Sunday, April 25, 2010

One Plus One Equals Ten

How did two suddenly become 10? My husband and I decided to go to Applebee's for dinner the other night and invited the kids along. When we arrived at the restaurant, I heard myself asking for a table for 10.

Ten? How did that happen? Seemingly overnight, our family has grown exponentially. It all began when I married my husband. We were living happily in a one-bedroom apartment, enjoying the occasional dinner out, when we decided to have kids. At the same time, we wanted to keep our sanity, so we settled on two — a boy and a girl.

By the time we had the second child, we knew we needed a bigger place to live, so we bought a house in Danville and settled in to raise our kids. Back then, when we went out to dinner we still managed to get a table for the four of us, as long as we were on the early side and the restaurant was family friendly.

When our children grew up and got married, we welcomed two more into the clan, bringing the number to six. If we went out to dinner together, we still managed to sit together at the same table, but usually had a longer wait while the restaurant easily seated parties of two and four.

But then the kids started having kids — two each, just like us — and in the blink of an eye, we became a family of 10.

Now we can't fit everyone around the family table without elbowing one another as we eat. I had to add two leaves and buy extra folding chairs
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just to accommodate all of us. As for dining out as a family, if we want to sit together, we can only go to places with lots of big tables, such as Chuck E. Cheese or Three Brothers from China. Unfortunately, Applebee's has only one large table, and it's always occupied.

We've had to make other adjustments for our now extended family. Instead of buying an Earth-friendly Baby Boomer-mobile for peaceful getaways to the Wine Country or Lake Tahoe, we had to get a ginormous SUV — plus car seats — to transport the multiplying grandkids on trips to Fairyland or the Exploratorium. And when we gather with our other relatives at the holidays, the numbers jump to more than 50, and there's no place to sit.

People often say how lucky we are to have our kids and grandkids nearby — and we are. We got to be at the hospital when our grown children had their babies. We get to watch our kids take on their roles as parents. And we'll be able to enjoy the entertaining antics of our four grandchildren for years.

But I guess we won't be dining out with the whole family much anymore. We'll have to be content with celebrating births, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and achievements at the family table, elbowing one another as we try to eat pot roast on Sundays. Before we know it, the grandkids will be too busy to join us for dinner, what with their soccer games, sleepovers and their own social lives.

Until then, we'll keep gathering at the family table. Even if we have to knock out a wall and build a bigger dining room...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I'm no Martha Stewart

I'VE JUST returned from Ohio where I did some videotaping for a public relations firm. I'd been writing monthly articles for a party Web site for years (for which they paid me enough to keep me in chocolate for, well, a month), but this year they wanted something different, something more lively that would reach millions of potential partyers using the latest technology — a YouTube video.

"We'd like you to fly out to Columbus, Ohio, and videotape six parties," the PR firm person said. Free trip to Ohio? Luxury hotel? Three days off from suburban routine? And the star of my own video? No brainer. Finally I was going to experience the glamorous life of a person like Martha Stewart.

Ah, but in these economic times, everyone is on a budget. I got a free flight, but on a plane that comes with extra fees for luggage ($25 each!), $7 sandwiches (unless they run out, which they did), and leg room as big as the backseat of my MINI Cooper. The turbulence came with no extra charge, which kept us from stretching our aching legs, and I had to sit in the dreaded middle seat between two guys who knew each other but didn't want to sit together.

The only thing that kept me going was the promise of room service when I arrived at the hotel. But they'd booked me into one of those budget inns, with only vending machines instead of real food. I fell into bed at midnight, hungry, stiff and too tired to watch pay-per-view. Besides, I had a call time of 7 a.m. (4 a.m. California time) in order to be on the set for the taping.

I didn't worry about the lack-of-sleep bags under my eyes, figuring the makeup artist would make me over with her magic brush. What I didn't figure was that there would be no makeup artist, and I would look like a hag for all the world to see.
The cameras and party set were ready by 8 a.m. for my first performance. Lacking a background in drama (aside from real life), I was offered a teleprompter so I could read the script as I demonstrated the party goodies. Turns out I can't really chew gum and demonstrate party goodies at the same time. Each time I read from the teleprompter, I garbled a word, mixed up a sentence, or just plain stared at the camera lens as if it were Anton Mesmer's swinging pocket watch.

"Cut!" the director called each time I fumbled a prop, forgot to smile, or cursed a string of bad words. It took nine hours to complete six three-minute party videos. That's longer than most of my parties.

I was too tired to party that night, let alone watch a movie, so I dropped into bed and dreamed of suburban life back in California. I don't know how the videos turned out. Not sure I want to know. Of course, the whole world will see them, once they go "live" on YouTube.

I may never be able to show my face again in this town, or even Ohio. But I did learn something valuable from the experience — I'm a long way off from living like Martha Stewart.