Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The upside-down house and other wonders

Its an upside-down building!!!! How freaking cool is that? Just one of the many wonders you can behold in Sevierville, TN. Actually, most of the other wonders are located inside this building, a science museum aptly named Wonderworks. David and I, along with his sister and her husband took the kids over yesterday and it was a real hootenany. Seriously, I thought this place was off the hook. I don't want to badmouth the Liberty Science Center but this place has an upside-down edifice, for God's sake, including dangling trees!! Other wonders included the tiled floor located ON THE CEILING:

The Hurricane Chamber was pretty wild. You head inside this mini subway-car-type thing and then winds up to 65 miles an hour are blasted in your face. Kids thought that was crazy fun, although after all the natural disaster this world has seen in the last few years, I found it a little scary:

Primo and Sec spent a good 20 minutes trying to pull themselves up on this seat attached to a pulley system.They now understand what an unsung hero our elevator is:

Then you enter Space Zone with a lot of computers asking what I considered to be exceedingly hard quiz questions about American space history. Also one super cool space shutle control chamber where you have to sit upside down:

And then there was this:

A bed of nails, you say? WHO would be crazy enough to lie down on a real bed of nails? Oh, I'll tell you who.

Primo saw the bed of nails and raced over, telling me he really wanted to try it. Now, this doesn't sound like my anxious, circumspect first-born at all, so I was a little surprised but I'm all about encouraging his bravery so we got on line. While waiting, I read to him the explanation of why it was safe to lie of the bed of nails, and the reason is basically that there are so many nails - 3,487 to be exact-- that each nail gets just a tiny faction of your weight and so your body doesn't get punctured. I was hoping for a slightly more convincing reason like, "Its safe because these are fake nails" or something similar. So its finally our turn and Primo has - what else - cold feet. He resolves them by instructing ME to go on the bed of nails, putting me in quite a predicament. I can't refuse because I don't want to show him there's anything to be afraid of but dude, spreading out on a surface of sharp pointy things made to hold lumber together is not my idea of fun. But I haul my ass on that table and lie there listening to them slowly raise the nails through the plastic table top with 3,487 holes in it and growing increasingly worried that it wasn't a prudent idea to take instructions from a five year-old. It wasn't painful, its true, but it wasn't NOT painful either. It was a definite all-over pinch, particularly on my bare legs.

So the basic idea here is never WALK on a bed of nails but if you must have some encounter with them, lie right on down. Wonderworks says its safe and Wonderworks knows.

This makes me curious - anyone else try this stunt? Swallow swords? Eat fire? I'd like some scientific explanation for those, too.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Moved to Tears

Got a new essay in the Park Slope Reader called Moved to Tears which I thought you readers might enjoy. If you're too darn lazy to click on the link, just read it below.

By Nicole Caccavo Kear

Moving! What could be more exciting? A blank slate awaits! You arrange your old furniture in a new and improved configuration, find uses for things you'd deemed unnecessary, get rid of the crap that really is unnecessary and perhaps best of all, discover all those missing pieces to chess sets, puzzles, Lego creations and sock pairs.

Yes, the flood of satisfaction I feel when I find a missing puzzle piece, and can stamp "Case Closed" on that particular mystery, thus releasing Saint Anthony from his bondage, that satisfaction almost makes moving worth it.

Almost, but not quite. Because when you are moving, particularly with two little children in tow, perks like being reunited with lost earrings are short-lived. Sure, you could linger to enjoy these little victories...or you could slip into a three month-long anxiety attack. You could transform into a harpie hag, wildly berating your husband for not bringing home more packing tape, beseeching your children to "GIVE YOU A BREAK, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY!" and fainting - that's right, fainting - in the middle of packing your china (never, for the record, cracking a plate).;

Yes, I recently moved - for the first time since Primo and Seconda were born. And it nearly moved me to madness.

Before you have kids, packing is annoying and tedious but you can get it done: you just put other responsibilities on hold and hunker down. When you have a 2 and 4 year-old at home, this is not really an option. It helps to order in and let the kids watch near-toxic amounts of TV but you can streamline only so much. You can not, for instance, tell your kids "Change your own diaper!" and "Read your own books!" and "Take yourself to the playground!"

The other challenge that young children pose to packing is the fact that a toddler's greatest joy is to unpack boxes. To the extent that a smart entrepreneur could start an unpacking business staffed entirely with 2 year-olds. I can't tell you how many times I labored over a box - placing items carefully in so that all objects were protected and every inch of the box was used to its fullest potential - and when I turned around for a minute to grab the packing tape, Seconda would dart in like a ninja and fling the items all over the room.

