Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Don't waste your money on multivitamins


Well, this makes me feel less guilty for forgetting to give the kids their Flintstone vitamins:

Don't Waste Your Money On Multivitamins

It's what my pediatrician has been telling me since Primo was a toddler, but now that NPR agrees, I guess I'll believe him.

Money saved, time saved. All around win.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Savoring the moment, for once


Recently, my son turned nine. Every birthday brings with it nostalgia and prompts a stock-taking, but this birthday seemed different, somehow, and not just to me. I talked to some other moms about it, friends I've known since our kids were in Mommy Group together as infants, and they agreed, this birthday felt different. Not more meaningful or anything -- it just felt like the kids had suddenly gotten really, really old. Like they'd stepped onto the bridge that takes them from little kids to the thing that come next .

My friend Grace, whose daughter is one day younger than Primo, told me: "She's nine, and that marks the halfway point of the years she'll spend living with us. We're halfway done with that part of her life. And it's happening so fast, I can't even pay attention most of the time."

I didn't stop to tell her that what with the trend of twenty and thirtysomethings continuing to live at home, her daughter might have another decade before she reaches the halfway point.

"It just made me think," Grace went on, "Am I doing a good job as a mom? I don't even have the time to think about it."

And we won't, I suspect, until much much later, until it's too late in fact, to make a difference. You'll never "enjoy them while they're young" as much as you wish you had. You'll never "savor every moment." But you savor some, and that just has to be good enough.

On Primo's birthday, all three kids were home sick: strep, strep and a double ear infection. It wasn't the birthday I'd hoped for him. I was exhausted from being up half the night with a suffering baby and I suddenly went all Tiger Mom on him and forced him to write thank you cards and drill his times tables and I yelled at him about watching too much TV. When I stopped to ask myself "Am I doing a good job?" that night, I thought, "No."

Then, a few days later, when he was back at school, I met him for lunch. We had burgers and he told me about Ponce DeLeon. And I looked at him, awe-struck, just bowled over by the enormity of it, all of it. That he was my son. That I'd carried him in me for those long months at a time that was now long ago. That there was a time before he existed. That despite of me and because of me, there was this beautiful, kind, loving, funny person sitting opposite me, a person I'd never be whole without anymore, a person I would think about, and worry about, every minute for the rat of my life and beyond, a person that was part me but more and more not-me every day.  I just sat there and marveled at him, and motherhood, at time. And the moment stretched on, like something out of a Virginia Woolf novel, and it felt, for once, that I wasn't missing any of it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Those three little words: I love, ewww


I'm pretty sure it's because her Darwinian survival instinct has kicked it up a notch, but the baby has just learned to say I love you. Or, in her case, I love ew. It sometimes sounds like she's saying I low, ewww, as if the act of loving is necessary and inevitable, but nonetheless disgusting. She's not wrong.

Because she is clever, she understands that she can use these words -- which no doubt have no meaning for her except for what actions tend to follow them -- to get stuff. Sometimes she says it in what appears to me a genuine way, to communicate affection, like when she puts her head on my shoulder and accompanies this gesture with a tender "I love ew," or when she follows Seconda around, running after her sister and uttering a beseeching "I LOVE EW."

And sometimes, she'll ask for "awwanjj jus" and when I don't give it to her, she'll open the fridge and point vehemently to the Tropicana, repeating "awwanjj jus" and then, when she still doesn't get it, she'll try "i love ew?" because she knows I am, for the time being, incapable of resisting that siren song. I crumble.

Eventually, I suppose, I'll build up a tolerance to it and be able to enforce rules again. For all our sakes, I hope it's soon. But right now, I'm just luxuriating in it. I love, ewww. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Compliments that make you feel lousy


You are familiar with the expression, "Something's got to give"? I have recently realized that the thing that has "given," since the addition of baby number three a year and a half ago, is my appearance. Most days, I look like shit.

I'm not trying to be self-deprecating, just honest. Despite the fact that Terza is a toddler. somehow I still feel entitled to that postpartum get-out-of-jail-free-card where I get "excused" from worrying about my appearance because, dude, I just pushed a human being out of my vagina. 

After Primo was born, I was young and hardly working, so I gave myself two or three weeks  in which I didn't care at all about how I looked and then, I pulled my shit together, grooming-wise. I bounced back. I had the time and energy to do this. I put on makeup, I brushed my hair. I took the thirty seconds more standing at my closet, choosing the pretty blouse over the stained T shirt. I wore earrings. Because of these small efforts, even more than the fact that I was thinner and younger, I looked generally good. 

Now, with three kids and a full plate on the work front, I have neither time nor energy. Seeing as I work from home, I can get away with slovenliness, with wearing the stained T shirts, with forgoing the earrings and makeup and -- let's face it -- shampooing. Once you get used to it, you hardly even notice how lousy you look anymore. 

Until you encounter some occasion for which you do decide, for a change, to dress up. I had a meeting a few weeks ago, and I made this one such occasion. I put on a dress and ankle boots. I blow-dried my hair and applied makeup -- not just lipstick, either, but a full face. I wore earrings AND a necklace. After the  meeting, I went to a conference at the kids' school. And there, no less then three people DID NOT RECOGNIZE me. 

Not in the sense of "Wow, you look great, I almost didn't recognize you." No, I mean that three different people literally addressed me as if they had never met me, so that I finally had to clarify, "It's me. Nicole."

"Oh my GOD," each of them said, or some variation thereof, "You. Look. Amazing."

It was shocking, really, because I hadn't done that much differently. I mean, I hadn't gotten facial reconstruction, or donned a wig  or anything. I just added some earrings and eyeliner and washed my hair and BINGO! I was the supermodel version of me. 

You'd think that realizing how easy it is to look inordinately better would prompt me to take the extra effort. But I'll be honest, it didn't. Nah. I'm a realist and I know that even if it only taken thirty extra minutes, I just am not willing to make those thirty extra minutes on a regular basis. Right now. Maybe when I win back some time as the baby gets older - not having to change diapers or cope with toddler meltdowns every ten minutes. What I did resolve to do right now, though, was say yes again to lipstick. Lipstick only takes thirty seconds and thirty seconds I can swing.

So, I still look like shit. But now I look like shit with lovely lips. Which I believe is an improvement. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Why Is Everything Always Our Fault?

Add another item onto the never-ending list of Reasons You Are To Blame For Everything Bad About Your Kid And His Existence:  namely, It's Your Fault Your Kid's a Picky Eater. Yep, NY mag covered some recent research which seems to indicate that children of pregnant women who have a varied diet end up being more open-minded eaters. This bodes quite quite badly for my progeny as I was so miserably ill with morning sickness, all i ate was french fries, pasta with butter and mashed potatoes for nine months.

Personally, I plan on filing this particular piece of info in the category of "What, Am I Supposed to Feel Guilty About This Shit Too, Now? Forget About It."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Old Lady

The other day, on our way home from the playground, I took a shortcut through the skateboarding park.

Sounds like the beginning of a cautionary tale, doesn't it? Well, it is.

I was walking with all three of my children, and it was a chilly day, so we were all bundled up in down coats, hats on, rushing to get inside. I was pushing my joggling stroller, the which I never use to jog, only to carry large volumes of groceries and library books. I clung to the fence of the park, as we always do, so we wouldn't be in anyone's way. Since it was a Sunday, the park was crowded with skater dudes. No dudettes, just the usual assemblage of teenage boys in really baggy hoodies, yelling expletives.

