Tuesday, April 15, 2014

World's Toughest Job

Would you reply to this Classified ad?
"The job had a mandatory 135+ hours a week of work and required the job holder to be on call at all times, day or night. Qualified candidates should have a knowledge of psychology, medicine, personal finance, culinary arts and basic technology skills. The job also had physical requirements: the ability to stand for hours, lift up to 75 pounds, be constantly moving and operate on little to no sleep."
Guess what? You did. It's called parenthood and you can not resign. Or get promoted. But you can also never get fired, so there's that. 

You have to go watch this hilarious and tear-inducing video (made by a greeting card company, be forewarned) ins which they posted the above ad and interviewed the 24 people who replied. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cursing Toddlers

One of the most exciting and stressful parts of living with a two year-old, I've found, is their tendency to accurately mimic the things you say. My big kids love that Terza is a little parrot; it allows them to effortlessly manipulate her for their enjoyment.

"Terza, can you say, "You know I'm bad! I'm bad! You know it!"

"I bad! I bad! You KNOW IT!" she obliges, with gusto.

Peals of laugher. I laugh, too. I won't deny it. It's riotous. And then, once I've busted a gut or two, I intervene:

"OK, that's enough now. Can't we have her say how GOOD she is, how helpful and obedient?"

Seconda, too, feeds her lines of dialogue:

"Terza, can you say, "Oppa gangam style?"

"Oppa gaaaya tiewa!"

Explosive, thunderous cackles. And Terza loves it, of course. She thinks she is the bee's knees. So everyone wins. 

But she also repeats stuff you don't want her to repeat.

The other day, my grandmother was babysitting and when I picked Terza up, Nonny informed me that she might have learned a new and colorful bit of language.

"I tink I taught her to say 'shit,'" Nonny confessed.

"Nonny!" I exclaimed, with chagrined indignation, "Please try to CONTROL yourself!"

As if I'd never used the word "shit" in front of the kid.

The thing is, at first kids are babies and when they're babies, you really have carte blanche languege-wise, because shit, they don't know what the hell they're hearing. Then, slowly, so slowly you don't even realize it's happening, they become toddlers, and still, they're really not talking, and when they do, you can't understand what they're saying, anyway, so really, you've got a cushion, when it comes to cursing. And then, one day, they're talking in complete sentences and voicing all sorts of complicated sentiments and observations like, "The doggie is loud and he's gonna lick me and I'm scared Mommy! Please help me!" and you're like, "FUCK. This kid is WITH it now, I have to stop cursing."

And you try, you really do, but it's a hard habit to break, particularly in the hectic strum and drang of raising three precocious, demanding children while trying to work at the same time. So you find yourself slipping, And when you do, there's a little parrot right beside you, at the ready to repeat it all. Weird part is, half the stuff she says is incomprehensible, but when she says swear words, she's got impeccable articulation. Clear as a bell.

"Jesus CHRIST!"




"Oh shit!"

Thankfully, we haven't been treated to our two year-old tossing around the F bomb yet. So, I guess, if you're a silver-linings kind of person, you'd say things are looking up.
We shall see . . .

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Win books! A whole bunch of books!

I'm delighted to be included in this amazing, gigundo book giveaway, orchestrated by the superstar novelists Miranda Beverly-Whittemore and Julia Fiero. Each day, you’ll have the chance to win a signed first edition of the brand spanking new book from these incredible authors:

April 9: Ted Thompson, The Land of Steady Habits
April 10: Jean Kwok, Mambo in Chinatown
April 11: Caeli Wolfson Widger, Real Happy Family
April 14: Mira Jacob, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing
April 15: Cristina Henriquez, The Book of Unknown Americans
April 16: Alexi Zentner, The Lobster Kings
April 17: Courtney Elizabeth Mauk, Orion’s Daughters
April 18: Scott Cheshire, High As The Horses’ Bridles 
April 21: Megan Abbott, The Fever
April 22: Edan Lepucki, California
April 23: Joanna Rakoff, My Salinger Year
April 24: Marie-Helene Bertino, 2 A.M. At The Cat’s Pajamas
April 25: Kevin Clouther, We Were Flying to Chicago
April 28: Roxane Gay, An Untamed State
April 29: Porochista Khakpour, The Last Illusion
April 30: Brian Gresko, When I First Held You
May 1: Courtney Maum, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You
May 2: Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You
May 5: Robin Black, Life Drawing
May 6: Nicole C. Kear, Now I See You
May 7: Julia Fierro, Cutting Teeth
May 8: Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, Bittersweet

