Monday, November 30, 2009

The horrifying, jaw-droppingly disgraceful thing I did at my high school reunion

This Saturday was my Stuyvesant High School 15 year reunion which is always held on Thanksgiving weekend. I missed the 10 year because I was in the hospital, having Primo. I did NOT miss the five year reunion. If only I had. In fact, it was precisely because I did not miss that reunion, that I had to go this year.

Because I did a really bad thing at that high school reunion

If you’re thinking that I got totally soused or wore a skin-tight red dress made out of material that always looks wet or that I nearly ended up sleeping with a douche bag – well, I did all that, too, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking REALLY bad.

It wasn’t a federal crime or anything but in the world of faux-pas, of gauche missteps, of public humiliation, it ranks pretty high.

I laughed during the moment of silence for everyone who had died in our class.

Not just laughed, either. Cackled, really. Guffawed.

Let me hasten to explain. Five years after high school I was at the peak of my hotness. That’s incontrovertible: newly graduated from an Ivy League college, I was an actress in New York and skinnier, with a bigger rack than in high school. (If there are any people from my high school reading and you don’t agree, then please just keep your opinion to yourself. Grant me the euphoric recall). I was bubbly and vampy and self confident and I wanted everyone to know it. It wasn’t that I was unpopular in high school. I was just regular – neither popular nor unpopular, a get-alonger. I had plenty of friends, and plenty of fun, but I wasn’t the sort of person that other teens felt nervous around. And come on, we ALL wanted to be that. Five years later, I wanted to breeze in and have jaws hit the floor.

That I accomplished, though not exactly in the way I’d hoped. This is, by the way, is a cautionary tale. Let’s just put that up front.

The dress I wore was from Joyce Leslie and it was so clingy you could see the burrito I ate for lunch. It wasn’t just provocative; it was what you’d find on the back page of the Village Voice. I pranced in to the reunion on four-inch heels, shrieking in glee at seeing all these faces that, frankly, I barely recognized, and guzzling drink after drink, because well – what else do you do at a reunion? By the time they were doing speeches I was drunker than an Irishman on Saint Paddy’s day. I had no idea that someone was up front saying important things, and giving important directions to the crowd. This guy who I’d been friends with but who always crushed on my best friend was now crushing on me, telling me something which I found Just. So. Outrageously. Funny. I threw my head back and let a peal of laugher erupt with absolutely no self-control. I really imagined that I was Marilyn Monroe.

Have you ever found yourself with several hundred pairs of eyes shooting you one collective dirty look?

It took me two full minutes to figure out why everyone was throwing me such withering glances. As soon as I did, I ran to the ladies’ room and spent the rest of the reunion crying, as all my classmates came in to pee and reapply lipstick.

Not what I’d call a successful reunion experience.

So this past weekend was my chance to show everyone that OK, I may not be at the peak of my hotness, but I am at the peak of my greatness! I am no longer a woefully insecure Jezebel, devoid of human feeling. I am now a woman of substance, with children and accomplishments and a still-great rack.

I’m not sure I did all that. And in fact, I found that without the blind-drunk factor and the public disgrace, a high school reunion is pretty uneventful. A handful of old friends to talk to and many, many people I didn’t remember who didn’t remember me either. But I didn’t give anyone a reason to make a voodoo doll of me at least. That’s something.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Thanksgiving Baby

That stunning specimen of babyness regarding his impeccably made-up mother with suspicion a mere day after being born -- that's my boy, born on Thanksgiving day five years ago.

I remember it took me 15 minutes to put that suit on him, I was so terrifed to more his little appendages. But despite being terrified to the point of nausea, I was as happy as I look. And proud. My golden boy.

So every Thanksgiving, I tell Primo the story of how he was born. And this Thanksgiving, I tell you:

During my pregnancy, I imagined many ways that my labor might unfold. I'll be honest: most of these scenarios involved candlelit deep breathing in the hot tub. What I did not imagine is being on all fours in my parents' living room, bellowing in agony as my family enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner. I didn't imagine childbirth as spectator sport.

After a long day of first-stage labor pains, I demanded that David take me to the hospital despite the fact that my contractions weren't of the proscribed duration and all that. I was pretty convinced that my doc would report I was at least 5, maybe 8 centimeters dilated. Instead, she told me I wasn't technically in labor.

"How is that possible?" I sobbed. I was very little concerned with being brace and even less concerned with seeming so. The disappointment was awful.

"Your make-up is still perfect," the doctor said, "Come back when your mascara is running?"

This is what passes for medical advice nowadays, I thought? Come back when your MASCARA is running?

Since I was already totally demoralized, I figured my parents couldn't make things much worse. And since the thought of returning to our apartment where I'd spent 8 hours laboring to no avail was so unappealing, I decided a change of venue was in order. To my parents' place on the Upper East Side, where Thanksgiviing dinner was in full swing.

My father harassed me with his cameras, documenting every grimace over anitpasto. My grandmother forced me to eat, against doctor's orders, maintaining I needed my strength. And my mother offered moral support, if by support you mean asserting that i didn't look like I was getting very far with this labor of mine.

Two hours later, by the time dessert was served, I was writhing around in the tub, buck naked, moaning and crying, while my grandmother, aunt and mother sipped wine tub-side and offered unsolicited advice.

I was really very regretful that I'd eaten a bowl of homemade cappelletti when I upchucked the lot of it over the side of the tub. I put on a pair of my father's boxers and instantly they were wet. I sobbed to my sister that I'd wet my pants and she pointed out that perhaps, seeing as I was in labor and all, perhaps my water had broken.

Oh yes! That's it! Good thing for sisters.

I got David, threw up on him a bit, bellowed in agony, sobbed a lot and gasped that we had to go to the hospital. If the doc said it wasn't time for an epidural yet, then well, I'd vomit on her until she changed her tune. But I knew it'd be time. My mascara was running.

My sister Melissa came with David and I to the hospital and since I was a very respectable 5 centimeters dilated, I received a big needle in my back. By midnight, I was fully dlated. At long last, and after a sizeable injection of morphine, here was the tranquil labor I had hoped for. As
I waited for this famous "urge to push," Melissa brushed my hair and David held my hand. We listened to the Beatles and I put on a fresh coat of lipstick. After nine months of wanting things to hurry along, I was finally in no rush. I had this keenly poignant sensation of being in the moment before, and I wanted to linger here, savoring the anticipation of the great encounter which was about to unfold.

When I couldn't resist the urge to push any longer, my doctor told Melissa and David to each grab a leg. I felt like a wishbone. Everything moved very quickly then and after only a few pushes, I was reaching down to feel the top of my baby's head, which was unthinkably soft and warm and so near. After that, I didn't need any encouragement. I pushed with a vein-popping force and within minutes, his head crowned. "Look down and see your baby," the doc said.

