailed all my cards because I haven’t received them from Shutterfly.com so they are a little late.

I have wrestled with card companies for the past three years. I was excited to be ahead of the game until I made the unfortunate decision to try new card company My Publisher that sold a Living Social coupon. When constructing the cards the image and choices kept changing when I proofed them. I called to find out why when I learned that I would have to pay separate shipping fees for every card and I make at least four every year. In the end their designs were not more clever and cost more to ship. The representative who was unhelpful and rude said that while their company is not more convenient, creative, or cost effective, they had better paper quality. I canceled the coupon and when back to Shutterfly.com.
The best bang for your buck is Vistaprint.com and I really appreciate that they save jpeg files of my past orders that I can download. The only drawback is that Vistaprint’s regular paper stock is not as nice as Shutterfly, which is a little more costly if you don’t use promo and coupon codes.

I ordered photo mugs this year from Shutterfly and they sent me an extra one and didn’t honor my discounts. I called expecting another face-off between me and a representative, but they actually fixed the charges and told me to keep the extra mug. I didn’t get the same treatment from Gap.com who argued with me to the point I almost went into labor. The tracking for a purchase claimed to have been delivered, but was not so I asked them to look into it. I had already discovered that they had delivered a package to an old address in Kentucky that had been deleted from my account so it was conceivable that there was another mistake made. Serves me right, I should buy my gifts from companies that support American manufacturing.

I hope I never have to call Customer Service again at least for the rest of the year. I have been getting super contractions in my big holiday turkey in my belly from trying to reason with telephone reps that turn conversations into a personal battle. I hate it when they say, “I wish there was something I could do, but it’s our policy to ignore reason and keep you on hold for half an hour for us to tell you this.”

Here are a few Crazy Christmas Cards I found online that tickled my beard.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Shopping for Mama

When you are as stuffed as a Thanksgiving Turkey 11-24-11

These are a few of my favorite places to shop when feeling like a stuffed turkey. This is my third pregnancy and I thought I was done at two so I gave away many items that I now can’t remember who I gave too. Luckily, in the past year new sites have hatched to give me better options to buying items that I can continue to use after pregnancy.

I found that I needed house dresses and lounge wear that looked presentable but could withstand being washed frequently. I will have three little snotty-nosed, sticky-handed, and poop-making podlings by January that will challenge my presentation.

Here are a few chic places to shop when you are expecting a life change, like say turning into a stuffed turkey, or for the stuffed turkey in your life. Word to the wise: the best gift to give a pregnant woman is a massage every day, but if you are looking for something you can wrap…..

1) Green Dragon
Many of their designs are suitable for growing pouches and made of the softest, durable cotton. I first started buying Green Dragon when I found they sold pieces a Pea in the Pod. I kept buying the collections after the second pregnancy and found they were suitable for my third pregnancy.

2) Rosie Pope Maternity
Because nothing is more aggravating than being hugely pregnant and in New York, Rosie Pope opened a boutique for the women who wanted comfort and chic clothes to drape over their life-bearing bosom. Rosie scored a reality show called “Pregnant in Heels” on Bravo. Notice that some of the pieces are very New England chic like the Montauk Dress. It would take a New Yorker.

3) Mine for Nine (www.minefornine.com)
What a great idea! Rent your maternity wardrobe. You need a whole new one anyway and as soon as you don’t need it you give it away, like me. Then, if you are also like me, you need it all over again. Recently I couldn’t remember who I gave my maternity coat to and had to go sniffing around friends for a new one that I could button. At Mine for Nine you can rent a coat or a gown, perfect for the holiday season, for a month or longer. The rate decreases the longer you have the garment. For example a Shabby Apple dress would rent for $20/month or $79 to buy. For a Jules & Jim coat that to buy would cost $303 you can rent for $79.

4) Hatch by Two Birds
Previously launched in September the 12 pieces collection created a stir in socialite circles in New York and was passed onto me by a non-pregnant/ non-mom friend who loved the pieces because there was little not to love. The owner Goldman released Two Birds Bridesmaid when she couldn’t find gowns that suited her discernible taste. So when she got pregnant she did the same and made clothes that she and her friends would wear if they happened to turn into a pumpkin for some months. All I have to say is, ‘Can I be your friend?’

