Friday, July 31, 2009

Milk! Glorious Milk!

This post goes out to the new moms out there, the sitting-on-a-donut, milk-leaking ladies who might be running into some lactation tribulations. Here’s an article I wrote for the current issue of Pregnancy magazine, about breastfeeding and the ABCs of milk supply. Very information-packed, not the usual frivolity you find here:

The Tao of Breastfeeding

Now go forth and suckle.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My sin! My soul! My Ikea!

I have a very serious addiction and I think an intervention might be in order. I am hooked on Ikea, big-time. I can’t resist its Swedish siren song. The smell of those cinnamon buns lure me in and then I am powerless and must acquire goods, goods I do not need, could never need, like three different kinds of hanging nightlights and a pillow that has holes for your feet to go in, to keep them warm. This is madness. Ikea, light of my life, fire of my loins! I. Kee. Ahhhhh.

Why, oh why, did they have to open one in Brooklyn? I was doing fine when the closest place you could buy incredibly affordable yet stylish furniture was in Elizabeth, NJ. But now, in my own backyard? With convenient parking? A shuttle bus, even? A playroom for the children??? Oh, Ikea, why do you torment me so? You KNOW my apartment, though more spacious than before, is still only 900 square feet. You know I don’t need a cow-hide swivel stool. Damn you, Ikea, for offering such tasty tiny meatballs at reasonable prices and even giving my kids colorful plastic flatware to use while eating them. Don’t you know you are ruining me with this conspicuous consumerism????

“That’s enough Ikea for you,” says David, “It’s like Vegas in there. No clocks so you can’t tell how long you’ve been trapped there and no cell phone reception so you’re cut off from the outside world, the realm of normalcy and self control.”

So I told David I would stop, but I just can’t. I have my eye on a cherry-red mesh office chair for just $39.99! No matter that I don't have an office. Cherry red is my signature color! This is an official cry for help.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Movin' On Up

We have done it readers. We have moved. And not just moved, but moved on up, to a deluxe apartment, not exactly in the sky, but one story higher than before.

The move is behind us. Shipped the children off to their grandparents for a weekend of non-stop fun or if not fun, at least guardianship (“Mommy, Nana is like the Redcoats, she is always telling me what to do and I have no freedom!”)

Meanwhile David and I packed like fiends. Emphasis on “fiends.” The night before the movers came, I was a mini Mephistopheles, hissing at David to GET MORE FUCKING PACKING TAPE AND HURRY!!!!!!!!!! My neatly-labeled and impeccably-filled boxes became haphazard, desperate. I threw my meat tenderizer in my Uggs and stacked those on top pf David’s CDs and threw in a handful of stray Legos on top. Seconda’s potty went in with the toaster which went in with my wedding album.


The movers came with dollies and bins and they transported our goods speedily, carefully, a marvelous job. In three hours we had changed houses.

Then David wanted to have sex. But guess what was the only thing I hadn’t packed?

“How it is that you packed the juicer we have never used but you didn’t pack condoms?” he wanted to know.

“Those are your responsibility!!! I had to pack the rest of the whole house!!!!!”

I don’t recommend this level of bickering as foreplay.

So we decided to drive back to the old place and load up the car with a whole pile of shit we hadn’t taken the time to pack, including the air purifier, bundt pan, iron and condoms. And the broken alarm clock. By the time we’d packed that stuff and filled the car and unloaded it all, it was dinnertime and we hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch so I had to break the news to my husband that before I could engage in anything resembling sexual activities I need victuals. I am a human, after all, and not a Stepford wife.

So off we go to grab a burger at the pub. And then, filled to the brim with fries and cheeseburger, and safely armed with protection, we blessed the new home.

Now I don’t want this shit to end up on STFU, Parents. In the event that you are thinking, “TMI Nicole, TMI,” let me share why I reveal these gems of personal information with you.

In the movies, couples move into a new place and still sweaty from their manual labor, heady with the thrill of their new residence, they fall to the floor and rip each other’s clothes off, Then they lie around afterwards and regard the haphazard piles of boxes and unassembled furniture and smile and make plans for the future.

This is a big ole’ steaming load of bullshit. Or at least, it is after you have kids. Because once you have two children that are two years apart, nobody is having any kind of carnal relations without some protection. That’s one. And finding a condom in a post-move maelstrom is like finding a needle in a haystack. Unless you keep one in your wallet and I thought we all learned in high school that that’s the worst spot to keep a condom. Though I should point out, a potentially distressed but conveniently-placed condom is significantly better protection than no condom at all.

Number two: once you have two kids in two years, you’ve got no time to dream of the future. The future is now and you have 10 hours and counting down to get the furniture right side up and the toothbrushes unpacked before the Jabberwocky and the JubJub Bird get back from their grandparents. So what that all boils down to is a quick burger and a quick roll in the hay and then marathon sessions of Ikea assembling.

But when the wild things did return, their room was fully configured and I swear it looks like some bedroom from a spread in Cookie magazine. Outer space themed. Walls painted ogre-faced green (that’s what Primo calls the color), Silver blackout blinds. Alien decals. And a hanging light fixture which shines little multi-colored moons and stars and plants all over the room.

