Thursday, April 30, 2009

Simply Scatological

Since I’m surrendering fully to the unapologetic glory of TMI, I offer you today this whopper.

The other day, I was holed up in my office (read: whatever room the children are not in) working on deadline, with my grandmother “in charge” of the kids. Since our house is the size of a shoebox, with walls about as thick, I could hear every syllable of the detailed monologue my grandmother was delivering about my daughter’s dirty diaper.

“Jesu mio! Seconda, are you dirty? Uffa! You dirty! You very dirty! Che puzzo! Lemme change you diaper.”

I heard her rip off the diaper tabs, followed by a gasp.

“Dio mio! What a LOAD! Oh my God! Don’t move, baby. I gotta get da wipes. OK, don’t you move. Don’t move.”

Oh, come on, Nonnie, that’s a rookie move, I thought. You know better than to leave the kid unattended with a half-open dirty diaper


A minute later, I heard a piercing shriek.

“NO! NO! NO!” my grandmother yelled, “DON”T TOUCH THAT!”

With unsuppressed glee, I heard my daughter laugh, then exclaim: “I’m all MUDDY!”

It is in moments like these that it’s easy to believe we came from monkeys.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Epidemics, Lay-offs, Gunk-Eye and Other Reasons to Be Glum

I am feeling more than a little anxious this morning. Here’s why.

1. Husband reports another round of layoffs is in the works for his company, to break end of May.

2. Nonnie reports that the Po-Po buzzed her bell last night at 11pm, looking for the guy that lives in the apartment beneath her. I thought there’d be a punchline. No punchline. My 78 year-old grandmother resides directly above a crime den.

3. Since he’s been suffering extreme seasonal allergies for the past week and rubbing his itchy eyes like a madman, Primo now has a RAGING case of conjunctivitis which has made one eye swollen shut. Between this and the sneezing attacks, he's been up kept him up all night, and I've resorted to just sleeping with him with means

A.I am abso-friggin-lutely knackered and
B. I have been laying my head on his gunk-eye pillow.

His allergies also mean that he is a colossally bad mood and prone to yelling “I DON”T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” if I don’t draw Frankenstein adeptly enough for his taste. It also means that he is HOME FROM SCHOOL for the second day in a row.

4. When I updated my status on Facebook to say that reflect the fact that I “have a boy at home with very gunky eyes,” this update, which I found notable only in that it was perhaps the most boring one I’ve ever posted, elicited a backlash.

“TMI!” wrote one friend who has three children of her own.

“This is so GROSS, Nicole!” wrote my cousin, “You shouldn’t post it on Facebook – and I don’t
think Primo would appreciate it.”

Since I’m already feeling pissed and aggravated and anxious, this backlash sent me into a blind rage. Had my gunk-eye child not needed immediate attention, dragging me away from my computer, I would have written, “Oh, you want TMI? I’ll give you TMI! I was so fucking busy yesterday caring for my gunk-eye son and my shitty-britches daughter who enjoys blowing snot onto the floor and then sticking her fingers in it, that I forgot to put a tampon in! How’s that for TMI? More where that came from, folks.”

5. Last but certainly not least is the swine flu. Come on, man. This shit is terrifying. This shit scares me down to my toenails. How do I protect my darling gunk-eyed, snot-shooting children from what threatens to be an epidemic? It has gotten me down, down, down.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Yesterday was David and my six year wedding anniversary. Hooray for us! We like to joke that we’ve been together six years but it feels like sixty. If there was a “Which television couple are you?” quiz on Facebook, we would be the Honeymooners, for sure. But before my newlywed, non-parent friends get unduly alarmed about how kids crush the romance out of a marriage, let me hasten to say that feeling like you’ve been together sixty years isn’t a bad thing, necessarily.

Case in point: the terms by which David and I now address each other. When I’m not calling him “shithead” and he’s not calling me “nagshead” we usually refer to one another as “Mommy” and “Daddy” even when the kids are not present.

Now, I’m not proud of this. This is precisely the sort of thing I thought I would NEVER do before I had kids. I mean, its something people who have lost their selves in the process of becoming a parent do, something old, uninteresting people who never have sex do. It’s something my parents do.

But now I do it too, and there’s just no way around it.

David told me about one time when he was at the corner bodega, and the guy who works there and knows

David from his Friday night beer-runs, asked him why he was also buying Ben and Jerry’s this time.

“Just picking up something for Mom,” he replied.

“Is your mother visiting?’ the man asked.

But of course he was talking about me.

I’m not going to lie, That was a blow.

But it was also a year or two ago. And since that time, we’ve moved past the newness of this stage of our lives, and into the dense, deepening madness of it, And I have realized something.

Who gives a shit what we call each other? Who really has the energy to make sure that we’re addressing each other in quirky, romantic ways that keep our essential characters intact and shows respect for the people we are, apart from our roles as parents?

Its worrying about that crap that makes you old before your time and sucks the joie de vivre right out of you. Or at least that’s my position. What matters is that we are here, together, addressing each other at all, coming together even if in haphazard, clumsy ways, even if a trip to the dentist’s office, without kids, is considered a hot date, even if sex is accompanied by a Dora the Explorer soundtrack, even if the sentence “I love you” is too long to make it out without an interruption half the time. The joy of being together for six years going on sixty is that we don’t have to finish our sentences. David knows what I’m trying to say even if all I get through is, “Daddy, I love---” before an airborne Lego collides with my forehead.

When you’re married with young kids, the fastest way to ruin, I think, is to compare your marriage to any of its past incarnations. It’s a whole new paradigm. Less desirable in many ways, sure, but a hell of a lot better in others. At our anniversary brunch yesterday, I glanced over at this early twenty-something couple sitting at the table next to us, on a first or second date.

“That was great, thank you,” said the woman, who’d clearly blown out her hair that morning and had taken pains to pick out an appropriate not-too-skimpy-but-revealing-enough sundress for the occasion.