5) Destination Maternity
They partnered with Motherhood and A Pea In The Pod to offer a full range of affordable pieces along with investment pieces. They also have Heidi Klum’s collection along with some of my favorite non-pregnancy brands that have come out with maternity lines - Ella Moss, Velvet, Graham & Spencer, Hale Bob, and Bailey 44. It’s definitely more commercial than my other picks but sometimes you need a place to see lots of variety.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Have Children Will Travel

In the beginning of our lives together my husband and I decided that we were going to maintain our jetsetting lifestyle no matter the extra baggage of an infant. Our child was going to be better behaved because she would be magnificently cultured. Guess what? Cultured babies barf and cry too.

Lyra took her first flight when she was three-months old and I learned my first dire lesson of flying with an infant. Bring an extra set of clothes for yourself.

We were going to New Orleans with my dad for his reunion at Tulane. I was struggling with breast feeding so most of my milk was being pumped and stored. I had to tote a fridge pack for the milk that held me up at every security check.

On this trip after having all the special searches performed on the bottles of milk that I had previously pumped, I had to manually pump more while on the plane because Lyra hurled all over us as soon as the plane took off. However, she wasn’t a loud baby, just a pukey baby.

We quickly change planes in Atlanta on the return flight. I will never take a flight with a stop in Atlanta again. The flight was late and when we finally got off the plane there was an announcement for our party to go to the nearest airline representative. The problem was there were no representatives, just crowds of people who were in need of a representative.

Lyra took this moment to projectile hurl all over me. We had ten minutes until our flight left. I held the baby against the puke splatter, then threw our carry-on items on the stroller and ran through the crowd dripping curdled milk droppings as I went. When we got to the gate as the plane was boarding I ran to the front of the line not caring who I was pissing off. I was covered in puke, damn it! I was ready to start throwing the vile stuff at someone because the entire packed airport seemed not to care about a mom and an old man struggling to get to the other side of the planet to catch another flight.

“Mam, we have been calling your name on the intercom,” the ticketing agent said.

“Yes, well you didn’t have a representative available for us to talk to and we had ten minutes to make it from the other side of the airport. Don’t you tell me we lost our seats on the flight?”

“No, it’s that your family has been calling the airline and airport. They found a donor for your dad. You were instructed to take the next flight home.”

“Well, isn’t it this one?”

We were able to board stinking like the aftermath of a bulimic episode. We were not able to sit beside each other which made the rest of the trip hard because I had to balance all the accessories that come with the baby and I stunk.
In the end the hospital donor committee didn’t chose my dad as a kidney donor recipient. It would take almost a year for him to finally be chosen.

The next year, Patrick and I traveled to Europe and little Lyra puked her way across Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Romania. For six hundred dollars we got the bulk head seats with a bassinet attached in front of our seats for Lyra. She used the entire flight to Munich to stand up in the bassinet and flirt with the rest of the plane.

We had given her Benedryl in hopes it would make her pass out faster. Ha! Our ‘cultured’ baby was too resilient. She didn’t pass out until the last hour of the eight hour flight. She then had to wake up for landing. It was murder. All I wanted to do was sleep but when we got to the Sofitel hotel in historic Munich we had to wait around in the lobby because the room wasn’t ready.

I have gotten in the habit of warning hotel representatives that my baby will cry and disrupt the lobby if they don’t get a room open before nap time. I always call ahead and tell the hotel I need an early check-in and sometimes it helps. However, there are too many times like the time in Miami that the Gansevoort gave us a room with a filthy tub. I had to call numerous times the first two days to finally get the manager to come up and clean the tub himself.

When my son came along 23 months after my daughter he turned our family of three into four. His first air trip was to Los Angeles for a trip that ended up the coast in San Fran. That took place last summer when we took three airline trips over the course of three months. The experience was so grueling we have not traveled on a plane with the children since. It isn’t so much the children as the hassles that have been created by understaffed and inhospitable rules created by the airlines.

The biggest problem is fighting with ticket agents to get seats together and pre-boarding privileges (I will never fly Delta again who refused to pre-board us on numerous occasions). I was bumped off of a three Delta flights and stranded in Cincinnati pregnant, and alone with a toddler trying to get to Louisville (only 1.5 hours away to drive). My mom drove up to Cincy after I was stuck in Cincy for six hours because I was bumped off of every flight that left every hour to Kentucky. I cried a lot on that excursion trying to convince anyone that stranding me overnight with a toddler for being bumped off a half hour flight was close to criminal.

Lyra was still a lap child then. I recently read a segment written by a flight attendant who stated that lap children should be illegal because they are not safely secured in even minor plane mishaps. The FAA published report in 2005 stating that more families are choosing to drive over flying in recent years which is putting them at significant risk since it is more likely to get in a car wreck than a plan wreck. It called to allow for airlines to offer seat straps or seats so parents did not have to travel with bulky car seats. Funny how that report didn’t translate to the airlines because none of that happened.

