Friday, October 30, 2009

How to Feel Like a Supermom: Halloween Version

A few months after Seconda was born, when Primo was about two and a half, we took a road trip, and during this road trip, we pulled over to eat the sandwiches I’d packed at a New Jersey rest stop. I don’t always have the foresight or energy to pack sandwiches and often we just drive and drive with whining children and rumbling stomachs, looking for someplace that isn’t McDonald’s, finding nothing and finally stopping at McDonald’s, over-hungry and a somewhat guilty. But on this occasion, I had packed sandwiches and it was a beautiful day so we ate outside. I was playing with the kids, tickling them or pretending to eat them or something and I noticed a mom nearby with her baby, watching us. Not in a creepy way. In an admiring way.

Then the mom talked to me.

“You’re such a great mom,” she said. “You’re so fun.”

I didn’t want to mislead the lady so I quickly disabused her of the notion that I was always this great. I told her that the kids drive me nuts and I don’t feel so “fun” when I’m yelling at them like a harpie. Then we talked about her baby and exchanged mom notes and went back in our cars to reach our separate destinations.

I’m not the sort of person that gets frequently admired – like an astronaut, or a doctor or a mother of triplets – so her compliment made quite an impression on me. I’ll admit it, I treasured it. I milked it, too, reminding David every five minutes in that car ride that I was a “great mom” and wasn’t he lucky to have landed someone as “fun” as me, someone so fun, in fact, a perfect stranger could not help but comment on it. It still gives me a little buzz to recall. Our job is so thankless in so many ways, so much self-sacrifice is involved, and all you typically get from strangers is reprimands, head-shakes, tsk tsks and other despicable gestures of judgment with the clear message,

“You suck.”

I was thinking of this Rest Stop Good Samaritan this week because it occurred to me that while I couldn’t be a SuperMom, there are certainly moments or things I do that make me feel like a SuperMom. Short-cuts, of you will. Little things with big payoff. It’s similar to my strategy for looking hot. There is just no damn way right now that I can go to the gym, I’ve tried and I just can’t make it work. But if I put on a really great dress that’s cut just right, well, I won’t be any thinner but I’ll look thinner and feel hotter. Illusion it may be but hey, there’s nothing wrong with that.

So in the spirit of magic tricks, I offer you –

Tip No. 1 for Feeling Like a SuperMom

Let your kid costume you for Halloween.

That’s right, tomorrow, for the first time in years, I’m wearing a costume. It wasn’t my idea. Primo planned our family costume last March, when his spook obsession first developed. I thought he’d forget about it by Halloween by as capricious as kids are, they have some ideas with staying power. So this year, David will be Frankenstein and I will be, who else? His bride. I bought the wig which seriously is so tall that I can hardly keep my head straight. And today I am going to spend much too much time scrounging around for some facsimile of a bridal dress in my closet. For a minute I thought about wearing my actual wedding dress but then the reason I was born returned to me. So, I’m dressing up tomorrow and it better make me feel like a SuperMom, to combat the searing embarrassment.

Now, that I think about it, I should re-title this tip: Tip No. 1 for Me to Feel A Little Less Lonely in my Douchiness.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What is it with kids and Vaseline?

The other day I used some of this fine petroleum jelly to aid Seconda with some . . . diaper distress – note my careful avoidance of TMI here – and as I popped off the lid I saw her little eyes shift over to the tub of Vaseline and I saw the thought written there, as clear as if it were in 20 point Arial font on my computer screen,

“I have got to get into that shit.”

I understood that she would not rest until she had been reunited with that petroleum jelly, on her own terms, without my supervision. And yet, despite this assurance, I put the damn thing back in the low shelf in our bathroom.

Less than an hour later, I called for my daughter, to no response.

Then I shouted her name with extra force and I heard her squeaky voice call out from the bathroom: “I can’t.”

“WHY can’t you come here?” I asked.
“I -- can’t.” she repeated, and she sounded muffled, like she was in a compromised position.

There she was, crouched over something in the cabinet, like a feral animal nursing a wound. When I pulled her out, she, of course, had Vaseline all over her. And all over the contents of the cabinet, the shelves and extra toilet paper rolls and sample shampoos and bandaids. Everywhere.

Funny thing about Vaseline. It doesn’t wash off. Not remotely. I learned this only after dragging my daughter to the sink in a farcical Sumo-typr wrestling match with her slipping out of my grasp and darting back over to the Vaseline like some kind of junkie.

Fun way to spend an afternoon.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Spooky Spoofs

I don’t have many fields of expertise and certainly very few that are useful to anyone. But if you and your child love Halloween or spooks generally, and if you and your child want to see these spooks appear in spoofs of famous children’s literature, than doggoneit, I’m your woman. Primo and I have read so many of these spooky spoofs that I wrote a short article about my favorite ones for Time Out NY Kids which you can read by clicking here. All of them are one hundred percent amomamok-approved for quality. Just in time for Halloween. . .

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sunday: a love story

I know all I write about it kids and poop and tantrums and I know that you, faithful and devoted readers with exceptionally good taste, never tire of these subjects which are endlessly fascinating. But this Sunday was so lovely and I was thinking about how great Sundays can be and I remembered this poem I read in a poetry class in college, by Gwendolyn Brooks, about the kind of Sunday you used to have, before kids. There are several reasons I love Gwendolyn Brooks and the first reason is that she reads her poems like she means it, and not in the usual staccato, totally lifeless, nasally voice most poets read their work that puts way too much emphasis on their peculiarly-placed line breaks. Brooks performs her poems, which is to say, delivers the lines with flourish and feeling -- almost sings the poems, really -- and she has a very pronounced lisp which is incredibly endearing. You can hear her if you listen to that poetry collection I am always going on about, Poetry Speaks to Children - she's on the CD. But the real reason I love Brooks is she knows how to make a poem that punches you in the gut -- in a good way. She puts things in such a way that you have to wonder, "Why don't we ALWAYS use the expression a 'limping afternoon' or 'my heart playing hopscotch'?" She gets it just right. See for yourself.