I have a soft spot for skateboarders; I admire their chutzpah (Not scared of a little concussion, are you kids?), their workout (Atta boys! fight that childhood obesity epidemic) and their gainful engagement in a hobby (way to go, staying out of trouble, youngsters).

Last year, I signed Primo up for a semester's worth of skateboarding classes at a nearby joint. I'm always looking for creative ways to get him hooked into a physical activity, since ball sports have never been his thing, and when I took him to trial class, he was hooked. So was I -- he spent nearly three hours, honing his balancing and coordination and sweating like a grown man in a deodorant commercial, all of which made me believe (erroneously) that he might go to sleep easy that night. Unfortunately, after the third class, his passion for skateboarding had dissipated entirely, and by the fourth class, it had turned into an active dislike, so much so that he began referring to the sport as "hate boarding." I forced him to stick it out - the fee was non-refundable, after all -- but on the final class, he was heartily relieved. I was relieved I hadn't sunk money into a skateboard.

All of which is to say, I really dig skateboarding as a sport, as well as its practitioners. Or, I should say, I used to dig them. Now they are my moral enemy.

As I crossed the skateboarding park that Sunday, I  noticed the skaters were being particularly loud and rambunctious (yes, I am aware that is a word only octogenarians would use to describe teenagers. Should've been a hint of what was to come). A tall teenage boy in a red hoodie and black baseball cap was waiting for a turn at the ramp and while waiting was roughhousing with his friend, a short boy in a black hoodie (hoodies are, clearly, mandatory when skateboarding; parkas, pullovers and cardigans are a no-go, no exceptions).  Mr. Red Hoodie wasn't watching what he was doing and, while wrestling with Mr. Black Hoodie, almost crashed into my stroller, prompting Mr. Black Hoodie to chastise him, thus, "What, now your'e going to bump into old ladies pushing babies?"

For a second, I thought, 'I wonder why an old lady would be here, in the skate park, and why she'd be pushing a baby?" And then I stopped, literally, in my tracks and I realized THE OLD LADY WAS ME.

I swiveled around on my heels to face the teens and let my mouth fall open. It wasn't necessary but I did it on purpose to communicate my shock and chagrin.

"Oh. My. God." I said slowly, staring at them, "What did you call me?"

"Oh shit," Mr. Red Hoodie laughed, pushing his friend, "Oh man, you're in trouble. OLD lady, did you say? OLD LADY?"

"I'm so sorry ma'am," Mr. Black Hoodie protested, "SO sorry! You want to punch me? You can punch me, if you want."

"I SHOULD punch you," I told him sternly, "I should punch you for calling me an OLD LADY."

"Shit, I'm sorry," the kid offered again, and I sighed and said, "Oh, It's Ok" and wheeled back around to continue my pilgrim's progress home.

The truth was, he wasn't wrong. My body may only be thirty seven years old but I'm developing the mindset of a 70 something; maybe the third child pushed my aging process into turbo gear and now I"m on the fast track to the geriatric ward. Because when the kid almost crashed into me -- before he called me an old lady -- my thought was, "What a bunch of trouble makers. I'm glad Primo stopped skateboarding. Wouldn't want him to turn into a vagabond, like these two."  I was tsk-tsking and head shaking and the whole nine yards, just the same as my grandmother would do. So I couldn't entirely fault the kid for misjudging my age. Though he might have said it a bit more softly. Discretion is a valuable skill for vagabonds of all ages.

My big kids were walking ahead and had missed the whole show, but when I told Seconda about it, she was FURIOUS.

"I'll tell those kids, those TEENAGERS," and here she paused, her voice dripping with disdain,"I'll tell them what's going to happen if they insult my mother again. They're gonna get a KNUCKLE SANDWICH. My mom's not old! She's only fifty seven!"

You can't win for trying.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Card Making


Yeah, it's that time of year already. I have plenty to say on the subject: case in point, my winter essay for the Park Slope Reader. But I don't think anything I have to say is half as funny as this post on Crappy Pictures.

Enjoy!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wacko mothers

So, I"m currently reading Jeannette Winterson's memoir,"Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?"-- an insightful, lyrical read, much like the beautiful novels she writes which I treasured in my early twenties. Yesterday, I was telling Primo about the book, as I sometimes do, and I regaled him with this truly, epically awful thing Jeannette Winterson's adoptive mother used to say to her, constantly, while she was growing up.

"The Devil lead me to the wrong crib!"

This observation had the effect of reminding Jeannette that she was adopted, and also that she had a touch of Satan to her. As abominable parenting goes, it's a pretty spectacular feat of awfulness.

I like to impart these stories to my kids -- when I was reading "The Liar's Club," I told them about how Mary Karr's mother burned all her toys in a huge bonfire -- and I think the reason is obvious. It is to show what a great mother I am, by comparing myself to parents who should be locked up for unforgivable abuses.

The implicit message to my kids is: "Remember when you said I was the worst mother in the world because I took away your dessert when you hit your sister? Perhaps you overstated the situation?"

So, I told Primo about the devil comment and we laughed about how awful it was and then he fell silent thoughtfully for a moment and observed: "Boy, people like to write about their wacko mothers.'

"They sure do," I agreed.
"Maybe I will too, one day." he mused.

I had to laugh. It would be my just desserts, really, after writing my own memoir.

"I'll try to give you more material," I told him. "Wouldn't want to disappoint."


Monday, November 18, 2013

Thriller Night


Thriller came out when I was six, the same age Seconda is now. Next to Whitney Houston, and Madonna, Michael Jackson was my absolute favorite -- he was everyone's, of course -- and my backpack sported no less than four or five Michael Jackson fan pins. So, I loved the song Thriller. 

Luckily for me, though, I never saw the music video. We didn't have MTV and of course there were no computers so it was easy enough for me to miss it. It was a good thing, too, because I was the world's wimpiest scaredy-cat and that video would have caused me to pee my pants. I have managed somehow, in the past 31 years since the song was released, to entirely avoid watching the video, and though I know it's a historic piece of work which changed the face of music videos forever, I can't say I mind. Zombies - even the 1980s variety -- freak me out.

Seconda, however, has not been as fortunate. Taking full advantage of the fact that David and I were away this weekend. Primo -- avowed zombie lover -- decided to show the music video to his sister. My parents were on duty, and thus he could have showed her The Shining and they probably wouldn't have noticed as long as the kids were quiet. Primo had seen the video at school, on Halloween Day in music class. This surprised me a bit but hey, from what I hear, there's some pretty revolutionary zombie dancing featured in the video and nine year-olds today are probably steely enough to handle some 1980s-era fictional undead.

"Don't worry," Primo assured his sister, "It's not scary."

Which is why, at 10pm on my romantic getaway, I got a call from Seconda shrieking, "I CAN"T SLEEP BECAUSE PRIMO SHOWED ME THE DANCING ZOMBIES!!"

"What are you talking about?" 

"First, the guy turns into a werewolf and then there are all these zombie and they have bloody mouths and zombie eyes and they climb up the side of the house and smash through the windows and THEN THEY GO IN THE HOUSE TO GET THE PEOPLE!!!!!'

This didn't ring any bells for me but David recognized it right away.

"Did Primo show you Thriller?" he asked. 

"Yes! Thriller night!"

Then of course we tried to explain how it was all makeup and special effects and you can imagine what good THAT reasoning did. 