Moving with children also means that you have to confront your conspicuous consumerism, particularly as it relates to the insane amounts of crap your kids own, all of which they find utterly indispensable and which they want to be able to retrieve at a moment's notice. If you think arguing with a spouse over what to keep and what to toss is tough, try negotiating with a 4 year-old. When I asked Primo if we could perhaps discard a shoebox full of acorns, he was shocked and chagrined.

"Not my LUCKY ACORN COLLECTION!!!!" he shrieked, "I'll never find a hundred lucky acorns like that again!"

And even after you've conceded to take along the stuffed animals they haven't played with in three years and the dozen empty toilet paper rolls that have suddenly acquired special meaning, the trouble is not behind you. Because as soon as you pack something and shove the box somewhere in a teetering pile of boxes, you child will experience a desperate need for the exact item you have just packed.

"Where is my GREEN MARBLE???" Primo would yell, and heaven help the poor soul who did not think to label that particular box "Toys, including one green marble."

The night before the move was, without a doubt, the worst. I'm not proud of the things I said that night but I do maintain that when I said them I was under the influence of moving.

We shipped the children off to my parents' for a weekend of non-stop fun (or if not fun, at least non-stop guardianship) and David and I packed like fiends. Emphasis on "I" and on "fiends." I morphed into a mini Mephistopheles, with an insatiable appetite for packing tape. Besides the occasional string of hardcore, multi-syllabic expletives, I spoke only to bark directions like "More tape!" and "Hurry!" and frequently, "WHERE'S MY SHARPIE?" As the hours passed, my impeccably-filled boxes became haphazard, desperate. I threw my meat tenderizer in my Uggs and stacked those on top of David's CDs and threw in a handful of stray bath toys on top. Sec's potty went in with the toaster which went in with my wedding album.

You know your packing has reached the point of no return when you trash things that you love, treasure even, because the thought of finding a box to put them is literally nauseating.

"What about this?" David asked, pointing to our blender, which I'd lugged home on the subway at 39 weeks pregnant with visions of postpartum smoothie-making dancing in my head.

"Too heavy!" I snapped, "Garbage!"

"And this?" he asked, holding the kids' autographed copy of Babar.

"Already packed the books!" I panted, "Books done. Garbage!"

When I told him to throw out my favorite childhood cup, he deemed me unfit to pack and sent me to bed where I stayed awake for over an hour, yelling orders at him.

Miraculously, when the movers came the next morning we were more or less ready and in three hours, we had changed homes. When my parents dropped the kids off the next morning, Primo and Seconda found their bedroom fully furnished, with ogre-green walls, outer space nightlights and Trofasts filled to the brim with lucky acorns, superfluous stuffed animals and one very precious green marble.

Slowly, my devil horns shrunk until you couldn't see them at all. My shoulders eased down from their position next to my ears. My furrowed brow softened and my craggy haggy voice began to resemble a human's again. By the time the cable man came to hook up the Tivo, I was my happy, perky self again. Happier and more perky in fact, because now I have a dishwasher and an elevator and more electrical outlets in the living room. And all the pieces to every single puzzle.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chillin with Sufjan

Spring break, woohooooo, and we’re spending it in Tennessee with the Southern family. We flew in Friday morning and GUESS WHO was on our flight?

Sufjan Stevens. And the members of the National. Between the band and their managers and crew, half the seats in the puddlejumper were occupied by hipsters in skinny jeans, hoodies and knit caps. I would never have recognized old Sufjan but my husband knows this sort of thing, just like he knew about the special show they’re doing together in Knoxville.

The only thing I could really remember about him was that David bought his double Christmas CD a few years ago and for some reason it’s the only one we haven’t lost so every year when its tree trimming time, David puts on the Sufjan Christmas album which is a very nice and pleasing album, but doesn’t exactly conjure the yuletide spirit, and I say, “Would it KILL us to listen to some Dean Martin while I string this freaking popcorn????”

I tell you one thing -- made me feel old as sin, to be chasing after my two rugrats in the baggage claim area of McGhee Tyson airport while soft-talking Sufjan and his pals collected their equipment. But here we are in the Smoky Mountains and loads of sweet tea, put put and ranch dresing await!

Friday, March 26, 2010


Primo’s Kindergarten class is doing this unit of study called “Family Study” and every week one student’s family comes in and gets interviewed by the kids. You talk about the members of your family, what your child was like as a newborn, a toddler, a preschooler. You bring in photos, baby books, even video footage.

