Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bulkhead-hoggers beware

So the key element to successful air travel with young children, the missing puzzle piece, the thing you cannot do without is . . . BULKHEAD. Ah, bulk-head. I love the tough, no-shit, slightly dirty sound of it. I. Always. Get. Bulkhead. Do I sound defiant? Challenging? That’s because I am. I DEFY you to take my bulkhead away from me. It’s not going to happen. That bulkhead is rightfully mine and I always get it.

Now, it’s not always easy because sometimes other people want the bulkhead.

Occasionally these people are also parents with a few little critters in tow and in these cases, when they’ve gotten to the bulkhead before me, well, fair is fair and there’s not much I can do, except try to squeeze into whatever remaining seats there are. But that, I find, is rare.

Usually the people who beat me to the bulkhead are just big old lazybones. Honestly, I can’t even tell you why someone without children or another kind of handicap would even want the bulkhead – I had never even heard the word “bulkhead” before Primo was born. But these people have heard of bulkhead. They’ve heard of it and they want it – maybe because it has more leg room, maybe just because it’s special – and since they are totally unencumbered, having no children or handicaps, they get to the gate before us and they get the bulkhead.

Do not think for a second that bulkhead is something that can’t be taken BACK. Getting bulkhead is not some irreversible process, like when a meter maid starts writing out a ticket and just can’t stop. So these non-parent, non-handicapped bulkhead-hoggers may reserve the bulkhead but they don’t have a hope in hell of keeping it when they’ve got me on the plane. I am indefatigable. Like a goddamn bulldog.

“Sorry, the bulkhead is taken,” the airline rep at the gate informs me.

“All of it?” I reply.

She nods.

“Well, is there any way you could move the people sitting there?” I ask as sweetly as possible, “You see, I have two young children, and it is really helpful for us to sit in bulkhead, not just for us, but for everyone on the plane. Trust me, the kids will be much less of a bother if you can just get us the bulkhead.”

Sometimes this works. But sometimes I have to take it to the next level. Sometimes the airline rep says she can’t do anything about it but that if the people sitting there want to switch me with, they certainly can.

That’s when things get nasty.

“Its OK Nik,” David pleads as we ready to board, “We don’t need the bulkhead, “Its fine.”

What he’s really saying is, “Please don’t make a scene.” And he can forget it.

“It is NOT fine,” I reply, “We DO need the bulkhead so Seconda won’t kick the back of someone’s seat or stand up and pull the hair of the person in front of her, and it also really helps her to sit on the floor in front and play with her dolls and lie down or whatever, We need it AND we deserve it.”

In this one specific circumstance, I feel totally, one hundred percent entitled. That bulkhead belongs to parents the way highchairs at restaurants belong to us and changing tables in bathrooms belong to us. People without kids have EVERYTHING ELSE to enjoy – such as a flight uninterrupted by whining, nagging, and tantrums. They can read their books and magazines and have illuminating conversation and meet new people and join the mile high club or just sleep. Sleep, for God’s sake! I think its just plain greedy to want the bulkhead on top of that.

So we get on board and I very politely ask the bulkhead-hoggers, often tall, skinny twenty-something guys traveling alone or else middle-aged couples who have a lot of bags and seem nervous about flying, if they wouldn’t mind switching seats with us since I have these young children and it would really help us out to have a little more room to entertain them. Often this simple plea works. But on the rare occasions when it doesn’t, I have to get nasty. I just do.

That’s when David takes the kids and moves down the aisle while I rip the bulkhead-hoggers a new asshole, calling them rude and selfish and telling them they are gonna regret it when my kids scream and yell and puke on them for two hours straight.

This is how I always get bulkhead. It may not win me any popularity contests but I have to say it makes the temporary relocation of me and my family seem a little more like a vacation. It really does.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Family Vacation

This post is coming to you directly from East Tennessee, folks, the heart of the Smoky Mountains. David, the kids and I are on what you might call a family vacation.

You might call it that but I’d urge you not to. Using the word “vacation” to describe the temporary relocation of oneself and one’s progeny in pursuit of diversion is a little misleading. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a real vacation with the kids. We’ve had lots of adventures against many different backdrops. We’ve licked gelatos in front of the Pantheon, we’ve whizzed over the Golden Gate Bridge, we’ve frolicked on beaches and mountainsides and crooned in rental cars and played tag in airports in many a city across this country. But was it a vacation? No, my readers, it was not.

A vacation is anything you do without the children. Like, for instance, when David and I went to get our teeth cleaned and sat in examination rooms that were across the hall from each other, that was a vacation. We got to chat a bit on the walk over, made provocative gestures across the hall to each other before the dental hygienists arrived and then we kissed with clean, slightly-sore mouths afterwards, and compared the sample mouthwashes we’d received. That was a vacation. Taking two kids under four on an airplane is no vacation. Period.

And listen, David and I are pros at air travel with the kids, because we’ve been doing this trip to Tennessee a few times a year since Primo was a few months old. So we know what we’re doing. I pack enough snacks to keep a small village fed for a week, including a secret stash of lollipops in case we run into unexpected delays or mishaps. I pack little presents purchased from the dollar bins at Target and wrapped in magazine pages, which prolongs the enjoyment of each item by a good minute. Coloring books, regular books, Play doh, magnets, stickers – my carry on is like a carnival of fun for toddlers and preschoolers.

I also have one other very important but challenging trick up my sleeve when we travel on planes with the kids. It is the most critical, the key element to successful air travel, the missing puzzle piece, the thing you cannot do without. It is . . . .

