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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Panic at the Pizzeria


Last night Frank and I went to this pizza place that has lots of buzz around it, Antico Pizza Napoletana. Apparently it used to be just a simple place for take-out but soon people started just hanging out and eating their pizza. So the owner set up a few tables—one where you just stand around and then a few more in the kitchen.

When we walked in we were immediately confused. Do we stand in this line or that one? How do we know what pizza to order when it’s all in Italian? And were we supposed to bring our own booze?

We ended up ordering the lasagna pizza because that was an Italian word we knew. When we figured out that you can’t get booze, Frank took off down the street to get a tall boy. Classy.

While Frank was on his beer run, I waited in a line in the kitchen/eating area for our pizza. It was so crowded that patrons were forced to sit with strangers. The rest of us all stood in a line, drooling at others’ pizza and their coveted table spots.

You could see the guys making the pizza, throwing dough into the air and all. Every now and then one of them would come out with a couple of huge baking sheets with pizzas on them and scream out a number: “289!! 289!!”

My fear was that he would shout out my number and I would have nowhere to sit! I would be wandering around this crowded kitchen with a giant, hot baking sheet.

Luckily, Frank got back right before our number was called. When the guy started yelling, “294!! 294!” I panicked. “That’s us!” I told Frank. “But we have nowhere to sit!” I immediately starting scurrying around the room, looking for an empty spot. They were just cleaning off an area of one table so I quickly sat and gestured to Frank. A lady said, “You can’t sit here! It’s reserved!” This didn’t seem to me like the kind of place where you could reserve tables so I said, “Really? Reserved?” She said, “You have to have eight people.” I ran to another spot. “This is taken!” someone told me. I found Frank wandering around with the baking sheet and I told him, “I hate it!! I feel like the new kid at school and I’m in the cafeteria and I have no one to sit with!”

Luckily, I’ve never been the new kid but I’ve witnessed new kids come into my school and I’ve seen it in movies. If you were ever a new kid, my hat is off to you. That experience will give you some thick skin.

Finally, someone saw us heading their way with our baking sheet and since she didn’t have a pizza yet, she gave up her seat at this random little counter for us. I was grateful to have a place to sit although I wouldn’t have minded standing, as long as there was a place to set the pizza.

As I devoured the awesome lasagna pizza, Frank kept making nerdy business comments: “Their overhead must be so low! I bet their margins are through the roof!”

The pizza was so delicious we’ll have to go back. And next time will be better cause we’ll be the cool kids.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Disney Dude

We made the quick seven-plus hour drive down to Orlando to visit the Magic Kingdom—the first time for both Leo and myself. It was cold and rainy but that meant shorter lines and more rides for us! Leo did everything from riding Dumbo (sorry, no good pictures of that) to flying in a rocket ship. We even met up with our friends, the Claytons, so Leo had the opportunity to hang out with two older women, Avery and Gracie. We’ll never forget this trip because it’s where Leo came up with the name for his new sibling. Later when we say “We proudly announce the birth of Donald Duck Simcik” you’ll understand.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Merry Majority

Have you noticed that it’s okay to say “Merry Christmas” while out in public these days? I also see Christmas trees in retail establishments and Santa out in full force. Even Disney World wasn’t afraid to Christmas it up.

There was a period from about 2005-2008 (totally just basing those years on a gut feeling) where you were shunned for saying “Merry Christmas.” We had to say “Happy Holidays.”

I’m pleased about this shift back to Merry Christmas, but not for the same reason that most pro-Christmas people are. You see, a lot of folks think we should say “Merry Christmas” because of things like “Jesus is our savior” or “The Christians are right and everyone else is wrong.”

My philosophy has nothing to do with whether Christianity is right or wrong or whether another religion is right or wrong. In fact, I think that is an invalid argument. Everyone will never agree on a religion and it’s pointless (and not even beneficial) to try to make people believe the same thing.

