Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sibling Smackdowns

I was never one of these moms who had rosy visions of how much my toddler would love his new baby sister. I hear mothers who are expecting their second baby talk like this – “Oh, Annabelle just LOVES babies and she is so excited about having her own baby brother! – and I think "You, my friend, are in for a terrible surprise." I’ve always had tremendous sympathy for the plight of the older child who has to make room in his life and house and heart for a new sibling because from their perspective, for the beginning at least, its lose-lose. Babies don’t do jack except cry and eat and cry and both of those things take Mama away from First-born and First-born never wants Mama taken away from him. I get it, completely.

But at what point, dare I ask, at what point is First-born supposed to get over the trauma of having a sibling?

Because I am feeling like after 3 years, maybe Primo should get with the program.

He has been on an absolute Sec-hating rampage of late. She drives him totally up the wall. And look, I don’t blame him really. You’ve read of Seconda’s antics. These shenanigans, while frustrating and exhausting, have an inherent charm to grownups. She’s a precocious, adorable firecracker and adults can’t help but find that endearing. But for the big brother, her antics hold no charm whatsoever particularly because they take every ounce of attention away from him. I understand this and I sincerely sympathize. Nonetheless I am tired of asking, can’t we all just get along?

There’s the not-sharing problem in which even if Primo hasn’t played with something in years, he can not suffer Sec to even look at it.

There’s the mean-talking problem in which he teases her and calls her a “baby.” Calling a 3 year-old a baby is like calling a dieting woman a heifer. Too close to home. Sore topic.

Then there’s the ordering around. The ordering around actually works for a lot of sibling teams. Many 3 year-olds love nothing more than following the instructions of their big siblings, whom they look up to and adore.

Not so in this case. Sec won’t give an inch. Sec has her own ideas about everything and she’s not budging. So the ordering around turns into the mean-talking and then Sec, who’s not so adept at controlling herself, lets her fists do the talking, freeing up Primo to unleash his wild side and soon everyone’s appealing to me with “he did this” and “she did that” and “you’re lying” and “you’re a baby” and Mommy yelling, “CANT WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?”

I read Siblings Without Rivalry cover to cover, you know. But I think its time to re-visit.

What are your ways of dealing with the sibling smackdowns? Or better yet, your strategies to prevent them altogether? I hope it doesn’t include living in a house which is larger than 900 square feet because then I’m screwed.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mr. Coughie

Thanks to the astronomical levels of pollen, Primo has developed a non-stop convulsive cough. As with all maladies, it is much, much worse at night. Thanks ever so much for that, Mother Nature, because God knows my kids and I don’t need sleep, wouldn’t even know what to do with uninterrupted sleep if we stumbled upon it.

Primo’s had this hacking, gagging, horrific cough all night long for two weeks, and since the doc discovered he was wheezing last week, every time I hear his cough I instantly wonder if he’s wheezing and having bronchial spasms or whatever the hell the doc said was happening which caused the wheeze and which I am too afraid to look up, online

So he coughs. I try to sleep through it but cannot because I am seized with worry. Then I climb up into the bunk bed and scratch his back basically all night long with small intervals of sleep in between.


And to think when he was a baby, I thought the sleep deprivation would only last a few months. Ha! It’s a good thing we don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into.

Then last night Mr. Coughie actually slept through the night without a single hacking episode. Which would have given me a well-deserved, delicious break – had not SECONDA started coughing at precisely the same moment he stopped.

Isn’t it always the way? A few weeks ago, I actually said to Primo: “When precisely did you have the talk with Seconda where you two decided that as soon as one of you stopped being sick, the other one would start and as soon as one of you was happy, the other would become unhappy and as soon as one of you was asleep, the other one would wake up?”

“We never had that talk, Mommy,” he said.

Then I felt like a total jerk to have sullied my son’s pristine earnestness with the stain of sarcasm.

So now I’ve got Mrs. Coughie. Technically she’s a Ms. I guess although that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. And Mrs. Coughie is a much less grateful and manageable convalescent than her brother. She just coughs, cries, calls me and then once I show up, yells at me to go away. Repeat cough, cry, call and rejection.

“Do you want Mommy to scratch your back?”


“Do you want Mommy to snuggle with you?”.


“Do you want Mommy to give you some water?”


“Do you want Mommy to go away?”



