Wednesday, November 30, 2011
The other weekend, David and the kids and I were eating burgers and discussing Streetcar Named Desire. This is the upside of having created precocious, high-maintenance, demanding children -- they are so voracious for stories, they don't discriminate about the source. Tennessee Williams is as interesting to them as How to Train Your Dragon or Ramona the Pest . And its a helluva lot more interesting to us. In the course of our mini seminar, both of my kids said something which was so quintessentially them and pretty much sums up how they couldn't be more dissimilar.
We got on the subject because of Marlon Brando. Sec does this funny voice sometimes which sounds like a damn good Brando, a coincidence because she's never watched any of his movies. So we were going around the table, doing our best Brandos and that led to yelling "STELLLLLLLLLLLLA!" and that led to the plot of Streetcar. I did just the broad strokes: this not-so-nice guy with no money, Stanley Kowalski, falls in love a sweet girl who used to be rich, and then her kind of cuckoo, fancy-pants sister visits them. Lots of fights ensue. One day, Stanley does something no husband or wife should ever do and hits his wife. She throws him out of the house, rightly so. But where she makes her mistake is letting him back in, just because he throws a big old temper tantrum in front of her window. Teachable moments, folks. I've got a daughter here to worry about and I don't want her thinking domestive violence is OK. My son, too, for that matter.
"So what happens at the end?" Primo asks.
"Well, its very tragic," I explain.
"Does Stanley die?" he asks.
"No, he doesn't. His wife takes him back and her sister gets shipped off to the hospital and Stanley isn't really punished at all."
"He's bad and he doesn't get punished?" Primo asks, incredulously. This is not how it happens in the middle-grade books.
"Yep." I reply/
"That IS tragic." he muses, "That makes me feel like when you hear someone scraping their fingernails on the wall."
David and I exchange shocked looks. My seven year old totally gets Tennessee Williams. Unlike the end of a Greek tragedy, where its just total bleak annihilation and grief, this is worse. This is endless discomfort, injustice, and little acts of quiet, unbearable misery that go on and on. Its nails on a chalkboard.
"Yes," I reply, "That is it exactly, honey."
Then Sec pipes up, "If bad Stanley did that to ME, if he hit me, you know what I'd do?"
"What?" I ask.
"I would take a real axe and chop his head off."
I guess she gets it too, in her own way.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
The Christmas extravaganza began the day after Thanksgiving when the kids went to see the Rockettes with my sister. This is not part of our normal repertoire, mainly because it costs so much damn money. But this year, I found a half-price Groupon and my mother, who can't resist a great deal, agreed to foot the bill. The only catch was you had to see the show before the end of November. No problem for us, I thought -- it just kicks off the holiday season.
After Radio City, we walked down Fifth Avenue, checked ut the windows and stumbled right past the Plaza. Now, who can walk past the Plaza without taking a stroll inside? Five dozen pictures of the kids in front of the Plaza Christmas trees followed. These would have been perfect for my Christmas card this year had I not ALREADY MADE THE CHRISTMAS CARDS. Yes, people, I did my annual Christmas-card-photo-shoot two weeks ago, on a resplendent 60 degree Sunday morning, when the kids could go outside with no coats and when I could order the cards for half price off, courtesy of yet another Groupon. (Are you seeing a trend here? My life is dictated by daily deals). The Plaza was cool, though man, is that shit commercial now. Shops and shops as far as the eye can see. Its basically the Plaza Mall, but hey, I'm not complaining. they have delightful restrooms which are free to the public.
The next day, we took on the main event of the Christmas Season: Santaland. I probably have a half-dozen entries about Santaland, and if you check them out, you may glean valuable information about how to avoid the crowds and get in and out of Macy's with your sanity intact. But this year we OUTDID ourselves, sailing through Santaland in FIFTEEN MINUTES. We took my grandmother, who hasn't been to see Santa in literally three decades, and I told her to brace herself for some standing around on line. But when we arrived on the eighth floor, the entrance to Santaland was eerily abandoned. We walked right on to the train. In fact, David had dropped us off at the entrance to Macys and gone off on on his own to find parking, since there's always at least a 30 minute wait before you even enter the train. But though he found a parking spot immediately and raced up the escalators to meet us, we had already reached the front of the line and were waiting for him at the entrance to the private Santa chamber when he arrived. It was almost TOO fast -- we didn't even have time to marvel at the train display or the mechanized ballet bears.