But that’s not all! By entering into a daily giveaway, you’ll also qualify for the BIG GRAND PRIZE GIVEAWAY – ONE COPY OF EACH OF THESE BOOKS! Signed! That’s right, the grand prize winner will receive 24 signed first editions; each of the books listed above.
Each day, we will post a new giveaway featuring one author in which we’ll give away a single copy of their book. We will update the schedule above with links to each giveaway. To enter to win each daily giveaway, we’ll post a question about each person’s work; by answering in the entry form, you’ll automatically enter that day’s giveaway! We’ll announce one winner the next morning while featuring the next book.
There will also be  one grand prize winner who will win ALL THE BOOKS. The grand prize giveaway will be announced on May 9th. If you enter ANY of the individual book giveaways, you are automatically entered to win the grand prize. You can enter once per individual giveaway, but if you enter EACH of the daily book giveaways, that DOES increase your chance to win the grand prize. 
Each day, we’ll give away one signed first edition of the book outlined via the schedule above.  The grand prize winner will receive them individually in the mail from each author as the books are released.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Guess How Much I Love You: or, does everything have to be a contest?

So, I just wrote about my all-time favorite board books, and now I'm writing about one that just annoys the shit out of me.

I feel like I should like Guess How Much I Love You. It's exactly the kind of book I want to like. I am a sap, pure and simple and most children's books that have the phrase "love you" in the title win me over, no matter how saccharine they are.  Love You Forever, for instance? My kids make me read that book to them just because they enjoy watching me sob like a baby. It's the watch-Mommy-cry-weirdly-hard show. I can't even think about it without starting to well up. You Are My I Love You? Love it. "You are my London Bridge, I am your falling down?" Yes. Bam. Give me more. I don't know what the hell it means and I don't even care.

But Guess How Much I Love You just gets under my skin. First of all, there are way too many words. The author could halve his word count and I think it'd be just right. Also, maybe it's because I'm a city kid but I am not a big fan of Little Nutbrown Hare. Blegh. His name has this gross pastoral cuteness factor that I scheeve. Either Little Hare or Nutbrown Hare would work, but throw in both and it's just adorable overload and it backfires.

But my real point of contention is that the whole book is basically about how the dad wants to one-up his kid by proving how he will always and everywhere love him MORE. It pisses me off. I'm not a moron so I get that it's a game and I get that Little (shudder) Nutbrown So-and-So loves it and I'm happy for him and all the simple-minded rabbits at there that are just so easygoing they don't know when they're being insulted. You know, when I stop to think about it,  I don't think I would have minded the entire conceit of the book had the father just LET HIM WIN AT THE END. When the poor kid, exhausted by the mammoth effort of trying to out do his father, finally succumbs to sleep after saying "I love you right up to the moon" his dad could have just smiled and kissed the kid goodnight and watched True Detective or some shit.  But instead, he can't tolerate not having the last fucking word so he has to sneak in. "I love you right up to the moon and back." It's like, "Dude. Get a grip. Everything is not a contest."

Hey, I know. It's a beloved children's book. But I had to say my peace. That's why I have a blog, after all.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools Day Pranks To (Not) Play On Your Kids

My parents have always loved April Fool's Day, probably because it allows them to act out their mean streak. I could write a whole freaking memoir about the shitty pranks my parents played on me, and the shitty revenge pranks I played back on them but such a book would only make you dislike me and my entire family and also, I already wrote a memoir (you should go pre-order that, incidentally).

So when I see a list like this circulating -- April Fool's Day Pranks to Play On Your Kids -- I have my doubts. Reading these, I found that almost all of them fell into one of the following categories:

A. Super time consuming. Seriously, who has the fucking time to swap out Cheetos of carrot slices or sew a kid's sock closed? I don't have the time to brush my damn hair.

B. Nasty. Tell the kids you got them an iPad only to reveal its an Eye Pad? Come on, that's just shitty.

C. Mean. Maybe other people's kids are way more low-key but if I told my kids the principal wanted to see them, they'd actually sustain cardiac damage.

D. Not feasible. How would you put a helium balloon under the toilet lid? GROSS. If you are doing this, you need to regroup.

E. Dumb. Covering the sensor of the remote or gluing the shampoo bottle closed isn't funny, it's just plain fucking annoying.