When we arrived home from our restful, idyllic weekend away we found Seconda had stopped sleeping completely. SUCH a treat to come home to. 

"Do you think it might have been an error in judgement to show your sister the music video for Thriller?" I asked Primo, "I mean, in hindsight?"

"But Mom --" he protested, "It says at the end that all the characters are fictional, including the undead."

Oh, in THAT case . . . .

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Elderly people who solve crimes


My son likes to sleep over his great grandmother's house and when he does, they enjoy watching TV together. I'm somewhat of a TV fascist and have strict parameters about what he can and can not watch, so he really likes letting loose at Nonny's house. The evening news, I've forbidden, since there's nothing more terrifying, but besides that, I look the other way. After all, it doesn't tend to get more racy that Little House on the Prairie or Casablanca.

The other morning, when I picked him up after his sleepover, he told me about a new show he'd been introduced to, by Nonny, called Matlock. It was pretty good, he said, kind of interesting, though not as good as Murder She Wrote.

After a moment he observed: "Nonny really like to watch TV shows about elderly people solving crimes."

That, right there, is why I keep the kid around even though he never cleans up his room and constantly puts clothes in the hamper that ARE NOT DIRTY.

Imagine trying to pitch that show today: "So, we've got this old lady who's an amateur detective -- gives her something to do after retirement -- and somehow there are all these unsolved homicides occurring in her vicinity, so naturally she takes it upon herself to crack the case!"

"No, it's not funny. What's funny about a woman in the autumn of her life, with no professional training, solving homicide cases?"

I can't see it competing in today's marketplace.

So imagine my surprise when I googled it and found IT IS COMING BACK -- on NBC, with Octavia Spencer. Yep, looks like the series is getting a reboot. Great news for Nonny, and my 8
year old.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Bloody Bubble Gum; or, who knew losing teeth could be such a pain in the ass?


A few days ago, Seconda came running to me with a mouth full of bloody Bubble Yum. Blood-stained bubble gum is not quite as bad as the blood-stained pacifier I encountered a few months ago, but still, it's not ideal.

"What happened?" I asked, trying to mask my nausea and panic. We were at the drugstore where I was holding three different zippy cups that each promised to be "leak-proof" in a different and miraculous way and also cost three times more than I thought was reasonable for a plastic freaking cup. Now I dropped the cups and addressed the bloody bubble gum situation. 

"I bit down too hard on the gum and it just, there was all this blood!" my daughter panted, thoroughly freaked out. 

Several blood-soaked tissue balls later, I was able to discern that her tooth hadn't just spontaneously started to bleed; she had a loose tooth which had been knocked significantly more loose by the impact of her over-zealous chomp. Now the loose tooth -- one of the big front teeth on the top -- was fully dis-adhered in the front, but still rooted in the back. In other words, it was a nauseating dental situation that she could not resist making more and more nauseating over the next few hours. The problem was, the more she fucked with her tooth, she more freaked out she got. 

"I TWISTED IT!!!!" she shrieked as she ran into the kitchen where I was making the only thing I ever make it the kitchen - turkey tacos. 

She had indeed, twisted the tooth so that instead of being parallel to her gums, it was perpendicular. I am very squeamish and do not do well with these kinds of things. 

"Ugggggggghhh," I moaned, feeling light-headed.  

"DO SOMETHING!!!!' Seconda shrieked. 

"Just --" I panted, "twist it back."

"No! I CAN'T! I'm too scared!"

"Well, I, I don't want to hurt you." I stammered. It was true, but not my primary reason for declining to get physically involved. Mostly, I was just seriously, hard-core scheeeved out. I felt a little like I had to put my head between my knees. 

"HELP!! IT'S SO WEIRD AND GROSS!!!" she yelled. 

At that exact moment, my deus ex machine arrived on the scene. I heard David's key turning in the lock. 

"Daddy!" I sighed with relief. 

"Daddy!" Seconda shrieked. 

"Daddy!" the baby parroted. 

David had barely gotten one foot in the door when he was charged with the task of Dealing With The Tooth Freak Show. 

"Well, just let me take off my coat first," he protested. His face had that look which clearly said, "I should have taken the long way home today."

"NO DADDY I CAN'T WAIT ANOTHER SECOND! NOW NOW NOW!"

So he reached in her mouth and gave the tooth a twist so that it hung, by a thread of tissue, in its original position. 

We urged Seconda to just pull the disgusting dead chunk of organic material out of her mouth but she was too terrified to even consider it. So we ate dinner, and in the process, naturally, her tooth got twisted again. 

"OH MY GOD IT'S TWISTED AGAIN!"

And we repeated the circus act above. 

On the third time this happened, I insisted that David pull the tooth. I was not about to have her stay up til midnight freaking out about the tooth that refused to go gently into it's good night. 

It looked like she was going to need sedation but finally, she pulled herself together, screwed her courage to the sticking place and opened her mouth. After a little bit of ice-rubbing, David got a hold of the tooth and bam, it was done in approximately 1.5 milliseconds. Instantly, she was ebullient. 

I, too, was enormously relieved, in the same way you are relieved when your constipated toddler finally takes a crap or your baby who's been caterwauling in her crib finally succumbs to sleep. You know that children can not stay awake forever, cannot go without a bowel movement forever, cannot keep dead teeth that are literally dangling from their gums adhered to the mouth forever but damn if it doesn't feel exactly that way. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Signs you're a mom


Last night in my "Happy Hour" (which, as you'll discover in the post, is the 60 minutes between when the kids go to bed and you go to bed) I read Ulli Appelbaum's recent post in the Huff Post, 25 Clear Signs You're A Mom. Alas, they rang true, nearly all of them. My favorites were:
2. You do more in seven minutes than most people do all day.
and
4. A night of drinking requires more recovery time than minor surgery.
Those two, by the way, are not unrelated. After such a highly productive day, one could not help but be obliterated by crushing fatigue, and drinking on top of that deep, incurable exhaustion, well, that'll just do you in. It's necessary, yes, but it will do you in. 

This one, I thought, was a bit misleading:
11. You'd rather have a 103 degree fever than watch one of your kids suffer with it.
Sorts of makes it seem like the primary reason you'd prefer to take the illness upon yourself was a martyr complex, whereas really, when you have an 103 degree fever, you've got a pretty decent shot at GETTING A FUCKING BREAK FOR A FEW HOURS. Whereas if your kids have the fever, you get just the opposite. And the maternal love thing too, yeah, that's a part of it. 

Oh, and this one resonated in particular:
14. Peeing with an audience is part of the daily routine.
I'm so accustomed to peeing with the door open -- to make sure Terza doesn't set the house on fire or get her hands on a cleaver -- that I sometimes worry I will forget that it's customary to close the bathroom door and will leave it open when guests are over. Though I'm betting, if they have young kids, they've due the same. Still, we must cling to whatever shreds of dignity still adhere. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Never wake a sleeping baby


These photographs of a sleeping baby, set against whimsical fairytale backgrounds have gone viral: maybe you've seen them? The photographer and mom to three boys, Queenie Liao, took a ton of them, and you can view them here: Wengenn in Wonderland

That the pictures are adorable does not need to be stated, as it is obvious.

Here's what I do have to say: this mom, Queenie, clearly has three top-notch, amazing sleepers. Her baby must be one of those can't-say-no-when-the-Sandman-calls super easy babies that drifts off to the land of nod like an infant in a diaper commercial.

Because what I felt as I clicked through these pics was not peace and delight and coziness. I felt searing panic.