“No, thank you,” said her date, a man with no wrinkles in his button-down shirt.

Watching them, I felt exactly what they must feel when they pass me yelling at my screaming, snotty-face kids.

“I am SO glad not to be them,” I said to David.

“Me too,” said David, “I hated dating.”

“Well, I didn’t hate it. I liked it just fine. But been there, done that. I wouldn’t go back for anything,” I sipped my Bellini, “Honestly, I would rather sit here, arguing with you, than be on a first date again.”

And just like that, with the help of a little eggs benedict and a morning drink, we went from the Honeymooners to the other couple in When Harry Met Sally.

It’s the truth, too. We are, I'd dare to say, still crazy after all these years. David is my best friend and I’d rather be doing jack squat with him, I’d rather be wiping up vomit by his side than lounging in Rio with someone else. Sure, those singles at the restaurant get to look forward to hot, mystery sex, and breathtaking turns of romantic fate, the thrill of discovering someone and being discovered themselves but they also have to wade through all that awful not-knowing, the unbearable lightness of being uncommitted. And though the weight of my family sometimes feels like a ton of bricks dragging me down, its an anchor. And I know. I know that Big Daddy—I mean, David -- and I are tied together, old-school style, by which I mean irrevocably and forever. Maybe not the way I imagined it six years ago, but exactly the way I like it today.

Monday, April 27, 2009


If you can still suck the gut in, you’re not fat. I came up with this rule of thumb today, when I realized that if I sucked in my big ole baby belly to the extent that my ribs protruded a bit, then twisted and turned different parts in strategic ways, I could almost pass for my pre-baby hot self.

“Still got it.” I said to David as I showed him the results of my labor.

That was heartening. The problem is, when I un-suck, my whole abdominal area balloons out like I am being inflated. It just really looks like I am 3 or 4 months pregnant. In fact, if I was 3 or 4 months pregnant, I wouldn’t look bad at all. I’d look kind of fantastic. I fleetingly considered just pretending that I was preggo so that all of my body issues would evaporate and people would think I was hot again. But then I realized that was psychotic.

I once came up with a genius weight-loss-illusion idea. It was called the “lie-down diet.” On the lie-down diet you just recline fully and let gravity do the work to make yours a flatter stomach. It was a wonderful idea but the catch was that gravity also makes your tetas looks flatter and that was too high a price for me to pay.

So now I am back to relying on Spanx, gut-sucking and the hope that one day I will spontaneously decide that sit-ups are my cup of tea.

And I’d just like to note that although I curse copiously in front of my 2 year-old daughter -- enough that she mutters “shit” whenever she drops Goldfish from her snack trap -- I do not use the word fat in front of her. So although I don’t have enough discipline to actually make myself un-fat, I have enough not to talk about it in front of my impressionable she-child. And for those keeping track, please add this to the list of reasons why I should at least be considered for Mother of the Year.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Eat your blockley

Happy Saturday, folks! What I’ve got for you today is just a funny story.

I was feeding Seconda lunch yesterday and urging her to eat her broccoli. OK, nagging is more like it. She wasn’t having any of it, my pestering or the greens. So I gave up and read her a book.

When the book was over, Sec observed, “I no like blockley.”

“What’s blockley?” I asked, genuinely puzzled. I guess I have short-term memory loss.

She giggled exactly like I do when she’s said something super-cute. With delight and pity, she said, “Oh Mommy, you don’t know how to say it!”

And she threw a spear of broccoli at my head.

Close Quarters

My daughter is currently sleeping in the living room. Raw suckage. It might not be so bad if we had a house with a living room and a dining room, or a living room and an eat-in kitchen, or a living room and a large bathroom, or any alternate space where David and I could shut the door and eat a little food, watch a little TV. But our place has just has a living room. Which means when Seconda is in it, there is no quality living going on.

It reminds me of when David and I took Primo to Rome when he was 18 months old, and we stayed with my aunt, my cousin and their dog in a one bedroom in the heart of the centro storico. It is a beautiful apartment and it’s got some serious location going for it, but for five people and a dog with separation anxiety, it was a little . . . tight.

Being resourceful New Yorkers, though, we made it work. My aunt generously ceded the bedroom to us, so we put the baby to sleep in there first and all hung in the living room until about 11 when my aunt would crash with my cousin on the fold-out couch, I would hit the sack with Primo and David would retire to the bathroom.

Yes, for two weeks David’s nightlife consisted of sitting on the toilet (lid closed, there was just no where else to sit) and drinking a Peroni while reading his book. It wasn’t the Rome we’d experienced before we had kids, but it was about as much fun as my jetlagged, beleaguered husband could stand anyway.

So my brood is familiar with living in tight spaces. But this current sleeping arrangement is for the birds.

It’s not like Seconda starts out in the living room. She starts out in her crib in the room she shares with Primo, a perfectly normal set-up. But lately she’s been getting kicked out of there because she is prone to shrieking “WAKE UP PRIMO!” continuously, throwing toys at her brother and sometimes even leaning over far enough to grab hold of his hair and pull hard – all when he is trying to go to sleep (a tough thing to manage in and of itself seeing as Primo has become an indefatigable soldier in the war against bedtime). So when she pulls that crap, she’s booted to the pack n’ play in our bedroom, which adjoins the kids’ room.

There are any numbers of reasons why she is relocated out of our room, and they become more hazy as the hours creep past midnight. Usually its because she pulls the same shrieking, throwing routine as she does at bedtime, except in the middle of the night, and directed at David and I as we huddle under our duvet cover and pray for mercy Mercy, in this respect, is rare. So we drag that old pack n’ play into the living room and then when David passes through to get his stuff and head out of the house at 5:30am, she wakes again and when Primo wants to watch the Magic School Bus or draw with his markers or eat something at 6am, I tell him that wing of the house is off limits and the screaming that results wakes the baby. And then we are all miserable.

