Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Booyah, Brooklyn Boulders





Yeah, we are super-hip. In our spare time, we rock-climb on 3th Avenue. Got myself a Mamapedia deal for four people to rock climb all the live-long day at Brooklyn Boulders, so I took Primo and my pops and sis. I thought it'd be as easy as showing up but apparently, you can't just hold the rope, you've got to get certified as a belayer. It took me like fifteen minutes on the phone with the very patient Bklyn Boulders guy to even understand the word "belayer."

"We need a delay-er?" I asked, "To pace us?

"A melee-a? Am I saying that right? Melee-a?"

"Ohhhhh, a belater. We need a belater. Got it. What's that?"

Turns out my sister, whose been living in California, knows how to "belay." so after sending my pop off to get certified too, we had plenty of rope-handlers. After I got over the horror of wearing those harnesses which squeeze a very unappealing part of your upper thigh -- in public -- I began my inaugural climb.

Pretty freaking exhausting stuff, this rock climbing. I guess that's the whole point. All in all, I enjoyed it, particulalry the climb which I designed specifically so I could step on the cool grip shaped like a screaming human head. Primo watched me from halfway up his climb and he shouted, "STEP ON THE HEAD MOMMY! ON THE HEAD!" and I was like, "I"M TRYING HONEY! I'M JUST SO TIRED!" But in the end, I stepped on the head and that's when I decided to call it a day.

After that, Primo and I headed to the slackline, which is a hipper way of saying "High Wire," which is what we were calling it til some better-informed hipsters corrected us. I am referring, of course, to the tightrope. Except this one isn't high, but low, so you can practice. It was incredibly hard and incredibly fun and while my dad and sis climbed the wall like there was a pot of gold waiting on the other side, Primo and I worked that slackline like it was closing time. Yet another reason I love that kid -- he strangely shared my love of circus arts.

So yeah, I'd rock climb again. Especially now that I've put in the legwork learning the word 'belayer."

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day



Burgers on the grill.
Summer blockbusters.
Turning the hose on your little sister.

This is what start of summer in the suburbs is all about. And I was delighted to partake this Memorial Day weekend.

We went grocery shopping and I was shocked to find the massive supermarket which already takes up at least a city block has grown even LARGER. It took over a liquor store next door and now is nearly TWO CITY BLOCKS long. I don't even know what to do in that supermarket. I just wander around in a haze, dazzled by how wide the aisles are, veering from one side of the aisle to the other. It takes me a half hour just to get a carton of milk. It is kind of wonderful to have all that space but kind of scary too -- I'm surprised they don't have more "Lost child announcements" like at Disneyland. That supermarket could secede and become its own freaking city.

Kids had a marvelous time, riding their bikes in the cul de sac and drinking icy cold lemonade afterwards. And of course, they enjoyed attacking each other with the hose. Idyllic really. Come Monday morning though, I'm chomping at the bit to get back to Brooklyn. Too much space gives me a headache.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

You're late, Fairy Godmother



As you may know from previous posts, my daughter is obsessed with Disney princess and while I want to support her interests, I cringe, I wince when I hear that aggravating Sleeping Beauty singing about how someday her prince'll come. Its one thing to enjoy glamour and riches and another to sit on your lovely ass waiting for a dashing dude to make life interesting. So I am on an eternal quest to find her some alternative princess stories, like Paper Bag Princess, Princess Smartypants, and Princess Knight.

This month, thanks to discerning adults who know my tastes and my daughter's obsessions, I have two new alt princess tales to add to the collection.

Ten Big Toes and A Prince's Nose
In which a cool clever princess with huge, flipper-like feet meets a prince with a gigantix schnoz and make their own happily ever after. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder meets a double whammy Cyrano. Oh, and it rhymes. Take the mantra both the prince and princess recite before bed (a bit hitting-you-over-the-head, but what the hell, its a good message):

"I am what I am and its all right with me
I don't have to be different, I just have to be
I don't want to be somebody else, no sireee
I am what I am and its all right with me."


Fanny's Dream
This one makes me cry. Love love love it. Fanny Agnes, a "sturdy" farmer girl who knows how to handle her horse manure, waits for fairy godmother on the night of the ball at the mayor's house. The fairy godmother never shows. But Heber Jensen, the short farmer boy from next door, does, and asks her to marry him. She figures why the hell not and they go on to work hard to build a home together, have three kids and laugh together by cande-light. Then, suddenly, one night the Fairy Godmother shows up. tells her there's another ball at the mayor's house with an available colonel. Is she in or out?