The first-ever mom amok cliffhanger! I warned you I was getting into some tantric shit. To find out, dear readers, you will have to tune in tomorrow. Or if you’d like, feel free to guess in the comments section. I will award whoever guesses the correct answer with one perfectly fresh New York bagel, type of your choosing, sent directly to your home. Cream cheese and lox to be added on your own.

The prophet in our midst

Primo was drawing a picture this morning and I innocently asked what he was drawing. This was his reply:

“It is the movie I'm going to make about angels, about how all the angels are sad because God blew out the sun and all the buildings fell down with a crash and it was the end of the world. But don’t worry -- all the people on earth were already in heaven. The only problem was, God didn’t want to make any more people because he was tired of it. Do you know how many people God has made? Like, a thousand. So he was tired of making people and that’s why the angels were sad. The end.”

This is one of those moments in parenting where you think, “Holy shit, did I birth a prophet? Is my kid TOUCHED?” I advise you not to think about it too much. Kids say craaaaazy shit. Consider this post by finslippy, whose slightly-older son went off on a similar rampage of terrifying, genius clarity.

Perhaps it is his Roman Catholic background that predisposes Primo to such celestial musings. He did bring a vial of holy water in the shape of the Virgin Mary to his first day of school, when all the other kids brought Elmos. Regardless, the thing to do, I think, is exploit these gifted ones who can channel the power of the cosmos. Sort of like the plot of the Eddie Murphy movie I saw a preview of a few weekends ago, the one where he takes stock tips from his little girl. I think I should write this angel movie Primo has thought up, pitch it to Steven Spielberg and see how we do. Keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Everyone Loves David

My kids hate me lately. This comes as something of a surprise to me since I happen to love them to a stupefying degree and happen to express that love with what I think is impressive frequency. I am constantly hugging them, kissing them, holding their hands, caressing their heads and showering them with all kinds of glowing praise and terms of ridiculous endearment. At pickup time, teachers have overheard me exclaim at the sight of my son, “Is this the face that launched a thousand ships?” It is not uncommon for me to address my daughter as “the light of my life.” And I mean it, too, I am really nuts for these children.

But, as its panning on, this love is pretty unrequited.

Last night Primo got a hold of two M & Ms and I asked if he might want to share one with me, as he often does:

“Um, no,” he replied apologetically, “I am going to give one to my Daddy because I love him more.”

I don’t know where my son got the idea that he had to rate his love for me and his father but he does, all the time. And David is always in the lead. Always

:”Oh, I love you so much Daddy!” he’ll exclaim especially at bedtime, “I love you more than the sky and the moon. When I grow up, I’m going to marry you, Daddy!”

David is always grateful for the attention but he also knows what a petty, jealous, unhinged woman I am, so he’ll laugh nervously and say, “What about Mommy, don’t you love Mommy too?”

“Oh, not as much as I love you Daddy,” responds Primo, positively swooning, “I love Mommy just a little but I love you so much I think my heart is going to explode!”

“Gag,” I snort, like I am 14 again. Then I storm off to pity myself for a while, despite the fact that I fully understand how insane it is to consider my husband a rival in the contest for my children’s hearts. I mean, I love my husband, and I’m glad the kids love him – they should love him, they should be crazy for him, because he’s the crème de la crème of fathers, a totally selfless, patient, loving, attentive, generous man. In fact, I don’t really care if they, in their heart of hearts, love him more than me, but for God’s sake do they have to keep telling me about it, over and over again, in very undiplomatic ways?

“NO MOMMY, YOU CAN”T HUG ME!” Seconda likes to yell if I -- God forbid – feel a maternal surge of love and try to express it. “I WANT MY DADDY! IS DADDY HOME YET? I MISS MY DADDY!”

If I try to dress her or change her diaper or brush her teeth, she screams that she wants her Daddy to do it even if Daddy is not currently in the borough of Brooklyn. If I try to read her books at bedtime, while David is reading to Primo, she will bawl so hard she doesn’t even make sound. When she gets her breath back she shouts, “GO AWAY MOMMY! I WANT MY DAAAAADDDDY!” Finally, last night, I could take no more.

“Fine!” I yelled, “I am never reading you books EVER AGAIN! You can all go with your precious Daddy since you love him so much and I’m leaving!”

The kids were nonplussed, looking at me with blank faces like, “Ok, whatever, sounds great. Now can you stop yelling crazy lady, because our wonderful, flawless pater familias is trying to read us s story.”

Oh, Lear, you were right. Sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.

But then, this morning, my husband let me sleep ‘til 9 and take a hot shower immediately upon waking, which is a luxury I get about 3 times a year. And then, when I was adequately rested, and groomed to my satisfaction, only then did I step into the kitchen to face what was sure to be a long list of problems, conundrums and stand-offs.

But instead, I found a hot pot of coffee and a cheerful son, who exclaimed, “Oh Mommy! You’re awake! This is the moment I have been waiting for!”

And just like that, we’re back in love, all of us, in perfect balance and sweet harmony.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How a trip to Liberty Science Center can give you faith in your country

One of the great perks of being a mother of young children is that once or twice a year you get to taste astronaut ice cream again. I am positively stunned by how NASA or its frozen-delicacy-preserving subdivision is able to make that dried-up shit taste so damn creamy. Guys, it tastes just like real ice cream, the good stuff too. So the next time you doubt that our great country’s ability to do the impossible, just remember, we not only put man of the moon, we gave him astronaut ice cream on the way.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Park Slope is the new Hollywood

I thought I was leaving the movies behind when I moved out of LA. But I have this sneaking suspicion Hollywood is following me.