But, enough griping, although I know it’s what you come here for. If I wanted easy living, I’d move to California. I love this hard-knock, inconvenient, tough-shit, stinky, uncomfortable city. Sleeping in the living room builds character, I say.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Freudian Slip

Today is Thursday which means taking my daughter to toddler music class at the Y. It is literally Seconda’s only scheduled activity or engagement all week -- neglected second-born that she is -- but it’s a good class, very low-key, very affordable, and taught by these really nice, not-at-all-annoying early-twenty-something guys who have a kid’s band called Rolie Polie Guacamole. Although they each have their own normal names, Seconda refers to them together and individually as “Guacamole.” As in, “I love you Guacamole!!!!!!” whilst she throws her dirty socks at them, the way an off-kilter fanatic would toss her thong at The Boss’s head during “Thunder Road.”

So today, Guacamole was singing one of their story-book songs. This particular song sets the words of Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle’s Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? to music. Lovely, really. A nice, repetitive soothing ballad which gives parents the opportunity to sit down and relax as one Guacamole turns the pages of an oversized copy of the book while the other Guacamole plays guitar.(I know the names of both Guacamoles by the way, just in case you’re beginning to think I’m the sort of person that thinks toddler music teachers are interchangeable and calls for my check by yelling, “Waiter!”).

If you’re not familiar with Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? it is exactly and I mean precisely like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? except that it features endangered species rather than run-of-the-mill animals. If you’re not familiar with either, well, you’re not missing a whole hell of a lot. I mean, its good stuff, but its no Very Hungry Caterpillar or anything. You start by asking the panda bear, “What do you see?” and when you turn the page, well, there’s your answer. “I see a whooping crane looking at me.” Then you ask the whooping crane what does he see? Bam. Bald eagle looking at me. If a two year-old can catch on to the pattern, I imagine you have by now too.

So I’m just sitting there on a yoga mat, totally zoning out and halfheartedly singing “Spider monkey, spider monkey, what do you see?” when Guacamole turns the page and lo and behold, instead of an animal, it is a child. And I swear to God, I thought I heard Guacamole sing, “Demon child, demon child, what do you see?”

So I am sitting there, criss-cross-applesauce, with Seconda on my lap, singing “Demon child, demon child . . .” and wondering how Bill Martin Jr. came to pen such a controversial line, how the book made it to press, trying to decide how I felt about this surprise ending to what I imagined was just another predictable, (let’s-be-honest) pedestrian board book, and concluding that in fact I rather enjoyed how refreshing the reference to the demon child was when I realized that everyone else in the class was singing, “Dreaming child, dreaming child, what do you see?”

Sure enough, there, very clearly drawn by Carle’s competent brush, was a child lying down with closed eyes and moons swirling around his head, almost in the shape of a halo, the very antithesis of a demon.


I guess I’m the only parent with demon-like children . . . I’m fishing here. Tell me I’m not. Tell me your kids have been so bad lately you might make the same Freudian slip.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SpongeBob ScaredPants

Having more than one child is exhausting and challenging and sometimes very aggravating and but it does offer one the opportunity to see nature versus nurture at work. Although they look exactly alike, my 2 year-old daughter and her 4 year-old brother could not be more dissimilar.

Seconda is as bubbly as a just-opened bottle of champagne, she fizzes, she whizzes, she crackles. The kid runs headlong into life, and traffic, too, if I’m not incredibly vigilant. Fearless is she, and trust me, it’s not through lack of my trying to scare the shit out of her. I mean, I don’t want the children to be crippled by terror but there are certain things a child SHOULD be scared of, more than a few in fact, and Seconda is not scared of any of them, despite my yelling, shouting, time-outting, and patient explaining. If we’re in the playground and I yell “Stop!” she runs faster. This is why I have become fleet of foot. And also why I keep her strapped in her stroller whenever possible.

Primo, on the other hand, is an anxious little guy. In fact, had I known how much of a worrywart he was, I would have stopped myself from fear-mongering with him. But he was my first, and first kids are the ones you make lots of mistakes on. That’s the penalty they pay for getting all that exclusive time with you, before the other baby came, and for not wearing hand-me-downs.

With Primo, all I’ve ever had to do is tell him once or twice that a car could hurt him if he ran into the street, and he was stuck by my side. He never, ever crosses against the light and if I do, he scolds me, “Mommy! It is the HAND not the MAN!” At the playground, I have to coax him to run free, play with his friends, and not worry about staying within three feet of me at all times. I could write a whole book on his separation anxiety (anyone want me to? I’m game!). He’s impressionable and sensitive and takes everything to heart, dear soul that he is. More so than I even think.

Yesterday as we were walking home from school and discussing his day, he stopped in his tracks and whispered, “Mommy, something bad happened today.”

I knelt down to his eye level, “What, honey?”

“Someone had a SpongeBob SquarePants toy,” he confessed, averting his gaze.

Ok, so I told Primo once, a long time ago, that he couldn’t watch SpongeBob because I didn’t think it was a good TV show for kids. We went to the library a few weeks later and he saw a SpongeBob book and asked to take it out, and though I almost never censor the kid, I really can’t stand SpongeBob. I mean, he’s abrasive, obnoxious, sarcastic, loud and generally devoid of all positive attributes. So I said that we couldn’t get the book out because Mommy really didn’t like SpongeBob, but if he wanted we could get another kind of TV-based book -- Curious George or The Backyardigans or something like that.

Those two occasions were the extent of the discussions we’ve had about SpongeBob SquarePants. Now if Primo sees commercials for the show, he’ll yell, “Turn it off Mommy!” and if someone else, like say, my grandmother, tries to put it on for him, he’ll tell her, “SpongeBob is not appropriate for me.” Which, of course, we all think is very funny.

But yesterday I discovered that maybe Primo had taken my dislike of SpongeBob a little too far.

“Why is it bad that someone brought a SpongeBob toy to school, sweetheart?” I asked.