when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story

by Gwendolyn Brooks

—And when you have forgotten the bright bedclothes on a Wednesday and a Saturday,
And most especially when you have forgotten Sunday—
When you have forgotten Sunday halves in bed,
Or me sitting on the front-room radiator in the limping afternoon
Looking off down the long street
To nowhere,
Hugged by my plain old wrapper of no-expectation
And nothing-I-have-to-do and I’m-happy-why?
And if-Monday-never-had-to-come—
When you have forgotten that, I say,
And how you swore, if somebody beeped the bell,
And how my heart played hopscotch if the telephone rang;
And how we finally went in to Sunday dinner,
That is to say, went across the front room floor to the ink-spotted table in the southwest corner
To Sunday dinner, which was always chicken and noodles
Or chicken and rice
And salad and rye bread and tea
And chocolate chip cookies—
I say, when you have forgotten that,
When you have forgotten my little presentiment
That the war would be over before they got to you;
And how we finally undressed and whipped out the light and flowed into bed,
And lay loose-limbed for a moment in the week-end
Bright bedclothes,
Then gently folded into each other—
When you have, I say, forgotten all that,
Then you may tell,
Then I may believe
You have forgotten me well.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hot Dogs and Ghoul Masks and Books – Oh My!

I am never so glad to be a Brooklynite as on a Sunday. There is such a panorama of possibility in terms of diversion and delight, its hard to know where to start, especially on a spectacular sunny fall day. This Sunday we started at Bark, the eco-friendly haute dog joint on Bergen Street. Pork and beef blend dogs with all sorts of fresh, tasty toppings (oh, chili cheese dog, wilt thou be mine?) are so good you won’t mind paying the high prices (six bucks for a dog? Seriously?). Primo polished off a biscuit with cherry jam which he highly recommends and Seconda quite enjoyed the piping hot and greasy salt-and-pepper fries. And the best part is the whole place is green – from the wind power used to keep the lights on to the reclaimed wood communal tables to the compost receptacles. Hey, green is the new black.

Then off to the feature presentation of the day – Ghouls and Gourds at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Best damn October-fest I’ve been to in years. And the recipe for success is simple: huge, Julie Taymor-like masks and puppets that kids can crawl into. Check out my kids in these puppet pieces of art:

Icing on the cake was meeting the author/ illustrator of Primo’s favorite book: The Field Guide to Monsters. Johan Olander was delightful; he talked to Primo for a while about his process and inspiration, and let the kids draw their own monsters, some of which he’ll include on his website. Primo was really thrilled. His monster was the Zookalak, who lives in the air, eats trees and plants and looks charming, with 10,000 teeth. Then we hit the story-telling tent and heard Javaka Steptoe read a few of his books, like Rain Play and a funny collection of tongue-twisty puns he helped to illustrate called How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck? Oh, literature! Oh sunshine! Oh Brooklyn!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

We've got a winner for the Big Apple Circus Giveaway!

And its . . . Meg Graham Hansen!!!!

Horray for you, Meg! You've won four free tickets to the Big Apple Circus where feats of wonder will be performed before your very eyes!

You have three days to claim the tickets before they go to the second place winner, so either post a message below, send a FB message to me, or post on the amomamok wall by Wednesday 10/ 25 at 10am, to let me know you want the tickets and we will get you all set up.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, October 23, 2009

A mish-mash of illuminating miscellany

Today I am consumed with making 4 zillion sugar cookies and chocolate chow mein spiders (don’t knock ‘em til you’ve tried ‘em) for a little Halloween party tomorrow. Because of that, today’s dose of blogness falls under the category of Miscellany.

1. Do other people find that for months and months after they move into a new place they lack items which they need for civilized life? I have been living in this apartment for three months without a toilet bowl brush, or a razor or baking soda. Since these things are never direly necessary, they never make it to my sphere of consciousness when I’m at the store and I just have to look at my toilet bowl and think, "Man, I need a toilet brush." But I have must get a razor soon because trying to hide from David the fact that I am using his razor to shear the dense growth on my legs is very stressful.

2. If you sign up for a Mommy and Me swim class, make sure you have a one-piece bathing suit before the first class. If you don’t, you’ll end up wearing a skimpy bikini that fit you five years ago when you bought it but now, after two children, looks indecent and not in a good way. And once you get over the horror of wearing it once, it will be easier to continue wearing that bikini to swim class rather than buy a suitable black one-piece like all the other sane mothers. And while your own horror at wearing the bikini will subside the horror others feel while seeing you barely contained in a stretched-out Old Navy two-piece will not diminish and you won’t stand a chance of making any Mommy friends.

3. An explosive moment in our apple-pie-baking several weeks ago made it necessary for me to explore the wonders of my "self-cleaning oven." I didn't even know I had one of these and I certainly didn't imagine it would actually clean itself, without any help OR cleaning products. Guys, its MAGIC. If you are looking for something to believe in, believe in self-cleaning ovens.

4. Does anyone know any good games for a Halloween party with a bunch of Kindergarteners and 2 year-olds in attendance? Craft project ideas are welcome, too, but make them the easy and not-so-messy kind because I’d like to avoid stepping in puddles of glitter glue for the next two weeks. Who invented glitter glue pens by the way? Who really thought that would be a good idea?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Creepy Uncle Jerry

So David and I were in the car, driving to New Jersey this past weekend, and we were listening to an old Music Together CD from when Primo was a baby and we had money and time to sign up for fancy classes like that. It’s not what we normally groove to in the car but I unearthed it in a desperate move to break Seconda of her fixation with “Glad to Have a Friend like You.” I mean, I like that song and all, but it gets a little grating when you hear it on repeat play for two hours. Sometimes she concedes to shake things up a bit by listening to “Little Red Caboose” by Sweet Honey in the Rock, and again, while I think the song is great, I feel like Phantom of the Opera after I’ve heard it five times in a row.

So there we are listening to the opening tune of Music Together, entitled, “Hello everybody.” If you’re not familiar with the song, trust me when I say you’re not missing much. It goes, “Hello everybody, so glad to meet you.” And then the singers introduce themselves, like, “Hello, I’m Grandma Yvette, so glad to meet you.” There’s a male singer called “Uncle Jerry,” who David and I agree sounds like an unsavory character. He just really seems like the uncle you don’t want to invite to birthday parties, and his name doesn’t help. So Uncle Jerry sings in his weird sugary voice, “Hello, I’m Uncle Jerry, so glad to meet you.”