"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING? YOU'RE GOING TO WAKE HIM UP!!!" my mind screamed.

"No! No! NO! Don't put a MICROPHONE in his hand!"

"If you try and position that matrioshka outfit over his face, you're going to ROUSE him."

When I saw the kid wearing the mustache, I went totally apoplectic.

"Did you DRUG HIM??? How in the HELL could he sleep through that?"

When my baby falls asleep, I am nervous about even clicking the light off in the hallway OUTSIDE her room, for fear it might wake her. I curse my knees for cracking as I walk out the door. I wouldn't dare to slip so much as a sock on her feet even if it was freezing cold; what she has on at the time of sleep is what she keeps on. Period.

I will never recover from the torturous sleep deprivation that lasted, not just a few months, but years with my older two, and you couldn't PAY me to fuck with them when they sleep. I'd rather enter a lion's cage than their bedroom when they're finally slumbering. And also, as soon as they're asleep, I want nothing to do with them. Not permanently, of course. But definitely for an hour or more, as long as I've got. I want to change the damn channel. That way, when they wake, I can be happy to see them again.

So, yes, these are cute. But they do not fill me with feelings of well-being, but with PTSD-style flashbacks. But hey, what do i know?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jacked-up jack-o-lantern

I'm no pumpkin carving whiz and I never claimed to be. What I am is a woman who loves Halloween and isn't afraid to fail. Convenient, seeing as I do it so often. 

So every October, we hit the old pumpkin patch and set about creating some jack o lanterns. Nothing fancy or ambitious. At least, my end-products aren't fancy or ambitious. The children's design is something else altogether. It's the same every year. I tell the kids to grab a piece of paper and design their jack o lantern, bearing in mind that straight lines are easier for me to execute as I am, after all, just a normal layperson working with a steak knife, not a gourd slicing master with professional implements on hand. And every year they nod and then draw spectacular jack-o-lantern faces, detailed, complex creations, with eyelashes and eye balls and cheekbones and chins and earrings and coiffures. Every feature is rounded. Nota straight line to be spotted. Then they hand it over and say, "This. Make this, Mommy."

"Sure," I agree, and every time I carve the same exact jack-o-lantern face. triangle eyes, an upside down triangle nose. The mouth is where I strut my stuff, often tossing in a tooth or two (always fangs, since they are triangular). Sometimes, i'll carve the child's initials into the cheekbone as if I'm branding the pumping, although usually I just carve another half triangle there, so that it looks like an less than/ greater than sign referring to invisible numbers or a lazy arrow. You'd think the kids would be disappointd or annoyed at my sub-par rendering of thier great vision, but they never are. You know why? 

It's fucking INSANELY cool to watch someone make a pumpkin into a face, no matter how crude that face is. 

"Wow!" they'll exclaim, "I love it!" And then five seconds later, they run off, and don't look at the pumpkin again until it starts to decompose so much so that it stinks. Then they regard it with a lurid fascianton, particulalry if any friends are over. 

"Wan to see something DISGUSTING???" they'll shriek, "Our pumpkin is rotting!"

This year, however, I decided to challenge myself. After eight years of pumpkin carving with s steak knife, i decided to consider a more nuanced implement. I longed for circles. So I took a stab (pun fully intended) with the tiny pocket knife included in David's Leatherman tool. It was a revelation, which I think is clear from the photo above.

"Look kids! I made circular eyes!!!!" I shrieked.

They were considerably less excited about this major step forward in our family's history of pumpkin carving, but what do they know, after all? They're the artists, heads in the clouds, insulated from the tedious details I face as a grunt worker.

Still, I'm pleased.  And next year, the sky's the limit. I'm get all Van Gogh on that pumpkin, swirls and shit. A woman's got to have dreams. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Is being a student harder than it used to be?


I was reading Pippi Longstocking -- one of my favorites -- to Seconda last week. We got to the chapter where
 Pippi goes to school, and afterwards, Primo, who'd been listening in, remarked: "Wow. These kids are the same age as me -- older in fact --  and they're just now learning their letters?"

It was something I'd never noticed but now I realized, he was right. 

"Yeah, that is funny," I agreed, "They are learning their multiplication tables, too, but it's true, just the basics. No two digit multiplication or division or complicated addition."

The next afternoon, I was helping him get the hang of long division -- and in doing so, maxing out my math skills -- and he observed, "I think school has gotten harder over the years."

"Well, yeah," I said, "That's the point."

"No, no, not over my years," he explained, "In history. Like Pippi was still learning what sound an I made and drawing crayon pictures and I'm leaning long division and fractions, and we're the same age."

"You are probably right," I told him, "I'm pretty sure fourth graders today do more complicated work than fourth graders from the 1950s. Kids start earlier too -- when my parents were little, it used to be you didn't start school til Kindergarten or maybe even first grade and now kids go to school when they're two and learn their ABCs. And then too, we have to compete with other nations, I guess."

He groaned. 

"I'm so unlucky to be a kid in modern times. I should've been born in 1950," he said. 

"Before the invention of VIDEO GAMES?" I gasped, "And cable TV?"

That's what you call stuck between a rock and a hard place. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Science explains why we want to eat babies


I fucking love science. We've all casually wondered why on earth the sight of cute babies makes us want to eat them but to think that a team of researchers actually decided to investigate that, to conduct a study to root out the answer to question: Why do we want to eat babies?

You can read all about it in the Christian Science Monitor. Hint: like with in-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, it's the smell . . . .

Monday, October 21, 2013

Comparing Kids


I frequently find myself asking David "Did the other ones do this?" in regards to something Terza is doing. Half the time, the behavior in question is delightful and awe-inspiring:

"Did the other ones talk this early?" I'll ask.

"Did they sing like this? Like Star-Search-material?"

"Did they climb this quickly?"

Other times, I'm asking because Terza's developed some undesirable bit of behavior and I'm wondering if it's the sort of thing that self-corects or needs to be actively addressed.

"Were they this picky?"

"Was it this hard to put a diaper on them?"

"Did their shit stink this bad?"

"Did they hate the stroller like this?"

And the rest of the time I'm asking because the baby has taken to doing something so terrifically unpleasant, so abomidable that I am considering contracting a professional -- a baby whisperer, a Super Nanny, an exorcist -- to rectify things.

"Did they throw food in our faces, spitefully, like this?"

"Were they this clingy?"

"Did they bite at this age?"

"Did they have this bloodcurdling horror-movie scream set on repeat-play, too?"

They are, of course, worthless questions. I don't know what I seek to gain from them. Whether or not any of my other progeny exhibited the same marvelous, or horrific behavior wouldn't make Terza's any easier to tolerate or any less spectacular.

Plus, as I've learned from reading Siblings WIthout Rivalry no less than four times, you're never supposed to compare your kids. That is the Number One Golden Rule of Parenting Multiple Kids, or at least, it's the biggie nowadays. In the 1970s and 80s when I was a little kid, this rule hadn't yet been invented. Ether that or my parents hadn't read any parenting books. Whatever the reason, I spent my entire childhood, and my adulthood too, being compared to my sisters, in every possible way -- in terms of looks, grades, behavior, friends, dating, everything. They were compared to me too, and we all had turns being the "good" one and the "shitty" one. Often all three of us were the shitty ones and the good one belonged to another family. Regardless, we made it through with self esteem and a sense of soriorty intact. Of course, I like to think I aspire to a slightly more, umm, let's go with "nuanced" style of parenting than that of my own parents.