“Because,” he whispered, “SpongeBob makes children bad.”

And the guilt rained down. The guilt, the guilt only a Catholic could feel.

Defrock me, please. Take away that Mother of the Year award. I have convinced my darling son that watching a popular TV show will make him evil. I am a Bad Mommy.

I hugged Primo and told him there had been a misunderstanding.

“SpongeBob can’t make you or any other kids bad,” I said, “Nothing can make you bad, honey, you’re a good boy and you always will be. I just don’t like that show, It’s my opinion, that’s all. Just like some other Mommies might not like Dora the Explorer or the Bob the Builder or might think the Wizard of Oz is too scary for kids.”

He seemed to understand. But they usually seem to understand, don’t they? It’s only later you find out the havoc you’ve wreaked without knowing and certainly without meaning to.

Of course, if I told Seconda she couldn’t watch SpongeBob, she’d probably convince my grandmother to buy her a miniature TV that only played SquarePants 24/7 and hide it in her crib. You just can’t win.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The F*$@king Fours

So remember my frabjous day last week when Primo slept 12 hours and was the paragon of perfection? Well, I feel it is my responsibility to dissuade you from the notion that the winning streak continued. In fact, that day was just a single, solitary moment of light to keep me warm during what is sure to be a bitter cold winter of the soul as Primo works his way through his current behavioral shit-storm.

Look, I don’t enjoy talking trash about my kids, but at this point I consider it to be a valuable therapeutic exercise that will, perhaps, prevent me from thrashing the little sucker. Because my son is in the fucking fours.

I think it was the midwife at my OB practice who first introduced me to that term, when I went to see her for my six week post-partum visit after having Seconda. We were talking about how Primo was dealing with the new baby and she told us about this equilibrium/ disequilibrium thing, which more or less boils down to this: On even years, kids are awful monsters. Or something like that. Who the hell remembers exactly? I had just had a baby for Crissakes. But I clearly recall her bracing me for trouble, because, as my children are two years apart, they are always hitting the even years at the same time.

So, what I’ve got on my hands is a case of the Terrible Twos and the Fucking Fours. Don’t you wish you were me?

Now that I’ve been through both, I can tell you with assurance that the Fucking Fours are significantly worse than the Terrible Twos/ Those two extra years give kids considerable more strength, stamina and wiles. By four, most children have a nuanced understanding of their parents tragic flaws and how best to exploit them.

So what exactly is my four year-old doing that has driven me to sitting here today, eating immoderate amounts of milk chocolate with whole hazelnuts and smearing his name on the world wide web? Put it to you this way. You know those mean drunks, who get a few too many beers in them and start picking fights? And you know, it doesn’t matter what you do or say, they’ll find something to brawl over? That is my son. The only hope I have of avoiding a scene is to try and stay clear of him.

This morning, instantly upon waking, he announces that we need to perform the play of “There was an Old Woman who Swallowed Count Dracula.”

“Why don’t you make the costumes and plan the play while Mommy makes coffee?” I suggest.

Please be advised this is 6:15 am.

By 6:20 am he has finished what I was hoping would take at least 30 minutes. The kid works fast. He has drawn all of our costume pieces on construction paper and sets about taping these works of art onto everyone’s body. Vampire fangs, bolts for Frankenstein ‘s neck, horns to affix to the goblin’s head.

Seconda is the goblin, naturally, so Primo tapes horns onto her hair and she, being two, rips them right off. This process is repeated five times, with Primo growing more and more enraged and Sec growing more and more delighted by her capacity to cause such feeling in him.

Unsurprisingly, there is an “incident” which leaves the baby crying. When I pick her up I am accused of ONLY CARING ABOUT SECONDA!!!!!!!!!

We smooth things over and rehearse the play. I am – you guessed it -- the Old Lady. As such, I have to sing the following song, while opening my mouth wide to ingest my various family members dressed as Halloween spooks.

There was an Old Lady who swallowed Count Dracula

She used her spatula

To swallow Count Dracula

There was an Old Lady who swallowed Frankenstein

She asked Dr. Frankenstein

Before she swallowed Frankenstein

There was an Old Lady who swallowed a goblin

She had a big problem

When she swallowed that goblin

Perhaps she’ll DIE!!!!!!

A harrowing little ditty is so many ways.

But my little Billy Wilder is not pleased with my performance. I am not singing to the right tune! I am not acting scary enough! I am not falling down to die the correct way!

It is now 7 am. The hour at which I would hit snooze on my alarm clock in my previous life.

“FINE! I am CANCELLING the PLAY!!!!!” he yells.

“I think that is a wise idea,” I agree.

“STOP SAYING THAT!!!” he shouts, throwing himself on the floor, “BAD GIRL! BAD GIRL!”

“Bad girl!” repeats Seconda, who takes it a step further by smacking my leg.

“I’m not the one who’s BAD!” I shout back.

“I’M NOT GOING TO BE YOUR FRIEND ANYMORE!” And with that, the tantrum to end all tantrums begins. I will spare you the gory details. By the time David comes home at 8am, we are all shaky, spent, tear-stained.

This has happened every day for the last month.

The good news is that Spring Break ended today! Callou! Callay! Perhaps with the 3-6 hour break I have from Primo’s dictatorial reign, I will be able to summon the patience to make it through. As the little man himself told me this weekend, “Sometimes you think you can’t do something but you really can, if you just don’t give up. That’s what a challenge is.” One to grow on.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Take a hike

On Saturday, I took a hike. Not a figurative one, but a bona-fide, bring-a-canteen, don-t-forget-your-compass, into-the-woods hike. I did it for the children.

It’s probably not surprising to discover that I’m not much of a hiker. I never was, being a city girl. But since I’ve had kids, I’ve been even less of a hiker. That’s because I am now obsessively terrified of bears.

