Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween, supersized

Halloween used to be a day, one day out of the year. Now, it’s a season. Like Christmas, it’s become super sized, and the celebration begins right after school starts.

I’m not complaining (for once). Actually, this is A-OK with me, because I am basically a Halloween junkie. You’re talking to someone who – up until my storage area was invaded by a family of mice -- boasted an extensive wig collection, no less than four different kinds of boas and enough make-up to keep all of Brooklyn glammed up for the month of October. And no, I’m not a drag queen. I like dress-up.

As a kid, I was the Queen of Halloween, since Nonnie was a professional seamstress and a semi-professional martyr who liked to do pro-bono sewing work in the form of devising frilly, poofy, lacey princess-y gowns for me to sport. One year, I was Scarlet O-Hara and my dad built a hoop skirt out of wire hangers. That was one time where my mother was the opposite of Joan Crawford: “More wire hangers!!! We need MORE WIRE HANGERS!!!”

My children have, of course, followed suit. Except that they, sophisticated souls that they are, have a preference for the dark and macabre elements of the holiday, and like to get spooky. Non-spooky attire is not allowed on Halloween. Evil reigns. That’s just how we roll.

Primo will be – wait for it – a Plants vs Zombies Zombie. This was a last-minute switch-up due to the fact that he is currently in the throes of a raging obsession with the game and also the fact that his first costume idea, to be the Headless Horseman, with no head, turned out to be impractical since not only could he not see anything or play with his friends, his mouth would be covered and he could not eat candy. This is, of course, a dealbreaker. So zombie it is.

When people ask Sec what she’s going to be, she says. “A stepmother/”

This doesn’t make immediate sense to many people, so I’ve been clarifying: “She means an evil stepmother.”

But when I told that to a mom this morning at drop-off, I realized that maybe it sounded like I had something against stepmothers, so I hastened to add, “I mean, THE evil stepmother, from Snow White.” That would have been sufficient clarification but instead I went on, “Not like, any stepmother. Some are very nice.”

That, too, would have been more than enough clarification and potentially even a little funny. But then I felt compelled to add more, in the event that the mom I was talking to was, in fact, somebody’s stepmother: “I don’t have a problem with stepmothers. Divorce happens. I mean, it’s not my problem, it’s the Brothers Grimm’s.”

Then I shut up.

So, yeah, Sec’s gonna be the evil Stepmother, in a costume her great grandmother -- masterful seamstress - fashioned just for her, replete with magic mirror and poison apple. The apple’s not really poison. I wouldn’t let my kid play with a poison apple. OK, now I’m going to stop clarifying and find some medication for my logorrhea.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Now that's one kick-ass princess

Primo’s friend came over for a playdate recently and the boys were playing Spiderman (not his all-time favorite game, but hey, he dabbles in it, because who doesn’t like the web-throwing boy wonder?). Trouble was, neither of the boys wanted to play Venom. Then Seconda darted into their room, growled at the boys with her fingers curled into claw position in that patented Seconda way, and Primo’s pal had an a-ha moment:

“Let Seconda be Venom!” he exclaimed.

Seconda happily agreed and did, I think, a stand-up job or chasing the boys around the apartment screeching with delight and throwing herself atop of them with awful abandon.

Tough as nails, and often just as dangerous to play with. My girl may be a princess, ut she’s a princess that’ll disembowel if you cross her. Betty Friedan, I think, would be proud.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Show Must Go On

Once you tell the kids you’re going to the circus, there’s no turning back. And so it was that on Sunday, despite the fact that I was weak and achy and my throat felt like it was on fire, when it was circus-time, I had to rally. The children were besides themselves with excitement. The show must go on! And besides, it wasn’t like I had a fever or anything.

So to Lincoln Center we headed. As soon as they saw the Big Top, the children became deranged with desire for concessions. Seconda asked the woman at the Will Call booth for popcorn – it was like she couldn’t account for what she did or said under the intoxicating influence of that butter smell. She didn’t care who gave her the freaking popcorn, but she needed some baaaad.

With my three-year old holding a tub of popcorn about twice as large as her head, and Primo oh-so-tenderly clutching his cotton candy, we settled in for the show, Dance On!.