I have walked past, through or into more film shoots on the block where I live in Park Slope than I ever did in Los Angeles. Today, for instance, I am not nestled into my usual table at Ozzie’s, the reason for that being that Jason Schwartzman is shooting an HBO pilot, Bored to Death, at my neighborhood coffee shop.

This is constantly happening. A few months ago, Meryl Streep was shooting this Julia Child movie at the restaurant on our corner, so our street was filled with vintage automobile. Scorcese shot the communion scene in The Departed at the church on our other corner, where David and I got married and the kids got baptized. And a few years ago, it was The Squid and the Whale team filming, literally, in front of our apartment.

And just wait ‘til they start shooting that Darren Star Slope in the City series – I won’t be able to push my stroller in between all the craft services tables jamming the sidewalks.

Despite the inconvenience, I love this shit. I think its because although I’ve retired my headshots, as it were, I still have this fantasy that one day I’ll be leaving my house, yelling at the kids not to push each other down the stairs or they’ll break their necks, battling with the double stroller, dropping my diaper bag down the stoop steps so all the contents spill out, you know, just another day in paradise until --- I go to retrieve the tube of Desitin that has fallen on the sidewalk and another set of hands is there, picking up the diaper rash cream and handing it to me. It is Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen who are shooting a movie in front of my house. They look at each other and look at me, and look at my kids and look at each other again, and Apatow says, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” and Rogan says, “You guys oughta be in the movies.”

And just like that, me and my crazy, beautiful, unmanageable children, are discovered. And Primo never has to cry at drop-off again, because he never has to go to school, he’ll be tutored on set, and I will have a team of three Italian au pairs devoted exclusively to the task of insuring that Seconda does not put anything in her mouth that isn’t food. We will hire people to wake up with the children at night and I will sleep 8, 9 hours at a time. I will take bubble baths and get a full head of highlights. David will quit his day job and just write all day, wildly successful literary fiction that reinvigorates the dying world of publishing. And we all live happily ever after.

And the best part is, we won’t ever have to leave Brooklyn, because Park Slope is the new Hollywood.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why buy the cow . . .

So, I know I said I was time-releasing my haikus, tantric-style, to tease you along, giving over just the bare minimum necessary to keep you longing for more, and more, and more. But I’m the kind of girl that gives it up easy. The kind that gives the milk for free so you never have to buy the cow. So without further ado, here is the fast and furious finish to the What My Son Said Haiku Collection.


I already know
what coffee tastes like Mommy --
smoke and marshmallows.

No. 3

We’re doing a play.
I’m Hook, Peter, and Wendy.
Sec can be the plank.

No. 4

“Bitch” is not a nice
word. “Gun”either. What about
“son of a pork bun.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Children speak poetry

I’ve got a fever and the only thing that can cure it is . . . more haikus. All it took was that hit I took yesterday and now I’m hooked. Here’s today’s recipe for poetry greatness. Take the fact that Primo says crazy shit and add the fact that I can count seven syllables and you have . . . the What My Son Said Haiku Collection. I will time-release one or two a day. Consider it the equivalent of tantric sex (what my husband, who is not a big fan, likes to call "lazy, blueball sex").

No. 1

No more hand washing!

I have had enough of this

Dumb swine flu business.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

By the time I was my Seconda’s age, my mother had drummed it into my head that there was only one appropriate response to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and that was “Physician.” Not even “doctor,” mind you, since I guess that’s too broad a term, under whose umbrella might fall (God forbid!) getting a Ph.D. No, I was going to be a “physician.” We all see how fruitful my mother’s programming was. I literally cannot tell you the difference between a liver and a kidney, except that you have two kidneys so they probably aren’t as important.

Because I am nothing like my mother (please see “You sound like your mother”), I have never given the children the slightest hint as to what I’d like to see them doing twenty, thirty years down the line. (Except of course, that I expect them to be living next door to me, and that’s a deal-breaker, non-negotiable). In fact, one of my favorite things to hear them talk about is their delightfully half-baked, wildly improbable future employment trajectory. I think my kids would write their generation’s “What Color is Your Parachute?”

So it gives me extreme pleasure to announce to you their most recent career aspirations. And since everything sounds a little more impressive in haiku form, I have masterfully modified their quotes to fit.

Primo, the entrepreneur

When I grow up I
Will open a restaurant
On Pluto -“Moonies.”

Seconda, the hedonist

When I grow up, I
Am going to eat gum and
Have an elephant.

And you, readers? What were your most deeply-felt or hare-brained career aspirations as a kid?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Street Fair

Where can you find corn on the cob, zeppoli, and my son throwing up in a bouncy house? You guessed it! The 5th Avenue Street Fair. Oh, the kids and I had ourselves some fun, all right, maybe a bit too much fun, as the vomiting might indicate. But that’s what a street fair is all about, after all, pushing the envelope of fun ‘til it just busts open in a messy explosion, publicly.

Its days like these that I feel damn sorry for country folk, people who don’t get to smell five kinds of roasting meat, incense and intense B.O, all in the same inhale. But I, after all, was raised on some of the best street fairs around. When I was a kid, my grandmother would take us to the fairs near her house in Bensonhurst, where it looks like winter in May from the confectioner’s sugar billowing from the funnel cake stand. Oh, grease, how I adore thee! Kiddie rides! Ponies! Ring toss stands where you could win a barely-alive goldfish!