David says, “What a perv.”

To which I issue the rejoinder: “There are kids in the car! Shut the fuck up.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Circus Giveaway!!!

Since I volunteered for a class trip at Primo's school today, i am in total schoolteacher mode and in my capacity as such, I'd like to give you a reminder.

Do not forget, readers, about my super exciting, not-to-be-missed jackpot GIVEAWAY for the Big Apple Circus! Four free tickets could be yours. ANd I mean messazine, folks, not those shabby in-the-back kind (which I usually go for).

If you haven't entered yet, do so by visiting my original post. Basically, you can leave a comment, twitter or become a fan on facebook - and you can do it once a day until Friday, when I do the drawing at If you can't think of any more exciting circus memories, you can comment about what act you are looking forward to the most, or which one creeps you out - anything you want.

Class dismissed.


Since October is Monster Madness Month here at A Mom Amok, I'm posting this essay I wrote about my son's first Halloween which appeared in the Park Slope Reader's Fall '05 issue. Gives you a sense of the boy's humble Halloween beginnings. Prepare to be wowed by this year's costume design, Primo's brainchild. Let's just say it will be a family affair and it won't be pretty. Cackle cackle, hiss hiss. Ok, I'm a wierdo.


I’m a die-hard Halloweener and I haven’t let an October 31st go by uncelebrated in three decades. I don’t mean that I erect life-sized motion-sensor witches and skeletons in font of door which cackle and shriek "Boo!" every time someone passes by. I don't host a haunted house or anything. Nohing wierd or beyond the pale. I just love dressing up and I tend to take it very seriously.

It helps that as a little girl I had a personal costume designer. My grandmother was an expert seamstress, her skills honed through years working at a swimsuit manufacturing factory, and come Halloween, the magic of her needle was devoted entirely to me. Over the years, I masqueraded as such iconographic figures as Little Bo Peep, Princess Leia, Barbara Eden’s Jeannie and -- our masterpiece, the crown jewel of my grandmother’s costume trunk – Tara’s own Scarlet O’Hara, in a lemon-colored three-tiered hoop skirt. With a start like this, how could a girl not love Halloween?

As a kid, the thrill of Halloween was all about busting out of the humdrum to achieve a taste of the extraordinary, if only for a day. That, and the twenty tons of candy I amassed. In adolescence, Halloween was an excuse to wear as few clothes as possible, to find new and exciting ways of re-inventing the basic streetwalker costume. And then, in college and my early twenties, Halloween was an invitation to showcase my clever wit through the high-concept costume piece. But there comes a time when even the most innovative trick-or-treater runs out of steam, when you’ve sipped martinis as Kafka’s cockroach and flirted as an electrocuted fairy, when you’ve made the rounds as a post-Y2K cyborg and peaked at Bloody Mary, and you think, “Halloween’s just not what it used to be.”

This is when you should have a baby. Because one of the compensations motherhood offers for the pain of childbirth and months of sleep deprivation is the privilege of dressing your progeny in whatever costume your want to, for at least one or two Halloweens. After this point, your child will demand a woefully uncreative costume, typically the mass-produced habiliments of a cartoon character which will reveal to your neighbors that your child watches TV, a lot of it, and will do so until you hit the jackpot and get a live-in nanny. But for one or two Halloweens, the pipsqueak will get no say whatsoever and will happily serve as a canvas for your creative genius.

The July before my Primo’s first Halloween, my grandmother started making inquires about our plans. She reminded me that we’d have to make an appearance in Bensonhurst since her neighbors were dying to see the baby in his costume. They’d never forgotten me in my Scarlet O’Hara glory and now wanted to witness the debut of this next generation of my family’s trick or treaters.

“You betta start tinking about what’s he gonna be,” she advised, and offered to pull one of my old costumes from her dusty trunk to mark the occasion. I politely declined. This was an important Halloween, an inauguration for Primo into a lifetime of make-believe and candy; it warranted serious consideration. The problem was, the possibilities were really endless. He could go classic, as the Velveteen Rabbit; literary, as Don Quixote; local, as Uncle Louie G. Where to even start?

I consulted with Primo to get some input, but despite our intense mother-son bond, I couldn’t understand his baby talk. The weeks rolled by as I waited for inspiration to hit and eventually the abundance of possibility stranded me in a no-man’s land of inaction. Which is to say, I froze under pressure. And I found myself on October 30, with two choices: head to the Atlantic Mall and rifle through the remaining animal costumes at Old Navy or ask my grandmother to creak open the old costume trunk.

So on Halloween afternoon, Primo hit the streets of Bensonhurst in a pink clown costume circa 1976. With matching pom-pom hat, of course. We made our rounds, with my grandmother shouting to her friends to, “Come to da window! He’s coming!” And the Italians hung out of their windows in their mumus, oohing and ahhing, shouting bilingual benedictions and affirming that the baby was as pretty as his mama in her Scarlet O’Hara costume. Occasionally someone would come down to their stoop for a closer look and press a one dollar bill, or even a five spot, into Primo’s sweaty little clown palm. I counted our booty on the R train back to the Slope-- twenty five bucks. Not bad for an afternoon’s work.

When my husband came home and saw his son in his pepto-bismol pagliaccio get-up, he raised a brow but said nothing. He had followed the entire “Boy’s hat found” thread on parkslopeparents and knew better than to make a fuss about a little fuchsia. Now, had we been Halloweening in Eastern Tennessee, in my husband’s hometown, a boy in pink would be worse than a boy named Sue. But here in Park Slope, Primo can, and does, enjoy the freedom of wearing his mother’s sequined slippers while clutching a vintage leopard skin handbag and pushing a babydoll stroller.

So we took our baby clown to his first Halloween parade on 7th Avenue without a qualm in the world. And as we strolled down that candy highway, the thrill of the kids all jacked up on sugar was infectious enough that I began wondering if I couldn’t get back in the costume game myself. Next year, I mused, Primo and I could plan a his-and-her costume – Bonnie and Clyde perhaps, or Fred and Ginger. There was always Kafka and his cockroach, and it was only fair to let the kid take center stage as the bug.

And so, a Halloween legacy is born.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tresse Francaise . . . ooh la la!