How can words encompass something this sublime? "Miracle" has never sounded so mundane. His tiny head was just wedged there - perfect, oblong, intricate beyond imagining. Nothing could have made me look away. I was roused from my wonder by my doctor's words: "Come on girl,
one more push!"

I bore down and as I watched, my baby's body slipped right out of me, in an enormous rush. He was revealed to me entire -- shoulders, arms, torso and legs poured out in a wriggling mass of life. It was then that I screamed.

Later David would tell me he'd never heard anything so animal-like coming from a human. My sister thought that maybe I had torn. But it was a the sound of release, of relief, of marvel.
There he was, my son.

They placed Primo immediately on my chest and he was heavy there and warm and wet. We were all hysterical, David, my sister and I, all of us shaking and crying, in the moment now, the great moment which had ruptured and was pouring over us. "My son," I kept repeating, "my
baby." I sobbed with my eyes wide open so I could drink him in. Every inch of him, all 20 of them, was a masterpiece, and so brand new. He reached for my face then, stretching his spindly fingers toward my chin in a jerky gesture that some might think accidental and I thought totally, perfectly pre-destined.

It was after midnight and I was a mother. The prayers I prayed each day for nine months, and for a long time before that, were answered all at once. The day of Thanks had ended about an hour earlier for everyone else but not for me. Not for me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Online jerkwads and facebook fascists and Uma Thurman

I juat read this great, funny, insightful Salon article called

Everybody Hates Mommy

The witer, Lynn Harris, tries to figure out why the hell Park Slope Mommy is suddenly Public Enemy Number 1. And in investigating this, she ventures that maybe its because everybody seems to hate mothers in general (at least white, urban ones). She points to the vicious comments she got when she wrote a piece for the Times about how people tended not to offer her a seat on the subway when she was pregnant; variations on the theme of "I didn't knock you up, lady. Stop feeling so damn entitled."

Big subject. But as Thanksgiving is tomorrow and there is shit to cook and balloons to watch being inflated I will offer these points:

1. A reference to Jocasta in the same breath as "anonymous online jerkwad factor"? Loving it.

2. I have never run anyone over with my stroller as I rushed to pilates class or Whole Foods, mainly because I can't afford either. But were I offered a free trial, boo-yah! Watch out singletons because I'll made roadkill of whoever stands in the way of my time on the reformer ir fair-trade organic, locally-grown and sustainable stuff.

3. Did you know you can't post pictures of moms breastfeeding on facebook? I'd protest those fascists if I wasn't oh-so-totally hooked. Plus facebook affords people the chance to publicly "like" me. But man, what the what?

4. I didn't see Motherhood - and if you did, feel free to enligthten us with your review. But if I wsa Uma and heard that by making a Mommy movie some asswipe said he'd never jerk off to me again, I imagine I'd feel two things simultanesouly. Relief-- one less scheeveball stalker to worry about -- and also total rage. I'd feel so enraged that I'd post a big old video of my childbirth on youtube followed by a video of me manually expressing brestmilk from breasts with cracked nipples. Oh, what? You don't find this hot? This is where you came from, blockhead.

But that's just me.



I am beginning to suspect that you readers did not cross fingers for Swimmy because last night after just one and half days as a member of our family he kicked the bucket.

This was disheartening. I thought he’d make it through Thanksgiving at least.

Good thing I braced Primo for the worst as soon as we got him.

“Fish don’t live very long, honey,” I warned.

“You mean they live for, like, five minutes?” he replied.

(Kid knows how to play the game, huh? I bet when he’s old enough he can successfully navigate the waters of the “Guess how much this sweater was on sale for?” David has never mastered this game. He always comes back with a ridiculously low guess, like $5, which makes the sale price of $40 look like highway robbery.)

“Oh, longer than that,” I answered, “But it could just be for a day or two.”

Managing expectations is the name of the game.

The trouble was, David started to do a ton of goldfish research, and announced that if we took care of him, Swimmy COULD live for 15 years and grow up to 10 inches!!!!!! Unfortunately, he did this research only after we had made several care-taking decisions which seem to have jeopardized Swimmy’s survival. Did you know, for instance, that you should de-chlorinate tap water before putting the fish in? And that you should gently dip the bag in the tank for while to acclimate the little sucker? When you don’t, the fish just rests on the beautiful pink gravel you bought for him and stared blankly at you, like he is severely depressed. What do I know? I’m no Dian Fosse.

This morning when we woke, Swimmy was belly-up. I thought for a minute that he was just being playful, but then I saw the tell-tale sign of the uneaten fish food floating at the surface of the water. I wondered how to break the news to the kids. But of course, they’re not oblivious.

“Swimmy was BAD,” commented Sec, “He didn’t eat his food!”

“SWIM SWIMMY SWIM!” encouraged Primo.

I waited ‘til David came home from working out and beckoned him over for a tete a tete.

“I know,” he cut me off, “He was belly-up last night.”

We had a moment of silence for Swimmy, David and I. We’d let the fish down.

“We better tell them,” I said.

“Why’s Swimmy not swimming?” inquired Sec.

“Well,” said David, “I don’t think Swimmy’s doing too well.”

“You mean, he’s sick?” asked Primo.

“Well, maybe more than sick,” David ventured, “I think . . . I think , , Swimmy died.”

Primo considered for a moment.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said.

We all went into the bedroom to check it out.

“See? He’s not dead,” said Primo, “His eyes are open.”

“But fish don’t have eyelids,” David countered, as gently as he could.

“I think he’s just resting,” said Primo.

It was a bite-your-bottom-lip kind of moment. And I thought, “Forgive me Swimmy, I knew not what I did. You were a city fish, after all. And New York has GREAT tap water.”

Then David said, “I think we better send him back to his family at sea.”

Primo looked at him blankly.

“Flush him down the toilet,” David explained.


“But he’s not DEAD!” Primo insisted.

“Well, he looks pretty dead but if he’s not, then he will still be in the water so either way . . . “ I mumble. I’m not great at these things.

So Primo helped David take the fish out with the net and bury him at sea, as it were.

Primo drew pictures for a few minutes and then he turned on me, “You didn’t take good enough care of Swimmy! You should have fed him first thing in the morning! You should have given him a friend to play with!”

I wanted to yell right back, “YOU should have fed him first thing in the morning, He’s YOUR fish.” But I. for one, am not going to play the blame game.

So we’re going to get a new goldfish – two, maybe, to avoid death by loneliness. Any fish-caring tips? I don’t want to lose another one in the first 48 hours.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Birthday Bash

My son was born on Thanksgiving and now, five years later, his birthday falls on Turkey Day again. Don’t worry – you’ll be treated to a FULL recapitulation of his birth and how I labored during Thanksgiving dinner with my whole family in attendance. But that’s not the subject of today’s post, Today’s post is about

Kids Birthday Parties,

Because that’s what we spent this past Saturday throwing. Yes, I’m aware we had the party before his actual birthday and trust me, as a superstitious gal, it’s something I avoided for several years. But those of you whose child’s birthday falls on a holiday, particularly a holiday where you get a four-day weekend and people tend to travel, know that all bets are off with party planning. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to get the asses in the seats, Or the asses jumping up and down on the sofas in your condo’s common room, whatever the case may be. I can’t have the party on Thanksgiving weekend and after that its dicey because nowadays, people started celebrating Christmas in late November and by the first weekend in December everyone’s already booked with holiday parties. This isn’t my first time at the rodeo. Weekend before Thanksgiving -- perfect time for a party.