It does beg the question.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Seven years ago today

Seven years ago, I wore a 10 foot-long veil and clutched my father’s arm as he walked me down the aisle. Waiting there was David in the first suit he’d ever bought for himself, shaking visibly. When you look at the video tape that my cousin shot you can see my chest rising up and down frantically, almost like I’m about to hyperventilate. I was so nervous that I could hardly work up the courage to say my vows. And when it was over and the priest pronounced us man and wife, we booked it down the aisle so fast, I remember the photographer was pissed because she couldn’t get a single shot of us that wasn’t blurry. We flew out of there to start the next stage of our lives.

Looking back, I’d say I was one hundred percent right to be as nervous as I was. Not about the wedding because in the grand scheme of things who cares if you trip over your veil or the florist delivers daisies instead of anemones. But about the marriage part. Taking a vow to honor and cherish someone under all circumstances all the days of your life. No loopholes, no exit strategy, no plan B. Together. Forever. Period.

That is a big-time promise. And it meant something to David and I that we did it in front of all our friends and family, in a church with a priest sealing thr deal.

In fact, I remember feeling a terrific sense of relief when the ceremony was over, and yes, it was mostly because I didn’t have to worry about my flower girl showing up on time or not me breaking a heel on the alter steps. But it was also a relief to have taken those vows, to be locked in, as it were, to a deal that was clearly stated, And not because David was some kind of slippery guy who I had to pin down – on the contrary, he’s always been extraordinary steadfast and loyal. But because in today’s world, it seems like there is nothing absolute, nothing that one can’t undo. You can get remove your facebooks posts and get tattoos removed and undo a vasectomy for God’s sake, Contrary to what you might expect, I found release in an irrevocable promise.

When I was in high school, I read Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being and I remember being powerfully struck by one passage which I’m pretty sure I scribbled down in bubbly script and pasted in my diary next to a picture of Robert Sean Leonard. Unlike my crush on Mr. Leonard, I stand by the quote.

“But in love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man's body.The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life's most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?"

To me, marriage – and parenting, for that matter – is like the big down comforter I have on my bed. I need to sleep under it, even in the summertime, because if I don’t, I shiver. Sure, sometimes I feel a little suffocated by the thing but I then I just stick a foot out or peel them down a bit. I never toss the whole thing off because without the weight of it, I can’t find any peace.

Seven years ago, what I knew about marriage was this: I loved David and I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life. During the ceremony, I had a friend read Shakespeare’s sonnet “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment,” because I really dug the idea of love as an ever fixed rock that looks on tempests but is never shaken.

But I remember that our priest, who David and I adored, corrected Shakespeare in his homily. He said, “All this stuff Shakespeare says about love never changing is a bunch of baloney. Because love changes, it changes all the time. What doesn’t change, what can’t change, is the commitment to love. And that’s what you need to renew every morning when you wake – you need to decide every day that you are going to commit to loving this person.”

Today what I know about marriage is this: I love David and I want to be with him for the rest of my life. But I know, too, that it takes work, and contrary to what I thought when we were newlyweds, the fact that you have to put in the work doesn’t make your relationship any less good, or less strong, but in fact, better and stronger.

The other thing I know about marriage now is that when you’re in it for the long haul, sometimes you have to fake it til you make it. But – and here’s the beauty part, the magic of it all – you always make it sooner or later. If you have the patience and the faith and the commitment to love, you always find your way back together again, and the union then is like the house made of bricks, compared to the house of straw you had on your wedding day.

So there you have it folks, my wisdom on marriage boils down to a Three Little Pigs metaphor. For anyone planning a wedding, I give you permission to use that in your ceremony.

To David I say this: So far, I haven’t liked anything in this lifetime as much as I’ve liked growing old with you. Here’s to another 7(0) years . . .

Clothing Tantrum

On a typical day, my 3 year-old has more costume changes than Madonna in concert. She strips down and re-dresses head to toe about four times a day. And that’s NOT counting the morning get-dressed drama.

In the morning I literally feel like Seconda is Meryl Streep and I’m Anne

Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada.

“I SAID I want to wear a dress!!!!!”


“No no no!!!! This one is too BIG!”

“This one is too SMALL!”


“I told you a million times I WANT THE PINK ONE!”


“No no NO!!! You are making me VERY ANGRY!!!”

Many women would need a Xantax to get through our daily get-dressed drama. MANY women. Thankfully I am a martyr mom and my nerves are steely. But by the time we’re out the door, I’ve already depleted my entire store of patience for the day. For both kids. I’m running on empty from 9am.