Yes, I love me a good street fair, and I thought yesterday was a whopping success, as we got through with no whining, begging or harassment. I don’t mind a little vomit as long as no one’s whining about it. Of course, the other parents minded quite a bit. No sooner did Primo make the telltale gagging sound then I heard mothers yelling, “BILLY! MILES! TATIANA! Get out of there RIGHT NOW!” Thankfully, it wasn’t the great deluge these things can be, but just a sputter, the result of a convulsive cough which my son has developed, thanks to this infernal allergy season. It also occurred right at the exit to the bouncy house so I was able to hastily clean up the offensive area before the CDC tracked up down.

Getting Seconda out of the bouncy house was another story. They make these things so that grown-ups can’t get it and you just have to stand there, peeking your head over the inflatable wall shouting, “GET OUT! DO YOU HEAR ME! YOUR BROTHER JUST THREW UP!” while your child jumps up like a bionic person, her head thrown back in laughter and total defiance.

The unfortunate upchucking episode did not stop me from getting the kids corn on the cob immediately afterwards. There are no rules in a street fair, man. But if there was, eating salty, buttery corn on the cob, right there on the pavement, would be one.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mothers on the edge

Since there's no reason to stop celebrating Mother's Day just because its over, I went to the 3rd Annual Edgy Moms Reading on Thursday. Brooklyn isn't just the bloggiest place around, its also got the most kick-ass writers who just happen to be moms, per capita. Had a few glasses of white and thoroughly enjoyed the reading, especially Michele Madigan-Somerville's M.I.L.F poem, which used SAT words that I haven't heard since I quizzed myself with flash cards on the Staten Island Ferry, but sprinkled them with enough sizzle to make a highschooler blush. Amy Sohn's piece, an excerpt from her forthcoming book Prospect Park West, was another hilarious highlight. Nothing says funny like celebs shopping at the Coop. All in all, a fun, uplifting night with plenty of fellow feeling.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Drop-off debacle

The effort it took to bring my kid to school this morning was probably equivalent to the total effort I expended all day long in my former life. There was a time I had work all day, rehearsal after work, catering gigs after that, and bar-hopping followed by sex and straggling home at 4am and STILL all of that combined did not take more energy – physical and psychic – then bringing my kid to school this morning.

Primo not wanting to go to pre-school is not a new thing. He started at the school two mornings a week when he was 2, and basically since that first day, he has complained about going. Let me help you understand how nuts this is. His school is a dreamy, feel-good place, where teachers give kids room to explore and self-direct and allow them to pot out of anything they want and even bring their teddy bears to circle time. The teachers are nicer, much nicer than I am, more understanding, nurturing, kind, attentive. I want to go to this school, now, as a grown-up. And yet he has, to some degree, always objected when its time to leave the house.

I will spare you details of the early battles we had with separation anxiety -- how I sat in the corner of the classroom for MONTHS, typing on my laptop while Primo played blocks, just so he would feel comfortable transitioning. I won’t get into the days the teachers had to literally peel his fingers off of my body while he screamed and sobbed “MOMMY DON”T LEAVE ME!” with a wild look of panic in his eyes. They told me that he would pick up on my cues so I gave Oscar-winning performances every day at drop-off, smiling and saying, “Its OK. Mommy always comes back,” but once I had left the building I would sob ‘til the mascara ran down my cheeks. (OK, so I lied. I didn’t spare you.)

Since this is his third year, drop-off has improved tremendously but still every few months he’ll go through another “I AM NOT GOING TO SCHOOL” jag. And that’s precisely what I’m struggling through now. Yesterday the reason he couldn’t go was that it was very upsetting to him when the teachers rang the bell signaling the end of free choice time, and the start of circle.

“I am too busy to go to school,” Primo explained, kicking off the shoes I’d just put on his an unzipping the hoodie I’d just zipped up, “They ring the bell and I don’t have enough time to do my work which is very important.”

Today he saw me making his lunch and fixated on the fact that it was a “lunch day” as opposed to a half day which he does three times a week.

“I wish lunch days had never been INVENTED!!!” he screamed.

It took thirty minutes to walk two blocks to school. Once at school, it took another ten minutes to get him into the classroom, and the only way I was able to do it was suggesting that he make a book called “I HATE LUNCH DAYS!

“And the cover can be a boy eating lunch at school with a big X over it and the story can be all about a land where lunch days are against the law,” I went on, “And then other children who hate lunch days can read it and feel better.”

His amazing teacher said he’d be thrilled to help his out with that. Because his teachers are the nicest, most compassionate people in the world.

“OK,” said Primo suddenly and two seconds later, he was on the other side of the door.

And I bolted, and I do mean lightening BOLTED out of that school before he had second thoughts or the teachers had second thoughts about having him in the class. I bolted free, desperately needing to let out a wild, a very primal scream which of course I was not able to do because well, its somewhat frowned upon, especially when you are pushing a toddler in a stroller. Consider this post my primal scream.

If you have your own scream to unleash, do so in the comments section. It’s good karma to make a beleaguered mom feel better through the healing power of commiseration.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

O Pussy my love!

I had a strange exchange with Primo last night.

P: What’s the difference between a cat and a pussycat?
M: There is no difference. They are both just cats.
P: Wrong. A pussycat is a bad cat.

I’m not quite sure what to make of the fact that my four year-old has come to understand that pussy = evil. I don’t even know where to begin. Is this a fear of woman sort of thing or a misogyny sort of thing or just a misreading of the classic tale Puss in Boots? Either way, there’s no hope of me correcting him because I eschew the word “pussy” at all costs, in any circumstance where children may be present. Which is actually not as easy as one might think.