As you know from reading my posts about my own birthday, I love to celebrate. And not in a low-key kind of way either, but a balls-to-the-wall, put-your-hand-in-the-air-like-you-just-don’t-care sort of way. Several weeks before the event, I begin singing, “Hey Primo, it’s your birthday/ Let’s party like it’s your birthday/ Going to drink Bacardi like it’s your birthday.” I don’t rent out the Russian Tea Room and offer pony rides or a Venetian hour and our parties won’t end up on MTV or anything. But I do like to bring in entertainment -- mostly because I’ve found it makes the party a thousand times more enjoyable for me. The times when I’ve tried to manage it myself, doing arts and crafts and games, I’ve been so stressed gathering the supplies and forcing kids to partake, to say nothing of the ulcers that result from watching them trash our place when they choose not to participate in my brilliant activities, that I end up hating birthdays. So this year, since I decided to hire a magician.

The great thing about living in New York is that the magician you get for your kid’s birthday party is likely to have performed at the Gershwin and entertained Peter Sarsgaard’s kid for his birthday. I interviewed a bunch of candidates, and here are the factors I considered in making my decision:

How much do you cost?

Do you wear creepy makeup or perform any tricks which might be interpreted as scary?

Is the bunny in your act a real rabbit? (Dealbreaker.)

After this rigorous interviewing process, there was one magician who stood out from the rest -- Amazing Ken, who uses not just a live rabbit but a live goldfish, which he then gifts to the birthday child. I figured with so many live animals, I got a magic show and petting zoo all at once.

For party food, my grandmother insisted on making homemade pizzas for the lot of us. And I do mean insisted.

“Why you gonna spend a fortune and buy dat lousy pizza?” she said, “Save you money I makea da pizza.”

I know you’re not going to believe my, but my grandmother actually enjoys waking at 4 am – no shit – and starting to cook. OK, I’m not entirely sure she likes the cooking per se, but she does enjoy the gratification of feeling like a martyr and the idea of saving money.

My kid sister who is in business school offered to make ogre-face cupcakes. And my mother volunteered to make her world-famous dip with accompanying vegetables.

I bought four thousand dollars worth of crappy party bag supplies and balloons (why does this shit cost so much money? Next year, I’ll save all the cardboard boxes I get for a few months and give each kid one of those -- with a marker – as a party favor.)

And thus, a party is born.

Amazing Ken was perfectly amazing, and kept the kids – even the two year-olds – rapt for the whole show. A highlight was when he brought Primo up as a helper, and of course Sec, never one to get short shrift. Jumped up to stand right beside him.

“Who’s this?” asked Amazing Ken, “Is this your wife?”

Uproarious laughter. Sec faux-guffaws although she doesn’t have the foggiest idea what is so funny.

“No?” giggles Primo.

“Is she your business partner?”

Cackles of laughter from the kids. Sec covers her mouth and bends over like it’s just too much, she can’t take the funny.

“No,” replies Primo.

“Then who is she?” thunders Amazing ken.

“She’s a BABY!” exclaims Primo, like Sec is just some strange child whose wandered in off the street, means nothing to him, just a face in the crowd.

To which my daughter shrieks, “I’m NOT A BABY! I’m a GUUUUUURRL!"

Magic wands were made floppy. Clothing was set on fire. A real, live rabbit was conjured and finally, one scared-looking goldfish was produced and adopted by our family.

All in all, a whopping success. Especially considering that a few hours after the party, in the middle of the night, Primo woke with an explosive case of the runs and was stuck to the toilet all day Sunday.

But he had tons of new presents to play with while convalescing. And a new pet. We named him Swimmy and got him a spacious tank with pink gravel and a tree to hide behind and the spot of honor on the dresser in the kids’ room. Cross your fingers for old Swimmy. We’d love for him to last more than a day.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Helicopter Parenting: an age-old tradition

Every few months someone poses the same question on the parkslopeparents listserv: “At what age is it OK to let kids go to the playground alone?”

Every time it comes up, the response is always the same, with everyone more or less expressing the same sentiment, which is some variation on this:

“When I was a kid, I would go to the corner to get my dad cigarettes by myself as soon as I was able to walk, about the age of 18 months. When I was 3, I was taking the subway alone to bring myself to day care. I was traveling inter-continentally with NO ADULT SUPERVISION by the age of 4. And that was in the 70s, at the height of crime in the city! And there were no cell phones! So, loosen up helicopter moms, because independence is good for kids.”

I find this idea of helicopter parenting as a new, yuppie development and our youth as a time when kids roamed the streets wholly unsupervised to be very strange. That’s because when I was growing up in Bensonhurst, in the 80s (yeah, I’m younger than you thought, aren’t I?), I never got to do ANYTHING by myself.

I didn’t go to the corner for milk. I didn’t walk to school. I didn’t play on the stoop or even lean out the window without adult surveillance. My mother and grandmother made protective Park Slope parents look like freedom fighters. And when I would protest, “Don’t you trust me?” they’d say, “I trust you. It’s everyone else I don’t trust.”

The most leash they ever gave me was when I was 12, I wanted to go to the Hard Rock CafĂ© with a bunch of Manhattan kids, and my aunt and uncle conceded to follow me. Discretely, of course. Turned out to be helpful because we didn’t have enough money to pay the bill.

So helicopter parenting is an age-old tradition as far as I’m concerned. Do I think my family’s Orange Alert paranoia was ideal? Probably not. Had they been more reasonable, I probably wouldn’t have pathologically lied to them all throughout high-school. I got so adept at lying so that I could go to parties and hang out at pool halls and make out with my boyfriend in Central Park, that after a while I would lie for absolutely no reason, just to keep them off my scent, so that nothing I ever said to them between the ages of 14 and 18 was true. I’d say I was going to see the movie Ghost when I was going to see Last of the Mohicans. I’d say I was going to 79th Street when I was really going to 77th. But I was a good kid, I made good decisions, had good judgment and a healthy sense of adventure. I wasn’t scarred because I was sheltered. I fared fine.

I already give Primo and Seconda way more independence that my parents gave me (which isn’t saying much, admittedly) But I have to say, when I read the article which someone posted on the listserv, called “Parenting Without Fear” (by Lenore Skenazy -- the columnist for the NY Sun who let her 9 year-old take the subway by himself and got a ton of flack about it, leading her to write a dozen essays about the revolutionary joy-ride and how famous she is because of it), well, when I read an article called “Parenting Without Fear” I think it might as well be called “Parenting on Mars.” I’d have to be on some pretty powerful mind-altering substances not to feel fear about my children in the world, no matter what streets they are on. The best I can shoot for is, "Parenting Without Paranoia.”