A quick trip to my parents' place in New Jersey secured us our Christmas tree and decorations and once we had those in our possession, it seemed silly not to just put them up. Christmas music was played, and tree was trimmed, on Sunday afternoon.
So yeah, we're done with Christmas. Santa can take it from here.
Monday, November 28, 2011
That stunning specimen of babyness regarding his impeccably made-up mother with suspicion a mere day after being born -- that's my boy, born on Thanksgiving day five years ago.
I remember it took me 15 minutes to put that suit on him, I was so terrified to more his little appendages. But despite being terrified to the point of nausea, I was as happy as I look. And proud. My golden boy.
Seven years ago, he was a mystery lurking in my belly. And on his birthday, I like to look at his baby pictures and tell him the story of his birth.
During my pregnancy, I imagined many ways that my labor might unfold. I'll be honest: most of these scenarios involved candlelit deep breathing in the hot tub. What I did not imagine is being on all fours in my parents' living room, bellowing in agony as my family enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner. I didn't imagine childbirth as spectator sport.
After a long day of first-stage labor pains, I demanded that David take me to the hospital despite the fact that my contractions weren't of the proscribed duration and all that. I was pretty convinced that my doc would report I was at least 5, maybe 8 centimeters dilated. Instead, she told me I wasn't technically in labor.
"How is that possible?" I sobbed. I was very little concerned with being brace and even less concerned with seeming so. The disappointment was awful.
"Your make-up is still perfect," the doctor said, "Come back when your mascara is running?"
This is what passes for medical advice nowadays, I thought? Come back when your MASCARA is running?
Since I was already totally demoralized, I figured my parents couldn't make things much worse. And since the thought of returning to our apartment where I'd spent 8 hours laboring to no avail was so unappealing, I decided a change of venue was in order. To my parents' place on the Upper East Side, where Thanksgiviing dinner was in full swing.
My father harassed me with his cameras, documenting every grimace over anitpasto. My grandmother forced me to eat, against doctor's orders, maintaining I needed my strength. And my mother offered moral support, if by support you mean asserting that i didn't look like I was getting very far with this labor of mine.
Two hours later, by the time dessert was served, I was writhing around in the tub, buck naked, moaning and crying, while my grandmother, aunt and mother sipped wine tub-side and offered unsolicited advice.
I was really very regretful that I'd eaten a bowl of homemade cappelletti when I upchucked the lot of it over the side of the tub. I put on a pair of my father's boxers and instantly they were wet. I sobbed to my sister that I'd wet my pants and she pointed out that perhaps, seeing as I was in labor and all, perhaps my water had broken.
Oh yes! That's it! Good thing for sisters.
I got David, threw up on him a bit, bellowed in agony, sobbed a lot and gasped that we had to go to the hospital. If the doc said it wasn't time for an epidural yet, then well, I'd vomit on her until she changed her tune. But I knew it'd be time. My mascara was running.
My sister Melissa came with David and I to the hospital and since I was a very respectable 5 centimeters dilated, I received a big needle in my back. By midnight, I was fully dlated. At long last, and after a sizeable injection of morphine, here was the tranquil labor I had hoped for. As
I waited for this famous "urge to push," Melissa brushed my hair and David held my hand. We listened to the Beatles and I put on a fresh coat of lipstick. After nine months of wanting things to hurry along, I was finally in no rush. I had this keenly poignant sensation of being in the moment before, and I wanted to linger here, savoring the anticipation of the great encounter which was about to unfold.
When I couldn't resist the urge to push any longer, my doctor told Melissa and David to each grab a leg. I felt like a wishbone. Everything moved very quickly then and after only a few pushes, I was reaching down to feel the top of my baby's head, which was unthinkably soft and warm and so near. After that, I didn't need any encouragement. I pushed with a vein-popping force and within minutes, his head crowned. "Look down and see your baby," the doc said.