And here is why I dragged my sorry butt all the way to Lincoln Center – if I’m going to be sick, I figured, why not be sick watching the CIRCUS!!!! Frankly, one of the best fringe benefits of having kids is that I have an excuse to see the circus again. It was incredible, and I mean that in the literal sense of the word, of course – you literally could not believe what you were seeing.

My favorite acts were the contortionists (they don’t even look like human beings when they get into their groove, just like a mass of boneless creatures from outer space) and the insanely hot Strong Man acrobat who could basically perform any feat of strength you can think of. One-handed handstand atop a tiny handrest atop a three-foot pole atop a six-foot podium? No problem. The guy took a pair of these pimped-out stilts and proceeded to do a handstand on them and walk himself ON HIS HANDS out of the tent.

This was the point at which Primo started going crazy with excitement. I don’t know whether it was the massive amounts of sugar and butter or just his appreciation for the sublime but he was yelling like a madman, so loudly I actually worried it would disturb the rest of the cheering, yelling audience members:





Seconda loved the clowns. Who could blame her? Those Big Apple Circus clowns are – remember you’re hearing from a clown professional now – fantastic. Sec’s favorite is Grandma the Clown, with her white pancake makeup, who delivered all the most beloved bits -- spit takes, pratfalls, butt jokes. But there was a new clown this year, who really stole our hearts. He did all the hat tricks and some insanely intricate cup juggling but what I really loved what his clown persona – sweet and guileless in his too-short pants and pink suitcase full of tricks.

There were also goats riding on ponies’ backs and this amazing lasso act from China where this girl stood on a guy’s head WITH ONE FOOT because she was using the other foot to twirl a lasso! With her toes! If you can’t find a good time witnessing that, you can’t find a good time doing anything.

As soon as the show was over, I realized I was in the throes of a raging fever. I shivered all the way home and have been sleeping ever since, waking onto to pop Tynelol and moan. But I’ll say this – if you have to go down, watching the circus is a pretty good way to go.

The Big Apple Circus is in Lincoln Center from now through Jan 9. You can get discount tickets, up to $25 OFF EACH TICKET, by using the promo code MOMMY11 at

Happy Circusing. I hope you don't get a fever.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Avant-Guard Pinocchio

How many avant-guard productions of Pinocchio has your child taken in? None? NONE, you say? No fear, you can correct that this weekend, at Immediate Medium's production of The Assassins Chase Pinocchio. I took Primo to some of the workshops they conducted over the summer as part of the show's creation and its pretty exciting stuff -- super-smart, funny, thought-provoking, not your ordinary fairytale theater.

Saturday, October 23, 2010
12:00pm and 7:00pm at IRT

Children free/Adults $10
Seniors, students and adults bringing a child $5
For reservations, email

Here is some info from IM about the show:
Conceived as an avant-garde performance piece for children and adults, The Assassins Chase Pinocchio combines the surreal world of Carlo Collodi's 1883 coming-of-age tale "The Adventures of Pinocchio" with the formal techniques of experimental theater to examine the process of growing up and the parts of our child selves we have "assassinated" in our... mad dash to become "real boys." Inspired by the read-along story albums of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the piece uses live video, found objects, masks, gibberish and psychedelic original music
to fracture and expand the oral storytelling tradition into an immersive multidisciplinary experience for young and old

Please join us as we make our way into and out of the belly of the Terrible Shark. It's Pinocchio as you've never seen it before. Appropriate for kids ages 4 to 104.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The circus is coming (and I have a discount code)

I know I sometimes seem a little snarky, a tad jaded and acerbic. But, as I continually remind my husband, I happen to be blessed with an extra-ordinary amount of joie de vivre. Sure, I complain a lot, but I also can get uber-excited about stuff and today what I’m excited about is . . . .

Going to the circus!!!

Yes, this weekend I’m attending a Mom Blogger event at the one, the only, Big Apple Circus! The kids are over the moon, I am jazzed (do I really need to remind you that I have professional circus arts experience with a specialty in contortion), and David had agreed to join and put on a happy circus face even though he is generally averse to any destination which involves crowds of screaming children.