For instance, I was at the pediatrician’s office a few weeks ago, waiting for the doc to examine a strange series of bumps on Primo’s leg (turns out its nothing more than molluscum contagiosa. “Contaga-what?” you ask, likely feeling relieved you are reading this rather than hearing it as I sit across from you, my molluscum-ridden child by my side. It just means a wart, that’s all.) So I was there with both kids and we were waiting 15, 20 minutes, then 30 minutes, then 40, and by this point, we’d read every single children’s book in the waiting room and the examination room.

Except for one especially grimy and germ-infested book which has been buried under the others.

“Read this one, Mommy,” said my son, handing me a copy of “The Owl and the Pussycat.” So I read it, of course, but I had to steel myself every time that dastardly word came up. It wasn’t that I felt weird reading it to my kids, it was that I felt weird having other people listen to me read it to my kids, like a parent in the waiting room might hear just that one word, out of context and think, “What kind of a madwoman is this! Someone call Social Services!”

Because it wasn’t just like, ok, you’ve got an owl and a pussycat, and they have some adventures. Edward Lear was clearly working through some shit when he wrote this, because on the first page, the word “pussy” appears like five times, with no “cat” or any kind of suffix attached. You try reading this to your two young children in public:

'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"You sound just like your mother."

Aside from “Have you put on weight?” these are the five words most likely to send a woman into a paroxysm of panic, misery and rage. No woman, even those with healthy, loving, close relationships with their mothers, wants to hear that they sound just like them. That’s because men make this observation, not when you’re crooning a lullaby to your croupy child, or delivering a kickass keynote address at a graduation or serving up some witty repartee over cocktails. They make this observation when you’re being a harpie or a nag or a bitch or a killjoy or a critic or all of the above.

It drives me absolutely crazy when David slips in this little jab, which is guaranteed to instantly raise a low-level spat to a screaming, wake-the-neighbors fight.

So we have outlawed “You sound just like your mother” is our house. Instead, David is supposed to describe the specific behavior he is taking issue with, as in “You’re being insanely controlling,” or “You are sucking all the joy out of the room,” or “When you say such critical things I hate your fucking guts.” In other words, constructive communication.

It’s mot that my mother is an awful person. She’s perfectly nice and has many good qualities, even great ones. I just don’t want to sound anything like her.

[Let me amend that. There is one expression my mother is fond of employing which I like quite a lot and would not mind if David pointed out was inspired by her usage. And that expression is: “I’ll bite my tongue until it BLEEDS!” The genius of this expression when used by my mother (and, I’ll admit it, myself) is that, she wouldn’t bite her tongue if her life was on the line.]

What gets me thinking about this whole issue is that I saw an ex last week and HE told me I sounded like my mother. Now, how depressing is that? I mean, its one thing to let yourself get a little naggy and bitchy and henpecking with your own husband, but its another thing altogether to be incapable of presenting a cool, sexy, easygoing façade with a man you only see once every three years? That’s a signal that you need to do some regrouping.

Or maybe I’m wrong? Are there women out there who don’t mind hearing this? Women who thrill to hear they have, in any small way, approximated the greatness of their maternal predecessor?

Monday, May 11, 2009

It is a good thing that little kids are cute.

Particularly my little kids. Because if they weren’t, I would have definitely off-loaded them to gypsies somewhere for a modest sum.

Primo is going through an unpleasant phase of life, which you will know if you read my post about the f@#king fours. Things are so bad with him at present that I may well send a plea to Supernanny. Although, as David observed, “If the Supernanny met our kids, she’d retire. She can’t handle this shit.”

When the kids are really awful, I like to deceive myself into thinking that they are just this way with me and David, and that they are very well-behaved when not in our care.

The bubble of my self-deception was punctured last week when my cousin, Alanna, who baby-sits the kids pretty regularly, said this:

“Your kids are bad, Nicole, like bratty, wild kid characters in Disney movies which are meant to be cautionary tales. Seriously.”

Oh, how I love hearing such confidence-boosting praise for my mothering!

Alanna gave me this feedback after she, along with my grandmother, watched the kids at night. David and I had a date with destiny at the Brooklyn Blogfest, where a bloggin’ good time was had, including blog dogs with mustard. But the point here is not what how much I can sound like Diablo Cody or what an impressive power couple David and I are, but that my children are disabled when it comes to going to sleep. Putting them to bed is like receiving electroshock therapy, and that is why we never ever force babysitters to endure it. But on this particular occasion, there was no avoiding it, and, we figured, there was not one but two capable caregivers on the job.

As far as I can tell, Primo just gave his usual bedtime performance which includes acting as though he just did a mammoth amount of speed as soon as the last page of the bedtime book has been read. He then does pike jumps and cannonballs off the bed, races around the apartment, hides in my closet, throws my clothes and shoes wildly to and fro, and scream with evil joy. This, of course, gets Seconda all pumped up, and soon both of them are wrestling on the floor, knocking shit over, banging their heads on furniture, wailing and yelling “I AM NOT GOING TO GO TO SLEEP -- EVER!”

My cousin and grandmother were horrified.

When I asked Primo the next morning about how bedtime went, he very calmly offered this explanation:

“I had to have a fit because Alanna told me to lie down but she didn’t say please, and the consequence of that is, you don’t get what you want.”

Like I said, it’s a good thing these kids are cute.

A Mother's Day Cry for Help

A day to honor me, Mommy Dearest, is nice and all but it really isn’t nearly enough to get the job done so I decided to extend the run of Mother’s Day to the whole weekend.

“You take whatever time you need,” David offered magnanimously. That was Friday morning.

On Saturday afternoon, while I sat in the chair of Arrojo studio, waiting for my highlights to soak into my hair and reading People, it was a different story.

“So what’s going on?” David asked on the phone, none too kindly, “When should we expect you back?”