David and I have room envy/ If our big asses could fit in the twin bed, we’ve trade with them.

The moving is done. Expect a slight decrease in the complaining. But only slight. I’ll be unpacking, after all.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Through the Burning Rings of Fire We Go

This morning Primo stood in the doorway of his bedroom and told me that he had written a poem which he wanted to recite. The title, he said, was “What kind of milk is this?” I swear I’ve not changed a word.

What kind of milk is this?
That is the question.
Through the burning rings of fire we go
Our whole life is made to be helpful
That’s why we go to sleep and wake
And night is the prettiest time

When the sun sets and the sun wakes
Living is only to have fun.
Babies and grandpas are different
but they have been the same.

Through the burning rings of fire
Weather cold or hot
Days are always the best

Through the burning rings of fire life goes
Reduce reuse recycle
Trash goes in the dumps
And that goes to a place I don’t know.

Dying and being born is only experience

Oh, my little Rilke. Night is the prettiest time? I think if there was any doubt, the matter has been settled. I've birthed an artist.

"Do you like it Mommy?" he asked.

"Oh honey," I said, "you wrote in iambic pentameter!"

He looked at me blankly. After all, he's only four.

"I loved it."

Monday, July 27, 2009


You may recall that a few months ago David and I were deeply entrenched in a stand-off with our crib-jumping two year-old. My husband did not want to resort to the crib tent, which we used with Primo and which worked, marvelously, and led to peace and happiness, Instead he wanted to show his daughter who was boss the old-fashioned way, in a battle of wills. I conceded. After a few days of awful screaming, she seemed to surrender. I say “seemed to” because it only lasted two months or so, and then she started her crib-jumping again. Except this time, she was smarter about it. The months she spent in confinement gave her the opportunity to think up new, nefarious plans for home domination. She realized if she was quiet, she could go and do whatever she wanted.

It started a few weeks ago, when we were putting her to sleep earlier than usual, because she’d taken to skipping naps. So we’d stick her in her crib before her brother went to bed. We’d read him his books and tell him his stories and prayers and then we’d bring him into his bed to tuck him in. Only there’d be a little Goldilocks there.

“SOMEONE IS SLEEPING IN MY BED!” he would shriek, enraged. She is, of course, already the usurper in his mind, and this didn’t help matters.

Of course, we thought it was sweet that she wanted to sleep in her brother’s bed and we overlooked the transgression. Big mistake. Give ‘em an inch . . . .

The other night, we put her to bed in the Pack N’ Play in our room because she was menacing her brother and when David went into the room to grab something a few hours later, he found her in our bed, not asleep, but sitting upright, bleary-eyed, just waiting to be discovered. It was 10:30pm. The child has bionic powers of wakefulness when there’s an act of mischief to be hatched. She just stayed awake silently for over three hours, doing God knows what with my make-up and jewelry in the dark.

So he put her back in the Pack N’ Play and she feel asleep. Then I went to bed a half hour later, creeping under the covers in the dark. When David came to bed he found Goldilocks sleeping in his bed, curled up right next to me. I had no idea.

Since that time, it’s been pandemonium. We put Sec in her crib and we find her sleeping in all sorts of strange places. The other morning she was sleeping with her head on a pillow under the coffee table in the living room. She sleeps in the bathroom. I discovered that one morning when I went to open the bathroom door first thing in the AM and it wouldn’t budge.

“Stuck on a goddamned towel or something,” I muttered, pushing the door again.

Then I realized what was stopping the door from opening was my daughter’s body, which was sprawled out on the other side.

I mean, I know they call these the terrible twos, but really, this is too much.

So I told David the kid was out of chances, we were putting up the crib tent and she’d be stuck in there and I wouldn’t have to worry about stepping on her when I walked into the kitchen for coffee.

The problem is, after only a week, she has figured out how to get out of the crib tent. Primo NEVER figured this out. He was too terrified of the zipping sound which meant lock-up and lights-out to even try to escape.

I have a Houdini baby. That’s what I’ve got. Not to mention an ulcer in the works.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Photo Friday Strikes Again

I don't have much commentary today on the handiwork of Pixmaster King. I mean, what am I, an art expert now? Enjoy your weekly New York Triptych.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Oversharers Beware!

If you haven’t run into this blog in cyberspace, allow me to introduce you:

Basically it’s a website where people anonymously submit status updates made by parents with a tendency to over-share or just share really excruciatingly dumb and annoying things about their kids. These submissions are posted and followed by a brief bitch-out by STFU Parents’ founder. Yesterday’s update was a mom telling the facebook world that her 5 month-old is a “sharter” and describing the aroma. TMI if I ever heard it.

I’d like to think that I operate on a plane of crazy much lower and more appealing that the parents quoted on this website. But we all like to think that, don’t we? I mean, no mom ever sets out to broadcast to the world every minor detail of Junior’s troubling BMs. No one tries to be an over-sharing burden on the rest of cyberspace. It just happens. And when it does, the offenders don’t know who they are. But now STFU Parents kindly points them out.