I am all for people giving their kids “free-range” but it drives me crazy when I’m made to feel un-cool or even irresponsible, like I’m hindering their development, if I’m protective of my kids. We do what’s best for our families, and our families are all wildly different.

What’s your take, readers? Are helicopter mothers the curse of modern civilization? Am I the only totally over-sheltered child of paranoid parents? When are you going to let the kids go it alone?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Peanut Butter Big Brother

I’ve met more writers being a mama in Park Slope than I imagine Hemingway did in his Moveable Feast days in Paris. (Yeah, that’s right, I just compared myself to Hemingway – so what? You mean to say you don’t consider this blog the modern-day equivalent of For Whom the Bell Tolls?) So, back when Primo was a tot and we were kicking it in the North Slope, I had one such a neighbor; Selina Alko, accomplished illustrator of big-time picture books -- the kind of picture books on the display rack Barnes and Nobles -- like My Taxi Ride and My Subway Ride.

And now Selina’s published a new book, I’m Your Peanut Brother Big Brother, which she’s written as well as illustrated. We got our hands on a copy a few weeks ago and here’s my one-sentence sum-up:

It was so damn delectable my daughter actually tried to eat it. No shit.

The book follows the speculations of a little boy who’s eagerly anticipating the arrival of his little baby brother or sister. The boy is a blend of “semisweet dark Daddy chocolate bar” and “strawberry cream Mama’s milk” but who knows what his little sib with look like? He muses about what color skin she or he might have, what his or her nose and hair and lips might look like, using candy language to bring these possibilities to life. Reading about mocha cloud skin, cotton candy hair, and jelly bean smiles, whipped Seconda into such a froth of excitement that when she got to the page with the line “Will you be my vanilla bean ice cream sibling” she just went ahead and licked the page.

The confectionary lexicon is not only fun, it makes these musings, which we adults might make the mistake of thinking of as serious, thoroughly light-hearted and playful. Selina’s illustrations are the perfect counterpart – bright, dynamic, intricate but always accessible, they make you want to stop reading just to look more closely. The little boy wears a blue and orange striped shirt which has the wonderful effect of making him look a little like a candy cane.

Seconda had me read it over and over . . . and over again, and when Primo got a hold of it, he brought it immediately to school where his teacher asked if she could borrow it for a while. There goes our copy. I don’t think it would have lasted much longer at our place, though. With her picophagia, it was just a matter of time before Seconda tried to swallow a page.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My daughter sounds just like me. This is not a good thing.

Her two favorite expressions are, “You’re driving me nuts!” and “That’s very annoying.” It is something she tells Primo frequently, which isn’t such a big deal because, hey, she’s right, he can be very annoying, and its infinitely better than her stabbing him in the cheek with a pencil, which is how she used to respond. But when she says it to other two year-olds on the playground -- as in “Stop singing that song! Its driving me crazy!” – well, its embarrassing

Its also embarrassing when I hear her playing with her Wizard of Oz action figures.

“Glenda, you are being SO NAUGHTY!!!” she has Dorothy shriek, “You need to have a TIME OUT and you can FORGET about having DESSERT!!!”

But neither of those is as bad as when she gets to cursing. Last week, she called a little blond-haired boy a son-of-a-bitch. I could have died. I guess she wanted to be on the ladder he was on and she started off by demanding, “Move out of the way!!!! I need to go here!!!” but soon it devolved into her screaming crazy shit in his face like, “You’re not in charge of me!!! You’re a bad fussy!!!! FUSSY FUSSY!! Get out or I will spit at you!!! Son of a BITCH!!!!!”

Of course, sometimes it’s very affirming when she sounds just like me, especially when she takes on the role of Primo’s cheerleader. Like yesterday, when he was sitting quietly drawing one of his mega-opuses and she walked over and put her hand on his back.

“Oh Primo,” she said, breathless, “It’s so AMAAAAAAZING!!!” And them clapping her hands in delight, “I am so proud of you!!!!”

So, I'm not such a bad mom after all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Suuny days, kicking the clouds away . . .

If you’ve been on Google the past week or two, you’ve probably realized by now that this weekend marked the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street. I think this is thrilling. Sesame Street was integral to my childhood. As I often tell Primo, when I was a kid, we didn’t have a zillion channels and on-demand and Netflix’s Watch Now and all this shit. We had Mister Roger’s Neighborhood – and Sesame Street. Primo thinks this is INSANE and feels sorry for me.

“Did they have The Backyardigans when you were a kid?”


“What about The Magic School Bus?”


“Did you even have NOGGIN?”

“There was no Noggin. No Disney Kids. Or Nickoloden or HBO.”

He shakes his head like he is only now understanding the level of deprivation and horror from whence I have risen.

But, I raise his spirits by telling him we had channel 13, PBS, and on it was Sesame Street, and oh how I loved Sesame Street! Of course then we go through the same Q and A with Sesame Street (“Did you have Elmo? Abby Cadabby? Zoe? Rosita? Well, who DID you have?”)

Because of my years “on the Street” I cannot hear “Sing a Song” without myself breaking into song and I cannot see a rubber ducky without feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. And don’t even get me started on “1-2-3-4-5, 6-7-8-9-10, 11- tweeeeelve!” (that is, I believe the official title of the inimitable jazzified Sesame Street counting song). Was the soundtrack for my early years.

To honor the anniversary, we’ll be heading to the Brooklyn Public Library where a new exhibit opened on Saturday, with puppets, old art, and other memorabilia as well as limited-edition Elmo library cards. And I am also declaring this Sesame Street Day on A Mom Amok.

To wit: here’s a link to the Top 10 Sesame Street Controversies (how cool would it have been for Oscar to have lived in a manhole? Love it!)

Here is a link to the Top 40 Musical Performances of the Show's History (Ray Charles! Stevie Wonder! Johnny Cash!)

What are your favorite Sesame Street weird-ass skits? Most beloved moments or characters? How do you feel about the new generation of puppets? Personally, I don’t see why we need girly-girl puppets: as a kid, I totally identified with lovable furry old Grover and Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster, none of whom have a discernable gender whatsoever. But I’m also not a purist, so Sec has an Abby Caddaby plush toy, I mean, for God’s sake, she teaches kids ho wto RHYME – how could you hate her?

Input, readers?

Monday, November 16, 2009

R & R & R

David and I haven’t had a night away from the kids since last winter and after the rigors of buying an apartment and moving and starting both kids in new schools, we’ve been pining for some R and R, and hey, an extra R for romance wouldn’t hurt. So we convinced my parents to take their darling grandchildren for the weekend.