When I heard that video footage was admissible, I got very excited. That’s because David edited this amazing video of Primo’s first three months. It is not your everyday home video. The soundtrack features Tom Waits, the Flaming Lips and the Drive-By Truckers, there are all sorts of visual effects edited in, time-lapse work: it’s some serious stuff. There is a scene with me sitting on top of the radiator, with newborn Primo on my lap, staring out at the blizzard outside, and every single time I watch it I begin to sob hysterically because it takes me back to the wonder and the joy and the insanity of those first few months of motherhood. I love this video and I want the world to see it. But I will settle for Primo’s Kindergarten class.

So we unearthed the DVD and, since we haven’t seen it in awhile, we took a look.

Hey, here’s something I forgot.

I am half naked in this video. That’s what I said out loud when I saw it, “Oh my God, I’m HALF NAKED!!!”

I will hasten to qualify.

The aforementioned partial nudity takes place in a scene where David and I are giving one-week-old Primo a bath. I am not actually naked, I am just not wearing a shirt. Instead, I am in this maternity/ nursing bra. It’s not indecent because it’s not lacy or anything, more like a sports bra, and plenty of coverage but still – I am NOT WEARING A SHIRT. I normally don’t agree to being filmed topless but in this particular instance, I was actually deranged by severe, ruthless sleep-deprivation. The baby was a week-old. I probably didn’t even register what the word “camera’ meant.

But it’s really not just the indecency of me not wearing a short that makes the video objectionable. It is the fact that, seeing as I just had a baby, I am also sporting a big old postpartum flap of stomach flab which literally hangs over my sweatpants as I lean over to bathe Primo on the coffee table. It is incredibly gross.

Primo thinks it’s amazing, of course, and can’t wait to show everyone the whole video. I tell him that as long as we advance through that section, it is ok to screen. Great plan, Nicole. Way to trust a five year-old.

So we get up in front of the class and I open my computer to play the DVD and Primo announces to his whole class, with total glee, “We’re go9ng to show you a video and my mom is NAKED in it!””

Huge wave of laughter from the 5 and 6 year-olds. Not tittering. Chortles.

“Primo!” I exclaim, laughing nervously, “That’s not true.”

“Oh, yeah, she’s HALF naked,” he added, “Play it Mommy!”

I managed to skip over the nude part but the whole time the kids were wild and out-of-control, exclaiming, “nude!” and “booty!” and “underpants!” And Primo’s teacher was looking at us like we weren’t the wholesome folk she always imagined us to be. I wanted to explain about the nursing bra and the postpartum flab flap but it seemed better just to say nothing.

Fun times in the old Kindergarten classroom.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shit my 3 year-old says

The other day as we were walking from the elevator to our apartment door, my daughter's knees began to buckle and she whined, "Mommy, pick me up! My legs are bored of walking."

What I love about this is she didn't even bother to lie or blame fatigue. I guess she thought this was a legitimate complaint.

Is there even a comeback to something so ridiculous?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A little piece of hump day advice

Hey, a little decolletage never hurt anyone, especially on a Wednesday. Its what I call my Post-millennial Liasions Dangereuse look. I find any outfit is improved when you think of a really pretentious name for it. Check it out at All Kinds of Pretty

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm married to my daughter

The whole princess thing is gaining momentum with Seconda. I don’t love it but there’s not much I can do to stop it so I’m trying not make too much of a fuss. Up until now, the element of these stories that really fascinated Sec hasn’t been the prince or the romance but the evil characters. Most of the time she’s dressing up as the evil stepmother or Maleficient or Ursula, and I get it, completely. They are the only women in the stories who DO anything of interest. They are, in fact, incredibly powerful: they work magic, and wreak havoc and have a real impact. I’ve secretly been proud that she’s so into the evil villanesses and unconcerned with the princesses, who are, for the most part, big old ditzes.

But a few days ago, something changed. Sec walked over to me and said in an incredibly solemn voice:

“Mommy, will you marry me?”

“Will I marry you?” I repeated.

“Yes,” she repeated softly, gazing into my eyes, “Will you be my wife?”

I’m not sure where she’s got this from, since the fairytales we read and watch don’t cover this verbiage: no one really asks anyone to get married, it’s just a forgone conclusion seeing as how the prince saved the girl from a gruesome death.

But wherever she got it from, the question was pending, and I replied with the only possible answer: “Of course I’ll marry you.”

Then she ever-so-slowly brought her face to me and gave me a kiss.

Have I told you how affection-starved I am by my whirling dervish of a daughter? She almost never even accepts a kiss from me, much less offers one herself. She has literally WIPED OFF every kiss I’ve given to her for the past year. I was so heady from the affection that I found myself continuing the game by asking, “Seconda, will you marry me?”

