Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wolf or Baby?

I have been spending more time than advisable on Facebook lately, as I experience a motivational low due to fatigue and December. And that is how I came upon this blog, linked to by a college friend:

Is it a Wolf or a Baby?

I called David over and showed it to him.

"What IS it?" I asked, essentially begging the same sort of question as the blog itself, "Is it a blog or a joke?"

"Its a meta blog," he answered casually.

That is yet another reason I love my husband.

"Oh yeah," I murmured, "A meta blog."

What I really want to do now is create a blog called Is it a blog of a metablog?" and my first entry would be this Wolf Vs Baby blog.

But that would be taking procrastination to a new level.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Like-a-Reads

A year or two ago, someone gave us the first three Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, and at that time, Primo was still struggling through Frog and Toad and a 200-page volumes, liberally sprinkled with the word "moron" seemed as appropriate for Primo as True Blood or Merchant of Venice. What a difference a year makes. A few months ago, Primo unearthed the Wimpy Kid books and devoured them, spending hours on end at bedtime reading them. So passionate was he for the fine literature that we were getting into arguments at 10pm when I realized he was still awake and tried to wrest the books from his anxious fingers.

"I just want to finish the book!" he'd protest, "I only have sixty more pages!"

In this way, he finished all six books in about two months.

It was sad to see it end because the Wimpy Kid books were the first that really hooked Primo on reading, and I got a little nervous that without anything comparable to dig into, he'd lose interest in the act of reading. So I posted on my handy, local list serve, Park Slope Parents, for recommendations of books like the Wimpy Kid series, which would galvanize the hearts and minds of seven year-old boys -- just in time for Christmas. Here's the list I culled:

Geronimo Stilton

Ellie McDoodle

Dork Diaries

Secrets of Droon

The Zack Diaries

My Weird School

Magic Tree House

Boxcar Children

We checked out a bunch of these last week and Primo was vaguely interested in them all but nothing life-changing. Then we happened upon Dear Dumb Diary, by Jim Benton, who Primo has been smitten with after devouring all the Franny K. Stein books he penned. A perfect choice! Acerbic, edgy, gross, with lots of drawings to make the pages fly. I guess for some parents the protagonist might come across little mean-spirited, and I might not let very impressionable Seconda read it but for Primo, who wouldn't use the word "idiot" without flagellating himself about it, I'm not too concerned. It got him hooked all right. And there's a bunch of installations too - enough to bring us to the next craze.

Happy reading!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Meeeeeeeerry Christmas!

An oldie but a goodie. Christmas cheer and love so intense its kind of choking.
Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

For Appropriate Audiences

I took Seconda and her cousin to the movie Happy Feet 2 this weekend and we scurried in just as the previews were starting. The first preview was for the new Snow White (or one of them, I should clarify, since there is a slew of new takes on the old tale): the kids were into Mirror Mirror and dug Julia Roberts as the stepmother. Then came a preview for the Titanic sD. This seemed odd to me and I worried the kids would be frightened by the sight of the ship breaking in two and huge rushes of water flooding into the cabins. When the preview for the next movie announced that it was made by the people who made Bridesmaids, I started to get anxious. It was a movie about people having babies, and so, I reasoned, that might be why the movie people thought kids would like it, but the humor seemed way too mature for the four year-olds in my charge and at the end of the preview, when a Bradley Cooper-type said the word, "bitch," I gasped audibly.

"That's not a nice word," I volunteered.

"WHAT'S not a nice word?" the girls piped up.

The moviegoers in front of me laughed at this.

"Oh, nothing. Its OK. Forget it," I muttered, thinking. "What the fuck are the people at UA thinking today? Am I a prude of is this shit out of control?"

When the green screen popped up before the next preview, which was ok'ed for "appropriate audiences," my palms started getting sweaty. What would be next?

And there was a little boy, leaving a greeting on his family's answering machine which said, "Hello. Today is September 11th."

Oh no, I thought, not . . .

Yep. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Featuring a kid, but not, in my estimation a kid movie.

"Did the daddy die?" my niece asked me.

"Um," I said shifting in my seat, "yeah."

"Ohhhhhh," she said, "that's sad."

"Yeah," I agreed.

Someone in the control booth is on crack, I concluded. Or I'm on crack. Either way, this little cinematic outing isn't going well.

Finally, after thirty five very stressful minutes of previews, the movie began and it was . . . New Year's Eve.

Somebody went to the manager to tell them they'd put on the wrong movie and in a few minutes, we were back on track again, watching animated penguins dance in unison, just as we'd intended.