We took the kids last year for the first time and they were positively breathless (of course it might have been from the cotton candy sugar-high). The juggling! The flying trapeze! The clowns! Seconda was totally obsessed with Grandma the clown and continues to wonder whether it was a girl or a boy or a real grandma or what. Death-defying feats and gender bending, all under the same big top -- who doesn’t love it?

This year, I hear the show, Dance On!, will include unicyclists and lasso twirlers from China, Mongolian contortionists, gravity-defying, pole-climbing athletes from Kenya, and a juggernaut juggler from Ethiopia (yeah, I’m been waiting patiently for a chance to use the word juggernaut and now, thanks to that juggler, I’ve done it).

The Big Apple Circus blows into Lincoln Center today and if you, like me, can not rest until you’ve gotten your hands on some tickets, allow me to help you SAVE MONEY and SEE THE GREATEST FREAKING CIRCUS. Here’s a promo code you can use to get up to $25 off each ticket:

Online: and submit the code MOMMY11 in the Promotional Codes box in the lower left of the page.

By Phone: Call 888-541-3750 and mention code MOMMY11

Woohoo! Yeehaw! Yippe Kay-freaking- ay!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Having your lentils taken out

“Mommy!” exclaimed Primo first thing this morning, “Did you know Daddy got his lentils taken out?”

“His what?”


“What’s lentils? Do I have lentils? Is there blood in them? I don’t want them to TAKE MY LENTILS!!!” yelled Seconda.

“What are you talking about?” I replied blearily, “What are lentils?”

“In your body,” Primo explained, pointing to his throat.

And then I had the sweet suffusion of affection that comes when your growing-up-so-fast child says something which reminds you he’s still a babe in the woods, and you’re so relieved to hear it, because it means he won’t be sneaking off to raves or skipping school to smoke pot anytime soon.

“You mean your tonsils,” I said, “Daddy got his tonsils taken out?”

“Yeah, that’s it,” he said, “Can you believe it?”

It was a good morning.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

First Lost Tooth

Primo lost his first tooth.

Pause for applause and fanfare.

Yes, it’s very exciting. Particularly because we were about to pay about 400 buckaroos to get it pulled. You see, his new, permanent tooth had actually already grown in, fully, behind the baby tooth. My son had two teeth in the place where one should be. It was kind of freaky but of course we just acted like it was cool and no big deal, because we didn't want to give the kid a complex. Still and all, that extra tooth had to come out, and the dentist said the sooner the better. He also said it’d cost $200 per tooth, plus anther $200 for nitrus oxide, which he didn’t recommend for all kids, but would probably be a good idea for a child who started to panic when the dentist turned on the light overhead to look in his mouth.

“If he freaked out about the light, what the hell is he going to do when he sees a needle coming directly towards his mouth?” I asked David, “We need the nitrus.”

So imagine my reaction when a few days before the appointment, the tooth started to get really wiggly. We began a relentless wiggling campaign, and two days before the appointment, I informed Primo that it was time to move into “Heavy-Duty” wiggling.

“Let’s get sub-gingival!” I exclaimed. A few years ago, a dentist said this to me and it has become one of my favorite phrases to employ, though, as you can imagine, I rarely get the opportunity.

My heavy-duty wiggling strategy worked, and later that day, after dinner, he was wiggling when suddenly he just pulled his tooth right out of his mouth. No force was required. He just popped it out, like a Lego.

“I think my tooth fell out!”

I doubted him, of course, because the thing he was holding between his fingers was so tiny, so terribly minute, there was no way it would be a human tooth. A mouse tooth perhaps, or a beetle tooth, but not nearly big enough for a human boy’s mouth.

Just goes to show you how adept I am at estimating size (sorry, husband). It was of course, his tiny, darling $400 tooth. Never was such jubilation heard over the loss of a tooth. My pride and sentimentality were mixed with the sound of “Cha Ching!” depositing my money right back in my checking account. It was lovely.

The Tooth Fairy was ready to compensate Primo very generously for his first tooth, but then her husband talked some sense into her, and explained that as the kid has 20 something teeth, it was best to establish a reasonable precedent. The next morning, Primo was delighted to find $3 in a pouch under his pillow.