So, I'm prohibiting myself from the "did the others do this?" questions. Still, I wish I'd jotted down notes about the early years of the big kids, not just about the milestones but about the weird idiosyncratic stuff, especially the miserable habits; wish I'd scribbled it all into one of those baby books that a busy parent never has time to crack open. Either that, or kept a parenting blog. You know, a funny blog full of diverting anecdotes about my children's peccadillos. What? I HAVE that? I better hit the archives.





Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Breastfeeding break-up (and no, it was not mutual)

See how peaceful and relaxed I look nursing my baby here? A veritable Madonna-like picture of maternal bliss and bounty? That was a hard-won victory.

Despite the fact that I've done it three times, breastfeeding, at least in the beginning, was never easy. Even with Terza, those first few weeks were grueling -- nothing like the Armaggedon situation that developed when I nursed newborn Primo -- but tough. Nipples bleed no matter how proactive you are about your latch. Ducts clog. Breasts engorge into rock-hard orbs like something from a sci fi movie. And it hurts like a mofo. I mean, I'm sure that's not the way it is for everyone, but it definitely was for me, three times. Which is why, once the babies and I iron out the kinks and get into our nursing groove, well, I'm loath to stop. For starters, I keep thinking about how much effort went into teaching the creature how to breastfeed in the first place. Then, too, I think about how much effort will go into teaching them to stop.

I have heard of babies who naturally wean themselves at a certain age, and I bet that comes with it's own problems and heartache. But my babies, once they nailed nursing, did not go gently into that good weaning. I still remember Primo writhing around, jonesing for mamma milk at 14 months when I pulled  the plug, and I remember Seconda clawing at my shirt front desperately trying to get her hands on my goods, at about the same age.

When Terza neared 14 months, the age at which I was fully ready to wean the other kids, I considered whether or not I should stop nursing and there was really nothing to consider. No way. Both the baby and I were still full-on loving the nursing, I still felt that crazy profound sense of peace and well-being when she fed, though I'm sure there wasn't much oxytocin left circulating. At the same time, I still ended up nursing every morning between 4 and 6 am and that just sucked balls, frankly. Plus, I craved having my body back to myself fully and completely, to do with whatever I saw fit. It's not that I'd do anything differently. I've never been a terribly conservative nurser -- I'd have a glass of wine or two, and take an antihistamine when the need arose, and if I wanted, there was always the option to pump and dump -- and I've also never been a terribly wild non-nurser, never really drink more than a glass or two of wine or take anything harder than an antihistamine anyway. The fact that my habits would likely remain exactly the same made no difference however: what I craved was the choice, the freedom to glut myself and get violently sick with an infection for which the only remedy was medication not approved for nursing mothers. How swell that would be. I wanted to spend a night away from the kids and leave my ball and chain of a pump at home and not have to worry about a milk eruption without it. Still, at 14 months, the pleasure I took nursing though, was greater than my quiet yearning for freedom.

At 17 months, for no apparent reason except the passage of time, the balance tipped. Most likely it was just those 90 extra times I woke at 5 am to nurse when everyone else was sleeping. Maybe it was because I got a cold and just wanted to binge myself on Sudafed. Either way, at 17 months, I wanted freedom more than I wanted the baby to stay a baby forever.

Just around that time, David and I were taking a overnight trip to Philadelphia, which would mean the baby would miss her usual morning and evening anyway, and I figured it was a good enough time as any to end things. That's what it felt like -- a break-up, an exceedingly non-mutual break-up. My breasts were dumping Terza. I knew she'd be devastated, that she'd keep coming around trying to get my breasts to change their mind. She'd paw at them plaintively, as if to say this time, things would be different, she'd give them the space they needed, they could even wear non-nursing bras if they wanted. But my breasts would say no, the love affair had run its course, and now it was time to move on, find someone else, a pacifier, maybe. There would be tears on both sides, and a not insignificant amount of leaking too but it had to be done.

And that is pretty much how it panned out, except that my breasts caved. The morning after we returned from Philly, I went to the baby when she woke and was surprised to find that she wasn't happy to see me. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say, she was happy to see me, but her happiness was buried beneath a force far greater -- her extreme, primal need. No smiles or clapped hands which might communicated "Oh goody! Mommy's back!" Instead she moaned "Mamamamamamama," and dove headfirst into my bosom in a deranged state of either starvation or addition or both. I made it approximately 10 seconds before I relented and lifted my shirt.

"We're not ready," I told David, "I'll start by cutting out the morning feed and then, in a few weeks, we'll get rid of the bedtime one."

I secretly feared that my caving meant I'd never wean, that Terza would just keep putting up a fight and I'd keep relenting until one day, I'd find myself suckling a tween. But the plan turned out to be a wise one for both parties -- my turbo-powered milk machines had a chance to slow production gradually and the baby got to slowly say her goodbyes.

Two weeks after my initial attempt at weaning, I spent the night at my grandmother's so I wouldn't be around for bedtime. Terza fussed a bit but finally, she took her milk cup, which she'd never done when the breast was on offer.

It still felt like a break-up, and not a mutual one either, but not the kind of break-up that would scar you for life, full of animosity and guilt and court dates. It felt like a hard but necessary step, and two or three days later, I was able to experience some relief at having taken it.

To celebrate, I had a glass of wine and an antihistamine. Freedom is sweet, all right.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Shitty Hand Dryer: a cautionary tale of entitlement

I remember the first time I encountered one of those turbo-powered high-efficiency hand dryers a few years ago in a public bathroom. You know the kind: Big. Sleek. Silver. Futuristic-looking. The ones that automatically turn out when you put your hands beneath them, are louder than plane engines, have the ability to blow the flesh off your hands but damn well eliminate all traces of moisture in under 10 seconds.

Wow, I marveled as I regarded my perfectly dry hands, This is an incredible invention. What a awe-inspiring age we live in. 

The next time I encountered one, I was significantly less impressed: Oh look, another one of those cool hand dyers. 

The next time, I was hardly impressed at all: Yeah, that's nice, whatever.

And the time after that, seeing the hand dryer did not even elicit a response in me. I took it for granted. Turbo-powered hand dryers had become the norm, and I'd only notice when they were NOT present.

Recently, I used a women's room that still had one of those old-fashioned hand dryers, the boxy white kind with vents at the bottom, with a round silver button you have to press to begin drying. I pressed the button and the machine kicked on, activating such a weak, slow flow of air that it felt like an asthmatic baby was inside, blowing my hands dry.

What the fuck? I thought, very much annoyed, Am I just supposed to STAND here all afternoon, WILING AWAY THE HOURS, waiting for my hands to dry? Did I take a time machine and end up in 200 BC? This machine is FOR SHIT.

When I finally rejoined David at the table where we we having dinner, I apologized for the delay: "They had one of those super old-fashioned hand dryers in the bathroom. Good God, that took forever. How did we ever use those, like, regularly?"

In reality, the old-fashhiones hand dryer probably took around 30 seconds instead of the 10 seconds the new-fangled hand dryers clock to do the job. That's a difference of 20 seconds. A small fraction of a minute.

My grandmother was just telling me about how she and her family hid out in the mountains around Rome during WW II and the biggest problem, she said, was that there was almost no water. Some of the farms had wells but my grandmother's family didn't have a farm, only a straw hut they stumbled upon when they fled air raids in the city. They had to beg and barter for water, would walk miles in order to bathe. Washing your hands was a goddamn Christmas treat. And the feel of the water clinging to your skin was probably so delicious you wouldn't want to dry them. Though were you to be so inclined, the air around you, when not thick with dust from bombings, would do the job.