I guess I should be lucky they didn't play the preview for Saw 14 or the re-release of Last Tango in Paris or whatever. The worst the kids were exposed to was a terrorist attack, the greatest shipwreck in the history books and the word "bitch." Not too terrible, I guess.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hey Girl

OK, shut the front door. Breaking news, people: it appears that my boyfriend, Ryan Gosling, belongs to the Park Slope Food Coop. Which means I now have to do the unthinkable and join, so I can casually hang around the kale section until he happens in, asks me to grab him a bunch and realizes he loves me and wants to marry me, despite the fact that I am already happily married. But, in less insane, more entertaining news, this tumblr blog about Ryan Gosling and the Food Coop -- Food Coop Hey Girl -- is about the funniest thing I have ever read. My favorite is the picture of him with the far-away look where he muses about the double make-up policy. The internet has its moments, I'll tell you that much.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Education Before Chocolate

We're big fans of chocolate advents calendars in my house and this year, since I'm so on top of my Christmas game, I bought the kids theirs even before the first of December. They've been enjoying their chocolates in the morning on the way to school and this year, we haven't yet had the prob lem where Sec tears open all the windows one day in a frenzy of choco-desire and then cries the rest of the month because there's no candy left. Its been smooth sailing.

The other morning, Primo asked for his calendar (part of the reason we've avoided Sec's choco-frenzy is that I smartened up this year and keep them stashed out of reach, to help her fight temptation).

"Ok, " I said, "Just have Daddy show you how to tie your shoes and once you tie them, you can have your chocolate."

I was surprised to find that Primo was shocked and chagrined by this.

"Why are you making me have EDUCATION before I eat my CHOCOLATE?" he yelled.

I had to laugh. What else can you do?

Now that I see how anathema education is, particularly when it precedes sugar-consumption, I think perhaps that I won't point out to Sec that while she's looking for the right chocolate window to open, she's actually learning her numbers Don't want to upset her.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What the Hell Are You Talking About?

Just read this hilarious, insightful piece on the Harvard Business Review (why do you look so surprised that I read HBR? I read it SO MUCH, in fact, that I have an acronym for it, something which the author makes fun of in this very same article.And by the way, I'm screwing with you. I try to steer clear of publications with the words "Harvard" or "Business' in them in general.):

I Don't Understand What Anyone is Saying Anymore

Reminds me of being in grad school getting my masters in English Lit. I used to keep track of all the meaningless words volleyed about incessantly during seminars, in the back of my notebook. They were so meaningless I don't recall any of them, except for one: slippage. This was a big hit in my seminar on James Joyce. It was "slippage" this and "slippage" that, and I'd nod my head in agreement, like, "Oh yes, now THAT'S an instance of slippage you just couldn't possible argue with, right there," but I basically had no freaking idea what they were talking about. Of course, I'd never let anyone in on that because I assumed everyone else understood perfectly well what that meant. Then, one momentous day, my friend Lena, who'd been an actress with me in LA and had also moved back to to NY to get her Masters in English, did something UNTHINKABLE. Seriously, it was so ballsy that I think I gasped audibly.

In the middle of a very intense conversation about "slippage" in Finnegan's Wake, she said, "Excuse me. Maybe this will sound really dumb, but what does that word mean?"

Everyone sat, speechless for a few seconds. And then I realized that NO ONE knew what "slippage" meant, probably because its some piece of theory mumbo jumbo that was invented to give you a headache.

The girl who spelled her very ordinary name in a very unusual way and always dominated discussions, piped up finally and offered some ridiculous definition which made no sense, like, "When we say, 'slippage' we are referring to the way in which the words slip in meaning, that is to say, the space, however large or small that may be in any particular instance, between the word and its meaning."

Gotcha. Totally. Loud and Clear.

I'm still proud of Lena for that 'fuck you' to academic nonsense speak. So follow her lead, shared by this business mastermind Dan Pallotta, and don't be afraid to say: "I've got no flipping idea what you just said, man. Was that English?"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My big brother's birthday

Primo's VIP Jekyll and Hyde Birthday Outing was such a huge success that Seconda wants one just like it. She had more fun than anyone there, including Primo, because she was getting a chance to hang with the big kids and proving her mettle. I genuinely marvel at how fearless Sec is -- even when one of the seven year-olds had to step outside of the restaurant to "get some air," Sec hung in there, watching the revivification of Frankenstein with interest.

The day after the party, she said, "Can we go to Jekyll and Hyde for MY birthday?"

"Maybe," I replied, "We'll see."

I find it best to be evasive about these sorts of long-way-off decisions. She'll forget about it by February and be on to the next thing whatever the hell that will be.

