Tuesday, March 3, 2015

This lesser Grimm fairytale will give you nightmares

A few years ago, I picked up this amazing audiobook collection of Grimm's fairytales at my favorite bookstore ever, The Strand. I could listen to the hypnotic narration all freaking day -- it's all these female British vocal talent artists who make me feel like I am in an episode of Downton Abbey. So, really, the fact that they are saying anything of interest is all bonus.

But what they are reading is of great interest. Those Grimm brothers were totally screwed in the head. This is abundantly apparent in tales like Snow White (we don't even blink when the evil queen says "bring me her heart in a box" but just take a sec and consider how fucked up that is). But if you want to really hear the seriously screwed up shit, you need to get into lesser Grimm. You need to listen to the deep cuts. Like, say: "The Wolf and Seven Young Kids"

Here's how it begins:
"There was once upon a time an old goat who had seven little kids, and loved them with all the love of a mother for her children. One day she wanted to go into the forest and fetch some food. So she called all seven to her and said, “Dear children, I have to go into the forest, be on your guard against the wolf; if he comes in, he will devour you all—skin, hair and all. The wretch often disguises himself, but you will know him at once by his rough voice and his black feet.” The kids said, “Dear mother, we will take good care of ourselves; you may go away without any anxiety.” Then the old one bleated, and went on her way with an easy mind."

OK, so first, I just have to say: the mom goes on her way with an easy mind? Really? A conniving, shapeshifting wolf is on the loose and she totally takes the kids' word for it that they've got this under control? Hmmmm. I'm all for free-range parenting, but dude, come on.

As you have probably predicted, the wolf comes immediately. Like, in the next sentence. Like, I'm surprised the mom didn't run into him on her way out. And he's like, "Little kids, let me come in, I'm your old mom." And they're like, "No way dude! You have that rough voice our mom told us about. And we are street smart kids. So get thee gone Satan." And he's like,"Drat! Back to the drawing board."

But he's a conniving old thing so he goes and swallows a big chunk of chalk, which, as everyone known, makes your rough voice turn silky smooth. And it works, of course. So he comes back and goes, "Little kids, let me come in. I'm your dear old mom." And the kids are like, "Well, she does have that silky smooth mom voice. BUT we're street smart so let's check the paws." And bingo, they're black. So the kids say, "Nuh-uh. Forget it. Get thee gone Satan."

Now THIS part, I love. The wolf knows he needs to cover his black paws in dough because, DUH, what else do you do to trick defenseless young kids that you want to devour? But when he goes to the baker to get the dough necessary for this endeavor, the baker knows better.

"Now hold on one cotton-picking second. I know what you want that dough for and you can forget it," says the baker.  And the wolf is like, "Oh yeah? Well, how about I just tear you limb from limb and eat your goddamn entrails?" And the baker is like, "Take all the dough you need there. Mr Wolf. Hope those kids go down easy."

The wolf goes back and this time, the kids let him in. After all, their mom just told them to look out for the rough voice and the black paws and they totally did and he's clear. So they let him in and he eats every one -- well, almost every one. The tiniest, and apparently smartest, kid, hides in the clock and seriously, what a good hiding place. Plus, after feasting on six kids, the wolf is kind of stuffed.

The wolf, who has gorged himself, goes to sleep. Then the mom comes back and she's like, "WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE? I THOUGHT I TOLD THEM ABOUT THE ROUGH VOICE AND THE BLACK PAWS!!!!!" Then her smart little one pops out of the clock (that one is going to need therapy forever) and he tells the mom what happened.

The mom finds the hideous wolf sleeping and she notices his belly is, well, moving. And she realizes its all her six children in there, who are STILL ALIVE, because the wolf, as wolves are wont to do in Grimm fairytales, gobbled them up whole. Hallejuia!