In other words, shame on me for being more entitled than Louis the 14th. Shame, shame, shame.

As penance, I should probably force myself to forsake the luxury of the Miracle Hand Dryers for a year. Air-dry only. That'll teach me.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bittersweet milestones


Terza, my baby, just turned 18 months. Not only does she walk and talk, she runs and climbs and sings and dances. She follows detailed instructions and she cleans up better than my 8 year-old. She will always be a baby, but I am forced to concede that she is officially a toddler.

So far, she's had exactly one babysitter, the Great Grand-Nanny whose fame is known the world over (Ok, just the Tri-State area, Fine, only within a five block radius). Nonny has provided impeccable child care, which is really every respect has been beyond reproach. Icing on the cake was that the child care was free. You couldn't top it. I'm the luckiest mom in the universe.

But now that Terza is a bona-fide toddler, it is asking a wee much of my octogenarian Nonny, no matter how game she is for the job, to watch her. The kid destroys living rooms in under 30 seconds. She will empty your bookshelves and shatter your crystal collection before you've crossed the room to reach her. She scales furniture. She can reach the freaking doorknob, for crying out loud. She's a handful. So, reluctantly, I signed the kid up for a few partial days at day care. I knew she'd love it because she's the most sociable one of our lot and has a special love for babies, by which of course I mean, children her age who aren't babies at all anymore.

For a bunch of hours every week, I'll have no children in my charge. I mean, of course they're always in my charge, but at least, not under my direct supervision. I know I am supposed to feel liberated and excited and relieved, but honestly, I just feel forlorn. I don't want to work, and I don't want to play. I just want to go get my baby. Were I to do that, I'd instantly begin wishing I had child care, and try to find someone to watch her for an hour so I could get some work done, but knowing that does not make me feel any less sad.

I find that each milestone is extra bittersweet with Terza because I know she's my last and I just want to savor every little drop of babyness while I can, no matter how aggravating and exhausting and even unbearable it may be in the moment. It's another damned if you do, damned if you don't moment of parenting. I shudder to think what will happen when I drop her off at college, the last of our brood to leave the nest.

Of course, considering the trend of grown children living with their parents into their 30s, I should probably just cross that bridge when we come to it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Because we need a good laugh, and this guy is really stinking funny

I recently came across a riotously funny and whip smart blog called Wait But Why by Tim Urban, and what with the government shutdown and all, I thought I'd post a link since we all could use a good laugh. Proceed with caution, though, you may injure yourself laughing.

Here's my favorite:


And we'd all do well to read, and heed, this one:


Go, have a laugh. Just don't be mad at me when you discover you spent a full hour unable to pull yourself away. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Am I a sicks-ist?

I find it necessary to preface this post by emphasizing that I am a great caregiver when my kids are sick. Not only do I perform the duties expected of me, I perform them lovingly, babying my children more than necessary, caressing their head when they vomit, assuring them its ok if they shit their pants. I make a big deal out of how sorry I feel for them. These are all the things I want someone to do for me when I am sick and I think they enjoy my little flourishes.

However, after 8 years of tending to cold weather ailments, I know how contagious these bugs are. I know what a special level of hell it is to have one child barfing all over the carpet at the exact moment the other one cries out, "Oh no! I don't think that was a fart!" while your own stomach begins to have a not-so-great feeling. I have been there on more than one occasion and I have not enjoyed it.  I am not a germophobe in general, in fact, I'm the opposite, the kind of mother than 9 times of of 10 lets her kids eat stuff off the floor, who only half the time remembers to make them wash their hands before dinner, the kind of mom that says OK to the sandbox and doesn't sweat B grade ratings in restaurants I patronize. You could call me a hygiene-hypothesizing laissez-faire slacker or you could call me a filthy slob. Either way, I'm not that worried about germs in general. But as soon as one of my kids gets sick, I get worked up in a hurry. I go into high-alert, mobilize-the-forces, quarantine mode. Like last week, when Primo threw up suddenly.

"We're in lock down," I barked to David, "Prepare the Purell. Get out the medical-grade disinfectant wipes."

These were gifted to me by my mother and they come in very handy when there's a stomach virus afoot.

Once I scoured all the surfaces Primo was likely to have touched or vomited on, I turned my attention to making sure he stayed away from the other children, in particular, the baby.

"What are you doing?" I cried as he walked into the living room and flopped on the sofa. I tried not to sound rebuking, "Why are you on the couch?"

"I want to watch TV," Primo explained.

"Yes, of course, but I have to get your sisters out of here first," I explained, squirting Purell wily-nily on the hands of whoever ambled by.

"You know what would be better, honey?" I told him as I gently led him out the the room by his sleeve while averting my face, "You just curl up in your bed, nice and cozy, and watch the Ipad, With the door closed. And I'll bring you some soup and water, and Gatorade. And you just, just don't move from that area. And try not to touch too much."

Of course, the baby wanted to be wherever her big brother was, so she ended up following Typhoid Marty into Virus Ground Zero, which gave me no choice but to shriek at poor Primo, 'No! Honey, please! Don't let her touch that book you touched." and "Ugh, sweetie! No, no, no! Don't hug your sister! You're a petri dish!"

Then I doused the baby with Purell and I tossed Primo some wet wipes to disinfect his area.

"Mom," he chastised me, "You know what you are?"

I didn't, of course, but I was dying to find out.

"You're
 a sicks-ist."

Had he not been in maximum-security isolation, I would have kissed him. Instead, we just laughed together, from our separate sides of the door frame.

Monday, September 23, 2013

No means No! Unless you haven't learned to say Yes yet.


A few months ago, Terza learned a very important word, some might argue THE most important word in the English language.

"No!" she replied when we asked if she wanted more soup.

After that initial foray into negativity, there has been no stopping her.

It's "No!" when you tell her to sit down on the couch and
"No!" when you ask if she wants some milk and
"No!" when you tell her she can't bite her sister's leg and
"No! No! No! No!" when you try to change her diaper.

This is not surprising. What is surprising is when she says "No!" when you ask if she wants a bit of your ice cream.

"Really?" I'll ask, "You don't want any?"

I put the spoonful on offer into my own mouth and she scowls and emits a high pitched howl.

"What?" I ask.

She reaches for the ice cream.

"The ice cream?" I ask, extending the spoon out o her again, You want some/"

"No!" she insists, grabbing the spoon out of my hand and shoving it in her mouth before any more semantic misunderstandings occur.

"You mean 'yes'" I tell her, "The word you are looking for is 'yes.'"

"No!" she insists.

"Yes!" I correct.

"No no no no no!" she argues.

"I want to respect her words, but she contradicts herself," I tell David, "Plus, I feel like she's giving women a bad name, saying no but meaning yes."

"'No' is the toddler's 'Aloha,'" observes David, "It's one word that means everything."

"No!" Terza disputed.

"OK," he said, "I stand corrected."





Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Foot in mouth moment


The other day, my youngest sister and I took my kids to the pool. We were a large and boisterous group, me holding my toddler on my hip, my 6 and 8 year-old fighting for their aunt's attention.  The lifeguard was an early twenty-something woman and she smiled as we walked by.

"They're cute," she observed to me, "Are they all four yours?"