In the background, Primo screamed that something was “ALL YOUR FAULT DADDY!” Seconda wailed her interminable wail.

“Well, I have a haircut after this and then I was going to do a little shopping,” I said, “But if you need me ---“

”No, forget it, we don’t need you,” said David curtly, “SECONDA DO NOT PUT THAT IN YOUR MOUTH!”

Then the phone went dead.

My first reaction was rage at David for hanging up on me. My second response was fear for the life of my two young children under his care.

Rather than opt for either of these, I decided to laugh. Ha ha ha, ho ho ho! Because I was free!! And all the shit hitting the fan on the other end of the phone was totally not my problem.

I let out a hearty chuckle and got back to the important business of reading why Kirstie Alley has recently gained 83 pounds.

With a golden head of bouncy hair, I sashayed down 7th Avenue, feeling like a hot number. Popped into Loehmann's -- why not? -- and spent a whole hour happily shopping for clothes. But here’s where things took a turn.

I feel I need to get into this issue now, because, hey, I am not one to shy away from the tough questions, I am an unflinching investigator of the human condition. So let’s roll up our selves and dig in.

I can not stop shopping in the Juniors section.

Help me, please. Because I don’t want to be the grandma with single-processed platinum hair and boobs flapping around near her belly button pulling Necessary Objects shrugs off the rack to bring into a communal dressing room. And I think that’s right where I’m headed.

Here's how I know. When I got home and showed David the loot, I realized that every single item of clothing, all from the Juniors section, all peasant-y, patchwork, embroidered summer items, every single piece was totally and I do mean utterly see-through.

Now I have nothing against diaphanous apparel. Was a time I was the QUEEN of see-through clothing. Between the ages of about 15 and 30, I didn’t mind showing a little too much skin, because well, all the skin covered was muscle, bone and appropriately-placed deposits of fat that evolution put there for a reason. This was the chapter in my life, and I’ll be honest here, where I used clothing to adorn, entice and advertise my goods.

Two children later, the purpose of clothing for me has changed. I now choose clothing based on how well the piece of apparel deceives people into believing that I am less -- how can I put it -- robust than I really am. And see-through clothing is not helpful in that endeavor.

What we’re talking about here is aging gracefully. Aging gracefully means knowing when to stop wearing denim miniskirts, unless you are a celebrity. Aging gracefully means trying clothes on in a private dressing room, with a door, so the only person who has to see you squeeze your ample ass into one-size-too-small Capri pants is you. Aging gracefully means when you are pushing a stroller containing two bratty kids who are prone to attracting not-very-positive attention to you, that you should be wearing clothes that have no possibility of showing your cotton panties underneath.

I am failing at aging gracefully.

But I did have a lovely mother’s day weekend, complete with breakfast in bed, chocolate madelines and a gift of fine jewelry crafted by the hot new designer, Primo himself. The upside of my shopping misstep is that I now have an excuse to go back to Loehmann’s in less than fourteen days, to return see-through clothing. Anyone brave enough to join me and make sure I steer clear of Juniors?

Friday, May 8, 2009

A confession

I’m going to say something now that may shock, appall and disgust many of you. All I ask is that you have mercy on me, readers, and understand that save this one unspeakable flaw, I am a good mother.

I let my kids eat ice cream every day. That’s right, seven days a week. And I just announced that fact to the entire Park Slope Parents listserv. I expect a house call from Social Services any minute. There is no doubt that an intervention is in the works. Clemency, please. I mean no harm. I’m just a softy for Mr. Softie.

It all got started when a mom posted to the listserv yesterday asking if other parents let their kids have ice cream every day. Her kids are always begging for it, and she tries to settle on just 3 or 4 times a week, but it’s tough because they see everyone else lining up at the trucks.

I read the post and thought it might alleviate this mom’s guilt or sense of burden to hear that I, too, have been in this bind, and that I opted out of the battle and just said, yes, why the hell not, yes, ice cream every day is A-OK. I just wanted to help. So I quickly composed a message which read:

Now, I'm no paragon of nutritious mothering (we eat glutens and sodium and probably msg and my son is subsisting currently on a diet of hummus sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner). If you can settle with your kids on ice cream 3 times a week, I applaud you. For what it’s worth, I let the kids eat ice cream every day in the spring/summer, although my one condition is that they share a cone. Portion size saves the day! Half of a cone from the ice cream truck is really a pretty small amount of frozen delight, and I think it’s about as innocuous a treat as a kid can get, as long as they're not mainlining Juicy Juice and loading up on Doritos the rest of the day.

Oh, and I'm not why this makes a huge difference in my mind but they are NEVER allowed to get sprinkles (that's my nod to restraint).

After I hit send, I read the responses which had already been posted to the group and now I’m nervous folks. I’m fearing a backlash.

“Just because the truck is there, does not mean you have to get ice cream,” wrote one parent, “As your kids get older, they will see a lot of things on the streets of NYC that they want - Today it may be ice cream. When they are grown ups, it might be a drink!”

And that’s when I realized I might be drawn and quartered for public admitting that I am my kids’ soft serve pusherman.

“I didn’t realize that ice cream was the gateway drug,” David said.

“Apparently it is,” I replied, “The kids are sitting on the stoop with their waffle cones right now, but fast forward ten years and that waffle cone is a forty. A forty, I tell you!”

The poster went on to say that the only times her kids, both pre-teens, get ice cream is when she surprises them with it, every so often. If they ask for it, they sure as heck won’t be getting any.

I read her post to Primo. His eyes grew wide and panic flickered across his face.

“Is this in real life Mommy?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied, “Yes it is. So you see how lucky you are to have me as a mother?”