I simply think we should be able to say “Merry Christmas” because of the old “Majority Rules” theory. Over 80% of Americans are Christian, and most of them probably celebrate Christmas. So why should we go around saying “Happy Holidays” just so as not to offend less than 20% of the population?

And even if you happen to catch someone who does not celebrate Christmas, are they truly offended? Or do they just think they’re supposed to be? I mean, Christmas is a nice holiday. It’s about only good things. So someone telling you “Merry Christmas” is not putting a curse on you.

I think this also falls under the “When in Rome” principle. I mean, if I were in Mexico on Cinco de Mayo and someone said, “Happy Cinco de Mayo” I wouldn’t get all offended: “Hey, I’m American. I don’t celebrate Mexico’s independence from Spain. I celebrate America’s independence which is in a couple of months. It’s around the same time so you should say ‘Happy Independence Day’ to me instead.”

No, instead I’d say, “Happy Cinco de Mayo to you too! Let’s have a margarita!” I wouldn’t be offended. I’d think, “Most people here celebrate Cinco de Mayo.” And even if I didn’t want to join in the celebrations, I’d understand that the person wishing me a “Happy Cinco de Mayo” was just wishing me well.

I’m glad to see we’re not tip-toeing around the obvious anymore. So I guess there’s nothing else to say but “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Expanding again!

Coming in June: Leo’s baby brother or sister!




Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kroger Krazies

A couple of years ago I gave you all an inside look into training day at the Kroger by my house. I mistakenly thought that the practice of hiring wacko grocery store workers was specific to this Kroger location. Now I know that not only are their “Kroger Krazies” at other locations, there are weirdos at other grocery stores too, like Publix. The whole thing reminds me of this exchange from the movie “Reality Bites.”


Lelaina’s Mom: Why don't you get a job at the BurgerRama? They'll hire you! My Lord, I saw on the TV - they had this little retarded boy working the register.

Lelaina: Because I'm not retarded, Mom. I was the valedictorian of my University!

Lelaina’s dad:  Well you don’t have to put that on your application.


I think these grocery stores have some sort of crazy quota to fill. Here is my latest encounter that took place at a Kroger about two miles away from my house:

I go to check out and the manager is my cashier. He engages me in what starts out to be a normal conversation about Christmas. He asks if Leo is excited, etc. He then starts telling me about some of the Christmas traditions in his family, how his kid really likes He-Man and how excited he was one year to get this He-Man toy. Blah blah blah, it’s a long story about how they surprised him. I guess I acted too interested because…

After I paid and all my bags were loaded and I was about to leave (impatient two-year-old in cart, mind you), the manager launches into another tale of Christmas past, this one about how one year they played a trick on the poor kid and got him a Pippy Longstocking doll for Christmas. Blah blah blah, I just stare at him in shock because 1). this just sounds cruel and 2). I can’t believe he’s still talking to me when I’m DONE checking out. That’s not how this relationship works! I am okay with cashier-customer small talk while I have to wait for you to ring up/bag my groceries. But I am not okay with having to listen to your stories beyond that. That’s a universal understanding, right?

Now the whole time this is going on there’s this deceptively-normal-looking bagger loading my groceries. But while I’m listening to the He-Man story, this bagger is muttering angrily to himself. He then looks up and offers to take my bags out to my car. Normally I would refuse but the problem was, he had loaded them into a new shopping cart and I had Leo in the original cart. So my choices were:

1. Remove two-year-old from cart and wrestle him into a new cart against his will

2. Let muttering psycho-path push the cart full of groceries out to the car.

I chose the latter which was a mistake. As we walk out to the car, the mutterer stops muttering and talks out loud to me: “Have you seen any good movies lately?” to which I reply no, hoping to end the conversation.

He then goes into a monologue about his hatred for Harry Potter: “To me, all it is is a cross between Lord of the Rings and The Brady Bunch! I’m serious! I tell my mom that all the time.” (He’s like 45, by the way, so I’m pretty sure he lives in the basement of his mom’s house.)