She knows just what to do. Apparently, she's read LIttle Red Riding Hood. Get the knife, slice the wolf  open, and let those kids out. He's sleeping so, you know, it's all good. It's not like a little disembowelment will rouse an animal when he's napping.

HERE is where the story gets good (yes, I realize it's the very end but remember, good things come to those who wait). The mom gets all Kill Bill on us. Hell hath no fury like a mom whose six kids have been devoured by a wolf. She says, "Kids! I know you've suffered a terrible trauma but go get the biggest rocks you can find because your old mom has a plan!"

Then she puts the rocks in the wolf's belly in place of her children and -- Grimm brothers are sure to note -- she hustles because she doesn't want the old wolf to wake up, and she super fast sews him up.

The wolf wakes up and he is kind of thirsty so he walks over to the lake to get a drink and all the rocks in his guts knock together and he realizes something is amiss.

"Then cried he,

        What rumbles and tumbles
Against my poor bones?
I thought ’twas six kids,
But it’s naught but big stones.

And when he got to the well and stooped over the water and was just about to drink, the heavy stones made him fall in and there was no help, but he had to drown miserably."

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD. 

These Grimm brothers don't pull any punches. The rocks in his guts slowly drowned him. Come on. That is some dark shit, even for the Grimms. It makes Snow White seem like a lovely little lullaby. 

So, there you go. Sorry if I gave you hideous nightmares. but at least you didn't play that story on tape for your young children. 


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Live from the Red Carpet . . . with a five year-old

When Primo was five, he and I broadcast Live! From the Red Carpet (or at least the red pillow on our couch). It was scintillating fashion coverage, his very first; you won't want to miss Primo's commentary on Penelope Cruz and Heather Graham and purple pocket squares. Now, prepare to fire up your time machine and go back five years to when my tween was just a tot (still full of ideas):


"This year marked Primo’s first time watching the Red Carpet for the Golden Globes on E! and it is official – I have a new viewing companion. Kid’s a natural when it comes to fashion commentating (just shows you what a child can get excited about when he gets to stay up late to do it). Ryan Seacrest, watch out. There’s a new pretty boy in town. He picks his nose on camera, digs unconventional couture and has no mercy for Fergie. Behold: Live from the Red Carpet! with my five year-old



I should add that when we first turned on the TV and I explained to him that the point of the show was to look at what everyone was wearing and see if you liked it or not, he chastised me: "This is very vain, Mommy!" And I agreed one hundred percent and explained that that's precisely why we only did it twice a year. I told him it was like Halloween: you couldn't eat that much candy everyday but once or twice a year it was perfectly unobjectionable to glut yourself. After that, he abandoned any concerns about the frivolity of our enterprise and dug right in.

Here's the sum-up:
Best Dressed: Jay Manuel
Worst Dressed: Fergie
Best Umbrella: Mariah Carey
Best Hat: Mickey Rourke
Best Accent: Penelope Cruz
Other highlights include when I ragged on Elisabeth Moss’s poor choice of color, he agreed but he did stand behind her choice of straps (“they are SUPPOSED to hang off her shoulders like that, Mommy!). He and I both loved Christina Hendricks’ Christian Siriano gown and we both despised Julia Roberts’ exceedingly humdrum frock. Vintage Yves Saint Laurent, my foot! As Primo put it: ”Its not fancy AT ALL!!!!” Give us glamour, people! My own regret is he didn’t get to see Chloe Sevigny’s Valentino get stepped on and the actress show her slip, so to speak, when she went all apeshit on the poor fellow who couldn’t help my trip over her riot of ruffles. He would have loved that wardrobe malfunction.
And now, an exclusive for you a mom amok readers, is what Primo deems the ideal ensemble to wear to the Red Carpet:
Big black overalls
Purple patent leather shoes
A tuxedo jacket with jewels all over it
A top hat
Big golden earrings
and of course . . .
A purple bow tie
Zac Efron, take note. Primo is available for consultation, on an after-school basis."

