Contest win allows for trip of a lifetime

Recently, I got to experience the trip of a lifetime when I went to Hollywood, California.

It all started on the Monday before Valentine’s Day. That’s when I discover through an email that I’m selected as the first grand prize winner of a writing contest for “In The Motherhood,” a groundbreaking online comedy series starring gorgeous and talented actresses Leah Remini, Chelsea Handler, and Jenny McCarthy. Seven days later, Scott and I are on a plane heading to Los Angeles to meet the stars and experience the behind-the-scenes making of my story that I wrote on my family camping disaster (“Mishegas of Motherhood”, May 2006). The Internet-based episode is called a “webisode,” and this online sitcom series represents the wave of future entertainment, according to Hollywood insiders.

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The unique concept behind “In The Motherhood,” which is the brainchild of MindShare Entertainment, is that real moms, like you and me, submit over the Internet a few simple paragraphs about mom-focused topics, such as, toddler tantrums, sibling rivalry, and other embarrassing real-life moments. Then, online readers and an advisory committee vote on their favorite entries. Next, professional screenwriters bring to life the best stories in a series of innovative, short scripted comical films. In the second season, seven million viewers tuned in to watch the show.

To watch, go to or visit my website at, and I’ll take you there.

Needless to say, my ordinary suburban life as a stay-at-home mom (who never stays home) is changed forever, or at least for a few days. Here’s how it all got started:

So, one evening as I routinely delete a bunch of junk messages, I stumble across an email marked urgent with an exclamation mark. I open it up and start to read the letter from New York when my concentration is interrupted with my toy poodle Luci barking non-stop at the garbage truck outside. As if the noise isn’t deafening enough, Jack and Sari nag me, “Mom, we’re starving! What’s for dinner?”

I ignore their demands and quickly skim the letter again that explains how I’m invited to Los Angeles next week to see the taping of my show that is based on a story that I submitted to the “In The Motherhood” writing contest last year. I have less than 24 hours to accept my first place grand prize, which is sponsored by Sprint and Suave, and I’m required to notarize an affidavit that proves my identity to the promotional company in New York.

I reread the email again out loud about 10 times. Finally, when the news about an exciting free vacation and a possible big break in my writing career starts to sink in, I scream, “No way! No way! No way!”

Jack and Sari hear the commotion from the kitchen, where out of desperation they crack and devour shelled peanuts because mommy still hasn’t preheated the oven, and it’s almost bedtime by now. “What’s wrong? What happened? Why are you yelling?” they holler at me as they run upstairs to my office.

Sari scrambles to find the phone underneath a seat cushion. “I’m calling daddy and telling him that you won a trip,” my nine-year-old-daughter exclaims. I overhear their conversation while I read each word of the document another time.

“Daddy, guess what? Mom won a writing contest…her camping story is going to be a movie…she is going to California in a few days… I can’t hear you daddy because mommy is still screaming….what?…no, she didn’t make anything for dinner…”

I make a new list of things to do to get ready for my spur-of-the-moment getaway and sudden taste of fame. As the sleet outside my window freezes the mailbox shut, I can’t wait to soak up the warm, California sunshine. I waste no time and drag a heavy suitcase from the basement and pack my favorite high-heeled sandals that I can barely walk in.

All this time I think I’m traveling solo, so I don’t worry about who’s watching the kids while I’m gone. Scott plans to stay home and bond with Jack and Sari. Then on Thursday, four days before I’m supposed to leave for my whirlwind holiday to the land of the movie stars, I find out that I can bring a guest.

I call Scott at work right away and announce, “Happy Valentine’s day, honey! You’re going to California!”

I feel like I’m making progress and start to get excited about meeting the star-studded cast. Someone pinch me now because I must be dreaming. Then a nightmare happens. Jack wakes up Friday morning with a mysterious rash. He is itchy from head to toe with red bumps all over his body. I freak out that he might have chicken pox.

I call the doctor, and she tells me to immediately bring Jack into the office for a cortisone shot because his symptoms sound like an allergic reaction to his acne medication. She asks me if his tongue is swollen or if he has trouble breathing. “No, he seems fine, but I’m ready to pass out,” I say in a panic over the phone.

As I silently drive Jack to the medical building, I rationalize in my head that my trip to Hollywood isn’t meant to be. Maybe fate is interfering with my plans so that I don’t board a hijacked airplane or something. Instead of feeling happy, I’m stressed out and exhausted.

When we get home, I give Jack enough Benadryl so that he finally conks out and stops complaining. Eventually, I get into bed after midnight and fall into a deep, comatose sleep when Jack wakes me in the middle of the night because he feels even more miserable. Before my very eyes, his hives manifest into red splotches all over his body, eyelids, hands, and scalp. I give him more antihistamine, and the next morning we schlep back to the doctor’s office for the second day in a row.

I’m in a fragile state of mind as I grip the steering wheel and stare through the dirty windshield. I begin to cry quietly to myself when Jack notices tears rolling down my face.

“Are you thinking about my bar mitzvah again, mom?” Jack asks me out of concern. “Because if you’re crying already, then you’ll be a basket case when I’m on the bimah.”

I chuckle as I pull into the parking lot and head to the pediatrician’s office. As we sit in the waiting room, I warn Jack not to breathe in too deeply or touch anything because of germs. After looking at Jack’s rash, the doctor prescribes a quick round of prednizone and is confident that the boost of medicine will do the trick.

With that crisis resolved, I feel a little guilty about leaving the kids, so I call a family powwow in our bed on Sunday morning, the day before we leave for Los Angeles.

The meeting comes to order:

Me: “I just want everyone to know that we’re all winners of the ‘In The Motherhood’ contest.”

Jack: “What are you talking about?” he mumbles from underneath a pillow.

Me: “Well, without you guys we wouldn’t have gone camping, and there wouldn’t be a story.”

Sari: “But you get to go to California with daddy. No fair.”

Me: “Daddy and I deserve a little time to ourselves. Besides, we’ll take you on a cruise this summer.”

Scott: “What?! We have a bar mitzvah to pay for!”

To find out how “Mishegas of Motherhood” meets “In The Motherhood”, don’t miss next week’s column.