How can words encompass something this sublime? "Miracle" has never sounded so mundane. His tiny head was just wedged there - perfect, oblong, intricate beyond imagining. Nothing could have made me look away. I was roused from my wonder by my doctor's words: "Come on girl,
one more push!"
I bore down and as I watched, my baby's body slipped right out of me, in an enormous rush. He was revealed to me entire -- shoulders, arms, torso and legs poured out in a wriggling mass of life. It was then that I screamed.
Later David would tell me he'd never heard anything so animal-like coming from a human. My sister thought that maybe I had torn. But it was a the sound of release, of relief, of marvel.
There he was, my son.
They placed Primo immediately on my chest and he was heavy there and warm and wet. We were all hysterical, David, my sister and I, all of us shaking and crying, in the moment now, the great moment which had ruptured and was pouring over us. "My son," I kept repeating, "my
baby." I sobbed with my eyes wide open so I could drink him in. Every inch of him, all 20 of them, was a masterpiece, and so brand new. He reached for my face then, stretching his spindly fingers toward my chin in a jerky gesture that some might think accidental and I thought totally, perfectly pre-destined.
It was after midnight and I was a mother. The prayers I prayed each day for nine months, and for a long time before that, were answered all at once. The day of Thanks had ended about an hour earlier for everyone else but not for me. Not for me.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Because last Thanksgiving, while walking across the park at 57th street, which was closed to traffic, I stepped in something terrifically gooey. I slipped so violently I nearly hit the ground, much like the circus clown on a banana peel. My first thought was that I'd stepped inside a melted ice cream cone. But just as I was about to look down to check out what it was, my husband exclaimed, "Don't look!" And I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I had stepped directly inside the guts of a squashed rat.
So, this year, I'm keeping my eyes peeled. I'll be on the lookout for rat carcasses. And I suggest you do the same.
Happy Thanksgiving folks!
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
I went on for a while about how I blame texting and twitter and the like for making young people so incapable of a love worth fighting for. Man, I'm an old geezer.
Monday, November 21, 2011
But, regardless of my moderate amount of moderation, and regardless of the fact that there is still at least a dozen to two dozen pieces of candy left in his bucket, Primo has been starting to voice suspicions.
The other day, when I handed him his bucket for candy selection, he looked at me intensely and said, "I think someone's been eating my Halloween candy. There was so much and now there's hardly any left."
I was not about to LIE to the child. Were he to ask me, point blank, "Did you, Mother, eat my Halloween candy," I would have confessed. But he wasn't asking any direct questions, just sharing reflections. So I just said, "Well, if you eat a piece a day, eventually you finish it all," which is true enough.
But I know he's on to me. Its all because I showed him that Youtube clip, "I Ate All Your Halloween Candy." Before that, he would have never dared to dream a parent would commit such a vile act of betrayal. But now that he knows such things happen, none of us are free from suspicion. Damn Youtube.
Well, maybe its a blessing in disguise.My ass doesn't need the calories. And there was no good candy left anyway.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
I haven’t been to Ikea in nigh on a year. That must be an all-time record since the Brooklyn store opened. About six to eight months ago, I had a major Ikea craving, but David refused to enable me and I decided to try and sweat it out, which I did. After about three weeks of really jonesing for a stroll down the marketplace, finished off with some 99 cent Swedish meatballs, the intense desire waned and I hardly thought about Ikea at all.
But a few weeks ago my mother gave Primo a super-comfy toasty-warm down comforter. We lay this brand-spanking-new comforter on his bed and within three days, it was filthy. I’m not exaggerating. Primo was having a string of nosebleeds thanks to the onset of cold weather and sudden radiator heat, and before we could do anything about it, there was a big, old, scary looking blood stain on the comforter. It was clear we needed a duvet cover. I posted on parkslopeparents for a used one and scoured Overstock for a slamming deal, but no dice. And then, inspiration struck.