When he gets to the part about “And the author, she doesn’t even believe in Jesus!” I knew I should have chosen to wrestle Leo into the other cart. As he loads the groceries he goes back to angry muttering, this time I caught a few utterances of “Harry Potter” and “Jesus.” While talking to him was scary, listening to his maddening muttering was even scarier! I kind of can’t believe the too-long-storyteller manager even let him walk me out to my car.

I later talked to a friend who I had bumped into at that Kroger that day and asked if she knew muttering man. “Oh yes,” she said. “Don’t get him started about movies. He’s like Rain Man about them.” Hey, for the record, I didn’t start it!

And in other grocery-store-crazy updates, this one comes from a friend who had a run-in at Publix. Let this be a lesson to you: When they ask, “Did you find everything okay?” just say “YES.”

“Did you find everything okay?”
”Actually, I couldn’t find those pasta shells made by Ronzini.”

“And I couldn’t find the Publix brand one either. I guess you’re all out. It’s no big deal. I’m just going to have to go to Kroger.”

“What were you looking for? Pasta?”

“Yes, those big pasta shells. It’s okay.”


“Yes, but you were out. I’ll just go somewhere else.”

“What was the brand you were looking for?”

“Nevermind. They weren’t there.”




“Yes, but that’s okay.”

“You like pasta?”

And so on and so on…

Then the poor girl had to go to Kroger too. That’s just too many Krazies for one day.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The best bake is no bake


It’s the day of my annual cookie exchange and boy, have I come a long way since the Rolo cookie disaster of 2005 now know that you can’t substitute Splenda for sugar. You can’t use Swiss Miss cocoa instead of baking cocoa. You can change out…well, anything! Baking is exact. It’s like science. And I was always bad at science.

I’ve had some successful baking ventures since then. I mean, there were the drop cookies (the ones you get out of the tube and just drop onto the cookie sheet) that earned me a “ten” from Frank. And I’ve made some muffins and brownies that have turned out okay. Actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever made a good brownie. I always screw up the ones on the edge, and that makes up a large percentage of the brownies in an 8 x 8 pan.

So for this year’s cookie exchange (my fourth), I went with a recipe from my sis-in-law, Laura. They’re called Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies. When she said “no bake” I was like, “Sign me up!”

I just threw a bunch of stuff in a pot, heated it up and then dropped the mix on wax paper. Leo even helped me! That’s how easy they are! And they taste awesome.

They didn’t win top prize (that went to Chantal’s chocolate, marshmallow mint creations). But then again, I couldn’t really win since I was hosting. Yes, we’ll blame it on that.

Frank summed them up best: “They taste better than they look.”



You say “Merry” I say “Christmas”

I don’t know where he got this or what the first one was that he said, but Leo likes to say, “You say ‘Donald’ I say ‘Duck.’” or “You say ‘Dinosaur’ I say ‘Train.’” And when we do it, it goes on forever! Mickey-Mouse, Mashed-Potatoes, Basket-Ball…whatever it is!

He also has this cute game he learned at creative play which he explained to me. We all dance around until he says “FREEZE!” and then we stop until he says go. I think they must dance like animals because he keeps saying we need some animal music. For now, he has to deal with me singing Jingle Bells. And sometimes he will freeze us for a long time. I’m pretty sure I stood without moving for about two minutes yesterday while he got distracted with something else.

And here are just a few cute pics from December so far:

At Bianca’s birthday party, playing piano with Reagan:




Group shot at Bianca’s party:



Checking out Baby Ryan



High Fiving John


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Holiday Hoarding

We’re not the Griswolds but by my standards, our house usually looks like it threw up Christmas this time of year. I don’t know what it is about Christmas—maybe it’s the temporaryness of it, the shiny things, the green and red color scheme—but it turns me into a hoarder!

I have no problem accepting or buying anything relating to Christmas decorating. (This is also true about dish towels. Last year Claire gave me a Christmas dish towel which is the PERFECT gift!)