When I found out my second baby was a girl, one of my first thoughts was, “I can do her HAIR!” If I had spoken it out loud, it would have been followed by a squeal. I was elated. I had high hopes of barrettes, ponytails, pigtails and even – French braids!

I don’t want to toot my own horn but you should know that I can do French braids. To me, this is an extraordinary feat because my own mother can NOT do French braids. It was probably precisely because she could not do the tresses francaise that I loved for my hair to be in them which left me continually calling in my aunt, her sister, to execute the coif. Often, my aunt would have to do them the day before a big event and I’d sleep with my hair wrapped in a bandana. If you’re plagued with super-fine hair as I am, you will understand this is not a successful strategy. I would wake up with my hair half un-braided, totally fuzzy and unkempt, like I’d been wrestling a bear. Nonetheless they were French braids and I figured they worked a little like diamonds. An imperfect diamond is better than no diamond at all.

But, I thought with satisfaction, back when I was preggo, my daughter would not have to wage the uphill battle of sleeping with her braids in. I could do FRESH braids for her, the morning OF. Oh how fortunate she would be! Oh what a bright future of braids and barrettes and chignons we had before us!

I know Seconda is only two and a half but so far a barrette hasn’t lasted longer than thirty seconds in her hair. As soon as you put a rubber band in her hair she rips it out and throws it on the floor with chagrin, like “Oh no, we’re not going to go through THIS again, are we?”. And so her hair is always wild, untamable, and totally out of control – exactly like she is.

I wouldn’t be so surprised that she can’t keep a barrette in her hair because after all, she is still just a toddler and half-animal, except that when I look around at her little two year-old friends, all the girls have bows and ribbons and feathery silky shit stuck daintily in their dos. How do you do it, parents of the well-coiffed? It baffles me. Do you bribe, threaten or dupe? Oh, but I know without asking, that it is just because your children are more compliant, more easy-going, less eager to sweat the small stuff, like the rubbery things you put on their head to make strange shapes with their hair.

My baby girl is stunning just as she is, of course. And perfect, too. I mean, it’s not like I feel there is something missing from the way she looks, something that needs to be corrected. I’m just a girl who likes accessories and I thought it was a love we could share. Plus, in case you haven’t picked this up by now, I CAN DO FRENCH BRAIDS. It’s like being Pablo Picasso but having no paint.

But since I am a humanitarian, I will share my riches of talent with you. I will reveal to you the secret of French Braiding hair. Or will do it for me. Click here to begin your tutelage.

Monday, October 19, 2009

. . . and it was still hot.

I am aware that you can’t enter any establishment which caters to kid clientele without running straight into some piece of marketing for Where the Wild Things Are. Maybe you are sick and tired of it by now. Maybe you’re thinking, “Enough already with the Wild Things blitz!” Maybe you’re thinking that the movie couldn’t possibly live up to the hype.

It totally does.

Where the Wild Things Are rocked my socks off. Knocked me off my feet. Bewitched bothered and bewildered was


Here’s what’s so great about it:

  1. Max Records, the kid who plays Max is pitch perfect. Not one of these Culkin-types. Natural and un-Hollywoodized and totally not precious at all. And infinitely lovable.
  2. The wild things look real and fantastical at the same time! I’m not a big fan of CGI but used with real puppets, it has a terrific effect of making them so human-seeming, with sad eyes. I was wowed.
  3. It is visually spectacular. Every shot is like a painting.
  4. Jonze really honors the story but lends a fresh, dynamic perspective. He doesn’t treat the story with kid gloves at all, and allows himself to use it as a launching pad. Purists will not like it, although I’m not sure how you could make aWild Things movie a purist would like. I have to confess, I did balk – out loud – when instead of having the forest grow and grow and grow in Max’s room, Jonze has Max running out of the house, away from his mother, into a nearby forest. I was counting on seeing the walls becoming the world all around. But in Jonze’s version of the story, you don’t get the “I was dreaming all along!” Wizard of Oz ending that Sendak suggests. Instead, there’s nothing to rule out the idea that Max’s adventure really happened, and hey, I’m a fan of magic realism, particularly in kid’s books, so I dig that. When Max returns home after his adventure, it’s his mother, not a hot supper, that’s waiting for him, but the scene which follows, the last scene of the movie is so true to the heart of the book I sobbed and sobbed. Jonze has Max and his mom hug and then cuts to Max at the kitchen table, scarfing down a big piece of chocolate cake and milk while his mther leans on the table, cheek on her hand, and just watches her boy with the adoration and gratitude and peacefulness that we all experience when our kids come home.

Holy shit, it was good.

I wouldn’t bring young kids, though. David and I were dying to bring Primo, who has loved the book as much as I did when I was a girl. But we quickly realized there was too much that was sad and serious and scary about it – nobody gets hurt and the wild things are friendly but they are feral, after all, and there are plenty of moments of real tension where you wonder if Max is going to be OK. Plus, I think it’s slow and serious enough that a little kid would be bored. There were two kids, preschool–aged, in our theater and by the ending they were pretty restless.

I think my husband puts it best:

“Not a kid flick by any stretch or leap. But parents should go -you will love the fuck out of it. Jonze rocks the hiz-ouse and Sendak started the revolution.”

Friday, October 16, 2009

Want to win 4 tickets to the Big Apple Circus?

Here's something surprising about me:

I went to circus school.

Its true. Alum of San Francisco School of Circus Arts '87. Specialty: Contortion.

And that's not event the full extent of my circus training. I also took a very intensive clown class as part of my rigorous course of study for the Theater major at Yale. I'm not kidding. It was a source of terrific embarrassment for my mother -- here she thought she'd sent me to the Ivy Leagues to become a doctor or something and instead I was prancing around with an actual red nose on pretending to be Clarissa Mount Tissa, and singing songs about tapeworms with my butt padded.

But I'm not ashamed of my circus training. Because the circus is about the best old-fashioned, wholesome, straight-up rolicking good time ever. People FLY. People jump through hoops of FIRE. People bend themselves into pretzel-y knots that make you queasy. Maybe its because I am still a kid at heart but I like magic and I enjoy feats of strength and bravery. I love the circus.

So I'm in luck because guess who is coming to town????