Only problem is, the X-ray the dentist took showed that another permanent tooth is about to break out behind the tooth next-door. So we’ve had to re-allocate the funds again, and begin our wiggling work. When my grandmother found out how much it costs to pull a tooth, she offered to take care of it with a little string and a heavy door. Now THAT’s getting sub-gingival.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Crying Wife

Seconda has a bad case of schadenfreude. If youl recall, she’s been taking delight at the misfortune of others since she was pre-verbal and I blogged about it then. Now, what this translates into is: she loves to watch people cry. I don’t know what it’s about precisely but people crying fascinates her. So, my sister sent her a link to a site she knew Sec would love called Crying Wife. Have you seen this shit? It’s insane.

It’s basically this woman who cries at the end of every movie, and I mean EVERY one, including Star Wars, Back to the Future, even The Office. And she doesn’t just tear up, she WEEPS like her life is on the lines. Its pretty freaking funny, and also pretty disturbing, like everything on the internet.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Video Games: the end of innocence

My five year-old son has never played video games. It wasn’t because I took a hard line against them at all, but just because he somehow never seemed to discover that they exist (this happens with firstborns – they can cruise around in a state of sweet, sheltered oblivion whereas their little siblings know all about Miley Cirus and Sponge Bob Square Pants before they can walk and talk). Primo’s sweet oblivion ended, though, when my good friend and sometime gamer, Clarice, came over, and corrupted my Adam of a son by handing him the forbidden apple of gaming.

What I am trying to say is my kid’s become a video game junkie. His fall was fast and irreversible, I fear. And his poison? Plants Vs Zombies.

The game works like this: zombies lurch across your front lawn, trying to get into your house, and in order to stop them you have to plant sunflowers, which is turn generate suns, which, when collected, give you points. When you reach 100 points, you have enough for a weapon with which to fight the zombies – these include peashooters, whose flying peas knock the zombies’ heads off, cherry bombs which annihilate a whole gaggle of zombies and other weapons of mass zombie destruction crafted from fruits and vegetables. The better you get at fighting them, the more zombies come at you, and the more quickly they run, so that inevitably, even your arsenal of peashooters and potato explosives are not enough to stop them from entering you front door and eating your brains.

Yes, eating your brains. That’s what happens at the end of this video game.

Clarice told Primo about it because she and her husband were playing it at home, and she knows he loves all things spooky so she pegged him for a zombie-appreciator. That’s putting it mildly.

Whenever there’s a free moment, the kid is begging to play this game, while I, a gaming innocent, am desperately trying to institute some reasonable limits. We started with 10 minutes after his homework is done, instead of watching TV but then he’d wake in the morning desperate to resume his zombie-busting campaign, so he’s been getting 10 minutes in the AM, too, instead of TV. This was all well and good until David told him that if he got enough points for going to bed without a balls-out shit fit, he could get the app on his iTouch. Good incentive it was: only trouble is, the game has now become mobile.

It’s not even just the game he loves, but the whole world of the game. Last night, he shirked his post-homework TV show just to perfect his illustrations of the zombie characters, and when he went to bed, he begged me to print out a picture of them to keep by his bedtime. To give him good dreams. Because everyone knows that a brain-eating bloodthirsty zombie is better than a dream catcher to prevent nightmares.

The worst part is. as a new convert to this game, he seeks to convert others, so whenever a friend comes over, he begs me to let them play. I don't know what the rules are about this stuff, but I don't let my kids watch TV at playdates so it seems like video games should be out of the question as well. Primo, though, goes apoplectic with this refusal: he just wants to SHOW them, he begs, he just wants them to have a glimpse into the life-changing experience which is Plants vz Zombies.

"Just for a minute!" he begs, "Just so they can see the cherry bombs! I won't let the zombies eat our brains - I promise!"

Then I try to explain that this game might be a bit scary for some 5 year-olds, and a touch violent for their parents' tastes. Moreover (and this I consider silently) its the beginning of a new year of school, we're all just getting to know each other. I can't risk Primo getting pegged as the blood-lusting kid whose mom indulges him in overly-mature video games, especially when its a huge deviation from the way we normally roll. The most mature material we allow on TV is Curious George and Primo's such a softie he wouldn't dole out a karate chop on the playground last year even when I begged him to defend himself from a gang of bullies.