Here are Sec’s current wardrobe criteria:

1. She will not, under any circumstances wear pants.

“I DON”T WANT TO BE A BOY!!!!” is the explanation. I always reply, “Mommy is wearing pants. Is Mommy a boy?” and all I get back is a dirty look, like she’s saying, “I’m holding myself to higher standards than YOU, Ma.” Incidentally, she won’t wear pants at night either, only nightgowns.

2. She will not wear skirts.

That is, unless they are used as petticoats, under dresses. I have tried to pitch skirts as “dress bottoms” but she’s not buying it. She’s watched enough Disney to know real princesses wear one pieces.

3. She will not wear long sleeves.

I don’t blame her. Back when I had svelte arms I’d wear short sleeves exclusively, too. But I had sense enough to put a sweater on. Or a jacket. This is NYC after all, and spring is capricious.

4. She will wear not wear any dress devoid of the color pink.

Look, I like pink, I really do. Have you seen my hot pink sneaks? But come on, diversify the color palette.

5. She will not wear anything that does not zip up the back.

This is the most recent limitation and it is wildly annoying. Because while I can live with pink short-sleeved floor-length gowns every day, having to find ones that zip up the back is asking too much. But if I put on a button-back or a halter or even a pullover that is too roomy in the neck I get: “IT’S OPEN IN THE BACK! BUCKLE ME BUCKLE ME!” This kid wants to be laced up like a Victorian, tight, tight, tight. I have been known to mutter under my breath, “You’re a flippin’ nutjob . . . . ”

The whole process is exceedingly unpleasant. David has made it clear he’ll take no part in it. The burden has fallen to me. Which, honestly, is fitting. In a sense I feel like I am getting an Inferno-esque dose of retribution. For years, David has had to wait endlessly before we go out, while I toss dresses and blouses and shoes on and off, filling our bedroom with rejected apparel, running back to look in the full-length mirror. The punishment fits the crime.

Now I know I’m not the only one with this dressing drama. Is your kid as much of a diva as Sec? And how do you deal without blowing your top?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The First State

Sometimes even very communicative five year-olds have a hard time putting the mysterious thoughts that bounce around in their heads into words we adults can understand. This weekend in the car, I listened to the following conversation between David and Primo:

Primo: “What is the first state?”

David: “You mean the first civilization that ever was?”

“No, no. I mean the FIRST state.”

“What do you mean by first? Like, in history?”

“Do you know the number one? Zero, then one? I mean number one, the FIRST.”

“I am familiar with the meaning of first. I just don’t know what you mean.”

Sigh. Primo would have to backtrack a bit, catch his dad up.

“You know Australia? That’s almost the last state.”

“In what way is Australia the last state? You know, I don’t think you mean states, really, I think you mean – “

Australia is almost the last but what I want to know is what is the FIRST one?”

“Do you mean in terms of longitude and latitude?”

Primo looked at his father like he was a hopeless case. Hopeless.

So I piped in:

New York,” I said, “New York is the first. And the best.”

That settled it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Beware the unplanned radical haircut!!!

Its Hump Day again and I am charged with the task of lifting the spirits of those faithful readers who visit All Kinds of Pretty, of galvanizing them to fashion greatness, even on a Wednesday. But today I can only offer a cautionary tale:

The longing to refresh your look is natural, nay, unavoidable. You want bold strokes, a little change that makes a big impact. You want a radical haircut. And, if you’re like me, a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-er, you don’t want to labor over the decision, hemming and hawing for months

But readers, oh, readers, beware the spontaneous radical haircut! It can go terribly wrong.

The deal is this: my hair is, as you see here, thin, generally lifeless, the kind that looks worse the longer it gets. I WANT to be a long-haired beauty but I am not. So, recently, I decided I had to accept my hair’s limitations and get it chopped off. I opted to forgo the cheap local salon on the corner and splurge on the fancy Manhattan salon I sometimes go to – Arrojo, started by Nick Arrojo from What Not To Wear. I always make last-minute appointments and end up with whoever’s free at the time I can squeeze the cut in, and this time I ended up with . . .

The Mean Stylist.

You know the type. He makes faces of disgust when assessing your hair pre-cut, asking you what kind of shampoo you use with eyebrows raised, wondering where on earth you went for your last (implication:awful!) haircut, informing you that your ends are way too dry, that the cut you’ve chosen makes your face look fat, and, for extra measure, recommending you get your color done – by him – as soon as humanly possible.