Big Apple Circus is setting up shop under the old Big Top near Lincoln. I've been oohing and ahhing at the Big Apple since I was knee-hight o a grasshopper. In fact I remember very clearly thinking, "Man, its good to be a New Yorker," because ours was a city with its very own circus, and not some po-dunk affair but a no-holds-barred all-star operation. Last year was Primo's first time to the Big Apple and he was so wowed he did simulated trapeze-work in our apartment for months afterwards.

This year, we're taking Seconda, who may very well leap into the ring and rock the high wire. And you can join us!!! That's right, folks, its a giveaway!

I'm giving away one Family 4 Pack of tickets with Mezzanine seats (No seat is more than 50 feet away from the main stage).

The Big Apple Circus will be held Oct. 22- Jan 18, 2010, under the Big Top in Damrosh Park (near Lincoln Center) and the winner will get a choice of dates.

To enter, post a comment below and share your best circus memory, or your (or your pipsqueak's) favorite circus act.

And if you're the ambitious type and you want extra entries you can:

1. Follow amomamok on Twitter and tweet about this giveaway to the hashtags:#BigAppleCircus. Then leave a comment under this post letting me know you did.

If you are cyber-challenged as I am, and this sounds like goobledygook to you, what is means is:
Go to twitter and type this in:

Enter the @amomamok Big Apple Circus in NYC Giveaway for a family pack! #BigAppleCircus

2. Become a fan of a mom amok on Facebook by clicking here or searching for "a mom amok".

Starting today, you can enter this giveaway once a day on this site, plus once a day with a Twitter mention or becoming a facebook fan (just leave a comment under this post saying how you entered). The Giveaway will close on midnight, October 23st and I’ll choose the winner randomly (thanks from the total number of entries. Winners must be living in the US to enter and be able to get to NYC for the circus.

Good luck!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Spanish Ficodor

There are times when the children start talking to me and after a few seconds of nodding and “uh huh”-ing, I think to myself, “Wait – what’s he talking about? Is it me or does this not make any sense?” This is what happened last night, when after bath, as I brushed Primo’s teeth and helped him put his PJs on, he gave me a short lecture on something called the Spanish Ficodor.

“When it is a baby it is called Spanish Ficodor and then for a while it is called nothing and then when it grows up it is called the Italian Ficodor. Because Italian is the opposite of Spanish, I guess."

When I asked what a ficodor was, he gave the following explanation: "A ficodor is like Frankenstein, it is so misunderstanded. It’s like a havalina or a black cat, actually its basically a beast. Or, I should say, it is related to a beast. It has a crazy name because it is a crazy beast and because it is Italian and on Halloween, Italians make a big scene and a big deal out of people.”

As I was taking this in, Primo added: “Don’t write that on your blog, It is a secret.”

(For the record, this information was later cleared for publication by Primo, who, upon further consideration, though the world should know).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Goober Peas

Yes, you heard me right. There is such a thing as Goober Peas and they are very beloved by the exact contingent of people you’d imagine, people who generally go ga-ga for crazy-named delicacies which a rational person (read Yankee) would never consider ingesting. I mean, of course, Southerners. I can say that because I’m married to one.

When we were at the Brooklyn Flea last weekend, David, Tennessee native, made a big deal about some boiled peanut stand. I, as usual, only half-listened to him.

“Peanuts . . . cool,” I muttered while checking out vintage threads.

“No, not regular peanuts,” he corrected, “Goober peas. Boiled peanuts. They are a Southern delicacy.”

“Right, peanuts, that’s nice,” I replied.

I’m not a big peanut person. I frequently go months and months without the taste of peanut – no PB and J, no cocktail nuts, no peanut oil. I mean, I’m not averse to them. They just don’t strike me as a treat. While we’re on the subject of nuts, I am immune to the lure of pecan. David finds this unbelievable. He will swoon at the mention of pecan pie. I think it’s a Southern thing.

Today David sent me this link, all about the Goober Pea craze, and about the history of the people - Chris Dial and Kate Burke - who sell them at the Flea. They are Yalies by the way, which my mother would love to hear since one of her favorite subjects of conversation is how she spent all this money on a Yale education so I could waste it by pursuing a frivolous art. “Yes,” I can now say, “but at least I’m not a boiled-peanut-seller.”

So if you ever find yourself on the wrong side of the Mason-Dixon line and pining for a pea of the Goober persuasion, come to the Brooklyn Flea. They do have everything there.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Reason 45,175 I love New York: Economy Candy

Primo got a hold of the October issue of Time Out NY Kids and found a spread of confectionary wonders in the Shopping section. The sight of those severed fingers in gummi form made his little spook-loving heart go pitter patter.

“Mommy!” he said, heady from the DIY-thrill of making our own Fizz N Find creations, “We have to MAKE these!!”

“Whoa there tiger,” I replied, “”It doesn’t tell you how to make those, just where to buy them.”

“Then lets BUY them!!!” he shouted, undeterred, “Read WHERE Mommy, read where to go!”

"Economy Candy Store," I read, “But life isn’t some game of Candyland! We can’t just glut ourselves on sugar all the time. This is a special occasion sort of thing.”

That was Sunday 8am.

By 9:30am, I’d deemed it a special occasion day. That’s because I realized that if David and I were ever going to go see a movie again, we needed to grease the wheels of our babysitting machine a bit. Both the receiving end (getting the kids not to pitch a fit when we left) and the giving end (getting the babysitter to believe the kids were going to be good this time). The answer to both dilemmas? CANDY.

Not just any candy. Specialty Halloween candy. Severed fingers. All signs pointed to Economy Candy, and to my cousin, babysitter extraordinaire, who just happens to live a few blocks from the confectionary wonderland.

So, we loaded the kids in the car and sped over. I waited to call her until 10am when we were speeding up the FDR. “Want to do some babysiiting?” I said, “You can buy them candy!!!”

“But Violet is here,” she said.

Violet is Alanna’s best friend and a great babysitter in her own right.

“Fantastic! You’ll have company!” I replied, “We’ll be at your house in five.”

Usually, the kids will moan and mope and sob and beg us not to leave but not when you promise them severed gummi fingers. Throw in a few fingers and they could barely wait for us to head in the opposite direction.