“Yes,” she said, absolutely breathless, “I will marry you Mommy. And now I will give you the kiss of love.”

Funny, I figured Sec would want to marry her Dad, since he more closely resembles Prince Charming and since she so clearly adores him and all. But no, she’s chosen me.

My sister came over this weekend, and witnessed one of our unending proposals of marriage. She, too, is utterly deprived of Seconda kisses and hugs, so she thought maybe she could get in on the action,

“Hey, Sec,” she ventured, “Will you marry me?”

‘I CAN”T MARRY YOU!” Sec shouted, chagrined, “I AM MARRIED TO MY MUDDER!”

Monday, March 22, 2010


As I mentioned, my kids are deeply entrenched in an Alice in Wonderland monomania. So when my sister and her boyfriend came over this weekend, Primo sat them down and put them to work, directing them each to illustrate a page of his own edition of Alice, which he put together in about 30 minutes. I had recently showed him the Axe Cop site and he decided HIS work should be up on the internet, too. So he made this book, had me transcribe his narration and forced me - not exaggerating - to scan it into the computer so I could share his work with the world. I would TOTALLY buy this book, incidentally, and not just because I'm his mother. Ok, maybe just because I'm his mother. But I love the hookah smoke being blown into vowel letters by his caterpillar and I am completely smitten with his Cheshire Cat.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Kids speak the truth, all right

Last week, Primo’s friend from school came over for a playdate. He’s a super sweet little boy that Primo describes as the “goodest kid in the whole class.” As we neared our apartment building the little boy exclaimed:

“Oh, now I remember. I’ve been to your house before! It’s really, really small. That’s why Primo couldn’t have his birthday party there.”

Primo set him straight: “No no no -- that’s not why! It’s because my house is no fun!”

And his friend agrees, “Yes, its no fun, but the other reason is that it is so small. You couldn’t hardly fit any kids in that house, it’s so little.”

And here I was thinking my 900 square feet wasn’t half bad and we’d made some room-enlarging design choices.

Can’t trick a kid with well-placed mirrors and sliding glass doors. Kids know a shoebox when they see one.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pastrami and Playgrounds

My daughter and I have an unnatural affinity for pickles. David loves pastrami. My son could eat his body weight in latkes.

Can you guess where we like to go to get our grub on?


After we've spent a small fortune on sandwiches there (is there gold in that pastrami??) we head down the block to Russ and Daughters for Australian licorice. Black and red. Spare no expense. Then we're really broke and we go to First playground across the street for free fun and fraternity. A perfect Sunday afternoon.

While we're on the subject, does anyone know another place to get amazing pastrami which isn't so insanely expensive? David keeps telling me Katz's is the best and I keep telling him its too much money so it would be great to find another
"best" place for recession prices.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Help! It's Hump Day!

News, readers! Someone finally noticed my incredible ability to find expensive-looking empire-waist clothing at discount prices. That's right, I've been DISCOVERED as a style maven and invited to join a new style blog for moms called All Kinds of Pretty. There are about 14 of us hot mamas blogging about all things fashion-related, mainly the struggle to stay in the style game when you're covered with spit-up, sleep-deprived and only ever interact with people under the age of 5. Lots of different kinds of style, all of it affordable, on real women with real bodies.

I'm running a column called Help! It's Hump Day! about little gems of style that will get you through the miserable sunofabitch stretch of time known as Wednesday.

Today's topic: Eat your heart out, Isadora Duncan. My head may be full of snot but my throat is rocking a Sonia Rykiel jersey scarf!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

All About Alice

My family is in the throes of an Alice fever. Its all Wonderland, all the time at our place. Seconda has been on a jag where she's watched the Disney movie on my old VHS cassette, every single day for the past few weeks. Consider the picture of her in her Alice apparel (a hand-me-down dress from the Canary Islands which she hasn't taken off in two months, despite the fact that it has been bitter winter). And after reading the full text by Lewis Carroll, Primo is prone to quote "How doth the little crocodile" or "You are old Father William" at any given moment.

So I was totally psyched to write this piece for Time Out NY Kids about where to find Alice in NYC:

Curiouser and Curiouser

And in case you're in the market for an edition of Alice, allow me to give you a tour of our Wonderland library:

Here's the edition of the full text we read, with great, updated watercolor illustrations by Helen Oxenbury.

Then you've got the Alice Pop-up by Robert Sabuda, King of the Pop-up. We have Sabuda's Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz which rest on our "treasured, not to be touched by a two year-old" shelf. His stuff is spectacular, and although its not the full text, the pages include a really ample portion of the text, which is well edited. The best part is the page which she falls down the hole and you can actually stretch out an accordion-like section and look through a tiny hole to find Alice at the bottom.