My husband is from Eastern Tennessee, where bears abound. Seriously, they are everywhere. His mom has a picture on the fridge of a black bear on their back PORCH. This amazes me. If I saw a 200 pounder smashing his huge clawed paw on the very spot where I sit down to enjoy sweet tea, the last thing I would do is find my camera. But, you see, they’re used to it. They have bears everywhere. And apparently, bears aren’t really harmful. That’s what David said.

Excuse me if I don’t buy that.

“I may not be much of an outdoorsman but bears EAT PEOPLE,” came my retort.

“That rarely happens,” David assured me. But my brother-in-law, who’s a cop in David’s hometown told me in vivid detail about how a bear mauled a father and child hiking in the national park just last summer.

Also, I saw Grizzly Man. That shit haunts me.

Which brings me to our recent hike. Turns out Tennessee isn’t the only place with a bear problem. New Jersey has a shitload of them. I know because my parents have a place in the mountainous region of New Jersey (I was as surprised to discover mountains in NJ as you are). When we went hiking last summer, I saw a WARNING, an actual parks-department-sanctioned warning posted next to the park map, about the bears.

That’s when I started worrying about them in earnest.

“What are you supposed to do if you run into a bear in the woods?” I asked David in the car ride over to our hiking spot on Saturday.

“People say you should make a lot of noise and wave your arms and stomp, so they think you are bigger than you are.”

That’s when I started worrying about David as our hike leader.

“That sounds like a TERRIBLE idea,” I countered, “I thought you were supposed to stay quiet and slowly retreat.”

“Or you could do that,” he agreed.

“OK, do you have any idea what you are talking about here? I mean, I thought you KNEW about this sort of thing.”

“I do. I’ve seen lots of bears in the woods in Tennessee. One time Daddy and I ran into one just a few yards away.”

“And what did you do?”

“Daddy stomped his foot and then the bear stomped his foot and snorted.”

“So that doesn’t sound like it worked at all.”

“Yeah, he wouldn’t stand down. He was challenging Daddy.”

“Ok, so what HAPPENED for God’s sake?”

“Daddy dropped the donuts and we ran away.”


“Yeah, he brought a big garbage bag full of donuts into the woods to bait the bears so he could hunt them later.”

Now let us pause, readers, to contemplate a few things.

A. What kind of a mean, crazy hunter baits bears, and does so without a weapon?
B. How surprising is it that the bear wanted the donuts more than two human beings, of hardy stock?
C. How utterly unqualified is my husband to be leader of the hike?

I share these contemplations with David and his feelings get hurt.

“I was a Boy Scout!” he yelled.

“I was a Girl Scout,” I yelled back, “And I have the good sense to avoid feral animals whenever possible.”

But it was too late. We had already sold the kids on the idea and driven to the spot. So we hiked, and it was the most stressful 30 minutes in recent memory. Especially since I felt that it was my sole responsibility to look out for, and possibly beat off a bear.

“Why didn’t it occur to me to do a little research on bear safety this morning,” I muttered.
David gave me the malocchio.

“Children, I want you to use all your senses to observe the things that are going on around you. Alert Mommy if you notice anything unusual.”

“Nik!” said David sharply, and the subtext was, “I’ll maul you myself if you don’t shut up.”

“I want to walk to the deepest part of the woods where it is dark,” said Primo.

The farther we walked, the slimmer grew the probability of us reaching the car in time to escape the bear attack. Oh God, I thought, the children are so small, they’ll be the first ones the beast will go for, and he’ll probably be ravenous since he’s just now waking from his hibernation. I know I’m starving after a nap.

So I announced to Primo, “Soon you will be seeing s sign that it is time for us turn around, Let me know when you see it.”

A minute later he encountered a branch which had fallen across the trail and he said, excitedly, “It’s the sign! Time to turn around.”

We managed to make it back to the car where I calmed my frazzled nerves by eating most of the children’s Veggie Booty.

Why do I ever leave New York?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Discretion is lost on 4 year-olds

It is the weekend and I don’t usually blog on weekends because they are my days of rest. But I will offer this little nugget.

I took Primo in the city the other day and we were sitting on the subway peacefully reading Highlights magazine and generally looking like a kick-ass, top-of-the-line, award-winning Mom and Son team, when Primo started scratching his private parts. Vigorously. At first I just sort of moved his hand away and tried to get him interested in the worm poem at hand. Finally I asked discretely, “Honey, is something bothering you?’ And he replied, in a booming, nay thunderous voice, “Yeah, my PENIS is ITCHY!”

Oh Lord. Can I ever show my face on the D train again?

Friday, April 17, 2009

To my darling daughter

Running with scissors

is bad but gnawing on them

is probably worse

What are you eating?

Is that Mommy’s lipstick? Son

of a bitch. Time-out.

I worry that your

oral fixation may cause

trouble later on.

And a bonus one, courtesy of Master Primo:

Halloween is a

religion, I know because

My daddy told me

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lost and Found

I know you Slopers have been waiting with bated breath to receive my newest Dispatch from Babyville. Well, today is your lucky day. The Spring '09 Park Slope Reader is out, so head to a coffee shop near you and crack it open. And for those of you who enjoy a more instant kind of gratification, just keep reading.

Lost and Found

I’m a loser. Literally. As my mother is fond of noting, I would lose my head if it wasn’t attached to my body. So thank God for necks. And thank God, too, for New Yorkers. Because almost every time I lose something of value, my fellow city dwellers deliver it right back to me, even when the delivery is of considerable inconvenience to them. Contrary to what the rest of the nation might believe, we are a friendly, helpful bunch. Sure, we steal taxis and take other people’s umbrellas, and wouldn’t hold an elevator for the Dalai Lama. But if you were to, say, drop your wallet on the train platform at 116th street, you might find it on your doorstep in Park Slope by the time you got home, shepherded there by a stranger who happened to live two doors down. If you were to forget your cell phone in a cab one night after one too many cocktails, you might find it in an envelope in your mailbox only a day later. And if you were to leave your stroller on the boardwalk in Coney Island, you might just find it waiting for you in the men’s bathroom. Really.