This stylist also told me that I was parting my hair the wrong way. I HATE when they tell me that I am fighting against my hair’s natural part because I think this shit about having a natural part is a bunch of baloney. But he convinced me

1. To go from past shoulder-length to a chin bob.
2. To get bangs, despite the fact that in 30 plus years I have NEVER looked good in bangs
3. To part my hair on the other side

This is me in the Arrojo bathroom, trying to put on a happy face:

As I told the Mean Stylist, “I’’m past the age where I’m going to burst into tears if I don’t like the cut.” However, I am NOT past the age where I’m gonna write blog-rants about it.

I hate this haircut. I hate that it makes me feel like a broadcast journalist or a soccer mom and I hate that it makes me feel like I am in the early 90s. Most of all I hate that I am now forced to part my hair on the opposite side which makes me have a minor nervous breakdown every time I look in the mirror. It’s like an alarm goes off in my head, which bleeps: “Wrong side part! Identity compromised! Adjust part! Adjust part!”

So now I’m just trying to remind myself that hair grows and hey, nothing wagered, nothing gained.

Are you as spineless as I am in the face of the mean stylist? And does the spontaneous radical hair-cut EVER work?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Elevators, dashed compliments and advice from a 5 year-old

Recently the kids and I were in an elevator with a sweet, grandmother-type who complimented the ball gown that Sec was wearing.

“You look like a princess!” she admired.

Primo piped up:

“You shouldn’t tell her that because she will just want people to say that all the time and not many people will and then she will be disappointed.”

The woman missed the point of his advice and replied, “But she does look like a princess.”

Then Primo felt compelled to inform her – as he does many a co-rider on the elevator -- that his sister was going through the “terrible threes.”

And the grandmother replied – as many a co-rider in the elevator do:

“Oh I can’t believe that! She’s so pretty!”

“Yes, she is pretty,” said Primo, “but she’s also bad. Like the stepmother in Snow White.”

You can tell that this is a lesson I have drummed into my children's heads. I've found it a particularly important one for Primo, who will one day fall head over heels for some cold-hearted woman whose face could launch a thousand ships. All Disney princess movies should require children to repeat a hundred times “It’s what’s on the INSIDE that counts” after each viewing as a kind of antidote.

In any event, the grandmother looked relieved when we got off on our floor. She just wanted to give a pretty girl a simple compliment but Primo wouldn’t let her off the hook. That’s my boy.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Call me Ishmael

I always find it entertaining to hear about the strange ideas my parents fill the kids’ heads with when they take them for the weekend. It’s always something. When David and I are there, my parents keep the crazy in check, but when we leave, all bets are off. I should send the kids to their grandparents with a nanny cam teddy bear. But I hear an earful anyway, from Primo, who reports everything back to me.

One weekend, I discovered the subject of one of their little heart-to-hearts when Primo asked me afterwards, “What is the name of that thing which can hurt you and make you sick and you shouldn’t try it?”

“Ummmm, could be a lot of things honey, I don’t know.”

“You know, the thing you can smoke and it might feel good at first, but it will make you sick.”

“Did Nana, by any chance, tell you about this thing?” I asked.


“Drugs,” I said, “It was drugs.”

There was the time that Primo told my mother he was going to marry Seconda when he grew up and my mother, aghast, informed him he could never, ever do that because “you share blood.”

You get the idea. It’s always something entirely true, and a talk which is in order, just one I wasn’t planning on having quite yet and executed in the scariest way possible.

But this time, my father gave them a rather wonderful idea in the form of a story.

“Did you know about the dolphin that ate the Captain’s leg and then he tried to catch it with his boat and everyone yelled “THAR SHE BLOWS!!!!” asked Primo on the way home from my parents’/

“Was it a whale who ate his leg?” I asked, “The great white whale?”


“Babbo told you the story of Moby Dick?” I asked.

“MOBY DICK!!MOBY DICK!” shouted Sec.

Turns out the kids adore the story of Moby Dick, which has always been one of my dad’s favorites, Primo is obsessed with Queequeg, and harpooning and Sec just likes how the whale ate the pirate’s leg. She’s even elaborated a bit on the original tale to create a character she would like to portray in pretend:

“I’m Captain Ahab’s SISTER!”

Now we are the proud owners of two really cool kiddie lit versions of Moby Dick, in case you’re in the market:

First you’ve got this comic-book style paperback picture book.

And then the piece de resistance: Moby Dick Pop-up Book

This one was written by Sam Ita, the apprentice to Robert Sabuda, Pop-up Master, and it is also in comic book style with some very cool pop-ups and pull-the-tabs, including a periscope you can look through! And its only $6.20 at Barnes and Noble right now. So don’t say I never gave you anything.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hey pollen! Why don't you pick on someone your own size?