So, our compromise has been that I'll email the mom of the child in question with a link to the game, so she can preview it and lend her blessing. Which means I've somehow become a grassroots promoter of this game, the which I'll continue here by giving you the link too.

Good luck fending off the zombies and zombie-loving children.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Preschool Colic

Seconda has colic. Preschool colic. Neither of my kids had colic as babies but they seem to be making up for lost time now, and preschool colic might just be worse because the sound that comes from their big-kid mouths is louder, and since they are older, they have more energy and stamina to continue the crying and whining for longer than humanly possible. Plus, your postpartum instinct to protect your child and love them at all costs is way gone. So its just freaking aggravating.

Last week, I picked Seconda up from school at noon and we enjoyed a lovely lunch together with my grandmother. By lovely lunch, I mean Sec ran around the apartment buck-naked, refusing to eat anything because even pasta with butter was “yucky.” Then, because she refused to go to the bathroom as I calmly suggested before we left school, she pissed all over the floor AND DIDN'T TELL ME so when I walked into the bedroom I SLIPPED IN HER PUDDLE OF PISS. Then she laughed evilly about that. While I was cleaning up the pee, she ran around the house literally overturning every box of toys she could, like she was trying to rank-sack the house. She stood on the dining room table in order to reach the bins which are stored above her reach. While I was having a heart-attack about THAT, she put her hands in the fishtank and gave the fish a “tickle.” She is, by the way, almost four years old.

Then it was time to pick up Primo. If we are not waiting by the school gates in our pre-determined pick-up-Primo place, Primo panics, and then (worse) tortures me about it. So we always have to be on time for pickup. Except Seconda, in typical form, refused to put on any clothes. I managed to slip a dress and undies on her while she was distracted but in the 30 seconds it took me to put on my shoes, she was buck naked again. That’s when the crying began. Hers, not mine. I am superhuman and do not break under Seconda torture.

She didn’t want to put ANY clothes on. She didn’t want to pick up her brother. She didn’t want to go in the stroller. She didn’t want to walk. Then the crying turned into the “don’t remember why I’m crying but all this crying is really upsetting me, causing me to cry more” cry-cycle.

She cried all the way to the school. She cried while we were waiting in our Pre-determined-Pick-Up-Primo Place. She cried while Primo was trying to tell me about his day. And she menaced other children with her fingernails.

Not. Good. Behavior.

But I still had not lost my mind, incredibly. This is because I am a saint.

Until, that is, my daughter stopped crying – finally! – to demand that I buy her an ice cream from the ice cream truck.

This, as they say, did it.

I could tell I was losing it when I started to laugh like the Crazy Person on a TV show.

“Ice -- crazy laughter – cream– crazy laughter – for you?”

“Can I?’ she asked, totally calm now. Not a tear in sight.

"Ummm,” I said, meanly, “NO.”

But that was not sufficient. The straw had broke the camel’s back, as it were.

“No, no, no, no, no.” I continued, “No way. No dice. Not a chance. No. pause. No. pause. No.”

That’s when I remembered how, when the kids were little, I’d read a parenting book which said you should try never to use the word “no” with your child, but to rephrase the sentiment in a positive way, such as “you can have raisins instead.” This made me laugh so freaking hard, I think passer-bys thought I was having a nervous breakdown. Seconda did not appreciate my mirth one bit. But I felt much better after that.

Man, it feels good to go a little loco sometimes.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Want to meet a real, live Italian astronaut?

Calling all space cadets, science-lovers and appreciators of all things cool and interesting (and if you don't fall into any of these categories, you really should not be reading this blog). The Museum of Natural History is having a big celebration at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in honor of its birthday this Sunday and it promises to be a rollicking good time (and hey, its free with museum admission). Among tons of other stuff, there is going to be a bona-fide moon rock in attendance as well as a real, live Italian astronaut (come on, ladies, you know that's hot), story-telling, live music, and all sorts of good fun.

Here is more info, from the ANMH website:
See you there!