This last strange turn of events occurred last August. Summer camp was over, and I had both my 3 year-old and my 18 month-old all to myself for a whole, long, hot month.

After a week-long blitz, the thought of entering our local playground made me want to knock myself unconscious. So I decided it was high time for me and the small fries to exploit the riches of NYC. Be advised that this sounds like a lot more fun than it actually is. And so it was that one August morning we found ourselves on the Q headed to Surf Avenue.

Since my little sister Courtney was home from college, I roped her into coming along, a decision she soon came to regret. Who could blame her? Our subway ride consisted of Sec pulling the hair of fellow riders and tossing her Goldfish on the floor before shoveling the tainted snacks into her mouth while Primo sang “What do you do with a scurvy pirate?” at full volume. By the time we got to the boardwalk, we were thoroughly knackered. We peeled off our outerwear, stashed it in the stroller basket and the kids ran towards the ocean with delight.

“What are we going to do with this?’ Courtney asked, pointing to my Maclaren stroller. I’d bought the stroller three and a half years earlier, on sale, and it had dutifully served both my kids since, bearing my son’s forty-five pound heft like a trooper, even tolerating the tonnage of Primo with Sec on his lap (not an approved usage, I might add). But lately, Old Faithful had begun to show signs of wear and tear, namely the squealing noise it made when you pushed it, the tendency of the front wheel to roll off without warning, and the fact that the mesh seat was so saggy my kids’ knees touched their chests when they rode. Not what I’d call a hot commodity.

“Just leave it there, next to the boardwalk,” I told my sister, “It’ll be fine.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she warned. “What if someone takes it?”

“Nobody is going to take that piece of crap,” I said over my shoulder, as I chased the kids across the sand.

An hour or two later, covered in sand, we headed back to the boardwalk.

“Uh oh,” said Courtney, “where’s the stroller?”

Because, of course, the damn thing was gone.

“Maybe this isn’t where we left it,” I ventured.

But a quick scan of the boardwalk made it clear that there was no stroller anywhere, as far as the eye could see. I knew what was coming.

“What did I tell you?” began Courtney, who is prone to acting freakishly like our mother when there’s an “I-told-you-so” to be dealt, “I knew someone would take it!”

Meanwhile Primo rattled off his list of complaints, an extensive list which included more or less every discomfort that could afflict a child: “I’m thirsty. I’m hungry. I’m hot. I’m itchy. I have to do pee-pee,” he whined. And then, for no apparent reason, he fell onto the sand and began to howl, “My foot! My fooooooooooot! It hurts!”

The which startled the baby who began to bawl so hard huge strings of drool fell from her mouth onto Courtney’s shoulder, which set Courtney off on her own whining streak.

And so, with everyone crying and whining and half-nude, since our clothes were in the stroller, we proceeded into the women’s bathroom. A real traveling circus.

“How are we going to go home with no clothes or shoes?” Courtney wanted to know, as I irrigated Primo’s invisible injury.

“And are we supposed to carry this kid all the way back to your house?” she asked of screaming Seconda.

“Maybe there’s a lost and found,” I said optimistically. Courtney shot me a “Yeah, right” look.

And sure enough, she was right, as the bathroom attendant confirmed.

“No, we’d don’t have nothing like that,” she said, and then, to a mother and child in a stall she bellowed, “Hey! There’s no changing in here! Read the signs! NO CHANGING! Says right there.”

We were just creeping out when she asked, “You lose something?”

I explained that we were missing a stroller and she sucked in her lips a little.

“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah,” she said, “That’s your stroller?”

“Do you know where it is?” I asked, hopefully.

“ANGIE!” she shouted, and a much younger woman wearing a Parks Department vest joined our conference.

“You know that stroller we saw?” the attendant told Angie, “That’s this lady’s.”

“Yeah, OK, I know what you’re talking about,” Angie said confidently, “It belongs to you?”

I nodded.

She led Courtney, the kids and me across the boardwalk to a middle-aged homeless man sitting on a bench.

“Henry, this lady lost her stroller,” Angie explained, “You know where it is?”

Henry thought about it for a minute and then smiled.

“That’s your stroller?” he asked.

“Yes,” we all replied, in chorus.

“I got it right here for you,” Henry said, standing. “I knew you’d be back for it so I put it away. You know, somebody will just walk off with something that that.”

“That’s what I said,” Courtney piped in.

We followed Henry back to the bathroom area where, I figured, there was in fact a lost and found, or some kind of stroller parking area I hadn’t noticed.

“I got it right here for you,” said Henry reassuringly, “Right here.”

And then he walked into the men’s bathroom and came out a minute later, pushing my stroller.

“Mommy why was our stroller in the BATHROOM?” Primo asked.

I ushered him into the stroller and turned to Henry, “Wow, thank you. Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.”

“Well, like I said, I didn’t want somebody to take it.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” I consented.

Then we stood awkwardly for a minute, while I tried to figure out if some kind of reward was in order. I mean, was this a thwarted grand stroller theft I was dealing with here or just a Good Samaritan who, like my mother, was fond of doing “helpful” things that made life much more complicated for me? Did Henry figure I’d just know somehow to ask the bathroom attendant about my stroller’s whereabouts? And in the event that he was a straight-shooting do-gooder, was it insulting to tip him? Should I send him a fruit basket instead? How the hell do you respond to a guy who takes your stroller and puts it in the men’s bathroom of Coney Island for safekeeping?

“Thanks again,” said my sister, pressing a few dollars into Henry’s hand. And just like that, we were on the road again.

Over cheese dogs and lemonade, we discovered that not only were all our belongings still in the stroller basket, we’d even gained a few things -- a mostly-used tube of sun block, a distressed baseball cap and a woman’s flip-flop.