It is a perfectly stupendous day in New York City. After months of snow and wind and rain, we have a few weeks of lovely weather, the kind Californians enjoy year-round. All too soon, it will be blisteringly hot and we’ll have to seek shelter indoors from the sweltering summer sun. But for a very brief time, the kids can do what kids should do – run and play and live outdoors.

Except Primo can’t.

Primo basically can’t leave the house because of his allergies.


I’m sure there are a million and one ways in which pollen is essential not only to flowers and bees but our whole ecosystem but right now I flippin’ hate pollen. It has laid my babydoll low.

On Tues, for the first time ever, I got a call from the school nurse, around lunchtime. Primo had what I like to term “a convulsive coughing fit” and the lunch lady thought he should go down to the nurse. He’s had a bad cough for a few days now, due to his insane congestion from allergies, so I wasn’t too worried although I knew he was feeling miserable. His eyes have been super swollen and itchy and he’s been sneezing madly and then this crazy uncontrollable coughing – kid’s exhausted. The nurse said I should come pick him up, so I did, and he was in great spirits, gleeful, even, telling me every detail of his adventure to the nurse’s office. I was, in fact, wondering why he even needed to leave school, he seemed so perky.

But I did my due diligence and called our pediatrician to see if there was anything I could add to the cocktail of allergy meds to improve things. The doc said there might be something but I had to bring him in to make sure he wasn’t wheezing first which seemed totally unnecessary to me. I mean, I’m always bringing him when he’s got a cough to check his lungs and they are always fine and now that the doc’s office moved far away, it’s a pain to go over there. But I conceded because hey, he’s the doc.

And now I will relay to you the moral to the story:

LISTEN TO YOUR DOCTOR. Well, first, find a doctor you trust. Then listen to him. Don’t presume you know everything because you’ve been to the doc’s office a thousand times with your two kids and you’re fairly well-read about kids health and all. There is shit you don’t know, that doctors do and that’s why we have them.

The thing I didn’t know that the doctor did, was that Primo was totally wheezing – a lot, in fact. So while I thought he had a tickle in his throat causing him to cough madly for a half hour, and was shoving cough drops and honey in his throat and telling him to just relax and stop coughing, the doctor discerned that he was having bronchial spasms.

Or, as Primo explained to the doc, “my convulsing cough.”

“Who taught you that word?” said the doc.


“I thought so. Mommy's a writer and likes to use big words.“

The doc sent us home with a script for a nebulizer and told me to hook Primo up every four hours for the next 24 hours. Which seemed very serious to me. I mean, I know its just wheezing and fairly common, but when you bring your kid in to the doc’s office thinking he’s got a tickle in his throat and you leave with instructions to set your alarm for 1 and 5 am so you can administer a breathing machine, it freaks a mother out.

Thankfully, Primo was there and the last thing on earth I ever want to do is freak him out – which is exceedingly easy to do. So I couldn’t indulge my anxiety and ask the doc all the questions I wanted to about what it all meant and worst-case scenario. I just smiled and said,

“All this stuff is making me W-O-R-R-I-E-D. It seems a little S-C-A-R-Y.”

And he said, “But I’m telling you we are fixing it so you should be reassured – R-E-A-S—“

“Ok, ok,” I said, “I understand.”

So we’ve been clocking some serious time with the nebulizer, the which Primo loves because he pretends it’s his hookah pipe and he’s the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland.

Incredible boy, that son of mine. Only 5 year-old I know who’d make his nebulizer into a hookah.

Oooh la la! What you find under the bathroom sink

Sec likes to find fashion accessories in our bathroom cabinets. Reasonably enough, she thought the pantiliners were a box of boring, oversized stickers. So she helped herself to one. Voila -- maxi pad fashion.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why I am not allowed back in Soho's H&M

I didn't spend too much money, if that's what you're thinking. And I didn't get into a fight with anyone, although that's a good guess, since making your way through a store in Soho on a Saturday afternoon without going apeshit on some knucklehead is pretty difficult.

I'll tell you what I did. But you have to go to All Kinds of Pretty to find out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dahl Delirium!!!!