Friday, February 20, 2015

When you plant an apple seed, you get a . . .



Yesterday, I gave Terza an apple.

A half hour later, she came to me with a very chagrined look on her face.

"Mommy!" she said. "There is yucky stuff inside this apple!"

By which she meant the core. Which she had never seen before. Because she is two years old.

It was one of those moments where I was pierced suddenly by the revelation of how small she is, how unthinkably new. These moments always make me think several things at once:

1. How amazing and magical to be discovering everything for the first time!
2. Shit, she's so pristine. I can't possibly keep her like this. I'm going to screw her up.
3. No wonder she has tantrums and throws things. She's two fucking years old.
4. Kiss! Cuddle! Hug! Devour!

Once that exhausting thought process was through, I replied to her:

"Oh, look what you found! It's the apple seeds!"

"Apple seeds?" she asked, dubiously.

"Yes, and if we take them out and put them in soil and water them, do you know what will grow?"

Her eyes got wide and her face wore that "Knowledge is slowly dawning on me! I got this! I got this!" expression.

Then she shouted: "CARROTS!"

Repeat thoughts 1-4.



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why do kids love pretend shopping but deplore actual shopping?



When we were in Philly, I took my girls to the Please Touch Museum. Every time I hear the name, I think of my friend, who refers to it as the Please Touch Me museum. That is not relevant to the story; I just thought since I was permanently marked with that, I should mark you as well. I told that to my husband and he started referring to it as the See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me Museum, raising the crazy to nonsensical levels.

So, we went to the Please Touch Museum and the girls had a blast. We stayed for almost three hours and they didn't stop for a minute, just ran from one pretend play area to the next.

David and Primo went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (they did not run up the stairs singing the theme to Rocky, in case you're wondering, and that is precisely why my family needs me because I would have forced them to). When the boys picked us up, Primo asked hat they had in the Please Touch Me, See Me, Heal Me Museum.

"Well they had this huge pretend kitchen which led to a pretend supermarket and a pretend bakery and a pretend hospital with a pretend garden in back. And then, of course, there was the pretend garage with all the pretend vehicles, to say nothing of the pretend treehouse."

"So, it was all just pretend play stuff?" he asked.

"Yes, but the girls loved it. Especially the pretend kitchen. Imagine your workaday play kitchen, only twenty times bigger, so that it's really almost the size of a real kitchen." I explained.

Yes, the kitchen and grocery store was the piece de resistance and as the afternoon wore on, it got more and more crowded so that, again, it resembled a real grocery store mobbed with grownups doing actual shipping. Standing there, watching the children frantically filling and emptying their miniature shopping carts with groceries -- many of which were actual food boxes and cartons, covered in contact paper -- I wondered something:

"Why is it that when we go to the real grocery store, and do exactly this, it is pure torture but when we go to a "pretend" one, it is sheer unadulterated joy and hours of satisfaction?"

And then, immediately, I realized why. It's just the tiny little matter of control.

When they come shopping with me, they can't go where they please and push their own carts, and fill those carts with ten boxes of graham crackers and six loaves of Italian bread and then, two seconds later, throw all of the bread on the floor, and then ten seconds after that, put it on a shelf and then, five seconds after that, put it back in their cart.

So, I'd like to announce that I have discovered the secret to keeping kids happy while grocery shopping. Just give them a cart and let them do whatever the hell they want.

In fact, I'll go one step further and say I've discovered the secret to keeping kids happy everywhere and all the time. It's exactly the same thing, just without the cart.

Yes, I know, totally invaluable.


Friday, February 13, 2015

If you're sick of parenting experts, you'll love this


From the funny folks at the Onion, "Parenting Expert Has Nerve To Tell You How To Raise Your Own Goddamn Kids." Spot-on. 