I live in fear of the day that I will recognize my own writing up there. I will have a moment of bad judgment and some Judas who I think is a friend will betray me. Its’ reason enough to steer clear of Twitter.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

This is why we do it . . .

Yesterday morning, Primo woke up at a glorious 6:45am (that’s considered sleeping in at our place) and he creeped into my bed for our accustomed morning snuggle.

“I had a dream,” he said.

“What was it?” I asked.

“I dreamed that I jumped off a cliff but you saved me. Then I had to save you because you jumped off the cliff to get me.”

My son, that beautiful little boy, already understands what family is – a bunch of people who save each other, not from jumping off the cliff, but AFTER the jumping’s been done.

And that is why all my griping could never make up more than just a tiny smudge, to be washed away by this terrific, awesome, stupefying flood of love and blessedness and gratitude. It is like using the entire Atlantic Ocean to rub out a mark on the counter, made by washable crayon. The smudge doesn’t stand a chance.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Disciplining Sharky

I like to eavesdrop on my daughter talking to her stuffed animals. Well, I shouldn’t say “like to”; its more that I can’t stop myself. The truth is, it is more than a little alarming when she disciplines her babies, which is often -- far more often, I think -- than she herself is disciplined.

“Time for bed now Sharky!” she says to her enormous plastic shark, at the tail end of her bath, “If you climb out of the crib, I’m gonna ZIP UP the crib tent, OK, honey? OK?”

A moment’s pause and then: “No No NO SHARKY!!! Somebody’s not LISTENING!!! Don’t climb out of the crib!”

And then, the moment of reckoning: “SHARKY!!!!!!!!” she shouts, “WHAT ARE YOU, NUTS? “

Oh, my daughter. Making me feel like a real gem of a mom. But you’ve got to laugh when she breaks out the Brooklynese. You’ve just gotta laugh.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Smelling Salts

Since I know the saga of my packing is of extreme interest to everyone out there, I will continue it today by sharing with you the fact that the other night, I packed until I passed out.

I actually fainted.

First I should mention that I am prone to fainting, as is my mother. I mean, it doesn’t happen all the time, but every so often, say once every three years or so, I’ll faint. There is always a cause – I say this in case you’re concerned I am the victim of a rare, undiagnosed disease, which is precisely what I would assume.

The first time David was privy to one of my fainting spells was right after we’d moved in together in LA and I slammed the car door onto my finger. I said to David, “I am going to faint.” And then I did, right to the floor – a slow fall, thank goodness, because he didn’t make the slightest effort to catch me whatsoever.

“Why didn’t you CATCH me for God’s sake,” I shrieked afterwards, “I told you I was going to faint.”

“But you’re such a drama queen I didn’t think you would actually DO it,” was his reply.

I absolutely loathe being called a drama queen, as every drama queen does. So I told him, “Look, in the future, if

I ever say that I am going to pass out, I really truly mean it and I’d appreciate it if you would save me from slamming my bones to the hard and unforgiving earth,”

And to think he considers me histrionic. . .

Another fainting spell of note occurred when I was about 10 weeks pregnant with Primo, right in the middle of the very worst, most ravaging, awful phase of my morning sickness. I was throwing up 2, 3 times a day, and couldn’t keep anything down at all, so I actually lost weight in my first trimester. I was skinnier pregnant than not pregnant. So I got on the subway to go to my temp job and I’d already thrown up once or twice that morning and by the time I got to Wall Street I wasn’t feeling too perky. By Park Place I was in bad shape. And when the train pulled into Chambers Street I remember thinking, “Get off the train Nicole, it’s your stop,” but I couldn’t move my legs.

Then I fainted. David wasn’t there, which was probably for the best because had he neglected to catch me then, when I bore the seed of his son, I think I would have performed a criminal act on him. Some other nice people caught me though, and offered me a seat and then I got off the subway and ate a donut from a cart on the street and then I threw up. Ah, pregnancy.

So this weekend, on Friday night, I was packing like it was closing time, which it was, considering the movers were coming at 8 AM the next morning. I hadn’t eaten much and drank almost nothing because I was in the packing ZONE where all that mattered was accumulating filled boxes labeled with my deranged handwriting. It occurred to me that I wasn’t feeling altogether too strong and as I walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water, I had that old familiar light-headed feeling. I happened to be just passing the sofa where David sat, resting. He’d been taking furniture apart all day so I can’t call him a slacker but he was, at that particular moment, sitting on his ass. And that is when I fainted.

“What happened to you?” he asked me.

“I PASSED OUT!” I cried, as a huge surge of self pity rolled over me, “FROM FATIGUE!!!!!!!!!!!”

And then I cried a little bit in self pity and insisted on laying on the floor until David brought me a glass of orange juice, for my blood sugar.

“There’s none left,” he called from the kitchen.

“YOU FINISHED THE ORANGE JUICE!” I shouted, although I was too weak to get off the floor, “And here I am FAINTING????”