Just got this Alice in Wonderland, retold by Jon Scieszka, who I absolutely adore, with pictures by Mary Blair, who did the original art for the Disney movie back in the 50s. Opening line: "Have you ever tried to listen to a long, boring schoolbook on a warm, lazy day?" I should qualify by saying I am now obsessed with this series of re-tellings of classic Disney, with the Mary Blair illustrations: check out Peter Pan and Cinderella.

We were in BJs wholesale club and stumbled upon this gem: Alice, a wacky lift-the-flap guide with excerpts from Carroll. Pull the tab to see Alice's neck get really really looooong.

Primo unearthed an edition I read in college (and took notes in!) of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking-Glass, with the original illustrations by John Tenniel, which are, rather unbeatable.

But my daughter's most treasured copy, tattered and torn, brought to school every morning for the past few months . . .

Disney's Alice, from the dollar bin at Target

The dollar bin never lets us down.

Anyone see the Tim Burton movie? Primo is dying to go but considering the Shadow Man in The Princess and the Frog caused him to have nightmares for a week, I think we'll have to say No, although David and I are thinking about seeing it, just the two of us. Opinions? Reviews?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Love your veggies

We all want our kids to go gaga for veggies but once they enter the toddler years, it can be tricky to get them to eat anything green. Little mouths tend to clamp shut, little heads get started shaking, and you end up with an "eat your vegetables" face-off which we all know you just won't win.

But Jennie Garth has some ideas for you about how you get your kids excited about veggies, and she shares them in a series of web=isodes on iVillage, called Garden Party

In Garden Party, Garth, who I used to revere as Kelly in Beverly Hill 90210, now mother of three daughters, visits farms and gardens to learn about how to grow vegetables and then talks to kids and kid-friendly cooks about how to prepare them in a way that is fun and appealing to little ones. So, things like making salad art, getting creative with dipping (Hidden Valley is the sponsor of the show) and giving veggies a little bit of spin (broccoli can be "little trees" and asparagus can be "beanstalks") Each month, she focuses on a new vegetable: right now, for example, its all about lettuce.

I went to an event called Veggie Central at Grand Central Station last week, where Garth appeared to do a veggie-related activity with local 3rd graders and to talk about the show. Garth made bagel faces with the kids, where you spread on cream cheese as a base, then apply eyes, nose, and mouth with chopped into small pieces -- tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, peas, whatever you've got. Just look at how cute this one is:

The Organic Gardener,Jeanne Pinsof Nolan, was also in attendance, showing kids how to plant all manner of seeds, and answering their questions about gardening.

My favorite question was from a little boy who asked, "If you plant a seed, will it really grow?"

It does seem pretty far-fetched.

Nolan also mentioned to the kids how the President himself had a garden at the White House where he grew all kinds of vegetables. Kids seemed to dig that. What they didn't dig was beets. When Nolan asked if anyone ate beets, there was a resounding silence. Looks like beets needs to get some better PR. On the other hand, carrots were, unsurprisingly, a popular favorite. Hey, did you know carrots come in other colors, too, like white and purple? I think even my son, who gags if you even bring a carrot within ten feet of him, to try a purple carrot.

And if all else fails, there is always ranch dressing. A spoonful of ranch helps the vegetables go down. Although I'd recommend just a spoonful and not a whole fountain of it, which is what I saw at Veggie Central. I'm talking about a literal ranch fountain, like this:

Happy crunching!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Shit Storm

As I mentioned a few days ago, Sec has been ending up in bed with us somewhere around the 3am mark every night. It’s dismaying but neither David or I have the energy to break her of the habit, especially since it will involve lots of screaming which his sure to wake Primo and two awake children at 3am is much, much worse than one. So we’ve been grinning and bearing it for the time being but last night taking Sec into bed resulted in an actual, literal shit storm.

David tossed the kid next to me in his usual fashion and Sec moaned, “Diaper!” in her usual fashion. Though she’s pretty well potty trained during the day, the kid pisses like a racehorse in her diaper at night. By the middle of the night, that diaper weighs about 20 pounds. So I’ve taken to ripping it off of her when she rolls into bed with us in the wee hours. Since it is pitch dark, I do this without looking, usually with one hand, in a remarkably ungraceful, inefficient way that allows as much of me to remain on my pillow as possible. So last night, Sec says Diaper, and I roll over, undo the tabs and pull the diaper off of her without even pulling down her pants. It is only then that I smell it – that old, familiar, revolting stench that I, a mother of two children two years apart, know so very well. At first, I am in denial. Maybe I have to take the garbage out. Maybe its coming from outside? But the diaper is still in my hand and it is clear the foul pestilential stink is coming from the diaper.