I figured with all the commotion, she'd miscounted.

"The kids are mine, all three of them," I said,

"Oh," she nodded. She was looking at my sister, who, admittedly, sporting a pair of short shorts and a T back tank looked like a teenager.

I made a little gasp of horror.

"Not that one," I all but shouted, "She's my sister! Not my daughter!"

"Cool," the girl said. She'd clearly lost interest, like, three sentences ago. She was really, really, not that interested in getting to the bottom of this misunderstanding.

"I mean, she's just 10 years younger than me," I went on, undeterred by her lack of interest, and frankly acting a lot crazy. I stated laughing manically, "So, I'd have to have been 10 years old when I had her! Because I'm only 36!"

Obviously, I'd cured the girl of her temptation to make small talk with the pool goers. She smiled politely and I forced myself to shut up.

Still, I'd like to have a few more minutes with her to ask some follow-up questions, Namely, what exactly it was about my appearance that lead her to believe I could be the mother of a 26 year old. Do I need a cooler haircut? More youthful footwear? Is my bikini no longer age appropriate? Or is my face simply just haggard, weather-worn and wizened? Why hadn't she just gone whole hog and congratulated me on being pregnant??? Oh, that's right, I couldn't POSSIBLY be pregnant because I'm apparently already deep in the throes of MENOPAUSE.

Not that I'm taking it PERSONALLY or anything.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Missing files from the hall of gross

 A few weeks ago, Primo had a  . . . let's go with "memorable" experience on the subway, coming home from summer camp. It was one of those "only in New York" stories, and a pretty sensational one at that, and because it was so, um, unpleasant, I thought the kid earned, at the very least, the right to tell his own story.

Missing files from the hall of gross
A true story, by Primo

It was about 4:30 when the train doors opened,I was happy to be out of the train,I had just experienced a close encounter of a very yucky kind,you see I had just had a ride on the THROWUP TRAIN!I was just walking through the train doors and some random man threw up on me!It was worse than he time I was in the park and a constipated duck pooped on my head.It could have been worse once a dead cat fell off someones house and landed on my friends head,Two of my friends have fallen in a toilet,and of course I should never forget that time a dead man threw up in my moms friends mouth so though being
thrown up by a random man has its place in the hall of gross it could have been worse.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

First day of school! Pop the champagne! We made it!


I love summer, really I do, but I have been hanging on to my sanity by the skin of my TEETH, waiting with what I'd call a saint-like patience for the first day of school. You know how you feel when you're 40 weeks pregnant and you are convinced that you will never, ever go into labor? You know, realistically, that there has never, not even once, been a case of a baby staying forever in the womb, just chillin' in there, taking his first steps in your uterus and leaning how to talk while attached to his umbilical cord, yet despite knowing this, you are certain that precisely this sceanrio will ensue. Your pregnancy will be permanent.

This is how I've felt the past two or so weeks. Right about the time camp ended. I understood on a logical level that public school would start at some point. I even knew the date. Still I harbored an irrational fear that the department of Ed would be disbanded or fall would refuse to come like in some ancient Greek myth and I would be stuck in summer break purgatory.

The extra week off really put me over the edge. It might not seem like much - five measly days - but those days have stretched, each one comprising roughly 50 hours rather than 24. With camp a distant memory and child care an impossible dream, I settled on working for a measly hour or two a day, during which time my poor, martyr grandmother watched the kids. By "watched" what I mean is,  housed them on her couch while they watched TV on demand and the baby napped. Consequently, thanks to near-toxic levels of screen time, the kids' brains are at 10% capacity. Good luck getting back into the rigors of school work, guys.

But, now, finally, the first day of school is upon us. Backpacks have been labeled, forms have been signed, supplies have been purchased, new outfits have been laid out. There's hope that the damage to my personality and mental hygiene can be reversed, that I may become a sane and friendly human being again, within a few days. One can only hope.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

The First Sex Talk: not for the faint of heart

I'm a big fan of Salon.com and am delighted to contribute to their pages: a cautionary sex ed tale . . .

The sex talk that turned me into a prude

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Scary Mommy


I am delighted to contribuite to Scary Mommy, on the subject of how having three kids has made me into a washer woman.  The blog is hilarious and smart and you should totally go binge-read it RIGHT now. You'll laugh your way into a better tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Off the beaten path pets: the hornworm





Look, I'm just not an animal lover. I'm not an animal-hater, either. I've just never had that natural affinity for our animal brethern that so many people seem to possess. If I needed further proof that this kind of animal love is innate, I got it when I had Seconda. Despite having never been ezposed to animals in any real way, she has always loved them. She's an animal person, kind and affectionate and devoted. She's the kind of kid that really needs a pet.

If she was my only child, she'd have one, no question. If she was one of two, maybe then too. If she was one of three and ANY of the trio were easy-going, low-key kids, maybe even then. But as things are, with three high-string, high-maintenance kids, including a toddler, in my charge, no outdoor space and close to zero disposable income, there is no way she can have a bona-fide pet, the kind that requires walking, pet-sitting when we are gone and trips to the vet. I know my limits and this is one.

The trouble is, I'm ridden with guilt for failing to nurture one of my daughter's great loves and abilities. Having a pet to care for would be good for her in many respects - it would satisfy her need for non-verbal companionship, afford her responsibility, teach her compassion. This is why we got goldfish, and a hermit crab. It will come as no surprise that these did not quite meet the craving she has for a pet.

This summer, with school out and friends far-flung, the kid's felt lonely and has resumed pining for a pet, so David and I have been discussing it again.

Dogs are out because they require so much work they might as well be human babies.
Cats are out because Primo and I are allergic.
Snakes are creepy.
Rodents are scheevy,
Lizards must be fed with live crickets which in turn require their own food supply.
Birds make a lot of fucking noise.
Turtles carry sky-high levels of salmonella which can cause problems when you have a baby in the house because apparently, babies are incapable of resisting the urge to put turtles in their mouth.
Bunnies shit like crazy.

There's always put bellied pigs but come on, I live in a NYC apartment. That's eccentricity gone too far.

I considered guinea pigs for a while but when I found myself face to face with one at the pet store I could not be duped into believing they were not rodents. They're really just extra fluffy rats.

So that's it.

Except for tadpoles, I guessed. I'd seen these little ecosystem tanks at a local toy store which are cimpeletely self-sufficient (meaning, no feeding or cleaning) and inside are little tadpole type animals. They're alive and they're silent and they require no work. They're not much more cuddler or interesting than goldfish but they were worth further investigation, I figured. When I called the toy store, they told me they no longer sold those tanks, so I called the pet store and they, too, were out of tadpoles.

"Do you have any caterpillar, then?" I asked. Maybe I could tide the kid over with some of those.

"No," he said. I was silent, trying to think up new species of animals whose life could be sustained without any effort.

 "We do have hornworms, though," the guy piped up.

"What are those?"

"They are sort of like really big caterpillars that turn into gigantic moths," he elaborated.

"Hmmm," I pondered.

They sounded pretty gross, actually. Part of what makes caterpillars cute is their size. Who wanted a mutant caterpillar crawling around at night in their apartment? Plus, after they transformed, you'd get a moth. Both the before and after versions of the animal were less attractive facsimiles of cute things.

"People get those, for pets?" I asked.

"Well, no," he admitted, "They buy them as food for other animals."