Primo has been on a huge Dahl jag lately, which frankly, could not please me more. In fact, I admit to enabling his addiction. I never read Roald Dahl as a kid, but now I’m making up for lost time. We’ve read about 2/3 of the canon are now down to the ones that are too old for Primo, like Matilda and The Witches. My all-time favorite was James and the Giant Peach which I found to be the all-time best children’s chapter book ever. Ev-ah. I defy you to challenge me. Coming in second was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Third goes to George’s Marvelous Medicine, which I’ve never heard of til a good friend of mine recommended it to us. It’s about a little boy who has a grumpy grunion of a grandma – she says stuff like “Growing is a nasty childish habit!” – and George tries to make a potion out of stuff he finds under the kitchen sink and in the garage to “cure” her. Results are, of course, totally unexpected. I think it was Primo’s favorite Dahl, actually.

Our most recent Dahl was The BFG, also recommended by my Dahl-loving friend who remembers reading it when she was knee-high to a grasshopper. The BFG easily ties with George’s Marvelous Medicine for 3rd place, but is much darker and more menacing not to mention three times as long, making it less suitable for young readers. Primo was a bit young for it; in fact, I admit to having changed some of the mean giants’ names (sorry Roald, but a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do). Primo has enough trouble going to sleep without visions of the “Bonecruncher” and “Fleshlumper” and the “Bloodbottler” dancing in his head.

The story’s about a big, friendly (and not very well-educated) giant that “kidsnatches” a little orphan girl one night when she catches sight of him. He turns out to be a vegetarian and not a “cannibully” but the other brutes that live in Giant country, who he despises, do eat human beans, lots of them, so the BFG and Sophie have two problems. A. How to keep her hidden and alive and B. How to stop the giants from guzzling dozens of little children every night?

The reason I bring up the BFG is that I’d like to recommend not only that you read it to your child, but that you read the voice of the BFG exactly, and I do mean precisely, as though he were Rocky Balboa. I think you’ll find, as I did, it is wildly pleasurable, and you’ll want to keep reading for hours on end. Here are some excerpts so you can give it a try:

“You is welcome to go and search my cave from frack to bunt . . . You can go looking into every crook and nanny. There is no human beans or stringy beans or runner beans or jelly beans or any other beans in there.”

“Every human bean is diddly and different. Some is scrumdiddlyumptious and some is uckyslush.”

I’m telling you, we flew through this book because I couldn’t stop reading once I hooked into the Rocky Balboa thing.

Oh, and there’s one more Dahl book I want to suggest: Revolting Rhymes. They are Dahl’s retellings of classic fairytales, and everything about the stories are, true to the title, revolting. That said, it’s not for everyone. Its pretty risqué. Pre-read first or you may end up sending me scathing emails. But if you’re getting really sick of the princess thing, this will inject a thrill into your bedtime reading because it is absolutely irreverent. Here’s a taste from the Wolf’s POV in Little Red Riding Hood:

He sat there watching her and smiled.

He thought, I’m going to eat this child.

Compared with her old Grandmamma

She’s going to taste like caviar.

“Ah well, no matter what you say

I’m going to eat you anyway.”

The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.

She pulls a pistol from her knickers.

She aims it at the creature’s head

And bang, bang, bang, she shoots him dead.

I mean, grrrrl power or what?

But that’s perfectly tame compared to his Cinderella, which is completely R rated. He has the Ugly Stepsister cook up a trick to make her foot fit into the slipper, locking the Prince into marriage, and sending him on a serial killer spiral:

He muttered, 'Let me out of here,'

'Oh no you don't! You made a vow!

There's no way you can back out now!'

'Off with her head!' The Prince roared back.

They chopped it off with one big whack.

This please the Prince. He smiled and said,

'She's priettier without her head.'

He chops off the other stepsister’s head and by the time Cinderella comes out, he’s done gone crazy:

Poor Cindy's heart was torn to shreds

My Prince! she thought. He chops off heads!

How could I marry anyone

Who does that sort of thing for fun?

The Prince cried, 'Who's this dirty slut?'

'Off with her nut! Off with her nut!'

Yes, you read it right, The Prince calls Cinderella a "dirty slut." You'd have to bleep that out. In fact, I don't recommend reading the story to your kids at all. But its a jolly good laugh for grownups.

And I hope that the next time you’re watching Disney’s honey-haired mouse-loving rags-to-riches princess, the words “dirty slut” pop up in your mind, and you just can’t get ‘em our of your head. I think that would be a hoot.

Monday, April 12, 2010

No more romantic getaways, please

You couldn’t pay me to go on a romantic getaway with my husband. No way. Not happening. And I’ll tell you precisely why:

Every single time we try one of these weekend getaways, one of us falls terribly ill.

Not just a cold or a bad headache or some pre-menstrual cramps but a stomach flu or mysterious raging fevers. And this weekend it happened AGAIN. This makes the fourth of fifth time in the past year or two.