So we went to the Sunshine and saw the new Coen Brothers movie, a delightful pick me-up about a Job figure plagued with misfortune. It was good and all but I kind of felt afterwards like I needed to watch a few hours of Gossip Girl or something as a beautiful, shallow antidote.

When we picked up the kids, they were wildly happy from their trip to Economy Candy. Seconda had maintained a black cat theme, choosing a Halloween Pez dispenser and spooky feline made of chocolate..

Primo had held out for the severed fingers but, said Violet, there was none to be found.

“I asked everyone for the severed fingers and not only did they not have them but they had no idea what I was talking about,” she said, “I felt like a crazy person.”

Thankfully they had something even better than fingers – gummi teeth. Not just teeth but a whole mouth, that opens and closes, with rosy upper and bottom gums, in which protrude a set of teeth. Made out of candy! And you can get about a pound for $3.79. (Don’t call the pediatric dental police on me, I didn’t let him get a whole pound).


Primo also walked away with a bag full of gummi brains and gummi eyeballs. Which is, perhaps, even better than gummi digits.

I convinced the children that if they handled their candy responsibly, eating only a piece or two every day for dessert, then I would be much more inclined to take them back in a few months for another “special occasion.” So far, so good.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tricks or Treats

A few days ago, my husband sent me an email whose subject line read, “What we have to look forward to.” It read, simply:

“When Seconda comes to us wanting to wear one of these for Halloween--I'm letting you do the talking.”

Click on this link and you will read, as I did, about the dismaying trend of little girls dressing up in harlot-type Halloween costumes. The pictures feature young girls and tweens in miniature versions of the stripper-witch costume that has become de rigueur for women. And it’s awful on some many levels.

The knee-high boots and lace-up hot pink corsets are bad enough but the kid models are even doing sexy poses and I have to wonder, where’d they learn that? I mean, did the photographer direct them to bend one knee and put both hands on their hips or did they just intuit that this is what was expected of them? The worst is the “Alice in Wonderland Child/ Teen Costume.” Go ahead, click on it for a closer look.

Would you have ever guessed that was Alice in Wonderland? Are the black and white striped stockings supposed to be my clue? The floppy eared bunny she dangles from her fingers, ostensibly just the way she’d dangle a man along? As far as I know, Lewis Carroll’s formidably funny adventurer didn’t hook her way through wonderland. It’s a slap in the face to Alice and to girls and to literature. But the most egregious part is that this model, with her feet turned inward and knees together, is doing her best sexy school-girl impersonation and the fact of the matter is, she’s just a schoolgirl herself – a teen maybe, but still. I blame Britney, which is what I always do when I don’t know who to blame.

Look, I’m no Victorian. If I posted pictures of the Halloween costumes I wore in my college years and early 20’s, you’d be embarrassed to have the screen open at work. I remember that on Halloween of ’99 I had a big party at my apartment and dressed at a “post-millennial cyborg.” That’s a fancy word for super-skank in a duct –tape costume. It’s true, the only thing I was wearing was a bikini top and boy panties, both fashioned from duct-tape, with a pair of wings I made out of wire hangers attached. My good friend came n a pair of pasties. I’m no Victorian.

Nonetheless, I was an adult. Hey, if you’re a grown woman and want to sex it up on Halloween, I’m not gonna stand in your way. But for the love of all that is sacred, keep little girls little as long as you can. There’s plenty of time to wear knee-high boots and wield a pitchfork later. I’m all for free expression but sometimes you have to be the bad guy and say, “No way, Jose. Because it’s not appropriate. Because I love you. And because I said so.”

I just thought since David was going to let me do the talking, I’d get started a little early.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Aftermath of Quiet Time

I know it is good for Seconda and good for me, in theory, but I don’t know if I have the strength to persevere with “Quiet Time” any longer.

For starters, “Quiet Time” is almost never actually quiet, It involves a lot of protesting, whining and crying, all of which is done quite loudly.

On the rare occasion when it is quiet, then I’ve got real trouble on my hands. This was the case the other day

when my daughter stayed in her room without complaining for about a half hour. Then she yelled, “I HAVE TO DO PEEPEE!” and although she is always in her diaper, because I’m too lazy to potty train her, I decided that NOT allowing her to follow through with her own initiative was really egregious, so I told her she could go to the bathroom.

I continued to check my email, figuring she’d call me if she needed me.

Then I heard Primo yell, “MOMMY!!! SECONDA”S EATING HER POOP!!!!”

That got my attention all right.

“DON”T MOVE!” I yelled, rushing over.

Sure enough, on the floor of the bathroom was a very poopy diaper, just lying there, wide open.

And my daughter had smudges of brown around her mouth.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!” I bellowed.

Yet, deep down I had a feeling – call it maternal loyalty -- that even though she was two, and even though she was the wildest, most unruly taboo-breaker of them all, -- my daughter had not eaten her poop. Call me crazy, I just couldn’t believe it. Even Seconda has limits, I thought. She may be a monster, but she’s no animal.

After I cleaned her up and disposed of the dirty diaper, I went into her room to investigate. Then I decided my daughter was an animal, though hopefully not the shit-eating variety. It was like the Sack of Rome in there. It really looked as though a pack of robbers had trashed the place – clothes strewn everywhere, little table and chairs overturned, books ripped to bits and large streaks of Desitin smeared all over Primo’s blanket and toy chest.

Still, no trace of poop, thankfully. And then in the corner, in a tiny little crevice between the dresser and the wall I spotted what I instantly recognized as Seconda’s new secret hiding place. There was a pile of Primo’s precious Monster Little Big Heads, some feathers she ripped off his dream-catcher, a tennis ball and a completely-eaten tube of Mac lipstick.

Brown Mac lipstick.

“HALLEJUIA!” I yelled, “She didn’t eat her poop! She just ate my lipstick!!!!!!”

And there you have it, folks – parenting at its most glamorous.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Citric Acid: a cautionary tale

So, after being betrayed by Fizz N’ Find’s “marketing,” David suggested we go hard-core DIY. To my credit, I deemed this an insane proposal from the stsrt. Bake a pie? OK. Make fizzy capsule with plastic toys embedded inside? Come on. I’m just an ordinary woman, not a mad scientist.