I googled "hornworms" and emailed the link to David, with a subject line reading: "Possible pet?" He didn't reply. We haven't ruled it out yet, though. If I try really hard, I can imagine heartwarming photos of Seconda smiling broadly, with a gigantic hornworm squirming on her palm, hanging off the sides because of his tremendous girth. Then, a few weeks later, we'd snap a picture of Seconda sitting of the couch, a mammoth gray moth trying to eat through her T shirt. We could put the photos in matching frames which read, "Best Friends Forever" underneath. This could work. Right?

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Amazing Spiderman!!

When I was a kid, mu aunt took me to see Peter Pan on Broadway. I was little enough that I don't have any memory of the event but my aunt tells me that both of us were awe-struck. The piece de resistance, she likes to recount, is when Sandy Dun, as Peter, flew across the theater.

"Over our heads!" she still marvels.

I am sure it was -- and would still be -- incredible. Though, were Peter to fly again on Broadway, he'd have to do a bit more than take a pass over overhead to earn oohs and ahhs. The bar for aerial spectaculars on Broadway has been raised, for better or worse, thanks to The Amazing Spiderman.

NY Metro Parents sent Primo, Seconda and I to see Spiderman on Sunday and report back about our experience. In a nutshell: if you are looking for high-flying, show-stopping tricks, you will not be disappointed. The show bills itself as "New York's Most Thrilling Show" and I could not disagree, in terms of spectacle. Put that 1979 Peter Pan on steroids, and you'll end up with Spiderman. The webbed wonder takes countless swings directly overhead -- covering the whole audience in wide circles to include everyone in the delight. He hands on the balcony once, twice, half a dozen times. He shoots webs right onto the heads of kids staring up in amazement. In the final climactic battle with the green goblin, Spiderman stands right on top of the Goblin's shoulders, and they battle in MID-AIR. This production is not skimping on spectacle. You came to see the guy fly and he flies, all right. And it is pretty amazing. I confess that every time, the kids and I gasped in delight.

Seconda, who is 6 and not especially a fan of superhero stories, thoroughly enjoyed the plot and the music, especially the comedy sprinkled in throughout (at one point, the Green Goblin tries to leave a message for JJ Jameson and gets stuck in automated voicemail purgatory and that really cracked her up).   Primo, who's almost 9, and a self-avowed aficionado of superhero comics as well as the world's snootiest kid critic of musical scores (remember this is a kid that knows every single note of The Phantom of the Opera) was more reserved in his enthusiasm. He thought the music could use some work (sorry, U2), and I'd have to agree: there were a few lovely ballads between MJ and Peter, but in general, it wasn't the kind of score I'd download to hear a second time. And though I really enjoyed some of the ideas the set designer was playing with, particularly paying homage to the story's comic book roots with the words "Pow!" and "Bam!" popping up during fight scenes, it didn't go far enough to cohere.

The backdrop for the final battle though, which has the Chrysler building revolving until the audience gets a bird's eye view, so that Spiderman and the Goblin appear to be fighting a hundred stories high, was fantastic. And though I wished the actors playing Peter and MJ had more to sink their teeth into musically, their voices gave me goosebumps.

As we left the theater, the kids got handed Spidey backpacks (in celebration of back-to-school, all kids who attend the show starting August 20, while supplies last, will get a backpack), and that clinched it for Sec.  She stopped shooting invisible webs for a second and affirmed, "The Amazing Spiderman really was amazing!" There you have it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Collecting Kids


Here’s the thing about having three children in the city:  you can spend an hour picking kids up and you still have more to retrieve. As soon as I’m done distributing kids to their various destinations, I have to begin re-collecting them again. It’s a Sisyphean enterprise, and that’s on a fair weather day, to say nothing of when it’s pouring rain or cold as a witch’s teat or a crushing heat wave. 

Maybe this is one of those parts of parenting that's infinitely easier in the suburbs -- still the same distributing of children liek newspapers and still the same re-collecting them again later, only that the process must be expedited, and more comfortable, because you're in a car. Instead of transferring trains twice, then hoisting my fat ass up three flights of stairs to get to the walk up playdate, lugging my stroller clumsily up the stoop stairs and cursing under my breath, I'd merely beep my horn, almost effortlessly and roll down my window. 

"Get in, champ," I'd say, just like people do in commercials. 

Sounds absolutely dreamy. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

This is what it is really like to be married with three children


Evening is not our family's finest hour (neither is the morning, leaving us with a slim window of mid day in which we can be expected to behave agreeably, but that's another story). By 8pm, tempers run high on all sides. Everyone is tired. Everyone is fed up. The grown-ups in the house have been parenting since the wee hours and they really want the kids in the house to go the fuck to sleep so they can catch try to refuel physically and emotionally because guess what -- they have to do it all over again tomorrow -- but the kids really don't want to go to sleep, for reasons that are unfathomable.

Plus, there's the mess. After dinner, our living room looks like a pack of wild animals descended upon it. Really. It looks like instead of feeding children, we fed hyenas or some other kind of animal which eats by lowering its mouth into a trough or a carcass, without the use of hand or paw. It doesn't help that the baby invariably throws her food all over the room like she's an avant guard artist or a bat-shit crazy inmate. She'll overturn a bowl of yogurt, shove a few handfuls (how does one manage a handful of yogurt, you may ask? About as well as you'd imagine) then throws whatever yogurt she's managed to collect in her palm onto the wall and floor and on her siblings. I keep taking yogurt away from her -- "You're suspended from semi-solids until further notice!"  - but then she'll undertake a food strike that will scare the crap out of me, forcing me to cave,  just to get a few swallows of something in her. Blueberries, beans, wagon wheel pasta  -- whatever she's got on her high chair tray, she tosses to the ground. She does it methodically, too, one berry at a time, but fast, like she's got a deadline -- which she does, because as soon as I see what she's doing, I confiscate all food items.

The point is: at 8pm, we are up to our ankles in filth and crankiness.

Still, one must go on living, is my guess. So the other night, I decided to take a break from chasing Terza around trying to change her nasty-ass diaper, and offer a kiss to my husband, my partner in crime, my partner in punishment, who was mopping up a milk spill. I walked over and said, "Come give me a kiss."

And he said: "Blegh."

"David!" I rebuked him.

"What?" he asked, realizing the milk was cascading onto the floor from the countertop.

"I just said, 'Give me a kiss,' and you said, 'Blegh!"

"It's just -- look at this shit," he gestured to the living room, which looked like a middle school cafeteria after a food fight.

"Blegh!" I repeated, "Blegh!"

"I didn't mean the kiss!" he protested, "I meant . . .  everything else."

"We are so married with children," I said.

"That's putting it mildly." he replied.

Then he gave me a kiss, and we lived to stay married another day.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Would you leave your kid with a robot?

Just read this NY Times blog post about Robot babysitters and population growth. As much as the cost of child care is making our bank account perpetually empty, I'm inclined to think its a useful deterrent in many ways: it's sort of like how it's helpful that freezers don't come with a free, lifetime supply of Ben's and Jerry's ice cream. Sometimes self-control needs a little help. But it got me thinking: would I leave my kids with a robot sitter? To decide, I drew up the following list:

Pros and cons of Robot Babysitters

PRO
You can't beat the value
They're always available
Exceedingly reliable
You don't have to give them fare for a cab home
Aces at discipline, have got that consistent thing down
Will make even the coldest parent appear effusive
Come on, it's crazy cool

CON
If your kid needs a hug, he's up shit's creek without a paddle