Recently the New York Times published a great story for families traveling with children. Many airlines have started charging for the little amenities that made traveling with kids a little easier. It’s truly horrible that while we pay through the nose to travel with children there is no mercy or hospitality that can make everyone’s life better. For example, seating families at bulkhead seats allows the kids to have extra room to get up, stretch their legs, or play games on the floor. These seats cost extra money and are not guaranteed to be seated together.
Here is a cheat sheet from the article:

1)American Airlines
Pre-Boarding: No, Families must pay $10 a person
Seating: Bulkhead seats are only sold 24 hours before flight for fee
Stroller Gate Check: Only for collapsible strollers under 20 lbs.

Pre-Boarding: Yes, children under 2 years or with boarding fee
Seating: Bulkhead seats reserved for passengers with disabilities & then sold for $10-65
Stroller Gate Check: Yes

Pre-Boarding: Yes, children up to 4 years after pre-boarding privileged groups
Seating: No seat assignments, families must find open seats upon boarding
Stroller Gate Check: Yes

Pre-Boarding: Yes, children up to 4 years after pre-boarding privileged groups
Seating: Bulkhead seats reserved for elite passengers or sold for fee
Stroller Gate Check: Yes, but only small collapsible types

5)US Airways
Pre-Boarding: Yes, children up to 4 years or with boarding fee
Seating: Reserved for passengers with disabilities and at the discretion of gate agent
Stroller Gate Check: Yes, except non-collapsible types

6)Virgin America
Pre-Boarding: Yes, for “small children” or with boarding fee or privilege class
Seating: Bulkhead are reserved for fee when booking or 24 hours before flight
Stroller Gate Check: Yes

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Hardest-Working Hunk in Hollywood: Pittsburgh's Joe Manganiello

Five years ago before babies and husband, I never had crushes on celebrities. I was aloof to chiseled looks and smoldering smiles. The crushes I did have were hold overs from the 80s like Kiefer Sutherland in Lost Boys. So it is no surprise in my “desperate housewife” status I convert back to vampires in my pregnant and married hormonal overload.

It was a fellow mom that first turned me onto HBO’s True Blood series and Joe Manganiello, who plays Alcide the noble werewolf character. Normally, I am more of an Eric Northman-type, the wicked, blond European vampire character, but I made an exception for Joe since on top of looking like the sexiest lumberjack alive he is a Pittsburgh native with a heart of gold.

I got a chance to talk with Joe this past summer and, as I said celebrity doesn’t usually faze me, but in my hormonal pregnant state I was just a tad bit over excited. What I discovered was that Joe, a Carnegie Mellon grad, is a serious actor who uses his Pittsburgh work ethic as a secret weapon when amongst the Hollywood glitterati.

His recent reported split with his fiancé has put him back on the market, although he never really left my married mom fantasies.

Here are some excerpts from our chat.
Do you think that your move from Pitt to CMU was really pinnacle for your training as an actor and for your career?
JM: “CMU was my dream that was my goal. My goal was to go to CMU. Growing up in Pittsburgh, CMU is really legendary and I got into the acting game later on in life than most of my classmates at CMU or most of the kids that go to CMU. There are a lot of performance arts kids there from around the world. There’s also kids that have been acting from a very young age and that wasn’t my path.

I was an athlete pretty much right up until the time that I went to college. Because of that, I don’t think I had enough understanding, knowledge, and training. I don’t think I had enough practice behind me to get into Carnegie Mellon so obviously at the end of the day, in hindsight, I was capable of going there but I don’t think I had enough under my belt to get accepted to that school.

I actually didn’t apply to any other schools. When I didn’t get into CMU I put in my application at Pitt and went there for a year and loaded on theater classes across the board to the point that my guidance counselor was telling me ‘You’re making a mistake because you’re taking all of your theater classes your first year and you’re not going to be able to take anything more for the rest of your time here. You’re going to be taking math and science for the rest of your time here.’

But in my mind I didn’t expect to stay there, at Pitt, past a year. I was only at Pitt for a year to load up for everything I possibly could, get enough under my belt and work that year so that whether I got into CMU or not, I know that I tried my best and did the best that I could. So yeah, I did really put all of my eggs into one basket.”