And then she realizes, of course, that she already found her prince who is currently reading bedtime stories to their three kids.

COULD YOU DIE??????

Now that's a message every girl should hear.

Get these books, post post haste. They have made me feel infinitely less guilt-ridden when Seconda is listening to Snow White squeaking on and on about the dashing prince of her dreams. And really, that's what parenting is all about -- guilt alleviation.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Housewives Hangover

It’s a funny thing about being married and living in a tiny apartment with your spouse. You have to wait til your old ball and chain goes out to indulge in guilty pleasures.

I am referring, of course, to reality TV. Specifically the Real Housewives of New York. Or the spin off, Bethenny Ever After. Occasionally, Sister Wives and yes, every so often, Mob Wives. Basically, anything about crazy wives. That’s what I’m into.

Incidentally, David does the same thing when I go out except he watches shows about zombies, vampires or sociopaths. Not that different from my preferred programming except that his is fictional. I’m sure he watches all sorts of other stuff, too, on the internet, if you know what I mean, but I don’t inquire. A little privacy goes a long way.

Last night, David went to a concert and after the kids finally fell asleep, nigh on 10pm, I found my way onto Entertainment on Demand. There I found a veritable TROVE of Real Housewives just waiting for me to plunder it, And I plundered, oh, how I plundered.

I couldn’t stop myself from watching, as one watches a train wreck, the awful, irredeemable interactions of Sonja and LuAnn and Ramona. Part of the appeal of watching is trying to figure out who I hate more. Its an engaging task because who I hate more is always changing. They’re all so awful. But I’d have to say Sonja wins as most detestable personality. Between the lack of integrity and intelligence and the overload of ego, she can’t help but be a real front runner in that category. The Most Likeable easily goes to Cindy, single mother of twin babies and successful businesswoman, but I think I like her simply because she’s one of the only brunettes and has a great Brooklyn accent. Most Attractive goes to LuAnn who must’ve made the same deal with the devil Marisa Tomei did, because that broad, who’s got to be at least 45-50, looks more youthful than I did as a teenager AND looks like she hasn’t had any work done.

I’m suffering today, I’ll tell you that much. I watched so much I have a Housewives Hangover. I’m glad David will be home tonight so he can intervene.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Street Fair



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Seattle, come collect your weather



I'll tell you something: If I'd wanted to live in Seattle, I'd have moved there.

By which I mean WHY THE HELL IS IT STILL RAINING?

This is some bullshit. Enough is enough. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I've used my stroller raincover so much in the past three days that it is literally falling apart now and I've had to patch it back together with duct tape. My new Chooka whale rainboots, while adorable, are not built for this level of immersion in water They are too cute to be fully waterproof. I'm sick of being spat on. And I'm sick of my kids having waaaay too much energy at bedtime for lack of running around. They've called for a return of the PILLOW FIGHT for God's sake. Something must be done. They decimate me during pillow fights, those ruthless suckers.

Seattle. please come collect your weather. She's a drag and she's worn out her welcome.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hot Milk



I distinctly remember being about 7-8 months pregnant with Primo and deciding to put on a garter belt. Clearly I was having a crisis of confidence, a plummeting of self-esteem and I figured the thing to remedy it was get sexy looking. No faster way to feel sexy than a garter belt. EXCEPT when you are 7-8 months pregnant. Then its just ridiculous.

Of course the thing didn't fit on my waist. What waist? I had a baby where my waist should be. If only I had known about Hot Milk Maternity Lingerie.

A preggo friend of mine just told me about it and I think its such a great idea. I found many things about being pregnant totally sucky-- the five months of unrelenting nausea and vomiting, the sciatica pain, the back pain, difficultly sleeping, But I, for one, LOVED my pregnant body. I felt like I never looked better. Of course, when you upchuck several times a day for months, that happens. Not that I'm recommending it.

In any event, seven years too late, I've found a place to get a maternity garter belt. Cool.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Origami


You know what I think could be really great for Primo?

Doing origami.

You know what would cause me to have a panic attack?

Helping him do origami.

A few weeks ago, there was a world festival at Primo’s school where parents led activities related to, or hailing from, their country of origin. There was aboriginal dot paintings from Australia and West African mask-making and there was Chinese flower arranging. And there was Japanese origami.

Primo has been interested in origami a year or two ago when he saw a book at the library called “Easy Origami.” The joke after that was that the book should have been titled “Easy Origami for Origami Masters” because it was totally impossible. Even with my help, we couldn’t make the first project it detailed.