David and I drove up to the Hudson Valley to attend the wedding of my dear friend Amelia, whose letters from Port au Prince I posted after the earthquake. Amelia kindly invited the children to the wedding and I kindly declined to take them. The last wedding they went to, my cousin’s, was such an ordeal we’ll never forget it. Apparently, neither will my cousin. Last year she told me the clearest memory she has of her wedding ceremony was Primo yelling, “I DON’T WANT TO GO TO THE CAR!!!!!” as David dragged him kicking and screaming down the aisle, after he had a tantrum during the wedding vows. So we don’t take our kids to weddings, if at all possible. Plus, since our own anniversary is coming up we thought we’d make a romantic weekend of it, have some steamy loving in the Courtyard Marriot. Cue Marvin Gaye.

On the drive up, I had definite presentiments of illness. Scratchy throat, growing feeling of weakness. By the time we reached Poughkeepsie, I called Amelia to let her know we couldn’t make it over to her parents’ house forthe pre-wedding pizza party. I was feverish, shaking, seriously ailing.

And so it was that our first romantic night was spent with me shivering in the hotel bed watching The Real Housewives of New York City (OMG my new favorite show, I was loving it, though maybe it was the fever) while David drove up and down the highway looking for Tylenol, cough drops and a pair of pajamas, since I’d neglected to pack them and a sick person needs her pajamas.

Then we ate hamburgers from the diner next door in our bed while I moaned in misery.

In the middle of the night, the chills came. I despise the chills. There is little worse than the feeling that your blood is freezing in your veins. I hobbled around the hotel room in search of more blankets. There were none. I called the front desk and was sent to voice mail. SO helpful. Then I put on my sweater, David’s fleece jacket AND my own jacket, and laid all the towels from the bathroom on top of me, under the blanket.

Are you getting a picture of the hot loving? The R and R? The marital renewal??

Raw suckage, I tell you.

Next morning, I propped myself up, Weekend at Bernies style, and survived the wedding. It was a beautiful wedding and I cried like I was making French onion soup. By 5pm I was back in the hotel bed, shivering and moaning. Repeat Friday night feverish festivities.

Sunday morning, though, we received an EXTRA treat. David and I were roused by a mindblowing, earsplitting fire alarm going off. The alarm was going off in our room as well as in the halls and everyone else’s room in the hotel. I can not possibly describe how loud the fucking thing was except it reminded me of those devices hardware stores sell which emit sounds at a frequency that mice hate to keep the vermin from your house (don’t work, by the way, our mice just frolicked around them). So we stumbled around throwing our belonging in our bag, half-mad from the roar of the alarm, tripping over bottles of Tylenol.

I feel REJEUVENATED; let me tell you, after that weekend away.

Maybe on our next romantic getaway, we can both get root canals.

Friday, April 9, 2010

How to get a baby boy or girl

Since the dawn of man, people have been trying to figure out how to conceive babies of a specific gender. There are books about it with various crazy strategies to increase the chances of having a girl, or a boy. But I am here to tell you that yesterday my grandmother told me the secret.

Yes, I now know how to conceive a specific gender, and I will share it with you.

Here’s what my grandmother told me.

"You know, in my time, everybody used to say it was the woman’s fault if she didn’t have a boy baby, and you know, these men would get mad at her. ‘Why didn’t you give me my boy?’ and it was terrible. Me, I don’t care. Me, I was so happy I got two daughters and I got five granddaughters. But anyway, all these time everybody thought it was the woman’s fault and they blame her and call her names. Sonofbitch.”

She went on:

“But now, of course, they find out it’s the man’s fault. He’s one who makes it a girl or a boy. He’s the one who plants the seed, you know.”

This still was unclear to me, but thankfully, she went on to clarify:

“You don’t plant a tomato and get a pepper. You understand?”

So there you have it. Men, it’s up to you. Get your seeds straightened out before planting time.

Me, I’m grateful my husband likes a diverse assortment of vegetables because I hit the jackpot and got a tomato AND a pepper.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Commitment, 5 year-old style

Primo's BFF, Leigh, the chick he made the mix for, has been talking to him about commitment.

Yeah, that's right, going steady. Primo is pretty clueless about what it means to be boyfriend and girlfriend -- thankfully -- and Leigh probably is too, but she's a girl, and by the age of about 3, girls know they need to be married. I know this because of my recent daily proposals of marriage from my daughter. Stands to reason that by age 5 or 6, they know that having a boyfriend is a precursor to having a husband.