On Friday, we loaded them into my parents’ car with accompanying loveys and favorite bedtime books and then we wasted no time and proceeded directly to Jack the Horse Tavern for dinner by candle light and some stimulating argument. Yes, David and I find that whenever we have some alone time, the very first thing we must get out of the way is a big ole’ fight. There’s no way to bypass the argument and take a shortcut directly to intimacy and affection – we just have to fight a bit and then we’ll be as happy as honeymooner for the rest of the weekend.

One getaway, we treated ourselves to a two hour argument of private versus public school, just for the sake of fighting since we agree public school is best for our kids and also, our only choice. Another time we argued all night about why he was facebook friends with his highschool girlfriend and how she fact that she wrote emails from her husband’s account meant, to my eyes, that she was oppressed and lacking a self separate from her identity as wife and mother.

This weekend, we didn’t focus on one particular subject. I just had a glass of prosecco which got me in a fighting mood – that’s the effect alcohol has on me these days – and then I acted the part of a miserable magpie for the rest of the night, including during the performance of The New Electric Ballroom at St. Ann’s Warehouse, which my sweet husband had gotten tickets for

“Oh God, I hope this isn’t another piece of depressing theater,’ I moaned.

“Well, its Irish drama,” replied David, “So chances are, yes.”

My single sentence sum-up: One of the most brilliant scripts I’ve heard in a long time, impeccably performed and so freaking dismal and bleak you want to bang your head on a brick wall as soon as its over just to feel some relief.

David and I come back to our blissfully quiet apartment and though it seemed I would pass out instantly from the glass of prosecco I was not about to let the evening pass us by without some romance. So I put on my most raggedy-ass baggy fleece PJS, threw myself face down on the couch and lay motionless for five minutes to work up the energy and then I said, with my face still buried in a couch cushion: Wanna have sex?”

David laughed: “Are you joking?”

You shouldn’t ask a mean drunk such a question: “I don’t know WHY you are LAUGHING,” I replied, “You should be jumping for JOY!”

“You’re lying facedown on the couch like a person in a coma,” he countered.

“Oh so I’m supposed to SEDUCE you now?” I shrieked the picture of allure.

I persuaded him to my position, which was a good thing because shortly afterwards the man fell ill. Gastrointestinal kind of ill. By the next morning, he was fully in the throws of a nasty stomach bug. So no trip to the Berkshires as planned.

But hey, who needs the Berkshire’s stunning fall foliage when you can clean your apartment and pay bill all day while your husband moans on the sofa and watched Real World marathons?

“I can’t believe you’re sick now and we can’t have another romantic evening,” I complained.
“You call that a romantic evening?” David said.

“Well, I was only so mean because I thought I had a second night to make it up to you!” I reasoned.

“Let that be a lesson to you,” he offered, none too kindly.

When we called to check in with my parents, they told us my grandmother and Primo were both upchucking, too. Nothing like thinking of your child vomiting in someone else's bathroom to make you feel guilty and awful.

But by Saturday night, David was on the mend so I dragged him to see a movie with me – New York, I Love You. Here’s my single sentence sum-up of that one:

Someone should have forced most of the directors to stretch themselves a bit and find new devices, beyond the quintessential lighting of the cigarette, for characters who are strangers to meet: say, waiting for the bus or the funicular or the light to change, riding the subway or an elevator, serving on jury duty, getting a hot dog from the vendor. Leave the compulsive cigarette lighting to the Parisians.

But it did put us in the mood for baguettes and coffee in a bowl, so Sunday morning, with David fully recovered, we brunched at a nearby Pain Quotidian and after a decent night’s sleep (would have been better had Omaha steaks not called at 9am) and no alcohol anywhere in sight, we chatted merrily and cozies up.

Mission R & R & R accomplished. By hook or by crook, baby.

Friday, November 13, 2009

You just can't skimp on fundamentals

There comes a time in every woman’s life when she must stop everything and buy bras. You can make do with the old, stretched-out ones for a long time, longer really than you should, but at a certain point, you’ll catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror or catch a glimpse of the offensive undergarment and think, “Enough is enough.”

When this time would arrive in the past, I’d pop into the nearest Victoria’s Secret. But now that I have children and spend virtually no money on myself, I have decided that when it comes to fundamentals I deserve to splurge. Plus, the rigors of bearing and nursing two children back-to-back has made it such that I benefit from expert assistance in the support area. So now I go to Town Shop. I went for the second time a few weekends ago, after leaving David with the kids at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan around the corner. Fun for the kids, fundamentals for the mama. Win/win.

Now, I don’t know how other bra-fitting establishments work, but at Town Shop, the service is pretty, um, comprehensive. Up close and personal.

You walk in and a bra-expert comes right over and ushers you to a small, private room in the back of the store. Then she closes the curtain behind you and tells you to take off your shirt so she can see what’s she’s working with.

That is, by the way, a direct quote: “Let’s see what we’re working with.”

It is not unlike what happens at The Bunny Ranch, according to HBO.

So you strip down and the bra-expert scrutinizes your goods, giving you a sudden and unexpected attack of performance anxiety. I mean, there’s nothing to perform but are the goods good enough? How do they compare with what she’s already seen today? Is she impressed or does she pity you? She squints her eyes and looks pensive, then tells you she’ll be right back with some choices.

And you are left to regard yourself topless in the mirror for a very long time. It’s not something one often has the time to do, when one has two young children at home. I, for one, have no idea what I look like anymore, and frankly, I don’t mind keeping it that way.

Then the bra-expert comes back in and things get really strange.

If you are a first-timer, you’ll probably reach out to take the bra and put it on yourself and you’ll get a gently reprimand.

“No, no, I’ll do it,” says the bra expert, “You just bend over.”

Bend over? you might wonder. Why in the name of all that is holy should you have to BEND OVER to put a bra on? I mean, you’re not in a zero-gravity chamber or under some other set of extenuating circumstances which would necessitate such Twister-esque maneuvers/ But you do what you’re told and bend over slightly, say about 45 degrees.

“A little more,” instructs the bra-expert. So you bend over ‘til you’re touching the ground and now you REALLY feel like you’re at the Bunny Ranch, with your ass in the air and your goods swinging around and all of it reflected in the mirror and you wonder, is this standard protocol? But then you remember that 80 % of women are wearing the wrong bra size, and you don’t want to be one of them.

The bra-expert clips the bra and tells you to straighten up. If you try to adjust anything, a strap or a cup, she says, “Oh no no, please don’t touch anything, I’ll do it.” And she does it all right, tucking in, straightening out and patting down and generally handling your mammaries. If they were smart, the people at Town Shop would advertise their bra-fitting as coming with a free breast exam, because, basically, that’s what you get.