Every inch of the house is covered in Christmas. There’s a bowl full of ornaments on the dining room table, a nativity scene on the entertainment center, a little Santa light on an end table, garland strung everywhere and of course, the tree. I’ve even got stuff on the walls, in the kitchen and in the half bath. I mean, you can’t even go to the bathroom in my house without being reminded that it’s Christmas.

Right now I’m in the market for a plate that says “Cookies for Santa.” Seriously? The fat dude really doesn’t need cookies much less a special plate. I’ve got tons of plates! But I want one. Because at Christmas, I’m a hoarder. And that’s a total hoarder thing to do—to buy something you don’t need and don’t have room for.

My house is not quite complete with all the Christmas craziness yet. There are still more boxes in the attic—yes, in the attic, a place I normally try to keep clear of clutter! I’ll post pics so you can see my cluttered Christmas craziness. Even Santa says, “My God, where is she going to put all this stuff when Christmas is over? What a hoarder!”

Actually, I’m really busy

We just returned from a fun-filled week in Houston where Leo was on-the-go, trying new things and correctly using the word “actually.” Uncle David commented that Leo really seemed to enjoy sitting in the diaper box. Leo said, “Actually, it’s a choo choo train.” Another time Granny Jo called him Leo and he said, “Actually, I’m Ernie.”

Here are some pics from the week, including some big firsts:

First in-person basketball game

First time not crying when he met Santa (in the picture where he’s wearing the crown hat)

First time riding a dinosaur with cousin Ellie

First time eating a donut (well, without spitting it out)

First time feeding ducks

First time playing golf on a actual putt-putt-style course

First time on a real-live caboose (Actually, it’s just a replica)


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Even MORE Leo says the darndest things




Here are just a few of the things that have been heard around our house lately:


A few months ago we were celebrating a promotion Frank got at work. We told Leo about it and ever since he’s been asking Frank, “Daddy, do you HAVE the promotion?” (Like it’s something physical he could see!)



I told Leo, “If you need anything I’ll be in the next room.” He immediately said, “I need anything!”



Leo’s skin was looking dry so I decided he probably didn’t need a bath every night. We moved to an every-other-night schedule. On the nights we don’t take a bath I say, “We’re going to skip bath!” So after we brush his teeth he runs over to the bath tub and says, “Let’s skip bath!” I think he thinks he’s going to get to skip around in the bath tub.


I have been drilling into his head that he can’t get anything (his song choice, a food he wants, help with getting a toy out from under the couch) unless he asks nicely. Somehow he’s mixed up all his nice words and come up with this phrase, “Please may you…” so whenever he’s asked to ask nicely he says things like:

“Please may you play the choo choo train song.”

“Please may you give me nok.” (milk)

I don’t correct him because it’s so much better than screaming, “I WANT NOK!”


With all the Christmas stuff already out at stores he’s been asking, “Can we GO to Christmas?”

And by the way, the emphasis IS on the word GO. That’s how he asks questions (just like Do you HAVE the promotion?)


I heard this mom use a great line: “I don’t respond to fussing” so I’ve been using that. The other day he was fussing as he was asking for something and I said it a little wrong: “I don’t listen to fussing.”

Leo immediately stopped fussing and asked, “Do you listen to stories?”



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Abby strikes again

I’ve already complained about how inept I think Dear Abby is. Her answers are often unhelpful, ridiculous or just plain wrong. And even though I don’t agree with her answers 90% of the time, could she just stick to printing problems and answers rather than PSAs? I can’t tell you how bummed I am when I open up the paper, all excited to read about someone’s weird problem (to make me feel better about my own life), and there’s an entire column devoted to “Make sure you have your fire alarms checked” or “The importance of smiling with your teeth.”