“Only in New York,” Courtney marveled.

“What is only in New York?” asked Primo.

I considered a moment, chewing some waffle fries.

“The best things in life,” I replied, forking him an extra-cheesy bite. “The best things in life are only in New York.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

O frabjous day!

Primo slept for 12 hours last night. Twelve. And this miracle helped me understand something. My boy really needs every minute of those 12 hours of sleep, every night. This is too bad because he won’t get 12 hours of sleep again until the next time he goes to bed at 10:30 pm and wakes before dawn’s first light, which is precisely what happened the night before the 12-hour sleep miracle. He was so under-rested (thanks to an ill-timed late-afternoon car nap) that he was forced to surrender to the siren song of sleep at an unprecedented 6pm the following night.

And surrender he did, like a ton of bricks in the car so that I had to carry him up the three flights of stairs to our apartment. David, my geriatric spouse, threw his back out over the weekend and has been out of commission.

So although Primo comes up to my upper arm, I hoisted his legs on my hips and heaved him up the stairs. By the time I oh-so-gently lay him on his bed, I had to lay there, too, for a good five minutes, wondering if I should call for help. My heart was thundering so wildly it seemed a trip to the ER would be likely. I know, I know, I need to clock more (any) time on the elliptical machine. The point is, a little arrhythmia is a small price to pay for a successful car-to-bed sleeping transfer. And I did it. And he slept 12 hours. And life has never been so good.

Today, my son was an actual member of an angelic order. A wunderkind. A marvel to behold. Case in point.

We were walking down the street when a passerby complimented his striking blue eyes.

“You’re lucky,” I said when she had passed, “Mommy doesn’t have beautiful eyes like you.”

“Oh Mommy,” Primo said, “I like you just the way you are.”

And the hits just kept on coming. He peed without protest. He shared with his sister. He consented to having his hair washed. He walked all the way to Grand Army Plaza and back without a single complaint of wobbly leg syndrome. We lived together in perfect harmony today. Prim and me.

At bedtime, we always talk about our favorite moments of the day, and although these past few weeks, the kid’s been driving me so nuts my favorite moment has often been when he’s zoned out on the couch, watching the Backyardigans, tonight I said, “I had such a great day, Primo, its hard to choose.” To which he replied, “Maybe the whole day was your favorite moment, Mommy.”

Quite right, my son. Quite right.

PSP Madness

Man oh man. Looks like we Park Slope Parents are making news again, and not in a good way, David sent me this link to a piece on Gawker today about the current hullabaloo on our happy little listserv. Whenever he sends Gawker pieces about psp, the subject heading is always the same, “We’re moving.”

The most recent fiasco involves a $25 fee for membership which the list moderators proposed, since the listserv has grown to mutant-like proportions. Precisely what they will be using it for has gotten somewhat lost amidst the flurry of fighting words slung back and forth, from outraged parents on both sides. I wish I had something incendiary to fan the fire even more. It sure as hell would make this blog post more riveting. But when things heat up likes this in Slope cryberspace, my response is to do two things. First I sit back and laugh. Then I press delete and stop reading the digests until the shit calms down. Who has the time to stay tuned in to this insanity? Who has the leftover ire? I’ve used up all my rage energy just taking the kids on the bus to Cobble Hill this morning.

Should the moderators get paid? I sure as hell wouldn’t do it for free. But you’re talking to the wrong person. I don’t do much of anything for free, except blog and care for my kids. Lately I have even been demanding compensation from my husband for some sex acts. Go ahead, condemn me. But when I need him to find my contact lens and he’s not altogether willing, I can offer incentive by promising a BJ in return. So no, I would not moderate PSP for free. In fact, we’d probably have to be talking about six digit figures to get me interested. The list needs revenue, ok. Where they get it and what they use it for doesn’t concern me much. Put some ads up there, or stop moderating so much and let spam in, or charge the fee. Whatever. Just piper down about it already.

In fact, I think what I’ll post to the list is this: If I agree to pay, will you agree to spare me the discussion?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Humpty Dumpty, the Opera or who needs a shrink when you have Legos?

I was checking email on Saturday when Primo told me it was time for the Humpty Dumpty Opera which he had staged using Legos.

“Great,” I said, “I want front-row seats.”

I wasn’t quite expecting the no-holds-barred session of play therapy which followed. I mean, I know Primo’s feeling jealous of his sister lately, because now, at 2, she’s fully arrived as the life of the party, with a face that could easily launch a thousand ships and a charm that makes Mae West look like an amateur. Not a quiet, slow-burning kind of appeal but instantaneous, addictive can’t-take-you-eyes-off-her power. You think I’m exaggerating? All I have to say is, Primo’s four and five year-old rough-and-tumble boy pals come over to play and within an hour Primo’s crying because no one’s playing with him. They’re all too busy letting Seconda comb their hair and pat their shoulders and tell them they’re her best friend and they look really great and she will miss them.

“I don’t have anyone cute to snuggle with,” said one of Prim’s friends, in his defense.

So I’ve been aware that the green-eyed monster was lurking somewhere in my first-born but not until this weekend, during the one-time-only performance of “Humpty Dumpty: the Opera” did it became obvious. You see, Humpty Dumpty’s not an old child, believe it or not. He has an older brother, a brother who has lived in his shadow all these years, the silent, the name-less brother, of whom no one ever speaks. And on Saturday, I heard his story. Now, dear readers, I share it with you. (Be advised that much of the pathos is lost without the accompanying acapella soundtrack, but you get the idea). .

Humpty Dumpty: the Opera.

Scene 1

Humpty Dumpty’s home, which looks to be in ruins but I think Primo just ran out of steam after building the first wall.

Narrator: Humpty Dumpty’s brother was mad because his mother was too busy feeding Humpty and wasn’t paying any attention to him. So Humpty’s brother told him to go climb up a wall. And Humpty did it.