Since you didn’t grow up in theater, what was it that turned you onto to an acting career?
JM: “Thinking back now, I mean obviously it worked out. It’s so crazy to put everything into that one basket. I don’t know what it was, I have always been artistic my whole life and that was probably the predominating factor in my personality being artistic, whether it was writing stories, or drawing pictures, going to art classes, creating characters. I was always good at the arts and there was something in me that just drove me towards it.

It’s got to be every parent’s worst nightmare to have a kid who’s working for sports scholarships, as big as I was, and have the possibility that I did athletically or even academically but there was just something in me that knew that this was it. There was something in me that just would not accept anything less.”

So let’s talk about True Blood. They incorporate real wolves into the series and I’m wondering how that works and if you’ve gotten a chance to bond with your wolf. What it’s like to work with them on the set?
JM: “Yeah I have. There’s a wolf in particular, who plays Alcide when he is in wolf form. I got friendly with the wolf handlers and they actually let me come up and visit the wolves any time I want, so I get to go up and hang out with my wolf and take him for a walk”

Does any of that relationship play into when you’re channeling your character?
JM: “I watched and studied wolves in their habit, watched a lot of videos, hung out with wolves in preparation for the role while I was shooting just to pick up what they were like. You just got to throw these things into a pot, stir it up and see how it turns out. I have learned a lot from hanging out with wolves. There’s nothing that displays my relationship between me and my wolf because we’re never on the screen together.”

What is it like working with Oscar-winning actress Anna Paquin?
JM: “She’s great. I love what she’s done with the role. I love how she’s brought the characters from the books to life. She’s so good, so likeable and there are days where she’ll have an emotional scene to do and she’ll basically be crying for 10 hours straight and just to watch her work is amazing. I love the fact that my character’s storyline intersects with her a lot. She is a fantastic actress and is just a great, very warm and friendly person. I can’t say enough good things about her”.

How do you stay humble in Hollywood? You went out there right after college, right?
JM: “I did, yes right after college. Most of the people that I admire the most are usually the people that have great character. Character is a word that I heard a lot, both growing up in Pittsburgh and from my dad. At the end of the day it’s really about character and if you don’t have character that will catch up to you at the end.

You come from Pittsburgh, although there are no steel mills anywhere anymore, but that work place attitude is still there. I didn’t want to be known in acting for my talent, I wanted to be known for my work ethic because if I worked as hard as a I could then it’s either going to happen or it’s not. As it turns out I worked as hard as I could.

How do I stay humble? I’m the one who’s in the gym twice a day working out for this show. There’s a lot of work and I don’t get a lot of time to myself.

It was easy for me to handle this because my parents are so grounded and I come from a city that is so grounded. Pittsburgh doesn’t tolerate that; they don’t tolerate people thinking they’re better. Look at the football team, you act out and you’re gone. That’s definitely something that’s in my core as well.”

So when you’re away from Pittsburgh do you still watch the Steelers, the Pens? Are you kind of the Pittsburgh boy on set?
JM: “I don’t miss a game. I actually had to make an appearance in Hollywood at a casino and I realized that my plane flight was going to intersect with the Steelers/Dolphins game this year so I actually changed my flight, changed the time so that I could make sure I could watch the whole game. I’m just that kind of man.

So when I was back in Pittsburgh for Christmas they let me come on the field right before kickoff at the Jets game and I extended my vacation back to Pittsburgh to see the Winter Classic. I am very active in Pittsburgh sports and also Pittsburgh as a city. I came back and did a charity event for the Salvation Army over Thanksgiving. I love my city and every chance I have I love to give back and I just love to be around my friends and fellow Steelers fans.

What’s your favorite script or play?
JM: “Oh well I played Stanley Kowalski in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’”

Is there someone else out there that you would want to work with in your career?
JM: “Growing up I was a huge fan of Gary Oldman. Gary Oldman was one of the real reasons why I became an actor”.

(My mommy-centric question)Do you want kids?
JM: “Yeah, I do want kids, absolutely!

Favorite places to visit in Pittsburgh?
JM: “Primanti Brothers in the Strip District and the Andy Warhol Museum”

What is your favorite drink?
JM: “Coke Zero…I don’t drink alcohol”

In my fantasy world Joe would agree to a photo shoot with my daughter as Little Red Riding Hood. The setting would be a simple tea party table with delicate china that Joe's 6'5" frame would have to fold to get down to my daughter's level.

I actually told him this and he said, maybe out of politeness, that he thought it would be cute too. Such a gent.

He is more than welcome to babysit me, I mean my kids, anytime.