So when he saw the origami table, full of uncrinkled squares of floral print paper and tiny examples of cranes and frogs and the like, he dashed over.

“Let’s do origami!” he shouted.

“OK,” I agreed. The paper was gorgeous and I do enjoy crafting lovely things.

There was a mom leading the event who appeared to have some serious paper-folding chops. But she was deeply involved helping a little boy, not much older than Primo, with an impossibly difficult project. Remember the flying Crane move which Ralph Macchio did in the first Karate Kid? This was the origami equivalent of that. It required two pieces of paper folded together. There was no way to interrupt such complex folding – one wrong move and the whole things could go up in flames. So we waited patiently for the expert to finish and I tried to help Primo myself.

I absolutely loathe following visual instructions. I cannot state that emphatically enough. It is, in fact, one of the biggest reasons I married David, and stay married to him – I could never, ever put together an Ikea Trofast, much less a Pax shelving system. Once, when David wasn’t around I tried to put together an Ikea nightlight and I literally couldn’t figure it out, despite the fact that it only had two steps.

“Why the hell don’t they TELL ME what to do, in words?” I shouted madly, “This isn’t ANCIENT EGYPT! I can’t read hieroglyphics!”

I felt the same instantaneous surge of frustration when I saw the one-page instructions for the origami crane. None of it made any sense.

Ok, the first two or three steps were easy enough – fold the paper in half, than half again, etc. But then make a square? That’s when the problems started.

“Now how the heck do we make a square out of a triangle?” I said, narrating my though process to Primo as I experimented, mangling the perfectly nice triangle we’d proudly made. With every fruitless fold, my paper looked more and more wrinkled, and that pissed me off. My end product would be folded to a pulp. What kind of a crane would THAT be? ”What am I, a magician? It’s a triangle, not a square! How can I make it be a square when it obviously doesn’t WANT to?”

I took a deep breath: “Primo, we can do this. We can make this crane. We just have to prevent ourselves from getting frustrated because frustration clouds your thought. So let’s stay calm and the answer will come to us.”

Primo looked at me calmly, and it was clear that both he and I knew I was using the royal “we.”

I threw a frantic look at the expert woman but she was elbow-deep in paper folds with her origami prodigy.

I was on my own. It was time to get resourceful: “Now what if we just rip this little corner here? That might make it work . . “

“You can’t rip the paper, Mommy!” Primo piped up.

“How do you know?”

“Mommy, you just can’t. No one else is ripping paper.”

I rubbed my temples and considered. The boy was right. I’d never seen an origami creation with jagged, ripped edges, It was against the whole philosophy of origami I’m guessing to rip the paper, I guessed, though I don’t know jack about it. It just doesn’t seem like a gentle thing to do. But I wasn’t feeling particularly gentle at that point.

“Well then, let’s just MAKE it go. We’ll just squash it down and force it to be a freaking square!” If the paper could talk it would have screamed, “Lady, please! I’ve got a wife and two kids at home! Have mercy on me!”

I was killing the paper.

“So HOW do we make this crane?” Primo asked, getting impatient.

I looked over at the woman again. She was still helping the little boy, probably training him for the Origami Olympics.

“You’re so good at this!” I offered, hoping to charm her into helping us, “It’s so hard!”

“I’ll help you in a minute,” she replied.

“Hear that, Primo?” I said, “She’s going to rescue us. This stuff is hard honey. I mean, Mommy’s not very good at following directions like that. Mommy gets a little panicked when Mommy sees all of these pictures of shapes which are literally impossible for a person to make without a MAGIC WAND!”

While working myself into frenzy, I’d accidentally opened the triangle up into another dimension and somehow before me was a square. A pretty perfect square.

“PRIMO!!!!” I yelled, startling the other parents and children, “Primo, LOOK!”

“MOMMY!” he shouted, YOU DID IT!”

“It’s so EASY!” I yelled, “This is how you do it!”

I showed him and he made his triangle into a square and then we both turned our papers over and made the other triangles into other square.

And then we were stuck again.

“We made the square!” I said to the expert woman, like we were nearly there, had almost reached the end goal, although the fact was we were still at step number 4.

“Ok,” she said, putting the finishing touches on the master opus she and her protégée had made, “I’ll help you.”

It had taken us fifteen, twenty minutes to get up to step four and within five minutes, under the tutelage of the expert, we’d finished our cranes. Yes, the paper was a bit worse for the wear, a bit sagging and haggard but by George, those were cranes all right, unequivocally.

Primo and I dashed outside to meet David and Seconda, who’s been waiting for us in the playground outside for a half hour.