WHAT To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space, the American Museum of Natural History will host a special celebration for all ages featuring dazzling performances, live concerts, hands-on activities, presentations by Museum scientists, and a special appearance by NASA astronaut Michael Massimino.

Festivities will include the world premiere of the new Big Bang presentation, which takes visitors on an exciting journey through the universe, and of the spectacular AstroBulletin showing a Science Bulletin about the last 10 years of astrophysics.

Celebrating 10 years of achievements in Earth and space science, the afternoon will feature:

· Space Panorama: Watch British performer Andrew Dawson as he recreates the historic Apollo 11 flight using only hand movements, facial expressions, narration, music, and a table.

· AstroCappella: Rock out to sweet sounds of The Chromatics, a unique singing group that blends astronomy and music to create songs about the universe that are out of this world.

· Native American Sky Stories: Listen to Grammy Award winner Joanne Shenandoah and historian Doug George present Native American Sky Stories with music, dance, and more.

· Scientists, Activities, and More: Meet Museum scientists, view a Moon rock, experience work in space with astronaut glove boxes, and meet astronaut Michael Massimino.

To conclude the evening, Frederick P. Rose Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson will host a special Rose Center Anniversary Isaac Asimov Debate, “Is Earth Unique?”

WHEN Sunday, October 10, 10 am–5:45 pm

Rose Center Anniversary Isaac Asimov Debate: 7 pm

WHERE Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space

Rose Center Anniversary Isaac Asimov Debate: LeFrak Theater

ADMISSION All performances and activities from 10 am–5:45 pm are free with Museum admission

Rose Center Anniversary Asimov Debate: $15 adults $13.50 Members, seniors and students

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Shiny Brite Travel Talk

Perhaps you don't know this readers, but I get around a bit in the world o' blogging. I meet people. I mingle. I interface. And at the Brooklyn BlogFest, I met Chris and Melissa, whose blog Shiny Brite, is pretty delightful - funny, down-to-earth, and full of good information. They are starting a family travel series, interviewing parents who have recently taken a trip with their kids, and getting the skinny -- the good, the bad and the ugly. Guess who they asked to be their INAUGURAL interviewee?

Yes, me, jetsetter extraordinaire. You can read the interview here; then poke around their posts, which have lots of good info about food, books, movies, and things to do in NYC with kids.

Thanks, Shiny Brite ladies. Happy Hunp Day!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Thank God we're not pioneer people

I am obsessed with Little House on the Prairie -- not the TV show (though, hey, if it’s on, I’m not going to say no) but the book by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Before we left for Italy, I bought Primo the book so we’d have plenty of bedtime reading on the trip, and now I am so deeply invested in the fate of Laura and Mary and Pa and Ma that I am reading ahead after he goes to sleep. Sometimes I’ll get so over-enthused that I’ll read ahead to the next paragraph WHILE I am reading to Primo, which will cause me to fall silent for a minute, then go “Oooooh!” which my son, understandably, finds annoying.

Primo is lukewarm about the book; he listens and all, but I know that if I read anything – cereal box, instructions for the DVD player – for more than two minutes, he will be totally engrossed, so I basically just start reading until the good, wholesome beauty of Wilder’s language hypnotizes him. It took a full 50 pages to push beyond Flat-Out Dull, then we moved into Potentially Appealing To People With Very Low Expectations but after the pack of wolves rolled into the prairie, at the book’s mid-way point, its been an Old School Page Turner.

What I find continually fascinating about it is how freaking hard it was to be a pioneer person. I’d never do it. I mean, I know they didn’t have a ton of choices back then but still, there were those who went bravely into terra nova to start a new life and those who were just like, “Screw it. This shitty hovel we’ve got in the woods is good enough,” and I am sure that I would fall into the latter category, especially now that I see what kind of work is entailed in starting a homestead.

You’ve got to build your “snug, tight” log cabin, including roof, hardwood floor and fireplace, frequently without nails.

You’ve got to fend off wolf packs, PANTHERS!!! (did you know they were indigenous to the US? WTF?) and then there’s all this beef with the Native Americans/ Pa is a cool., progressive pater familias and he understands that everyone can get along, but Ma is always hating on the Native Americans, (In front of the kids? Come on, Ma). Sometimes the Native Americans go to war with each other and then you’re up all night not knowing what the hell is going on.