It was kind of divine, I have to admit, a spectacular demonstration of my martyrdom. And really, that’s what marriage is all about.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My daughter is trying to kill me

Remember how Seconda was dunking crap into my coffee? Well, since I've taken measures so prevent that, she's resorted to more devious stratagems. This morning I poured myself a cup of java and since I am a die-hard light and sweet kind of girl, I splashed in the milk and opened the sugar bowl to scoop out a teaspoon (or two -- who's counting?). But when i inserted my spoon it made a clinking sound. There, buried in the sugar was

a refrigerator magnet
two rubber bands, and
a tiny black plastic binder clip.

My daughter is trying to kill me.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Lego NY

My son is a Lego genius. May I present to you . . .

The Empire State Building:

The Empire State Building with King Kong:

The Empire State Building with King Kong, with a NYC bus pulling up next to it:

I mean, it is modest stuff because Primo's not a show-off or anything like this guy:

How insane is that? To see more of Sean Kenney's Lego-tastic New York creations click here. Primo and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Master Packer

There is one thing I have to clarify right off the bat.

This is not a picture of David and I. We are hotter than this couple and much more stylish. If you passed us on the street you would definitely be more interested in taking us out for coffee than these guys. The other way you can tell that it is not David and I featured in this photo is the fact that when David and I pack, we do not smile at each other. We grimace. We scowl. We bitch and yell. Ok, I bitch and he yells. We are not one bit happy, like these bozos.

It’s really all my fault. I can be low-key about a lot of things but packing is not one of them. When it comes to packing I have rather severe control issues. In fact, the last time we moved, when I was six months pregnant, I literally packed the entire house, every dish, ever book, every article of clothing, despite my terrific girth. This is because David has such a haphazard packing style (at least compared with mine) and watching him pile books up in unaligned, precarious towers -- a bunch of dime novels on the bottom, a Riverside Shakespeare on top of that and a bunch of board books on top of that – was so deeply unsettling to me that I fired him from all packing duties in perpetuity.

Whenever we take a vacation, David knows to simply select the items he would like to take with us, and place them near, but NEVER inside the suitcase.

It is awful of me to be so controlling, I know, and even worse to resent him because being so controlling means I end up doing a mind-blowing amount of manual labor, but the truth is, I am a master packer. Master. I learned this art from my father who can fit the entire contents of a studio apartment in the trunk of a Subaru Outback, with enough clearance for the driver to safely navigate the FDR. I am freakishly talented at maximizing storage space. Like, that’s one of my great talents in life. For instance, if I left it up to David he would commit the number one biggest mistake when packing a suitcase which is to put clothes in folded. A more TERRIFIC waste of space I cannot begin to imagine! Lay the clothes flat and you can pack in twice as many. I mean, this is beginner stuff here.

So here we are, a few days away from our moving date, maybe 10% of the way packed. I have been preparing myself to hand over some of the packing duties to David because, despite what I may have led you to believe, I am actually only human. It won’t be easy. It will probably give me a bleeding ulcer. I may end up shoving him into a large box and sealing it closed with super-strength packing tape. Or maybe I’ll drink a few glasses of wine to settle my nerves and pass out with bubble wrap in my hand. Who knows how it will all turn out.

One thing I can tell you for sure. We won’t look like these guys.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A-B-C. Always. Be. Closing

So here’s a piece of news. I am now a homeowner.

I have been keeping this huge revelation a secret from you blog readers because as you may or may not know I am a highly superstitious woman and though I have been consumed with financing, appraising, title clearing and the like, I haven’t wanted to leak a word for fear it would cause the whole precarious deal to fall though.

But now I am have the keys, and have moved in my wedding china (that terrifically essential part of our life that has been used twice in five years) and I think I can say with assurance that that glorious one bedroom is mine, all mine. Well, mine and David’s and Seconda’s and Primo’s.

Yes, it may be surprising to hear that with two children, we opted to buy a one bedroom rather than a two or three bedroom but beggars can’t be choosers and freelance writers and literary fiction writers/ secretaries are definitely beggars.

It’s a LARGE one bedroom, I tell people to get the look of shock off their faces, larger even than the two bedroom we are in now. By about 90 square feet. Sure, the total size of our apartment equals the size of the living and dining room in my sister-in-law’s sprawling home in Tennessee. But this is New York, baby, and I wouldn’t care if you offered me the deed to the Taj Mahal – I’m not leaving. I’m not even leaving the Slope. How could I continue Slope blogging otherwise? How could I persist in complaining of santimommies and ice cream fascists and aggravating dads who let their kids piss in the sprinklers? So no need to bid me adieu. I’m staying right where I am. I’m just moving on up to a deluxe apartment in the sky.

And, incidentally, my grandmother will be moving on up herself, up up up to live five floors above us. In the very same apartment building.

Kind of a wild turn of events but my grandmother had to move our of her place, where she’s been for over 35 years, since her landlord graciously hiked up the rent 30% overnight, in the middle of the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Classy move. My grandmother has no legal recourse for a number of reasons and besides, she’s getting on, as they say, and doesn’t need to deal with a walkup at her age. So it was that my parents began searching for a place for her – so that she too could be a homeowner, because it’s never too late to get into the real estate game, and they wanted her close to one of us, and bingo! It just so happened that there were two apartments remaining in this newly-finished building, one for me, and one for my Nonnie.