But back to her bad advice. As I said in my last Abs rant, I hate it when someone asks her how they can broach a sensitive subject with a friend or family member and she tells them to just basically be rude. Her advice would be great if the advice-seeker didn’t want to continue having a relationship with the person. But if they’re trying to tactfully tell them something without dissolving all ties, they have to choose their words carefully. Abby always just has them say exactly what they said to her. For example, she pretty much ruined the life of a teenager with her advice below:


DEAR ABBY: I'm a junior in high school and taking multiple AP classes. With all the homework we're assigned, I sometimes need to use lunchtime to finish assignments. My problem is my friends follow me into the school library and talk to me while I'm working. Their constant chatter is distracting and prevents me from concentrating on my assignments.

I don't neglect my friends. I spend hours outside of school with them every week. But I'd rather be left alone when I'm trying to work. My friends don't understand that I'm more focused on academics and long-term goals than my short-term social life.

How can I politely get them to leave me alone when I'm working? -- FOCUSED ON MY GOALS IN LOS ANGELES

DEAR FOCUSED ON YOUR GOALS: If you haven't told your friends plainly how you feel and clearly drawn a line, you shouldn't blame them for being clueless when they cross it. Tell them you need to concentrate when you're in the library and that they are creating a problem for you. Not only will you be helping yourself, you'll be doing a favor for other students who are trying to study and who are also being distracted.


Is this how Abby thinks this will go down?

Focused girl (who I just assume is a girl): “You know what guys? I have to tell you something. I really need to concentrate when I’m in the library and you guys being here is creating a problem for me.”

Friends: “Oh, okay. We didn’t realize that; we’re so sorry! We’ll go to the cafeteria and just hang out with you after school.”


Nope. It went more like this:

Focused girl: “You know what guys? I have to tell you something. I really need to concentrate when I’m in the library and you guys being here is creating a problem for me.”

Friends: We’re creating a problem for you? We thought we were your friends but apparently we’re just problems! I guess you think you’re the only one who has to study, huh? We’re just some idiots who aren’t as smart as you? Well, you can have your library! You can just hang out in the library on the weekends while we go cow tipping without you.


Except they live in L.A. so they probably have better things to do than go cow tipping.  But the point is, here is a girl who is lucky enough to be smart and popular and now she’s just going to be smart. Now where is that going to get her? Thanks a lot, Dear Abby.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Taking Trains to a New Level

And that new level is a much lower one. If Leo is at home, you can find him on the floor with one of his trains, usually the “big train,” pictured here.


It is amazing how much time he can spend  lying, crawling or scooting on the floor, doing this whole pretend thing with his train. I’m not always sure what he’s talking about but I hear things like:

“Here come the passengers.”

“All aboard!”

“Ding Ding Ding”

“Dinosaur Train, Dinosaur Train, Dinosaur Train” (singing the theme song to his favorite show).

I think sometimes he’s doing a whole episode of Dinosaur Train but I can’t be sure. He often talks quietly and mustn’t be disturbed. Just try telling him it’s time for lunch and you’ll be met with a, “NO!! I’M PLAYING WITH MY TRAIN!!” In fact, you don’t even have to say what it’s time for. I just get out, “It’s time for—” and he argues.

But I’m not complaining. I LOVE that he can entertain himself so well. I just have to remember to keep the floors clean.

This Patient has lost her Patience

Did you hear the straw break on the camel’s back today? It happened at my dentist’s office:

I came in at 11:45 for an 11:50 appointment. I needed to leave by 12:50 to pick up Leo at 1:00 (which I told them when I made the appointment).

At 12:15 I was still waiting. I asked the receptionist how much longer it will be. “If it’s going to be 15 more minutes then I probably just need to leave because I don’t think she can clean my teeth in 20 minutes.”

She goes back to ask the hygienist who says in a rude voice, “When I’m done with this patient she’ll be next.” I was steamed. I didn’t ask because I was impatient. I asked because I legitimately needed to know. Why wait another 15-20 if I couldn’t get in that day anyway?