“DADDY! DADDY! Look what we MADE!” Primo shouted.

I was an excited as he was, “Aren’t they beautiful? Aren’t they regal?”

And now, the twin cranes sit in the shelf of honor in our apartment, greeting guests with their fragile splendor. Every time I see them, I think, “Primo could really get into origami.” And then I think, “If he had another mother.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

We can't all be Loretta Lynn, but some of us share her raw talent and destiny of country fame


We all need shortcuts to feeling like Mother of the Year and these shortcuts are different for everyone. I am fond of throwing impromptus tea parties and reading picture books in bed. Both of these things allow me to do what I like – eat cookies and lie in bed – while doing things my kids like – eating cookies and having my undivided attention. In addition to pleasing both parties, I feel these activities are good for my children.

Another one is living room dance party. This one, in addition to pleasing us and being good for kids, is good for my ass. Win/ win/ win/ win.

But my favorite Mother of the Year shortcut is singing to the children at bedtime. Ever since the summer I watched Coal Miner’s Daughter a hundred times and saw Sissy Spacek playing Loretta Lynn belt out those country melodies to her darling l’il critters in the cornfield or wherever, I have enjoyed following in her footsteps. I have fancied myself a Loretta-Lynn-type. I know that my becoming a country star is a long shot that I wouldn’t say its out of the question entirely. And if (when) I do, my children will remember how I used to croon sweetly to them in bed, and will be sure to tell the screenwriter who are penning the story of my life, to include that bedtime scene, in which you see my natural talent and manifest destiny.

Listen, it’s not just me who thinks I’ve got raw talent. As I frequently remind my husband, naysayer that he is, two DIFFERENT strangers have asked me if I was a professional singer,

The first was a man selling fruits and vegetables on the street corner near my mother’s house.

The second was an elderly gentleman sitting behind me in church. Yes, I am one of those overly-loud church singers who enjoy attending mass because it affords them the opportunity to show off their vibrato.

Bedtime, however, is no place for belting. At bedtime, I croon soulfully, with yearning, yearning for my freaking children to finally go the hell to sleep and give me a break. Mostly, I sing the Beatles, occasionally, the Beach Boys. The kids ask for another song not so much because they like my singing but because they know it’s a pretty sire bet that I’ll say “yes” and hang around the room for another five minutes, literally to hear the sound of my voice.

And the beauty part is I get to think of myself as the kind of mom that sings to her kids at bedtime, which is to say a sweet, loving, tender, giving mother – who just might get a record deal one day. Who knows?

Go the F$%@k to Sleep



This new bedtime story for parents has pretty much gone viral so I'm betting you've encountered it in your travels in cyber space. If you haven't, allow me to introduce you to the alternative to Goodnight Moon with lyrical passages like this:

“The cats nestle close to their kittens.
The lambs have laid down with the sheep.
You're cozy and warm in your bed, my dear
Please go the f@#k to sleep.”

Go the F@%$k to Sleep, a book after my own heart.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!


Happy Mother’s Day! As her gift to me my mother brought my kids to sleep over her place last night. As my gift to her, I let them go. Seconda already bestowed a gift on me (the best part of Montessori is they force your kids who would never ordinarily waste the time making you something on these holidays to produce very aesthetically pleasing products that you can totally get behind displaying prominently in your house). When I read the inside of her card, I cried. The kid keeps me starved for affection so when she shows me even a small amount, I feel eternally indebted to her. I think she’s preparing me for the teenage years. The card read:

“Mommy,

It is hard to say goodbye to you because I miss you when I am at school.

Love,

Seconda.”

The present I’d really have liked to accompany that card is a voucher for one week (OK, I’ll take a night) of going to bed with no curtain calls. Just straight into the bedroom and see you in the morning. But the card was pretty kick-ass.

And for you readers, I offer a present in the form of this Anna Quindlen essay. If you’ve never read it before, prepare a box of Kleenex. If you have read it, you’ll know to do that without my warning. It really is a beautiful piece, and I’m grateful for the way it always brings the daily trials and tribulations of parenting young kids into perspective.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Green Girl

Its raining cats and dogs today but lest you start hating on Spring, let me remind you of her green glory:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Royal Wedding






I want to personally thank Prince William and Princess Catherine for tying the knot last week because it gave me the chance to dress Primo in his Easter suit again, and to finally wear the tuxedo shirt and bow tie I bought in December from H and M for $9. Behold the cuteness:

Continuing the tradition of buying my kids stuff they don't need just because it is on super sale, last year my mother bought Primo a Calvin Klein suit, and its been hanging in the closest screaming "FIND AN OPPORTUNITY TO WEAR ME!" for months. On Easter, I put him in it, even though he was way overdressed and looked like a butler among the rest of the devoted attendees of the one Catholic church in David's Tennessee hometown. And I figured that would be the only time he wore the suit unless I found a way to score him ringbearer duties on somebody's wedding (anyone need one? he's got experience, and the suit). And then, miraculously, we got invited to a royal wedding viewing party.