She has a balcony with a view of the grassy park and play area behind the building, she has granite countertops, stainless steel fridge, a gym in the building and a doorman. She has hardwood floors. For the first time in nearly thirty decades, my grandmother has a dishwasher. A dishwasher, for God’s sake. You’d think she’d be happier than a pig in clover or my mother on no sales tax day. But when people tell her how great it is that she is buying a place and moving close to me, she actually snorts.

“Oh, yes, really great!” she snickers, “It’s very small, there are no places to buy vegetables and you ask me -- too expensive. I like my Brooklyn.”

But despite her notable lack of enthusiasm, we’re all moving forward, into a brave new world of home-ownership and, one can only assume, co-dependence.

These are the parts of the equation I try not to think about too much, though. Instead focus on just how much Ikea shit I can afford to fill the house with because I don’t know what they pump into the air in those stores, but once I enter Ikea, I feel calm and happy and desperately in need of everything they are selling. Some people might buy nice furniture from designer places or even Crate and Barrel or Pottery Barn, but for us, purchasing furniture from Ikea is a step up, because up to this point, we’ve just been using every mismatched hand-me-down anyone has ever thought to offload on us and our house looks like a college dorm room in which lawless toddler and preschoolers are squatting.

And so dear readers, forgive me if I lag in my blogging responsibilities this week – it is only because I’ll be wrapping dishes in newspaper and sealing boxes like its closing time.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bugbusters: infommercial coming soon

Mosquitoes love me. They don’t mind that I’ve gained a few pounds since the birth of my second child; they don’t notice the bags under my eyes. To mosquitoes, I am the hottest piece of ass since Marilyn Monroe. My sweet scent draws them in and they succumb to the irresistible lure of my blood.

So it is that I have been waking in the middle of the night with wild, maddening itches that cannot be satisfied, having been devoured while I slept by those infernal bugs. I was telling Primo about it, and he, dear soul, devised a plan to stop them.

“The first thing you will need to do it get a booboo because I have a lot of booboos and mosquitoes never bite me. Then we will take some of the blood from that booboo and put in a net, or maybe a cup, yes that’s better, because the blood might leak through the net, so we will put it in a cup and then I will have to get an almost-invisible top to put on the cup which is really a trap. Spiders spin webs which are almost-invisible with their silk and so maybe I could get a spider to do it because, you know, I speak spider language. Spiders speak the same language as us except that they are so small you cannot hear them. So I will ask a spider to spin the almost-invisible top and then we will put your blood in there and the mosquito will be attracted to it like how a bee is attracted to honey and then BAM! We will close the top and he will be stuck! Then we will dig a hole and put the mosquito and the blood in the hole because you know mosquitoes will never be able to dig out of the deep dirt and we will call the invention Bugbusters. {Pause for breath] It’s a little bit complicated Mommy, maybe I should tell it to you again.”

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Just Say No

I thought I had at least a decade or so before I had to have the “Just say No” conversation with my son. Kids grow up fast these days.

I’m talking about water balloons here.

I clock a lot of hours at the playground and through my recent time there, I have come to realize there are two kinds of people in the world: those who like to burst water balloons and those who like to keep water balloons intact.

Primo, as you might imagine, belongs to the later group.

He’s definitely not in the majority there. Most of the other 4 year-old boys love nothing more than to hurl full-to-bursting colored vessels of water at each other’s heads. Frankly, I don’t blame them. It looks like fun. If you paid me a quarter, I’d do it too. But my sensitive little boy simply likes to fill the balloons and then carry them around for a while, feeling their weight, appreciating the coolness, watching the bubbles, just generally loving on the balloon.

But yesterday, Primo ran into one of his school friends at the playground, Mark. Mark is a little older than Primo and a real rough-and-tumble, Stars-Wars-loving, prone-to-wrestle kind of boy. This is not a kid that cuddles with water balloons. Primo is always interested in him but a little frightened too, because he’s not one to toes the line, and that freaks my son out.

Since it’s a slow day in the playground when they run into each other, they are both totally delighted and pal up right away, running with abandon through the sprinklers. Then Primo comes sprinting up to me and says, breathlessly, “Mark is so excited we have water balloons! Can he have some! Can we fill them up!”

“Of course!” I say, happy to see my boy having such a lark of a time. I distribute a modest number of water

balloons to Primo, Mark and Seconda, too, despite the fact that she likes to eat them and they are, like, number 1 on the choking hazard list.

As soon as Mark has his, he shouts: “Let’s throw them at each other!!!!”

And then Primo looks worried. And I’m thinking, “Come on, Prim, don’t tell me you didn’t peg him as a burster right from the get-go, now.” But I do have twenty-seven more years of experience than my son so I guess I have that advantage when it comes to reading people, In any event, Primo is trying really hard to be game, so he shouts back, “O-K!” but there’s a waver in his voice that puts me on alert.

The boys fill up a few water balloons and throw them at each other and Mark is having the time of his life while Primo looks like he’s in the waiting room of the doctor’s office.

So I hand out a yellow and a green balloon and I warn, “This is the last of the balloons, guys.”

Mark fills his balloon up first and throws it before Primo can even get his filled. He’s got an insatiable appetite for explosives, that one. And as soon as Primo has his balloon filled, Mark is chanting, “Throw it! Throw it!”