“Doesn’t Ikea carry bedding for children?” I asked David, a gleam in my eye.
“I don’t know,” he replied uneasily.
A quick web search revealed a half dozen twin duvet covers, all of which were $20 or less, featuring adorable, sophisticated, kid-friendly graphics.
“This weekend is my birthday,” I told David, “And we are going to Ikea.”
Sure enough, on Sunday morning, we were pushing our cart through an endless series of perfectly-appointed, totally-irresistible model rooms and I was feeling positively heady.
“Let’s pretend this is our house!” I squealed to the kids, “And this is your bedroom!”
Something must be wrong with me.
The worst is always the walk through the marketplace, right before you get to the registers. I feel the trip ending and I am thrown into a frenzy of conspicuous consumerism before it does. I need EVERYTHING – power strips and gingerbread houses, extra Trofast buckets, clip-on lamps and strangely long orange post it pads. I just toss stuff into my basket like its all free and I’ve only got a minute left in my free for all.
“Mommy, you’re going crazy!” Primo reprimanded me, “We don’t need that!”
“Yes, I know,” I agreed, “I really am going crazy but I just LOVE IT ALL SO MUCH! I’ve got a bad case of the gimmes! Help! Don’t let me take anything else!”
Thankfully, the kids act so atrociously at Ikea that we can’t linger long, forcing me to cut short what could easily be a twelve-hour marathon session of shopping which would bankrupt us and fill our house with garbage.
But though the kids don’t get excited for the furniture, they do get jazzed for lunch.
“I want the Swedish meatballs!” Primo yelled.
“Me too!” Sec agrees.
“Pay the dollar and get extra!” David chimes in.
Once David and I went to a Swedish restaurant somewhere in the Hudson Valley and afterwards, with the check, the waiter brought a comment card.
“Almost as good as Ikea!” David wrote. We meant it as a compliment. We are cuckoo for Ikea meatballs.
A Mommy friend once told me she never lets her kids eat at Ikea.
“Why not?” I asked.
“The meatballs cost A DOLLAR,” she said, “Don’t you think that sounds suspicious
“Not at all,” I said, “Because I’m too busy thinking about how WONDERFUL it sounds!”
We stuffed ourselves silly with gross, irredeemable crap and then we discovered, with unimaginable GLEE, that since we spent over $100 (and how could you NOT?), the price of our lunch was deducted from our bill. Meaning we ate for free.
I heart you Ikea.
I really do.
I love Ikea so much that on this trip, I intentionally didn’t purchase the furniture system we needed so that I could justify another trip in a few months.
Yes, I have a problem. But it hurts so good.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
We were at the pediatrician's office the other day, taking Sec for a strep test, and before he left, the doc told Sec not to kiss Mommy on the face for a few days so she wouldn't get Mommy sick.
Primo piped up: "Oh, its Ok if Mommy gets sick because then at least she'll have a few days off from her deadline."
Maybe I'd better keep the deadline stress to myself for a bit.
Monday, November 14, 2011
I made the mistake many years ago of offering to throw a Halloween party for my kids. You don't realize, as a new, young mom, that if you offer to throw a seasonal party once, you will be required to throw it every year for the rest of your progeny's childhoods. Well, you're not required to throw the party but just try explaining to your kids that you're just too old and cranky and freaking tired to uphold what they have come to see as a family tradition. I thought maybe if I didn't bring it up, they'd forget about it. Fat chance. In early September, Primo started asking what was on the docket for the party this year.
"Oh, are we having a party?" I asked, innocently, "I mean, do you really want to?"
Well, that's a dumb question. What's not to want? Mommy does all the work -- buying plates and favors and materials for Halloween crafts, Mommy administers all games and lugs around dozens of juice boxes and bagels. Mommy cleans up. Kids have wild fun.
"Yes, I want it," replied Primo.
"Well, Ok, I guess, but let's keep it really small, just you and Sec's closest friends."