But a quick google search revealed that all we needed was cornstarch, baking soda and citric acid to make our own fizzy delights, because the toy that I’d been searching for high and low was nothing more than a souped-up bath bomb – you know, those fragrant balls people give you for Christmas that dissolve in the bath and create a spa-like experience in your home?

If you would like to make your own bath bombs, be my guest. Here is the recipe.

But, I should warn you, getting your hands on a stash of citric acid will be harder than you think. I am here to advise you that if you feel like you’re going to desperately need citric acid in the near future, get on top of that now, because it’s not the sort of ingredient one can pick up at the corner bodega.

And so it was that I found myself in Fizz n’ Find Odyssey Part Deux: The Hunt for Citric Acid. I tried pharmacies, supermarkets and even some delis and every time I asked for citric acid, the salesperson would give me a strange look which made me feel as though they were heading right back to their desks to red flag me with some governmental agency devoted to suspicious characters. I mean, as far as I know, the only kind of bomb one can make with citric acid is a bath bomb, but nonetheless, it has a suspicious sound to it.

Finally I had scoured the city—or as far as I could get on foot – for the citric acid and then I remembered that it was the year 2009 and we had this amazing and helpful invention known as the internet. So I ordered the citric acid online (duh) – breaking my rule never to spend $5 for shipping on a $2 item. On Sunday, after a month of searching, the precious acid arrived.

Despite the fact that Sunday marked the nadir of my sickness and I was so weak I couldn’t drink water without a straw, I rallied. Primo had been patient, after all.

“The acid has arrived, “I told Primo, “We are ready.”

I dragged my consumption-ravaged body to the kitchen and began the preparation while David went grocery shopping. I opened the box which held the citric acid and put in on the counter, and then got the cornstarch and water and bowl and hey – where did the citric acid go?

“I don’t know,” said Primo.

“But it was just here a minute ago,” I said, “And now it’s gone!”

In the distracted, exhausted state I was in, it was completely feasible that I had done something strange with the citric acid – put it in the fridge or the sink or the garbage. So I looked in all those places.

“Maybe Sec took it,” Primo suggested. Classic big brother assumption but worth a shot.

I rifled for a large plastic bottle of cinnamon that looked just like the one we were looking for and went into Sec’s room where she was yelling at her teddy bear.

“Honey,” I asked, “did you touch a bottle that looked like this?”

“No,” she said, “I didn’t.”

Primo regarded her: “She looked guilty.”

I regarded her. “No, I don’t think so,” I said, “I think she’s telling the truth. She’s been in this room playing for a

while. She looks innocent to me.”

So I got on my hands and knees and searched the living room and even the bathroom. I rifled through the recycling. I moved the couch. And then, light-headed, I collapsed on the bed and placated Primo by reading him “The Best Halloween Ever.”

This is how David found me when he came home. I explained about the missing citric acid and he asked me had

I looked in Seconda’s secret hiding place.

“But I don’t think she took it,” I said, “she looks innocent.”

If you’re wondering why I’m not a judge in a court of law, you have your answer/

We walked into the children’s bedroom, and opened the closet door. And there, on top of the piles of unpacked boxes, was the citric acid.

“SECONDA!” I shouted, “How COULD you????”

“I KNEW IT!!” shouted Primo, vindicated.

“How could you lie to me, your poor sick mother?” I asked her, to which she replied, “It’s not my fault. Don’t blame me.”

Its moments like this that I realize what we’re dealing with now is likely to be considered later, “the easy years.”

We got to work making the fizzy capsules, putting little plastic dinosaurs from the dentist’s prize bin in the middle of each. It was a messy, messy job but wildly successful. Primo popped every one of those suckers in the bowl of hot water and ooohed and aaahed each time they bubbled and burped out a plastic toy.

“They are even better than the ones we bought,” he exclaimed.

A DIY dream-come-true. Even better than store-bought.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bribing: a cautionary tale

When my in-laws were in town this summer, we all went to Toys R’ Us Times Square and Bubbe and Zayde let the kids pick out something as a gift. This is an endeavor which could potentially take hours and involve fatal amounts of whining and arguing, so I braced myself but after five minutes, Primo has found the perfect choice and persuaded Sec to get the same thing. It was called Fizz N’ Find: Monster Maniacs, and it was a golf-ball sized capsule that looked like an eyeball. Drop it into hot water, watch it fizz and crack open to reveal plastic pieces that, when assembled, make a tiny ghoulish monster! For a spook-obsessed four year-old and his space-saving mother, this was, indeed the perfect gift. The packaging pictured other monster figures that belonged to the collection.

As soon as Primo dropped the tablet into water and watched the first mysteries bubbles pop up, he was hooked.

“I want to collect them ALL!” he said, breathless.

I wasn’t thrilled about the materialistic gleam in his eye but, I figured, we could use this new addiction as leverage, set up a sticker chart, maybe get the kid to go to sleep at a decent hour again. I told him that if he did a good job sleeping for three nights, we could get him another Fizz N’ Find – why not?

Colossal mistake.

I highly encourage you never to make promises of gifts to your children unless you are one hundred percent sure you can deliver. Because the next day, when I called our local toy store to ask if they had any of these toys in stock, the told me they’d never heard of it. So did every other store I called, including Target, which is better-stocked than Santa’s workshop this time of year. I searched the web and found one place that sold the damn thing but the shipping was double the cost of the actual toy and I refused to shell out more than $4 for the piece of crap which I already wished had never been invented.

But I’d promised Primo the toy and I am resolute, almost to the point of insanity, on keeping my promises to the kids. So after spending three days wasting a terrific amount of time and energy in fruitless searching and dealing with my whining fizz-junkie of a son, I did what I vowed never again to do – I went to Toys R’ Us Times Square. I called ahead and made sure the infernal toy was being held for us and by 10am, the children and I were waiting at Customer Service.

I think you can guess where this story is going. The toy had gone missing. Primo went apoplectic. It was embarrassing. I decided the magic ingredient which caused the toy to fizz in such a thrilling way was crack-cocaine and I cursed the people at Wild Planet for manufacturing it. But, said the saleswoman, they were getting a delivery of Monster Maniacs the next day so why didn’t we just come back then?