The look on my son’s face is now one of total, undisguised panic. He does not want to throw his last balloon. I know this. I tell him, “You don’t have to throw it, honey, you can keep it.”

Suddenly its like I’m at the initiation for Alpha Phi Alpha and I’m watching a sophomore pushing a freshman to do another keg-stand, when he knows he just can’t handle it. “Throw it! Come on! Do it do it do it do it!’

And then, regretting it even as his hand lets go, Primo throws the balloon.


At that moment, Seconda races at top speed out of the playground and I have to run at a breakneck speed to overtake her before she gets to the street. When we finally get back to where we’ve left Primo, he is no longer there. Instead I find him standing in the far corner of the playground, alone. His mouth hangs open and he is sobbing in huge terrific choking gasps.

“I didn’t want to do it!” he bawls, “I didn’t want to break the balloon and I felt that I MUST! And now it’s too laaaaaaate!”

No one tells you that being a mother will involve having your heart broken just about every day. Or maybe it’s just that I’m a wreck and not fit for the slings and arrows of day-to-day childhood foibles. I just felt so bad for my boy, as he cried: “He just kept telling me to do it and I felt that I must but I just didn’t want to!”

A resourceful mother knows to always keep a balloon or two in reserve, for precisely these emergencies. So I hand one over to Primo, we fill it up together and he carries it carefully all the way home, where we put it in a cup and it still rests. It’s a symbol for something but I don’t know what.

It’s not Mark’s fault, of course. When we left the playground, he was blissfully swinging and waved an enthusiastic “Goodbye!” to Primo, who was still sniffling from the heartbreak of the broken balloon. Primo was confused at how Mark could be so blithely unaware of the devastation he caused but I explained that he didn’t do it on purpose, that Mark probably couldn’t understand why on EARTH someone would fill a balloon with water if not to make an enormous, icy splash with it.

“Honey, you don’t have to do something just because someone tells you to,” I told my son as we left the playground, “It doesn’t matter how many times they tell you to do it or if they yell and shout you can always say,

“Thanks but no thanks, I don’t want to!”

And then we rehearsed – he being Mark and me being him, saying, “No” and then, “I said, No!” and then,

”Buddy, if you don’t back off, I’m not playing with you.”

It’s what they call a teachable moment. What else are you gonna do, right?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Strawberry Stoop Stand

My son hates strawberries. No, wait, that’s an understatement. He reviles them. In fact, he will actually gag when he sees a strawberry or similar kind of squishy fruit – he can’t even stand to have someone eating them at the same table as him.

I usually try to respect his strange yet undeniable strawberry aversion. But this past weekend, I decided to put him on an accelerated GUTI (get used to it) track and bring him strawberry picking.

This would be roughly equivalent to dropping someone with a rodent phobia into a rat-infested gutter. I’m not a monster. I am just a little exhausted of catering to his many phobias and aversions. I thought it could even potentially be fun.

We got off to a rocky start.

The strawberry farm, being a farm, was muddy. Primo hates mud.

“My shoes are getting all DIRTY!!!!!” he shouted, “I want to go HOME!”

“Just walk on the grassy parts,” I chirped merrily, “you’ll be fine.”

Then he stepped on something . . . something red and warm and squishy. It burst under his muddy shoe.

“IT’S A STRAWBERRY!!!!!” he screamed -- shocked, chagrined, betrayed, “WHY DID YOU BRING ME HERE!”

We wiped his shoes clean, we urged him to be calm and reassured him he didn’t have to pick any berries at all. But still our little pastoral romp in the strawberry field looked ill-fated.

“I hate strawberries,” Primo whined, “I wish they were never invented!”

And then, as it always happens, just as if someone flipped a switch in his mind, he got on board.

“I’ll stand on the side and be a spotter,” he conceded.

So Primo pointed out the good berries while David and I picked and Seconda ate rancid ones off the ground despite our protestations., When she tired of that, she lay flat down on her stomach atop the smashed berries and mud and basked in the sun. Little by little, Primo inched closer to the strawberry plants, in his effort to point out where the very ripest, very reddest berries were. And by the end of our little jaunt, he was even tugging them off the stem themselves. Phobia crushed. Victory is sweet. David and I are parents of the year!!!!

Of course Primo still wasn’t going to eat the repugnant fruit. And there is a limit to how many berries Sec and I can consume, so when we got back to Brooklyn, Primo, entrepreneur extraordinaire, suggested having a strawberry sale.

“Genius idea!” I said.

He made a sign, distinguishing his product from all the other stoop strawberries with a little embellishment (the dance is a figurative one, a kind of flavor explosion).

Then we headed down to the stoop.

Primo, it was soon clear, was a proponent of the hard sell.

“Straaaaaaawberries!” he shouted, “Red ripe straaaaawberries! Hand picked by meeeeeeee!”

When he saw someone passing by our stoop, he would direct this announcement at them, yelling it over and over again so that it was more assaultive than I (or the passers-by) might have liked.

“Why didn’t they buy any strawberries?” he asked crestfallen, after a handful of potential customers had passed us by.