But I did like adding food coloring to the cereal. Maybe I'll do it tomorrow and really throw them off their game.

Happy April Fools' Day, folks. Be decent out there.

Monday, March 31, 2014

My three favorite picture books for the littlest readers

Since I have a toddler again, I get to repeat read board books, too. Depending on your perspective, and the book,  this could either be a treat or a trial. In my case, because I'm a snob and have very decided preferences when it comes to books, especially regarding those I read to my children, it's both. And because this is my blog and i get to do whatever the hell I want, I will now list my top three board books/ first reads and then another time, I'll list three board books that really get on my damn nerves


There's a reason people have been reading Where the Wild Things Are for as long as they have. I have my childhood copy, though I won't let Terza touch it because I made that mistake and now the book looks like a bear mauled it. Reason number one I love the book: my kids love the book. Terza goes crazy for the wild things; she loves getting her wild on, gnashing her terrible teeth and rolling her terrible eyes and then, acting out despotic Max when he tells them to "Be still!" There are just the right amount of words on each page for her to be able to soak them in, and the repetitive nature allows her to remember the language which is really gratifying to her. 

Then, there's my love affair with the book. I will never get tired of reading Wild Things. This is a theory I have tested. I don't even look at the words anymore, because it's memorized. By the time I get to "and it was still hot," I linger, not quite ready for the book to end every time.  The characters! Who wouldn't love Max, that power-hungry, hell-raising scoundrel? Who wouldn't love the wild things, feral beasts just desperate for an object of affection? Who wouldn't love his mother, his beleaguered, fed-up mother, who knows to set limits but then also knows when she's gone too far. She gives him his dinner after all, AND IT WAS STILL HOT. The hopefulness of that last line SLAYS me. It just does. I swear, let that be my epitaph. And it was still hot. You know what that means? It means, kids, it's going to be OK. It means you can have adventures and make mistakes and we will still be here, because we will always be here, even when we're not anymore, and you can still have your dinner AND IT WILL (EVEN) STILL BE HOT.

Goodnight Moon is, in my personal opinion, a damn near perfect first book for kids. It seems so basic and straightforward, and then you get to "Goodnight nobody" and you're like, "WHAT THE FUCK?"  You're like, "Where did THIS come from? And what does it MEAN?" It's so creepy and enticing and it just begs a bunch of questions that I never tire of asking. Yet, at the same time, those spare, simple rhymes totally lulls you into this hypnotic trance of total calm and peacefulness. "In the great green room, there was a telephone. And a red ballon, And a picture of  . . . (WAIT FOR IT!) the cow jumping over the moon."  That just what I wanted the picture to be of!  Damn near perfect. 

I really love Taro Gomi's Spring Is Here, for precisely the same reasons. It doesn't have the creepy caesura of "goodnight nobody" but you know what? Sometimes you don't want that. I have this certain feeling that after all my kids are grown and off to college or wherever their futures take them, that I will be sitting at my couch, reading Spring Is Here to myself because it kind of is the best treatment for anxiety ever invented. The flowers bloom. The snow falls. The world is white.The snow melts. Ahhhhhh . . . And at the end you circle back to the beginning, except look! The calf has grown. Which is MAGICAL AND AMAZING. And oh-so-gratifying. And it's what we experience watching our kids get older year by year. Damn near perfect, too.

And there ends the positivity. Next time, I'll bitch about the ones that grate on my nerves.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A New Way To Do Kids' Birthday Presents

Consider this:
A. Shopping for other kids' birthday presents is a drag
B. Chances are good, whatever you get them, they've already got it or if they don't it's because they never wanted it in the first place
C. There are a lot more impactful ways to spend money than on yet another Lego set

Someone did consider all these points and came up with a solution, which is to say  A New Way To Do Kids' Birthday Presents

It's called EchoAge and it's kind of like Evite, except they have an option where they can take care of presents too so they collect money from the guests (read: guests' parents). The guest decides how much they want to give and other guests don't see the amount (though you can, as the host). EchoAge then takes a cut, about 5 percent, and divides the remaining money in half. Half goes to the kid to get the present of their dreams and the other half goes to a charity of their choosing.

I love the idea -- though, like the author of the Times piece, don't think I'm quite ready to sign up because of the asking-other-parents-for money deterrent. Pretty fantastic idea, though. I think YOU should do it first and let me know how it goes.