And we did keep the guest list down. Only that everyone has siblings, so whatever number you start with, you double. And then, once you're having four sets of siblings over, well, why not extend the invite to just one or two new friends from school -- it'll help build community after all, and improve the kids' at-school social lives. You can't very well not invite family, can you? So, somehow I'm throwing a regular old party, the day before Halloween.
You know what I'm going to say next time the kids mention a Halloween party?
"You're about to enjoy a holiday where you dress up in your dream costume and then stay up late so strangers can throw candy and chocolate at you all night until you can't eat another bite. That's enough of a party."
I have become a bona-fide party grinch.Convenient timing, just before my son's birthday.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Primo is learning about "simple machines" in second grade science. Sounds, well, simple, doesn't it? It may very well be, and if that is the case, then I have some deep pockets of total ignorance in my knowledge base, because I literally can not do his science homework.
Primo was supposed to play "I Spy" and identify, in his day to day environment, examples of the following:
and other shit I can't even remember the names of
I mean, I'm not a total moron, and I know what a lever is. If you gave me a multiple choice bunch of answers, I'd probably be able to pick the correct one using the skills I learned at Kaplan SAT prep a hundred years ago. But forced to explain the identifying traits of a lever, I'm up shit's creek without a paddle. You jam it under something heavy. Or is that just leverage? You press it down and it makes something go. Its on a machine. Oh crap, kid, I don't know.
I went to a special parents' morning at Primo's class last week, where we get to see what they're working on and Primo was showing me the "simple" machines he and his group had made from Legos. The machine in question was a fan, built with two pulleys. It was operational, with a hand crank. I was, honestly. blown away.
"How did you MAKE this?" I asked, genuinely not knowing the answer, "You must have had to affix some kind of long piece through to make the fan go!"
"Its called an axle, Mommy, and a wheel," Primo explained.
These kids are GENUISES. Watch out, world, here they come.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Jimmy Kimmel is right -- it IS surprising how the kids' first reaction is to instantly burst into hysterical sobs. I, too, would expect more outrage at the injustice and once that peetered out, a good long cry. But these kids start to bawl before thier parents are even done breaking the news, and its the funniest fucking thing ever to watch other people's kids bawl when you know nothing is really the matter with them. .I love the little boy who rushes over to the bag to confirm, then collapses face down on the bed and cries with open-mouth, drool-producing unabashed anguish. Kid's so destroyed it makes you feel lousy for watching.
My favorite, though, is the last set of brothers, who are just so damn DISAPPOINTED in their mother's excessive and indulgent behavior. Its hilarious because the big bro is exactly like a parent, trying to work through the consequences involved. You can just see him weighing, "Now how am I going to deal with this? What am I going to do with this mother of mine?" And the little brother, clearly trying to keep up with his brother's admirable example, displaying the appropriate emotions of shock and indignation: "Oh you sneaky mom!"
Ok, I have to go watch it again, at least three times in a row.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Its my family's favorite day of the year, next to Christmas and Halloween.
Big Apple Circus Day.
Now, I concede that I may have an uncommonly robust love for the circus but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say there's no freaking way anyone, certainly not anyone under the age of 12, can NOT be enthralled by what goes down under the big top.
This year's Big Apple Circus.show is called Dream Big! and it pretty much gets to the heart of what the circus is all about.
Its theater of the impossible.
Of the unimaginable.
Its people doing things people can't do, but there they are, right in front of you, really doing it, and its freaking enthralling. Its breathtaking. Its gasp-inducing.
The way I see it, anything that can make me genuinely ooh and ahh, anything that gets me wide-eyed after three plus decades of seeing and experiencing stuff, well that's worth the price of admission.
The big news is that its Grandma the Clown's last year on the road. This is big news, in our eyes, because all four of us are basically die-hard Grandma-lovers. We loved Grandma even before we watched, with bated breath, the PBS series "Circus," which gave you an up-close-and-personal view of Barry Lubin, the man behind the clown. As always, Grandma was a delight (you'll get your money's worth of spittakes, and for the record they were my son and husband's favorite "acts" of the whole show.) In addition, though, there was a fantastic new clown addition to the show, a curly-haired blonde, irrepressibly exuberant, naive, a perfect foil to clever, sometimes cranky old Grandma.