“I guess they’re just not in the mood,” I consoled him, “Don’t lose heart. Give a berry to Sec and let her eat it.

She’ll be like a living commercial.”

He made three sales totally $.75 and when the fourth customer came and handed him a dollar, he was shocked to find he had to give the entire contents of his wallet over to the man in exchange for the bill.

“That’s OUR money!” he cried.

So I tried to explain to concept of “change” but I don’t think he got it because he just looked sad and defeated and asked, “Is this what it is like at a real strawberry sale? You have to give the money back?”

The man felt so bad he offered to let him keep the change. Of course, I declined his kind offer. But still, it did bring home the point: cute kids are closers. No doubt.

So anyone having a stoop sale this summer and needs a kid or two to bring in some business? Let’s talk.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Veritable Shitstorm

As you will recall from my recent post, my daughter is no longer napping. Last week when I posted about this development, the unfortunate consequences of this were three in number, namely that she

  1. Goes on a ripping rampage of any stray papers left in her, or my adjoining, bedroom
  2. Has robbed me of the two hours of relative peace and work time that my sanity depends on
  3. Has been an absolute, unrivalled, misbehavin’ mess of a child after the hour of 3pm. It works like this: As soon as I give up on the day’s nap, after about two hours of listening to her yell and destroy things, I release her from her “quiet time.” She smiles broadly and is blissfully happy at her tremendous victory for about five minutes. Then she yawns. And she instantly turns into the spawn of – I won’t say the devil – but one of his close relations. She is totally, completely unmanageable. She stomps up to 10 year-old boys and smacks them in their bellies (that’s as far as she can reach) for no reason whatsoever. Babies literally skitter away from her in terror. She is the menace of Park Slope.

And for a while, I thought these three downsides were about all I was going to have to deal with, in terms of the no-napping fall-out. Naïve, naïve. There is of course, awful consequence number 4 to be grappled with and it is that during the time my daughter should be napping, she:

  1. Paints her body with fecal matter.

Her own, I mean. I guess that makes it a little better. I don’t know – the gross factor is so obscenely high, it’s really hard to judge. What I am trying to say is my daughter likes to take a dump in her diaper and smear it everywhere.

This has happened twice. I think you will agree that that is two times too many.

Cleaning up after a newborn who’s had a major butt blowout is one thing. Cleaning up after your two year-old who is using her bowel movements as some kind of guerilla warfare tactic is another thing altogether.

And she’s cleverly quiet about it too so I don’t hear anything and don’t come around to inquire. I mean, I should be alarmed by the silence but we parents know full well that when 30 minutes of peace falls into your lap, you are not going to question it.

And that is why my house is in the midst of an actual shitstorm.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Redcoats on the golf course

Here’s how me and my brood celebrated the Fourth of July – just the four of us, at my parent’s place in New Jersey, no BBQ, no red, white and blue, just some frank talk about our forefathers and a little war re-enactment.

We were in the mood for some low-commitment, easy outdoor frolicking, so we went to the only nearby playground, a run-down, kind of decrepit playarea in this rather upscale living community a few minutes up the road. I don’t really know what you call it – its’ not exactly a country club, and its not a pool club or a beach club, and you don’t need to show ID to get in, but it certainly looks like a club of some sort, with tennis courts and basketball courts, all these houses that look the same . . . and a run-down decrepit playground.

The one climbing apparatus they have is made of wood which I have to say is a poor choice, long-term – no sooner do you place your hand on the ladder but you’ve got a damn splinter. There are three swings, a sandbox I wouldn’t let my worst enemy stick his toe in, and a little ladder and slide area, whose crown jewel – a swirly slide -- has a jagged tear, right at the bottom so that you almost can’t help but get your leg caught as you are zooming through the slide. I don’t know what the deal is with this playarea but it does seem like the fancypants at Garden Springs are actively trying to rid themselves of children. They can’t get rid of us that easy, though – me and mine aren’t so terribly discriminating.

So we play for a while in the condemned playground and then we wander out a bit to pick pinecones and dandy-lions (this is what Primo calls any flowering weed he encounters and the way he says it – “Oh just look at that beeoo-tee-ful DANDY-lion!” – you’d be hard-pressed not to devour him right on the spot). Them Primo and Pops adventure a little further across the hilly lawn and soon they are calling to me and Seconda, “Come look at this beeoo-tee-ful view!” So we climb up and down and up and down the hills until we reach the place where the boys are standing, looking at a little man-made pond.

“We have reached the summit!” I shout, “And it is EXQUISITE!”

And as we are all standing there enjoying the peace of the tranquil water below us, a small white object whizzes by our heads at a terrific velocity.

“What in the Sam hell ---” I start.

“Golf balls,” my super-smart husband replies, “They’re hitting them right at us.”

“Maybe it was an accident,” I say, since even I have moments of Pollyanna within me.

But a second later, another high-speed golf missile grazes my head.

“We’re under attack!” I yell, “Run for your lives!”

“It’s the redcoats!” Primo yells delightedly, “The redcoats are COMING!”