But Primo piped up, "You can't, Sec, because your friends will be too scared."

"But I won't invite my friends," she clarified, "I'll invite YOUR friends."

Nothing like a kid sister.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Birthday Outing, VIPS only

Last weekend was Primo's birthday celebration. This year, in an innovative move which has revolutionzed my birthday-celebrating-world, we decided not to throw our usual DIY, invite-way-too-many-kids, takes-me-three-days-to-recover-and-I-dread-the-whole-experience party, as has been our tradition. I mean, I WOULD have done it, since I am still trying to secure the martyr crown but it occurred to me that at 7, Primo was really old enough to try a VIP birthday outing where we invite just a few kids and take them somewhere fun.

We pitched the idea to him and at first he balked because he'd already decided he wanted a Harry Potter theme to his huge party and that I could make a Hedwig-shaped pinata and craft a cake in the shape of Hogwarts. But David and I kept spinning how cool it would be do take his best friends out to a special afternoon at the world-renowned Jekyll and Hyde restaurant, and eventually, we won his over. So on a recent Sunday morning, we collected our gang of six -- four friends plus Primo and Sec -- and headed on the subway for a five-hour-long adventure.

Despite my fears about being in charge of so many children on the MTA and midtown in December, the whole thing went wonderfully. It even approached enjoyable. Nay, let me amend that. It WAS enjoyable, particularly seeing all the kids hold hands and walk down 6th Ave together. All of them were genuinely impressed by the talking gargoyles and special effects of the restaurant and Primo had a real smile on his face the whole time. Then we returned home for cake, which was supposed to be a simple affair but which ended up taking me the better part of the day before. I made it out of a box, too, so that should tell you one of two things: A. how incompetent I am at decorating theme cakes or hard it is to make one.

Primo wanted a haunted house cake and I had the GENIUS idea to achieve this by building onto a gingerbread house. Would have worked perfectly if I had done what I usually do and gotten a gingerbread-house-making kit with all the stuff inside. Instead I was lured in by the super-cheapo kit I saw at Ikea which -- in typical form-- contained the gingerbread house walls but no icing or base to affix it to. That's how it was that I ended up making five tons of ineffectual mortar icing which couldn't hold two pieces of tape together. I gloped that shit onto the Ikea gingerbread walls but they just kept falling over, much like the real Ikea furniture when I build it.

"I'm going to use Krazy glue," I told David.

"No, don't do that," he cautioned.

"WELL THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE!" I shrieked, "It would be easier to build a REAL house to live in."

Then I had the brainwave to sink the gingerbread walls into the sheet cake I'd baked, to brace them. I sloped green icing all over the cake to make it look like a grass lawn and then sunk the walls in. It worked pretty well. I mean, the walls were slanted and the house was so crooked I could only manage to put one half of the roof on but that worked out to our advantage since it was supposed to be a haunted house. Then Primo had the great idea that since one half of the roof was missing and you could see into the house, he could make a zombie guy out of Swedish Fish and gummy parts and lay him inside the house. That way, it looked intentional. To cover up for any inadequacies, we put the remainder of their Halloween candy all over the cake, ala Hansel and Gretel.

When we were done, Primo and Seconda oohed and ahhhed.

"That's the best cake I've ever seen," they marveled.

God bless children. They are so easily impressed. It redeems them for being so whiny and obnoxious most of the time.

Primo's friends were equally wowed by our masterpiece cake even if, after sitting at room temperature all night wrapped in Saran Wrap, the gingerbread got so soggy that the roof caved in.

Plus, I got to hand out my favorite party favors ever -- easy reader versions of Jekyll and Hyde. Pretentious, yet accessible and -- most importantly -- theme-specific. Feels good when you achieve all three at once.

All in all, a resounding success.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sleepover, Part DEUX

So, Sec decided there's no way she'd miss out of the fun of her brother's sleepover by having a sleepover of her own at her great grandmother's. As soon as she saw Larry put the paste on his brush she was ALL IN.

It was surprising because Larry comes over to play all the time, and though Sec is perfectly tolerant of him and the boy games he plays with Primo, its not like she's ever really wanted to be involved before. Mostly, she just complains and pitches a fit about how unfair it is that Primo's having a playdate and she's not and when that's through, she tries to sabotage their fun as much as she can (and don't underestimate her ability to sabotage fun).

But on this momentous occasion, Sec clearly felt a huge explosion of sentiment for Larry, so much so that she coined a diminutive for him: Laralina. Make no mistake: Sec's flood of affection is as powerful as her outpouring of rage and disdain. All night long, it was. "Oh darling Laralina! You forgot your teddy bear on the couch but don't worry, I brought it to you!"