Thursday, February 5, 2015

The "M" Word


Just read a really interesting article in New York magazine's The Cut, called  If You Aren't My Child, Don't Call Me Mom. Lisa Miller tries to put her finger on why that term triggers her gag reflex, when a grown-up uses it to refer to her:
 “Mom” derives from baby talk: ma ma. It’s a deeply intimate word that the tiniest humans learn at the breast and as such is inherently demeaning when applied broadly to all women with children, not too far from having your boss use lovers' endearments like “darling” or “hon.” It’s a kid’s word at heart, containing a kid’s-eye view of things. “Mom” is an overpowering presence: omnipotent, mythic, nurturing, and bosomy, a perfumed provider of succor, discipline, and food; but also (as the child grows up) embarrassing, annoying, nagging, insufficient, disappointing"
I don't mind the term the same way I mind "mommy" as an adjective, say, but this next point I found pretty fascinating:

"There are those who would say that “mom” is an honorific, somehow, a blessing and a tribute to those who do the hardest job of all. But if that were true, then “dad” would be, too, and it’s not. (Look at the text of Obama’s 2008 Father’s Day speech, a 4,000-word exhortation to responsible fatherhood. There, Obama said “father” 44 times; “dad” and “daddy” were each used once.) When we speak of male parents with reverence and respect, we use the word “father”: When we want to signal they’re fuckable we say they’re “cute dads.” 

So, all you mamas out there, be sure to catch this Mom Read.  (Yes, I'm being annoyingly sarcastic).

Monday, February 2, 2015

Snow Day? They should call it Heightened Productivity Day!

I'm not a homebody. I like being out in the world. Spending too much time at home tends to make me claustrophobic. It doesn't help that I share a small apartment with four very large characters. They are large and they are loud and they are messy. So, at the end of a day spent at home, I have:

A huge freaking mess
A headache from yelling at the kids to clean up the mess (and still, it remains a pretty sizable mess)
A headache from the general cacophony of kids at play and kids in fights and kids being kids.
A guilt complex from how much screen time they'd had
Did I mention the headache?

To stave this off, when we are stuck at home, I go into Super Intense Prpductive Mode.

So when my kids hear "snow day!" they think, "Yay!! No school! We can take it EASY!"

And I think, "Time to get shit done." If you dramatically re-enacted this scene for television, this would be the musical montage where you'd see close ups of me rolling up my sleeves, tying a doo rag over my hair and punching my fist into my open palm  in the universal, "It's on!" gesture.

I get VERY productive during snow days. Very. And I cannot help but involve the children in my intense industry because the largest project is always the "Rehabilitate the Children" project. Which is totally great from a multi tasking point of view. If this continues, my kids may very well be the only ones in the U S of A to hate snow days.

The real secret to my success for last week's snow day was that we dragged Nonny over to stay at our apartment for the blizzard. It was supposed to be this historic storm, and we didn't want her on her own. Also, we needed her to mop the floors and then wash the mop and generally help me take my Mommy Dearest act to new levels.

We did laundry.

We made chili.

We cleaned out our closets.

We changed the bedclothes.

We practiced math word problems.

We matched the mountain of unmatched socks (well, 20% of them, the rest have no match. But we hold out hope for them! Single socks will not be tossed away in our house! On a related note, we may be borderline hoarders. Not sure.)

We made piade, which are Italian tortillas.

Then the kids were poised for revolt so we let them play Just Dance for a while and then we made homemade Italian crema to forestall mutiny.

We super glued every item in the large pile of toys and accessories and hardware and home decor that has required super gluing.

We paid bills.

We cleaned out the high cupboard that only David can reach without a ladder.

Primo did most of his big school project on the Civil War and Seconda wrote an essay for a summer program she's applying to.

We scrubbed the bathtub and threw out the 8 year-old bath toys which probably carry dysentery.

It was so much FUN!

Then, when even Nonny could take no more productivity, we watched Pee Wee's Big Adventure and everyone, even the doubters among us, laughed their tired asses off.

And when the kids found out there was school the next day, I think they were more than a little relieved.