I never miss an opportunity to exploit the fears of my children.

Listen, the truth is, I applaud any mom who can implement this strategy. If you can manage it, you’ve got your act way more together than I do. If I had it my way, the kids would eat brown rice and kelp every day and have ice cream only on Christmas. If I had it my way, I’d have six-pack abs and a three-bedroom apartment. I don’t have it my way. In our house, this is how it breaks down:

Half an ice cream a day keeps Mommy’s nervous breakdown away.

I’m with these kids almost all the time and we struggle over so much that I just do not have it in me to fight about ice cream. It’s not arsenic, folks, not crack cocaine, its not even BPA.

I am appalled by so much out there and I don’t have any gall left over for ice cream.

So, write me up if you want. Bring me into the station. I’m not changing my story.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Now this is what I call taking pride in your heritage

Yesterday, my two year-old was slurping away at her pastina when she suddenly stopped, looked up at me, and said:

“I am not a person, I’m Italian.”

I think I’m going to put that on a T-shirt.


Primo is my firstborn and because I have nothing to compare his behavior to, I often worry that it is abnormal. In case you’re wondering, this is not a helpful or constructive thing to worry about. My current concern is about his monomania.

“I wish you’d never read that word on the internet!” David complains.

I do this. I try not to, but I do. I skim scary shit on the internet and then I talk about it as if I am informed. For instance, I never read the Five Languages of Love but I talk about it ALL THE TIME. It is now fully integrated into my relationship-advice-giving lexicon, as in, “He just isn’t fluent in your language of love which is physical affection!”

I think I read “monomania” when I was researching the link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Just before Seconda’s first birthday, I read some emphatic posts on parkslopeparents, got fully terrified for about three days, skimmed all kinds of crazy stuff on the web, spoke to my ped and got the vaccine, as planned, and it was fine. Feel free to air your opinions in the comments section. Nothing is so welcome on this blogspot as a lively debate involving thousands of comments and millions of clicks and world-wide fame for me, the instigator. So, please, I invite you.

But, back to monomania, I latched onto this term, having little to no understanding of what it actually means and now, much to my husband’s annoyance, I use it frequently to describe my son’s obsessive relationships to his hobbies

When you get right down to it, I’m the same way -- an easily-addicted, immoderate person who fully immerses myself in fleeting passions -- so I can’t fault the kid. In fact, I am actually really proud of the depth and intensity of his attachment to his interests. He’s a serious guy, my kid, a real man of substance. Plus, his monomanias have all been pretty esoteric, and we all know that esoteric interests are the coolest ones.

What he’s into right now is the book/ song “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.”

After reading the book and watching the Scholastic lightly-animated version, and singing the song about four million times, he moved on to making his own Old Lady books and performing Old Lady plays, with his matrioshka dolls.

That eventually grew tedious, even for him, and now he mixes things up by varying the theme of what the old lady is swallowing. If you read my post about the f7@cking fours, you may remember that the old lady went through an unfortunate period where she liked to ingest Halloween spooks like Frankenstein and Count Dracula. I was pretty impressed he could rhyme with Dracula, but, it turns out, that was nothing. Last night, my little rhyme-master outdid himself.

I was getting his room ready for bedtime while he jumped up and down on my bed like he’d just mainlined a packet of Fun Dip (did I just age myself as prehistoric with that reference?), when all of a sudden I heard,

“MOMMY WHAT RHYMES WITH PERSEUS?” This piqued my interest.

Primo was working on a Greek-myth-inspired Old Lady song, and, understandably, the name Perseus was giving him some grief. So I rolled my sleeves up and together we got the job done. I have to confess, though, that my rhymes are woefully inferior to his. Seriously. I did the first two verses and he handled the final two. You decide.

There was an old lady who swallowed Perseus

It was such a curse on us

When she swallowed that Perseus

There was an old lady who swallowed the Sirens

She checked her environs

When she swallowed the Sirens

There was an old lady who swallowed Medusa

She drank Jamba Juice-a

When she swallowed Medusa

There was an old lady who swallowed a Glockenspiel

She let out a squeal

When she swallowed the Glockenspiel

Perhaps she’ll DIIIIIIIIEEEEE!

(I know Glockenspiel has nothing to do with the Greek myths, but in our home, we fully embrace stream-of-consciousness in the creative process.)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Am I high, or is this really happening?

You know you’re old as dirt when you’re watching Tivo-ed SNL on Monday night at 8pm. And that is precisely what my over-the-hill husband and I were doing last night. About halfway through the show, David faltered with his remote responsibilities, allowing for a slight lag between when the commercials started and when he hit fast-forward. The advertising we saw then totally blew our minds. Blew. Our. Minds.

It was a commercial for AmbienCR and it started innocently enough. “When morning comes in the middle of the night, it affects your entire day.”

Now here was a statement of fact I could relate to. Morning comes in the middle of the night all the time in our household, and when it does, I would have to agree, it throws the whole day into a big ole pile of shit. So, AmbienCR had my full attention.

But just as I was beginning to feel all warm and sleepy and relaxed by the lulling voice of the man praising the many restorative benefits of the sleep aid, things took a strange turn. The voice warned that before you decide to take AmbienCR, there are a few potential side effects you might want to consider.

Like what?

Like, say. sleepwalking, the voice said. Oh, well that’s not too bad, I thought, a little sleepwalking here and there never hurt anyone too terribly much and what a small price to pay for putting morning back in morning’s place.

Oh, and there’s also the slim possibility, the voice continued, that you might be prone to eating or driving while not fully awake with “memory loss for the event.”