The whole wild fiasco took about an hour and cost me just over $100 bucks. Sure, that’s dinner for two or five pairs of discount Rocket Dog sneakers at DSW but you can’t skimp on fundamentals, ladies, and besides, it’s cheaper than a trip to the Bunny Ranch.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ok, fine, you wrung it out of me - its my birthday

Folks are strange when it comes to their birthdays. People get secretive, try to hide the fact that it’s their birthday and should the news happen to leak, they get all embarrassed and urge you not to make a big deal, no hubbuh, please, no cake with candles and definitely no presents. I guess it has to do with the fact that once you’re 21 there is only disadvantage to aging and, I suppose, people think if they don’t acknowledge the passing of time, it will cease to pass. That, and some people don’t really like attention.

Well, readers, I don’t imagine this will come as a whopping surprise, but I do like attention. And I’ve done plenty of outrageous, ridiculous things in order to get it (acting career, see-through clothing, starting a blog). Which is why I would never, ever, turn down the opportunity -- the wholesome, don’t-have-to-regret-it-in-the-morning opportunity -- to receive a bunch of positive attention. I relish the chance to tell the world that today is the anniversary of God granting me life! Consequently, I should be celebrated. Today I should sleep late, get breakfast in bed and a free cup of Joe at the coffee shop, receive preferential treatment, VIP service, move directly to the front of the line, and hey, if you’d like to give me a gift, who am I to stop you? I do like the bubbly –doesn’t have to be the good stuff, either – and you can’t go wrong with a handbag. Those with limited means can always offer favors to be redeemed at a time of my choosing – babysitting offers never go bad. And, if you must, feel free to throw me a surprise party.

Let me be perfectly clear about this point:

I. Love. Surprise. Parties.

Now, I’m keenly aware that not everyone does. As a matter of fact, I think most people dislike them strongly. My husband is such a one. I learned this when -- that’s right – I threw him a surprise party a few years ago. .

We had recently moved to LA and didn’t have that many friends but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from planning festivities. So I made a German chocolate cake – his favorite – and hid it in the closet. Then I rounded up a half-dozen almost-friends and had them creep into the apartment while he was napping. When everyone arrived, I tried to wake him gently but he was out like a light and I was forced to take drastic measures, which in retrospect, were ill-advised.

“There’s a flood!” I shouted, “A pipe burst and there’s water EVERYWHERE!”

He jumped out of bed in his boxers and ran into the kitchen where he found a small and half-hearted assemblage of people he sort of knew.

“Surprise,” they ventured, none too enthusiastically.

David stood there for a few seconds and then, without a word, he about-faced, walked back into the bedroom and slammed the door.

It was a pretty lousy party. Yet I still think he should repay the effort by throwing me one. And I tell him so, all the time.

“I want a surprise party,” I say, “Why don’t you just throw me one already? I’ll give you a list of everyone to invite and their email addresses! It will be so easy!”

“I hate surprise parties,” he replies.

“Yes, but it doesn’t matter what YOU want because it’s MY birthday,” I counter, “Its like giving your wife a set of golf clubs. I don’t want the golf clubs. Keep the golf clubs!”

“I hate golf,” he says, “and I’ve never given anyone a set of golf clubs.”

“I’m just giving you an example,” I say, “The point is, I want to feel SPECIAL and for a large group of people to show me how much I MEAN TO THEM!!!!”

You know how it is when you’re married. Have argument. Repeat as needed every 4-6 weeks or, in this instance, on an annual basis.

What this all boils down to is that I truly and fully expect NOT to get a surprise party (which means that this is the very best time to throw me one).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Swine Flu Vaccine

Gird yourself, people, because the time has finally come to talk about the swine flu vaccine. Either you’re panicked about the flu or you’re panicked about the vaccine. Since I’ve tried panicking about both, I know it sucks to feel so worried and so clueless. Now, I’m no doctor – far from it – but I did a reasonable amount of research and I’ll just tell you what I think.

I’m getting both my kids vaccinated, if I can. I say if I can because my pediatrician doesn’t have the vaccine and its been a little dicey trying to find a place that is vaccinating the under-4 crowd, although they do seem to be the ones most at risk. But Primo will be getting it at school and I am trying to score an appointment somewhere for Seconda. I’ve spoken to my pediatrician, who is generally very flexible with vaccines and who I trust completely, as well as a pediatric infectious disease specialist at NY Presbyterian. Both of them, and everything I’ve read from credible sources, say the vaccine is safe. It is made in exactly the way the seasonal flu shot is always made, so there’s nothing “experimental” or “rushed” about it. There are no scary adjuvants in it. There is thimerosal in the injection version given in two doses to children (they do make thimerosal-free kind but its not easy to find) but as far as I can assess, that doesn't make it unsafe. It is probably pretty effective, as this flu strain hasn’t mutated much. And it is free.

I think skepticism is essential and we should be informed about our medical choices. I’m not saying we should take anyone at their word but the thing is, I’m not a doctor and the reason we HAVE doctors is that they’re experts. At a certain point, you have to take a leap of faith -- not blind faith but faith nonetheless. And doctors I trust assured me the risk of the vaccine was lower than the risk of my kids getting H1N1. Of course, I’m the daughter of a doctor, so I may be biased in their favor.

The other thing I think people tend to forget is that even if you’re not too worried about your kid getting swine flu – even if you feel like they’ll fare fine and the risk of it is low --- vaccinating our own kids will protect not only them but the community at large, which includes people who do stand to get seriously ill from H1N1 – pregnant women, the elderly, for starters. I’m not in favor of people making medical choices they aren’t comfortable with, but it is something to consider. Our choices in this regard will affect not just our families, but other families, too.

So here are a few links I found helpful:

Op-Ed piece in the NY Times by Paul Offit from October 11, 2009

Flu FAQs from NY Times Wellness Blog by Tara Parker-Pope

NYC DOH Flu Website

And if you've got some great insight or just an opinion to throw in, do. I think this is precisely the sort of subject where people benefit from hearing lots of different people express lot os fdifferent points of view.

How to feel like a SuperMom in 10 minutes

Since I’ve given up on being a SuperMom but will never give up on convincing myself that I am one, I offer to you, dear readers, tip number two on how to feel like a SuperMom in 10 minutes. Unlike my previous recommendation about dressing up for Halloween, this one has nothing to do with alleviating my own feelings of douchiness for wearing a foot-high wig and bedclothes as a dress.


This idea comes from a real SuperMom who told me in passing that she has afternoon tea with her kids, with real, antique china and cloth napkins every day. I was like, “You do WHAT?” I loved the idea immediately for several reasons:

A. Tres continental! Since I can’t make it to Europe anymore, I can at the very least do as the British do, in Brooklyn. If there is one thing I am not, it is refined. But having afternoon tea means instant class.
B. I love, and I mean, looooove tea sandwiches. I discovered this in college, where there was an Elizabethan Club (there’s nothing dorky about it, thank you very much) which had afternoon tea every Friday featuring the most spectacular crust-less cucumber sandwiches known to man. Who would have ever thought a little cucumber and cream choose on some hard bread could make such magic? When I was in my first trimester with Primo and couldn’t keep anything down I went through a few weeks where the only thing that seemed at all appealing were cucumber sandwiches and buffalo wings. (Tip to the preggos out there: if you have severe morning sickness and want buffalo wings, designate someone to stop you from ordering them. Really, Trust me)
C. Since I never, not once, have had the patience to make cucumber sandwiches for tea time with my children, I serve them cookies. I like cookies, too, especially with tea. Also, children like cookies. And you don’t feel like such a bad mom giving them cookies when they are using china. Its like the positive force of fancy plates eradicates the negative force of the cookie.
D. There is no kind of play more innocent and wholesome, more nostalgic for days of yore, than a tea party.