Highlights of this year's show:
The magic sub-theme in Dream Big! really delivers. Lots of really cool, but also funny, tricks where people gets sawed in half.
Animal tricks were cool, mainly thanks to the presence of a trained PORCUPINE and CAPYBARA. You know what a capybara is -- those insanely big-ass rats from Australia? Yeah, they've got one of those rodents in a funny little car and when he gets out, he marches right up to a mike and lip-syncs pop music. Its freaking HILARIOUS to six year-olds as well as their legal guardians.
And of course, the acrobats. The opening act was this elaborate jump rope routine which started innocently enough and ended in a human pyramid jumping rope. The times when they fail only makes it even more insane and incredible, reminding you that these people are, in fact, HUMAN BEINGS and not robots.
But my favorite, as always, was the trapeze artists. This year there was a set of super-high bars, fixed trapezes, above the flying ones, which added an extra dimension of insane impressiveness.And this show's troupe involved a little girl, which knocked Seconda's socks off. She left the theater royally pissed off that she was not invited to participate in the trapeze act since she could, of course, perform impeccably, with no training.
So, go stuff your faces with cotton candy and get thee to the circus, people!
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Of course, one cannot over-generalize. There is no one way that boys play, just as there is no one way girls play. The reason I know this is that my daughter is much more physically aggressive than her brother and likes bloody, spooky things even more than he does. Also, I've got a son who quotes Shakespeare. So I'm not putting anyone in boxes.
That said, I have noticed that when another little boy comes over to play, both the kids' first instinct is to make high-impact body contact with each other. The kids walk in the door, kick off their shoes and within a minute its WWW wrestling in my living room. I believe the official term for this activity is roughhousing. It is as foreign an activity to me as Mah Jong or wood whittling. I don't know how to do it and I don't know what's appealing about it to other people. But, unlike Mah Jong or wood whittling, which are perfectly pleasant pasttimes that do not harm anyone, roughhousing does, in fact, harm people. I don't mean that it has the potential to harm people. It ALWAYS does. inevitably. Sometimes it takes five minutes, sometimes half a minute and sometimes the kids can go almost 10 minutes without bonking heads or hurtling themselves into a nearby piece of furniture. But in the end, all roads lead to physical injury. What is pleasant or enjoyable about an activity where someone is guaranteed to be pained? I just cannot say.
But the real problem is that I don't really know how to respond to the roughhousing instinct.
Do I let the kids wrestle?
Do I forbid it?
Do I allow it, with parameters? If so, what the hell would those parameters be? The whole point of the roughhousing is to make contact, after all -- that much I can see. Its like a boy way of holding hands or hugging. It warms the cockles of their heart. It can't be simulated.
I am always left standing on the sidelines, ineffectually yelling "Be careful! Be careful! Oh hey, watch OUT!" or "OK, I think that;s enough! Let's stop before someone gets hurt!"
I mean, clearly its a consentual act, that both parties are delighted to engage in. Clearly, no one is being malicious or angry or bad-intentioned. And my instinct, as a parent, is as long as everyone's happy with the game and their heart's in the right place, well, let them do what they like. But then I wonder: do other parents allow the roughhousing on playdates? Is this DONE?
Of course, in a neighborhood where parents don't let their kids lick the spoon when baking cakes and boycott burger joints with TV screens in them, well, anything's possible.
Oh, males are so inscrutable. Which is funny, since they're so damn simple.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
At first, I wrote her back, saying, "I don't get it."
She wrote back, "What don't you get? Its FUNNY. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA."
(She is big on All Caps, that one).
So I gave it another shot. It did require an investment in time - about five minutes to figure out what the hell I was reading. But once I got it, I died laughing, This guy is like the Sacha Baron Cohen of internet pranks. In fact, "pranks" isn't the right word. Basically, he just writes letters and emails to piss people off. They are very funny. Mainly because the people he's writing to don't know how to respond to someone who's such an asshole. All in all, a terribly fifteen minutes well-spent in laugh therapy.