So, Leigh wants to marry Primo, pretty much as soon as possible, and though she is his best friend, he's not ready to be tied down.

"Maybe," he told her, "But I might have to marry Seconda."

Kid's got priorities, after all. Family first.

So today I pick Primo up from school and he told me that this month, he's excited because he's sitting at Leigh's table.

"But Leigh's always talking and talking about how we are boyfriend and girlfriend and how we have to get married," he said, "and its really annoying."

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say . . .

Then don’t say anything at all.

This is my new motto with Seconda who has become, I have to confess, outright hostile to almost everyone she encounters – strangers, friends, people in authority, her family. If someone in the elevator says, “What a beautiful hat!” she will say, “No! You can’t say that!” If a friend's mother says “Hello!” she’ll reply, “I don’t like you.” We’ve moved way past “Go away!” in terms of rudeness. And the worst part is, of course, my SEARING embarrassment because people must think I’ve raised her to act this way.

But I realized yesterday that my daughter is not the only one in our family who needs to learn a lesson about tongue-biting. I will now relate to you a one-hundred percent true and un-exaggerated list of remarks my grandmother made in the span of one hour:


“Dio mio! This house is a pigsty! I don’t know how you people live like this!”


About the new photo of Seconda I’ve hung on the wall:

“What a terrible picture. She’s so gorgeous! Why don’t you ever have a nice picture of my poor baby!”


About the new, expensive curtain we hung up on the kid’s Maxtrix bunk beds:

Her: “Why you hang those things up? I think the baby’s gonna feel suffocated.”


Her: “You husband came to my apartment yesterday after he did his exercise and he was wearing these little itty bitty shorts and – Dio Mio – I was worried! I say to myself,‘These are Nicole’s shorts! Why he dressing in Nicole’s clothes? Something wrong with him?’

Me: “Those are biker shorts, Nonnie.”

Her: “No, its impossible a man gonna wear something so tight!”


I see that a dress Seconda is wearing is looking a little tight so I remark: “Wow, that dress is almost too small on her.”

My grandmother says, “Don’t worry, You’re gonna lose weight.”


“What? You said you pants are too small and I’m telling you they gonna fit you again one day!”

“Ok, that’s it, Nonnie. You know what I’m gonna have to do now? I’m gonna have to write a blog about you.”

“Good. I’m gonna write a blog about you too.”

Monday, April 5, 2010


I've been memed by the ladies at All Kinds of Pretty. Now, I don't know precisely (or really at all) what that is, but who am I to resist what seems to be a viral zeitgeist-y phenomenon? I present to you, my bag:

This bag was purchased from Old Navy, for $19.99, about 3 years ago. It’s not a diaper bag, but has worked perfectly as one, with the twin side pockets for bottles, and now sippy cups. But dude, it has not fared well over the years and I am definitely due for a new one. Look at the size of this tear in the front of the bag:

Now for the contents:

What surprised me about this exercise what how little of this crap is for me – it’s all stuff for the kids:

Five kinds of snacks (to be fair, we just got off the plane from Tennessee, so my snack supply was fully loaded).

Change of clothes, training diapers and wipes even though my youngest is pretty fully potty-trained (I know the first day I go without them, I’ll have a kid with shitty britches on my hands).

One plastic bat, because you never know when that’s going to come in handy.

I do, however, have my favorite H & M sunglasses, a mirror, and one very wonderful lipstick I stole from my 23 year-old sister. Oh, and my wallet is from my sis too – Miss Sixty and very snazzy if I do say so myself. So that’s where the glam is hiding.

And there you have it. I’ve been memed.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it

This year, we took the kids for the first time to the 5th Ave Easter Parade where New York's haberdashers flocked to the streets in their finest Sunday Best. Behold:

Since I spent FOUR HOURS icing those crazy Martha Steart chick cupcakes (and then forgot to take a picture to show you how damn cute they came out) I didn't have time to fashion my own Easter Bonnet. But I do have one very fetching picture from this new LOVE statue located on some side street in the mid 50s. I like how Primo and I are having a magical mother-son moment whilst I try to keep Sec from running into the street at full speed. Motherhood!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, folks! We are on our way back to the Big Apple, to go on my father's famous scavenger hunt with clues written in rhyming couplets and Elizabethean English, and to take in the Fifth Avenue Easter Parade, We will also we making these delightful little chick cupcakes, thanks to the expert tutelage of Martha Stewart.

Mine are gonna look JUST like these, I assure you. Enjoy Easter, if that's your holiday, or just a lazy, sunny Sunday.