"Oh Laralina! Would you like a cup of cold milk?"

"Here, Laralina! A flashlight for you!"

The boys were actually shockingly composed and low-key the whole night. By 9pm, they were happily settled in the top bunk reading How to Train your Dragon and drawing comic books and telling fortunes. Sec, of course, was right there with them, laughing even harder than they did at the jokes she didn't get and repeating everything they said, intermittently offering endearing comments to Laralina: "I'm having such a great time! This is a great sleepover, isn't it GUYS?"

But the heady novelty only lasted for so long and after a while, Sec tired of their 7 year-old games and could not resist the urge to screw with the boys -- tossing their pens down from the bottom bunk, hiding their flashlights, grabbing the books right out of their hands. You know, the usual kid sister shit.

By 10:30, I was ready for bed and so were the boys, but Sec was still going strong, with no signs of ever tiring. She was just too wound up. After a few warnings, we had to move her out of the bedroom onto the floor of our bedroom, where she screamed and shrieked in insulted agony for a long-ass time.

By the next morning, she was fully back in the throes of her love affair with the big boys and blissfully followed them around, inserting herself skillfully, into their games.

She played zombies versus aliens action figures.
She fought two-to-one in an epic Kung Fu Battle to the finish.
She cheered them on while they played Plants vs Zombies: "Great job with the cherry bomb, Laralina!"

Even though she wipes me out, I can't help but be in awe of the kid. She's a piece of work, that one, a force to be reckoned with.

Next sleepover projected for 2019.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kid sister at the sleepover

Right after Kindergarten ended, we hosted our first kiddie sleepover. That was a year and a half ago but I still haven't quite recovered. So when Primo asked if another one of his friends could sleep over, I was hesitant. I mean, I knew it was time to go again, but that didn't mean I was ready. How can a mother of two young children, both colossally shitty sleepers, ever be ready for a night of even less sleep than usual, particularly when there's nothing for her to gain, aside from her child's happiness?

But, I reasoned, we might as well do it before the dead of winter sets in, and along with the cold temperatures, the non-ending streak of sicknesses. So I agreed to extend the invitation, and the next night, Primo's seven year-old BFF was deposited at our doorstep for the evening.

I wasn't at all surprised that Primo and his friend Larry were over-the-moon and heady with the thrill of what was to come. But I was pretty shocked to see Seconda so giddy with excitement. In fact, her excitement, while very sweet, pretty much trashed our plans.

We had counted on surviving the sleepover by sending Seconda to sleep at my grandmother's house upstairs, an honor which Primo enjoys every weekend and which Seconda has never enjoyed since it is very clear she will exploit my grandmother's indulgences to her full advantage, staying up all night and eating whole cartons of Breyer's ice cream. Primo gets spoiled, for sure, but he has the self-control to tell my grandmother when its time to turn off the video games or TV or put away the cookies. He polices himself.

With Seconda, there will be no one policing. This has struck a chord of terror in our hearts and we've told her she has to show us, first, that she can go to bed like a big girl before she earns the privilege of a Nonnie Free-For-All. But on the night of the Larry sleepover, David and I decided we'd give her the benefit of the doubt, mainly for our own sanity. We told her she could try a sleepover at Nonnie's -- a prospect which delighted her until she figured out WHY were were extending the invitation, which was that there was a way more exciting sleepover having at our place. One which, I should add, she had no intention of missing.

"I'm staying here!" she announced after Larry had cracked open his overnight bag and taken out his PJs.

"But what about the sleepover at Nonnies?" I asked, trying to mask my desperation.

"No, no, no!" she replied, "I'm staying here at THIS sleepover."

And that is how what might have been a peaceable, stay-up-til 10pm sleepover, morphed into Das Krazy Nachtmar. Because while I am fairly confident David and I can outlast Primo and every other seven year-old boy out there, we are no match for Seconda, even on a normal day, much less when she is excited about something.

To hear what happened after lights-out, you'll have to tune in tomorrow for PART TWO. Yes, folks, a real cliff hanger. TBC.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Crescent Moon

The other night, we were walking home from swim class and Primo looked up and saif, "Look! A crescent moon!"

We looked. It was. A lovely crescent moon.

"I can see the fisherman sitting on it," Primo exclaimed.

"Huh?" I inquired. I don't remember the man on the moon being a fisherman.

"From Dreamworks," he explained.

These kids make me laugh -- its why I keep these kids around.