“Oh shit,” I say, “SHIT!”

“Jesus Christ Nicole!” David shouts, sitting up in bed, “What did you do?”

“I just took the diaper off her like I always do,” I stammered.

“Didn’t you CHECK first to make sure it wasn’t full of SHIT???”

The great thing about me and David is we do really well under pressure.

“There’s shit EVERYWHERE!” he shouts.

“No shit,” I say, “Its all over MY HAND!!!!”

Lights on.
Shit all over our bed.
I scour my hands like Lady Macbeth.
Wet wipes out.
Sec cleaned.
Sec put on the floor, thankfully, still asleep, clearly relieved after her midnight evacuation.
Bed stripped.
Clean sheets located
Bed made.
Back in bed.

I use Lamaze breathing to avoid passing out from the lingering stink.

And then my daughter, that ornery little sucker who wouldn’t give you a kiss if your life depended on it, pulls my head over to hers and gives me the most magical, enchanting tiny little toddler kiss on my cheek. I positively swoon.

Just when you’re at your breaking point, they throw you a bone. And thank God for that.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Voicemail Message Meddler

You know what annoys the hell out of me? When you’re leaving a message on someone’s voicemail, and in the middle of a perfectly normal and uneventful message, the phone suddenly cuts you off and you hear this:

“If you would like to send this message, press 1. To continue recording, press 2. To erase and re-record, press 3.”

I will now address each sucky option one by one.

1. It goes without saying that I do not want to send a message that I was in the middle of recording. Does the Message Meddler who cut me off really think that my husband wants to hear, “I need to talk to you immediately: there is something terribly wrong with ----“ And even if there was not important info to convey, I’d like to think my messages have a structure, a certain unfolding aspect, and I don’t want to end my message opus in the middle of the second act, for crying out loud.

2. The most expeditious option would appear to be “continue recording” but there is a problem with that too. Once the Message Meddler has rambled on and on explaining my various options, I have no friggin’ idea where I left off speaking. If the phone would play back the last five seconds of your message and allow you access to your train of thought, then that would be a viable plan. But I’m getting on in years, folks, and I no longer have total recall.

3. I always end up taking the third option. The worst part of the third option is that when the voicemail cuts me off and drops the not-so-subtle hint that I might want to consider erasing and re-recording, I realize what a lousy message I was leaving. I am actually embarrassed, like the Message Meddler is a real person who has heard me record this bumbling, redundant message, riddled with, “yeah, so , , “ and “ummmmm, OK , , , “ ending with “God, this is a really long message.” Whenever you realize, mid-message, that you are leaving an overly lengthy message and then feel that it will improve the message to further prolong the misery by stating this out loud, that’s when you know you’ve botched things up badly. And I can’t help feeling that the Message Meddler is thinking, “I can’t in good conscience allow this woman to leave this train wreck of a message to burden someone’s voicemail,” so she aborts mission and offers me another shot.

So I press 3, collect myself and get right to the point. I am precise, communicating succinct nuggets of information with small doses of humor and pizzaz. The second time around, I leave brilliant messages. In point of fact, it would probably be best if the phone always cut me off and offered me a re-do. But the thing is, I wouldn’t have even realized what a crappy message I was leaving if the phone hadn’t made it a federal case. Ignorance is bliss.

Am I the only one who is driven to total neuroticism and self-flagellation by the voicemail cutoff? Or maybe I’m the only one it happens to? Does the Message Meddler leave all you people alone?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

We can't all write like 5 year-olds

I love Axe Cop

It is a comic written by a five year-old boy and illustrated by his 29 year-old brother. Characters are named things like "Bobber and Gobber Smartist" and "Avocado Soldier" and "Baby Man." Evil wrong-doers put poison drops on candy canes and there is amnesia caused by walking backwards into a wall.

I gotta introduce Primo to this Malachai boy. They are like soulmates.

Sleep Giggle

My daughter is now 3 years old but that doesn’t mean she is sleeping through the night., Every night sometime between 1 and 4, she wakes and though David used to be the designated Sec-soother, she has started to reject him lately which means either

1. David picks her up and brings her into our bed, so she sleeps with us all night kicking David so violently he moves into her bed ( Although I do have superkeen hearing,-I have trained my body to feel nothing in sleep so, as long as they were silent, a bunch of giants could play volleyball with me in my sleep and I'd never wake up. Its a Darwinian thing, like my ability to eat a meal in under 5 minutes.)