Scene 2

A thin multi-colored Lego wall nearby. Humpty is sitting on it, but the Legos aren’t locked in. Danger is in the air.

Narrator: He had a great fall. Smash, crash went his shell!

The “Humpty Dumpty’s Great Fall” aria. Piano, pianissimo, FORTE!

Narrator: Then all the king’s horses and all the king’s men came but they couldn’t put him together again.

INTERMISSION (I needed to make a ham sandwich)

Scene 3

Narrator: Humpty’s mommy came and got mad that Humpty was broken. She was so mad that she almost crashed into Humpty to break him even more.

(For the record, I don’t know where he gets this from. When the kids get hurt I always comfort first, yell later.)

She sings the aria. “Don’t Be Sad!” to one of the king’s men, who feels bereft, emasculated, helpless because he couldn’t fix Humpty.

(At this point, I started getting genuinely interested in the action. Heartbroken women who’s lost her child finds the strength to lifts the spirits of others who failed to help? Move over, Arthur Miller).

Narrator: The mommy asked the king’s man to baby-sit Humpty’s brother while she took Humpty to the doctor.

Scene 5

A doctor’s office. Enter Humpty’s Mommy with broken egg in her arms.

Doctor: “I can fix that for you. He has to be stitched up.”

Doctor sings, “Stitch stitch stitch stitch.” Andante.

Scene 6

Humpty’s Mommy returns with repaired Humpty.

King’s Men: “Looks like Humpty is all fixed up, Yay!”

All sing, “We are happy happy happy!”Andagio, andagio!

Festivities begin to celebrate the miraculous recovery. A cake is revealed. But there is one piece of unfinished business. The Mommy turns to Humpty’s Brother.

Humpty’s Mommy: “Never ever tell Humpty to sit on a wall because he will FALL AGAIN!!”

Narrator: Humpty’s brother wanted some cake but the mother said:

Humpty’s Mother: “No no no, it’s all for Humpty, not for anybody else.”


I think my son achieved more catharsis in the fifteen minute Lego Opera than I have in the past five decade of on-again/ off-again therapy. Helluva lot cheaper, too.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

It’s a good Friday, all right, since my darling husband let me sleep in past 9. This never happens because 360 days of the year David wakes at 5am, so that he can work on his novel for 2 or so hours before coming home to help me get the kids out the door at 8, and then getting himself to work by 9. It is a good arrangement because he gets to devote ample time to his writing and still gets to bring home the bacon from the slaughterhouse of corporate America (hey, I’m not disparaging, that shit puts a roof over our heads). It is a bad arrangement because neither of us ever gets to sleep in. We are both always exhausted, and consequently, we are both always cranky.

But this morning was different. This morning, we are at my parents house in New Jersey and there’s nowhere close-by for David to go to write – no bagel shop around the corner populated at 5am with older gentleman talking about the Yankees and asking each other “What’s that you said?” ad nauseam. In New Jersey I can sleep in. Today ‘til 9:30am. I literally had no idea where I was or what was going on when I woke up. I felt as though I had crawled out from under a hundred tons of volcanic rock. How much does it suck that when you are so chronically under-rested, you actually feel worse on the rare occasions when you get to sleep late? But now, hours later I feel GREAT! I’ve got a bounce in my step, and I bush in my tail. No, that’s not right. You get the idea.

The point is, folks, it is Good Friday. I went to church on Sunday, that’s Palm Sunday, if you’re keeping tracking, and I guess I haven’t been in a while because I was surprised to find that it was time to read the Passion. I didn’t have the kids with me, which almost never happens, but I’d forgotten what day it was until my grandmother called to remind me at 9:27am and there was only 3 minutes to make it to church, significantly less time than it takes to get two undressed, uncooperative children out the door. It takes me three minutes to put one sock on Seconda, on a good day. So I flew solo. And when we started the Passion I thought it was maybe a good thing I did.

Because I don’t have the slightest idea how to explain the Passion of the Christ to my four year-old son. I don’t even know where to begin. Apart from anything else, it’s very violent, way beyond anything I’d ever let him hear tell about. He’s an anxious kid with an over active imagination and I try to keep the Star Wars, Pirate of the Caribbean, Power Rangers stuff at bay for the sake of his peace of mind. And also because, well, he’s four years old. He still can’t snap his pants. Until he can snap his pants and wipe his own ass correctly, he will not be watching, reading about or feigning gun fights or swordplay. Rule of thumb.

But the physical violence is the least of it. When we were in the Met a few months ago with one of his little friends, we were walking through the Christian Art, and passed a Pieta-like statue of Mary holding Jesus’ body in her arms. First Primo said, “Jesus looks like Daddy! They have the same beard.”

Then he asked if Jesus was dead in the sculpture. I said yes. And then he asked me:

“If he was so good, why did he have to die?”

Oh, man. I thought. Couldn’t I have been warned somehow that this question was gonna blow right here, right now? I mean, it’s a doozie that requires some prior thought. Plus, we’re in the middle of the very crowded Met and I feel like a crazy evangelical talking in public to my kid and his friend, who had never heard of Jesus before, about the big sacrifice. I think I said something about how he died so he could make heaven for us. Then I ushered him quickly to the Temple of Dender.

I’m happy that Primo’s asking these questions and its important to me that he be exposed to my faith. I mean, we’re no by-the-book Catholics, nor do I want us to be. Mine is very much an a-la-carte version of the religion, yes, please to the love and patience, no, thanks to the fear, the fire and brimstone. When he gets older, he can choose to believe in something different or nothing at all. It’s his choice -- I just want him to know he has one, that there’s something there to choose from.

So on Sunday, I’ll bring him and Seconda and David with his long beard to church and they’ll give out balloons and do a coloring page about the rock being moved from the entrance to the cave and Primo will undoubtedly wonder what it all has to do with the Easter Bunny. And it will be useful then to be the kind of mother than doesn’t mind saying, “I don’t know.” Which you better believe I am.