And that is how the whole darn family was found on the fourth of July running through the Garden Springs golf course, reenacting the eve of the Revolutionary War by screaming at the top of our lungs, “THE REDCOATS ARE COMING THE REDCOATS ARE COMING!”

Better than a BBQ to honor our forefathers.

Friday, July 3, 2009

I love you in blue and ice cream at sunrise

Mixmaster King returns to my blog this Friday with some kick-ass paeans to our great city.

I love this shot so much I think it should be a friggin' postcard. I mean, don't you just feel, with total certainty, that that scrawl was written just for her, mystery girl of the dark shadow(and the amazing boots?)

People need their ice cream, even at sunrise.

When my son saw this picture, he said, "Its a Vincent Van Gogh picture!" And no formal art education, this kid. I mean, just check out that cloud.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Eyes Pried Open

This morning Seconda climbed into my bed and literally pried my eyes open with her fingers. I felt like the guy in A Clockwork Orange. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, that’s not a good thing.

“Wake up Mommy!” she yelled, “OPEN YOU EYES!”

This is not as easy as she makes it seem. Opening my eyes in the morning, in fact, takes a monumental effort. Sweet sleep beckons me not to leave the bed. Darling, delicious sleep murmuring sweet nothings in my ear, while Seconda shouts

“Are you awake Mommy? MOMMY! YOU HAVE TO OPEN YOU EYES!!!!!”

The last accompanied by another vigorous eye-pry.

I have been particularly knackered lately. Conked out. Cooked. Fried. Flattened by fatigue. I mean, it’s not like the surreal haze of the newborn days when I didn’t know if it was day or night and I would just loose my boob every time I heard a noise that at all resembled a baby cry. This is just your garden-variety cumulative exhaustion.

So in the mornings, after my eyes are pried open by small dirty fingers, I’ve taken to shuffling over to the TV, bringing up some grade-A children’s programming and basically going back to sleep.

This is fine when it’s Primo that’s awake because he is 4/5 and pretty responsible. Seconda, on the other hand, must be heavily monitored at all times. She is drawn to trouble, this one. But I have been so friggin’ tired lately that the other day after I put the Backyardigans on for her, I lay on the couch and just closed my eyes, just for a minute.

When David came home from the coffee shop at 8 am, he found Sec with a paci in her mouth. Pacifiers are strictly limited to sleeping time but since Sec knows where we stash them, since she can climb chairs until she reaches that drawer, and since she was unsupervised while I dozed on the couch, why, she had her choice of pacis. Not only did she have the paci in her mouth but she was standing on our garbage can and had just pulled down a bar of Perugina chocolate which she was in the process of unwrapping when David walked in.

“Where is Mommy?” he asked.

She didn't bother taking the paci out of her mouth: “She can’t open her eyes.”

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tear shit up

Something unfortunate has occurred.

My daughter has stopped napping.

It’s the sort of thing that you know is coming, especially when you have an older child, but you just can’t quite believe that it’s time for it already. I mean, Seconda’s not even two and a half yet and I thought we had a good year at least of peaceful early afternoons before us. My son was at least 3 before he gave up his nap, and with him, it was a gradual process; he’d skip his nap for a couple of days, but I’d persist with our naptime ritual and he’d eventually cave in to sleep since there was nothing better to do, in the dark, in his crib.

Well Seconda has found plenty of better things to do in the dark. Not in her crib of course. That wildcat leaps out of her crib before I’ve even closed the bedroom door behind me. Most of the better things she’s found to do are highly destructive.

What I mean is, she likes to tear shit up. Literally. And the easiest thing to tear is, of course, books, Which in our house is tantamount to hurling the family’s crystal against the wall. I mean, I am willing to accept that my children do a lot of bad shit but tear up books?

“What did this book ever do to you?” I ask her, “All it wanted was to make you HAPPY and you’ve destroyed it!”

There was one time that Primo tore up his very beloved, very fancy, very expensive pop-up Wizard of Oz book. I don’t know if it was a masochistic thing or what, but it occurred during the tail end of the losing-the-nap period when he was stuck in his room for two hours with nothing to do. When I opened the door to release him from nap captivity, I saw all these beautiful bits of glimmering Emerald City and yellow bricks and pieces of poppy field scattered everywhere and I’m not going to lie to you, it hurt. I gave him such a stern talking-to then that he kind of has post-traumatic stress disorder about the whole episode. In fact, a year later, we were just sitting in the kitchen one morning talking and he told me that he had a horrible dream the night before.

“I dreamt that I tore up the Wizard of Oz pop-up book,” he said.

“That wasn’t a dream,” I informed him, “That happened.”

“No, no, that’s not right,” came his reply.

My stern reprimand scarred him enough that he hasn’t so much as dog-eared a page since.

Seconda, on the other hand. could care less about my little lectures or my time-outs or my yelling or my forcing her to read only board books until she proves that she deserves paperback again. During my stern talking-tos, she regards me with this bored kind of expression that is so awfully adolescent, I fear for the future.

“Whatever, lady, keep flapping your lips,” her eyes seem to say, “As soon as you turn your back, I’m ripping Puff’s face right of his magic body while Jackie Paper watches, then I’ll shred that sucker too.”