Another ten goes by and the hygienist finally calls me back (with no apology for the wait). I said, “I don’t have a lot of time,” and she said, “You might want to reschedule then.” I said that yes, yes I would and she DARES to say, “And you might want to allow more than an hour. I mean, we ARE a DOCTOR’S office!”

I know that comment is supposed to mean, “Unexpected things come up and you might have to wait.”

But what I think it means is “We, the medical industry, believe we don’t have a responsibility to be on time. We overbook appointments and our patients just EXPECT to wait. We have never ever seen a patient at their scheduled appointment time and we never will.”

I mean, people who work in doctors’ offices have advanced degrees. Surely, there is someone in each practice who could develop a scheduling system that actually works. (My husband, Frank, could easily build one of his fancy models in Microsoft Access that determines the optimal amount of time in between appointments for each doctor’s office.)

The other day I called my regular doctor’s office’s nurses line to ask a question, which I thought was pretty timely. They didn’t call me back. The next day I followed up and finally, at the end of the day they called me back. I asked why it takes so long to return a call and the nurse said, “Our volume of calls is so large that—“


To me, it’s really that simple. And if your patients are ALWAYS kept waiting because you ALWAYS have emergencies come up, then you need to build in time for emergencies.

It reminds me of this young, right-out-college girl I once worked with. She was late every single day and every single day she had an excuse: “My roommate’s car broke down so I had to take her to work” or “My dog threw up on my outfit so I had to change.” She wasn’t lying; these things really happened to her. I told her, “It seems like you have a lot of things happen to you in the morning. I think you should build in time for these situations and aim to leave about 30 minutes earlier.”

That’s what the doctor’s offices should do!! Build in time for the patient who asks way too many questions. Build in time for the guy who needs an emergency root canal. And definitely build in time for the crazy patient who’s going to launch into a monologue about how inefficient your appointment scheduling system is.

But no longer will I let you get by with, “I mean, we ARE a DOCTOR’s office!” To that I say, “Well, I AM WRITINGGAL!”

Monday, November 08, 2010

Guinness, we’re waiting for your call

Today, Leo lined up every toy with wheels that he owns and made the longest caravan ever created by a two-year-old:



He was quite proud of himself!


Get your hands out of my food!



When I used to work in advertising, I was assigned to a popular bread account. This particular bread’s claim to fame was that their product was “hand-twisted.” Everything from their billboard ads to to their brochures had to say “hand-twisted.” When you took a tour of their facilities, you even saw these hand-twisters, people who spent all day twisting dough with their hands.

And for some reason, that was supposed to be appetizing.

I thought of those hand-twisters yesterday when Frank said, “This beer says it was ‘handcrafted.’ Why do I want someone’s hands in my beer?”

I see how something being made by hands is appealing for items like furniture, jewelry and clothing. But I don’t get it when it comes to food and beverages. Handmade doughnuts? Handcrafted wine? I mean, it’s bad enough that you may have used your feet to stomp the grapes for the wine. Now your hands are involved too?

Chick-Fil-a likes to brag that their milkshakes are hand-spun. Um, it’s okay to use a blender. Thanks.

I hope at least that they’re spun by human hands and not those cows that are always hanging around.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Halloween Scenes

The recession has hit everyone; even the train industry isn’t immune to economic woes. Instead of hiring engineers and conductors, they just hire one guy (or girl; it’s an EOE) to do both jobs. Leo paid tribute to that this Halloween when he dressed like an engineer but behaved like a conductor by taking tickets and shouting, “All Aboard!”



Two nights before Halloween Leo debuted his costume at a festival. We went with Leo RR that night but for Halloween changed it to Leo Express. On Halloween night he partied with his buddies, went trick-or-treating and then swam in his candy.


IMG_3163IMG_3161IMG_3182 IMG_3184  IMG_3174IMG_3177Leo.John.Halloween  IMG_3199 IMG_3207 IMG_3209 IMG_3211 IMG_3214