At first, when I got the evite that read "William and Catherine Are Gettingt Hitched!" I responded to my friend, "Honey, you sent this to me by mistake. I don't know your friends William and Catherine." But when she enlightened me, and I read the evite which encouraged guests to wear their most royal finery and promised tea sandwiches and fish n chips, I was over the moon.

There is nothing I like to ingest more than cucumber sandwiches. Just the thought makes me salivate. In the middle of my severe, unbearable morning sickness with Primo, I remember having a few days where I desperately WANTED to eat something, and the thing I wanted to eat was cucumber sandwiches. I tried to make them but they turned out all seedy and soggy and it depressed me. I probably could've perfected my recipe except that in three days, I was back to vomiting my internal organs up. That was the last time I had cucumber sandwiches.

The party was amazing -- really, the sort of themed fete which I aspire to throw, but fall short of achieving because I lack an innate sense of design and classiness. There was tea service and Pim's. there were bangers and mash and fish n'' chips served in brown bags with newspaper underneath: "Just like they do it in London" I told Primo, though I can only presume as I've never been to England.

There were crustless cucumber sandwiches on slighty stale white bread which was heaven on earth. AND tiny egg salad sandwiches, too.

And my Martha Stewart hostess friend even made a Union Jack out of cut berries.

"I don't even have words to describe what you've achieved here tonight." I told her, "You're an inspiration."

Oh and yeah, the wedding was nice. I would've died for a veil like that when I got hitched. Also, her waistline. But my favorite part, I think, was the fact that they used the term "thou" - it was so Shakespearean. "Wilst thou, William, take Catherine?" That's classy, man. Don't think this Brooklyn girl or her rube husband could've pulled that off.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Anniversary Cake



Last week, David and I celebrated our 8 year anniversary. The festivities culminated in the presentation, by Primo, of the above confection --a nutella sandwich topped with mini chocolate chip cookies. A fresh take on the anniversary cake, prepared by my son himself. He wanted to put sprinkles on but I deterred him, thinking that the biggest present he could give me was sparing me the headache of cleaning sprinklers out of every corner of the kitchen. Magnanimously, he agreed.

We'd pre-emptively celebrated our anniversary on our trip to Tennessee, where David's parents watched the kids while he took me to the fanciest joint in town, overlooking the river. The big selling point of this place is that a meat peddler comes to your table with raw slabs of beef and lets you watch as he slices of a chunk for you to eat. Then they cook, of course. Still, it grossed me out a bit. Don't see how that's a perk. I'm not the sort of foodie who wants to slaughter my own pig. I don't want to know where my food comes from. I want to pretend it had no life previous to my ingesting it. I want to pretend it was born drenched in bernaise sauce.

David enjoyed the peddler, anyway. And I enjoyed the Asti Spumanti Sparkling Wine and we both enjoyed some time alone.

Every year, on our anniversary, David and I write letters to each other in the empty pages in the guest book from our wedding. The tradition began because I spent a ridiculous amount of money buying that silken guest book -- one of the few parts of my wedding that wasn't a bargain basement deal -- and it drove me insane to see all the empty, expensive pages. The moral to this story is: sometimes being a cheapskate can pay off because it gave birth to the best tradition that David and I share. Every year, regardless of how exhausted or busy or pissed at each other we happen to be at the moment, we stop and assess the State of The Marriage. And regardless of the State of the Marriage, we always find that we're happy to still be in it, glad we took the vows, and more committed than we were on our wedding day. Our letters always end with the surprising revelation on both our parts, that we not only still love the other person, but somehow love them more. That's not to say we don't also hate each other more, but I defy you to show me a couple married for nearly a decade with a bunch of rugrats underfoot who don't hate each other at least part of the time. I'm not the first to observe that its a thin line between love and hate. Frequently, I love hating David and just as frequently, I hate loving him. And the good news is, I know he feels precisely the same way.

And I bet William and Catherine do too, or will anyway, if they make it eight years.

And now please, raise your coffee cups: here's to holy matrimony and another eight years of it!