2. I get up and try to sooth Sec back to sleep, usually falling asleep in bed with her

I’ve always thought that if you had to sleep with your kid for whatever reason, it was a better bet to sleep in their bed rather than vice versa, because you can always get up and leave their bed but just try kicking them out of yours. And that is why Primo hasn’t been in our bed since he was a toddler.

But since we’ve put the two kids in the same room, I’ve realized there is a big problem with me sleeping in bed with one of them. Once I’m in that room, it is as if they can sense my proximity and rouse themselves from sleep to start a tug of war with me. “Mommy!” calls Primo in the top bunk. And as soon as I’ve gotten him back to sleep I hear, “MAMA!” from the bottom bunk, and as soon as I’ve drifted back off its “AHHHHHH!” from the top bunk again, and on and on until morning has mercy and ends my servitude.

But last night something different happened:

As usual, Sec started crying at 3am and I automatically stood up, like a drone, crawled into her bed, slung my arm around her and collapsed into sleep within 30 seconds. Some time later, I was awakened by a strange sound coming from the bunk bed above me.

It was a giggle. A someone-said-the-word-“underpants” kind of giggle. I thought to myself, “Is the kid awake?

Has he just been lying there all night long quietly drawing pictures or talking to himself or something and he’s now giggling about it?” The thought was so unsettling I lay there, wide awake, listening for more sounds.

Then came a louder, more emphatic giggle. An I’m-watching-something-forbidden-on-TV-and-its-really-hilarious giggle.

I lay motionless, poised to bawl that child out.

At the next giggle, I climbed up the ladder to deliver the stern talking-to and found my son totally, completely asleep. Giggling in his sleep.

It filled me with the most delightful, bubbly, happy feeling. Nothing on earth is better than seeing your children happy, especially when they are happy in their subconscious. I wish I could bottle the feeling of hearing his sleep giggle and take a nice long drink of it on the mornings when everyone’s uncooperative and late for school and its raining but we can’t find the umbrella and I forgot to pack lunch and the stroller’s suddenly missing a wheel. The Sleep Giggle High. Ahhh . .

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscar Night

I’ve had an Oscar party every year since I graduated college but the last one I threw was when Primo was about three months old. I was back to my pre-baby weight by then, and I served h'or d'oeuvres to a packed apartment with the baby in the sling. I thought to myself, “See? This baby won’t stop me from having a life. I can have it ALL!”

That was my last Oscar party. A year later, Primo was walking and my life was basically over. A year after that I had a three week-old baby and my life was definitely over. There would be no more passing h'or d'oeuvres, I tell you that muck.

But this year, as part of my Say Yes! Year I decided it was time to get back on the horse so to speak, back into the business of entertaining. So I negotiated a deal with my grandmother and by “deal” I mean she gave and I took, which is usually the way it goes with my grandmother. Even when you try to make it more equitable because you’re racked with guilt at what a martyr she is, she finds a way to give back what you’ve given, like the blue cashmere sweater my sister and I painstakingly picked out for her one Christmas which ended up returned, and the money slipped into our pockets. So I’ve learned just to take and let her give which is really how she likes it.

She gave us her apartment for the party so we could watch the awards show at an audible volume and not have severe indigestion from hearing the children scream for an hour at bedtime. So she went downstairs to our place and put the kids to bed. She also cooked baked ziti and meatballs for everyone. Before I had even started to get the ingredients together, she had the whole thing done. That’s what happens when you wake at 4:30am to start cooking. So we had a party with prosecco and passion fruit cocktails some of David’s homebrew beer, and if not h'or d'oeuvres, then at least some fancy cheese from Faiway and almond-stuffed olives.

Of the Oscars themselves I will offer the following observations:

How flipping great was it that Jeff Bridges won? I love Jeff Bridges but his performances in Crazy Heart took our one-way relationship to the next level. Last night I shouted, “I am going to marry him!” and my friend Claire remarked, “I thin you already did.” She’s right. David is my Bad Blake post-reformation, and a writer instead of musician. Even better, he is able to buckle his pants when he drives in the car.

Go Catherine Bigelow!! And kudos for not yelling, “James Cameron you can suck it!” in your acceptance speech.

Why was George Clooney wearing such a sour expression on his face all night? Was it because someone had forgotten to fix his hair so he looked like an oldster?

Stand up straight Miley Cyrus! I know your boobs are about to pop out of that gown but – and I don’t mean to sound like you mother but -- perhaps you should have considered that before you stepped on the red carpet.

What the hell happened to Anthony Michael Hall? Did he have some kind of elective reconstructive facial surgery? He doesn’t resemble his former self at all.