“WHAT?” David sputtered, “Did he just say, ‘eating or driving while not fully awake?”

“I think it’s a part of SNL,” I replied, with my usual savvy,

We listened, riveted, as the lulling voice told us that taking AmbienCR might also lead to “abnormal behaviors such as being more outgoing or aggressive than normal . . . and confusion, agitation and hallucinations.”

“Hallucinations?” David exclaimed.

“I feel like I’m hallucinating right now.” I shrieked, “are we HIGH?”

“We are not high, this is REALLY HAPPENING,” David confirmed.

“Wait, wait, I can’t hear him, be quiet!” I said.

Now the lulling voice was on to “swelling of your tongue or throat which may be fatal . . . In patients with depression, worsening of depression, including risk of suicide may occur.”

“HOLY SHIT!!!!” David and I were wide-eyed, disbelieving. Then we began to shriek with laughter, a regular Harold and Kumar on the couch.

“This is INSANE!!!” I yelled, “This has to be a joke,”

Thanks to Tivo, we could settle the matter definitively. We rewound and watched the commercial about four times through before we could certify that it was, in fact, a real commercial.

It’s hard to say which of the long list of potential side effects is more upsetting. Worsening of depression including risk of suicide is hard to beat in terms of awful, irremediable, bottom-of-the-barrel side effects. But I have to say that it really freaks me out to think that a pill could make me DRIVE or EAT while asleep. I’m a bad enough driver and eat enough while fully awake. And then there’s the matter of your tongue potentially swelling up in your throat to fatal proportion. All I have to say is WTF, readers, WTF? Those are some high costs right there for putting morning back in morning’s place.

The most outrageous part of the commercial is the fact that, after detailing these freakish and terrifying side effects, the lulling voice goes on to say, “If you notice any of these, contact your doctor.”

“How the hell can you contact your doctor after you sleep-drive while stuffing your face when you have NO MEMORY OF THE EVENT?????” I shouted to the TV.

David was giggling like a schoolgirl.

Wow. Thanks to Ambien CR for making me feel as though I smoked one down last night, without the actual drugs.

As my darling husband noted: “This is the shit we miss because we don’t watch commercials anymore.”

A cricket by any other name . . . .

I love that my little ones are city kids. But sometimes I feel sorry for their ignorance about the great outdoors, an ignorance for which I am largely responsible.

Case in point: we were in the state park near my parents’ place in New Jersey a few weeks ago when Primo discovered an interesting insect.

“Mommy!” he yelled, “Come here! I found a CRICKET!”

I ran right over to witness his discovery. Now, I’m far from an expert, but even I can tell you that was no cricket.

It didn’t look anything like Jiminy or the cricket in Times Square or this picture of a cricket I found in Google Images, titled “Typical Cricket.” It just looked like your garden-variety fly, you know, small, shit-colored, ugly.

Did I disabuse my darling of the notion he’d found a cricket? Certainly not. I didn’t know what the hell it was anyway, could’ve been a cricket I guess, and I’m certainly not one to get hung up in the detailed classification of insects. But then he kept talking about his little cricket so lovingly, and passing along his erroneous understanding to Seconda, who was soon shouting, “Oh you coote little CICKET! I LOVE YOU CICKET!”

“Don’t yell or you’ll scare our baby cricket away!” Primo advised her.

“Okay, I gonna be ky-et!” Sec agreed. Then she rested her check on the palm of her hand and inquired of her older, her so-much-wiser brother, “What’s that cicket doin’?”

“Oh,” sighed Primo with a contented smile,” he’s just doing what crickets do.”

And they stood there, heads cocked to the side, mesmerized by the bug standing still on a branch.

This cricket- watching is part of a more global interest Primo now has in bugs. Ants, mostly. The truth is, he’s too scared to actually touch them, but he has no problem harassing me to pick them up (“GENTLY Mommy you’re being too ROUGH !”) and place them in his “bug habitat.” This bug habitat, made by Fisher Price out of cheerful yellow plastic, is nothing more than a torture chamber for ants, who starve or asphyxiate to death after being locked inside.

The good news for the ants is that I usually end up killing them instantly when I capture them, since it is pretty hard to catch one of those suckers without crushing it stone dead between your fingers.

But since Primo is not too savvy about these things, I can usually get him to believe the ant is alive for as long as he is interested in it, which is usually about five minutes. It’s Weekend at Bernie's, bug-style.

“Oh I love my little ant!” squeaks Primo, as we head up the stairs from our stoop to our apartment, “Do you love him, Mommy?”

“Of course I do,” I reply, “He’s my grandantbaby.”

We get home, and Primo wants to see his ant in action.

“Look, I built an obstacle course for little Anty to crawl over,” Primo says, “So put him on the table.”

I do. He lies there on his back, still, lifeless. dead as a doormat.

“Why isn’t Anty moving?” Primo asks.

“He’s probably exhausted from all this excitement,” I said, “Anty has never been adopted and brought to live with a little boy before.”

“Maybe he’s hungry,” Primo offers, “Let’s give him something to eat. Give him an edamame.”

I deposit the edamame on the table and check my email while Primo watches his dead ant do . . . nothing.

“He’s not eating, Mommy.”

“Why don’t you just let him rest, honey?” I offer, “And you draw a picture while he sleeps/”

So Primo starts drawing (with his fist, no fingers thank you very much) and before long, he’s onto the next thing – having giant mutant spiders knock down whole cities made of blocks – and I discretely brush dead Anty, not my first and certainly not my last grandantbaby, into the trash, without so much as a verse of Amazing Grace.

That’s how we roll in the big city.