You have to make your own bullets and all you eat all day is cornbread and bean soup and venison. There is however, tobacco and coffee. Now I see why they didn’t off themselves immediately.

You’ve got to build a well. This didn’t seem like a big deal to me until I read in painstaking detail for 20 pages just what one must do to build a well. I mean, think about it for a second – once you dig deep enough that the hole is taller than you, how do you get the dirt back up to the surface? You’ve got to build a damn pulley and get a helper. PLUS – and I had no idea about this – apparently there are all sorts of toxic fatal gases deep in the earth which can suddenly emerge with no warning and kill you stone-cold dead.

There is no freaking way I’d ever build a well. If we had the terrible misfortune of being pioneers, we’d just have to do it the hard way by walking two miles to the creek every time. We’d just drink less water. We’d be stinky and foul from lack of baths. I wouldn’t care. I’d never have the stamina to build a well.

But the best part of reading the book to Primo was the Christmas chapter. Mary and Laura were desperately hoping that Santa Claus would come but worried he wouldn’t be able to cross the creek because it was so high (“Don’t they know Santa has flying reindeer?” asked Primo. “I know, right?” I said, thinking privately that these pioneer kids had zero freaking imagination). Anyway, in nothing short of a Christmas miracle -- their neighbor Mr. Edwards hikes like 20 miles in the snow without an overcoat to go to the nearest town to get them their Christmas presents from Santa (who was apparently the only lazy person in settler times, and wasn’t even going to TRY and cross the creek with his fat ass). So the children’s stockings were filled – glory of glories! – with the following treasures:

A new tin cup of their very own

A tiny heart-shaped cake made with white flour

A real, shiny penny

And the children were so overcome with gratitude at these riches, so beside themselves with jubilation, that they could hardly speak. Did they DARE to take a bite into their candy cane or heart-shaped cake? They did not. It was too breathtakingly beautiful.

Primo looked depressed at the whole pathetic situation/ And you can bet that I milked it for all it was worth, reminding him in no uncertain terms how lucky he was.

“Some children are so unfortunate they don’t even have a tin cup of their own,” I said, “they have to share it with their mother. And have you ever even drank out of a tin cup? It makes everything taste TINNY. You’d hate it. So tonight, I think you better count your blessings.”

That is reason enough to read the book.

Monday, October 4, 2010


When I was a kid, I had an imaginary friend. His name was Johnny and I loved him very dearly. I don’t remember when he looked like or any of his specific attributes: I just remember sitting on the steps to our very first apartment, when I was about 3 or so, and talking to Johnny, who sat beside me in the way he always did.

Because of this, and because of that tidbit you often hear, that kids with imaginary friends have a high IQ (and yes, that serves as extra assurance of my credentials as a blogger), I have always sort of hoped my kids would have an imaginary friend.

They never have -- until now. Except it’s not an imaginary friend that my daughter has, but an imaginary sister. Betsy.

Betsy is not the kind of imaginary person that you talk to, like Johnny. She’s not good company, or a trusted sidekick. Betsy is the kind of imaginary person you talk ABOUT. And when I say talk about, I mean blame. Betsey is an imaginary sister scapegoat. Here’s how we came to discover her:

“WHY did you rip the head of that babydoll?”

“Betsy told me to.”

“Who’s Betsy?”

“She’s my sister.”


All I know is, Betsy must be Seconda’s sister by another mother, because I do not claim that girl as the fruit of my loins, imaginary or otherwise. To be frank, Betsy is a bad influence.

Where Seconda is mischievous, Betsy is nefarious.

“Uh oh . . . Betsy broke Primo’s Lego creation ON PURPOSE!”

Where Seconda is free-spirited, Betsy is unhinged.

“But Mommy! She forced me to draw a picture with your lipstick!”

Betsy has serious impulse control problems.

“I HAD to run down the street because I was chasing Betsy!”

Betsy has a lot of opinions about things and they all fall under the “I hate it” category.

Heavens to Betsy, that girl is one bad apple.

I am currently filing paperwork to have her excommunicated from the family.