I was very un-impressed by the fashion in general. Demi Moore’s gown was stunning though I was totally distracted by the fact that she is 90 lbs sopping wet with a rock in her pocket. Vera Farmiga’s was an abomination and I felt like all the other pones were just . . . whatever.

But the highlight was when I told Primo I wouldn’t be there to tuck him in because I was having an Oscar party, he thought about it for a sec and then he asked, puzzled:

"Why are you having a party for Oscar the Grouch?”

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ewww Mommy

My son hates fruit. When I say hates, I mean an uncontrollable physical aversion including shuddering, grimacing, gag reflex -- the whole nine yards. He always has, ever since he was a baby. He can't stand any kind of fruit at all but citrus is the worst. Give the kid an orange and he will act as though you've handed him a bowl of steaming manure. We took a video of me offering him an orange slice when he was about a year and a half old and everyone who saw it agreed that it was almost a dangerous level of hilarious. So today I present to you . . . "Ewwww Mommy."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

As heard through the bathroom door:

Seconda: Wipe my butt!

Primo: No, you didn’t do peepee. Do peepee first.

S: But I did do peepee!

P: Ok, Ok, I will wipe your butt, Come on.

Flush flush.

P: (Whisper) Don’t tell daddy, OK?

S: (whisper) I won’t.


S: OK, now you do a poop.

P: I'm DOING it. You aren't the boss. Leave me alone.

S: OK, I’m gonna wipe your butt Primo.

P: No no no, you can’t! You don’t know how!

S: Yeah, I’m gonna.


I shudder to think what would happen if we lived in a house bigger than 900 square feet where I wasn't always within earshot of these children.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Song Surprise Mix

This weekend Primo made his first mix tape for a girl. He woke up Saturday inspired, went right over to his father, music fanatic, and proclaimed "Daddy, I want to make a mix." Then the two of them sat down and David pulled song after song as per Primo's instructions, onto one whopper of a mix CD. Primo named it "The Song Surprise Mic" and is giving it to his best friend who just so happens to be a girl. That's how he sees her at least; on her end, there's been some talk of formalizing the relationship with terms like "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" and she did tell me one time that when they grew up they are going to go on a date.

"Oh, really?" I replied, "What are you going to do on your date?"

"Well it has to be at night, " she explained, "And we're going to take a taxi and go to the MALL."

Clearly, she's wedded to the suburban date destination of the "mall" but clearly also understands that Primo and she are a New York romance, so she added in the taxi part as a compromise. Perfect.

"Sounds cool, " I said, "The Manhattan Mall has a lot of good stores,"

Primo, unversed in the ways of Hannah Montana, doesn't really get the "date" idea, which I confess is a relief. But maybe he understands more than he lets on, because he did make this heartfelt mix tape to slip in her locker -- I mean, cubby -- at school.

Since you all lent such sage advice about children's music when I blogged about it a few months ago, I thought I'd share the setlist with you. Be advised: there is more than a recommended amount of music from the Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland soundtrack on there, but the kid has a soft spot for Disney classics.

-'Twas Brillig from Alice In Wonderland (Original Soundtrack)

-Following The Leader from Peter Pan

-Philadelphia Chickens by The Bacon Brothers from Philadelphia Chickens

-Down by The Riverside by Dan Zanes, from Night Time!

-Istanbul by They Might Be Giants, from Flood

-Ah Bos Cee Dah by Johnny Cash from The Johnny Cash Children's Album

-Jenny Jenkins by Jerry Garcia & David Grisman from Not For Kids Only

-A Pirate's Life from Peter Pan

-A-E-I-O-U (The Caterpillar Song)from Alice In Wonderland (Original Soundtrack)

-Let Me Roll It by Drive-By Truckers from Uncle Dave's Killer Covers Mix

-Say It (Over And Over Again) by John Coltrane from Ballads

-Back In The USSR by The Beatles from the White Album

-Little Boxes by Pete Seeger from We Shall Overcome: Complete Carnegie Hall Concert

-Loquat Rooftop by Randy Kaplan from Loquat Rooftop

-The Caucus Race from Alice In Wonderland (Original Soundtrack)

-Mermaid Lagoon from Peter Pan

-Old Father William from Alice In Wonderland (Original Soundtrack)

-A-Punk by Vampire Weekend from Vampire Weekend

-Pay Me My Money Down by Bruce Springsteen from We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

-The Walrus and the Carpenter from Alice In Wonderland (Original Soundtrack)

-All I Have To Do Is Dream by The Everly Brothers from The Everly Brothers' Best