There are, incidentally, real reasons to have a tea party with your children like the fact that its quality time you spend together in play, you can teach them social skills, and get kids to practice motor skills by pouring tiny pots into tiny cups. But really, all that pales in comparison with the fact that after you’ve done it, you will feel a terrific sense of self-satisfaction, a huge surge in confidence. You will want to tell everyone you see:

“I had a tea party with my children today, with china and crumpets and stuffed animals and everything! I’m an UBER-MOM!!!!!!’

And at the end of the day, that is really what its all about, isn’t it?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Under the Big Top

Saturday was the big day my kiddos have been waiting for – the Big . . . Apple . . . Ciiiiiiircus! (that’s me using my announcer voice, fyi. Its’ really much more impressive in person, no matter how annoying my children say it is. And while we’re on the subject, do are you agree that a two year-old should never be able to say ANYTHING is annoying, much less the well-intentioned attempts of her mother to bring her joy? Basically, the entire second year of life is one big annoyance with moments of cuteness and marvel sprinkled in).

So, the circus. It was Seconda’s very first circus ever, and so it was with a mixture of glee and trepidation that we entered the big top on Saturday, because if there is one thing my thrill-seeking, acrobatic daredevil of a daughter is cut out for, its running away with the circus. In our family she is voted Most Likely to Successfully Tame a Lion. But all went well, better than that, in fact – I’d say we had a bonafide Kodak moment with all four of our mouths agape and cotton candy on our fingers. I haven’t been to the circus since I was a young’un and being there with the kids made me recall two things:

The circus is a sticky place. I truly felt like we needed one of those showers they have in research labs for when you get a toxic chemical in your eye, the kind that douses you with 20 gallons of water in 2 seconds. It makes a movie theater look antiseptic.

The circus is one of these very rare events that you enjoy as much as your child. As a matter of fact, I think I might have enjoyed it more than my children because I, for one, know just how difficult it is to say, juggle five balls with your TONGUE.

Here were the highlights:

Flying Trapeze: The great thing about the trapeze is when the crowd starts exclaiming stuff like, “I can’t take it anymore!!!!!” and “Oh my God, she’s not going to MAKE IT!!!!” It’s this terrifically innocuous kind of mass hysteria. Of course, there’s a safety net so nothing awful’s going to happen but nonetheless you feel this queasy kind of thrill. And since I don’t do roller coasters or horror flicks, this is basically my only source of such a feeling.

Juggling: There’s juggling and then there Juggling. And the Big Apple Circus’ guy is a juggler with a capital J. I liked the mouth juggling, sure, but what really got my blood pumping was when he took some white dishes and basically hurtled them directly into the crowd with all his might. Gasp. Horror. Lawsuit? And before they can get close to anyone, the dishes just reverse direction and come flying right back into his palm. Wowza.

Wheel of Wonder: Take two huge hamster wheels, connect them with a Eiffel Tower-esque beam and start them spinning. Then put a person in each wheel and have them keep up. Oh, not exciting enough? Ok, take those people and put them on the OUTSIDE of the wheel. With no net. Primo and I could not get over it. It was mad and wild and – literally -- wonderful.

So, after giving the children such a beautiful night to remember, they were, of course. bubbling over with gratitude.

"Is it nighttime?" Primo asked, as we stepped out of the tent into darkness.

"Yes," I said.

"But we didn't do ANYTHING today!" he complained, standing in front of the circus tent.


If you want to see the feats of wonder for yourself, you can score discount tickets with these codes which the good people at tee Big Apple Circus have passed along:

Online: and submit the code MOMMY10 in the Promotional Codes box

By Phone: CALL 888-541-3750 and mention code MOMMY10


Friday, November 6, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Daylight Savings Time can suck my ---

Honestly, who thought this shit up? I mean, I know it has something to do with farmers and harvests and probably has some pretty good justification but here is my opinion, in case anyone who is in charge of daylight savings time decisions is reading:

Daylight savings time is raw sewage.

I blame it for running my week. That and a massive, prolonged episode of procrastination which left me in a sour mood. But mostly, it’s the daylight savings time. Because the time change does not mean that I go to sleep an hour earlier, since hey, I’ve got shit to do, but it DOES mean that my kids wake up an hour earlier.Children will use any reason to wake an hour earlier than normal, especially that of bright lights streaming into their flipping window. I don’t have an hour of sleep to spare.

I LIKE it when it’s dark in the morning. I have spent so many mornings waking before the dawn’s early light with my children that I am in no way perturbed by the darkness. And listen, take it form me, there’s not much to see in the AM. At 5pm on the other hand, I’d like to run my kids in the playground for another hour until they are so exhausted they can not mutter a word of protest and can barely collapse into a heap in their beds. THAT’S what I work towards in the late afternoon and this infernal time change has dashed my plans.

Plus, look at the poor guy in the picture. Look at what a whole lot of trouble he's going through to make the clock tell the right time. He looks like he's about to get into a serious ladder accident, in fact, and if he does, I think he should SUE daylight savings time.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

No Milk Left Behind

Hey, did I ever tell you about the time I went to Mexico on a romantic getaway and spent the whole time pumping my breasts and talking in mangled Spanish about it? No??? Well, you're in luck because I told the readers of Parents magazine all about it, in a little essay I call

No Milk Left Behind

Check it out and tell me if you agree with my fellow Mommy blogger that I should reclaim the term lactivist or no.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Less might be more, but that doesn't make it easy

Enough about me and my kids, already! I think its time you get to hear someone else gripe for a change. Which is why I have a very exciting GUEST POST for you today from local fiction writer Kimberly McCreight.
She may write fiction but on a mom amok we only speak the truth, so here is her honest to blog reflections on how hard it is to just let go with your firstborn, even when you've mastered the skill with your youngest. I totally relate -- testimony of which is the fact that my daughter went on the balcony today in a halter dress while my son was wearing a hat. Parenting is baffling.

Less might be more, but that doesn't make it easy.
By Kimberly McCreight

“Why don’t we let her sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor of our room then?” My husband suggested calmly when, one day six months ago, our five year old daughter Harper suddenly refused to sleep alone anymore.