I gave her a withering stare and told her we had come in from BROOKLYN. I said it like I was saying “Tunisia.” Brooklyn isn’t far from Time Square unless you’re dragging a two year-old thrill seeker and four year-old fizz-junkie jonesing for a fix. I pointed to said child, stamping and shrieking, and asked her if she really wanted me to bring him back tomorrow. She agreed to have the toy shipped directly to my home. I told her to order four of the cursed capsules as long as we were at it since I would rather walk barefoot over hot coals then ever endure this torturous odyssey again.

The toys arrived a few days later, and by that time, Primo was frothing at the mouth in anticipation. With shaking hands he dropped the tablet into the water and out came -- the same exact monster figure he’d gotten a week before. He was aghast.

“I wanted to collect them all but this is the SAME one I already have,” he choked out with tearful eyes. I looked at the packaging and explained that the fizz figures worked like baseball cards, so what you got was a surprise and you couldn’t choose.

“You get what you get and you don’t get upset?” I ventured.

Yeah, right.

“But that’s not FAIR,” he shouted, “You TRICKED me!”

He began to sob and kick and yell and I realized that I had created a monster, not dissimilar from the ones in the package, only cuter. I should have taken the rest of those Fizz N’ Find toys and thrown them out the window. Instead I rewarded his abysmal behavior by giving him ALL the toys at once.

“Here,” I shouted back, “here’s all the ones we have. Crack them all open, but after that, I never want to hear the word fizz again! We are never buying another one of these GODDAMN TOYS!!”

He promptly ripped the packaging open, and deposited each one in the water to find the same toy bobbling to the surface. Primo wasn’t just disappointed; he was downright demoralized. He had believed in these toys and they had let him down. They had deceived him.

“Why,” he whispered, a broken man, “why didn’t they just let me choose?”

I explained the idea of marketing to him, and how it was just a way for the company to make more money. He was outraged. When David came home, he rushed right over to him with his five identical ghoul toys and yelled, “DADDY DADDY! We got more Fizz N’ Finds, but they did MARKETING on us!!!”

That was when we decided that there was nothing stopping us from making our own fizzing capsules with toy pieces hidden inside. And our recipe, I decided, would not include crack cocaine, thank you very much.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

El sicko, namely, me

Here’s the thing about having kids and being sick. Its tough shit for you. When you don’t have kids and you get sick, you rest. Period. Maybe you take a day off or maybe you have to go in to work, but for most of us blog-readers that means sitting at a desk which is -- come on, let’s face it -- pretty restful and when you get home at night, you order in and watch TV. You take it easy until you feel better. It is a very civilized way to live. I miss it.

When you have children you are bound to be sick all the time because those children go to school or day care and bring back awful, weird germs that cause viruses that sound like STDs. The first time I heard of Cox Sackie, I nearly blushed, it sounds so dirty. So, as a parent, you get sick all the time and when you are sick, your children will likely be sick, or recently-sick and still cranky, and you will have no choice but to care for them, just as if you were perfectly healthy.

Children aren’t understanding, they aren’t sympathetic to your woes. In fact, I’ve found it’s quite the opposite. They prey on your weakness. For instance, now that I’ve been sick, my son has decided to push back his wake-up time to 5:30am. And that’s after my daughter wakes several times in the middle of the night with the lingering cough she shared with me. If I didn’t know better, I would say they were purposely trying to do me in.

Once, when Primo was about four months old, I took him to a Mommy and Me Yoga class and the yoga instructor told this story about how she had just recovered from the stomach flu. She said it was great. When you have two kids, she explained, the only way you get to stay in bed for a day or two is if you’re vomiting while on the toilet bowl.

At the time, I thought this was insane. Now, of course, it seems completely reasonable to secretly wish yourself sicker so that you can justify convalescence.

When you’ve got a high fever and are vomiting uncontrollably, you have no choice but to shut down. You can not bring your children to school, you cannot drag yourself to playground or the grocery store. Family or friends or babysitters will relieve you, or you can let your kids watch TV for eleven hours straight. You can be taken off-duty.

When you have a cold, even a very bad one where your head pounds and your chest aches and can’t hear out of one ear, you must continue to shoulder your normal burden. You can continue like this, making dinner and taking the kids to birthday parties, propping yourself upright Weekend-at-Bernie’s–style for weeks if necessary.

That’s precisely what I’ve been doing for two weeks. Two weeks! Pre-kids I was never sick for that long. I’d get a cold, sleep a lot, eat soup and be up and running in a day or two. Instead, with lack of sleep and bad nutrition, my cold has bested my immune system and developed into a super-cold, perhaps even some kind of sinus infection.

David says he’s sick too but I don’t believe him. Or, I should say, I believe him all right, I just don’t accept it. We can’t both be sick at the same time, and I was sick first. Plus, ever since I had a baby I have regarded him as belonging to the weaker sex and so I feel that when he says he’s suffering its only because he doesn’t know what suffering is.

I am insufferable sicko. Send wishes of speedy recovery.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Who needs Manhattan?

We had a perfectly delightful day of Brooklyn fun yesterday. Stunning Los-Angeles-type weather, the likes of which we only see a half-dozen times a year, made it a good day for a trip to Dumbo. I like Dumbo, Here’s why:

If you go to Bubby’s at 10am, there’s no wait and you can sit right by the play area which allows you to enjoy brunch with your husband and friends while your children play with a variety of Melissa and Doug toys. Bubby’s has great biscuits and pie and I like biscuits and pie. Sure, it’s not the cheapest brunch you could opt for, but hey, its not like it’s a recession or anything.

There is a playground across the street which is right on the water and when we go there I feel like I am more wealthy and hip and in-the-know, like a real Dumbo mom.

Then you can walk through the Brooklyn Flea and find all manner of cool shit you can’t afford like little print dresses that look vintage but aren’t and look like they should cost $15 and cost $60. And how cool is this T shirt company, t-me, that has tables and markers set up so kids can draw images that are promptly printed on baseball tees?

Proud of yourself for not spending money at the Flea, you can treat yourself to dessert at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.

And once you’ve loaded the kids up with all-natural ice cream, you can bring them to Fulton Ferry Landing, where you can introduce your young children to the works of Walt Whitman.

"Others will enter the gates of the ferry, and cross from shore to shore;
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide;
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east;
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high;
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring in of the flood-tide, the falling back to the sea of the ebb-tide."