The problem really wasn’t just sleep. Harper wouldn’t be alone in her room period. And even if you sat there with her until she fell asleep, she’d pop awake in the middle of the night, every night, and demand you return. She wasn’t just being obstinate either. She was genuinely terrified, panicked even. I know what it looks like. She’s always been a child prone to fears, though—after months of dedicated Feberiz-ing and Weissbluth-ing back when she was an infant—she had always at least slept through the night.

“Well, how long do we let her sleep there?” I asked my husband. My heart was already speeding up.

He shrugged as he took off his work shirt. “Until she outgrows it.”

Outgrows it? Already, I had visions of Harper at sixteen still sleeping on our floor. I imagined her as a middle schooler, friendless because she couldn’t host or attend sleepovers. I thought of a marriage forever devoid of nighttime privacy.

“Like a couple months,” my husband added, probably in response to my open jaw. “She’ll get tired of sleeping there before long.”

My husband has always been that way, maddeningly unruffled by these child-rearing detours. I’ve come to see it as a malady.

Now, if this had been my younger daughter, Emerson, I’d have been able to take this no-sleeping, bedroom-phobia turn of events much more in stride too. Like Harper, Emerson has had more than her fair share of fears and sensitivities—loud noises, fire, men in general, and bearded ones in particular—and they’ve hit at almost the exact same ages they did for her older sister. But with Emerson, I have remained calm, nonplussed even, convinced that time heals all wounds or will eventually, at least, suggest a solution. With her, I’ve seen it all before. And, so far, it all turns out pretty much okay.

But for some reason with Harper, I am unable to generalize from her own history. Each new speed bump feels in need of direct and immediate smoothing. It must be confronted in all its ugly roughness and repaired, not simply circled around.

So instead of taking my husband’s advice about this sleeping bag nonsense—which was, in fact, gleaned from something I’d read—I tried to push back on Harper, to draw a line in the sand. After all, encouraging her to confront her other fears and move past them had so far been the most effective approach.

“No, you cannot sleep in our room,” I kept on repeating that first night for hours on end. “No, I will not sleep on your floor and no, you cannot sleep in our bed. Everyone sleeps in their own bed.”

It didn’t work, at all. Unless, of course, my objective had been to make Harper panic more. Because that, she did do. She rushed from her room and refused to return. She cried, she yelled. She kicked. My voice got louder. Not firmer either, just madder, as I stood there in her doorway with my arms crossed.

But more than anything, I was worried. Worried that this new bedtime/bedroom/sleep fear might finally be the one she wouldn’t overcome. Harper, of course, mistook my fear for disapproval. Self-recriminations quickly followed.

“I am the most terrible girl in the world,” she whimpered the twelfth time she refused to budge from her spot in the hall where she was splayed like a small animal frantically gripping onto an ice patch.

It made my toes curl.

Less than a minute later the sleeping bag was out on our floor. And Harper came to our room to sleep in it in the middle of that first night. She slept there quietly and happily every night thereafter for six long months. It went on, much to my dismay, until it came time to transition Emerson into a toddler bed in Harper’s bedroom. Now, that they have each other, Harper’s bedroom fears are a distant memory. She’s been sleeping through the night in her own bed ever since.

I’d liked to think I’ve learned something from this. That I now know that the only way to solve some of Harper’s problems will be to wait until time or circumstance allows them to pass into the ether. I hope that I understand now that I will not be able to fix everything she feels.

And, who knows, maybe I even do. Whether I’ll remember it the next time Harper decides to surprise me, well now, that’s a different question altogether.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Halloween began with Primo up at 5:45 am, and by “up” I mean bouncing off the walls and raring to go.

“Let’s go trick of treating RIGHT NOW!!!!” he shouted.

I took two Tylenol and put on the television.

By 10:30am we were all in costume, in agreement with Primo’s Grand Plan of Halloween 2009

Primo – Count Dracula in black velveteen cape, burgundy vest, purple medallion, vampire wig and several variety of fangs. This is the first year he got a store-bought costume and I have to say, I think we could have bought four costumes for the price of this get-up.

Daddy – Frankenstein, with green stitches that Primo drew on his cheeks with my eyeliner (the could could work at a makeup counter) and bolts applied to his neck with Bandaids

Mommy – Bride of Frankenstein, with a show-stopping wig and bridal gown made from one old white sheet and three dozen safety pins (Project Runway, here I come!)

Seconda – Max, from Where the Wild Things Are. Primo’s original plan had her as a werewolf, which she was jazzed for, but when we couldn’t find faux fur and my grandmother unearthed Primo’s old Max costume, we shuffled things around a bit and went from werewolf to boy in a wolf suit. Timed rather well with the recent release of the film, no? Besides, I’ve never seen any child in a costume that better suited their personality. My daughter should always wear the wolf suit. Every time we turned around, she had peeled off the hood part, taken off her shoes and socks and was getting into some new naughtiness with a huge, impish grin on her face.

It took us approximately four hours to get into costume but the great thing about waking up before 6am is even when it takes four hours to get into costume you are still fully by 10am when all other normal people are just squinting their eyes open on Saturday morning.

Once costumed, we walked over to Boo at the Zoo. Or should I say, began the un-ending trek which left me feeling like we were in some weird Halloween-version of Grapes of Wrath. Turns out the zoo, which was a do-able, if tiring, walk from our old apartment in North Slope is now impossibly far away. So far away that no matter how long we walked, we never got appreciably closer. It was like being on a tread mill -- with a five year old riding piggyback. But we Joads weren’t going to give up – couldn’t really, since we were meeting friends there -- so we just slung the tired children over our bodies, shedding wigs and extraneous costume parts as we went along. And by noon we had made it to the zoo.

The zoo was about as much fun as it can be to a grown-up whose been there four zillion times this year. Haunted barn was a high point. Kids loved the spooky carousel although the combination of hearing “WHO YOU GONNA CALL? GHOSTBUSTERS!!!!” on repeat play at excruciating decibel levels while being whipped around in circles made me dangerously close to upchucking.

By 3:30pm, we were home – just in time to start Halloween for real.

Thought I felt like the only candy that could help me was the variety celebs put into their nose, I rallied and we all went bravely into that good night of trick-or-treating.

And a good night it was, indeed. Primo ran from stoop to stoop, shouting over his shoulder to me, ‘I ASKED THEM FOR CANDY AND IT REALLY WORKED!!!! THEY GAVE IT TO ME!!!!” with so much wonder and marvel that I couldn’t help but smile, old Halloween-Scrooge that I am. Seconda didn’t waste time saying anything, she just ripped open candy packages as fast as she could, cramming the chocolate into her mouth.

The parade was amazing, with bagpipes and huge, towering puppets and an amazing stroller decked out like R2D2 and a girl dressed as a toilet bowl and all sorts of cleverness. Then Primo said, “Can we be in the parade, too?” so we all jumped into the stream of people walking and waved to the crowd.

By 8:30, the children had retired their still-bulging candy bags and were slumbering soundly. Running around begging strangers for candy tires a person out, it would appear.

Halloween highlights, readers? Great costumes? Moments to remember?